Shotgun blasts erupted on the bow of the stolen yacht as clay fragments exploded in the sky like an afternoon fireworks display.
“Again!” Victor shouted with the twelve-gauge pump-action slung low at his waist.
Damon pulled a rope attached to a spring-loaded launcher, causing the metal arm to fling the next array of clay targets toward the sky.
In one fluid motion, Victor brought the butt of the shotgun to his chest, aimed down the length of the barrel, and squeezed the trigger.
The gun stock kicked against his massive pectoral from the recoil of the magnum shell.
Before the first target shattered into oblivion, he pumped the shotgun fore-end to slam another round in the chamber. He fired and reloaded and fired again until the hail of shotgun pellets turned the last of the falling fragments into dust.
Spent shells littered the deck. Smoke trailed from the heated muzzle. “I’m out.”
Damon handed him the box of ammo. “They’ll be here soon.” He cupped his hand over his mouth and coughed. “We should put this shit away.”
Victor reloaded. In the last few years, he’d made more enemies than friends and trusted no one except himself and Damon. Not one for cards and drinking games, he found comfort in more violent activities, or by his own definition, any sport involving guns or knives and targets—real or imagined. “Load the trap,” he told his friend. This time he chose a left hand position. “Pull!”
Damon tugged on the launch string. The spring-loaded throwing arm snapped sideways.
Victor fired again. “One more time.”
Damon prepped the launcher with the last four targets and sent them hurling toward the sun. This time he pulled the chrome-plated .45 from his shoulder holster and shot the flying discs before Victor could fire again. The targets broke into large chunks and fell into the water.
Victor brought the shotgun to his side. He wanted to punch his friend in the mouth but refrained when he noticed a boat in the distance, headed their way.
Damon laughed. Impressed with his own marksmanship, he holstered his gun and grabbed the empty clay target box from the deck. Exchanging drugs for money was dangerous business. Exchanging flesh for money, however, had a way of bringing out the worst in people, a lesson he’d learned with a bullet to the leg.
Barely half the length of the hundred-foot Sunseeker, the oncoming vessel enjoyed the benefit of greater speed and agility, allowing the captain of the smaller boat to pull alongside the yacht without compromising his defensive position.
Still armed with the shotgun, Victor stepped out to greet the men he’d been waiting for. “Carajo! Donde has estado?” he asked the first man who came on board.
“You’re late,” Damon added.
The Colombian buyer averted eye contact with Victor and signaled for his men to stay put. Puffing on a fat cigar, the fifty-something man with a thick beard and mustache wore Bermuda shorts and a flowered shirt with a straw hat and closed toe sandals. A braided gold necklace hung around his neck. “How do you say—” he floundered for the words in English. “Engine trouble.”
* * *
Strapped to a bed, Leslie stared up at the cabin ceiling and swallowed saliva. Desperate for a drink of water, she’d abandoned her effort to scream with the duct tape across her mouth. Stripped to her panties and bra, she’d imagined worse things could happen.
Red, swollen skin lined her wrists where the nylon ropes secured her arms, stretched out perpendicular to her body. Every movement sent a wave of stinging pain down her sides. Her ankles endured the same fate from the chafed skin below her shins, where a second set of nylon ropes secured her legs to the bed.
For the first time in hours, she heard voices coming from somewhere inside the yacht, but she couldn’t make out the words. Parts of the conversation took place in Spanish, a conversation revolving around money. She heard two men’s voices, one she recognized and one she’d never heard before. She thought about Sarah, praying for her only daughter to remain unharmed. From the absence of Sarah’s cry for help, she wondered if Sarah was on board. Or whether she was still alive.
Leslie contemplated her options. Not having any idea where the boat might be, she needed more than access to a radio and a chance to call for help. She needed a miracle.