Unwilling to give into false hope, but equally unwilling to let any potential lead slip away, John kept his silence as he ran up the stairs to Woolsey's office, followed by Ronon, Teyla, and Evan.
John’s attention skipped over the director to the two men with him. The first he recognized immediately—Ladon Radim—leader of the Genii. The second visitor was barely out of his teens, but also wearing a Genii uniform.
"Colonel," Ladon greeted with a wry smile. "Major, Ronon, Teyla."
"Ladon," Sheppard replied, ignoring his curiosity on the identity of the young man and getting right to the point. "I hear you have something for us."
"I believe I do." Ladon clamped his hand on the shoulder of the young man beside him. "This is Daro. Six months ago, Daro's sister was taken while helping an old woman who'd become sick. She was seen going into the old woman’s cottage through the front door, but never came back out.”
John glanced at the others. The similar circumstance was not missed by any of them.
Ladon nodded encouragement to the younger man. “Tell them.”
Daro cleared his throat. "Colonel," he began. "Shaana is...was...the only family I have. After she went missing, I was granted a leave from my duties to search for her. I have spent every waking hour trying to find her. To get her back."
"Did you find her?" John asked.
Daro shook his head. "No. Not yet. But in my travels, I came across several families with similar stories. Each had a daughter, a sister, a niece, who was taken while helping a sick old woman. Always in through the front door, and never to come back out. Upon searching the house would be empty."
Not liking the sound of this, John posed the question he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to. "How many?"
"Eighteen," Daro answered. "Nineteen, counting your Doctor."
"Nineteen," Telya repeated softly.
"Daro believes he has found the connection," Ladon said.
"The sick old woman is not the only similarity," Daro answered quickly. "Each woman was taken within the days following a travelling trade festival."
Teyla stepped closer to John. "Lorentia had a trade festival this week. Two days before Dr. Keller was taken."
"So, someone connected to the festival is behind the disappearances," Evan voiced. “Do we know where they are now?”
"There's more," Laton said, waving Evan off. "Daro was on Lorentia the night Doctor Keller went missing."
All eyes turned to the young man.
“What did you see?” Ronon demanded, stepping forward.
Daro shifted his weight nervously.
"It's all right," Ladon prompted the young man. "Tell them."
"I was in the tavern three nights back," the younger man began. "Two men in the corner were talking. Both had too much to drink so their words flowed a little too loudly. The stranger was talking about being paid to escort a family from the far side of the village where the creek narrowed, through the forest, to the gate."
"Where Jennifer was taken," Ronon confirmed.
"It sounded like it was not the first time he'd had to complete such a task,” Daro added.
"We've got to find him," Ronon looked directly at John.
"We already have him," Ladon said. "The problem is, he isn't talking."
"He’ll talk," Ronon growled.
Ladon shook his head. "While I don't doubt your abilities, Ronon, he isn't going to talk to you." Then he turned and looked directly at Teyla. "But he will talk to you."
"He cannot be Athosian!" Teyla shook her head vehemently. She turned to face John. "My people would never be involved in such a thing."
"He's not Athosian," Ladon said. "He's Ahmazos."
John didn't know who the Ahmazos were, but from Teyla's expression, she did.
"Who... or what… are the Ahmazos?" he asked, looking between Teyla and Ladon.
"Warrior tribe," Ronon answered first. "Lead by women."
"Women warriors?" John raised both eyebrows.
"Not...exactly..." Teyla tilted her head and turned more fully towards John. "The Ahmazos do not seek out battles, but they are indeed fierce fighters. They are a matriarchal tribe. As a ruling class, men have no power in their society. The men are considered... well... slaves. Non-people. Some are trained as soldiers, others serve which ever royal house they are born into. But they are never allowed into a position of power."
Richard Woolsey leaned his head to the side. "So, the Ahmazos have taken Dr. Keller?"
"I do not believe so," Teyla answered. "Their blood lines are very well protected. They would have no need for another woman. And it is not their... style."
"They tend to keep to themselves," Ronon added.
"So how are they involved?" John asked, confused as to what the connection could possibly be between a warrior tribe and their very non-warrior doctor.
"I don't believe he was acting as part of his tribe," Daro interjected. "He was not dressed in their traditional clothing. I only recognized him because of the clan markings on his arms."
“Tattoos,” Ronon said.
Teyla bobbed her head. "Ahmazos men have many tattoos identifying which royal house they belong to, and their status and rank within.”
"So, he's working solo." John surmised.
"Doubt it," Ronon growled. "If he's Ahmazos, he wouldn't make a move unless he was told to."
"Ronon is correct," Teyla said. "An Ahmazos man would not make such decisions on his own. But he would follow orders."
"The old woman?" Evan asked.
Teyla nodded to Daro. "It would seem that the old woman is consistent to the kidnappings."
John turned to Ladon. "Where is he now?"
"We have him locked up," Ladon answered.
"Then what are we waiting for?" John moved towards the door.
"Colonel," Teyla called him back. "If this man truly is Ahmazos, then he will eat his own tongue before he answers any of your questions."
"Eat his own tongue?" John's brow furrowed.
Ronon turned to stand beside Teyla. "Ahmazos men are raised from birth to believe no other man has power over them. It makes them formidable in battle because they have nothing to prove, and nothing to lose. Teyla is right. They won't talk for us. But they will talk for her."
"Why? Because she's a woman?" John glanced quickly at Telya. "Not that that's a bad thing... I mean... I just meant..."
"I understood.” Teyla flashed him a knowing smile. "And the answer is yes. He will talk to me. If he believes I am Ahmazos."
"Right." John glanced at the group then turned to face the Athosian. "So how do we make him think you're this… Ahmazos?"
"I believe I know a way. Ahmazos matriarchs travel with six royal guards. May I request the assistance of the Major's team?"
John tipped his head to Evan, who stepped into the hallway to contact his men.
Teyla turned back to John. "I must go change. Please have them gather in the gateroom in fifteen minutes. Ronon will explain."
"Done," John agreed.
"There is one other...thing," she asked with slight hesitance.
"Name it," he answered.
"If we are to make this work, we need one more person."
John nodded. "Who?"