The ocean is a beautiful thing. Open, endless, full of life, yet to anyone who knows its depths, also a most dangerous thing.
Nature created people curious and for eons they lived along the coast and wondered what lay beyond, until time went by and men and women who were innovative and brave as well as curious created ways to push off from the shore and take off in search of other shorelines.
It was for one such invention, much faster and sturdier than those first rudimentary rafts and canoes that the small woman slipped through the shrubbery at the outskirts of the mansion grounds to find. Maybe struggled was more appropriate a word. Slipped would mean she was having an easy go of it, and though she’d been keeping herself as fit as could be considering the circumstances of the past five years, slipping through undergrowth, thorns, dead leaves, and god only knew what creepy-crawlies, was not something a septuagenarian would typically be adept at.
But freedom, or at least the idea and hope of it, was a great motivator. And she would give nearly anything to be free again.
When she reached the edge of the brush, she lay still and counted to 100, while she caught her breath. There was no movement of the guards, no alarms. She’d been this far in an escape attempt many times. It was an uneven game of cat and mouse. In seven attempts in five years she’d come up short. It had been eleven months since her last attempt and she hoped they might have thought she’d given up. She certainly tried to act as if she had. She walked around with a melancholy air and given over to sighing a lot whenever one of her captors or the servants came near.
When she reached 100 she rolled out from under the brush and crouched low behind it. She took several deep breaths and reminded herself that her captors preferred her alive to dead, for their own odd reasons. The first of many, General Jace had told her when she awoke in a hospital bed in Greece. He’d apparently decided to collect strong and powerful women in what she felt was a need to prove to them that they weren’t as strong and powerful as they’d believed. However, despite his delusions of grandeur, so far, she was the only one.
There was no direct torture, she was fed and had adequate clothing, she was free to wander about the grounds under guard. Which she’d argued wasn’t “free” at all, of course, to no avail. In the mansion she had her own quarters and she was allowed to sleep alone. There was no guard directly outside her door, but she’d discovered there were enough outside the house to make it unnecessary.
She knew she couldn’t escape by killing her captor. She hadn’t been a 00 so she while she was sure she would be willing and able to kill for her freedom, she didn’t think she had the ability to take out that many men and women.
Her movements toward the small dock were slow and methodical. Every 100 metres she looked up at the sky to gauge the moon's location and determine how much longer until the dawn. There was a partial cloud covering she hoped would work in her favor once she was at the shore, but she could see enough of the sky to know she had time. And her proximity to her freedom gave her the energy to continue though she’d been awake for 18 hours.
In the last shadowy area of the grounds before the dock, she waited. She rested, back against a tree trunk, and watched the sky as the clouds slowly floated across. Once the moon was covered, it would be dark enough to make her way quickly and quietly across the wooden dock and to the small yacht.
Then would begin the most dangerous part of her journey. Once she started the engine, everyone would know and the alarm would be sounded. The only thing in her favor after that was that, during this part of the year, there was only one boat on the island. The other two were off to parts unknown to her, but it had been this way since she had been brought here.
Finally, the clouds came in, thick enough to make it darker than she’d hoped. She ran as fast as she could. She untethered the boat and jumped silently aboard. Once at the captain’s chair she checked the console and removed the steak knife she’d stolen. She’d taped it to her leg so it was with no small amount of pain she did so. She cut the wires for the ignition and twisted them back together to get a charge and start the engine.
Sure enough, only three seconds lapsed before the alarms screamed into the night and the lights began to pierce the darkness. She quickly backed the boat out into the bay and then gunned it toward the open sea.
Once she hit the high water she turned around to look at the island quickly receding behind her. Part of her wanted to shout for joy, the other part, the part that she’d honed over 50 years of service to the crown made her wait. There was time for celebration when she was truly home.
She’d charted the stars for five years, she knew she was in the southern hemisphere, likely somewhere in Oceania. That would put her not far from Australia and New Zealand which was the direction she pointed the boat.
After 20 minutes of navigating by the stars she looked behind her one more time and saw nothing. Still, no reason to breathe a sigh of relief yet. Not until she was home, not until she saw him.
She shook her thoughts away from home. In her mind it was still a pipe dream, the hope of an old, desperate woman.
Another five minutes passed before she heard it, the telltale thrum-thrum-thrum of a helicopter’s rotors. She had no reason to hope it was friendly, but she didn’t slow down. The command came in a language she didn’t know, it sounded like something from the Javanese islands. A warning shot came, still she pressed on. The helicopter’s pilot made a desperate attempt to force her to stop by trying to lower the machine in her path, but she wouldn’t shirk and won that round of chicken handily.
It didn’t seem that they were trying to kill her to prevent her escape so she pressed on. She hoped there was enough petrol to carry her there. She knew it was a full tank, but on the open seas that might not mean much if she was unable to reach safety.
The helicopter followed her at a high distance so she knew it was only time before another boat came to intercept her. And for a moment she thought that if it did, she might just ram it and be done with it.
But that was not what she had to do. She had to get back. She had to let him know she hadn’t died. After everything and everyone he had lost, after all he’d given up in service to his country, she didn’t want that burden on his shoulders.
Finally, she saw a slightly larger boat approaching hers. It hailed her, but she kept going. A few minutes later another joined, then one more, until she knew there was no escape unless she did ram one. She cut the engine and the boat slowed. One of the larger boats came along side and four men jumped onto hers. She rolled her eyes at that. Four men with large guns, a bit of overkill to take in one little old grandmother.
They took both her arms and forced her down onto the deck. She looked across to the other boat and saw the general standing there. He did not look pleased.
She cocked an eyebrow at him and stared back defiantly.
“Olivia, I am not pleased.”
“No soup for me?”
He gave her a questioning look before he shook it off. Olivia laughed inside. Her references to Western pop culture were always lost on the man. It was a source of mild amusement to her.
One of the men who had boarded the yacht restarted the engine and the small armada broke up and she was ushered back to the island. She fought the biting disappointment. Five years and that had been her first taste of freedom. She wasn’t sure how many years she had left in her.
She tamped down on her sadness when the island, now lit up from one end of its coast to the other, came into view. Showing weakness to these people was not something she would allow herself.
General Pietro Jace sat at his desk and drummed his fingers on the mahogany.
“That was too close. If any of those men we had to employ to find her and capture her were to open their mouths…”
“We paid them generously, I don’t think that will be a problem. One might get greedy for more, but that’s easily dealt with.”
His assistant, Gregor Parkov, sat across the desk from the general. His pale face was pinched and pointed.
“We have to stop her. Women like her, I know what this will do to her. Now she will be more determined than ever to find a way to escape. And she will find it.”
Parkov didn’t argue with the general. They both knew their own limitations and that of their men. While there would be punishments for tonight’s events, they wouldn’t be enough to stop the woman from trying again.
“I told you about Dr. Darmeer the last time she attempted an escape…”
The general looked up and nodded.
“I see now that it is worth the money to try. Call him and bring him in here immediately.”
Parkov knew he’d been dismissed and stood, giving a slight nod to his boss before he exited the office.
General Jace stood and walked to the window to watch the rising sun.
“I have tried to be reasonable, tried to be kind, but, Mrs. Mansfield, you have given me no choice. You have brought what is about to happen upon yourself.