Posts tagged “rescue

Sanctuary, Chapter 30

Posted on 15/08/2017

Karen gaped at the lumberjack of a man prone at her feet. He was dead; the sole bullet hitting him square in the chest. She looked up at the wide-eyed Jennifer whose trembling hand held the smoking gun. Quickly recovering from her shock, Karen moved slowly toward her friend. “It’s alright. You’re alright…” She skirted the barrel of the gun while inching closer to a dazed Jennifer.

Her hand hovered Jennifer’s and slowly lowered until their fingers touched. Her eyes remained on the girl’s face, watching the tears sliding free down her face. “You’re okay…” she whispered. “Let go.”

As if realizing what she’d done, Jennifer quickly relinquished hold of the weapon and staggered back, tripping over the edge of her bed. She choked on a sob and began to hyperventilate.

Karen slowly placed the gun aside and hurried to Jennifer’s side. Holding her by the shoulders, Karen glanced once at the closed door of Jennifer’s bedroom. She could faintly hear the fire alarm. Her eyes skimmed the very dead body of the man that once held Jennifer prisoner. “We need to get out of here. We don’t have time.”

Jennifer shook her head, freeing herself from Karen’s light hold. “You… need to go.”

“I won’t leave you here,” Karen said firmly. “There’s a fire and we need to get out of here.”

“I have a score to settle.”

Karen noted the gleam in Jennifer’s eyes. “There’s no need for that. Revenge is mine, says the Lo—”

“Shut up, Karen.”

“Girl!” She scowled as Jennifer grabbed the gun and started for the door. “We need to find Clement and get out of here!” She caught up with Jennifer, though careful not to touch her in her agitated state and with a loaded gun, for that matter. “We don’t have time for a revenge plot, Jennifer.”

They turned the corner and both women halted in step. The hallway was completely black with smoke. Karen tugged the collar of her shirt over her mouth and held it there. “It’s no use. Let’s turn back and find another way–!” She scowled as the young woman walked forward. “Jennifer!”

She groaned as Jennifer disappeared in the thick smoke and tossed an exasperated glance heavenward before stepping in after her. The smoke pervaded the thin barrier of her clothes and assailed her nostrils. Coughing violently, Karen squinted against the sting and forged on. Attempting to call out to Jennifer, much less see her, was almost impossible now.

Karen staggered against a wall and dropped to her knees, feeling her way forward. Her sense of direction muddled as oxygen depleted. Karen lowered to her belly, attempting to stay close to what was left of the only breathable air, all the while praying for relief.

Just when she was ready to give up and succumb to the suffocating smoke, a hand grabbed her upper arm and yanked her into a room. Karen rolled onto her back and attempted to expel the polluted air from her lungs. The coughs racked her body and she moaned, clearing her throat.

“You okay?”

Her eyes shot open at the familiar voice and connected with Clement’s beautiful face. Karen couldn’t help it; she burst into tears. Clement didn’t hesitate grabbing her by the shoulders, pulling her up and against him. Karen wrapped her arms around him, clinging to his shirt. She wept against his shirt, afraid and grateful at the same time. He was okay!

She was okay. Clement held her tightly as she wept against him. He tossed a silent prayer of thanks and pressed his lips against her temple. That gunshot wasn’t hers. She was alive! Drawing back, he cupped her face between his hands and searched her face, checking for injuries on her. “You’re okay.”

Karen couldn’t stop crying, her blurry vision feasting on his face. “You’re… okay.”

“Of course I am,” Clement said, pulling her back into a tight embrace, rejoicing that she was better than okay. He whispered yet another prayer and pressed a kiss to her temple, letting her cry it out.

After a few minutes, Clement noticed the black smoke seeping from the crack under the door. He reluctantly loosened his hold on Karen and held her at arm’s length, gazing down at her. “I wish we could stay here but we have to move.”

Karen sighed. “The fire’s spreading too fast. I didn’t expect that…”

Frowning, Clement searched her face. “You… started the fire?” Her rueful expression invoked a laugh. Her slight frown made him smile. His thumb caressed her cheek. “Let’s get out of here, okay?”

She silently nodded, taking the hand he held out to her and allowed him to help her stand. She didn’t let go of his hand, her eyes roaming on his handsome face. Relief swept over her as she verified that his face was intact except for a cut near the corner of his mouth. “I’m glad we’re okay.”

“You and me both, babe.” Clement squeezed her hand and tugged her toward the door. “Cover your face.”

Karen barely recovered from the pet name. “Do you know where to go?”

Clement nodded. “Cover your face.”

“Wait, we need to find my friend Jennifer.”

His brow furrowed. “I want you out of this burning building first, and then I’ll find—”

“I’m not letting you go,” Karen insisted. “Either we do this together or we don’t go at all.”

Clement squinted at her and then sighed deeply. “I see you’re gonna be a handful. Come.” He tugged on her hand and opened the door. Karen quickly covered her face and Clement did also, except for his eyes. It felt like forever before the two staggered to another end of the hallway not covered in smoke. Falling to their knees, the couple bowed over and violently coughed out the smoke from their lungs.

Karen grimaced as Clement pounded on her back but didn’t scold him. Holding up a hand, she gestured for him to turn and pounded on his back until both of them could breathe a bit easier. Then sharing a smile, they interlocked their fingers and stood to their feet. “Where to?” Karen asked, glancing behind them.

“Where did you say she was going?”

“To find her moth—” another gunshot rang in the air. Karen and Clement glanced once at each other and then raced toward the sound, Karen fearing for Jennifer’s life. Though his legs were longer and he covered a larger distance than her, Clement never released her hand until they came to another end of the hallway.

“What kind of maze is this?” Karen protested, gasping for air. She tugged her hand free and pounded at her chest. Her eyes scanned the doors. “Which one?”

One of the doors down the hall opened and Clement grabbed Karen’s hand, yanking her to one corner. He pushed her against the wall and covered her with his body. Karen’s breath caught in her throat, her face pressed against Clement’s chest. She could hear his rapid heartbeat in sync with hers.

Clement peered around the wall and frowned. “It’s just Mrs. Badri and her henchman.”

Karen recovered and shoved at Clement’s chest. He stepped back and she started for the open door when Clement grabbed her hand to stop her. She pulled at her hand. “Let me go.”

“Shh!” Clement glanced over her shoulder. “Do you want us to be killed?!”

“Jennifer’s in there,” Karen’s eyes filled with tears. Clement released her hand and she hurried inside, falling to her knees at the sight of Jennifer’s prone body. The tears fell free as she gathered her friend in her arms. Clement stepped inside and knelt beside her, his eyes moving over the woman’s body.

“I don’t see any gunshot wounds but…” he paused, holding two fingers against her jugular.

Karen held her breath, watching his brow furrow. “Is there a pulse?” She looked down at Jennifer’s face.

“She’s alive. Strong pulse.”

Karen sagged with relief and held Jennifer close. “Thank God.” Her eyes lifted as Clement stood. “Where are you going?”

“Stay with her. I’m going after Mrs. Badri.”

“Not without me.”

Clement sighed exasperatedly when she slowly lowered Jennifer to the floor before standing. “What about your friend?”

“You’re my first responsibility. I’m not losing you again.” Karen took his hand. “We’ll come back for her.”

For a moment, Clement just stared. He’d known Karen was strong and brave after the incident in Finch’awa, but it was as if he looked at her with different eyes. His heart skipped a beat when her beautiful eyes openly searched his face.

Her brows hitched in his silence. “What?”

Clement kept staring, the awareness of his feelings for her rendering him speechless. He loved Karen. Probably had for some time.

Karen rolled her eyes and tugged at his hand. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can leave this burning place—” the rest of her words were muffled as Clement pressed his lips to hers. Her eyes widened momentarily and then shut, leaning into his kiss.

When Clement lifted his head, Karen’s eyes fluttered open. It took a moment before she could finally speak. “What… what was that for?” her voice was barely over a whisper.

His lips twitched, sending her heart racing all over again. “I’ll tell you later.” He tugged her toward the door.

Karen dug her heels, stopping him. “No, tell me now. Why’d you kiss me?”

Clement sighed deeply but turned to face her. “Why do you think I kissed you?”

Her mouth moved but no words came. It was though she was afraid to articulate it for fear it wasn’t true.

His expression softened and he lifted a hand to her cheek, his thumb caressing her skin. “Let’s discuss this afterwards, okay?”

Before she could protest, a round of gunshots split the air. Clement stiffened and Karen noted the fear flit in his eyes. “No, Ejigu!” He dropped his hand and started down the hallway.

Karen had no choice but to follow.

Reaching the west wing, Clement and Karen stopped as a uniformed man dragged a Kutfi soldier in handcuffs walked past them. Clement placed a hand in front of Karen as though to shield her, but the officer barely gave them a glance as he shoved the handcuffed soldier forward. A step behind his comrade, yet another uniformed officer pushed his prisoner. Three more police officers ushered their prisoners out of the lobby and out to the front of the mansion.

Hand against Clement’s back, Karen looked up at Clement. It was over and Clement squeezed her arm as if to prove it wasn’t a dream. They moved quickly toward the opening, the scene before them stopping both in their tracks. More police officers filled the room, ushering bound and injured Kutfi soldiers toward the exit. Taking Karen’s hand, Clement steered her away from their path.


Clement followed the sound and his eyes widened at the sight of Dula and Ashon, standing beside a uniformed officer. Ejigu was nowhere to be found. His eyes scanned the room, searching for his friend.

Ashon smiled at the sight of Karen and waved. “Missy!”

Karen waved back, grateful to see her friends again. She started toward them, tugging Clement along. Then released his hand to give Ashon a hug. “I’m so glad to see you again.”

Ashon patted her back and looked over her head at Clement. “You okay?”

Clement nodded. “Where’s Ejigu?” The hesitation in the man’s face had him seeking Dula. “What happened?”

“He was shot.”

Karen gasped, a hand to her mouth. Clement resembled a gutted man.

“He’s fine,” Dula assured both. “It’s a flesh wound. He’s with Priscilla and the police now.”

Clement didn’t relax yet. “What about Mrs. Badri? And Mahmoud?”

Karen held her breath, fearing that she’d escaped. Clement’s grip tightened around her hand, he also worried that their work had been for naught.

“In custody,” Dula responded. “They found Ejigu holding them hostage, and the officers mistakenly thought he was one of them and disarmed him. Priscilla let them know he wasn’t before they shot him dead.”

“I guess even Ethiopian police are trigger-happy,” Karen mused aloud, rubbing Clement’s arm with her free hand. “Thank God he didn’t die… although I’m still angry with him.”

Ashon and Dula chuckled. Clement only smirked, his gaze fixed on her.

Karen gasped and tugged her hand free from Clement’s. “Jennifer!”

Clement watched as Karen raced out the door and started for her when Dula put a hand to his shoulder.

Dula’s eyes roamed his friend’s face. “You okay Who started the fire?”

“We’re okay. I’ll explain later.” With a smile revealing what was inside, Clement hurried after Karen.

Jennifer managed a smile as Karen dabbed the handkerchief against her cheek. “Thanks…”

“Not a problem,” Karen said gently and sat back in the chair beside her hospital bed. Her eyes swept over Jennifer’s face. “You’re gonna be okay.”

“I don’t know about that.” Her brow furrowed, conflicted. “I thought I could get to know her, maybe develop a relationship with her but… she left me there to die. Let that man knock me out and left me there. Abandoned me for the second time.”

Karen reached out to cover Jennifer’s cool hand with hers. “She may have given birth to you but she’s not your mother. Remember?” She squeezed her hand and offered her a gentle smile. “I know you will. It’ll hurt for a minute but you’ll be just fine.”

Jennifer sighed heavily and lay her head back. “I’m tired.”

“I’ll let you sleep.” Karen released her hand and stood. After one look at her friend, she turned and walked out of the hospital room. Clement stood on the opposite wall, waiting. He looked up when she closed the door and she gave him a smile. “How long have you been waiting here?”

Clement only answered with a smile and held out his hand to her. Karen didn’t hesitate taking it and let him lead her on a walk down the hallway. A technician pushed a cart towards them. Karen bit back a smile when he laced their fingers and tugged her closer to him, avoiding the cart by an inch.

She glanced up at him but didn’t say a word, admiring his handsome profile.

He led them to the front exit of the hospital and down a winding path to a small bench overlooking a body of water. Djibouti was nothing like Bichena or Kenya, but the scenery was still beautiful. Or maybe it was an effect of her floating on cloud nine.

Clement gestured for her to sit and sat beside her, their hands still joined. He placed his other hand on top, thumb caressing her palm. “You okay?”

Karen still couldn’t believe this was happening. She’d reasoned that it was the spur of the moment and Clement’s relief that made him kiss her, but here he was being so attentive and sweet and…

He was looking at her now, brow furrowed. “Are you?”

His look of concern melted every ounce of anxiety and she smiled. “Better than okay. You?”

Clement nodded with a ghost of a smile. “Me too.” He sobered. “I thought I lost you. When Ejigu came back looking the way he did, and you weren’t with him, I…”

“We made it alive, Clement. Thank God. And thank you for coming for me.”

“I had to.” His gaze searched hers. “Karen, I think I love you.” He shook his head. “No, I know I love you.”

She smiled, heart soaring with elation. “I’m glad you corrected yourself or else.”

He arched a brow. “Or else what?”

Karen grinned fully. “I love you too, Clement. Very very much.”

Clement responded by pulling her close until their faces were inches apart. Karen forgot to breathe, her eyes wide and searching his. He chuckled and lowered his face until their lips touched. She sighed against him, grateful it wasn’t a dream.

Then he embraced her close, placing butterfly kisses against her temple. Karen smiled, hooking her arms around his waist. Her eyes took note of the blue sky and she immediately thought of Bichena’s beautiful plains and valleys. “When are we going home?”

He pulled back a bit to look down at her. There was a slight wrinkle in his brow and Karen mirrored it. “What?” When he didn’t answer, Karen pulled away. “What is it, Clement?”

“I want you to go home—wait,” he added before she could protest. “I want you to go home and rest for a bit. Spend time with your family, I know you miss them.” He lifted a hand to cup her cheek, his thumb brushing her skin. “You need your time with them.”

“We just got started,” Karen whined shamelessly. “You’re sending me home after telling me you love me?”

“Woman, can you let me finish?”

“If you’re gonna say more foolish stuff…” Karen heaved a sigh. “Fine, finish.”

Clement fought a smile and gave her a quick peck, unable to help himself. He then lifted his head and watched her eyelashes flutter. His grin widened. “Being a missionary isn’t easy. Heck, life with me won’t be a walk in the park… which is why I’m giving you the break you’ll need.”

Dubious, she arched a brow. “How long of a break is it gonna be?”

“You decide how long,” Clement replied. “Just know when you return, we’re hitting the ground running. We’ve still got work to be done.”

“Like finding Alice and Petra. Even if Mrs. Badri’s in jail, there are many like her out there.” Karen then frowned. “Wait-a-minute. That better not be a proposal. Are you being serious?”

Clement choked on a laugh. “You’re gonna be such a handful.” His kiss cut off her protests and he pulled her into an embrace. Life with Karen was going to be an adventure of a lifetime and he sincerely couldn’t wait.

<<Chapter 29 || Chapter 31>>

Sanctuary, Chapter 29

Posted on 10/08/2017

Dula refused to sit with the traitor and opted to drive while Ashon and Clement debated who would watch Ejigu. In the end, Ashon volunteered for the task and Clement quietly took the seat beside his friend Dula. Saying their goodbyes to a mournful Wubit and a worried Priscilla, the men began the long drive to Djibouti.

Baba, do you know how to shoot a rifle?” Dula asked after a few moments of tense silence.

“We’re shooting guns?” Ashon asked from behind. Ejigu remained mournfully silent, eyes downcast as he sat in one corner of the jeep.

Clement didn’t answer, his mind on Karen. No matter what Ashon said, it was his fault she was in this dangerous situation. He should’ve never invited her to visit him, never gotten her involved. He wouldn’t forgive himself if anything happened to her.

“Traitor,” Dula finally called out to Ejigu. “Make yourself useful and tell us what to expect.”

With a nudge of Ashon’s elbow to his side, Ejigu grimaced and jerked to an upright sitting position. “It’s as you imagine… the Kutfi are dangerously strong and Mrs. Badri’s fortress is almost impenetrable.”

Ashon shook his head. “Then how do you suppose we get inside?”

“I’m turning myself in,” Clement answered.

Dula jerked his stare to Clement. “Are you mad? Why would you willingly walk into the lion’s den?”

“He’s right,” Ejigu agreed, panic in his eyes. “They won’t have mercy on you.”

“And you expect me to let Karen take the fall for me?” Clement snapped, rendering Ejigu speechless. In fact, all three men sat dumbfounded. He sighed. “I can’t do that. I can’t leave her there.”

“You love her, don’t you?”

Clement glared at his friend beside him. “Is that relevant right now?”

“It is, Brother.” Dula’s smile was weak. “It’ll make this mission all the more significant.”

“Even if I didn’t love her, I’d still do this.”

“I know.” Dula patted his friend’s arm and then placed it back on the steering wheel. “Then let’s do this.”

“Wait a minute,” Ejigu protested, eyes wild with alarm. “Are you really letting him turn himself in?”

Ashon clapped a hand on Ejigu’s injured shoulder. “Yes, and you’re gonna help us. Start talking.”

Ejigu felt the weight of Dula’s glare and heaved a deep sigh. “What do you want to know?”

“Everything,” Clement instructed. “From how many soldiers guard her fortress, their weaponry, where the…” he drew in a breath and released it slowly. “Where the prisons are. I want to know everything.”

Ejigu stared at the back of Clement’s head before nodding. “Fine…”

The three men sat in silence, hanging onto every word Ejigu spoke as he detailed the impenetrable fortress of Mrs. Zeinab Badri and her host of Kutfi soldiers. They’d need all the information they could get out of him if they were going to rescue Karen and leave unscathed.

A few hours into their trip, the four men stepped out of the jeep for a rest break. Dula and Ashon walked a few feet away to relieve themselves first while Clement and Ejigu stretched stiff limbs on the side of the road. Stretching his left leg, Clement snuck a look at Ejigu who grimaced in pain. No doubt the Kutfi had been merciless in their assault, but thinking about Ejigu’s attack made him more worried for Karen’s wellbeing.

He turned away and stretched his other leg, intent on ignoring Ejigu. Except the niggling he’d had after a fight with any of his siblings now plagued him. Clement tossed an exasperated glance at the sky and sighed. “Why’d you do it?”

Ejigu averted his gaze to the grassy floor and Clement nodded. “It doesn’t matter. I’m sure you don’t even know how you got this far and so low… In any case, I forgive you.” When Ejigu looked up with surprise in his eyes, Clement arched a brow. “I may not be a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but I am called to a higher standard of Christ. If I can’t forgive my brother, how can I preach on God’s forgiveness?”

Tears brimmed Ejigu’s eyes and Clement sighed. “But if you were in such a bind, you should’ve come to us. We would’ve helped you. Why become a double agent? Weren’t you tired of pretending?”

Ejigu’s lips trembled and he looked down. “I couldn’t tell anyone. No one would understand.”

“I still don’t but that’s not important. Christ expects me to forgive as He forgave me. Revenge is His, so I should let Him deal with you as I’m sure he’s doing now. You feel terrible, don’t you?”

The young man sniffled noisily, dragging a hand under his runny nose.

Although he’d knew forgiveness to a guilty man was like heaping coals over his head, Clement marveled at how it broke Ejigu to receive grace from one he’d betrayed. Narrowing the distance between him and his young friend, Clement placed a hand on his quivering shoulder. “So you’ve got to help us get rid of them for good. Maybe we could probably do without you, but I have a feeling your help will make the difference. Will you help me… Brother?”

The younger man began weeping bitterly. By the time Dula and Ashon returned from the rest stop, they found Clement holding a crying Ejigu.

Dula paused. “Did you hit him again?”

Clement merely gave his friend a wan smile and patted Ejigu’s back. “He’s alright.”

Ashon and Dula exchanged wary glances, and Clement held Ejigu at arms’ length. “I’m giving you one more chance. Don’t let me down.”

Ejigu nodded quickly, wiping the tears from his face. “I promise.”

Dula arched a brow as Clement slung an arm around Ejigu and led him to the rest stop. “We’re making up now?” he drawled to no one in particular, then shook his head. “He’s too kind for his own good.”

“Just like Missy… they would make a fine pair,” Ashon remarked, a slight smile on his face. He turned to his son-in-law. “Do you think he will really turn himself in?”

“He means what he says,” Dula muttered, stretching his arms over his head. “But it’s our duty to keep him from getting himself killed.” He glanced at his father-in-law. “You think Karen’ll be able to hold on till then?”

“She’s a brave one,” Ashon responded and then heaved a sigh. “But she’s been through a lot. I don’t know.”

“Then we better pray she can hold on just a little bit longer…”

By the time Clement and Ejigu trudged out of the bushes, Dula and Ashon waited in the front of the jeep. Clement gestured for Ejigu to enter first, patting his shoulder in silent encouragement and then climbed in after him. Dula started the engine and maneuvered the Jeep onto the road.

“So what’s the plan?” Dula asked, glancing once at Clement from the rearview mirror.

“Ejigu will lead me inside while you two wait it out.”

“No way—” Dula paused when Ashon placed a hand over his shoulder, silently willing him to silence.

Clement pulled out his phone, dialed a number and held it to his ear. He then sat up. “Priscilla, I need you to do me a favor. Give me your father’s private number.”

Dula and Ejigu stared at him, both dumbfounded for they knew Clement had been adamant about leaving the government out of their covert missions; rejecting Priscilla’s offered assistance… until now.

“Yes I did say it wouldn’t work before but now I do,” Clement calmly answered Priscilla’s protests and his friends’ unanswered questions. “It’s time we work together, don’t you think?”

“I wish I could understand but I can’t make sense of this,” Karen said between bites. “You left your job and sold your apartment so you could find your birth mother? Did you really think she’d jump for joy to see you?”

Jennifer sat cross-legged, watching Karen devour the food on the tray, and smiled wryly. “It’s a wonder that you even have an appetite right now.”

Karen slowed chewing and looked at Jennifer. She felt sorry for the young woman who didn’t look that overjoyed about reuniting with her mother. If anything, she looked like she would rather be somewhere else than here. She lowered the smoked chicken sandwich onto the metal plate and placed her hands on her folded legs. “Were you expecting me to starve myself or keep crying?”

“Or at least look worried.”

“I am worried,” Karen countered gently. “I’m deathly afraid I might not get to go home. I’m scared that she’ll sell me to some brothel or ask her evil guards to choke the life out of me…” She exhaled a shaky breath. “I’m even more afraid for Clement and what she’ll do to him if he comes here.”

“You think he’ll show?” Jennifer nudged the metal cup of cool milk toward Karen.

Karen merely stared at the cup. “I hope not. There’s nothing for him here.” Even still, Mrs. Badri’s ominous words from earlier knotted her insides.

“Then what will you do? How could you eat knowing he may not come for you?”

“I’m gonna find a way out.” Karen put a hand over her tray when Jennifer attempted to steal a potato wedge. “Girl, I know you can easily get food for yourself. Why steal a prisoner’s food?”

Jennifer scoffed and refolded her arms. “You’re something else.”

“That’s what they tell me,” Karen said, tossing a wedge into her mouth. “Wanna help me sneak out?”

Jennifer paused, looking at Karen as if she’d grown another head. “And why would I do that?”

“Because I don’t believe for a second you’re here to reunite with that monster, no offense.” Her eyes moved over the young woman’s face. “I think you’re up to something.”

“You’re delusional from being locked up too long. I’m not up to anything but feeding my mother’s prisoner.” She grabbed the tray and started to stand when Karen grabbed her wrist. “What are you doing?”

“Look me in the eye and tell me the truth.”

“Are you insane? Do you have any idea what could happen to you if you don’t cooperate? If you even attempt to escape, she won’t hesitate to kill you.”

“And you’re okay with that? Do you want to be like her that badly?” When something flickered in Jennifer’s eyes, Karen continued. “Be honest with yourself, Jen. You resent her for abandoning you. You’re angry at her for giving you up so she could make a living out of selling innocent children—”

Jennifer yanked her hand free and stumbled backward, wide eyes unfocused. “You don’t know anything.”

“I know this isn’t you,” Karen answered, unfazed. She stood and walked up to the bars that separated her from Jennifer. “The girl I shared a room with wouldn’t be party to this. The girl who stayed up all night to make cards for the Kibera children or washed their hair until her fingers were wrinkled wouldn’t be okay with this.” She shook her head. “Not that Jen, not my friend.”

Tears glistened in Jennifer’s eyes and she bit against her quivering bottom lip. Her brow wrinkled, a sign of her inner conflict and Karen felt only sympathy for the girl who probably wanted to believe that her birth mother was good in spite of all the evil she saw before and around her.

“Whether you want to believe me or not, Mrs. Badri is not your mother,” Karen said gently, wrapping her hands around the bars. She noticed the flicker in Jennifer’s eyes and felt encouraged to continue. “You were raised by good parents, you told me so, parents who gave up everything for you to have a great life. Mrs. Badri gave you up to have a great life. She’s an evil and selfish woman; something you’ll never be.”

Jennifer sniffled noisily and a lone tear slid down her cheeks.

Karen’s heart ached for her young friend but couldn’t stop now. “Your curiosity about the woman that bore you isn’t wrong, but this woman isn’t your mother. Mrs. Badri doesn’t deserve the right or honor to be called your Mom so don’t give her that right.”

“I’m sorry, I—” Jennifer paused, glanced over her shoulder and then back at Karen with fear spread across her features. “I have to go.”

Karen watched helplessly as Jennifer hurried down the shadowed corridor and winced as the metal door slammed in place. She dropped to her haunches and leaned her forehead against the metal bars. “What now?” she whispered. “What do I do now?”

The metal door opened and Karen quickly scooted back to the wall. Relief loosened her shoulders at the sight of Jennifer and she crawled back to the front of the cell. “What happened?”

“Your guy is here.”

The slight smile slipped and alarm gripped her by the neck. “What?” she eked out.

Jennifer looked grave. “The preacher guy my moth—she’s looking for, he’s here.”

Astounded, Karen dropped on her backside. Clement was here?

“Where is she?” Clement demanded, not even attempting to struggle against the rock-hard grips of the Kutfi soldiers flanking him on every side. He glared at the woman standing a few feet away with Mahmoud and her stern-faced bodyguard. “Where is she, you demo—” his head jerked back as one of the men struck him on the face.

Being held back by soldiers a foot away, Ejigu winced.

“You’re in no position to make demands, Mr. Legesse,” Mrs. Badri drawled. “Or is it Reverend Teka?”

Clement’s jaw tightened as he straightened from the blow and glared openly at her. “I won’t answer anything until you tell me where she is…” he trailed off when Mrs. Badri burst into an evil cackle that sent shivers up his spine. He bunched his fists, angry yet helpless to do anything. “If you hurt her, I swear I’ll kill you—” he received another blow to his face but recovered quicker this time, fixing his glare on her face.

Her laugh halted and she arched one brow. “Should a pastor be threatening murder? But then again, a pastor wouldn’t pretend to buy children or trick people. Tell me, Mr. Teka, which is your real identity?”

“God will understand if the world was rid of you,” he sneered from a bleeding mouth.

Mrs. Badri held up a hand before the soldier could strike Clement one more time. Her expression darkened. “You didn’t do your proper research before you thinking you could trick me. Or else you would have realized my spy in your camp.” Her gaze swung to Ejigu who lowered his head.

Clement’s facial features twitched as she chuckled wickedly. “You must really think you’ve won, huh?”

Her smile froze but she raised her shapely brow. “You’ve been captured. What else could it be?”

“In case you didn’t know already, good always overcomes evil.”

Mrs. Badri scoffed derisively. “How convenient for you to spout your Bible here.” Her expression hardened as her gaze shifted to one of the soldiers. “Lock ‘em up.”

As the Kutfi soldiers shoved Clement and Ejigu towards the double doors, it swung open and a woman stepped inside, gasping for air. She glanced once at Clement and then rushed past him toward Mrs. Badri.

“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Badri asked.

“She’s gone.”

Clement whipped around, predicting the ‘she’ was Karen.

“What do you mean she’s gone?” Mrs. Badri demanded, anger contorting her features.

“I tried to bring her food,” the woman paused, gulping air. “A-and she knocked me down before… before grabbing the keys.”

Clement and Ejigu exchanged surprised looks, and Clement returned his attention to the woman who looked like she’d barely survived a brawl. He stared in awe at the woman’s disheveled appearance. Karen had escaped from her prison cell?

“We will find her,” Mahmoud promised, gesturing for the Kutfi soldiers that guarded the back doors. He led the way out of the double doors, the soldiers hurrying after him.

“I’m sorry—”

Mrs. Badri swung her hand at the woman’s face. “Who told you to go there? Who gave you permission?”

Stricken, the young woman held a hand to her injured cheek and gaped at Mrs. Badri.

Livid, Mrs. Badri turned to her bodyguard. “Lock her up and keep her out of trouble.”

The bodyguard grabbed the young woman who attempted to struggle in his unrelenting hold. She whimpered when she could struggle no longer. Mrs. Badri then pinned Clement with her murderous glare. “I won’t rest until I’m finished with the lot of you. Take them to their cells. No one sleeps until we find that pesky woman.” Turning on her heel, she sauntered in the other direction toward another set of double doors.

Clement watched as the bodyguard dragged the sobbing young woman after Mrs. Badri, and the doors shut behind them. He noticed that there were only four men in the room with them; the guards assigned to lock them up. His eyes sought Ejigu’s and though fear flitted in his friend’s eyes, Ejigu gave him an imperceptible nod.

The guards roughly pulled at their arms, turning them toward the open double doors. Clement mentally counted to four and extended a foot in front of a guard holding Ejigu. The man stumbled forward, his hold loosening on Ejigu’s arm. The young veteran didn’t waste a beat and swung his elbow into the other guard’s face and kicked his chest, sending the soldier staggering backwards.

As predicted, one of Clement’s guards released his arm to reach for Ejigu. Shoving his elbow into the other guard’s gut, Clement spun around and slammed a fist in the man’s face. Fighting as though they’d trained together for years instead of hours, Ejigu and Clement successfully disarmed the guards until they were the only two standing. The disabled soldiers rolled on the floor, groaning in pain.

Pocketing their newly-acquired weapons, the two friends shared a look of understanding and then parted ways; Clement headed out the door Mrs. Badri had exited while Ejigu hurried toward the prison cells.

As he hurried down the shadowed hallway, Clement prayed he would find Karen before anyone else.

Suddenly, a piercing sound cut through the silence. He halted, recognizing the sound as a gunshot. Clement’s eyes widened in realization and he started running toward the sound, fear nipping at his heels.

Then what sounded like a fire alarm blared through the silence following the gunshot. The wall and ceiling lights flashed on and off; alarm warning that danger was up ahead. He picked up his pace, his racing heart lodged in his throat. Black smoke slithered like a python from the end of the hall toward him, but Clement didn’t stop, running as fast as he could.

Holding one hand over his mouth and nose, Clement rushed into the blinding smoke.

<<Chapter 28 || Chapter 30>>

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