Chapter Two of
Dogs and Diamonds . . .
Jenna whipped her left arm up, her thumb partially extended, and viciously jabbed the intruder in the throat. Stopped by the sudden blow, the man made a guttural, choking sound and stag-gered around in a complete circle before coming right back at her.
Jenna felt his gloved hands lightly graze her arms. She then tried to raise them and found her muscles constricting as if his touch had drained her of strength. She attempted to deliver another crushing blow to his already shattered nose, but before the extended knuckles of her right hand could connect, the man easily deflected both her right hand and the left she’d sluggishly followed through with.
Jenna found herself in excruciating pain as he drove a six-inch knife directly into the center of her breast. Offering her a sadistic look of triumph, he leaned forward, bringing his face an inch from her own. Jenna felt herself falling. Another burst of pain shot through her as the man withdrew the knife, sliding it out of the wound. She gasp-ed, tried to breathe, tried to scream, tried to stay alive. But the man reversed his grip on the knife to perform a swift underhand cut to stab her before she fell to the floor. The blade would have reentered the wound, killing her instantly, but Jenna saw a flash of bright light.
A second before closing her eyes, she saw a ghostly figure lash out and strike her attacker with a burst of blue flame. The knife fell from his hand. The wispy figure jabbed the man again, the prongs of the tazer creating an angry crackle.
The phone from the night stand sounded.
The shrill sound came again, intrusive and insistent.
Thirteen-year-old Tariq Arab froze as the man he’d just jabbed with his tazer dropped to the floor beside the American woman he’d stabbed so viciously. Dressed in his hooded black sweatshirt, Tariq resembled a Ninja. He gagged at the sight of Jenna sprawled before him, the knife wound bleeding profusely. Raising the tazer, he fingered the trigger, creating blue sparks that illuminated the grimacing features of the man struggling to overcome the severe pain he was in due to the two zaps of the tazer. Pulling the hood from his head, raven hair spilled down and around Tariq’s shoulders.
He wanted the man to know who he was. In fact, he was enraged that he had interfered in his mission. The Muslim boy had traveled far from his homeland to fulfill his quest. It was his turn for revenge. His turn to kill an American who had interfered with him back in Afghanistan. To be a good Muslim, Tariq had to fulfill his vow that he would kill this woman who had dared to invade his country. Due to the death of his two dearest childhood friends, she definitely had to pay.
“Ahmed,” the boy snarled, kicking at the downed man, “you are a stupid bastard! I told you she was mine to deal with!”
Ahmed grimaced in pain, then lay there listening to the phone’s answering system and the male voice that filled the room: “Jenn! They’re coming! Leave your place at once! Go to ground at Mako’s ranch! He will provide you with the security you need! We should have informed you, but we shipped those icy stones to you in secret. The Ring Bearer knows where they are hidden. He and Mithrandir and Strider! Just go, girl! It will be left to Bear and I to sort this out! Just! Get! Out! Of! There! Now!”
Tariq’s dark eyes remained fixed on the answering machine as if willing the voice to say more, but the loud click at the end of the mes-sage relayed through the machine indicated the speaker was done. No more words would be forthcoming. He had no idea what the words meant. It was simply an urgent communication warning the American to run. Only delivered too late. She would not be running anywhere.
The boy was startled by Ahmed’s harsh words as the man struggled to rise up from the hardwood floor. “I have made a mistake,” he said, through gritted teeth. “I had assumed she had already got rid of them. It was speculated that she had sold them. The caller indicated she still had them in her possession,” Ahmed said, in disbelief. “How could I have known? What have I done?”
“Only started,” Tariq said, still simmering with anger, “what I will finish! Hand me your knife!”
“No!” Ahmed said, frantically. “I must find out where she has them! Retrieving them is far more important than the assassination of this American woman. Put aside your rage for the moment, Tariq. Or must I report you to the imam? Do you wish to suffer his wrath?”
As Tariq took two steps toward the fallen woman, Ahmed snatched up his knife from the pool of blood where it lay. “No!” he cried, making a feeble swat at the boy with his knife. “Help me search for them and I will reward you richly. I vow it in the name of Allah.”
“Richly?” Tariq said, puzzled and confused, his rage tamped down quite suddenly by the mention of his god. “What does she have that is so valuable?”
Ahmed lowered his knife and weakly said, “The Jewels of Opar.”