Chapter Two (Part One)
They got underway moments later, the familiar sight of the dive shop and the dock quickly fading into a pinpoint along the horizon. A wind of their own making whipped through Sara’s hair as the boat sped along calm seas. It was liberating, in a lot of ways, felt like freedom and progress as they broke away from shore and the undoubtedly watchful eyes of Company agents. Still, even with the loud, constant rumble of their outboard motor, Sara knew better than to trust the illusion of privacy until Jane gave the go ahead after they met up.
“Sara, about yesterday...” Linc started with heavy eyes and a determined voice.
“Not now, Lincoln,” she replied with obvious irritation. “We will be having a conversation about that, but let's make sure... little ears aren’t around to overhear it?”
She nodded her head toward shore rather than the direction where Mikey sat looking at pictures of fish with LJ on an underwater sealife guide. Lincoln gave her a bit of a disbelieving look, clearly feeling more at ease to talk than she did, but nodded anyhow and headed back to Sofia’s side as she manned the boat.
They reached their rendezvous point thirty-five minutes early, killing the motor with nothing and no one in sight. The illusion of wind died away and as their wake faded the sea became so flat that it felt like she could step off the boat and walk across it. White-knuckled with her hands clenched against the aft railing, Sara waited.
Minutes ticked by like hours. The sense of anxiety and urgency she felt did nothing to speed up the ticking of her watch. It had been years since she’d felt this on-edge and she was surprised to find that she’d actually forgotten how much she hated the sensation.
As it turned out, Jane was - not surprisingly - exactly on time. She was also not alone, something Sara realized well before Jane’s ship cozied up to theirs as she watched it approach. Thinking back, Jane had indicated there would be others with her. But things had been so earth-shattering last night, so overwhelming, that she hadn’t really considered that fact until now. And now? Now, she was wondering who these people were, why they cared, what they wanted.
She had a measure of trust for Jane because Lincoln did and because she’d come to them laptop in hand with evidence of Michael’s survival. But she couldn’t help remembering that one of Jane’s people had betrayed them before, a Company spy who’d gotten shots off at Lincoln and LJ in the middle of a supposed safe house.
“Mikey?” she called, drawing her son’s attention away from LJ’s apparent marine biology lesson. “I need you to go downstairs and play with toys. And I want you to turn on music or the TV, okay?”
“I can watch Bob Builder?” Mikey asked with an air of disbelief.
“As many as you want until one of us comes down to get you,” Sara confirmed, breaking several rules she’d set years ago.
Mikey didn’t question his luck, bolting for the cabin door with a happy squeal as he went.
“Forget toys. I’m giving him a TV marathon next Christmas,” LJ laughed as he watched his cousin scamper off.
“The less he knows right now, the better,” Sara reminded LJ shrewdly.
The understanding look that washed over LJ’s face told Sara that he’d not really thought over the inherent problems of having a three-year-old around while plotting a top secret rescue mission. One little slip to a friend, a neighbor, a grocery store clerk saying “My mama says my daddy is coming home and I get to meet him” overheard by the wrong person and the consequences could be so, so dire.
“All clear,” Jane’s voice rang out as she pocketed some electronic device before stepping over from her boat to theirs. “No listening devices and no unexpected heat signatures aboard.”
In spite of her words, two of Jane’s four companions kept their eyes on the horizon, surveying their surroundings with methodical, practiced ease. The other two holstered their previously-drawn weapons but looked ready to spring into action any second. All things considered, this was probably a good thing. But Sara couldn’t help thinking that their version of ‘all clear’ and hers were decidedly different.
“Who are they?” Lincoln asked, arms crossed in front of his chest as he nodded briskly toward Jane’s companions.
Apparently he hadn’t forgotten being shot at by Jane’s people before either.
“My team,” Jane replied. “Greg Martin, Pedro Rodriguez, Natalie Stark and Oliver Samuelson. They all volunteered to be a part of this. I’ve worked with all of them for years and I’ll vouch for every one of them.”
“I’ve heard something a lot like that before,” Lincoln reminded her.
“It’s different this time, Lincoln,” she told him.
“And how do I know that?” he asked.
“You don’t,” she responded bluntly. “But I do. And you also don’t have a choice in this. They are assets. They are well-trained. They know everything that I do. We do this my way or I walk. I’m not staging a half-assed rescue attempt with a bunch of amateurs.”
“How many prison breaks do you have to go through, exactly, before you’re no longer considered amateur?” Lincoln questioned bitingly.
“You followed your brother out a window, Lincoln,” she reminded him. “You didn’t exactly mastermind the whole thing, did you?”
She made a fair point, Sara thought privately, but Lincoln was scowling back at the blond anyhow. It appeared she’d hit a nerve. But Sara had considerably greater concerns than Lincoln’s hurt feelings at the moment.
“What can you tell us about where Michael’s being held?” she asked, gripping Linc’s forearm and shooting him a warning glance to silence whatever retort he’d been about to shoot off at Jane.
“We should sit first,” Jane said, stepping easily from her boat to theirs, two of her people following after her. “This might take a while.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Sara saw Sofia gesture toward the long benches along the port side of the boat. Everyone followed the silent suggestion except for Lincoln, who elected to stand imposingly nearby with his feet spread in a wide stance and his bulky arms folded neatly in front of him.
“We didn’t even know about the facility where Michael is being held until recently,” Jane began, directing her information toward Sara’s intensely focused gaze. “When The General was executed, there was a big change-up in the different factions of The Company. We believe it was a deadline for some of the former mid-level management types. One of our guys, a technician, was brought into this particular base with the changeover.”
“What’s the facility for?” LJ questioned, earning a respectful look from Jane. “It’s obviously not entirely for housing Uncle Mike.”
“We don’t know everything that goes on there,” Jane admitted. “Our inside man has access to some surveillance cameras and some of the buildings, but not all. We were incredibly lucky that he was assigned to the building he was or we wouldn’t know of Michael’s imprisonment. As far as we can tell, Michael’s the only one being held captive. There’s a medical facility, but we believe it’s only purpose is to serve the residents of the island. Predominantly we think the island a highly secure data center and a training facility.”
“Training facility?” Lincoln spoke up, looking intensely interested as his arms dropped to his side.
“No one’s born an assassin, Linc,” she told him.
“The Company doesn’t exactly recruit your average housewife from Kentucky as an assassin though, does it?” Linc asked. “Ex-military, mercenaries... most of them have a pretty good idea how to kill a man already.”
“You seriously depleted their personnel and resources when you took Scylla out of play,” Jane reminded them. “And with different segments fighting for control, they’re all looking to build a bigger, better base of loyal agents as fast as possible. That means training.”
“So we’re walking into a heavily guarded facility filled with... how many trained assassins?” LJ asked.
“Somewhere between 100 and 250 Company employees. At least half of them are guards or assassins,” Jane informed him.
“What do you mean ‘we?’” Linc questioned, eyes fixed on his son. “There’s no ‘we’ here. You’re not going.”
“What? Yes I am,” LJ insisted, rising to his feet to face off against his father. “It’s Uncle Mike and he needs us. He’s always been there for us. I’m gonna be there for him.”
“You’re not going, LJ. End of discussion,” Linc told him decisively.
“I’m not sixteen anymore,” LJ replied fiercely. “You can’t just order me to sit at home and wait for a phone call that might not even ever come!”
“No one’s staying at home,” Sara interrupted, shifting the subject slightly to diffuse the tension a little. “It’s not safe. Not with agents tailing us.”
“He is not going along with us!” Lincoln shouted at Sara.
“I never said he was!” Sara shouted back, matching his volume but with an even tone that held no anger. “Mikey isn’t either. Obviously. We’ll need to divide up. You and I are going with Jane and her crew. We’ll need LJ and Sofia to hide with and protect Mikey because the very second they realize what we’re trying we’ll all have a giant bullseye on our backs.”
“Mikey will need both of us, LJ,” Sofia spoke up. “He has not been away from his mother for more than an afternoon. He is going to need familiar faces as well as protection. And he will be scared because there will be nothing else familiar for him. Not even his home country.”
“We can’t go back to Costa Rica?” LJ questioned, looking every bit the teenager he’d just vehemently denied being.
“No,” Jane agreed. “You can’t. We have resources in place that can help you all disappear, but that’s a conversation for another time.
“From satellite imagery, we have a good idea of the layout of the island,” Jane continued as one of her people, Samuelson, handed over the same laptop that had drawn all of them in so easily the night before.
But it wasn’t the video feed of Michael that graced the screen this time. It was an overhead image of a pear-shaped island, sparsely treed with two large buildings and a smattering of much smaller outbuildings. One of the buildings, seemingly taller than the others - though that was hard to discern with any certitude given the angle - had a helicopter landing pad atop it and there was a dock not far away from the same building.
“We think he’s being held here,” Jane said, pointing toward the largest building. “In an interior room on the fifth floor.”
“I’m hearing a lot of ‘we think’ and ‘we believe’ here, Jane,” Linc said tensely, rubbing a hand over his scalp. “How certain are you really?”
“Intel is hard to come by and our man doesn’t have access to more than the video feeds for that building. He can’t go in and verify anything,” Jane said. “Judging by the routes the guards take to man their stations outside of Michael’s room, we have a very good best guess as to where he is, but I cannot guarantee you anything. Anything. And I’m not going to lie to you about that.”
“How many guards are on his room?” Sara asked.
“Two at all times,” Jane replied. “Both of whom follow him if he goes anywhere.”
“Does he leave the room often?” Sara questioned.
“Most days he spends a few hours outside of the room but somewhere in the same building,” Jane responded. “The timing is irregular and we don’t know where he goes.”
“Other than a few dozen hitmen living there, what kind of security does the island have?” Lincoln asked.
Jane sighed and looked toward one of her comrades. It wasn’t reassuring.
“One of the biggest security features is location. A boat or a helicopter are the only options for getting close and either one is going to draw attention,” she reminded them. “There are armed patrols around the clock. Entry into either of the main buildings requires thumbprint identification. There’s surveillance in most - if not all - areas that’s monitored constantly both by Company employees and facial recognition software.”
“Is that all?” Linc asked sarcastically.
“No, probably not,” Jane responded, unhesitatingly. “Our guy’s just a technician and his intel is limited. We’ll undoubtedly have a few surprises once we’re in there.”
Sara sighed heavily as she stared at the satellite image in front of her, willing her brain to work like Michael’s just this once. He’d have ideas straight away, she knew. Plans and contingency plans and contingency plans for the contingency plans.
“We need Alex,” she said suddenly and it seemed so obvious as soon as she voiced the thought that she was surprised she hadn’t done so earlier.
“He and his wife are already on the way,” Jane replied, to Sara’s shock. “They’ll land in the morning.”
“How did you manage that?” Sara asked, her voice clearly stunned.
“I visited him and his wife three days ago and briefed them on the situation,” Jane informed her. “He’d be useful simply because he’s a former Company employee, but given his experience in breaking out of SONA and plotting breaking into Miami-Dade as well as interpreting Michael’s original plans to break out of Fox River, I think his input will be invaluable.”
Sara chewed on her lip a little as she debated bringing something up, eyes darting toward Jane’s companions and back to the blonde.
“And you... you’ll be all right about working with him? After everything?” Sara asked hesitantly.
“Because he was the one who killed Aldo, you mean?” Jane asked, not softening the truth even a little.
“Yes,” Sara confirmed, reminding herself that Jane wasn’t one to mince words. “That is what I mean.”
“We’ve had words about that already,” Jane bit out. “I’m not about to become friends with the man, but I am fully capable of divorcing my personal feelings from my professional obligations. He did what he had to do at the time. I can’t say with any certainty that I’d have done differently in his shoes. That doesn’t mean I intend to forgive his actions, but we are all aware of how vital a role he has in this mission. We won’t have a problem working together.”
“What about Sucre?” Lincoln asked abruptly.
“What about him?” Jane queried.
“Have you talked to him yet?” Lincoln asked, his voice a little patronizing.
“Why would we need him?” Jane puzzled.
“He’d want to be here,” Sara insisted.
“Yes, but why would we need him?” Jane repeated.
“You need people you trust to watch your back. We need people we trust to watch ours,” Linc replied. “Sucre’s in.”
“Fine,” Jane acquiesced, looking none-too-happy about it. “But Agents Mahone and Lang travel to Costa Rica a couple of times a year. Anyone watching wouldn’t think twice about them coming to visit you. Fernando Sucre is of... a more limited means. He manages for Michael’s memorial every year but if he hops a plane now, we risk tipping our hand and right now the only thing we have going for us is the element of surprise.”
“We’ll have to figure something else out,” Sara acknowledged, suddenly feeling weary, the tension and weight of the conversation exhausting her.
“We should break for the day,” Jane asserted, standing as she spoke. “Agent Mahone will want to be involved in planning the actual rescue and I think you’ve all gotten more than enough information to start mulling over. We’ll meet again tomorrow. Same time. Same place. Oh... and do remember to act surprised when Agent Mahone shows up at your door? It’s a spur of the moment visit and if you greet him like he’s expected then the agents on you will know something is up.”
Sara nodded absently, still staring at the satellite image and rubbing at her temples, the beginnings of a tension headache edging in on her. For not the first time, she marveled at how quickly the world could shift under her feet and everything she thought she knew could change.
“Jane?” she asked as the blonde stood and closed the laptop.
“Yes?” she responded curtly.
“Not that I’m not grateful, but... why did you come to us?” Sara questioned.
“What do you mean?” Jane asked, looking ever-so-slightly uneasy.
“You said it yourself,” Sara followed up, standing and looking the other woman warily in the eye. “You don’t need a bunch of amateurs watching your back and you don’t include anyone you don’t need in your plans.”
“I’m not convinced Michael will go anywhere with me without seeing that you and Linc are safe,” Jane replied.
Sara let the answer hang there as she studied the blonde, not entirely convinced that her response was the whole of her reasons.
“Okay,” Sara allowed after a moment, far from convinced but not about to push things.
“We’ll see you tomorrow,” Jane said by way of goodbye, brusquely heading back to her own boat, entourage in tow.
“You don’t trust Jane?” LJ questioned defensively as the other boat sped off, leaving them rocking slightly in its wake. “After all she’s done for us?”
“I believe there’s more to what’s going on than what she’s telling us,” Sara levelled with him. “And I believe this is a hell of an undertaking for her group to rescue one man who isn’t even one of their own.”
“So what do you think her agenda is?” Sofia asked.
“I don’t know,” Sara admitted, glancing in the direction the other boat had gone. “That’s what worries me.”
“They’re anti-Company and ready to help us get Michael back,” Linc asserted. “That’s all I need to know.”
“Yeah,” Sara agreed half-heartedly.
All she’d needed to know back in Fox River was that Lincoln was innocent, Michael had a plan to get him out and needed her to leave a door unlocked to save an innocent man. Of course, she hadn’t known at the time that leaving that door open would mean Bagwell and Patoshek and Abruzzi would escape, too. Overlapping agendas, she’d found out the hard way, didn’t mean identical ones.
“LJ, Sofia, would you mind checking on Mikey for me?” Sara asked, squinting at the sun in her eyes as she looked toward them. “I need to have a word with Linc before we head back.”
From the thin smile on Sofia’s face and the tiny nod she offered up, Sara was pretty sure her friend knew precisely what this conversation was going to be about, but LJ looked fairly clueless. It was amazing, honestly, how grown up and how young that boy seemed at the same time.
Sofia linked her arm through LJ’s and led her quasi-step-son down the stairs to the cabin where Sara could faintly hear Mikey chattering away with his favorite television show.
“Sara,” Linc rumbled.
“You didn’t have a right to try and keep this from me,” she interrupted, turning on him. “God, why would you even do that? It’s Michael, Lincoln. How in the world could you possibly think keeping it from me was a good idea?”
“Because it was,” he maintained, standing his ground literally and figuratively.
She grit her teeth and shook her head at him in disbelief, eyes blazing with ire and indignation.
“This is so damn dangerous, Sara. What if you die trying to save him? What if we both do? Then what?” Lincoln asked. “What happens to Mikey then?”
“We worked out years ago that if anything happened to me that you and Sofia would take care of Mikey,” Sara reminded him.
“He needs his mother, Sara,” Lincoln insisted.
“He needs both his parents,” Sara said challengingly. “And I intend to see he has that.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Lincoln snapped. “This isn’t a sure thing. It’s not even close and here you are talking about it like we’re gonna just waltz in there, grab Michael and sail off into the sunset. It doesn’t work like that.”
“I know it’s more complicated than-”
“There is nothing, nothing more horrible than hope,” Linc roared at her. “Every goddamn time a petition got denied or evidence turned out to be shit it was like I’d gotten a damn death sentence all over again. I don’t wanna sit there and watch you crumble to bits another time if we can’t get him back or he dies for real this time.”
She stumbled back half a step and gulped heavily at his words. She wished she couldn’t see the truth behind his words but, God, they were staring her right in the face and she couldn’t deny them. But it didn’t make him right and he needed to know that.
“And if you’d gone off with Jane on your own and never come back? What then? What if I’d had to live with wondering for the rest of my life what would have happened if I’d gone with you? The only thing worse than hope is regret, Linc,” she told him. “I refuse to live my life afraid of the consequences of doing what’s right.”
“You’re the most goddamn stubborn woman I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he muttered, shaking his head.
“Mmm, no,” Sara smiled. “Sofia gets that title. I’d have let you have the man-cave.”
Linc laughed, a full-throated sound that washed over them with a sense of normalcy. It felt good and familiar and right and Sara was grateful for it as he casually threw an arm around her shoulder and squeezed it briefly before letting her go.
“Maybe I should live with you and Michael instead,” he joked as he headed toward the helm, readying the boat for it’s journey back to shore.
“I’m not doing your laundry!” Sara informed him, grinning winningly as she settled a hand on the cabin door.
“Damn,” he mock-grimaced. “That’s a deal-breaker.”
It suddenly struck Sara that leaving Costa Rica would be easier than she’d thought. It held plenty of memories, mostly happy. But home was her family. It was Michael and Mikey and Lincoln and Sofia and LJ. And having them all together, happy and healthy and safe was the only thing that mattered.
“You ready to get going?” Linc asked as he turned the motor back on, oblivious to her thoughts.
A surge of confidence raced through her. This was happening. They could do this. They could set things right.
“Absolutely,” she replied.