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For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

Part 3

Thirteenth February.  Racino Pass.

Hawke could feel the darkness pulling at him, his eyes drifting shut and he shifted abruptly trying to keep himself awake. The movement jarred his leg and he cried out as the pain hit sharp and swift as the knife that had done the original damage. He took one shuddering breath than another. Where the hell were they? Why hadn’t they found him yet? It seemed like he’d been on the mountain injured for so long…for too long.

He shivered. The fire was almost out and he had hardly any kindling left to keep it going. Please, he thought helplessly, find me; I’m here. What if they weren’t coming? They were coming, he thought firmly, Dom and Caitlin were coming…they always did. His vision blurred and he shook his head to clear it. What had he been thinking about? That was right; he’d been thinking about the moment he’d left the rest of the group behind and headed out alone with the bad guys, Frank and John – if that had been their real names…

Earlier that day

Hawke ascended to a higher altitude in the chopper and checked his course. Racino Pass was a steep lookout post on the far side of the mountain range. Hawke knew the conditions were treacherous at that altitude even at the best of times. He wondered briefly what the two men were planning once they got to the pass. It seemed like a strange meeting or drop point but then they obviously had some kind of business there. He frowned. His time would be better spent thinking about how he got out of the mess he was in rather than trying to understand what the two guys were up to. Two against one wasn’t bad odds with the right opportunity; it was just finding the right opportunity. Sitting in a cockpit with two guns pointed at you wasn’t the right opportunity, Hawke thought, and he really needed to get out before they landed. If he landed when they got to their destination, it might very well be that they would then consider him surplus to requirements. A plan formed in his head and he went over it as he flew onwards.

The Pass was coming up directly in front of him and he caught the glint of something metallic on the side of the mountain; another chopper? He frowned. Maybe they were meeting someone else after all. He pushed the thought away. If his plan went well, it wouldn’t matter.

John nudged him and pointed at the other chopper on the ground. There was barely enough room for the two choppers to be parked side by side. It was a difficult landing. Hawke frowned and concentrated on manoeuvring into a solid position. He slowly lowered the chopper checking and rechecking his clearance. At the very last moment, he abruptly swerved away from the other chopper over the side of the mountain and as his captors slipped in their seats, Hawke grabbed the satchel from John’s grasp and jumped from the chopper.

He hit the ground hard and rolled, grateful for his stunt training as he slipped down the steep rock. He slid to a halt by a cluster of trees. The ground was frozen solid and he lost his footing time and again as he struggled to get to his feet and ran further down the mountain without looking back. He had somehow miraculously kept hold of the satchel in his fall. He came to a breathless halt when his lungs burned and he simply couldn’t run anymore. He slumped onto the ground behind a large bush and tried to work out where he was.

He figured he was maybe a couple of miles down the mountain from the Pass. If he was lucky, Frank and John would have been too busy trying to control the helicopter to notice which direction he had fallen in. If he was unlucky then he figured he wouldn’t have long before they found him because there was no doubt in his mind that they would come after him. He cursed the last minute instinct that had prompted him to grab the bag. His cold fingers pulled at the straps and he reached into the briefcase. Maybe whatever was in here would provide an explanation for what they were doing.

He pulled out a sheaf of documents. He frowned. It was documentation, fake but very good quality. His eyes widened at the picture on the passport and driver’s license. He recognised it. Toby Farland, an entrepreneur and successful businessman had disappeared two weeks before just as he had been about to be arrested for the murder of his wife; he could remember Caitlin handing him the newspaper article to read. Farland was obviously attempting to get a new identity and get out of the country. Frank and John were probably getting paid a ton of money and Farland probably had other muscle helping him with the exchange. Hawke hurriedly stuffed the documents back into the briefcase. He had to keep moving. He was about to start back down the mountain when a sound had him freezing into place.

‘I’m sure he fell around here.’ An unknown educated voice drifted over the trees towards Hawke.

‘He didn’t fall.’ Frank’s harsh voice was a contrast to his new companion. ‘He jumped.’

‘Maybe he didn’t trust you, Frank.’ The other voice teased.

Hawke scowled. Damn! Farland must have watched where he’d run to and sent Frank and this other guy after him straight away. He peeked over the bush and his heart dropped. Frank was already almost on top of him. He was going to have to take them on hand to hand. His mind made up; Hawke set the briefcase down, stilled into motionlessness and waited.

Frank was the first one to come around the corner. Hawke jumped out from his hiding place and karate kicked the gun out of Frank’s hand. Frank stumbled sideways but his reactions were good and he moved with amazing swiftness to tackle Hawke and send them both to the ground. Hawke grunted as a punch drove the breath from his body. He dislodged Frank and got the upper position, driving his own fist into Frank’s face again and again. The other man still grappled with Hawke and somehow got his hands around Hawke’s throat. Hawke could feel the blackness descending as he desperately grabbed Frank’s head and twisted. The crack of the neck was loud in the silence of the mountains. Hawke stumbled off the body and froze at the sound of applause.

A small blond man stood to the side clapping his hands. He was thin but muscled and the two steps he took towards Hawke put him in mind of a predator. There was a cruel sneer across the lips and the pale brown eyes looking back at Hawke were cold and lifeless. Hawke knew he was in trouble. Frank had been a goon; this guy looked like he’d tortured small animals in his spare time.

There was a snick of metal and Hawke saw the flash of light as the sun hit the switchblade. They circled each other warily.

‘It was a good move.’ The younger man said conversationally. ‘Jumping out of the plane like that might have saved your life.’

Hawke stayed silent; he doubted he had the breath left to make small talk.

‘Frank and John explained what happened.’ His opponent continued. ‘It was a most unfortunate incident.’ He raised the blade and examined it, running his finger along the knife edge. ‘Their plane crashing near to your fishing expedition like that.’ He tutted. ‘Like I say, most unfortunate.’ He sighed. ‘Mr Farland does so abhor violence.’

‘I’m guessing you don’t.’ Hawke said finally.

The man gave a facsimile of a smile. ‘Indeed. That’s why I remained behind with Frank to clear up his mess.’

‘Don’t you want your boss’ new identity?’ Hawke asked trying to stall him.

‘We have John.’ The smile was crueller. ‘All we need to do is eliminate you.’

‘Go ahead.’ Hawke said and spread his arms wide to give the other man a wide target. ‘What are you waiting for?’

The attack was fast; so fast, Hawke almost didn’t react in time. He blocked the blow with his right forearm and whacked his elbow into the guy’s face. Blood spurted from the nose and Hawke followed it up by grasping the man’s head and throwing him over his shoulder. He went to follow up with a kick but the other guy moved quickly, suddenly knifing Hawke in the thigh. He cried out but somehow managed to twist away at the last moment from a second thrust. He grabbed the man’s hand; it was wet and sticky with blood; his blood, Hawke realised. His hold almost slipped; once, twice. They were rolling on the ground now, each trying to shove the knife into the other. Hawke finally got a firm grasp and drove the knife home into the other man’s heart. He wriggled from under the body and crawled a few feet back to the bush. He greedily gulped in air as he undid his belt and slid it from the loops of his jeans. He fastened it tightly around the upper part of his thigh. It was a makeshift tourniquet that would hopefully slow the bleeding…the pain was tremendous but he blanked it out as he tore a strip from the bottom of his shirt. He tied it around the bloody wound and tried not to panic as it brightened with a red stain almost immediately.

He pushed his rising panic aside and tried to think past the pain. He had to get back up the Pass, he thought taking a steadying breath. Dom knew that he’d been headed for Racino Pass; all he had to do was get back to the Pass so they could find him when they came looking. He attempted to stand and fell back to the ground as the pain in his thigh bit deep. He breathed deeply and looked around him for something he could lean on. A fallen branch caught his eye and he managed to crawl over to it. He examined it and decided it was probably sturdy enough. He used a nearby tree for leverage and hopped on his good foot. The makeshift crutch took his weight and he began the slow walk back up the mountain. The terrain was slippery and uneven. He lost count of the times he fell and got back up. He was sweating and tired when he made it to the rocky path that led the way up the mountain.

Rest. He had to rest, Hawke thought tiredly. A sharp wind cut through his leather jacket and he shivered. He examined his leg. The wound was still bleeding. He’d lost a lot of blood. He wasn’t sure he could risk walking on it all the way to the Pass; he wasn’t sure he would make it to the Pass if he tried. He glanced about him. A nook in the wall of the mountain caught his attention. It was small but it might provide some shelter, some kind of windbreak. He patted the pocket of his jacket and reached inside. He pulled out a book of matches and gave a relieved sigh. He must have put them unthinkingly into his pocket after lighting the campfire the night before. He struggled to the nook, gathering as many twigs and kindling material into the inside of his jacket as he could. He fell rather than lowered himself to the floor by the mountain wall. It took him three attempts before he managed to get a fire lit and he huddled into his jacket by the flames. He stared at the sun. It was after noon. Caitlin would have realised something was wrong when they hadn’t called in and gone looking, he thought; she and Dom would get Airwolf and come for him. The thought strengthened his resolve as he settled to wait.

Part 4

Thirteenth February. Hawke’s Cabin.

Caitlin looked into the blue sky unsettled at the harsh cry of the eagle; it sounded like something was wrong. Or maybe, she thought, it was just her mood. Her fingers tapped restlessly on the wooden porch railing and she resisted the urge to check her watch again.

‘Hey! Earth to Caitlin!’ Her mother’s voice finally registered and Caitlin turned to face her with an apologetic smile.

‘Sorry, Mom.’ She said.

Maggie took in the worry that filled Caitlin’s blue-green eyes and sighed. ‘Will you stop worrying? They probably just got caught up fishing and haven’t realised the time. You know what your father’s like.’

‘Maybe.’ Caitlin allowed. She sighed and folded her arms. ‘It’s just Dom said they’d check in this morning and they haven’t.’

‘There’s probably a dozen explanations why they haven’t.’ Erin, her elder sister, said taking a seat on the bench. ‘You’re just driving yourself crazy.’

‘I know.’ Caitlin slumped on the bench beside her sister. The fingers of one her hands twisted the fingers of the other nervously. ‘Maybe I should try radioing them again.’

Erin’s hand shot out to cover Caitlin’s. ‘They’ll call, Caitlin.’

‘In the meantime,’ Fiona, her younger sister, pointed out, ‘you’re acting like you can’t let Hawke out of your sight for a single night. What do you want to do? Scare the man away?’

Caitlin sighed. Fiona just didn’t get it, she thought grumpily. Caitlin had never known Hawke or Dom to miss a check-in if everything was OK. She got to her feet and made for the cabin door ignoring the look her family exchanged behind her back. ‘I’m going to radio them…’

The sound of a helicopter had her whirling back to look at the sky.

‘See?’ Erin said. ‘They’ve come back already.’

‘No…’ Caitlin said slowly as she shielded her eyes against the sun. ‘That’s not their chopper.’ She frowned. ‘It’s Marella.’

Caitlin hovered on the porch until Michael’s senior aide brought the chopper into land. Maybe the other woman had news…she hurried over before the rotors had even stopped turning.

Marella opened the cockpit door and jumped out. Both women caught the worried look on the other’s face at the same moment.

Caitlin crossed her arms again and bit her lip. ‘You haven’t heard from them?’ She asked.

Marella shook her head sending the dark curls flying. ‘No,’ she admitted as they began to walk back up to the cabin, ‘Michael missed a call with Angelina this morning on the satellite phone. I was hoping it was a glitch.’

‘I haven’t been able to raise them.’ Caitlin said anxiously. ‘My Mom and my sisters think I’m over-reacting.’

Marella laid a hand on Caitlin’s arm and scanned her freckled faze carefully. ‘What do you think?’

Caitlin took a deep breath. ‘I think they’re in trouble.’

Marella nodded. ‘Let’s try raising them again.’

Caitlin led the way into the cabin. Marella greeted Caitlin’s sisters and mother absent-mindedly too worried and too focused on following Caitlin for pleasantries. She watched as Caitlin checked the frequencies and clicked the radio on.

‘Base to camp. Come in, camp.’ Caitlin paused as they waited for a reply. ‘Base to camp, do you read me?’ She shook her head. ‘They should have replied.’

‘Do you know where they’ve gone?’ Marella asked.

Caitlin nodded, a lump in her throat; Hawke had taken her there soon after they’d gotten together as a romantic camping trip.

‘I think we should head up there.’ Marella said.

‘Don’t you think you’re both overreacting?’ Maggie asked looking from Marella’s tense expression and then to her daughter’s. She felt the stirrings of her own anxiety; what if they were right? What if something had gone wrong on the fishing trip? What if something had happened to Patrick or one of their boys? Her lips firmed. ‘I’m sure they’re fine.’ She wondered who she was trying to convince.

Caitlin reached out and took her mother’s hand. She had seen the thoughts race across her mother’s face. ‘I’m sure they are but I’m going up to check it out.’ Her eyes flickered back to Marella. ‘I’ll just be a minute.’ She headed up the stairs to the bedroom she usually shared with Hawke; the one he’d built for them when he’d extended the cabin. She opened the drawer on her bedside table and pulled out her gun. She checked the clip and reloaded the gun before slipping it into the waistband of her jeans at the small of her back. She pulled a jacket on concealing the weapon and headed back downstairs. ‘I’m ready.’

‘I’ll come with you.’ Maggie offered.

‘No, Mom.’ Caitlin shook her head. ‘You stay here in case they call.’

‘I’ll come then.’ Erin said.

Caitlin sighed and gestured at Marella. ‘Marella and I will be fine and besides, if they are in some kind of trouble, we’re both trained to deal with it; you aren’t.’

Erin nodded unhappily and squelched the bubble of jealousy at the obvious bond between her sister and the Hawaiian woman who was looking back at her with understanding in her dark eyes. ‘I guess you’re right.’

Caitlin nodded and before anyone else could say anything marched out of the cabin. Marella followed after her. They climbed into the FIRM’s all-white helicopter and moments later were airborne. Caitlin gave Marella the heading.

The atmosphere in the small cockpit was tense; both women fell silent quickly, lost in their own thoughts.

‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ Caitlin blurted out after a while. ‘We’re supposed to get married the day after tomorrow.’

‘You will.’ Marella assured her. ‘Even if they are in some kind of trouble, you know they’ll probably have gotten themselves out of it by now.’ Her own worry sharpened the words of comfort. ‘You and I will probably turn up and the action will all be over.’

Caitlin chewed her bottom lip. ‘I hope you’re right.’

‘Me too.’ Marella admitted as her dark eyes met Caitlin’s across the cockpit.

Thirteenth February. The Campsite.

Dom threw the portable radio he’d been trying to get to work for the better part of an hour on the ground in disgust. ‘It’s bust.’ He declared furiously. ‘I can’t fix it.’ He threw his hands up.

Michael rubbed his moustache and gestured at the other broken piece of equipment on the ground next to the pilot. It was the mangled remains of the satellite phone he’d brought with him. ‘What about the phone?’

Dom’s dark eyes glared at him.

‘I’ll take that as a no.’ Michael said.

‘This is pointless.’ Dom snapped lurching to his feet and thrusting a finger at the spy. ‘We need to do something!’

‘I know, Dom…’ Michael began.

‘String’s on his own with them,’ Dom interrupted gesturing wildly, ‘and he’s unarmed.’

‘He’s also the best operative I’ve ever known.’ Michael said forcefully. ‘He’ll be OK, Dominic.’

‘You don’t know that,’ raged Dom. His craggy face crumpled and he slumped onto a rock. ‘I should have done something…stopped them…somehow…’

Michael hesitated and placed a hand on the other’s man shoulder. ‘There was nothing you could have done.’

‘I know the way to Racino Pass just as well as String.’ Dom muttered. ‘It should have been me who went.’

‘Hawke would never have let you.’ Michael pointed out gently.

Dom sniffed.

Patrick cleared his throat and the two men turned to look at the other man and the rest of the group with surprise; they’d almost forgotten they weren’t alone on the mountain. ‘I take it we can’t use the radio or the phone.’

Michael shook his head and nudged the offending objects with his cane. ‘No. Frank, or whoever he was, did a good job at destroying them.’

‘Great,’ muttered Callum, ‘so how do we get off this mountain?’

‘We’ll be fine.’ Dom said shortly. ‘Caitlin will realise something’s wrong when we fail to check in and she’ll come looking for us. I just hope it’s not too late for…’ His throat closed on his fear that they’d be too late to help Hawke; to save him.

‘If we only had someway of contacting her now.’ Michael said despondently and poked the broken satellite phone again. ‘Damn!’

Silence fell as they all absorbed the frustrating idea that they were stuck, unable to do anything until help arrived.

‘It’s a shame that plane is so busted up.’ Patrick commented. ‘If we could have fixed it, we might have been able to have gone for help.’

Brian shuffled a little. ‘What about the radio in the plane?’ He suggested. ‘Maybe it’ll still work.’

Michael’s good eye shot to Caitlin’s oldest brother. ‘That,’ he said pointing at the younger man, ‘is an excellent suggestion.’

‘For once, Michael,’ Dom said getting to his feet, ‘I agree with you.’ He gestured. ‘Well, what are we waiting for?’

They all hurried down to the wreckage of the plane and came to a halt as they took in the crumpled metal.

‘It doesn’t look promising.’ Callum said.

Doc patted his shoulder. ‘Never say die. Come on.’ He followed Dom and helped the older pilot climb up on the prop and into the cockpit.

‘Well?’ Michael demanded.

‘Give me a minute.’ Dom yelled looking about him at the shattered equipment. He reached for a headset and held it to one ear. He flicked a switch and breathed a sigh of relief at the crackle of static. He twisted the frequency knob and adjusted the mike.

‘Mayday, mayday. Can anybody hear me? Come in.’

There was a distorted voice as though someone was replying. Dom grunted and tried to clear up the sound. He gave his distress call again.

‘Dom?’ His name sounded through the headset. Dom closed his eyes and offered up a small prayer.

‘Caitlin? That you?’ He asked.

‘Thank God! Marella and I are on our way up to the camp. We thought you guys were in trouble.’ The relief in Caitlin’s voice was evident and Dom felt his heart lurch at the news he had to tell her…

‘Listen, Cait. You were right, there’s been some trouble.’ He said urgently. ‘We need the Lady. There’s a couple of men we need to introduce her to. You go and get her so you can pick us up and send someone else up here to get everybody else.’

‘Understood. Are you and Hawke OK?’ Caitlin asked.

Dom pressed his lips together; he couldn’t tell her. ‘We’ll be fine, honey.’ He evaded her question. ‘Just bring the Lady real quick.’

There was a pause and Dom held his breath.

‘I’m on my way.’ Caitlin said.

Dom sighed and put the radio down. He shifted awkwardly in the confined space and hefted himself back out of the cockpit.

‘Well?’ Michael demanded again.

Dom nodded. ‘I got through to Caitlin.’ He said. ‘She’s going to get someone to come get you all.’ There was a collective sigh of relief around the group of men. Dom’s eyes met the spy’s defensively. ‘She’s bringing the Lady. When she gets here I’ll go and find String.’

‘I’ll come with you.’ Michael said.

‘Me too.’ Doc said.

Dom nodded and his shoulders slumped. ‘I couldn’t tell her.’ He admitted. ‘I couldn’t tell her about String being missing with those men.’

Patrick patted his shoulder. ‘I’m not sure any of us could have told her.’ He said sympathetically.

Doc nodded. ‘Let’s head back to camp. We can wait for her there.’

It was a tense wait. Dom paced as the minutes ticked by and the others watched him helplessly knowing they couldn’t offer him much comfort. They all knew that time was running out for Hawke the longer he stayed a hostage.

The tension and worry overwhelmed Dom and he spun angrily to face the group. ‘Where is she?’ He asked furiously.

Michael opened his mouth to reply and stopped. He turned to look over his shoulder. Airwolf peeked out over the trees and drove all the men to their feet.

‘Oh my God!’ Brian shook his head. ‘What is that?’

‘That’s the Lady!’ Dom said smiling with relief.

‘Awesome.’ Callum said.

‘Yeah, she sure is.’ Doc agreed as the world’s only mach capable helicopter landed in their clearing, the powerful sweep of her rotors sending their camping equipment flying.

Caitlin climbed out of Airwolf, ducking to avoid the rotors and ran to greet Dom who was running towards her. Her eyes scanned the assembled men, her father, brothers, Doc, Michael…her forehead wrinkled with confusion. ‘Where’s Hawke?’ She yelled over the noise of the rotors she’d left spinning.

‘No time.’ Dom shouted back. ‘We have to go.’

‘Go where?’ Caitlin’s arm shot out. ‘Dom, where’s String?’ Her blue-green eyes pinned him to where he stood.

Dom jerked a thumb at the sky. ‘They took him hostage.’ He saw the words impact as she paled. He patted her arm comfortingly. ‘We’ll get him back.’

‘Right.’ Caitlin started back to the helicopter and froze as Michael and Doc both ran up to join them. She frowned. ‘You both can’t come. There’s not enough room.’

Michael and Doc looked at each other.

‘You go.’ Michael offered. ‘You’re the medic.’ Doc nodded and followed Dom into Airwolf. Doc took the countermeasure specialist seat he had occupied on his previous trips in the helicopter as Dom settled into his usual position at the engineer’s console. Michael cursed himself for the shock that rippled across Caitlin’s face as she considered the possibility Hawke might be injured.

‘Marella’s on her way.’ Caitlin said to Michael as he made to clear the area.

‘Good luck.’ He shouted as Caitlin climbed back into the commander’s seat.

‘Are we ready?’ Caitlin asked adjusting the helmet.

‘Ready.’ Dom confirmed.

She checked the group on the ground were clear and grasped the cyclic and took them up. She turned them in the heading Dom crisply gave to her and hit the turbos. Airwolf shot through the sky like a bullet.

‘What happened?’ Caitlin demanded.

‘We…it was…’ Dom began inarticulately.

‘There was a plane crash near the camp,’ Doc interrupted, ‘two men. Once we’d gotten them out they pulled guns on us and demanded Hawke take them up to Racino Pass.’

Caitlin lip’s thinned. She knew Hawke; knew that he’d probably volunteered to save the others…if anything happened to him. ‘How long ago?’ She asked.

‘We have time, Cait.’ Dom tried to assure her but his own uncertainty crept into his voice and the words came out unsteady.

Caitlin pushed Airwolf harder. Hold on, Hawke, she thought fiercely, just hold on.

Continued in Part III.





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