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Sophie Adamson: the young, auburn-haired registered nurse kidnapped from a shopping mall with her Filipino roommate, taken hostage by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and compelled to administer medical relief to the wounded son of its kingpin.
Julia Wentworth: the middle-aged director of an international charitable foundation, recently shaken by the sudden death of her husband and the near-fatal injury of her son, sent by her respected employer to retrieve his abducted granddaughter, Sophie.
Diego Montalbon: known as “Monty,” the prestigious Metro Manila police detective Julia hires to lead the daunting rescue mission, whose rugged appearance and surefooted ways conceal private wounds of his own.
Three individuals whose paths converge in the stark realm of a terrorist underworld. Three lives that entwine amidst the rich beauty of Philippine culture. And one unforgettable story of how love and hope transcend even the most harrowing loss.
- Pages: 304
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Published: February 2011
- Book on CD: Unabridged
About the Author
Jean Holbrook Mathews has been a student of history and geography most of her life. She served as the administrative director for an international foundation headquartered in St. Louis with chapters in five countries, including the Philippines. She has traveled in Asia and Europe and lived in the Philippines for nearly two years while on a mission with her husband for the LDS Church. During that time she studied the culture, history, geography, government, and language of that nation, learning to love the people and those beautiful islands.
THE ROAR IN SOPHIE’S EARS finally diminished as she regained consciousness. Eventually, she could identify the sound of the SUV’s engine and the voices of the two men in the front seat. There was something else that took a minute to define—sobbing; yes, someone was sobbing.
Keeping her eyes closed, she tried to analyze the situation. Her face was pressed into a stiff carpet, and her jaw hurt badly. Then she remembered the men in the mall, and her heart beat faster, pounding in her ears. Slow down and think! She tried to will her heart to slow and her mind to function. She opened one eye. All she could see was the back of the driver’s seat.
Carefully, she lifted her head, turning it to the other side. She could see Lily’s hand where it hung over the edge of the rear seat. Lily was the one sobbing. She reached up and took her hand. The gesture startled the young woman, and rather than feeling comforted, she began to sob more uncontrollably. Sophie quickly dropped her hand and closed her eyes as the man in the passenger seat turned and yelled something at Lily. Her panicky sobs grew only a little quieter.
It was dark both inside and outside of the vehicle. That could mean it was seven o’clock or ten o’clock. Panic made Sophie’s mind race like car tires on slick mud. Have I been unconscious a few minutes or an hour—or more? Finally, the SUV pulled into an alley and continued for a few blocks over rough and pitted roads before coming to a stop. The short man with the scar got out of the car and opened the door to the backseat. He grabbed Lily, shouted something at her that Sophie could not understand, and dragged her from the car. After he climbed back into the front seat, the driver made a wide U-turn, bumping over something.
“She would be of no use to us, too weak, too full of tears. The American woman must be more useful, more obedient,” the man said in English, apparently for Sophie’s benefit.
Oh, Lily. What did he do to you? Dear God, she prayed, please protect her and bring her help. Please! The silent prayer was urgent. And please help me think! Help me know what to do. Deciding that continuing to pretend that she was unconscious would get her nowhere, she turned over and sat up on the floor of the car with her knees bent and her back against the door.
“What is it you want? Why did you kidnap us?” she asked in as firm a voice as she could manage.
“Shut up, or we will put a gag in your mouth. If you try to escape, we will tie you up. Stay down on the floor. That is a suitable place for an infidel woman.”
The vehicle moved in and out of traffic for another thirty minutes. Nausea threatened to overwhelm her. She laid her head on her knees. Count and breathe; just count and breathe, she said over and over in her mind, trying to control the fear that jammed her thinking.
The car made a gradual, ninety-degree turn, moving northward up the Cavite Peninsula that stretches like a giant lobster claw into Manila Bay. The SUV moved through the narrow, crowded streets for another twenty minutes, rattled over several deep ruts, and then finally found soft ground. The vehicle stopped, and both men sprang out. The bigger of the two yanked open the back door, grabbed Sophie’s arm, and roughly pulled her out. As she stepped unexpectedly into soft beach sand, she fell to her knees. As one of the men pulled her to her feet, she looked around, noting a ship about half a mile out to sea, flying the Philippine flag. A military plane was taking off about a mile farther up the peninsula. Sangley Point. We’re near the military base at Sangley Point. Somehow knowing where she was helped slow her racing heart a little.
The base was a mass of lights, but where they were on the unlit beach was dark enough that no one would see them unless they were within twenty feet. She looked around and noted that the shorter man had lifted two long bundles wrapped in blankets from the rear of the vehicle. She was pushed across the beach and forced into a large banca, a twenty-five-foot canoe with outriggers on each side. She was ordered into the small plywood cabin in the center of the boat. There, the taller man pointed to one of the thwarts next to a large, built-in ice chest. “Sit,” he said. “If you give us trouble, we will shoot you.” Sophie had not seen any guns but suspected that there were some in the bundles taken from the vehicle.
The smaller man then climbed aboard, making his way back to the high, squared-off stern where he kicked two sleeping men who had been resting on a heap of fish nets. Without being told what to do, both of them jumped out of the boat and into the water where they pushed the banca away from the beach. As it began to drift, they climbed in, and one of them started the diesel truck engine adapted for marine use. With the engine in low gear, they motored out into Manila Bay.
Sophie’s emotions churned inside her: anger toward her captors, worry for Lily, and fear for her own situation, all intensified by the knowledge that she could scream herself hoarse, and no one would hear her—at least no one who would care. She doubled up her toes in her shoes to steady her shaking legs. After a while, she leaned against the plywood bulkhead of the cabin, closed her eyes, and willed her mind to think more clearly.
Her captors stood watch, one in the bow and one in the stern as the big canoe moved rapidly south for more than seven hours, much faster than most bancas could travel. While the quarter moon was still high, the boat driver turned the vessel east toward an island that Sophie thought might be Mindoro, the large island just fifteen miles directly southwest of the larger island of Luzon. As it came more fully into view, she thought, No, it’s too small and too low to be Mindoro. Maybe this is Lubang. She watched out of one of the small square holes that served as a window. Lubang, she remembered, where that dedicated Japanese soldier refused to surrender after World War II ended and struggled for survival for twenty-nine years. She shuddered and thought, I hope I get rescued sooner than that.
One of the men cut the engine in the banca, and the craft drifted nearer the beach. The two men who had served as pilots leaped into the water and pulled it onto the sand. About fifty feet away, a large speed boat was moored near a crumbling stone jetty.
“Yusuf, get her on the boat. Now!” the taller man called out to his companion.
Yusuf turned to Sophie. “You come with me. Make no trouble, or Hussein will hurt you. He is one bad guy.”
The thought passed through Sophie’s mind, Should I run and scream? There are people around. Perhaps someone would help me. As she struggled over the spars connected to the bamboo outrigger, she could see two men standing on the beach. Each held an assault rifle. That answered her question. No, there’s no help for me here.
She was forced through the water until it was almost to her chin. At that point, she was within ten feet of the larger boat, forcing her to swim the last few feet to the ladder attached to the side of the vessel.
“Up! Climb up!” Yusuf ordered.
She pulled herself up and into the boat where she saw four other people sitting on the deck with their hands tied behind their backs. Yusuf pointed at the group of captives and ordered, “Sit!” Then he tied her hands behind her with a plastic tie.
The first captive she noticed was an old Chinese gentleman. Next to him was an attractive Chinese woman of about twenty-five. Perhaps his daughter, Sophie thought. Additionally, there was a man of about thirty-five, dressed like a businessman in dark slacks and a white shirt and tie, and a pretty Filipina, of about twenty, in the scrubs of a student nurse. Her long, heavy hair fell straight around her shoulders like black silk, framing a frightened face. The big boat’s two inboard engines were idling, and the smell of diesel fuel fouled the air.
The next morning, the Metro Manila police had an anonymous report of the body of a woman in a trash-filled vacant lot in Las Piñas City. It was Lily. When they arrived, they concluded from the tracks of mud that went over her legs that she had probably been pulled from a vehicle and run over, leaving her legs badly injured, but she was alive.