Frank's AWTS rattled just before they landed in Belgium. It was Ned.
"Whole plan's changed, Frank. They already have Ruth. I'm trying to find out where. Get some place where I can contact you."
"Alright, Ned," Frank said. "We'll distribute as many of the AWTS units as we can. Let me know."
"Right!" Ned said, and was gone.
Two men were waiting for them when they reached the small building that was the entire control center for the tiny airport. Frank spoke to them in French then handed them each an AWTS. Then in English, she introduced Bill and Sarah.
"Mr. Donald North is my chief engineer. His wife, Mrs. North, also works for me."
She then introduce the two men as Armand Guillemette and Ramon Trintignant.
"How do you do," both men said, politely shaking Bill and Sarah's hands.
"If anything happens, if I cannot contact you, Mr. and Mrs. North are to be considered to be speaking for me."
"Where are we going?" Frank asked when we were all in the car.
"We're planning to go to France," Armand, who was driving, said. "Paul is waiting there. That was the last word we had from Ned. He didn't want to say any more until we had our AWTS."
"Paul Devlen!?" Frank demanded.
"Oui, Yes," Ramon said. "Is something the matter?"
"Well I guess not, if Ned set it up. Are you sure it was Ned?"
"Why, certainly, Francesca. You understand how," Ramon said somewhat defensively.
"Of course," she said. "I was just surprised."
Bill and Sarah sat quietly listening to this conversation and were somewhat surprised to hear Frank addressed as Francesca. Apparently she reserved 'Frank' for Roger's circle.
Frank suddenly became very serious!
"I have some very bad news. Ned called just before we landed." She paused, then continued very deliberately, "NatAlSec has Ruth.
"Ned did not know where, but will let us know as soon as he knows. Everything we planned is obviously out, and I haven't any idea what we can do now, or if we can do anything."
"We can always do something, Francesca. That is what you taught us."
"You're right Armand, we can always do something, and we will as soon as we find out what needs to be done, and how to do it."
The road they had taken off the highway turned to dirt, and was barely two tracks by the time they reached the end. The old Farmhouse looked like it hadn't been lived in for twenty years, but there was a faint light in one of the windows above the broken down porch.
The five of them approached the porch with some doubt and were about to step up on it when the door opened."
"It's safe," the somewhat grizzled and not too clean looking man said. "Come in quickly."
They entered a room which was obviously an unused kitchen and were led to a stairway. "It's safe too. It's meant to look as though it weren't. Everyone is waiting upstairs," the guide said leading them up.
There was a short hallway at the top of the stairs. At the end of the hallway, their guide opened a small closet door and stepped into it. They followed him and discovered the back wall of the closet was actually a door that led to a very large brightly lighted room. When they were all inside, their guide closed the closet door, then the door disguised as the back wall of the closet.
The room was oddly furnished—part kitchen, part living room, part bedroom—and the parts all merged into each other. There were three men and a woman sitting and standing around the room, all watching the newcomers enter.
Frank was the last to enter and the moment she did, the tall man standing in the kitchen part of the room rushed over to Frank, held out his hands, taking both of hers in his, and kissed her on the cheek.
"Francesca, how long has it been? I'm sorry it has to be under these circumstances, but it is so good to see you."
The tall man was Paul Devlen. He looked to be in his late thirties or early forties, but in fact was past fifty. There was a perpetual twinkle in his light blue eyes, and creases in both cheeks that were a little to deep and long to be dimples, but had the same affect.
Frank looked at him with a wry smile.
"In spite of myself, Paul, I always enjoy seeing you. How are you?" Frank asked.
"Happy," he said. "How else could I be with you here?"
"I would have said since you are not in jail, yet."
"In jail. Why should I be in jail?"
"Perhaps a certain plane blowing up over Tripoli or a certain pirate escaping from a Bolivian prison when it was attacked by unknown rebels."
"You know none of those things had anything to do with me," he said with a wry grin.
While he was talking he led Frank over to where a pleasant looking blond was sitting. "Frank, I'd like you to meet Sheila Daily. She's ...."
Before he could continue, Sheila interrupted him. She was smiling and it was a surprising lovely coy smile. "He never gets introductions right so I'll introduce myself. I'm his assistant in business, his mistress in pleasure, and accomplice in crime, and there is nothing in this world I'd rather be. I saw how he looked at you and am extremely jealous, but if I were a man I'd look at you like that too. You have no idea how pleased I am to meet the one woman I could fear, but don't, and the one I could most admire, and do, Miss D'Anconia."
"Oh please, Sheila, call me," she paused, "call me Frank."
"Frank?" Sheila asked, astonished?
"Yes," Frank said, somewhat amused. "It's what those whom I regard worthy of my respect and admiration call me. Frank may seem like a term of endearment, I suppose, so if you think Frank is too familiar, you may call me Francesca."
"The hell I will, Frank!" Sheila exclaimed.
They both laughed and shook hands like two crooks who had just closed a nefarious deal. Frank was obviously having great fun.
Paul proceeded to introduce the other two men, and Frank introduced Bill and Sarah as Mr. and Mrs. Donald North.
"There's no need of that, Frank, we all know who Bill and Sarah are, and we are all extremely honored to have you among us," he said looking directly at them. "There's no cause for alarm, no one else knows who you are, and apparently NatAlSecc is not able to know who you are. You have no idea how I'd like to know that secret," he grinned.
As soon as they were over the surprise, Bill and Sarah distributed AWTS to everyone who did not have one, and the one in Paul's hand began to vibrate almost as soon as he learned how to use it.
"It's Ned," he said. "He's discovered where they are holding Ruth. NatAlSec intends to smuggle her out of the country. Ruth's being held at the Carlton Voltaire. It's the suite that occupies the entire top floor."
Paul talked a little longer to Ned, before disconnecting.
"Ned's more or less left it to us to decide what to do, and he'll help all he can with whatever we decide."
"Did he have any suggestion," Bill asked.
"Oh yes. He had a suggestion. It was more like an order, except he never gives orders."
"What did he say?" Sarah asked.
"Oh, he said, 'Get her out!' So I asked, 'How?' And he said, 'Any way you can. Burn the hotel down if you have to.'"
Frank, more seriously asked. "What are we going to do Paul? Do you have any ideas."
"Well I can't think of anything else, so I guess we'll burn the hotel down."
"What?" Sarah exclaimed. "How will that get Ruth out? She's on the top floor. She'll never get out."
"I have a plan." Paul said. "I haven't worked it all out and it might be a little risky."
"If it's your plan, you didn't need to say it was risky," Frank said. "I'll be surprised if it doesn't get us all killed."
"It might," he said. "That's what everyone has to know going in. You can't be a part of it if you even think you might be afraid of what could happen, even being killed, or worse, caught."
Bill seemed a bit excited. "Look, I'm scared to death, but nothing will prevent me from being part of Ruth's rescue."
"That goes for both of us," Sarah said.
It was Frank who made it clear. "That's how it is, Paul. If we die, we die, or whatever happens, so let's at least try to make it a plan that has a chance of working. And, by the way, Bill and Sarah are risking more than the rest of us. They've left two children behind to be part of this."
"Yes, I know," Paul said. "And the plan depends on Bill and Sarah, and they will be taking perhaps the biggest risk of all. I told you I haven't worked it all out yet and I have to talk to Ned before I expain it all."
Paul used the AWTS to contact Ned and discuss the plan. Ned had discovered two agents were on the way to pick up Ruth and fly her to some clandestine base. If they were successful, Ruth would most likely never be seen again.
Ned's information was good. He knew the identity of the two agents being sent to pick up Ruth, one man and one woman. Paul knew who they were. His men would eliminate them, and their identity papers modified to fit Bill and Sarah. There was nothing else Ned could do from his end. The rest was up to Paul, his men, Frank, Bill and Sarah.
Paul explained the plan to everyone, and they spent the next day going over the details, and Paul spent a lot of time on his AWTS talking to others, but since it was all in French, only Frank knew any of that. The next day they would attempt Ruth's rescue.
Paul provided Bill and Sarah with the false papers that would identify them as the agents that had been sent to pick up Ruth. There was the risk that some NatAlSec agent might know the real agents, but there was no way to eliminate it.
Bill and Sarah went to the hotel, and took the elevator to the top floor and waited in the hallway. They were only there a few seconds when the fire alarm began to sound incessantly and smoke began to fill the hallway. At that moment, they knocked on the door of the suite, which was opened by a NatAlSec thug. Smoke poured out of the room.
"Agents Wilson and Johnson," Bill announced. Bill and Sarah both displayed their IDs.
At that moment there was obvious panic in the suite as dozens of NatAlSec agents began to run towards the door. Bill yelled, "Hold It! Where is the prisoner? If you do not all want to be up on charges, the prisoner must be secured."
The panic stricken agents pointed toward a door at the side of the sitting room they had just entered. "Take her," the agent apparently in charge yelled. "She yours. If there's a problem, that's yours too." And he ran out the door.
They found Ruth bound and gagged in a bedroom. They freed her. Bill asked her, "Can you walk? I'll carry you if you can't."
She could not only walk, she could run, and they did, towards the far end of the suite and the fire escape. They scrambled down the fire escape to the car waiting at the bottom. They did not know the driver, but got in and were whisked away.
The driver was one of Paul's men, and they drove directly to Belgium, to the airport where Frank was waiting for them. They boarded her plane and flew directly to New Mexico.
Frank informed everyone with an AWTS that Ruth was free and was on the way. It was only later that we all learned of the terrible risks Paul and his men had taken to stage the fake hotel fire and arrange Ruth's rescue.
This story is not really a Roger story, and it's not really one of mine. I know it all from what Frank, and Bill and others told me, and I think I've pieced it together correctly. One of them will let me know if I haven't, I'm sure.
The part I know about personally is what everyone else was doing during Ruth's rescue, how everything changed after that, and the discovery of how wrong we had been about something we had all been so certain about, but I'll have to save that for another time.