He managed to get a deep breath before the cage took them beneath the water. The heavy metal sank quickly, and to his dismay the area they were in was proving to be rather deep. Yala was still in his amphibious form, and he gave Greg a worried look before trying to bend the bars. They gave, maybe a half centimeter. Greg swam over, trying to put what strength he had into helping Yala. Yala struck the bars in frustration before trying again.
The pressure was starting to make him lightheaded. The cage hit the bottom, then slid to go just a bit deeper. He felt his vision starting to go gray as he struggled to hold his breath just a little longer. Then he felt Yala grab him and pull him close. The merman’s mouth came down on his, sealing their lips together. Then he felt Yala force air into his lungs. Greg nodded when Yala pulled away, then went back to trying to bend the bars. They managed another couple centimeters, but it was clear that Yala was still weakened from healing him.
Greg caught Yala’s arm, then felt Yala’s mouth on his again, giving precious air. He tried to push Yala away, but the other man held him tightly. As long as Yala was focusing his efforts on keeping Greg alive, he wasn’t going to recover enough strength to get free before Xue’s men hauled the cage up. Greg tried shaking his head, only for Yala to simply grab a handful of his hair and hold him in place almost effortlessly. The mouth on his became a kiss before going back to providing air.
His own arms went around Yala. They’d just have to hope the girls could distract them long enough for Yala to recover.
“Yala’s amphibious.” Adele grabbed Natalya’s arm. “Nat, Yala’s amphibious. He’s in his element.” She shook her head.
“But Greg’s not.” Natalya tried to pull away, and Phil caught her other arm.
“You can’t do anything for them if you rush in and get yourself killed.” Phil pulled her back, and Adele followed. “Xue’s people are regrouping. I’m calling for backup.”
“Nat.” Adele put her hands on her friend’s shoulder. She knew what Natalya feared. Viktor had also been dragged beneath the waves. “Yala isn’t going to let Greg drown.”
“We don’t know if he can do anything to stop it.” Natalya exhaled.
“I’m sure Yala has ripped the cage open and they are already swimming away.” Adele made herself smile. She really hoped she was telling the truth. “We need to get —” She hit the ground half on top of Natalya with Phil on top of them both just as a bullet impacted the tree near them.
“Dammit.” Natalya reached for her gun as Phil rolled off of them.
Adele was starting to stand up just as two men came through the trees, their guns aimed. “Drop it.” One of them started to sneer at Natalya, his gun aimed directly at her.
Phil rolled and fired from the prone position. His first bullet took the gunman in the shoulder, making the man jerk back a little. Adele couldn’t help but feel that was lucky, as the man reflexively pulled the trigger when Phil’s second bullet caught him in the chest.
The second man’s bullet, however, caught Phil in the side. Then the gun in Natalya’s hand fired, putting a bullet in the second gunman’s leg. Adele fired with the shotgun, the blast sending the man staggering backward. “Phil?” Natalya got all the way up and rushed toward him.
“Just a graze.” Phil got to his feet, wincing. “Come on, we need to move.”
“Get that cage out of the water.” Xue paced the boat, staring down at the murky lake. The creature had been strong enough to hurl a snow plow. He really didn’t want to find out if the creature could also bend metal. And Greg drowning was going to make leveraging the creature’s cooperation much more difficult. He heard a few shots fired, and didn’t bother to even yell to take the girls alive. They’d caused enough trouble.
“We are working on it, sir…” One of the men sighed. “But it’s nearly sixty feet deep here. We didn’t bring diving equipment.”
“Use the hook.” Genna’s voice came from behind them. “We know where it went in, we can drag the hook and try to catch it.”
“That could work.” The men glanced at him only briefly before moving to begin.
“Sir…” Genna approached him hesitantly.
“Genna…” He smiled at her before putting a hand on her arm. “You weren’t hurt, were you?”
“I’m fine.” She gave him a brief, warm smile. Then she frowned as she looked back at where the cage had smashed the boat’s railing before falling over. “Sir, whatever hit the boat did it from the lake side, not the shore.”
He blinked, then glanced back at the shoreline. His men were still looking for the girls. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” She pointed at the edge. “I looked over. I can even see the dent. It’s like another boat or something rammed ours, but…”
“We should…” He trailed off, then shook his head. “Martin, Klein, take Genna back.” When she started to protest, he shook his head again. “You were shot at once already today. I’d feel better if you were safe. And if you were back at the office, soothing ruffled feathers.” He sighed. “There may be a lot of them.”
“Yes, sir.” She nodded, then turned to follow the bodyguards. He watched her go before looking back at where the men were lowering the hook into the water.
Natalya examined Phil’s side as soon as they were in cover again. The wound was about three inches long, but looked more like someone had laid a hot curling iron against him than anything she’d have expected a bullet to do. “Phil?”
“Hurts, but I think I’ll be fine.” He nodded to her.
Impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed him. “Alright, so…” She exhaled. “I think we made the situation worse.” She leaned back into the tree. “I think I killed Greg.”
“Nat…” Adele moved toward her.
“I shot the boat…” She shook her head.
“Yala’s with Greg. He’s not going to let Greg drown.” Adele put a hand on her leg.
“You didn’t shoot the boat.” Phil glanced back over his shoulder.
“I did. I—”
“Natalya, that gun is nowhere near powerful enough to have made the boat lurch like that. Not even if you’d hit the engine.” Phil crouched in front of her. “Whatever did happen, it wasn’t you.”
“I need them to be okay.” She reached for the gun. “We’ve got to go get them.”
“Listen, Nat.” Phil held up his hand.
She tilted her head, then frowned. “Are those sirens?”
“A lot of shots were just fired. Somebody must have called it in.” Phil reached for the cell phone. “I’m going to call as well. Tell them it’s a terrorist cell or something and…” He ran a hand down his face. “Tell them something.”
“Where do you think Greg and Yala will look for us?” Adele patted her leg.
“Yala told us to…” Natalya exhaled. “Let’s get back to Jim’s garage. If nothing else, maybe he can answer a few questions for us.” She looked again toward the boat. Yala and Greg weren’t in Xue’s hands. That had been their mission. There is nothing else you can do here. There was… She frowned, then gave a small shake of her head.
“Nat?” Adele raised an eyebrow.
“Did you guys hear that?” She looked at first Adele, then Phil.
“I’m hearing a lot of things, you’re gonna have to narrow it down.” Phil held out a hand to pull her to her feet.
“That voice.” She sighed. “Shit. I’m hearing voices.” She took a deep breath, then stood rather than let Phil hurt himself more hauling her upright. “They can’t take Yala and Greg anywhere. We just have to…” She looked toward the water. “We just have to hope Yala can take things from here.”
Human bodies weren’t designed to spend long periods of time under fifty feet of cold water. Even breathing for Greg wouldn’t be enough after a while. Reluctantly, he broke away, then went to try bending the bars again. Rather than try to help, Greg went to the lock and began working on it with one of the attachments from the pocket knife. He could tell his friend was already starting to suffer effects from their immersion, but Greg was doing his own best to free them.
After a minute of working on the bars, he caught Greg again to give him more air. Greg was shivering in his arms. Yalathanil held him tightly, knowing that his own body temperature likely wasn’t enough to provide the necessary warmth.
There was a vibration in the water near them, as though something big were moving their way. He released Greg, and went back to the bars, bending them just a little more. As soon as their captors had the cage again, he and Greg were in trouble. He struck the bars in frustration as they stubbornly refused to budge more.
Once again, he pulled Greg into his arms. His friend… His lover was weakening. If he didn’t get Greg out soon, all of this was going to have been for nothing. He didn’t even know if the girls were safe. Yalathanil ran his fingers through Greg’s hair, then gently sent a pulse of biofeedback through his hands. He knew Greg couldn’t understand that form of communication, but he tried to send reassurances anyway.
Then he started to turn back to try the bars again. Something struck the cage, pulling it a few feet deeper and stirring up silt around them.
“We got something.” One of the men gave Xue a triumphant smile.
“Good.” Xue made a mental note to learn that man’s name. “Be ready, assuming they are both still alive.” Already he could see the flashing lights as vehicles pulled up around the area. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. These were not going to be fun phone calls to make. Then again, there were only about three vehicles.
His bodyguard, the shorter one, gave him an odd look. “The merman, maybe, but you really think the other one can hold his breath for twenty minutes?”
“At this point, I don’t think anything is going to surprise me.” Xue rubbed his forehead as he watched the hook start to reel in whatever was on the other end. “You four, stay here. The rest of you, go do something about those cops.” The hook strained, and then…
And then all of them were knocked off their feet as whatever was on the other end suddenly tugged back, hard. The ship lurched. Before he could react and give orders, the ship was being half spun and pulled out toward the center of the lake. “Engines, get the engines…” Xue staggered back to his feet. “Somebody do something.”