The man called Steel barely moved in the small shop, and yet he was now blocking their exit.
“I am afraid you are still not safe, Mrs. Mercury,” Hamad said from behind her. “The rebels know that Americans were in the marketplace. They are still looking for them. You would be caught before you reached the main road.”
“My name’s not Mercury,” Jennifer said. “And the rebels are gone now. If we’re careful—”
“You’ll still get caught.” Steel turned back to Hamad. “Is Jamal around?”
“Ndiyo, Steel.” Hamad rummaged through a pile of cloth near the door. “His motorcycle waits in the alley.”
“Good.” Steel grabbed a bundle from Hamad and tossed it to Marc. “Put that on. And use this to cover your head.”
Marc pulled the robe on over his clothing and arranged the turban on his head. His hair curled across his forehead and his brown eyes twinkled in a deeply tanned face. It was obvious he was enjoying the action in which they found themselves.
“How do I look?” he grinned.
“Wait a minute.” Jennifer grabbed Steel’s arm. “You can’t involve my son in this.”
“Looks pretty good, doesn’t he, Hamad?” Steel ignored Jennifer as though she didn’t exist. “With his dark coloring and that clothing, he could pass for Indian at a casual glance.”
“And in the company of Jamal,” Hamad said, “no one will look at him two times.”
“No one will look at him twice. And I think you’re right.”
“We will be moving quickly through the brush.” A man spoke from the back of the shop. “Many will not even look at him one time.” The man entering the shop was even bigger than Hamad, if that were possible. His voice was deceptively soft, belying his massive chest and arms.
Steel motioned toward the newcomer. “Marc, this is Jamal, Hamad’s cousin-brother. Jamal works with your father in the same way Hamad assists me, and he’ll take you back to your family compound.”
“I am honored to meet the son of Mercury.” Jamal bowed. “I have given my word to Steel that all care will be given to speed you on your journey.”
As Marc shook Jamal’s hand, Jennifer glared at Steel. His success in hiding them from the rebels did not give him authority over them. He had a lot of nerve, expecting them to obey his every command. Her protests were ignored, and his attitude was a vivid reminder of the problems she had faced with Brad. “We don’t need your help. We’ll find our own way home.”
Something about their rescuer made her uneasy, and she wanted to get Marc out of his presence as soon as possible. Her son appeared to be enjoying their situation way too much. How could a man they just met have more influence over her son than she did?
“There’s no way we’re both going to fit on the back of Jamal’s motorcycle,” she said. “So we just—”
“You are right, Mrs. Mercury.” Hamad laughed. “Jamal has always been large. When we were children he was a poor player for the seeking game.”
“Hide and seek.” Steel grinned as he corrected him. “I told you, the game is called hide and seek. You’re going to have to go separately, Jennifer. If they’re looking for the both of you, it will only buy us more time if you’re separated.”
“I don’t know who you are or how you know our names, but Marc is my son. He’s not going anywhere without me, and we are both going home together!”
“Use your head, Jennifer.” Steel’s amused tone irritated her as much as his familiarity did. “We need to split you both up. Marc will be perfectly safe with Jamal. If Brad trusts him, you know you can too.”
She sucked in her breath. How could this stranger speak of her husband in such a casual way? And how did he know who they were? “I have no idea if Brad even knew Jamal.” She seethed, planting clenched fists on her hips. “I’ve never seen this man before, or you either for that matter. Why should I trust any of you?”
“Maybe because we just saved your life.” His voice carried a hint of iron.
She felt her face flush as she was brought up short by the reality of the man’s words. “I–I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to seem ungrateful. But you don’t understand. I can’t … my children—”
The set look on their faces finally made her stop. With a sinking heart she realized there was no way they were going to let her and Marc leave together. It would be foolhardy.
“I guess you’re right,” she finally said, no doubt surprising the men with her sudden capitulation. “So where is my disguise, and how am I going to get home?”
All three men shook their heads.
And one more link!