Chapter 18: The Truth

Kaitlyn Jarred

My chest constricts as another coughing fit wracks my body. It hurts like hell. Crystal brought me some saltine crackers to chew on and I almost always had hot tea to drink. Crystal sat beside me and would talk about her travels or ask me questions. I need the distraction.
“So,” Crystal taps her manicured fingers on her crossed knee. “Do you like Nickolas?”
I cough again, this time from surprise, “Excuse me?”
She snorts, a smile tugging at her lips, “You know he totally has a crush on you right?”
“Well, if I die, it doesn’t exact matter, does it?” I joke, but inside my heart beats faster in my chest. “Crystal, why are you doing this?”
“Plaguing the country?” She asks for clarification and I nod weakly. Her eyes narrow as she moves her gaze from mine to the wall, “The country hasn’t done much for me.”
“Come on. If I’m going to die, I might as well know what I’m dying for.”
Crystal takes a moment to scroll through her phone, bringing up an image. Turning the phone to me, I see a picture of a woman in army fatigues. Her black hair is pulled back into a tight bun at her neck, her chestnut skin glowing under the bright sun. A bright, white smile is on her face as she poses with an enormous firearm. Crystal explains this is a picture of Asim Mohamed from Egypt.
“Asim’s family were killed by terrorists. She joined the United States Army as an Arabic translator, because she was promised protection and a way into the United States,” Crystal’s hands are wrapped tightly around her phone as her tone turns menacing. “Asim was respected among her fellow soldiers and when it came time for her to come to the United States, she was blocked.” My eyes widen as Crystal’s own are blazing with animosity. “Her protection left when the army did, and she was captured and killed by the same terrorists she was fighting against.”
“What?” I cry out. “She’s dead?”
“Yes,” Crystal confirms, her hardened gaze slipping from her face. She gazes longingly at the photograph and I decide to ask the question that has been on the tip of my tongue.
“Who was she to you?”
“She was my finance.”
I gasp at Crystal’s admittance. She stands, turning her back to me as she walks to the doorway, her shoulders shaking. She turns as she reaches it, tears streaming from her watery eyes, “I am doing this because the people of the United States need to understand that when someone is willing to die for you when they haven’t even been into your country, you do anything for them.”

Nickolas Parkingsons

“Are we all clear on the plan?” I look around the table. Five heads nod in unison.
“Marissa and I will look into the apartment in Vienna,” Melinda says, the twins looking determined.
“Val and I are going to the Rockville apartment,” Oscar hits fists with Valerie and they smile at me.
“Chris and I are going to the Silver Spring apartment,” I say, trying to keep my anger at bay. When I was collecting Kaitlyn’s friends, Chris caught wind and demanded to be a part of getting her back. I resisted, but Valerie brought up that there was an odd number of us, and have three pairs of two would be better. I reluctantly agreed.
Chris eyes me warily, but I think he knows I’m putting him with me for a reason. “What do we do if we find her?” Chris asks.
“If?” I ball my fists. Valerie places a hand on my arm, and I tear my glare from Chris to her.
“Nickolas, please,” Valerie’s face is sorrowful. “No fighting. Kaitlyn is our priority.”
“Right,” I uncurl my fists and nod. “When we find her, we will contact the others. No one will go into an apartment alone.”
“Got it,” everyone choruses and we head to our respected modes of transportation.
I lead Chris to my car, getting into the driver’s seat. He slides in next to me, and we silently leave Valerie’s house. I can’t bare to put music on, so the only sound is our breathing. Chris keeps opening his mouth to say something and finally I just ask him what he wants to say.
“Have you and Kaitlyn ever done anything together?”
I scoff, “No. Not when you were together and definitely not now when she’s been kidnapped and given the plague! I’m not you!”
“I was just asking,” Chris mumbles.
“I can’t believe you even did that anyway,” I retort, a scowl on my face. “She’s intelligent, kind, gorgeous, and courageous. Why would you ever want to risk that?”
“Look at you,” Chris glares. “You’re handsome, have an accent and are a Duke! How could I compete?”
“So, you thought cheating was the answer?” I roll my eyes as Chris stays silent. “You could’ve had a conversation with her.”
“Yeah,” Chris agrees with a sigh. “It’s too late now. I already apologized, but she didn’t see it that way.”
“Just because you apologized doesn’t mean that everything is okay,” I smile lightly at him. “Just do better next time.”
Chris nods firmly, “Now, let’s save Kaitlyn.”

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