The more ground they covered, the more emotion threatened to overwhelm June. She was filled in turn with concern excitement anticipation worry, all flying through her until she stopped to catch her breath.
Nigel noticed but said nothing. He wasn’t surprised. She’d been holding her emotions in bottling them up and they were bound to surface eventually. Surrounded
This wasn’t a normal rescue operation for him either, where his crew would find the party or parties either lost injured or both, this scenario held the additional element of surprise and concern. The men involved were most likely hostages which added an additional level of concern, more so because not only did he have the men’s lives in his hands, but June’s too. He wondered if she’d considered that factor.
They moved steadily onward until he was notified by his men that he was approaching their location and they were on radio silence. Nigel warned June about what to expect and to keep a low profile from this point on. She nodded, took a breath and followed silently in his footsteps.
Brad was his second and stood waiting on the outskirts of a semi cleared area leading into a cavernous cave. They closed ranks and he was about to fill Nigel in on what they’d discovered but before doing so, glanced sideways at June. “Brad, this is June, Roland’s sister and friend of Jackson.”
“Hi.” He smiled broadly, liking what he saw and Nigel nudged him gently in the ribs.
“Yeah, ok to talk?” He nodded toward June.
“Yes, June’s aware of the potential hazards of the situation.”
“We found a bloodied shirt and a sneaker fifty feet inside the cave.” He held up the evidence and June’s quick intake of breath assured Nigel she knew the owner of the shirt.
“That’s Jackson’s shirt.” When Brad pulled out the sneaker, she shook her head, “Not sure about that. I doubt it belonged to either of our guys, they always wear proper hiking gear.”
“Could be one of the captors then.” Nigel nodded, “It’s possible. It’s pretty fresh so we know it wasn’t left here by someone else at a different time.
“Any animals around?”
“No sighting of bear cougar or any other wildlife, the occasional deer but nothing else.”
“What of our men?”
“The occasional track but not what I’d expect. Either they have been scrupulously careful, or we’re on the wrong track and they went another route.”
“Let’s make our way in carefully then. You and Enrico take the lead, then I’ll follow with June and Harris and John can back us up.” Brad nodded and stealthily moved into the underbrush and signaled to the others.
You could have heard a pin drop at 100 paces. June was amazed at how quietly the moved. Not a sound, nor movement could be heard as they made their way into the bowels of the cave.
They were surrounded by dank dark and moss covered walls for several hundred feet before they heard trickling water.