The two teams watched from the ridge for another forty-five minutes before Henry received word that the remaining members of the company had stopped at the clearing. One team of four would stay in the clearing with the two girls who had guided them this far while two squads of eight each, plus Whitney, would arrive to help rescue the remaining girls.
Each of the seven teams would have their assignments. One team would protect the entrance to the trail, one would surround the truck, slashing the tires and preventing anyone from leaving. One team would be in charge of protecting Whitney and herding the rescued girls toward the footpath leading back to El Pilar. The other four teams would simultaneously attack the four tents focusing on incapacitating the kidnappers without killing them. Henry, Xavier, and Machudo would be in charge of the raid.
After the girls were secured, Xavier and Whitney would take one full platoon plus the rescued girls and high tail back to El Pilar, only stopping if absolutely necessary.
Henry, Machudo, and the other platoon of sixteen boys would stay and take command of the kidnappers. The boys were instructed to wound the kidnappers in their right arms since there was a statistical probability that the men would be right-handed. Next, they were to immobilize the men by shooting or stabbing their legs.
This could work.
Could being the operative word.
When Whitney and her two squads of eight boys came into view, a physical weight lifted from Henry’s shoulders. He met her gaze and saw Whitney take a deep sigh. They were both relieved to see each other. She strode to her boss, Xavier, gave him a quick hug, then came to Henry and hugged him as well. Then she unexpectedly laced her hand with his and whispered, “Hi.”
Henry squeezed her hand in recognition of her presence and then started giving instructions. The boys were told to memorize the lines, “We’re here to rescue you. Follow the white woman.”
Whitney had worn a white shirt that seemed to glow in the moonlight. In addition to her white skin, her bright white shirt would leave no doubt in the girls’ minds who the boys were pointing to.
As the teams made ready to enter the campsite, potentially exposing themselves to the enemy, Henry whispered to Whitney, “After you leave with the girls, I won’t see you for a few hours. I just wanted to remind you that I have every intention of taking you out on a date very soon.”
“I’m going to hold you to that,” she whispered back, then turned to face him. “Stay safe, Captain Henry Stephenson.”
“You as well, Whitney Olson.”
Whitney lifted her heels and rose up to kiss his cheek. “Good luck.”
“Oh, honey, I’m going to need more than that for luck.” Henry pulled her close and pressed his lips to hers in one brief kiss, saying goodbye and not knowing how soon they’d be reunited. When Henry tried to release her from his arms, Whitney pulled him closer and offered him one more kiss, this time with a bit more passion. If he died in battle, that kiss would be his last thought on earth.
They stepped apart and straightened their packs, preparing to leave the safety of the woods and enter the campsite. Henry hoped this plan worked, because he had someone very special to look forward to.