Zeb pulled into the same parking space he had occupied earlier and shut off the car. Dos gestured with the gun for him to get out of the car. “Slowly,” he warned, as Zeb exited the vehicle.
“Where is it?”
Zeb pointed to the library. “In there. I put it in one of the computers. I was going to send the photos to the press, but then U- I mean, your friend showed up.”
Dos narrowed his eyes at him, but placed the gun back into his waistband and shoved Zeb toward the library. “Don’t forget that I have this,” he told him. “I will not hesitate to start shooting if you force me to.”
Zeb walked toward the library, his legs shaking. “All I want is for my sister to be safe.”
“Bueno,” Dos said. “And all I want is the memory card. You give me what I want, I will give you what you want. Everyone goes home happy.”
“Yeah,” Zeb said dryly, “except Nico Milian.”
Dos grabbed him by his arm, turning him roughly toward him. “You know nothing, American. Forget what you think you know, forget about what you saw – forget about all of this and go back to your little life of academia. Do not pretend to have all the answers.”
Zeb was surprised by the tone of what almost sounded like regret he detected behind Dos’ words. He furrowed his brow, but the Spaniard released him and gestured for him to start walking again. They approached the library and entered the grand foyer. Dos looked around and made a face that Zeb took to mean that he wasn’t all that impressed. They entered the library’s main area and Zeb took a few steps before the sight that met his eyes stopped him in his tracks.
Large metal carts, heaped with computers stood next to the rows of workstations. Brand new computers now stood in place of the old ones on nearly all of the workstations and library tech staff were swapping out more as they watched. There was no sign of the old computer 17. “No,” Zeb breathed.
“What is it? What is going on?”
Zeb couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene before him. “The computers. They’ve swapped them out.”
Dos gripped Zeb’s arm tightly. “What does that mean, señor? Where is my memory card?”
Zeb turned to look at him with wide eyes, glistening with unshed tears. “I have no idea.”
“Then I hope you are ready to say goodbye to your sweet little sister,” Dos growled.
Zeb, in a panic, was praying for an answer. He saw Patty, the head tech librarian approaching to monitor the progress of the work being done to exchange the computers. “Wait,” he told Dos. “She’ll be able to help.”
“You had better hope so. Go,” he commanded.
Zeb approached Patty with Dos just behind him. She smiled when she saw him, her round, pleasant face welcoming. “Professor Martin, good to see you! I thought someone said you were in Spain?”
Zeb couldn’t help but throw a look back at Dos. He forced an amiable smile onto his face and answered her. “I was, but I’m back home now,” he gestured with his hands, “which I guess is obvious.”
She giggled. “What brings you by?”
“Actually, I was here a little earlier and I uploaded some files onto computer 17 that I need to retrieve now, but I see you’re doing a little upgrading.” His heart was pounding and he hoped she didn’t notice the trembling that was coursing through his body.
“Oh, well, I’m sorry,” she said, her blue eyes sympathetic. “All the old computers we’d already pulled were wiped clean just a few minutes ago.” She brushed back a strand of her grey hair nervously. “Is it something you had backed up elsewhere? Please tell me it isn’t gone for good.”
Zeb let out a breath. He turned to Dos and very quietly said, “See? They’re gone.” He shook his head. “There’s nothing to tie you to any of this, so, please just let Zoe go.”
Dos glared at him. “Do you think I am stupid? Ask her about the memory card.”
Zeb closed his eyes, then turned back to see Patty anxiously waiting for his reply. “Did you happen to see a memory card in 17’s port?”
Her eyes grew troubled. “No,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “No, there was nothing…But, ” she said, brightening, “there was a man at computer 17 when we started the exchange. We had to ask him to come back after a while or use the computers downstairs. Maybe he accidentally took it, thinking it was his.”
Zeb stepped closer to her and lowered his voice. “Was he a little taller than me, blonde and kind of a good ol’ boy?”
She thought back. “Yeah… yeah, I guess you could say that. You know? He looked kind of familiar,” she said, but then shook her head. “I couldn’t quite place him, though.”
Dos pulled on his arm. Zeb pulled away and kept his voice low. “Was it the guy from the newspaper’s community column?”
Her face lit up and a smile broadened across her face. “Yes! That’s it! I knew I had seen him before. Oh, thank you, that was bugging me to no end. I was like, ‘I know I’ve seen him before.’ But I just couldn’t place -”
Dos stepped forward. “Do you know where the memory card is or not?” he asked Zeb.
“Thanks, Patty,” Zeb said. He gave her a smile and then turned sharply to Dos. “Yes,” he whispered, taking a step toward the door. “Let’s go outside.”
Dos narrowed his eyes. “I would be very careful.”
“That’s why we should go outside,” Zeb replied. “You wouldn’t want anyone to get nervous and call the cops, would you?”
Dos waved his hand toward the exit. “After you, señor.”
It was late afternoon, nearing evening by then, and the library blocked the setting sun and created a long shadow across the brick and flagstone courtyard between it and the other buildings surrounding them. A few students were walking in the area, and some were seated on the stone benches built into the retaining walls partially enclosing the garden-like courtyard Zeb and Dos had crossed to enter the library only minutes before.
A couple of freshmen girls passed by and smiled flirtatiously at the two of them. “Hi, Professor Martin,” one of them said.
“Hi,” Zeb said with a forced smile. The second girl said something that sounded like, “If he weren’t a prof,” and the two giggled loudly as they entered the library.
As soon as they were out of sight, Zeb spoke quietly and quickly to the increasingly impatient Spaniard. “I know who has the memory card and I can get it back before he does anything with it. Just let Zoe go and it’s yours.”
Dos sighed and dug out his cell phone. He dialed a number and, when the person on the other end picked up said, “”Go to plan B.”” Then he hung up.
The calm that Zeb had been trying so hard to maintain was rapidly crumbling. “Plan B? What’s plan B? What did you just do?”
“I am making sure you make good on your end of the deal.”
“What is plan B? Tell me!”
Dos clucked his tongue. “Temper, temper. Your sister will find out exactly how plan B ends if you don’t get the memory card back. Now, where is it?”
“I can get it, but I’m not taking you and putting someone else’s life in danger. Let me go get it and I’ll bring it back. As long as you have Zoe, you know I won’t betray you,” he added quickly, noting the protest forming on Dos’ lips.
“I go with you. I will not harm your friend as long as he hasn’t done anything stupid.” A smile broadened his mouth, showing his wolfish grin. “I give you my word, señor,” he said with a mocking sneer.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, or, perhaps, because of it, Zeb’s mind latched onto the setup for a quote from one of his favorite movies and he replied automatically, “No good; I’ve known too many Spaniards.” Dos looked at him like he’d lost his mind as Zeb started chuckling a bit uncontrollably.
Dos’ cell phone chimed and he looked at it irritably. Zeb fell silent and watched Dos’ irritation turn to barely suppressed fury as he read a text message. He nearly threw the phone on the ground, but checked himself at the last minute and shoved it back into his pocket instead. He grabbed Zeb suddenly by his shirt collar and pointed a finger in his face. “You have three hours to get the card and get back here, or your sister dies.”
With that he released Zeb, turned and walked away. Zeb let out the breath he’d been holding and stared after him in disbelief. Was he really walking away and leaving him alone?
Zeb didn’t take the chance of Dos changing his mind; he turned and ran across the green and back to his car.