It was a standard ring tone, like the phone on the kitchen counter near the microwave. For no reason at all her eyes went there first and then back to the cell phone she clutched in her hand. By the third ring she managed to answer the phone and say, "Hello."
"But can’t I…"
Megan closed her eyes and tried to focus. She could hear the caller breathing through the phone. "Okay, but…"
Three quick and hard raps at the front door stopped Megan in mid sentence. She clamped her hand over her mouth, removed it and said, "They’re here."
"Let them in." The line went dead.
Before she could take a step there were three more knocks at the front door, louder this time. She ran the twenty feet from the kitchen to the front door and looked through the peephole. The porch light, activated by a motion sensor, cast a pale yellow glow over the two men who stared back at her. She studied them for a few seconds and decided they looked as normal as any strangers, who by prearranged but bizarre circumstances might look, showing up at your front door, observed through the eye of a peephole, at two o’clock in the morning.
She jerked the door open a couple inches, but kept both hands on her side of the door in case she decided to slam it shut.
"We need to come in. We have ten minutes to get both of you in the van parked at the curb or we’re gone. Those are our instructions." He was in his late fifties, short and thick, with thinning gray hair, wearing dark slacks and a gray, lightweight cotton jacket. He stepped past Megan and into the living room. The other man followed.
The first man was obviously the leader. The other man, early thirties, taller, and thinner was more casually dressed. He wore jeans and a blue windbreaker, and stood a step behind and to the left of his partner, his lips pressed together and hands at his side.
Megan shut the door, folded her arms across her chest and looked at the first man. "Now what? And what do I call you?"
"No names." He looked down at his jacket and then at his partner. "If you must, call me Mr. Gray and my associate Mr. Blue. Now, I need the cell phone you were given."
Megan grabbed the cell phone from her front pocket and handed it to Mr. Gray.
"I have a timer on my watch and in a few seconds I’m going to start it. When ten minutes is up, we’ll be gone. Hopefully, for your sake, you and your husband will be with us."
She headed across the living room and stopped when she noticed Mr. Gray a step behind her. She turned and faced him. "What are you doing?"
"You know how this has to go down."
"I know," she said, turning away from the man in an attempt to hide her fear. All the muscles in her body grew taut, and every instinct told her to call 911 and order these men out of her house. Instead she took a step toward the bedroom and stopped. "Okay," she said, "but I need you to stay in the living room." Her eyes pleaded with the man.
He showed no emotion.
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