"I wouldn't know; I don't like pirate movies. I prefer comedies," Charlie replied dryly.
Behind her bravado, Charlie was thinking as fast as she could. If there was some way she could parlay her imminent death into a hostage situation, she might be able to buy enough time for and escape.
"Defiant to the end, Miss Steele? That's good. It will make the show much more interesting." Regen said stiffly.
"The show?" Charlie asked, an icicle of dread working its way up her spine.
"Yes, well, you've made quite a number of enemies here today," Karl said, "to add to the number of people here who have no reason to love the Hollywood Knights. Your treachery has made an enemy even out of Miss Brown."
Karl leaned very close to Charlie, his eyes radiating a mixture of rage and menace.
"And many of them demand that your exit from Sky Havenand this mortal coilbe as dramatic as can be arranged."
"I misjudged you, Karl. I thought you were smarter than this," Charlie said. "Pirates love to hammer on militia pilots, sure. But mostly they fly for money. I can't believe that you would overlook the opportunity to negotiate for my release. My family and friends are not without wealth. A lot of it."
Regen smiled icily at her suggestion. "Actually, I had considered the possibility of holding you hostage, but then I realized that the possible outcomes from such a course of action end with our little mountain hide-away in flames. The longer you're here, the more likely it is that the rest of the Hollywood Knightsor forces in the employ of your 'mysterious benefactor,' Howard Hugheswill arrive and attempt to take the mountain.
"Of course," he continued, "it is equally likely that the delicate order I've maintained here would be shattered by pirates battling each other for the right to kill you or ransom you off. Either way, your presence here is a destabilizing element...one that will be eliminated right away."
But there was more to it than that, Charlie thought. Regen was scared of something, damn scared. Then it hit her: Regen "welcomed" the Death Ravens into Sky Haven and allowed them safe passage, if only temporarily. The fact that he had allowed the famous leader of the Hollywood Knights access to Sky Haven would probably get Regen killed by another would-be pirate chieftain if he didn't take immediate, decisive action.
That meant there were no options, no bargains to be struck. They were all dead, if they didn't get out of Free Colorado.
"It's going to happen at dawn, Miss Steele," Zachary said.
Charliesore and tired after being bound to her chairglared at the pirate.
"Why so long, Zachary?" she growled. "Need that time to work up the nerve to pull the trigger?"
"Actually," he replied easily, smiling, "the locals insisted. There's a lot of pirates here who want to watch you die in broad daylight. It should be a real show."
"How much of a show did Easton put on?" Charlie replied, barely containing her rage.
"Easton? Oh, so that's his name. Your friend has been missing for hours. I wouldn't expect any last-minute heroics, though...there are plenty of folks out looking for him. He'll die a bit before you, that's all."
"So, what happens now, Zachary? You just here to gloat?"
"Not at all, Miss Steele," he replied.
The office was empty, save for the Ravens, Charlie and Zachary...which is why no one heard Charlie's yelp of surprise when Zachary drew his knife.
"No point in cutting off your circulation any sooner than we have to," he said, slitting through the ropes that bound her hands.
"Now, Miss Steele," he said, "you understand that a few of my colleagues will be waiting outside, in case you decide that you'd like to end your lives sooner than planned? Good."
Zachary gave the group an off-handed salute and left the cabin, slamming the door tight. Although the curtains covered the few windows, the glow of torches could be seen outside as the sounds of muffled conversation rose and fell.
Charlie untied the rest of her bonds, then freed the rest of her companions.
"Damn it," she said, "this whole thing is my fault."
"Hardly, Charlie," Norm replied. "We all knew what we were getting into."
"No! You don't get it! Zachary is the one who recognized me. We'd met before."
"What do you mean?" Potter asked. "He's never seen you before."
"Yes, he has," she said miserably. The room got very quiet as the squad members waited to hear Charlie's explanation. She couldn't look at any of them as she relayed the story.
"He was at Chasen's after the attack on Champion Field. He followed me out onto the terrace and danced with me and...well, I thought he was a friend of Dave's, or some actor. He disappeared after we danced but no one I talked to had seen him. I forgot about it until I saw him in Regen's office the first day we were here."
"Why didn't you tell us, Charlie?" Norm sounded just like her father did when he was very angry at her.
"When he didn't seem to recognize me, I figured we were safe, and I tried to stay out of his way. I didn't figure on him blowing the whistle on us."
Potter paused thoughtfully before responding. "It's understandable, I guess. Nathan Zachary is well-knownnot like the Black Swan or 'Genghis' Kahn, but knownfor being a smart fellow.