The custom built and finely tuned V8 powered red Monte Carlo, created a high octane symphony as it cruised through the smooth back roads of Kings Bay Submarine Base. The driver, wearing wrap around sunglasses and a hat embossed with a racing logo was completely focused on the road ahead, while his passenger held on.
NASCAR Larry spoke over the engines smooth purr. “So, why are we going to the Sonar Testing Facility?”
Popeye Adams replied to him as he would any civilian, and not as one of his sailors “I have an ADCAP that should be finished with its testing. If it’s still there, then that is what we’ll use once we get back from JAX…” Popeye paused “…Stock car boy…this car sounds nice. Does it move as well as it sounds?”
Larry smiled and continued looking straight ahead “I’ve replaced the motor and transmission and reworked the suspension…it’ll get you to the church on time...sailor man.”
The long macadam pine tree lined two lane road reflected back to the occupants the cars sweet exhaust notes. “There is a guy at the Testing Facility that I need to talk with…” Popeye looked at his watch “…he should still be there.”
As they drove down the road another vehicle was approaching, an older Lexus with dark tinted windows and larger than normal chromed wheels and razor thin tires. As the Lexus passed “That’s him! Damn it what’s he doing leaving early….son of a bitch! Turn around right now!”
Larry slipped the vehicle in neutral and stabbed the emergency brake with his left foot, at the same time whipping the steering wheel hard to the left and applying the brakes. The Monte Carlo spun around faced the opposite direction as smoothly as anything seen from a Hollywood movie.
“Holy shit boy!” Popeye was white knuckled as he held on tight.
Larry worked the Monte Carlos engine and transmission together creating an explosion of sound and tire noise as the RPM’s whined upwards. Larry caught up and blew by the Lexus, as the wide eyed driver allowed the red Chevy to pass. Larry was about five car lengths in front of the black Lexus and did the exact same maneuver to block the road facing the Lexus. When the two cars came to a complete stop, Popeye opened the door and stepped out, holding his hand up to the Lexus.
The driver of the black luxury car, Willy Jackson, rolled down the window “Popeye! Are you crazy!”
“I see that you are leaving early today…”Popeye had his hands on his hips as he confronted Brown “…I need your ass back at the Facility ASAP…” Popeye then changed his tone “…it’s important Willy, no shit important.” Popeye never called Willy by his first name, or anyone that worked for him by their first name. Popeye continued “Is 723 still at the Facility?”
723 was the last three digits of the ADCAP’s serial number that was being tested earlier “It was being loaded up for transport back to the EHW…why?” Willy asked
Popeye said to Willy “Follow us.” He then turned and immediately said to Larry “Let’s go” The red Chevy sat idling, when Popeye jumped in Larry gunned the motor and sped off leaving a thin trail of black rubber on the asphalt. Willy did a three point turn and followed. Pulling in to the Sonar Testing Facility, Larry slowed down and drove alongside and then parked in front of a white truck that was attached to a low slung equipment hauling trailer. The trailer’s cargo was a large, long object that was covered with a blue plastic tarp. The red haired freckle faced sailor, who looked barely out of high school climbed down out of the cab, holding a clip board protesting the obstruction.
Popeye jumped out of the Monte Carlo and said to the sailor “Junior, this ADCAP needs to go back to the contractor, leave it here.” Popeye lied about the contractor, but didn’t want to confuse the young sailor with the truth.
The young man looked at Popeye and pointed to the clip board “Popeye, I have to get this back to the EHW.”
Popeye looked at the sailor who was under his charge at the Explosives Handling Wharf. “Junior, who gave you those orders?”
Seaman Apprentice James “Junior” Wainright stammered “You did, Chief.”
Popeye continued with SA Wainright “Now, Junior…if I gave you orders to take this fish and park it at a Seven-Eleven, while I went inside to get a Slurpee, what would you do?”
“Park it at a Seven-Eleven, Chief.” Wainright said softly
“Good, now shut your pie-hole and do as you’re told.” Popeye said intimidating the young man.
“Aye aye skipper.”
“Now, I want you to head back to the EHW with Willy here…” Popeye said pointing to the black Lexus which had pulled behind the Chevy “…and you are to go to the Guard Shack and tell the NCOIC that I want someone to stand by this ADCAP until I return.” Popeye then turned to Willy who had climbed out of the Lexus and out of character spoke to him quietly “Now listen up Willy, we are at war….these ADCAP’s have been sabotaged…”
Willy looked at Popeye with wide eyes as he was now starting to put two and two together from the previous conversations with Graham.
“…NASCAR boy and I have to go to JAX to pick up some vital information. I need you to stay here until I get back, then we are going to test this fish.” Popeye paused as Willy nodded, then questioned.
“Popeye, I just finished testing this one out…everything checks out ok.” Willy protested
“It’s not in the hardware numb-nuts, it’s in the software…and we are going to test it ourselves.” Popeye sternly looked at his Technician and continued “Look, this is going to be an all-nighter...” Popeye then took forty dollars out of his wallet and handed it to Willy “Order us all some pizza, and try to find me a battery powered boom box that will play CD’s…understand?” Popeye got agreement from Willy and then continued on “Listen…I cannot stress enough how important this is. Here is my cell phone number if anything comes up while we are at JAX.”
Willy and Junior stood as Larry and Popeye got back into the Monte Carlo and slowly moved out towards the main road and Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
The late afternoon seas were calm as the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan headed north at a brisk pace, maintaining enough speed to put 30 knots of wind over the flight deck. Captain Bull Warner stood on the top tier of the Islands walkway overlooking the flight deck. Two Northrop Grumman F/A-18E Super Hornets were moments away from being shot off of the catapult, their mission was to find and destroy any of the Global Hawk UAV’s that might be coming into the United States.
The Reagan’s Executive Officer Captain Chet Lund walked over to the obviously anxious Captain Warner. “Captain, the two Hornets with the discs are almost to JAX.” As he made that statement the two Hornets below were noisily shot off the flight deck and with their afterburners on climbed upwards towards their hunting ground.
Bull turned to his XO “Chet, I’m not used to being involved in something where I don’t have more of an active role…” pausing momentarily “…how is the GPS and ID removal coming along?”
“The engineers are almost finished, sir. They have the equipment loaded and strapped to a pallet, now it’s just a matter of getting everything onboard the life raft.”
“Order all stop on the engines, we don’t want to screw this up. I am going aft to watch.” The XO acknowledged the command as Captain Warner started his walk through the interior of the ship to the aft deck. Along his route, sailors stood by as he passed. They wanted to ask ‘what was going on’, however no one did; leaving the Captain to his own tempestuous thoughts. Arriving at the aft flight elevator Captain Warner waited about 20 minutes as the gigantic ship slowed enough to greatly reduce the wake of the ship. A ship the size of the Reagan just didn’t put on the brakes and stop, it took time and distance. Bull watched as a Seahawk helicopter prepared for its take off, once airborne it hovered over the loading crew and was hooked to a sling in which the strapped and palleted GPS equipment was attached. The Seahawk slowly gained enough altitude to take up the slack of the sling as four swim fin equipped Rescue swimmers sat in the opened doors, watching their cargo below. A large orange fifty man life raft was inflated and then man handled off the rear of the ship. The raft hit the water and then quickly distanced itself from the ship as the Reagan slowed to a complete stop. The Seahawk maneuvered out over the raft and once it was near the raft, the four swimmers dropped unceremoniously into the water, boarding the raft and steadied the descending pallet. When the pallet was secured they then attached a nylon sea anchor and tossed it over the side. The sea anchor would allow the raft to flow with the northern current and away from the direction the Reagan would take.
Captain Warner was handed a set of binoculars and watched the entire process with satisfaction. The swimmers finished their task and flashed ‘thumbs up’ to the Captain and the hovering helo. Jumping back into the cold Atlantic waters the swimmers were quickly picked up and brought back aboard the Seahawk who then turned and headed back to its home aboard the Reagan.
Captain Warner turned and spoke to Master Chief Bunker who was standing beside him “Chief, bring the ‘Guests’ to me.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Marjorie Bunker turned picked up a sound phone and gave the orders for the Marine Security detachment to bring the four ‘Guests’ to the aft flight elevator. Within ten minutes six Marines escorted the nylon handcuffed ‘Guests’ to the lowered flight elevator.
The four ‘Guests’ chaffed at their injustices. “Captain, I would like to know why we are being mistreated this way.” One of the ‘Guests’ protested. Another chimed in “We have done nothing wrong, this is an outrage and your superiors will be very angry over this.” The second ‘Guest’ from the left side said nothing, as his knowing eyes glared in deep anger towards at Captain Warner.
The aft Flight Elevator was in its lowered position and it exposed the cavernous hangar area inside the ship. Word had spread throughout the ship and the hangar area filled with sailors, men and women, who stood on top of equipment and aircraft and jostled shoulder to shoulder to get a better view. There were over a thousand sailors and officers in the hangar area watching and listening to the exposed drama. Captain Warner finally spoke. “Your game is over…” he waited momentarily for a reaction and received nothing “…you have deceived us and through your actions have declared war against us…” pausing again “…we know all about the sabotaged torpedoes and the submarines you have destroyed and the men you have killed. We know about the murdering of civilians, the poisoned foods and now the planned attack with nuclear weapons.”
The sailors heard this and were silent as the rumors were becoming reality.
The ‘Guest’ who was silent finally spoke after spitting on the deck “You Americans…you’re so naïve. It was your own government that gave you over to us. You did this to yourselves; you think that you can be the world’s policemen and a shove your democratic ideas on everybody else. Your country is an immoral cesspool and it was your love of the Jews that brought Allah against you…now you will pay the price for that…” the ‘Guest’ paused “…you’re too late Captain…America is finished.”
Captain Warner turned to the Marine Sergeant standing behind him and said “Get this shit off of my ship.”
The outspoken ‘Guest’ declared softly at first and then louder “Allah Akbar…Allah Akbar…” the other joined in loudly and boldly “…Allah Akbar.”
The Marine Sergeant looked at the four with pure anger and hesitated momentarily, he didn’t fully understand the order, should he throw them off or what? Captain Warner repeated to the Marine. “I said; get this shit off of my ship…” Captain Warner reached out and gently took the shotgun from the soldier…“This is what I mean, Sergeant.” Bull Warner had enough of the deception and subterfuge from this enemy, he turned and shouldered the shotgun, aiming directly at the outspoken ‘Guests’ chest...and fired. The blast from the 12 gauge riot shotgun tore through the chest of the ‘Guest’, sending him backwards in a splash of crimson blood. Bull handed the weapon back to the Sergeant and said “Now get this shit off my ship.”
The sounds of five M-16’s emptying their 20 round magazines accompanied by the boom of the riot shotgun seemed as loud as any catapult launch. Within a matter of seconds it was over, four men shredded and laying dead on the deck which was now littered with empty brass and red with splattered blood.
Captain Warner didn’t feel any better; he had never killed a man before…at least with his own hands. There had been times in the past where he directed his aircraft to drop bombs and fire rockets killing people, destroying homes and cities. They were distantly killed, however this was up close and it was very personal. As the Captain walked through the shoulder to shoulder packed hangar making his way back to the bridge, sailors moved aside making an opening for the him. They stood by silently as they had just witnessed the brutal first hand execution of four men. As the Captain walked into the throng, one sailor clapped; breaking the silence. Soon this was followed with another and then another…finally the entire hangar was clapping their approval with their Captain and his actions. Bull looked up and spoke to his sailors. “I am not proud of what I just did…” Captain looked around the mass of men and women as they quieted down and continued “…we are at war, now lets get to work.”
The raft was about 200 yards off the stern as Captain Warner picked up a sound phone and called CIC to ask if everything was working properly with their GPS deception. After receiving affirmation that all was as planned, he ordered the Reagan to increase speed and change direction, to the southeast. The Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruiser USS Cowpens sat off the Reagan’s stern at a distance of three miles. The Cowpens, who had just completed the same task as the Reagan, communicated that fact using Morse code with its directional signal searchlight. The two ships then turned as one and headed together out of the immediate area.
Twenty miles to the northwest, the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Guided Missile Frigate USS Elrod, communicated a similar signal. The Elrod, an aging yet effective ship, would carry the brunt of the sub hunt with its two torpedo and electronics laden Seahawk helicopters. The Sullivans, which was a much faster ship than the Elrod, would match its speed with its slightly smaller and slower companion and provide the air cover and additional sonar coverage for them both. The two point ships made a course directly for Jacksonville, initially at a high matching speed, then as they approached their hunting area they would slow to their ‘no noise’ speed and wait for the Kilo’s to show themselves.
The dusty airfield was alive with activity as the second ship of the four flight package was taxiing to final check and take off. Without a word the large Global Hawks engine throttled up and the ugly gray monstrosity rumbled down the runway, becoming airborne. The next twenty minutes saw the exact same procedure and result as all three of the remaining Global Hawks took flight and headed towards their final destination, America.
“General Santana, it is Colonel Farzhi from the Flight Control Center.” Obama held out the phone to the General.
“Colonel, I hope you have good news.”
“Yes General, the last of the Global Hawks have just taken off. They should arrive at Caracas by 7am our time, and after their refueling, will enter this countries airspace by 12 noon.” Colonel Farzhi was relieved that all had gone well with the remaining Global Hawks, and he was able to present the General with some good news for a change.
“Very good Colonel. The lead Global Hawk is still on its schedule for its morning mission?”
“Excellent. You will call me if there are any problems, right Colonel?” After receiving the Colonel’s affirmation, the connection was severed. General Santana handed the phone back to Obama “When the first Global Hawk enters this airspace tomorrow morning, I want you to hold a Press Conference. Tell the Press that we have obtained intelligence that the ‘Rebel Forces’ have acquired nuclear weapons…and that we are working diligently to find them before they are used or ‘accidentally’ detonated.” General Santana smiled at Obama. “The test is on for tomorrow evening.”
The gray concrete blocked side entrance to the large crescent moon shaped aircraft hangar was stenciled ‘Building 20-7 Transient Maintenance Facility’. Parked outside on the black macadam lot sat the decrepit pale blue mini-van with its peeling paint and fake wood side panels. The SEAL’s had arrived moments before NASCAR Larry, even though they had left much earlier. Inside the cavernous hangar the SEAL’s along with their new driver Jimmy, met up with their contact, Lt Commander Steve Walsh.
Lt Cmdr Walsh looked at assortment and contradictions of personnel before him; the SEAL’s with their Commander Rob Toland, their new driver Jimmy and his friend Larry, the salty Popeye Adams and finally JR Stevens’s daughter Lindsay. The drive down to Jacksonville Naval Air Station was slow and had Lindsay sitting next to SEAL Doug Tomlinson in the back of the van. In a matter of minutes the two young adults had connected on a level that, for them, was magic.
Commander Toland looked at the equipment stacked on the floor of the hangar. “Let’s get this stuff into the aircraft.”
Outside the hangar door sat the beautiful Gulfstream VC-20. In civilian life this was a multi-million dollar executive jet called the Gulfstream IV. It was completely loaded with not only high tech communications equipment but was also appointed with plush leather seats and walnut trim. In its military life, this jet would carry high ranking officers and VIP’s across the country and the continents. The gray and white highly polished twin engine aircraft sat on the tarmac with its rear fuselage door opened and the built in steps hanging down. The SEAL’s began taking their personal gear and loading it inside the luxury jet.
Lindsay who was standing next to a large red and white plastic cooler bent down to pick it up. Doug Tomlinson, who was already loaded down with his gear said “Here, let me help you with this.”
“I’m fine, besides you’ve got a lot to carry yourself.” Lindsay was used to carrying her own load as she picked up the heavy cooler that her Mom had packed and followed Doug out to the VC-20. Once inside the aircraft and setting down the food. “Wow…this is beautiful! I don’t think I’ve seen houses this nice.”
Doug had stowed his pack and weapon. “Yeah…pretty nice isn’t it?” The atmosphere between the two grew thick and silent as feelings of amore had crept in enveloping them. The beauty of the VC-20 was overlooked as the two tried to find some area of conversation. Doug Tomlinson could scuba dive, jump out of airplanes and kill a man with the same effort as it took Lindsay to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her little sister. Tomlinson was not only speechless but emotionally hamstrung with the woman next to him. Lindsay was no different, and looking at him broke the silence “My Mom packed ya’ll some food for your trip; I hope ya’ll like it.” Lindsay opened the lid releasing the aroma of freshly cooked fried chicken, green beans cooked with slices of bacon and ripe whole tomatoes. On top of the entire feast sat a still warm apple pie.
Doug’s attention was quickly averted to the cooler. “Oh boy does this look good! Your Mom must really like to cook.” Doug’s mind was only temporarily deflected from the blonde haired, cut-off jean clad beauty.
“When Daddy told us what ya’ll were doing, my Mom started cooking and she hasn’t stopped. I guess it’s her way of coping with all of this.” Lindsay’s demur smile to the soldier softened the moment. “Doug…” Lindsay knew her time was short “…um…I know you sailors must have a woman in every port, right?” Lindsay bravely had put the subtle question out in the open.
Doug looked at this woman, his Kansas farm boy nature bubbled to the surface “I don’t”
“You don’t?” Lindsay asked with her honey dipped southern drawl.
Tomlinson stammered and looked right through her azure eyes “I don’t have any women…in any port.”
Standing behind the oblivious couple and coughing to break the mood was Commander Toland “I hate to break this up, but...”
“Yes Skipper” The dejected yet hopeful and somewhat embarrassed Tomlinson walked out of the craft and went to get another load of weaponry.
Rob and Lindsay were alone. “Lindsay, you tell your Mom and Dad that we appreciate everything they have done for us.”
“Yes sir” Lindsay said out of her respect and not as an indication of rank. “Commander…” Lindsay tried to find the right words “…please be careful.”
“Can I tell you something? I’ve been Doug Tomlinson’s Commanding officer for two years now…” Rob looked at the sad doe eyed lady “…you won’t find anybody that has a better heart than Doug Tomlinson, he is a very good man…” Rob paused briefly “…If we get through this, you’ll see him again.” Rob couldn’t believe that in this final moment before the start of their mission, love had found its way into their midst. Rob briefly thought of Gary and April….maybe there is hope for all of us.
As the Commander was talking, the two Super Hornets from the Reagan had arrived and were taxiing to the VC -20. Rob looked through the window and saw the pair of fighters slowing down as their red and green wingtip navigation lights glowed bright in the waning moments of the evening light. “It looks like our pilots are here.” He then turned toward Lindsay “You only have a few minutes.”
Lindsay nodded and walked past Rob and out of the aircraft. Tomlinson, who had a crate of ammo that he was carrying toward the VC-20, stopped as he saw Lindsay walk purposefully to him. Doug set the crate down as Lindsay reached up and hugged him and then whispered into his ear “Doug, you know where I live…please be careful and…” Lindsay looked him squarely in the eyes “…come back.” Startled, Tomlinson had no words as Lindsay kissed him quickly and then walked to the hangar door watching as the aircraft was loaded with men and equipment. Doug Tomlinson was in a trance as he went aboard the Grumman.
The Super Hornets had ladders brought to them and the pilots unbuckled themselves and climbed out. Commander Toland walked to the two and introduced himself with a salute and hand shakes. “Commander Rob Toland, good to meet you.”
“Lt Rodney Harrison and this is Lt Perry Olsen, and I guess this is our ride.” Lt Harrison said pointing to the VC-20.
“We are loaded and ready to get underway.” Rob said
“Commander, we’ve been briefed on our destination…we’ll get you there on time.” Lt Harrison reached in to his top pocket of his green jump suit and pulled out the two discs, Lt Olsen did the same. “Who gets these?”
Popeye Adams and NASCAR Larry stood off to the side. “I’ll take those.” Popeye said as he nudged Larry’s attention away from the Super Hornets. “Come on stock car boy, quit gawking at them airplanes.” Popeye and Larry then shook Commanders Toland’s hand then turned and left. Lindsay followed them both to her van and the two vehicles pulled out and headed back to Kings Bay.
“So, how did you get clearance to get us to San Francisco?” Rob asked Lt Harrison
“Captain Warner approved an ‘Emergency Bereavement Leave’; he said my parents had died.”
Rob looked at the young Lieutenant “They didn’t…did they?”
“No sir, they’re alright.” Lt Harrison said chuckling and the continued “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to hit the head and then we’ll go.” Lt Harrison and Lt Olsen walked into the hangar and found the men’s rest room which also doubled as the pilots dressing area. After they finished their business, they took off the G-suits and other flight gear that they would not need with the Grumman business jet, with the exception of their green flight suits and were ready to begin their pre-flight checks.
Thirty minutes after the VC-20 closed its door, it noisily and smoothly became airborne. The now night sky was a deep purple as the jet climbed to its cruising altitude of 31,000 feet; destination Oakland International Airport.
The Miller house, resembled the other homes in this upper middle class subdivision, neat on the outside, yet empty and quiet on the inside. The neighbors, going about their daily chores and pleasures in their own vacuum of time and space were clueless to the events of their immediate future. The team brought in their gear and piled it in the living room, feeling a little strange being in this house, yet being thankful that they had a nice place for one last night. The men went into kitchen to raid the refrigerator and to talk about their mission. Gary had made a sandwich and instead of talking with his team, made a spot on the sofa, sat down and began to nervously go over the plan.
Standing in the kitchen and looking at their new boss. “You think he’s going to be alright?” Todd Williams said to Jefferson.
Jefferson nodded “Yeah, I think he’ll do jus fine…” Looking at Williams “…Pre-mission jitt-ah’s, that’s all.”
Todd nodded as they all knew what pre-mission jitters were, and each of the SEAL’s dealt with that uncomfortable feeling in their own way. Williams went into the Millers garage and finding an old set of seldom used barbells started to lift weights and work up a sweat. Jose Espinoza started to poke around the kitchen, looking for something to hone the edge to his knife. David Goldberg took his weapons and began to strip them on the kitchen table, checking for any molecule of dirt or grime. Jefferson paced the floor. Looking over at Gary, Jefferson saw his leader check his watch and read the mission notes for the umpteenth time. Jefferson took a cold beer and went over to the Troublemaker.
“Mr. Martin, are your weapons ready?” JT asked
Gary looked up, coming back into the reality of his world. “I think so.”
David Goldberg called in from the kitchen. “Bring them in here sir; I’ll go over them for you.”
Jose had found what he was looking for, a very seldom used Arkansas stone knife sharpener, and with some cooking oil sat along with David at the table, honing his already razor sharp blade. The steel drawing across the stone made a sound that was familiar to everyone there.
Looking up from the stone “Mr. Martin, while you are at it, bring me your knife…I’ll put an edge on it for you.”
Gary got up and retrieved his weapons, handing them to ‘Hebrew’, and his pocket clipped folding knife to ‘Spic’. David field stripped the battle rifle, and then reassembled the black stocked weapon setting it aside. “This Scout Squad Rifle is immaculate; Sgt Boltz did a good job on this one.” David then took the Kimber pistol and the Ruger pistol and began to strip them. “These on the other hand are filthy.” David took the Kimber apart and after checking the magazines and spares pronounced “This one’s functional, but dirty.” His attention then moved to the Ruger “The Ruger sir…when was the last time you cleaned this?”
Gary looked over at Hebrew “I hate cleaning that thing…as a matter of fact, if it wasn’t so much fun to shoot and if it wasn’t so quiet I would have ditched it a long time ago…” Gary paused as the SEAL weapons specialist expertly field stripped the silenced .22 “…I can take it apart, but it takes me forever to get it back together again.”
Goldberg smiled and said “The trick is this mainspring; it can be tough if you don’t have it exactly right.” Goldberg had a small round black case that was zippered, opening it revealed a compact cleaning kit. Using the cables and small brushes, David had the Ruger cleaned in short order. He then unscrewed the end off of the suppressor, allowing the grime covered, metal cone shaped baffles to slide out of the tube. After cleaning them in the kitchen sink, he reassembled the entire package and held up to Gary both of the Rugers long slender magazines. “Here’s your weak spot, sir. Both of these mags are slightly dinged up and…quite honestly, I wouldn’t trust my life to them.” David cleaned the magazines and reloaded both, handing the entire package back to Gary.
Gary took a full beer and stepped out on the back patio, setting the now warm can on the picnic table outside. When he walked back in, Gary flipped on the patio light and leaned over to Hebrew and Spic “You’re in my line of fire.”
The two SEAL’s immediately jumped up and out of the way as Gary took aim at the beer and squeezed off a silenced shot striking the can; it exploded with a burst of foam. Smiling he turned to Jefferson “It works just fine.”
Jefferson held out his hand and took the weapon, taking aim, he also placed a shot in the cans bottom, sending it off of the table “It sure does.”
The men in the room immediately transformed into the boys of their youth. Instead of lighting firecrackers in the back yard or playing mumbley-peg with a knife, they all wanted to play with the pistol. Jefferson set up some cans on the table and everyone took turns with the suppressed pistol, challenging each other for a better shot. The jitters from a few moments previous vanished, as the men let off a little steam.
Gary stood laughing and feeling at ease when his cell phone buzzed. Answering like his military counterarts “Martin” Popeye Adams was on the other side of the electronic cellular connection. The men watched and imagined the conversation as Gary spoke briefly. “Good, now don’t start this test too soon, ok? Jack is pulling out at 9am…we don’t want to upset the neighbors much before that. Also, tell Larry that I need him at the corn field by 9am.” Gary listened as Popeye spoke, and then hung up.
Jefferson looked at Gary “Well?”
“The ADCAP is ready to be tested. Popeye, NASCAR Larry and one of his Techs have it at the bean field and they’ll sleep there tonight. They’ll test about 9am…I don’t want him to start off too soon, as the Nebraska casts off at that time. No need to upset the neighbors and have calls to the police or anything …” Gary turned his attention to the SEAL’s “…and your part of this mission also starts before 9am…” Gary paused “…are you all ready for tomorrow?”
Each man smiled and nodded “We-ah ready…and you?” Jefferson replied
The Troublemaker smiled “Oh yeah, I’m ready.”
The final stage was being set in this play for the nation. Gary knew each team and each man would be in top form and was certainly confident regarding that. Looking at his watch, he saw that it would be hours before the truck made it to Maryland and the VC-20 would arrive in San Francisco. The day’s events settled down to a dull ache in his mind and body, especially his neck and shoulders. The temporary diversion of busting up some beer cans with the .22 seemed long past. Gary went into the living room and lay on the sofa, trying to think of anything he might have left out, any plan that might be incomplete or any loose thread in the fabric of their mission’s integrity. His jitters had again arrived.
Within a few moments the low sound of snoring could be heard coming from the living room. The SEAL’s took this as an opportunity to follow their leader and rest.
The gravel covered road threaded its way through the length of a valley. Gary found himself walking along this road, his rubber soled boots making crunching sounds as he walked. Gary felt tired and sore as he walked with a slight limp. The faded camouflaged clothing he wore was well conditioned and comfortable as was the military thigh ride holster with his Kimber .45 pistol. Feeling over to his left side, he realized that the holster carrying the silenced Ruger sat snug against his body. Looking over to his right and walking alongside was Ruthi.
“Hi sweetie, it’s good to see you again.” Gary bent down and lifted his daughter up, hugging and kissing her.
“Hi Daddy.” Ruthi said solemnly as she tightly hugged her daddy’s neck.
Gary turned Ruthi’s face to his and pressed his nose against hers. “So sugar, what are we doing here?”
“Ruthi demeanor instantly changed as she pulled back and smiled infectiously; her small first growth set of teeth gleaming. “Don’t you know this place, Daddy?”
Gary looked around and recognized the area. Holding his daughter with one arm and pointing up to a granite ledge with the other, he noticed the ridge on the left side of the valley. “Up there is where my cave is, right?”
“Yes” Ruthi said and paused. “Now do you know what this is?” Ruthi turned Gary around and pointed into the woods behind him. At first Gary didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary; he then realized that he was standing directly across from the mass grave where the Jewish family and others were brutally murdered. As he looked closer he also saw through the trees dark shapes rising, falling and swirling around the murder site. The shapes at first had no form; it then became apparent as they moved around in their dance over the dead that they did indeed have a form, a dark, putrefying and hellish form.
“What is that?” Gary realized that he was being given a glimpse of something evil.
“They’re nasty…and they are mean…”Ruthi grabbed her Dad’s face and looked him directly in the eye “…and they think they have won.” Ruthi turned back to the wisps of black smoke and shouted “Go away!”
The forms stopped their swirling and slowly filtered through the trees towards Gary and his daughter. Gary instinctively reached for his pistol as Ruthi intervened. Ruthi spoke again, only this time it wasn’t with an innocent child’s voice, but a powerful command that took Gary completely by surprise. “I said….go away!”
The spirits stopped, turned away and vanished into the trees.
Gary was stupefied at the display. “Ruthi….what was that?”
Ruthi looked at her Dad and smiled her childlike smile. “Daddy there is more to this than you all know…” Ruthi paused as she looked for the right words “…remember when we would talk about good guys and bad guys?”
“Well…they are really bad guys, only they aren’t guys…” Ruthi paused again “…they follow the bad men you are fighting…” Ruthi looked for recognition for Gary “…do you understand?”
Gary thought he understood “I think so…kinda like ‘good and evil’…where we live and where you live, right?”
Ruthi smiled at her Dad’s correct assessment “Sho-ah nuff.” She said mockingly with a southern drawl.
“Sho-ah nuff?” Gary looked at his amazing daughter and smiled “Have you been hanging around Jefferson?”
Ruthi burst out in a girly giggle “Yep…I like JT, he talks nice.”
Gary shook his head and chuckled.
Ruthi turned serious “Now Daddy…” Ruthi paused again “…it’s time.”
“It’s time to get going…it’s time to get up Daddy…wake up Daddy…” Ruthi climbed down out of Gary’s arms “…ya’ll are going to have a very busy day.”
Gary’s eyes opened as he took a deep breath and slowly sat up off the sofa, his pre-mission jitters evaporated and in their place was a burning determination. Looking at his watch, 4am and it indeed was time to get up and get going…they all were going to have a very busy day.
...............................................................To Be Continued.....................................................