Sitting with my six o’clock coffee, Heidi at my feet, and I’m too tired of snow to even talk about it anymore. There’s no end in sight…it just keeps falling. We have forecasts for sun and still it keeps falling.
So, a WIP of sorts today, going back to Dallas and to those wacky, cop-killing ninjas I introduced in Predator a year or so ago (over at LIT). This part of the story begins a few months later, so if you haven’t read the original, I’d suggest you give that old effort a try before starting this new one, as I don’t think this tale will make any sense at all without those other character details semi-fresh in your mind. Without giving too much of the plans for this story away, the idea is to incorporate elements from the Seattle story developed in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Things could get messy. Fun, even.
But, unfortunately, this post is but a single chapter in an evolving story, and it leaves you hanging at the end. Sorry. I hate doing that, really I do, but juggling several stories at the same time precludes posting huge ‘Mr Christian’ style arcs with real frequency. Besides, posting snippets and reading comments helps get a sense of what’s good, and not so good, about a new story. So, yes, I really do pay close attention to comments and emails.
Anyway, happy reading.
Predator II: Black Shadows, Shadows Dancing
She sat at her desk, listening to the man drone on about his wife. About how the wretched woman just didn’t understand him. How she never wanted to have sex anymore. How life had become totally empty, devoid of all meaning, all happiness.
She looked at this little maggot and wanted to laugh. ‘Have you looked in a mirror lately, you fat slob,’ she wanted to say. ‘Who’d want to fuck you? Who the hell would want to understand your pathetic, empty life? Jerking off to porn in the basement at two in the morning? Not even having the balls to jerk off in her face? Hiding in the shadows, afraid of your own shadow – all the shadows in your life…?’
“Well, Mr Peterson,” she said after she’d listened to about as much as she could, “it looks like our hour’s about up. I’d like you to reflect on some of the strategies we discussed today, and keep writing in your journal.”
“Okay. How do you think I’m doing?”
“Fine, Mr Peterson. Just fine.”
“How many more sessions do we have?”
She looked at her appointment app, scanned his court-ordered sentence. “Another eight weeks ‘til your next mandated evaluation. Then I make my report to the court.”
“You think I’ll do okay?”
“I can’t discuss these matters with you, Mr Peterson. You know that, so please don’t make me remind you again.”
“Now, it’s time for you to leave. I’ll see you next Friday, at ten.”
He even walked like a worm, she thought as he stood and made ready to leave, but he turned and looked at her – tried to look at her, anyway – but she was behind her desk and so denied him the view he sought.
He’d been sneaking down in the middle of the night to jerk off to online porn for years, then one night his wife came down – quietly – and caught him in the act. She belittled him for days after, until one evening he couldn’t take it anymore. After a long string of insults he snapped, and he pushed his wife against the wall and screamed at her. He’d fallen to the floor, crying, and she’d called the police.
Domestic violence wasn’t tolerated in this city, Judge Thornton Thomas told him at one point during his sentencing, and in addition to the twenty-five hundred dollar fine – as well as all court costs – he’d been sentenced to six months of psychiatric counseling – again, at his own expense. And then, of course, his wife had filed for divorce, so now he was living in a flop-house near a warehouse district by the airport. He could at least walk to work these days, flipping burgers at a nearby fast food place, which was a good thing – as he’d lost his car after being fired from his job.
But now he was infatuated with this psychiatrist – Dana Devlin – and her endlessly long legs. She usually left her office just after their session, and he knew this because he waited and watched for her, and a limo would usually be waiting for her just outside her office building. It would whisk her to TV studios downtown, where she had a syndicated noon-time call-in self-help program, where she would discuss issues surrounding domestic violence and substance abuse – with a nationwide audience. He liked to watch her as she left the building, liked the feeling of hiding and watching her surreptitiously, but he loved looking at her long legs and high heels most of all.
So he was waiting for her downstairs this morning, behind some trees not far away, and he watched her as she walked out, watched her legs as she turned and climbed into the limo, and he relished that one fleeting moment most of all – when, with one leg remained outstretched her skirt rose up, revealing stocking tops and garters. He shuddered when he caught that glimpse this morning, wanted to crawl home and turn on his laptop.
But no, not today. Today he wanted to see more, so he caught the bus downtown – with a smile on his very happy face.
“Yes,” Devlin said to the camera, “bi-polar disorder has become, I’m afraid, a too-broad definition, a catch-all phrase being used to justify all manner of inexcusable behavior. Like a doctor’s note to get you out of gym, it’s become almost trendy, and now, today, people are calling themselves bi-polar without any sort of formal diagnosis, thinking their swings in mood can be excused away with a shrug and a smile – and a hastily contrived diagnosis. So, the point I’m trying to make is simply this, if someone is indeed bi-polar, they need medication, they need treatment, and that won’t happen without seeking help from a qualified medical professional. Absent that, people need to stop self-diagnosing the problem, and applying labels they simply do not understand.”
“Okay,” the show’s host said, “this has been The Help Desk, with Dr Dana Devlin. This is Dick Durban, and we’ll be back next week with a frank examination at post-pubescent bed-wetting, and what you can do to move on from suffering the consequences of this humiliating nighttime scourge.”
The lights dimmed and Devlin unclipped her mic and set it on the desk in front of her, then leaned over and thanked Durban.
“You coming tonight?” she asked.
“Oh, wouldn’t miss it,” he said, smiling.
“Good,” she said, then she left the studio, stopped off at the gym before going out for the evening. She did not, apparently, notice she was being followed as she went inside.
He had been planning this night all week, and now it was time. He was going to follow her, wait until she was alone then take her. He’d been looking on from afar for too long, he told himself, and she had given him the courage he’d need to see this night through. He was sitting in the back of the taxi he’d called when she came out, and it fell in behind her Mercedes as it took off from the gym.
They had been waiting until night fell, and perhaps a half hour after the sun set a rope dropped noiselessly from the roof, and two shadows slipped through the night and into Peterson’s grimy little room.
They left a half hour later, the contents of his computer downloaded onto a card.
He looked up as a jet roared by just overhead, and barely made it in a back door without being caught; he followed the driving beat of the music down into an obscure basement and slipped unnoticed to the back of the room, his heart racing as he looked at the action on the floor. He saw her down there, dressed in latex and PVC – everything black, everything shiny, almost wet looking – even the huge phallus she had just strapped-on was shiny-wet and black.
Then he saw the judge – his judge – down there on the floor, strapped down to a high bench. She was whipping him – savagely, too, he thought – then she moved between the jurist’s splayed legs and planted her strap-on over his anus – and plunged-in – then began mercilessly pounding the man’s ass. When he cried-out in pain she only whipped him more fiercely.
He pulled out his phone, slipped it into video mode and began recording, and after just a few minutes he slipped back out of the building and disappeared into the night.
Shadows within shadows watched his movements, and one broke off and retraced his steps into the building, into the basement. She came out a few minutes later and her team disappeared into waiting shadows.
The next week, at his scheduled therapy session, she noticed he was looking at her differently – almost leering at her, she thought.
“What would you like to talk about today, Mr Peterson,” she started, unsure of his mood.
“I’d like you to call me Pete.”
She smiled. “Oh? Why?”
“First, could you tell me the difference between love and lust?”
She seemed amused at this new line of thought. “What’s on your mind today?”
“It’s a question that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I’ve been thinking about what might be different between the two.”
“Well, what do you think the difference is?”
“That’s not my question, Dana.”
“I’ve told you before, Mr Peterson, I’d prefer that you refer to me by my title.”
“I really don’t care what you want me to call you, Dana. I would like you to tell me the difference between love and lust.”
She looked into his eyes and unconsciously crossed her arms over her lap, then caught herself and sighed. “The difference, you say?”
“Yes. How are they different?”
“Well, love is about continuity, about seeking permanence in your life, while lust is all about the moment, impulses and needs. I’d say lust is more about impermanence, instant gratification, while love is about long term fulfillment. Now, Pete, what’s this all about?”
“I’d like to show you something, and I wonder if you could conjure up a definition of hypocrisy out of your black hat.” He stood, took out his phone and came close to her desk, turned it on and opened up the video player. He put the phone on her desk and pressed play…
She leaned over, picked the phone up and watched the images unfold; her hands began to shake, a line of perspiration formed on her brow. When the recording stopped he took the phone and returned to his chair.
“Interesting,” she said. “So. You’ve been following me.”
“No, I’ve had a private detective following you and Thornton.”
She smiled at his bluff. “What do you want?”
“Right now? Right now, I want to fuck you in the ass. When I’m finished I want a letter from you making all this go away. A week from now, I want to read about that fucking judge’s resignation from the bench, and it better be front page news.”
“Oh, is that all?”
“Yes, that’s all. And I’m assuming you think I’m a moron. That I haven’t taken precautions to make sure this video shows up all over the internet if something happens to me. I could disappear, you know, or men in white coats could show up at work, throw me to the ground and put me in a straight-jacket, take me to the funny farm. Just let me tell you if anything like that happens to me, you and the judge are going viral. Youtube city, if you get my drift, and that’ll be just for starters.”
“And if we comply?”
“I hit delete.”
“Simple as that, huh? And we get to trust you, that you won’t publish?”
“Simple as that.”
The shadows listened intently now, confirming all their recording devices had good signal.
Devlin turned in her chair, hit a button and all the drapes in her office closed, the lights dimmed.
“Take off your clothes, Pete. And from now on, when you answer me, you’ll say only ‘yes, mistress,’ or ‘no, mistress.’ Is that understood?”
“Sorry, but no. I’m not playing that game with you.”
“Pete? Please? Just play along a little, would you? Make it easy for me?”
“Pete? Get your clothes off, then I need you to come over and lick my legs, suck my toes.”
“Uh…well…if you insist…”
“Oh, Pete…I had no idea your cock was SO big…”
And still the shadows listened.
He wasn’t exactly sure, but to him it almost looked as if someone had been in his room. Nothing too out of place – not exactly – but just enough, and he had to admit he hadn’t counted on this. He went to his laptop and opened it up, and everything – seemed – okay… So why this feeling?
He saw a shadow, or thought he did, and he turned, looked out the window –
“What the fuck!” he screamed. “Who the fuck are you?!”
It, what ever it was, looked like a giant, black owl – like something out of one of those Whitley Strieber books he’d used to read.
An alien, he said to himself, now sure someone, or something, had been in his room – and suddenly he rubbed the back of his head again and again – for he had been sure, once, that he’d been abducted, and that they’d implanted something in his skull.
Now, the more he thought about it, the more aliens made sense. Who else could have told Molly he was in the basement? How else could he have run into a psychiatrist as warped as Devlin, a judge as twisted as Thornton? They had to be in on it, all of them, and he bet they had been, for years, from the beginning.
That spot on his head was itching now, and he was sure he could feel it getting hot. They had to be transmitting now, transmitting instructions to him. Again. That’s why it was getting hot – that had to be the reason. He felt the room spinning, his eyeballs starting to itch – and he wanted to scratch them out of his head – because the noise was getting so loud now, the voices so insistent…
“What the fuck’s going on with him now?” one of the shadows said.
“I don’t think he took his meds this morning,” another one said.
Yet another laughed.
“No, I’m serious,” the second one said. “I don’t think he took anything, and two of them are anti-psychotics.”
“Too bad for him,” the first said. “Look, he’s going to whack-off again!”
“I can’t fucking believe this guy. It’s like anything sets him off.”
“This is like the third time so far today…”
“Did you see the recording from her office?”
“No. What about it?”
“He popped her in the can, then blew a load all over her face. He made her lick the shit off his dick after.”
“That woman has no pride.”
“I think she’s desperate.”
“You’d have to be fucking desperate to let that cretin anywhere near your asshole.”
“You should’ve seen what was on his hard drives.”
“I don’t want to know. Did the committee reach a decision?”
“Yes. He made the list, too.”
“Well, one more won’t make much difference, I guess.”
“No, it won’t.”
They had been in the basement earlier that day, and the team had epoxied all the windows shut, then had placed shaped charges in the ceiling, taped to a dozen 20 pound LPG tanks. No, it wouldn’t matter at all…
She had invited Pete to tonight’s event – “just to show you there are no hard feelings!” – and she’d picked him up a little before eight, driven him to the warehouse. A jet taking off from Love Field flew by just overhead as she got out of her Mercedes, and he followed her to the front door, then past the security guard beside the basement stairs. She led him downstairs to the main playroom and told him to make himself comfortable while she changed into her play clothes, or so she called them. He looked around, didn’t see Thornton anywhere, and for some reason that bothered him. Someone handed him a drink and he tossed it down, then walked over and looked at a girl being sodomized by someone in a gorilla suit…but no, he was pretty sure it was an alien on top of the girl…then the room started to spin, he felt like he was about to suffocate – then the room went dark.
They’d watched as Thornton and Devlin tied him down to a bench, then as someone gave him an injection. He’d begun to come around after that, but he was gagged now, and they couldn’t make out more than a few words that Devlin and Thornton were saying.
Soon Thornton walked over to Peterson, and they noted he had a large cordless drill in his hand; the judge put the drill above Peterson’s ear and pulled the trigger…
“You know,” one of the shadows said, “I really don’t want to watch this…”
“So, hit the detonator – whenever you’re ready.”
“Southwest 227, taxi to position and hold.”
“227, clear for take off. Contact departure one two two niner and good night.”
“227, two-two-niner. Rolling.”
“Give me ninety eight percent.”
“Helluva crosswind tonight.”
“Yup. Passing eighty. One-ten. EP at ninety eight. V-one – and rotate!”
“Positive rate, gear up.”
“Gear up…what the hell was that?!”
“Uh, Southwest 227, this is the Tower. Looks like a large explosion under you at this time. Lot’s of flame and airborne debris.”
“Tower, 227, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! We’ve lost number two engine, lost primary hydraulics, and we’re getting fire alarms from the cargo deck. We’re gonna try a right turn, try for runway three six.”
“227, say souls on board.”
“48, Tower. We’re three eight zero A-G-L, have about 5–5 percent on number one, can’t hold a climb at this weight.”
“Roger, 227, emergency services notified.”
“What the hell was that?,” the Captain said. “Did ATC say they saw an explosion?”
“I think so. Felt like a large IED.”
“Hit the APU, deploy the RAT.”
“Might as well start dumping fuel, too. Okay, I’ve got Harry Hines and Mockingbird, I’m going to line up off them. Start reading off the radar altimeter, would you?”
“2-7-0 feet, gears still down and three green, flaps at twenty. Now 2-5-0 AGL, rate of descent is 3-5-0 feet per…”
“Landing gears are going to come right off at this weight.”
“Now 2-1-0 feet, speed 1-7-7, rate of descent now 400. Looks like Denton Drive in about a quarter mile.”
The computer chimed: “Minimums, minimums!”
“This is gonna be close, Mike.” The Captain keyed the intercom, her voice calm now: “Flight attendants, brace for impact.”
“Over Denton, now 1-1-0 feet, speed 1-5-5.”
“Mike…? I think we’re gonna make it…”
“You got it, Captain.”
“Crosswind’s a headwind now – good – okay, over the threshold.”
The computer began talking again: “Fifty – forty – thirty – retard – retard!” She felt the main gears hit, was going for reverse thrust when she felt the entire aircraft lurched – hard – to the left…
Which happened when the left main gear failed – which then blew through the top of the wing. The wing tanks ruptured, vaporizing thousands of pound of jet fuel – which then ignited. The left engine nacelle dug into the runway, causing an immediate, violent yaw to the left, and the right main gear collapsed. The main spar failed next, then the entire right wing separated from the fuselage. Eight fire trucks began chasing the flaming wreck down the runway, spraying thick white foam on everything. When the wreck ground to a stop, doors and slides opened, dozens of dazed people tumbled to the ground and were soon coated in thick white goo.
First responders from all over North Texas converged on Love Field, while the FBI’s counter-terrorism task force was convened in Washington D.C. Survivors walked down the runway, some fell to the ground as soon as they cleared the flaming hulk. Off duty police and fire investigators all over the city heard their beepers go off, and families turned on their TVs, trying to figure out what that huge explosion was…
And Ben Acheson looked at his phone, rolled out of bed, showered and kissed Genie on the forehead, then got in his Yukon, drove across town to Love Field. The Duke was already there, walking around the wreckage on the runway, looking tired and very put-out.
“Took you long enough to get here, Meathead,” Dickinson said, glowering.
“Bring any donuts?”
“Couple dozen,” The Duke growled. “Back seat.”
“Warehouse, over off Cedar Springs, blew up. Well, I mean was blown up. Powerful stuff. Jet was taking off, got hit by debris, force of the blast wave apparently did most of the damage.”
“So the warehouse was the target?”
“Yup. Firefighters still working it. As soon as they’re done we’ll move in. We’ll have lead, I assume FBI will back us up – unless terrorism is the initial conclusion, anyway.”
“How’s Genie? Still liking school?”
“It’s tough. Tougher than she expected.”
“Miss the Bureau yet?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Good. World needs more doctors, not a bunch of cops.”
“World need both, Duke. Nothin’s ever gonna change that equation.”
Dickinson grumbled, then his hand unit crackled. “700, are you still on scene at Love?”
“700, Fire Department would like someone from CID on scene at this time.”
“700, 741 code five.”
“Code five at 2310.”
“It’s gonna be a long night, Ben.”
“Glad you got two dozen. Nexium ain’t working anymore.”
They drove over to Cedar Springs, then down Manor Way to the burning building and got out, walked over to the Fire Department’s Mobile Command Unit; the Chief was waiting for them: “You come from Love?” the fireman asked.
“Yessir.” Dickinson knew it was rare for the FD’s chief to be out on a call like this – unless something way out of the ordinary was suspected. “What’ve you found so far?”
“HE residue everywhere, on everything. On the remaining structure, all over the debris field.”
“Maybe. Maybe something more exotic.”
“FBI here yet?”
“Nope. Thought I’d let you handle that. And, well, we’ve no way of telling if there’s any unexploded ordnance in there.”
“That’s nice. Who do you think – FBI, or Army?”
The chief shrugged. “FBI ought to be able to handle it; Army might be better equipped.”
“Okay,” Dickinson said as he turned to Acheson – but he was across the street, walking towards a dumpster, so he took out his hand unit and called dispatch: “700, notify SAC/Dallas he’s needed at this location, advise we’ll need an EOD team here code three, and FD thinks Army may by better equipped for this one. Have Traffic shut-down on Cedar Springs from Mockingbird to Inwood, and we may need to evacuate apartment buildings in the area.”
“700, 10/4 at 2335. Did you want us to notify 100?”
“Ah, 700, this is 100,” the Chief of Police said, “code five your twenty.”
“100, code five at 2336.”
Dickinson looked at Acheson, who was looking around the area, then across the street.
“Oh, no,” Acheson whispered. “Not again.”
But The Duke could tell the boy’d seen something, and Acheson walked across the street up to the trash dumpster in a parking lot, and now Dickinson could see the envelope taped to the side of the dumpster. He watched Ben pull it free, open it up, then look up and around the area again. “Fuck-a-doodle-do,” The Duke whistled, waiting for Acheson to walk back, but he knew in his gut already.
They were back and it was happening again – and tonight was just the opening salvo. “Oh Carol,” Dickinson sighed, “what have you done to us now – what have you gotten me into?”
He turned, walked over to the charred, smoldering building, and looked down into the shattered basement. Many bodies were recognizable, though they too were charred, while other’s had simply been blown apart, then the nature of the facility came into sharp relief. Racks, benches, a viewing area, all of it, he’d seen all of it before, and more than once over the years.
He felt Ben walk up, felt him staring down into the pits of Hell.
“It’s them,” he said at last.
“I know,” The Duke sighed. He turned, looked at the package in Acheson’s hand. “Well?”
“A couple of discs, list of names, of the people down there. A brief synopsis of why they took them out.”
“The names. Give me that list.” Acheson handed it over and Dickinson read down the list, then whistled again. “Fuck-a-doddle-do…”
“Yup. Three judges, and look at the last name, on the second page.”
“He was officially running, so we’ll have to notify the Secret Service. Oh, and there’s this,” Ben said, handing the Post-it note to Dickinson.
“Where was this?”
“Windshield of your car, under the wiper.”
“Figures.” He read the note, whistled again. “Copies already sent to the Morning News, and to CNN. Well, that’s another big fly in the ointment.”
“No way to make the names on that list go away.”
“You know, Ben. They’re always one step ahead of us. Here, out west too.”
“We’re penetrated, at every level.”
“I know. Carol. She told me she was done with them.”
“Go on the assumption she isn’t. I would, anyway.”
“Do you think that’s why she expressed interest? In me, I mean?”
“Possible, but doubtful. I know her pretty well, and if she did something like that it would be way out of character. Still, I don’t know what motivated her to join that organization in the first place.”
“Neither do I…”
“Captain?” one of the Fire Departments unit commanders said, jogging over. “Could y’all take a look at something?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“Over here, sir.” He led them to the edge, pointed with his flashlight at a large, 1500 pound gas cylinder. “Any idea what that is on top of that tank?”
Dickinson looked at for a moment, then he turned to everyone within earshot – “Everyone out of here, NOW!” – then he turned to Acheson, grabbed him by the arm and began pulling him away from the edge. “Detonator – countdown timer…”
They were almost to their cars when the device let go, and the concussive wave knocked them both from their feet – hurled them through the air – and both landed in the street. Their clothes scorched, the skin on the backs of their heads burned badly, they turned in time to see a wall of flame racing from the original crater…
“Well, there goes all the evidence,” The Duke said a minute later, picking himself off the asphalt. “Looks like they gave us just enough of a glimpse to substantiate their allegations.”
“Like you said, sir. Always one step ahead.”
The Duke was feeling the back of his head, not liking what he felt, then out of the blue he turned and looked at the raging ruins. “When your basic assumptions prove wrong, it’s time to challenge all your assumptions.”
“It’s time to go on the offensive, Ben.”
“So, what do we know so far?” Special Agent in Charge Red Gibbons asked.
“First on my list,” Dickinson began, “the airplane appears to be collateral damage, not an intended target.”
“You mean – they actually fucked up?” Gibbons said, chuckling dryly. “That’s a first.”
“Yup. Maybe. Next up, the building was targeted because that’s where these people were meeting up. Records show an entity called Argosy Partners have been renting the space for a few years. They were, before they rented this one, meeting out near White Rock Lake, in a private home.”
“Who’s home?” Gibbons asked.
“Thornton’s,” Acheson said. He’d dug up that information earlier this morning.
“This is a fucking nightmare,” Gibbons said. “We’ve got a US Senator, three local congressmen, two local and one federal judge down in that crater…”
“Not to mention a dozen local big-shots,” Dickinson added. “That TV shrink and her co-host, the CEO of SimCON, and well, we’ve yet to ID a half dozen bodies that aren’t even on the list.”
Gibbons shook his head. “I heard they found a head…with a drill-bit stuck in the side of his skull. That true?”
“Yessir,” Deke Slayton said. “The bit is drilled in, wasn’t blow-in during the explosion.”
“Fuck, those were some strange-rangers,” Gibbons sighed.
“I doubt this was entertainment, sir,” Acheson replied.
“Go on,” the SAC said, “let’s have it. The unvarnished version.”
“Probably retribution. Someone crossed them, so they took him out.”
“Retribution, huh?” Gibbons said, then he started writing on a notepad. “Okay, what else?”
“The charges, sir,” Acheson said. “One of the firemen ID’ed the detonators we saw as a so-called ‘shaped charge’ – and in case…”
“I know what those are, Ben. So, some sophisticated firepower, not available on the street, not easily cobbled together in a basement.”
“Stolen, would be my guess,” Dickinson interjected. “From a weapons lab, or a nuclear storage facility.”
“Oh, well, let’s kick it up a notch. Weapons from a nuclear facility, and all of sudden these chicks go to the top of the FBI’s most wanted.”
“It’s not going to be that easy,”Acheson sighed.
“Well, first, look around this room. Not one woman in here. Next, we’re having the room swept for bugs, and have been – for months. For all intents and purposes this has become a ‘woman free zone’ – and simply because we have no idea who’s on the inside, working for them.”
“So? What does that mean?”
“Well, for one thing, this could easily ramp up into some sort of civil war. Look how rapidly their movement, hell, their ideology, has spread. What we first thought was a series of copy-cat crimes turned out to be well-coordinated by a national organization. They’re taking out scumbags right now, but what happens if this is a first move on more political targets?”
“You don’t think,” Dickinson said, “that last night wasn’t a political act?”
“I don’t think we have enough information on hand,” Acheson said, “to make that call. Not yet, anyway. It’s certainly a possibility, though.”
“You know,” Gibbons said, his voice uncertain now, “there’ve been several BDSM groups, mainly on the west coast, that have merged their activities into political action, mainly by bringing prominent business and political leaders into their operations. We’ve been working in Seattle, trying to get one such group under control, for over a year. We lost a couple of agents, and Seattle PD lost a few two, including an AC.”
“That was one of the last cases Genie was working on before she accepted the slot at Southwestern.”
“I know,” Gibbons said, looking away. “I wish she was still with us. I have a feeling we could use her insight.”
“You know,” The Duke said, “I remember reading about that Seattle thing. Seems to me the ‘ninjas’ were part of some BDSM group’s hierarchy.”
Gibbons looked around the room. “Okay, what I’m going to tell you has got to stay in this room, but that mess is a lot more complicated than we’ve previously let on.”
“Oh?” Dickinson said.
“It wasn’t just law enforcement that was compromised. Legislators, judges, prosecutors…even people in broadcasting and newspapers…all either compromised or actively taking part in the group’s organization.”
“You’re saying that this group had infiltrated almost all levels of government, and had, in effect, neutralized people in media?”
Gibbons nodded his head. “Yup. Reporters to owners, papers and television stations.”
“So,” Acheson sighed, “why do I get the feeling you haven’t gotten to the bad part yet?”
“Because I haven’t gotten to the bad part yet.”
“Swell,” The Duke said, reaching for a donut.
“Could I have one of those?” Gibbons said, eyeing the dwindling supply.
“Help yourself, Red. Ben, you haven’t eaten this morning, so for God’s sake, eat a donut – before you bleed out.”
“Yessir. So. What’s the bad part?”
“We’re picking up chatter inside FBI headquarters now; we may be infiltrated. Furthermore, it appears that a few members of congress may be compromised, and a few White House staffers, as well.”
“You’re saying,” The Duke said quietly, “that the federal government may have been compromised in some way by this group? The group in Seattle?”
Acheson jumped in before the SAC could respond: “But what if there’s no operational difference between the Seattle group and the one operating here? What if it’s just one organization?”
“Why go after a BDSM group, if that’s the case,” Gibbons asked.
“I don’t know. Competing objectives? Or maybe this group didn’t have anything to do with the Seattle group. Friends in need, that kind of thing.”
“That’s interesting, Ben,” The Duke said. “About competing objectives, I mean, and that makes a certain kind of sense. Once an organization gets big enough, especially one with political objectives, that group will begin to fracture internally as sub-groups form, as competing interests vie for supremacy. What if this group, the one taken out last night, wasn’t simply a group of perverts – and I say that advisedly. Recall, if you will, that they went after pedophiles last time, and that drug runner too. And we’ve been operating under the assumption that taking out sexual deviants is still there primary objective.”
“But, what if it’s not?” Ben asked.
“Exactly,” The Duke sighed.
“Going after a bunch of politicians and judges is a helluva way to make your point,” Gibbons said.
“Not if this was an intramural skirmish of some sort,” The Duke said softly, “or not if this is an internal power struggle. This could be a message, to us, and to any other internal factions watching.”
“Wait a minute,” Acheson said, suddenly agitated. “This group in Seattle? You said it’s a BDSM group, but was it an all female group?”
“No,” Gibbons said, the point suddenly hitting home, “it’s not – or wasn’t.”
“So, two possibilities,” Ben said quietly. “The first; this has always been one group, and now it’s splintering due to internal dissent. Or the other possibility: there are multiple groups, but they came together through a marriage of convenience, and now there’s a power struggle underway.”
“That might explain,” Dickinson said, “the targeting last night. Assuming members of this group, or faction, had come into conflict with the.”
“Uh,”Gibbons said, coughing on a bit of donut, “well, can we just call them – the Ninjas – for now?”
The Duke shrugged. “They’re not ninjas, Red. They’re radicals subverting the system to achieve an agenda, in effect radicalizing a distinct segment of the population to undermine the rule of law, preying on those gullible enough to think there’s no other way to effect change.”
“Okay, predators,” Red said. “Let’s just call ‘em Predators.”
“No, I don’t think so,” The Duke said, shaking his head.
Ben sighed: “Because we’re objectifying their actions, projecting motives we may not fully understand, and until we do calling them anything is premature.”
“All their handwritten notes to us have been signed ‘– C’, haven’t they?” Gibbons said. “Who do you think that is?”
“My guess,” Ben said quickly, “is Committee?”
“Okay,” Red said, “so we call them The Committee.”
Ben barely looked at Dickinson, tried not to feel guilty for such a brazen lie, but he’d spoken to protect her, to protect The Duke – and his relationship with her. “So, what’s the next step?”
“What about your vector theory,” Gibbons asked. “Does the location of this latest attack fit along the axis of the earlier string of murders?”
“It’s close to Love Field,” Ben said, “where we found the victim in the parking garage, but even this close it’s several hundred yards off the other established vector.”
“They’re not going to try that again,” The Duke said. “We were getting close a couple of times, probably too close for comfort…”
“And you’re assuming they want to play games with us,” Ben added. “Last night was different. Last night was a statement. When that list hits the Morning News and CNN, the lid is going to be blown right into orbit, and there’s not going to be any way to deny the group’s existence after that. Within a week, the talking heads will be putting two and two together, talking about nothing else. And if there’s a second incident? Or if this ‘Committee’ releases a manifesto of some sort? Hell, it’s going to hit the fan big-time, and open warfare won’t be far off.”
“Ben, turn up the TV, there’s something on CNN right now…”
All eyes turned to flat screen, to a hotel on fire, apparently burning furiously, out of control – yet one wing of the building was simply gone, like it had been blown away…
“Yes, Wolf, officials here at the scene believe this was caused by an explosion of some sort, a large explosion, but they’re not speculating at all about the cause…”
The helicopter circling overhead pulled back, and the motel’s tall highway sign came into view: ‘Manor House Lodge’ it read, and Ben felt a chill run down his spine.
“Manor House?” he sighed. “Manor House? – OF COURSE!”
“Ben? What the devil…?”
“Manor House!” he said, this time loudly. “And last night, the explosion was on Manor Way. If these are linked, well then, this isn’t a coincidence…”
The intercom crackled, and a voice from dispatch entered the room: “Anyone down there?”
“Dickinson here,” he replied.
“Patrolman out on a call advises he’s got a signal one, wants CID and a CSU code two.”
“Okay, where is it,” Dickinson said, nodding to Acheson it would be his call.
“Hotel out on Central. The Manor House, off Royal Lane.”
Everyone’s eyes went to Acheson – who only seemed to smile.
They drove out Central in a tight convoy: CID, the FBI, multiple Crime Scene Unit vans, but The Duke rode with Acheson, let him drive while he thought. “Why a murder there? Why this morning?”
Acheson shook his head. “Not even an hour after the explosion in Maryland? It doesn’t make sense, unless…”
“It’s to draw us in.”
“Shit!” Ben said as he picked up the radio’s mic. “741, notify units on Central to begin an immediate evacuation of buildings around their location, get EOD units to the area, notify fire and rescue to respond…”
“You don’t think…?”
“If last night was an announcement, a change in strategy, not just tactics…”
They were two miles away just then, when they felt more then heard a deep ‘woomp’ rolling through the air.
“Oh-sweet-Jesus,” Dickinson said when he saw the explosion further out Central, just as their Tahoe passed under Northwest Highway. “700,” he said into the mic, “large explosion, vicinity Central and Royal.”
They heard dispatch calling the patrol units already on scene – and none responded. More calls, more silence, then an avalanche of units responding to the scene checked in.
Dickinson pulled out his cell, called the chief’s office: “Chief, you got this stuff on the radio?”
“No, I’ve been in a meeting.”
“Large explosion, officers already on the scene not responding. Looks similar to the thing in Maryland.”
“What thing in Maryland?”
“Turn on CNN, get caught up. We’ll get a command post set up somewhere on Royal, and you’d better think about getting out here, getting a statement ready for the press.”
“What do you think’s going on?”
“The ninjas are back. Nationwide, would be my guess. And they just declared war.”
News helicopters were still circling overhead three hours later, and while both Acheson and Dickinson had been up for over thirty hours they could see no end in sight. Ten officers down, six dead, four in the burn unit at Parkland, and more than sixty bodies found in the hotel – and in three nearby buildings that collapsed in the primary blast. One person tried to flee the scene and her car had been wired; as soon as she hit the ignition she – and everything within a hundred meter radius – was vaporized.
Reports came in that attacks similar to this one, as well as the one in Maryland, had been discovered, and possibly thwarted, but by late morning three more occurred – one in Atlanta, the next in Phoenix, and the third in Tacoma – and each blast occurred in a facility that had the word ‘manor’ in either the place-name or the address.
There was now, literally, nothing else on the news – on any channel – and as letters taking credit for the attacks began showing up at major broadcasters and newspapers, the group’s objectives were being splattered over the airwaves – and the ‘net – at a breakneck pace.
Acheson and Dickinson walked the rubble after firefighters secured the scene, and it didn’t take them long. A large bedroom, far from the lobby on the second floor, hadn’t been completely destroyed by either the blast or the subsequent fires, and they found the shattered remains of a young boy, dead, tied to the four corners of the bed. He had been tortured, sexually, and apparently for an extended period of time, according to the initial forensic examination conducted on scene. The boy’s rectum had been savaged, and more than a pint of semen remained in his lower colon. ID, driver’s licenses and credit cards, had established that the pastor of a local, politically very active Baptist church was one of the pedophiles, and the other was Clive Thornton, brother of one of the judges found in the aftermath of the first blast on Manor Way.
And before CID or the FBI could confirm these identities, let alone finish their reports, news outlets on the national level were broadcasting not only who was at the Manor House Lodge in Dallas, but what they had been doing to deserve retribution – complete with audio – and video – of their actions. By nightfall, people around the country had begun to doubt the integrity of their leaders as never before, and a great, shuddering sigh of anxiety could be felt all across the land.
“How bad is it?” a dour Genie Delaney said when she saw Ben walk in the door.
Acheson just shook his head, looked at her books stacked on the dining room table, noted the silent kitchen and groaned his way to the shower. He looked at his watch before he took it off and almost stumbled into the shower, trying to do the math in his head. Fifteen hours until he had to be out at DFW, fifteen hours until the next flight to Paris – then two days away from this Hell. Two days of – room service, two days of endless sleep.
Then what? Two days off. Then two days downtown, two more days of this never-ending Hell. Genie, ass-deep in her studies, to wrung-out to do even the simplest household chores, nail-biting anxiety as exam after exam rolled over her like waves breaking in a hurricane – and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do for her but try to help maintain some semblance of order around the house.
At least she wasn’t a slob, he thought as the hot water pounded the back of his neck. He put his arms out, leaned forward and let the water hit his lower back, then he felt a little blast of cool air. She was beside him then, then in front of him, on her knees. He felt her mouth engulf his need, felt her arms encircling his thighs and he moved into the zone, relaxing completely. How many days had it been, he wondered, but soon that calculus didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, nothing at all, only the smooth, easy rhythm that came so naturally to her.
He stood, moaned, put his hands behind her head and added his motion to hers, but then she picked up her pace. He felt her fingernails on the insides of his thighs, the water running down his legs, the electric flutters building in his gut…
“I’m close,” he said, and she picked up the pace. Swirling tongue, jackhammer rhythm, so much need – “I’m coming…” he managed to say, but still she kept up her driving pace…
He slipped into the clouds and rain, felt the world dissolve, heard her sharp intake of breath as his cum screamed release. Her head swirled now, creating a waterfall of new, overwhelming sensation and he felt his knees buckling, felt her swallowing, then bobbing for every last drop.
She came up to him a moment later, rinsed her face in the spray then nestled into his neck, holding him tightly.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“I couldn’t help it, Spud. You looked like you needed it – almost as much as I did.”
He looked into her eyes, felt himself adrift on her ocean of love, basking in the light of her…
And he saw a red laser’s beam dancing across the back of the shower – and turned – saw a woman dressed all in black, standing in the doorway from the bedroom.
“What is it,” he heard Genie ask.
“I think we’re having company for dinner.”
“That was sweet,” the woman said.
They were in the bedroom now, all curtains drawn, and there were five of them standing by the doors and windows – all dressed in black, all carrying H&K MP5s. All looked very focused, and more than a little menacing.
“Thanks,” Ben said. “If I’d known I was giving a performance I might have lasted a little longer, gone for a classier exit.” He was staring at the woman, memorizing her features: maybe fifty years old, sandy blond hair, very fit, hazel eyes and straight teeth. Maybe 5’5”, 120 pounds, and her feet were small, almost tiny. And her eyes: clear, intelligent, cool and calculating. Adversarial – predatory.
The woman smiled, just a little, then moved towards the door, shut it and locked it. “Sit down,” she commanded.
They sat. “Whatever you say,” he didn’t need to add. “Uh, to what do we owe this little visit?”
“Your conference, this morning.”
“So, you’re listening-in still?”
“You’re on the right track,” the woman said, smiling broadly now, “and that surprised me.”
“That your group has gone political? All terrorist acts are political – so why should it surprise you that we came to that conclusion?”
“I wasn’t sure. Not after the airliner.”
“Collateral damage?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, sighing. “Unfortunate timing.”
“Well, it certainly got a lot of attention.”
“Not the kind we want.”
“What do you want? Why are you here?”
She opened a case, took out a large manilla envelope and handed it to him. “I’d like you to read this tonight, pass it on to your superiors if you deem it interesting.”
“You could have slipped this under the door mat. You haven’t answered my question: why are you here, now? This evening, in my house?”
“I wanted to meet you.”
“And I wanted to tell you that as much as I admire you, and what you do, if you get too close I’ll hurt you. I’ll hurt you by killing her,” she said, pointing to Genie. “She won’t be able to hide, so think about what I’m saying.”
“You can’t expect me to not do my job?”
“I suppose I could simply tell you to quit the reserves, go fly full time, but the truth is, Ben, I admire your tenacity, your sudden flashes of insight. And I want…no, I need a worthy adversary.”
“Well then, logically, you think I’ll get too close, eventually. So, logically, you want me to succeed, and you want to kill Genie.”
“No. No I don’t.” She looked him in the eye, then stepped close, leaned over and kissed him, hard, on the lips. She slipped her tongue between his, reached down and pulled on his cock, then she stood over him, a look of triumph in her eyes. “No, Ben, I don’t want you to get to – close.” Then woman laughed a little, then the group simply walked out of the room and into the gathering night.
“Jesus,” Genie said, letting out a breath too long held, “what the fuck was that all about?”
“I have no clue,” he said, now shaking inside. “I felt like a cobra had coiled around me, uh, my neck when she did that.”
“Well, you must have liked it.”
He could feel it now, his cock standing straight up again. “Oh, no.”
“At least she didn’t give you a blow job,” but Delaney was shook up, felt like she’d lost all control over her destiny, indeed, her life – and now she desperately wanted to reassert some measure of what she’d just lost. “Still, you have to admit,” she said as she leaned over and put her hand around his hard-on, “it’s a nice cock. Not too big, certainly not too small, a little on the fat side – but that’s a good thing,” she said as she took it in her mouth. She ran her mouth up and down slowly a few times, then disengaged. “But, I think he’s been neglected, that he wants to come home,” she said as she straddled him.
“Here, let me…”
“Nope,” she sighed, willing herself to retake control. “No hands,” she said as she pushed him down. She lay on top of him with her legs inside his, and she clamped down with her thighs, moved up slowly, pulling the head of his cock in tightly against her lips, then she slipped down even more slowly, letting the head part her lips just a little – and she did this for several minutes, until they were both shaking with more immediate needs. She concentrated on the feeling of his cock between her thighs, grazing her lips, then – using her legs she pushed his legs together, still slowly grinding his need into hers, and then she rose until she was poised over his belly. She had the angle she needed now, and she backed a little, pushed his cock straight up, then she rose again and felt her lips parting, his tip entering – and she hovered there, wanting this feeling of anticipation to last forever. She circled their sudden need from on high, like a raptor among clouds, then she plunged, took him all in – and the room filled with the light of glorious release.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what was that all about?” he sighed as she lay beside him.
“I don’t know? Maybe I was so afraid of dying, then so glad to be alive? I saw her kiss you, saw her kissing you forever, like she wants you, and I wanted you – while I can still have you.”
The woman was watching the live video feed from inside an agency van, watching Ben and Genie and the aftermath of their encounter, and she leaned over, turned up the volume.
“You think she wants me?”
“Did you hear what she said, about needing an adversary? Oh, yes, she needs you, Ben, needs you big time. That’s what she was saying. Killing me will, in her mind, only make you more available. You’ll be crushed after she kills me, but then she’ll pull you back out of yourself, back out into life among the living – her living. In the beginning, she’ll be your tormentor, then she’ll become your savior. In her mind, she’ll redeem both your sins and hers by claiming, and reclaiming, you.”
She listened to Delaney’s words and wanted to deny the truth she heard, but she too had been a profiler, and like Delaney had been with the FBI for years, before she moved to the NSA. She too was capable of extraordinary empathy, prone to sudden flashes of brilliant insight, but not where her own feelings were concerned – so as the girl’s words rocked her she knew they may well be true. The feeling in her gut when she saw him come out of the shower, the way his towel didn’t quite cover certain parts? She had wanted to fuck him like she had never wanted fuck anyone before, and yet she’d felt herself coming undone when she was near him, then felt the need to run from her feelings before they overwhelmed her. There had been more to tell him, instructions to relay, and now she’d have to contact him again.
She wasn’t used to making mistakes of this sort, and the idea bothered her. She finished changing clothes as she watched them talk, and by the time the van drove out onto the private jet ramp at Love Field she was ready to play her part again. The dutiful Assistant Director sent by her president to ascertain the political fallout of the attacks in Dallas.
She hated the President, and all his blatant, corrupt hypocrisies – but he had been so useful. Until now, anyway. Now she had to deal with his treachery, his slip-ups, and she was sure his usefulness was at an end.
“They just made contact.”
“They did. Their leader, I think.”
“They came inside the house, five of them, all heavily armed. The station is compromised, they’re listening to everything we say. I’d assume they’re listening to us right now.”
“Interesting. Were their faces covered?”
“Not the leader, but we need to talk. Echo all right with you?”
Dickinson seemed to hesitate. “It may be a while.”
“Carol?” Ben asked, sensing trouble in The Duke’s voice.
“Yup. Can it wait ‘til morning?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Right. Gimme an hour.”
Acheson hung up the phone, turned to Genie. “Something’s not right.”
“With what? Dickinson?”
“Yup. Are you sure that was her?”
“I am. It took me a minute, but I know who she is.”
“And she must know you know.”
“Safe assumption,” Genie said.
“So you really are in danger.”
She walked over to the window, looked out into the back yard. “I don’t like this weather. It’s unsettled, the clouds are moving too fast.”
He joined her, put his arms around her and held her close. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“You can try. At least you can try.”
He felt a tremble pass between them, like insatiable need coming to an untimely end. “Come on. We’d better get some clothes on…”
“You don’t want to go naked?”
“Somehow I don’t think that’ll work out very well.”
“You’re no fun.”
“I know, but you still love me, don’t you?”
She turned, fell into his arms. “‘Til the end of time, Spud. ‘Til the end of time.”
It was called Flippen Park these days, but for ages it had been known as Echo Park, so-called after the little Renaissance-Romanesque gazebo in the park that produced a surreal echo effect, and the park surrounding the gazebo, though small, made for a nice place to walk, and talk, while keeping an eye out for someone listening, or watching. Ben and Genie were standing not far from the gazebo when they saw a Highland Park patrol car drive by, the officer inside staring at them as she passed, then Dickinson’s car turned on Versailles from Lomo Alto. He pulled to a stop behind Delaney’s personal car and watched the patrol car make a u-turn and drive by again.
The officer stopped her car and got out, hands on her service pistol, and walked up to Dickinson’s window.
“Good evening,” the officer said. “This is a residential neighborhood, what are you doing here?”
“I’m with Dallas, captain in CID. Badge is in my back left pocket.”
“Slowly,” she said, her hand on the holstered SIG. He took it out and handed it to her, and she flipped it open, looked at the badge and ID, then handed it back to him.
“I’m meeting them,” Dickinson said, pointing to Acheson and Delaney, and he thought he saw her smile.
“Okay,” the officer said, a little too casually. “Y’all be careful out there.”
“Yeah, you too.” He watched the patrol car leave, but it went a block up Versailles and turned off it’s lights, the girl obviously watching them, so he got out and walked across the park to Ben and Genie.
“What was that all about,” Ben asked.
“I hate to say this, but I’d guess she’s with them. So, what’s this all about?”
“The woman who came to the house,” Delaney began, “the woman Ben and I assume is this group’s leader, is Sara Rutherford. She was with the FBI, worked as a profiler in DC for fifteen years, but she moved over to NSA about ten years ago. Right before I started with the Bureau.”
Dickinson whistled. “Fuck-a-doodle-do.” He looked up at the overcast sky, and they all turned when lightning lit the sky a few miles away. “You think she knows you know?”
“Absolutely,” Delaney said.
“So that was part of the message. What was the other part?”
“This,” Ben said, holding out the envelope “and she told me if we get too close they’ll kill her.”
The Duke nodded his head, seemed to draw inward on himself. “When Carol got in this evening she seemed different. Unaffectionate, all business. Then she said pretty much the same thing to me: if we get too close she’d kill me.”
“She what?” Benn said, clearly alarmed now.
“I told her she’d better leave, and she just laughed. ‘Not a chance,’ she said. I guess the implication’s are clear enough. We’re penetrated, and compromised. So. What’s in the envelope?”
“A manifesto, of sorts. A declaration of war, I think you could say, but the gist of it is simple enough. Rights are never given, they’re earned, usually through blood sacrifice. The civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement were all shams, and women have banded together to take what is rightfully theirs. They’ve been gathering intel for years on who’s a friend, and who is the enemy. They’ll be taking out their enemies over the next few weeks.”
“Sweet Jesus,” Dickinson sighed. “I’d hate to be a Republican right about now.”
“I don’t think this is about party affiliation,” Delaney added, a hard, brittle edge in her voice. “I think this is about revenge, and retribution, and that’s going to cross party lines.”
“I think so, too,” Ben added. “There’s more than enough anger out there to turn this into a full-blown civil war, and enough military and law enforcement in their ranks to make them a more than credible force.”
“All those pedophile murders,” Dickinson said, suddenly thinking about last summer, “were just training exercises. Perfecting tactics, working out the kinks in their command and control network.”
“I think they’ve moved beyond that now,” Delaney said. “The problem is how do we…”
“Genie,” The Duke said, “there ain’t no ‘we’ in this deal at all. You’re in medical school now…”
“And they just put me in the crosshairs, too, Duke,” she shot back. “You think I’m going to wait around until someone decides to shoot me in the back of the head?”
He seemed taken aback by that – for a moment, anyway – then he nodded his head. “I hadn’t thought about it quite like that, but I think your finishing school is a higher priority.” He sighed, turned to Acheson: “Ben, I think you ought to turn in your notice, turn your back on the department, focus on your flying and getting a family started. There’s no telling how bad this is going to get, let alone who’s going to get hurt, or how bad. This isn’t the time or the place for heroics.”
The lightning was getting close now, the thunder growing louder, more insistent, and Acheson held out his right hand. “Okay, Duke,” he said. “We’ll be seeing you.” They turned and walked to Genie’s car, and The Duke walked back to his. The girl in the patrol car a block away took out a rarely used cell phone and hit a speed dial number, and reported what she’d seen.
The drone overhead had captured both the audio and video, so while her report was redundant, almost superfluous, AD Rutherford was glad to have another layer of confirmation. With Acheson now out of the way, and with Dickinson completely compromised, North Texas was no longer a concern.
Only four more cities to go, she told herself, and they’d move on the Federal Reserve, but first, she decided now, it was time to neutralize the President. All she needed was a well-placed lie – and gravity would take care of the rest.
(C)2017 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com | this is a work of fiction, and no persons developed/portrayed in this story are real.