Images…ghosts…what matters most? Music, perhaps?
Five dark gray Land Rovers waited in the shadows beside a hanger at Le Bourget’s Jetex Flight Support Center, monitoring air traffic control and tower communications on their radios. The teams gathered there were watching, and waiting, for a Beech Baron inbound from Bergen via Köln. When the Baron radioed and checked in with Approach Control, Captain Mike Lacy made a hand signal and all the drivers started their engines, while team members in the rear of each Rover readied their weapons.
Lacy went over the plan again over his COMMs circuit: wait for the aircraft to taxi in and cut engines, then move in and cut off the exits with two units while the remaining team members surrounded the Baron. Take all the occupants into custody then move them to HQ Military Intelligence, and from there to interrogation centers around Europe. Simple. Quick and clean, and as the airport was almost entirely closed these days there was little reason to suspect witnesses might call the media with any concerning reports.
“Baron 23Bravo, RNAV approach for Runway 07 approved. Wind 09 degrees at 10, gusts to 15, altimeter 29.91, visibility one mile and we have a lite rain falling, contact tower 119.3.”
“23Bravo, RNAV 07 and nineteen point three.”
“Is that her voice?” one of the French policemen asked.
“Hard to tell,” Lacy replied. “I think so…”
“23Bravo, we have the localizer.”
“23 received, clear to land.”
“23 clear to land.”
Lacy brought a pair of Steiner binoculars to his eyes and scanned the skies west of the airport – until he spotted landing lights coming out of the clouds. “Okay,” he said. “Got ‘em.”
The Baron landed without incident and began the long taxi to the Jetex facility, Lacy not taking his eyes off the aircraft as it turned into the ramp area. When he heard the engines shutting down he shouted “Move!” into his hand radio and all five Rovers started for the Baron.
After Lacy’s teams surrounded the Beechcraft, men in black fatigues carrying assault rifles approached the little airplane, shouting instructions to the occupants…
“Get out of the aircraft! Keep your hands where we can see them!”
The door over the right wing opened and a female exited the aircraft; she seemed genuinely confused and more than a little upset as she walked down and jumped off the trailing edge of the wing.
“Everyone else! Out! Now!” one of the policemen shouted.
“There’s no one else on board,” the pilot said, trying not to smile and give up the game too soon.
“What?” Lacy screamed. “Where are they? What did you do with them?”
An old Mitsubishi MU-2G – U.S. registered and owned by a tech company in Seattle – landed at the Aérodrome de Toussus-le-Noble a few minutes after the Baron touched-down at Le Bourget. Anton and Sophie led Rolf and Dina to a waiting car, a new E-class Mercedes, for the ride to their first planned ‘safe house’ – a hotel suite near Orly airport. They would stay there until Tracy sent the ‘all clear’ signal, and then the group would move to a hotel right by the marina.
Henry was going on the assumption that Mike and the people from McLean were going to interfere with his Christmas plans, yet he still couldn’t figure out why they’d try again – beyond simple spite. It just made no sense…not now, when the game was played. Obviously they’d long-since figured out the files taken from his laptop were bogus dead-end traps that sent them off to a bunch of Thai lady-boy sites, and while he’d have loved to see the expressions on their faces when they realized they’d been had, he’d had to assume that they were now genuinely pissed off at him. Pissed off and ready for some real-time payback.
So Henry was sitting in the cockpit at midnight when Lacy and a handful of goons from Central Casting came through the marina gates. There was no pussy-footing around this time, either; no, they walked straight to the rear of the boat and were getting ready to jump across when Henry flipped a switch and turned on all the courtesy lights on the platform.
Lacy knew the way and led his men up and into the cockpit – where they shuddered to a stop…
“What the fuck is that?” Lacy asked, pointing to the shimmering translucent orb hovering beside Henry. One of the goons drew a Sig and pointed it at the orb.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Henry said. “This one is kind of unpredictable.”
“This one what, Taggart?”
“Mike, honestly, I have no idea. It showed up a few days ago and now it never really seems to be too far away.”
“It’s not Winky, or one of…”
“Pinky says it’s not. In fact, she told me these pricks are mean as hell…”
“And you’ve got one sitting on you now?”
“Seems that way. So, I take it your friends in Virginia weren’t properly amused?”
“You could say that, yeah. By the way, you’re looking pretty damn good for someone about to kick the bucket.”
Henry held up his arm and showed off Pinky’s magic tape. “A gift. To fight off something these idiots did to me and the pup.”
“Did? What did they do to you?”
“Some kind of genetic attack. This thing is Pinky’s remedy. I feel pretty good, too.”
Lacy nodded. “Okay, so where are Anton and Dina?”
Lacy shook his head. “No, they’re not, and I wish you hadn’t interfered tonight. We were trying to protect them…”
Henry smiled. “Try again, sport.”
Lacy frowned. “Look, there’s a group in Switzerland trying to get at them…”
“Okay. If you say so.”
“Henry, you’ve got to give me something.”
“Or else they’re going to have your head on a pike, right?”
“Something like that,” Lacy said, looking down and slowly shaking his head.
“Leave us alone til the 26th and I’ll see what I can do.”
Mike looked at Taggart, trying to get a read on the offer, then he nodded. “Okay. We’ll lay off for four more days, then you’re going to give me what I need. Is that the offer, Henry?”
“I’ll let your team have enough information to find a solution.”
Mike leaned forward and offered his right hand, and Henry took it. “You’re welcome to drop by on Christmas morning if you like, Mike,” Henry added.
Mike nodded. “I’ll think about it.”
“Rolf would like it, I think you know.”
There came a faraway look in Lacy’s eyes, and then the faintest hint of a smile. “Yeah. I’d like that, too.”
“Well, we’ll set a place for you. Come by around ten. We’re going to open presents then.”
“Should I bring something?”
“Hey, Mike…it’s Christmas. Ya do what you got to do.”
The companionway hatch slid open and Tracy came up carrying four glasses of cognac on a tray. She placed this on the cockpit table then went back down the steps and disappeared.
The two goons put down their carbines and took a snifter, and Mike handed Henry one before raising his glass. “Well,” Mike said, “Merry Christmas, Henry.”
“Merry Christmas, Mike.”
The translucent orb shimmered brightly then blinked out of existence – again.
“And you really have no idea…”
“None. Seems to be harmless enough, so far at least.”
“But isn’t this the one that did the genetic attack?”
“That doesn’t really strike me as harmless, Henry.”
Taggart smiled. “Things are seldom what they seem these days, Mike.”
He watched the men walk out the marina gates then knocked on the companionway hatch. Tracy and Clyde came up a moment later and Henry hooked up the leash and took the pup out for a strafing run, then they retired to his cabin. Tracy went to Karma to talk with her mother so Henry showered and then slipped under the covers…hoping she wouldn’t be too long.
…and then the orb reappeared…
It shimmered once again, brightly this time, and in the next instant the Old Man in the Cape was standing at the foot of his bed. Clyde looked up, his tail started brushing the blanket covering the bed and he seemed to smile – then the Old Man sat on the edge of the bed and Clyde came to him…
“Hello again, old friend,” the Old Man said to the dog. “You’re looking well enough this evening.” Clyde licked the Old Man’s hand, then the Old Man rubbed the top of Clyde’s head – and Henry recognized the bond. “He was always such a good friend,” the Old Man said to Henry. “I was gratified to learn you had taken such good care of him.”
“So you attack us both with some kind of genetic…”
“Is that what they told you?”
“What do you mean?” Henry said, surprised.
“That was no attack, Henry. It was preparation. For what comes next.”
“Yes, Henry. For your death.”
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.