“We need to give this kid a proper burial,” Garrett said, staring at the user name and password scratched into the wall, above the bed where Hasan’s body lay. The others were gathered, staring, trying to avoid looking at the gore which used to be Hasan’s face.
“I think we could’ve turned him to our side,” Anna said.
“Looks to me like we did,” Garrett said.
“I agree,” Sid said, “but what can we do with this? We don’t know what system this user name and password are for.”
“Ivan might,” Sam said, taking his own set of pictures of the scrawled data. He texted the pictures to Ivan.
“Good thinking,” Garrett said. “Let’s get this cleaned up.”
The women left the room, and the men gently picked up Hasan’s body and carried it outside. Anna followed with a few of the others.
“Where?” Sid asked.
“Shed, for now,” Garrett said. “I’m gonna find out how you respectfully bury a Muslim. We’ll set something up. We have a cemetery outside of Dodge City.”
Anna looked at his face. “You really care about this?”
“Yes,” Garrett said, breath short as they set him down just inside the shed door. He came out and looked at her. “We failed him. This is really tragic.”
“That’s an understatement,” Sam said.
“Ivan reply to the text yet?” Seth asked.
“Nope, not yet,” Sam said. “One thing really bothers me. How did those cretins know where he was? I thought the chips were all in the shed.”
“Yeah, I was wondering the same thing,” Garrett said. “I had one of my men put them all in there.”
“Let’s check,” Sam said. The two men went back into the shed and came out with a small cardboard box, which Garrett opened.
“Crap, there’s only two in there,” Garrett said.
“Dammit,” Sam said, whipping out his phone. He refreshed the short-range app. “Two hits inside the house. Can’t tell where inside the house.”
“Let’s go find it,” Seth said. “We need to drag the bad guy out of there, too.”
“And my men,” Garrett said, pained look on his face.
“Who was supposed to put the chips in this box?” Sam asked.
“Charley,” Garrett said. “He was one of the two men in the house.”
“So we aren’t going to be able to figure this out,” Seth said. “Dammit.”
“Wait a minute,” Anna said softly. “One of our people was helping them.”
“Who?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Black Crow,” Anna said, looking down.
“We need to talk with him pronto,” Sam said. He sent a text to Ed.
Seth looked at the expression on Kaitlyn’s face. “What?”
“This is bad,” she said. “He’s been a problem before.”
“What kind of problem?” Garrett asked.
“He hates the white man,” Kaitlyn said.
“Don’t be too hasty,” Anna said. “We worked that mess out, remember?”
Ed arrived in his hovercraft after a few minutes.
“Where have you been?” Sam asked. “I was worried when the battle started up.”
“We’ve got to feed everybody,” Ed said. “I was out scouting game with Zac, Tyler, and Ryan. Thought I heard gunfire, and headed home. Just got back a few minutes ago.”
“Oh,” Sam said. “Well, glad you’re okay.”
“What happened here?” he asked.
“The attack was a hit,” Seth said.
“On who? Ji-Ho?”
“No, on the prisoner we took yesterday,” Anna said.
“Oh,” Ed said, looking relieved. “None of our people got hit?”
“Two of my men got killed in the attack,” Garrett said.
Ed looked at him. “Oh no. So sorry, Garrett.”
“Thanks,” he said.
“You okay?” Anna asked, watching him struggle to hold back tears.
“I always have a delayed reaction to this stuff,” he said. “Sorry. These were good friends of mine.”
“Why did you call me over?” Ed asked.
“The enemy knew exactly where the prisoner was being held,” Sam said. “Somebody put his RFID chip near him. It was supposed to be out in this shed with the bodies.”
“You think one of our people did this?” Ed asked.
“I saw Black Crow helping Garrett’s men last night,” Anna said. “He was involved in moving bodies and chips into the shed.”
“And one of the chips is missing?” Ed asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
Ed sighed, a worried look on his face. “Where is he now?”
“We don’t know,” Anna said. “I haven’t seen him since last night.”
“He’s a problem?” Sam asked.
Ed was silent for a moment, then looked at Sam. “Yes, he can be a problem. I’ve tried to work with him, but he’s troubled. He’s got a huge chip on his shoulder, and he’s been in and out of jail several times.”
“For what?” Sid asked.
“Assault on customers at the casino and the hotel,” Ed said.
“He was with us at the ghost town,” Erica said. “That’s probably how the enemy found us.”
“Don’t jump to conclusions yet,” Anna said. “We need to be sure.”
“Mom, you’re going to have to back away from this,” Kaitlyn said softly. “I know you worked with him a lot, but we have to protect ourselves.”
“I’ll go look for him, but I suspect he’s long gone,” Ed said. “We’ll have to track him down. Hate to give up the resources for that.”
Sam’s phone dinged. “Text from Ivan.”
“What does he say?” Sid asked.
“He said Thanks. This might be useful.”
“That’s it?” Sid asked.
“Yep,” Sam said.
“He’s got somebody who knows what system to go to,” Trevor said. “Ten to one.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Sam said. “We’ve got other things to think about. These folks have very good apps to read the chips. Better than ours.”
“Why do you say that?” Trevor asked.
“He’s right,” Anna said. “I saw the guy rush in. He ran right up the stairs, and right into the correct room. He didn’t have to look around.”
“Black Crow might have told them verbally, you know,” Seth said.
“That’s possible,” Erica said. “There were no RFID chips involved at the ghost town, remember.”
“One step at a time,” Sam said. “Let’s find that chip. If it was hidden in the room, we’ll probably have our answer.”
“Yeah,” Sid said.
“Wonder if they’re apps can read the names?” Trevor asked. “Why didn’t they go to the shed first? There’s no evidence that anybody bothered it.”
“How can we tell which chip was in Hasan?”
“I can tell,” Anna said. “I damaged the one that was in Hasan. It has a cut in the capsule. Let’s see that box.”
Garrett handed the box to her and she looked, her brow furrowed.
“The one that came out of Hasan is missing, isn’t it mom?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Yes,” she said, handing the box back to Garrett.
“I’m still not getting something,” Sam said. “How would Black Crow have known which was which?”
“Easy,” Garrett said. “We didn’t take the chips out of the dead guys until afterwards. Black Crow probably had Hasan’s chip.”
“You don’t remember putting all three together?” Sam asked Anna.
She shook her head no. “I didn’t keep track of where the chip was after I dropped it into the pan down in the kitchen. Sorry.”
“I’m looking at this as good news,” Sam said. “General Hogan’s guy is gonna figure the name part out. There’s a way to do it. This proves it. I’ll text that to Ivan so he can pass it along.”
“I’ll see you guys later,” Ed said. “I’ll go ask questions – try to find out who saw Black Crow last night or this morning.”
“Good luck,” Garrett said.
“Please don’t let this ruin our alliance,” Ed said.
“No worries there,” Garrett said. “Really.”
Ed nodded and walked away.
“Let’s go find that missing chip,” Sam said.
They went back into the house and up to the bedroom. Anna and Kaitlyn stripped off the dirty sheets while Sam, Garrett, and Sid tore the room apart looking. Some of Garrett’s men arrived while they were working and took the bodies of the fallen guards out of the house.
“Bingo,” Sam said, holding a toy car. “It’s in the driver’s seat.”
Anna took the car and shook it upside down, the capsule falling into her hand. “Yep, this is it.”
“Okay,” Garrett said. “I’ve got to go. There are family members to talk to, and funeral arrangements to make.”
“You want me to go along?” Anna asked.
“Thanks, but no,” Garrett said. “This is something I need to do by myself. I’ll be back later in the day.”
“Okay,” Anna said, giving him a hug. He left the house.
Robbie and Morgan were walking back to their coach after breakfast, with Gil, Tisha, Justin, and Katie.
“I wish we could keep going like this for another few weeks,” Morgan said. “Feels like another world.”
“Don’t count on that, dearie,” Tisha said.
Robbie smiled. “I know this is a nice break, but I really want to get on with the rest of our lives. I hope we get the war over with soon.” He looked at Morgan, pulling her close as they walked.
“Have plans, do you?” Morgan asked.
“He probably wants to knock you up,” Gil said.
“What a romantic way to put it,” Katie said.
“C’mon, you guys,” Robbie said. “You know what I mean.”
“No, what do you mean?” Morgan asked with a sly grin.
“It’s not just that, it’s building the nest,” Robbie said, face turning red. “I’m also worried about my parents and my sister all the time. I’m just done.”
“That’s a good point,” Katie said. “I’d like to see Steve. Doubt that’s going to happen until the war is over.”
Robbie’s phone dinged. He pulled it out and looked at it, Morgan flashing him a worried glance.
“Jules,” Robbie said. “He wants to see me.”
“Crap,” Morgan said. “You don’t think it’s about that problem from a while back, do you?”
“I don’t think he wants to kill me,” Robbie said.
“We all should go,” Gil said.
Robbie was quiet for a moment. “No, I’ve got to trust him. I’ll go talk to him.”
“Where?” Morgan asked.
“In his rig,” Robbie said.
“Ask him if I can come too,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Robbie said.
“If you aren’t worried about his intentions, why would it matter?” Morgan asked. “Text him and see if I can go along.”
Robbie nodded, looking worried, and sent the request. His phone dinged right away.
“Well?” Morgan asked.
“He says fine. Let’s go.”
“Want us to hang around nearby?” Gil asked.
“Yeah, man, we could do that,” Justin said.
“No,” Robbie said. “I’ll be fine.”
“All right, but call me as soon as you’re out of there, so I don’t sit around and worry.”
Robbie smiled. “Okay, I’ll do that.” He took Morgan by the hand, and they walked to Jules’s rig.
“I heard that Jules and Shelly finally got together,” Morgan said.
“That’s good.” They got to the coach and tapped on the door. It opened, Shelly standing there, ushering them in.
“Good morning,” Shelly said. “Have a seat. Jules will be out here in a second.”
“We aren’t in trouble, I hope,” Morgan said.
Shelly smiled at her. “No, not at all.”
“Oh, you here, welcome,” Jules said, coming out of the bedroom. “Coffee?”
“Sure, if you’re having some,” Robbie said.
“You too, Morgan?” he asked.
She nodded yes. Jules went to the counter, but Shelly got up and took over.
“You go ahead, honey,” she said. “I’ll make some for all of us. You talk to them.”
“Honey?” Morgan asked. “You two?”
“Yes,” Shelly said. “We’re so happy.”
“I can see that all over your face,” Morgan said. “I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks,” Shelly said. “Take a seat in the dinette.”
Robbie and Morgan sat on the back bench. Jules slid into the front bench, facing them.
“Your father is amazing,” Jules said.
“You’ve heard from him?” Robbie asked quickly. “I haven’t been able to reach him for a while.”
“He hounded by the enemy, but being protected. General Hogan’s team talked to Ivan.”
“General Hogan has been rescued?” Robbie asked.
“Yes, has,” Jules said. “We talk in big meeting later today.”
“Why do you want to talk to Robbie?” Morgan asked.
Jules smiled. “You still afraid, no?”
“Well, yes,” Morgan said. “How can we not be?”
“No need worry,” Jules said. “Robbie, you will get download link on phone. I just clear with Ivan and General Hogan.”
Robbie looked at him blankly. Jules chuckled.
“Your dad release prototype of RFID app to Ivan’s leadership. I figure because you son, you should get too.”
Robbie smiled, relief washing over his face. “Oh, really?”
Shelly slid coffee cups to Morgan and Robbie, then went back to get cups for Jules and herself.
“Here, I show,” Jules said. He walked the couple through the short-range and long-range apps on his phone. Robbie was getting more excited as the demonstration went on.
Shelly got onto the bench next to Jules with their coffees. “You should be so proud.”
“I’ve always been proud of my dad. In awe of him, frankly. This hits it out of the park.”
“Yes, major advantage, at least for a while,” Jules said.
Robbie’s phone dinged.
“Nice timing,” Shelly said.
Robbie looked at his phone. “Yep, it’s the download link.”
“Go ahead and load, and we verify it working,” Jules said.
Robbie did that, as Shelly and Morgan each had sips of coffee.
“We were just talking about wanting this war to be over,” Morgan said. “Now maybe that will happen sooner than we thought it would.”
“Maybe,” Jules said, eyes narrowing. “We have rough time to come. We talk about in big meeting.”
“We can tell them now, can’t we?” Shelly asked.
“Go ahead, give preview,” Jules said.
Shelly looked Morgan in the eye. “Ivan knows where other women are being held. Like we were.”
“No,” Morgan said. She trembled slightly, eyes starting to turn glassy.
“We know hard for you,” Jules said.
“We’re going to rescue them, I hope,” Robbie said, determination and anger on his face.
“Yes, do, but volunteer. We make case in meeting. Dangerous mission. Like Torrance.”
“Count me in,” Morgan said.
“And me, of course,” Robbie said. “When do we do it?”
“After initial mission,” Jules said. “Initial mission easier, and we have more help.”
“What is the initial mission?” Morgan asked, then paused. “Sorry, it’s not my place.”
“No, is your place,” Jules said. “RFID chips for enemy manufactured at Mertins Electronics plant in San Jose. We take out.”
Robbie shook his head. “You’ve got to be kidding me. An American company made them?”
Jules smiled. “Belgian company, supported by late Governor Sable and former President Simpson.”
“Wait, that name sounds familiar,” Robbie said. “Mertins. My dad knew him. He had a weird first name. I think it had two As in it.”
“Daan Mertins,” Jules said, a distasteful look on his face. “He scum.”
“I’ll bet that creep got the idea from my dad’s research and development of RFID technology.”
“Could be true,” Jules said.
“Geez,” Robbie said.
“How many of our team has the apps?” Morgan asked.
“Me, Tex, Ted, Sparky, Shelly, and Robbie,” Jules said. “When General Hogan okay, everybody get.”
“I think it’s smart that they’re restricting it until my dad finishes the name part,” Robbie said. “Otherwise the cockroaches in DC will scatter.”
“Exactly,” Jules said.
“Honey, we’d probably better get to planning the big meeting.”
“Yes, you right,” Jules said. “Please excuse. Any questions before we finish?”
“No, and thank you very much,” Robbie said. “I’ll keep my mouth shut until the meeting.”
“Thank you,” Jules said. He ushered them out the door and shut it behind them.
“Well, that was a surprise,” Morgan said.
“I’m relieved,” Robbie said.
“Were you really worried about him?”
“Ted was, and that made me worry. I’ve always felt that Jules has a good heart, though. Had a hard time believing he’d want to kill me.”
“He can be a little shifty, but I like him more now than I did. Helps that Shelly’s with him now. I know her pretty well. She’s a good person. She wouldn’t be with him if he wasn’t.”
“I got that impression,” Robbie said. He picked up his phone and typed, then hit send.
“Telling the others you’re okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Robbie said. He continued to look at his phone as they walked. “LA and Orange counties still have problems. I was surprised at how many hits there were, even after all of the victories.”
“San Diego and Imperial Counties are the bigger problem, though. Look.” He showed his screen to Morgan.
“The border,” Robbie said. “The enemy needs more fighters in here.”
She nodded, and they walked silently until they got back to their coach, going inside quickly. Robbie sat down on the couch, Morgan sitting next to him.
“Scared?” Robbie asked.
She looked at him for a moment, not saying anything.
“You know, about the rescue mission,” Robbie said.
“I should be,” she said. “I’m not. I’m anxious to be involved. It’s my duty.”
“Something’s bothering you,” Robbie said.
“I wasn’t thinking of this as a national war before I saw all the hits on that long-range app. I thought of it as a California problem, and that seemed almost over to me.”
“I know, that hit me too,” Robbie said. “Even though I already kinda knew.”
She looked at him and smiled. “It kills my favorite daydream.”
“What was that?”
She sighed. “Leaving here, going someplace safe. Now we know that there’s no place safe. At least for now.”
“I know,” Robbie said.
“It’s going to be a while before we can start our life together.”
Robbie took her hand, moving closer to her. “We’ve already started our lives together, honey. They started when I took you home from your apartment. Remember?”
They kissed, and then studied each other’s faces.
“You always know the right thing to say,” Morgan said.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017