Garrett and his men rode through the gate at the Williams place and trotted towards the big lawn in front of the house. He dismounted, turning to see Anna coming towards him in a flat-out run. She leapt into his arms, kissing him hard, her arms around his waist.
“I was so scared when I heard,” she said. “You’re not wounded?”
“No, but I lost my hat,” he said. “Got shot right off my head.”
“I can’t believe we lost Zac and Bradley.”
“I know, neither can I,” he said, walking his horse to a hitching post. He tied the reins onto it, and followed Anna onto the veranda. Ji-Ho was sitting there with Sid, Clem, and Sam.
“How many get away?” Ji-Ho asked.
“We never saw the whole force,” Garrett said, sitting down next to Anna on the porch swing. “We killed quite a few, but I had a bad feeling. When are we gonna hit their base? Might be good to hit it sooner rather than later.”
“We talking about now,” Ji-Ho said. “Jamul next target. Too far for Julian forces to stop us.”
“How many UN Peacekeepers in the Jamul location?”
“Two hundred,” Ji-Ho said, “but most consist of brass, there for training and strategy development.”
“If we hit them, it’s like cutting the head off the snake,” Clem said.
“How many more are gonna show up?” Garrett asked.
“Less than expect,” Ji-Ho said. “Intelligence say large group of UN Peacekeepers going to Bay Area, not south.”
“I see movement of Islamists,” Sam said. “Coming south on I-5, mostly.”
“They change strategy,” Ji-Ho said. “Use UN north, Islamist here to re-open I-8. Otherwise they starve for fighters.”
“That intelligence or a guess?” Sid asked.
Ji-Ho chuckled. “Guess, but educated one. Tidbits of info from Ivan help put pieces together.”
“I think he’s right,” Sam said. “We need to nail those UN leadership folks in Jamul before they move north to shore up the UN Peacekeepers on the way to the northern base.”
“They not leave yet,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan make big mess up north. Take out communications installation. They back to cell phones, and Ivan can hack.”
“You think the enemy is going to wait to move them north until they replace their installation?” Sid asked.
“Good chance,” Ji-Ho said.
“Maybe we need to go hit that base today,” Garrett said.
“Don’t you need to rest up a little?” Anna asked.
“We do when dark,” Ji-Ho said. “Take nap now. We meet again at seven. Work for everyone?”
There were nods of agreement around the veranda.
Garrett stood. “That’s our cue.”
“Don’t waste time going back home,” Anna said. “I’ve got a room upstairs.”
“I was hoping you’d suggest that.”
“I’ll take you up there, and then leave you,” Anna said. “I’ve got things to do.”
“Like what?” Garrett asked as he stood.
“I’m going to introduce Mia to the other women, and help her get comfortable,” Anna said, shooting a glance at Sam. “That way Sam and Erica can still fight when needed.”
“Thank you,” Sam said.
“Okay, I’ll see you in a few hours,” Garrett said. He followed Anna into the house and up the stairs.
“It’s this room,” Anna said. “Feel free.”
“Thanks,” he said, pulling her into his arms. “I had you on my mind the whole time I was gone.”
“Later,” she said, backing away. “Sleep.”
He nodded, watching her leave the room, shutting the door behind herself. He stripped and climbed into her bed, asleep within minutes.
Ivan sat behind his desk as the camera shut down. He looked over at Ben Dover and chuckled.
“We have them on the run,” he said.
“Hope so,” Ben said. “What’s next?”
“For TV? The women.”
“They’re really going through with that?” Ben asked. “Do they even need to now?”
“There are still forces in the media trying to combat the truth,” Ivan said. “Hard to argue against the testimony of living victims.”
“They’ll just say it’s phony,” Ben said.
“Of course they will, but the people aren’t going to buy it,” he said. “It’s one more thing. Drip drip drip.”
“Where we gonna do that?” Ben asked.
“Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento,” Ivan said. “We’ve tracked one of the bases that had women captives to that city.”
“We’re gonna try a rescue again?” Ben asked.
“Yes, and hopefully it’ll be successful this time. We can go in there without having to do a large frontal assault. The situation is like what we had at the Torrance Civic Center.”
“Mr. Black told me about that,” Ben said. “Sounded like it was a pretty hairy operation.”
“It was, but we had the element of surprise,” Ivan said. “We also had a talented team.”
“You’re not going to tell me details, are you?”
“It’s on a need-to-know basis,” Ivan said. “You don’t need to know. Jules doesn’t even know the whole plan. Right now he just knows to move up I-5. I’ll be sending instructions for the location in a few minutes.”
Ben sat silently for a moment. “We aren’t doing the broadcast from the new base, are we?”
“That’s more than I’m going to say right now,” Ivan said.
“Shit, it’s going to be from the rescue scene,” Ben said.
“I told you I wasn’t going to talk yet. You’ll be told when it’s time. Trust me. It’s better this way for everybody involved.”
Ivan’s phone rang. “I’ve got to take this,” he said. “Pack your stuff. You’re leaving with the others in ten minutes.”
Ben nodded and got up, heading for the door. He turned for a moment as the phone rang. “Be careful, boss.”
Ivan nodded, then put the phone to his ear and accepted the call, watching Ben leave the room before he spoke. “Mr. Black?”
“Yes, boss. Everything in place. We have head of infrastructure captive, and brought his family here. Mr. White with them. He play ball. We set up video equipment now. Hiding will be easy.”
“Excellent,” Ivan said. “Will the location work for an easy escape?”
“Yes, once we finish. Piece of cake. Where we go afterwards?”
“You and Mr. White are going to Folsom. I’ve got a job there for you.”
“Okay, whatever you want, boss,” Mr. Black said. “You can send team here now. We ready.”
“The rest of the buildings are empty, correct?”
“Yes, boss, they vacant for while. Lots of room to hide. Out of sight.”
“Good,” Ivan said.
“Any big fish coming?” Mr. Black asked.
“Not here, but we release big fish in Folsom afterwards.”
“Okay, I wait. Be careful. Don’t get caught.”
“I won’t,” Ivan said. “Talk to you soon. Call me if anything unexpected happens.”
“Yes sir.” The call ended, and Ivan put the phone in his pocket, then picked up the phone receiver on the land line. “I’m ready. Hurry. I need to be out of here in ten minutes.”
He hung up the phone, then stood behind his desk, taking his fedora off, then stripping out of his pin-striped suit. There was a knock on the door.
“Come,” Ivan said. He watched as two women in white lab coats came in, pushing a stainless-steel cart. The top held a blood-drawing kit. The shelf underneath had a cardboard box on it, bent and soggy, a mangled hand sticking out of the top, just touching the top shelf.
“Ready, sir?” asked the brunette in a Russian accent.
“Yep,” he said, sitting back down in his chair. The woman picked up the blood drawing equipment and walked over to him. The other woman, a slim blonde, wrestled the box off the cart and put it on the floor, then shoved the empty cart through the door into the hallway. She laid two arms and a leg on the desk, then watched as the brunette tied a piece of surgical tubing around Ivan’s upper arm and cleaned around the veins on his inner elbow.
“Small pinch,” she said, slipping the needle in, then filling several vials. The blonde picked the first one up and used a small stick to transfer blood onto the open parts of the arms and leg, making sure she got good coverage around ripped veins and arteries. Three more vials were filled. The nurse bandaged Ivan’s elbow, and he got out of the chair, grabbing one of the vials and pouring his blood onto the inside of the fedora and the suit.
“Spit on the upper part of the suit jacket,” the brunette said, “and drool on the desk. Get it nice and wet.”
“Sounds like good instructions for later,” Ivan said, shooting her a wicked grin.
“Behave self,” the blonde said as she finished with the arms and leg.
“Won’t they wonder where the torso and head went?” Ivan asked. “And the other leg, for that matter.”
“No problem, we set up blast so most would be liquified,” the brunette said. “They’d eventually figure out.”
“They see you live before they finish forensics,” the blonde said. “Why bother?”
“They’ll go live on their propaganda outlets about my death,” Ivan said. “They won’t be able to help themselves. We’ll make monkeys out of all of them.”
The blonde shook her head, smirking at him and the other woman. There was a knock on the door.
“That must be the demolition team,” Ivan said. “You about done, ladies?”
“Da,” the brunette said. “Don’t get killed. We see in new location.”
“Yes,” Ivan said. The brunette opened the door, and several men rushed in, wearing surgical outfits, complete with masks and booties. One of them tossed a small gym bag on the couch across from the desk. Ivan went to it, pulling out clothes and putting them on. Blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He watched as the explosives were placed around the room and underneath his desk. One of the men was working a trigger mechanism, and he put it on the door, moving it open and closed to ensure that it was working correctly.
“I’m ready to leave,” Ivan said. “How long before I can send out the tip?”
“Give us ten minutes after you leave,” one of the men said, his voice partially muffled behind the mask.
“Make it fifteen,” said another of the men. “We still have to get in the car and split.”
“Got it.” Ivan smiled at them, then rushed out the door, joining others who were cueing up at the elevator. He rode it down with the next group, landing in the underground parking structure. Ben saw him walk up and snickered.
“Wow, you look like a frigging middle-class family man in that getup,” Ben said.
“Good,” Ivan said. “Ready?”
“This van is waiting for us,” he said. The two men got in, and the van took off, climbing out of the parking structure, making a right turn onto the busy San Francisco street.
“Which way we going?” Ben asked.
“We’re taking I-80 across the bridge, then all the way to Sacramento. We’ll go through the city to the south side.”
They settled in for the ride.
Jules was driving the battle wagon, Sparky in the passenger seat, Dana and Shelly on the couch behind them. Their phones all dinged.
“Somebody check,” Jules said. “I driving.”
Sparky pulled the phone out of his pocket and looked. “Elk Grove Auto Mall,” he said. “Southeast section. Dodge Chrysler Jeep underground structure and Subaru underground structure.”
Jules grinned ear to ear. “Good.”
“Aren’t people going to notice us there?” Dana asked.
“Right off freeway,” Jules said. “Deserted.”
“This freeway?” Sparky asked.
“No, Highway 99,” Jules said. “We cross over on Highway 12. It’s late at night. We sneak in.”
“This sounds kinda risky,” Shelly said.
“How are we gonna get these damn things into an underground parking lot?” Sparky asked.
“Trust me, we fit,” Jules said.
“How do you know?” Sparky asked.
“Ivan planned,” he said.
“Ivan planned the communications center hit,” Sparky said. “We had tanks waiting for us.”
“This I know,” Jules said. “He working to find out what happen there, but if we stop trusting because of one mistake, game over.”
“Somebody died,” Dana said.
“I know,” Jules said. “Sorry, but war is war. Changes happen on ground. Most Ivan setups work well, though, no?”
“I get your point,” Sparky said. “Can’t blame us for wondering a little bit, though.”
“Right,” Jules said. “Can’t blame.”
“If we’re going to take Highway 12, better get ready,” Shelly said. “It’s coming up in three miles.”
“Thank you,” Jules said. He glanced over at Sparky, who was looking at his phone. “Problem?”
“Highway 12 isn’t a freeway, you know. It’s got stop lights, especially when we get close to Highway 99.”
“We spaced out,” Jules said. “Should be fine. It’s dark, too.”
“No hits on the apps,” Shelly said.
“That doesn’t help us with the UN,” Sparky said.
“True,” Jules said, “so keep eyes peeled, be ready to fight if we need.”
“I texted the others,” Shelly said.
“Good, thanks,” Jules said. he took the off-ramp, settling onto Highway 12, which ran through a rural area with wineries and lots of farmland.
“It’s peaceful,” Sparky said. “I’ll give you that.”
“There’s the residential area,” Dana said. “What town is this?”
“Lodi,” Shelly said.
“Nice little town,” Jules said. “Nobody on street.”
“Wonder if they’ve moved a lot of the people out of here?” Sparky asked. “To urbanize the population.”
Jules snickered. “They still trying, but people mad now. Helps us. Lots of vacant places to hide.”
“Except we stick out like a sore thumb,” Dana said.
“Look, freeway ahead,” Sparky said. “We make it. Highway 99 be fine.”
“Make a left under the freeway,” Shelly said. “The onramp is real close.”
Jules nodded, rolling through the intersection and turning left. The ramp was before them, and he drove up it. “There, see, we made it, no?”
“So far,” Sparky said. “Wonder if everybody else is okay?”
“No messages so far, and everybody responded to the text I sent them about Highway 12,” Shelly said. “I think we’ll be okay.”
“I hope so,” Dana said. Sparky got out of the passenger seat and went to sit with her.
“Take the passenger seat,” he said to Shelly.
She got up and sat there, looking over at Jules. “You’re so confident, even when the rest of us are scared.”
“This a must for commander,” Jules said. “You know this.”
“Yes, I know this,” she said. “I’d trust you with my life. I’m not as sure about Ivan, but if you think he’s trustworthy, I’ll go along.”
“He is,” Jules said, “but he can’t control all.”
“I know,” Shelly said. “Wish this had a bench seat. I’d cuddle next to you.”
He glanced at her, smiling. “I know, me too. We be there soon. Not long way.”
The coach cruised quietly on the road, engine barely audible in the front half of the coach, through miles of farm land.
“It looks like the farms are being run,” Shelly said.
“Must,” Jules said. “California farms important. That’s why freeway not shut down. Truck traffic has to continue, or society fall apart, no good for us or enemy.”
“Who’s running the state? That Lieutenant Governor?”
“Kreski,” Jules said. He looked at her and grinned. “Blow hard is face of government, but not run. Daan run.”
“How?” Shelly asked. “Why don’t the elected officials rebel?”
Jules chuckled. “Some like what they do, push for it before. Green living, everybody in their cubbyholes by work, no private cars. They think they in charge with UN as helper.”
“Not all of them are that stupid.”
“True,” Jules said. “Some in on it. Many profit. State legislators get rich. Until we stop fun.”
“What will happen to them if we win?” Shelly asked.
“When we win,” Jules corrected. “Always have positive thoughts.”
“Okay, when we win,” she said. “Are we gonna line them up against the wall or something?”
“Some, maybe. Most do jail time.”
“Are you going to stay here? After the war’s over?” Shelly watched him as he looked at her, then back at the road.
“We talk already. I be where you happy. Can run family business from where ever.”
“Are you still sure you want me after this?”
“Yes, sure. You?”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s all I think about when we’re not in the middle of craziness.”
“Rough times coming, but get better fast. You see.”
“Think we’ll survive?” Shelly asked.
“Yes,” Jules said. “I think, and you think that too, even if hard.”
“Look, we’re on the outskirts of Elk Grove.”
“Told you short drive,” Jules said. “Check apps, then find me off-ramp by Auto Mall, but must enter from southeast. Probably enemy target area in north part of complex.”
“Do you know this place?” Shelly asked as she looked at her phone.
“Looked, considered buying in with Volvo dealership,” Jules said. “Huge facility. Linked utilities, shared gasoline and other supplies.”
“Why didn’t you go for it?”
“Fees too high,” Jules said. “Rather be on own, like in Culver City.”
“That isn’t a real business, though, is it?”
“Not at first. Money laundering at first, and smuggling. Now just tax write-off, mainly. All legit. Sell big.”
“How many dealerships do you have?”
“Six,” Jules said.
“Wow. How much money do you have, anyway?”
“Enough to buy private jet if want,” he said. “I try to live normal life.”
“Good,” Shelly said. “We’ve got a problem, if you want to avoid the north side of the mall.”
“No good off-ramp before?”
“Worse than that. No way to cross road except for on Elk Grove Blvd. We’ll have to get on that and come back south.”
“Text Ivan, let him know we might be visible from north part of mall,” Jules said.
She typed the text and sent it. Her phone dinged about five seconds later. “He says don’t worry about it.”
“Good, then he already has trap location under control,” Jules said.
“Get off on East Stockton and make a left. Follow it around and make a left on Elk Grove, then go over the freeway and make a left on Auto Center Drive. Then left on Laguna Grove. That will wind around to the dealership you were talking about.”
“Watch, remind if I miss one. Lot to remember.”
“You got it, Jules.”
“We almost there?” Sparky asked.
“Yep,” Jules said. He took the off-ramp and followed Shelly’s instructions, only needing to be reminded on one of the roads.
“There,” Shelly said, pointing. “To the left, See it? Big Jeep sign.”
“Yes, I see,” he said, making the turn onto the lot. He approached the service bay, and Mr. Black appeared, guiding him to the massive showroom instead of the underground lot.
“Guess we not going in garage after all,” Jules said. He rolled the coach onto the linoleum floor of the showroom, pulling forward as directed by Mr. White, who was inside.
“Those guys are scary looking,” Shelly whispered.
“They worse than they look,” Jules said, “but they on our side. You know this…they help during your rescue.” He shut down the engine. Mr. White gave a thumbs up, and walked away.
“This is kinda exposed, isn’t it?” Sparky asked.
“We won’t be here for long, and we can crash out any of these windows if we need.”
Jules went to the door of the coach and opened it, stepping down to greet Mr. White.
“When next coming, my friend?” Mr. White asked.
Shelly climbed out, looking at her text messages. “Next one in about two minutes. It’s Tex’s coach.”
“Good,” Mr. White said. “Food in conference room down hall. Enjoy. I spread word.”
“Thank you,” Shelly 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