Saladin and Daan Mertins were through with dinner, and almost through talking. A desert tray was brought in, with some coffee and brandy.
“You know how to live,” Saladin said, picking up a small piece of cheesecake on an ornate plate.
“I try my best,” Daan said. “We must always remain civilized.”
Saladin chuckled. “As we do un-civilized things.”
“It’s for the people’s own good. It’s for equality, and for the environment.”
Saladin laughed. “Keep telling yourself that, brother. It’s really for power, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I thought you’d say it was for your religion.”
Saladin shot him a wicked grin. “That’s a control mechanism. Works well.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Daan said.
A UN official came in, looking nervous to see Saladin.
“What is it, Gunter?” Daan asked. He eyed the strong-looking young man, with his good posture and crew cut.
“We just got a tip on the whereabouts of Ivan the Butcher,” he said.
“Oh, really?” Daan said.
“I’m skeptical,” Saladin said.
“Where?” Daan asked.
“He’s in an office building in the financial district,” Gunter said.
“Which city?” Daan asked.
Saladin laughed hard. “He’s right under your nose, in a city that you control?”
“I thought you were skeptical,” Daan said, glancing at him. He looked at Gunter. “Your people are on the way, correct?”
“We wanted to clear it with you first. That’s a densely populated area, and we have a lot of associates nearby. If we get into a shooting battle, there will be some collateral damage.”
“Do your best to be careful, but take him out,” Daan said.
“You don’t want us to capture him?”
“No, I want you to kill him, but don’t mangle his face. We can use the pictures for propaganda.”
“Yes sir,” Gunter said. He turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
“Do you believe this?” Saladin asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Ivan would love to stick it to us like that. He’s got a history of being right under his enemy’s noses.”
“Maybe,” Saladin said. “You want to go over there?”
“Nope,” Daan said, picking out a desert. “There’s no benefit in that, and he might have the whole damn block rigged to blow.”
“Good point,” Saladin said. “Too bad he’s not on our side.”
“We tried that, early on,” Daan said. “When we were trying to set up new smuggling routes between Eastern Europe and Russia.”
“He wouldn’t play ball?”
“He’s a libertarian,” Daan said. “It’s like a religion to him. Any state who tries to exercise even reasonable control over the population is his enemy. I knew it wouldn’t work, but some of my associates had to see that for themselves.”
“Strange for a Russian,” Saladin said.
Daan laughed. “He’s not Russian. He’s an American. He grew up in Southern California.”
“No, really?” Saladin asked.
“Really. He’s wanted here, of course.”
“He’s wanted everywhere, as far as I can tell,” Saladin said. “I know the feeling.”
Daan snickered. “Yeah, this is true. I can’t go to New York state anymore, as you know.”
“That will change when we’ve consolidated control.”
“Hopefully,” Daan said. “There won’t be any public announcement of that, of course. Even though we’re going to increase government control over the individual, we need to make the people think they’re still free.”
“That’s not going to work,” Saladin said. “You’ll have to make examples of people. You’ll need concentration camps.”
“I know that,” Daan said. “We’ve already been working out plans.”
“How many people are you expecting to put into these camps?”
“Rough estimate?” Daan asked. “About twenty-five million people.”
“That’s a lot of people. How long will they be in these camps?”
Daan gave him a deadpan look.
Saladin chuckled. “Maybe I’m underestimating you. Yes, you’ll have to kill at least that many. Probably more. There are a lot of people in this country who won’t go quietly into a more structured society.”
Gunter was nervous, sitting in the back of a UN van, first in a caravan of twenty vehicles. He was wearing full riot gear, and it made him sweat.
“One block away, sir,” the driver said in a French accent. “Where do you want me to park?”
“Right in the middle of the street,” Gunter said. “Set up a perimeter. I want the whole block closed.”
“Well, at least it’s not a busy time,” the driver said. He looked at the man in the passenger seat. “Send the message.”
The man nodded as the van slowed.
“Get ready,” Gunter said to the five men sitting with him in full riot gear. They checked their weapons as the van stopped.
“There you go, sir,” the driver said. Gunter nodded, and opened the door, stepping outside. He looked east on Merchant Street, his heart going into his throat for a moment as he saw the Transamerica building right across the intersection.
“Dammit,” Gunter said.
“What’s wrong, chief?” asked the second man out the door, a large blonde with a Finnish accent.
“Oh, nothing, Aku,” Gunter said. “Just that we’re right next to the most famous building on the whole damn peninsula, that’s all. If Ivan wants to make a big show, this is the place to do it.”
“What about the Golden Gate Bridge?” Aku asked.
Gunter laughed. “No place for a secret base there.”
The rest of the UN Peacekeepers were out of the first van. The vans behind were opening their side doors, men flooding out. Gunter motioned for them to meet him in front of the building, as other UN Peacekeepers set up barricades on both ends of the block.
“The tip is that he’s got the top four floors of that building there,” Gunter said, pointing. “We’ve got a lot of associates in this area, so be careful. We don’t want to kill friendlies. Understand?”
“We get it, sir,” one of the men said in a Spanish accent. “Let’s go get that bastard.”
Gunter nodded, and they rushed across the street, going through the heavy glass doors into the lobby of the building. There was a guard behind a massive desk, eyeing them. He was a black man in his early 50s, built like a linebacker.
“Can I help you?” he asked calmly.
“We need access to the top four floors of this building,” Gunter said. “We have a tip that there’s a wanted fugitive up there.”
“Oh, really,” the guard said. “Then send the real police over here.”
“We are in control,” Gunter said, feeling a sweat breaking out on his forehead, the helmet heavy on his head.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” the Guard said. “Go get the SFPD and we’ll talk. Oh, and you’ll need a warrant, of course.”
“That fugitive will get away if we wait for that,” Gunter said.
“Why are you messing with this guy?” Aku asked. He pointed his weapon at the guard. “Let us in now.”
“No,” the guard said. “Go ahead and shoot me. I’ve got my job to do.”
The sound of police sirens approached, just in earshot.
“That’s going to warn him,” Aku said to Gunter.
“Where’s he gonna go?” Gunter asked. “We have the street blocked off.”
“Listen to your boss,” the guard said.
“Shut up,” Aku said, pointing the rifle at him again.
“That’s not nice,” the guard said, eyeing the angry Peacekeeper as a father would eye a misbehaving child.
“The police are out front,” one of the other Peacekeepers said.
“I’ll go talk to them,” Gunter said. He headed towards the door when the SFPD officers rushed in, wearing riot gear and holding assault weapons.
“Who’s in charge here?” asked a Hispanic officer.
“I am,” Gunter said.
“Why have you started an operation of this size without notification? You are required to clear any such activities with the SFPD. I’m Captain Valencia.”
“We don’t have to notify your department in cases like this,” Gunter said.
“What?” Valencia asked. “Guess I didn’t get that memo.”
“Your entire force received those instructions, so back off right now, Captain.”
“I think I’ll ignore that request,” Valencia said. “Until you tell me exactly what you’re doing here. I’ll relay that to the Chief and we’ll see.”
Gunter shook his head, and motioned for him to move to the corner of the lobby. When they were away from the main group, he got close and whispered. “Ivan the Butcher is on one of the top four floors of this building. We got a tip from a reliable source.”
Captain Valencia laughed. “So, the most wanted man in California has been holed up right in the middle of the San Francisco financial district?”
“As improbable as that sounds, that’s what we’ve been told.”
Valencia shook his head as he walked away, hitting the button on his lapel microphone. He had a quiet conversation, then walked back over. “Okay, the chief is okay with you going in, but if there’s gunplay and somebody gets hurt, you’ll have to answer for that.”
“I can’t shoot anybody during an assault on a known fugitive?”
“Oh, if they start shooting at you, by all means defend yourself, but if you catch this person or any of his associates and can take them alive, you’d better do exactly that. Comprende? There will be no executions here, and we’re going up with you.”
Gunter sighed. “All right, I understand. Will you get us access? The guard is asking for a warrant.”
“I’ll talk to him,” Valencia said. He walked to the guard’s counter and had a hushed conversation with him. Gunter watched as the guard shook his head yes. Valencia came back over.
“Well?” Gunter asked.”
“He’ll allow us to go up,” Valencia said, “but he’s going to notify his superiors, and we’d better not break things up there.”
“We’ll try hard not to,” Gunter said.
“I know, because my men are going with you,” Valencia said.
“Is that really necessary?” Gunter asked.
“Yep,” Valencia said. “I’ve gotten too many reports of you goofs hurting people and going beyond what’s allowed per our Constitution. That’s not going on in my district. Sorry.”
Gunter stared at the man for a moment, trying to cow him, but seeing no breakdown at all. He nodded yes, and started for the elevators.
“Wrong way,” Valencia said. “Stairs. Over to the right. I’ll show you.”
Gunter shrugged, then followed him, motioning to the other Peacekeepers.
They went past the guard’s desk and headed into the stairwell, climbing up twelve floors, all of them winded by the time they reached the bottom of the four floors Ivan was supposed to be on.
Gunter called forward a couple of his men, and they came to the door, guns drawn, ready to enter. They burst through it, expecting to see a multitude of people. There was nobody there. The door opened onto a storage room holding a bunch of audio and visual equipment. The UN Peacekeepers fanned out, looking in all directions. Valencia’s men stayed by the stairwell and watched.
“This is a trap, Captain,” one of the SFPD officers said.
“Makes me wonder, O’Malley,” Valencia said. “I think we’ll just let them search.
“What if it’s booby-trapped?”
Valencia snickered. “What, do you think we should go down a few floors?”
“Yeah,” O’Malley said. “I don’t want to get killed helping these bastards.”
Valencia laughed. “Tell me what you really think.”
“Nobody here,” Gunter said, getting back to the stairwell door. He opened it, getting up the next flight and bursting through the door again. Valencia stayed behind with his men.
“Listen,” Aku whispered as they walked into the hallway. “Hear it? Conversation coming out of that air vent up there.”
“I hear it,” Gunter said. “Check this floor out quickly, but be quiet about it.”
Aku nodded and led the men down the hall, opening each door slowly and looking inside. They were back in a few seconds.
“Storage again,” Aku said. “Next floor?”
“Yeah,” Gunter said, looking nervous.
“What happened to the SFPD?”
“Guess they thought this wasn’t interesting,” Gunter said. “Good, that gives us a free hand. I thought I was going to have to kill all of them.”
Aku snickered, and they went back into the stairwell, heading up the next flight. The sound of people was louder by the door. They burst through, all the men rushing into the hallway. There were double doors, which opened into a reception room with an empty desk. The conversation was coming through the single door to the back.
“By the numbers,” Gunter whispered. “This is it.”
They snuck towards the door, Aku by the handle, Gunter behind him with his assault rifle pointed at the door. Aku ripped open the door, and there was a huge explosion, filling the room with smoke and debris, the men closest to the door killed instantly. Two men closest to the stairwell door survived, crawling on the floor, going through the door. Valencia and his men rushed up the stairs, guns drawn.
“Where’s the rest of them?” O’Malley asked one of the survivors.
“All over the room,” he said, fainting, the bloody gash on his abdomen showing.
“Hans!” said the other man, bleeding heavily from his upper arm.
Valencia got on his radio. “Booby trap. Most of the UN team bought it. I’ve got two survivors up here. Send the med unit.”
“Knew it,” O’Malley said.
Valencia shot him a glance, putting his finger to his lips.
The last of the battle wagons pulled into the big auto dealership showroom, parking next to the window. The door opened, Ted climbing out, Haley, Brianna, and Stacey following.
“Not exactly out of sight here,” he said.
“Don’t worry, this isn’t visible from any part of the road,” Tex said, walking over to them.
“And we control rest of the facilities, including the new UN base,” Jules said. “Just got a text from Ivan. He said to turn on the news.”
“There’s a TV in the service waiting lounge, right back here,” Allison said. She led people back there. Stacey found the remote and switched it on.
“Holy crap, what’s going on there?” Morgan asked. The screen showed a high-rise with the top floors billowing smoke through broken windows, the Transamerica building in the background.
“Did our side do that?” Robbie asked.
The newsreader came on.
“This is the scene of an attempt to capture Ivan the Butcher in the San Francisco financial district tonight. Investigators are at the scene now, trying to piece together what happened as the fire department works the remaining flames.”
He’s not dead, is he?” Brianna asked.
Jules chuckled. “No, I just get text from him. He on way here. Left boobytrap.”
“We’ve just been told that the floor where the explosion happened was the scene of a large meeting. There were voices heard from the stairwell. Body parts litter the floor at this grisly scene. No word on the condition or whereabouts of Ivan the Butcher or his team. UN Peacekeepers ran this operation. All but two of them were killed by the explosion. SFPD was also on scene, but were on a lower floor at the time of the incident.”
“This is a riot,” Justin said.
“No it’s not,” Katie said. “People got killed.”
“Bad guys got killed,” Justin said.
“It’s just been reported that remnants of Ivan the Butcher’s signature fedora and pinstriped suit have been found at the scene, covered in blood and tissue. The coroner has rushed these items to the lab to test for Ivan the Butcher’s DNA. It is on file after an arrest in Brussels several years ago.”
“Now it get funny,” Jules said.
“Why?” Shelly asked.
“Ivan had blood drawn, smear over clothes and hat,” Jules said.
Tex laughed hard. “That son of a bitch.”
“Wonder how long they’ll run the story that he’s dead?” Ted asked.
“Not long, he do TV appearance from our target building tomorrow,” Jules said. “Ladies, if you still want to testify, that will be chance.”
“I do,” Morgan said.
“Me too,” Allison said.
Several of the other women nodded in agreement.
“Hopefully we can actually pull off a rescue this time,” Ted said. “We need to be very careful tomorrow.”
“Planned to T,” Jules said. “Mr. White and Mr. Black are already there, holding initial team hostage with families there. They make sure no escape, and do best to protect women.”
“Look at the trained monkey,” Justin said, pointing to the screen.
“That’s the Lieutenant Governor,” Ted said. “That’s not the State Capitol building, though. At least it’s not the usual place where they do press conferences.”
“We bring you to Acting Governor Lance Kreski,” the announcer said.
“Fellow citizens,” Kreski said. “We have all watched this horrible incident unfold tonight. I want to assure you that we will investigate this fully. The loss of life was horrendous. An unknown number of criminals working with Ivan the Butcher were killed, along with seventeen of our UN Peacekeepers, who have come here at great sacrifice to get us through this difficult time.”
“Look at him,” Ted said. “His eyes are watering and darting around, and he’s as thin as a rail. He’s been under house arrest.”
“He has,” Jules said. “All California state elected officials held at Folsom Prison. Mr. White and Mr. Black will lead team to spring them after this job.”
“We sure all of them are worth springing?” Ted asked. “This jackass played right into the hands of the martial law and UN occupation.”
“Look at that guy,” Allison said. “He’s scared to death.”
“Wish he’d shut his pie hole,” Cody said. “Not interested.”
“He’s done,” Ted said. “Something’s happening. Look at the grin on that newsreader’s face.”
“Just in,” the newsreader said. “The coroner has announced that we do have a match of blood type and DNA to Ivan the Butcher, found on the fedora and clothes. Ivan the Butcher’s reign of terror has ended.”
Jules practically fell on the floor laughing, Tex and Ted joining in, then Robbie and others.
“This rich,” Jules said. “Wait till tomorrow. We make monkey of press and officials, no?”
“Hey, guys, social media is going nuts,” Robbie said, looking at his phone.
“Really?” Tex asked. “What are you seeing, partner?”
“Calls to riot in the streets,” Robbie said. “Ivan’s got a whole lot more fans up here than I thought.
“Look, on the screen,” Shelly said, watching a flood of civilians rushing into the street by the smoking building, pushing the news people out of the way as the SFPD and UN Peacekeepers tried to hold them back.
“It be long night for enemy,” Jules said. “Wait till we nail them tomorrow.”
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