The Cassidy Chronicles - Chapter Eighteen & Nineteen
Two chapters today!
Not that I want to rush anything, but 18's a really short chapter. REALLY short.
And nineteen. You know, this was when I first realized I had an affinity for AI's. SARAH was a gem, a real sweetheart, but she hated what we had to do to her freezer.
I wouldn't have appreciated it either, come to think of it.
I mean, I got used to killing. Never grew to like it, but I could do it when I needed.
Doesn't mean I wanted bodies hanging around.
Chapter 18: A Little South of Sanity
“You what?” blasted a voice.
Kaine held the receiver away from his ear.
“There’s no way we could have expected them to find the tracker. It was the smallest, longest-ranged device that Talbott’s people could supply, and they installed it at the border, just like we planned.”
“If everything went like clockwork, then, how did they get away? Answer me that.”
“Again, sir, we just don’t know. My operatives said that they thought they’d been ID’d on the road because they were in an area that doesn’t have much traffic. Any vehicle was going to be suspicious.” Kaine didn’t mention the shouting he had done when he learned about their ridiculous insistence on pacing the Bugatti no matter what the speed. Some things were better unsaid.
“And, they decided that it would be better if they followed from further back, out of line-of-sight. The tracker had the range.”
“That explains how they could mistake a Bugatti for that piece of crap they followed to Denver.” The voice was resigned. “Maybe it wasn’t their fault after all. But it’s still your responsibility, Kaine. How are you going to unscrew this pooch?”
“We know where they had to have made the switch. If they were going to go back into the United States, they would have just continued north, like their mule. But the road they were on leads to Taos –”
“Which eventually gets you to Los Alamos and their home,” completed the voice.
“Exactly what I was thinking, sir. They’re running home like scared children –”
“Let’s get one thing straight, Kaine,” interrupted the voice. “Whatever Aiyana Cassidy and Kendra Foster-Briggs are, it is not scared children. They have dealt with every challenge, every obstacle, that you and Talbott could throw at them. I have no reason to think they’re done kicking ass. Do you?”
“Well, no, sir, when you put it like that, I don’t.”
“Good. Go on, what’s the rest of your plan?”
“We have a crew watching their house. The observation points are set up in layers and we have multiple mobile units. What I suggest is we let them get home, see who else shows up, then drop the bag on them before they can go anywhere else.”
“Not bad, Kaine.”
“Thank you sir.”
“For an unimaginative sadist. I think it’s time I took a more active hand in this, before you make it worse, though I don’t know how that’s possible.”
Kaine ground his teeth. “Yes, sir. What are you going to do?”
Chapter 19: I Hear You Knocking
Half an hour later, the team had regrouped inside the home.
Mac was monitoring the ongoing police situation with the HLC thugs; it seemed that one or two may have gotten a bit mouthy with the police and had been given “corrective instruction” in proper behavior. They had been taken off in an ambulance to the medical center, while the others were still being sequestered and brought to the station for questioning.
Stone’s team had coordinated with Alycia and Jesse to capture the two surviving observers without much difficulty. The more challenging task was dragging the bodies back to join the others in the rapidly-filling freezer.
Montana had taken on the grisly job of stripping the bodies and searching for any ID. To her surprise and disgust, all the bodies had carried.
“Looks like proper ID, too,” she muttered. “Complete amateurs,” she added.
“Out playing soldier-boy,” scoffed Stone.
“Mac, I’m going to need you to run these,” said Montana, holding out the collected documents. “They look real, but you’ll be able to tell better than me.”
“No problem, I can do that, just could you maybe wipe the blood off them, because ew.”
“Yeah, yeah,” laughed Montana. “I forget you’re not usually in the field.”
In the kitchen, Cass and Kendra were arguing.
“I’m not doing it!”
“Neither am I!”
“I didn’t want cream for my coffee, you did, so you open the fridge!”
Lisa walked in and looked at them. “I never thought I’d see the day. What on earth are you two arguing about?”
Cass glared at Kendra. “The day before our wedding –”
“Our scheduled wedding,” interrupted Kendra.
“Fine. Our scheduled wedding. The day before, Kendra made egg salad for sandwiches.”
“So?” asked Lisa.
“She didn’t use it all.”
“I never use it all, it’s better a couple days later when all the flavors have had time to –”
“Whatever, the point is, there was egg salad in there when we left for the chapel.”
Lisa couldn’t help it; she started to smile.
“And it’s still in there now.”
Lisa’s smile was broader, and was that a giggle?
“And she wants cream for her coffee, and she asked me to get it, and there’s no way this side of hell I’m going to open that refrigerator door!”
Lisa’s giggles turned into a full-blown laugh.
“What’s so damn funny?” demanded Cass.
When she could speak, Lisa said, “Only you could do all the things you’ve done, face down murderous thugs, and still get into a fight about rotten eggs!”
That did it. In seconds, both Cass and Kendra, realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, had joined Lisa. The three friends held each other up, laughing, until finally sputtering out.
Still chuckling, Kendra said, “I think – I think I’ll just take it black.”
“SARAH,” said Cass. “Locate the egg salad in the fridge and purge it.”
“I did that ten days ago,” answered the house matter-of-factly. “I detected a distinct presence of hydrogen sulfide, tracked the source, and removed it. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to save the container, but I thought it best to be sure.”
“Oh,” was all Cass could say.
“But I would like to know when you plan to remove the bodies from my freezer,” continued SARAH in a hurt tone. “There’s no room for any other groceries, and I know you’re going to be ordering more in now you’re home.”
At the computer’s plaintive request, they lost it again.
“What’s all this?” said Stone, entering the kitchen to find three red-faced, gasping women, clutching each other for support.
“Never – get a – smart – house,” managed Kendra. “They’re – always – complaining,” and she gave it up, dropping to the floor.
“I resent that remark,” sniffed SARAH.
Eventually, they recovered enough to meet with Montana and Mac.
“I’ve got roaming patrols, three pairs of agents, covering the house,” started Stone. “We don’t have enough people to keep this up for long, though.”
“That’s easy,” said Cass. “SARAH has fully automated security features. We use them every night, because we get cougars and bears in this area and didn’t want any surprises. We have motion coverage out to five hundred meters, and active suppression at fifty.”
Stone looked thoughtful. “That would be helpful, but will my lads and lassies be able to patrol?”
“As long as we identify them to SARAH, yes. She’ll filter them out of her scans.”
“That will help,” said Stone. “We still can’t relax, and I don’t think we should plan to be here long.”
“No,” agreed Kendra. “We still have to deal with Talbott.”
“And Kaine,” added Cass darkly.
“And whoever put the contract out on you two, you know, the person that Kaine is reporting to, he’s not talking about this job to the Director of Security at HLC, at least no official reports, I’ve been digging and digging into his files, there’s absolutely nothing between him and Talbott until she reached out to him about a month ago, and we know from her files that she didn’t initiate this job, it came from somewhere else, but I haven’t been able to isolate who yet, it’s got to be in the records at OutLook somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet but I will, don’t you worry.”
“One problem at a time,” said Stone. “Right now, we have these eager lads from HLC who want to make unannounced visits. We need to put a stop to that first.”
“Agreed,” said Montana. “All of the bodies had IDs that put them as part of Kaine’s security force, legit HLC employees. Plus, don’t forget, we have those other two on ice in the basement.”
“You know,” admitted Cass, “I had forgotten. Do you think they’ll know anything useful?”
“Well, we won’t know until they talk. Right now they’re tied up separately, isolated. I don’t really have a background in interrogation. I mean, I know the basics, but that’s about it.”
“I was trained to resist it,” said Stone. “Not implement. Like you, I know the basic techniques.”
“That might be all we need,” said Kendra. “And I do know some advanced techniques.” She looked back at five pairs of astonished eyes. “What? Hello, former assassin, remember? It’s not like I was just given an address and a schedule; I had to do most of my own research, so nobody else would get involved. Keep the corporate hands as clean as possible, you know.”
“You’re going to do the interrogation?”
“I will,” Kendra agreed. “After we let them stew for a while longer. Mac, do you have any chatter, anything from HLC or OutLook, that will give us a clue how long we have before any reinforcements show up? And how are our local heavies doing with the LAPD?”
“I haven’t had a chance to get into OutLook’s systems recently, not since we came here, and I just want to say that you have a lovely house, it feels so warm and homey but not too close, you know how that can happen when there’s just too much stuff, you don’t have that problem, but you also aren’t living in a bare box, it’s just right.”
“Mac,” warned Montana.
“I was getting to it! The trailers that you and Cass sent to Denver, they reported in to Kaine, he really tore strips out of their hides, he ordered them back here but in the vehicle they have they won’t be here for a while yet, partly because I hacked into the database of the US CBP and put in their names, just like these dummies they’re traveling on their real IDs, so when they got to the border they would have been surprised to find that they were wanted for smuggling, I haven’t checked lately but I’ll bet they’re still there and screaming for lawyers, they’re not going to get here any time soon is what I’m trying to say, and as for the other goons, the local ones, they’re still in holding cells, well, the ones that aren’t in hospital, their transports have been impounded, and did you know how much fun the LAPD CSI team had taking them apart looking for hidden weapons, I have no idea how they got that idea, but even if the operatives get released right now they’re not going to be coming here in those transports, they might be able to carry all the parts here in baskets but they sure as heck aren’t driving them, and when they were booked into the station I pulled their real names, hacked into the credit servers and shut down all of their accounts, so they can’t make bail or hire a vehicle or even buy a coffee.”
“Agent – Mac, that is truly spectacular work,” said Stone earnestly. “I think you’ve taken care of them as efficiently, no, more efficiently than I could have done with a full Team.”
Mac blushed right to the roots of her hair.
“Let’s get this back on track. We don’t have any immediate worries from HLC. Mac, you’ll get into OutLook and check for any agents Talbott might have sent this way, but they still have the problem of distance, right?”
Montana spoke up. “I don’t know where all the agents are stationed, but I do know that we’re rarely in Sonora in any force. It will take Talbott a while to get a crew together, move them to a transit hub, and get them on their way here, even if she’s willing to support Kaine that openly.”
Kendra said, “I agree with Cris. Talbott might be a snake, and she might be willing to sacrifice an agent or two, but she’s unlikely to commit anything like the force Kaine’s already burned through. It’s not because of morals or anything like that, but because OutLook is still a business and she’s the Director. She has to make a profit for the owners, and if she’s already pocketed the money for this debacle there’s nothing positive to put in the books. Plus, dead agents are bad for morale.”
“I have a question,” said Lisa.
“Yes?” replied Stone.
“When can I go home?”
Stone and Montana shared a look, then Cass spoke up.
“Lisa. Look at me.” The scientist turned to face her. “Until we get this finished, and I mean all the way, I don’t think you can go home.”
“But you can stay here as long as you want,” added Kendra quickly. “We have plenty of room, and we’d love to have you.”
“They’re right,” added Stone. “We don’t have enough people to ensure your safety if you leave here.”
“We’ve gone through way too much shit to lose you now,” said Cass. “Besides, we need you with us still, to help Mac with the HLC hacks.”
“I know all that,” agreed Lisa. “I just needed to say it.”
“I promise we’ll get you home as soon as we can,” said Kendra.
“We both do,” chimed in Cass.
“All of us,” said Stone.
“Aww,” contributed Mac.
“Master Chief, this is Bruce,” announced the comm. “We have someone approaching.”
“Intercept,” ordered Stone, suddenly all business again. “Team One, Three, move to support.” She was already moving towards the front, Montana only a few paces behind.
“Cover Cass and Mantchev!” called Stone over her shoulder to Mac and Kendra.
“You know how to use one of these?” asked Kendra, holding out one of her pistols. Behind her, Cass and Lisa were turning the table on its side to serve as a makeshift barricade.
“Point and shoot,” replied Mac, taking the weapon and expertly checking the magazine. “I qualify high expert on most of the pistols we have in inventory at OutLook, it’s always been a good way for me to unwind, and –”
“Yeah, yeah, Mac, good for you, now watch that door, I’ll take the other.”
Cass had also drawn the flechette gun she’d been carrying and was crouched with Mantchev behind the table. “Stay down,” she advised. “That’s what I’m going to do.”
“We’ve got him,” said Bruce’s voice. “No resistance.”
“Bring him in,” ordered Stone.
“On our way,” replied Bruce.
“Kendra!” called Montana. “Come out here!”
Kendra walked to the front, pistol still at the ready.
“Take a look. Do you recognize him?”
Kendra peeked through the window at the man being closely escorted up the walk and her jaw dropped.
“By Zeus’s brass balls! That’s Derek!”