Aloha – For your entertainment, chapters 8 and 9 of Arlo. If you’re new to this, I am sharing first drafts of this novel as I’m writing it. It will have plenty of typos and probably a few inconsistencies that will be cleaned up once the first draft is done. Chapters 1- 7 are available in the Blog archives 🙂 Enjoy, Doc
Chapter 8 Whatever it Takes
Marshall’s first impulse was to race to the car and chase after the kidnappers, but instead he turned to Arlo, “Well?”
“It’s in my car,” tossing the keys to Marshall he called out, “Over the rise is another street. It’s back about 100 yards; white Nissan; take Justin with you.”
“Justin,” Marshall called to his friend. “You go get the car. I’ll wait her with Arlo and Miss California.”
“No!” Arlo commanded. “You need to go with Justin.”
Marshall noted the threatening tone and relented, “We’ll be back in five minutes.”
“That should be enough,” Arlo growled, turning toward the man with the shattered kneecap.
Naomi Katsuki turned to leave as well.
“You stay!” Arlo ordered.
Naomi stopped. “I have to meet people at the airport. If I don’t report in…”
“Miss, you have the look, feel and smell of a freshman CIA operative. But I don’t know that. If you ever want to see people again… any people, stay put.” Then with a grin that better suited a wolf he added, “Besides, with four slashed tires you won’t be going anywhere soon.”
Naomi fumed, “I’m not a freshman, I’ve been with the Agency four years.” Then realizing she should have kept her mouth shut.
Arlo laughed. “I would have thought they would have fired someone as incompetent as you three years ago. Or that you’d be dead. Now be quiet. I want this finished before they get back.”
Arlo turned back to the wounded man. “There are subtle ways to get the information I need, but I have no time. Do you understand?”
The man had quit trying to reach the abandoned car. He spat, “You’ll get nothing from me.”
“That is where you are wrong Jack,” Arlo’s voice lowered.
“My name is not Jack,” the man growled.
Arlo continued, as if the man had not spoken, “I am not restrained by the legal system. I have one job, and that is to keep these boys safe. You have placed me in the awkward position of needing to retrieve one of them,” his voice lowered to a whisper as he reached down and grabbed the man, who threw a punch that knocked Arlo back a step.
Arlo reached back and grabbed the man by the arm. As the man tried to throw another punch Arlo coldly snapped the man’s arm.
Naomi’s stomach churned at the sound of the bone snapping. She felt no remorse for damaging the man in a fight, but this was different somehow.
Arlo pulled Jack up like a doll, the man yelped in pain. Arlo threw the man against the car; and then knocked the man’s arm away as he flailed at him. Holding the man down with one arm, Arlo pressed his thumb against the man’s left eye. “I told you I have no time. You have ten seconds to tell me what I want to know or you’ll be a one-eyed Jack in eleven second. Then you’ll have less than a minute to tell me what I want to know or you won’t be seeing anything… ever again.
When Marshall and Blake returned three minutes later, Jack lay unconscious inside the car he had struggled to reach. The bodies of Goliath and the other kidnapper were propped up in the back seat. Arlo and the woman stood several feet apart, with the girl looking at the ground in front of her.
“Justin, spray paint is in the trunk,” Arlo commanded. “Red I think…. Marshall, bring me the kit.”
“So what did you find out?” Marshall asked without looking at the man in the car.
“They’re headed south, toward Ely. Supposed to be a helicopter pickup about half way down in an hour…” he paused, “and twenty minutes. It’s off the main road, Jack couldn’t help me there. But the tracker should cover that. Marshall. You and Justin follow. I’ll take Naomi with me.”
“Naomi?” Marshall smiled. “Nice to meet you Naomi.”
Naomi did not respond.
Arlo painted gang symbols in bright red spray paint on the car of the kidnappers then waved Naomi into the passenger seat of the white Nissan. He peeled gravel as he and Naomi started down the road. He had put a device on the dashboard that looked like a radar detector. The center of the mechanism, facing Arlo and Naomi displayed a small red light that flashed on and off in a slow rhythm.
They had connected with southbound, US Highway 93 and traveled for several minutes when Naomi finally spoke. “Would you have really blinded that man?”
Arlo glanced over as he sped down the two lane highway at over ninety miles an hour, “Yes.”
A full minute passed before she spoke again, “What kind of person are you?”
It was Arlo’s turn to pause. When he spoke his voice was like ice, “In a previous life I worked with Interpol. I was called into a kidnapping case involving the two children of a very wealthy American. It was all very hush-hush. You probably don’t have any information about this even in your case notes. It was a kidnapping for ransom case. Those are always ugly. I had already been involved in a dozen kidnapping cases. We had recovered the victims five times; twice they were alive.
Arlo sat silently for a moment, then his voice grew reflective. “They wanted $25 million. The father was willing to pay. We advised against it. We asked for proof of life; pretty standard protocol. They sent us a video, with a newspaper showing the date in the background. They cut off a toe from each of the children on video. The screaming still haunts me.”
“Of course, as you might expect the father wanted to pay. We were able to convince him to wait. Per our instructions, he responded that he would pay, but it would take three days to gather the money. That gave us three days to prepare a trap,” Arlo paused. “He had the cash on hand. We could have paid the ransom that very day,” he sounded like was in another world.
Stiffening at a sharp curve he went on. “In any case, the money was dropped, the perpetrators were caught. The victims were not returned. We spent two more days grilling the kidnappers, two men and a woman. We cajoled, we threatened, we offered deals. After two days, the woman cut a deal. She told us where the children were buried… alive.”
Arlo paused again, so long that Naomi thought the story was over. “So you saved them?”
Arlo frowned. “We recovered the body of the girl. She was sixteen. The cut was infected, turn gangrenous. She died in agony. The boy, Marshall, was fourteen. He lay in the box with her, helpless, mentally tortured. He didn’t speak for a month afterward. He turned inward to what he knew… science…. A genius really, but deep down he is damaged.”
“So you went to work for his father?” Naomi sighed.
“Not exactly. I felt responsible. If we had paid the money sooner we probably would have saved the girl. I quit. You can only take so many experiences like that. My peers commended me on a job well done. Afterall, we have saved another victim,” Arlo sneered. “I don’t remember the next three months. Arthur Salt’s people tracked me down and found me in a bar in Portugal. By that time, the rift was irreparable between he and his son. Marshall blamed his father for the delay. Despite my role in the whole affair, Marshall thought me a hero of sorts. His father needed someone, if it wasn’t going to be him or Salt Industries, to protect his son from something like that happening again. So to make an uneasy piece Marshall agreed to have one bodyguard, me. Marshall pays my wages directly from his own trust fund. He rarely touches it for any other purpose.”
Taking a deep breath Arlo continued, “In any case, I will not make the mistake of following laws that protect the rights of scumbags who kidnap or kill innocent people. If I’d pushed those kidnappers so many years ago, Marshall’s sister would be alive today. Instead, I’ll even the playing field when I need to playing by their rules. I’ll do what I have to do.”
They drove on in silence for several more minutes when the device on the dash began to beep. “Aha,” Arlo smiled coldly.
“What is that anyway?” Naomi asked.
“All three of the boys have trackers in their asses. We’re within five miles. Watch for the green directional signal.”
“Left,” Naomi couldn’t help but say as soon as a green arrow started flashing on the left side.
Arlo slowed to the speed limit, and looked at his watch. “We still have 32 minutes until the helicopter is supposed to arrive. This may work out,” he exhaled slowly.
Naomi noticed that the tension in his neck eased slightly.
They traveled on for another two miles before a dirt road from the left side teed into Highway 93. “This has to be it,” Arlo pulled the car over to the edge of the highway.
Marshall and Justin’s car pulled in behind them, with Marshall launching from the car before it had come fully to a stop. “What did you find? Where are they? What do we do next?”
“We have time,” Arlo motioned Marshall to slow down. “Let’s be smart. Take a breath.”
Chapter 9 Snakes in the grass
“No!” Arlo stated flatly. There are several things wrong with that plan Marshall. Think. You’re supposed to me smart.”
Both Justin and Marshall had argued that they should drive down the dirt road as fast as the cars could go, and rush the rendezvous site.
Now Marshall paused and thought, “They might kill Blake as soon as they saw us coming. They might kill us. We don’t know if we’re rushing two or more than two villains…..” he drew a breath and then continued rapidly, “But we don’t act now we may be too late anyway.”
“We’ll act, but act smart,” Arlo confirmed. Reaching back into his open trunk he pulled out a case that he opened efficiently, pulling a Heckler & Koch PSG1 sniper rifle. After checking the rifle and loading it, he reached back into the case and retrieved an HK P30 pistol. He seemed indecisive for a moment, then turned to Naomi, “I assume you have firearms training. What is your rating on semi-automatic handguns?
“I passed,” Naomi shrugged.
“Ever fire a Heckler & Koch P30?”
“I prefer the VP9,” she moved toward Arlo.
“Marshall is fairly accurate on a firing range, Justin is a hair better. But neither of them are really trained to kill someone. How about you?”
“Hey, four out of five bulls eyes,” Justin complained.
Naomi took the proffered pistol, checking it out. “I’m trained. I haven’t had to execute though.”
“It may not come to that,” Arlo smiled his wolfish grin. “Okay boys and girls listen up. I’m going forward,” he looked at his watch again. “Give me fifteen minutes unless you hear a helicopter approaching before then.” Turning to Justin, “You drive your car in. You’re a better dirt road driver than Marshall; assuming that we’re talking dirt that means dust. If there is enough room all I want you to do is come in hot, and start driving the parameter in the dirt as fast as you can without running into something. That is it. Don’t stop, don’t try to snatch Blake even if you see him.”
Turning back to Naomi, “If things get ugly, the best option is to leave the way you came in. If that’s not possible… kill everyone until there are no more bad guys.”
Turning to Marshall. “I’m not counting on a cakewalk, but if it does get ugly, we’re better off letting them take Blake and be in a position to retrieve him later. It’s in no one’s best interest to get us all killed. Clear?”
“Clear,” Marshall muttered.
“Marshall. Look at me. Are you clear? We will get him now or we will get him later. But we have to be alive to do that.”
“Clear,” Marshall answered sharply.
“Okay then. Give me fifteen minutes.” Arlo turned and trotted across the asphalt road and up the brush and rock covered ground veering to the left.
Looking down the road in either direction was a vision of desolation. Justin turned to Marshall, “How far to you think it is back to Wendover?”
“Forty or fifty miles,” Marshall commented as he stared after Arlo.
“Glad we don’t have to hoof it,” Justin looked worriedly at the car.
Marshall glanced toward his friend, “You’ll do fine. Just think of the car as one of those ATVs you like to thrash about on behind the observatory in New Mexico.”
Turning to Naomi, Marshall asked, “So what’s your story… Naomi. How did you get stuck following three nerds around the countryside. You must have really pissed somebody off to draw that short straw.”
Naomi paused, then shrugged, “I was just back from an extended assignment overseas. They just needed someone to follow you.”
“Why?” Marshall snapped. “What were you supposed to accomplish by following us? We aren’t a military threat. We’re not a terrorist threat. What possible motivation does the CIA have regarding us?”
Naomi stepped back surprised at the sudden outburst. “I don’t know. They didn’t give me any mission other than to follow you. It could have been a training assignment to test out my surveillance skills for all I know.”
They were interrupted by the sound of a vehicle approaching from the south. All three tensed as an old pickup truck with more rust than color topped the rise. It slowed as it approached, and stopped beside them.
Naomi, tightened her grip on the handle of the pistol she held behind her back.
The driver side window screeched as it was rolled down. An old man wearing a baseball cap leaned out the window, “You folks need some help?”
“No we’re okay,” Marshall tried to smile. “We have a friend getting some rock samples up the hill.”
“That’s not a good area to be rock hounding,” he snorted. “What happened to her?”
Naomi stepped forward, “I’m okay,” her split lip and swelling left eye did not support her claim. “I slipped and fell down that hillock. That’s why we came back and are waiting for Bill to get back.”
“Well, okay then. Need some water or anything? I think I have a first aid kit in the back. Haven’t used in in several years, but it probably has some iodine and bandages in it.”
“No, we have a first aid kit in the trunk,” Marshall assured the man.
“Okay then,” the man started to roll up his window, then paused. What in sandhill?”
Marshall and his companions heard the noise coming in from behind; a low flying helicopter. He didn’t even need to turn to know what it was.
“There ain’t no oil in these parts. Wonder that that moron is up to,” the old man looked like he was about to get out of his truck.
As the dark blue Bell helicopter flew into sight, Arlo looked to his right for a cloud of dust on the road. Where the devil are they? He wondered.
Standing outside the gray Impala stood the Latino kidnapper that Arlo had missed earlier and now dubbed Jose. The driver of the car remained in the vehicle with the window down, but faced away from Arlo’s position. The area was naturally flat in what had probably been a river bottom a thousand years earlier. Some rudimentary efforts had been made to clear away large brush and rocks in an oblong area about eighty by sixty meters. The helicopter hovered and started to slowly descend.
It landed awkwardly with blades not noticeably slowing.
The car door opened and an athletic looking Black woman emerged. She was dressed in desert camouflage jacket and pants. She moved toward the back of the car where lifting the trunk she reached in, and with the help of the Latino man and dragged Blake to his feet.
Charlie, Arlo decided. Long ago, Arlo had made a point of tagging unknown assailants with monikers. It helped in surveillance operations where more than one unidentified perpetrators were being tracked my multiple agents.
Two men emerged from the helicopter carrying MAC-10s, as Blake was dragged to the helicopter.
Maybe it would be better if they didn’t show up, Arlo thought as he shifted his cover to the left for a better firing position. Something scratched his leg but he didn’t have time to look down. He was getting ready to back down the hill when the dust rose to his right. Damn. He stepped back up.
One of the two men at the helicopter started to shout something as he had apparently caught sight of the dust cloud.
Arlo fired. One down. He fired again, in time to take out the second man with a machine pistol. He wasn’t fast enough to get to the other two before they ducked out of sight behind the car.
The six-passenger helicopter seemed oblivious to the firefight now ensuing. Jose and Charlie had apparently not pinpointed his location yet. Their shots were going far to the right.
Damn, Arlo thought as he felt another scratch on his leg. He looked down and almost jumped into the line of fire. Rattlesnakes. He gravitated to his right several yards staying below the ridge line. By the time he got back to a firing position the shooting was centering on his previous position. Must have stirred the ground cover.
The Impala was now racing into sight of both the helicopter and Jose and Charlie. The helicopter began lifting off with doors still open.
No you don’t, Arlo aimed and fired twice clipping the gearbox and dislodging the tail rotor.
The helicopter’s chaotic movement distracted everyone. The Impala slowed and almost ran into a gully. Jose and Charlie turned toward the helicopter involuntarily.
Arlo looked for a shot, but there wasn’t a good one. He nicked Jose, but the man was still on his feet, redirecting fire in Arlo’s direction.
The helicopter landed hard on the tail boom. It rocked for a moment then toppled sideways into the narrow gully that Justin had nearly driven into moments before.
Justin raced into the scene and began a circle at high speed around the perimeter of the landing area, passing with 15 feet of Jose and Charlie.
This was a critical moment. Arlo rose to his feet and fired in rapid succession toward the kidnappers.
Charlie went down. Jose turned and returned fire, finally getting a good line of sight view of Arlo. Bullets flew around Arlo, but at eighty meters there was no way for Jose to get an accurate shot in. Still something grazed Arlo’s head. He could feel blood beginning to flood from the wound and he struggled to keep his vision clear. It was time to move in and finish this.
He approached rapidly, as the Impala circumnavigated the landing area before throwing gravel as it stopped at the entry point from which they had come. Doors flew open. The maneuver had created a fog of dust so dense that Arlo couldn’t see what was happening as he heard rapid pistol shots as he ran toward the cars. Damn, I told them to stay in the car!
He arrived in time to see Jose on the ground gasping for breath. Naomi was standing beside him. Arlo recognized the battle, Save him or puke; save him or puke. Turning to Naomi he said aloud, “I thought you were trained for this.”
“Trained, yes. Experienced no.” She complained.
Jose stopped struggling. Charlie was sitting glass eyed against the car. Staring into nothing and not breathing.
Marshall and Justin were focused solely on Blake, who seemed okay but going into shock. “Did you see that? Did you see that? What a shot? I think they were going to kill me. I always wanted to fly in a helicopter. Marshall why don’t we have a helicopter.”
“Blake, you’re fine. You’re going to be fine.” Marshall reassured his friend, while Justin clasped his hand tightly.
The dust was settling now and Arlo turned quickly. “The helicopter pilot. We need him.”
Looking past the crashed helicopter, they could see a figure topping the ridge about fifty meters to the east running as fast as he could. Turning to Naomi he ordered, “You’re going to have to get him.”
“We don’t need him. We can leave. Let someone else get him. I’m done killing for one day,” she argued.
“He is the one person who can tell us where they were planning to take these guys. There may or may not be other ways to find out, but he is the best shot,” Arlo sat down hard. “I’m afraid it’s up to you.”
Marshall turned and saw blood running down Arlo’s face. “Arlo! Are you going to be all right? I’ll get the first aid kit.”
“Afraid not kiddo.”
“Head wound. Lots of blood. But it looks like it grazed you. I think you’ll be okay,” Naomi corrected.
“That’s not the problem,” Arlo muttered. Raising his pant leg, four distinct marks were starting to bruise. He looked down, “Damn,” he growled. How long can you survive strikes from three, no looks like four rattlesnake bites?”
They tried. Marshall knew it was hopeless, but they tried anyway. They made it back to the Wendover Community Health Center is thirty minutes. Arlo was unconscious before they were half way back. He lived for nearly four hours.