The Missile Strategy | Chapter 14
“Get me closer,” Landon said. Gwen maneuvered the truck up along side the struggling Mustang.
“Stop the car!” Landon shouted. He pointed his gun at Tate, who had no intention of giving up. Tate reached across his car for the pistol in the passenger seat. Landon gritted his teeth and pulled the trigger.
He had carefully pinpointed the exact center of the Tate’s steering wheel. The gunshot punched through the chrome Mustang logo and triggered the airbag. It instantaneously exploded into a bullet-torn balloon that hit Tate in the face. The force threw his head back against the seat and the car veered off the road. It immediately blasted into a roadside barrier that no one saw coming. Tate’s head flew forward and violently collided with the dash. The punctured airbag had already deflated, doing nothing to mitigate the damage.
Gwen slammed on the breaks and Landon was already jumping out of the car. They rushed to the smoking car with their guns drawn, but Tate was slumped over the steering wheel. Landon opened the door and trained his gun on the man.
“Tate,” he said firmly. He waited a second for him to come to. Tate remained unresponsive. Landon said his name louder, but there was still no answer. He grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him off the steering wheel. Blood ran down Tate’s face from a gash in his forehead. His eyes were shut and his jaw was slack. He was still breathing though.
Sirens were ringing in the distance. Landon and Gwen looked at each other.
“If the Police get here, he gets medical attention,” Gwen said. “And we might as well say goodbye.”
“They will have security,” Landon replied.
“These are the same people who attacked the CIA to rescue their guy. They won’t hesitate to shoot up a hospital,” Gwen retorted. “I say we take him to a safe house.”
Landon hesitated, working through the dilemma.
“We could lose our jobs over this,” he urged.
“We lose this investigation and maybe innocent lives. They will come for him, that’s why he needs to be at an undisclosed safe house.”
Landon bit his lip.
“It’s our only option,” Gwen pushed. Landon shook his head.
“This is stupid,” he said as he grabbed Tate. “This is really stupid.”
Gwen grabbed Tate by the feet and they hauled him out of the car. They dropped the tailgate and slid Tate’s limp body onto the bed of the truck.
“Flex-cuff his hands and feet,” Landon ordered as he ran back to the Mustang. Gwen pulled out two plastic restraints that resembled heavy-duty zip ties. She secured Tate’s hands and feet. Landon found what was in the backpack from the train station. The object they had fought so hard to get. It was on the floor of the passenger seat. He dug it out and unlocked the small clip holding it together. It was a small hard shell case that opened to reveal a laptop inside. He closed the case and ran back to the car.
“It’s a laptop,” he said as he got into the truck. Gwen sped away from the scene as sirens flickered behind them in the dying light. Streetlights blinked to life as the sun finally vanished behind the horizon.
“Pretty important if they went to all that to stop us from having it,” Gwen observed.
“I’m going to get Caleb to take a look at this.” Landon pulled out his phone.
“Tell him to meet us at Safe House A6. It’s the closest one for all of us,” Gwen said. “And I know the guy there, he can help us watch our new buddy.”
Landon updated Caleb on the situation and hung up the phone.
“He will get there just after we do,” Landon informed. Landon’s phone buzzed again and he groaned.
“Who is it?” Gwen asked, puzzled.
“Troy,” he muttered. His fingered hovered over the decline button for a moment, but decided to take the call.
“Hey, meet us at A6,” Landon said shortly.
“Uh, okay. Anything I need to know before I get there?” Troy asked.
“Don’t tell anybody. We need this to stay quiet.”
“Ok, I will see you there.”
Landon disconnected. The sky darkening and city lights glowed against the sparse clouds. They passed through neighborhood after neighborhood.
“This has to be the last one,” Landon spoke up.
“Last risk we take. We can’t keep pushing out chances, because we won’t make it out every time.”
“That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?” Gwen asked. Landon’s face was stone cold.
“I’m speaking from experience,” he said grimly. “I had a friend who thought he was invincible. When everything went wrong, he took the chance to fix it all. There was no way he could have made it, and he didn’t.”
Gwen was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry about that Landon. But personally, I don’t think this is the kind of job where we can play it safe. Especially right now.”
“I know, but these are different risks. Uncalculated risks. That’s how operations crash and burn,” Landon said.
At last they pulled up to a bland single level home settled in the middle of a long line of simple houses. Gwen backed the truck up to the garage door. They jumped out and the garage door opened up. A tall and bulky man with short red hair stepped out as it lifted. Gwen’s face brightened. The man’s face lit up too.
“Great to see you again Gwen,” he said.
“Good to see you too Nathan,” Gwen returned with a smile. “This is Landon,” she added. Landon nodded to Nathan.
“What do you have here?” Nathan asked.
Gwen dropped the gate and revealed the tied up form of Tate. Nathan froze, suddenly quiet and very serious.
“We went to a lot of trouble to get this guy, and we have a lot of questions of him.” Gwen grabbed him by his feet and noticed Nathan’s reaction.
“Something wrong?” She asked him.
“No. Just, uh, not what I expected,” he replied. He hesitated before he finally stepped up and helped heave the man out of the bed of the truck. Landon shut the tailgate and closed the garage door behind them as they all went inside. They brought Tate through the house and to the basement stairs.
“Wow, A6 has changed quite a bit since I was here,” Landon commented.
“You were here?” Nathan asked surprised.
“Yea this was my first station when I joined.”
“No kidding!” Nathan exclaimed. “I’ve only been here for two months. I’m taking a little break after my last operation.
“Oh, it was one of those operations,” Landon nodded in understanding. He opened the basement door and they carried Tate down the stairs. At the bottom of the creaky wooden steps was a reinforced steel door. A keypad locked the door and a camera watched every move. Landon took over carrying half of Tate so Nathan could open the door. He punched in a lengthy code and the door made a resounding clunk. Nathan pushed open the door.
The basement was not the musty collection of laundry machines and cardboard boxes that most houses stashed below. Instead, track lights ran across the ceiling illuminating a host of desks, computers, and chairs. One wall was covered with an assortment of weapons and gear. Another wall featured a group of flat screen TVs, one of which displayed video feed from the interrogation room.
Nathan opened up a heavy door that led to a small white room with table and two chairs. They dropped Tate into one of the chairs and tied his feet to the legs. He slumped to one side but didn’t fall.
“He should be fine,” Gwen said. They bolted the interrogation room shut and returned to the basement’s main room.
“This really got an upgrade,” Landon said looking around the room.
“Yea, it was the oldest one in the state, so it was next on the list for renovation,” Nathan replied. “They actually just finished putting everything in here two weeks ago. There are still a few loose ends, but I love it,” he said with a grin.
“All I remember is that the stupid hot water would randomly shut off in the middle of my shower. Man that was a pain,” Landon recounted. Nathan’s grin dropped away.
“Yea, it is,” he scoffed. “That’s probably the only thing they didn’t fix, and it drives me crazy!” Gwen and Landon both laughed. Nathan joined their laughter.
A computer screen beeped at them and Nathan jumped to the keyboard. A screen popped up showing Caleb waiting patently at the front door.
“Is he with you?” Nathan asked.
“Yea, that’s our technician.”
“I’ll go let him in.” Nathan strode out of the room. Landon phone buzzed and answered immediately. McLane’s deep voice came across the speaker.
“You have to keep me updated, Landon.” His voice was stern. “I just watched the aftermath of your car chase on the news. That shouldn’t be the first time I find out what’s going on.”
“Yes, sir,” Landon responded firmly. Now was not the time to say anything more than that.
“I need you two back in my office to re-evaluate this operation,” McLane ordered. There was no room in his voice for argument.
“I’m on my way now, sir,” Landon complied. He hung up. Gwen watched his grim face, trying to work out what was said in the short conversation.
“McLane wants us back at the office.”