Current Day, North of Mount Silver, Virginia.
Raven ran behind her mother’s legs as the door flew open.
“Did you bring the children anything to eat?” Frannie asked, startled by the sudden interruption.
“Yep, here!” Ben said with another lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. He tossed a paper bag into the room at Frannie.
The woman snatched the grocery sack from the air and set it on the bed.
Raven eyed the brown paper object longingly.
“Thank you,” Frannie said, placing a reassuring hand on Hunter’s back as he stepped over and wrapped his arms around his mother’s legs next to Raven.
“Yeah,” Ben replied with a nod. “Shouldn’t be much longer. As long as your ex and Kevin do as they should you guys will be out of here in a few hours.
“Is that a promise, mister?” Kaitlyn asked bravely, sitting on a weathered wooden chair across the room.
Ben eyed the pretty girl for a moment and saying nothing closed the door.
“What’s in the poke, momma?” Raven asked in anticipation as Mr. Buttons bounded around her feet, his tiny nose previously aware of the smell of the food long before the humans.
“I don’t know, let’s see, sweetie,” Frannie said cheerfully, opening the bag. “Oh, look, it’s some fried chicken and tater logs. There are some bottles of water in here, too.”
“Yay!” Hunter exclaimed.
Kaitlyn glared at the door. She knew her mother was trying to make the most of the situation, attempting to maintain a cheerful demeanor for Hunter and Raven. They understood that things were bad; however their attention could be easily swayed with a soft word or touch, alleviating the levity of the experience. Kaitlyn, unfortunately, was no longer capable of such misdirection. She knew exactly how precarious things were, evidenced in the form of a black handle jutting up from the man named Ben’s belt.
“Katydid, you want somethin’?” Frannie asked her eldest.
“In a minute, momma. You guys go on and eat, first. I’m just not feeling too good,” she responded and turned her head to look out of the window at the huge moon that had risen above the dark treetops.
Frannie walked over and knelt in front of Kaitlyn. She placed her arms around her daughter and whispered, “It’s going to be alright, baby. The Lord and your granddaddy ain’t gonna let nothing happen to us, okay?”
Kaitlyn returned the embrace. “Momma, honestly, this ain’t got nothin’ to do with Jesus or grandpa...this is all about daddy. He’s the only one gonna save us.”
The girl’s mother sighed and then released Kaitlyn. “Well, I’m gonna choose to believe that the Good Lord ain’t forgotten us,” Frannie said with a smile. “But, I can guarantee you this, Katydid, although your daddy may be the one who ultimately gets us out of this here shitstorm, he’s the one who got us into it. That’s gonna take some serious forgivin’ and forgettin’ on my part, you hear?”
“I hear you, momma. But, I just don’t think daddy would’ve done nothin’ to put us in harm’s way. In fact, I think the reason he kept his distance with us is precisely because of this kind of thing.”
Frannie nodded. “I hope you are right, honey. I hope you are right.” The woman stood and turned to look over at her other two children happily eating, laughing as they tossed the occasional treat to the ugly little dog scurrying back and forth around the room. The four of them were completely enveloped in a potentially deadly situation that she herself could do nothing at all to rectify; their lives depending on a man that had become a stranger to everyone. “Cole, even if you have somehow quit believing in you and me, don’t you go and fail on these children,” she thought. “They ain’t stopped believing in you.”
Current day, 9:50 PM, Radii Weapons Facility, Thompsonville, Virginia.
The elevator doors opened and Cathy inhaled, releasing the pressure from the trigger of her weapon. “The cowards!” she thought. “Vance, go make sure they are okay. I cannot believe they would send up Del Toro and Brunswick up to get shot like this. They must think we are idiots.”
One of the pillowcases moaned as Vance approached. He could see Del Toro’s badge dangling from the side of his pants. He reached out to lift the cloth from the man’s face. “Man, I cannot believe this , Del...”
Cole snatched the pillowcase from his head and grabbed the security guard’s wrist, pulling the man toward him. Cole spun Vance around wrapping an arm around his throat, the H&K rifle clattering to the floor of the elevator.
Cole, wearing a black ski mask over his face, glared at the woman standing before him. She stood weapon raised, ready to fire at the first opportunity. He glanced over at the body of the security guard lying motionless behind her in a pool of blood. “Was that really necessary?”
“Oh, it was very necessary, and so is shooting your partner, idiot!” Cathy barked, sweeping her weapon to the right and placing her finger on the trigger.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Cole said as Vance struggled in his arms. He tapped the barrel of a 9MM pistol to his hostage’s left temple to get his attention. “Knock knock.”
Vance’s eyes darted to the left as he noticed another masked man shielded behind the edge of the elevator. He held an AK-47.
Kevin raised his left hand beneath his chin and rolled his fingers. “Sup?” he said with a grin.
“Don’t do anything Cath. That’s really Brunswick in that chair. There’s another guy in the elevator. You can’t see him, but he’s there and he’s armed.
“Now, please lower your weapon and we all can walk away from this in one piece,” Cole said calmly.
“Who are you people?” Cathy asked, kneeling to lower her firearm to the ground, never once taking her eyes from the man holding her lover hostage.
“Nobody. We just wanted some info,” Kevin shouted from behind cover. “And now we just want to get the hell out of here.”
As Cathy slowly stood, she eased her hand around her back to remove her M1911. “Move Vance!” she shouted. In one fluid motion, the former soldier dove to the right and squeezed off a round that whizzed only centimeters past Cole’s head.
Vance planted an elbow in his captor’s gut, only to experience the arm around his throat tighten. His opponent was no novice. A 9mm jutted forward from beneath Vance’s right arm followed by the deafening sound of two shots fired in quick succession.
“Stop!” Cole shouted as he watched Kevin raise his rifle to the seated hostage’s temple. “I really do not want anyone else to die today. It’s not why I’m here and ain’t part of the mission.”
“Mission?” What are you talking about, dude?” Kevin asked.
“Shut it!” Cole growled, never removing his eyes from the dangerous woman in the hall ahead.
Cathy grunted as she felt the blood leaking from a hole in her BDU pants’ leg. “Goddamn it you shot me, asshole!”
“I told you I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but you forced my hand,” Cole said. “I could’ve had put one in your head but opted for someplace less fatal. If you don’t believe me, how close am I to your femoral artery?”
Cathy’s eyes widened in realization. She’s been on the battlefield with scary guys like this one before. “Goddammit, you’re Company?”
“Maybe,” Cole said matter-of-factly.
“GRS? Global Response Staff, then?”
“You think I’m going to answer that?” Cole replied.
Vance fearfully attempted to look up at Cole only to find the barrel of the pistol digging into his skull once more. “I’m not fightin’ anymore. I’m cool, I’m cool!”
Kevin stared at his friend. “What’s Company?”
“CIA, you redneck moron!” Cathy shouted, grimacing in pain. “You freakin’ work for them, don’t you?”