Current day, 06:30 AM, several miles northwest of Thompsonville, Virginia.
Chris pulled the pin on a ‘cherry’ M18 smoke grenade and tossed it through the open door. It went off in the cabin’s front yard with a pop and expelled a plume of red smoke. He heaved one more directly into the pitted road and lifted his pistol, firing a few shots at the two incoming black vehicles.
“Stop the truck!” Vick shouted as several bullets pinged against the bulletproof windshield. He opened the vehicle’s passenger door, using it for cover, and waved his hand in front of his face. “Everyone, get your heads down! Guns up, but hold your fire!”
“Yessir!” the men and women replied in unison.
“Who the hell are you people?” Chris Biltmore yelled at the voices in the smoke.
“Vick DeJue, Chief of Security for Radii Defense Systems!” one shouted back.
“Radii Defense Systems?” Chris wondered. “Is that what he said? If so, Cole was right, then. There was something going on out there...and it’s definitely serious. He must of kicked up a hornets nest...”
“Identify yourself!” Vick commanded. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Ben. Now, what do you jokers want?” Biltmore asked in his best Virginia hills accent.
“Ben Hitchens, hmmm? Okay, Ben, what we want is the dog, my friend. Just hand it over and we’ll be on our way!” Vick shouted back.
“Give him the dog? What in the hell would he want that ankle-biting peke for?” Chris wondered. He was now officially curious.
“Please, just give me the Pekingese. That thing is not what you think!” Vick yelled over the roar of the SUV’s V8 engine. “You and your kids are not safe!”
“I’m coming out! I want to talk,” Chris barked, hoping to buy Delinda, Frannie, and the children more time to escape.
“Alright, everyone put down your weapons! Let the man out so I can have a word with him.”
The RDS security team did as told and put their weapons away. Vick was as equally curious about this odd hillbilly as Chris was the dog. “You’re good, Ben. Now, come on out, just keep your hands up where I can see them.”
Biltmore slowly appeared in the cabin’s open doorway, arms raised.
Vick emerged from behind the SUV’s door and approached Chris though the crimson smoke. He sighed as he realized it was not Cole. “Why are you hiding out with your family up here in the woods, Ben? Why did you shoot at us and run back at that house? Are you in trouble with the law or something?”
“No, don’t think so.”
“I see....Were you in the military, my friend? You seem to be well-trained.”
Ben nodded in affirmation. “Army. Look, why don’t you jus’ up and tell me what your interest is in muh kids’ little dog?” he asked, maintaining Vick’s assumption that Cole’s family was his.
“That’s not your dog. It’s property of the company I work for and you would be well advised to hand it over.”
“I don’t like your tone all that much, mister DeJue. Why you wantin’ that animal so much?” Ben inquired.
“Can’t say, really. Just need it back,” Vick answered.
“Then ya’ can’t have it.”
“You know Cole Hitchens?”
“Cole...Hitchens. A vehicle registered to his ex-wife was parked at your house,” Vick stated flatly. “He’s got your first and your last name apparently, but you my friend are no Cole Hitchens.”
“Never said I was. There’s a bunch of us Hitchens runnin’ around these hills. Maybe you done up and got the wrong address.”
“Right.” Vick looked back over his shoulder. “I’m really goddamned tired of this,” he sighed. “Somebody shoot this idiot!”
Chris crossed his eyes as a red dot appeared between them. “Wait a sec...”
A dark round hole appeared in Biltmore’s forehead and the man fell backwards like a freshly cut tree.
“Knock, knock! I’m coming in...” The RDS Security Chief sang as he stepped over Chris’ body, chambering a round in his .357 SIG Sauer pistol. Vick angrily strode into the cabin ready to kill.
“Son of a bitch!”
“What’s the matter, Vick?” Bohannan asked, stepping onto the porch, his rifle cradled in his arms. “Doc’s requesting an update.”
“Tell him they’re gone...again! They must have went out the back. That jackass was stalling!”
Vick hopped from the porch and knelt next to Biltmore’s body.
“Hello?” Vick located the phone and answered with a smile.
“Who is this?” queried a female voice on the other end.
“I’m Vick...where is my dog?”
“Is he dead?”
“Yes, Mrs. Hitchens or whoever you are. Ben is with Jesus now and I sent him there. You and your your family are next.”
Beamer stood from the lead SUV and shouted excitedly, “Vick! Bo!”
“What is it, Beamer? You got something?” Vick responded, stowing the cellphone away in a vest pocket.
“The doc told me that someone lifted one of the tracker laptops from the security office and I got to thinking...”
“Thinking about what?” Vick inquired.
“They have an RFID chip embedded in them. As long as there is any power in its battery it will transmit.”
“So, are you telling me you have something, Beamer?”
“Satellite triangulation is indicating the device is travelling toward Mount Silver.”
“Call Team Four and have them intercept,” Vick commanded. “Tell them we’re on our way...just make sure they understand who and what they are dealing with. Don’t approach unless they are sure they have things under control.”