Current day, 06:55 AM, Mount Silver, Virginia.
“Huh?” Cole spun around, his eyes searching for enemies, but there was nothing there.
Mr. Buttons panted and scratched at his ear with a hind leg.
“Must have been the wind or something...” Cole shrugged and patted the dog’s head. “Alright, Mr. Buttons, Death Monger, or Subject 42, whoever you are, let’s get this over with...”
Cole froze, removing a shaky hand from the dog. “You are one lucky little canine weapon, it looks like you are going to live a bit longer,” he said returning the knife to its holster. Cole closed the vehicle’s door, removed the pistol from his back, and walked toward the house to locate the voice.
Squawk! “Cole Hitchens? I know you’re there.”
Cole entered the kitchen and found himself looking down at the glowing red display of a radio attached to one of the guards’ belts. He bent down, detached the device, and then keyed the mic. “I suggest, whoever this is, that you don’t approach me. Your teammates are all dead...but you don’t have to be...just turn around and go back to where you came from. Consider this your final warning.”
“Right. Tell me, tough guy, is this the real Cole Hitchens? Agent Cole Hitchens?”
“You may not remember me, but we’ve met before, you and I, over in Afghanistan. Let’s just say, our meeting, well, it didn’t turn out too great for me. It’s how I...erm...transitioned to civilian life, you might say.”
“You were a trafficker?” Cole inquired.
“Let’s just say I got caught up in your little op over there and it nearly cost me my life. That will not happen again,” Vick replied and released the talk button on the mic.
“I’d say I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Vick sneered at the radio and clamped his fist around the transmitter. “Listen, you smug asshole, I just want the dog. Honestly, I don’t give two shits about your hick family. I am sick and tired of playing games and will kill them if I have to,” the security chief growled.
“You are out of luck, fella, they’re gone...far away from you and your people.”
“Daddy! Don’t give them Mr. Buttons!” Cole heard Kaitlyn shout over the walkie. “They shot Delinda!”
“Shut up, girl!”
“You are a dead man, you hear me!” Cole yelled into the mic.
“No one else has to get hurt, Cole. Just surrender and give me the dog!”
“Spare me. I have dealt with plenty of psychotic assholes like you. I know you have no plans on letting anyone live after you get your hands on this G.I.Z.M.O. unit!”
“So, you know what it is you have in your possession, then? You are the one who broke in the lab? You and that Kevin moron,” Vick replied. “I tell you what, Hitchens. I’ll give you my word...return the dog and the docs you stole, and I’ll free your family.”
“I noticed you left someone out.”
“You and me, we have some unsettled debts that need to be addressed,” Vick said, rubbing his knee where it connected to a prosthetic leg.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think you know.”
“I already told you, I don’t know who the hell you are!” Cole growled. “But, since you say you know me, you should already understand...no one hurts the people I care about. In fact, I would say you should ask around, but you wouldn’t be able to find anyone around to ask.”
“Cole, if you are done pontificating and fear-mongering...if you even know what those words mean, I suggest you start driving into town.”
“Because, time’s running short...for everyone.”
Cole hadn’t felt this much hatred and anger in quite some time. The last time he did, it didn’t end well for the man who drove him to that state. “What time and where do you want to meet?” Cole hissed into the phone.