Current day, 2:50 PM, Radii Defense Systems laboratory, North of Thompsonville, Virginia.
Frannie chambered a round in the rifle as the handle to the supply room turned. “Get behind me, kids,” she whispered. The door creaked open, generating a sliver of light that cut vertically through the middle of the darkened room.
The door froze in place as the sound of a radio sparking to life echoed in the hall outside.
Squawk! “It’s One Twelve out here at the guard shack. You guys need to see this...holy shit there’s more of them!”
“One Twelve, what in the hell are you talking about?”
“Sir, seriously, we’ve got a major situation outside by the gate. I just had at least a dozen or more pickup trucks filled with locals pull up to the gate...hey, stop! I’m a federal agent...Whoa, guys, what are you doing? Alright, alright, I’m putting it down! Hey, you can’t...” Rustle. Rustle...
Squawk! Static! “Listen up, ya’ll. We know you guys in there are keepin’ an innocent woman and her kids as pris’ners. We really don’t take too kindly to people up and kidnapping our neighbors ’round these parts...especially if the kidnappers are some sorta fed’ral agents.”
“I don’t who you are, sir, but you are interfering with a federal matter. Please disband and return to your homes!”
Squawk! “Not without Mrs. Hitchens and her children. Now, I am only gonna ask this one time and then we’re coming in!”
“All agents report immediately to the Level One entryway!”
“Roger!” said a voice from the hall.
Frannie relaxed as the streak of light disappeared from the room followed by the sound of thumping footsteps fading down the corridor.
“Momma, who was that talkin’?” Hunter asked.
“Don’t know, honey, but they sound like they’re here to help us...”
Frannie flinched as the phone began to vibrate. She quickly set the rifle down, leaning it against a wall to remove the buzzing device from the back pocket of her jeans. “H-h-hello?”
“Is this Frannie?”
“Pete?” the woman replied to the voice on the other end.
“Yessum, it’s me. I brought help...is Tink okay?”
“Thank God!” Frannie laughed as tears of happiness formed in the edges of her eyes. She looked down at the frisky, growling dog holding a towel in her mouth and playing tug-of-war with Raven. “Yes, Pete, she’s just fine!”
“Cool...and you all?”
“We’re good, Pete. Thank you so much!”
“Don’t thank me yet. We still gotta get ya’ll out without getting’ anyone killed. Jus’ don’t worry, though, I got the Sheriff here with me. Just give us a little bit to convince these gub’ment fellas that it’s in their best interest to vacate the premises. Stay hid until I call back, aiight?”
“Okay...and Pete, thank you, again.”
“Anything for the puppies and Cole and Kev’s people.”
“Huh?” Frannie muttered as the phone clicked.
Standing at the entrance to the Radii research laboratory, the agent known as One Eleven keyed up the bullhorn with a high-pitched whine. He lifted the red and white device to his lips. “Okay, folks, you are all trespassing on U.S. Government property. You need to vacate...”
“I already told you hardheads, not without Frannie and her kids!” said a wide-shouldered, middle-aged man in a sheriff’s uniform. He emerged from the ragtag crowd of locals surrounding the front of the facility pushing an agent in front of him. The law enforcement officer, an AR-15 slung over his shoulder, strode within meters of the bullhorn-holding CIA agent and shoved the younger man in black assault gear toward his supervisor. “Go on, boy!”
One Eleven cleared his throat. “I don’t think you understand, deputy...”
“Sheriff...Sheriff Mike Johannsen.”
“Right, erm, sheriff. Well, what we have here is an illegal assembly and I will have you know that you will all be forcefully detained if you do not leave immediately!” the agent said angrily, sweeping his hand over the crowd. He looked over at One Twelve. “Are you alright, Simmons, erm, One Twelve?”
The young man nodded.
“Let me make this clear, so far you’ve illegally held one of my agents at gunpoint and are now trespassing on federal property!” The agent nervously looked out at the angry, tough faces assembled before him and swallowed. “However, I will be willing to forget this happened if you were to all leave immediately.”
“From where I’m standing, son, it looks to be the other way around,” replied the sheriff. The local law enforcement officer cocked his jaw, angling the large Tom Selleck-style mustache draped over his lips. He leaned his head down and peered up at the CIA agent from under the edge of his brown cowboy hat. “You know, I was under the impression that this is a private research facility...at least that’s what it says on your paperwork at city hall. But, from what I’m hearin’ from you, it’s something a bit diff’rent. I imagine the conspiracy people out in the general population would be real interested to find out we got ourselves a bonafide top secret government facility doin’ God knows what out here in the woods above Thompsonville,” the sheriff said with a grin.
“Well, that’s not, um...”
“Right. Well, I also know that the CIA ain’t supposed to be operatin’ on U.S. soil, either, but there it is in large white letters on your vest indicatin’ that’s exactly what’s goin’ on here. Regardless of popular belief we can read around these parts, so, unless you want to tell me that CIA all of a sudden stands for somethin’ else other than my understanding of it, then the only one breakin’ any laws ‘round here is you lot. Trust me; I’m really lookin’ for one of ya’ll to start somethin’, so if’n you guys are feeling froggy, then jump ’cause it’s been kinda slow today and me and the fellas are bored.”
Several men in the crowd of local residents cocked their shotguns.
One Eleven wore an expression of utter confusion. He turned to look at his subordinates bordering him on either side and said nothing as they shrugged in response to the unasked question.
“Alright then, I’ll give you all five minutes to scoot before me and the boys come callin’,” Sheriff Johannsen said.
“Uh, commander? What should we do?...erm, do you want me to call it in?” One Twelve asked looking at the sheriff and then his supervisor. “Commander?”
“...yeah, uh, no. Get your gear, men. We’re clearing out.”
Frannie shielded her eyes as she and her kids stepped into the afternoon sunlight.
The men and women surrounding the trucks and other vehicles scattered over the lawn of the Radii facility all cheered as the family emerged safe and sound. The noise frightened Mrs. Buttons...correction, Tink.
“Tink!” Pete exclaimed. “Thank goodness you’re okay.”
Frannie walked up and hugged the large man, forcing a growl from the small dog in his arms. “Sorry, sweetie. I see you’re the jealous type,” Frannie said and scratched the bristling dog on the head.
Pete laughed. “I was so worried when I didn’t hear from Cole. I let him use Tink because he said it was real important. He said my dog would help save a lot of people. Is that true? Did she?”
“Yes, she sure did!” Frannie’s smile then faded as the sheriff strode up the steps and stood next to Pete.
“Ma’am,” the officer said, tipping the front of his hat with a pair of fingers.
“So, Mrs. Hitchens, what’s your nutty husband done gone and got himself involved in that would bring out the big guns like this?” the sheriff asked. “I got word that a Blackhawk helicopter landed guns blazing in the middle of Main Street over yonder in Mount Silver this morning and now this. I could use a decent explanation before things get any further along.”
“He told me he and Kevin...”
“Kevin? Kevin Monroe...the Roadhouse owner? Them two, again!?!! Aw hell, that explains a bunch!” the sheriff exclaimed.
Frannie shook her head and pulled the fidgeting Raven next to her. “No sir, it ain’t like that anymore. Cole’s different. He’s actually a CIA agent...a good one and there’s people tryin’ to kill him...” Frannie covered her face with a hand and began sobbing uncontrollably.
“CIA? Cole?” the sheriff asked Pete, a look of incredulity on his face.
The man shrugged. “I thought he and Kevin was animal rights activists...I mean they were drivin’ a Prius and all.”
The sheriff shook his head in confusion. “Look, I’m sorry Mrs. Hitchens that you an’ your children have been put through this craziness,” the sheriff said, placing his arms around the distraught woman. “But I need to know where your husband is. I imagine he’s in some serious trouble regardless of his questionable employment.”
“I don’t know,” Frannie said with a sniff. “I’m scared for him.”
“Sheriff!” shouted a woman in a deputy sheriff’s uniform racing up the steps. “Somethin’s going on down at the Roadhouse. I just got report of gunshots and casualties. People been callin’ in to the station sayin’ they spotted another black helicopter and soldiers runnin’ round up there.”
“Well, that answers that,” the sheriff said.