Current day, 3:20 PM,
The Basement of the Roadhouse Bar, Outside of Mount Silver, Va.
Nick grunted as he flipped the heavy old pool table over to use for cover. “Come on boss! The top on this thing is made of marble.”
“Hang on!” Aaron said as he dragged the Chinese officer and his chair out of harm’s way. Chambering a round in his loaner AK-47, the CIA field commander took a knee. He hunkered down behind the large wooden object next to Saint Nick just as the first of several shadows appeared on the wooden steps leading into the basement.
“Wait a sec boss,” Nick whispered as the first board creaked and then another. “Ready? Now!”
Aaron popped up preparing to fire, trigger-finger ready.
“Whoa! Hold up, don’t shoot, ya’ll!” exclaimed a surprised biker. He lowered his Winchester hunting rifle to the ground and raised his hands in the air. “Ya’ll were with Kevin and Cole, right?”
Nick lowered the AK. “Yeah, who are you?”
“Whew, thank God! I’m Corporal Jes Crete, but you can call me Critter.”
“Corporal Critter, huh?”
“Yeah, that’ll work,” the man said, nodding affirmatively.
“Nick and Aaron, CIA.”
“CIA, really? That’s what those dudes said they were and then they started shootin’. Are ya’ll dirty or something?”
“Tell you what, you mind introducing us to your CO (commanding officer)?”
“Yup, in fact, you all might wanna come upstairs and have a talk with the Lieutenant so we can sort all this out afore someone else goes and gets themselves hurt.”
Nick knelt next to the body of an agent trainee, holding the man’s bloody badge in his hand. “Damn, Aaron, they must have pulled these guys right out of The Farm. They weren’t even done cooking, yet. In fact, I’d say almost all of them were green.”
“That’s Annalisa covering her tracks. I suppose she didn’t count on the locals around here pitching in,” Aaron replied.
“Critter said you was lookin’ for me, sir?” inquired an aging, rather large biker approaching Aaron, a rifle slung over one shoulder and a gray ponytail over the other.
“I suppose. Are you the man in charge?” Aaron asked and extended a hand to the approaching man. “I really want to thank you for you and your crew’s assistance. Me and Nick here were convinced our ticket’s were about to be punched.”
“I can see that. Someone must really want you all dead, huh?”
“You have no idea. By the way, I’m CIA Field Commander Aaron Hinds.”
The biker shook the agent’s hand and then snapped a brisk salute. “Retired Lieutenant Tony Fletcher, sir!” the man added. “But people round these parts call me Mutt. I’m the Post Commander of the local VFW. Me and my troop saw you all were needin’ some help so we helped.”
Aaron grinned. “Pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant. This is one of my agents, we call him Saint Nick,” he said, patting Nick on the arm.
Mutt laughed. “Looks like you got the wrong end of the nickname game, too, huh fella?”
Nick shrugged. “Eh, it works for me.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Mutt said. “Look, let me ask you guys something. Are you all needing an airlift anywhere? I was a bus driver (slang for helicopter pilot) in ’Nam.”
“What did you fly?” Nick inquired.
“Huey’s, but I could fly the one out in the parking lot with my eyes closed. In fact, I’m itchin’ to take her for a spin. It’s why I’m asking.”
Nick grinned at Aaron and nodded.
“I do actually. We need to get to D.C. You have anybody else with you that might want to come with us and save the country?”
“That’s a bit like askin’ if shit stanks...if’n you’ll excuse my French, sir,” Mutt replied.
Nick scratched his head and laughed. “You and me, brother, we’re gonna get along just fine.”
Cole flinched as his burner cell rang in his vest pocket. He looked up into the rear view mirror and found Kevin staring intently at the back of Fitz’s head. The man cut his eyes at Cole on the second ring.
“Who is it, bro?” Kevin asked.
“You gonna answer it?”
“City Cab Service?” Cole said into the device.
“Cole? Don’t hang up. It’s Agent Lou Epstein from Camp Peary. I’m on a payphone so this call won’t be traced.”
“How did you get this number?”
“Fitz’s office. Look Cole, I think he’s dirty. You need to be careful...”
Cole glanced over at the man in the passenger seat. “Oh, trust me, I know he is. Look Epstein, you have to forgive me for not trusting you, but I have been stabbed in the back a lot in the past few days.”
Kevin winced in the back seat at the utterance of the words.
“I have info you’ll want to hear.”
“It’s about your family, Cole. They’re safe with local law enforcement.”
Cole briefly closed his eyes in relief. “Thank God.”
“By the way, I impersonated Fitz and broke about a million Agency rules to make sure they stayed that way.”
“What do you mean, Agent Epstein?”
“I told the trainees that Fitz sent in to hold your family hostage to stand down and return to camp instead of playing backup for more agents at someplace called the Roadhouse or something.”
“Those agents were trainees from The Farm?” Cole asked, incredulously. “You freakin’ sent trainees in after seasoned field agents, Fitz?”
“Not all of them were trainees.”
“Fitz is with you?” Epstein asked.
“Not for long at this rate,” Cole replied.
“Look Cole, I want to help you if you’ll trust me and from what I can tell, you’re going to need as much as you can get. Just fill me in on what’s happening so I can assist. I know some stuff, but I need to know where this is all going...”
Cole took in a deep breath and let it slowly escape his lungs. “Nothing personal, Epstein, but I’m runnin’ short on time and friends, it seems I have no choice but to trust you. Just let me be clear about something, do not cross me, because when this is all over, I have a list a mile long of people who are going to pay dearly for messing with other people’s lives, especially my family’s.”
“Understood. Now, what do you need?
“I won’t know that until I get to D.C.”
“Son of a bitch!” the sheriff remarked, staring at the bullet hole-ridden interior of the Roadhouse. He bent down and picked up a spent 7.62 brass shell casing to examine it. “Deputy, have you found anyone?”
“No sir, Mike, everyone’s gone, including the bodies. But, danged if there ain’t a good bit of blood,” the woman said, glass and wood crunching beneath her combat boots.
Sheriff Johannsen removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his balding head. “Alright, well, I suppose that’s it, then. We’ll just have to get a report from Cole and Kevin when...erm, if they get back from whatever the hell it is they’re doin’.” Mike retrieved a pair of unbroken, empty glasses and turned them over. He then located a bottle of whisky from behind the bar and opened it. “Pull up a seat, Karla, work day’s done. I have had about enough law enforcin’ for the moment.”
The female deputy laughed and then righted a bar stool, brushing the brown leather seat off. “Sounds good to me, boss.”