Current Day, Outside of Mount Silver, Virginia.
Cole was laughing hysterically. “A Prius? I thought you...”
“Why do you gotta go and ruin a perfectly good evening by pickin’ at me, Cole?” Kevin interrupted, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.
“Press the button for the trunk, so, I can throw in my backpack,” Cole commanded, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I just hope this car can handle the weight,” he said, waiting for the click.
Kevin felt Cole toss in his sack of tools and then slam the hatch, shuddering the small car. “C’mon let’s go, asshole!”
Cole knelt down to observe Kevin sitting behind the wheel and then opened the door. “You don’t look right in this here thing,” he laughed, falling into the Toyota’s interior. He fumbled for the handle under the seat and then slid himself all the way back.
“Don’t even think about it,” Kevin said.
“Puttin’ your muddy-ass feet up on the dashboard,” Kevin said sharply. “This here’s Tabitha’s car. I borrowed it ’cause it’s quiet.”
“Heh, I thought maybe you’d done gone and went all tree-hugger on me,” Cole said with a lop-sided grin.
“Screw off, dude.”
Cole rolled the car’s passenger window down, inviting the damp evening air and the drone of chirping insects into the vehicle’s interior. “So, you got everything I asked for?”
“Yep, look here’s the receipt from the dollar store,” Kevin said, handing the narrow piece of paper to Cole. He reached up and pressed a button activating the small car’s interior light. Several small bugs immediately began to circle the glowing plastic, confusing the tiny bulb inside with the larger Appalachian moon, partially hidden behind the clouds.
Cole examined the printed list of items. “Cool. Now, what about the weapons?”
“The guns?” Kevin verified.
“Yes, the damn guns,” Cole airquoted. “What did you think I meant?”
“Why would you use that word, though? Weapons, said all proper-like.”
“C’mon, Kev, did you forget ’em or something?” Cole asked pointedly and narrowed his eyes.
“No, they’re in the stupid backseat,” Kevin replied in annoyance. “Jesus!”
“Good.” Cole turned to look at the backseat and lifted a tattered patchwork quilt covering four weapons, two AK-47′s and two sawn-off Remington 870 shotguns.
Kevin eyed Cole as he examined the rifles. “You know I don’t necessarily want to pop anyone unless we got to. There might be a couple of my regulars workin’ up there, some of the outside security...”
“I know, and I’m not lookin’ to go all John Wayne in there, either. We already talked about this. No one dies. We’re just shadows, you and me. In and out, like...what did you say? Ninjas?” Cole said, turning to look through the front windshield. “But I also want to make it out alive if push comes to shove.”
“I get that, but you need to know, I will shove all quick like if’n I got to, Cole. Customers or not,” Kevin said as he put the car into drive and pressed the accelerator. He spun the steering wheel, directing the vehicle around in a half circle to head back toward the road. “Oh, speakin’ of guys that work up there, we gotta make a stop on the way. We need to talk to somebody that might be able to help. I was told about this dude named Pete yappin’ his mouth off a couple nights ago in the Roadhouse about gettin’ fired from up there. Phil says Pete was a security guard and can give us a bit more info about gettin’ inside.” The Prius exited the wooded area just outside of town and bounced onto the dark, empty highway.
“So, you finally heard from that idiot?”
“Yeah, I didn’t ask where he’d been, but he said he would get a couple of guys and meet us up by the facility,” Kevin replied.
“Great. Well, let’s go talk to this Pete fella’. I suppose it’s worth a visit to see, you know?” Cole asked.
The small car’s headlights illuminated the sharp, angled end of a rusty, brown and white mobile home as it approached. The decades-old structure was far from any possibility of restoration, teetering on the cusp of being condemned. Barely visible weeds erupting from the shadowy images of decaying automobiles, old tires, and multi-colored appliances littering the yard, were vaguely lit by the vehicles bright beams. The undulating glow from a television could be seen through the thin curtains, someone appeared to be home.
Kevin shut off the car and quietly stepped out, followed by Cole, slamming the passenger side door.
“Oops,” Cole said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Careful, asshole, this ain’t the Camaro, it’s too dainty for all the manhandling,” Kevin snapped.
A single incandescent bulb just above the trailer’s front door flashed on and a large, rotund man in a dirty white tank top stepped out brandishing a double-barreled shotgun. “Whut do you guys want? If you all’s up from Radii, I swore on the Good Book to the Doc that I wasn’t sayin’ nothin’!”
Cole and Kevin looked at each other and then back at the armed man. They both raised their hands.
“Pete? It’s me, Kevin from the Roadhouse. Don’t shoot, bro!”
The barrels of the weapon lowered to the ground. “Oh, Kevin, damn why didn’t you say so. I didn’t recognize you in that chick car. What are ya’ll doing out here?”
“Can we come in and we’ll explain?” Cole asked.
“Sure, sure. Come on, just nevermind the dog if she growls at ya’, she don’t bite none. Tink’s just gettin’ crotchety from age,” Pete said, holding the door for the two men to enter.
The trailer’s interior fared no better than the outside. Every surface, tables and chairs included, were strewn with an assortment of varying sized bottles and aluminum cans; aging magazines and newspapers; as well as other debris. Pete swept a massive arm across the couch, knocking a pile of newspapers on to the ground. “Here ya’ll go, have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Kevin said, sitting down.
A fluffy Pekingese jumped into Cole’s lap as he sat, it turned in a circle, and then lay down. “Hey, you almost look like the dog my kid’s got, but much prettier,” he said, running his fingers through the animals long hair.
“You got a Peke?,” Pete asked. “I love them dogs.”
“Yeah, well, my kids and ex do.”
“Gotcha,” The hefty man said in understanding. “You fellas want a beer?”
“Nah, we’re good. We got work to do tonight,” Kevin replied.
“Sure? Okay,” Pete said, as he plopped down onto an old recliner. “So, why did you come way out here, Kevin? You say you got a job?”
“Well, Pete, I heard you got fired from that Radii place and I thought you might could use a little bit of money,” Kevin said. “How about $300 bucks?”
The man sniffed and cocked his jaw. “Yeah, who can’t use some cash, what is it you need?”
“A little info about your former place of employment,” Cole replied.
Pete quickly sat up in the recliner, the floor underneath the man and the chair creaking loudly. The noise and the sudden activity startled the dog beneath Cole’s hand and sent it scurrying down the hall to some perceived safety. “Man, I don’t know about that,” the former security guard said. “You guys got to understand, the Doc out there, he’s one bad dude. He’ll kill a mofo quick and all, I know it. I ain’t seen it myself, but I heard stories. They do some funky shit out there, I tell ya’.”
“Pete...Pete, calm down, buddy,” Kevin said, lifting his hands in front of him in an attempt to contain the man’s sudden rush of fear. “Nobody’s gonna know you had anything to do with giving us any info. In fact, nobody’s gonna know anything happened.” Kevin turned his head. “Ain’t that right, Cole?”
“Oh...Yeah, yeah. We are just looking for info, that’s all.”
“So, you guys are willing to pay me $300 just to tell you stuff so you can get more info and that’s it?”
“Yes,” the other two men replied in sync.
“Oh shit, why didn’t you just say that?” Pete relaxed. “Alright, what do you want to know?”
“For starters, what would be the best way to get into the facility without being seen?” Cole asked.
“Okay, the best place to get in is next to the pet cemetery in the field behind the facility.”
“The what?” Kevin asked, incredulous. “Pet cemetary?”
“They do some animal experiments in there, I think.”
Cole shook his head and sighed. “Alright, so what side is that on?”
“The northwest corner. There’s no lights and there’s a gap in the security feed’s visibility. For some reason the cameras keep failing. Most of the guys don’t even go around there ’cause they get creeped out by the place. You know there is even this Native American dude that works there and he flat our refuses to step near the area even in the daytime.”
“Great, now once we get inside the fence?”
“You said you just want to get information and that’s it, right?” Pete asked once more, an expression of worry on his face.
Cole suddenly had an idea. “Can I be honest with you, Pete?” Cole felt Kevin’s eyes on him. “We’re trying to get in there to save the animals.”
Pete and Kevin both developed a strange look on their faces.
“So, you two dudes are just wantin’ to help out the puppies in there?” Pete paused, then a smile appeared on his face. “That’s awesome! I would have never took you guys for the save the animals type,” Pete began laughing. “That’s why you are driving that Prius, isn’t it? All of this makes sense, now!”
Kevin blinked and decided to go with it. “Oh yeah, me and Cole, back in high school we used to volunteer at the shelter over in Thompsonville.”
“Wow, I would have never thought...” Pete shook his head back in forth, then returned to relaxing back in the squeaky recliner. “I tell you what; let me make a phone call. My good buddy Terrence is workin’ the night shift. He’s another one that’s got a soft spot for those four-legged critters. I know for a fact, he just got a job driving a school bus over in Jonesville and just ain’t turned in his notice, yet. He’s still getting packed up to move. I’ll explain to him to what you guys are wantin’ to do. I imagine he’ll help out.”
“There isn’t any chance he’s going to say anything, is there?”
“Nah. He’ll at least walk away from the security desk for an hour or so to go take a shit or somethin’.”
Pete pointed a finger at Kevin. “One other thing, Ever since I let that dog out, I heard there hasn’t been any real security inside the facility. They are all out looking for the poor puppy that looks...”
“Thanks a lot, Pete,” Cole interrupted, looking at his Timex wristwatch. “We need to get on down the road to meet up with a couple of other, erm, activists that are supposed to join us.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I hear you.”
“You’re going to make that call, right?” Cole asked as he stood.
“Doing it as soon as you all leave,” the large man replied, sitting up from his chair. “And I had nothin’ to do with this if you guys get caught, understand? I’m only doin’ this for the puppies!”
“Yes, we promise. You had nothing to do with this,” Kevin repeated, extending his hand to the former security guard. “We really appreciate your help...and so do the animals.”
Pete accepted the three $100 dollar bills he was offered with a smile. “Good luck.”