Deceit Among The Pack

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Chapter 16

CHAPTER 16-MY GHOST OR YOURS

As soon as the kids were in bed we all prayed together and we even prayed for the guards that died and their families. Then, I gave the kids a kiss goodnight and tucked them in before heading downstairs. When I got to the table Logan already had the file spread out and everyone was already looking over everything. I noticed the way that Logan was looking at the crime scene photos of the guard’s bodies and how they were put on display after being killed. He honestly looked sick. I felt so bad for him because I knew he blamed himself.

“Logan, what is it you’re thinking? I can practically hear you blaming yourself for them being murdered.”

“It is my fault; all of it! These innocent people wouldn’t have been killed if I had just done what you told me and stayed out of things and let you guys take care of that monster. And now six people are getting buried while their families have to go on living with the grief of losing a loved one. All of this could have been prevented if I had just stayed put! You were right! The entire time you were right. It was all about me and my ego and because of me these poor people went through hell for something they didn’t do; for something I did wrong.”

“Wow! Poor you! Six people have died and you have managed to turn it around and make it about you. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever seen that done. Please, by all means, continue your pity party. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to hearing more about you in the wake of everything that’s happened. Here, please, use my gun. That way you dying will be my fault. I’d love to turn some kind of tragedy around so I can get the attention.”

“Christiaan please stop. You have no idea what this feels like.”

“Actually, I do! I’ve been the one to make a mistake and lost innocents because of it and I damn near ate my gun because the guilt was killing me. That was how Rain found me. She found me as a broken, drunk Los Angeles cop that was about to eat his gun to make the guilt go away. She taught me that it was a mistake that we all have to live with when we do the job we do. Go ahead. Ask any one of us in this room. You’d be surprised to find out that every one of us have been in that same state of mind.”

Logan looked around at everyone in the room, looking at me last. When he had that questioning gaze I shook my head yes telling him that even I have made that mistake and had the same guilt over it.

“Logan, I felt the same way as you do right now. You should know considering I was with you when we lost Jill. I reacted a split second too late and she got shot taking a bullet that was meant for me. You have no idea how bad I wanted to break but I knew that if I did then I wouldn’t be able to get what needs to be done finished. She deserved better than being an unsolved case, and so do those guards. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. Yes, you should have listened and let us take care of Josh, but you didn’t and he got away. Okay, now you know that if I tell you not to do something, then don’t do it. Now it’s time to move on and help us figure out how to catch this man and kill him.”

“Hey Christiaan, you can put your gun away. And thanks. Just as an FYI for next time, there are better ways of getting your point across than handing me a loaded gun and telling me to shoot myself.”

“It worked didn’t it?”

“Ass! Now, will you hand me that damned report so I can see what John has in it?”

Logan took the file from Madison and started going through it trying to find something we could use to catch this animal. Jojo tried to hand me the photos but I shook my head. That seemed to get everyone’s attention since that was something I rarely ever did. Turning down crime scene photos was very out of the ordinary.

“I remember very well what the crime scene was with vivid details. I don’t need to see it again.”

I was reading through the coroner’s report when something caught my attention. The coroner stated he couldn’t figure out the exact cause of death on any of the guards that were killed. They all had blunt force trauma and all were skinned alive, but they didn’t die from the head wound or from blood loss and none of the arteries were hit while they were being skinned. The findings were inconclusive. I reread what the report stated and then I read it out loud to the others. Everyone looked just as confused as I was. The toxicology report stated there were no abnormalities.

We all sat there looking at each other and discussing what could have been used to kill them without showing up in the toxicology report or in the autopsy. The coroner that did the autopsy was one of the best in the world and he was stumped. We sat there running through possibilities and the entire time Logan, Gary and the body guards were looking at us like we were monsters too. It made me chuckle a little when I saw the faces they were making about the things we were saying.

I decided it was time for us to watch the security footage of last night’s attack to see exactly what happened. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this. We walked into the office and I pulled up the footage from last night and none of us were prepared for what was on the recording. We watched as a man I had never seen before came into the building and had men blitz attack our guards and drag them all to the large picture window before tying them up. Once that was done the ten men surrounded the guards and started taking out the things they brought. To my great surprise it wasn’t Mr. Tressler that had done this heinous crime. That doesn’t mean he didn’t set this plan in motion, but he didn’t carry out this plan himself.

Once the guards started coming to the other men started getting them into the positions they wanted. Dave, the head guard, was the first to wake and noticed the terrible situation immediately and tried to fix things as best as he could.

“Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but take whatever it is you want. We won’t fight you. If you feel the need to hurt someone then hurt me, but please leave these young ones alone. They still have their entire lives ahead of them. They don’t need to die now. I’m their boss and they do what I say, so if I tell them to let you do whatever it is you’re here to do, they will.”

Dave sat there looking at the men trying to let what he said sink in and I think praying that they would not kill them. He was wrong and a second later he knew it.

“I’m not here to mess around. We came here to kill all of you so we can send a message to someone we know will be watching this. Now, if you want to be noble then I will allow you to make one request and if it’s a good one then maybe I will honor it. So, Mr. Head Guard, what is your request?”

Dave never missed a beat. “Do what you want to me but if you have to hurt them then please do it quickly or make sure they feel no pain.”

The mystery man laughed a little but kept his gaze intent on Dave for a few moments. Then he answered him. “Okay, I think I’ll do just that. Here’s the plan. We’re going to skin you…alive; all of you. I’ll make sure I give them a paralytic so they feel no pain as you requested. But you; I’m going to give you something to slow you’re heart rate so you don’t go into cardiac arrest from the pain of being skinned as well as a blood thickener so you don’t bleed out. This is going to be the most pain you’ve ever endured in your life. Then, once I have you strung up on display for the other workers, I’ll put you out of your misery.”

“Do me a favor. Please leave my face and hands intact for my wife. She will want an open casket. After fifty years of marriage she deserves to have the open casket to say good-bye.”

“Wow! I’m impressed. No begging or pleading for your life? That’s a first. You know, because you’ve been such a good sport I think I can honor those wishes. I mean, hell, we all have loved ones that want to say good-bye. We’ll leave your hands and face alone. Everything from the neck up so you will still look good in your suit.”

“Thank you. I’m ready to go. I just have a question for you if you don’t mind entertaining a dying man’s last wishes. Why are you doing this? Who is it you’re trying to get back at?”

“Dave is it? I’m trying to make a statement to someone who left me for dead more than twenty years ago. He betrayed me and he needs to pay. And as soon as he finds out who did this and why and it will eat at him for the rest of his life.”

“Well there are a lot of innocent people here that don’t deserve to die so I hope whatever he did to make you come to this was worth it.”

“Oh, believe me, it’s worth it. He knows exactly what he did and now it’s time he feels the pain that I’ve felt for years.”

With the end of the conversation two lackeys of his grabbed Dave and brought him to the exact spot this man told them to. As promised he gave Dave two injections straight into the curated artery. Then he apologized to Dave for the pain and began cutting his skin off of him while Dave tried restraining his screams of pain but failed when the pain became too great. The skinning went on for more than an hour. When he was finished he had Dave strung up in front of the windows as promised. All of the other guards looked absolutely terrified. When Sam, the youngest guard, was brought up next he was given the same two injections as well as a paralytic so he wouldn’t feel the pain as Dave had requested. Then the skinning of him began. I was surprised to see that they had left all of the guard’s faces and hands like Dave asked for the funerals.

After these men were finished skinning and killing all of my guards the leader walked over to where he was standing directly in front of the camera. He stood there for a few moments making sure we got a good look at his face. Then he spoke. What he said surprised the hell out of me more than what I would have thought possible.

“Gary, you left me to die years ago. I didn’t die. Instead I was saved by the very people we were sent to kill. You betrayed me. I’ve been watching you for quite some time and I think it’s time you know I’m here and I’m coming for you. I will destroy everything and everyone you hold dear. Especially the woman you think of like a daughter and the kids you think of as grandchildren. A horrible thing, what happened to your real daughter. An accident right? Or was it? I’ve been in your life for years and you never noticed. Well, now you can’t ignore me anymore. I’m coming for you!”

When the man walked away and out of the building I stopped the DVD and told Jojo to go get Gary but not to tell him why I wanted him. He did and was back less than a minute later. I rewound the DVD and told Gary to come have a seat where I had been sitting because he needed to see the security feed. He didn’t argue or hesitate but honestly, I don’t think he was prepared for what he saw on that screen.

When the image was over Gary was shaking all over and looked like he was about to go into a full blown panic attack. I felt horrible for him and didn’t know how to help him. It took Gary about fifteen minutes to calm down enough to talk to me, though he was far from calm.

“That’s James Phoenix. He was my battle buddy when I was Special Forces. He was our medic. About twenty-six years ago we were on a classified mission to capture or kill the leader of a supposed terrorist group in Kuwait. We were supposed to be in and out within twelve hours, before anyone knew we were there, but things didn’t go as planned, as if any of them really do. When we were inside the compound the leader of the group was supposedly hiding out in we found ourselves in the middle of a fire fight with more than forty men. As it turned out the compound was actually a hide out for the rebels hiding from their government. They thought we were there to kill them for refusing to fight in their war. We tried drawing their attention for hours so we could talk to them just to let them know we weren’t there to kill them for being deserters but they were too afraid to stop fighting.

“The fight went on for more than two days back and forth. We were all wounded and many of their men were killed. One of our guys had been killed already and Phoenix was near dead. Or so we thought. After we missed check in for the sixth time the government decided we failed and were all dead and they were just going to blow up the compound we were at. We heard them call for the airstrike but our coms were damaged so we weren’t able to call off the bombs. We decided we weren’t going to live through this unless we got the hell out of there any way we could, and that meant jumping out of the third story window for us.

“When we were getting ready to jump we tried getting Phoenix but he was already dead we thought. We weren’t able to finds a pulse on him. So we gathered up his dog tags and Cooper’s, our communications man, and we took off in a dead sprint and jumped out of the window. We got lucky because there was a man with a wagon full of hay bales coming through at that exact moment and we landed in the back of his wagon which is probably the only reason we lived. We hit the ground running full speed ahead trying to get as far away from there as possible before the air strike. The man driving the wagon followed us and when we were about a half mile away he asked us what was happening. We were a little stunned he spoke English and even more so that he was willing to take the time to see what was going on instead of trying to shoot us. We told him the air strike was coming and he paled instantly.

“He radioed into someone inside the compound to let them know and I guess the survivors took off into an underground tunnel that connected to the compound. The man sat and watched as the place his family was in exploded into a raging inferno. The man sat there crying for about an hour then he patched us up and gave us some food and water. After he was done he explained to us that the compound was filled with women, children and young men that were trying to escape the war as well as old men that were trying to save as many injured soldiers as possible. There was a man there that was considered to be one of the most widely known activist in Kuwait, and their government had been searching for him for years so they could silence him. That was the man we were sent to kill.

“The man sheltered us and snuck us back to the base where we were supposed to be extracted from. Then he said a prayer for us and went back to try to find whatever survivors he could and we never heard from him again. We all were pissed that we were lied to and used to do some damn political stunt. We made such a big stink about it that we were all thrown out of Special Forces and we even had our security clearance revoked for a while. Well, until they needed us again, actually. We were the only team that could do what needed to be done for the mission they had. They had already sent four other teams, but they had all failed. We were all expendable. Only two of us made it out of that compound that day, but none of us really survived it. Phoenix was like my brother. I had such a hard time getting over losing him. And now I find out that he wasn’t dead this whole time. Not only was he not dead but he turned into a monster and killed innocent people because he thinks I wronged him somehow.”

“Gary, he mentioned your daughter. You never told me you had a daughter. What happened to her?”

“About ten years ago, when Allison was 16, she was going to her boyfriend’s graduation party and she was hit by big rig that ran a red light. She was t-boned and the car was completely mangled to the point where you couldn’t even recognize what kind of car it was. Allison’s skull was crushed. I couldn’t even recognize her in the hospital. She was on life support for almost a month but she was completely brain dead. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore so I let them pull the plug. The day I buried her was the worst day of my life. I went into a very long drunken depression and stayed like that until about five years ago. I don’t believe Phoenix had anything to do with Allison’s death though, since he was her godfather. I saw the man that killed Allison. I was in the court room every day to make sure he paid for what he did. He was drunk when he hit her and he got life in prison.”

“Gary, I know this is hard for you but I have to ask you. Is there any way that the man that hit your daughter may have not been the person that killed her?”

“I know that Phoenix has done some very horrific things lately but I don’t think he would have hurt Allison. He loved her like she was his own daughter. I mean, yeah, the man that killed her claimed that someone put liquor into his insulin, so when he took it he actually injected himself with alcohol and that was what caused him to be drunk and that caused the crash. But the court didn’t buy it and neither did I. I just chalked it up to the fact that he got busted drinking and driving and he was trying to keep from going to prison, or to be on death row. Do you really think it wasn’t an accident? I mean how could Phoenix have possibly switched that man’s insulin with liquor and know that he was going to run that red light at that exact moment and that Allison was going to be in that same intersection at the same time?”

“Gary, I’m so sorry, but I don’t think it was an accident. This man knew you and Allison; he’s obviously been following you for years and knows your every move. He knows that you’ve been working for me and the kids and how close we all are. He sees that you’re happy, or happier than you were, and he doesn’t want you to be. That’s why he picked our building to find innocent people to kill because he knew that you would see the video footage and that their deaths would make a large impact on you. Honestly, I think he’s been watching you for years. If he was wounded there, almost critically, and that was where he stayed for years then I think he may have been brain washed. That would really be the only reason why he may have attacked or attempted to hurt you through Allison, no matter how much he loved her.”

Gary just sat there looking at me with that gut wrenching look on his face. I couldn’t tell if he was feeling angry or betrayed. I stood there watching him to see what happens. I didn’t want to say anything right away because it felt like he needed to process the information given. After about five minutes Gary looked like a deer in the headlights as he started putting something together mentally. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was that was coming to the forefront of Gary’s attention, but I knew that whatever it was was causing him to start putting a very dangerous puzzle together very quickly. I could tell that Gary was about to implode. His pupils were pinned and he was turning as red as an apple. After a few seconds I noticed he was starting to turn blue so I gently patted his shoulder. That seemed to bring him back to reality.

“Rain, I….I don’t know what to say. Hell, I don’t know what to think anymore. I think I may be losing my mind. I can’t even think about all of this. I can’t think about my best friend being responsible for the death of my daughter. I don’t know what I could have possibly done to push Phoenix to kill six innocent people. Why would he do this? Why does he hate me? I almost died taking three bullets while trying to pull him to safety. I couldn’t use my left arm for almost a year and that was after surgeries and therapy.”

“Okay, let’s take things one at a time. How do you think Phoenix could have killed the security guards without it showing up on the toxicology report or the autopsy?”

“I don’t know honestly. He was a pathologist before he was in the Army, and one of the best, so he knows everything that will and won’t turn up in the reports.”

“Try to think about every conversation you two have had. See if you can remember everything he may have mentioned for possibilities to kill someone without getting caught. Does anything come to mind?”

It took Gary about three minutes of pacing back and forth before he stopped mid stride and looked up at me with his mouth half open. “Fibrinogen. It stabilizes your blood platelets to slow down blood flow. It won’t show up in the reports because your body naturally makes it and you metabolize it quickly. He always said that it would be a quick and easy way to kill someone and leave no trace. Vitamin K wouldn’t leave a trace either.”

Christiaan stopped and said, “Wait a second here. Phoenix skinned the guards, yes, but we didn’t find any of their skin. What do you think he did with that? Do you think that maybe he could have taken it with him to use as skin grafts or lamps and stuff or something along those lines?”

“No, Christiaan, he wouldn’t be able to use the extracted skin for anything like that because the skin is no different than an organ transplant. Whoever it was he was trying to use it for would have to be a match for the skin he took and those people would have to be on meds to keep their bodies from rejecting the donor skin and those meds would be easy to track. Also he would only be able to keep that skin on them for a couple of weeks before it would have to be removed and more skin put on to replace it until that person’s skin began growing back. As far as the making lamps and stuff, well, he’d have to dry the skin out and then have it oiled down with special combinations of oils and things which he most likely doesn’t know since that isn’t really something that’s widely taught.”

Logan said, “Do I even want to know how you know all of that?”

Christiaan replied, “Dude, haven’t you learned by now? Rain knows everything! No matter what the hell it is or off the wall.”

“Christiaan, I would hardly say I know everything about everything. There’s no one in the world that knows everything. I read a lot. You know that. I can’t help it if I remember everything I read or everything I hear or even see. You know I also spent a long time with the M.E. and the doctors and Forensic Techs.”

Everyone just looked at me and rolled their eyes almost as if saying ‘Yeah Right’ but I ignored their mocking smirks.

“I’m more concerned with the fact that if this man used those things to kill these people and it doesn’t leave behind a trace then how could we possibly tell if he did use that for a fact and how can we tie him to these murders forensically and whatever other crimes he may have committed. Like Gary’s daughter for instance.”

Everyone sat there looking at me like I had snakes for hair but no one said anything. We all stood there contemplating what we were going to do to make those connections. The fact was that if there really was no trace of evidence left behind of what this man used to kill my guards then we had nothing. Don’t get me wrong, we had the security footage of him killing those men so we could tie him to all the murders but a jury won’t like the lack of evidence we have right now, so we needed to find something. Anything really.

As I was standing there trying to figure out what we should do I started getting a fuzzy feeling like I used to get when I was younger and living on the reservation with my grandmother. She told me it was my ancestors trying to communicate with me to lead me on the path I was supposed to be on, but that has always scared me some so I had always pushed that feeling away and tried ignoring it. I ignored those feelings so much that I actually had quit having them altogether so I wasn’t quite sure why I was having this feeling now or even what brought it on but this time it was so strong I couldn’t fight it so I stood there and let it come.

I could vaguely hear Logan in the back ground trying to talk to me and then I heard some movement and the rest of my team talking to Logan. After what seemed like only a few seconds I could make out the sounds of them leaving the room but I didn’t hear anything from them after that.

I was instantly whooshed to what looked to be the grounds that my home sat on. Then I saw Mr. Tressler and the people he brought with him in an attempt to kill us. I watched as they destroyed my home and as my team and I killed them all. It was like I was standing there watching my life as if it were on television. The next thing I saw was Logan fighting Mr. Tressler in the yard, then getting stabbed and me running to check on him. Next, I went to the passenger seat of the SUV that Mr. Tressler sped off in after running away from me. I sat there listening to him on the phone with someone, and telling them that the attack on me had failed so he is to move onto the next stage in their plan. I then went to watch some meeting with Tressler and Phoenix as they sat there talking about who they needed to kill and how to do it without leaving a trace. Fibrinogen was what was used. Gary was right. I watched as Phoenix killed our guards and as Phoenix dictated what needed to be done and when. I watched as they stole the hard drives from our office and how they planted a bomb in my office, Logan’s office, the conference room, and even the gym and employee cafeteria.

After I saw the bombs I was whisked to what had to be the place Tressler and Phoenix were staying at and I could tell it was going on at that very moment. They were discussing the next phase of their plan which was bringing in the sleepers they had in place at the kid’s school, the hospital where Kristi worked, Homeland Security and sitting outside of the reservation where my grandmother was. They were also talking to people that I have seen at one point or another in my day to day tasks. Finally, I was thrown forward what looked to be a week and I watched as my grandmother was slaughtered, my sister was murdered, my kids were blown up and my team assassinated all in front of me before my throat was finally slashed. I swear it felt so real I felt as if I were choking on my blood. The entire time I lay there bleeding out Tressler and Phoenix laughed at me while they gloated about how they had won.

When I thought it was all over and I was going to wake up any time I got one final surprise. My mother came to me. It felt so real it seemed as though I could smell her. She gently put her hand on my face before she spoke to me.

“My daughter, I am so proud of the woman you’ve grown to be. You’re strong, and beautiful and so very smart. But you have to learn that you can’t keep going the way you’ve been going. You won’t survive it as I have shown you. No one will survive it unless you accept that some things are out of your control. You need to learn to rely on the people that you’ve brought into this life, the same way they trust you. Don’t ever forget, you are Cherokee. My blood runs through your veins. Being who you are can never weaken you but denying it can. You have to embrace who you are if you want to be at your strongest. You have a lot to live for and no matter how lonely you feel, I am always right here beside you every step of the way just like I have always been. I have never left your side. I know your life has caused you pain, but it’s time to let that go and move on. It’s time you stop pushing your emotions down all the time. You need to feel. Those emotions are what make you who you are. And stop worrying about losing Logan. That man loves you more than you will ever know and he will never leave you. He’s a fighter just like you are. That’s why I picked him for you. Now, you need to wake and do what you have to do to protect your family and friends. Never deny who you are again. Any time you want to see me all you have to do is think of me and feel me beside you. Look and see what your future could be.”

I was projected forward twenty years and I was at Jesse’s wedding, then at Rory’s college graduation, and Eliana and Angelo’s high school graduation and finally, my babies’ sweet sixteen. I couldn’t believe how happy I felt in that exact moment. The maternal joy in that vision was blinding. And there was Logan, still right there beside me beaming with joy at the children he’s loved and raised. I looked from my children to my right to see my mother standing right there beside me through everything as she promised and the joy on her face was unmistakable as well. My vision slowly started coming back into focus and I realized I was crying with tears of joy.

As I walked out of the room and back into the kitchen Madison had heard me coming and made me a cup of coffee. She handed me my coffee right as I walked into the kitchen and everyone stood up looking at me, waiting for some sort of explanation as to what happened in there. I started to say something but then stopped because I wasn’t sure what to say to them exactly. That was when I noticed the sun coming up through the blinds. When I realized it was morning I glanced down at my watch and couldn’t believe I had been in the office in a trance for more than eight hours as my mother showed me everything she wanted me to see. It was now 7:30 A.M. and Kellan would be calling me in about fifteen minutes to let me know what, if anything had happened throughout the night.

I smiled at everyone and walked over to Logan. I sat down on his lap and kissed him with more love and appreciation than I think I had ever shown him. He noticed the difference as well.

He said, “Careful not to kiss me like that. I may have to lay you down on this table or throw you over my shoulder and carry you to bed whether these guys like it or not.”

Logan was smiling and there was a hint of amusement in his voice but when he noticed I didn’t stop smiling at him or say anything about him saying that in front of my team he cocked his head to the side and asked me what was up. The only response I could come up with at the time was telling him how much I loved him. Then I told everyone to get around because we would be going into the office in a bit after I talked to Becky and Gary about the kids not going to school and why, as well as alerting the bodyguards about the situation. I told everyone else I would fill them in after we got to the Winters building. I did forewarn them not to go in until I got there because there was something that needed to be done. No one batted an eye as this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I frequently knew something was wrong before anyone else did. As my mother told me, I’m Cherokee and its part of who I am. I also made one last phone call telling Kristi to call into work and to come stay at my house right away because she was in danger. Jojo immediately ran out of the house and I knew he was headed straight to Kristi’s apartment to get her and bring her here himself before we went into work.

David commented at the way I was acting. “Mom showed you something didn’t she? That was that trance state you were in. She was showing you something and talking to you wasn’t she?”

“Yes, Bubba, Mom did. I’ll explain soon.” David just smiled at me. No one here could ever possibly know what I had just experienced except for my caring, protective older brother. I have never been so proud to be who I am was until right then.

Today was going to be a very busy, very productive day and honestly I couldn’t wait to get started and get the things done that were in dire need to be finished. I also had to tell Gary that what happened with the security guards was not his fault. When I told him that he seemed very stumped as to how I could know that but I assured him I would give him the entire story soon.

Almost an hour later we were all changed and heading to the Winters building to get started on the day’s assignment. Once inside the building we went to the elevator and we headed upstairs. When we stepped off the elevator we started heading towards the conference room and mine and Logan’s offices. Once inside I walked over and removed the bomb from where it was hidden and started defusing it. Everyone stood there looking at me like I was some freak because I had just known where a bomb was that someone else had planted.

After about two minutes I was finished with that bomb and made my way to Logan’s office to defuse that one. After finishing that one I went into the conference room to defuse the last bomb, but I was not expecting the surprise I got when I uncovered the bomb from its hiding place. There was a timer counting down and there was only a minute and a half left on it. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue but this bomb was far more complex than the other two with having four triggers and multiple kinds of explosives mixed together. I guess Tressler was going for the biggest impact he could get without leveling the entire building. With the amount of explosives in front of me almost all of the top half of the floors would be blown to smithereens.

Damn, I didn’t know what the hell to do because I was certain that I couldn’t defuse a bomb of this complexity in just over a minute. I don’t know what to do because I know the elevator wouldn’t be able to get up to get the people here and back down so they could get them out of the building before the bomb blew. I was going to have to defuse it. There were four different detonators on this one and I was betting that they weren’t identical to the two I had already defused which means there would be some tricks to this one. What kind of tricks did Tressler have up his sleeve?

The timer was down to forty-five seconds. I looked at the bomb top and bottom, side to side, and it didn’t look like there was a remote detonator on it so I stood there killing one trigger after another, but when I got to the last one, the wire I cut made the timer loose ten seconds. I was down to twenty seconds. Then I cut another wire and BAM! Down to ten seconds. Well shit. If I don’t get it right this time we’re all going to have to be mopped up by the police.

Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One, holy shit. Then I cut the blue wire. All was silent. When I turned and looked at everyone they were all standing with their eyes closed and Logan was standing there, not only with his eyes closed, but with his whole face scrunched up like he was in pain. After a couple more seconds everyone opened their eyes and looked at me.

“Damn, that was a little too close for comfort, Rain. Next time will you please make sure that you get the bomb defused before it almost blows?” Jojo commented.

“Yeah, because it was my choice to let the timer wind down and then kill the bomb. But it was so much fun.” I said sarcastically.

They all made a face at me like I was some crazy person that enjoyed almost blowing up. Maybe ten years ago that would have been a fun adrenalin rush but now that I’m pregnant and have kids it wasn’t as much fun. Thanks, but no thanks.

When I sat the bomb down on the table I went around and started taking out the listening devices Tressler had installed along with the bombs. My team and Logan still stood there and watched me as I was taking all the listening devices out and putting them on the conference room table. No one made a sound or even said a word while I was getting everything. Now that they knew there were listening devices stored in here they weren’t going to give anyone any information they had, or the benefit of hearing them angry about what they had just gone through.

I told Christiaan to call the bomb squad and let them know that we had five bombs here that were defused but needed to be picked up and gotten rid of. I went down to grab and defuse the bombs in the gym and the cafeteria quickly before the bomb squad arrived or they blew up, and I was glad to see they were the simple triggers like the ones that were in mine and Logan’s offices. The bomb squad techs weren’t happy about the fact that we had gone into the building knowing there were explosives in there and even more angry that I had defused them instead of calling the bomb squad to come and do the job themselves. When Christiaan explained that there were timers on them and they wouldn’t have made it there in time they were still pissed saying they would have had they known about the bombs as soon as we did. Christiaan said something sarcastic and hung up. That didn’t stop them from ranting when they got there.

As the bomb techs were gathering up the bombs I had defused one of them commented on the complexity of the bomb and asked how I knew how to defuse them. When I told him I did some work with EOD in the military, he seemed very surprised. I guess the fact that I’m a petite woman gives people the impression that I don’t do dangerous things; or I can’t do them. One of the two. After a few more minutes all of the police and bomb techs started packing up and leaving but the bomb tech that asked me how I defused the bombs when they were so complex was still standing there staring at me with some sort of weird smirk on his face.

I gave the man a weird ‘stop staring at me’ glance and he finally noticed he was staring but before he had a chance to walk away, or even look away, Logan walked over and put his arm around my waist and told the man I was married so he didn’t need to stare. I felt a little strange that Logan did that because I wasn’t sure why he did it exactly. I didn’t think the man was staring at me because he liked me considering he didn’t even know me but that was what Logan thought apparently. When he was in the elevator Logan looked at me and commented about the exchange.

“I don’t think you realize how beautiful, smart, talented and desirable you are to men. That man was completely smitten by not just the site of you but how intelligent you are with complex things. Now, since they’re all gone and you’ve destroyed all of the listening devices that were planted here can you please tell us how you knew the devices were there and how those bombs were there? Oh and how to defuse them and what exactly it was that happened last night.”

“Well, Logan, I had a vision of my mother. She told me a lot of things. She also showed me many different things. Some of those things were the bombs, their locations, as well as the listening devices and their locations. She showed me who was behind the attack on our people here and why. I saw what our future would be if I didn’t change some things and what it would be if I did change those things. She also told me how proud she was of me and how she’s been with me every step of the way trying to guide me when I needed it, or I should say when I let her help me, and being there to protect me when I needed it, which was frequently. I know now what I have to do, and what we all have to do, as well as how I can capture Tressler and Phoenix and where they are.

“On another note I do have something to say to all of you. Christiaan, Jojo, Madison, Berdina, David, I know I’ve spoken to you guys about how we have to trust each other for us to function properly but then I didn’t trust anyone completely and did a lot of things on my own. For that, I’m sorrier than you could possibly imagine. You guys are my family and I would do anything for all of you. I trust you guys with my life and it’s about time I started acting like it. Logan, I know I’ve been hard on you and even haven’t trusted you at times but that was because I was scared of losing you, whether that is by death or you leaving, so I put up a barrier and wouldn’t let you past a certain point. I wouldn’t let myself get past a certain point with you. That stops today; right now. I love you and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you and our family. All of our family.”

As I was talking to my team and Logan everyone stood there and gave appreciative glances and Logan looked like he was so full of pride he was about to burst.

“I told you already, Rain, I will never leave you! Ever! There isn’t anything strong enough in this world to pry me away from you. I love you and I would do anything for you. Even if that means taking every day of the rest of my life proving that to you before you let your guard down. I’m not going anywhere. I found my perfect woman and I have no intention of letting you get away from me, because even one day without you would kill me.”

This time I felt like I was going to cry and I wasn’t the emotional kind so this was a first for me. I walked the foot between Logan and me when I was done talking to everyone and I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him as affectionately as I could to show him that what he said meant so much to me.

A few seconds later we all sat down and I began filling in all the details for everyone on where we’re going to attack and why, where our points of entry will be, how many people will be there, what booby traps would be waiting for us, and even what time we need to attack so everyone would be there. Everyone seemed shocked that I had all of that information, though their impression was more towards thoroughly impressed as opposed to shock. Madison even commented that she wished she could have the visions I have for her life so she knows what choices she should make and how to be the best person, soldier, and mom she could be as a result from it. When she said that everyone’s heads whipped around to her astonished that she just admitted she was pregnant. I smiled at her because I was so happy for her pregnancy and that she admitted it to our team. I figured it was a good time to admit it as well, so that was exactly what I did. Logan’s head turned to me so quickly that I was afraid he would break his neck.

His mouth was open so wide just like his eyes and a few heart beats later he was grabbing me and lifting me twirling me in the air. When he put me down he dropped to one knee and put his ear to my belly talking to our unborn babies. Everyone smiled and congratulated me and Madison but she told everyone not to say anything about that just yet, at least until she was able to tell Ben herself. We all understood and we all reassured her that we wouldn’t say a thing until she told us we could. Of course the guys had to say they had a feeling that we were which was why they made sure we landed on them that night of the attack at my house after the explosion threw us all across the room.

I had to admit to them that I figured they knew but that I was glad they waited for us to say something instead of saying something themselves, therefore giving us our privacy and will to announce that in our own time. After sitting back down we all went over the plan we had in place one more time making sure we had every detail in place so all we had to do was attack when ready. I made sure to have Berdina get Kellan, Jenni, Jamie and Nick to come back and watch the building. They’d be the guards temporarily until we had full time guards hired and trained which should be within the next few days. Well, the hiring process anyway. I already had put an ad in the newspaper as well as contacting temp agencies and the VA. Being completely honest I’m hoping the VA sends me enough vets that need jobs because I prefer to hire disabled veterans who are looking for jobs or veterans that have retired and are just looking for something extra to compensate their monthly income with. Students working their way through school are always a preference for me as well.

After our meeting everyone disbursed to do things they needed to do. Logan and I started planning the benefit for the murdered guards’ families as well as contacting those families to make sure they weren’t having any issues planning those funerals and if they were already planned then getting the information so we could attend as well as informing our other employees so they have the opportunities to attend if they’d like. After getting all of the information I contacted the funeral homes they all said they were using to reiterate that they are not to send the bill of the funeral and burial to the families because my husband and I would be swinging by to get it paid in a couple of hours. Everyone was more than complacent with that and I was very pleased to see that all of the families did as I asked and picked what they liked regardless of price so they could have the final good-bye of their loved one the way they wanted instead of settling for something just because it was cheap and what they could afford.

Right then the contractor called me telling me that our house was almost finished, and none too soon, so we could swing by when we had some time so we can check the work and make sure it was exactly what I wanted before they packed up and signed off saying the project was complete. I told them we would be swinging by there in a couple hours on our way home.

At least something good came out of all of this horror and tragedy. I was so completely super excited to get us moved into the new house where everyone fits so we all had some leg room. Logan also informed me that he had plans of giving his home to Madison and Ben as their wedding/baby gift. I thought they would absolutely love that. Not that either couldn’t buy a home if they wanted but why bother if u can get a home without the cost?

Almost two hours later Logan and I finished up getting to the funeral homes and cemeteries as well as the site where our new home was built signing off on the work and collecting the blue prints of the house like we did every night after they clocked out and got ready to leave, even having a guard stand on site to make sure there were no copies made of the blue prints and none were taken off site. With my enemies I thought it best to make sure that no one knows the layout of my home. I even have the property listed under a different name, as well as all utilities, so nothing comes back to me or Logan. I won’t let what happened a couple of weeks ago happen to my family again if I can help it.

Once home I informed everyone to start packing because the new home was finished and that I was going to have the movers here in two days to transport everything to the new home. Everyone seemed excited and got to the packing right away; All except for my team and I. We went over our plans one last time after changing clothes to get into something more tactical and we set off for the safe house where Tressler and Phoenix were hiding like cowards. Of course Gary demanded he was going along so he could face Phoenix before he was killed so he could get some answers. I told him I knew he was going to want to come along and expected things would happen this way so I had no intention of trying to stop him. I thought he at least deserved that much. He conveyed such appreciation that I didn’t try stopping him when this was something he felt he had to do, and that I understood why he had to do this. The truth was how could I deny this man something this big in his life when I was doing the exact same thing?

An hour and a half later I pulled into a driveway five houses down from the safe house we needed to be at and we sat there in silence until it was time to go which was twenty minutes later. I could almost feel the adrenalin and eagerness that was coming off of everyone in the SUV; Gary especially. We were all overly ready to have this finished and behind us and now that the time is on us we were even more eager than we normally would have been. This was what we have been trying to do for the past eight years, even when we didn’t realize it. Tonight, we’ll take no prisoners and everyone was clear on that. The only thing was, this wasn’t the end. It was only the beginning.

IF THE DESIRE TO KILL AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO KILL CAME ALWAYS TOGETHER, WHO WOULD ESCAPE HANGING?-MARK TWAIN

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