Chapter Thirty Two
The quiet after the explosion was almost as deafening as the blast itself. Larry and Jill lay stunned behind the rocks. Larry had not known what to expect when he threw the snake into the cockpit of the helicopter. He had done it without thinking, the last resort of a frightened, weary man, who was damned if the bad guys were going to get away once again.
“It’s over,” Jill breathed in relief.
“Not quite, Miss Thornton, but almost,” a deep, resonant voice above her said.
She looked up at Francis X. Marley. With the sudden release of stress when the helicopter blew up, she had momentarily forgotten him.
“You should have left it alone, Mr. Wheeler,” the former Senator continued. “One man can’t fight the system…and expect to win.”
“You didn’t have to do any of this. I never knew anything.”
With a shake of the head, Marley said, “Too much was at stake. I couldn’t risk the fact that you might suddenly remember something.”
“What could I have done to hurt you? Even if I had remembered, it would have meant nothing to me.”
“We’ll never know, will we?”
“But, I still don’t understand why,” Larry persisted. “You already had money, power.”
Marley drew himself up as if he were making a speech to Congress, “Someone like you will never understand real power. It’s a more potent drug than anything we sell. One taste of it, just one…and the need for more begins. And money. . .merely the means to more power. I have nothing against you personally, Mr. Wheeler, nor you, my dear. But, you see, I have plans, and if there was even the slightest possibility…well, I’m sure you understand.“
“I understand you’re a murderer,” Jill said coldly.
With an understanding smile, Marley said, “Then, or course, you understand I have nothing to lose by disposing of you. Should have done it months ago instead of waiting to find that film.”
“Joke’s on you, Marley,” Larry said. “The DEA has the film by now. I FedEx it to them yesterday.”
“You…stupid…!” Blood rose in Marley’s face as he screamed in apoplectic rage, ”Do you know what you’ve done? You have jeopardized the future of this country. Don’t you realize that someone must take a firm hand, bring order and obedience to all of the undisciplined, insipid, marching morons?”
“And you think you’re the one to do it?” Larry calmly asked. He could hardly believe the megalomania of this undoubtedly powerful man. “By tomorrow it will all be over for you.”
Cold eyes glared at Larry and Jill. “I very much doubt that, but it’s of no consequence. I will deal with that when the time comes. But as for you two, your time has now arrived. I can’t say it hasn’t been interesting. You were a remarkable subject of study. I almost hate to lose you. But you,” he spat at Jill, “are the most unnecessary piece of this puzzle. I won’t miss you at all. Goodbye, Mr. Wheeler,” and he added sarcastically with a harsh laugh, “Say hello to your wife and son.”
He laughed at his own joke, but as he raised his gun to shoot them, a shot rang out from somewhere above. Marley dropped the gun and grabbed his hand with a cry.
“Marissa!” thought Larry, grateful that his new friend was still alive.
But it wasn’t Marissa. Officers in battle gear exploded onto the scene from every direction, Daniel DeLara and Stanley Lopinski among them. Stan walked up to Marley, weapon pointed at his most vulnerable spot.
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Director. You’re under arrest,” Stan smiled, motioning another officer to handcuff the Senator.
“You idiot!” Marley blustered. “You’re pointing the gun at the wrong man. These are dangerous drug dealers. I have just taken them into custody. I demand to speak with your leader.”
DeLara ran to them from inspecting the nearby bodies. Ignoring Marley, he said, “You okay, Wheeler? This Miss Thornton? Glad you’re both still alive.”
Larry nodded while Jill resumed working on the leg wound.
“Bullet wound?” DeLara asked.
Jill looked up and shook her head, “Rattlesnake.”
“Gonzales, find O’Connor. He’s gonna have to fly that helicopter. We have wounded.”
“Don’t bother with him,” Marley protested. “He’s a drug dealer, I tell you. He shot me; I’m in terrible pain. Can’t you see that I’m the one who needs a doctor? I’m Senator Francis X. Marley. I demand to be taken care of.”
“Stan, take our fearless leader over there,” DeLara nodded to the rocks where Raymond’s body lay. “Keep him away from me, understand? We wouldn’t want anything to happen him before we get him back to civilization.”
Stan nodded and started pulling the struggling man to the other side of the beach.
DeLara called after Marley, “Don’t worry, Senator. Someone will get to you in a minute.”
DeLara decided Larry was in good hands with Jill, so he dashed off to check on the other officers who were searching the river and the trail above.
A voice called down from the aerie where Marissa and Larry had spent so many cold hours, “Found another one. A woman.”
DeLara looked up at him. “Alive or dead?”
“Alive. Just unconscious. Got a pretty nasty head wound.”
Downstream, another officer found the body of the third man from the raft. The current had been pushed it into a small eddy at the side of the river, where it became entangled with dead branches, which had gathered to form a small dam. The smoking remains of the helicopter lay on the other side of the river, two charred bodies were also found, one inside, one apparently welded into the metal by the intense heat.
“Hey, Gordo,” one of the officers called from the river, “Look what I found. A boat full of money.” He added sarcastically, “Wonder what they were gonna to buy?”
Officer Gonzales helped load Larry and Marissa into the back seat of the helicopter. Jill wanted to sit with Larry, but the officer requested that she sit up front with him in order to balance the aircraft for flight.
As she watched the ground recede, she saw someone bandage Marley’s wounded hand and shoulder and then place the restraints around his wrist. She He was shouting at the officer, who ignored him, but the words were lost in the noise of the helicopter.