Risby watched as the last threads of light began to fade from the sky. The sun had set an hour ago, and the pinks and reds of dusk were growing dim. It was time to attack. He gave the signal and moved stealthily forward, taking advantage of the shelter that the few trees and shrubs provided.
Adrian’s informant had revealed that there were six guards positioned throughout the warehouse and two on the dock- eight guards in all. The plan was to catch them by surprise and force them to give up without any shots being fired. Just in case, though, each member of Risby’s team wore full combat gear. They weren’t taking any chances.
Risby crouched by the door that he and Sarah would enter through, inching it slightly open to make their entrance faster. “I’m in position. Report in.”
As he waited for his team to respond, Risby quickly ran through each of their locations. He and Sarah would enter through the front, Jack and Nikki were taking the side door, and Kost and Adrian would go in through the dock entrance.
“Kost reporting in. I’m by a window. It doesn’t seem like our agents are in there.”
Risby closed his eyes briefly in frustration. Detective M had warned him from the start that it was unlikely that he would find his missing agents, but there had always been hope. Now all he could hope for was to find something to connect the disappearance of his agents to the Institution.
“We still go in, but our priority is to take the gang members alive. We need to know what happened.”
“Understood. We are in position.”
“This is Jack. Nikki and I are ready.”
Risby glanced at Sarah next to him. She nodded. Ready. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves and rose from his crouch.
Risby burst through the doors, gun in hand and Sarah right behind him.
“This is the police! Don’t move!”
The six men inside the warehouse were all on the ground floor, three of them lounging by the wall, chatting, as the other three gathered around a table in the middle of the room. Risby checked the catwalks just in case the informant had been mistaken, but there was no one there. He breathed a quick sigh of relief.
At Risby and Sarah’s shouts, they froze momentarily in shock and uncertainty. Their spies in the police hadn’t warned them about an attack. What was going on?
Those few seconds were enough time for Nikki and Jack to burst in through the side door and disarm two of the men by the wall and knock out the third. The three at the table drew their guns, taking defensive positions.
One of them, a man with slicked back hair and a tailored suit, made a motion with his gun. “I would turn around and leave if I was you,” he warned. There was movement by the dock entrance, and he grinned confidently as he put his gun back in its holster. With the two men to his side for support and the two guards now protecting his back, he felt safe to taunt the cops.
“I’m Jud, the boss of the Fanged Wolves and I will make sure you regret ever coming here tonight.” He took a lazy step forward before a shot rang out, forcing him to jump back as the wooden floor splintered near where his foot had just been. He cursed inside his head. That had come from behind!
Kost and Adrian moved closer, allowing Jud to see them. “I’m afraid your men won’t be helping you anytime soon,” Kost told the gang boss. “They decided to take a nap.”
Jud’s face fell as he looked between the three groups of agents surrounding him. There was no way to turn this to his advantage without greater numbers supporting him. Unfortunately, this had been a private meeting. No one was going to come to look for them for hours. However…
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked softly, his eyes glinting as a hint of slyness sparked in them. “There is no evidence you can pin on me that will stick. I will be a free man once again in mere hours.”
Risby shook his head slowly. “No, you won’t. The agents you captured a month ago worked for me, and as the head of the IDA, I have the authority to take you into custody to a facility out of the country where you will be tried and imprisoned for kidnapping and murder.”
At this, Jud began to panic. “What? The IDA? They didn’t tell us that. They said that we were safe, that nobody would try and find them!”
Risby’s eyes narrowed. “Who told you that? Who hired you to capture those agents? Who are you working for?”
Agent 24’s mind raced as she tried to find a way to stop Jud from revealing the existence of the Institution without blowing her cover. Within the space of a millisecond, she ran through hundreds of possible actions she could take before she finally settled on one. She went back into character.
Nikki was stunned at the thought that someone else was behind the agents’ disappearance. “I thought the Fanged Wolves didn’t work for anyone but themselves!” In her shock, she lost focus for a second and lowered her gun. Jud saw his opportunity and raced forward, grabbing Nikki and putting a gun to her head before anyone could move.
Risby analyzed the situation quickly, knowing that he would have to move carefully to save Nikki. Detective M had told him that when an Agent of the Institution got into character, they stayed in it no matter the consequences. That meant that if this was the best way to complete her mission, Nikki wouldn’t fight to save herself if Risby made a mistake.
“Kost. Adrian. Get those two out of the way,” he ordered. The two men obeyed, disarming Jud’s remaining men and cuffing them to the table. The gang members would no longer be able to interfere. Now it was just Jud.
The boss of the Fanged Wolves had his back to the wall and held Nikki in front of him, her gun kicked to the side out of her reach. It would be almost impossible to shoot Jud without harming Nikki, and besides, they needed Jud alive. Risby had seen the faces of Jud’s colleagues when the man had started shouting. They hadn’t known what he was talking about. It was possible that only Jud knew the details of the deal he had made with the Institution. Risby growled angrily. How had he let this happen!
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Adrian whisper something to Kost and take a step to the side. Kost moved with him, positioning his body to protect the other man. Adrian looked at Risby and mouthed a plea for a distraction. Risby nodded very slightly and turned his attention back to Jud.
“Let her go, Jud. If you kill her I can assure you that you will get the death penalty. If you let her go, we can negotiate for a lesser sentence.”
Jud laughed, the bitter sound echoing in the stillness of the warehouse. “Life in prison doesn’t sound much better. No, I think I’ll go out with a blaze of glory.”
“And let your empire fall to ruins?”
Jud hesitated at that. It was exactly what Agent 48 had been waiting for. He leapt forward with all the strength and speed of an Agent of the Institution and grabbed Jud’s wrist, pulling it upward and away from Nikki. The two wrestled for control of the gun as Jack ran forward and dragged Nikki out of the way, reacting on instinct to protect her.
Agent 24 let Jack pull her away from the battle as shock overtook her system. What was 48 doing! He was blowing his cover, but he was also risking the exposure of the Institution!
Gunshot after gunshot rang through the room as Jud pulled the trigger hoping to shake Adrian off, but the man kept his grip, fighting to hold the gun straight up to prevent any injuries. Jack kicked out at the Agent, desperate to get the gun back, but 48 dodged them easily with his superior strength and training. Finally, Adrian overpowered the boss of the Fanged Wolves, and with a vicious punch, knocked him unconscious.
Risby joined Adrian in putting handcuffs on Jud, talking to him quietly as he did so. 24 strained to hear them, but Jack’s voice kept her from doing so.
“Nikki? Are you alright? Did he hurt you?”
She smiled sweetly up at him like Nikki would. “I’m fine, Jack. I’m an agent, I can handle it.”
Jack sighed in relief. “I’m sorry. I was your partner. I should have protected you better.”
“It’s alright! Really! It was my own fault for dropping my guard, and besides, Adrian saved me.” She looked back over at the other Agent, mentally scowling. She really needed to know what he was telling Risby, but Jack wasn’t letting her go!
Before she could try anything, though, Arian and Risby made their way back to the rest of the group. Risby started dishing out orders.
“Jack, you and Nikki bring the vans to the front of the warehouse. The rest of us will secure the gang members and bring them out to you.”
“Yes sir. Come on Nikki.”
Nikki followed after the other agent stiffly, knowing from Risby’s tone of voice that something was not right. She glared at 48 as she passed him, demanding an explanation. There was none to be found in his eyes, just a tiredness and relief that surprised her. She was still mulling over it as Jack led her out of the warehouse.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Kost turned to face his superior, his whole body tense and questioning. “Was he telling the truth?”
Sarah dragged one of the guards to his feet, pulling on the chain around his wrists to make sure it was tight. “Adrian? What did he say?”
“Not here,” Risby scolded them, gesturing to the listening gang members in the room. “I’ll tell you everything later. But yes, Kost. He was telling the truth.”
Kost swore as he pushed the men he held by the arms forward roughly. He was still muttering to himself as he disappeared out the warehouse doors.
Sarah and Risby followed soon after, leading their prisoners out of the building and out to the parked vans. The vehicles were disguised as equipment vans for an electrical company so they wouldn’t draw attention while the agents were away, but were designed for carrying prisoners safely and without trouble. Risby patted the van thoughtfully before slamming the doors shut.
As Risby rounded the corner, he saw Nikki sitting on the grass with a water bottle in her hand, laughing at something Jack had said to her. He winced. Jack would not take the news well.
Kost was settling into the driver’s seat of the other van, ready to begin the six hour drive to where Risby had arranged for the IDA to set up a holding cell and interrogation room. He raised an eyebrow in question, knowing what it was that his superior was upset about, but Risby shook his head. It was something he needed to address personally. He sighed. It was going to be a long night.