“Stop Georgia. She’s stepping in the wrong place. It's a long drop I won’t be able to...” Before I could fully explain Richard was barking orders on his radio. A man’s voice on the other end confirmed Georgia was accounted for but the thin plywood under her boots hid a narrow well of undetermined depth.
“This place is dangerous by design. I don’t want to spend any more time here than necessary. If you want me to find this mystery woman of yours. I need to concentrate for a minute,” I explained.
“Would it help if I leave you alone?” Richard whispered.
“You’re fine, it's not the noise. I need all the others to stop screwing around. They’re distracting. I see them falling in holes, and getting blown into red mist. It’s like being attached to a group of goats. They all need to just stop for sixty fricken seconds, so I can breathe.”
“I'll see what I can do.” Richard walked out of the small room and into the tunnel before he started yelling at the poor guy waiting at the end of the dirt hallway.
I let my mind clear and focused on the stale smears of energy my mystery woman had left behind. Her colors were faded grayish yellow and red. Touching the space brought tears to my eyes. I felt unbelievable grief mixed with anger and panic. If I got close enough to her I could pick her out of a crowd. The energy from the other people who had been in the room didn’t speak to me. There was no passion of any kind lingering in their energy.
“I’ve got her energy,” I called to Richard. “Do your people have an idea where to start looking for her?”
“There has been some unusual activity near the main tourist section of the city. I want to send you into town along with the others to look for her. Are you up for that tonight?”
“Sure but won’t we all stand out dressed like this?” I pulled at my black fatigues and heard the crisp fabric protest.
“We sent out for some help from the base commander, he has a line on what the local tourists wear and has suggested some places to start our search. You’re going into the area dressed like idiot tourists out drinking.”
“That’s fine with me, just as long as I’m not having anything glued to my skin.”
“No, no glue just the tracking monitors. This is the female abduction capital of the world you aren’t going anywhere until you are traceable.”
“And still, you’re not giving me a handgun?” I questioned.
“No, I’m sending you with Sanchez, Keys, and Georgia. God help any bastard that takes Georgia.” Richard stood quietly and stared at me, the silence was becoming awkward.
His radio beeped and cracked, the voice on the other end let us know the civilian clothes had arrived. The rest of my fellow decoys were busy getting ready for the nightlife of Juarez.
Back in the main room of the cave, I was handed a hot pink bikini top, dark khaki cargo shorts, and pair of flimsy woven sandals. There was a sad looking black stretchy top left in the pile of clothes. I quickly grabbed the dusty garment and pulled it on over the bikini top.
“I look like a color-blind streetwalker. Are you sure this is what the local women wear around here?” I asked of the room.
Georgia piped up, “Oh yeah that’s perfect, now take off those expensive earrings and mess up your hair a bit. Too bad we don’t have a temporary tattoo for you.”
I removed my diamond studs and handed them to Richard. “Can you hold onto these for me until later, they are too nice to just put in my pocket? The stones are perfect.”
“These are from your old things?” Richard asked as he examined the earrings under the light from a string of bulbs hanging next to him.
“Yes, they were in a jewelry box. You know there was a stunning ring in there with a purple stone. I put most of the pieces in my safe deposit box, but I kept the earrings out to wear. I can’t imagine where I would have gotten them from.”
“Really, you know there is a great story that goes along with these diamonds, and that ring you mentioned. Someday I will tell you about them.” Richard tucked the pair of earrings into his jacket pocket and carefully closed the flap.
I was called over to look at a map of the downtown area where the strange activity had been noticed. Several cargo trucks were seen leaving the back lot near a row of restaurants and driving into a nearby auto repair shop that didn’t have the ability to repair large trucks. This was as good a place to start looking for our mystery woman.
Richards’s crew was busy clearing out the equipment from the main cave. The lights down the tunnels started turning off section by section, as the crews worked their way out of the empty areas. Kyle stuffed his clothes and mine in his duffle bag and handed it off to one of the men as they walked by.
I noticed they fit Kyle with an earpiece and gave him his choice of handgun. I was listening to my instructions, but I already knew where the woman was. She was doing the same thing we were doing. She was somewhere getting ready to leave, only she was waiting for her dead cohort and getting angry at his tardiness.
“We need to leave now. They are coming back for the last of the materials. Their assembly site is ready. It’s a factory that makes hard plastic clamshell for toys." I could see the milky plastic blanks strewn around the floor of a large space. "The basement of the factory has a straight shot to a loading dock used for the scrap and garbage. That’s where they are going now.”
“How can you know all that, what is going on here?” The local base commander was noticeably upset. I had blurted out things no one could know. Only Richard and his top people knew they could act on the information pouring out of my mouth.
I searched around for the source of the rush of information, “Where did these clothes come from?” I asked openly focusing my gaze on the still puzzled base commander. Richards second in command discretely whispered something into the man’s ear; his temperament changed slowly until he reached a state of calm.
“The shorts and swim clothes were from our lost and found. They were laundered and ready to be donated. That black shirt you’re wearing, I don’t recall seeing it with the things I brought with me.”
I carefully pulled the dark top off, over my head and examined it closely. The black fabric smelled faintly of perfume and cigarette smoke. The fabric didn’t seem worn or stressed at the seams. The woman who wore this top was roughly my build or smaller.
“Cal, where did you get that shirt?” Richard questioned worry tainting his words.
“Over there, by the wall, next to the pile of tourist clothes.” I pointed across the tunnel to the remaining pile of clothing and blankets.
Richard looked up at one of his uniformed minions. “Those items were collected from the far rooms, Colonel.”
“We can assume this top belonged to our target, which must be why you have gotten more info on her,” Richard explained. The people around him nodded in unison like a row of bobblehead dolls. They were desperate for any explanation they could cling to.
“Sandra, her name is Sandra. Her husband was a killed in Mexico recently. She is an American, but she blames …, we have to leave right now. We don’t have time for this; they will come for the last of the chemicals soon. The stuff from here is carcinogenic, aflatoxin B1. She is some kind of chemist there is a bunch of stuff I can’t pronounce. What is all that?” I let go of the black fabric and watched it miss the table top and fall to the dirt. Richard nodded his head and crumpled the skin between his eyebrows tightly.
“Carcinogens are cancer-causing agents. We found dioxin, among some other things.” Richard guided me away from the table and out of the cave as he discussed the various chemicals they would need to pull off the attack. We were the last out of the tunnel. I looked back into the darkness only the energy smeared on the walls remained lit. I had focused on her energy so long that my physical eyesight was blocked.
“Richard I can’t see anything but energy. My eyes, I’m blind it's like they don’t work. You’ll have to help me to the truck.” Everyone was moving away from the tunnel. In a few moments, it would be as if we had never been there. “The tire tracks we made, they will see them first.”
“Don’t think about that. You’re coming with me. Try and calm down. Let’s see if we can find you a jacket, that bikini top is not getting you through downtown unnoticed.” Richard got back on his radio and made attempts to find me some sort of cover-up while coordinating our drop off point. I sat next to him in the back seat of the dark van. As we drove over the desert terrain I could see the energy of all the little critters and people hiding in the area around us. Unable to see the metal van walls and floor, it looked like we were floating just above the ground.
“What is with all the people out here; isn’t this place in the middle of nowhere?” I asked. Rustling sounds filled the back of the van. The four men sitting behind us were fumbling around in their gear looking for something in their gear.
“Yes Sir, that info is confirmed as well. We have several humans forms spotted out in the open desert space.”
“This area is one of the closest points of entry onto American soil Cal; there are probably people out here every night. That’s not our concern.” I moved my hand into Richards open palm as he spoke. An amazing warmth and strong thick energy poured out of him the moment my skin touched his. I watched as his deep green and yellow aura mingled with my white and stark orange energy. I had felt this many times with David, I couldn’t see it at the time, but his touch always calmed me to the point of numb relaxation. Richards touch had the opposite effect, I felt invigorated. His energy seemed to heighten all my senses rather than dull them.
My normal vision was not returning and I began to panic not knowing how long I would be blind. Richard moved the back of my palm up to his chest and leaned over to whisper in my ear; I could feel his quick, erratic heartbeat.
“What are you doing to me Cal, I feel like I’m gonna have a God damn heart attack?”
“Sorry, I’ll try to make it stop. I still can’t see. What am I going to do?” I reluctantly let go of Richards’ hand hoping this would bring his heart rate back to normal.
We were heading into a city with thousands of people. I could see so much energy and I could take all of it if I wasn’t careful. This is what Ivan was concerned about; he knew how hard I would have to concentrate.
“Oh my God all those people. This is why I can’t go into heavily populated areas,” I whispered into Richards’s chest.
“You’ve never lost control before, focus on what we are here to do, you will be fine. Stop over thinking.”
The van pulled over into a flat parking lot overlooking the main downtown drag of restaurants and bars. Lights dotted the streets and I could only assume the clusters of light were groups of people. Kyle helped me out of the van and walked me across the lot away from the others.
“You’re starting to freak me out, let’s just do this and get you out of here. Can you find her in all those people down there?” Kyle questioned.
“I hope so, or we are going to look like fools,” I answered.
Two other cars followed us into the parking lot. I could see my three new helpers get out of their trucks and stand by the van. Richard left the main group and headed back towards Kyle and me.
“We found you a sleeveless hoodie, everybody is good to go. Don’t worry about your vision, lean on Sanchez pretend you’re drunk we only need you to point her out to us the other team will grab her.” Richard helped me put on the jacket and then radioed for them to bring the car around.
I could see her or more precisely I could see through her. “She has three men with her, one is in the delivery truck, and the other two are lingering on her heels like guards. They are at the bend in the street, outside a restaurant; the alley is where the truck is parked. They are waiting on that guy you shot, Paco or Pablo, Pen day ho? I don't know it's something with a P. She already sent someone back to the tunnel to get him. We only have a few minutes before she knows something is up.”
Richard was on his radio again, calling and barking orders at people. The second team was sent in to find the best possible spot to wait for the final word to grab the four individuals in question.
“I suggest you send someone back to the cave to silence her scout, but I guess if your guys are quick, it won’t matter. We have fifteen minutes, no more.” I rattled the information off in a monotone fashion I could tell I was scaring Richard. His energy changed.
An old, unwashed taxicab pulled into the lot. My three tourists crew members got in as the driver of the taxi changed out of his military fatigues and into a plain shirt and baseball cap. Everyone was ready to go. I pounded my fist lightly on Kyle’s peck muscles.
“Come on let’s go see if I can do this without hurting anyone.” I walked to the waiting taxi and slid into the seat next to Sanchez.
Georgia was riding shotgun and getting more annoyed with each passing second of delay. We did a quick microphone check and did our best to hold on while the speeding taxi took us into town. Still spooked Sanchez seemed distracted; his energy was heavy with a mischevious, childlike quality.
“Hey relax I’m not going to hurt you, but I need you to help walk me around. Pretend I’m drunk or blind. All I see is energy now; I’ll trip over stuff that’s right in front of me.”
“No problem Chica. Lose the jacket, relax, have some fun.”
“Behave, Sanchez,” I asked the driver to take us past the curve in the street where I had seen Sandra last. We drove past the alley and spotted the delivery truck. “We just rolled past the delivery truck. There's one driver, and one person on the floor of the cargo area in the back of the truck.”
“Copy that. Truck, unknown driver, and unknown occupant rear vehicle.”
The taxi driver pulled over to let us out. “Okay let the drunken laughter begin.” I opened my door and dropped my empty prop wallet out on the ground. Georgia got out of the front seat laughing, picked up my wallet, and helped me out of the car.
Sanchez came around the front of the car pretending to pay the taxi driver. “You ladies haven’t seen anything yet, let’s go find some tequila.” Sanchez grabbed me by the waist and skillfully maneuvered me through the crowds in the direction of the restaurant up the street.
“You have some impressive moves for maneuvering drunken women,” I whispered to Sanchez as I laughed and tried not to trip.
“The bulk of my weekends are spent herding drunken women around. I don’t mind though they always end up naked at my apartment at the end of the night.”
“There’s one of her guys there on the right, with the keys in his hand.” I blurted out.
“Nest, we have a visual on target two; holding position at my three o’clock, male, brown shirt, jeans, and keys in right hand, no weapon visible,” Sanchez spoke into my hair while he kissed my neck to cover his words.
“Copy that target two visual. Has main target been located?” The calm voice asked.
“Negative, approaching front of target building.”
We stepped off the curb and into the street just as Sandra walked back outside. She paused for a moment on the sidewalk before continuing into the alley by the delivery truck; she lit up a cigarette and leaned against the back tire, she was stressed. Her plan was falling apart.
“Sandra’s in the alley smoking a cigarette by the truck.” I quietly whispered using Sanchez’s trick to hide my moving lips from view.
“Copy main target. Repeat main target, prepare the second team, twenty seconds.”
Georgia and Keys were walking ahead of us going into the bar. I watched them walk through the door hand in hand laughing. A man walking behind me had a familiar color about him. He was dressed nicer than I would have expected but he was my last target.
“Panama hat, walking past us now, he’s heading for the alleyway, last target.”
“Copy team one, visually confirmed three targets alleyway, fourth target at building opposite team one.” Sanchez walked me into the restaurant and sat me down next to Keys.
“She’s your's Keys. I’m on the scoop n’ dupe.” Sanchez walked out the front door, and Georgia walked to the back. The waitress approached Keys and asked him what we wanted in broken English, he ordered four beers in broken Spanish and handed her a twenty-dollar bill. She smiled and left to get our drinks.
I could see three shapes in the alley, and I had my eye on the guy across the street as well. Georgia made her way into the alley as Sanchez went across the street. Simultaneously, the two groups were overtaken by Richards’s men, put in vans, and driven out of sight.
Richards’s voice whispered through the earpieces. “Keys walk her out to the taxi, the targets have been removed.” Georgia came back in from the alley just as the beer was brought to the table; she picked up the mug, drank a quarter of it, set the glass down without a word and walked out to the waiting taxi. Keys guzzled his beer quickly before we followed behind her.
Sanchez had gone with the team that snatched up the Panama hat standing across the street and the delivery truck was following along behind us driven by a young man with a very tightly bound aura.
Twenty-four hours of preparation, four minutes of execution, and I doubt anyone saw a thing out of place. We drove back to the base. This time, we stopped at the hanger furthest from the main buildings. Richard was standing outside by his van in a grouping of important looking men as we approached. Our driver had his identification ready, and we were allowed to proceed through the growing gathering and parked right next to Richard. “Cal I need you to make a sure we have the right people before I send in the dogs,” Richard explained.
“Sure I’ll try to take a look at them,” I replied. My vision wasn’t back to normal and I was unsure I could help.
Richard motioned to the front of the building, and two very serious looking men came out and led me to the back of the hanger. A makeshift room divider had been set up over plastic tarp covered sections of floor. The men held the curtain back, and I was prompted to walk in the space further.
"Never stand on the plastic, right? I have seen this movie." A nervous snort escaped my mouth but the pair seemed unmoved.
“We only need your verification before we begin, then you are to be escorted to medical for evaluation, Admiral Gerald’s orders Ma’am.”
“Hmm, I will have to speak with the Admiral. Okay, let’s look at them.” I was annoyed to be micro-managed by Ivan but knew it would be foolish to ignore his considerable expertise.
The young men escorted me a bit further leaving me to walk the last few steps alone, not knowing my eyes were not making a good connection with my brain. The energy was there plain as day, she was the target we were after. The men with her were involved as well but they didn’t have a personal interest in their work; for them, it was just money.
“Yes, that is Sandra,” I pointed at the woman seated in front of me. The woman gasped and kicked on the floor in protest. Her face was covered. I assumed her mouth taped. “You don’t know me. No one gave you away. Do what they ask, answer their questions and you will be treated fairly.” The serious man at my side began to pull me out of the room. I could hear the woman yelling muffled response through her gag as I left the room. The men with her never made a sound.
I was led outside to the row of parked cars. The guiding hand on my arm released me a bit too soon. I could hear I was close to several people talking and what appeared to be a blurry version of our taxi. I put my hands out and inched my way to the car. The car hood was hot. I leaned against the wheel well and closed my eyes to concentrate. My focus shifted and after a few minutes, my mind stopped racing. I felt more like myself. Opening my eyes I was startled to find Kyle standing right next to me quietly holding a can of soda and blocking my view of the circus around us.
“It’s not your favorite brew, but it’s cold and has some sugar.”
“This is perfect thank you, so what do you make of all this?”
“Can you see yet? The Colonel said you couldn’t see anything but energy.” Kyle sounded concerned.
“Yeah, there’s still some blotchiness but I can see enough to walk around on my own.”
“Good he wanted me to give you this note and make sure you got to the plane on time. We leave in ten minutes. From what I gather everything went well. The objective was met, but it’s time we get you back home.”
Kyle was spooked. Maybe he had overheard someone talking about my part in all this, or more likely Richard had scared the hell out of him, either way, I could see that his was concern was genuine.
The plain paper note unfolded revealing a hand-drawn map of our mountaintop base and an invitation for dinner Friday night at dusk. I leaned back against the car and laughed until my eyes watered. All the crap that happened today and Richard’s big concern was making dinner plans.