“What’s the house number?” I asked Steven, driving past the street corner labeled Evergreen Lane.
“Seven, I think. These houses are so far apart that it might as well be on the next block,” Steven replied, checking the GPS screen then looking up at the dark street. “I have no idea how anyone is supposed to find anything at night out here.”
The silver sedan drove along the dark street, slowing down in front of every house as the two detectives tried to peek at the numbers as they passed by them.
“I think I see it, on the left,” Steven said, slapping his neck and looking at his hand.
“Which one? These houses are all the same at night.” I turned my head toward at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just a mosquito,” Steven replied wiping his hand with a tissue he found in the car door’s pocket. “It’s the one with the car parked on the driveway. We might be onto something here.” He pointed at the street on our left. “Look at this thing, it’s huge,” he said, showing me the squashed insect stain on the napkin.
“You think so?” I replied, staring at the lit road in front of us, “I think we’re chasing shadows. I think the feds know this is a dead end, that’s why they sent us here in the middle of nowhere.”
“Is that so? Hey, did you see the guy at the last gas station? Did he remind you of someone?”
“The perp on the big mama case,” I replied, smiling as we approached the house Steven spotted. “I still think we should’ve waited till morning to do this.”
“Yeah, the big mama case.” Steven chuckled before he got serious again. “Well, listen man, we can turn around if you don’t feel good about it. We can tell the feds that we got to the hotel way later.”
Darkness enveloped the rear of the car as the front was illuminated by the dim yellow light coming from two lamps by the front door of the house.
“Nah, the sheriff said he has the emergency services on standby, let’s get this over with. I told my wife I was going to get back home by tomorrow. It’s likely another dead-end anyway.”
The car came to a stop in front of the poorly-lit house as the figures of two men wearing black suits and fedora hats emerged from the front door, casting shadows on the dirt the front yard was covered with. The garage door was wide open, but no lights came from it. Steven got out of the passenger’s side door and stepped behind the engine block of the car. I turned the car off and pulled my pistol out of the holster before getting out, then opened the door and exited the vehicle.
“Who are these guys?”
“I doubt it, Klebond told the Chief that they wanted us to follow up on this lead.”
“Gentlemen,” I shouted to the two standing in front of the house, “My name is Robert Miers, and my partner’s name is Steven Enry. We are detectives working on a kidnapping case, can we have a word with you?”
They froze for a moment as if to process the question posed by me. A third man, tall, heavyset, wearing khaki pants and construction boots, walked out from the dark garage wiping his hands with a towel. This one seemed oddly out of place, since he wasn’t wearing a suit or a fedora hat like the other two.
“Of course you can,” he said loudly in a thick German accent. “We were expecting you, please come in.”
Expecting us? Steven pulled out his weapon. So far, this case had nothing but dead leads, and suddenly these men were ready to have a “chat” with us?
“I think this is it,” I heard Steven say from behind the car. “Go ahead, I’ll cover you.”
Slowly advancing, I tucked my gun into the belt behind my back.
“Do you gentlemen live here?”
“For the moment we do,” the man replied. “What do you need to know?”
“We’re looking for an abducted man and our investigation brought us here. Can we come inside to take a look? It’ll only be a couple of minutes.”
“Of course,” one of the two men in fedora hats said. “Come in.”
This whole interview was going too smoothly not to expect something to go wrong. Maybe we should’ve brought more men.
Walking toward the house’s entrance I took a quick look around. A black SUV was parked on my right side in a driveway behind some bushes. On my left, the garage door was wide open but no cars were there, only the figure of the heavy-set man standing in front of it looking at us. Just ahead of me were the two men in suits and fedora hats. Seriously, who wears fedoras anymore? The first one entered the room and moved to the left of the white doorframe, the second one followed him just in front of me then moved slightly to the right. I walked behind him, minding where his hands were.
As soon as I passed the door’s threshold, I saw a man laid on the couch facing the front door. He was wearing a hospital gown and appeared to be naked underneath, and looked like…me? Strange. Something was very wrong. Reaching for my gun, I took a step back toward the door, intending to exit. The two men in black suits moved to block me as I heard Steven yell, “Hey, stop, put that down! Police, don’t move!” Gunfire erupted outside.
Startled, I pushed one of the fedora-wearing men away from me as both pulled devices from their waistbands. In the split second they both extended their hands to point their devices at me, I fired point-blank at the one on my left. He fell, dropping his device on the ground, but before I had time to acquire the next target, he rushed me. I grabbed the hand he was carrying the weapon in and we struggled for another moment.
A loud crackle and a bright electric arc emanated from the device he held in his hand, hitting the wooden window frame where it sparked a small fire. Holding my gun with my right hand and restraining his weapon hand with my left, I tripped the man and pushed him out of the door.
We both fell and rolled outside of the house, dragging a little table that was by the door with us. Doing my best to keep my cool, I let go of my gun to get up and put both hands on the strange device he was still gripping tightly. We made eye contact for a moment at close range as I struggled to keep the front of the weapon away from me. My hands began to shake a bit. Clean-shaved face, dark colored eyes, wearing a white shirt and dark-colored tie. I made a mental note of it all as I pushed him to the ground, looking to where the car we got in was parked.
“Steven!” I screamed.
“I’m here!” he replied, running from the darkness toward the two of us struggling on the ground.
The stranger suddenly let go of his device and punched me in the face so hard, it sent me rolling, losing my grip on the weapon. I heard several gunshots coming from our right side, near the garage. More? How many of them are inside here? We definitely should’ve brought more backup.
“Make the call Steven!” I screamed as he took cover behind the car parked in front of the house, returning fire toward the garage entrance. The man I was struggling with kneeled, grabbed his weapon from the dirt and rushed inside the slowly-burning house, leaving me on the ground.
“This is Detective Steven Enry, we need backup at Seven Evergreen Lane,” I heard Steven say.
Relieved that backup was notified, I looked around the dark dirt for my gun, but I couldn’t find it. Cautiously, I walked kneeling toward the doorframe, carefully looking for any signs that the dark-suited man was waiting for me. Reaching the wall, I peeked inside where the man I’d shot before was laying. He still had his weapon on his hand. I slowly reached and grabbed it as Steven continued to exchange fire with the heavy-set man that spoke to us earlier.
The weapon had the cold feel of a grainy metal cover. No trigger, only a button where the trigger would be. I pointed it at the dirt in front of me and pressed the button. Feeling a slight recoil in my shooting hand, a bright white electric arc emanated from what I assumed to be the barrel. The arc hit exactly where I was pointing the device, violently pushing dirt upward and creating a smoldering, smoking hole in it. Realizing I could work this weapon I immediately got up and walked past the doorframe.
As soon as I got inside the burning house, I saw the black-suited man tuck his weapon in his belt as he knelt in front of the couch where the other man that looked like me was now sitting. He was coughing and conscious, sitting on the couch with his head on his hands and looking down.
“Do not move!” I shouted, pointing my weapon at the black-suited man as more gunfire erupted outside
“We are not here to hurt anyone,” he said in a normal voice breathing heavily, getting up.
“Let me see your hands!” I lowered my voice a bit, intending to handcuff and arrest him as smoke billowed in the room causing both of us to cough.
I could hear police sirens in the background as the man walked closer to me. His figure, shoulders, head, and posture were very familiar. I’ve seen this guy before.
“Turn around and put your hands behind your back! I will not repeat myself again!” I ordered him.
“Robert,” the man said as he turned around, “we are not here to hurt anyone.”
I prepared to handcuff him, but as I approached he turned around and shoved me to the floor. Grabbing his hand, I dragged him down with me. As soon as we fell I got up on one knee facing him, grabbed his hand and tried to twist it behind his back. But the man got up before I could finish my move and kicked me. Losing my balance, I stumbled backwards and hit a wooden cabinet. Holding on to it I quickly pulled myself to my feet and tried grabbing his arm again, but all I could get a hold of was his jacket sleeve. He twisted around it and left his jacket in my hands. I threw it behind me toward the couch and rushed him as the distant sirens got a lot louder. Feeling that backup was close, I gripped his left arm and firmly twisted it, forcing him to get down and face the floor with his left hand behind his back. I finally had a cuff-grip on him. Reaching behind my back I pulled my handcuffs and placed one side on his wrist, hearing the click. Feeling that, he rolled to his side and fired his weapon at my stomach.
His weapon…what an unbelievable rookie mistake.
Coldness and a burning sensation immediately gripped me as I fell on my back, looking toward the darkness of the open front door for help while still holding onto the other end of the handcuffs.
The man got up, yanking the handcuffs out of my hand rubbing his wrist.
“Stay still,” he said, getting on top of me and sliding a device around my neck. I wanted to look and see if I could tell what it was, but as I tried to move, my whole body hurt, so I stayed put, breathing heavily feeling a tingling sensation on my neck.
“How much got transferred?” the black-suited, dark-haired man asked someone out of my view after a few moments.
“Forty-two percent. Core systems are transferred, but memories will take some time,” the other answered.
“What happened out there? Where is Hans?”
“He’s outside. His partner put up a serious fight,” the other man replied, looking down at me. Helpless, all I could do was to look up, only to see the same clean-shaven, black-haired man I had been fighting with.
“Did we get the body?”
“Yeah, we got him.”
As this exchange continued the background sirens got a lot louder, penetrating the sound of crackling fire.
“We have to leave now if you want to avoid confrontation with the authorities.”
“Damn it, Xelsior, tell Hans to prepare the emergency transport.”
“Take this one. He’s damaged, and we can’t leave both of them here. We’ll finish the transfer a little later,” he said, pointing at me.
The dark-suited man got up and walked away, leaving me on the floor of the burning house. I stared at the flame engulfing the window blinds, thinking about life and death, my wife, my daughter…how much I hadn’t accomplished yet. I was supposed to be home tomorrow morning. My legs got cold as an exceptionally bright light enveloped my vicinity.
I closed my eyes to rest them, left to smell and hear the burning house around me.