Our time will be coming to an end soon. I can’t help but wonder if I have convinced you of anything that will make a difference? Can you see beyond my methods and gain insight? Will you allow yourself to grow in spite of my actions? I cannot help but be amused at your naivety.
Have you ever wondered why the rich are willing to share their secrets? Why would someone of means be willing to give away their insight to wealth? The answer is simple: few will actually do anything about what they learn. To control your own destiny takes more than just a willingness to plant one foot in front of the other, hoping for the best or the luck of the draw. It takes more than most are willing to do. My wisdom is offered freely. Your success will come if you see past the benefactor.
The governor wasn’t expecting another call so soon. Yet, he knew that the more information he could gather, the easier it would be to make decisions about how to handle Mr. Smith. He wanted his daughter back, and he wanted her alive. He had made a vow to himself that if she were harmed in any way he would see justice served. But, he had to be patient. He couldn’t do anything to compromise his daughter’s life.
His informant had told him the news regarding Captain Black, that it was his opinion that the captain was indeed the infamous Mr. Smith. The captain certainly had the motivation, as well as the capability, to do what was being done.
“What do you want me to do now?” he’s asked the governor. “Stay with the captain or go to Soquel?”
“They have people watching the captain?” the governor asked.
“Yes. They’re putting surveillance on him as we speak. They’ve been instructed to keep a distance, and they’re going to tap his phones. He’ll be available whenever we need him.”
“Good. Then go to Soquel and find out what’s going on up there. Make sure you keep me informed if you find anything. I want this sonofabitch, and I will do whatever I have to do to get my daughter back.”
The phone went dead.
The governor was alone now. He’d told everyone to get some rest, but to stay available. He told them he was tired, wanted to get a little rest himself.
He knew that he’d succeed. The governor knew he’d get his girl back. He also knew he wouldn’t sleep. What he wanted most was privacy in the event things changed quickly. What he didn’t know was that someone else was listening and recording his every word.
Ben had told Cheryl and Agent Conley about his call with Corey. He needed to go up the mountain near Soquel and check out the property, he’d asked them to go with him as backup. Ben had also made arrangements for the California State Police to send men to the location to set up a net around the perimeter, monitoring anything that happened till he could get there. It would take at least forty minutes, and Ben wanted information, including building plans if there were any.
Cheryl said she’d ride with Ben, and Conley said he would drive separately; he said it might come in handy to have an extra vehicle on site in case they needed to split up.
It was a remote spot adjacent the National Forest. There had been virtually no cars for the last several miles of road, and when they went up the drive to the house, Ben grew concerned that they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. When they arrived, there were at least a half dozen police cruisers and three unmarked vehicles on site.
So much for anonymity, Ben thought.
When they got out of their cars, introductions were made, and the scene was turned over to Ben. He asked what they had so far, and the sergeant in command said that there’d been no movement or sounds so far. It was the sergeant’s impression that the place was deserted. That would be too easy, Ben thought.
Ben picked up his cell phone. He thought Corey would have been there before him; he needed to find out if there was anything new.
Corey answered. “If you look behind you, those are my headlights shining up your ass.”
Ben smiled at his friend’s ability to see humor in almost any situation. “Just get your ass up here.” He hung up, waiting to talk face to face.
When Corey arrived, Ben asked, “Is there anything new?”
Corey didn’t need an interpreter to know what he was asking. “Just a little more history on the man. It seems your friend the captain had an interesting military career. He was Special Forces and specialized in explosives. Then he went to work freelance for the government on classified missions that nobody—and I do mean nobody—has access to. That lasted about five years till he decided it wasn’t the life for him. That’s when he came back here to live and go into law enforcement.”
“Explosives, huh?” Ben said almost in a whisper. “I guess that might explain our little package in Sacramento.” Now, Ben really did have a bad feeling about this. “You know anything about bombs?”
“Enough to get us all killed.”
“That’s encouraging, but not the kinda help I had in mind.” Ben turned to the sergeant. “How close is your nearest sniffer?” A sniffer was a police helicopter specially equipped with infrared cameras and night vision. Their use was becoming legendary for finding suspects that were hiding in the dark.
“About ten minutes away,” the sergeant said. “We sort of anticipated using it and have it on standby.”
“Get it here,” Ben said. “I want to see if there’s anyone home before we go in.”
Time always goes slowly when the adrenalin is flowing. The chopper was there on time, and as it scanned each of the buildings, it only picked up a heat source from one of the outbuildings. The chopper pilot said there was someone inside but whoever it was wasn’t moving around.
Ben gave the order to surround the building and to wait on his command before moving.
Ben was surprised that the door wasn’t locked. He was even more surprised when he saw that he’d entered a room no bigger than eight feet by six feet. Ben could tell from the reflections of his flashlight that this area had been added recently in relation to the rest of the building. He didn’t know what it meant but he didn’t like it.
When he opened the next door, the new room was immersed in total darkness. Ben couldn’t see anything. Using his flashlight, he was totally shocked by the sight before him. Lying on the floor inside a double cage was the nude form of Frances Alexander. He couldn’t tell if she was hurt or not, but her body had been warm enough to be picked up by the chopper’s sensors. He knew she was alive. He wanted to go to her, but decided he couldn’t risk doing that just yet.
Scanning the room with his flashlight, Ben discovered that his fears had been correct. There were what looked like large quantities of explosives everywhere, and that was enough to convince Ben they needed the help of someone who knew more about these things than he did.
He turned to Corey, signaling they needed to get out of the place. When they got back outside, he let everyone know what he’d found and that the bomb squad needed to get there as soon as possible. The closest one would be twenty minutes. Ben decided he needed to try to communicate with the girl. He went back in alone.
“Frances,” Ben called. “Frances Alexander.”
The girl stirred slightly, but seemed to be having a hard time coming around.
“Ms. Alexander!” Ben yelled this time, waking the girl from her stupor.
“Who is it?”
She still wasn’t moving much, but Ben was pleased with her responsiveness.
“Ms. Alexander. My name is Detective Benjamin Simeon. Do you know where you are?” After he said it, he realized it was a pretty stupid question.
“Don’t come in here!” she yelled back. “You’ll kill us all.”
“Frances, what can you tell us to help get you out of there? I know that the place is rigged to blow. That’s why we aren’t coming in yet. Can you help us out?”
“You’re too late,” she said. “You’ve already set off the timer. Now get away from here. Please get as far away as you can.”
Just then, the lights inside the building came on and everything became clearly visible. The place was filled with fuel containers, and he could clearly see a timer—counting down from ten minutes. Ben had to do something so he approached the girl to see if there was a way to free her. When he got close, he was appalled by the stench and realized how poor her condition was.
Ben checked out the cage. It was designed of heavy metal; would take a blowtorch to cut through it, something they could do given enough time. But time was not on their side at that moment. Ben also noted a keypad at what he thought would be the entrance to the cage. Unfortunately, the hinges and bolt at the entrance had been welded shut. He called for Corey to get in there and to see if anyone there knew anything about explosives. He didn’t want to lose this girl, even if she was related to the one man on this planet he hated.
Cheryl and Conley followed Corey in.
“I know some basics about explosives,” Conley said, “but what I know is limited.”
“Take a look and see if there’s anything you can do to stop this thing from going off,” Ben told him. To Cheryl, he said, “Get the hell out of here. And get everybody way back. There are enough explosives in here to make a hole in the world.”
Cheryl wanted to stay and help, but she knew there wasn’t anything she could do. She had started to protest, but realized Ben was right. She left.
Agent Conley examined the device, telling Ben there was nothing he could do. “This is one sophisticated piece of work. The best I could do is make it go off sooner, and I don’t think that’s what you want.”
Time was running out. There were less than five minutes to go, and Frances Alexander had already come to the conclusion that she was going to die. Depravation and solitude will cause the mind to act on its worst fears. In Frances Alexander’s case, the depravation had been light. Add to that the knowledge that if she acted the wrong way or did the wrong thing it would no longer be punishment she feared. It would be death.
Corey was trying to find a way in when he saw something lying on a chair several feet from the cage. When he looked at it, he discovered an envelope lying on the seat, the name Benjamin Simeon on its front.
“Ben!” Corey had already picked up the envelope and was heading back to the detective.
Ben saw Corey headed his way. “What’s that?”
Corey didn’t answer.
Ben took the envelope, tearing it open. “Where did you get this?” Ben’s words came out harshly, the tone due to the circumstances.
“Over there, on the chair.” Corey pointed.
Ben read the note.
It is with regret that I must inform you that, unlike the device in Sacramento, this one was designed to activate. As you can see from what is around you, there will be a rather extensive blast radius. It is my recommendation that you leave the girl and save your own life. I would actually have regrets if you were to die attempting to save, in essence, the same self-serving man who refused to avenge your happy home. Let this be your revenge, your retribution. After all, who could truly find fault with your actions if you did?
However, if I have any understanding of the man I have come to know and admire, you will stay to the very end. Let me conclude, since time is, I am sure, running out for you. You already hold the key to your survival. I gave it to you in Sacramento.
I wish you well.
“I already hold the key?”
Ben remembered the cryptic message left for him at the house where the governor’s daughter had been taken. The dates, he thought. Is that the key? He didn’t have time to ponder. The timer was nearing the 2-minute mark. He ran to the keypad, pressed the numbers, and hit enter. Nothing happened. He did it a second time, and again nothing happened. Then a third time, only reversing the sequence.
A loud click came from the opposite side of the cage. As if by magic, the entire wall of the cage started lowering into the building’s floor. The descent took all of fifteen seconds to complete, it seemed an eternity to Ben and the others. The clock was down to a minute and counting.
The three men rushed into the cage and retrieved the girl, picking her up and carrying her out of the cage and heading for the door.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion except for the timer. To Ben and the others it seemed to have sped up. They knew they’d get out of the building; what they weren’t sure of was whether they could get far enough to escape the blast radius.
Ben and Corey yelled for everyone to get back. They all ran for cover, Ben and Corey carrying the governor’s daughter, everyone else making better time.
The heat and the pressure of the explosion hurled them forward into the air before hitting the ground. The noise was deafening. For Ben, the world momentarily went black. He was only unconscious for a few seconds. When he came to, Ben looked up and saw pieces of the building still falling from the sky.
Corey was moving. The girl was lying next to Ben with her head turned facing him. Her eyes were open, but seemed emotionless. She started to blink, tears began falling from her eyes. In a most uncharacteristic way, she smiled at Ben.
Neither of them moved. Ben just looked into the girl’s eyes and took in the beauty of the moment. Without raising his head, he said, “Hi. My name’s Ben Simeon.”
“I know.” she said. “You’re the detective from Santa Cruz. I saw you on TV. You’re pretty famous you know.”
Ben couldn’t help but think of the absurdity of the conversation. “You alright?”
She was nude. And dirty.
“Never been better,” she said, “but I think I need a bath.”
“So do I,” Corey chimed in.
They all laughed and started to rise.
Dozens of police officers swarmed, helping them to their feet. Ben turned and faced the blazing mess of rubble.
A blanket was fetched for Ms. Alexander and an ambulance arrived shortly after to escort her to the nearest hospital. Ben went with her, asking Cheryl to follow in his car. She wanted to go with the girl to examine her injuries, but Ben told her later would be better. He climbed into the van and off they went.
Agent Conley started driving after them, but changed his plans. He would meet them later.