by Chris James
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Rated Mature 18+
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Tim was astonished ... it did look like a girl down there in the cage. BD was furious when he realized they were keeping Monica locked up like that but Boze calmed him down.
"At least we know she's alive. If she wasn't outside we never would have seen the girl. You're sure that's her?"
"Absolutely. She has long dark hair and that red sweatshirt is one that I bought her. We need to call Matt and send in the police," BD said.
"Maybe we do," Boze agreed. "But first it would be helpful if we knew what else they had over there. Rick needs to do a careful survey for weapons because it might save lives if there's a fight."
Rick had continued to circle the area behind the barn with the cage and the video feed was revealing other details.
"That barn looks fortified ... see the sandbags?" Rick said. "I imagine the building is just a shell covering a bunker structure built inside. They probably lock your friend Monica up in a cell overnight. That would make it easier to keep track of her. I bet that cage is meant to be some kind of punishment."
BD nodded. "She's a troublemaker, that's for sure."
"They don't want to harm her, but the cage keeps her under control. Let's look around some more."
The Shadow began making slow lazy loops in the area surrounding the barn structure. There were some vehicles parked here and there under the trees and some indistinct constructions on the road leading into the area.
"They have some camouflaged emplacements," Boze said. "Looks like bunkers covered with camo netting. Hey, did you see that? Circle back, Rick."
"What did you see?" Ed asked.
"We passed over a vehicle ... looks like a Humvee…there it is."
The Humvee was military grade and affixed to the top was a fifty caliber machine gun.
"Damn, is it even legal for them to have those things?" Tim asked.
"I doubt it, although I own one," Boze said.
"I have a federal gun dealer's license to own and carry…well, let's just say some heavy ordinance. Not all my little ventures are a walk in the park like this one. Rick, take the plane out of the woods up towards the house. Let's see what's up there."
Rick moved the joystick and the view skimmed across the tops of the trees. They got a glimpse of the security fence and several more bunkers guarding the access road. Then they were out across an open area of scrub brush and over a garden.
The house looked big enough to claim the title of mansion, and out front were several large cars.
"That's the limousine my father uses…he's there," BD said.
"I don't know if that complicates things or not," Boze said. "Monica is inside some pretty heavily armed property and if the police have to fight their way in she might get hurt."
"What if I go in with a police escort and tell my father we know she's there and have pictures to prove it," BD said. "They would have to release her."
"That's a good idea, but she might disappear in the process. I don't think these guys are rational," Ed said.
"Let's finish the survey and gather as much evidence as we can to hand over to the police. We'll hike out of here and call Matt to come look at the images we have," Boze said. "Rick, take another pass over the area around the barn."
"I wonder how many militia members are in there," Ed said. "It would be helpful if we had a count."
"Let's see what we can do about that," Rick said. He flipped off a switch and turned on another, and slowly the image on the monitor screen changed to black and white. "We're in FLIR mode, that's a thermal image of the ground. I'll have to bring the plane down a few hundred feet if we want a good return."
"Is that safe?" Tim asked.
"Don't have much choice if we want a good head count. But let me do this first," Rick said. He punched in a number on the keypad and hit enter. A small LED flashed for a moment and then went out. "I just sent all the video we have to Mitch, now we can start recording the FLIR images."
Tim watched the readouts on the control box as Rick brought the Shadow down to six hundred feet. The plane circled the area around the barn but it was difficult to decipher any images that would indicate people.
"I don't get it, we can hardly see anything," Tim said.
"That comes later when we can watch the playback frame by frame," Rick said. "But I did notice something…Monica is no longer in that cage."
"What? Why would they move her?" BD asked. And then the pen in Rick's shirt pocket started beeping.
"Uh oh, we have company coming," Rick said.
Without a word Boze quickly dismantled the FLIR device, shoved the parts back in the case and carried it towards the rocks. Rick keyed a few commands into the control box for the Shadow and followed Boze. Ed picked up the packs scattered around and led Tim and BD over to the rock pile.
There was a thin space between several slabs of rock and Boze motioned for Tim to crawl on in. This would be a perfect rattlesnake den but Tim knew they had been making enough noise for the snakes to vacate the premises. Rick looked around, grabbed a pack with some spare clothing and rope, and set it aside.
"BD, you join Tim and stay hidden," Boze said. "If it's just some park rangers then we'll be fine, but if it's the wrong people we can't let them grab you. Rick you go scout the back trail and see who it is. Ed and I will play tourist."
"Tourist?" Ed said.
"Sure, ever do any bird watching?" Boze asked, handing Ed a pair of binoculars.
Tim and BD crawled further into the space beneath the rocks, dragging two cases, their backpacks and the Shadow control box with them. By then Rick had disappeared into the trees with a pack over his shoulder. Boze and Ed climbed up on the rock pile in full view of the property across the lake…and waited.
Ten minutes passed before they heard a rustle in the trees and a clatter as someone fell down. Boze rolled his eyes and shook his head. Whoever it was they weren't very stealthy, maybe it wasn't the bad guys after all. But suddenly five men dressed in camouflage stepped through the trees and each of them was carrying an M-16 rifle.
Boze raised his binoculars and pointed. "Did you see that eagle?"
Ed looked at him like he was crazy, but what else could they do?
"Freeze," one of the militia members yelled.
"Who the hell are you?" Boze answered and climbed down off the rocks. It was obviously the wrong thing to say as the man swung the butt of his rifle and hit Boze in the stomach. The other stepped forward and grabbed Ed, pushing him to the ground.
"Where are the others?" A militia member asked. He wore sergeant's stripes on his sleeve so Ed guessed he was in charge. "Search the area," this man commanded and several of the militia started prowling the brush. None of them paid any attention to the rocks.
The sergeant gave Boze a kick in the side. "I asked you a question. Where are the others and what kind of spy equipment do you have."
"Spy? Oh you must be mistaken…" Ed started to say and the sergeant but a boot on his neck.
"Don't mess with me. We had a strong RF signal located in this area so you have some kind of radio equipment."
"Radio," Ed groaned as the man put pressure on his neck. "The park ranger had a radio when he brought us up here."
Boze sat up clutching his stomach. "The ranger said this was a prime spot to look for eagles," He said. "I'm with the Audubon Society in Denver and we're doing a count…"
"Just shut up," The sergeant said as his men trickled back through the brush and shook their heads.
"I didn't find anything, Sergeant Bennett," one of them said. "Are we sure these guys are involved? Maybe the signals came from the service road."
"The Lieutenant said it was from across the lake," Bennett said. He pointed his rifle at Ed and then at Boze. "Empty your pockets."
All he got with that order were two cell phones, the GPS unit and a set of car keys.
"Where's your ID?"
Ed pointed back towards the park's entrance. "Locked up in our car."
They heard the sound of a cell phone ringing and one of the militia pulled a phone from his pocket and answered it. He turned away and walked towards the pile of rocks so Ed and Boze couldn't hear him converse. The man kept looking back at the sergeant and nodding, but then he hung up and motioned Bennett over.
"That was the Commander. He said to secure these guys and bring them back to the fortress. He thinks this is all connected to the girl. If she knows them on sight we can find out who they are."
Bennett sighed. "And if they're just a couple of birdwatchers we have two more fools to deal with. Come on, Jack, this is stupid."
"I know, I know…you didn't want to snatch her in the first place," Jack said. "This was all a stupid idea just because Joab thinks the boy is a danger. The Bishop doesn't seem concerned, does he? I bet Joab didn't even tell him about her, and now we'll have two more prisoners. This sucks."
"Well it's too close to kickoff for us to get distracted by all this crap," Bennett said. "We need to focus on the timetable instead of running around with a bunch of prisoners."
"But we're not in charge, are we? We should leave a man here on watch for a few hours in case someone else shows up. Let's get this over with."
Boze and Ed were handcuffed with plastic ties, their hands secured tightly behind them. Bennett assigned a man to remain on watch and told him to return to base by lunchtime, and then he led the way back through the trees towards the service road.
Tim and BD were still in hiding under the rocks, but they had no idea where Rick had gone.
"My leg is falling asleep in this cramped position," BD whispered.
Tim moved slightly to make more room, but he had a boulder pressed up against his back and that didn't help much. They couldn't see the militia man on guard but they knew he was there. The words kickoff and timetable ran through Tim's mind…what were these guys planning?
Both boys were thirsty and hungry but they were afraid to move the packs in case they made noise. It seemed like hours before the militia guy called the base with his cell phone.
"Sergeant, this is William. No signs of anyone else over here, can I return to base? Good, I'll be back in an hour."
They heard him move away and yet Tim cautioned BD to remain still.
"Give him a few minutes," He whispered. Tim shifted around to get a better look. "I hope that's your elbow poking me in the ass."
"Might be, but I have to pee like crazy," BD said. "Can we get out of here?"
Tim was about to crawl out when he heard a scuffling sound on the rocks.
"You guys okay?" Rick said. "He's gone."
They crawled out of the hole and immediately went for the water bottles. BD exercised his cramped leg to get the circulation going and walked over to pee on a rock.
"Where did you run off to?" Tim asked.
"I was never more than twenty yards away. As soldiers they're a piss poor bunch, they don't know much about camouflage."
"One of them said something about a kickoff and a timetable," BD said. "They seem to have plans for something. The guy said they detected our RF signals so that must be the Shadow. All the more reason to call the cops."
"But now they have Boze and Ed. What are we gonna do?" Tim asked.
"Well, first we have to recover the Shadow and hike out of here," Rick said. "Then I'll have to make a call. Boze has an emergency beacon in his belt buckle, but he won't activate it since we already know where they're going. Didn't think they had any RF detection equipment so that's a failure on my part."
"The only failure is that we didn't come armed and now they have three hostages," BD said. "How are we going to get them out of there?"
"Neither of you have military training so bringing weapons would have been foolish. Let's go recover the Shadow and go back to the hotel. I want to look at the surveillance data and see how many men they have over there."
"And then? Who are you going to call?" Tim asked.
"Some friends. Let's saddle up."
The Shadow aircraft was circling over the launch point and Rick brought it down for a landing. It bounced a few times when the wheels hit the rough surface but there was no damage.
He removed the tail and folded the wings, but he didn't stick it back in the case.
"The turbine is still too hot to put it away," Rick said. "I'll carry it for a while."
Rather than return to the cliffs Rick led them down the service road back towards the center of the park. Rappelling down the cliffs would risk observation since it was almost midday and there were bound to be people on the trails. They followed the road and finally stopped to eat and drink water.
Rick packed the Shadow away and sat cross legged on the ground in the shade and drank from his water bottle. BD and Tim were exploring the MRE rations from Rick's backpack.
"What is this stuff?" BD asked.
"Don't ask, he might just tell you," Tim said.
"It's protein…energy food, but that's about all it has going for it," Rick said. "I figure another ninety minutes to the pickup point. Tim you should call Andy, but don't say much of anything. Those militia guys could have a scanner."
"He's expecting a call," Tim said. He dialed the phone and Andy answered. "Pickup, ninety minutes." And then he terminated the call.
It took every bit of that to return to the place on the highway where Andy had dropped them off. They remained in the brush until they saw the van approach and Mitch slid open the side door. They shoved their equipment inside and crawled into the seats.
"Where are ... ? Andy began to ask.
"Just go ... we can't sit here," Rick said.
Andy drove them down to the park entrance and turned the van around, heading back towards the hotel.
"We got jumped by the militia and they took Boze and Ed hostage," Rick said.
"Oh shit," Mitch said.
"Yeah," Tim said. "But Rick has a plan, don't you, Rick?"
"TLI, kiddo. Too little information…I need to see the flight data."
"Yeah, the laptop received a big data stream but I didn't try to view it," Mitch said.
"Smart boy," Rick said. "It would all be pretty confusing without the right software application. I'll show you how it works when we get back."
Bill had ordered a room service lunch for eight and he looked happy to see them until he realized Boze and Ed were missing. Tim gave him a hug as Rick explained what had happened.
"You think they'll be okay?" Bill asked.
"I don't see why not. BD and Tim overheard two of the militia guys arguing about taking prisoners because it seems they have some kind of event planned. I doubt if they'll be harmed any time soon, but we need to get them out of there."
Rick looked at BD. "How much does your friend Monica know about these God's Chosen militia?"
"Just that they're my father's security people," BD said. "She probably knows more about them now than we do. But I never told her about their headquarters compound so she probably doesn't know where she's being held."
"That's a good thing," Rick said. "I don't know how they will keep Boze and Ed from knowing where they are since we were already across the lake from them. That puts them at risk."
"Let's call the cops," Tim said. "Bill should call Matt."
"Hold on," Rick said. "I'm afraid a police raid will be slow and clumsy. Just getting through that fence will be awkward and give the militia time to react. There are some pretty heavy weapons in there. They may not shoot at the cops but they have a lot of stuff to hide, including our friends. Let's look at the video."
Mitch was interested in this and he watched Rick set up the laptop and a projector. BD and Tim started eating sandwiches since the MRE meal had been less than adequate. Rick opened a program on the laptop and the projector sprang to life.
"Someone close the drapes," Rick said and Bill pulled them shut.
The projection on the wall was about three by four feet, allowing them all a view of what the Shadow's camera had captured. But Rick typed in a few commands and several grids appeared along one side.
"Okay," Rick said. "The Shadow took pictures and continuously noted the GPS coordinates. That little map at the left is an overview of the land beneath the plane and is synchronized with the view from above. The red dot indicates the position of the Shadow."
"I got it," Mitch said.
"So now we playback the flight until we see something of interest, and we mark it by hitting Enter. That dark spot is the barn so we want a closer examination of that," Rick said. He maneuvered the cursor over the spot and hit Enter. A yellow dot appeared on the GPS map and a menu popped up numbering the position with a one. Rick typed in the word 'barn.'
Viewing the whole camera-eye section took almost thirty minutes and when they were done the menu held eighteen points of interest. Then Rick reset the program and they ran the thermal imaging section of the flight.
Everyone was staring at the image on the wall as the Shadow's heat sensitive camera gave them a ghostly view of the property. It soon became clear when a heat source was a human being standing among the trees or sitting in a bunker. As the targets were spotted Mitch used the cursor arrow to pin them down and mark them in the menu.
By the time they were done it appeared there were fifteen people in the compound behind the security fence.
"That's still a sizeable force," Bill said. "I'm sure we didn't expect every militia member to be present, I mean they do have jobs outside of this."
"The heat signatures from inside the barn could be anything," BD said. "So what do we do now?"
"I still think we ought to call Matt," Tim said.
"That's going to precipitate a real battle," Bill said.
"I don't know if the state police are up for something like this," Andy said. "Right now Boze and Ed are probably sitting in some cell inside that barn and maybe they have them in with Monica. She doesn't know them and I doubt if they will reveal their identities to her unless it's necessary."
"This is a real mess," Rick said. "We can't handle fourteen armed men by ourselves."
"But you have a plan…so who are these friends you wanted to call?" BD asked.
"Part of Boze's company which doesn't see a lot of action in this country," Rick said. "They usually work for one of our government branches in a contractual situation."
Andy shook his head. "These are the ugly people, the nasty boys…am I right?"
"Most of their work is unconventional and usually covert, yes. Does that answer your question?"
"In other words, you can't talk about it," Mitch said.
"Exactly," Rick said.
"We could get in so much trouble," Bill said.
"And how is that any different than where we are now?" Tim asked.
"We're risking the lives of three people here, the militia doesn't count," BD said. "Isn't there a better way? I could just call my father and end this."
"No, I don't think your father can stop this," Andy said. "If he doesn't know about Monica then these militia guys are doing a lot more behind his back. I wish we knew what they were planning to do, that might give us more leverage."
"Well we can't take on the whole militia but what about just one guy?" Bill asked. "We know who they are and where they live. All we have to do is pick the right one."
"And how do we do that?" Andy asked.
"How about we send a cop to ask another cop. Let's get Matt involved."
"You're thinking of that trooper up in Centennial," Andy said. "Why would he tell Matt anything?"
"First off he might want to keep his job, but I think Matt can be very persuasive. If this guy already knows about the kidnapping then he's up against federal time as an accessory. It's worth a try."
"Bill is right," Rick said. "If the guy caves in we can turn this whole thing over to the FBI and they can bring in an army of Federal Marshals."
"I'll call Matt," Bill said.
"And if this trooper won't talk? How do we get our guys out of there?" BD asked.
"I'll call Jocko as a last resort," Rick said.
"He must be something else," Tim said.
"He's the most dangerous man I know."
Monica awoke to the sound of birds chattering in the trees outside. The tiny window up near the ceiling in the room where she was being held had heavy bars across it, but at least it let in some air. She'd been brought in here with a cloth bag over her head and no way to tell where she was. But the room where they kept her was only eight foot square and the walls were concrete, this was a prison cell.
She had been stiff and sore after her encounter with the two men who had grabbed her outside the mall and tossed her in the back of the van. That was five days ago and her mother must be so worried, and BD…
This was all about the boy, she knew that. These guys hoped her kidnapping would bring him home and back into the clutches of his father, that sanctimonious asshole. Now she was hungry again, although they had left her a bottle of water.
She had not been treated badly and they did feed her three times a day. But her first hours in this room had been filled with fear and the concern that she might be raped. It had taken her hours to fall asleep that first night, but nothing had happened.
They were after BD for the documentation he was sure to have stashed somewhere online and she was the bait. Damn, and now she had to pee. Monica eyed the bucket in the corner with disgust. That might work well for a guy but a woman…aw, hell, she had little choice.
BD was a handsome boy and the most brilliant creature she had ever met, but his life was certainly fucked up by his family. Bishop Tilden had always seemed to be a monster, even before he discovered BD was gay. But she had never met the man and if she was lucky maybe she never would.
Her only confrontation with these militia people had been with some idiot in a black uniform. No rank or insignia, but he had a gold cross on each lapel. Monica didn't think he was any kind of preacher, he looked too young for that, but he had tried to put the fear of God in her and it was all she could do to keep from laughing.
He was confident, perhaps naively so, because they had allowed her to send BD an email. Of course they dictated the contents and she had to argue with them about including the line to Bobby. Their questions had all been about BD's whereabouts but she had no idea where he was.
BD was sure to call her mother and discover that she had vanished on her way home from the mall. But then what would he do? This was all going to take time to develop and…she heard sounds outside the door.
The metal door opened to reveal a new man, this one with a tray of food in his hand. He stood there looking at her siting on the cot and then stepped inside.
"Why am I here?" Monica asked the same question every day. But the man made no reply.
He set the tray down on the concrete floor and slid it towards her with his foot. This could have been a breakfast from the iHop since there were eggs, bacon and pancakes beside a carton of juice.
"I'll be back later with some lunch," the man said.
"Where am I…why are you doing this?"
The man smiled. "No harm will come to you…God is watching." And with that he left.
How many of these militia guys were there? So far she had seen at least eight different men all of them in camo uniforms except for the guy in black. She ate the breakfast and set the tray on the floor beside the door. God is watching…what the hell did that mean?
It was time to start making some demands of her jailers, and first up would be a bath or shower. No, that was not a good idea, then they would see her naked. She must stink by now after wearing the same clothes for days on end. Okay, a bucket of water and some soap. She could clean up and try to wash some of her clothing.
The same man brought her lunch, a sandwich and chips.
"I need to bathe," Monica said. "A bucket of water and some soap would be just fine."
"I'll ask the Commander," the man said.
Commander? Would that be the man in black? None of these guys wore name tags on their uniforms. But twenty minutes later the door to her room opened and the man in black was there once again.
"Come with me," He said.
She stepped through the door into a short hallway she had never seen before. Down at the end behind her was an open door which gave Monica a glimpse of monitor screens and a man sitting before a keyboard. Once he saw her the door was shut.
The Commander led her to a door at the other end of the hallway and he opened it. Suddenly there was sunlight and fresh air…they were outside…but not completely. The cage was ten feet long and about eight feet wide. It smelled of dog but there on the concrete floor was a bucket of hot water, some soap, towels and a scrub brush.
"Clean yourself, wash your clothes if you want. No one will bother you here. Enjoy the air…I'll be back for you in a few hours," And then the door slammed shut.
The cage was surrounded by pine trees, but none of them tall enough to block out the sun or the sky above. The air felt good, but she didn't have much time. Monica pulled off her jeans and stood there in her running shorts, it would have to do. She picked up the brush and the soap to begin the washing process.
It would take her a while to wash and dry her stuff, but it held her focus for a good twenty minutes…and like everyone else on the ground she did not see the small flying object in the sky above her.
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