Authors: Tara Tyler
“Who’s the redhead?”
Cooper looked over at Geri and let a grin slip onto his lips.
“A friend.” Geri smiled back.
“She’s a looker,” Joe said with a double eyebrow lift. The men looked over at her again. She waved at them.
Cooper refocused on the QV.
“Miki? It’s me.”
“Oh, hi, Cooper. I’m sorry about your head. Hold on. Someone here wants to talk to you.”
“Dawson? Where are you?”
“How did you get involved in this? What are you doing here?”
Geri tapped Cooper’s shoulder to get his attention. He held up his index finger for her to wait a minute.
“Miki called me. They showed me the video. I added some more to it and Jared has been working on getting it uploaded to broadcast via satellite.”
“Amazing, isn’t it. He seems to know what he’s doing.”
“What happens when it’s out there?”
“He got me a secured line so I’ve been talking to my staff privately. They are coordinating with my highest contacts to start the process of suspending pop travel, alerting law enforcement to help at transport stations. I’ve left a message for the President, but who knows if they’ll believe me. It sounded a little crazy, listening to myself explain it all.”
“How long until it’s on the air?”
“Cooper!” Geri shouted.
“Hold on, Dawson.” He turned to her. “What?”
“Our tail just left!”
“Oh, no! They must be listening to Miki’s QV! Dawson, you guys need to get out of there. You’re about to have company!”
“Jared has fifteen or twenty minutes to go.”
“You only have ten! We’re on our way.”
Cooper and Geri dashed out the door and jumped into Geri’s car with Cooper in the driver’s seat.
“I know a short cut! Hold on!”
Cooper steered them at a sharp right, through an alley, crashed a fence, ran over a lawn chair, through a sprinkler and another fence, then down a driveway and back onto a street. And right behind their escort.
As the other car turned right, so did Cooper. The streets were all twenty-five miles per hour with four-way stops at every other intersection. Cooper blew threw them and squealed around a car, then turned up a street, swerved to miss a kid on a bike, and came crashing into the tail end of the other agents’ car. He sent the car across the street into a light pole. Out of the steering wheel and dashboard burst the polyurethane foam, to cushion the impact.
“You all right?” Cooper asked. Geri rubbed her neck.
“Sure, let’s go!”
As they jumped out of the car, the two agents came at them, drawing their electroguns.
Cooper kept his head low and slammed into the gut of the first guy before he could fire, smashing him into the car. He sank to the ground.
Geri blocked the other agent’s shot with her QV absorber, recycling it and shooting it back at him, hitting him in the arm. He dropped his weapon but continued to charge her.
She shot him again, this time in the leg, and he went down.
Geri helped Cooper cuff the two agents and put them in the back of their own car and they ran the rest of the way to Jared’s house.
Dawson, Miki, and Jared were ready to send out the message.
“Thanks for coming down to help,” Cooper told Dawson.
“I wish you had told me in the first place.”
“You didn’t believe me!” Cooper said, raising his arms.
Dawson smirked at him.
“There it goes,” Jared said.
Cooper held his breath as he watched the live broadcast air on Jared’s compucenter imager. This was it. This is what he’d been working for all this time. He hoped it worked. How would they know?
Dawson had added a nice intro, but something still felt wrong, missing, or out of place. Unfinished business.
When Hasan came on, Geri spoke up.
“Don’t you think we should go check on Hasan?”
“He should be safe at the plantation, right?”
“Blake is with him.”
Cooper whipped his head around to look at Geri.
“Exactly,” she said.
“Miki, we need to borrow your car.”
She threw Cooper the keys and they dashed out the door.
“How far do you think the plantation is from here?” Cooper asked as they got in the car.
“Too far for us to get there in time. Blake is gonna flip when he sees that video!” Geri said.
“Then we’ll have to fly.”
“Even if you went a hundred miles an hour, it might be too late. We should pop.”
“We’re too far from a transport station. I meant… Never mind.”
Cooper sped out of town, made a few turns and ended up on a dirt road. He took a left down a long drive with two large barns off to the right of a two-story farmhouse.
As they parked, an older man in overalls stomped out of the front door with an old-fashioned buckshot shotgun.
“What’s your business?” he shouted.
Cooper yelled out the window.
“It’s me, Silas! Hold your fire!”
“Cooper? I didn’t know you had a car. What’s all the fuss?”
Cooper and Geri got out and walked quickly over to Silas.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have time to explain. I need to borrow your plane.” Cooper didn’t wait for Silas to answer. He pulled on Geri and they jogged over to the larger barn. Silas followed close behind.
“Since when are you a pilot?” Silas asked. He helped Cooper open the doors.
“Since forever. She’ll be safe with me. I promise.” Cooper patted the nose of the single-engine Cessna. He opened the door and helped Geri climb in.
“Hunh,” Silas said. He stood scratching his head as he watched Cooper taxi the plane out of the hangar, onto the mowed grass runway strip, then take off.
PTI Corporate Offices, Atlanta, GA
12:00 p.m., Saturday, July 27
ay Saffioti paced in his office, waiting for Vivienne and Charles. They were coming over to discuss the implementation of the new procedures. Ray wasn’t ready to pop the champagne just yet. He wanted to get back to the plantation. Apparently, there was a standoff. Manny had reported that two guards stood outside the lab door, pounding to get in, while inside, the FBI agent made threats to keep them out. Ray had to get over there!
Every moment that passed added heat to the already boiling situation. Ray told Manny to have the guards ease off and hold back from agitating the agent, which could risk harm to Hasan or the lab. Who knew what that half-cocked agent might do, after the stunt he pulled earlier with one of his own people.
In the background, Ray’s wall imager showed the Money Channel. Ray glanced over at it from time to time, paranoid of hearing the words, “PTI stocks plunge.”
Then it happened.
The imager fuzzed into a video of Representative Dawson Cooper. Ray’s heart stopped. As if in a terrible dream, he heard the condemning announcement he had feared for two years. As the message played, Ray froze, unable to tear his eyes away from the bone-chilling sight. When his heart started again, it beat so fast he thought it would explode. He gripped his chest as Hasan’s face appeared. Ray’s eyes popped to twice their size. His brain throbbed. He had to hold his head to slow the pulsing beat ramping into yet another mind-numbing migraine.
Lurching over to his desk to look for his Valium, he got an idea, noticing the door to his private transmission dock.
Hasan has that code to make pops untraceable. I could disappear.
Ray’s dock was specially designed. He could send himself anywhere, without needing assistance from a technician or medical staff. Lumbering into the chair, still clutching his head, he punched in the codes for Hasan’s lab. He lay back and gave himself the shot, then pushed the transmit button on the arm of the chair.
Vivienne and Charles burst into Ray’s office.
“Ray!” Vivienne’s voice reverberated around the empty room. He was probably hiding under his desk.
“Ray?” Charles asked, cautiously looking around.
Get a backbone, Charles.
Vivienne saw the open transport room door, with the lights on inside.
Charles had stopped moving, fixated on the imager, jaw dangling. When the video showed the disintegrated body, he grabbed his chest, lost his balance, and crashed to the floor.
Vivienne rolled her eyes, unfazed by the sight. But when she realized what Ray had done, she shrieked.
Stomping over to the transport room, she looked at the code.
“That bastard! He went to Hasan’s lab. Well, he’s not the only one getting out of this.”
Vivienne picked up another syringe of tranquilizer. Settled in the chair, ready for her departure, she looked over at Charles on the floor.
“Nice knowing you, Chuck.” She gave herself the shot and pressed the button.
Beasley Hills Plantation
12:10 p.m., Saturday, July 27
Hasan’s receiver buzzed.
“Who could be calling at this hour?” The little jokester went over to the receiving station.
“Well? Who is it?” Blake asked with a scowl. He was pissed about missing Geri and tired of babysitting this annoying kid. To add to his frustration, Ed had just informed him the video was playing on every satellite channel. Blake was to stay with Hasan and not let him out of his sight. Better not be for long, or he might have to kill him.
“It’s from Ray’s office. My boss. I mean, I’m his boss, but he treats me like… Anyway. The pop is coming from his office dock. Which doesn’t surprise me. He’s the only one with this code.”
“I know who he is. Why would he come here?” Blake asked. Why didn’t the guy just pop out of the country. Ray Saffioti was in deep shit.
“I don’t know. Should I receive him?”
Blake didn’t want to, but he could handle Ray.
Hasan pushed the
button. Ray started to form.
. He was done.
Blake watched as Hasan went over and opened the door.
Just in time to see Ray poof into dust.
Blake freaked. He opened his mouth and leaned forward, not believing his eyes. Shaky hands pulled out his electrogun and his knife, not sure what to do.
Hasan stood mesmerized by what happened and didn’t see Blake’s panicky response.
“Cool! I mean, oh my God!”