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©02 The Media Desk

the RUN of theHunter

ch 10 Continued from part 9 Walk

[WARNING: May disturb some sensitive readers]

     I lay awake in my hotel room wondering about the end of my eye-opening conversation with Centre. I had trouble believing some of the things he had said. But then again, it made sense.
     Centre said he was half of the Command and Control team. With Bishop42 the other half. Bishop42 was the one whom the Mandate was currently with.
     "I don't understand. Mandate from who?"
     "Like I said. The government."
     "We work for the President?"
     He shook his head and turned back to the bathroom mirror to inspect his nose again. "I can feel pimples just waiting to come up right along the scar." He ran his finger along a fine line across his nose. "No, that would make us political. We are above partisan politics through a heavy layer of insulation to our ultimate superior. The Mandate was issued by the office of a major US Government post, ages ago. In fact, during the Civil War." He rinsed his face again.
     "If not political. Then what post?" I asked.
     He looked at me. "I'll tell you this much, you'll figure it out. Our Charter and the Mandate for Operations was signed by Roger B. Taney. Now. I need to get back. You are coming to the race with us Sunday. And please bring your friend Keia if you can."

     Back in my room I unlocked the laptop and found Bishop42 waiting on me on the other end.

     Bishop42: So Centre informed you about what's going on?
     theHunter: Yeah. but now what do I do?
     Bishop42: Wait. Stay loose. Keep your eyes and ears open. Watch your six o'clock.

     And that was it. He logged off after saying he had some calls to make.

     Not wanting to watch TV I made a long distance call on the modem with my calling card and logged into the computer system at work, then called up a search engine. In a minute I was reading the life story of the mysterious Roger B. Taney.
     "Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court until his death in 1864." I read aloud from the screen. Suddenly things started falling into place. The concern with moral crime and the emphasis on the spirit of justice.
     Part of the mystery was solved. But more remained. Now I could lay in bed and wonder if I had been getting smiley face stickers from the current Chief Justice.
     I decided that wasn't likely. Centre said Bishop42 was the holder of the mandate. Which probably meant he was answerable to the Chief Justice. Maybe even on staff, although it was far more likely he was on a shadow staff.
     So I lay in bed and watched the lights of Windsor, Canada, across the water.

     Saturday was a long boring day for me.
     Keia had a wonderful time. A bunch of the female folk and a few of the males left immediately after the mandatory morning meeting on a shopping expedition across the border, and she went with them. I ended up closeted with Centre, and Bishop42 on the computer, wading through evidence that ranged from the circumstantial to the damning on half the people in the organization.
     Finally we had the list down to three suspects that the Bishop agreed with. All three had access to the information on JoeW one way or another. All three had been in the pipeline on another operation that had gone sour dealing with an importer of fine art, sans paperwork, in New York.
     The computer spoke in a toneless virtual voice, "In my opinion it may be worthwhile to consider the possibility that all three of these individuals are operating for the other party either in concert or individually."
     Centre agreed.
     "So what do we do?" I asked.
     "Nothing." The computer replied for Bishop42.
     "We wait. If my source is correct, tomorrow at the race, one of the parties is going to attempt to kill me and several other officers."
     "What would that do?" I looked at him.
     "It would cripple our operation for several months and disrupt a few major projects, possibly forever. The loss of several key Command officers could even expose our operations in some key areas. And destroy some links completely. It would take a long time to recover." The voice said.
     I nodded.
     "Oh, Hunter. Your jumpsuit is in your room." The voice added.
     Centre smiled. "In fact, you are late. You are on the Facilities Crew for CART. You need to change and get over to Bell Island."
     "Facilities Crew." I took a deep breath. "OK."
     "Be ready for anything tomorrow. The information on our suite and the event is in your room." Bishop42 announced from the computer speaker.

     It wasn't so bad. I watched the Saturday race, and the open-wheeled cars practice, and wandered around the pit road skybox where they would be watching the Grand Prix the next day. If I was going to attempt something like they were talking about, this would seem to be both an excellent place, and a terrible place to do it. The island was thick with people, and the Detroit River was loaded with boats. The skyboxes were going to be full of dignitaries from the Governor of Michigan to automotive industry heavies and a veritable millionaire's row of the Detroit elite. Our box was on the turn 14 end of the set of suites.
     Security was as tight as it could be, but the pass I found with my jumpsuit and information let me walk right through several of the race team's shops without more than a smile and a nod. Once in awhile the radio hanging on my belt would chatter about crowd control or a drunk. The only way on and off the island without hassle was by boat for anybody wanting to do something. And that was watched by the Coast Guard as well.
     I had to figure that whatever they were going to do was already in place. I tried to check the boxes for explosives or other devices, but it was difficult and unproductive. I put a small piece of tape inside the doorframe and closed the door on it.
     It was very late when I caught a water taxi back to the mainland and then a cab to the hotel.

     We were treated to dinner in the main dining room of the hotel. I had to rush to wash and change while Keia stood in the middle of my room, gorgeously dressed to the nines in a brand new outfit, and told me all about Windsor.
     "And you spend day at car race. I don't know about you." She said.
     "How did you know?" I asked, never mind the fact my CART jumpsuit was laying on the bed.
     "Bunch of men went to race with carmaker group."
     I nodded. The manufacturers had a village of pavilions just outside the course.
     In a few minutes we were walking down to join the others waiting in the lounge for our tables. I looked everybody over while talking to Keia about how nice she looked. All three of the suspects were there. Two of them acted like they knew each other past, "Hi there." But that didn't mean anything.
     Dinner went smoothly, Centre made a nice little toast to the group about how lucky he felt to be working with us. I lifted my glass with the others, wondering if a couple of those in the group felt the same.

     Keia asked me if I wanted to go with them to see a show downtown. I shook my head, "No, you go ahead. I'm a little beat."
     After watching the late news, I went to sleep until my wake up call at six in the morning. In a few minutes I was in my jumpsuit, with dad's gun in a waist pouch and the .454 in a holster under the jumpsuit boring a hole in my floating rib.
     The island was already jumping when I got there around eight. I got a handful of breakfast at a stand and went immediately to check out the suite Centre and the others would be in later. My piece of tape was still on the doorframe. I checked the room out anyway.
     It didn't seem like the time passed for the race to begin, but it did. Soon the place was filling with fans, teams, media, security, and then, Centre and his group arrived.
     I found myself a good vantage point where I could watch the crowd and the booth all at once. During the Anthems, I got a good look at everybody within a few yards of the box. I didn't see anybody familiar.
     "Gentlemen Start Your Engines."
     Even though my entire lifetime's experience as an auto racing fan consisted of my being at the track yesterday, those words echoing over the crowd made my pulse quicken.
     The cars rolled away and the people's attention turned to the action on the track.
     Pit road seemed to be a loosely controlled experiment in chaos theory. Each pit was a hub of activity oblivious to the world around it. My attention was drawn to a huge rolling toolbox that was parked behind the pits, right below the suite structure. At first it seemed to belong there, then I realized it didn't have the wallpaper of sponsor and team stickers all over it like the others. And nobody seemed to be in a hurry to drag it to a pit.
     Cautiously I walked up to it. There was a padlock on the lower tool cabinet part of it. I pulled out one of the drawers in the upper section. Where there was supposed to be a set of tools, was nothing but a piece of yesterday's paper. I carefully closed the door and looked around. Nobody was near that I recognized. I walked down the pit road until I found a CART official and showed him my ID, we shouted into each others ear about the toolbox. He radioed track security to have it removed at once.
     I went back to my vantage point and looked around.
     The field op I knew as HMorgan was now at the bottom of a set of stairs to the observation platform. He seemed concerned about the CART man and the security officer pushing the toolbox toward the paddock. He reached inside his camera case and took out what appeared to be a remote control. I immediately went into action drawing the .38 special and running toward the man.
     He saw me coming and moved to use the transmitter while backing up. He bumped into a guy coming down the stairs and dropped the control. He looked over the rail for it, then vaulted over the railing and started to work his way through the crowd across Fountain Road toward the lagoon. I pushed past a photographer and followed.
     The whine of the passing racecars was deafening, but I heard the gunshot clearly.
     Another of the suspects was waiting for HMorgan, evidently for the getaway. I dove behind a barricade and returned fire. People scattered around us like disturbed birds. Two more shots rang out. HMorgan was shooting at me now too. I felt a sudden sharp pain in my leg. Looking quickly I drew a bead on the other op, at this point I thought it was Rickie, a woman from New Orleans, and fired. She staggered backwards and dropped her gun.
     HMorgan looked at her, then continued to flee. In a moment I followed.
     He was quickly running out of ground between the track and the crowd barriers.
     I was having trouble running at this point. HMorgan found a gap in the retaining fence. At first the CART safety man there protested, then he saw the gun and hit the ground. HMorgan climbed through, trying to cross the track. It took me a little longer to reach the fence, then I started through the gap.
     People on the other side of the track were screaming and pointing. HMorgan only had eyes for me as he ran sideways to a space in the fence on the other side, aiming his gun my way.

     People always say things like this happen in slow motion.

     It didn't. I heard his gunshot, then saw one of the Indycars drive through him. The car spun and slammed into the outside wall going into turn fourteen. Three more cars came through before they got yellow flags out and the traffic diverted to the inside lane.
     HMorgan was scattered all over the track.
     I turned from the scene with little emotion, my leg was burning, but I still had to deal with Rickie. She was sitting next to a barricade with a security officer standing over her.
     I began to limp back to the skyboxes. Centre was there with a Michigan State Police lieutenant. My leg was on fire from my big toe to my hip, but I managed to ask what happened to the toolbox.
     "Bomb disposal's got it." Centre said, then he read my eyes. "It was. You got it."
     "Good job. Very good job." The lieutenant said, then he talked into his radio.
     I had always read about shock being worse than the wound that causes it. I was beginning to believe it. But I wondered whether the shock was from the bullet or from seeing a 900 horsepower land borne aircraft going a hundred and fifty miles per hour, cut a man to pieces.
     "Where's the third one?" I asked them.
     "There is no third one. He was our informant." Centre said.
     Then I made the mistake of a lifetime. I relaxed. And nearly passed out.
     When I got myself back together I was in the infield care center with a CART doctor bandaging my leg. He was talking to me. "In I don't know how many years of being a track doctor, this is my first bullet wound. We'll get you airlifted to Mercy hospital, you're gonna be fine."
     "How's the driver that..." I trailed off, not knowing even how to say it.
     "A little shaken. But physically he's in better shape than you."
     I nodded and laid back on the bed.
     Keia ended up at the hospital with me. She looked like she had been through the battle.
     "Huntie. You hero. But you scare me to death." She said.
     "I'm sorry. Master." I smiled at her.

end 10 Run

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