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©02 The Media Desk
I had always associated the term Road Trip with a journey someplace with the sole intent of having a blast. A raunchious binge of drinking, womanizing, loud music, and general no holds barred fun.
Well. I was on a road trip, but it certainly wasn't fun.
I drove to Boston. Interviewed people. Dug through records. Ran leads past Keia over the computer. Then drove to Albany.
It couldn't be done any other way.
The mission was so top secret it didn't have a clearance. The Bishop told me to not reveal anything substantial that I learned to anybody. Including him. I would be debriefed regularly by certain individuals from a couple of law enforcement agencies. And they showed up a couple of times a week and collected the information I had gleaned.
I didn't even have my car. I drove a different car every other day. Sometimes it would be from the government motor pool, other times, a rental, and once I rode in the back of a van driven by Federal Prison guards.
One thing in Memphis's favor is the night life, in spite of the rainy fog coming off the river, and some of the best food ever put on a plate. The jazz was smooth. And so was a woman I met there.
But even as she smiled and talked about a moonlight riverboat ride, alarms in my head were going off. It wasn't that I was married now. Something was wrong with her. I smiled and finished my beer and went to the bathroom.
But instead of going into the room I slipped into the waitress station and watched the dining room.
If the guy that stopped by our table wasn't trouble I was the Easter Bunny. They talked with one eye towards the restrooms. I nodded to myself and bribed a busboy to show me the back door.
I got in my car and drove to a shopping center. I was sure I was being followed.
Everything I was traveling with was in the trunk of the rental. I pulled it all out and dropped it in a shopping cart that was nearby. Then pushed it away. A car started up and followed at a discreet distance. Then I ducked into the mall.
My first stop was the phones. I dialed Keia and explained the problem.
"I need picked up as soon as possible. Relay the message to whoever's coming to use the next code word from the game."
She said, "OK Huntie. You careful."
I hung up and pushed my cart toward the sporting goods store.
The backpack I bought was almost too big for me. But the laptop and everything else fit in it with room to spare.
I went to the food court and drank a nervous cup of coffee.
"You buying organics at 175?" A voice asked me.
I turned to look at the speaker. A uniformed city cop and his lady partner were behind me.
"No. I won't pay more than 150." I answered.
The cop checked his note. "We'll sell the shipload."
I stood and looked around. My tail was standing in line at the chicken shack.
"I'm still being followed. This may get ugly."
"So we were told." The lady officer said.
I got up and picked up my backpack. The tail jumped out of line and talked to his wrist.
We were in the police car when the car that had followed me stopped in a handicapped spot.
"You seem to be popular."
"It's not me." I patted the backpack on the back seat. The cop nodded and pulled away from the curb. Now two cars were tailing us.
"More company." The female officer said looking behind us.
"Where are we going?" I asked him.
"To the station. I was supposed to take you to the airport, but with all that heat. We might never make it."
The underground parking garage of the police station was a relief. But I still didn't let go of the backpack. They escorted me into the detective's office where a gray haired gentleman sat saying "Yes Sir" a lot into a phone. He motioned me to sit next to him and said "Yes Sir" again. Then again. A uniformed police captain stood by the desk.
He hung up and looked at me with something between disbelief and scorn in his eyes.
The police watch commander asked him if I was his baby now. He nodded then looked at me. "You are a headache I don't need. And trouble I don't want."
"They're still out there sir. Two bunches of them." The cop that picked me up said.
"Have them picked up. Use any excuse and if they come back hot. Bust'em."
The cop turned to go out. The detective stopped him, "But don't get anybody hurt." He nodded at me. "His boss says these guys may be loaded for bear."
The officer nodded and followed his captain out of the office.
"Your friends are out front waiting for you. Hopefully we'll at least discourage them."
"Speaking of loaded for bear. Your boss wants me to ask you if you need anything."
"I've been packing heavy since this started."
"How heavy?" His eyebrows climbed into his hair.
I shrugged and reached under my rain coat.
"What is That?" He asked as I pulled the clip and took the live round out of the chamber before laying the .32 auto on the desk.
He asked if he could look at it, then picked it up with the reverence a man who knows his weapons shows for a superior piece of firepower.
We talked a bit about guns, then something stupid happened.
A man I hadn't seen before burst into the office shouting with his sidearm drawn.
I dove out of the chair and came up with the .454 aimed at the man's chest. The detective saved his life by grabbing the gun and shouting at me not to fire.
"My Good Lord you have quick reactions." He said after I relaxed. "Johnson. If you don't explain yourself I'll shoot you myself!" He said to the other officer.
"We tried to detain the people that are following him. And somebody started shooting and they got away."
The detective shook his head. There hadn't been any injuries and one car with two bad guys in it had been picked up. But the other one was gone. Later they found the car on fire sinking into a swamp.
Then he had to look over my .454. He was impressed. "You usually carry this much hardware?"
"If you knew what I've been investigating and who those guys out front worked for, you would too."
He shook his head. "I was told to not even ask. So I guess you don't need anything other than lunch."
I looked at him and thought for a second. "Maybe there is."
Later an entire platoon of cops formed a phalanx and escorted a man with a backpack and raincoat out to an armored Corrections van. It pulled away with squad cars before and after it. It hadn't been away for more than a minute when a car with tinted windows pulled out of the parking lot across the street and followed.
Then another man rode out of the underground garage in an unmarked car. They went the other way. A car followed it from the side street.
I sighed. There was no telling how many tails there were out there.
"You're going to have to get out of here some way." The detective said. My stuff was in a cardboard box sitting next to his desk.
I looked at my laptop and pointed at a phone on the other desk. "Can I borrow that?" He nodded.
In a few minutes I was in chat with the Bishop explaining what was going on.
Bishop42: Word is out. Half the unfriendlies in the country are in Memphis.
>>>theHunter is grinning with a burning idea.
Bishop42: Spit it out.
theHunter: Tell Falcon I need a ride that calls for his special talents.
The detective nodded when I asked him if they had a helipad, then he grinned.
Bishop42: Is your position there secure, it will be tomorrow before he can get to you.
theHunter: I'm in the police station.
Bishop42: If you are satisfied.
theHunter: How's my corp partner?
Bishop42: She is operating from a secure location, and I have heavy backup stationed at your HQ.
I relaxed and smiled. If the Bishop called something a 'secure location' she was probably on the space shuttle or a nuclear sub someplace at sea.
I spent that night in the detective's office, catnapping with the box under my feet and the .454 in my belt. The outer door was locked, with one of the biggest, meanest, hairiest police officers I had ever seen sitting across from me in a chair in front of the door with a shotgun across his lap. The man spoke well when I talked to him, but I got the impression he valued his overtime pay more than my security.
There was a knock on the door. The cop jumped up and grabbed the doorknob with his other hand full of shotgun. I aimed my revolver at the door and nodded.
"It's Devery." A voice said.
I shrugged. The big cop made a face. "What's your son's name?"
"He's not My son." The voice answered with an edge to it.
He opened the door. Devery stared at the shotgun, then at my piece. She raised her hands. "There's a helicopter with rocket launchers on it out back. The pilot is on a loudspeaker shouting for a Hunter."
I grinned. "That's my ride."
The big cop nodded. "Let's go."
I put my revolver away and picked up the box. "Let's not let down our guard now. Call for some backup."
He checked the chamber on his shotgun, took it in one hand and his .45 government in the other. "I AM the backup." He said. I didn't doubt it one bit.
Devery lead the way. There were several cops out back looking at Falcon's fancy helicopter. It was the same one he had when he ferried me to my wedding. But now, projecting out of both sides were rocket launcher tubes and a gattling gun stuck out from under the nose.
I looked out the door. Both ways. Everything seemed quiet. Then I started what seemed to be at least a three mile walk out to the chopper.
I wasn't even halfway. Three big cars and a van roared towards the building. Men were leaning out of the windows firing all kinds of guns. The door on the helicopter slid open and Conga jumped out with a machine gun. I heard the helicopter's engine scream to full power and the thing lifted into the air. The Gattling gun on the helicopter started barking. I ran like mad back toward the building since it was closer. The big cop had emptied his weapons and was right behind me. The thump of the rocket launchers was unmistakable.
Everybody was firing all the while at the now fleeing cars.
It was over in a about a minute. Falcon circled the building twice. Then sat down.
"All Clear." He announced on the loudspeaker.
I looked out. Three of the cars were burning, the van laid on it side a ways off. Two wounded police officers were being looked after.
The gray-haired detective still had his pistol out reloading it and shaking his head. "I don't need this excitement. Get out of my town."
His verdict was seconded by the on duty shift supervisor. I picked up my box and got into the helicopter beside Conga.
In a minute we were high over the river.
"So who are you investigating to cause all this trouble?" Conga asked me, or are you just causing trouble?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. I really don't know."
He looked at me with disbelief. I opened my box and showed him the notebook I had been carrying around and writing in for so long.
It was mostly blank.
"You're a decoy!" Falcon laughed and did several loops.
"Evidently." I said seriously. "A job I will turn down next time."
"But they are still after you." Conga said reloading his machine gun.
I looked out the window as we flew across the Big Muddy. "You guys ever been to Kansas City?"
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