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©02 The Media Desk
"Even if I DID know where he was, I'm not sure I'd tell you."
"Just make sure you really don't know where he is before I leave."
The manager of the beta-testing unit sat back in his chair. "That sounded like a threat."
His unwelcome visitor looked at him from behind pitch-black sunglasses. "It was."
The manager reached for his phone to call building security. The visitor produced a small funny looking weapon and leveled it at the manager.
"That would be a terrible mistake."
He settled back in his chair as the man stood up.
"I'll show myself out. Don't do anything foolish. You won't live to regret it."
He sat there for a long time after the visitor had left. His secretary looked in, "He's gone, do you want me to call the police."
He shook his head, "No. It wouldn't do any good." Then turning to his computer he pulled up a file of employee email transmissions and looked down the list.
"There it is. It has to be. Bishop42." He said to the screen, then he copied the address to his own email composer.
"Sir." He typed, "You only know me through a mutual friend. But I just had a very strange visitor who was inquiring about the whereabouts of our friend. I would be most happy to share with you our security tapes of this individual and the topic and tone of our conversation." He typed a few more lines and sent it.
Then the manager spent the next half an hour tensely watching for any sign of the man in the sunglasses. His computer beeped, he clicked the email open.
"Sir, I am most interested in said visitor. Acquaintances of our friend and mine will be by to discuss this matter. You will have no trouble recognizing them. However, it might be a good idea if you accompany one of them to a safe house this evening until we can guarantee your caller has left the city." He read under his breath. "Your servant, Bishop42."
He paced his office until his secretary beeped him.
Earlier, under threat of death, she had not beeped or even spoken until the terrible visitor had left. Now she spoke in a whisper in case somebody, him, could overhear her.
"There's two women here to see you."
"I'll be right out." He said. Bishop42 had told him he would have no problem recognizing them.
One woman was wearing combat gear and body armor. She was carrying a sizable machine gun with what appeared to be a grenade or rocket launcher under the barrel. From her hips hung two heavy pistols and other assorted gear of war. Some sort of law enforcement badge was part of the breastplate of her armor. She was watching every door and window with the eye of a bird of prey through a bulletproof faceplate on a large heavy helmet with built in camera and two way radio set.
The other was dressed to the nines in stylish eveningwear and pearls except for a sidearm and similar badge. She was knock down drag out gorgeous and moved with the finesse of a champion figure skater.
"I was expecting you." The manager said.
"OK." The armored woman said and gestured into his office with the machine gun. They walked into his office and she shut and locked the door behind them.
"I'm Tamera, this is Julie. We were told you have had contact with an enemy agent." The dressed up one said.
The armored woman scanned the room with some sort of sensing device, then she peered out the window with funny looking binoculars, only after that did she even put her weapon on safety. The manager relaxed, a little.
"OK, we're clear." 'Julie' AKA 2nd Grace said.
The manager looked at one, then the other, "You two don't belong together."
"I was at my other job." 'Tamera' smiled. "Tell us about your visitor. Everything you can think of, and then we'll ask you some questions."
"Watch this." He gestured to the monitor. He clicked a few buttons and then the screen showed a security tape. The man had come in and walked passed security. When questioned, he simply threatened them and went on his way. The view changed, he was walking down a passage, then up some stairs. His strength was evident when the door at the end of the hallway would not open, being magnetically sealed, and he pulled on it until the electronic lock came out of the wall. The tape cut to the scene in the outer office.
"Hold it right there." Julie said. "Can you blow that up."
"Sure can." He zeroed in on the gun.
"A baster." Tamara said softly.
"What did he want?"
"He was looking for somebody."
"TheHunter. Right? That's his name in our... outfit."
"Yeah. And when I told him I didn't know where he was. He believed me. I thought that was unusual."
"He knows us. And to tell you the truth, I don't know where he is and I am his superior officer." The armored woman looked out the window with her binoculars. "Oh oh."
"I don't like it when she says 'oh oh'." Tamara smiled gently to the manager, she drew her sidearm and checked the rounds in the sizable revolver.
"What kind of bullets are those?"
"Armor piercing incendiaries." Julie said with just a glance at the bright green tips.
"How dangerous is this guy?" The manager asked with wide eyes.
Julie hung her binoculars off her belt. "Very." Then she looked at Tamara, "Somebody is watching this building, but it's not him. I don't think they want you, they're going to assume we are going to take this to the Bishop or theHunter."
"Let's lead them on a grand tour." Tamara grinned.
"Can you email that tape to the Bishop?"
The manager nodded.
After a few more questions and answers, the two women left the way they had come in.
Thunder stood next to the driver's door and looked around, and the way she did it let everyone know she was looking around, "Are they still there?"
The people on the sidewalk gave 2nd Grace a wide berth, being dressed like a stormtrooper and carrying an entire platoon's worth of firepower has advantages. A Baltimore police officer walked by. At first he was going to approach them, but then thought better of it and kept on walking.
2nd Grace nodded and opened the van door, "Let's go."
Thunder started the van.
"We got a full tank of gas, four cans of diet cola, we're in a major city, and we're both armed to the teeth."
Thunder led the following cars on a merry tour without breaking the speed limit. 2nd Grace took pictures of them and motorcycle that was tracking them one street over, and another car on the other side. A taxi stayed with them as well.
They went around the Baltimore beltway, stopped for a sandwich, then drove North on 95. Their tails strung out around them, the taxi and motorcycle went ahead, the rest behind. 2nd Grace talked into the radio now and again.
Thunder followed 2nd Grace's directions and they just after they crossed a river, she turned onto a smaller highway, they wound through the countryside for awhile.
"Turn left onto Rt One."
Thunder nodded and made her turn. The following cars strung out behind them. She made a stop for necessities in a tiny town. A young man with his eyes the size of saucers pumped her gas and told her it was Kilby Corner.
2nd Grace nodded at him, "And somebody dressed like that comes in every day." She smiled at Thunder.
"Yes ma'am." The kid said.
Thunder paid him then they took turns in the restroom.
"All set?" She asked 2nd Grace who made a show of checking her guns before she got back in. All she had done for comfort since they left the city was to loosen her waistband a little.
"Everything is ready. Let them stay close." She said into her hand. "Stay on One."
Thunder pulled out to continue south and the procession followed.
The road went down a slight hill. Then before them the Susquehanna River lay huge and blue. The road worked through a barrage of construction signs to the causeway over the old bridge.
"Keep driving." 2nd Grace ordered.
About halfway across the mile long bridge a set of work trucks were parked in the northbound lane. A few workmen milled around. Thunder drove by.
Suddenly one of the trucks made a sharp left turn to set crossways in the road.
The lead following car screeched to a halt. The passenger got out waving and shouting.
One of the workmen, a tall dignified-looking gray-haired man walked over the car and began apologizing.
The follower on the motorcycle tried to get around the truck and met with more obstruction and confusion.
Finally they got past the trucks and roared across the bridge.
The van was setting empty in the parking area next to the viewing platform on the south bank.
Several very upset people waved their arms and shouted at each other for quite some time.
Finally 2nd Grace relaxed and began taking off her armor. "Anywhere."
Thunder laughed and took off her belt and holster.
Falcon wheeled the helicopter far out over the Chesapeake and aimed for theHunter's house inland.
The woman spoke in flawless French.
I nodded and bowed slightly.
The steward left us alone in the compartment.
"Whisper only." She said to me in English.
"How long until we reach... Where are we going again?"
"It is now called Bht'usi. I don't know the name you might recognize. A full day. From there, we get to the port. We'll take a ship to Brazil. Then..."
"Then I'll get us to the states."
"I am not going to the US. My job will be finished when you get transport home." As had been the case the whole trip, her English got better as we talked.
I nodded. She was the very definition of professional.
The train was an ancient creaking affair that was going far too fast for the tracks. But as we went through a section of dense forest, the train came to a sudden stop.
She put on her veil and told me to stay seated. "Bandits." She whispered.
I wasn't taking any chances. I reached into the old carpetbag I was now carrying and drew both the .454 and the Baster. Depending on what came through the door, I was ready, standing to one side of the door.
Much shouting erupted in the passage outside. A man in a decrepit uniform pulled back our curtain and looked very surprised when I stuck the muzzle of the revolver over the end of his nose. My companion had her sidearm out and told him in whatever language he spoke that maybe he should leave us alone.
He backed out nodding and we waited in silence, weapons at the ready.
Then the train got going again. Outside the window in the passage I saw our friend pointing to his nose and speaking quickly.
We got off the train when it stopped to allow some cross traffic to pass before it got to the station, from there we walked to a market and got a taxi. And it was still couple of hours to the port.
We bought tickets and bribed our way on board a freighter.
"They'll leave us alone." She said as I checked out our cabin.
"From the way they looked at you I wouldn't count on it." I grinned.
"They will. I told them you were a very jealous man." She drew her finger across her throat.
I grinned and unpacked my laptop for the first time since I had landed in Africa.
"Tell me something." She said taking off her outer robes, I looked up, "You not like women any more Hunter?"
"No no. It's just that I'm married now."
She looked at me with something between regret and respect. "You honor your wife. Please forgive me." She bowed to me.
"There's nothing to forgive you for. I appreciate the compliment." I got up and kissed her warmly. "A few years ago..." I kissed her again and then went back to work.
Her smile made me sweat all the way across the Atlantic.
The ship sat sail with its cargo of tractor parts, ore processing equipment, and other odds and ends.
We took our meals either in the room or with one of the half dozen officers in what used to be the officer's mess when the ship belonged to the French Navy.
I've always liked spicy food. But the cook only knew how to make two meals. Breakfast, and Curry. By the third day out I was passing fire and craving a cheeseburger.
"Hunter. The captain says the crew would like a demonstration of your pistol." She asked me after breakfast for lunch.
I looked at the captain. The man was little more than sun dried dark skin stretched over a skeleton. He nodded and looked at the .454 in its side holster.
"Can I get something else for supper besides curried mystery meat?"
She asked him in his language. His agreement needed no translation.
I had one of the younger crewmen that spoke some American take an assortment of cans and bottles to the very front of the ship and set them around on various fixtures. Then I stood next to the captain on the open forebridge of the old ship. With the crew looking on I drew the massive revolver and aimed.
It was a good long shot with a crosswind at a small target that was moving as the ship pitched in the water. I'm not sure which impressed the crew more, the roar of the revolver or my target prowess.
But it paid off. That night we had a real live chunk of roast instead of curried something long dead.
A week later we got off the ship off Brazilian waters and hired a fishing boat to shore, then a cab to the American Embassy.
There I used my Justice card to get a direct line to the US and arranged a secure pickup without the benefit of customs.
I left her at the airport gate. A US Navy jet was sitting waiting for me, a commercial flight for her in an hour.
"You have a good life Hunter." She said.
"You too. It was an interesting trip."
She smiled that smile, her eyes flashing. "Yes it was."
"You never did tell me your real name." I said.
"You're right. I didn't."
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