PART VI – Sticks n’ Stones
Troy and Sam walked out the front door of the luxurious Palm Bay Resort with their hands firmly clasped, smiles plastered across their faces. She leaned in close to Troy, her head touched his broad shoulders as they stopped at the circular driveway. The embodiment of a couple very much in love
During the stay at the Palm Bay Resort they adhered to strict radio silence. There were no electronic communications with the rest of the Omega Group under any circumstances. The agency provided them with something that resembled a pop-up style tent which they assembled in the shower anytime they needed to talk freely. Both Troy and Sam knew the suite contained listening devices and surveillance cameras. Only after Troy verified the bathroom checked out clean did they roll in the suitcase and set it up. Once sealed the tent blocked all electronic communication, meaning it was safe to talk without fear of any eavesdropping devices intercepting their conversations.
A rock under a hammock at the far end of the secluded, private beach served as a drop location to exchange information with the rest of the team. The brief phrases left on the slips of paper would be meaningless to anyone else who may have stumbled across them. But, it allowed them the ability to relay valuable information back and forth. Terrance and Harry checked the drop site every four hours while the other three members stayed at the safe house six miles away on the outskirts of Accra.
Halfway through the second day in Accra the Colonel arrived. He had garnered valuable intel during the flight from the United States to Ghana and passed the information along to Troy and Sam only a few hours before they left for the auction.
Forty people gathered outside the Palm Bay Resort around the circular drive lined with crushed sea shells. Before them, wrapped around and down the driveway, idled twenty Land Rover Sentinels. At around $450,000 USD each the armored vehicles could withstand 7.62-millimeter high-velocity armored piercing bullets, DM51 grenades, and even a thirty-three pound charge of TNT underneath or on the roof. In layman’s terms, they were badass vehicles that served as a drivable fortress built around client comfort and protection. Ami wanted to send a message to those attending his auction; their safety was paramount to him. None of the guests refused his offer to shuttle them to his compound in the Sentinels.
Troy leaned in close to Sam as they made their way closer to the line of vehicles.
“You know how much those bad boys cost?” he whispered into her ear. He then gave her ear lobe a little bite to keep up appearances.
Sam smiled, and nodded her head, “No clue,” she replied in French, “More than a Civic?”
“Half a rock each.”
Her facial expressions revealed she didn’t have a clue what the phrase half a rock meant.
“That’s nine million bucks total for all of them.”
“Guess crime pays after all,” she retorted.
As they moved forward, an attendant opened the rear passenger door of the next Sentinel to pull forward. Their turn arrived.
“Lucky number seven,” he said in heavily accented English as they climbed inside.
“Is that good?” asked Sam.
“My favorite number, we may live through tonight after all,” he said, then quickly added, “Maybe.”
The drive from the resort to Ami’s compound which bordered the Shai Hills Resource Reserve took about thirty-five minutes. From the second they left the resort they realized immediately the driver of the Sentinel loved to talk. He regaled Troy and Sam with countless stories about Ami and the high regard the people of Ghana felt towards him. They wondered if Ami instructed him to say what he did or if the man simply believed the praise he exuded. Either way, they listened, nodded, and every so often added a few comments as they enjoyed the scenic drive.
Finally, the twenty vehicles pulled off the main road and drove along the private driveway for close to three miles. Darkness now engulfed the region as the sun finally dipped its crimson brow below the horizon. The winding road passed through a thick grove of trees and the luxurious vehicles hugged the last curve and emerged at the base of a sloping hillside.
An eight-foot-tall perimeter fence encircled the property while an imposing steel gate blocked the entrance to Ami Sulzer’s vast compound. The magnificent house which contained almost 30,000 square feet, sat at the top of the hill. To the right of the main house, a large pond and horse stable were visible with help from the moonlight.
The heavy steel gate opened before the first vehicle got within a hundred feet of the guard house and each Sentinel maintained a constant speed as the 5.0 liter V8 easily climbed up the hillside. Once all the vehicles arrived at the top a carefully orchestrated welcome occurred.
Ami stood just off the driveway in a black tailored Italian suit and personally met each person as they climbed from the vehicles. At five foot seven inches, Ami always let his slight stature work to his advantage. People looked down at him when growing up but he never let that bother him. In fact, he let them think less of him at times as he studied them, learned their weaknesses, and then exploited them for personal gain. As he became more powerful, and in turn more ruthless, he witnessed firsthand as condescension toward him turned to fear. He savored every sweet morsel of fright his persona elicited as he became one of the largest arms dealers the world had ever seen.
After a few minutes passed the seventh vehicle pulled up. Sam stepped out first followed by Troy. Although they had never met, Ami treated Phillipe and Madeline Lapointe as they were long lost, friends. He raised Sam’s hand and kissed the top of it gently.
“Welcome to my humble abode Phillipe and Madeline. I take it the trip from Montreal went well?”
“It was a wonderful trip,” answered Troy in heavily accented English, “We are grateful for the hospitality you have shown us since we arrived and honored to meet you face to face.”
“The resort is heavenly,” added Sam.
“I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, Mademoiselle,” answered Ami as he stared into her eyes. “You look exquisite by the way. More lovely than I could possibly have imagined.” He said in such a way as to draw her in, not in any way make her feel uneasy. Ami had a suave way about him, he chose his words carefully and spoke in an alluring tone. Women found him tantalizing, and men envied his way with the opposite sex.
Sam blushed slightly, and she perceived that Ami appeared impressed with what he saw. The form fitting black strapless cocktail dress accentuated her curves. Which happened to be the point of wearing it in the first place.
Ami then looked to Troy, “I apologize our paths have only crossed via invoices, manifests, and electronic correspondence so far.”
“You’ve remedied that, Oui?”
“True,” answered Ami who then turned and gestured to the magnificent wooden front door of his home, “Please make yourself comfortable. Dinner will be served in forty-five minutes at the great hall. Feel free to enjoy all the amenities my humble home has to offer.”
Troy and Sam moved away from the host and towards the front door so he could see to his next guest. As they entered the foyer four security guards greeted them. The big, burly men displayed smiles on their faces but Troy knew they meant business.
A security agent approached him with a hand wand, “Arms out sir,” he commanded. Troy did as asked and thirty seconds later the man replied, “Clear,” for the benefit of the other security officers. Troy thought it odd that the security check took place after they met Ami, but then surmised maybe it wasn’t weapons they were looking for.
“May I inspect your purse ma’am?” one of the guards asked Sam. They both knew no request occurred; he just demanded it in a very polite manner.
“Of course,” she replied and handed the soft Italian leather purse over for examination. He took it and brought it over to the other man who began to remove the contents and place them on a steel table.
She then put her arms out as he used the wand on her. Sam did her best to not look at the other men who rummaged through her purse and examine each item intently. With no X-ray machine, the inspection took place by hand.
One of the men murmured, “She sure has a lot of makeup,” loud enough for her to hear.
“A girl as to look her best for such debonair and handsome men,” she remarked with a warm smile.
The man blushed realizing he could have offended one of the guests. Ami would not approve of such a thing. “All clear,” he answered and hastily put the contents back into her purse not even examining the last few items. It turned out to be a terrible lapse in security on their part. For Troy and Sam, it acted as a godsend.
They didn’t have long before dinner so Troy and Sam knew they must move with haste. Memorizing the layout of the complex beforehand they entered the house with a defined purpose. The agency asset, whom they last spoke with over six weeks ago, provided the detailed schematic. The Omega Group, the CIA, and several other alphabet agencies used that information to concoct a plan that allowed them access to the data source needed to complete the mission.
First, they needed to bypass the security system, no simple process. Any number of things could go wrong but Troy and Sam both knew they had to trust the plan. If it went all to hell, they would have to improvise, or likely die.
As they walked down the east hallway, several workers passed them and gave friendly nods. Troy and Sam returned the smiles and acted like they observed the works of art that adorned the walls and studied the countless rare artifacts on countless pedestals and shelves.
After about five minutes meandering the hallway, they reached the doorway that looked like many others they passed. Troy glanced both ways and with the coast clear, he nodded and Sam slid into the room. Troy stayed outside and made it appear like he took great interest in an exquisite mural on the opposite wall. There were no surveillance cameras pointed at or near that door Sam entered. Used for storage, the room contained nothing of interest, but what lay inside the walls mattered. She went to the far corner of the room and removed a small tape measure from her purse and used it to make a mark three feet and eight inches over from the southern wall.
Next, she took out the black lipstick tube, popped off the top and removed the red lipstick. Beneath the lipstick, an X-ACTO knife remained hidden. Sam took the knife and made a rectangular shaped incision on the wall four inches high and six inches wide. Within a minute she had the sheetrock removed. Using her LED flashlight, she illuminated the space and confirmed a batch of wires hidden behind the wall.
Sam removed two oversized pressed powder cases from her purse and laid them on the floor then quickly removed the tops. Under the actual powder were four small devices. Two from each case. The tiny electronic pieces of equipment were no larger than a Tylenol pill each. Smooth on one side they contained razor-sharp prongs on the other. Sam took each device and firmly pressed them into the four coaxial cables bundled together. The end of the devices had tiny LED lights that each turned green as soon as they pierced the skin of the cables and connected with the wires inside. Finally, Sam took a tube of lip primer, unscrewed the bottom and removed an item shaped like an AAA battery. She clicked a button on the bottom of this additional device and once the light turned green stuffed it into the battery of cables. A marvel of technology, the device transmitted data for up to ten miles. Its signal could pierce earth and stone. She replaced the sheet rock back and covered the hole even moving boxes from the other side of the room to conceal the damaged wall.
Four minutes after walking into the room she stepped back out, her task completed.
Troy looked at his watch and smiled, “Under five minutes, that’s pretty damn good time.”
“What can I say,” retorted Sam with a devilish glance, “I’m awfully good with my hands.”
“I bet,” snickered Troy.
“You missed your chance on the plane to find out Mr. knight in shining armor.”
“Story of my life, day late and dollar short.”
“I’m sure a strapping guy like you will get the girl one day,” she said with a laugh.
Troy nodded and brought his left arm to his hip forming a loop, “My lady,” he said with one last dig, “I guess for now I’m stuck with you.”
“How gallant of you,” remarked Sam as she brought her right arm into his and with her left arm she patted his shoulder. “And might I add you’re pretty damn lucky to have a gal like me on your side.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” responded Troy as he swung his right hip into her.
“Let’s try to not die tonight,” she said.
“I’ll second that!”
They made their way to the great hall without incident grateful the first part of their mission went off without a hitch, but knowing the rest of the evening wouldn’t be so straightforward.
Five miles away, in a white box van pulled off the side of the road, the monitors in front of Digger came alive.
“We own video,” said Digger a moment later.
Terrance turned around from the driver’s seat and smiled.
Digger watched the video feeds for several minutes in silence.
“Do you see them?”
“No, not yet,” answered Digger.
“Start recording the hall and office when it’s empty so we can have the playback video loop ready.”
“I’m already on it Sarge,” he said before another minute passed. “I see them, they just entered the great hall.”
“They look ok?” asked Terrance.
“Yes, fine. Both wearing a crap eating grin.”
“Next part will wipe that grin off their faces.
“No doubt,” answered Digger.
Terrance dialed the Colonel, “We have eyes inside the compound sir.”
“Roger that,” answered the Colonel from a safe house outside Accra. He put the call on speaker so the Jackal and Harry could hear as well, “How’s Troy and Sam?”
“Just walked in front of the several surveillance cameras.”
“Everything ok?” asked the Colonel.
“Yes sir, Cap and Sam look fine, but it sure looks weird seeing him dressed up in that monkey suit.”
“I’m sure he feels weird wearing it,” acknowledged Colonel Marshall.
“What about Sam?” questioned the Jackal who stood next to the Colonel, “She looks hot as hell in her cocktail dress doesn’t she?”
Sage didn’t even acknowledge the question, he knew better. And also what would come next.
The Colonel’s head snapped to his right and his eyes burned, “Shut it Jackal and keep your mind on the mission.”
“Grab me a screen shot fellas,” continued the Jackal ignoring the comment.
The meal served by Ami exceeded even the wildest expectations of his guests. Undeterred by cost and determined to offer the very best Ami flew in two world-renowned chefs with numerous three-star Michelin restaurants to prepare the evening’s meal. The menu had something for every guest. For Troy and Sam, it was like nothing they had ever experienced, nor would they likely ever again.
Troy looked several tables over and saw Naseefa al-Majid who sat in a place of honor near the host. He looked identical to the photos provided. Without making it obvious Troy watched him for several minutes and wondered to himself if he could keep his promise to Jalal. The plan to snag Naseefa after the auction seemed tenuous at best and lots could go wrong. Even though Naseefa’s survival was no guarantee Troy had to try, he gave his word after all, and his word was his bond. Always.
Once dinner ended the first part of the auction started. Guests knew the evening consisted of three bidding sessions with brief receptions filling the gaps. Ami asked that everyone stay until the end. In fact, he planned a special presentation when the auction ended. It would take place at the banquet hall in the northwest portion of the main floor, a room twice the size of the great hall. Forty leather chairs placed in a semi-circle were four rows deep. In the front of the room, the auctioneer stood at his podium with the items presented behind him when bidding commenced.
The Lapointe’s came to the auction for one reason, to purchase a dirty bomb. Not for themselves but for a client. They simply acted as the intermediaries and were paid handsomely for the honor to do so. Ami knew why they came and he expected the bidding to be competitive. Troy and Sam were aware as to not blow cover they needed to be all-in when the bidding started. The agency cracked into the Lapointe’s bank accounts and provided the necessary access to both Troy and Sam. The account had a balance of close to thirty million dollars, more than enough money to buy the dirty bomb and then some. At least, that’s what they thought.
Twenty minutes into the auction the item came up for bid. The interest and bidding became intense, multiple well-funded terrorist groups got into the action. Two of the groups ran up the bids. For a few minutes, Troy wasn’t sure for a few minutes if the Lapointe’s pockets were deep enough to win. But in the end, they topped a group with ties to a Syrian terror group. Relief filled Troy as they won since he knew a man like Ami respected few things in life more than tenacity and victory.
Sixty minutes later someone purchased the final item and the first session came to a close. A brief interlude took place which included a champagne toast and an assortment of deserts. Several times Troy felt eyes upon him. One of the times he looked over to see Ami look then nod, Troy returned the gesture with a warm smile.
The second session began with fanfare as the first item presented, a nasty biological agent, started an intense bidding war and almost a physical altercation. Ami stood off to the side of the room and smiled. He had security to make sure order prevailed, but he couldn’t help to take a sick pleasure in the commotion and watch grown men squabble.
When the auctioneer introduced the fourth item Ami made a sweeping movement with his hand and walked out the rear door. Eight of the people in attendance followed his lead. These were the heavy hitters, the men with deep pockets. Troy smiled, as it appeared once again the intel looked to be accurate. The auctioning of the nuclear weapon would not take place during the main auction but in a private room to the right of the banquet hall with only those that had the financial resources to purchase the weapon of mass destruction in attendance. This ruled out most those in the room.
It served as the cue for Troy and Sam. The time had arrived for the most treacherous part of the evening. With Ami and the others meeting in the other room the focus of security would be on that part of the home. Sam whispered something in Troy’s ear, he nodded and stood as she did. As they walked to the door on the west side of the room, he told the attendant his wife needed a restroom. The man nodded and gestured down the hall. Troy thanked him and they proceeded in that direction.
“Eyes on Cap and Sam,” said Digger.
“Which way they headed?” asked Sarge.
“Towards the basement?”
“Appears so Sarge.”
“Is it clear to start the video loop?”
“Now or never,” answered Digger.
“This better work,” replied Jesús who sat just to the right of Digger.
“It will,” answered Digger.
“But how can you be so sure?” questioned Jesús.
“Because if it doesn’t they’re as good as dead,” quipped Digger.
“Put your prayer cap on for them Jesús,” said Sarge.
With a nod of his head Jesús replied, “My brother, it never comes off!”
After a few clicks on his keyboard Digger said, “Looped tape is running.”
“We’ll know pretty quickly if it’s working,” answered Sarge as he looked at both of the men, “The tape and the prayers.”
A man stood at the door that led to the lower level, where Ami kept his office and more importantly his laptop. The intel allowed them to know about the security presence so they factored it into their plan. Just past that door was the ladies’ bathroom. On the wall were several display cases which contained various rare and extremely valuable firearms. The hallway was completely empty except for the lone sentry.
Sam passed by the man guarding the door and gave him a warm smile. “Restroom?” she asked as she gently touched his exposed skin between his wrist and his collared shirt.
The man blushed, pointed to the next door down and said, “Right there ma’am.” Most guests rarely acknowledged him and suddenly this attractive woman not only looked in his direction but smiled as her skin touched his.
Troy stopped at the cases and appeared to examine the contents with great care.
Two minutes later he gestured to the man as he pointed to an item in the case, “Is this really one of the gold plated Tabuk AK-47’s owned by Saddam Hussein?”
The sentry smiled, broke protocol and walked over to the case, “It is,” he answered, “A gift from the former Iraqi President to Mr. Sulzer personally.”
“You don’t say?” answered Troy.
“He has many remarkable items even more valuable than this one.” The man pointed to the left of the AK-47, “This is the Walther PPK that Hitler used to commit suicide.”
“Not possible,” countered Troy in his thick French accent as he feigned surprise, “I read that weapon was lost to history.”
“That’s simply not true,” countered the man who then began a lengthy explanation as to how Ami not only located the weapon but verified the authenticity of its infamous past.
As Troy distracted the sentry Sam slipped out of the ladies’ room, quietly opened the door that led to the basement, and slipped downstairs undetected. At the bottom of the stairs, she saw several objects near the bottom step, discounted them, and made her way with haste thirty feet down the hall to the office at the end. Before she turned the door handle, she looked up to see the two security cameras mounted just above the door looking directly at her. God, I hope this is working and Ami’s security team isn’t watching, she thought before she turned the door handle. Sam knew full well if Digger didn’t own the video feed her foray into Ami’s office would be brief, and extremely painful.
With her eyes fixed on the camera, a devilish idea crossed her mind. She made a slightly graphic gesture directed to the boys on the other end of the fiber optic cable; at the very least hoping it gave them a little rise and brought smiles to their faces.
It did just that.
Sam entered the pitch-black room and had no choice but to turn on the lights. Smaller than she expected, the room only measured twelve by twelve. A solid cherry desk sat in the middle of the room while a loveseat, several small tables, and flat screen television completed the room. The features and décor were sparse compared to the opulence found elsewhere throughout the house. She wondered if the rest of the house simply acted as show and the true Ami lived a more simplistic life.
She breathed a sigh of relief when her eyes locked onto the MacBook Pro which sat on the leather desk pad. Quickly she stepped over to the laptop and removed from her purse the pink lipstick tube. Within a few seconds, she unscrewed the bottom and removed the flash drive. Not a normal piece of hardware, the prototype drive provided by the NSA could hold up to 4TB of data and copy any files regardless of the encryption or security protocols on the device. Sam took the flash drive and stuck it into the USB 3.0 port. The laptop which appeared to be off when she inserted the drive came to life a couple seconds later. A progress box appeared at the center of the screen which indicated the data transfer commenced. The genius programmers at the NSA had included a countdown clock to let her know how long it would take to copy the entire contents of the encrypted MacBook to the flash drive. The display read twelve minutes to completion and it indicated 1.6TB of data started to transfer from the laptop to the drive.
Sam felt certain it would be the longest twelve minutes of her life. She also wondered if Troy needed to improvise upstairs with her being away for so long.
Looking down at Phillipe Lapointe’s Omega Seamaster watch that adorned his right wrist Troy realized it had only been seven minutes since Sam slipped downstairs. He continued to discuss the impressive array from firearms with the Sentry when none other than the host Ami Sulzer walked towards him. Troy’s muscles involuntarily tightened. Was Ami headed for his office? He thought. If so the results could be disastrous for Sam and by default himself. His mind race but did not let that show on his features, a warm smile slid across his face as the host approached. Troy couldn’t believe the auction for the nuke finished so quickly. Had something gone wrong? He wondered.
“Ahh, Phillipe, I see you have located my collection of unique firearms,” said Ami as he approached Troy.
“I have,” replied Troy, “And tend to think your collection is much larger than this.”
“That’s true, it is. I have a full armory that holds the vast majority.”
“Now that sounds impressive. Any chance I can get a peek?”
“Maybe once the auction ends I can open it, give those interested a private tour,” answered Ami.
“I’d like that very much.”
Ami looked around. “Where’s your bride?”
Troy pointed to further down the hall with his head, “In the restroom.”
“Is she ok?”
“I believe so, I’ll check on her in a few. Her stomach gave her fits during the second part of the auction.”
“Dear my, was it something she ate? I was assured by the chef’s …”
Troy put up a hand and cut him off, “The food was sublime it’s nothing like that. She picked up a nasty stomach bacteria while we traveled to Indonesia a few months ago and ever since then her stomach has occasional issues.”
“Was this when you met with the Prime Minister in Jakarta?”
“Yes, it was that trip. You know of our visit?”
“The devil is in the details my friend, it’s my job to know everything I can about those I do business with.”
“Smart on your part,” commented Troy.
“Would it help if we got Madeline ginger ale or something to calm her stomach?” asked Ami.
With a warm smile Troy replied, “Yes, I’m sure she’d appreciate that.”
Ami looked to the sentry who had returned to guarding the door and nodded. The man immediately left his post and headed toward the kitchen.
A voice down the hall beckoned. They needed Ami in the banquet hall with a question about one of the items. “Care to join me?” asked Ami as he looked at Troy.
“I should probably wait for Madeline,” he answered.
“Nonsense,” replied Ami with a fierce gaze in his eyes, “My associate will check on her and bring the tonic to aid in her discomfort.”
Troy knew to refuse could raise an alarm with his host, “Of course, as you wish.”
“Very well, follow me.”
As they walked down the hall and took a left, two men passed by them headed in the direction they had just left. Ami nodded to the men but said nothing.
The download finally completed. From the time she sneaked downstairs to the moment she removed the flash drive almost twenty minutes passed. Way too much time but there was nothing she could do about it. Making sure she left the room exactly as she found it Sam slipped out the door and walked as fast as possible towards the stairs.
Then she heard it, the sounds. She froze for an instant. Voices trailed down the stairs and she had no time to do anything but continue on.
Sam came face to face with the two men at the foot of the stairs. They appeared to be two men she saw during dinner but had not spoken with either one. Although she recalled seeing one of them stare in her general direction several times
Both men had large smiles on their faces and appeared to be carrying on, but as soon as they saw her the smiles disappeared.
“What are you doing down here?” asked the larger of the two men.
Sam did her best to act confused, “Wrong turn I believe,” she replied in her thick French accent, “I thought this was the way towards the woman’s bathroom. I guess I should have known it wasn’t when I encountered the stairs. No worries, I ended up finding a bathroom at the end of the hall and used it since I had to go really, really bad.” She had a sheepish look as she said all this.
The other man, who was much smaller, eyed her suspiciously, “We’ve met before no?” he asked.
Dammit, thought Sam, Who is this guy? “I don’t believe so, have we?” she asked shaking her head.
“Yes I believe we have, you’re from Canada, right? We met at a social function a few years back in Québec. Don’t you remember? I sure do…”
Sam extended her hand, “Silly me, I must have forgotten, I’m Madeline Lapointe, and you are?”
The man took her hand and instead of shaking it pulled her toward him with a violent tug while at the same time he spun her around and his left arm came across her neck and encircled her throat tight. Her windpipe resting in the elbow pit of his muscled arm. Sam’s mind raced, she wasn’t sure what to do at the moment. Should she fight? she thought. Surely I can take these two men without too much effort.
“Oh, I do remember you Madeline, in fact, we spent a little quality time together after your husband left the function on urgent business,” explained the man into her left ear. “But there’s one problem here ...” He paused for a few seconds before he continued. “You’re not Madeline Lapointe,” he squeezed tighter as he said that part. “I remember ever curve of her body, and you’re most certainly not her.”
“Are you sure?” pleaded the larger man. “Ami will have us killed if we harm one of his guests.”
“I’m quite sure this woman is an imposter which means so is the man she is with. Go upstairs, get security. Ami must know what’s going on.”
“You don’t want to do that,” hissed Sam as she gasped for breath and her face started to turn red.
“And why not?” questioned the larger man who stood before her?
“Because I’ll kill both of you with my own hands even before you make it up the stairs,” she answered with full sincerity in gasps of diminishing breaths. As she said this Sam’s eyes darted to her right at the end of the stairs, the object she searched for just within reach. She could tell the larger man doubted her so she added, “Listen to me, I’m not someone to be trifled with.”
The smaller man who held her tight scoffed as he confidently replied with a derisive tone, “What’s that phrase? … Oh, right! Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…”
With a laugh the larger man, turned and headed towards the bottom stair as the smaller man flexed his muscle even harder. It started to hurt and Sam officially reached the point of being pissed off.
Using all the strength she could muster Sam bent her left arm, raised it up, then brought it down and back with tremendous force into the man’s solar plexus. It literally knocked the breath out of him and he doubled over. His death grip loosened and she reached out with her right hand and grabbed the broom handle which leaned against the wall at the base of the last step. While at the same time she pushed away from him with her left hand. The larger man saw the motion but could do nothing to stop her. His body frame, while quite large, moved lethargically.
With lightning quick reflexes Sam gripped the handle and swung it upward striking the jaw bone of the larger man with enough force as to snap off the last six inches of the broom handle leaving a jagged pointed end instead of a rounded tip. The intensity of the strike stunned the man momentarily as blood began to flow from the wound on his neck and onto his white dress shirt. Sam took the remaining handle and snapped it over her leg breaking it into two pieces. She now had two pointed ends on the stick measuring three feet long.
Her next motion entailed a knife hand chop to the throat of the smaller man who recovered from her initial hit. The strike to his throat almost knocked him out, but not quite. Sam then turned back to the larger man. She knew what she had to do. He staggered from the blow but she knew he would come at her with everything he had. Sam could see the rage within him grow as each drop of blood flowed out of the fresh wound. With tremendous force, she took the jagged broom handle and plunged it deep into the man’s chest. Death came instantly as she thrust it between the two ribs in the thoracic cage and completely pierced his heart through the middle. The large man fell backward and slowly slid down the gray faux painted wall until he lay flat against the ground, the broom handle sticking out of his chest, seemingly suspended in midair. A stunned expression plastered across his face as his eyes turned glassy and the last bit of air expelled from his mouth.
Without wasting a second Sam grabbed the smaller man by the shoulders and threw him upon the larger man. The broom handle impaled him and even though it missed his heart by a few inches’ death would embrace him with her icy fingers. The smaller man gasped for breath, a shocked expression covered his face as he reached for his chest and the wooden object that protruded from it. Sam leaned over him from behind and with her two arms grabbed his neck and twisted violently. A distinct snapping sound, like a wishbone being cracked, told her the spinal cord severed. His body shuddered then stopped moving as his limbs dropped toward the ground.
The scene was gruesome, even for someone like Sam who had witnessed death up close and personal on numerous occasions.
She opened the first door to her right and it appeared to be a storage closet. The weight of the two men impaled together like a shish kabob made her grunt as she dragged their bodies across the carpeted floor. After a minute of straining, she had the two bodies inside the small room. Several rags were on a shelf as were some cleaning supplies; she took the rags and did her best to clean up the blood that pooled on the carpet in the hallway. Fortunately, the carpet was dark in color, and the blood didn’t stand out terribly much. Plus, she hoped to be long gone before anyone discovered the bodies. Before closing the closet door, Sam looked at the bodies one more time and surveyed the death.
“Told you so!” she said to the two corpses.
Sam felt no guilt, knowing if the larger man had made it up the stairs alive she and Troy would have met a much more horrific end.
Reaching the top of the stairs she looked out the peephole built into the door and saw the hall upstairs appeared to be empty. Sliding out the door she closed it slowly, unaware she left a streak of blood on the left side of the door frame as she departed.
Digger watched in disbelief on his monitor as Sam struggled and then overpowered the two men. He called the Colonel as soon as the shorter man grabbed her by the neck.
“What’s wrong?” asked the Colonel.
“Sam’s in trouble, sir.”
Digger then recounted what he saw describing blow by vicious blow.
The Colonel said little. He mainly listened.
When Sam impaled the two men Digger’s eyes widened. “Jeez!” he exclaimed in shock.
“That was brutal,” said Terrance as he looked on.
“Sam just turned the two dudes into human skewers,” answered Digger.
They all breathed a collective sigh of relief that she survived but the immediate problem became what would happen to her and Troy.
“We’re leaving the safe house within the next three minutes in one of the armored Mercedes.”
“Destination?” asked Digger.
“I’m coming to you,” came the reply, “Troy and Sam will likely need to make like a bat out of hell from that compound. They’ll need any support we can give them.”
“She got the data from Ami’s laptop right?”
“Good! Keep an eye on the surveillance cameras and make sure you, Sarge and Jesús are ready for a firefight.”
“Always am Colonel, always am…”
Troy stood at the rear of the banquet hall and looked at his watch once more. Sam should be back by now he thought. In the front of the hall, Ami talked with two men over a disagreement that ensued over a particular item being bid upon and its authenticity.
Just then the man who had gone to get Sam a drink walked into the back door and approached Troy. “Mr. Lapointe,” he said, “I knocked on the bathroom door and tried to give your wife the drink. She did not reply after several attempts so I went to check and see that she was ok. But, when I went in she was not there?” The man had a concerned look on his face.
Thinking fast Troy lied with ease, “Thank you for the concern, my friend. You must have just missed her, she stopped by here a minute ago and said she would step outside and get a breath of fresh air. Maybe you could bring it to her outside?”
“Of course,” the man replied, “It would be my pleasure.” The man slipped out the back door.
Knowing it only bought him a few minutes Troy, seeing Ami occupied, left the room. As he walked down the hall and caught up with Sam as he rounded a corner. She looked terrible. Clearly, something went wrong.
“Are you ok?” he pleaded.
“Not really,” she replied as she reached up and rubbed her cheek. A streak of crimson blood lined her face as she removed her hand.
“My God your bleeding Sam!” exclaimed Troy.
She nodded, “No, it’s not my blood.”
“What the hell happened?”
“I got the files, all of them. It took longer than I expected. When I was at the base of the stairs headed back up, I ran into two men.”
“I don’t know, but they knew Madeline Lapointe and knew I was not her once we spoke.”
“It got intense, they grabbed me and I had to fight for my life.”
“I won, they lost!” she said in an exacerbated tone. “We need to get the hell out of here, and I mean now! As soon as someone finds the two bodies they will lock this place down and we will be goners.”
Troy thought for a second. With the restroom a few doors down he motioned her to it. “We need to clean this blood off you ASAP then high-tail it to the front door, get a car, and get the hell out of dodge.”
“Will Ami let us leave?”
“I’ll say you feel worse and I need to bring you back to the resort. I just spoke to him at length and laid the groundwork already. We must move fast though Sam. You sure you’re ok?”
Her eyes narrowed, “It’s not the first time I’ve impaled another human being!” she exclaimed.
“You’re just a treasure trove of rainbows and sparkles, aren’t yah?”
“Hooah,” answered Sam, “You have no idea, Cap!”
Two minutes later with Sam cleaned up as best they could they walked through the maze of halls to the front door. Before they reached it though they ran into the last person they wanted to see.
“Phillipe!” How’s Madeline?” asked Ami Sulzer.
Sam did her best to act like she felt terrible.
“She feels worse Ami, much worse.”
“I’m so sorry to hear this, what can I do for her?”
“I need to bring her back to the resort; she has medicine there that should be able to help. She needs rest.”
“Of course!” exclaimed Ami who then snapped his fingers and spoke to one of the men near the front door. “Have a car ready for the Lapointe’s now, have them brought back to the resort with great haste.”
“Thanks for understanding,” said Troy, “Once she gets settled I’ll have the driver bring me back.”
“No,” replied Ami, “You should stay with your wife. You purchased what you came for, after all, no?”
“Yes, I did,” answered Troy, “But I must insist. We did not come all the way here to disregard your hospitality by not staying until the end of the evening. Besides, you owe me that tour of the armory.”
“Are you sure?” asked Ami as he looked into Troy’s eyes and then over at Sam who appeared quite weak.
“I’ll be fine once I take my pills and rest,” she said in a fragile voice. “Phillipe needs to return.”
“As you wish,” answered Ami. “Please feel better Madeline. I’m sorry your visit had to end on such a sour note.”
From behind them, a voice said, “I’ll walk them out to the vehicle Ami.” Neither Troy nor Sam turned to see who spoke.
Ami simply replied, “I appreciate that,” to the person.
“Thank you again for your generosity,” Sam said as she turned away and walked with her husband outside the front door.
Ami just stood there and watched the two guests depart. A nagging feeling that something didn’t add up crept into his mind, but he couldn’t be sure what would cause such consternation. With no obvious reason to be concerned, he turned and headed back to check on the rest of his guests. The third part of the auction would commence in a few minutes.
The sentry couldn’t find Madeline Lapointe no matter where he looked outside. Finally, he put the glass down on a railing and headed back to his post. As he approached the door, his eye noticed the streak of blood along the doorframe. His heart raced, his mind frantically considered what could have occurred. Opening the door, he descended the stairs as fast as possible taking three stairs at a time. At the base of the steps, he stopped and looked down the hall. There he saw evidence of more blood on the carpet and even on the walls. As he opened the second door, he found the bodies. The mangled corpses lay side by side, a wooden stick connecting them.
He ran out the door and flipped up a hidden panel on the wall. Never before had he pushed the red button, but he pressed it firmly. A voice came over the speaker and the sentry explained what he found.
With the silent alarm triggered security protocols commenced. In a few seconds, large metal shudders would begin to roll down over every window and door. The house would convert into a bunker in less than a minute.
As they stepped outside into the sticky, humid night air Troy felt a firm grip take hold of his shoulder. Before he could turn the same voice that said he would walk them out spoke. “So did you get it?”
Troy turned and came face to face with a man he didn’t recognize. A fire burned deep within the man’s eyes, that much he could tell.
“Get what?” asked Troy.
“I know why you came,” said the man.
“They sent you.”
“Excuse me?” Troy wondered what game he played, and more importantly who the hell was he?
As he leaned in closer the man said, “I provided the info to the agency. I know what you came for.”
The man standing before him appeared to be the asset they believed may have been killed. Cleary, he survived.
“You’re still alive?”
“I am. Did you copy the data?”
“Yes I have it,” answered Troy. “Will it tell me what I need to know?”
“Do you know where the nukes are?”
The man shook his head, knowing he only had a few second to speak since the Land Rover began to pull up the driveway. “I know one is in the United States, the other sold tonight only Ami and Naseefa know the location.”
“Will the info we recovered tell us both locations?”
“Yes, I believe so, but it will be buried deep within the files.”
“I believe the one sold tonight is still in Iraq,” said Troy.
“That would make sense,” responded the man.
The Land Rover pulled up next to the three of them, their time had expired, “Come with us,” pleaded Troy. “For your own safety.”
“Ami will kill you if he finds out about what you did for us.”
The man smiled, “I’m already dead, and my fate was sealed the day I agreed to work for such a monster.”
“Our fate is not written in stone; we can choose our future.”
“Too late for me,” said the man as he gestured to the Land Rover, “Get in the damn vehicle before your fate is sealed with me as well.”
Troy nodded, “Thank you for what you did.”
“Don’t thank me yet, just recover those nukes.”
Troy and Sam climbed into the Land Rover.
As the door closed a commotion started behind them as several men burst out the front door. “We need to go,” he told the driver, “My wife is ill and we need to go back to the resort immediately.”
The driver put the vehicle in drive and started to accelerate but the radio in the center console came to life. “Do not leave, I repeat do not leave,” commanded the voice.
Troy knew Ami gave the order, he recognized the voice. “Ignore that order and drive,” demanded Troy even though he knew it would be a waste of breath. Troy prepared himself for what would happen in the next fraction of a second.
The man slammed hard on the brakes and reached for the Glock on his right hip, but he didn’t move fast enough. Troy grabbed the driver’s right hand firmly with one hand while at the same time his left elbow crashed into the side of the man’s temple with full force knocking the man out cold. After removing the gun Troy climbed over the gearshift to take control of the vehicle which continued to roll down the driveway and pick up speed.
A second later the first volley of bullets sprayed the back of the Sentinel. The bullet proof glass absorbed the rounds, but they still made a hell of a cracking noise. Troy knew the gig was up. He threw open the driver’s side door and pushed the body out while slamming the door shut. “Climb up front,” he said to Sam as he dropped the pedal to the floor. The Land Rover accelerated with breathtaking speed for a vehicle of its size.
As they careened down the driveway Sam yelled out, “The guard. He has an RPG!”
Two -hundred feet ahead the man at the guard house emerged. With his left hand, he pushed the button to close the heavy steel gate while his right hand held a shoulder mounted RPG-7 launcher. Troy almost lowered the driver’s side window but knew there wasn’t a chance in hell he could make the shot from a speeding vehicle at that distance.
The distinctive red burst of flames shot out the back of the weapon in the darkness of the evening and a puff of white, billowing smoke encompassed the guard. The warhead careening through space at over 250 meters per second.
“Brace yourself for impact!” screamed Troy as he gripped the wheel harder, his knuckles turned white as he jerked the wheel sharply to the right.
Up Next ... Part VII