As it turned out, they couldn’t leave right away, much to Taylor’s annoyance. There weren’t enough deputies to interview the AC shop owner, search for Mullins and sit on their SUV until it could be towed, so the three of them had to wait for a tow truck to come for Whitaker’s SUV. When it finally showed up, Whitaker pulled all her possessions out and loaded them into a messenger bag.
“What are we going to do to get around?” Taylor said as she loaded up her things. “I mean, Wade here offered to drive us up to this farm or whatever, but if we don’t have Mullins I’m betting we can’t hunt him down sitting in our hotel.”
“We’ll figure out something. We can’t do anything if Dorset yanks us back to Dallas and shuts us down.”
“I guess,” Taylor said, unconvinced.
“I think I’ve got you folks covered, at least for a while,” Deputy Wade said. “The Sheriff’ll probably talk to me later tonight when I report in, but I’m betting he wants me to stick with you two until you sort out the business.”
“Thanks, Wade,” Taylor said. “That makes it easier.”
“Hey, I wanna get this guy as much as you guys do.”
Whitaker patted Wade on the arm and gave him a warm smile. Taylor couldn’t help but notice how much she’d mellowed since she’d committed to seeing this through.
“You fellas ready?” she said.
Wade opened the passenger door for Whitaker, who slid in, while Taylor hopped in the back of the car, looking at the other two through the mesh screen used to separate officers from suspects.
“So, what was your friend saying about you having been in Washington and transferring down here to follow some guy?” Taylor asked, unable to hold in his curiosity any more.
“Now’s not the time,” Whitaker said, giving a side glance at Wade.
“Don’t mind me,” He said, smiling, “I enjoy some good gossip.”
“Come on, Whitaker. We have time ‘till we get there. Admit it, you were following Dorset.”
“Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Yes, I was following Dorset. He took me under his wing and was helping me. It’s tough being a woman in the Bureau, and it helps to have someone already in a supervisory role to have your back when you try and make the leap.”
“I don’t know, your friend made it sound more than that.”
“There wasn’t anything more than that. Drop it, ok?” She said.
Not even she believed her protests however, but she gave stern looks at each man to make sure they got the point.
“Hey, I get it,” the deputy said. “I originally joined up down in Houston cause they had this Sergeant there with curves that just wouldn’t quit, but she said she only dated cops. So I get it.”
“Why’d you leave Houston to come out here?”
“After a few years I realized a big force wasn’t for me. Lubbock has everything you’d find in a big city but still has that small town feel, at least with the locals.”
“See, you may have joined up to chase someone, but you ended up making the right choice for your career,” Whitaker said defensively.
“Well, she followed me here. It would have been weird to live across the state from each other after we got married.”
“You dog,” Taylor said, smiling and getting a chuckle from the deputy.
“I don’t think it will matter much, anyway,” Whitaker said. “Once he figures out what we’re doing, he’s going to write me off as a lost cause. He’s not one for people stepping out of line. Loyalty is a big thing with him.”
“Being loyal and being a ‘yes man,’ aren’t the same thing,” Taylor pointed out. “I’m surprised Whitaker, since we met, you struck me as confident and your own person. Not really the type to do things just to make other people happy.”
“People aren’t one thing, Taylor. Anyway, let’s drop it, ok?”
“Sure,” Taylor said, since he had what he wanted to know.
Not that it really mattered. He liked Whitaker and he knew she liked him, or at least she liked him now. But it was clear that neither of them saw any long term potential there. Which was fine with Taylor.
Any further conversation was moot anyway, as Sheriff Goodman’s voice came over the deputy’s radio.
“The Feds with you?” the Sheriff said when Wade answered.
“I’m here, Sheriff,” Whitaker said after the deputy handed her the mic.
“I’ve pulled the owner of that AC place in for questioning, along with his employees and had a deputy do a canvass. They are denying making any calls, and the businesses around his all say he hasn’t left. We have a request in for his phone records, but I called a gal I know and she peeked for me. His cell phone and the employee on duty here’s cell phone and both show no calls. We also checked on the calls to the shop and they all checked out as regular business. We’ve torn about the business looking for any other way he might have signaled someone when and where you were going to be, but we are coming up empty. We’re holding him for the time being, but so far I have nothing I can actually charge him with.”
“It had to be him or his employee, and considering the employee volunteered the ID on Mullins and a bunch of other info, my bet would be the owner,” Whitaker replied.
“I agree with you, but you know the drill. I can only hold him if I can actually charge him with something.”
“Did you find anything showing he might know of or be a part of a group called The American Liberation Party when you were looking around his shop?”
“Those people outside of town? No. Why?”
The deputy took the mic back and said, “We found a lot of material on them at Mullins’ place. We thought maybe he went out there to lay low.”
“Maybe, but no, we found nothing like that at the Brook’s shop. I tried to get a search warrant for his house too, but the judge shot me down. Said we didn’t have anything but a gut feeling.”
“We’re headed out to check those ALP people now, see if we can find Mullins.”
“Wade, you be careful. Those guys are dangerous. I’ll call the staties and see if they can spare anyone to back you up, but don’t count on it. I know they’re still spread thin, out working with the rest of the FBI near the armory.”
“We’ll be careful, boss. These guys are armed, so I’ve got some backup.”
“If you see him and don’t get spotted, back off until I can get people to you. Understand.”
The Sheriff signed off and Whitaker turned to Wade, “The Sheriff makes me think we might be going in unprepared.”
“Maybe, but these guys haven’t actually ever done anything that we know of. It’d be tough to justify calling in a response team from the state troopers if they just said ‘he’s not here’ and sent us on the way. We’ll just have to be careful.”
The place they arrived at was more or less off by itself, and seemed more like a piece of farm land that was sold off to pay some bills than an actual farm. There was a wooded area to the one side of the house, an open field to the other, with a short dirt driveway leading up from the county road, past the house and around to the open field side of the house.
Wade pulled into the driveway and parked the car off to one side in the grass. He and Whitaker got out and opened the back door for Taylor, since it could only be opened from the outside.
“Is this a good idea, just walking up to the front door?” Taylor asked.
“Probably not,” Wade admitted, “but like I said, they haven’t done anything wrong yet. We don’t even have any evidence they’re harboring Mullins, that’s just a guess. We can’t just go kicking in people’s doors without a warrant, which we don’t have. Just keep your eyes open.”
The house itself was an older two story, narrow building that had been well taken care of. The front porch was surrounded by a white wooden railing, with cement steps leading up to it. The driveway they’d turned up curved past the front of the house and then curved around the field side of the house. Walking wide from the stairs, Taylor could see a white, wooden, detached garage about fifty feet away from the house, sort of diagonal from where he assumed the back door would be.
Taylor couldn’t see any movement by the garage, or anywhere else for that matter. It was quiet except for the sounds of insects and a distant dog.
“Maybe no one’s home,” Wade said.
“Our luck hasn’t been that good so far,” Taylor said. “Seriously, my gut says something’s off.”
“I get that, but like I said, until we have probable cause, our options are limited.”
“How about we back out and wait for the Sheriff to send some more guys,” Taylor suggested.
“We’re a small force and he’s chasing down leads with the AC company. Let’s just knock and see what they have to say.”
Taylor traded a glance with Whitaker, giving her a look. She clearly didn’t like it either, but she just shook her head. They were already operating in a gray area with the FBI, so they were short on options.
Whitaker followed behind the deputy, with Taylor a few steps behind them. Once up on the porch, the Deputy walked up to the door and knocked, standing off to one far side of the door as to not be directly in front of it.
Whitaker headed to the left of the porch to try and look in through the windows and Taylor put himself in between the two, also looking in through the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of something through the slits between the curtains.
Suddenly, Taylor heard a sound that sent an icy chill down his back. The distinct klak-klak of the bolt on an AK rifle being worked, loading a round in the chamber.
Taylor yelled, “DOWN!” and tackled Whitaker, sending them both through the side railing as the ripping sound of automatic gunfire pierced the air, joined by the popping sound of bullets impacting and penetrating through wood.
‘It seems they figured out how to modify this to be fully auto too,’ popped into Taylor’s head as he and Whitaker fell off the porch. In the fall, they had twisted and Whitaker landed on her side, half on top of Taylor. He was looking back up at the porch and saw the windows he and Whitaker had been standing by explode. Almost as soon as it started, the firing stopped. The standard AK only holds about thirty rounds and Taylor knew from experience that when they were fired on full auto instead of bursts, as this one had, they went through their ammo in three seconds.
Whitaker was already rising, pulling her weapon, and Taylor was following her up, although slower as the wind had been knocked out of him when she landed on top of him.
Towards the back of the house they could hear the sound of a door slamming open and a moment later a man came into view carrying an AK-47, making a break from the house towards the white garage.
“FBI. STOP. DROP THE WEAPON!” Whitaker yelled raising her weapon.
The man twisted but didn’t stop running, and instead started raising the rifle in their direction. Whitaker didn’t hesitate, and fired twice, her weapon making a pop-pop sound that echoed off the side of the house. Taylor could see both impacts on the mans’ chest, where a mist of blood exploded outward with each impact.
The man spun as he collapsed, with the front of his body slamming into the ground. His rifle was flung aside, skidding through the dirt, ending up several feet away.
Whitaker moved towards the man’s body, to check if he were still a threat, when the door of the garage exploded outwards, the familiar green truck sending chunks of wood scattering in all directions. She threw herself aside into the dirt to avoid being run over by the truck, which had made a small swerve to swipe at her. Luckily for Whitaker, she was close enough that the driver couldn’t continue trying to ram her without hitting the house as well. Instead, it whipped around the driveway, two men hanging onto the back with one hand, rifles in the other firing in the direction of Taylor and Whitaker.
Taylor was already on his feet when the truck made its appearance and was on the driveway before the truck could make the second turn on the driveway and the last leg that would take it onto the county road. He ignored the gunfire which, thanks to the truck’s careening progress and the bumpy nature of the dirt road, seemed to be aimed at nothing in particular.
Taylor lifted his weapon and fired three shots. The first missed the truck entirely. The second hit the corner of the truck cab’s metal frame and ricocheted off. The third found its target, passing between the gunmen in the back of the truck and impacting against and then through the glass window, behind the driver’s seat. The windows of the truck were instantly painted red as Taylor’s bullet found its mark.
The driver had just started the second turn of the driveway when his life ended abruptly. Without anyone controlling the vehicle, it continued the sharp turn the driver had initiated and, hitting the edge of the driveway, lost its connection with the ground. Momentum and the unbalanced nature of a pickup truck caused it to begin a twisting roll, sending the vehicle smashing towards the wooded area. With each roll the cab and top of the truck smashed more as it cycled from upside down to right-side up and upside down again in rapid succession.
The men who had been standing in the bed of the truck were ejected out of the vehicle as soon as it started to roll. Unfortunately for them, they were thrown in the direction the rolling vehicle was traveling. Taylor could almost make out their twisted bodies sliding across the grass when the green metal missile overtook them, obscuring both bodies entirely.
As Taylor headed towards the truck, which finally stopped rolling thanks to a sturdy section of trees, when he saw Whitaker make her way around the corner of the building and head towards him.
“Clear the house,” he yelled.