Copyright© 2010 by Michael Wolfam
Max sighed. He had just gotten off the phone with Mitch, who had been screaming about how two miserable lowlife's, who should have been dead, had waltzed right into the clinic and broken into his office. The footage from the hidden video cameras, mounted in several of the trophy animals, revealed that Liv and Finn had stolen the map depicting the next day's operation. Now, the two were missing and carried potentially damning evidence. Suddenly, the alarm tied to his phone buzzed. This time, he paid attention.
Neither Mitch nor Max believed in leaving evidence lying around. All physical evidence was destroyed once the final plan was worked out. However, the news of the fire had interrupted Mitch, sending him bolting from the office, forgetting all about the plans that were lying in plain sight.
No information about the operations was stored in digital format. Forensics had become very good at recovering data, and secret programs embedded in computers could observe and report back to law enforcement or competitors. But paper could be destroyed permanently by fire. No records more than a week old were allowed to exist. Even video surveillance footage was destroyed weekly to ensure there was no record. The system was smart and foolproof. Unless a fool left the plans sitting out in the open, at exactly the same time that an interested party showed up, unannounced and unescorted.
A grim smile crept over Max's face as he examined the image presented on his phone's screen. The mine shaft Liv and Finn were standing in front of was sealed by a complex electromagnetic lock. Not even a power failure would open the door. The padlock was just for show, making the mine look like any other that dotted the landscape. Max let out a small laugh. They were walking right into a trap. He tapped a button on the phone with his finger. The locks silently released their electromagnetic grip.
"Must have been rusty," Finn explained as the massive door creaked open. "But I was just too strong for it," he said as he flexed for Liv.
"My hero," she said sarcastically, pushing past him, into the darkened mine. They both clicked on their weapon lights, and the strong beams revealed a wide, downward sloping tunnel carved out of solid rock. They followed the tunnel for several hundred feet before they came across another metal door. As they cautiously approached it, a strange sound grew louder. Finn found a set of buttons on the wall near the garage style door and pressed a green one. An audible click was heard and the corrugated metal in front of them rose to the rocky ceiling.
As the door opened, Liv and Finn crouched down, weapons at the ready. Neither knew what lay on the other side. The sound became louder and identifiable.
"Is that running water?" Finn scrunched his eyebrows.
"Sure sounds like it!"
The source of the sound was not the only unexpected surprise in the room. The tunnel they had walked down was wide enough to drive a large truck through, but the room in front of them was cavernous and unlike anything Liv would have expected to find buried so deep in the mountain.
Unlike the Drunken Engineer, which was barely wide enough for her small Porsche, the room in front of them was big enough to drive laps in. It was carved from solid rock, and overhead lighting, more than thirty feet off the ground, reflected a stone floor that had been polished smooth. Just inside the garage door were many stacks of tarp covered pallets. Nearby, were several snowmobiles and ATVs. But there was no sign of the shadowy group that had tried to kill them. They were completely alone.
Finn stepped forward and lifted a tarp covering one of the pallets. "You ever think about quitting waitressing and being a drug smuggler?" he asked casually.
"I think about quitting all the time. But I always figured I would resort to gun running if I was going to do something illegal." She laughed. "But being a drug dealer could work. How come?"
"Well, I think your evil, gun running, drug dealing twin's been here. I'm pretty sure I know what they use this mine for." Finn yanked the tarp off of the pallet, revealing bundles of plastic-wrapped, white powder and wooden boxes with Russian writing on them. The only word he recognized was AK-47. "I don't think that's sugar or baby powder in these bundles either!"
The two checked several other pallets, revealing similar stacks. Some pallets contained unidentifiable substances, but it was clear that the drugs in the bags were not available over the counter. "Who needs boring old yellow gold when you've got Colombian white gold and AK-47s? I bet these pallets are worth more than this old mine ever was," Finn said as he pulled back another tarp.
Liv nodded in agreement, then turned her attention to the far wall- the source of the constant noise that filled the cavern. "Let's check out this water noise, then get the hell out of here. We can drive to another town and call the cops from there."
It took several minutes to reach the source of the noise. "Holy crap! It's an underground river!" Liv exclaimed as she peered at the swirling waters that ran several feet below the floor. The river entered one side of the room and raced through the cave like an angry serpent before disappearing into the wall on the other side.
"Wow, this is so cool!" Finn said as he looked over the ledge. "It looks pretty deep, you wanna go swimming?"
"You first. I don't feel like being a Liv-sicle," she replied, nudging him gently in the direction of the water.
"Hey now, if I go in, I'm taking you with me." He grabbed her jacket playfully, as she giggled.
"Why don't both of you jump in. It would save me quite a bit of trouble," said a familiar voice. The rushing water had masked the approach of Mitch and his small army of well armed men.
"Shit!" Liv had let her guard down and they were going to die because of it. The men surrounding them were dressed like the men who had attacked her house. They had dark painted faces and were wearing black combat fatigues. Most carried suppressed MP-5s.
Liv recognized the man who had started all the trouble. He was the only one with a giant chrome pistol attached to his belt. He pulled a toothpick from his jacket pocket and chomped down on it. For the first time, she could see his face clearly. His eyes were his most striking feature. They were gray, cold and dead.
"I ask that you keep your language clean, Ms. Driscol. I would hate for you to have to explain yourself to your maker. The Lord does not appreciate a filthy tongue," Mitch scolded, as he aimed his pistol between her eyes.
"What about goat-f$%king murderers?" Liv spat.
"Drop your guns, now," Mitch said, ignoring her retort. "Come on now. No surprises." Reluctantly Liv and Finn complied, laying their submachine guns down on the stone floor. "Drop the pistol, too." Mitch motioned toward Finn's Glock. Finn pulled the pistol from his belt and dropped it to the ground.
"It's ironic that you will die in the exact same spot your father did," Mitch mused. "Come to think of it, I was standing right here, on this exact spot, when it happened. Of course, back then, this was just a skinny, little mining shaft."
"You?" Liv stared at Mitch in disbelief, momentarily at a loss for words. "You killed my dad? He saved your f$%king life in combat, you ungrateful shit." Liv wanted to lunge at Mitch, but Finn held her back. The men surrounding them looked trigger happy and eager to kill.
"He saved my life, but I also saved his, many times," Mitch countered. "Your dad never told you what we really did, did he? Do you ever wonder what war we fought in? Think about it. Too young for Vietnam, too old for the first Gulf war. We were operators, Liv. We got dropped in some of the most god-forsaken locations on the planet, and fought some of the worst scum the devil ever created." Mitch's pistol drooped slightly as he spoke. She started to move toward him, but the pistol steadied itself, stopping her short.