The Cuckoo's Progeny
21: Fatal Confrontation

Copyright© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.

“Man, it’s wonderful stepping into the sunshine again,” Theo said, as they exited the station house. “I’d never make it as a career criminal; I dislike jail food too much. Give me junk food from a local burger joint any day!”

“We’re free, but Powell’s likely to know where we are,” Al cautioned. “We’d best get the heck outta town before he shows up.”

“If everyone is hunting for him, you don’t think he’d be stupid enough to show up here, do you?” Betty asked.

“He’s got something to prove.” Al led the others to their car parked in front of the police station by Special Agent Anderson. “If he confronts us and demonstrates to the CIA his ideas are legitimate, he thinks he’ll be validated. It’s a misguided notion, since that wasn’t why he was retired, but he’s clearly delusional. The fact he’s right in this one case is immaterial to his mental state.”

“We won’t fit in this one car,” Kaci said, looking at the newer SUV, complete with dark windows.

“No,” Al said, unlocking the vehicle for the others. “Gary and Delilah are bringing Mui and Xi’s cars around. Between the three vehicles, we’ll manage.”

“Shouldn’t they be here, guarding you?” Betty asked, standing protectively beside her boyfriend.

“No, they’re our best drivers. We’re unlikely to be attacked here, but more likely to face someone on the open road.” He turned, regarding the others. “Does everyone have everything they came with?”

“We didn’t search our luggage, but we’ve got each item they took from our cars.” Ivan tossed their bags in the back of the new vehicle, better equipped to carry them than the smaller vehicles.

“I’ve got my magic ball,” Xi said, cradling the small red crystal in her hands. “As long as I have this, I’m set. I can always purchase new clothes.”

“As wonderful as your little toy is, you now have the two of us,” Betty said, pulling her into her arms. “You’ve done without family for too long. Now grab your gear and let’s get out of here.”

“How are we splitting up the vehicles?” Theo tossed his and Etta’s bags into the new vehicle.

“Al, Xi and I ride together,” Betty announced. “Either Gary or Delilah can join us. The rest of you can choose which car you want. That leaves us short one, so someone’s got to split up.”

“If it means that Gary can travel in Theo’s car, I’ll trade,” Etta said. “I hate to say it, but I’m not sure my boyfriend is any good in a fight.”

“Believe me, as our encounter the other day demonstrates, I’m not,” he replied. “I’ll feel safer too, especially with you in the lead car.”

“We need a chance to inspect the vehicles and gear,” Ivan warned. “It’s possible someone planted trackers in our stuff again. I’m not pointing fingers,” he said, glancing at Mark Anderson standing on the steps of the police station, “but there’s no sense taking chances.”

“We will,” Al assure him, securing the last of the bags, shifting a few to better balance the load. “I’m planning to stop for supplies in a nearby town. You’ll have a chance to check everything out. But I want to get in and out before anyone notices we’re there.”

“Aye-aye, Captain,” Eli said, saluting in an imitation of Gary’s teasing of Al.

“Okay, let’s get our details straight before we set out,” Al said, speaking to everyone as they gathered in the parking lot. “The guys will cover the camping supply store. From our calculations, we’re guessing that Xi is taking us into the mountains. Since they’re too steep and rugged for houses, we’re anticipating hiking in and roughing it while we’re there. The women need to stock up on essentials and enough food to last us for an indefinite period. I doubt many of us are qualified to hunt for our own game without the proper equipment. Hell, few of us can grill a steak without assistance. Remember, keep everything light. If you can’t carry it on your back for fifty miles, leave it behind. Lamar and Mui will assist Ivan and Kaci as they prep our vehicles. I’m not looking forward to being accosted while stuck on the side of the road. So, is everyone set?”

“Personally, I’d prefer sticking with the men while they visit the camping store,” Mui teased.

“So would I,” Lamar said, grinning. “That’s where all the attractive he-men hang out.”

“Enough chatter. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to gawk when we get wherever we’re going. You’ve done badly enough the past twenty years building human friendships, I doubt the next thirty minutes will make a significant difference.”

“Here’s hoping we find a new world with a better class of humans,” Eli said.

Al was carrying an armload of new purchases, accompanied by Gary, Eli and Theo, when he stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk. “Uh oh!”

“What’s wrong?” Gary asked, used to what the changes in his friend foreshadowed.

Al dropped his bag, ignoring it. “Forget the supplies. Get back to the vehicles. We’ve got trouble and don’t have much time.”

“We won’t abandon you,” Eli said, carefully balancing his new fully-loaded backpack.

“We’re effectively trapped,” Al said. “The only way you can escape is if I distract them. Since they’re after me, they won’t worry about the rest of you if you disappear. I’m the big fish. Powell assumes you’ll come back for me.” He jogged across the street, motioning the others to continue. “If you do, none of us will escape. Get the hell out of here, but don’t draw attention to yourselves.”

Gary accepted his command, heading off, but Eli hesitated. “What about you?”

“Don’t worry about me. I’m pretty good at taking care of myself. Make sure the others are safe,” he insisted before heading off.

A large gray military MRAT bearing SWAT logos turned onto the avenue. The doors swung open and officers piled out. Each wore full police-authorized military gear, including body armor, M16s and helmets. Spotting Al, they rushed forward as he backed away, taking the attention off Eli and the others who merged into the crowd. Two police cars pulled onto the other end of the block. The officers exited, corralling pedestrians, preventing anyone from slipping past.

Col. Powell emerged from behind the SWAT team at the north end. Unlike the others, he didn’t wear any paramilitary gear aside from a red flak jacket. “Where are your pals?”

“This doesn’t impact them,” Al yelled. “I’m the one you’re after.”

“You’re right. I’m about to prove to the world what you’re capable of!”

“What idiots did you convince to support your wild accusations this time?” Al asked, still backing up, even though that trapped him between the two groups. The street, filled with shoppers, froze as they took in the developing confrontation. Anticipating a rare opportunity, several took out their phones. The officers blocked most from escaping as another two police cars pulling up behind the MRAT.

“Freeze!” one of the officers yelled. “We’re from the Mount Kinney Police Department, and you’re under arrest. Any attempt to flee will be considered a violent action.”

The civilians moved out of the way, but there was nowhere to escape to and few tried.

“You’ve got no authority to arrest me. In case you haven’t researched your source, he’s wanted by the FBI and his prior handlers at the CIA. He’s an unauthorized rogue agent. Any action you undertake on his behalf will land you all in jail.”

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