Election Day
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Both he and Whitaker fell asleep quickly. It had been a long day already with the promise of several longer days to come, at least until they found Hubbard. Normally, Whitaker would have been up worrying about how to deal with their apartment, dealing with the insurance, and finding a new place to live. The fact that she was able to just go to sleep spoke volumes about how tired she was. Taylor, on the other hand, was always able to just go to sleep, regardless of what was going on. It was one of the things he learned in the army. You never knew when you were going to sleep or for how long, so you got what you could, now.

The part about never knowing how much sleep you were going to get turned out to be true this time, as a gentle knock on their door pulled him awake. The other thing the Army had taught him was to be a light sleeper, just in case a hostile, or worse a drill sergeant, was to sneak up and cause mischief.

Taylor swung his legs over the edge of the bed, trying to keep from waking up Whitaker. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, which was good enough to find out whatever the person at the door wanted. Walking quietly, he edged the door open, finding one of the Secret Service agents standing outside the door. It wasn’t one of the ones assigned to Caldwell’s personal detail, which gave Taylor a moment of pause.

Before the man could speak Taylor held a finger up and motioned for the man to stand back enough for Taylor to come out of the room and close the door.

“What’s happened?” Taylor asked once the door was closed.

“There’s been a sighting of Hubbard a few miles from here. He was gone before we could get to him, but there’s a van with New York plates that was reported stolen yesterday parked in the same area. Cole is preparing a team to investigate it.”

“Cole sent you to tell me about it?”

“No. The Senator called and asked that I let you know.”

“She’s not here?”

She’d mentioned she had an event today, but he was surprised she was gone already.

“No, she left a few hours ago.”

“When is Cole going to move on the van?”

“In the next thirty minutes. With Hubbard this close, he didn’t want to pull anyone off protection details, so he’s assembling a separate team to check out the van.”

“Got it. Thanks for the heads up.”

The man just gave him a nod and headed back towards the stairs to the first floor. Taylor assumed this agent was on Mary Jane’s detail, which was why he didn’t recognize him. It was probably a good thing that Caldwell had been gone, since her agents were under Cole’s direct command. They would have been less likely to notify him of anything, regardless of what Caldwell had asked.

Slipping back inside their room, Taylor nudged Whitaker gently until she woke up.

“Huh ... wha...?”

“Get up. Hubbard’s been sighted nearby and they’re about to move on the van they think he drove down in. I want to see the scene before they trash it.”

To Whitaker’s credit, it only took her a few seconds to push through her sleep haze and absorb what he’d said. Within five minutes they were both dressed and walking out of Caldwell’s house. He’d found the agent who’d delivered Caldwell’s message and gotten direction to where Cole was assembling his team, near the van.

He knew Cole’s type enough to know to join them there, rather than going to the van itself. Even if it turned out to be nothing, Cole wasn’t the type who could stand someone stepping over him.

They wound through Georgetown streets, Whitaker directing him until they came to a bank parking lot littered with government-plated vehicles. Men were gearing up in vests and checking weapons as Taylor and Whitaker pulled up. Cole intercepted them as they got out of their vehicle.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“We heard about Hubbard and wanted to see the van,” Taylor said.

A look of annoyance flashed across Cole’s face. Taylor had to give it to the man; he didn’t need much time to work out who’d given Taylor and Whitaker the heads up on what was going on.

“We have this under control. Just go back and let us do our jobs.”

“Not a chance. We have every right to be here and he’s only a mile from my friends and my daughter. You can either let us work with you or deal with us being in the way. Those are your two choices.”

“Do what you want, but if you get in my way, you’re going in cuffs.”

With that Cole went back to his men to give last-minute instructions. For his bluster, Taylor hadn’t planned on getting in the way. He wasn’t wearing body armor and only had his sidearm while these guys were geared up for war. While he didn’t know the Secret Service’s equivalent, he’d had to deal with Bureau tactical teams before. As much as he called into question the thinking of people like Cole, these guys usually knew what they were doing. He had no problem letting them do their jobs while he and Whitaker followed behind.

While he normally drove when they were together, they’d agreed it was better to have Whitaker behind the wheel now. She’d dealt with this kind of thing more often than he had and would have a better sense of how to stay with Cole’s men, who operated from a very similar playbook to the Bureau.

The Secret Service tactical team and agents all broke off to the assembled vehicles. Taylor and Whitaker followed last in the line of cars that headed to the outskirts of D.C. The agent on Mary Jane’s detail had told them where to find Cole but not the exact location of the sighting itself, so they could do little but follow Cole and his men and hope they didn’t miss Hubbard.

As they turned onto one of the scattered suburbs around DC, the cars in front of them blacked out their lights. It must have been some kind of standard procedure because Whitaker instantly shut off her lights as well as if she’d been waiting for that.

Turning a street, Taylor could see what he guessed was their target. Idling on a curb was a white panel van. He could see the silhouette of someone inside, although the windows were partially fogged up, making it hard to make out any details.

The lead cars roared around the van and swung behind it, cutting off any attempt of escape, while the ones further back from the line of cars stopped right in front of it, completely blocking it in.

As soon as the cars stopped, the tactical team members poured out, weapons pointed at the van, using the cars for cover. Several of them began shouting commands for the driver to exit the vehicle with their hands up.

Whitaker and Taylor had stopped well back from the whole scene, blocked by Secret Service vehicles whose agents were also staying out of the tactical team’s way.

“Something’s not right,” Taylor said, looking at the scene.

“I know,” Whitaker said.

Taylor got out of the car and started moving up at a crouch towards the tactical team but was stopped when the door of one of the cars in front of them flew open and Cole stepped out.

“No. Stay out of their way.”

“Cole, it’s a trap. He isn’t in there.”

“What?”

“He isn’t in there. Hubbard wouldn’t ever be in the situation. Sitting there in a running car, in a neighborhood where he’s certain someone will call in a strange van in the middle of the night, heater going inside so the windows fog up, blocking his vision. Everything he’s done so far is smarter than this, and we know he goes for traps and diversions.”

Cole looked back at the van, his brow creased, working through what Taylor said. Once again, Taylor had to give Cole credit. Instead of doubling down he turned away from Taylor and waved the agents who’d been in the car with him to follow. Taylor, now joined by Whitaker, followed the group of them towards the van.

“Sir, what...” The tactical team leader said as the group of them came into view.

“Something isn’t right. Check the driver.”

The team leader’s mouth drew in a tight line, obviously not happy about the command, but he did as he was told, signaling for two of his men to circle around the front end of the van close enough to see into the cab of the van. As a credit to their professionalism, the rest of the men readjusted to keep the two assigned men from ending up in crossfire if things turned sideways quickly.

Taylor could sympathize with their displeasure. If Hubbard had been in the van, both men would be exposed. While their friends would be able to put Hubbard down quickly, they wouldn’t be quick enough to save these two. Taylor, however, was still confident in his assessment.

This confidence was proven right moments later when one of the two men signaled back that the cab was empty.

“This is a trap,” Taylor said. “Get your men back.”

“Shut up. If you keep interfering I’ll put you in cuffs and you can spend the day sitting in a cell. I don’t give a shit who you’ve got backing you.”

 
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