Olson Alvarez nodded to his twin brother Jaime. “You getting this, bro?”
Jaime Alvarez nodded and gave his brother a thumbs-up as he continued focusing his video camera at the gunfight playing out down the road from them. Jaime asked his brother, “So, ol’ headstrong called in sick today, que pasa?”
“Si. Something happened to her last night. But I don’t know what, esse. I hope it’s nothing serious.” Olson scratched himself as he thought of Bess Armstrong and couldn’t figure out what had caused her to have to call in sick when she was so hot to cover this story. Whatever it was, it had to be serious.
“Hey, bro, check that out — some guy in a costume!”
“Got him, man. Who is he?” Jaime asked, feeling an itch on his shoulder he couldn’t scratch without jeopardizing the shot.
Olson shook his head. “I don’t know, man.”
From the journal of Terry Lee Travis:
Man, the adrenaline was pumping as I drove out near the battle in progress. In my head I was reviewing everything I knew about how to engage in a firefight like this, and remembering Mikey Fallone, my best friend from boot camp on up to a few weeks ago when we were on an insertion in some pig$#!& hole in Columbia, one of those missions that didn’t happen. He died there, but SEALs never leave their own behind, and I carried his body quite a ways before we were lifted out.
Mikey was from this area. His father had worked for Donnici and missed Mikey’s graduation because he was lying dead in a dirty parking lot where a deal had gone south. That made Mikey choose the Navy and vow to come back someday and take out “Uncle” Carmine and his filthy business dealings. Well, Michael Angelo Fallone is riding shotgun with me in spirit, if not in fact.
Probably more than being related to the original Crimson Avenger, Mikey is the reason I am wearing this costume and carrying these pistols — though still debating on a code name — to carry on his dream of revenge.
Terry Lee Travis spotted a pick-up truck blocking the road ahead of him, and two rough-looking men holding shotguns aimed right at him. Spotting his mask, they started shooting at him. He hit one head on with the car and rolled out the door, shooting at the other one.
Moments later, there were two dead men laying in the road, and one living man standing. Looking around, he found a spot to drive around their truck and a little ways down the road hid it off the side. Then he trotted back.
Inside the cab of the truck, someone was shouting in a combination of French and English, “Pierre, Andre, #%#^%*^ answer me!”
Terry Lee found the mike and picked it up. “They are out of the game, monsieur,” he said coldly.
“Eh? Who is this?”
“Your worst nightmare!” He clicked off and trotted away from the truck.
They were Bodeaux’s boys — they had to be. Mikey had told him all about their involvement with the Donnici crime family. Killing them didn’t really bother him too much, as they had tried to kill him first, but what had bothered him were the open sores on the face of one of those young punks. He had never seen anything like them before.
“Chief, here’s the plan for Cook’s funeral,” Sergeant John Severn said to Police Chief Lawrence Durrel as he walked into the station.
“Cook’s funeral?” Durrel asked, perplexed.
“You don’t remember? Chief, are you all right?” Severn looked worriedly at his friend and commander.
“John, come into my office with me.”
“Chief, two FEMA agents want to speak to you,” Sergeant Stanton told the chief from his desk.
“Tell ’em to wait,” said Durrel. “I got other matters to deal with. Any word on that shootout?”
Stanton shook his beefy head. “No, sir. Chief, word is the Bodeauxs were seen heading out there, but so far we’re still on hold.”
Durrel nodded. “Keep me updated, and have our SWAT team ready to roll, if needed.”
“Oh, they’re ready, sir. Been ready for an hour.”
There were only a handful of men in the Special Weapons Assault and Tactics team, but they were good, deadly fighters. Durrel nodded and entered his office, followed closely by Severn.
“John, I think I need your help, big-time,” said Durrel.
Severn scratched at his arm and nodded.
Terry Lee Travis peered through his mask’s one-way lens to study the situation. He saw several black-clad men firing on a small group of shabbily dressed types who were returning fire.
A quick memory check indicated no recognizable faces, but the men behind the small circle of cars were clearly of French descent, judging by the Gallic features marking them as members of the Bodeaux clan. The men in black were shorter, huskier, and had dark complexions, so they were, no doubt, the Peruvians. There were no law enforcement badges or markings.
So far he hadn’t been spotted by any more combatants other than the two he had encountered several minutes ago, but then again, there was so much gunfire going on. No one would have noticed a few more shots.
He pulled a pistol and debated whether to get involved or try to go around. His mind was made up when he heard a click behind him, and a voice in Spanish telling him to drop his gun. He rolled, whirled, and came up, swiftly firing as he did so, dropping two men in black fatigues.
Neither was dead, but then again, neither would be running to warn their compadres about the new intruder. From them he gathered machine guns, 9-millimeter pistols, ammunition, and grenades. These muchachos had come to play dirty. To be certain they stayed out of the rest of the game, he quickly tied them up and tended to their wounds; it was done not out of pity, as he felt none toward these bad guys, but as a humanitarian gesture.
Then he moved closer to the firefight, which was winding down in favor of the attackers. He lobbed a pair of grenades into them, taking them out of the game as well. Then, seeing the Bodeaux soldiers coming, he aimed his machine guns at them and ordered them to surrender. They did, being basically already defeated and battered. They actually seemed happy it was over.
“Where’s the main battle?” he asked one man who looked too young to drive.
“Down the road a piece, ’bout half a mile, eh.”
Travis nodded. “Tell you what, son,” he said, aiming to sound like his old chief petty officer, “you make sure your boys stay out of it, and I promise no retribution. You dig?”
The young man agreed quickly, relief etched on his face. “Hey, man, who are you, anyways?”
“Justice,” Travis growled, and moved on.
The young man shook his head and took a cigarette from one of his cousins. “Man be crazy, yo! But I tell you, cuz, I’m just as glad to be out of this shindig.”
The other smiled. “Me, too. I get killed, me, and Marie, she no talk to me no more, eh?”
Wearily they lit their smokes and went about checking on who was left of their group.
“Hey, the costume — he forgot some weapons, man,” one of them said, looking at the corpses of the fallen Peruvians.
“Forget it, man. I not involved no more, me.”
The one who found the weapons shook his head, too tired to continue the fight, anyway. “That boy, he crazy,” he said, lighting his own smoke as he plopped down wearily. “But I’d buy him a beer, me.”
Police Chief Lawrence Durrel was in his office facing Sergeant John Severn. “It was strange. It was like I was in the ambulance in a white room, back to the ambulance, in the white room, and then, after several back and forths like that, we were at the hospital. Then I seemed to be in this white room again, and I remember talking to two men I haven’t seen since the Hanoi Hilton — a couple of fly boys named Delvecchio and, uh, Calavicci.”
Severn shook his head. “Robert Delvecchio was in the news the other days. ‘Leastways, a Navy admiral by that name was appointed to the Pentagon command. But, Chief, no one by those names were around here yesterday.”
Durrel sat pondering. “It’s all like a dream, one of those that feels real but couldn’t be. What bothers me, though, is not remembering things from yesterday people tell me happened.”
“Obviously the stress, Lawrence.”
Desk Sergeant Stanton popped into the chief’s office. “Update on the sick list, Chief. We got a total of thirteen out now, including two who just left.”
“Thirteen? What the #@%&?” Durrel asked, taking the list. “Some last night, several today? What the #@%&?”
“Oh, and Cook’s brothers are here — Steve and Joe.”
“I’ll see them in a minute. Thanks.” With a wave, Durrel dismissed the chubby desk jockey, who nodded and left.
“Man, what a bummer. Two nights ago they win the Florida tag belts, and the next day they lose a brother,” Severn said. “I can assure you, Chief, you were here yesterday, most of the day.”
Durrel nodded absently and chewed on a cigar. “Someday, maybe life will #@%&ing make sense, eh, John?”
Meanwhile, Flencer was carefully watching the two police officers across the street through a narrow gap in the blinds on his front window. The elderly couple over there were pointing at his house. They couldn’t have known he borrowed their car, so maybe they were just indicating neighbors who might know something or complaining about his music. Well, tonight, maybe he’d pay them a visit, just for kicks.
That woman cop wasn’t half-bad-looking. Unconsciously, he started stroking his groin. Yeah, he could have some fun with her, all right — teach her what a real man knows, for sure. Yeah, make her sorry she ever slept with that goofy-looking guy in the suit.
Justice, as he was tentatively calling himself now, suddenly found himself face-to-face with a pair of well-armed men, again not law enforcement officers, but definitely hostile. The two men were holding machine guns.
“Hey, it’s that costumed freak from yesterday!”
They raised their weapons, and Terry Lee hit the ground rolling, coming up with a pistol in each hand and firing point blank at his attackers, stitching both of his attackers with bullets. They stood momentarily, and then, with surprised looks on their faces, fell to the ground.
Terry Lee listened intently and, hearing car motors, headed for a nearby copse of woods.
“Chief, that was Colonel Haggard,” said Sergeant Stanton. “He wants our SWAT team as back-up.”
“OK, Stanton, send them in,” replied Durrel.
“Sir, the hospital just reported wounded coming in,” said another officer.
“OK, Dickerson. John, get some uniforms over there, find out whatever you can, and see if we can put some of those bad boys in jail.”
Durrel chewed furiously on his cigar. From a quiet morning to all hell breaking loose — no wonder he was contemplating an early retirement for the umpteenth time since he had become chief of police of the Seminole City Police Department.
“Chief, Smith and Jones. We need–”
“Not now, fellows. I got too much going on right now.”
Agents Smith and Jones looked at each other, shrugged, and went back over to watch the TV in the common room.
“Chief Deputy Inspector Henderson of the FBI on line one.”
Durrel shrugged. “I’ll take it in my office.”
“Your mother’s on line two.”
“Tell her I’ll call her back.”
“OK, Chief.” Stanton pushed a button transferring one call, then picked up the other phone. “Mrs. Durrel, I’m sorry, but the chief has got his hands full. He says he’ll call you back.”
“But this is important!” Magdalene Durrel protested.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s a whole lotta sh — er, activities going on right now, and we’re shorthanded.”
Magdalene Durrel hung up the phone and looked toward Al Calavicci. “What did you say that address was, again?”
Al looked at his handheld device. “1313 Mockingbird… no, Morningbird Lane.”
“Mockingbird? The Munsters kidnapped Sam?”
“No, thank God! No, it’s Morningbird.”
“OK, go tell Sam I’m coming.”
Al looked astounded. “Oh, Mrs. Durrel, that man is dangerous. He’s got Sam and Dr. Monroe’s granddaughter, Amy.”
“All the more reason it’s up to me and Sharon.”
Sharon Durrel walked into the kitchen just then and looked puzzled, not being able to see Al. “What’s up to you and me, Mom?”
“Honey, you still got that can of Mace?”
Sharon nodded. “Of course. Why?”
“Where’s Morningbird Lane?”
“About three blocks over. Why?”
“We got us some folks to rescue.”
“What about Larry?”
“He’s got more on his plate than just one situation right now, Sharon, so let’s get moving. We got us a child to rescue as well as Sa — er, Dr. Monroe.”
“I’ll go let Sam know,” said Al, “and please, Mrs. Durrel, be careful!” He pushed a button and vanished.
Meanwhile, Sam Beckett, in the form of Dr. James Monroe, looked for a way to smash the chair he was tied to. He was sure he could break the chair if he slammed it just right, and get himself out of this situation, and then that red-haired man would find out he wasn’t dealing with a crippled old man.
Laying in his hospital bed watching the local news, Officer Davison saw the clip being rebroadcast of the mystery-man rolling out of his car and shooting a man who was holding a machine pistol, then shooting his partner off-screen.
“Damn. Wish I could be in on this action,” he moaned, also wishing he could scratch that itch inside his cast. He turned toward the door and nearly had a heart attack of sorts, then realized he was just seeing a nun.
“Are you OK, my son?” the woman asked.
“Yes, ma’am, er, sister. For a moment I thought… well, that you were someone else.”
“Oh?” She was a kindly looking, plump woman in the black and white habit of the Dominican Order, a common sight in this hospital.
“Well, sister, this may sound strange, but I have to tell someone. Yesterday, when I was in the hole where I’d broken my leg after falling into it, I… well, I thought I briefly glimpsed a woman in black.”
“Mon Dieu!” she exclaimed, making the sign of the cross. “She is back! May God have mercy.”
Davison looked puzzled.
“Looks like someone saved the taxpayers some money. These boys are definitely Mafia.” The speaker was a state police officer wearing sergeant stripes. With him were three other troopers.
“OK, girls, we definitely got us a vigilante running around, and even though he’s on our side, we can’t let him go around shooting people — even scum like this — so let’s try to bring him in alive, if possible.”
The others nodded. Inwardly they admired the mystery-man, but they had a job to do.
Nearby, laying under the brush and glad he was covered by red flowers, Terry Lee Travis wasn’t contemplating just giving up, returning to his car, and going back to the motel. No, he was a trained combatant on a mission of vengeance for a fallen brother. He was, however, thinking of investing in several costumes, some with more camouflage. Still, the dirt covering much of his red and green costume helped. Vengeance… hmmm, maybe.
“No one home, Harry,” said Officer Sheila Holmes. “Maybe someone next door can tell us something.”
“Doesn’t hurt to try, Sheila,” said Detective Harry Rheems. “I’ll go to that blue house. You check with the folks over there.”
Flencer watched out of a crack, eyeballing the woman cop. “Oh, yeah, baby. I could teach you so much, but I am just too clever for the likes of you and pretty-boy, there. Heh-heh-heh-heh.”
Idly he scratched at his face and contemplated his sick and twisted fantasies, his mind already turning to the little girl in the next room, a little child who was fervently praying for help.