I made my way slowly back towards Lang’s house, continuing my surveillance detection routine until I was satisfied I wasn’t being followed. It continued to eat at me as I wondered how Gordon’s men had found me again. I had already ditched the phone, but they appeared out of nowhere as if they had been waiting for me. The question I couldn’t answer was if it was just dumb luck that they found me, or if someone had tipped them off.
As I approached the main gate to Lang’s house, I kept my head down and away from the cameras – the ones I was aware of at least. Lang’s security team would have already been tracking me for the past block, but I hated being on camera. Cameras were records that left a connection back to me, and I hated being in that position.
The moment I came up to the gate, it swung open. They had definitely been tacking me. I stopped inside and waited as the gate closed behind me. I knew better than to approach the house without an escort. After making that mistake once, it was more than enough to learn. I could still feel the spot where his security detail launched a beanbag at me. While I appreciated the use of non-lethal force at the time, it still hurt like a bitch.
Two security guards made the walk down the driveway with fully automatic rifles in plain view. Not the normal procedure I was used to, but he must have increased security after what happened to Jason. They stopped five feet away and started to issue commands.
“Turn around, put your hands on your head, and walk slowly back towards me,” one of them yelled.
My mouth dropped. “Really guys? Is this necessary? You’ve know me for months now.”
“Sorry, sir. New protocol. Please turn around, put your…”
“Yeah, yeah,” I cut him off and started doing as I was I was told. “Hand up, walk backwards, I know the drill.” I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes at the situation.
One guard came forward to pat me down for weapons while the other stayed back to cover. He didn’t have his weapon raised in my direction, but I had no doubt he would shoot me if I made a wrong move. I had already ditched my gun on the walk back after I broke it down to pieces and scattered them in various trash bins so I knew he wouldn’t find any other weapons on me.
“Satisfied?” I asked when the guard patting me down stood up and nodded to his partner.
“Yes, sir. I apologize for the inconvenience. They’re waiting for you down in the Ops Room.”
“Whatever. See if I send your ass a Christmas card this year,” I mumbled and started my walk up the long driveway.
Lang’s house looked like every other house on the block – large, but not quite in the mansion range. From the outside it could probably qualify as a ‘mini-mansion’, but as with everything Lang owned, looks were definitely deceiving.
I walked in the Ops Rooms, which looked more like an executive board room, to find Mitch and Krissy already there. Hand-written notes and satellite imagery, some probably pulled from Google Maps but most of it likely fresh from one of Lang’s satellites, were scatted around the large table. Mitch looked relieved to see me and Krissy turned pale when she saw me.
“You scared the shit out of us, Derek!” Mitch said. “We heard the reports of gunfire and the accident and thought you were gone. You ditched your phone so we had no way of contacting you either.”
“Yeah, I had a small detour. On the bright side, Gordon must be running out of decent operatives though. The goons he sent after me couldn’t shoot fish in a barrel. I got away with a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing broken.”
Krissy was still staring at me as if she’d seen a ghost.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Ye-yeah, I’m fine,” She stuttered. “Sorry, I just didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I’m so glad you’re alright!”
“Speaking of being alright,” Mitch interjected.
“They’re just cuts, Mitch. I’ll be fine.”
“I see that. Where’s my bike?”
I didn’t respond.
“Derek, what did you do to my bike?”
“Look, it’s hard to aim while riding a motorcycle, so I had to leave it in order to get out of there.”
A look of relief crossed Mitch’s face. “Fine. Where’d you park it? I’ll have someone go pick it up before something happens to it.”
“I don’t remember which intersection exactly…” I trailed off and looked at my feet.
“You promise you won’t get mad?” I asked.
“No I don’t promise! In fact, I promise I will get mad! What the hell did you do with my bike?” Mitch was visible pissed off. I was glad security made us leave any weapons upstairs before we were allowed in to the Ops Room.
“I sort of shot it.”
“What!?” Mitch shouted and jumped to his feet.
Mitch’s eyes narrowed as he silently glared at me.
It was several heartbeats before I continued. “In my defense, the bike was already crushed under their car and dragged through the intersection. It was already totaled. I only shot at it to blow the gas tank.”
“In your defense? That’s not a fucking defense, Derek! You blew up my baby!”
“Well you tazed me!”
“Oh get over that already! It was one time, and it was for your own damn good! You not only wrecked my bike, but you purposefully blew the god damned thing to pieces!”
“Call it even?” I shrugged.
Before Mitch had a chance to explode more, we heard the hiss of the Ops Room door unlocking. Mr. Lang entered and stared at us for a moment. It was an awkward silence as Krissy looked between us while Mitch continued to bore holes into the side of my head with his eyes. Finally Lang broke the silence.
“You know, they told me this room was soundproof, but I could hear your catfight from down the hall. What’s going on?”
Mitch spoke up first. “Derek blew up my bike.”
“It was an accident! Okay, that’s a lie, blowing it up wasn’t really an accident, but I had no other choice. It was either me or the bike, and I chose me.”
We both looked at Lang.
“What?” He asked. “I’m not your father. You guys work it out on your own. In the meantime, Mitch bring us up to speed on Gordon. Do we have a plan yet?”
Mitch sighed. It was obvious he was still upset. “I worked some of my contacts and found out where he’s going to be for the next 24 hours. We have a very small window to work in, and an even smaller time to plan it.
He’s flying in from New York this afternoon. His jet lands at 3:00 Pacific Time. From there he’ll take an armored car to one of his supporter’s estates up in the valley. There’s a small dinner meeting scheduled at 8:00, after which he’ll be spending the night. The meeting is scheduled to end around 10:00.”
“The dinner will most likely have extremely high security based on the others attending, so we should hit him on the way to the estate,” Lang said.
I shook my head. “Bad idea. Gordon knows traveling is his weak spot. He’ll be heavily guarded during transit and will have multiple backup plans if something goes wrong. His security will be way too high until they get him to the estate.”
“Are you suggesting we hit him during the dinner party?” Krissy asked.
“No, we wait. For all of his paranoia and security, Gordon is a creature of habit. He has two glasses of scotch before bed to relax. That’s when he’ll be most vulnerable. After the other high profile guests leave, security will breathe a sigh of relief and relax. That’s when we hit. If we wait too long, security will go through a shift change and the night crew will be more alert for a while. Our window of opportunity is just shy of an hour.”
Mitch confirmed my plan was our best shot and agreed with the timing. For the next two hours we hammered out a plan of action that, while risky, was our only viable option. Lang stayed mostly silent and only asked a question every now and then to clarify something he didn’t understand. Operations was not his strong suit, but that’s what he paid us for.
Lang stood up when our plan was complete. “Looks like you guys have it pretty much under control. Keep me updated and let me know if you need anything else from me.”
Mitch, Krissy, and I all shook his hand and thanked him for his help.
“Derek, can I speak with you outside for a minute?” He asked as he reached the door. I nodded and followed him out of the room. As the door closed, Lang sent away the guards within earshot so we could have some privacy.
“How you holding up, Kiddo?”
“I’ve been better. Still trying to figure out how Gordon’s men keep finding me.”
“I’ll have some of my men look into it and see if they can dig anything up.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it,” I said. “How’s Jason doing?”
“From what I’m told, he’s doing well. He’s moving around and pushing himself to recover faster. He’s a strong young man, I’m positive he’ll be fine.”
“What do you mean from what you’ve been told? You haven’t seen him?” I asked.
“Well he’s not exactly on speaking terms with me at the moment. He found out that you’ve been working for me and is holding that against me for not telling him who you really are.”
“Has he asked about me at all?” I asked, my eyes pleading for him to say yes.
Lang patted my shoulder as he started walking way. “He’ll come around, Derek. Just give him some time.”
I took a deep breath and went back into the Ops Room. “Alright guys, let’s go over it again from the beginning.
Mitch, Krissy, and I continued to go over our plan to work our any weak points in our assault. It was a basic ‘hammer and anvil’ tactic with a few adjustments to make up for the fact that we only had three people. Until I was sure the person leaking information to Gordon wasn’t one of Lang’s men, I couldn’t trust having any of them involved in our operation.
A hammer and anvil involved surrounding all sides of the target building and simultaneously entering through every door to ensure maximum coverage as operatives swept the building room by room until they found what they were looking for. The trick is to move fast enough to avoid the enemy figuring out your plan while you’re still in the building. Once they figure it out, you’ll be out-gunned and surrounded on their turf.
Our plan took this same principle, but with one major difference. With only three operatives, we had no one to stay back and cover the outside of the house after we entered. The would require us to take down any sentries outside before we breached the house. Once we took them out, our timeline would become extremely tight. When the sentries fail to check-in at their appointed times, someone would immediately initiate a lockdown on the house and call for reinforcements. With only three of us heading out there, we couldn’t afford a sustained firefight against any backup they called for.
I heard the door locks click open behind me and assumed it was Lang coming back to check on us, “Did you at least bring some coffee this time, old man?”
There was a slight pause before I got a response. “Sorry, I didn’t get the memo. Maybe next time.”
I froze. It was definitely a Lang, but not the one I was expecting.
“Jason?” I whispered and turned to face him.
“I want in,” he said.
“In on what?”
“This,” he said as he motioned to all the papers scattered around the table. “The operation you guys are planning. I’m coming with you.”
I turned to Mitch and Krissy. “Can you guys give us a few minutes alone?”
“No,” Jason said. “They can stay. This isn’t up for debate. That mother fucker tried to kill me. It’s only fair that I’m one of the ones to take him down.”
“Listen to yourself, Jason. You were shot. You haven’t recovered yet. Our plan is a long shot at best. We can’t risk you going out there and getting hurt again, or even killed this time.”
“That’s not for you to decide anymore,” he said defiantly.
“The hell it isn’t. This isn’t a game Jason. This is a real operation, going up against real people. People that have more experience than you. People that will take great pleasure in putting a bullet in Lang’s son. Krissy, back me up here.”
“Well,” she hesitated. “We actually could use an extra body, and from what I’ve heard, he knows how to shoot.”
My mouth dropped open. “Are you kidding me? He was just shot! We can’t risk it! We just planned our entire mission without him. We leave in one hour - we don’t have time to adjust it again to add another person. Especially one that’s wounded as bad as he is.”
Mitch stepped forward. “Derek, I think you need to calm down and get some air. Go outside and let us talk to Jason alone for a bit.”
I glared at him, but left the room without responding. Hopefully they would be able to talk some sense into him. I went back upstairs and out on the enormous back patio. The fresh air overlooking a beautifully manicured lawn and garden did help calm me down. I hadn’t realized how long we were down there planning.
I took a deep breath and admired Lang’s garden, temporarily letting my mind drift. I was brought back to reality when a shadow appeared next to mine. It was Jason.
“So what’s the consensus?” I asked.
“I’m not going.”
Jason didn’t respond, so I turned to face him.
“Look, I’m sorry, but you’re not healed yet. I don’t want you to get hurt again, Babe.”
“First, you lose the right to call me that, so stop saying it. Second, I may not be 100%, but I can still help and you didn’t even consider it before saying no.”
“No,” he cut me off. “I’m not done yet. Third, you’ve been lying to me for a long time and have a lot to explain. Promise me that when this is all over, you’ll tell me everything. Starting with who you really are.”
“I promise. And I’m sorry.”
“Stop apologizing and get back to the Ops Room. They’re waiting on you.”
I nodded and stared into his eyes. There was anger there, but beneath the surface was also a hint of pain and sorrow. My own eyes started to water, on the verge of tears again.
Jason slapped me open handed across the face.
“Get your head in the game, Derek. No distractions.”
I nodded again and watched him turn and walk away.
I looked at my watch and saw it was 4:00. We were leaving in one hour. It would give us enough time to travel to the house and observe everyone coming and going from the meeting. After the last guest left, it would time for our assault.
I entered the Ops Room and saw Mitch, alone, sipping on a coffee.
“Where’s Krissy?” I asked.
“Little girls room. She doesn’t want to have to hold it in while we’re out in the field.”
I nodded. “What’d you say to Jason? It’s not like him to give up on something like this so easily.”
“Nothing really. I just laid everything out for him and made him realize it was a stupid decision to come with us last minute.”
Mitch was lying to me again. “Bullshit. What’d you say to him?”
He sighed. “What does it matter? You got what you wanted. Just let it go and be happy. Maybe all it takes is to hear things from someone else once in a while.”
The door opened and Krissy came in so I let it drop for the time being. Mitch was hiding something and I wanted to know what it was.
“Is it time to go shopping?” Krissy asked.
“Definitely.” I said.
The three of us left the Ops Room and made our way down to Lang’s armory. For the next 45 minutes, we geared up for our assault. Our attires consisted of a Kevlar vest, communications set, high power night vision goggles, flashbang grenades, and various weapons of choice. I chose two handguns with suppressors and a Barrett REC7 Assault Rifle, an upgraded version of the popular M4 rifle used by the military. I topped off my gear with a Smith and Wesson MP tactical switchblade that I strapped to my leg.
Mitch and Krissy had roughly the same gear, but with different main weapons they were more comfortable with. Krissy chose an automatic shotgun that was more handy in tight quarters, but the sound it created would ensure everyone knew we were there. Mitch decided on a lightweight Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun. All of us had multiple clips of ammunition for our weapons.
After a quick comms check to make sure our headsets worked and we were all linked together, we headed for the Tahoe waiting for us in the garage.
The upgraded Tahoe was black with limo-tinted windows. It was almost impossible to see in from the outside. The bulletproof armor plating added significant weight, but the modified V-8 engine was able to handle it with ease. Our driver had orders to drop us in the woods two miles away from the target and then wait for us at a designated rendezvous point. If we didn’t make it back by midnight, he was to leave us and head back to Lang’s.
Our driver dropped us off at the designated point and immediately took off when the doors closed. The three of us made our way into the woods and gathered in a huddle for one last briefing.
“Thank you guys for doing this,” I said. “I know this isn’t your fight, but it’s nice to know I can always count on you two to have my back. I am forever in your debt. Let’s get in, get out, and go home.”
“Easier said than done,” Krissy mumbled.
Mitch laughed. “You know what they say – the only easy day was yesterday.”
“First round of shots is on me when we get back,” I said.
“First five rounds,” Mitch quipped.
“Deal. Let’s head out, Check-in when you reach your final position. Suppressors on, engage any targets you encounter on the way quietly. We can’t let them know we’re coming yet.”
Krissy mumbled a quick prayer and we all took off in different directions. Our plan was to form a triangle around the house so we could observe the security detail while we waited for the meeting to end. It would hopefully give us a more detailed image of the guards routes and timing. Any holes or weaknesses we saw could be a major advantage for us.
The first mile of the journey was easy There likely wouldn’t be any guards that far out, which meant I could afford to move quickly and made a little more noise than usual. The final half mile, however, was pure agony.
After inching my way through the forest for nearly two hours, I finally approached my designated area. After hearing clicks on the radio ten minutes ago, I knew Mitch and Krissy were in position and I was the last to arrive.
At first glance, the ranch looked like any other wealthy homeowner’s. To the trained eye, however, there were plenty of signs that pointed to the contrary. The small domes attached to the corners of the roof would provide a camera feed to an unseen security team that monitored it around the clock. Through various sources, Mitch had discovered that the feed ran to a small basement under the main house. Given more time and an expert hacker, the feeds could have been spoofed to give the team a stealthier approach, but I still couldn’t trust anyone on Lang’s team enough to bring them in on this mission.
I clicked the transmit button three times to let the other know I reached my final position. A quick glance at my watch said we had just over two hours to settle in and observe before our attack.
Half an hour into our observations, Mitch broke the strict radio silence. “Derek, something isn’t right here.”
I cursed him under my breath for not only breaking radio silence, but also using my real name over the channel. “What is it, Alpha-Two?” I asked, stressing his designated call sign.
“These patrols are off. My intel says a team sweeps the perimeter every fifteen minutes like clockwork. These guys haven’t done one yet.”
“And? That’s good news for us. Maybe they’re getting sloppy. Maybe your source was wrong or outdated.”
There was a brief silence on the radio and I wondered if he was going to push the issue. Their weakness would be our strength.
“My intel is strong. Something isn’t right. If anything, this meeting should have them more on edge and sweeping more often, not less.”
Almost immediately Krissy broke into the conversation. “Movement. South side, two guards sweeping the exterior fence.”
Rather than make a sarcastic remark towards Mitch, I bit my tongue and clicked my radio once to signal it was time to go back to radio silence. Mitch’s instincts were rarely off, but I couldn’t risk aborting this mission based on a gut feeling. Too much was riding on the success.
The first guest arrived shortly after the guards finished their perimeter sweep. It was Mitch’s job to keep watch and count the number of cars and guests coming and going. During the meeting there would likely be a significant amount of excess security surrounding the house as the guests left their own security personnel outside to wait.
The sun started to set shortly after the first guests arrived, giving us a greater amount of cover. I watched through the night vision binoculars as the majority of the security team congregated around the guest vehicles. The burning embers of their cigarettes gave a health green glow through the amplified lenses. I shook my head at the display of such amateur security – they couldn’t even go a couple hours without smoking.
As the meeting drew towards a close, the air surrounding the ranch grew thick and cold. I kept my breathing steady so I wouldn’t give off much of a visible breath. It would be highly unlikely anyone would be able to spot it at this distance, but I wasn’t going to take that chance at this point in the game.
“Last car is out the gate. All guests are accounted for. Breach in thirty minutes on my mark…. Mark.”
I clicked one of the buttons on my watch as Mitch gave the second mark. Timing was critical for our plan. One wrong move at the wrong time could be devastating.
I felt my heart start beating faster as the timer on my watch came closer to the thirty-minute mark. I took a deep breath as Mitch called out the five-minute mark.
“T-minus five,” Mitch said. “Something still seems off about all this.”
“Patrols are on schedule and I don’t see any red flags. The objective stays the same and the mission is a go. On the mark, everyone take your targets out and report when done,” I said.
There was an awkward silence while everyone waited for the mark. I had my target sighted in my scope and started a ten second countdown in my head. Nothing could stop our mission at this point. Nothing, of course, except for the voice I heard come through my ear piece.
“Hold your fire and stand down. I repeat, stand down and abort mission.”
I was in shock at hearing his voice, but recovered quickly. “Negative. Jason what the fuck are you doing? This mission is a go.”
“The mission has been compromised. Stand down!”
“What do you mean it’s compromised?” I asked.
“You have a sniper fifty yards East of you. This is a trap, Derek.”
“What the hell? Where are you?”
“Overlook position. I have a thermos-scope. I didn’t get a heat signature until just now. He must have been under cover waiting. The mission is compromised. Abort and get the fuck out of there. Rendezvous at secondary pickup.”
“Acknowledged,” Mitch said. “Derek, listen to him. We can take him another time. Abort the mission.”
“I’m not going home empty handed God damn it! Are there any other snipers you see?”
There was a short pause before Jason responded. “Negative. Just the one near you is visible.”
“I’m taking him,” I said.
“What do you mean you’re taking him? Derek, he knows we’re here. We need to leave. NOW!” Jason shouted over the radio.
“Fuck that. Mitch I need a distraction to draw his attention. Jason, keep a bead on him, but don’t shoot to kill. I can make it there in twenty seconds. Can you guys give me that window?”
“What the fuck do you want me to do, start screaming and waving my arms to let him know we see him?” Mitch asked. It was clear he wasn’t on board with my decision.
“Light a cigarette,” I said. “He’ll focus on the glow but won’t take the shot until he knows where we all are. If we’re lucky he’ll report in that we’re still out here waiting and the rest will stay inside until we’re long gone.”
“How do you know he’s not just going to shoot me?”
“Because he’ll have bigger things to worry about when he hears me crashing through the woods behind him. All I need is a little distraction. Can you do that?”
Mitch hesitated. “Fine.”
“Jason, is your rifle silenced?”
“Good,” I responded. “If he moves his gun towards me too quickly, aim for something other than his head. As soon as I have him secured, everyone move to the secondary pickup location. Mitch, call our ride and let him know we’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
All three acknowledged the order and awaited the go-command from me. I looked through my night vision goggles and tried to pick out the quickest way to get to the sniper. There would be no slow-crawling into position this time, just a pure sprint to catch him off guard before he could call for help.
“Now,” I whispered into the radio.
I heard Mitch’s lighter flick as he triggered his radio. The forest was a dull green glow as I stood and sprinted towards the sniper’s position. When I was only 10 feet away, he picked up on my approach and began to swing his rifle in my direction. Before I could raise my pistol fully, his shoulder exploded in a mix of blood and bone. His scream of pain was silenced by a quick blow to the head from the butt of my gun.
“Move out, now!” I screamed into the radio as I threw the sniper’s lifeless body over my shoulder. “Good God you’re a fatass,” I mumbled as I ran through the woods towards our pickup point.
Krissy and Jason were waiting with weapons drawn when I arrived. I tossed the sniper in the back of the SUV after securing his hands and feet with flexi-cuffs behind his back.
“Where’s Mitch?” I asked.
“Right behind you,” he said, emerging from the forest. “Let’s move.”
The three of us climbed into the SUV and seconds later were speeding back towards Lang’s house.
“Derek…” Jason started from the front seat.
“Don’t,” I stopped him. “I don’t want to get into it right now. Let’s just get back and secure this guy first. We can debrief after.”
The remainder of the ride was silent. I could tell everyone was lost in their own thoughts when I heard a groan from the cargo area.
“Just sit there and shut the fuck up if you want any chance at surviving this,” I said without turning to look at our prisoner.