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    C James
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Changing Lanes - 47. Fatal Mistakes

Chapter 47: Fatal Mistakes




The desolation and darkness looming ahead gave Helen and General Bradson second thoughts. They lasted only for a moment, because both realized that there was no other way. “It’s going to be bad, isn’t it?” Helen said, while staring up at the towering wall of ash, its gloom only interrupted by flickers of lightning. General Bradson could only nod in agreement.

After a quick stop to swathe the air intakes with sheets to keep the ash from clogging the filters, the two vehicles, with the tow truck in the lead, drove into the fringe of the swirling ash cloud. The visibility dropped to under two-hundred feet within seconds.

The landscape, shrouded in ash that deepened as they drove northeast, reminded Helen of photos she’d seen of the Moon.

The reemergence of the sun took everyone by pleasant surprise. Looking around, the General said, “The wind must be shifting, coming more from the south than the west.”

The clearer air and better visibility allowed the two vehicles to churn ahead at twenty miles an hour for two miles, until LP-130 joined the main highway. Unfortunately, the ash, growing deeper by the mile, slowed them to ten miles per hour as they reached the village of Charcos De Araco, one of the very few on La Palma’s barren, almost uninhabited southeastern side. There, they negotiated the rubble where Horst and his men had cleared a fallen building on the way out. Half a mile past the village, they re-entered the ash cloud, which was rife with the smell of sulfur. This time, it was a far heavier fall, a mixture of fine dust and larger particles up to the size of snowflakes.

As they moved deeper into the cloud, total darkness enveloped them. For all that, they were lucky; the heaviest weight of ash from the main eruption was falling just north of the airport and they were to its south. The other factor speeding their progress was that the earthquakes in the area they were traversing had been less powerful, coupled with the fact that there had been no ground slippage. As a result, they made better time than Horst had on the way out; there were few additional debris, whereas he’d had to clear several difficult falls on the way out.

Two miles further on, their luck ran out. A two-hundred foot long section of stone wall bounding the highway had collapsed into the road during the earthquakes. Horst organized his men into a work detail to clear the blockage. He turned down the civilians who offered to help, reasoning, with some justification, that his men could do the job faster on their own.

It was hard and brutal work, thanks in no small part to the choking ash, volcanic fumes, and darkness. Brian and the mercenaries set out, their heads wrapped in sheets and towels, their eyes protected by goggles. Within minutes, they were completely caked in ash. It took a quarter of an hour of strenuous work in the nightmarish conditions, but they succeeded in clearing the roadway well enough for the vehicles to pass.

While they waited, General Bradson phoned Bill, who shared the news that the volcanic eruption had been caused by a nuclear warhead, and that Helen and Instinct, along with General Bradson, were now on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Then, Bill asked, “I thought you told me that you’d secured all three bombs? Was it you who set one off?”

General Bradson paused for a moment, to think. Then, he answered, “Short version: no. Jerry Clump grabbed the bombs. We didn’t know that he was on the island, and the government’s vendetta against us and foot-dragging gave him the opportunity to snatch the nukes. Any chance that you could whistle us up some help?”

Bill paused to consider the request a moment before answering, “I seriously doubt it. The government has staked its position pretty damn clearly. No way are they going to believe you. At this juncture, they can’t, not without humiliating themselves. I could probably round up a few friends and send ‘em your way for some unofficial help, but you’re looking at two to three days, minimum. I’ll see what I can put together and get back to you in a few hours.”

“That might be too late to make a difference, but I’d appreciate it.” The General decided to let Bill in on the rest, and added, “We’ve got a plane to storm. Clump’s got a C-130 in the middle of the runway. We’re trying to determine if the bombs are aboard. We think they may be, but we don’t know. Any chance you could track the plane from orbit if it takes off?”

“Doubtful. We do that via infrared signature detection from the geosynchronous DSP birds. Works okay with jet engines, especially at high altitude, but a turboprop operating low and slow? I doubt it. I’ll see what I can do regarding an unofficial tasking order, but don’t hold your breath,” Bill said, while trying to think of other options. Drawing a blank for the moment, he said, “Good luck, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.”



The work detail returned to the livestock transport, where they tried, as best they could, to clear the fine, gritty ash out of their eyes, noses, and mouths.

Brian sat down, coughing as the vehicles resumed their journey. Eric and Keith came to his side, offering water, and then Keith said, “You’re covered in ash. I’ve got some clean clothes in my case if you want.”

Eric suppressed a knowing smile. The other troops were already being given clean clothes from the wedding party’s cases, but Keith had rushed to offer his to Brian.

After rinsing his eyes, Brian blinked in the partial darkness – the only light was provided by a single small bulb near the door – and said, “Thanks.”

Keith retrieved some clothes from his case, and then helped Brian to his feet. Brian, still weak from his ordeal in Iran, had been exhausted by the heavy work and conditions, so much so that he wasn’t thinking clearly. He stripped out of his ash-covered clothes, tossing them to the foot of the transport’s wall. Letting Keith help, he brushed himself off and changed into the clean clothes, before half-collapsing to a sitting position.

Keith sat down by Brian side, handing him a bottle of water. “You okay?”

After taking a long drink from the water bottle, Brian nodded weakly. “Yeah, I’ll be fine, I just need to rest. I could barely breathe out there; it was like working in hell.”

Eric, sitting quietly against the wall a few feet behind Brian and Keith, glanced at Brian’s discarded ash-covered clothes, which were just two feet from Eric’s side. Trying to appear nonchalant, Eric began gathering up discarded clothes and stacking them in a corner. When he came to Brian’s clothes, he felt the hoped-for lump in a pocket. In the dim light of the transport, preoccupied with the ash – many had covered their faces with pieces of cloth – no one noticed when Eric stooped low, gathering Brian’s clothes in a bundle, using it for cover as he slipped Brian’s grenade out of the ash-covered clothes and into his own pocket. With the deed done, Eric finished collecting the discarded clothing, tossing it all into the corner with the rest.

General Bradson flashed his brake lights, signaling Horst to stop. As he eased to a halt in the thick ash and Stygian darkness, the General told Helen, “We’re in El Pueblo, which according to the map is about a mile and a half southwest of the south end of the runway. We’ll be parting company here. You take the transport and keep going north for two miles. You’ll arrive at the junction with LP-123, which is about half a mile from the hotel. You’ll know the way from there; we came in on 123 when we took you to the hotel yesterday. One of Fel’s troops is at the hotel, and I’ll send one of Horst’s men with you. When you get there, sit tight and I’ll send word soon. Horst has some short-range walkie-talkies that will put us in contact with Felecia when we’re close to the airport, so you take my phone. Call Fel if you need anything.”



In the cockpit of Flight Two, The Scar looked out at the ash and seethed. “Yuri, every moment we remain here increases the danger. Did you do as I directed with the bombs?” Yuri nodded, and The Scar asked, “How are they activated?”

“By timer, like the one in the tunnel. It can also be triggered manually, by jumping the two terminals I left exposed,” Yuri said, hoping that it would not come to that. The pilot, for his part, understood what was being talked about, and silently shuddered.

The Scar stared out into the darkness as he said, “I will never countenance the humiliation of being taken alive. Never. However, I would certainly prefer to avoid that final option. I think it is time to parley with the traitorous bitch and see what she has by way of forces and weaponry. We need to let her know that if she succeeded in attacking us, or allowed others to do so, it would seal the fate of her and her precious men. Send a man out under a flag of truce to propose a ceasefire so that we may all evacuate. Wait, no, you are the only one I trust to do this and do it right. Make certain that her men hear what we have and what will happen should they attack us. Make certain that you observe her deployments and numbers. Take your satellite phone, I wish to speak with the traitorous bitch myself.”

Yuri was not happy with the task he’d been assigned, but knew better than to argue with The Scar. Five minutes later, with the phone in his pocket and unarmed, Yuri climbed down from Flight Two.

The unearthly darkness and swirling ash felt overpowering, and he wrapped a rag tightly around his head to keep it under his nose. Waving a white towel over his head and shining the flashlight in his other hand on it, he began to jog north through the ash towards Flight Three.

Felecia, looking south, saw the glimmer of light, and then the approaching emissary emerged from the gloom. With five men flanking her, Felecia, a bandana covering her face, trotted out into the choking ash to meet Yuri. Her orders to her men were simple. “At the first sign that he’s armed, kill him.”

From five paces away, Felecia recognized Yuri. Coming to a halt, her rifle at combat ready, she said in an icy tone, “A white flag? Come to surrender have you?”

Ignoring the barb, Yuri replied, “My employer wishes to speak with you. We have a nuclear warhead aboard and have armed it. We will use it if that is the only way to avoid capture. We are proposing a truce. That way, we may all live to see another day. We should discuss this in your plane, out of this miserable ash.”

“You’ll go no further. Your first action today was to try to kill us. You couldn’t, so now you think we’ll parley with you? Why the hell would I be stupid enough to trust you?” Felecia said.

Shrugging, Yuri very slowly drew out the satellite phone, opened it, and dialed The Scar’s number. Then, he handed the phone to Felecia.

Suspecting who would be on the other end, Felecia asked, “What the fuck do you want?”

“Hello, Felecia. I do regret the recent unpleasantness, but it is best if we forget the past. What I am offering is simple: a way out of this for us all. We will not attack you if you refrain from attacking us. Each of our aircraft is vulnerable and no purpose would be served by leaving us all stranded here. Let us instead all depart and go our separate ways. I ought to mention that I now have at my disposal a nuclear warhead. If I were rendered incapable of leaving, I’d much prefer to go out in a blaze of retribution. I will not countenance being captured, you must know that. So, your choice is simple; refrain from attacking me or interfering and you and your men will live. Attack, and if you are successful, you will all die,” The Scar said with a smile, certain that Felecia would agree.

Fighting to contain her rage, Felecia replied, “You got a lot of my men killed and you’ve tried to kill the rest. Only now, when you need something, do you want a cease-fire. If you think I’m going to trust you after all you’ve done, you’re even more delusional than I thought.”

Ignoring the jab, The Scar said, “You have no choice in the matter. The cease-fire exists because we will not attack you. If you attack us, you die, along with your men.”

Felecia was willing to assume that he had what he claimed. She had no doubt that he would use it to avoid capture. She was also certain that The Scar would kill her and her men if he thought he could, provided that did not hinder his escape. ‘I know he has at least two nukes, maybe three, but he said one, so that could mean he might be leaving us one as a surprise for after he takes off. He’s sure as hell being too damn agreeable, he’s up to something and I need to find out what,’ Felecia thought. Finally, she decided that the answer was nearer at hand. “I’ll think about it,” she said, and hung up.

Yuri shook his head. “You are a fool. You’re outnumbered and outgunned. You need to leave this place, as do we. I can see from the way the few men you have are armed and deployed that you have very limited ammo, no grenades, and few if any long-range weapons. Attack us and die. Be sensible and live.”

Felecia began to smile in a way that Yuri found chilling. “Yuri, there are times when it’s better to keep your mouth shut and this would have been one of them. You’ve just given me a piece of the puzzle; your boss didn’t know for sure how we are armed, or our numbers. One of the reasons you’re here is to find that out.”

Perceiving the danger in both Felecia’s expression and words, Yuri said, “I came here under a flag of truce–”

“You set us up to die, Yuri. You’ve also just made a mistake. You and your boss, you never play by the rules, but you assume everyone else will and that you can use ‘em when it suits you. Well, I’m not that stupid.” Felecia motioned with her arm and two of her men moved forward to flank Yuri from the sides.

Seeing the cold glare in Felecia’s eyes, and the movement of her men, their guns now pointed in his direction, Yuri blanched. Correctly thinking that Felecia intended to capture him, Yuri turned to run, assuming that Felecia would not risk the sound of a gunshot alerting Flight Two that the truce was over. He was just a little too slow; Felecia was right behind him, launching into a sprint. Felecia’s combat knife flashed out, tearing into the inside of Yuri’s thigh. Yuri stumbled, clutching his leg in agony as he fell to the ash.

Felecia delivered a fierce kick to Yuri’s side, forcing him over on his back. Without any hesitation, she crouched by his side, her knife ready to strike. Three of her men held AK-47s, pointed at Yuri’s head. “Yuri, if you wish to keep breathing, start talking. I want to know where the bombs are, all of them,” Felecia said, her voice carrying a deadly tone.

Yuri had no intention of being captured and craved for a way out, wishing that the pain in his leg would stop. Gasping from the agony, choking on the ash, he sputtered, “Go to hell. I won’t tell you a damn thing unless you give me some way out of here.” Yuri didn’t know that – unbeknownst to anyone including herself – Felecia already had. It just wasn’t the kind of ‘out’ Yuri would have preferred.

Felecia’s knife attack had been aimed at Yuri’s legs, but movement had spoiled her aim, just a little; the knife’s razor-sharp blade had completely severed Yuri’s left femoral artery. In the darkness and ash, the profuse bleeding was not apparent, even to Yuri.

Felecia gave Yuri another kick. “You’re going nowhere, but unless you start talking, I’m going to gut you right here.”

Gasping from the pain, Yuri looked up at Felecia, and as he opened his mouth, he felt himself becoming very light-headed. Fear gripped his heart, and he moved his hands a little, feeling far too much blood mixed with ash. “Help me,” he sputtered, “I’m bleeding to death.”

Felecia stooped over Yuri, knife still at the ready, as one of her men flicked Yuri’s flashlight on, shining it on his leg. “So you are,” Felecia said coldly. “Talk or bleed, it’s up to you.” Felecia had seen more than her share of battle wounds and doubted they could stop the bleeding in time, so she was playing for a fast answer.

Fighting the dark pull of unconsciousness, Yuri felt pure fear for the first time in a very long time. The adrenalin rush merely serving to speed his blood loss. Yuri opened his mouth, and then his eyes rolled back in his head. He went limp, his head falling into the ash.

“Damn, too soon,” Felecia said, and then grabbed Yuri’s head to yell, “That’s for Wilhelm and the rest of my men who didn’t make it, you worthless piece of shit.”

Yuri, fading in and out of unconsciousness, heard Felecia’s words, moments before the cold hand of death claimed him.

“Leave him there. He’ll be covered by ash in a few minutes, it’s coming down hard. Let Frankenstein wonder what’s going on for a change,” Felecia said, as she bent down to use Yuri’s hair to wipe the blood off her knife. She gave Yuri’s corpse a half-hearted kick, and led the way back into Flight Three.



“Yuri should be back by now, or should have called,” The Scar said to the pilot. It had been ten minutes since Felecia had ended the call, so The Scar phoned Yuri.

“Hello,” Felecia said in a cheery voice.

“Let me speak to Yuri,” The Scar demanded.

“Sorry, but he doesn’t want to speak to you. He wasn’t too happy you sent him over here and he thinks his chances are better with us. We cut him in on the money we got and he’s been telling us plenty. So, goodbye and good riddance, Frankenstein,” Felecia said, hoping that she could rattle The Scar into making a mistake.

The Scar slammed his fist into the seat in fury. Punching the intercom, he yelled, “Survov, get in here, now!” As soon as Lieutenant Survov arrived, The Scar said, “The traitorous bitch has either captured Yuri or killed him. Check with your men, I want to know if anyone heard a gunshot.”

Survov ran aft to check, and when he returned, he said, “They heard nothing, and I think they would have heard a shot. There is enough noise from the eruption that they cannot hear much, but they should have heard that. There was too much ash to see anything.”

“So, she’s holding him captive, then. She claims he has betrayed me, but Yuri has been loyal to me and I do not believe he could turn against me. We cannot however rule out the possibility that he might talk under duress. Change your deployments; I want half your force outside at all times and damn the ash.”

The Scar stormed out of the cockpit. Stooping over one of the nuclear warheads, he inspected Yuri’s handiwork, seeing the triggering charge and the cover of the timer. He found the two exposed terminals and saw that he could short them with a coin. Preferring better control, The Scar took Survov back to the cockpit and asked, “I need a change made to the triggering charge for a bomb so that I may detonate it remotely if the need arises. We might need to leave one behind and use it once we are clear. Can you do this?”

Survov shook his head. “Sir, I have some training in explosives but I am not good with electronics. I have no idea how to make a remote detonator from the supplies we have. I do not believe that any of my men have the skill, but I will find out.”

As Survov left, The Scar asked the pilot, “What about you? Can you create a remote detonator?” The pilot shook his head, and The Scar thought aloud, “I need Yuri back.”




General Bradson left one mercenary, François, with the livestock truck, and detailed him to drive, based on his familiarity with the area. Fifteen minutes later, François wheeled the livestock transport and its relieved occupants into the hotel parking lot. There, they were reunited with the wedding party members who had escaped in the Jetta.

Dusty, peppered by a sheen of fine ash, they made their way to the rooms vacated by the mercenaries. The four members of Instinct, along with Jansen and Keith, took a room at the end of the two-story building’s ground floor. They found the power off, but the water still running, allowing them to clean the ash from their faces.

Their minds still reeling from the harrowing trip, they sat down, perching on the edges of the two beds, in a room lit only by the light of a single candle. Chase felt the pull of conscience, and said, “My turn to go look after Mom. Anyone know which room she’s in?”

Keith nodded, “Far end of this row. I saw her with Helen, Barbra, and one of the mercenaries.”

“Oh, shit,” Jon said. “If she finds out about the bombs, she’ll flip. Maybe I better go with you.”

Jon and Chase raced for Helen’s room, where they found Barbra and Helen chatting amicably with Jane and François. Jon and Chase stopped just inside the door, staring in disbelief.

Jane looked up at her sons and smiled. “Relax, you two, no need to baby sit me anymore, and no, I haven’t overdosed on Valium. I only took one on the way here.” Seeing the continued shocked looks on her sons’ faces, Jane decided to try to explain. “I was terrified of the volcano. I have an utter fear of the damn things. However, in spite of all the ash and gloom, François here tells me that we’re safer from it at this distance, on this side of the island. I know we’re still in a mess, especially with what’s going on at the airport, but I’ll be okay now, so you can worry about other things instead of me.”

Jon shot an inquiring look at Helen, who replied aloud, “She knows about the bombs. François told her. She seems okay to me.”

Jane gave them all an awkward smile, and then said to Helen, “Once I found that out, all the secrecy and late-night meetings made sense. You were right not to tell me.”

“Thanks,” Helen said with a smile and a nod.

“So, tell me more about your mission to Iran,” Jane said, as she stood and left the room with François.

As soon as his mother was gone, Jon said, “Is it just me, or does she seem way too accepting about all this?”

“It’s not just you,” Chase replied, with a stunned shake of his head.

Helen held up her hand. “I thought so too, but she does seem different now. She’s more like the woman I flew over here with, and like she was before the volcano started acting up. Remember, she walked away from your father and her life, and dealt with it pretty stoically. Maybe I’m wrong, but to me she seems okay. I also have a hunch there’s a bit more to her brightened mood.” Turning to Barbra, Helen asked, “What do you think, hon?”

Barbra paused in thought for a moment, and then nodded. “I hardly know her, but I saw the change too. I kind of share Helen’s guess; one of her problems was the fear of being all alone now that her marriage is over. She seems to have set her sights on an answer to that issue, and I think the hope of that, plus being out of most of the volcanic danger, put her back on an even keel.”

“Whoa, wait... you don’t mean...” Chase let his voice trail off, thinking he must have misinterpreted Helen and Barbra’s meaning.

“François,” Helen said with a bemused shrug. “They just met, but she’s taken a liking to him and it seems mutual. Stranger things have happened, I guess, though offhand I’m having trouble thinking of any.”

“She always did like French accents,” Jon said with a wry smile.



In the candlelit hotel room with Eric, Jansen, and Keith, Brandon put his head in his hands. In a sad, quiet tone, he said, “I’ve known Jim for years. He saved my butt more than once, back in Phoenix. I know how he thinks. If he was okay, he’d have gotten word to us somehow, I know he would. He wouldn’t just hunker down with the bomb, that’s not his style. I think Brian was right. Either Jerry’s got him or Jerry killed him, that’s my guess. Linda and Private Johnson too.”

Eric, wincing at the mention of Jim and Linda, did not want to admit to himself the possibility that they could be dead. With a solemn nod of his head, Eric said, “I’m worried about Jim and Linda too. General Bradson and Brian want to stop Jerry getting away with the nuke, that comes first to them and I can’t say that I blame ‘em. What if they decide to pump an RPG into Jerry’s plane? Jim and I were tight and he and Linda are here because of me. There’s something else we’ve got to think about too; Helen is on the hook for more than half of that thirty million, in part thanks to me. The rest of us in the band can much better afford a loss and ours is smaller, but Helen will be totally wiped out. She staked everything she had, mainly to protect us. Now, given the crap that’s flying with the government, Instinct might be finished as a business. If so, who here thinks that Helen would let us make good some of her losses?” Seeing the blank faces and shaking heads looking back at him, Eric continued, “That’s what I thought. The two nukes we had hidden might not survive the eruption, so the way I see it, Jerry probably has Jim, Linda, the Private, and the only remaining bomb too. I think we gotta do something.”

Jansen stood up and said, “Are you crazy? Jerry tried to kill you once already. He also now knows what all of us look like. How the hell can we do anything when a force of trained soldiers can’t?”

Eric shrugged, feeling bad about the lie he was about to tell. “Yeah, I don’t know what we could do, yet.”

Brandon narrowed his eyes, knowing Eric well enough to guess that he wasn’t ready to drop the idea.



Her mood darkening, Helen said, “I’ve got to go find the other mercenary, then I’ll call General Bradson for an update. I’ll let you know what I find, and then there’s something we have to talk about.” Helen knew that she couldn’t wait much longer; she had to share the news that Jim’s truck had probably been seen at The Scar’s C-130.

Jon and Chase nodded. “We’ll be in the room at the far end of this row,” Jon said.

“See you in a few minutes,” Helen replied.



Jon and Chase returned to the room and gave the others a rundown on what had happened. Eric smiled and said, “I think Mom really will be better now that she’s away from the volcano. She seemed to change once we got to this side of the island.”

Jansen, Keith, and the members of Instinct began speculating about the situation at the airport, but after only a couple of minutes they were interrupted when Helen and Barbra arrived. Helen said, “I figured I might as well call from here.”

Helen phoned Felecia and received a quick update, along with a promise of more later. After ending the call, Helen said, “Guys, we’re screwed six ways from Sunday at the moment. Felecia said that there’s nothing happening yet, but just in case, stay away from any south-facing windows. We’re on the north side of the building and Jerry’s plane is over three miles from here, so the General says we should be safe from a ground burst. Now, for us; we were in a standoff with the government before the volcano blew and now the only bomb we might still have is with Jim, wherever he is.” Helen then went on to tell the shocked members of Instinct what she and General Bradson had found at the storage locker. Then, Helen said that she and General Bradson believed that Jim, Linda, and Private Johnson, along with the bomb, had been captured.

“That part we already knew,” Brandon said. “Brian told us that Felecia thought she’d seen the truck.”

After a few moments discussion, Helen went on to say, “The nuclear bombs that Jerry now has... he got from us. According to General Bradson’s contact in the U.S., one of them was used underground to set off the eruption. The government has, probably due to that, put the five of us and General Bradson on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Given the government’s attitude even before this latest move, I can just about guarantee they’ll want to lock us up and throw away the key, so we’d better think seriously about never returning home.” Nods of agreement and stunned expressions came in reply. “Anyway, we’ll worry about all that later. I have to go round up François and the other mercenary. Felecia wants us to post a watch, in case Jerry sends some of his thugs here looking for hostages.”

As soon as Helen and Barbra left, Eric stood up and began to pace. “And amongst other things, that would mean that Jerry probably has two nukes left,” Eric said, scowling as he said Jerry’s name. The conversation drifted to the standoff with the government, and Eric told Jansen and Keith, “Guys, this probably means we can’t open a club in L.A. or anywhere in the U.S. If you’re still willing, we could find somewhere overseas.” A few words were said regarding possible alternatives, but neither the dancers nor Eric was inclined to give the issue much discussion, due to everything else that was going on. As a tense silence descended, Eric decided that he had no choice but to go through with his plan to stop The Scar and save Jim, Linda, and Private Johnson.

A few minutes later, Eric strolled into the bathroom and locked the door. He pulled a pencil and paper from his pocket, and quickly scrawled out a note, in the form of a will, leaving Jansen and Keith more than enough money to start the business on their own, and the rest to Helen. Then, leaving the note on the sink, Eric stood on the toilet and eased open the small high sliding window. Pulling himself upwards, he wiggled through headfirst, and halfway through he found himself looking down at Brandon.

Brandon whispered, “Come on out. I figured you’d slip away and try something. Jim saved me when my parents tossed me out. I owe him, man. Count me in on whatever you’re up to.”

Lowering himself to stand beside Brandon, Eric said, “You don’t want any part of this, trust me on that. Just forget you saw me and let me go, okay?”

“Nope, I’m going too,” Brandon said, shaking his head.

Turning to walk towards the far end of the building, Eric replied, “No wonder you and Jon get along so well; you’re both pig-headed stubborn. Okay, just don’t try to stop me when you find out what I’m planning. First, I gotta find the crew who came here in the Jetta.”

“The guy who drove the Jetta is four doors down. I saw him come out when we arrived,” Brandon said, leading the way.

Eric handled it quickly. “Hey, we need the Jetta’s keys,” he said. The crewmember handed them over, and Eric looked around the parking lot, spotting the Jetta’s silhouette in the darkness. “Thanks, guys,” Eric said, as he made a beeline for the car.

Approaching the Jetta, Eric said, “Brandon, what I’m gonna do is risky as hell. Please stay here.” When Brandon made no sign of leaving his side, Eric unlocked the Jetta and said, “Okay, get in, I’ll explain on the way.”

Eric fired up the Jetta and headed for the airport. En route, he said, “You’ll want to take the car back to the hotel, because my plan is to walk up to Jerry’s plane, pretend to be drunk, get on board with a grenade in my hand, pin pulled, and get him to hand over Jim, Linda, Private Johnson, and the bombs. Jerry’s seen me on tequila. I think he’ll buy it when I tell him I’ll blow us all to hell if he doesn’t do it. He might not let me go, ‘cause he’s got a score to settle with me, but I think I can get him to do the rest.”

“That’s insane,” Brandon said, and then asked, “And where the hell do you think you could get a grenade?”

Eric patted his pocket. “I stole Brian’s, when we were on the transport truck. See, I told ya you wouldn’t want any part of this. Go back to the hotel and make sure Jansen and Keith get the note I left on the sink,” Eric said, and then added, “Tell Jansen that I love him, and I’m sorry, but I caused this mess and I have to do something.”

Taking a deep breath, Brandon made up his mind. “Tell him yourself, because I’m going in with you and I’ll find a way to get you out. Two of us stand a better chance than one. Besides, I’m good in a fight and I doubt Jerry knows that.”

“What about Chase?” Eric asked, saving his best argument for last. “You guys are newlyweds. If you go with me, there’s a hell of a big chance that he’ll be a widower today. Can you do that to him?”

“Jim works for Instinct because of me, and he and Linda are still on the island because of my wedding. He’s family to me, and so’s Linda, just like you, Chase, Jon, and Helen now are, but Jim and Linda were there for me when I had nobody, before I met you guys. As for Chase, suppose I turn back and you get killed? How do you think he’d feel then? Eric, I have to do this. Don’t bother trying to talk me out of it, I’m going,” Brandon said, with butterflies in his stomach.

In resolute silence that belied their rattled nerves, Eric and Brandon drove on through the darkness and ash.


© 2009 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick and Talonrider for Beta reading and advice .
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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That's possibly the most ridiculous plan I have ever heard, and that Brandon is signing up for it gives me reason to ponder his intelligence.

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I agree with Miles; how ridiculous for Eric and Brandon to think that they're going to outsmart The Scar. This is not going to be good.

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One thing Erick has in his favour is Jerry's hatred of him, is total yes it could work against Erick but I think not.

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