Vaughn waited for the kidnappers to call. He waited for days almost without eating or sleeping. He waited on his sofa, checking his phone for missed calls every ten minutes. Half the time his phone’s display read “no service”.
While Vaughn brooded, his new roommate Jimmy Marzan paced throughout the house, peering out the windows at the occasional cars that came roaring up the road. He was always a little nervous that they might be coming for him but then, he thought, if they were indeed coming for him, he would probably hear the choppers first.
The kidnappers did not call and with each subsequent hour Vaughn’s face grew more ashen. His body melted deeper into the sofa as he tried not to yield to his temptation to call the detective whom he had not heard from. This was a relief to Marzan who wanted nothing to do with law enforcers from any jurisdiction.
“Hear that?” Marzan asked, trying to rouse Vaughn from his funk a little.
“I don’t hear anything,” Vaughn mumbled.
“Listen…it’s a buzzing…real faint. You know what that is?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“It’s an f'ing drone. You can’t hear it unless the wind blows just right. There…listen.”
“I don’t hear nothing,” Vaughn bristled, finally succumbing to his temptation and dialing the detective. To his surprise, he answered. But the voice on the other end was disinterested— as if it had more important things to do. Vaughn guessed that he was either preoccupied with solving something more “high profile” in order to secure some brownie points or perhaps he was mired in the details of how to get his family safely out of the chaos. Whatever the excuse, their brief conversation inspired little confidence in Vaughn that his detective was on the case. There was essentially no law enforcement anymore unless it was Martial Law enforcement which meant the manning of checkpoints and curfew patrols by cops with frazzled nerves and itchy trigger fingers.
Vaughn returned to his dead-eyed brooding with his only release his habitual neck-vertebrae popping. Marzan had seen this psychosis before— the face of Goya’s Saturn devouring his son. He had seen this insanity staring back at him in the reflection of a mirror. The devil was inside of Vaughn, now.
Marzan needed a break from the tense desperation so he checked his email accounts and forum posts.
“In through the out door”
“The bell tolls for thee”
“Alvis has left the building”There were hundreds and hundreds of seemingly meaningless, disconnected emails sent from addresses that might be coordinates or maybe coded spellings or dates and times. Marzan had no idea what they meant. It was all gibberish but it was comforting to see it. It meant that a guerilla disinformation campaign was underway. The most effective way for a guerilla force to cloak its operations was by filling the airwaves and the internet and the mail and the phone lines and the ear drums with a mountain of gibberish and phony assassination lists and military targets and phantom weapons caches so that the enemies’ intelligentsia couldn’t possibly sift through it all and get to the truth. There probably wasn’t any truth buried in any of it, Marzan thought. Its purpose was primarily to confuse and to spook.
But something made him take another look at “Alvis has left the building.” It jumped out at him, somehow. Was it misspelled on purpose? Then he recalled that Captain Albert “Al” Rick was indeed a fan of The King. It made some sense, now. The realization that his Captain was out there gave Jimmy Marzan a jolt to his flagging morale.
Despite the propaganda and the filters and the snooping by the government’s Sunstein Agents, the internet was too vast to lock down. Blatantly killing it off would be such a vulgar display of Orwellianism that it was agreed that to do so would cause more trouble than it was worth. Even the commie-Chinese couldn’t go that far. The net did serve the government in a two-fold sense as both an anger-venting mechanism (talking about ‘it’ usually replaces doing ‘it’) and for getting anti-patriots to ‘out’ themselves so that they could be monitored.
Marzan went back to the forum posts.
“Lucifer Rising”What the hell does that mean? He asked himself. Lucifer was the morning star— Venus, the brightest and fastest moving point in the night sky (after the moon, of course). He gleaned something big was coming…coming soon.
Marzan knew he couldn’t stay with Vaughn much longer. He was only waiting for leadership. He hoped that he could be around long enough to at least get Vaughn back to sanity but he wasn’t hopeful now that his Captain was out there. Vaughn was now the undead. Marzan had seen the undead before.
They heard a truck slowing to make the turn onto Vaughn’s driveway.
“Fuck, someone’s coming!” Marzan shouted as he grabbed his rifle and made his way to the back room. He had assembled a darkened perch in there which provided a decent vantage over the driveway and down into the woods. The window was always fully open, even in the bitter cold. A fully open window is half as obvious as a half open one.
Vaughn watched through the living room as an old, Chevy Sierra rolled down his driveway. It bore no resemblance to any kind of cop car, undercover or otherwise. Vaughn nearly vomited his heart. It had to be the kidnappers or some kind of liaison, he thought. The truck parked at the driveway’s end. Its engine stayed running. The driver door opened and a small Latino man stepped out. He was wearing a puffy winter coat that bloused out as he raised his tattooed hands.
“Who are you?” Vaughn shouted out the door.
“I’m unarm’!” the Latino shouted back. He did a slow pirouette and walked slowly towards Vaughn’s front door with hands still raised.
“Where’s my wife?” Vaughn shouted back.
“I need to talk. You come outsi’e. Okay? There’s no much time.”
“Where’s my wife?” Vaughn shouted again.
Marzan snapped his fingers at Vaughn from down the hall to get his attention. “It’s okay,” Marzan assured him, mouthing the words only. “I’ve got you covered.” Marzan gave Vaughn a thumbs-up, clicked the safety off, and lowered the crosshair onto the bridge of the little brown man’s nose. Marzan was sheathed in the darkness of the room and three others in the front seat of the Sierra were completely oblivious to him. Their heads panned about searching for stakeouts and spotters but they did not see Jimmy Marzan and his rifle.
Vaughn took a deep breath and went out the door. He walked cautiously down the steps and up to the Latino man in the driveway who seemed very familiar to him.
“Do I know you?” Vaughn asked.
“You call me Joe Joe,” he answered.
“Do I know you?”
“Yes, you do,” he answered, hands still raised.
“I broke in your house that one night. You stop me with your gun.”
It all came back to Vaughn with such a fury that his knees nearly buckled.
“What did you do to my wife?” he shouted, balling his fists.
“I need you to listen to me…”
“Want me to smoke him, Vaughn?” Marzan shouted from the house.
Guns clicked inside the Scout as the three silhouette faces locked on to Marzan’s voice from behind the dark window.
“Please! Please!” Joe Joe pleaded. “I am unarm’. I come here to help you.”
“Where’s my wife,” Vaughn asked again.
“Look…” Joe Joe continued. “You a good man. You could have kill me that night but you no do it. I owe you.”
“What do you want?”
“I tell you something, okay?”
“Where’s my wife?”
“I no take her, okay? But I know where she is.”
“You tell me right now or I’ll have my friend up there waste all you motherfuckers right here. Then I’ll bury your asses in the woods where no one will ever find you.”
“Please! Listen. You a good man. I no take her but I know where she is. I know who take her. It not me. But I know who.”
“Tell me then!”
Joe Joe kept his hands up. They were turning purple from the cold.
“Listen…” His eyes widened with a pleading expression. A white vapor plume billowed through his silvery dental work with each exhale.
Marzan went into his mindless, sniper place. His crosshair was locked on to the bridge of Joe Joe’s nose, just below the green ‘MS-13’ tattooed on his forehead. One smooth squeeze and Joe Joe’s head would burst apart like a grape. Then he would swing the rifle into the Sierra and empty his clip. Hopefully Vaughn would have the good sense to run like hell.
“You listen, okay?” Joe Joe continued. “No shoot me. Tell man in house, ‘no shoot’, okay?”
“Don’t shoot unless something happens to me,” Vaughn shouted.
Marzan didn’t answer.
“He hear you? No shoot?”
“He heard me.”
“Okay. We no want no trouble.”
“Tell me where she is.”
Joe Joe slowly lowered his hands.
“I reach in pocket, okay?”
“You go slow.”
Joe Joe reached into his pocket and slowly withdrew a silvery object which he revealed to Vaughn. Vaughn took it from him. It was Jessica’s wristwatch.
“I get this watch at the house…the policeman’s house. The policeman have her.”
Vaughn was frozen as he examined the watch which he knew was Jess’s but did not know if he could believe where Joe Joe had gotten it. He searched Joe Joe’s icy brown eyes for a tell. There was none, just the dead-eyed stare of a violent man who had probably killed many times in his life.
“They ask you for krugerrands, no?” Joe Joe asked, breaking the standoff.
“Yeah. How’d you know that?”
“I know ‘cause I tell them. When they bust me I tell them you have krugerrands so they no rape me. I sorry, man. I sorry. They let me out today. They had to make room in the jail for rebelde. I get out and I come straigh’ here an’ tell you. The Sheriff take her. Garrity is his name. You go to his place and you find her. You get her back.”
Vaughn remembered Brooke’s cries for her mother when they were pulling away from the storm troopers at the checkpoint. At that instant he knew that Joe Joe was telling the truth. He couldn’t explain why but he knew it.
“Here,” Joe Joe continued. “You take this.” Joe Joe handed Vaughn a business card. It was Garrity’s card. His home address was scribbled on the back along with a number.
“Who’s number is this?” Vaughn asked.
“Is my nomber,” Joe Joe answered. “But you no able to call me where I go. I wan’ you to get your wife back. She a tough lady. I remember she say shoot me. She a good mother. An’ I want you to get that fat pig cop, too. He a real bastard. Even the other cops wan’ him dead.”
“Where’re you going?”
“I go home…home to El Salvador. We go righ’ now from here. Your Amerika is finished.”
Chapter 20 Chapters 22 and 23 will be available next weekend