The story so far:
As we walked toward the gymnasium, it hit me. I had been sent here as a decoy. Live bait, as they say.
“Robert, how long have you been set up here?” Robert, walking beside me, had a perplexed look.
“Maribel, we moved here right after Iowa. I told you about it earlier.”
Now it was my time to seem perplexed. There was something very off about this whole situation. If the agency had set me up to lure Robert and his “replicants”, they would have sent me here a lot sooner. Obviously Pete had been in place for years, in fact the teachers always commented that Pete was a lifer, had been here longer than any of them. If their goal was to destroy the “replicants” they certainly wouldn’t need me here at all. Pete had all the intel and opportunity necessary.
As we approached the gymnasium, that cold chill ran down my spine. The normal sounds of the school were absent. What was I missing, what?
Little Jake had said I would die by Monday, his parents had stopped by to see the effect of those words. Somehow, even though I thought I had covered it well, they were tipped to my leaving. The bus station, the children, the school buses, Mayor Lockey. The whole scene from earlier that night replayed in my mind like a movie. “Pete, take us to your office”.
Robert stopped “Maribel, the children..” I glared at Robert, and waved my gun at Pete
“Now Pete”. Pete glanced towards Robert as if to question my request, but shrugged and turned down the hallway. Robert grew more agitated as we neared the door at the end of the hall.
“Maribel, we have to get to the children, we don’t have time for these games”. His words, laced with sarcasm, only cemented my fears. I was live bait alright, but not for the group I thought.
I searched my mind for a way out of this situation. If they caught on to my newfound knowledge, I would definitely be dead within minutes. It was obvious I was being sent into a trap, for what purpose, I couldn’t quite yet discern. But one thing was for sure, Robert didn’t want me going into this room.
“Robert, we have to see how he has been communicating with the agency. We have to know what he knows, or we might as well walk away and let him do what he planned with the kids.” I knew I was skating on the edge, as my words were equally sarcastic to his, but I couldn’t help it. Pete had put a key into the door and was opening it. I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this.
“Pete, I said your office, not supply closet”. Pete grinned as if he had pulled one over me.
“I know Ms. B, and this is it, I am the janitor after all.” I looked in the closet and wondered if it was worth the push.
“Show me how you keep tabs on us.” Pete just stood there, his eyes still smiling. “Pete, show me”. I pointed the gun directly at him, but he didn’t seem to flinch. Robert’s agitation however, was at the boiling point.
“Maribel, he obviously doesn’t have a place here. Let it go, we have to get to the children, now!”.
If my hunch was right, they wanted me in the gym, while they escaped the building. I had to know where the escape route was and Pete was going to show me.
“Robert, you go ahead, get the children out. Pete and I are going to have a little chat” I returned Pete’s smiling gaze, while Robert pondered my words. I realized in the split second before he turned, that Robert was going to hit me. Ducking out of the way, I shoved Pete into Robert and ran into the closet. Barricading myself inside, I prayed my instincts were right. I fumbled for the light as the men scurried to open the door.
The back wall was lined with shelves, but one looked different. Reaching behind it, I found what I was looking for. The trap door was small, but it would lead me out. Throwing the shelf down, it wedged against the door, effectively blockading the men. I heard Robert’s voice as I slipped through the door.
“She’s dead anyway. Let’s get out of here”.
So that was it. My dear Robert had led me here to die. That meant he was behind Iowa as well. I still wasn’t quite sure what they had planned, but knowing that it involved my death caused me to hurry through the short passageway. It opened into the south parking lot, giving me a few moments before my pursuers would round the corner. I had to find a hiding place fast.
I saw Robert round the corner with Pete directly behind.
“She couldn’t have gotten far, that is the exit right there.” Robert looked at the exit and then turned to survey the lot.
“We don’t have time to find her, the building is about ready”.
“We have to find her, if she doesn’t die in there our mission is shot”.
“Yea, but if we don’t get out of here, we are shot”. Pete’s usually affable self was ruffled. There were big goings on and he was terrified. Definitely, not the other agent in town.
I felt a little hope at that realization. There was somebody else stationed in town, someone who knew about me and would be here to help. I just had to stay alive until then.
Robert and Pete scanned the lot one more time, then Lockey came around the corner.
“Any sign of her?”
“She’s here somewhere. There is no way she would leave the children. We’ll find her”.
“Well, better find her fast, ‘cause the boys have everything ready. Once it starts, we can’t shut it down”.
Even from this distance I could see Robert shaking with anger.
“She has to die here. Find the bitch”. With that Robert turned and took off leaving Lockey and Pete.
“Did you check the passage, are you sure she came out?” Lockey looked questioningly at Pete.
“The door was open, she had to come out.”
“But did you check?” Lockey was starting to get agitated.
Pete sighed heavily and leaned into the passage exit. He went down instantly as Lockey hit him with the butt of his gun. Pushing and grunting, Lockey pulled Pete to a car only a few feet from my hiding place.
“I could really use your help here agent. You owe me from that hit you gave me earlier”. Lockey was heaving, and pulling, finally shoving the unconscious Pete into the adjacent car. “Agent, we have to act fast… there is no time for explanations.”
I saw Lockey’s feet, then his ugly face as he kneeled to face me under the car.
“Agent, we have only a few minutes to shut this operation down. We don’t have time for pleasantries, now are you going to help, or not”. I was too stunned to move. Lockey, the other agent? Just what the hell was going on here.
“What the hell is going on here Lockey?” My anger forced me to roll out from under the car and face him head on.
“I’ll try to explain on the way, but we have to go now”
“I’m not going anywhere with you Lockey”.
“Agent, you really don’t have a choice. The school is set to blow in less than 10 minutes.” With that he turned and walked toward the passage I had just exited.
“Lockey, what about the children? Where are the kids? ”
“It will all make sense very soon, but first we have to stop your husband and his cohorts from destroying this very fine building.” I followed Lockey back through the passage to the closet. He shoved the shelf aside and opened the door. Looking out, he motioned for me to follow. “Head towards the front door. You’ll find 2 wires leading out from the gym. Cut the wires and separate them as quickly as you can. Oh and Agent, don’t let Robert see you”. Lockey gave me a creepy smile and headed in the opposite direction.
I saw the wires right away, but how was I supposed to cut them? Turning back towards the janitor’s closet, I caught site of Robert and Lockey.
“Did you find her?” Robert’s face was red with rage and exertion.
“Yea, I found her.” Again, that creepy smile.
“Well, where is she? You tie her up inside?” Robert looked towards the gym.
“No I didn’t. Thought you would want the pleasure since you’ve been planning on this for so long now” Lockey clamped him on the shoulder. At this, Robert smiled. The bastard.
“You know me so well my friend. Let’s get this show on the road. Where is she?”
“I’m right here you son of a bitch” Robert turned towards me and I slammed his face with my gun. He went down like a limp chicken.
“Well done Agent. Now let’s finish disarming this place and get the hell out of here in case we miss something”.
“What about him?” I kicked at Robert’s prone body.
“Oh, he’s coming with us. He won’t get away again” Lockey bent over Robert and cuffed him behind his back. “Now cut those wires Agent. I’ll meet you at the door in a minute”
I grabbed a pair of scissors from the closet and cut the wires, pulling them apart. Lockey and I reached the prone Robert at the same time. Each of us grabbed an arm and dragged my husband, would be murderer, out of the building.
As we reached the edge of the parking lot, Lockey stopped. Turning back towards the building, he held up a device from his pocket and pushed. The back of the school exploded in a huge fireball. I screamed as I flung myself at him.
“What have you done? What about the kids? Lockey, what have you done?” Lockey smiled and shook his head.
“Relax agent. The children are fine, probably half way to Carne County by now. That little show was for his cohorts. They’ll head back to the campus now, thinking their job is well done. There they will meet the rest of our team. Don’t you just love it when a plan works out?” I swear the man could light up the entire parking lot, he was beaming so much.
“Lockey, I don’t know what just happened, but I suspect you will explain it to me before we meet the lead on this case? You know, so I don’t look like an idiot” Lockey just seemed to beam more.
“ Agent, let’s go get a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you a story….”
I was back at my little house, packing my things. My time in the town had come to an end. My job with the agency was over too. I still couldn’t believe it.
Twelve years the Agency had been tracking my husband. Robert had staged the accident in Iowa, an elaborate and deathly scheme so he could continue his “replicant” work. He knew his skating on the edge of ethics was going to get him into trouble and rein in his experiments. By killing himself off, and running here to this small little outpost, he was able to continue his work.
My mind went over everything Robert had told me in those few hours we spent, and I couldn’t think of one thing he had said that was the truth. Not one.
The agency had located his operation and infiltrated it years ago. Only in the last few months, Robert’s dementia was causing him to escalate into new and dangerous experiments. The agency thought by bringing me to town, Robert would self destruct, as he knew if I found him, it would be over. The plan worked better than anyone could have imagined.
“Are you about ready?” The young woman standing in the doorway asked. I couldn’t contain my joy.
“Am I ever Danya, am I ever” Arm in arm, we walked out of the house.