Part 58 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
I gazed upon the Apache copter hovering above the highway before us. I remembered a cartoon of a mouse standing firm with with his middle finger extended in defiance as a hawk, its deadly talons open, was swooping in for the kill. Beneath the image was a caption which read: "The last great final act of defiance."
There was no doubt about it, Brock and myself were mere mice facing a far more formidable predator.
In the distance, both ahead and behind us, there was the cacophonous wail of approaching sirens. The mayhem that had been left on the highway in our wake had no doubt gotten the attention of the various police departments as well the State Police.
I sighed, resigned to the fact that we had failed. I reached for the door handle, but Brock latched his hand onto my arm and demanded, "What do think you're doing, Ben?"
Stunned that he was restraining me I replied, "Brock, it's over! We're not going to slip through this noose!"
"Ben," he snapped, "don't you see. They don't want to capture us!"
My face began to pale as the meaning of his words hit home. "Listen to what you're saying. They can hear those sirens too. Soon, this place is going to be crawling with the local law enforcement."
"Ben, you're being naive. I ask you, why would they first send a Hum-Vee and now a fully-armed attack helicopter after us? Any chopper would have been sufficient." He paused for effect and declared, "By the time those locals arrive on the scene, that Apache will be long gone. When they get here, all they're going to find is the burning tangle of a vehicle ... and inside of it ... two crispy critters."
I glared at him and said, "Thank you for that graphic obituary, Brock. I can't believe it's going to end like this, with us helpless ... sitting ducks!"
We both grew silent and withdrew within ourselves to make peace in our own private ways. Thoughts of Susan and images of her dominated all of the synaptic activity of my mind. We were united in a desperate embrace. Our eyes could only see the other. Our lips were touching.
"You've got to be shitting me!" Brock exclaimed breaking the tender reverie in which I'd hidden myself.
"What? What is it, Brock?"
"Over there ... on the ground ... below the chopper!" he muttered. He was pointing to a row of shrubbery just off the highway.
I stared in disbelief and rubbed my eyes, lest it was an illusion or a mirage. There was a man in Army fatigues crouching behind the shrubs. He was holding something ... some sort of weapon?
Brock elbowed me and said, "He's armed with a hand held rocket launcher! He's pretty far away, but it looks like an RBR-90mm M79. I don't know if you were praying or not, but mine was answered in spades!"
I watched in morbid fascination as the man positioned the weapon onto his shoulder and aligned it with the hovering war bird. A sudden flash of fire and smoke erupted from the back of the weapon in reaction to the launch of a deadly projectile. Too late, the crew detected the object hurtling at them and tried in vain to avoid their imminent destruction.
The small rocket struck the Apache's tail boom just ahead of the vertical rotor blades. Its tail section falling to the ground, the craft was unable to maintain stabilized flight and began to spin out of control.
Brock, realizing our precarious position, slammed the accelerator to the floor. The vehicle lurched forward despite the drag being caused by the screaming tires trying to achieve traction on the surface of the road. He spun the steering wheel hard to the right to compensate for the rear end fish tailing in the opposite direction.
We had moved only about ten yards when the Apache copter slammed onto the road ahead of us. It's wheel assemblage crumpling from its violent landing, the craft rolled onto its side. The four main rotor blades slashed onto the pavement sending sheared pieces of them flying into space.
Reduced to airborne shrapnel, the pieces of rotor had become deadly razor blades slicing through the air. One such piece struck the hood of Brock's vehicle gouging a six inch gash there before deflecting away. A second piece careened along the passenger side and clipped the mirror from its mounting.
Undaunted, Brock somehow managed to steer us clear of any further danger. He maintained breakneck speed for several seconds before screeching to a halt next to the row of shrubs where our unexpected savior stood. The soldier raised his hand to his forehead in a gesture of salute.
"Good grief!" Brock exclaimed, "That fellow looks just like Michelle."
I rolled down the window and said, "It's Gates' personal driver. And yes, he's the spitting image of Michelle."
"You look like you could use a ride, corporal," Brock shouted.
He turned and heaved the rocket launcher down the embankment behind him into a thick patch of undergrowth. After picking up a duffel bag he hopped into the back seat and exclaimed, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
Brock had needed no prompting. We tore from the scene, quickly distancing ourselves from the wreckage littering the highway. Not wanting to see any our service men harmed, I was relieved to see the Apache crew crawling from their fallen craft.
"You sure know how to make an impression, soldier," Brock declared over his shoulder. "Do you make it a habit of destroying fourteen million dollars worth of Army equipment?"
"Not as a rule," he replied, his cheeks flushed in mild embarrassment. He glanced at me and said, "Mr. Bering, we meet again. I didn't have time to exchange pleasantries that evening." He cleared his throat and addressed Brock, "General Gates always spoke highly of you, Mr. O'Day."
"Call me Brock, corporal. You are ...?"
"Baxter, Jeremy Baxter," he answered. He leaned forward in his seat and said, "Might I suggest that we take to the back roads the rest of way into Boston?"
"My thinking exactly, Corporal Baxter ... Jeremy," he responded. "I-93 is getting a little too crowded to suit me."
Peering over the seat at the dashboard he said, "I don't mean to be critical, Brock, but I would have thought that you would have had a police radio in your car."
Brock's voice became almost a mumble, "I've been cursing myself about that ever since Ben and I left Check Mate." He growled, "I was in such a damned hurry when I left the house to pick up Michelle, I took the last car in the driveway. This is my wife's car!"
I let out a low whistle, "Whoa, Brock. Faye is going to be one pissed off ..." I let the sentence die a quick death.
"You were thinking ... bitch?" he responded. "Look at her car! I'd venture a guess that it's totaled!"
I turned in my seat and faced Cpl. Baxter. "You were close to the general. Tell me that this plot to plant that bogus speech in the President's head was not his idea."
His countenance became serious, "I cannot prove it, but I assure you ... he was not behind this plot! I've been with General Gates for over five years. He loved the Army. It was his life. He's never gotten over being forced into retirement and he had plenty of reasons for being bitter, but he would have never subscribed to any action that might force America into a war against all of Islam, or any other enemy for that matter."
His loyalty to Gates was obvious and I was certain that Baxter was sincere. "Were you and the general aware that the purpose of the transmission might have been more sinister than merely planting a speech in our Commander-In-Chief's head?"
He was wearing a puzzled look when he responded, "What do you mean ... more sinister?"
"That broadcast is a double-edged sword. Not only is it intended to plant the speech, but it was also going to swap the President's mind with Gates' mind."
"What?" he stammered. "General Gates would never do such a horrible thing!"
"I agree, at least not of his own volition. But if someone else had been in his head ...," I offered for his consideration.
He was silent for a moment before he spoke again, "Now that you mention it, he has been acting a little different lately. At times he wasn't himself. I chalked it up to all the stress he'd been under."
I tensed as it suddenly dawned upon me that the corporal was not aware that Gates was dead. "Uh, Jeremy," I said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but there's something you need to hear."
There was several minutes of silence in the car after I told him what had happened back at the Check Mate facility. His face was pale when I ended my account by noting that the door to Gates' capsule had not been sealed and had been left ajar. He was still lamenting the general's passing when we felt Brock slow down as he turned onto an exit ramp that would finally take us off Interstate 93.
Regaining his composure he said to me, "If the President's mind is transferred to General Gates, who is dead ... then what goes into the President's head?"
My demeanor somber I responded, "My guess is that we would have a President who'd be nothing more than a mindless vegetable ... a zombie!"
Brock's announcement returned our focus to our mission. "We've got company!"
(To be continued in Part 59, on Friday, 6/19, with Ben Bering, Assassin.)