The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic

The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic

Friday, June 19, 2015

Murmansk! Chapters 29, 30, & 31

I've promised to post some chapters every week from my new, upcoming International Thriller...Murmansk! Hope you enjoy this week's offering!

Available at a savings on pre-order now at Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble (See links at the bottom)




Chapter 29
December 11, 2000


I shoved the hand full of gauze pads against Preacher’s shoulder and applied pressure.
“Hold on buddy, it went through and through, we just need to get the bleeding stopped.”
Preacher’s pain was evident in the film of sweat on his forehead, his breathing short and shallow. Wrapping his shoulder tightly with tape, I was relieved when I saw that it had seemed to slow the flow.
Luckily for both of us, Preacher had passed out from the pain of the alcohol when I poured it over his wound. That had allowed me to remove his coat and cut off his shirt without him feeling any additional pain.
An additional stroke of luck was the bullet going clear through the shoulder. As long as I could get the bleeding stopped and keep the wound clean, he should be ok until we got him to a hospital.
If we could get him to a hospital!
Covering him with several blankets, I went to check on the heating unit I had found and started earlier. I could see by the condensation showing at the bottom of the tank that we were about to run out of propane.
Dammit I whispered, angry at getting my friend into this…Angry at getting myself into this!
What was this anyway?
I had been mulling it over since my mind had snapped back to consciousness. Who would take all of the trouble to gas us on a plane, and dump us here in this apparently remote hut?
Looking at my surroundings, I sensed that it was some sort of scientific outpost. And since our original destination had been above the Arctic Circle, I could only assume that this was used to study some facet of the arctic environment…in the summertime!
Although it looked to be well-constructed and insulated, it was apparently not suitable to the environment we now found ourselves in…the arctic winter.
Feeling a chill, I reached down and picked up the parka I had discarded when I had been working on Preacher. Sinking my hands deep into the pockets for warmth, my right hand bumped into the phone…as well as the piece of paper I had shoved in there earlier.
Pulling out the now crumpled paper, I spread it out and read the neat, block lettering.

You will need to step outside to use this. Use speed dial 1.

Pulling the hood over my head, I walked out of the shack and onto the barren, snow-covered plateau outside. Distractedly, I realized that it was close to the first day of winter…the shortest day of the year.
But there had probably been no sun here today…we were already in the depths of arctic winter here.
Pulling the phone out of the parka’s pocket, I noticed it was a satellite phone. I had never used one of those before. Unfolding the antenna, I powered it up and waited for it to find a satellite when I heard a beep.
Looking down at the device, it told me that there was a picture message coming in. Clicking on the icon, the screen filled with the image of Abby, looking back over her shoulder toward the camera. It would appear that she was acting as some sort of server at some establishment, but that wasn’t the worst part of the picture.
The picture had been taken through what appeared to be the scope of a rifle…the crosshairs converging on her heart!
Punching the speed dial, I waited anxiously for someone to pick up, holding the phone to my ear, I could barely hear the ring tone over the biting wind beating at my face.
“Da?” A heavy, Russian voice finally answered rather smugly.
I waited a few seconds before I said anything, exerting I suppose the last vestiges of my failing rebellion.
“Ok,” I finally said into the phone, “You have my attention.”


Chapter 30
December 11, 2000
3:00 AM

Patrick McGruder held his brimmed hat to his head to keep it from flying off in the wash of the helicopter settling onto the landing pad.
Touching down, the rear door slid open and a duffle bag flew out of the opening, followed closely by a thin, dark-haired man. Leaning down to pick up the duffle, he waved over his shoulder as the helicopter lifted off again and turned back the way it had come.
As the noise faded into the background, the man pulled up in front of Patrick and offered his hand.
“Good to see you again Patrick.”
“Thank you for coming so quickly Montana,” McGruder responded while shaking the other man’s hand. “I have a bit of a dilemma I’m afraid.”
Michael Montana grinned, remembering McGruder’s penchant for always calling him by his last name.
Bringing his hand up to rest on McGruder’s shoulder, they made their way to the elevator. “It’s probably nothing we haven’t faced before old friend.”
“Possibly,” McGruder uttered as he pushed the button for his floor, “But a kidnapped girl, captured operatives and a demand to present myself to secure their freedom is at the very least…rare.”
Michael Montana whistled. “Yeah, that’s a five gallon bucket just packed full of shit!”
“Agreed,” McGruder replied soberly as the elevator doors opened. “Would you care for some coffee Montana?”
“Love some,” Michael responded as his eyes took in the massive computer power before him. “Still on the cutting edge of everything I see,” he added with a smile. “You always did like your toys!”
“I do indeed,” McGruder replied, allowing a small grin to cross his lips before taking his seat in one of the padded chairs. “Have a seat, we have much to discuss.”
Michael got comfortable in the leather chair, watching his host intently as he did. The older man’s face was starting to show its age, pain and fatigue now evident where it never had been before.
“The pain is getting worse I see,” Michael spoke softly to his old friend, “You know they do have drugs that will help with that.”
McGruder waved away his concern before picking up the carafe and pouring out two cups of coffee.
“Makes me feel wonky…You know as well as anyone that sharpness of mind is our biggest asset in this business.
Michael nodded silently, picking up his cup and taking a sip while watching his friend over the rim.
“Good coffee Patrick,” Michael replied after his sip, holding his cup in front of him and sniffing the aroma. “You’ll have to give me your secret.”
Patrick smiled, “I’ll email it to you…once we finish this project.”
If we finish this project you mean?”
Patrick shrugged, “Always a minor concern in this business I guess….if we finish the project then.”
“So bring me up to speed,” Michael prodded, “Who do they have and what’s your plan to get them back?”
McGruder leaned back in his seat. “The original kidnap victim is a little girl…ten years old…daughter of an old friend, Frank Rascoff. We have been doing business together for years.”
“And the operatives…anyone I know?”
McGruder shook his head, “No one you know Montana, they are new to the business. They’re a small group, but with incredible skills that I have been watching for quite some time.”
Michael didn’t seem convinced. “Not that I don’t trust your skills at attracting new talent Patrick, but with a bunch of newbies in the mix, this may be infinitely harder than you think to rectify.”
McGruder smiled through his pain. “They are newbies only to the extent that they now do work for me. I have the utmost confidence in the Celtic clan Montana. I can’t help but think they will be more a help than a hindrance in our efforts to get them back.”
“The Celtic clan…you mean like a family?” gasped. “You hired a whole family?”
“An extraordinary family Montana, one that I had no qualms about sending into the field.”
“Even though they got themselves captured in one of their first missions?” Michael continued, doubt still showing on his face.
McGruder met Michael’s stare squarely with one of his own. “However they were captured…I myself made all of the arrangements. It was a simple ransom exchange. What I could not know at the time was that someone was apparently gunning for me.”
Michael blew out a breath in resignation. “Ok, if someone were after you they would have had to be on their A game. Probably wouldn’t have mattered who your operatives were in that case…I can fly with that.”
Sitting forward in his seat, Michael rested his elbows on his knees as he prepared his next query.
“So, first question…do you have an idea of who it is that has come after you? And second question…do you have a plan to counteract this bad guy?”
“In answer to your second question,” McGruder replied seriously, “I have a rough idea, but wanted to tap into your expertise to fully develop it.”
Michael sat back in his seat, mulling over McGruder’s answer.
“Ok, no problem there, what about the first question?”
“I have had the computer develop a list of the most likely suspects. One sticks out above all of the rest as the doer.”
“So we go with that one as the leader of the opposition?” Michael questioned.
“Normally I would say yes in a heartbeat…except for one…minute detail.”
“What’s that?” Michael asked, leaning forward in his seat again. “What’s the tiny detail?”
McGruder also sat forward in his seat, locking eyes with Michael Montana.
“That detail, old friend, is that she was supposed to be dead…killed in 1998 as a matter of fact.”
“Maybe whoever exterminated her got it wrong,” Michael replied thoughtfully. “Who was it that supposedly killed her anyway?”
McGruder was silent for a few seconds before he responded.
“I did,” he finally answered, his eyes focused on Michael’s. “I shot her in the head and watched her fall from a hundred foot cliff into the Barents Sea.”

Chapter 31
December 11, 2000

Abby fell onto the cot, exhausted.
It had been one long night full or lecherous, old, two-fisted drunks…and it was only a Monday!
She couldn’t imagine what this place was like on a weekend…and she hoped she never had to find out.
The thought that she could be here that long moved her mind to worry.
Where was Gabe?
Why am I here?
Ya Su then entered her thoughts as she bit back a sudden and overwhelming sadness. This was the first real separation from her daughter since she had entered her life, and Abby’s heart was aching at the separation.
“I miss you Raven May Celtic,” she whispered as a tear made its way down her cheek. “I wish I were there with you right now…”

***


May watched the baby’s eyes slowly close. Soon the sucking on the bottle’s nipple also ceased. Gently pulling the bottle out of the baby’s mouth, May then laid her granddaughter on her towel-covered shoulder.
Patting lightly on the baby’s back, May rose from the chair and made her way to the crib. Waiting for the soft burp she knew had to come; she then lay Ya Su on her back and covered her with a couple of blankets.
As May then rested her hand on the baby’s belly, a small smile graced her lips.
Her eyes however, were a different story.
Worry had edged its way into them.
It was a worry formed not from any doubts about Gabe and Abby’s abilities…or even Preacher’s. What worried her most was the fact that she hadn’t heard from them since they had left.
May had been in on the planning of this mission, and knew that there was always the worry that cell phones wouldn’t always work in different countries. But she also knew Abby and Gabe.
Gabe was her best friend…her oldest friend. They were also newlyweds. On top of that, Abby was a new mother…a doting mother that hadn’t been away from her daughter for more than a few hours up to this point.
She knew they would find a way to call home…if they could…
Not only that, the mission should have been a cake walk. A simple exchange of money for the life of the hostage…they had estimated 8 hours at most on the ground.
May did the math in her head again…one more time…the thirtieth time that day.
The best-case scenario had been forty hours round trip…worst case…forty-eight.
It had now been sixty…and still no word.
Making her way back to the kitchen, May did a beeline for the phone. Lifting the receiver, she hesitated.
Her initial thought had been to call McGruder, but now she vacillated.
Why hadn’t he himself called?
Maybe he was in on whatever this was.
Could she trust him?
May sighed when that thought struck her. It had been her own words that had pushed the group to accept McGruder’s proposal after all. She had observed the man’s professionalism…felt his trust.
Was she so ready to dismiss her earlier feeling the first time something went wrong?
She hung up the phone again and moved to the counter to pour herself some tea.
Maybe she was overreacting. After all, McGruder’s operatives work for him in a professional and secretive capacity. As such, he was under no obligation to keep the families of those operatives advised on the status of an operation.
Still…she hadn’t heard from Gabe…and the project, while secretive, hadn’t been classified.
Setting down her cup, she once again stood and made her way to the phone. Punching in the memorized number, she waited anxiously for the other party to answer.
When they did, she had but two words to say.
“Gabe’s late.”


Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis

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