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December 12, 2000
The pilot gulped back his fear as the cold steel pressed against his forehead.
Patting him down quickly with one hand, the Russian pushed the pilot back towards the cockpit before turning and aiming his gun toward the passengers.
“Kakogo cherta?” (What the hell?)
Turning quickly on his heel, he brought the gun to bear once again on the pilot.
“Where are peoples?”
The pilot, still reeling from the earlier assault, stuttered his answer.
“N-n-no p-p-passengers on this trip…only that…”
Pointing towards the front seat, the Russian turned to look where he pointed.
Ivan holstered his weapon and indicated that Alexei should also come aboard. “Watch him,” he uttered, pointing toward the pilot. Once he knew the pilot was secure, he moved toward the front seat and kneeled in front of it.
Strapped into the restraints, Ivan saw a high-end leather briefcase. Studying it intently, he then carefully checked around it, looking for any kind of tripwires or booby-traps before gingerly unbuckling it from the seat.
Setting it flat on the cushion, he sat back on his haunches, trying to decide what to do next. If it was a trap of some kind…or a bomb…it would be the last thing that he did.
It is what he would do.
Ivan grinned with the thought. He would do it…but would a pacified American do so?
He didn’t think so!
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, he reached forward with both hands and released both latches simultaneously.
Realizing that he had closed his eyes, he slowly opened them and looked down. The briefcase was still there, unlatched but unopened. Knowing that most bombs would be set off with the latch if at all, he nevertheless took his time to spread apart the leather.
Seeing nothing but some paperwork, he gingerly extracted it from the pouch before taking the next seat and setting the small pile on his lap.
Luckily, the documents were in Russian, but they were still hard to read. After several minutes of thumbing through them, his mind finally snapped when he realized what they were.
“Der'mo !” (Shit!) He shouted before rising from his seat and stalking toward the hatch.
“What is it Ivan?” Alexei questioned worriedly.
Ignoring his partner, Ivan stepped toward the pilot until he was pinned against the bulkhead.
“These are but mineral leases!” He screamed. “Where are the people that were supposed to be on the plane?”
The pilot was beside himself from the Russian’s demeanor. “S-s-sir…I can show you the manifest…but there were no souls scheduled for this flight.”
“Get it!” Ivan shouted, “Show me!”
The pilot weaved past the big Russian and went into the cockpit, returning only seconds later with a clipboard.
“Here you are sir….see here under the heading of cargo…Legal Documents.”
Ivan ripped the clipboard out of the pilot’s hand and studied the paperwork, taking several moments to decipher the English.
Finally slapping the clipboard into the pilot’s chest, he waved Alexei out of the plane and followed him down the ladder.
“What happened, Ivan?” Alexei questioned as they crossed the hangar floor.
“It must have been the wrong plane Alexei,” he answered angrily. “I need a drink.”
As they exited the hangar and got into their car, Ivan mulled over the situation. He was positive the flight number was the same as what his contact in the
given him. Now he would have to get back in touch with the man and verify.
“Bol' v zadnitse !” (Fucking pain in the ass) he muttered as Alexei took off down the road.
The white haired bitch would not be happy.
December 12, 2000
Patrick McGruder and Michael Montana watched the car leave from another one parked in the shadows of the next hangar.
“It would seem that our ploy has worked,” McGruder smiled as he watched the car turn onto an access road.
“I always say,” Michael started while easing their car out onto the taxiway, “If you can’t beat them with force, baffle them with bullshit.”
“We’re on them,” he heard Joe Bright say through the earwig as he and Beth started the tail of the Russian men.
“Roger that,” Michael replied. “We’ll be along shortly.”
Their plan had been simple. Since McGruder already had a jet chartered, Michael had proposed letting it continue on its scheduled journey, just with a slightly different cargo. Since the earlier plane had been compromised in flight or shortly after landing, they assumed that Noon would try something similar this time around.
In the meantime, they would take Michael’s private jet and get there ahead of the charter, allowing them time to set up the sting. By making it look like the wrong plane, Michael postulated that it would confuse instead of anger the enemy…buying them time and (hopefully) staving off any retaliation to the hostages.
It had been a simple thing for Patrick McGruder to come up with and copy off some Russian mineral leases for the ploy…actual legal documents that would stand up to scrutiny if they had to.
They would now stick close to the enemy operatives and follow them as best they could…hopefully without getting caught. They were not, however, depending solely on visual observation.
While the jet had been entering the hangar earlier, Beth had accessed it through a brand new hole they had cut into the wall earlier in the day. While the Russians focus was centered on the plane, Beth had crawled across the floor and attached a tracking device to their car.
McGruder now held the tracking monitor in his hand, watching the green blip move away from them.
“Now if Beth can latch onto any cell phone transmissions,” Michael uttered as he accelerated down the highway, “We should have them pretty well tethered electronically.”
Always the techno-geek, McGruder had come up with all of the tracking and cell monitoring equipment for the operation.
“Indeed,” McGruder nodded as he continued to watch the monitor. “It’s now a game of watch and wait.”
Michael cringed inwardly, he hated waiting…for anything.
December 13, 2000
I woke up with a start, fighting against imagined restraints until I realized that it was the sleeping bag limiting my movements.
Unzipping the bag, I attempted to lean up before shouting out in pain!
My stomach muscles rebelled with extreme agony at my attempt. In fact, as I tried to move various limbs I discovered that every muscle in my body was stiff and sore.
Taking a deep breath, I rolled onto my stomach and pushed myself slowly up with my arms. Crawling out of the bag, I immediately rolled over again until I was sitting on the floor. Pulling my boots to me, I put them on one agonizing foot at a time.
Finally getting that accomplished, I pulled my parka on and zipped it up while noticing how cold it was. Crawling over to the heater, I saw that it was out again.
How long had I been asleep?
Grabbing another gas canister, I replaced it and lit the heater again.
Once it was going, I scooted over to Preacher’s pallet to check on him. He was unconscious again, his face flushed. He was shivering…badly. I felt his forehead and realized then that he had a fever.
Cursing our luck, I lowered his cover and pulled back his coat and shirt to reveal his bandage. I could smell it immediately, the stench of rotting flesh. Pulling the soaked-through gauze pad away from his skin revealed that a nasty-looking infection had gotten a good start.
Beside myself at his worsening condition I continued by removing the gauze from the back of his shoulder before dragging the first aid kit next to me. Grabbing the tongue depressors from the kit, I unceremoniously wedged them into his mouth as best I could.
Uncapping the bottle of alcohol, I sat there for a few seconds looking at my friend. “I’m really sorry I got you into this Preacher,” I whispered as I tipped the bottle over the wound.
An hour later I had the wound bandaged again, had made some soup and had even gotten some down his throat without choking him. He hadn’t screamed this time when the alcohol hit the wound, but his body had jerked severely in response to the pain. I ended up grabbing him to keep him from falling off of the pallet, spilling half of the remaining alcohol in the process.
As I gloomily sat next to him, I wondered how much longer we could keep this up. Even another day might be too long with his worsening condition. At this point I couldn’t see beyond Preacher’s desperate needs, much less trying to think of Abby or May. I could only hope that they were holding on…and could continue doing so until I could get to them. My mind still held out to the hope that I would eventually get us out of here and find my daughter before we all made our way home.
My body was another story however. I already felt like things were slowing down inside as the cold attacked me. My muscles felt like someone had been trying to pull me apart, and my mind seemed to be becoming fuzzy and unfocussed. Man was not meant to live in a climate such as this, at least not without a hell of a lot more preparation than we had been allowed.
Feeling desperate and fighting hopelessness, I got up and pulled my hood over my head. Donning gloves, I grabbed the flashlight and headed toward the door.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, but so far I hadn’t found anything inside the shack that could help us escape its confines. It was my hope that maybe I could find something outside…if not something tangible…at least something that would jog an idea loose in my memory.
Stepping into the vast frozen whiteness I was pleased to realize that, for now at least, the wind had died down to a slight breeze. I was also pleasantly surprised by a slight lightening of the sky to the southeast. I had always been under the impression that there would be no daylight in the depths of the arctic winter. Seeing the light of the rising sun actually lifted my spirits ever so slightly.
Moving my eyes back down to the ground around me, I started my search for something that I could use. Most of what I could find I already knew was there. A stack of pallets that had been piled high enough to show above the snow, and two pieces of plastic PVC pipe about one inch in diameter leaning against the shack.
I moved around to the side of the shack and continued looking with no success. I could have been walking over the top of a treasure trove of stuff and never know it however, as the snow was so deep.
Darker on this side of the shed, I clicked on my flashlight as I rounded the corner to the back…almost running into an upright post in the process. Shining my light on the wood, I followed it up until the beam of light showed on a metal roof! Excitedly, I brought the light down, the flashlight now exposing the interior of a lean-to shed built onto the back of the shack.
Feeling hopeful for the first time in hours, I stepped into the shed to explore. At first glance I didn’t see anything too exciting: a couple of old jars, a box of nails and some sort of homemade chair…broken.
Sighing in frustration I was about to leave when the end of something caught my eye. Protruding up through the snow that had drifted inside the shed, I recognized that it was something rectangular and made of wood.
Rectangular wood wasn’t native to the arctic!
Walking toward it, I leaned over and pulled at the wood. Whatever it was moved slightly, but felt like it was tangled on something else below it. Laying the flashlight on the snow beside me, I started digging around, shoveling away both loose and encrusted snow in an effort to free the item. After a couple of minutes, I could feel the thing move a little when I tugged on it. Grabbing it with both hands, I gave it a jerk as it and another, identical piece suddenly popped out of the snow.
Looking down on the two contraptions, I couldn’t at first determine what it was that I had uncovered.
When I finally did, my heart leapt with joy!
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis
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