This is week 32 of Raven's Wordzzle Challenge.
This may be my last entry for a while. We're moving next week, will be on the road for two or three weeks and then will need time to settle in.
If you are unfamiliar with Wordzzling then please go to the Raven's Nest and our fabulous hostess will tell you all about it. In addition you can read her stories, other writer's stories and get on her Mr. Linky if you contribute an entry.
Should you decide to stay here you'll be reading a continuing story about intrigue, romance, politics, the environment and MURDER. I warn you now; it's not for the weak of heart.
This Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: exacerbate, leotard, path, tomato, Jungle Book, vagabond, parade, limber, storage, Maharajah
And for the Mini Challenge: crocodile, special, sleep, droll, turn around
This week's episode: McCool on the range
McCool felt bad about leaving Jean behind in Hickory to finish packing, but circumstances, timing and his new job as consultant to FBI profiler and serial crimes specialist Sgt Johnson required his presence in DC right now. As if to exacerbate the situation, the note from the mysterious yet familiar sounding informant had set a time table and specific instructions as to how and when to make contact. To accomplish this McCool had to make DC by nightfall.
He wondered about the driving directions as to how he would enter the city. It made him more than a little nervous to think he might be walking into a trap or being set up for something yet more devious and violent than the "Alley Cat murders he was helping investigate. Another thing bothered him. Why his instructions had went so far as to tell him what kind of rental car to bring and when to pick it up. All of these concerns had been gone over with Sgt Johnson and they had settled on using a small high tech GPS locater as a backup should Thomas be unable to communicate by phone.
While FBI response might not be as limber and agile as he wished, he knew they would make every effort to watch his back.
Because he was coming up from the south he was forced to take the beltway north into Maryland and circle around to pick up I-95 north of DC. Then his instructions gave him an exit and a location to wait to be contacted. This part would be the most crucial. What path he was ordered to take from there would impact his back up and their ability to turn around assets as needed to keep him under surveillance.
I-95 was busy and packed as usual on a Friday night. Most of the traffic was leaving DC on the way up, but once he hit the beltway he was in a parade of commuters headed home for the weekend. McCool checked in with Johnson when he entered I-95 north off the beltway. The next exit was the one he was to take and he let the Sgt know his progress. They would not communicate further till after the interview and hopefully detainment of the informant.
Noting that special attention needed to be paid to his surroundings now, McCool made the last turn and pulled into the parking lot of the storage facility listed on his instructions. His cell phone rang 5 minutes later and the caller instructed him to get out of the mustang and walk toward the front door of the building. He did so with the careless air of a vagabond troubadour and never looked back at the car. "If we can pull this off I will become the Maharajah of Mad risk takers" he thought to himself. "Or maybe the idiot amateur who took the big sleep for mixing in things beyond him" his inner voice chided.
McCool shook off that thought like a vaudevillian shook off a poorly thrown tomato and continued walking to the front door. A small note attached to the door told him to ring once and enter. This he did. As he entered the structure his vision went instantaneously black and he lost consciousness.
Sgt Johnson waited thirty minutes to hear back from McCool before he ordered a team into the storage facility. The first two in came stumbling back out and vomited. That meant a hazmat team had to be brought up and that took another 20 minutes. By the time the building was cleared to enter there was no sign of McCool or his informer. It would take the forensics team 3 hours to find the hidden door and tunnel leading to the other buildings. From what the team could tell McCool had been spirited away on some sort of rolling cart, perhaps motorized, and could be miles away by now.
In actuality McCool was many miles away. Claude had used a John Deere Gator to carry Thomas's inert form the two miles to his van and then casually driven past the police as he exited the area within minutes of taking McCool down. He knew that the various tunnels would leave the investigators looking for him in a maze more like something from the jungle book than modern streets and roads. He was sure enough of his plan and resulting escape to give the police a droll smile as he rolled by them in the van.
Claude was smart enough and his tradecraft good enough, that he did not bring McCool to the warehouses used before in previous interrogations. This would not be an interrogation anyway, he would instead be giving McCool and therefore the FBI much needed information concerning the "Alley Cat Murders".
The trick would be to get McCool to convince Johnson to stop pursuing him.
Claude would use both carrot and stick to accomplish this goal. There would be no crocodile tears from Claude if McCool failed to go along. Instead his own statements and the truth of them would determine his fate.
"Wake up now Thomas" a voice whispered from the darkness, "Wake up." McCool didn't immediately respond. He had enough of his wits about him to pretend to be more out of it than he was while he took stock of his situation. From what he felt and the little he could see he knew his guess had been right. What felt like tight metallic leotards surrounded the lower half of his body. He knew that couldn't be good. Well, he might as well acknowledge their onetime friendship.
"I thought it might be you Claude" he finally answered. "And I considered that in my preparations for our meeting" Claude responded. "How's your sight and your hearing?" he continued. "I can see your outline and hear you OK" McCool answered. "Good, you're going to be seeing some things that may astonish or at least greatly surprise you in the next couple of hours, I want you able to appreciate and understand their meaning."
What McCool saw and heard was frightening and very enlightening. He learned of Armistead's involvement and the possible involvement of more officials in the Bush DOJ. Then the operative's comments and answers blew the lid off. Whatever McCool had felt about the current administration before was nothing to what he realized it was now. As to the current conditions of the malefactors who were shown on the videos, he had no doubt. He knew Claude or his reputation well enough to know there would be know way of confirming this with them.
"So it seems you had nothing to do with the "Alley Cat Murders" Claude" he said into the dark after the last video ended. "Why go through all this to tell us?"
"Good, Claude thought to himself" he sees it. To Thomas he said, "You were always one of the more sharp ones in the movement McCool." "I admired that about you." "You never bought into hype and you thought out your position and actions." 'You'll need to do that again today if you are to survive" he finished.