One More Before Lunch.
Annie studied the scene as she sprinted down the bank toward the van. She saw the van had rolled toward the pond and come to rest on its right side. It was angled a little away from the road near the edge of the raised bank around the man-made pond. There was no sign of fire. It hadn't gone in the pond. It was close enough to the bank around the pond to work to her advantage.
She slowed once she was within ten yards of the van, made her way relatively silently but rapidly through the grass to what would be the van's top rear if it were upright. She squatted down out of sight from one direction but still able to see the 'Vette. She sat as quietly as she could, controlled her breathing with some difficulty, and listened. She heard muffled voices. She placed her ear against the sheet metal of the top - she heard one ... two ... distinct voices. Sounded like only two. Two she could believe; it was the expected number. One of them cursed the other in English because the rear door would not open. Their use of English was a relief because it was an indication, they were the two fugitive members from Minnesota.
The bank around the pond grassed. Not lawn, but not full of briers and thistles either. She decided she could lie down on the was bank, although the grass was almost too tall for that. The water was low enough that she could kneel on the far side of the bank, have at least some cover, still be less than ten yards from the top of the van, and have a steadier shooting position and way less exposure than she would if standing. The van had only front driving compartment side windows. She stood up, moved rapidly at an angle away from the van up the berm, across the top and a step or two down the other side towards the water. She ended up at a patch of shorter grass about ten yards away and slightly below the level of the side of the van. She dropped to her knees, then lay down able to rest her arms over the top of the berm. It gave her a very steady position to shoot from aimed right at the most likely exit point – the driver's side window. A person who climbed out with his focus on the road would have his back to her. A person trying to shoot at her from there would only be able to see her head and arms in the grass. A camo hat would have been nicer than the pink scarf, but it was too late for that.
She could also, if she stretched a little, see anyone emerging from the front windshield, but it didn't look broken to her. She glanced at the Corvette and couldn't see Auggie, so she assumed he was crouched near the front wheel on the other side of the car from her. Her angle to the van put him well clear of her field of fire. Satisfied her position was the best immediately available option, she relaxed in her prone position with her gun in both hands. Less than ninety seconds after opening the car door she was as ready as she was going to be.
She didn't have to wait more than maybe another twenty seconds when an AK47 rose vertically, in somewhat wobbly fashion, through the driver's side door window and was laid crosswise pointing toward the road. She hoped that meant that whoever followed it would look that way too. A few seconds later, the owner of the hands lifted himself up with, apparently painful, difficulty into a sitting position on the van. He faced toward the road with Annie behind him and in his blind spot. He picked up the AK and began to scan in front of himself. He looked somewhat dazed and the muzzle waved around more or less in his direction of sight. She brought her sights to align on his head; with her finger on the trigger, she shouted, "Drop it," to get his attention before he took a shot at the Corvette. The shout got his attention, and he turned his head towards her. She could see she was far enough behind him that it would be very difficult for him to get a shot.
It took him a few seconds to locate her, but when he saw her, the look on his face got ugly. He tried to raise the AK and make the awkward turn, almost 180 degrees to his right, to aim at her at the same time. Pain or not, it was clear he was going to shoot first chance he had. Annie didn't hesitate and shot first, five shots almost as fast as she could pull the trigger. She aimed at the center of his face with the first pair, which would be the most accurate, and dropped to his torso with the other three as fast as she could pull the trigger. She saw the shots hit in real time: one in his head with blood and brain matter out the back and front, one through his neck with splatter in both directions, two on the right side of his torso under his arm with blood back spatter - no body armor – and one into his thigh area. The combined effect was that his hands released the AK. It fell off the van in Annie's direction to stick muzzle first into the soft ground and then slowly topple over. His body slumped and slid back into the van with a sort of soggy crashing noise, accompanied by a high-pitched curse in what sounded like a child's voice.
She would learn later the first shot had obliterated his central nervous system and killed him instantly.
Given the young voice she heard and the fact that there was only one left, Annie decided to try for capture. She had good cover from blind shots through the top of the van, control of the only exit, and she thought the remaining occupant of the van might be thoroughly traumatized when his companion dropped back in, almost on top of him, stone dead and bloody. She shouted, "Federal Agent, show me your hands!" She decided if a gun came out, she'd shoot through the roof of the van at where the person's body would have to be.
After a few seconds, she saw a surprisingly young-looking pair of hands that might go with the voice extend up to just above the plane of the front door.
A young voice tinged with fear said, "I can't reach any farther."
"Grab the edge and pull yourself up," she shouted back. "If I see anything in those hands, I'll shoot first and find out what it was later. Come out empty handed, now!"
"Okay. Okay, don't shoot, please don't shoot!" the voice yelled back.
Out of the corner of her eye, Annie saw a pickup approach down Quaker Valley Road toward 34. She needed this guy on the ground under control before it arrived. She ordered, "Pull yourself up and get out here now!" He appeared, pulled himself up, bent over at the waist to wiggle onto the side of the van. Annie said, "Slide down over here."
When he did she had him lie on the ground face down with his arms straight out at his sides, palms up. She stood up with her gun still on the prone figure and yelled to Auggie, "Call backup, now!"
"Already talking to 911; trooper on the way. Are you okay, Annie?" His voice was raw with anxiety. "I heard five shots."
"I'm fine," she told him. "The shots were all mine. One dead and one captive – that's the lot of them."
"Thank God. … Good job." Annie heard the pause and knew Auggie was pushing his fear for her well being into the back of his mind to focus on the immediate problem. Sure enough, a few seconds later he added, "The State Police may have a chopper that can get here first. I asked for the fastest arrival. I identified you as the hero lady from the restaurant yesterday and gave them a description. Can I get back in the car?"
"Yes, I have the situation under control at the moment. Tell whoever you are in contact with that the incident is over; the fight is over."
Annie took a few seconds to study the second man as she approached; she confirmed her first impression. This was a kid or young adult, somewhere between 15 and maybe 18 years old. The bare arms looked like a child's: no developed musculature, an artist's hands and long slender fingers. His hair a bit scraggly but no there was no evidence of beard. She was glad she hadn't shot him, but that was pretty much the end of her compassion. Asked the right way, he'd probably tell the interrogators everything he knew. He looked more like a computer geek than a terrorist. If he was the geek, he might be the best intelligence coup in a while.
She looked back at the road and saw the pickup, probably seven to ten years old, well used but not beaten up looking, had stopped. Annie saw the driver look in her direction apparently uncertain about what to do. It seemed to her beyond extremely unlikely this guy was the enemy, so she decided to treat him as an ally. She called to him, "I'm a Federal Agent, this guy is a terrorist in cahoots with the two at the restaurant in Carlisle yesterday. I need something to tie him up. You got anything?"
Annie watched as the farmer slowly got out of the truck. He looked confused, like he hadn't quite gotten his mind around the situation. Then, apparently, he decided to help because he said, "I got me some bail twine; I reckon that'll work." He reached into the back of the truck and headed her way with it. As he approached, she looked him over. What she saw were alert, intelligent eyes in a weatherworn face, dark mahogany tan, big hands and wrists, hat, and a curious expression.
She liked what she saw; there was character in those eyes and face. It was an honest character that came from a lifetime faced with the un-spinnable reality of crops, animals, and weather that was life on a farm. She asked quietly, "Will you please tie him up; put his hands behind him and secure his feet together, and then sit him up against the front of the van so he can be seen from the road. Use short pieces of that string. Tie the ends in a hard knot. No need to be gentle, just don't cut off the blood flow. The state troopers will be here, hopefully sooner than later."
He said, "I will." And he did. Then he slowly stood up and backed away a few yards. The young man said nothing during the process.
He nodded and stood where he was. He was relaxed. Annie felt no threat from him.
She yelled to Auggie, "Auggie, you can get back in the car now; it's all clear." She heard him acknowledge her and then saw him get up and head back around the car to the passenger's side.
Just then the farmer tilted his head and said, "Sooner, I think. I hear a chopper headed this way."
Annie couldn't hear it. Her ears were still deadened from to the noise of the shots, but she looked up and called to Auggie, "Do we have a chopper inbound?"
He held up his hand with the phone to his ear and yelled back, "Yes, I'm talking them in - they see us, the van anyway."
The farmer looked across the road and yelled in Auggie's direction, "Have them set down in that hay field on the other side of the road there. If they set down on this side, they will have trouble with this bank and the soft ground nearer the pond."
Auggie yelled back, "Thanks, will do." Then the ambient noise temporarily wiped out any chance of communication with Auggie.
Annie saw the chopper's course deviate as the pilot changed his approach. She saw dust rising off the shoulder near the Vette. The rotor blast wasn't so bad where she was because the road bank was between them and the chopper. It dropped to where Annie could see the State Police logo on the side before it went out of sight on the other side of the road.
Annie finally took a second to double check the man that remained in the van and saw he was well and truly dead with a big chunk of the back of his head missing. She had learned yesterday that COR-BON DPX +P hollow points did that. She felt nothing looking at him now, but she knew she would later.
The kid tied up in front of the van stared vacantly at the ground a few feet in front of him. Annie didn't feel like questioning him.
She asked the farmer if he would go and guide her partner over to where she was. He looked at her questioningly, and she said, "He's blind." The farmer nodded and headed for the Corvette. Annie saw that he and three state troopers arrived there at the same time. There was some sort of conversation between the troopers, the farmer, and Auggie. The troopers didn't look stressed, but they kept both hands free.
The troopers headed her way; the farmer, responding to Annie's instructions, walked Auggie over. She had put her Glock back in its holster when the chopper disappeared behind the bank. In her hand it would cause the officers to react; she simply didn't need it to contain the tied up guy. So she walked relaxed but open handed to meet the troopers.
She said, "I'm Annie Walker. That's my partner, August Anderson. These two initiated a pursuit of us because I shot their fellow terrorists in the restaurant in Carlisle yesterday. If you will call the FBI Philly office, they will tell you what to do. Because these two are terrorists, they will be in federal custody. Well, the living one will be anyway."
One of troopers came forward and said, "I'm Trooper Getz, these two are Williams and Walsh. What was the name of the Trooper in the restaurant yesterday?"
Annie said, "Trooper Benson. 6'-3", 220, Caucasian, brown, brown, quiet spoken, no glasses."
Annie saw Getz shoulders relax and drop a little; he said, "You are her? The shooter?"
"Yes, but when the feds get here, they will tell you to take no pictures and tell no one my name, or the name of my partner."
"Benson said he saw you and even talked to you. He wouldn't describe you, just said you were a really hot, really dangerous, little blonde Rambo." When Annie didn't reply other than to reflect a bit of disgust at his comment, he asked, "Uh, yes, what happened here?"
"Do you have a recorder?"
"Not on me. We were not expecting to do this. We were on the way to a training exercise in Gettysburg when we got the call to respond here. Do you have a prisoner? I'm getting the impression there were two and one is dead."
"Yes. Follow me." She lead them back toward the van so they could see the young man tied up leaning against the front of the van and the dead guy through the window.
Getz went over to check the young man, gave a quick glance at the dead guy, stood up, turned and asked, "Please tell us what happened so we can call in with a preliminary Sit. Rep?"
"Okay – did the same thing for Benson yesterday. I remembered seeing a white van in the restaurant parking lot yesterday. I was suspicious of it and told the FBI DC office about it by phone earlier today. When it showed up gaining on us, I took immediate evasive action by turning off 34 onto Old Quaker Road. When the van nearly ran off the road making the same turn to follow us, I knew we were being pursued and these folks met us harm. I had a clear advantage over them, so I took them down. I had a GPS in the Corvette-"
"You were driving that blue four twenty seven 'Vette?" he interrupted.
"Yes. That was my advantage. It allowed me to get in position to ambush them as they exited the van. I came over the top of that rise pretty fast, waited till the van wasn't visible in the rear view, hauled it down and barely made that corner - you can see the tire marks from the 'Vette there. I barely made it. I hoped the van would crash if they were foolish enough to try to follow me. They were, and it crashed right where you see it. After rounding the corner I headed down the road, over there behind the 'Vette, as fast as I could until I saw the van go off the road to end up here. So I turned, came back and ambushed them as they tried to climb out."
"You turned around and got back before they could get out? How'd you do that?"
"Yes. How? It was easy. If you go down there about as far as you can see, you will see the rubber marks from a bootlegger turn - it was hard on the tires, but it was the fastest way back."
"You threw a high speed bootlegger down the middle of this skinny little road with almost no shoulders and trees on both sides? How fast were you going?"
"Yes, and I'm not sure – probably not much more than eighty when I flicked the car into the bootlegger."
"Not much more than 80? Wow! Okay, so you can both drive and shoot. What happened here?"
"I coasted the 'Vette to a stop in the middle of the road to avoid gravel crunch noises. Ran over here, knelt down and placed my ear against the roof. I heard two voices inside. I figured they would try to get out of the van so I got in position to ambush them.
"If you look on the pond side of the berm, right over there, you will find where I lay down and waited for them to exit the van, and probably the brass from when I shot them. The dead guy in there was the first one out. He came out that window and sat on the side of the van so he faced the road, weapon in hand. My partner was behind the car that was in his line of sight. He raised the rifle. I told him to 'drop it'. He immediately started to point that AK 47 in my direction. I fired 5 shots. Two at his head, three at his torso. He fell back inside after I shot him."
Annie stood still while the Troopers moved to get a better view of the body through the front window. Then she continued, "The kid, there, evidently didn't like the preview of coming attractions that fell back in on top of him and surrendered when I gave him a chance. I allowed him to climb out, and this gentleman; I don't know his name, brought me some bail twine and tied him up for me. We barely had that done when you landed. The young one here hasn't said anything since I restrained him. I'll let the FBI deal with him. I'm most interested in seeing what we can find in the van that might give us a clue how these guys found me on a country road in the middle of nowhere."
The trooper said, "Please just stand quietly right there for a moment with your hands where I can see them while I call this in." Annie nodded. He then keyed his shoulder microphone and said, "This is Trooper Getz; we have landed at the crash site. We have one person shot to death, one tied up with bale twine. Need the medical examiner, patrol cruiser backup, traffic control and a paramedic. This looks like self-defense to me. The dead guy had an AK47. She didn't shoot the second guy when he surrendered."
"Do you have the shooter in custody?"
"She's not in custody. She's standing here in front of me; she's the same lady that took down those two terrorists in Carlisle yesterday."
"Did you get an ID?"
"She says her name is Annie Walker. About 5'-5", blonde, brown. I haven't seen a photo ID, but when I asked who the Trooper was at the restaurant yesterday, she knew it was Benson on scene and described him to a T."
"Hold on a second."
The trooper looked at Annie. She stood there with her hands by her sides, relaxed.
Then dispatch came back on the radio saying, "We have confirmed her identity through the FBI. We are directed by the FBI that this is terrorism; they have jurisdiction, and she is in charge of the scene on their behalf till they get there. We haven't been given an explanation, just orders. You are not to attempt to restrain or disarm her, photograph her, or permit anybody to take pictures of her or her companion. Cooperate with her and her partner, who we are told is blind. If they want access to the inside of the van before they leave, help them achieve that. They are free to leave any time after the FBI arrives to take charge of the scene and she gives them a statement of what happened."
"Also take custody of the body; stay with it until it's turned over for transport to the FBI morgue in Quantico. Turn the prisoner over to the FBI, who we're told will be there in a few minutes. Apparently there were already some FBI Agents in Carlisle with a chopper, so they should arrive shortly. We suggested they land in the field near your aircraft based on the pilot's input."
The trooper paused for a few moments, apparently to process what he had heard. Then he looked up, turned in her direction and said, "Okay, wow. That's pretty much a list of all firsts for us. What do you need us to do?"
"Please open the back doors of the van."
"Ok. You heard the lady." Getz turned to the farmer and asked, "Do you have a pry bar of some sort?"
"Yup, in my truck. Follow me."
In short order they had the back doors of the van pried open. Two of them went up on the road to keep traffic moving, Getz brought Auggie over. Annie told him what she saw; he noted it. Then she said, "I have a laptop here, it's on."
The kid at the front of the van said, "That's mine. Leave it alone."
Auggie said to Annie, "Don't close it; keep it up by touching the space bar. I need to get that hard drive dumped to Tech Ops. If one of these Troopers will take me to the car with the laptop, I think I can at least get part of it. I found an open Wi-Fi with my iPhone."
Annie said so he could hear, "I think we've captured the Minnesota cell's geek. He's just a kid. If they do it right, the FBI ought to be able to get him to tell them all he knows. Plus, there might be some good intel on this laptop."
Auggie left with the laptop, the farmer as his sighted guide.
While Getz watched, Annie continued to look and found a small attaché case with a few papers in it. She laid them out, photographed them with her phone camera, turned them over and photographed them again because of the strange markings on the back.
She found two more AK47s and two more shotguns like the ones used in the diner. She photographed all their armament and their ammunition supply.
Then Annie took pictures of the rest of the van's interior: the VIN number, license plate, registration, proof of insurance, and whatever else she saw that might possibly be of interest. That included both the boy tied up in front and as much as she could of what was left of the face of the other guy.
She looked around, then ran up the berm around the pond and took a picture of where she had laid down to take her shot, and a second one lying in the same place to show the view she had of the van. While she was there, she turned a little to get a picture that showed the 'Vette and the van so she could have it for the report she knew would be requested.
She'd just gotten back to Getz, and the pictures uploaded to Stu, when she heard and then saw the FBI chopper descend to land across the road in the hay field near the State Police chopper.
A few minutes later, Annie watched as a young female agent accompanied by a male agent ran down the bank toward them. The male looked 5'-10", maybe 180 lbs. Nice navy-blue pinstripe suit, white shirt, power tie. No glasses.
The female, dark hair, athletic build, something like 5'-8", solid but feminine, 135 to 140 pounds, was wearing a fitted but professional open-necked white blouse, suit pants, and remarkably sensible shoes for the outfit. Her face was striking good-looking in a girl next door way, but not beautiful exactly. It was the grace and coordination evident in the way she moved that immediately got Annie's attention – a balanced forward and aft gait with an effortless stride that seemed to float over the ground. It showed a high level of coordination and fitness – this was a hard-core martial arts expert in fighting condition, no doubt about it. The look on her face was one of friendly curiosity. She clearly didn't regard Annie as the enemy or with suspicion at all. But Annie made a mental note – if there is trouble, team with her; she's probably the toughest person in sight. She slowed with perfect balance to let the man in the suit, who was apparently the senior agent, catch up.
The male puffed, slightly winded, "I'm Special Agent Tom Larson; this is Special Agent Mary Jo Bell. We are from the Philadelphia office. You are Ms. Anne Walker? You were at the restaurant in Carlisle yesterday?"
"I am. I was. Please call me Annie. This is Trooper Getz. The two working to keep the road clear and traffic moving are Troopers Williams and Walsh." She paused a second then added, "This is your crime scene now, right?"
"Yes. Please call me, Jo. You met our boss, Supervisory Special Agent Burke, yesterday." She turned to look at the van, and her face registered concern when she saw the body inside. "What happened here?"
Annie turned to Agent Larson and said, "I'd be happy to tell you. Do you have a recorder? We might as well just do this once."
"Please get it; I'll give you a statement about what happened. Then we need to get out of here before too many more civilians show up. I've already gone over the van. Our tech guys will send the pictures I uploaded to your tech guys. However, they do that."
Agent Larson glanced at Agent Bell; she said, "On it," and took off running effortlessly back up the bank in the direction of the chopper.
As Agent Bell was leaving, Annie noticed for the first time that the young man was bleeding from some cuts, probably crash related - she walked over, squatted down and looked at his eyes. She saw the different sized pupils and said, "This one has a concussion." She could hear a siren approaching in the distance; she hoped it would be the paramedics. Given a choice, she'd like to interrogate him, but at this point she was pretty certain that would be someone else's job.
She saw Auggie, guided by Trooper Walsh, on his way back with the laptop. When he arrived Annie asked, "Any luck?"
"Yes, got it all. There's an open Wi-Fi nearby. It is a strong signal, high data rate. Anyway, Stu was able to link in via the WEB and mirror the hard drive into storage. They have already started on it."
"Agent Larson, this is my partner August, AKA Auggie, Anderson. The laptop Auggie is talking about is the one we found in the van. You want to get it from Auggie?"
"Hi, Mr. Anderson," Agent Larson said, "Yes, I'll take that … thanks. If you have mirrored the drive can you have your guys, whoever they are, send a copy of the mirror to the Philly office?"
"I'll do that now," Auggie said. He took a few steps away and raised his phone to his ear.
At that moment Annie saw Agent Bell running back down the bank. When she arrived, she said, with no trace of breathlessness, "I brought the recorder and a spare memory chip if it's needed."
Agent Larson thanked her, exchanged the laptop for the recorder, went through the usual preamble to get the recording properly setup, then asked Annie formally, "Please tell us what happened?"
Annie dictated a clear concise narrative of the pursuit, how it ended, the takedown, the arrival of the farmer, troopers, and then the FBI.
When she had finished Agent Larson asked, "Where did you learn to do that?"
"Do what?" Annie asked.
"Execute a takedown like that. You give lessons?"
"Of course not. Don't give shooting or escape and evasion driving lessons either."
Larson laughed and said, "I had that coming. But it was an impressive performance none the less. Well done, Ms. Walker."
"Thanks," she replied. Annie decided she had to clear the air a bit so she said to Troopers Walsh and Getz, "I need a word alone with these agents. Excuse us please." Annie motioned the two FBI agents to come with her out of earshot of the farmer and the prisoner. Then she asked, "Agent Larson, what, exactly, did Agent Burk tell the both of you about us? Auggie and I."
Agent Larson replied for both when he said, "That you were the shooter that took down the two terrorists in the Middletown Diner yesterday. She couldn't say enough good about what you did. She also said that you were both in classified jobs, for an unspecified classified government agency, and that your identities and that of the agency needed to be protected. We'd be willing to bet large we could state accurately who you work for and what you do. But, as long as we don't speculate and you don't confirm or deny anything, that guess is worthless. Intelligence is like that."
Agent Bell added, "She talked to us about you as the shooter in the diner mostly because she was trying to relate to me."
Annie remembered Agent Burk's comment about an agent that worked for her and guessed it was probably Jo she was talking about. Annie filed that away for future reference, just in case. Then she said, "Okay, I'm good with that. Please forget you ever saw me and keep any guesses to yourself, okay?"
Annie preceded them back over to the van and said, "OK, Agents, Troopers, pleasure working with all of you. Auggie and I are out of here. Give our regards and thanks to Agent Burk for the timely support."
They shook hands and left. As she and Auggie walked back to the car, Annie touched the button on her iPhone and saw with some surprise the time was now a little after noon. She said "Auggie, you call in, I'll get us back on the road. We need to make some time if we are going to get back there before the storage unit closes."
"I wish you would call in."
"Joan is really pissed."
"Because you ignored her direct order and took them down instead of waiting for backup. As usual. You didn't even have to go to Russia to do it. She should be used to it by now, especially after yesterday, but she isn't. She about ripped my ear off through the phone when she got the call from the FBI."
"What direct order? I didn't hear any direct order. That's the truth. Besides, what the hell did she expect me to do? The idiots crashed their van. I couldn't just leave cold blooded killers loose on foot to harm these nice farm folks. Besides, I knew right where they were; I had a clear advantage, and I darn sure didn't want to let them get away just so I could keep looking over my shoulder. Screw it. If I'd heard her, I would have done it anyway."
"I know that. And so does she. But she's still pissed."
"Then she can enjoy being pissed. I don't give a crap. I'll call."
When they were out of ear shot from the rest of the folks on the scene, Annie pulled out her phone and called Joan on her encrypted line.
She answered on the first ring with, "Annie, why did you disobey my direct order and take those guys on by yourself with Auggie there? Why didn't you wait for backup?"
"Joan, I did not know you even gave the order till a few seconds ago when Auggie told me. Apparently, you got on the phone after I left the car. But, even if I had, I'd have done it anyway. I had a clear advantage. The idiots crashed their van. I couldn't just drive away and leave cold blooded killers like that loose in this nice farm community. Besides, I knew exactly where they were. They were most likely injured, at the very least disoriented. The way that van tumbled they had to feel like bagged cats in a clothes dryer. They didn't know which way was up.
"I had time to spare to set up my ambush and a near perfect place to stage it. The first guy hauled himself up into a sitting position outside a window on the side of the van, picked up his AK47 and stared to scan. When it was evident, he was going see the Vette where Auggie was hiding, I told him to 'drop it.' He didn't. He turned to shoot at me. I shot him instead, five times I think. He fell back in the van with a big piece of his head missing. Apparently, the kid inside didn't much care for the idea of emulating what landed on him, so he surrendered. No big deal.
"I searched the van, took pictures of everything including some documents we found. Auggie mirrored the kid's hard drive, and I think the FBI will be able to get the kid to tell his life story even after they Mirandize him, which they hadn't done when I left. This is good. Plus, it had a heck of a lot better ending by coincidence that some missions I've been on that went according to plan."
"What am I going to do with you two?"
"Enjoy the success? Joan, we were instrumental in taking down an active and very vicious terrorist cell with little or no collateral damage. It was coincidence that we were there yesterday, but we responded as well or better than could be expected. And you are giving us a low score on what, style points? I don't get it."
"We need to talk, Annie. See me when you get back in here Monday."
"Monday, I thought Thursday. I want to know how the hell those guys found us. I think there might still be one out there, because the kid here may not have a driver's license. That would mean someone else, some third person, drove the car away that they took the shotguns out of when I first spotted them. We were within a few feet of the middle of nowhere on a country road, not even the best country road according to Google, and these guys zeroed right in on us. Drove right up behind us. Did Stu and company learn anything from that hard drive? I think that kid was their traveling geek; he didn't look or act like a hard-core die for virgins type. He surrendered pretty quick when his partner fell on him stone dead-"
"No, they haven't figured it out yet," Joan snapped. "They haven't even had it for an hour. But I asked them the same questions. I'll mention your concerns about a possible third person to the FBI. Now, get your mind off this; don't attract any attention on the way home; get off the line and don't come back till Monday. I need the extra four days just to cool off."
"Right. Monday it is," Annie replied. Her phone beeped and showed the call had already ended. She shrugged her shoulders. At that moment she didn't give a crap what Joan thought. She'd done the right thing, and she'd be willing to defend it in front of anybody. Arthur, the DNI, bring them on.
It was clear from Auggie's expression he'd heard most of the conversation. He confirmed that when he said, "I'll give Stu a call after we are back in the apartment and see if he's learned anything. I want to play back that bit of driving you did back there to find out how fast we were going. I didn't want to know at the time, but I'm really curious now."
"Don't ask the questions if you don't want to know the answers," she said laughing.
Annie added, "By the way, if we are going to use this car to chase down bad guys, it needs better shocks. I realize the collector value says leave the originals on it, but I'd rather have the originals in a box with a good set of high-performance shocks on it. It was floating all over the place on me," Annie said matter-of-factly.
"I have to agree. I could feel it too, especially after the rises when it rebounded pretty much un-damped," said Auggie to Annie's surprise.
When they got back to the car, Auggie got back in while Annie walked around it looking for damage or anything that didn't look right. The tires were all up though they'd had some damage. They could ride home on them, but they should be replaced. She couldn't see any damage to the body work or the side pipes from bottoming out in the dips or being wracked sliding through the two really harsh corners. The tire damage was mostly from the bootlegger turn. She grimaced at what the tires were going to cost her and wondered if she could get Joan to pay for them. Couldn't hurt to ask. Yeah, right. Good luck with that, Annie. Maybe have Auggie ask? Now there's an idea.
She reached in, released the hood and took a look at the engine. She scanned the hoses, looked for leaks of any kind and checked the belts, which were of indeterminate age, for fraying. She saw they were checked from age but not frayed. She made a mental note to replace them and save the originals. The radiator hoses looked checked and old as well. She made another note to replace them and flush the cooling system. Then she brushed away some small stones to make a place for her knee, went down on her right knee, gasped, remembered it was the one she dropped onto in the restaurant yesterday and immediately switched to her other knee. She leaned her head down close to the road and looked underneath. There was no evidence of drips or other leakage, or anything hanging down that shouldn't be there. Satisfied with what she saw, she stood up, walked over to the shoulder of the road, picked a big broad leaf off a weed and folded it to make a squeegee for the oil level dip stick. She returned to the front of the car, located the engine oil dip stick, pulled it out, wiped the oil off it, reinserted it till it bottomed, pulled it back out, saw the oil was just a little below the full mark, wiped it again out of habit, reinserted it and made sure it was all the way in.
Confident the car was ready to travel, she tossed the leaf, closed the hood, moved back behind the car out of sight of the gathering crowd by the van and reached into her pocket for the fresh magazine while she drew the Glock. Her trigger finger extended along the slide as her hand slid smoothly around the grip to press the magazine release with her thumb. She caught the half-full magazine, palm slapped in the full one, gave it a visual check for full insertion, and re-holstered. Out of habit she checked the counter holes along the back of the magazine she'd removed, and her eyes registered she had six rounds remaining which confirmed she had fired five shots at the guy sitting on the van. She moved over close to her side of the car, leaned in, and grabbed the keys. She walked to the trunk, opened it and a couple of minutes later closed it, the replenished magazine in her vest pocket, the Glock back in her holster.
Finally, with her nerves settled down, she sat in the seat, relaxed into it for a couple of seconds and took a deep breath. She used the time to take stock of herself, how she felt, before she fastened the seat belt, stuck the key in the ignition and started the car. She looked over at Auggie, reached over palm up as his hand found hers. Their fingers interlocked, she said, "I'm fine, sweetheart. The car's fine. There's nothing dripping or leaking, tires are all up, engine oil is where it should be, gages look good. The magazine is reloaded. I still have the Glock in the holster on my hip. I'm good to go. I'll get us home. I had enough physical activity to work off part of the Adrenaline, and this wasn't nearly as big a dump as yesterday, so I'm no longer shaky or nauseated."
Auggie breathed, "Okay. Thanks for taking care of us."
Annie could see the tension he felt for what she knew he regarded as his helplessness in this situation. She said, "Auggie, you have no idea how much having you with me helped. I wouldn't have had nearly the advantage if it wasn't for you holding that phone where I could hear. Stu was only able to give me good input because you had already set up the pursuit SW to have the parameters for this car in it. All I did was manipulate the controls and shoot the guy. It was a total team effort. Please never doubt my respect and gratitude for what you did to make this a success."
Annie saw some of the tension go out of his face, then he shifted his eyes in her direction and said, "Thanks. I love you."
"I love you too, Auggie." Annie could see on his face the struggle to put this behind them, at least for the trip home.
That was confirmed when he said, "That was one hell of a ride, Ms. Walker! You turned this old car every which way but loose. I'm not in a hurry to do that again, but you can certainly put the thrill back into driving on a country road. I don't know that I've ever ridden in a car driven that close to the edge before. Not your first rodeo, huh?"
Annie laughed; the tension spilled out of her; he could do that. She gave his hand another squeeze and said, "It was not my first rodeo. It definitely was an E-Ticket ride for me too. I'm going to get this show on the road; it's closing in on one o'clock. I think we need to watch for a fast food place, I'm going to need to eat something before very long; although the way this area looks, they may be a bit farther apart than we are used to."
"See if we pass an Arby's, I could eat one of their Market Fresh Sandwiches," Auggie replied, obviously warming to the idea of some food.
"Deal," she said, then shifted the car into first gear, drove onto the road, checked for the non-existent traffic at the stop sign, and made the left back onto Quaker Valley Road. She accelerated to 55 while she payed attention to the car. She listened and stayed alert for anything that felt different, then slowed and pulled off on the shoulder as the ambulance with paramedics passed them going the other direction, lights flashing. By the time she turned right onto the 34 South to resume their trip, she had convinced herself the car was none the worse for wear.
The rest of the drive was delightfully uneventful. They passed up an Arby's near Gettysburg because they thought it was too close to Carlisle and being recognized was still a risk.
They finally found an Arby's on the outskirts of Fredrick, Maryland. She and Auggie sat in a booth where she had a good view of the car and both entrance doors. They devoured turkey bacon ranch sandwiches and a diet cola. Neither wanted the fries.
Back on the road feeling human again, they merged onto Interstate 270 and finished the trip to Auggie's apartment. As inviting as the bed looked, Annie insisted on getting her stuff into the apartment. All her guns but the SIG P238 went into the 'spy safe' Auggie'd had installed for her in his apartment that only she knew the combination to.
She took off the Versa Max Holster for the Glock, put on the MicroTuck for the P238 at five o'clock, slid the SIG into it, and did a quick check to make sure it didn't print it's outline against the cover vest. She stayed armed since she wasn't on duty, and she wasn't completely sure the incident was over. After a moment's hesitation, she checked her text messages and found the one from Auggie that told her she had an e-mail on her Smithsonian account with the permit on it.
She used her laptop at Auggie's to download and print the permit, trimmed it to size and stuck it in her wallet just in case the DC gun Nazi's stopped her.
Finally, she drove the Corvette to a gas station, topped it up with premium and swapped it for the Golf at the storage place. Auggie had offered to accompany her; she'd accepted.
Annie marveled once again at what a slug the Golf was as they drove back to Auggie's. Annie looked over at Auggie briefly and said, "I don't feel like a drink at all, how about we just go back to your apartment and hang out till we fall asleep?"
"I've got a better idea."
"What's that?" She said pretty sure she knew exactly what the better idea was.
"I'll show you when we get there."
He did. She agreed; it was definitely a better idea.