“You ready to stretch your legs a bit?” E checked the clock on her dash – she’d been sitting for almost 4 hours, she needed a break from the Jeep – and to hit the head, again.
“Sounds good – you just stop when you need to, wouldn’t mind getting out of this seat for a bit myself.” Brad stretched in his seat – a Level III soft vest might be a life saver, but it was hotter than crap to wear. It was going to be a long day!
“We’re just south of a little outlet mall, there’s a Mickey D’s next to it. I’ve stopped there plenty when we headed north or went to the cities shopping, should be a quick stop!”
Five minutes down the road E took the exit, went through two of the strangest “round abouts” that Brad had ever seen just to cross over the expressway and pulled into Mickey’s parking lot. It was moving towards late morning, just a tad after 10:00 hours, the parking lot was empty – the morning rush long since gone.
They stepped to the counter, ordered a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee and found a table. Most wouldn’t have noticed the “selection process” but when they settled both were sitting facing the traffic area, they could see the parking lot, front entrance and had a full view of the counter. They each loosened their fleece just a bit and dug into their sandwiches.
Each was beginning to feel that there may be some type of spark there – it only needed to be fanned a bit. Neither was interested in speed – only getting to know this person next to them. They realized that their “quick coffee” could easily turn into a couple more hours of conversation – and they’d never reach their destination. They grabbed their wrappers, stuffed them in their cups . . . . and E placed a firm hand on Brad’s thigh and gave a bit of a nod towards the door.
A ratty car that had obviously seen much better days had pulled up in the spot just next to the front entrance. Three guys stepped out of their cars – two black, the driver white. Hoodies all round, dark glasses and it looked like none had shaved in weeks. Their movements seemed tight, jerky . . . . and intent.
“I got lead.” Brad said – he knew what was coming, he could just feel it. Brad checked “down range” – the dining area was clear. It was the perfect time for a little hit team to try a quick cash grab, right between the end of the breakfast rush and the start of lunch. “If they show any weapons, I’m going to drop the lead – clear.”
“Roger that, I’ve got the other two.” E checked the lot, confirmed that “down range” was clear and waited. She didn’t have to wait long . . .
The three men hit the door, did a quick assess left and right. The driver took lead . . . drew his weapon and shouted to the staff “I want all your fuckin’ cash . . . NOW.” As soon as his revolver had cleared the front pocket of his hoodie, Brad and E were moving – Brad exited right and E left. Their movement caught the attention of the remaining two – both turning and pulling semi-automatics from the front of their hoodies. That was a mistake.
Brad drew and drove two .45 ACP JHP rounds through the center of the lead’s rib cage. The lead turned to see what had hit him and Brad finished his engagement with a round just below his nose.
E just saw range targets – one round each followed by one more to put them down. Four seconds, three dead . . .
“You OK?” Brad asked. Both did a quick assessment – it was easy to miss a “hit” when you were all amped up. Their hands came away clean. The three remained down and dead. E moved forward, pulled on a glove and moved their weapons away from their reach. Pulses were checked and none were found. Brad and E had just finished their assessments when two squad cars came screaming into the parking lot.
“Let’s make this easy Brad.” E placed her weapon on the floor, stepped back a few steps, got on her knees and put her hands behind her head. Brad followed suit. The cops came in hard – weapons drawn.
“Don’t MOVE! ON YOUR FACE, HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD! INTERLACE YOUR FINGERS AND CROSS YOUR LEGS!” The officer continued to cover them while a second made sure the staff was OK and a third assessed the dead on the floor.
The officer who had talked to the staff appeared around the corner – “You two do this?”
“Yes Sir.” Brad turned his face towards what appeared to be the officer in charge. “They came in hard, drew weapons out of their front pocket and E and I dropped them.”
“That right miss?” The officer now addressing E as she too turned her head towards the officer.
“Yes sir, the rear two drew on me, I was just protecting myself.” E understood the “process”, but was really ready to get up.
“You two have permits for those?” the officer asked, looking at the two Glock 21s in front of E and Brad.
“We do” Brad said “Our permits and badges are on our right front side, clipped to our belts.
“Keep your hands together and legs crossed, just roll over a bit, let me grab ‘em.” The first officer remained – his service weapon clearly covering both E and Brad.
Brad rolled first, then E as their badges and documents were taken from their belts. The officer looked at his partner – “They’re good, you can reholster.”
“You’re good, here are your badges back.” The officer said, holding out the leather pouches. E and Brad unwound themselves and got to their feet. “Glad you two are OK.”
Brad and E took their badges, clipped them to their belts and picked up their Glocks. Both dropped the magazines and inserted fresh, pocketing the partials in their jacket pockets and then reholstered them.
“Where you headed?” the officer asked.
“Up to North Springville – a visit to my mom, was not expecting this type of interruption today.” Brad shook his head, finally coming off his adrenaline rush.
“I can imagine. I’ll need you to come to the station and fill out an account of this – we’ll get you on your way as soon as we can, you understand.” The officer expected a bit of resistance – but received none.
“Yep, I imagined we would, no problem. Let me go out to the Jeep and check in, folks will wonder why we’re late.” E headed for the door and the Jeep – knowing they had just lost a three or four hour chunk of time.
“No problem, come back in when you’re done, well “do what we do” and hopefully we’ll be out of here in a couple hours.” The officer turned to make calls of his own – which soon lead to the arrival of a senior detective and the coroner.
E and Brad got to the Jeep and E picked up the mic – “Control, Demon 62 . . . Copy?”
“Roger copy Demon 62 5X5. What’s up E?”
“Could you get the sheriff on – there’s been a bit of trouble here.”
“Demon 62 – Badger. What’s up E?”
Brad looked at E – “Badger?” “Yep, that’s his call sign – tough as nails, mean as all get out if need be. Hard to believe he’s an art major . .” E shook her head, Brad asked “Art major?” “Long story, another time . . .” E pressed the mic.
“Hey Sheriff – we’re going to be delayed, Brad and I ran into a couple assholes intent on robbing a Mickie D’s at gunpoint. Things did not go well for them.”
“Understood – you two OK, everyone else OK?” Richard knew the answer from the tone of E’s voice, but it was nice to have confirmation.
“Yes sir, everyone is fine, three KIA though. They won’t be grabbing any more cash in this world.”
“Three E? Damn, glad you’re ok. I expect you’ll be asked to make a statement? When you’re done with them email copies my way, the county attorney will want them on file. Hell of a way to start your Monday guys!” Richard was relieved at the confirmation that all were OK.
“Roger that Badger, will keep you apprised. Demon out”. E ended, they could have a more detailed chat later this evening.
A couple hours were, indeed taken to clear the crime scene. E and Brad sipped coffee, gladly provided by the staff that had been the target of the morning’s attempted robbery. Both sat and watched the locals search, prod, photograph, bag evidence – it appeared to be a thorough and pain staking job. Finally, evidence boxed, bodies bagged and removed – the senior detective approached them.
“Morning, name’s Sam. You two mind coming to the station and working on your statements?” He seemed relaxed and friendly to E and Brad. And they had no hesitation in giving a statement.
“Have an email Sam?” Brad asked.
“Sure, why?” Sam cocked an eyebrow, looking at Brad and the small tablet in his hand.
“Well, we hate to waste time. We’ve both worked up our statements on my phone while we waited, it might speed things up a bit . . .” Brad waited for a response.
“Sounds like a plan, here’s my card. If you’ll follow us, we’re only about 20 minutes from the station.”
Brad nodded, took the card – entered the email address and pressed “send”. Then E and he got in the Jeep and followed the little procession back to Sam’s station. The emailed statements did save some time. Both were interviewed separately, their accounts compared against each other and the statements taken from the staff.
“Alright you two, you can go. Everything seems to be in order. Do you have a couple cards in case we need to chat more?” E and Brad drew their cards and passed them on to Sam. “Just so you know, those assholes you took down this morning have been doing quite a business the last few weeks. Mostly convenience stores, gas stations and a few fast food restaurants. They shot an old man dead this past Saturday just because he came around a rack of candy and surprised them. No one will be sad to see them go.” Sam looked at E – “How you planning to get to North Springville?”
“Well, we’d planned to hit the south beltway, swing around west and head out the northwest corner – why?” E wondered what would make Sam even ask about their travel plans.
“Sounds good. Friendly warning – stay out of the cities for a bit. Things are getting more than a bit loose. There have been real problems with power this spring – hours in the black. And that affects everything – water, sewer, the ability to do the simple things – open stores, route traffic, have your phones work. Honestly, it’s been a bitch and folks are not happy, to say the very least! The wider berth you can give down town, the better.” Sam walked the two to the front door.
“Understood Sam, thanks.” Brad held the door for E and they headed out to the Jeep.
Half an hour down the road E looked at Brad . . . “Call your mom.”
Deep sigh – “Yeah, I should.” Brad grabbed the phone – “Call mom” . . . . “Calling mom”. E snickered – “Not sure I’m gonna get used to that.”
“Hey ma – say, we’re running a bit late.. . . . . I know, just eat, we’ll be there closer to 1800 . . . . 6PM ma, 6PM.”
“We had a bit of a run in during an attempted robbery . . . . no, we were just sitting at Mickie D’s when three assholes came in with guns and bad intentions . . . sorry, three bad guys.”
“They’re dead ma . . . yes ma’am, we did . . . the other deputy . . . no, we’re both ok and no one else was harmed either.” Brad let out a deep sigh – he and his mother had had this same conversation over and over and over . . . .
“I’m a deputy sheriff ma . . . I know, but I’m OK. . . . . I can’t worry about the “next time” ma, you know that. . . . stop crying, please . . . .”
“Tell ya what, we’ll be there around 6, we’ll chat then . . . . yes ma’am, I promise, we’re both OK . . . alright ma . . . love you too. Bye.”
“Well, that went about as well as I expected . . .” Brad again massaged his forehead with both hands, letting out a deep sigh.
“She OK? I suspect she’s more than a little frightened.” E watched Brad absorb the conversation with his mom. Obviously he loved her deeply – yet he was a lawman, and a Marine, through and through. It had to be hard on them both.
“Yeah, she’s fine. We’ve had this conversation a number of times – at my enlistment, during a stint at Bethesda for a round through my shoulder, when I took the job with your Dad. She says she lost the love of her life once . . . and she doesn’t want to go through that again. I simply have no answers for her – I am what I am.” Brad flashed on other such discussions – he suspected that this one would go no better.
“Well, perhaps with me along – with you – as a team . . . it might take some of the fear away from her. Who knows, we won’t know until we get there, no sense grinding on it.” And E just “packed it away”, they would be there soon enough.
The rest of the trip was, gratefully – uneventful. They made a gas/pit stop just south of the cities. Both of them could see the “fraying” around the edges – things were a bit dirtier, folks seemed edgy, gas was through the frickin’ roof – she was happy to be on the county’s dime on this trip. Back in the Jeep they hit the south edge of the beltway a few miles down the road. Twenty miles later they headed out the northeast corner on 94 headed towards Fargo. About 45 minutes down the road they saw the exit for “North Springville – 1 mile”. Ten more minutes found them on the far north side of town in a quiet little subdivision and parked in the driveway of a quaint little two-story. Both took a deep breath – they were more than ready to stop for the day!
About then the front screen went flying open and this small woman, about 5ft nothing and the size of a pixie came flying out and down the walk. Brad barely made it out of the Jeep when she threw herself at him and dragged her down to her level. “Damn it boy, you’ll be the absolute death of me yet!” Tears were freely flowing down her cheeks as she stood back and looked for herself to make sure there were no “extra holes”.
“You OK? Really?” The difference in height was quite pronounced – Brad had to be at least a foot taller than his mother. Yet, he clearly had her eyes and dimples – one slightly above each corner of his mouth, just as she had.
“Yes Ma’am, we’re both fine . . . we’re fine ma!” Brad assured her. And with that, she turned and saw E walking around the front of the Jeep.
“The “other deputy” . . .?” She smiled and extended her arms for a hug. “I’m Annette – Ann for short – and I’m afraid I’m a hugger, not a hand-shaker!” She wrapped E in a warm embrace and then stepped back a bit. Looking over her shoulder at Brad she smirked – “I expected a pudgy old guy showin’ you the ropes – not an attractive young woman, Brad. . . . .I like this better!”
“Nice to meet you Ann, I’m “E”, short for Elizabeth – but please, just “E”. E instantly liked her and could clearly see her in Brad’s features.
Ann grabbed both their arms and showed them into the house.
“Why don’t you two get out of your gear and freshen up a bit, I’ll put out supper. Brad, you room’s still there, not turned it into my office yet! E, Brad will show you the spare room – it has its own facilities, and I put some fresh towels in there this morning.”
Brad and E went to their respective rooms, dropped their vests – kept their weapons in place – and freshened up a bit, then went towards the dining room.
Supper had been kept warm on the stove – an amazing Fettuccine Alfredo with garlic bread and a side of Cesar salad. Glasses of a red wine were by each plate. Everything smelled great. About that time the backdoor opened and in stepped a massive kid – not fat by any means, he was more like the poster child for a fitness club.
“Hey mom – Brad get home yet? Is that his Jeep out front?” About that time Henry Rowley – Hank for short, caught sight of E coming out of her room. Brad exited his at just about the same time.
“Hank! Meet my new partner – E! . . . E – Hank, my baby brother.” E looked at Brad, eyebrow fully elevated . . . “He’s your “little” brother, really?? Looks pretty damn hunky to be bud!”
E turned to Hank, extended her hand and then asked in her sexiest voice – “or are you a hugger??” Hank turned twelve shades of red, stuttered just a bit and said – “No ma’am, a handshake is just fine.” E smiled, shook his hand then moved into a warm hug. “Nice to meet you Hank, I’m E.”
Dinner was again filled with getting acquainted. E found out about Ann’s work at DT, Ann found out much more family history, Hank filled them in on the end of high school and his final season in track . . . it was a good night and good conversation.
“OK, so tell me about this “company” I supposed to take over the HR slot in, what kind of company is it exactly that your grandfather has that he wants me to manage?” Ann had tried to get straight answer this morning after hearing the news about the company being sold and she being asked to take over a new position. She hadn’t been successful.
“OK ma, no problem. First, let me lay out the offer from Mr. Franks . . . He’s offering you three times your current salary . . . he’ll purchase your home – our home for fair market value and he’ll pick up Hank’s tuition at the U of I. “ Looking at Hank, Brad said “And I hear they’re looking for a couple of tackles for the fall season.”
Brad just kind of let that statement “rest” on the table for a bit. His mother’s face was a wonder to watch – shock, confusion, a deep blush . . . . her mouth opened to begin speaking a couple of times to no real effect. Finally . . .
“That would be a bit over $300,000 per year . . . and the house has to be near $450,000. Not sure how I could even think of turning down such an offer – let alone the offer to Hank . . . just what kind of company does he want me to run anyway?” Ann could not imagine what kind of company that needed her so bad that she was being offered such an amazing package.
“Not a “company” ma . . . . a “Rifle Company”.” Brad waited, a smile on his face . . .
“Ah, well – I suppose that makes sense since DT is a weapons company, I have something to offer. What kind of rifle does he want to build?” Her curiosity was piqued now.
Brad smiled one more time - “This “rifle company” doesn’t build rifles – it uses them. A “rifle company”. In the Marines it consisted of three rifle platoons with 36 marines each, 108 Marines total. You would be responsible for managing Mr. Franks “Rifle Company”.
Ann was well and truly confused now . . . “Why on earth does Mr. Franks need a Rifle Company?” Her eyes looked back and forth between E and Brad.
“Because Ma – he’s building an army . . . and he wants you to be the HR manager.” Brad waited to see how this went over . . .
Ann looked back and forth a couple more times . . .
“An Army . . . Oh My!”