Visions of the Night
Lee sighed. It was Rrarkgrrr. He walked up to her and made the downward sweeping motion which Chip had told him was a Bigfoot greeting. She whuffed softly and pointed at the still form on the ground. "Ever consider joining the ONI?" he murmured. Bending down, Lee was pleased to see that she had not only immobilized the spy whom he assumed was from Sandersí ranch, but this man was similar in build to himself. With a feral grin, Crane began to strip the errant cowboy.
"Lee!" a voice hissed.
"Here, Admiral," Crane called softly. "You alone?"
"Yes, for the moment," came the voice closer to him. The admiral soon joined him. He looked at Lee, then Rrarkgrrr and then at the inert form on the ground who was quickly being reduced to a half naked cowpoke. "Well, he is close in build. Does this alter your plans much?"
Crane chuckled as he pulled off his own thin clothing. "Alter my plans? What plans? Itís very fortunate that he happened along. Certainly saves me the trouble of trying to find a way into that fortified dude ranch." He looked up at Rrarkgrrr and then back at the admiral. "And doubly fortunate that Rrarkgrrr happened along. She caught him." He gazed back at the Bigfoot. "Thanks."
She just growled softly and then melted into the shadows.
"Everything all right?" Johnson asked as he came up the trail.
"Yes, Sanders apparently sent someone to keep us company," Lee responded in a low voice. "Very accommodating, wouldnít you say?"
Johnson chuckled. "Indeed."
Crane finished putting on his borrowed outfit and then looked up at Johnson. "You wouldnít happen to have something to tie him up with, would you?"
"As a matter of fact...." Johnson said, turning back down the trail.
"Not bad," Nelson commented wryly, studying Lee in the dim light. The jeans and shirt were necessarily dark, as were the boots and hat. The younger man was studying items in a wallet.
"Boots are a bit too big, though, but Iíll manage." He bent to pick up the unconscious man and then straightened up and turned toward the admiral. "The only thing I need from him," he began, pointing to the man on the ground. "Is some information, including how he got here. If you stall Johnson, I believe that Rrarkgrrr would be very effective in that regard."
Nelson nodded and grinned, his own night vision goggles making him appear wolfish. He turned and walked back down the path where Lee could only just hear the rancher returning.
Crane dragged the unconscious man up into the rocks a little further and then hissed for Rrarkgrrr. The Bigfoot slipped out of the shadows like a wraith, startling him even though he had been expecting it.
"Shall we get this guy to talk to us?" he asked.
She whuffed, a confused look on her face.
"Sorry, Rrarkgrrr. Just let me do the work. All I want you to do is look really menacing and be ready to help if I ask," Lee explained. She seemed to understand a great deal, but he worried that she would understand enough. He wished that Chip could have come along. He and Rrarkgrrr seemed to have an almost intuitive connection that he knew she didnít have with him. Regardless, she nodded and leaned over the prone figure of Sandersí spy.
Lee shook him and waited. After awhile, the man began to slowly come around. "Welcome back, cowboy," Lee said quietly. The man peered over his shoulder and saw Rrarkgrrr, her teeth gleaming whitely in the dimness. "Youíve met my associate, I see. Now perhaps youíll answer a few questions for me."
To his credit, the man shook his head. Rrarkgrrr growled ominously and grabbed him by the throat. The prisoner whimpered and tried to pull away.
Lee said calmly, "She's a bit irritated that your boss has her . . . friend. She's gathered all her kin and they're ready to tear Sanders and his compound apart.
"Who are you to know them?" the man choked out.
"Let's just say I'm a friend of the family. Someone that they trust at any rate." He paused and pointed a thumb over his shoulder to where Rrarkgrrr was standing impatiently. She growled ominously. "Now suppose you tell me a little bit that we want to know. First your name." He already knew he manís name, but wanted to test his willingness to spill his guts.
The man seemed to suddenly figure out that he was almost buck-naked in the cold night air. "Hey, my clothes."
"They fit nicely, thanks. Now, your name, cowboy," Lee persisted. "Clothes will be the least of your worries."
Rrarkgrrr leaned over Lee, showed her canines again and growled.
"Mike Haslin," the prisoner said hastily.
Good start, Lee thought. "And when is the Bigfoot supposed to be moved out?"
There was another hesitation and Rrarkgrrr was quick to reach down with a large hairy hand and lay it around Haslin's neck. Lee could see her fingers trembling. He didn't envy their prisoner.
"Tonight! Tonight," he croaked out.
"When?" Lee asked, anxiety rising in his chest. And so the questioning continued until he felt he had gotten enough information. He looked at his watch. There was no time for further questions. He knocked out Haslin with the butt of his gun and then turned to Rrarkgrrr. "I'm going to let the admiral know we're leaving now. If we're going to rescue Marrgrarr, it has to be now, or he'll be gone."
Rrarkgrrr nodded and growled ominously deep in her throat. Her eyes blazed in the darkness like hot coals. As it was, the admiral was on his way up the path.
"We have to get in there now. Some Australian big shot has bought Marrgrarr and Sanders is shipping him out tonight. In a couple of hours. I'm going on foot. Horse would be too skittish around Rrarkgrrr and I believe I'll need her."
"Doing this too much on the fly, Lee," the admiral understated.
"Probably, but it's the only way. I do need to make a quick stop at the Flying Sub for a bit of ordinance and then head straight out."
"You get an extra micro-transmitter. If there's trouble, to hell with protocol, we're coming in."
Lee grinned. "And get busted for trespass? For shame, Admiral." But Crane knew it was all a gamble. If his half-baked plan worked, he'd be giving Sanders a blow it would take a great deal of time to recover from--if ever. The Feds would love checking out why such a big explosion was coming from a so-called working ranch. He turned to Rrarkgrrr. "I'm going into the lake to get some things from Chip. Meet me on the other side of the lake, near the fence."
She nodded and melted into the darkness.
He and the admiral headed back down the lake where Johnson was waiting.
"Sounded like you have some hefty back-up, gentlemen," Johnson said with a wry grin.
Lee said nothing, only nodded to the admiral and then waded into the lake. The boots quickly filled with water and became uncomfortable. The things he wouldn't do for authenticity, he thought wryly. When he was deep enough, he dove in and easily swam the twenty feet to where the Flying Sub hovered just above the bottom.
When he opened the unlocked hatch, Chip was waiting for him, a pistol in one hand. He set the gun aside and looked quizzically at his commander. "Cowboy doesn't become you," he commented dryly. "Especially wet. Why in the world didn't you wear your wet suit?"
"If I'm discovered, which I don't doubt will happen, I have a ready story." He paused for dramatic effect. "A Bigfoot chased me into the lake." He shivered suddenly. The water was cold this time of year.
Chip just gaped. "Do you realize just how that sounds?"
"Crazy to anyone except the person who has a Bigfoot in their possession."
"You're going to tell them that Marrgrarr's mate came?"
"Something like that. All the kith and kin ready to take out Sanders to get their buddy." He shrugged. "Or something like that," he repeated. He dug into the ordinance locker then pulled out a small package. "Hopefully, though, it won't be necessary for Rrarkgrrr to do more than make a quick appearance at a judicious time." He grinned. "Poor Sanders forgot that you have to properly store explosives or they'll blow up on you."
Chip's eyes widened and then he began laughing. "You're going to blow the place?"
"Just the ammo dump. No self-respecting ultra-conservative survivalist would be caught without one," Lee said with a grin. "Good diversion," he added.
Chip's countenance sobered. He felt anxiety clutching at his throat and his helplessness seemed tenfold. If not for the leg, he thought angrily. "Those people aren't playing games, Lee."
Crane nodded even as he still dug for what he wanted. "I know, which is why I want the diversion. I can't count on pretending to be one of Sanders' men for long. They're just too paranoid." He found everything he needed and placed it into a waterproof bag and then he turned to go. "I'll be in contact as much as I can."
"Good luck, Lee."
With a nod, Crane slipped into the dark waters and disappeared. Chip left the hatch open for some time before hobbling over and closing it. Then he sat down to wait.
Crane and Rrarkgrrr approached the Sanders' Ranch gate and studied it from behind a stand of rocks. It appeared that they not only had surveillance, but scanners as well. Lee pulled out Haslin's ID. Nothing the cowboy had on him seemed to be different for getting into a special compound. Then he took a closer look at the Idaho driver's license and saw some marks in one corner that seemed to be different from the norm. Tiny dots, probably microdots. "Okay, Rrarkgrrr, give me a few minutes to get in and then begin a commotion. A lot of noise--enough to make them think there are several of your people here. Then get away. I don't want you to get hurt."
Touching his arm, Rrarkgrrr made several motions and sounds.
"You want me to give a message to Marrgrarr?" When she nodded, he asked, "What's the message?"
The Bigfoot made a series of growling noises that all seemed the same to Lee, but he attempted to duplicate them. She seemed satisfied with his third attempt and then showed him a hand motion/growl combination. That was easier and Crane duplicated it the first time. He did it all again to make sure he had it. "Rrarkgrrr, you will need to stay by the boundaries of the ranch. I don't think your mate will be as easy to talk to as you are. He's going to be very, very angry and you'll need to be near to calm him down."
She whuffed her understanding and he set off toward the gate. There was still water in his boots and Lee squelched toward the gate as though he knew what he was doing--acting like someone with a definite destination and recently scared silly.
Haslin?" the guard asked. "What the hell happened to you?"
Keeping his head down enough to hide most of his features, Crane answered in Haslin's slightly deeper voice, "There's a Bigfoot out there. Spooked m'horse. Only way I got away from it was to jump in the lake." He handed over his ID card and tried hard not to snicker at his inadvertent joke.
The guard laughed uneasily. "You nipped early, Mike."
"Uh, uh. There's more out there, I tell you!"
The guard walked closer and tried to peer at Lee's face in the shadows.
"I'm cold, I tell ya," Crane muttered, wrapping his arms around himself and tucking his chin against his chest. "I want to get into something dry."
The guard scanned the card but kept gazing at Crane as though he sensed something not quite right.
"Hurry up! I'm cold! And you're keeping me from reporting in!"
That did it. The guard gave him the ID back. "Take the 'claim jumper'," he said, pointing toward a four-wheeled ATV. "It'll be quicker since you lost your horse."
Lee nodded, muttered a quick thank you and hustled toward the vehicle. Claim jumper? They were giving names to their equipment, too? He just shrugged and got back to the business at hand. The key was in the ignition and Lee started the ATV. As he put it in reverse, he glanced toward the outer darkness where he knew Rrarkgrrr was watching. Crane snuck a quick look at the guard. The man was still watching him. Lee just had to hope that Rrarkgrrr stuck to the original instructions. Then a sudden thought struck him and he almost smacked his forehead that he hadn't thought of it before. If he took out the guard, he would have Rrarkgrrr to help him get Marrgrarr out that much sooner. Leaving the ATV running, he sauntered back to the guard. "You didn't give me my ID back," he growled.
"Yes, I did. I gave it to you and you took it from me and put it in your pocket. That one," he pointed to Lee's right pocket. As the guard leaned over and pointed, Crane cocked his fist and hit him on the side of the head. That was followed by a quick karate chop that laid the guard cold on the ground. He whistled and Rrarkgrrr materialized out of the shadows beside him, startling him. "Rrarkgrrr, you're going to have to teach me how you do that sometime."
She whuffed softly, sounding amused.
Lee dragged the guard behind the sentry shack and then pulled off the manís belt and trousers, using them to bind and gag the unconscious guard. Turning to the Bigfoot, he whispered, "I think we're quickly running out of time. You will need to come with me to help me locate your mate. I believe they might already be moving him out of here." She nodded and pointed to his ATV. "Yes, I'm going to go ahead and take it. Much faster that way. I'm afraid that it won't hold you, though."
Rrarkgrrr just motioned for him to go ahead. When Lee got on the ATV and started down the road, she followed at a lope, easily keeping up with him. They quickly reached the perimeter of the main complex and Crane pulled off the trail. She slipped up beside him, her breathing barely more than normal. He was astonished, but there was no time to ask questions. From the looks of things, they quickly had to get down to business.