Visions of the Night
The two infiltrators lay on their bellies on the cold ground watching the activities in the main compound. Even at this late hour it was quite active below them. Crane pointed to a deuce and a half truck near the largest building and then signed to the Bigfoot. She leaned close. "That has to be for Marrgrarr," he whispered. "Letís wait a moment and see if they bring him out. Easier to get him from the truck than from that building."
She nodded and growled softly.
Luck seemed to be with them. Within five minutes a group of men came out of the building escorting a very large gurney on which lay a heavily trussed up and slightly squirming object. Rrarkgrrr growled again, but there was great menace in her voice. Her eyes glowed fire.
"Soon," Lee hissed in her ear. "Very soon." He could smell her musky scent more powerfully and knew that it had to be a reaction to her anger and anxiety.
Marrgrarr was loaded into the back of the truck and two men climbed in with him. Two got into the cab and started the vehicle. Several men got into a dark sedan parked in the shadows. That would put a crimp in things, Lee thought, but nothing unexpected. The new development would not make the operation impossible, just a bit more difficult. Most likely, the sedan held those involved in the purchase of the Bigfoot. Motioning to Rrarkgrrr to try and take out the car when they left the main area, Lee signaled his intent to blow the ammunitions storage area for a diversion.
Now he was glad he had decided to keep the ATV. That was the only way he could accomplish the demolition and get back to the truck before it reached the gate and they had discovered the breach in security. He would have abandoned the demolition efforts, but somehow Crane thought that activity would be a major factor in their success.
The truck slowly rolled away from the main building, followed by the car. Lee realized suddenly that Rrarkgrrr was no longer by his side. She was setting up her own ambush. He got on his vehicle and shifted it into neutral, at the same time pushing it down the hill toward the ammo dump. Halfway down the hill, even as the machine picked up speed, Lee pulled the blasting pack from inside his shirt. Ten yards from the side of the building, the ground even now, he broke open the pack and glanced at the timer. It was already set at thirty seconds. He held it between his knees and reset it for fifteen. Tucking the packet under his chin, Lee started the ignition, floored the accelerator and raced to the side of the building. He tossed the packet and revved the ATV again, even as two men raced around from the front of the building, guns at ready. Just as they prepared to fire at him, the incendiary device erupted, nearly throwing him from the little machine. The heat scorched his back and minute pellets of concrete peppered the back of his body. He lost his hat, but that was of no consequence right now. He had to get back to the truck and commandeer it if he could.
The blazing building behind him cast weird, dancing shadows on the road ahead of him. He jammed his foot on the pedal, trying to get more speed from the 3-wheeler. He could barely see red lights from the back of a vehicle in front of him. They were bobbing, so he knew the vehicle was trying to outrun anything that had happened in the main compound. They were also high enough to make him believe that they belonged to the truck. Of the sedan, there was no sign. Hopefully that meant that Rrarkgrrr had done her job.
His sure answer came almost immediately. Lee swerved to miss the tail end of the car, which was sideways across part of the road. Apparently, he thought with somewhat savage pleasure, a large hairy tree had jumped out in front of them. He continued after the deuce and a half, following the ever closer lights ahead and wondering what Rrarkgrrr was doing now.
Lee didnít have long to wait in regard to anything. Behind him, the building exploded again, this time making the ground shake and splitting the darkness into bright daylight. Shots whizzed by him. They were not from ahead of him so apparently at least a few of the buyerís men had survived the ambush. He crouched lower over the handlebars.
Over the conflagration behind him, Lee heard a high-pitched roar and the grinding of brakes. That was when he caught up with the truck. It had not totally stopped but had swerved sharply, presumably to avoid Rrarkgrrr. He saw one of Marrgrarrís guards sprawled on the ground as he whizzed by. He raced toward the front of the truck and leaped to the side door, standing in the narrow step, then he grabbed the handle and tried to open the door. They had locked it. There was no time. His hold on the moving vehicle was tenuous at best. He pulled out his pistol and fired, blowing out both windows with one shot.
Before the surprised driver could react, Lee had grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it toward him, causing the truck to lurch precariously to the left. The passenger, more levelheaded, shot at him. The bullet grazed his shoulder, but the swaying of the truck threw the shooterís aim off. Lee shot again and the man screamed, dropping the gun and clutching his leg. Then Lee stuck the barrel of the pistol in the driverís face. "Stop the truck!" he ordered.
Apparently, the driver believed him and stomped on the brake. Crane was jerked forward but he still managed to hold on. Lee opened the door from the inside, grabbed the driver and pulled him out. When he heard a heavy thud behind him, he growled at the passenger, "Get out!"
"Heís mine!" the man protested in a heavy Australian accent.
"He was never anyoneís property," Lee snapped. "Now get out!"
The Australian began protesting again. "But what about my money?"
"Take it up with Sanders! Now get out of the truck!"
Something snapped behind him and Lee leaped aside, hanging on by the side mirror, just as a heavy object crashed against the door. He kicked and then grappled with the driver, delivering several punishing blows to the manís body before his assailant fell away and lay still on the ground. An earsplitting roar almost had him jumping out of his skin. Crane turned and saw Rrarkgrrr on the other side of the truck, holding the businessman by his shirt. The manís feet hung about a half yard off the ground and the irate Bigfoot was growling ferociously, shaking the Australian with every breath she took. "Let him go," Lee said. "Weíll drive Marrgrarr out in the truck." With a last ground-shaking roar, she tossed the man into the heavy brush where he cried out in pain and fear. Lee allowed himself a quick smile before coming back to the matter at hand. "Iíll pretend Iím the regular driver." She looked puzzled and motioned toward the back. It was obvious that she wanted to release Marrgrarr right now. "No," he answered. She growled and her eyes snapped. "Rrarkgrrr. You have to trust me." Her demeanor didnít change, but she didnít move; didnít even look away from him. "There are too many people. Someone might shoot your mate. If I drive the truck out of here and then release him it will be safer." She appeared to be considering what he said. "You have to trust me," he repeated.
She reached over and touched his arm lightly. Then she nodded. There were more motions and pantomiming.
Crane breathed deeply in relief. "You get in the back and calm your mate down. Be careful, thereís a guard back there somewhere, either inside or outside of the truck. Let me get rid of him."
She shook her head and sniffed and listened. All Lee could hear were the sounds of munitions going off, shouts off in the distance and the moaning of the injured men on the ground. She motioned him to silence, grinned wolfishly and then slipped out of the truck. He slid partway across the seat to watch her from the side mirror. Rrarkgrrr was silent and he had to blink to make out her progress in the dark night. Suddenly she was gone and then he heard a scream from the back of the truck. There was a thud and a roar from her, which he took to mean that she had succeeded in securing the back of the truck. With a grin and a shake of his head, Lee slid back over and got behind the wheel. He perused his grazed shoulder. It burned and was bleeding a little. It was nothing of consequence, though. "You ready, Rrarkgrrr?" he shouted. He heard her answering roar and so started the truck. Quickly he pulled it back onto the road and drove toward the ranch exit. "It might be rough. Just hang in there," he added over his shoulder.
It didnít take long before the guard shack loomed ahead. Instead of one half-awake guard, there were several, and their vehicle, a pick-up truck, was parked across the road. Apparently, with all the commotion in the compound, someone had called ahead and discovered the breach in security. While he knew what damage a deuce and a half could do to a pick-up, Lee also realized that it was mainly there to slow him up. The thought that there were explosives aboard occurred to him, but he dismissed it. His cargo was just too valuable. At the same time these thoughts were flitting through his head, he also knew that he couldnít fool all of these men if he tried to bluff his way out. Throwing caution to the wind, Crane yelled a warning to Rrarkgrrr and then gunned the engine, pulling it out of the first gear he had slowed to and then shoving it into third. The engine protested loudly, there was a momentary pause as the gears connected and the truck lurched forward. The tires grabbed the hard road, spitting gravel in all directions. As soon as he had picked up a little speed, Lee pushed it into fourth.
Several of the men drew their weapons and began firing, but Lee continued turning the truck slightly to one side, hitting the back half of the pick-up and slamming it aside. Screeching metal marked their passage as the larger truck scraped across the mangled smaller one. Even as the men leaped aside, they continued shooting. Bullets pinged into the cab door, one whizzed through the non-existent window.
Suddenly the large truck was through the gate and into the darkness of freedom. Crane continued down the road. They couldnít stop this close to Sandersí ranch. He had to continue a short way further then the Bigfoots would have a better chance of a complete escape. Crane could hear the muted roars from the back of the truck. He hoped that Marrgrarr could be patient for a few more minutes. The truck began rocking. He couldnít wait; he had to turn off now.
Finding what looked to be a wide enough and smooth enough track to negotiate the deuce and a half on, Crane turned off the road. He soon regretted his choice when brush and trees began popping up in front of his windshield. Then a large pine seemed to just materialize in front of him and he slammed on the brakes. He wasnít fast enough. The truck hit the tree with enough force to crack its trunk in two. It was also enough force to throw Lee forward. His chest banged harshly against the steering wheel, wringing a sharp cry of pain, and then his body was slung sideways. His head banged against the window. Reality warred with unconsciousness. Even as the war continued, he heard growling in his ear, felt something grab his shoulder. He opened his eyes to see the glow of Rrarkgrrrís eyes illuminated by the one headlight that was still working. She had ripped off the door. When? Didnít matter, he thought groggily. Slowly Crane slid out of the truck. She growled and signaled while a series of demanding barks and growls sounded a short distance away.
"Marrgrarr out?" Lee asked. His tongue didnít seem to want to work. The words were slurred together.
She nodded and tugged on his arm.
Lee began to shake his head, then thought better of it. He was dizzy, but following Rrarkgrrrís guidance, he walked away with them. There was something trickling down the side of his face and it was so hard to move one foot in front of the other one. He stumbled and then heard Marrgrarr growling ferociously. Even through the muzziness of his thinking, Crane realized that he was seriously holding them up. "Rrarkgrrr, Iím not as fast as you are. You two go on. If you see the admiral, tell him Iím coming. I want you to head for the mountains."
Marrgrarr growl-barked from the velvety darkness on his left. Rrarkgrrr gazed at him meaningfully, then looked behind him toward the still burning compound.
"Iíll be all right," Crane insisted. Finally she nodded and patted him gently on the shoulder. Then with a whuff, she turned and melted into the underbrush and trees. Lee heard the roar of vehicles coming and began to follow the Bigfoot couple, then he stopped. He couldnít go in the same direction. Rrarkgrrr and Marrgrar had the ability to totally disappear, but they wouldnít if he tried to follow. He had no illusions that his trail would be easy to follow. Even now, it was so hard to keep to his feet and walk in a straight line. Lee turned to his left, back toward Sandersí ranch. Totally illogical, but the other direction cut across the road and he was sure that was well occupied. Maybe it would fool them. Maybe. He tripped, felt rocks bite into his hands and knees, and then slowly got up. The dizzy, whirling sensation increased but he doggedly continued in the direction of the gate, trying to stay off the road enough to not be seen. The world danced crazily in the darkness and he stumbled to his knees once again.
He had to get away, but he couldnít get to his feet. Crane tried crawling into a denser thicket of underbrush and succeeded to get his body partway in. Behind him, he heard the muttering sound of engines get louder and louder. The sharp screech of brakes told him that someone had caught up with the wrecked truck. He crawled a bit further. Doors slammed and voices shouted. With a soft groan, Lee fell forward, lying with his cheek against the cold ground. He suddenly remembered the transmitter. He hadnít had time to use it before. Call the admiral. Reaching inside his shirt, Lee tried to pull it out. Damn! He was laying on it. He tried to roll on his side and couldnít. A muttered curse was all he could muster the energy to do. Then everything began to fade away and all he had left was the wish to be invisible.
Chip Morton was not a happy camper. He would have paced if he could have. Even with the admiralís periodic reports, he knew nothing simply because the admiral knew nothing. It was frustrating. He did know that Lee had succeeded in blowing up one of the compoundís buildings because Admiral Nelson had happily reported to him the chaos ensuing in the area. Apparently the local police had been called out along with state troopers and what other government agencies could conceivably be called upon.
Still, Chip was worried. He hadnít heard from Lee. He didnít expect to hear from Rrarkgrrr because he was literally stuck here minding the boat. And besides, once she had her mate, she would need to head for the mountains with him.
The Flying Sub would be perfectly safe here, hidden at the bottom of this mountain lake, he reasoned, even as he began to strip off his clothes. He rolled them in a bundle and placed them in a waterproof bag. Then he hopped over to the scuba gear and checked the tanks. They were filled and ready, just as he expected them to be. If not for his injury, he wouldnít even need one, he thought with a sigh. It would be awkward getting out of the lake so he looked around for a crutch substitute. He saw a spear gun and reached for it, locking the mechanism. If need be, it would also serve as protection if Sanders extended his fight to Johnsonís land.
With difficulty, he managed the hatch. Then he sat on the edge and put on the tank, mask and flippers. Gazing morosely at the footwear, he decided that they would be useless. Only one leg worked and he didnít want to be going in circles. He tightened the bindings holding the splints to his leg and then he slipped into the dark water. With the help of the spear gun, he managed to pull the hatch shut behind him and dog it.
Once in the water, he stopped and tried to breathe evenly, getting used to the chill that made his leg ache even more. He strapped the spear gun to his side, knowing heíd need his hands free for locomotion. Despite his attempts otherwise, he still found that he was breathing much faster, almost gulping the air through his regulator. The water was numbingly cold! With conscious effort, he forced his breathing to more normal levels. Chip didnít waste time, though. It was cold enough to send him into hypothermic shock if he didnít get out soon.