The Kill Switch (Part 3)
We the People
Location: Darkscore Lake, Maine
Timeline: Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017
There were occasions when being outside in the rain was enjoyable. A drizzle or light rain during the heat of a roundup in the middle of summer was always welcome. The icy needle-like sting of the rain striking his face as he moved through the darkened woods in a Maine winter storm was not an enjoyable experience in Cade's opinion. If he was beginning to feel the strain of the elements, he was sure J.D. was close to miserable. The only positive aspect was that the weather made it possible to move faster and still avoid detection than it would be if it were a dry night.
Lights from the cabin appeared making Cade feel sure that they were still ahead of the hostiles. Equally fortunate, there wasn't much in the way of a clearing to cross. He stopped in the lee of a magnificent oak. Speaking low, he indicated the cabin. "The Vice President is more likely to recognize you, not to mention his detail will likely feel less threatened by you. Lead off."
J.D. blew out a soft breath. "Well, you be ready to start shooting in case they're not on our side..." J.D. shrugged out of his tactical vest and assault rifle. He left the gear in the shadow of the tree and checked the feel of his shoulder rig. "...This way I look like I just got out of a car." West then stood and started walking, He got his stride going, so it looked he had been walking a short distance as he followed the road toward the cabin. He made a point not to walk quietly. He then tugged out a small flashlight and turned it on, the bright cone sweeping back and forth in front of him like an absolute moron walking on the darkened road leading to the cabin. Suddenly the light tumbled, and there was a thump followed by a not so muffled curse as J.D. faked a trip and fall. He stood and dusted himself off and then reached for the flashlight before continuing toward the cabin. During his little show, he had seen shadows moving behind the windows and knew he was being watched. J.D.'s foot touched the first step on the porch, and a man stepped out. He was wearing a polo shirt and jeans, but his nondescript look screamed "government agent." J.D. came up short, and his hands shot up, the flashlight beam brushing across the man's face, purposefully dazzling his eyes with the cone of brightness. "Jesus! It's just me!"
The man brought an arm up to block the light as his pistol stayed aimed at J.D. West judged the man as pretty sharp so decided not to try anything cute with no way to know the numbers or intentions. "I'm here to meet Michael..." J.D. then started climbing the steps before the man stepped in front of him. "Who are you and why do you want to meet him?" J.D. came up short again as if surprised to be blocked. "Whaddya mean who am I? I'm Frank's son..." The man's brow furrowed in thought as J.D. nodded. "...Yeah, that Frank...you know, POTUS?" J.D. kind of enjoyed the white that showed around the man's eyes as the lights came on in his brain. J.D. pressed his chance and moved around the guard and stepped through the door. He saw two more clones of the porch guy coming from different directions. "It's okay, fellas...It's me!...Mike! Hey, Mike!"
The man seated with his back to the foyer stood up from the easy chair in the living room. Two more duplicates stood up from the sofa across from him. J.D. kept control to the surprise of all the men in the cabin. He also realized that there were probably still more since this was just the front of the cabin. J.D. processed all of that in a blink, and his face broke into a huge smile. "Mike! I finally made it!...My car is in a ditch about a mile back...I always forget about that curve..." J.D. wrapped his arms around the VP and gave him a backslapping embrace. "Play along...Tobasco..." J.D. hid the words in the hug, telling the VP that he was there to help and the situation was unknown but dangerous.
Michael Sheridan returned the younger man's embrace, patting him solidly on the back. His response was genuine. He had known Frank Dalton for many years, served with him, and spent weekends, vacations and holidays with his family. He knew J.D. and Quinn as well as he knew his own children and would trust them with his life which, in essence, was what J.D. was asking of him now. "J.D., boy! I wasn't sure you'd be able to make it tonight." Sheridan gave his detail a wide smile, "Anytime I come up to the cabin, J.D. usually comes along. It's such a long-standing arrangement, I forgot to notify everyone." He shook his head, putting on a rueful grin, "Afraid I'm not accustomed to all this yet," he said, gesturing toward his Secret Service detail.
J.D. turned around and kept the smile plastered on his face as his eyes moved across the men. They looked legit, but there was something that kept J.D.'s inner alarms ringing. There were too many for one individual protection detail to start with. Next, these men weren't just standard field agents. They had a hardness that just normally doesn't exist with suit and sunglasses type federal agents. West started to turn back to the V.P. when his eyes moved to a chair in the corner. The muzzle of the weapon was all that was sticking out of the jacket laying over it, but the fact it was an AK-47 was unmistakable. The ex-agent then turned back to the V.P. "Say, Mike...Did you ever get our rods ready for fishing tomorrow? I know normally it's my job, but I was running late. Let's go get them and start cleaning."
"No, I didn't," Sheridan answered with an easy grin. No wonder Frank was so proud of his son. The man thought on his feet. He gave a jerk of his head, "Help me bring out the gear. It all needs to be sorted. Some of my flies need to be fixed too. It's all in the storage room in the back of the kitchen." Sheridan waved a hand at his detail to stay seated, "I feel sure there are no hostiles in the storage room."
J.D. nodded and smiled a vacuous expression at the men in the living room. He fell in behind the VP as he walked, letting him lead the way because he had no clue where the VP was planning to go. Once they moved back into the kitchen and had stepped inside the storage room, J.D. closed the door behind him as he began nattering about fishing tackle. He kept up the banter and held a finger to his lips. He stood near the door and listened while keeping the talk going. Finally, he stepped back from the door and spoke lower. "I assume you realize these guys aren't Secret Service?"
The Vice President's eyes opened wide, "Not Secret Service?" He prided himself on being savvier than many people and quite intelligent, but J.D.'s question left him blinking like an owl. "I was told they were not my regular detail, but many of them have been with me throughout the campaign." He now looked genuinely alarmed, "Oh my God! What about Frank's detail?"
J.D.'s hand came up in a shushing gesture. He listened a moment then continued. "We suspect you were being set up for a while. Maneuvering certain people into position to have access to you while slowly pushing the loyal ones further away. We had to deal with some men on the way in. We think they are coming for you and it's the job of those out there to hand you over safe and sound...I doubt there would even be a fight." J.D. fished a hand around inside his jacket and pulled out a small ear comm. He pushed it into his ear and then spoke quietly. "I'm in, and we're alone for the moment...how are things outside?"
"Quiet so far. Spotted four more hostiles," Cade replied. "Might be in for a fight to get back to the LZ." Despite the news he had for J.D., his voice was a laconic drawl. He knew for a fact that he had not been spotted, but suspicions were aroused due to the radio silence from the men he and J.D. had eliminated. "Our advantage won't hold much longer," he warned his friend.
J.D. stood silent for several seconds, doing the math regarding the trouble outside compared to the enemies inside the cabin. He looked at the VP. "We only have one goal here, and that's to get you away from these people..." J.D. next spoke into his comm. "Have you gotten closer to the house? What side are you on?...You are going to have to provide cover if we're going to make a run for it."
"I am on a slight rise to the east. I circled around Rocky Raccoon and his pals. For the record, they are horrible woodsmen," Cade responded. "I have a good visual on the house and can provide cover." He paused for a moment. J.D. wouldn't like his next words, neither of them had ever liked making that statement, but it had to be said. "Don't wait for me. No desire to be the sacrificial goat here, but I got these guys beat five ways to Sunday." One of the many hallmarks of their working relationship was confidence in one another's abilities and skills. J.D. would know that Cade was simply putting the mission first, not posturing or exhibiting false bravado. Besides, once J.D. had the Vice President in the clear, Cade had no intention of allowing anyone to follow them or being left behind. Still, it had to be said. If the roles were reversed, J.D. would be the one to say it and had in the past.
J.D. realized as soon as Cade said it that he was just stating a fact. The VP was their mission, and either or both were expendable to accomplish it. "I hear you, but if you get killed, I will tell everyone you got taken out by a bunch of K-Mart Commandos." J.D. glanced up at the expression on the VP's face and waved a hand to relax him. "The room we are in has no window, so we'll need to get to an exit. Watch the house and be ready to shoot if we come under fire." J.D. looked at Sheridan. "You still carrying? As I remember you had a concealed carry permit." Sheridan nodded and reached under the loose tail of his shirt and produced a well maintained 1911 pistol. "...Good, but whatever you do, don't use it unless you are directly in danger. You start firing, and you will only draw attention to yourself." J.D. reached and drew one of his .45s and stuck it inside his waistband for a cross-draw under his open jacket. "Follow behind me. When I have to deal with someone you go out the back door. Don't look for me and keep running no matter what you hear. Stop inside the treeline, Get still and wait...got it?" Sheridan nodded and tucked his own pistol back inside its holster. J.D. touched a finger to his ear. "Cade, we'll be coming out the kitchen door. Get set to shoot the outside guards there. You will know when to start. The VP will come out that door pretty fast so be ready to lay down some steady shooting."
J.D. stepped out of the room followed by the VP. "...and with the gear, in good shape, we will be ready to catch some good food for tomorrow." J.D. turned and headed for the kitchen area. The two men walked into the kitchen and J.D. saw a single man sitting at the kitchen table playing Solitaire. An H&K MP5K lay on the table near his right hand, but no other weapons were in view. J.D. dropped into his persona and spoke without any pretense of being quiet. "Hey, buddy...we're just a little hungry. You want anything?" J.D. moved over and opened the refrigerator and ducked down to look at the lower shelves. He drew his pistol behind the door then stood, aiming and firing as soon as he cleared the upper edge of the door. The round hit the man on the side of his head and knocked him sideways to sprawl on the floor. J.D. moved over as he heard a boom outside, knowing Cade was going to work on however many were outside the door. West scooped up the MP5K and checked the chamber, seeing a gleam of brass in it before letting the action close. He flipped the selector to Auto as he heard shouts from the other side of the house. "Go!" He yelled at the VP, seeing the man holding his pistol as he darted past J.D. and out the door, the steady booms of Cade's rifle reassuring West that so far the plan was working. J.D. held the SMG in both hands and began spraying short bursts, two or three rounds in measured sweeps down the hall or through the walls to keep the ones in the house from pursuing too quickly. The H&K stopped as the last rounds cycled and J.D. let it fall. He reached into his jacket and fished out two baseball sized grenades. He used one finger of each hand to pull the pins on both. He held them in each hand and then relaxed his fingers allowing the spoons to pop. West stood and tossed one then the other down the hallway and turned, dashing out the back door and straight out into the yard, hearing the twin bangs of the grenades behind him, muffled by the walls of the house.
The storm was a blessing and a curse. The rain was cold and sharp, but Cade's clothing and gear were all-weather rated. Occasional icy drops made their way down the collar, but that was the worst of his discomforts from the environment. The wind brought sounds and scents to him which he used to his advantage. It was also obvious that J.D.'s K-Mart Commandos had not been truly prepared for opposition or the woods. The radio he'd confiscated from one of the men they'd terminated spluttered more than one with cursing as the forest fought against the intruders. The last round had concerned moose excrement. Cade grinned and moved to a new vantage point, laying down covering fire and casually picking off the outside guards as well. He no longer bothered with using the thunder to cover the sounds of his rifle firing.
The explosion at the cabin had been a nice touch and a signal to Cade that it was time for him to finish off the remainder of the faux Secret Service men as they staggered out.
It had finally occurred to Rocky Raccoon that he had lost members of his team and that whoever was opposing them knew their business. They were now actively hunting Cade, so it was time to abandon his position and make for the landing site. He was moving in on a slightly different trajectory than the shorter, direct path that J.D. would be taking with the Vice President. In case Rocky and the Boys were scanning communication frequencies, he did not voice contact J.D. to say he was on his way. Instead, he keyed the mic in what would seem to be a random pattern to anyone trying to listen in.
J.D. ran full tilt into the treeline, sliding to a halt after a few steps and putting a tree between him and the house. His eyes moved to both sides, and he finally spotted the V.P. crouching a few yards away. His eyes were locked on J.D. and wide with adrenaline. The ex-agent looked at the house, then darted over to crouch beside the V.P. "You're doing fine, sir..." A boom from around the other side of the house made J.D. look and listen a moment. "...Cade's still hunting. Now's our chance to run for the chopper." J.D. reached and tugged out both his pistols, flipping off the safeties and holding them in each hand. Shooting both pistols at once is usually a ridiculous idea, but they needed noise and cover more than accuracy at the moment. J.D. suddenly stopped, acting like he was listening to something. "He's on the move. It will take him longer because he's avoiding the outside team. We need to move, Sir..." J.D. pointed a direction with one pistol, and Sheridan turned and began to run. West took another quick look around as he broke into a jog, then once he was satisfied he began to run faster, gaining ground on the older man as they moved away from the house.
J.D. muttered as he ran, angry that he had no way to retrieve his vest and M-4 from where he left in the woods. The firepower could come in handy about now. He put on a burst of speed and caught up to Sheridan, batting the barrel of a pistol on the man's shoulder and making him halt. The older man was breathing hard but not as much as West expected. J.D. turned him slightly and pointed with a barrel. "Down that way. The chopper is sitting in a clearing." He gave a nudge, and Sheridan took off in a steady and ground eating jog. West followed and several minutes later the two men broke out of the trees, heading for the silent Bell. J.D. rounded the nose to the right-hand seat and hopped into it, hands furiously flipping switches, bringing the vehicle to life. The whine grew in intensity, and the rotor blades began to move. West's eyes moved across the instruments as he worked the throttle and watched the engine displays and RPM's. West glanced over and saw Sheridan was keeping his eyes up and out, watching the area around the helicopter. J.D. reached up and tapped the comm to open. "Three minutes and your ride is leaving..."
"Look!" Sheridan directed J.D.'s attention toward the treeline through the left side windows. Two figures burst into the small clearing. The Vice President thought he recognized the man in the lead, but couldn't place him. He assumed, however, that one of the men heading toward them must be J.D.'s teammate. Knowing the other man would have his hands full with the helicopter, Michael leaned over and slid the rear window open, propping one hand on its sill, and holding his 1911 semi-automatic steady until he could identify who to shoot.
Cade lengthened his stride as he entered the clearing, continuing to move backward as he swung around and fired at his pursuer. The man dropped to the ground. Cade redoubled his effort to make it to the helicopter, his long strides putting distance between him and the one remaining man he knew to be on his tail. The high-pitched whine of a bullet passing close, too close, sent him to zig-zagging, making him a harder target to hit, especially since he randomly altered which direction he was going to move in. Of course, the shooter could simply take a steady aim and wait for Cade to dart into the frame and take his shot.
The bigger man, the one in the lead was making a line for the passenger door of the helicopter. Sheridan untangled himself long enough to reach forward and push the door open before dropping back into his seat and taking aim on the pursuer. Hoping to God that he was about to wound or kill the right man, he squeezed off several rounds, automatically going for a double tap to the chest and a single shot to the head. Just in case the man was wearing better body armor than anticipated, Sheridan followed up with a couple of shots at his lower torso and one at the kneecap for good measure.
Cade took a final deep breath and leaped through the chopper's door as J.D. began lifting them off the ground. He grinned, his blue eyes glistening with adrenaline, "Glad you could wait, buddy." Glancing behind him, he scanned the Vice President, "Sir, it's a pleasure to meet you."
J.D. glanced back over his shoulder as he leveled the chopper just above the trees and increased throttle. "If I don't threaten to leave you, you won't leave..." J.D. then glanced at Sheridan. "...Good job shooting the right one, Sir. This is Cade Macleod. He was the mystery rifle in the woods."
"And the singer at the Inaugural Concert," Sheridan extended his hand, "Isaiah MacLeod's son. I'm sorry I missed the live show, saw it on TV. I appreciate the timely rescue, gentlemen." The man's demeanor shifted, and suddenly the presence he'd brought to Dalton's campaign looked out of his hazel eyes, "I think a briefing is in order."
"All due respect, Mr. Vice President," Cade answered, "but the President needs to brief you, and that'll be done as soon as we get you to a safe house. Just know that your well-being could be this country's only safety net. Your family has been live-contacted and safely extracted also. We've left no hostages against you."
As the helicopter flew into the night, Sheridan heard MacLeod on the radio to someone in D.C., directing them to send a clean-up crew and keep the authorities at bay. He knew that everything would be taken care of, but could not help wondering what new danger he was flying into.