At the ground floor of the warehouse, Metcalfe and Svenson are pursuing a grand scale search of the place. They have open up the huge garage door so the outdoor light could illuminate the place and they would see more clearly. They go from door to door in the place, opening each of them wide, entering every room. They look at each and every dark corners of the warehouse. At one point, they even go outside, to take a look around the building. Not knowing what the other two are exactly looking for, Holden and Blackburn do nothing but stare at them, almost thinking of them as some kind of madmen, seeing as how they’re running around the place.
Svenson and Metcalfe have being gone outside for a whole ten minutes, when Holden, who’s taking the sun with Blackburn, in the opening of the garage door, looks up at his watch. Blackburn is quietly smoking a cigarette, staring into space, waiting.
“Do you think we should call the local constabulary?” Holden asks him quietly. “Or maybe the men in white?”
Blackburn laughs softly. “No, I don’t think it would be wise to call them. Considering the unique circumstances for which we are here…”
“Yes, you’re right, of course.” Holden sighs.
Blackburn offers his companion a cigarette that Holden refuses graciously.
“It’s not recommended for Aquanauts to smoke.” He says. “You know, we generally work in restraint areas… Plus the fact that your lungs have to be quite healthy when you go swim with the fishes…”
“I more prefer go fly with the birds.” Blackburn answers back. He puts the cigarette back in its case.
“Not afraid it will kill you someday?” Holden asks him.
Blackburn shrugs. “I don’t think smoking will be the death of me. I would rather think I would crash myself with an aircraft or something one day… and break my neck.”
“You have a pretty dark way of seeing your future!” A surprised Holden remarks.
“Well, at least it’s a clean death.”
They stop talking; they see Metcalfe and Svenson coming back from the corner of the warehouse. The WAAF colonel seems pretty upset.
“I can believe they run away like that!” Svenson tells Metcalfe. “It doesn’t make sense!”
“Leaving us behind… After all the trouble they must have had to ambush us.” Metcalfe answers back, with a gloomy tone. “Sure, it doesn’t make sense! I wish I could understand what they were up to.”
They have reach Holden and Blackburn; the later throws the last of his cigarette on the ground. Svenson shakes his head at the sight.
“Still haven’t shaken that bad habit of yours?”
“It helps me relax a little…” Blackburn replies, somewhat coldly. “ Especially when trying to understand why an old friend of mine almost kills me and then runs away after some ghosts.”
“Oh! They weren’t ghosts, I can assure you!” Svenson scoffs. “ They have taken off with my gun!”
“AND my car.” Metcalfe adds quickly. He rolls his eyes to the sky. “I can believe they had stolen that car! I will hear it now, at the lease agency!”
Holden is not listening to Metcalfe and turns to Svenson. “You have come with a gun?”
“I know.” Svenson mumbles. “The instructions were to come unarmed. That alone has raised my suspicion at the time. So, I didn’t take a chance. That wasn’t even enough.”
Metcalfe elbows him hardly and gives him a stern glance.
“You talk too much, Adam! You should have told them all that!”
“Why not?” He remarks. “I think we all know by now that we were all send here by the Selection Committee. I don’t see why we should keep secrets from each other.”
“Yes, quite.” Blackburn agrees. “Now if you two will be kind enough to explain to us just what going on here? I don’t appreciate being thrown down a staircase…» He gives Svenson a slight smile. “… Even by old friends.”
Metcalfe is still hesitant. He sighs after a while.
Yes, maybe we should tell you what going on…” He finally says. “At least what we know of. But first: sorry for the mixed up, gentlemen.”
Holden sighs heavily. “Is ‘sorry’ all you have to say for yourself? Blackburn and I, we almost break our necks in that fall!”
Svenson produces a broad smile, hearing these words.
“Don’t worry too much, commander: colonel Metcalfe does that kind of thing to everybody he get acquainted with.”
Metcalfe glance back coldly at the mocking American. Holden frowns as he looks incredulously at the WAAF officer.
“Colonel Paul Metcalfe?”
“Yes. Have we ever met, lieutenant commander? I don’t recall…”
“No, we haven’t. Holden interrupts. “I once met your father, though. And I have heard of you.” He screws up his eyes. “Somehow, I thought that you’d be… a bit older.”
Metcalfe grumbles a little. He’s used to these kinds of remarks. Being the youngest colonel ever in the WAAF was not always easy to assume.
“And you, sir?” Holden says turning to Svenson. “I already know you’re a friend of Blackburn, but… I don’t think I caught your name.”
“His name’s Adam Svenson.” Blackburn presents him. “And he’s the best field agent the WAS Security Department has ever had.”
“And the best pilot.” Svenson adds.
“No. That would be me.” Blackburn teases.
The two friends laugh. Metcalfe smiles lightly at their obvious camaraderie. Holden is still the only one keeping himself in check.
Well, now we all know who we each are.” He says gloomily. “How about that explanation you owe us?”
Metcalfe and Svenson each give their respective part of their story, of how they had come to this place, following the instructions the Selection Committee had giving them on their letter. Then Metcalfe takes the beat, explaining how he and his American companion escape from the dark room where they were locked away, to find themselves in the basement.
That’s about all we have to say, gentlemen.” Metcalfe says upon finishing their story. “ When YOU opened the door and began to get down those stairs, we just assume you were our jailers and we… well, you know.”
“Yes, we know.” Holden replies, still a little sore.
“And you still have no idea who those men were?” A curious Blackburn asks.
“Not a clue.” Svenson sighs. “But I refuse to think that they run away just like that. They surely had something on their minds.”
Metcalfe, thoughtful, addresses Holden and Blackburn. “Maybe they took off when they saw you coming?”
“I would doubt that.” Blackburn says.
“We arrived separately, too.” Holden adds. “I took a cab to come. I was here before Blackburn.”
He looks at Metcalfe. “There was no car at the front door, when I arrived, colonel. And I didn’t see any vehicle gets away.”
Metcalfe frowns. “What did you do, then?”
Holden shrugs. “The principal door was not locked. I took a quick look inside and saw that the place was desert. So, I decided to stay outside, by the door. I’d just figured out that I had mistaken the address… or that someone would be coming to pick me up. That’s when I saw Mister Blackburn arrives.”
“I came with a cab too.” Blackburn continues. “Commander Holden was waiting by the door. That's where we met. By talking to each other, we learned that we were here for the same reason, and waited together. After several minutes, we tired of it, and came inside, looking for some clues as to why we were send in such a place.”
“We found the door going down the basement and saw the light when we opening it.” Holden adds. “The rest… Well, there’s no much point at explaining it now, isn’t it?”
“So these guys were already gone, probably for a long time, before you came here, commander.” Metcalfe muses.
“I would think that, since I saw no trace of them.” Holden agrees.
“It still doesn’t add up.” Svenson says.
“No, it doesn’t.” Metcalfe agrees. “ And I hate that. They must have known that you two were coming here…” He looks at Holden and Blackburn. “But instead of waiting for you, like they had done for Adam and I, they go away. Why?”
“Maybe they considered us more of a threat then you too guys.” Blackburn jokingly remarks.
Svenson shakes his head and sighs; he gives his old friend at comforting pat on the back.
“Don’t try, Steve, please!” He says with pity in his voice. “You don’t have the hack for it.”
“So, what do we do, for now?” Holden asks. “I suppose any of you wouldn’t dare leave here, anymore than I would.”
“That wouldn’t be my first choice either.” Metcalfe says, nodding.
“Maybe we could find some clues down in the basement?” Svenson suggests. “You know, by looking at that Tank that’s down there…”
“You mean that strange-looking car, which resemble a shark?” Blackburn asks, frowning.
“You haven’t seen much sharks in your life now, haven’t you?” Holden notes, smiling.
“Yes, maybe we can find out why it’s down there.” Metcalfe says. “And what relation it could have with our dear friends who have left us.”
“How has it found its way downstairs, anyway?” Blackburn asks.
Svenson quickly cuts Metcalfe who is about to answer. “Quite easy: I found an elevator when Paul and I search the place some minutes ago. It seems sturdy enough to support the weight of that machine.”
“So what I we waiting for?” Blackburn says.
They were all about to go when they see a car turning a corner of the building and coming their way. They look at it, as it approaches them; it does not seem very threatening, but its looks is rather impressive: it’s a big black brand new sports car, moving along very quietly.
“Here comes another one.” Svenson says to the others.
“You think so?” Metcalfe asks.
“You want to bet?”
The car parks itself just in front of the opened garage door, where the four men are standing expectantly. The driver turns off the motor and steps out of his vehicle. It’s a tall man, in his thirties, with slick black hair. His eyes are hidden behind very dark sunglasses. He looks straight at the four men who are staring curiously at him.
The four respond each in their fashion. The man goes directly to them, as they continue to look at him, with obvious curiosity in their eyes: the clothes he’s wearing are of the finest fabric that can be found in the market and the cut obviously is from a very expensive fashion house. The newcomer stops in front of the four men who, almost without really wanting to, deploy themselves around him. He lift up his glasses to look at them, with bright brown eyes that show a little concern and discomfort at their staring gaze.
“Er… Excuse me, but… Is this… the place?”
He’s addressing Metcalfe and Holden, probably, they all think, because they’re in uniform. Metcalfe tilts his head to one side, as he considers what he must say to this man. He has heard his American accent, with just a tilt of Irish brogue in his awkward question… Question that would tend to prove that Svenson was right about him.
“Yes… “ He answers to him, a bit hesitantly. “It is the place.”
The newcomer smiles. “Good.”
He takes of his glasses completely and puts them in his vest pocket. Metcalfe finds himself staring at the pink carnation he has at his buttonhole.
“I was beginning to think that I have made a wrong turn after I left the airport.” The newcomer smiles in excuse. “I’ve never been to Perth before, you know.”
He looks uncertain as Blackburn and Svenson walk around him, before heading toward the car, that they eye with the same curiosity as they did with him.
“You came right from the airport?” Blackburn asks.
“In that car?” Svenson adds.
The newcomer smiles anew. “Well, it’s only a rental.”
“That was waiting for your arrival at the airport…” A puzzled Blackburn says.
The newcomer does not seem very at ease.
“Why, yes… I have ordered it by phone, before leaving from New York.”
“I couldn’t afford to rent that kind of car even for one hour.” Blackburn muses. He turns to Svenson:
“He must be as loaded as you!”
Svenson scoffs. “My old man is loaded, Steve. Not me.”
“Well, that’s the same.”
A bit astounded by the kind of reception he receives, the man turns back to Metcalfe and Holden. The two uniformed officers are still staring at him, but this time with a twinkle of amusement in their eyes. There is some anger in his voice when the newcomer addresses them:
“Would you tell me who’s in charge here?”
Holden hesitates; seeing as that Metcalfe is the highest-ranking officer in this place, he points at him.
“I guest he is.” He adds, only for himself: “Well, for the time being, anyway.”
“I heard that.” Metcalfe warns him. He then addresses the man: “Can I ask your name and where you come from, Mister?”
“I’m Patrick Donaghue, from New York City.” The man answers. “From the proposition I have received, I would have thought that I was expected. And to find myself in such a God forsaken place…”
Metcalfe frowns. “Never mind the place, Mister Donaghue. You said you had received… a proposition?”
“Well, for lack of a better word…”
Svenson, who was still near the car, raises his head at the newcomer’s words, puzzled. Blackburn, who is obviously concentrated in his admiring of the car, feels his friend giving him a pat on the shoulder.
“Hear that, Steve? He said he had a proposition.”
The two friends come back toward the others.
“I wonder if he’s talking about the same kind of ‘proposition’ as ours.” Blackburn muses.
“Do you have any letter mentioning that proposition, Sir?” Metcalfe asks Donaghue.
“Sure, right in my vest pocket.”
Metcalfe extends his hand. “Would you care to show it to me?”
Donaghue takes an envelope from his pocket and exhibits it before Metcalfe’s eyes. But when the WAAF colonel tries to take it from hem, the New Yorker quickly pulls it away, and gives a conniving smile.
“Sorry. I said I’d show it to you.” He notes. “I’ve never said I would let you read it.”
“And why not?” A surprised Metcalfe asks him.
“Let’s just say that there’s very… personal information in there. It would not be wise for me to let it be read by a lieutenant…”
“Colonel.” Metcalfe snaps annoyingly.
“Sorry.” Donaghue says again. “Didn’t mean to offend you. But I don’t know anything about insignias what-so-ever.”
So he doesn’t have any military background, thinks Metcalfe. He finds it odd.
“Can you at least show us the envelope?” He asks.
Donaghue hesitates just a second before finally handing the letter. Metcalfe examine the envelope carefully. He feels Holden leaning to look over his shoulder.
“It has the Governmental stamp of the Selection Committee.” Holden notices thoughtfully.
Metcalfe gives the letter back to Donaghue. “Yeah, it has. What exactly is your background, Mister Donaghue?”
Donaghue shakes his head.
“Sorry, colonel. But it’s also personal information. I should talk it over only with an official operative.”
Metcalfe frowns. “What make you think we’re not official operatives?”
Donaghue scoffs. “Sorry again, colonel, but you don’t even look the part.”
Metcalfe is stunned by such an affirmation. “I beg your pardon?”
“Not just you. ANY of you.” Donaghue laughs. “I mean, look at the lot of you! You look exactly like schoolboys asking themselves questions about the new kid in the block! Another minute or so, I would have sworn you were going to ask me a ride in my car!”
The men surrounding him look at each other with embarrassment. Blackburn stuffs his fists into his pant’s pockets.
“Another minute and I actually would have done just that!” he mumbles.
Svenson shakes his head. “Yeah, so we can get away from that place.”
“Well, nothing forces any of you to stay.” A frowning Metcalfe remarks coldly. “For my part, I want to find out what’s really going on around here.”
“I second that.” Holden says.
“Don’t take it the wrong way, fellows.” Svenson sighs. “I, too, want to know what’s the deal with that place.”
Blackburn grins broadly. “Think I would let you have all of the fun?”
“Looks like a lot has going on here.” Donaghue notices, frowning in turn.
“Not really.” Blackburn muses. “That’s what’s troubling us.”
Svenson snorts derisively. “Not really? Easy for you to say!”
“You’re the lucky one, my friend.” Holden says, addressing Donaghue. “At least, you weren’t kidnapped or pushed down a stair upon your arrival here.”
“Sounds like fun.” Donaghue chuckles. “Can I join in?”
“Well, since you seem to have been selected by the Committee just like us…” Svenson sighs.
“Right, let’s get to work, now.” Metcalfe says abruptly. “Blackburn, Holden, stay here and keep an eyes out at anybody else who might be coming around. Svenson, you come with me in the basement. Donaghue… Join the club.”
“Who die and made you field commander?” Holden asks, frowning.
“You did, it seems, just a few minutes ago.” Metcalfe answers him. “But you’re still very much alive, lieutenant commander.”
“Oh! You’re funny, colonel!” Holden responds sarcastically.
“Really? I didn’t intend to. Come on, Adam; let’s go check that vehicle.”
“I’m coming, too.” Donaghue quickly invites himself.
“Yes, maybe you can put a new perspective on things.” Metcalfe says, thoughtful.
“In the meantime, I expect you to explain everything to me.” Donaghue adds.
“We will tell you all that we already know, Donaghue.” Svenson nods. “But it’s not much.”
Metcalfe and Svenson disappear swiftly into the warehouse. As he walks close by a gloomy Holden, Donaghue gives him a pat on the shoulder, smiling contently.
“Sorry, mate.” He says. “But things seem a bit more interesting inside. Do a nice job.”
Holden does not respond at Donaghue who enters to follow Svenson and Metcalfe. Obviously annoyed by the situation, the WASP commander lets out an exasperated sigh.
“You’re okay, Brad?” Blackburn asks him.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” A thoughtful Holden answers back.
Blackburn frowns. “You look a bit concerned… Something’s bugging you?”
Holden waves his hand. “Na…Forget it, it’s nothing.” He pauses a second, before adding: “Got anymore of your awful cigarettes, Steve? I think I could use a smoke…”
* * *
Metcalfe and Svenson had returned to the basement, Donaghue following through. They take a few moments to present themselves and the others and to brief him upon what has happens recently. The New Yorker is a good listener. He asks only a few questions, just to make sure he has understood clearly what is explained to him.
Downstairs, Donaghue is put in front of the tank-like vehicle that had puzzled the others. He looks at him with the same curiosity.
“It sure is a huge car.”
“It’s apparently based on a Zeus tank the WAAF’s using right now.” Metcalfe explains. “But it’s a little sleeker and seems much more sophisticated.”
Donaghue walks around the vehicle, seeming to examine it thoroughly. Metcalfe and Svenson follow him every step of the way. The New Yorker stops in front of one of the hatched doors.
“Did you get inside already?” He asks the two other men.
Svenson shakes his head. “We haven’t been able to find any mechanism to open the door yet.”
Donaghue frowns and approaches the door even more closely. “Let me have a go at it.”
“Have it your way.” Metcalfe says, shrugging. “I hope you can…”
A click stops him right in the middle of his sentence. Then there’s a humming sound coming from the vehicle. Donaghue steps back as the hatch in front of him slides slowly toward him. Svenson is stunned.
“How did you do that?”
“Let’s just say I have some personal talents, okay?” Donaghue answers, smiling contently.
Metcalfe come forwards.
“Well, whatever they are, you just put them to good use, Donaghue.”
“Eager to serve, colonel. You wanted to see what is in there, right?”
Metcalfe smiles as he examines the opening, flanked with Svenson and Donaghue. The first think they see is the seat attached to the interior of the door. That seat is presently coming downwards, and stops when it reaches ground level.
“Well, that’s quite an impressive feature.” Svenson notes.
Metcalfe frowns. “You think so? Well, there’s something a little more obvious that I find even more impressive.”
Donaghue looks at the seat, then checks out the rest of the vehicle. He snickers.
“The seat facing backwards.”
“Exactly so.” Metcalfe nods. “Don’t you find it odd?”
“Not exactly.” Svenson answers. “I think it’s a rather ingenious idea. When you have a collision, what’s the first thing that usually happens?”
“All the passengers are thrown forwards.” Donaghue says.
“Yeah, and you generally hit the steering wheel or the windshield. With a seat facing backwards, you minimize that risk: instead, you’re being thrust through the seat… and the impact is thus absorbed.”
“You have seen that before?” Metcalfe asks Svenson.
“Believe it or not, the WAS has actually been working on a similar concept, some years ago, when they were thinking of constructing a safer kind of helicopter. Steve could probably tell you more than me about it.” Svenson frowns. “As far as I know, the project was dropped, because it was difficult to apply it in a practical manner.”
“How do you see where you’re going, with a think like that?” Donaghue asks.
Before Svenson could give an answer, Metcalfe gives his own reply: “There’s only one way to find out. See if you can open the other door, Donaghue.”
The New Yorker nods and makes his way to the other side of the vehicle. Svenson climbs aboard while Metcalfe takes place in the seat. It doesn’t him long to find the command control of the thing. The minute he pushes a button, the seat goes back upwards almost as the same time a hydraulic arm pulls back the door and closed it.
“I sure hope we’ll be able to get out.” Svenson says, a bit gloomy.
Exactly at this second, the other hatch slides open with a humming sound. Donaghue rears his head in the opening.
Metcalfe grins at Svenson. “Reassured?”
Svenson points to Donaghue. “I shouldn’t have doubted this guy!”
“Did you find something yet?” Donaghue asks them.
“We were just about to begin, fellow.” Svenson smiles. “Give us some time.”
“While we’re doing that, why don’t you stay in look out?” Metcalfe says, musing. “We wouldn’t want to be trapped in here if somebody happens to come for us.”
Donaghue is visibly disappointed. “Oh! Right. I’ll do that.” He adds, before disappearing: “Be sure to keep in touch.”
“We’ll do that.” Svenson answers. He waits until he hears Donaghue’s footsteps moving away, then, he turns to Metcalfe. “You don’t trust him.”
“It’s not a question, isn’t it?” Metcalfe is looking around him, examining the interior of the vehicle.
“No, that’s a statement. You don’t trust him.”
“No, I don’t. And I don’t trust Holden either. And I’m not so sure about your friend Steve Blackburn.”
“Should I feel privileged that you don’t include me in you list?” Svenson jokingly asks.
“I’m serious, Adam! Something tells me that one of those guys is not clean. Our kidnappers would not have took off that way, leaving us AND that vehicle out of their sight.”
“You’re thinking about a spy.”
“But we were all summoned here by the Selection Committee.”
“Were we all?” Metcalfe muses with a suspicious tone. “And even if it were the case, nothing tell us that someone isn’t playing a double game here…”
“I see.” A thoughtful Svenson says. “So let me into this. I got a pretty good experience with double agents and such.”
Metcalfe glances at him with curiosity. “Really?”
Svenson shrugs. “When I first was appointed at the WAS Security Department, there were a numbers of enemy agents infiltrated within. Saboteurs, spies… that sorts of things. It was a difficult job getting rid of all of them. When I found one out, two others seemed to pop up of nowhere to take his place.” He frowns at the thought. I had to choose very carefully whom I was to trust in those times. One false move could have gotten myself killed.” He sighs. “Almost did, at that.”
“There were attempts on you life?”
“Three of them, and would you believe it, in my first three months after being assigned to the Security Department. After the bombing…”
“My car was booby-trapped. I just escaped with my life. A friend of mine didn’t.”
“Yeah, well… After that, I made a point at stopping once and for all what was going on at the WAS. It was the least I could do for my friend.”
“You didn’t just do it for your friend, Adam.” Metcalfe notices. “I think you also did it because that was your job.” He smiles. “All the same, being your friend must be something else.”
Svenson smiles in return, with some embarrassment. “I sure hope you’re telling that as some kind of compliment, Paul.”
Metcalfe laughs. “I do.” He then looks at his companion with a thoughtful glance. “I didn’t realize you had that kind of background.”
“Well, now you know.” Svenson sighs. “Just don’t tell all to the others… They would suspect I’m keeping an eye on them.”
“Blackburn must know all of this, however.”
“Most of it. But not all. But to be honest with you, I can’t see Steve as some sort of spy or something.”
“What about me?”
Svenson frowns. “Well, what about you?”
“Don’t you think I could be in league with our kidnappers?”
“Then to what purpose would you have told me about your suspicions?”
“I don’t know… to mislead you, perhaps?”
“That’s crap.” Svenson waves out the notion. “You don’t strike me as a traitor, Paul.” He smiles congenially. “Besides, you WOULD have snapped my neck earlier, if it were the case.”
“So, who do you think it is?” Metcalfe muses.
Too soon to tell. I must admit, I HAS BEEN a long time, since I saw Steve. Holden, I don’t know much about. Donaghue… Well, all we know for sure, and that’s if he hasn’t played us for fools, is that he doesn’t know anything about military.”
“He’s also eager to serve.” Metcalfe adds. “But he’s very secretive about himself. I wonder what he’s hiding.”
“He’s also armed, Paul.”
“What?” Metcalfe is startled. “How do you know that?”
“Didn’t you see the puff on his vest, right under his left arm?” Svenson asks him. “He’s keeping a gun there.”
“Why didn’t you mention it earlier?” Metcalfe protests. “ We could…”
Svenson interrupts him abruptly.
“…Have done what? Remove him of his weapon? It would only have raised his suspicion… Now we know he’s got one, but he doesn’t know that we know.”
“That’s a bit confusing.”
“Well, that way, he doesn’t mistrust us, and we can keep a close eye on him.” Svenson smiles. “Anyway, that doesn’t prove anything. I came in with a gun too.”
Svenson mumbles unintelligibly something that is not so very kind to Metcalfe, about how crazy and pigheaded all the Brits are. The WAAF colonel smiles lightly. Better to change the subject quickly, he thinks.
“All that talk doesn’t advance us much in our present investigation, Adam. What do you make of this?”
He shows it companion the steering column on front of which he is seated. The American frowns.
“Well, for one thing, that looks very much like a control column, similar to those found in aircrafts…”
“Yes”, Metcalfe agrees, “except for that control panel at its centre, with all these buttons…”
He looks directly in front of him; there was some kind of monitor screen, right in his line of vision. By examining the control, he finds the right button to push on… When the screen lights on, he and Svenson get a very good view of the crates, just in front of the vehicle.
“Good show, Paul.” Svenson says. “Now we know how to see forwards in this thing.”
Metcalfe was looking all around him. He finds some kind of level right next to his seat and he closes his fist on it. Quickly, Svenson takes his wrist.
“I wouldn’t pull that if I were you. It looks terribly like an ejecting lever… If you don’t want to get your head screw up in the basement ceiling, you’d better let it alone.”
Metcalfe gets his hand out of the lever. “Very good advise. I’ll take it to heart.” He looks over his head. “There IS an opening up there, yes. Now it sealed, but it must open up when it’s needed.”
Svenson is still looking at the controls surrounding them. He pushes a switch. The interior of the cabin seems then to come to life, with lights and sounds. He smiles with satisfaction.
“All right! Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“Not far, actually.” Metcalfe sighs. “The engine isn’t running yet. These controls must be working on some sort of battery charge.”
Svenson points to the different controls. “Will you look at that: state of the art onboard computer, radar screen, night vision, radio transmitter and receiver, smoke camouflage, weapons controls… What is that? Missiles cannon?” He frowns. “It really is a tank, Paul.”
“I got the distinct feeling that vehicle is some sort of secret project that was stolen by whoever has kidnapped us.” Metcalfe muses. “I’m really tempted to use that radio transmitter to call for help, you know. If it wasn’t for that secrecy thing in which this all affair…”
A loud call from out of the vehicle interrupts him suddenly, getting his attention: someone was shouting his name:
“Colonel Metcalfe! Mister Svenson!”
Metcalfe frowns. Svenson rears his head out of the vehicle. He sees Donaghue, standing in the middle of the stairs, looking in his direction.”
“What is it, Donaghue?”
“Commander Holden has told me to come get you. It seems that somebody else is coming.”
Svenson frowns. “Someone arrives right now?”
“A cab was approaching very closely when the commander sends me.” Donaghue nods.
Svenson gets his head back into the vehicle to look at Metcalfe. The later is dragging himself out of the seat, sighing deeply.
“How many more will be coming along before we understand anything about this mess?”
Svenson contents himself with a smile and jumps out of the vehicle, closely followed by Metcalfe. Together, with Donaghue, they climb up the stairs.
* * *
Metcalfe, Svenson and Donaghue gets out of the warehouse at about the same time that a man steps out of cab stopped alongside Donaghue’s car. The man was bending over the cabby’s window and was paying him when Metcalfe, passing by Blackburn and Holden, who where only looking at the newcomer, goes directly to him. The cab pulls back and gets away. The newcomer, with eyes, hair and a well-trimmed beard with the same brown, smiles broadly to Metcalfe and extends his hand to him.
“Colonel, I’m Richard Fraser.”
“Please to met you, mister Fraser. I’m colonel Paul Metcalfe.”
That one, he thinks, at least knows the insignias of his rank. Maybe he’s military… He looks the part, anyway. The WAAF colonel decides not to make the mistake he has made with Donaghue. He will arranges this so it will at least look official.
“Please, mister Fraser”, he says quietly, “Can you show me some identification, as well as the letter the Selection Committee has sent you? You did bring it with you?”
“Why, sure!” Fraser puts his hand in the interior pocket of his vest. “I’ll give that to you in a second…”
He stops suddenly. His eyes are looking beyond Metcalfe, further than Blackburn and Holden. He’s staring directly at Donaghue, who’s standing behind, next to Svenson.
Metcalfe has seen the strange look in Fraser’s eyes but it is too late before he can do something. Instead of producing his I.D. paper or the Committee letter, Fraser quickly brings out a pistol. He bluntly shoves Metcalfe asides and aims his weapon toward the group of men in front of him. Each reacts swiftly, in his own fashion, getting aside or throwing themselves on the ground.
“Don’t you move, Donaghue!” Fraser shouts loudly, with a commanding tone. “Or I swear I’ll shoot you!”
Donaghue, his hands well in view, seems a little embarrassed.
“Easy, mate!” He says. “Don’t do anything too rash!”
“What are you doing, Fraser?” Metcalfe says, furious and surprised.
“Stay out of this, colonel!” Fraser answers to him.
“Like hell, I will! Keep that weapon down!”
“I will not! Do you know who that man is?”
“We don’t even know who YOU are, man!” Holden, who’s lying flat in the dirt, says.
“He’s Patrick Donaghue, one of the most notorious crime bosses in New York City…” Fraser says. “In fact, he controls most of the mob gangs in the State!”
The revelation brings about a silent surprise to the group, as they look at each other’s, a bit confused… but with a new meaning of understanding. Blackburn, who is crouched behind Donaghue’s car, gives a faint snigger.
“A mob boss? Now it explains everything! The sports car, the clothes…”
“Easy, now, fellow.” Donaghue calls to Fraser. “I’m here on official business.”
“I bet you are!” Fraser snorts between clenched teeth.
“I will only say it twice, Fraser.” Metcalfe sternly says. “Put that gun down!”
Fraser turns threateningly toward him. “And I repeat you to stay out of this! Else, I have you arrested for abhorring an internationally wanted criminal!”
At precisely that instant, Blackburn pops up from behind the car and throws a rock at the armed man; the projectile came crashing directly on his right shoulder, making him lower his gun. Metcalfe then makes good use of the respite and throws a solid punch in Fraser’s jaw, before disarming him.
Meanwhile, Donaghue has seen his advantage and makes the move to take his gun from under his left shoulder. He hasn’t count on Svenson, who has kept quiet all that time, at only two feet from his side. When he sees Donaghue going for his weapon, he leaps forward. A swift karate kick on Donaghue’s arm sends the gun to the ground. The alleged mobster gives a loud cry and look at Svenson with a surprised glance, as Holden takes quickly hold of the weapon.
“It’s all right, Adam, I’ve got the gun.”
Donaghue turns to Svenson, glancing at him furiously, while rubbing his hurt limb.
“Why did you do that for?” He snaps.
“I wasn’t about to let you shoot an unarmed man.” Svenson quietly answers back.
Donaghue frowns. “I wouldn’t have shot him! I only wanted to intimidate him!”
“Now how was I supposed to know that?”
Donaghue shakes his head. “You do not believe me.”
“Damn right, we don’t believe you!” Holden replies, getting to his feet. “According to this man, you’re a criminal, Donaghue!”
Fraser, who had been stunned by Metcalfte’s fist, is trying now to get his balance back, while the WAAF colonel keeps him on his feet. Blackburn comes toward them, ready to assist. Metcalfe addresses him a smile.
“Good show there, Steve. You really nailed him!”
“I’d say it was you who did the job, colonel.” Blackburn replies. “I only provide some diversion.”
“Well, you did a good job at that.” Metcalfe then calls to Svenson. “How are things keeping, Adam?”
“Donaghue’s been taken care off. Holden has the gun.”
“All right, keep him in check.”
The WAAF colonel takes Fraser by the arm and brings him toward the warehouse. When he gets his eyes on Donaghue, Fraser tries to jump at him, but Blackburn and Metcalfe keep him at bay. Donaghue takes a step back.
“Don’t get too excited, mate.” He says to Fraser. “I’ve got nothing against you.”
“I am not your mate!” Fraser replies with a furious tone, still trying to get at him. “You’re nothing but a known criminal and I will only rest when you are behind bars!”
“All right, that’s enough now!” Metcalfe shout forcefully. “Keep calm, Fraser. Don’t push me to hit you again!”
Fraser ceases his struggle. Blackburn keeps a hand on him, as Holden and Svenson take care to stay in front of Donaghue. The two protagonists are exchanging murderous glances.
“Colonel, you’re making a big mistake.” Fraser says to Metcalfe. “If you continue to protect that man…”
“First of all, I don’t take menaces to my person too kindly, mister Fraser!” Metcalfe interrupts him promptly. “So do stop threatening me, before I really loose my temper! Second, we’re not protecting mister Donaghue; we’re just trying to keep the two of you from killing each other. I want you to stay calm so you can explain to me what’s going on! There’s too much mysteries and surprises around here, and frankly, I’m quite tired of it.”
“Yeah, you and everyone else here.” Holden adds, nodding.
“Now, you’re saying that man is a mobster?” Metcalfe continues, still addressing Fraser.
“He is.” Fraser answers. “His name’s Patrick Donaghue. He’s from an Irish immigrant family who has settled in New York City when he only was a kid…”
“I didn’t ask you his biography.” An impatient Metcalfe interrupts. “Get to the point.”
“All right, then. He has established a state ring of organised gangs that base their activities on computerised crimes. He’s quite successful at that. Every cops in the States – and in the world – try to get their hands on him for years now.”
“He already has told us his name.” Metcalfe says. Then turning to Donaghue: “Is the rest true, mister?”
“There’s little point in me denying it now, is it?” A mopping Donaghue answers.
Metcalfe turns to face Fraser anew. “And how do you know so much about him? You’re with the police?”
Donaghue snickers. “He’s a detective from the World government Police Corps. Richard Fraser. I should have recognized the name and the face sooner!”
“So, you know about me too, isn’t it?”
“Every crime organisation knows about you, after the success you had with the Capelli Family in Chicago, Fraser. And since you’re the first choice to replace the soon to be retiring commander of the Corps… Well, everybody in my branch of work has to know who you are.”
“So you can put a bomb in my car?” Fraser asks with a disgusting tone.
“Don’t be stupid.” Donaghue replies with a stern voice. “I’ve told you, I’ve no quarrel with you!”
“But I’ve got plenty with you!”
Fraser tries once again to get to Donaghue. Blackburn keeps him at arm’s length of the New York mobster, while Metcalfe pulls on his arm.
“All right, now, knock it off!” Metcalfe says, very annoyed now. “I’ve no intention of playing referee for the both of you! Hand me your letter from the Selection Committee, Fraser!” Then addressing Donaghue:
“And I want yours too, mister!”
Donaghue protests. “Colonel, I thought I had made clear…”
“I don’t care what you think!” Metcalfe shouts with a voice that would not tolerate any refusal. “Give me that blasted letter or I assure you, it’s not Fraser you’ll have to worry about!”
“Better to obey him, pal.” Svenson suggests to Donaghue. You don’t want to get on his bad side.”
Donaghue still hesitates a moment; a look at Metcalfe’s angry blue eyes helps him make his decision. Taking care of being as conspicuous as he could be, he slowly takes hi hand to his vest pocket and hands to the colonel the letter he was so exacting from him.
“Here.” He sighs. “I guess I have no much choice.”
Fraser has already complied with Metcalfe. The colonel begins by looking at the envelope, which is sporting the World Government Seal. So is the letter he unfolds then. Metcalfe reads it; it’s very similar to his owns. He frowns. Fraser has quite an impressive record and background in his line of work.
Then again, he thinks, he was selected because he probably was one of the bests. Like all of them were supposed to be.
Donaghue, on the other hand, seems to be the wild card of the lot.
Metcalfe folds the letter and gives it back to Fraser.
“It appears that all is in order, here. And since mister Donaghue has vouched for your identity…”
“Very funny, colonel!” Fraser grumbles.
“Now to you, Donaghue…” Metcalfe continues, unfolding Donaghue’s letter
Donaghue seems to brace himself, as Metcalfe reads silently the letter. The others are waiting. They see a little twitch passes over the colonel’s face.
“So? What does it say?” Blackburn asks impatiently.
Metcalfe gives a glance at Donaghue, with more than a passing curiosity in his eyes. He continues his reading.
“I understand now why you didn’t want to give me that letter, Donaghue.”
“Well?” Svenson says, frowning. “Is it a forgery?”
“No.” Metcalfe stare straight at Donaghue. “He’s clean.”
“What?” A startled Fraser shouts.
Metcalfe turns to him. “He was selected by the Committee, same as you. Same as all of us.”
“I don’t believe it! It must be some kind of trick!”
Metcalfe shows him Donaghue’s letter.
“I don’t think the members of the Committee are prone to tricks.” He quietly says. “They offered him a full pardon if he decides to join in. He’s got immunity just by coming here. There’s nothing you can do, as long as he’s staying at the disposition of the Committee.”
Fraser is furious. “I don’t see any Committee!”
“Well, until somebody official shows up, we’ll all have to make sure that the decision of the Committee is enforced.” Metcalfe sternly replies. “Donaghue has the right to be here, under its protection.”
This time, Fraser seems enraged. “Let me see that letter!”
Metcalfe calmly hands him what he requests. “If you will. But be sure to give it back to his rightful owner.”
Fraser almost tears the letter from Metcalfe’s hand and reads it frantically. The others see his facial features change gradually. They witness as he reddens, then bleaches suddenly at the realisation that Donaghue really is out of his reach. The New York mobster is smiling roguishly, when the detective gives him a murderous glance.
“All right, I give. For now.” Fraser hisses between clenched teeth. He addresses Donaghue with a threatening tone: “But give me one excuse, mister, just one, and I’ll get you!”
Donaghue is not impressed in the least.
“In the meantime, would you care to give me back my letter? You would understand that I consider it very precious…”
Fraser complies with an angry move. The others relax a little. Metcalfe sighs heavily. He feels a headache coming down on him; his ears were buzzing faintly.
“Thank you very much, detective.” Donaghue says, still smiling arrogantly to Fraser. “It seems that we can very likely become partners soon, don’t you think so?”
The sole mention of that made Fraser jumps out.
“Me? Be partner with you? Never!”
Svenson finds himself suddenly shouting angrily.
Will you stop it, you two? You’re beginning to get on my nerves! I think I’m gonna be sick because of all this… My ears are already ringing enough as it is!”
Metcalfe frowns at this sentence.
“Say!” Blackburn says suddenly. “It’s not only your ears!”
“I hear it too!” Holden adds.
The six men obviously hear the same buzzing sound. It was growing in intensity as they nervously look all around, not knowing what they must search for.
“It sounds like… a helicopter.” Blackburn notices, frowning.
“Yes, that’s it!” Metcalfe nods. “And it’s approaching.”
The buzz has increased to a point were it was menacing to become deafening. They look up to the sky.
And then they see them. Not one, but three helicopters coming from high above the warehouse, overlooking at them. Metcalfe tries to look at them more closely. By their round tails, they resemble WAAF Rotar helijets, he thinks to himself. He had flown it a couple of times before. But these crafts don’t have the markings of the World Army air Forces. They don’t have any markings at all.
Metcalfe tenses; all his commando instincts tells him that things were going badly. That it was yet another ambush from their unknown enemies, and not at all the much-awaited official arrival they were all waiting for.
The rapid descent of one of the helijets toward them seems to prove him right.
“Everybody spread out and take cover!” Metcalfe shouts. “Quickly! It’s coming to attack!”