"And Then They Came..." ( Chapter XXIX )


Chapter XXIX

The drone followed the CRV at an altitude of 5,000 feet, recording its entire path. The vehicle had driven by the retirement community while Fernández and Aarón hid with a monitor inside Aarón’s 2009 Honda Civic—Fernández’s WKPA van, which bore a large logo of the station, hidden behind a large trash bin.

The CRV had traveled in a southern course toward the mountains. The drone, with a range of nearly 22 miles, would be able to follow the CRV without the two men in the Honda having to pursue it, at least for the time being.

The terrorists moved at a slow speed, sometimes pausing to search certain areas more deliberately. Then, after some twenty minutes of driving, the red vehicle suddenly picked up its speed, as if its search had finished.

The CRV continued its journey, distancing itself from Fernández and Aarón by approximately sixteen miles, and entering an area where few structures existed.

Abruptly, the red vehicle stopped, and after pausing in front of what seemed from the air to be a gate, veered to the left, into a long, palm-fringed lane that ran for nearly a quarter of a mile, and ended in a three-story white mansion.

Fernández began to maneuver the drone with deliberate care, letting it hover just below the low rain clouds. Its cameras focused on the house, and almost immediately picked up movement of men on its roof and two terraces, carrying what appeared to be rifles.

“Bingo!” Fernández said, for the first time sounding excited. On a notebook, he noted the coordinates that the drone’s GPS was showing. He looked at his companion. “You were right! Let’s bring back the drone, and then I’ll call Doel.”

Aarón beamed at the drone operator, rubbing his hands with glee.

“El Chino will be happy,” he said out loud, in reality already planning what he would do with the five hundred dollar reward that he had just earned.

* * *

Lucas watched as Jeannie mopped the kitchen’s floor, barefoot and in short shorts. She had piled her black hair into a disheveled bun close to the top and back of her head, and was frowning as she tried to eliminate some stubborn shoe scratches from several tiles on the floor that probably originated from the immaculately shoe polished shoes of one or more of the security bodyguards.

After vigorously pushing back and forth a wet rag at the bottom of her inverted-T-shaped handle—after all, she was of Cuban descent and like most Cubans, did not use a regular mop—she finally succeeded in wiping the floor clean, and stopped to contemplate her work, wiping her forehead with the back of one hand.

Lucas and Jeannie had been married for twelve years, and he still considered her the sexiest, most beautiful woman he had ever known. Perfect nose and full lips, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes, a body that was not too thin and not too full but still retaining its heart-stopping curves, and lightly bronzed skin—more like a permanent tan—caused him to stop and stare at her brazenly, almost lecherously, several times during the day.

It was her smile, though, that had caused him to fall head over heels for her. Not a perfect smile, or a glamorous, Hollywood-kind of smile, but a vulnerable, soul-baring smile that still took his breath away more than a decade after they had been married.

As if sensing his attention, she turned towards him, and smiled.

“What? What are you looking at?” she asked in a naughty tone.

“You are one hot, sexy lady, you know that?” he said, returning her smile. “I mean, for an almost forty year old woman,” he added in a mischievous tone.

“You are such a jerk! And a pervert.” she responded in an unconvincingly indignant tone. “Leering at me while I work! Don’t you have anything better to do?”

Lucas walked to her, embraced her, and kissed her passionately. “I have a thousand things more important to do. But none better, and none that I would rather be doing.”

Jeannie kissed him back, just as passionately. They continued to hold each other for a long time, simply enjoying their proximity. But slowly, their smiles dissolved into a mixture of sorrow and concern, as the reality of their situation set in.

“I’m so sorry,” Lucas whispered to her.

“About what?” she asked, totally befuddled.

“It’s me these people want, me they’re after. You, the children, my family…you’re all just in the cross-fire of these people, convenient targets to get back at me.” Lucas grimaced. “I am so sorry I got all of you into this.”

Jeannie looked at him with surprise. “Are you crazy? All you did, all you have ever done, is defend your family and your friends. What would you have done differently? Let Alfredo and the Governor get killed? Let San Miguel escape?”

“I should never have followed San Miguel into that cruise ship,” Lucas replied.

He had never told Jeannie exactly what had happened the night when the terrorist had been killed, and to her credit, Jeannie had never insisted in knowing. For which he had been eternally grateful.

“Do you really think he would have left us alone?” Jeannie asked him.

Lucas kept silent.

She was right, of course.

Lucas had thwarted San Miguel’s attempt to detonate a nuclear device under Old San Juan, just as a G-20 Conference had been taking place in the old city. San Miguel had ordered his gigantic henchman, Czecka, to kill Lucas and leave his body next to the small nuclear device.

After Czecka failed to return, and the bomb failed to explode, and Lucas reappeared alive and well, San Miguel would have inevitably pieced it all together, and come after him anyway.

“Do you know why I married you?” Jeannie asked him after a long pause.

“Sex?” he suggested slyly.

Jeannie chuckled. “You are such a pig! I mean…yes, sex was part of it. But you know what really convinced me that you were ‘The One’?”

“I am ‘The One’?” he repeated in a mock, surprised tone.

“You won’t be ‘The One’ for long if you don’t take me seriously,” she said in an ominous tone.

“Was it my good looks?”

“It was your strength,” she answered, ignoring him. “Your strength of character. Your willingness to take on the world if you believed that the world was wrong. I saw that in you from the outset, and you’ve demonstrated it to me time and again. And I decided to tie my future to yours, because such a man was the man I wanted to live with for the rest of my life.”

She kissed him again, and he pressed her against him as much as he could, enjoying her warmth and her closeness. And when they separated, he looked at her and grinned.

“So it wasn’t my good looks,” he said with a straight face. "You're sure?"

She kicked him in the shin, and stared at him with a suppressed smile. “Just for that, no hanky-panky for you tonight,” she whispered in her most sensual voice.

“No hanky-panky, Gabriel!” Sophia parroted behind them, giving both of them a start.

Jeannie and Lucas automatically separated.

Five year old Sophia and her three year old brother Gabriel were standing by the kitchen door, giggling.

“What…How long have you two little punks been standing there?” Jeannie asked with a chuckle.

“Daddy was kissing Mommy! Daddy was kissing Mommy!” Sophia began to chant in a sing song fashion, the melody taken up immediately by her brother.

“And now, Daddy is going to kiss you!” Lucas said in his best Cookie Monster voice, opening his arms and rushing toward them.

The two children squealed in delight and ran away from the kitchen, laughing.

Just then, Lucas’ cell phone—which he had left on the kitchen counter—began to ring. Jeannie picked it up.

“Hello?

“Jeannie? I thought I had called Lucas. This is Archie,” the voice at the other end said.

“Oh, hi Archie. Lucas is busy chasing the kids. Do you want to talk to him?”

“Please, it’s sort of urgent.”

* * *

“Archie?”

“Hi Lucas,” Archie said.

He was sitting at his desk in the Hato Rey police headquarters. Behind him, in a credenza, were several photos, including one of his wedding with Michelle, of Michelle holding a microphone as she broadcasted from the parking lot of the Grand Laguna Hotel on the day of the terrorist attack, of both of them with protective gear and helmets as they prepared to go down “The Beast” zip line in the mountains, and of Archie receiving a plaque from Superintendent Maldonado.

In front of him sat Police Sergeant Edgardo Negrón, leaning forward on his chair, his arms resting on his knees, his chin on his interlaced fingers.

The door to the office was closed.

“I have Negrón here with me,” Archie said to Lucas. “I’m going to put him on the speakerphone.

Archie placed his cell phone on top of his desk and pressed the “Speaker” function.

Negrón leaned even further, holding on to the edge of the desk.

”Hi, Lucas,” he said loudly, then looked at Archie apologetically, while the redhead glared at him, signaling him to speak in a lower voice.

“Can you hear us?” Archie asked in a lower, more subdued tone.

“I can hear you,” Lucas answered.

Children’s voices filtered through the phone. Archie and Negrón heard a female voice say, “Hush! Daddy’s in a call. Come with me.” Then the noise of the children receded.

“Hi Edgardo,” Lucas said to Negrón. “How are you?”

“I’m as good as a pig wallowing in mud,” the young sergeant replied.

“We were calling you because we found where the terrorists are hiding,” Archie said, cutting to the chase. “Doel’s drone found them,” he added, after Lucas, stunned by the news, failed to say anything.

“Where are they?” Lucas said at last.

“They’re in a rented house, a mansion really, near El Yunque,” Archie responded.

“Have you notified the authorities?”

“That’s why we’re calling you,” Negrón said before Archie could answer. “I’m the only one from the police who knows so far. Well, and Archie. But he's not really a policeman.”

“We’re not sure about what to do about it,” Archie admitted. “I think we have to meet. The Governor’s just published the terrorists’ Manifesto, and in the Manifesto they promised to release Francisco. And we—the police—just got word that the terrorists have told the Governor that they will release Francisco tomorrow morning, although the details of the release are still very sketchy. So the question is, do we tell the authorities what we just found out—where these people are—and risk their going to capture the terrorists before Francisco’s release? Or do we wait, and hope they first release Francisco and get him out of harm’s way?” the red-headed press officer asked.

“I think it goes beyond that,” Negrón interjected. “Do we warn the authorities at all? Or do we say hello to our terrorist friends ourselves?”

Archie groaned softly at Negrón’s remark.

Negrón had always been a lovestruck admirer of Michelle, watching her on TV since his teenaged years.

When Michelle, Archie and him had risked their lives together to save the trapped guests taken hostage by the terrorists in the Grand Laguna Hotel, he had ended up falling head over heels in love with the intrepid reporter. But Michelle was eight years his senior, and she only had had eyes for Archie, whom she had later married. Despite that, his infatuation for her had not diminished, and he had maintained a close friendship with his two former companions.

After Michelle had been seriously injured by the bomb placed in the jewelry store, he had been enraged. Now, he was out for revenge.

“I think we need to meet and discuss this face to face,” Lucas said. “My gut feeling is that we shouldn’t do anything until we confirm that Francisco is out of danger, so we need to wait until tomorrow anyway, and see if they follow through on their promise.”

Archie and Negrón looked at each other and nodded.

“We agree,” Archie said.

“And the quicker we discuss this, the better. Can we meet this afternoon?” Lucas suggested.

“We can meet in my apartment,” Archie confirmed. “You know where that is, right?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’ll tell Negrón how to get there. Is six okay with you? That will give me time to get there from work.”

“I’ll be there.”

“By the way, bring Michael,” Archie told Lucas.

“Michael?” Lucas said in a lower voice, probably because Michael was in the house.

“Yes, Michael. Your other brother-in-law? Vanessa’s husband? Alfredo’s father? He also has an interest in this matter.”

“You told Michael about this?” There was a hint of irritation in Lucas’ voice, palpable even through the cell phone.

Besides being his brother-in-law, Michael was Lucas’ best friend. They had both known each other since Michael had begun dating Lucas’ sister, Vanessa. Their bond had grown to be so strong that had Vanessa at some point of her life divorced Michael, he and Lucas would have probably continued to be close friends.

But Michael was a hothead, and sometimes reacted viscerally before he could think things through. During the prior year’s terrorist attack, when Alfredo had been held captive in La Fortaleza with the Governor and Francisco, Michael had been willing to swim across the Condado Lagoon to San Juan and assault the Governor’s mansion to save his son. Only Lucas’ insistence that he would be killed, make Vanessa a widow, and not help Alfredo in any way, had grudgingly convinced him not to do it.

Archie hesitated. “He has as much right to participate in this as we do. And he is fearless. If we are going to tackle these people, we’re going to need as many people as we can get.”

Lucas had no doubts about Michael’s courage. It was his fearlessness, which sometimes led him to impulsiveness, that worried him.

“Okay,” Lucas said, in a resigned tone. “I’ll tell him and take him with me when I drive to your apartment.”

“So we’re set then,” Archie said cautiously.

“God help us,” Lucas whispered.

* * *

BULLETIN

Hurricane Fay Advisory Number 12

NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL

500 PM AST (2100 UTC)

...FAY BECOMES AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE...

...THE EYE AND THE INTENSE INNER CORE IS EXPECTED TO PASS NEAR

DOMINICA DURING THE NEXT FEW HOURS...

WATCHES AND WARNINGS

--------------------

CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Puerto Rico, Culebra,

and Vieques.

The Government of the Dominican Republic has issued a Hurricane

Watch from Isla Saona to Puerto Plata, and a Tropical Storm Watch

west of Puerto Plata to the northern Dominican Republic-Haiti

border.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

* Guadeloupe

* Dominica

* St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat

* Martinique

* U.S. Virgin Islands

* British Virgin Islands

* Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

* Antigua and Barbuda

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Maarten

* Anguilla

* St. Lucia

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Maarten

* St. Martin and St. Barthelemy

* Anguilla

* Isla Saona to Puerto Plata

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...

* St. Vincent and the Grenadines

* West of Puerto Plata to the northern Dominican Republic-Haiti

border

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK

------------------------------

At 500 PM AST (2100 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Fay was located

by satellite imagery and data from the French radar on Martinique

near latitude 15.0 North, longitude 60.5 West. Fay is moving

toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 km/h), and this general

motion is expected to slow down through the next two days, allowing it to gain more strength. On the forecast track, the center of Fay will move

near Dominica and the adjacent Leeward Islands during the next half day,

over the extreme northeastern Caribbean Sea the remainder of tonight, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and approach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands within the next seventy-two hours.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 130 mph (215 km/h)

with higher gusts. Fay is an extremely dangerous category 4

hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Additional

strengthening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours, and Fay

is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane during the

next couple of days.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the

center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles

(205 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 950 mb (28.06 inches).

(Chapter XXX will be posted on Monday, August 3)

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