"And Then They Came..." (Chapter LIV)
Lucas and his group quietly moved from the large garage to the lateral perimeter of the mansion, covering the left entrance to the first floor and to the second floor outside stairs. As they did so, Lucas, Doel and Ojeda took cover behind a brown pickup truck parked twenty yards away from the side of the house, while Michael took cover behind a corner of the smaller of the two garage structures.
No one from the house fired at them.
The three rescued paramedics remained behind, inside the ambulance, to wait for the police. Edgar volunteered to go with his rescuers, in case one of them needed medical attention, but was told it would be too risky.
“The police should be here within minutes,” Lucas said to the others through his PTT. “Archie, what’s the status on Aarón and the shuttle?”
“I called him while you were speaking to Montañez,” Archie replied. “He said he’d be by the gate soon. He’s going to drop off the two prisoners that he has with him. I’ll take care of them and hand them off to the police.”
“Gomez, Tavarez. Go to the gate and take the shuttle,” Lucas said. “We have this under control. Negrón, you too. As a policeman, you’re not supposed to be here.”
“Are you sure?” Gomez inquired through his voice communicator.
“Yes! Go now,” Lucas responded. “You too, Correcaminos.”
“Me?!” the sportscaster replied with surprise. “Why me?”
“Doel tells me that you have the keys to the Prius we left parked at El Guaraguao,” Lucas responded.
There was a pause, as Correcaminos presumably searched for the keys.
“I have them,” Correcaminos confirmed. “The Prius belongs to Doel, but I couldn’t let that old man drive in the dark through the narrow roads of El Yunque. He would have killed the both of us. He’s blind as a bat.”
“Bats can see through the dark, you moron!” Doel interjected through his PTT.
“Anyway, when the police get here, they’ll wonder how the rest of us got to this place,” Lucas said to Correcaminos. “I need you to go in the shuttle to El Guaraguao’s parking area, and drive the Prius to within a quarter mile from here. Then place the keys under the driver’s mat and leave the car by the road. After you park the car, get back on the shuttle, which will be following you, and go straight to San Juan with Negrón, Gomez, and Tavarez. We’ll tell the police that the rest of you were brought here by Doel in his Prius. All except me, of course. I was kidnapped. And Archie was picked up later by the terrorists, but not before alerting the others to follow him here. We all have to be on board with this version of the story.”
Several confirming “checks” followed Lucas’ statement. The men had decided to stick to the cover story they had made up in Archie’s apartment. The story was flimsy at best, but they could not come up with anything better.
“Aarón is calling. The shuttle is here,” Archie informed his companions.
“So go! Gomez, Tavarez, Negrón, Correcaminos! Move!”
“Halfway there!” Gomez confirmed.
“Okay, I’m going. Let’s just hope that they believe you when you say that Doel drove the rest of you here, which is pretty incredible for that rickety old man!” Correcaminos said in his sportscaster’s official voice.
“Shut up and just go, you pompous ass!” Doel said.
“See you at the TV station, old man,” Correcaminos replied, unable to hide his concern for his friend. “But if you get arrested, can I take exclusive credit for this story?”
Correcaminos’ question was answered by an exasperated groan by Doel.
The remaining group waited silently, trying to detect any activity within the house. A soft rain had begun to fall.
“I think we should go in.” Michael suggested from his corner in the garage.
“No! The police is coming. We stay here ‘till they come. I won’t risk turning my sister Vanessa into a widow,” Lucas replied. “Although it would be a definite improvement in her life.”
“Ha!” Michael said. “Your wit is only surpassed by__”
“I’m hearing loud noises coming from inside the house,” Myers reported from his position in the mansion’s dining room.
“Noises? What kind of noises?” Lucas asked.
“Metallic banging noises. Can you hear them?”
Lucas stopped talking and listened.
“I hear some faint, intermittent sounds coming from the back of the house. Like somebody hitting a metal window,“ Michael said.
“They’re trying to break through one of the windows in the back of the house, to escape through the back of the house,” Lucas concluded. “I’m going to take a look. The rest of you, stay where you are.”
‘I’m coming with you,” said Michael. “They’re closer to me than they are to you anyway.”
“Fine. Wait for me.” He turned to Ojeda and Doel. “Make sure nobody exits the mansion from this side.”
Lucas leaned and scurried behind the pickup truck, then sprinted towards the small garage’s corner, where Michael was waiting for him. As he got there, someone from inside the house fired, but missed him by several yards.
“Ready?” he asked his brother-in-law.
“Whenever you are,” Michael replied.
Taking advantage of the darkness, the two men ran to the back end of the property, where the cut grass surrounding the house sloped down to a ditch and then began to slope upwards again until it gave way to the tropical forest. From there, they could see the entire back of the mansion, where several windows made of aluminum panes lined the long, three-story wall.
The legs of a man were beginning to stick out of an opening close to the middle of the second floor, and already two men were on the ground, crouching and nearly invisible in the dark.
“We have to get closer,” Michael whispered, and began to move through the ditch toward the terrorists before Lucas could respond.
“Wait!” Lucas hissed, but by then it was too late.
“Stay where you are!” a voice shouted from behind the foliage of the surrounding forest next to them. “I’ll shoot you if you move!”
The shout attracted the attention of the two other men crouching on the ground under the broken second story window, and they hurried to where Lucas and Michael were standing, pointing their AK-47s at them.
“Throw down your weapons!” the voice of the man hiding in the tropical forest shouted.
Lucas and Michael threw down their rifles, the latter plunging his hands into his pants’ pockets in frustration.
“Ah, ah!” the hidden gunman warned. “Hands where I can see them. Raise them high over your heads.”
“I got the tiny gun,” Michael said in a hurried whisper to his brother-in-law, who stared at him with a confused expression as the rushed footsteps of the other two men approached them. “I’m holding it in my hand.” Michael said in a barely audible voice, motioning with his eyes towards his upraised right hand.
“Stop the talking!” the body-less voice in the forest behind them said, as the other two gunmen reached them.
One of the terrorists, a compact man with coarse facial features and limp, black hair—so black that it looked blue in the night—struck Michael on the stomach, making him stumble to his knees. The other, nearly as compact as his companion but of lighter skin, with a pronounced stoop and a very short haircut, walked to Lucas but stopped a few paces away from him.
“Search them for other weapons,” a blond, athletic man with a foreign accent said, as he emerged out of his hiding place in the brush, pointing his rifle at his prisoners. He seemed mildly amused, arching one of his eyebrows upwards. “I could have killed you,” he said, as he walked down the grassy slope.
“Why…didn’t you?” “Michael asked hoarsely, trying to catch his breath.
“You’re more useful to us alive,” the man replied. “We’ll use you as shields, and leave this place.”
The stooped terrorist pulled Lucas’ Glock out of his belt, and slid it into the front part of his pants. Meanwhile, the man that had been coming out of the second story window dropped to the ground and, crouching, stayed there.
“Give up,” Lucas said in a tired voice. “There’s not enough cars for all of you to escape. How many of you are there, twelve, thirteen?”
“Sixteen, but only five of us are leaving,” the blond man replied with a smile, as the legs of a fifth man began to protrude from the window. “We’ll let the others do the fighting for us while we escape.”
“There’s only a pickup truck left. The cab has a double row of seats, but seven of us won’t fit in it,” Michael said, as he started to get back on his feet. “Why don’t you give up, and avoid any more hassle?”
He glanced at Lucas, and nodded imperceptibly, hoping his brother-in-law had caught his signal that he would make his move soon. However, from Lucas’ expression, he could not tell if he had noticed his signal or not.
The man with the black, straight hair laughed at Michael’s suggestion, while the blond man directed a hard look at his prisoner.
“Well,” the latter said, as he finished walking down the slope, “I guess we really need one of you. We’ll take Alfaro,” he said, looking at him. “You’re surprised I know your name? We all do. Our bosses made us study your photo, with instructions to kill you if you ever came our way. So I guess you must be a valuable man.”
“What about him?” the limp-haired man asked.
Michael’s fingernail-sized gun went off with a powerful “boom”, startling the men around him.
Lucas moved with lightning speed, delivering a vicious chop to the neck of the man closest to him. The stooped gunman gagged and dropped his rifle, desperately trying to breathe. At the same time, Lucas pulled his Glock out of the terrorist’s waistline, and fell to one knee behind the choking gunman.
Startled by the noise of Michael’s tiny pistol, the blond man aimed his rifle in the captives’ general direction, and fired wildly, one of his shots hitting his stooped associate and propelling him on top of Lucas.
Lucas fired as he fell backwards, discharging his gun five times. Three of his bullets found their mark, hitting the blond man on his right thigh and foot, and on his lower thorax. The gunman collapsed onto the slope behind him, gasping heavily for air.
In the meantime, Michael had jumped on the limp-haired terrorist, falling on him and grappling with his rifle. The two men rolled on the ground, refusing to let go of the weapon, pummeling each other with their knees and elbows.
The terrorist was smaller than Michael but very strong, and he managed to head-butt his enemy. Stars exploded inside Michael’s head, causing him to momentarily loosen his grip on the rifle.
The gunman pried away the weapon and, getting on his knees, attempted to shoot Michael, but there was not enough space between them to do so. Frustrated, the terrorist pulled a blade out of his belt, and slashed at his bigger adversary.
However, Michael managed to roll away, and quickly got back on his feet. The terrorist again tried to aim his rifle at him, but Michael kicked him first in the groin.
The man doubled up, howling in pain, only to receive two more savage kicks to the head. He was knocked out unconscious, bleeding from his mouth and nose, falling backwards unnaturally over his own bent legs, much like a limbo dancer trying to squeeze through a very low bar.
“That was very impressive,” Lucas said from behind him. “For an old man like you. Where did you learn to fight like that, from one of your prehistoric friends?”
Michael was only two years older than his brother-in-law, but Lucas had always bantered him about his older age.
“You Rangers are always bragging about how good you fight. You wouldn’t last one minute in the docks, where I learned to fight,” Michael replied with a smile, still panting from the exertion.
He approached the unconscious terrorist, removing his knife and grabbing his rifle. Searching for additional weapons, he extracted a Walther PPK from a holster in the fallen gunman’s right ankle.
“Nice gun!” he said, examining the pistol with a pleased expression. “I think I’m going to keep it.”
Lucas walked to where the blond man lay breathing very heavily. The man stared at him with a tired, anxious expression.
“Stay calm,” Lucas whispered to him in a sympathetic voice. “The police will be here any minute and__”
Several bullets pocked the ground around them, spraying them with dirt and clumps of grass. The shots came from the fourth and fifth men who had jumped out of the second story window.
Lucas and Michael threw themselves on the ground, and returned the fire with a barrage of their own. The gunmen, still under the window from where they had jumped, turned and ran away.
“Coqui 1, there’s two hostiles heading your way, coming from the back of the house,” Lucas said into his PTT communicator.
“Copy that,” Myers confirmed. “We’ll get them.”
A few moments later, several shots rang out.
“Got them,” Myers stated through his PTT.
Lucas got back on his feet and examined the blond man. He was dead, struck by two bullets from their last assailants.
“Poor bastard,” he muttered.
“Poor bastard my ass!” Michael protested. “He was going to kill me!”
Lucas nodded, his mind elsewhere. His thoughts wandered to the Governor, flying with his son to what seemed to be their doom.
“I lost my tiny gun in the fight,” Michael complained, pointing at the unconscious limp-haired terrorist. “This idiot knocked it out of my hand during the fight.”
“Tie him up, before he wakes up,” Lucas told him. “We’ll wait here for the police, in case any other rat decides to abandon the ship.”
About ten minutes later, the woods lit up with the blue revolving lights of several police vehicles, the air reverberating with their sirens.
A few shots were fired from the mansion, followed by a thunderous, massive volley from the arriving authorities.
Then the shooting abruptly stopped.
“Everybody,” Lucas instructed to his people through his PTT. “Throw away your rifles, and walk out with your hands on the top of your heads. We don’t want to be confused with the bad guys.”
(Chapter LV will be posted on Thursday, October 29)