Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Retro Diary: Part III

 This is a serial mystery thriller. Look for a new installment every Wednesday! Enjoy.   

Part I is here

Part III


Chapter 9

The Finest Timber and Creosote Pine

 “What the hell is Percival Windsor trying to do? He tied Barbara Bain and a horribly mutilated male to a pile of pitch soaked railroad ties. Oh Gahh... they... they are drenched in gasoline. Both are still unconscious, but they move and groan from time to time, indicating that the drug or gas is wearing off. Percival Windsor obviously plans to light them up and then escape, using the burning lumberyard as a cover. I just feel sick. We could go up in flames trying to help them. Now that’s a cowardly thought and I need to stop. Just do it, Franklin. Come on. You’re a Marine.
Franklin was summarizing the situation and trying to prepare himself for action. He did not want to move.
Suddenly, he scrambled onto the pile, followed by two SWAT team members who followed his lead.
 Franklin slashed at the ropes that bound Barbara Bain to the pile, wondering when the whole pile was going to burst into flames. In desperation, the SWAT team leader hacking away at the ropes binding the severely mutilated male, screaming as he tried to avoid further injury.
“Get a blanket on this... uhm... man!” The team leader screamed after he cut the ropes.
 “Where is Agent Ap-Rhys?” Franklin yelled. He got no reply. “I can’t use my radio! It would send us all to hell.”
 He knew that someone fired several shots, but who did it? “Talk to me!” he screamed as he frantically sawed the remaining ropes and hoisted Barbara Bain off the wood. He carried her well away from the pile and handed her over to the team.
“Wash her down now! We all have gasoline on us, but she is soaked! We need a hose...”
 Kevin was not far away when he regained consciousness. His body felt frozen, as if a giant boulder landed on him and smashed every one of his bones. He knew that something nasty was stuck in his upper back. He glared at the advertisement, rolled his eyes to the right and saw a figure moving in the dark. It was Percival and he was carrying a gas can.
“He will pour that gas into the trench,” Kevin’s mind was screaming at him and his stomach took a nasty twist. “What have I done with my life? Am I ready to die like this, alone and useless? I can’t do this. I can’t let him do this to me.”
He already knew that the trench was sloped to make the gas flow quickly and meet up with the woodpile and had severed the trench in one place.
“I almost stopped him! I have to finish this before I die,” He was in shock now and felt nothing, not pain or sadness.
 Percival seemed to be unaware that Kevin was alive.
Kevin moved his right arm and managed to get his radio to his mouth. He pressed the button, "SWAT... Don’t shoot yet! There is gasoline everywhere." He hissed into his radio.
 "Y see a  for... lift? Any..?”
The radio squawked. Percival did not notice.  
Kevin lifted his head, trying desperately not to vomit or pass out from whole new waves of nausea. He saw the cumbersome, heavy-duty forklift.
“I see...!” he hissed. The forklift was only five feet away, but it may have well been ten miles away.
“Get someone over here... cut... trensh! He... fill ... petrol!” He took a deep breath and squirmed around, each move sending new waves of nausea and pain through his body. He hissed into his radio,
“Cover m... me! Shoot... in the arms... do not hit trench. I... I... go for fork... lif..!" 
He prepared to blast into movement, knowing that he would have to keep going once he started. There could be no stopping. His left arm was useless, so he used his right hand to grab a leather glove and jam it into his mouth. He took a shallow, hitching breath, and slithered over to the forklift. He dragged himself up and into the driver's seat and turned the key. Percival still could not see him in the dark.
The forklift failed to start. Moaning softly, Kevin tried again and the electric motor caught. Thankful for power steering, he managed to turn the balky machine 180 degrees and bear down on the trench. 
"Kevin! What are you doing?" Franklin had dashed around the woodpile in a desperate search for his partner. He was about twenty feet away when he saw what was happening.  He screamed into Kevin’s radio.
Kevin could barely talk. His mouth was full of leather glove. He snatched the glove out of his mouth.
“If... if... I sever...trench, Percival... other.... Tell Sss... aim f’... shoulders n’ shoo.. now!"
Percival definitely did not expect to see Kevin, alive, filthy, bloody and bearing down on his trench! He dropped the gasoline can and froze at the sight. He recovered and reached for his weapon just before both of his shoulders exploded into gouts of bone, tissue and blood. The rooftop snipers had followed Kevin’s order and hit Percival solidly, nearly severing his arms from his shoulders.
Percival let out an inhuman scream of pain and rage, yet still managed to drop and squirm under his SUV. The distraction allowed Kevin to lower the tines of the forklift and sever the trench. Kevin went back and forth, breaking up the trench until the connection was irreparably broken. Then he spat out his glove, screamed in pain, lifted the tines and aimed the forklift at Percival's SUV. 
“Kevin! Stop!” Franklin had climbed into the forklift. He was horrified to see the state of his partner.
"May... as well... kill two birds... “Kevin screamed just before the forklift crashed into the SUV, lifting it and turning it over. The last thing he remembered seeing was Franklin and then a starry night sky.

Chapter 10
The Crazy Wee Hours

"He what? What was he thinking? If I had a stick, I would beat him right now. I will beat you also, Special Agent Marsh! You get some painkillers into him NOW! You do it if you have to pull your weapon."
Franklin had never heard Don Padre scream. His and Kevin’s FBI supervisor was only half a mile away from the Taylor County Hospital trauma center. He could have waited, but Don Padre was unhappy wit Franklin and Kevin's rogue ways. He needed to prepare them for his wrath.
Kevin was face down on an emergency room gurney. He was strapped down and in agony. His exhausted screaming made Franklin wish he could puncture his own eardrums with a pencil.
“This is unbearable! I can’t stand to hear Kevin scream like that,” Franklin thought. “Why did Agent O’Donnell order him not to get the morphine? I am ordering you to do it NOW or I will do it myself!” he screamed.  Still no one moved. He pulled a prefilled needle out of his field pack and injected morphine directly into Kevin’s IV. A nurse attempted to interfere and Franklin drew his weapon on her.
“No other FBI gets in here until Agent Don Padre arrives!”
“He was hit with an armor-piercing round that is partially embedded in his back. It pierced his scapula.”
"The problem is this," a horrified chief of surgery tried to calm Franklin down. "The round is an explosive device that can detonate at any time. If it does explode, it will blow that kid’s body apart! We have procedures for this, so you stay with him. Let the nurse clean him up, OK?”
 “You...” he yelled at the crowd surrounding Kevin’s cubicle, “Get that surgery set up and get that special staff in here with special body armor and shields. Give me that...” He carefully accepted then examined Franklin’s needle. “Good! Get the anesthesiologist in here now! Get him ready... "
The chief of surgery had children who were older than Kevin was. Anyone younger than age 30 was another kid.
Kevin let out a brief wail and then stopped. His chest was hitching and his breathing was becoming irregular.
“What the hell is going on here? Get some morphine into this patient! Oh. You did? Good.” The anesthesiologist was a former halfback for the 49ers. He used his bulk to clear unnecessary people out of his way before checking Kevin’s vital signs.
“His heart rate and blood pressure are all wrong! Stabilize him with...!” The anesthesiologist gave orders for the next half hour. Kevin’s vital signs were plummeting from blood loss and shock to his system. A new disturbance arrived. It was Don Padre, yelling at a nurse. The nurse was the one who prevented Kevin from having the morphine.
 "Now look... the government wanted security people present before he could have painkillers.”
“Who the hell gave that order?”
“Some FBI agent named Brendan O’Donnell!”
“I countermanded that order an hour ago! He arrived with security, lady. Didn’t you see that? Ah. I see he’s resting. Good.”
The surgical chief yelled, “Now, get him strapped and stabilized, then prep him for surgery. From here on out, he’s MINE! NO one gives any more orders but me! Am I clear?”
The surgeon barged out of the cubicle and ran into Don Padre. “Look, Supervising Agent Don Padre is it? SA Marsh gave him the morphine! I can't believe you have people who would make him suffer like this!"
"Who gave an order not to give him morphine, Doctor? I want a name!”
“Brendan O’Donnell... Read headed little jackass.”
 “Him? Look. No one else gives orders but you and me. Do we have a deal? Nurse! Get me a wet towel. I want to talk to this young man. You haven’t even cleaned him up."
A nurse gave him a wet towel and he approached Kevin's narrow bed. He gently wiped the tears, snot and dirt away from Kevin’s face. 
"Thank you f’ comin... sir.” Kevin was barely able to speak. “I hate bein’... collec...ted. I do..." Kevin had another job where he did some highly classified work under MI6. Don Padre knew about it and understood that Kevin required supervision when under the influence of drugs.
“His wound and his suffering are sickening! Yet he is still Kevin. I cannot believe the strength in this kid. The rules never should have gone this far, and I am about to kill Brendan. He did this out of revenge and I will track him down.”
Aloud, he said, "It's all right, kid. You did good. You saved the woman. Percival is in surgery and will probably die. You tipped his SUV over onto him. The surgeons are going to get this bullet out of you and you will recover. When you are better, I am going to beat you with a stick. Do you like that plan?"
"Yes sir," Kevin sobbed.
"Why are you happy with my plan, Kevin?"
"Because William is not here to kill m..." Kevin drifted off into oblivion.
“Get Brendan O’Donnell now!” Don Padre screamed into his cell phone. “I will kill that punk! Get him in front of me within the next ten minutes!”
Don Padre did not stop. He made a phone call to Washington. The other party must have picked up right away because Don Padre started speaking in rapid, clipped tones. Franklin managed to pick up a few words...
Utah! I want his badge and gun. He can get them back when he is in Utah. He works for the Borsini gang. He falsely accuses a Basque tourist. He harasses the man’s lawyer and now he’s here, making medical decisions?  I will take care of him here. Yes. Suspended.”
He cut the call and spun around to face Franklin. “Have you been checked out?”
“I’m fine, sir.” Franklin protested. This is Kevin’s blood or Percival’s blood. It’s not mine. I wasn’t hurt at all. We can’t lose him, sir. We can’t.”
“It’s an explosive round and it does not look good, Franklin. Let’s get out of their way since Kevin is under. You have done all you can. Let us go and talk somewhere quiet. Then you go to your motel and clean up.”
“Right now, there is nowhere quiet, sir. Even my brain had too much chaos going on.”

Chapter 11
No One is Expendable

“Sheriff, when did the Chief of Police come to Taylor County?” Don Padre, Franklin and the Sheriff were in the early waiting posture. The exhausted threesome sat in upholstered chairs outside of the surgery that was set up for Kevin. A stainless steel rolling cart was set up with a coffee maker, napkins, donuts and Styrofoam cups. Someone had contributed coffee, a gallon of bottled water and real cream in a bowl of ice.
They refused to budge or leave Kevin alone for a second and they generally behaved themselves. Franklin had taken a shower and changed clothes. He returned looking guilty and uncomfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans.
A team wheeled Kevin past them and into the specially prepared surgery. Kevin was hidden behind a curtain of Kevlar armor. The surgical team wore bulky body armor and their grim faces showed through Plexiglas face shields. They all looked as if they had done too many special operations like the one that might save Kevin.
The sight made Franklin break down. The Sheriff was not much better off. Don Padre showed no emotion. He never broke down, except in anger. He gave Brendan O’Donnell an earful of wrath that culminated in a humiliating escort, in handcuffs, from the hospital to the airport.
The Sheriff was miserable because it all happened on his watch. He had no idea why the Taylor City Chief of Police would try to kill Kevin and neither did the city government. Political chaos had broken out and the press was in frenzy. Don Padre, the hospital director and the Sheriff banned all nonessential personnel and visitors from an entire wing of the hospital.
Don Padre asked question after question. He wanted the facts about the man who might have killed Kevin Ap-Rhys. His people were never expendable. Suicide missions were compromises made by people who could not come up with better plans.
“I have lost only one subordinate in my entire 15 year career. I will not lose this talented young man, even if my faith is tested to its limits. Perhaps I have taken on too much pride in myself and God is telling me something. I pray that Kevin Ap-Rhys is not sacrificed to teach me anything.”
The Sheriff collected his facts before he spoke. “The Chief was here when I came home from Iraq. The Mayor personally recruited him to clean up after the Taylor City Theater Group scandal. He came in from Newark, New Jersey and he had very impressive credentials. We were not happy that an outsider was chosen, so you had better believe that we scoured Newark for dirt on him. We didn’t find a thing. The man was a hero back east.
The problem was that we had experienced officers who worked hard to qualify for that position...” He stopped. “I’m sorry.” he said, “You don’t need to hear this.”
Taylor County Hospital had one of the best trauma units in the state, given the shootings, farm and vehicle accidents that happened along the I-5 corridor. Three surgeons and several other specialists were rushed in from San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, and not just because Kevin was a hero on that Friday Football night. Calls came in from very high places instructing the hospital executives that only the best would do for Kevin. He was apparently an FBI legend who had brought some very bad people to justice. So was his partner, Special Agent Marsh.
Suddenly, all three men turned their heads and stared as a stranger approached. They were slow to react because the man should have had a good reason for being in the area. They were shocked when the stranger turned out to be a national network personality who somehow got past the heavy line of protection. He had the nerve to come in with a camera operator...
"Ken Sterling... C...", the arrogant idiot barked out orders as if his press card was a badge. He barged over to the observation window into the surgery. "Now here’s what I need. Film that!”
He spun around to glare at the three most powerful men in the area. I need to know what is going on here. Do any of you people have anything to say about the..."
Both men were on the floor, handcuffed and in great pain before they could even start whining about their press credentials.
"What part of ‘restricted area’ don't you understand, Ken?" The Sheriff screamed. The Sheriff pulled out his radio while Franklin videotaped the incident with his smart phone.
"Deputy Daws! Get in here and take these guys to lockup for trespassing. Then you tell me how they got in here. And lock this entire hospital down! Clear all nonessential people out!"
A group of deputies hauled the reporter out and police officers after a few smacks to the head convinced him to keep his mouth shut. The Sheriff recalled more staff to secure the hospital. Franklin requested State Police support. He had a special SFPD arrangement where he could make such requests. Don Padre did nothing. He was waiting for reinforcements and he had other issues to deal with.
The Sheriff left the area to exact his revenge. He found out that the police department was at fault for the security breach. A Sergeant named Bando Fransworth brought the celebrity news personality to the surgery, bullying and fast-talking his way past anyone who got in their way. Sgt. Fransworth was relieved of his weapon and badge and ejected from the hospital. The acting chief took him to the county jail and held him for questioning.
The acting Police chief was a solid veteran who took command of the situation.
"Hey, Sheriff. Look. I am putting my people in place." He stopped to address a group of hand picked officers.
“Look sharp and don’t tell anyone anything! You know how gossip travels in this town!” He turned back to the red-faced Sheriff.
“Come with me, Dan. An FBI chief needs to hear from you. Then we can make some plans together.” He escorted the chief to Kevin’s surgical waiting area. After introductions, the acting police chief spoke.
 "I do know that Percival Windsor established an organization in Taylor County, so we can only trust our old timers now. I recalled all department reserves. I won’t let any more trouble happen."
He continued. “You want to know about the Chief. He never should have gotten the job in the first place, but the Mayor insisted on hiring him. Excuse me.” He got up, poured a cup of coffee, returned and settled down before he resumed his briefing.
“I’m so sorry. We are all in over our heads on this. Now. Uhm...” he took a deep breath and said, “The Chief had some very big connections. We’re talking multi billionaires here. That theater group had more going on than kinky sex on weekends. They were doing some witchcraft or something. The Chief shut down the investigation because we had the killer, but some of us wanted to go farther. I have nothing to go on, but I suspect that Percival Windsor had a connection there.”
“Chief, you did well. Thank you for this information. In fact, you all need to remind yourselves that you did all you could. You did well. You saved some lives tonight.”
Two more heavily armored doctors and one of Don Padre’s own explosives experts rushed through the waiting area and into the surgery. A new doctor came with them. He was wearing a white medical coat and a badge. He strolled up and joined the group.
“Good morning. I am Doctor Yap. You must be his FBI boss, Don Padre, and you must be his partner, Special Agent and Inspector Franklin Marsh. You, sir, are obviously the Sheriff of this county, and you must be the acting Police Chief.”
“He produced his identification and then continued to talk as smoothly as if he had known the men for years.
“I am Sir Kevin’s private physician...”
Sir Kevin?” The Sheriff gawped.
“Yes. Inherited title.” The doctor was slightly irritated at the interruption.
“If I may continue, I will be treating Sir Kevin after his surgery, so I am here to observe. Right now, he is in distress. His numbers are not good enough for surgery yet. The doctors are removing the explosive bullet right now. Then the surgery will begin.”
Without blinking an eye, he changed track and said, “Franklin Marsh, you need to call your father.  Inspector Marsh is out of his mind with worry about you two and your misadventures, heroes that you are.”
Franklin got up immediately and started to walk down the hall. He stopped, turned and looked at the interloper. He shook his head and continued down the hall.
Dr. Yap was a difficult to classify Asian man. He spoke in a cultured British accent and appeared to be in command despite the unusual circumstances. He had the well cared for appearance of a man who had someone special in his life. Man or woman, it was difficult to tell.
“Is that armor sterile? They wouldn’t use old armor would they?” Don Padre was concerned about deadly hospital infections.
“The armor was factory sealed and it is clean enough for the removal. The problem is that Kevin went through great physical distress from the pain. I hope that you have SA O’Donnell in a special part of Hell for his actions.”
Don Padre knew better than to interrupt this man and ask how he got his information. The doctor was clearly an MI6 agent. Kevin was something beyond MI6, but Don Padre never questioned that part of his life.
“He is an incredibly strong, healthy and athletic young man, but the doctors must get his blood pressure and heart rate back to acceptable levels before they can begin.” Dr. Yap helped himself to some coffee and then continued.
 “The good news is that the general anesthetic and removal procedure should begin at any time now. He must be paralyzed before the surgeon attempts to remove the bullet. We have never seen that type of armor piercing round before, by the way…”
“There are no chemical or biological agents and the explosive is unknown!” Don Padre interrupted.”
“There is nothing unusual in his system. The round penetrates the armor and explodes inside the body. Hitting any exposed part of the body would have detonated the bullet and killed him. The resulting concussive shock to the vascular system combined with brute force tissue damage would have been enough.”
“So if that thing explodes…” The Sheriff could not finish.
“It is not expected to explode, thank God.” Don Padre said.
“Kevin’s body armor damaged the round. There are no guarantees, of course, but the odds favor the explosives expert who will remove the round, secure it and remove it from the area without a detonation. David Fanoy is one of the best explosives disposal experts in the world.” He stopped and pointed at a strange apparatus that looked like a small mailbox.
“Now, do you see that odd looking box on wheels?”
“Yes. What is that?” Franklin had returned and flopped onto a seat. Don Padre watched him closely, looking for signs of exhaustion. He said,
“That is a new type of containment vessel, Franklin. This model will handle the force of two sticks of dynamite. David will place the bullet inside and seal the vessel. Then Kevin's surgery can begin.”
Dr. Yap’s cell phone chirped. It was huge.
“Intrinsically safe cell phone...” he explained. “I must take some calls. We will transport him as soon as he is ready. I have room for you and Franklin, Don Padre.” He slipped out of the area.
Franklin rubbed his eyes and let out a long sigh. “Dad is furious. Don Padre, I already talked to him. You know I never leave Dad completely out of the loop. He knew that Kevin and I were after Percival Windsor, but that doesn't matter. He's just furious because Kevin and I are never supposed to be in any danger, anywhere or at any time. Now I have to... to talk to Cousin William. I get his wrath, too?” He looked hopefully at Don Padre.
“He’s all yours, Franklin,” Don Padre said with a grim smile.
“I will be in the room with you when you call.” He added no offer of help.
“I have my own Dad to answer to!” The Sheriff refused to make eye contact. He did not know who William was, but it did not sound good. It was not his job to deal with any more domineering elders than he had to.
Franklin reluctantly retrieved Cousin William’s phone number. Cousin William answered just as the explosives technician flew out of the surgery, grabbed the containment vessel, and dragged it inside.
A loud, metallic CRUMP sounded inside the surgery.
“Damnit! That round was live!” Franklin yelled.
Kevin Ap-Rhys had dodged a few bullets in his lifetime, but they were nothing like the one that was pulled from his body.

Chapter 12

Brendan, Oh Brendan

Barbara Bain woke up in a hospital bed, blinded by fluorescent light and swimming in a haze of pain and confusion. She tried to yell, could only make a gargling noise. A crazy woman kept crying out and she wondered if it was she.
She had a faint idea that the room was full of people. A Korean rap star was on TV, wearing a red sequin suit and doing a crazy dance. His background dancers looked like bad cheerleaders. Someone said,
“Barbara! We are here! Don’t worry! The doctors say you’ll be fine…”
When she was able to speak instead of yodeling, she could only ask, “Wha happen to Karaoke night and Gigolos in
Someone said, “Oh! That must be the last thing she remembers! Don’t worry, sweetie, I was the same way when I woke up. We all got gassed with some sleeping stuff, but we’re going to be fine!”
Forty-five other people were in various stages of recovery, including Deputy Branson. Someone called the Sheriff, who wanted to be the first one to see his deputy.
The Sheriff burst in after a twelve-minute sprint down corridors, through massive lobbies and up several floors. The gassing victims were in the new north tower of the hospital. Kevin was in the south tower. Most of the victims were crowded into regular wardrooms, three to a room. The dead were in the coroner’s realm.
He barged into the deputy’s private room. “Jason! I’m here. Don’t try to talk. You had a heavy dose of sleeping gas. You’re going to be fine, but you’ll be groggy for a while. You are a hero. You helped us get the bad guys and that’s all you need to know right now.”
“Thas goo…all I ‘member is a hinky guy and calling in… then it was Karaoke nighhh...” This was all Jason could say before he dozed off.
Percival Taylor’s ravaged remains lay in the morgue, under the control of the substantial county Coroner... She had had enough of intrusions from a growing crowd of FBI agents who brought turmoil to her orderly operation.
“Come on Dr. Jones!” one of the FBI agents yelled. “You do what we tell you to do!”
“Wow! Where the hell did you get that? TV? Junior college? You keep the press and the locals out of here. Do that won’t you?”
“Look, I’m Special Agent O’Donnell and...”
“O’Donnell! Get out here! Move it now!” another FBI agent barged in, red faced and furious.
The Coroner yelled. “You sort this out somewhere else! I don’t want to see O’Donnell in here again or I will shoot him myself! No one gets in here or touches the remains without my approval and that is that!”
Two bodies lay in the hospital morgue. Both were in terrible condition. Dr. Jones said, “Get out! One of you in here at a time! You! Stay!”
The last, red-faced agent shooed the others out of the area and barked out commands. “Yes Ma’am, he said. “I have men posted to help you. I just need to know what you have so far.”
“One man was traveling on a Belgian passport," She said.
"We checked his background. We think that he was Percival Windsor's attorney, but what did he do to deserve this sadistic nastiness?”
“I can’t answer rhetorical questions, but this man was expertly skinned alive! The only skin left on him is on his feet, head and hands. The effect was similar to what a burn victim would go through. There was catastrophic blood and fluid loss. He was also left exposed for too long. Of course, the gasoline didn’t help.”
“The killer poured gasoline all over him after he was... uhm... mutilated?”
“Yes. Early results indicate that he had different drugs than the Blue Lagoon victims had. We can identify some of the drugs, but not all of them. The man died without feeling a thing.”
“Well, this takes us to a new level," The agent said.
 “I know the other deceased male,” The coroner moved to the other table. “This is Henry Barton. He’s a local good... well bad ole boy. I can say that he bears a remarkable resemblance to your suspect, Percival Windsor, but this is not Percival Windsor. See that tattooing?” She pointed out a wicked, ugly tattoo of a snake emerging from a human skull that covered a quarter of Henry Barton’s upper torso.
“That’s Henry Barton’s ID card. He was one terrible guy. Local boy. Fourth generation Okie. Meth dealer. Biker. Two strikes felon...”
“Uh oh...” The agent said.
“I think we have “The Live Skinner” serial killer here!
“Oh my God. Didn’t he skin... what seven people while they were alive?”
“It was more like fifty people and there is even worse news."
"What worse news?"
" The real Percival Windsor is still at large!”

To be continued....

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