Authors: Robert Boren
Bug Out! Part 10
RV Race to Battle
Robert G Boren
Frank and Jane are still at the Kansas RV Park. Their computer network gets hacked. Frank locks down their security and identifies the Nighthawk Road Killer as the hacker. Malcolm, George, and Heidi are on their way when George overhears enemy plans for an assault on East Denver. They plan an ambush and enlist our friends in a horrendous battle, taking out many enemy fighters and foiling a plan to cut off supplies to Denver. The Nighthawk Road Killer captures Howard enlists him via blackmail. They kick off a murder spree as they move eastward towards Ohio, planning to circle back and take the Kansas RV Park. After the ambush, Malcolm, George, and Heidi join our group at their RV Park and plan for the rescue of General Hogan. They investigate the dungeon and find home movies which show Howard was in on the Nighthawk Road murders. Frank finishes the last two parts of his apps, and they pinpoint the location of General Hogan. The army rescues him, and he joins the group to plan the next battle.
“Uh oh,” Jane said, looking
at her laptop screen. She was next to Jasmine, in the clubhouse, sitting at the long table they set up with the new 24-port network switch.
“What do you see?”
“Two bodies found, east of the last ones. Same markers,” she said. “Girl and step-mom.”
“Really,” Jane said. “I’ll go tell Malcolm.”
She went out to the porch, where Malcolm and George were talking with General Hogan.
“Malcolm, there’s something you need to see,” she said.
“Another calling card?” Malcolm asked, grinning.
“Yes,” Jane said
“East or west of the last one?”
“Just slightly east,” Jane said. “I expected it to be further from the last one, based on what you were saying.”
“Could you gentlemen excuse me for a few minutes?” Malcolm said.
“Of course,” General Hogan said.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” George said.
Jane led Malcolm to the laptop. Malcolm sat and read.
“I don’t think they planned this one,” Malcolm said. “It was spur of the moment.”
“Why do you say that?” Jane asked.
“They found the step-mom’s motor home sitting in the parking lot at Walmart,” Malcolm said. “It was wide open. I need more details to confirm this wasn’t a normal incident though.”
“What kind of details?” Jasmine asked.
“Evidence of sexual assault,” Malcolm said. “If there was none, it wasn’t a normal incident. I’ll get my laptop and bring it in here. We have enough connections?”
“Yeah, Jake gave us a 24-port network switch,” Jasmine said.
“Good, be right back,” Malcolm said as he headed out.
“Interesting,” Jasmine said as she watched him walk away.
“What does it matter, if we see the markers on the bodies?” Jane asked.
“I think I know,” Jasmine said. “If they didn’t do their whole routine, but still marked the bodies, it means they’re trying to put a false narrative out there.”
Malcolm came back with his laptop. He sat next to Jasmine and plugged it in. He was up and running in a few minutes.
“What are you hacking into there?” Jane asked.
“The police report,” Malcolm said. He read silently for a few minutes. Then he leaned back in his chair, staring up, and thinking.
“Well?” Jasmine asked.
“No fluids,” he said. “No sexual assault. They weren’t planning to take these two, and they didn’t play with them.”
“Jasmine thinks that’s evidence they’re trying to throw us off the track,” Jane said.
Malcolm smiled. “Jasmine’s very clever,” he said. “That’s exactly what I’m thinking. They aren’t just letting their lust carry them along. They’re trying to lead us to believe a storyline.”
“How do you mean?” Jane said.
“If the last killings happen at their home base and then stop, we’re going to have company here. They’ll double back.”
“Home base?” Jane asked.
“Yeah, there are two, but one is unlikely to be used at this point.”
“New Jersey,” Jasmine said.
“Yeah, too much mayhem happening there,” Malcolm said. “There were several killings with similar markings around the Columbus, Ohio area over the last several months.”
“Similar?” Jane asked.
“Yes, similar enough for somebody like me to notice,” Malcolm said.
“That’s what I thought,” Jasmine said, smiling. “Wonder if these two women saw something?”
“Probably,” Malcolm said. “Sexual assault is a big part of the payoff for these guys. They were in too much of a hurry to indulge. They didn’t plan this one. If they were smarter, they wouldn’t have put the markers on. Now I’m onto them.”
“I’m still stuck on the marker thing,” Jane said. “You say similar markings were found earlier. Now they’re back to the classic markings of the Nighthawk Road killer. Are you sure the incidents in New Jersey and Ohio weren’t just copycats?”
“I’m pretty sure,” Malcolm said.
“Why would they adjust the markings?” Jane asked.
“The most likely reason is that an old partnership has been re-kindled,” Malcolm said. “Has anybody been into town to check on Howard?”
“Not yet,” Jane said. “Frank and I need some supplies. We plan to hit the Walmart, and go by Howard’s place on the way.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Malcolm said. “If his business is boarded up, it’d be way too much of a coincidence.”
On the porch, George and the General were still chatting.
“You’ll have to tell me how you got hooked up with Malcolm,” General Hogan said. “The real story, that is.”
George chuckled. “Not believing what the press said, eh?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I could see it that way,” he said.
“The papers and a couple of the books got things right,” George said.
“Did you help them with that?”
“No, but Malcolm did,” George said, chuckling. “He likes the limelight.”
“So I’ve read,” the General said. “Can we trust him? Really?”
“I’d trust him with my life,” George said. “You worried about him?”
“Well, yes and no,” the General said. “He’s already proved himself valuable in a battle. Those two ambushes you guys pulled off were impressive.”
“Thanks,” George said. “There’s a ‘but’ coming.”
“You know how important this group is,” General Hogan said. “I hope, anyway.”
“Yes, I picked up on that quickly, General.”
“We need to make sure no outlandish plans get put into place. We can’t have any of these folks getting put into unnecessary risk.”
“I’ve warned him about that,” George said. “Frankly, I’m more worried about myself than I am about Malcolm.”
“Before I hooked up with Malcolm, I had a serious problem with PTSD,” George said. “That’s how I met Malcolm. He was my therapist.”
The General looked at him and laughed. “Really?”
“Yeah,” George continued. “That last agency job I was on really messed with my head, and it still bothers me. You know who was involved, right?”
“Saladin,” the General said. “What are you worried about?”
“That I’ll freeze up trying to get him,” George said.
“Look,” the General said. “You didn’t freeze up the last time you went against him. They pulled a nasty trick, and you feel guilty about the result. You shouldn’t.”
“I know that,” George said. “But that isn’t always enough. I remember the rage, and what the result was. I might shut down rather than risk going there again.”
“We all have our demons, George,” the General said. “From what I can tell, you’ve done a better than average job of overcoming yours. If I were you, I wouldn’t fret about it.”
Malcolm walked back out. “You okay, George?” he said, seeing the expression on his face.
“Yeah, just discussing the nastiness of the past,” George said. “What’s going on in there?”
“Confirmation,” Malcolm said.
“He’s trying to lead us down the garden path?” George grinned.
“Yep, and he screwed up. Tipped his hand.”
The General looked at them, puzzled.
“Want to see the dungeon, General?” Malcolm asked.
“Later,” he said. “I need to round up my boys and take part in the planning session with Jerry.”
“Okay,” Malcolm said. He looked at George. “Sounds like something we ought to be part of, too.”
“Agreed,” George said. “Let’s go.”
Howard drove the Class C rig back into the barn. The smell was not so bad anymore, but he felt dirty. He opened the windows in the coach before locking the door and heading to the house. The twins greeted him with smiles when he went in the door.
Guess they’re used to me now.
“Done with your errands?” Kerry asked.
“Sure am. Scotty still downstairs?”
“Yeah,” Kerry replied.
“Johnny ought to be here pretty soon,” Blake said. “Maybe we should cook something for lunch.”
“That would be great, guys. Thanks!”
Scotty was laying on the bed, messing with his cellphone. He smiled as Howard walked in. “Everything go okay?”
“Yeah, but the smell got into the rig. I’ve got the windows open to air her out.”
“Good,” Scotty said. “You doing okay?”
“Yeah, but I’m worried,” Howard said. “This is another one without fluids. Somebodies going to get wise.”
“Maybe. How about Amanda?”
“Between the two of us, there’s plenty there,” he said. “Wish I could’ve kept her longer.” He looked around the basement. “This place would’ve worked pretty well.”
“Yeah, my dad and my uncle worked out of here every so often,” Scott said. “Later Jason and Earl did.”
“How about Red Dagger?”
“Not that I remember,” Scott said. “He was mostly up north, where Earl’s family was.”
“Yeah,” Scott said.
There were footsteps on the porch, coming into the door. Howard and Scott looked at each other.
“The paramedic?” Howard asked.
“Hopefully,” Scott said. He put his hand under his pillow and felt for his gun, then laid back and waited. Footsteps came down the stairs.
“Hey, Scott, how are you feeling?” Johnny asked. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Howard sitting next to the bed. “Who’s this?”
“No problem, Johnny, he’s my friend,” Scott said.
Okay,” Johnny said. He continued down the stairs and over to the bedside, putting down his plastic case. He opened it. “Let’s check your blood pressure first.”
“I’m Howard, by the way,” Howard said, smiling.
“Johnny,” the paramedic said as he got the blood pressure cuff in place. Then he put the stethoscope in his ears and started.
After a moment, he let the air out of the cuff, and pulled it off.
“How am I doing?” Scott asked.
“It’s 125 over 82,” he said. “No internal bleeding. Let’s take a look at that wound.”
Scott raised his shirt, and Johnny pulled off the bandage.
“Looks good,” Johnny said. “You’ll be fine in no time. I brought you some antibiotics.” He took a white plastic bottle out of his case. “Take one with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until they’re all gone, and you should be fine.”
“Great, thanks, doc,” Scott said.
“I’m not a doc,” he said.
“I know,” Scott said. “Just joking with you, but you did a bang-up job. Thanks. I mean it.”
“When will it be okay to leave?” Howard asked.
“Oh, you could leave any time,” Johnny said. “In fact, I’d be getting out of here pretty quick if I were you. The center called Emma. She’s hopping mad. I expect her to show up any time now.”
“Who’s Emma?” Howard asked “That cousin of yours?”
“Yeah,” Scott said. He looked Johnny in the eye. “Does she know her twins are here?”
“Not that I know of, but she’ll figure it out pretty quick,” Johnny said.
“Have you been helping them?” Scott asked.
“Yeah, but I didn’t get them out or anything. They did that themselves, and hitched a ride here with some trucker. They couldn’t get the water and power turned on by themselves, so they appeared on my doorstep.”
“You live close by, then?” Howard asked.
“About half a mile down the highway,” Johnny said.
“How did you know that the center called Emma? She call you?” Scott asked.
“No, Scotty. My mom told me. Emma hates me. Won’t even talk to me.”