The sound of the camera clicked several times as the man sat under the tree taking pictures of some squirrels that were scampering around. The man sat back and casually looked over towards the basketball court where eight boys were playing. He leaned back and watched the boys as they played. From time to time, he would glance around and then lift the camera to take a quick picture. The boys stopped playing about twenty minutes later and headed over to their bikes. There bumped fists to say goodbye and six of the boys headed away from the neighborhood, while the remaining two started walking farther into the neighborhood and back to their homes. The man got up and walked over to his bike that he had locked up in the bike rack. He put his camera into the backpack that he had with him and as he pretended to be rummaging in the pack, he watched the two boys walk away. One of them bounced the basketball as they walked. Both were smiling and bumping into each other. The other boy made a quick move and took the basketball away and then started running and dribbling the ball down the street, with the other boy in hot pursuit. The man watched until they turned the corner and attached his lock to the bike, got on it and slowly rode from the park, in the direction the boys had gone. He was riding leisurely down the street and turned at the second right. Ahead of him he could see that the boys had run quite a ways ahead and were turning onto another street. The man picked up the pace a little but not too much. When he got to where the boys had turned, he saw the boys heading up the driveway of a house at the end of the cul de sac.
The man stopped at the corner where he could look down the street to the house. He pulled his water bottle out and took several swallows, before returning it to its holder and heading back the way that he came. Once out of the neighborhood he picked up the pace and within a few minutes he stopped his bike behind a truck that was parked in the parking lot of Tahquitz High School. He opened the door and put the backpack in the front seat and put the bike in the back of the truck, jumped in and drove away. Forty minutes later he was pulling into a hotel in Riverside. He pulled the truck into a space in the parking structure and with the backpack in hand headed into the hotel. In his suite, he pulled the SD card out of the camera and plugged it into his laptop. He downloaded the pictures, deleted all of the pictures of anything but those of one of the boys and opened his email. He composed a quick email attached the best of the pictures and sent it off.
Later that night the man came down from his room with his backpack in his hand once again and went to his truck. He pulled out of the parking structure and made his way back to the neighborhood that he had been to earlier. He drove the truck to an area east of the neighborhood. The neighborhood was still being built and there was a construction entrance on the west side of the property. As he turned off the road he turned his lights off as he followed the dirt road that the construction people used and pulled up in front of a locked gate. He quickly got out and some bolt cutters made quick work of the lock. He pushed the gate open and drove through. He followed along some dirt roads that would be paved once the houses were built in that part of the property. He came to an area that had a lot of trees. He drove the truck off the road and into a copse of trees. He got out and went to the passenger side. From the backpack he took out some black clothing and quickly changed into them. He left his other clothes in the truck, put the backpack on and locked the truck. He left the trees and began his short hike to where the houses were located. A few hundred yards off to his left he could see the lights of the construction office where the property security guard was located. The man was there to make sure no one broke into any of the temporary buildings where the job was being run from. The man had been there for a week, doing surveillance on the area, to figure out the best way to accomplish his mission, so he knew the routines of any along the route that he had chosen for tonight’s work.
He made his way across the open ground, past the concrete slabs of future homes and across the street to the side of the home he had picked out. The home was a perfect place to get to his targeted location because there were no dogs at that house or any of the houses nearby. It was midnight by the time he got there. He carefully made his way along the side of the house. He got to the side gate and sprayed a lot of WD40 on the hinges before he opened the gate and went into the backyard. He closed it and then carefully made his way across the yard, making sure no one was looking out at the backyard from the windows. When he got the back fence, he chose a spot that had a lot of trees on the other side of the fence and climbed over. He landed lightly on his feet on the other side and froze for a moment as he looked around to make sure he had not been detected.
He pulled some low light goggles from his pack and put them on to scan the back side of the house. He also attached a small camera to the goggles so he could record everything that he thought would be helpful for the upcoming operation. Satisfied that everything was quiet, he made his way around the pool and to the sliding glass door. He found the door locked and moved along the side of the house until he found a door that lead into the garage from the backyard. He pulled a set of lockpicks from his pack and got to work on the door. It didn’t take long for him to unlock it and he was soon in the garage. He noted the items that were in the garage. He made his way slowly and carefully until he came to another door. This one was not locked and he listened for a minute before opening it. He carefully closed the door behind him and looked through the greenish hue that the goggles gave him as he looked around. He began to slowly move into the house. He made his way to the stairs and saw two closed doors. He went to the first and quietly listened. Hearing nothing he carefully turned the knob and opened the door enough for him to look inside. He saw one of the teenage boys from earlier today, asleep in bed, he had kicked the covers so that they were covering him only from his waist down. The man looked around the room and then quietly closed the door. The man moved down the hall and listened at the other door. Inside he could hear a faint snoring and that confirmed for him that the room was the adult’s room. The man satisfied, quickly backed away and retraced his steps. He made sure the he locked the doors behind him. He made his way back to the fence and was over and through the neighbor’s yard quickly. He checked the street and when he was sure everything was fine, he dashed across the street and the open ground until he was once again among the trees. He made his way to the truck, changed clothes and got back into the truck and drove away.
Over at the construction trailer the security guard got up because he thought he heard something like a vehicle of some kind. He went outside and stood at the top of the steps and looked around. He didn’t see anything and decided it must have been noise from the road, so he went back into the office and went back to the book he was reading.
Meanwhile the man got back on the highway, turned on his lights as soon as he saw no one was near and drove back to the hotel. When he arrived, he went to his room and took some plans out of his case and made some marks on them. After sending off a quick email, he cleaned up and then went to bed.
The hotel room held two men who were sitting around a table in the suite. There was a knock at the door and the man at the head of the table motioned for one of the others to answer it. At the door were two more men, they closed the door behind them before joining the others around the table. Across from the table was a large flat panel TV. A cable ran from the laptop on the desk to the TV. The man at the laptop nodded to the two new guys and gestured to the other two seats.
"Everyone’s here now, so we can get started. Here’s the plan. We are going to make this look like a burglary gone bad. We’ll go in about midnight. We have to be as quiet as we can because the target is in a house at the end of a cul de sac. We are going to use a van. I’ve looked around and I think our best bet is to stage from a house whose backyard abuts the property. Let me show you."
For the next few minutes the man showed several pictures on the TV, that he had made notations on, to mark locations. There were also some pictures from Google Earth that had several notations on it. It showed the house that they were going to stage from, the burglary house. The picture also had other notations, showing where they would go over the fence and the doors at the back of the target property that they would use to get in and out of the house. Next he showed drawings of the inside of the house showing ingress, through the back door to the garage, through the connecting door and into the house. The egress would be through the sliding glass door at the back. They watched the low light video that the team leader had shot as he moved through the house. He made comments as they watched.
"At about eleven, we’ll park in front of this house. We eliminate the older couple that lives there and do some minor ransacking to make it look like we burglarized the home. You two come in from the back, Nick and I will come in through the front door. From here we’ll set up and stage from the house. At midnight, we’ll go over the wall here and come in through the garage door and into the house. Steve, you’ll guard the cop’s bedroom door. Your job is to eliminate the cop as a threat, but wait to enter his room, until we are set at the kid’s room. I’ll carry the tranq gun as a backup. Nick, you’ll open the door to the kids room, I’ll move in and give him the chloroform to make sure he’s out. Steve you make sure the cop is not a threat to the operation. Manny, once the kid is out, you pick him up and carry him out of the house. We’ll make our way out the sliding glass door and over the fence. As we make our way through the first house, make sure we’ve grabbed the items, jewelry and money, etc, to make it look like a burglary. Manny carry the kid out to the van and we’ll all pile in and follow this route out of the neighborhood and back here. We’ll go north here until we hit Gilman Springs Road and follow that to the 60 freeway to the 215 freeway, to the 10 freeway and then make our way to San Bernardino Airport. The jet will be waiting at the General Aviation Terminal, ready to go. I expect us to be airborne by two am. Questions?"
The men looked at each other and they shook their heads.
"Okay, tomorrow night is when we’ll do this. Steve, find one of those privately owned used car places and sell the truck. I’m going to the high school to park the bike and lock it; someone will eventually steal the thing. Steve, you’ll follow me and pick me up around the corner. Make sure everything is wiped down. Manny you’ll take van and the check that Steve gets to the bank and put the money in the account of Jorge Albitres at Wells Fargo, that is the identification that Steve will be using since that identity was used by him when he bought the truck last week. Once me, Nick and the kid are on the plane, start heading back east with the van, I want you guys to head directly to the facility and we’ll see you there in a few days. We’ll meet in the parking structure at the van at six pm tomorrow to start the operation. Make sure you get something to eat before the meeting. Any last questions?"
The men shook their heads, got up from the table and Lloyd, the team leader, showed them out. He went back to the computer and sent an email. He told the recipient that they would be home in a couple of days with the present.
Across the country, Marcus heard the ding from his email account and pulled up the inbox and saw the message from his cousin. After reading it, he made a call.
"Good afternoon sir....day after tomorrow, they will be here with the package....yes sir, the team is good and there will be no problems.....there will be no witnesses....yes sir. I’ll let you know when the package arrives...Bye sir."
Marcus hung up and smiled. Finally, they could move forward with their work.
Brett, Jamie and Josh were eating dinner and talking about the plans to head up to the compound in a couple of days for a week. All the parents were coming up for the weekend and then the boys were going to stay for the week. Once they got back, Brett would be leaving for a trip back east, with Sean going along with him, to meet with and work with Mac for a couple of days before they head back home. They also made some more plans for all of the families to head to Orlando, Florida, two weeks later for a two weeks’ vacation in the area. Of course the big part would be at Disney World, but they also planned on visiting Universal Studios Orlando where Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter World were located. They also had plans to go to Kennedy Space Center, take a air boat tour through the swamps, and spend a couple of days in Daytona Beach before they headed back home.
After dinner, they headed to the den to watch some TV. Brett had just come down that day from the compound and was a bit tired so he headed up to bed. He gave Jamie a hug goodnight. He asked them to turn the volume down a bit. After the movie was over they started up the video console and played a game for an hour. It was almost midnight when they decided to head up to bed. The shut everything off and went upstairs. They went into Jamie’s bedroom and Josh started rummaging in his backpack.
"Dang it, I forgot something."
"Do you need it?"
"Yeah, don’t worry I’ll just run back home for a minute and get it. Be right back."
Josh slipped his shoes on without tying the laces, gave Jamie a kiss and then hurried out the door. Josh went out the sliding glass door and hurried across the yard to the gate that had finally gotten installed the week before. He smiled at the convenience that it afforded he and Jamie. He went to the sliding glass door and tried it, but it was locked, he went around to the back door to the garage and unlocked it with his key. He went inside, leaving it open and headed up to his room quietly because he figured his Uncle was asleep and he didn’t want to wake him. He pulled out a clean t-shirt and some underwear and bundled them up. He went back downstairs and froze when he saw four black figures in the house, before he could get over his surprise, he felt two stings in his chest and neck and then things started getting fuzzy. He saw one of the men rush toward him as he fell and another ran past him pushing him to the side. Josh found himself lying on the floor and heard a door open upstairs and then a faint sound and then a thump from upstairs. After that everything went black.
At eleven pm, the van pulled up in front of the house and parked. No one got out for a few minutes until its occupants were sure no one was out and about. They quietly opened the doors and got out. Pushing the doors until they were just barely closed, the black clad men made their way to side of the house. One of the men pointed to two of the men and pointed to the gate nearby. Those two figures headed through the gate to make their way to the backyard. The two remaining waited in place, to make sure that the others got to the back, and then moved silently to the front door. One of the figures knelt down in front of the door and started working on the lock, while the other kept watch. They both heard the click as the door was unlocked. They entered the house and silently made their way. No one seemed to be up and about in the house, so one of the men moved to the back and met the other two coming in. Two of the men made their way to the bedrooms. The two in the main part of the house heard the sounds of silenced pistol shots and the other two men returned giving Lloyd a nod to let him know that the older couple was taken care of. Lloyd had the men search the house for jewelry and cash while he moved to the back and went out the sliding glass door. He looked around for any lights on in any of the surrounding houses and slipped across the yard to the fence. He pulled himself up to the top of the fence and looked over. He smiled when he saw the target house was dark. He dropped silently back to the ground and headed back inside. He found his team standing in the dining room. On the table was a small pile of money, jewelry, a man’s wallet and a ladies pocketbook.
"Looks good. I just checked the target house. It is dark, but we will stick to the plan. The occupants may not be completely asleep yet, so we go at midnight. Steve, check in the garage for a ladder, I was thinking that if we have a ladder it will be easier to get the kid over the wall and back to this side. We’ll grab a ladder from the target house as well. Once we’re on this side, we’ll haul the other ladder over the wall with us and put it in the garage just like it belonged here. By the time anyone notices, if they do, we’ll be long gone."
The others on the team did what they needed to do to get ready, it was eleven thirty. The men relaxed until it was time to go. At a couple of minutes to midnight, the ladder was put against the wall and Lloyd climbed to the top. Just as he was about to drop over on the other side he saw a movement to his left. He froze and held his hand out to stop the others from moving. He watched as the target came jogging across the backyard and headed toward the back door and go inside. He leaned down.
"Hurry, I just saw the target run inside the house. He was in the backyard for some reason."
The men moved quickly over the wall and Lloyd led them to the back door. It was open and he hurried through. When they got to the dining room and den area, he pointed to the sliding glass door, and Nick went to unlock and open it. Just then they heard a sound, and there at the bottom of the steps was the kid with a small bundle of clothes in his hand. Lloyd didn’t hesitate. He pointed the tranq gun at the kid and fired twice. The kid paused for a moment and Manny headed to the kid, while Steve rushed by the kid and upstairs. As Steve cleared the top of the stairs he saw the door to the master bedroom open and a man was silhouetted in the doorway, he fired his silenced pistol and the figure was flung back into the bedroom. Steve saw that the man was not moving, so he turned back downstairs. The kid had gone down and Manny was just picking the kid up from the floor and putting him over his shoulder.
The four men left by the sliding glass door, leaving it open and hurried to the wall. Behind them Nick came running, carrying a ladder he had gotten from the garage. He placed it by the wall and Steve clambered over so he could help Manny get the kid down on the other side. Lloyd was behind Manny, Nick brought up the rear. He paused at the top of the wall and pulled Eric’s ladder up and handed it down to Lloyd on the other side. Once Nick was over he grabbed the other ladder and they carried it into the garage and put them down. They joined the rest of the team, grabbed the stolen items and went out to the van. Manny and Steve got in the back and Nick headed to the driver’s seat. Lloyd closed and locked the front door behind them and jumped into the front passenger seat. Nick drove away just as if he were any other resident of the neighborhood heading off somewhere.
In the back of the van, Manny and Steve had used zip ties on Josh’s wrists and ankles to secure him. They had also gagged him. Within the hour, they had him bundled into the Gulfstream II jet, and said goodbye to Manny and Steve. Lloyd, Nick and the kid were secured in the plane and they were on their way to DC.
Jamie came back into his room after brushing his teeth and got into bed. He turned on the TV to wait for Josh. He kept it down low, so that it wouldn’t wake his dad. He suddenly came awake and looked around trying to figure what had awakened him. He looked at his bedside table and saw that his cell phone was ringing. He fumbled for it and answered it.
"Jamie? It’s Logan."
"Logan? What are you calling me at..."
He glanced at his phone and saw that it was almost 1 am.
"...one in the morning...."
"Is Josh there?"
"Uh, Josh, no. He went over to his house to get something he forgot...that was almost an hour ago."
"Shit. I think something’s wrong."
"I’ll go check."
"Let me know."
Jamie jumped out of the bed and pulled his jeans on, slipped his feet in his tennis shoes and hurried out of the room and downstairs. He saw that the sliding door was open and he ran out the door and across the yard and through the newly installed gate between the houses. In Josh’s backyard he saw the sliding door also open and ran inside. At the foot of the stairs he saw a t-shirt, socks and underwear lying on the floor at the foot of the stairs. Dread struck him as he ran upstairs to Josh’s room.
When he got to Josh’s room, he looked around for him and found nothing. There was no answer. He checked the bathroom and then headed to Eric’s room. He saw that the door was open and he froze when he got close enough. He saw a form lying on the floor. He ran over thinking it was Josh for a moment, until his mind engaged and realized it was Eric. He looked down and saw something wet covering Eric’s chest.
He knelt down and put his fingers to Eric’s neck. It took him a moment, but he soon could feel a pulse. He jumped back up and punched the speed dial for Logan. Logan answered on the first ring.
"Logan, get Ian and head over to Josh’s house. His uncle is bleeding, I think he was shot. Josh is missing. Call everyone and have them get over here right away!"
"I’ll get them going. We’ll be there as soon as possible."
Josh ended the call and hit another button. He listened to it ring a few times until he heard a groggy voice on the other end.
"Dad! It’s Jamie."
"Jamie, what’s going on?"
"I need you to come over to Josh’s."
"Why are you there, I thought Josh was staying here....."
"Eric’s been shot and Josh is missing!"
"Oh shit! I’m on my way!"
Brett jumped out of bed and threw his phone down on the bed as he pulled some shorts on and slipped his feet in some sandals. He hurried downstairs as fast as his leg would let him and out the back door, across the yard following the same route as Jamie had just followed. He ran into the back door.
He heard a reply from upstairs.
"Up here Dad."
Brett went upstairs and found Jamie kneeling beside Eric. He was holding a towel against his chest trying to put pressure on the wound. Brett reached into his pocket for his phone and realized that he had left it at home.
"Jamie, give me your phone so I can call 911."
"Help is already on the way Dad."
"Good, did the 911 operator say how long it would be?"
"I didn’t call them. Someone better is on the way."
"Ian is on his way here. Logan called me and asked if Josh was with me. That’s when I realized he had not returned from his home. I ran over here and found Mister Barrett and that Josh was missing."
"I don’t know, I think we should call 911 anyway."
"Dad, let Ian do this first. If he can fix him, then we don’t need to tell the police anything right away."
Brett started nodding his head and thought. "Okay, we’ll try it your way first."
Jamie handed Brett his phone.
"I just thought of something, could you ask Sean, Dakota and Ethan’s families to go to our house and come over here from there, that way we don’t have everyone’s car showing up here and maybe getting people’s attention. Could you tell them to try to keep from disturbing everyone?"
"Good idea, I’ll take care of it. I’m going to call Gabe and let him know about this as well. He’ll probably be down here as soon as he can."
Brett began to make the calls. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and Brett went downstairs to answer it. As he went by the foot of the stairs, he noticed the small pile of clothes. He barely had the door open before Ian rushed by him with Logan close behind. They both rushed upstairs as Brett ushered Ian’s parents inside. They headed upstairs while Brett went into the kitchen to start some coffee. He went to the door again when he heard a knock and Logan’s parents were ushered inside. They took over getting the coffee and some drinks for the boys, while Brett went upstairs.
Upstairs, Jamie heard pounding feet and saw Ian, followed by Logan, come up the stairs and over to his side. He saw that Ian had the medic pack that Doc had given him hanging over his shoulder as he slid to stop and dropped down beside Eric.
"I got it now Jamie."
Jamie helped Ian get Eric flat on the ground and then scooted back out of the way. Ian removed the towel that Jamie had been using and put his hands over Eric’s chest where the bullet hole was and centered himself quickly, sending his mind into Eric. He got to work. The bullet had broken a rib, which had then punctured and collapsed his lung, along the way it also nicked the pulmonary artery and was lodged just behind Eric’s heart. He took care of the artery first, causing the cells of the artery wall to knit themselves back together and then he stopped and looked at Jamie.
"Jamie, I’ve got an idea. I know you’ve been working on being precise with your TK. Do you think that you can pull the bullet out of Mister Barrett by using it?"
"I don’t know. You know I’ve never tried anything like that, but I have gotten better with it."
"Okay, I’m going to try to guide you to it and then I want you to carefully pull it out without damaging anything else. I want that out of there so I can get everything fixed and I’m afraid it will cause other problems."
"Sure. What do you want me to do?"
"Um, I’m not sure, but put your hand on mine and I’ll try to guide you to where it is."
Jamie nodded and put his hand over Ian’s. Nothing seemed to be happening and Jamie pulled his hand back.
"I can’t find it. I can’t tell what you want me to do."
"Maybe I can help?"
They both looked up and found that there were several people there now. They had been so focused that they hadn’t noticed the others arrive. Ethan had pushed through and was kneeling down next to Ian. He put a hand on Ian’s shoulder and reached over for Jamie’s as well. Jamie nodded and put his hand over Ian’s again.
"Okay, Ian show me and I’ll try to relay it to Jamie."
Ian nodded and closed his eyes to bring his focus down into Eric. He tried to form as clear a picture of what he could see. Ethan then projected what he was getting to Jamie. Jamie reached out with his TK and with Ian guiding and Ethan projecting, he found the bullet. He pulled on it and carefully brought back through Eric’s body, following the track it had taken in entering his body. It was slow, but Ian soon felt the hardened lump touch his hand and he moved his hand back out of the way and they saw the bullet exit the hole it had made until it was in Jamie’s hand. They sat back and breathed a sigh of relief as Jamie opened his hand to show the blood covered bullet. Ian moved back into position and got to work. Brett got the others to get out of the way. Ian’s parents stayed to assist him in any way that they could since they were both MD’s.
The others went downstairs. There was coffee for the adults and soda for the boys. It was about half an hour before Ian, Logan, and Ian’s Dad came downstairs. Ian looked half asleep and Logan guided him over to a loveseat in the living room and helped him lie down. In moments he was out.
Ian’s parents talked to everyone else. "Ian says he took care of everything. We got Eric into his bed so that he could lie down. He lost a lot of blood and he’s a bit tired. Cheryl stayed up there to help him get cleaned up, get him in bed, and to monitor him to make sure he’s okay."
"How’s Ian doing?"
Patrick glanced at his son before answering. "He was a little dizzy when he finished but he’ll be okay. It was really amazing to watch. He just needs rest. They said that when he does something like this he can get really tired."
"Yes, that’s what we believe. He’s been cautioned to be careful if he tries to heal someone who is badly hurt. I’ll have Doc talk to him later about it later. We don’t want him to overextend and cause himself any harm."
Brett handed Patrick a cup of coffee, which he took with a grateful smile. Cheryl came downstairs and someone poured her a cup of coffee. She accepted it.
"Eric is resting comfortably right now. He’s weak from blood loss and with some sleep he should be okay. He told me what happened and asked me to tell Josh that he’s okay. I didn’t tell him that Josh was missing."
"That was probably a good idea for the moment not to tell him. So who shot him?"
"He said that he heard a noise downstairs and he had just opened his door when he saw a guy who was all in black, including a ski mask, clear the top of the stairs. The guy had something in his hand that Eric recognized as a gun and as he started to go back inside the room, he saw a flash and felt like he’d been hit with a bat in the chest and that was it. He knows he was shot and figured that the person had used a silenced pistol. The bullet appears to be a 9 mm so that all makes sense. He says that before he blacked out, he saw the guy turn around and go back downstairs. He also asked me to see if we can figure out what was taken."
There were looks of disbelief on their faces.
"But what about Josh? Where is he? What happened to him?"
Brett saw the stricken look on his son’s face and went over to him to take him in his arms.
"I don’t know, but I swear we’ll do everything that we can to find out. First thing is, we need to see if we can find anything about the guy who was here."
Brett looked around with a frustrated look, not sure what to do next. A thought came to him.
Logan looked up from where he was sitting with Ian while he slept.
"You called Jamie. Did your precog give you a warning or something?"
"I think so. I was asleep and I had a dream that something wasn’t right. I felt scared, but it wasn’t me, it was someone else and I knew it was Josh. I called Jamie because I knew that Josh was staying over there tonight and I wanted to make sure that they were okay. Jamie told me he wasn’t there and had gone back here to get something he forgot...."
Logan’s eyes were then drawn to the small pile of clothes on the floor near the stairs. When he paused the others followed his gaze. Logan got up from beside Ian and walked over to the clothes. Somehow with everything going on, the clothes had been ignored. Logan bent down and picked them up. He closed his eyes and handled the clothes. A moment later he started talking.
"I can see a little of what happened. Josh was carrying these when he came downstairs and when he got here, he saw four men dressed in black with ski masks. One of them pointed something at him and he felt like he got stung and...."
Logan was quiet for a few moments as he tried to get more before shaking his head.
"That’s it. It’s all black after that. I can’t get anything more."
As Logan had recited what he was seeing, Brett’s demeanor changed and he drew his mouth into an angry line. Jamie felt his dad stiffen and he looked up. He saw his dad’s look.
"Damn. It’s them. It’s got to be them somehow. I think it’s the GRA. Somehow they found out about Josh and they took him. They probably wanted to make it look like a burglary and hoped that it would take some time to discover Eric’s body and maybe forget that Josh lived here as well. They were probably hoping for enough time to get him out of here before the police started looking. I would think that they expected that it would be at least a day or two before Eric was discovered. He’d probably be dead by then, so they would not have any eyewitness and it would be thought to be a kidnapping as well, so they’d put out an Amber Alert, but these guys will be long gone."
"What about the other boys?"
"I don’t know. If they found Josh, this may make them start looking for the others. Because if one survived, then they would assume that the rest of you are out there as well. I think the fact that Josh’s name is the same as when he was born, plus his uncle having him live with him, probably made it certain that he was the boy that they were looking for. The rest of the boys have different last names, so that should give us some breathing room. First we have to get everything that we can. Logan, can you tell anything about how they got in the house or how they left?"
Logan closed his eyes again and tried to pull more information from Josh’s clothes. He opened his eyes.
"I think they went out the back."
"Of course. The front door was locked. I had to unlock it when you guys showed up, but the sliding glass door was open. If they were trying to get away quick, and hide what happened, they went out the back. Everyone check the garage and the house for flashlights and let’s check outside."
They spread out throughout the house and came back with a handful of different types of flashlights. The group split up. Ian’s mom went back to check on Eric, while Logan returned to Ian’s side. Brett reminded them to be quiet, so that they wouldn’t wake any of the neighbor’s. They didn’t want the police involved, because if they were involved there would be a lot of questions that he didn’t want to answer in case it got back to the GRA. As they searched they also saw the open back door. Logan was called and they had him see if he could get anything from it. He told them that Josh had opened that door. So they continued their search. No evidence was found and Logan confirmed that he could not sense that anyone had come this way. Brett looked around the backyard. There was the gate to his house and he was sure that they hadn’t come that way. There were a couple of houses that boarded the backyard so he started going in their direction. They got up to the wall and carefully looked around for any evidence that anyone had been here, footprints or whatever.
Ten minutes later, they were called to a section of the wall between a couple of trees. Dakota was pointing at some rectangular depressions near the base of the wall. Brett looked at the wall. He told one of the parents to go into Eric’s house and get a ladder.
William came back shaking his head. "No ladder in there."
Brett then quickly looked down. "That’s what these are, the legs of the ladder, I think this is where they came in and left. Get Logan, we need to see if he can get anything."
Patrick went back and got his son. Logan joined them. After a few moments he said he couldn’t tell. Brett said to give him a boost up to the top of the wall. When he got up there, he got a bit excited. "This is it. They came over here. It looks like they carried Josh over here. I’m going to see if I can find anything else."
"No, wait! Damnit."
Logan dropped from sight. There was a mad scramble as the boys and some of the men started trying to get over the wall to follow Logan. Because of his leg, Brett couldn’t get over. On the other side of the wall, Logan started toward the house, trying to see if he could pick anything up as if he was a bloodhound on the hunt. About the time the others were getting over the wall, he was at the back door. He put his hand out and an image flashed of the same four men coming through the door. He pulled on the door and found that it was unlocked.
He was about to go inside when he felt someone grab his arm. He looked and saw that it was Dakota’s dad, Wyatt. "Hold on son, they might still be here."
"I don’t think so Mister Hawkins. It seems pretty quiet."
"Nevertheless, let me check it out first."
Logan wanted to argue, but he nodded and stepped back. Wyatt slowly opened the door and entered without a sound. Logan watched from the door as he disappeared into the darkened home. He looked back only once and put his hand out in a stop gesture, to keep them back. The others waited near the door and a minute later Wyatt came walking back.
"Yeah, they were here. I found the owners. It looks like they were shot while they slept. They’re dead. It also looks like someone went through their bedroom. I think that they made it look like a burglary, so that they can keep the police focused in another direction. Logan, see if you can find anything out from here. I don’t think any of you need to go into the bedroom. Can someone check the garage for a ladder, so we can more easily get back over the wall to Eric’s?"
Sean’s dad Eric nodded and headed in that direction. He came back a few moments later. "I found two. I think one of them is Eric’s."
Wyatt went to the garage with him and they brought out the two ladders. They set one against the wall and then climbed up and put the other down on the other side. Before everyone left, they made sure to wipe everything down that they may have touched. Once everyone was back over to Eric’s side, Wyatt took the couple’s ladder and put it back in the garage before heading back to the wall and clambering over. On the other side he took Eric’s ladder, they knew it was his, because they found his name on it and carried it back into the garage before joining everyone else in the house.
Brett had everyone sitting in the living room. "Okay. I think it’s safe to say that this was not random. It was professional and that points to the GRA. We have to assume that they found out about Josh some way. The fact that none of the rest of you were taken probably means that they don’t know about you....yet. Derrick went back to his old name a few years after you all went underground. Something pointed the GRA to him and from him to Josh. If they did just a cursory check, they made the connection with Eric as Christine’s brother Eric and Josh is the right age and he has the right name. I think we need to go to the compound and plan our operations from there. If they know about Josh, you can bet that they are going to be thinking that if he’s around then the others are around somewhere as well, so they are going to be actively searching for you. We need to do something and being up there is our safest bet."
Brett looked at everyone and saw a lot of worried people. Several were nodding in agreement. He took in a big breath before continuing with the next part. "I hate to say this, but I think you all need to move up there for the duration of this."
Those that were teachers, had little problem with it as they were off work at the moment. The others with jobs or businesses were not happy.
"I know this is a lot to ask, but knowing them, they are going to put resources on the hunt to find the rest of you and they will not stop until they succeed. We have some time, I believe, but not a lot. The main priority is to get Josh back and we should focus on that right now."
Brett waited and looked at each person. He began to see that everyone was coming to the conclusion that this needed to be done.
"I know it’s late and we have two ways that we can do this. Everyone head back home and get some rest. Gather whatever you need for a few days. Sean, I’d like you to bring your computer up with you. The rest of you bring whatever you think you’re going to read. As soon as you get a few hours of sleep, head up to the compound. Jamie and I will stay here with Eric and we’ll bring him up with us in a few hours."
Brett paused and looked around to see if anyone had anything to add.
"Okay, I’ll see you folks up there. I know this is going to be a pain again as I don’t know how long this will take, but we need to expose them and take them down."
Everyone agreed and they started leaving. Logan was able to rouse Ian and though he was pretty out of it, they got him in the car and headed home. Brett told Jamie to get some rest and he would watch over Eric. Jamie went in and got into Josh’s bed. Brett sat with him.
"I’m scared Dad. What are they going to do to him?"
"I don’t know. I promise we’re going to do everything that we can. I’m going to use my resources and try to find where they took him and then I’ll have Gabe work out a plan to get him back."
Jamie was silent for a little bit as he tried to keep the tears away. Brett noticed him start to get an angry look as tears began to flow. Brett took him in his arms and Jamie buried his face in Brett’s chest as he cried. He did what he could to soothe him, then he felt Jamie start to calm down and then pull back. The first thing Brett noticed as he smoothed Jamie’s hair back was that he had a look of determination and anger on his face.
"What Gabe can do won’t be enough. We need to be involved."
"Of course, we’ll keep you in the loop..."
Jamie pushed back from him and shook his head. "No! '''We''' need to be involved. We need to get him out."
Brett got his meaning and shook his head. "No way. You’re kids...."
"Bullshit! We are better prepared to do this. Why have we been training for the last few months if not to be able to do this? What we can do is beyond what Gabe and the others can do. Sean is a super hacker, Dakota can shoot anything, Ethan can read minds, Dylan can detect feelings and project them, Ian has the ability to be an awesome combat medic. I can lift a fu...freaking bulldozer into the air. They try to stop me and I’ll throw a car at them. No one is going to stop me from going after Josh."
Brett was taken aback by Josh’s vehement verbal declaration. He tried to find holes in what he said and the biggest was that they were just kids, but if they were adults, Jamie was right, they would be perfect.
"I don’t want you guys in danger and on something like this, you would be in danger."
"We know that dad, but this is Josh and if we don’t help him they could be coming for us next."
Brett put his hands on Jamie’s shoulders. "I understand. Now try to get some sleep. I’m going to call Gabe to come and get us, so I won’t have to drive. I’ll wake you when he gets here. Eric will hopefully be in a little better shape by then and we’ll get up there and get to work. So lie down and rest. I’ll take care of everything else."
Jamie nodded, hugged his dad and then lay down to try to sleep. Brett got up and went to check on Eric. He seemed to be sleeping, so Brett headed back downstairs and made his first call.
"Hey Gabe, sorry to wake you...We’ve got a situation down here. Josh was kidnapped and Eric was shot.....Yeah, he’ll be okay. Ian and Jamie took care of it......I’m not sure, but from what we can figure out the GRA are probably behind it....Not sure how, but from what we could pick up, that’s who it is......One other thing I need you to do is make a call to 911.....No, we’re not involving the police. As far as they know, nothing happened over here.....Well, the GRA strike team took out an older couple who lived behind Eric’s house.....I just want you to call in an anonymous tip to have them check out the house at 2159 Swingstone Drive....That’s all and I would suggest using a pay phone somewhere on your way down here....I need you to come get Jamie, Eric and myself and bring us up there. Everyone will be heading up there this morning after they get some sleep....Good idea, call Hal too and have him meet us up there.....Okay, see you in a few hours...We’ll start working on it when we get up there....bye."
Brett closed the phone and checked the time. He calculated the time and punched in another number.
"Hey Mac....sorry, oh....good you were already up....We’ve got a problem. The GRA has found us or at least one of us....Josh was kidnapped this morning and it looks like the GRA did it....Pretty sure...we’re going to try and find out where they have taken him although I have my suspicions....yep, probably there....If it is, we’ll be heading out there and I could use your help.....can you look around for a place near to DC....We need a place to stage from.....a safe house of some kind.....Anywhere outside of DC, the more secluded the better, but we don’t want a long drive to DC......One other requirement would be an airport capable of landing a private jet....you do, can they be trusted?....Okay, I was going to charter one, but if you know someone you can trust who has one that we can use, that would be better.....Okay, I’ll let you know when we head out there, if it is where we think he’s been taken....alright, thanks again....bye."
Brett closed the phone and sat back for a few minutes as he started thinking of what might be needed to get things going to rescue Josh. He got up and checked on Eric and Jamie. Both appeared to be asleep, so he headed back downstairs and got another cup of coffee. Things seemed secure so he went across to his house, to make sure everything was locked up and returned to Eric’s house to keep watch.
About an hour later Brett heard sirens. He tracked the sound of the sirens as they got closer and when he looked out through the back door he saw the reflection of the police lights shining over the wall from near the house across the wall from Eric where the older couple had been killed. Gabe apparently made the call. He had just turned back away from the door when he heard a noise. He looked up and saw Eric standing at the foot of the stairs.
"What the fuck’s going on?"
"What are you doing out of bed? You need your rest. Here, sit down before you fall down."
Eric walked to the kitchen rubbing his chest and frowning. Once he was sitting down, Brett brought him a cup of coffee. Eric took a few sips before turning his attention to the reflection of the lights. He nodded his head toward them and looked at Brett.
"Thanks, so what the hell’s happening? And what are you doing he....oh shit!"
Brett nodded as he realized that Eric remembered.
"Yeah, you were shot a few hours ago."
Eric’s hand went to his chest and pulled his t-shirt up to look at his chest. He rubbed everywhere and a few flecks of dried blood that had been missed when he was cleaned up while he was passed out came loose. He looked at them and then down to his chest. He remembered the feel of getting slammed in the chest and falling, but not much else.
"Ian healed you, but it did wipe him out a bit."
"He’s okay, right?"
"Yep, just tired, there was a lot of damage. A couple of ribs, collapsed lung, nick in the pulmonary artery. We found you about an hour after you had been shot."
"Since you’re here, are the boys upstairs or over at your house sleeping?"
"Jamie is upstairs. I’m sorry Eric, Josh is missing."
"Missing! What do you mean, missing?"
"Eric, we think the GRA took him."
"How the fuc....oh! I remember, some guy all in black shot me."
"Yeah, that’s what we figured."
"Wait, you said they took Josh. Did you get shot too?"
Brett got a confused look and then he understood.
"No, it happened here. Josh came back over here around midnight to get something that he had forgotten. Jamie said he was waiting for him to return and fell asleep until he got a call from Logan. He found the Josh had not returned, so he came over here and found you shot and Josh missing. He called everyone and we came over here. Ian took care of you and Logan did his thing and said that there were four of them."
Eric waved his cup in the general direction of the flashing lights. "Is that part of this too?"
Brett nodded. "Yeah, they apparently killed the older couple that lived there, came over the wall, shot you and took Josh, who happened to be here at the time. They then went back over the wall and left from that house. It all happened around midnight or so."
"So what is the plan?"
"I’ve got Gabe on the way. Everyone went back home to get a little rest and then all the families are heading up to the compound. As soon as Gabe gets here, Jamie and I will go over to the house and get some things together and then he’s going to drive the three of us up to the compound and we’re going to work out a plan to get Josh back."
"Do you know where they took him?"
"If it is the GRA and that is the only people it could be in my mind, then I think so, but we have to do some recon first. Once we’re sure, then we’re going to go get him."
"I’m going too."
"I figured that. We’ll work out a plan once we have some more info. I’ve contacted my friend Mac to help us as well."
Eric didn’t say anything he just quietly sipped his coffee. When it was done, he got up, still a little unsteady. Brett got up to help him, but he waved him away. "I’m fine, just a little light headed."
"I’m not surprised; you lost a lot of blood."
"I’m going to go and get some things together for the trip."
"Okay, I’m here if you need a hand."
Eric nodded and turned away to head back upstairs. Brett walked outside and listened at the radio communications. He saw a light moving around in the backyard of the other house. He thought, ‘probably the police searching for any clues’. He looked up at the sky and saw that it was getting lighter to the east. He went back inside to get another cup of coffee and yawned. He turned on the TV, but kept the volume low so as not to disturb Jamie. Eric came back downstairs cleaned up and dressed with a small suitcase in his hand. He looked a bit better than he had before.
"I’ve called into work to tell them I was sick. I was going to be taking time off to go up the mountains anyway, so I’ll just extend it a bit. If we can’t resolve this before the vacation is up, I’m going to have to quit, because there is no way that I can be at work while Josh is missing."
"I understand. I’m going to go get Jamie up and we’ll head over to the house to pack some stuff. Gabe should be here soon."
Brett went upstairs to Josh’s bedroom. Jamie was still asleep. Brett could see dried tear tracks on his face and he carefully sat down on the bed next to him. He sat watching his son sleep and smoothed his hair away from his forehead before he moved to his shoulder and shook him gently.
"Jamie. Jamie, time to get up."
Jamie began to stir, blinked his eyes a few times, and rubbed the sleep from them before he looked around the room and then focused on his dad.
"Oh, is it morning?"
"Yeah, Gabe’s on his way down to pick us up. We have to go back to the house and get some things together. Eric’s downstairs."
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he looks fine. He’s probably still a little weak, but he’ll be fine. C’mon bud we need to get going."
Jamie nodded and Brett got up from the bed to let Jamie out. Jamie grabbed his jeans that were in a pile by the door. He paused as he noticed the blood that was on them. He grimaced as he pulled them on.
"I guess I need to clean up a bit."
"That’s fine. Gabe’s going to come over here and we’ll get cleaned up a bit and grab our stuff back at the house and come back here."
They left the room and went downstairs. Eric was in the kitchen at the stove. He looked at them as they entered the room. "I’m making bacon and eggs for breakfast. I thought it would be a good idea to get something before we head up the mountain."
Brett nodded. "That would a good idea, thanks. Are you okay to do this?"
"No problem. Hurry up and it will be ready when you get back."
Jamie went over to Eric and hugged him. "I’m sorry about what happened."
"I’m fine. How are your holding up, bud?"
"I’m scared for Josh, but I know we’ll get him back, they don’t know who they’ve pissed off."
Eric looked at Brett with a question on his face. Brett mouthed ‘Later’ and Eric nodded. He gave Jamie another squeeze and pushed him back a little.
"You better get going to get your stuff. I’ll have breakfast ready when you return."
Jamie smiled and disengaged, and then with Brett preceding him, the two went out the back and across the yard to their house to get their things and clean up. When they returned twenty minutes later, Eric had everything done. They sat down and began to eat.
There was a knock at the door and Jamie got up to answer the door. Gabe was standing there. He smiled when he saw Jamie. "Hi Jamie."
"Hello Gabe. Come on in. We’re just eating breakfast."
Gabe followed Jamie back to the kitchen and greeted the two men. Eric pointed at a seat that had a plate and silverware already there. Brett poured him some coffee. He looked at the flashing lights from the other house and nodded. "I guess the police have found the couple."
"Yeah, they’ve been there for a couple of hours working on things."
"Too bad about them."
"Yeah, sounds like GRA tactics. No witnesses."
They finished breakfast and cleaned up. Everyone picked up their bags, made sure everything was locked up and followed Gabe out to the Suburban out front and they were soon on their way up to the compound.