Derek had been able to enter and leave the mansion without being detected, but the dangerous part was getting to Janice’s car with her in tow. He gambled that the doctor really wanted to help, and was willing to take directions. 


“There are three directions someone can spot us from,” he whispered, pointing from their last clear refuge behind a wall within sixty yards of the car, “there, there, and there.” He had used the last one himself. “I need you to drive the car up to the curb near the bushes and open the passenger door just a little, then pretend to talk on your phone, like you forgot something.”


“Okay,” she said. “What about you?”


“You’ll see.”


She took her valise containing his gear and did as she was asked. While the blue sedan was moving, he ducked below the car’s window level and followed it to the bushes. Janice guessed the plan, and waved her free hand as a part of her fake conversation, which blocked the view of Derek’s sliding into the passenger seat and closing the door.


“Where are we going?” she asked as he hid low in the seat.


“He pulled a small GPS unit out of his pocket, turned it on, and set it on the dash. “Follow these directions.”



More than an hour later, Janice pulled onto the last of a series of dirt roads that led deep into the mountains west of the city. Derek sat in the seat beside her, nervously checking their progress. They had compared notes during the ride, and discussed the barriers facing completion of the mission they now shared.


“I have a plan,” Derek said, “and it involves my brother-in-law Alex Rideout, who you’ll be meeting shortly.”


“Why him?” she asked.


“Alex is a police detective with the city, and is involved in the investigation of David Nichols’s crash. They were also cousins.”


“I thought we weren’t going public,” she said. Derek had dismissed the option before leaving the mansion.


“We aren’t. Alex is one of the most discreet people I know, and we can use his help.”


Their destination was little more than a wide part of the road, nearly surrounded by trees that blocked most of the sky. A compact half sedan and half all-terrain vehicle was already parked there. Janice got as close as she could to the car without blocking the road.


“Where is he?” she asked Derek.


“A little spot we used to visit occasionally with my sister and her best friend. I hope you’re up for some hiking.”


“I’ve got some tennis shoes in the trunk.”

“Good enough,” he said. While she put on her shoes, he pulled a small backpack out of her valise, which included a basic set of survival gear along with the portable radar and binoculars he had used at the mansion.


“What’s that for?” she asked when she saw the radar, which resembled a small camping stove with a windscreen.


“To let us know if we have any company in the air.” She looked at him quizzically. “Drones,” he clarified.


After twenty minutes along what could only generously be called a footpath, they found themselves near a small stream that passed by a large tree that looked out of place among the narrow-trunked spruce that dominated the forest.


“We’re here,” Derek called out.


“Hi, Derek,” Alex said, emerging from behind the tree.


“Hey there, little brother!” Amy followed him, smiling widely. It was a long-standing joke between them: as fraternal twins, he had been born only seconds later.


“I asked you to come alone!” Derek said to Alex. “Amy, it’s not safe for you to be here.”


“Why? Because I’m pregnant?”


“Yes, Derek,” the burly detective asked more pointedly, “why isn’t it safe?”


“You’ve already guessed,” Derek countered, “otherwise you wouldn’t have brought a small squad to the funeral.”


“You were there? Of course you were. That was public,” Alex said. “Only four people in the world know about this place, and three of them are here.”


“Now there’s another one,” Janice said. “Hi, I’m Janice Harken.” She held our her hand to Alex.


“You look familiar,” Amy said, studying her.


“I’m Earl Oldfield’s doctor and personal assistant.”


Alex pointed to his left. “I’m set up over there. There are chairs for everyone.”


A large camouflaged tarp hid a small tent and camp chairs. Derek recognized a receiver similar to the one that came with his radar set, confirming that he’d made the right choice bringing in Alex, whose combination of combat and police experience made him even more careful than Derek. He guessed that several antenna arrays were deployed where there was maximum exposure to the sky.


“So, Derek,” Alex said when they were settled. “Why do you think David died?"


© Copyright 2015 Bradley W. Jarvis. All rights reserved.