Chapter Thirty ~
"The colonel has Amy. He's infected her with the virus somehow. We have to go back and save her." Jackson ran his fingers through his dark hair.
"If she's infected with the virus she's already a goner, my friend. We need to concentrate on a plan to take this guy down. He can't be allowed to get his hands on the virus. Why didn't you tell me you copied it?" Jude asked.
"If you’d been in my position, would you have copied it?"
"Of course, I think all..." He began before realizing he should've known. Jackson was a good operative, and he would always choose what he believed was right, including copying a deadly virus.
"This guy is definitely of the monster variety. How could you not know who he really is?" Otis asked quizzically.
"I trusted him because he was my superior." Jackson answered. "That's a stupid reason, I get it. But right now we have to concentrate on saving Amy."
"You can always tell when an operative has been compromised." Jude said with a worried grin.
"How is that?" Otis asked rhetorically, because he already knew the answer.
"When someone is more worried about something that isn't the main objective, they've lost their edge." Jude gave a quick look in Jackson's direction.
"I haven't lost my edge just because I care about Amy. You need to stop the childish ribbing, men. That maniac infected her with a deadly virus. We have to help her and catch the monster who used to be my colonel."
"I'm sorry, man." Jude apologized.
"I'm sorry, too Jackson. I shouldn't be teasing you in a situation like this, it isn't a Christian thing, to do to start with, and it doesn't help the situation." Otis said with a look of embarrassment on his wrinkled face.
They spent the next hour constructing a plan to get Amy back. They needed to find out if she could be saved.
"Jackson, where is the thumb drive?" Amos asked.
Jackson pointed to his phone and said, "the drive was destroyed, but I copied the data to my phone before I torched it."
"Wow man, you’re some piece of work." Jude said in relief. "Didn't you say the antidote was on the thumb drive?"
"That's what Amy said on the phone. I'm guessing the copy Colonel Walsh made got destroyed somehow, and he needs this one. Otis, grab that laptop and hand it up here, could you?"
Otis handed it up front and Jackson held the steering wheel in one hand while he pulled an adapter for his tiny cell phone memory card out of his pocket. He popped the back off his phone with one hand and pulled out the memory card and stuck it in the adapter. He slid the card into the slot and waited for it to come up. He copied the files and removed the card and put it back in his phone.
"Jude, look for the antidote for the host virus and tell me what it says, would you?" He wanted to save Amy. The possibility he couldn't was too painful to contemplate.
Jude ran his finger along the screen, following the words on the page. "Blah blah blah...host virus must be annihilated by using the pre-determined antidote. What is the 'pre-determined’ antidote? Why wouldn't a man smart enough to make this virus use code to write it down?"
"Oh, he did use code. I decoded it on the way back from my last assignment." Jackson said. It was a very hard code to crack, too."
"How is it your colonel is smart enough to even think of something like this, let alone execute it?" Jude asked in disgust.
"He was originally a chemist in the bio-technical division of the army. They pulled him to our team because of his ability to read and understand just such things as what's on the thumb drive. He has the unique ability to make antidotes on the spur of the moment. He was supposed to be our weapon against bio-terror. I see that's worked well for us."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Otis exclaimed from the backseat. "How could they not know he was a security risk? Does he have any kind of record? Has he ever been insubordinate?"
"His record is spotless. They don't put people in his position if there is even a smell of something amiss." Jackson replied.
"So let's get this plan down-pat. I don't want any mess-ups. Jude and I will show ourselves when we get there. Otis, you can hop in the trunk down the block in case he's watching us arrive. After we've gone in, you climb out of the trunk and assess how many men are on watch. Sneak to the room he's keeping her in and try to get her out." He said. "I have this little device that's a heat-seeker. All you have to do is push the button. If there's heat equivalent to the human body anywhere in the immediate vicinity, it’ll vibrate." He tossed it behind him to the gray-haired man. "If he has her hidden, one of us should be able to find her with these." He pulled out another one and threw it to Jude. He searched his pockets and found another to toss to Amos.
"Why don't we have any of these cool gadgets in the FBI?" Jude asked.
"Maybe you aren't cool enough."
Jude threw a cheeseburger wrapper at Jackson and they all grew silent. They had a lot of contemplating to do before they reached Salt Lake City.
Back at the mansion, Amy was just waking up. She looked around very imperceptibly in case Colonel Walsh was watching her, but he was nowhere in sight. She shook each arm and leg, seeing if the cuffs might be loose enough to slip out of. Her right arm handcuff popped open when she shook it. She pulled her arm free and twisted to see if the left arm was loose, too. It popped open, as well. By this time, Amy new it was a trick, but she was so desperate to be free she didn't care. Maybe she could get away if she evaded him long enough to get out of the room. She pulled each leg free and didn't even take the time to rub them, but jumped off the bed and ran to the door. It opened and she stuck her head out a bit to see if she could see the colonel. He was nowhere in sight.
Amy ran as fast as she could down the steps and to the kitchen. She remembered being down in the wine cellar with Matilda one day and seeing a light coming out from behind one of the shelves. Her instinct to survive kept her moving; even though she knew once he realized she was gone he would most likely activate the microchip inside her. She prayed for her safety and the safety of all involved as she ran. She wasn't able to formulate a plan, but instead let the Holy Spirit pray for her.
Amy quietly slipped through the door to the basement and crept down to the wine cellar. She'd grabbed a flashlight from the wall right inside the basement door, but hadn't turned it on yet. She was afraid a light would give her away, so she was basically working from memory.
As she hit the bottom step, she saw the same light coming from behind the shelf at the back of the wine cellar. She was scared of what she might find, but resigned to the fact it might be her only chance to get away from the madman.
When she reached the shelf she pulled on it, trying to get behind it. It wouldn't budge. She was becoming frantic. She thought she heard steps in the kitchen right above her. She turned her flashlight on and shined it around the edges of the shelf. There were two buttons under the edge of the first shelf. She made a decision and pushed the left-hand button. The shelf slid to the left with a whooshing sound. What Amy saw made her gasp in surprised horror. There were people back here. They were sitting in a cell on cots. There were two women and some children, and even a dog.
"Hey, who are you?"
A woman in her late thirties or early forties replied, "I'm Amos Cohen's wife. He's a hostage negotiator, and these are my children, and my dog."
"I'm Matilda, the maid's daughter, and these are my children." The other woman gestured toward the little ones.
"How long have you been down here?" Amy asked.
"We don't know exactly. We lost track of time." Matilda's daughter said. "We've been here a few days more than Sheila and her babies."
"Bless your poor souls. We need to get you out of here. First I need to get some dirt. Does anyone know where I could find some?" She asked. "I also need something to put it in, and some water."
The children scrambled around and moved the back cot to reveal a spot in the wall they’d been digging out. There was fresh dirt lying on the ground, and the young girl shyly handed Amy a jug of water. "This is all we have." She said in a cautious tone, not trusting the new woman.
The smallest boy handed her a bowl and she scooped some dirt in it and added water. She used a plastic spoon the older woman handed her and mixed the dirt and water into mud. She threw the spoon into a pile of garbage on the floor and said, "Okay, we need to get out of this room. Does anyone know of a way that doesn't go back through the kitchen?"
"There's a passageway on the end of the wine cellar." Matilda's daughter Sophia said.
Just as they assembled in a line to leave the little hidden cell, the door at the top of the steps opened and Amy heard, "Oh Amy, where did you go? You can't possibly think I won't find you."
Amy turned and put a finger to her lips to shush them and slid the door to the little room shut. She heard the shelf click into place and sighed with relief as she heard him shuffle past their hiding place.
"What if he knows about this cell?" Sheila asked.
"I don't think he does. The man responsible for putting you in here is in custody, and chances are he didn't divulge your whereabouts."
There were several tense minutes while they listened to him move around. They could hear him opening a bottle of wine, and even his rude gulp as he chugged it down.
"You're not in here are you?" He asked as he passed by the shelf again.
They listened as he walked back up the steps and slammed the kitchen door.
"He brought me here in an ambulance. It's sitting under my bedroom. I'm going to do my best to get you back to it, and I want you to go straight to the police." Amy ordered. She was beyond exhausted and her stomach had begun to rumble. She couldn't even remember the last time she ate anything, and she was worried about the children, and Jackson. But the main objective now was to get these people away from her in case he activated the virus.
"You're not coming with us?" Sophia exclaimed.
"You can't possibly stay here." Sheila whispered as loud as she dared.
"I have reasons that I don't have time to go into right now. You have children to think of, so you'll go without me with no arguments, is that clear?"
They whispered yes and Amy said, "I'm going to open the door and make sure he didn't trick us. Stay back until I gesture for you to follow."
Amy pushed the button and the door slid open. If they hadn't been behind bars they could've escaped so easily...
She stuck her head out cautiously, but didn't see anyone. She gestured with her finger and they all moved forward as quickly as they could. In a few minutes they were outside at the ambulance. He'd left the keys in the ignition, and Sheila climbed up in the driver's seat while Sophia loaded all the children and the dog into the back. Amy slapped the side of the ambulance and said, "Go to the police station and don't leave it until you hear from me." She watched as the tail lights grew dimmer and dimmer before she turned around to go back inside.
She snuck around to the back of the house, praying God would let her accomplish her goal if it was His will. She snuck into the living room through the patio door she'd taped the day after arriving because it was so inconvenient to have it close on her.
She went up the stairs as quietly as possible and slid into the office. She looked around, but he wasn't there. She ran to the safe, opened it, expecting to find the gun, but it was gone. She opened the next safe, and nothing. It went that way until the very last one. She opened it up, and there was the gun, and a black, familiar-looking object Amy was overjoyed to see. The taser.
Amy pocketed the gun and held the taser in her hand like a lifeline. She went on the hunt then, just as she'd been hunted.
"Oh Colonel Walsh, where are you?" She tested the button on the taser. The electric sound brought a smile to her face.
Colonel Walsh came around the corner from the stairs at a fast trot. Amy pushed the button on the taser and two little electrodes flew out and hit his skin. He screamed in pain, but kept on coming. Amy didn't know what to do then, she'd never used one, but she pushed the button again, trying to get it to electrocute him once more. This time she kept her finger on the button while turning a knob with her other hand. The man fell to the carpet and flopped around like a fish out of water. She didn't want to kill him, but she did want him unconscious.
"I'll teach you to handcuff me to a bed and put little microchips of death inside me." She said as she began to tug on the unconscious male. He was heavier than he looked. It took her about thirty minutes and three more pushes of the button to get him down the first set of steps. She was tired, sore, hungry and weak, but determined. She kept working until she'd rolled him through the kitchen and to the basement door.
"You’re just lucky I love my God more than I dislike you because you'd be dead by now you evil, evil man." She rolled him to the door. She didn't want to kill him, but these steps were wooden, and it was gonna hurt. She grabbed a throw rug from in front of the sink and rolled him until it was wrapped around him. She opened the basement door, got in front of him and began to pull him over the edge. He stirred and groaned, and Amy pushed the button again. He went still.
She pulled until he slid down each step, falling against her legs every time. When she felt him rest on her legs, she'd pull until he slid down the next one. Once she got him off the stairs she maneuvered him to the little jail room door and slid it open. She pushed the button once more just to make sure, and opened the cell door. She put him inside and slammed the door shut behind him. She left the leads on him and kept the taser in her hand.
She sat down outside the cell, and waited. It seemed like hours later that he finally woke up, but was probably only minutes. She'd gone through his pockets and found his cell phone, which she would need to keep him from activating the virus.
She’d barely begun to doze when she heard him say, “You're just full of surprises, aren't ya, little filly?"
"Not really, I just don't want to die. People do all kinds of crazy things when their life's in danger."
"What do you plan on doing with me?" He was forlorn-looking, and Amy was amazed she was actually starting to feel sorry for him.
"I'm not going to do anything. When Jackson gets here he can deal with you." She told him. "But until he gets here, you have to listen to me."
"Don't you want to change the world? Aren't you tired of all these evil people?" He asked in a serious tone. He was totally oblivious to the fact he was one of them.
"You don't realize you're one of those evil people, do you? I am too, for that matter. You aren't God though, and judgment is His alone." She spent the next thirty minutes telling him the gospel. He looked at her like she had two heads, but was forced to listen.
"So you're telling me because Adam sinned, I have to go to hell?"
"You'll go to hell if God doesn't save you, yes, but you're responsible for your own sin." Their conversation had turned to an almost friendly one. She couldn't believe this civil-sounding man was such a monster, but that's how he'd gotten away with it for so long.
Jackson showed up, picked her up and twirled her around several times before standing her back on her feet and saying, "Where's the microchip, Colonel Walsh, I'm going to remove it."
"Now why would I tell you that?"
"If you don't tell me, you won't have a chance to make a deal with the authorities." Jackson told him shortly.
"It's in her arm, right above the elbow."
Otis joined Jude and Jackson. "I'm so happy you're okay, Amy."
"I'm happy, too." She gave a wan smile. Tiredness had overtaken her, and she sat down on the old wooden chair by the shelf and let Jackson take full reign.
Amos came down the steps with a sad smile on his face. "I'm so happy you're okay, and I’m so terribly sorry for anything you had to go through because of my actions." He walked up and gave her a hug.
"I almost forgot to tell you guys. I found Sophia, Sheila, and the kids in this cell. That's how I knew about it."
"You mean my wife is okay, and my kids?" There was a hint of hope in his voice.
"Yes they are.” Amy hugged him back. What had happened in the last few days had forged friendships that would last a lifetime.
"Amy, you're going to have to sit still while I dig that thing out of your arm. I'm sorry I have to cause you more pain." Jackson said with a sympathetic look.
Amy sat up straight and gave him her arm. "Have at it. I can't wait for it to be gone."
Jackson dug it out while Jude questioned Colonel Walsh. All kinds of authority figures had entered the basement now and Jackson and his people were almost ready to leave. They had to get back to Scott and the children.
Jackson slipped the microchip into a little case and shoved it into his pocket. He took the sim card out of the colonel's phone and crunched it beneath his feet before stooping over and lighting it on fire. He picked it up and stuffed the still warm card in his pocket, and they all left the basement together.