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Brigade (novel) Civil war Justice / revenge

The Brigade excerpts, chapter V

by Harold Covington

“Hunting The Hunters”

Covington in uniform
On the morning of February 15th, Hatfield, Cat-Eyes Lockhart, Charlie Washburn, Tony Campisi, Len Ekstrom, and Lee Washburn met in a trailer out in the woods, which had used by their circle of friends as a hunting lodge in times past.

“Does Marie know?” asked Hatfield.

“She’s pretty sharp. She knows I’m up to something,” Tony admitted. “I just hope she doesn’t think I’m screwing around on her with another woman. I know you’re leery of bringing in married men because most white women can’t be trusted nowadays not to betray even their own husbands for money or to save their lifestyles, but don’t worry. They’re not all like that. Marie is one of the good ones.”

“I know she is,” said Hatfield with a nod. “And yes, I know they’re not all like that. It’s just that so many white women have become so damaged by life in this filthy society; we’ve got to tread very carefully. It’s a real problem and we have to be aware of it. And somehow we’re got to beat it, to bring white women around and show them that their future is with us. We can’t do this without our sisters at our side, gentlemen.”

After Tony left to stand watch, Charlie Washburn plunked down two newspapers. “Our little St. Valentine’s Day Massacre last night made the front page in both the Daily Astorian and the Oregonian.

Hatfield looked at the screaming headlines. “Yeah, I bet if you count up the column inches and the minutes of television air time on this one, you’ll find that the Goldmans rate five times more than mere police officers. Dead Jews get the establishment’s attention. Well, hopefully today or tomorrow we can give them some more to jabber about. But this is going to be a lot tougher, gentlemen. Last night we took down two unarmed targets, hit the Beast in the soft underbelly like we’re supposed to. But this second act is going to be different. Now we have to attack armed targets who are trained in firefighting techniques and who will shoot back. Even more than the Goldmans, we need to make sure we have our shit together on this.”

“I drove by 39th Street on the way out here,” said Washburn. “The sun was barely up but all you could see was flashing lights. Those poor guys must have been out there all night. What the hell were they doing?”

“Probably they all trooped down there as soon as the sun rose to search the area in daylight,” said Hatfield. “That means they’re already doing CSI investigation. They probably have a state police crime lab team down from Portland or Salem. That means most likely the Feds won’t be bringing their own, which is good. Fewer FBI means more chance of cutting a couple away from the law enforcement herd when they go for pizza or something. Okay, here’s my educated guess. Two or more FBI agents are going to show up at the 39th Street pier late this morning or early this afternoon, even if the state and local boys have already done the work. The feebs will rock up at Rigoletto’s Beanery if only to show the flag and convince the local lefty establishment that they’re doing something. That’s where we need to wait for them, with Cat-Eyes in place and ready to fire.”

“Okay, Cat, I want us to get into position in the area so that we can get in there quick,” said Hatfield. “We’ll wait at the Maritime Museum on Marine Boulevard; there are always vehicles parked there, and anyone driving by will think we’re just tourists gawping at all the shippy stuff. As soon as we get word that the Feebs are in town, we drive to Columbia Prospect and park in front like we belong there. We go into the building through the lobby, with those boxes I showed you held up to shield our faces from the security cameras, just in case they’re operational. Are the boxes all scrubbed down?”

“With alcohol and with a Scotch pad, clean as a whistle,” said Lockhart.

“Good. Don’t touch them again without gloves. We’re going to be leaving them behind and I don’t want them to find a single fingerprint. “We have to hope the roof door isn’t alarmed,” said Hatfield. “I haven’t been able to actually get up there and take a look. It should be okay as a firing position, but if it isn’t we’ll have to go to Plan B.”

“Which is?” asked Charlie.

“If for any reason we can’t get up onto the apartment house roof, or the roof isn’t suitable, we’ll have to break into one of the third floor apartments on the north side of the building, with a view over the river, and fire from one of the windows,” said Hatfield. “That may involve hostage taking and restraint, if anybody’s home. Once we know they’re in town, if they haven’t showed at last night’s crime scene after a reasonable time, we’re going to have to clock them, improvise and take them on the wing somewhere. That’s why I want you guys in two other cars.”

“Now, on that subject, the brigade adjutant was able to give me some interesting info when I went up to Portland Sunday,” continued Hatfield. “The idea behind all the diversity is for them to be able to blend in to traffic and not be spotted as Fed, but they made one dumb-ass mistake which kind of defeats that whole purpose. The windows on these vehicles are all tinted so we can’t see inside, which is against the law. You can assume that any motor vehicle you see with fully tinted window is a federal car. Don’t ask me why they missed something so obvious.”

“Because they’re stupid,” said Ekstrom.

“Bingo, and that’s encouraging,” said Hatfield with a smile. “Any agency dumb enough to pull a boner like that isn’t smart enough to catch us, eh, guys? Now, on the armor. The windows and windshield are top-of-the-line bulletproof glass, which isn’t really glass. It’s what they call a polycarbonate compound, and don’t ask me what that is, but whatever this stuff is, it’s stopped whatever we’ve thrown at it thus far, and not just in Oregon. The gas tank is self-sealing and can allegedly stand a tracer hit. The tires are some kind of super-duper steel belted radial that’s supposed to be proof against caltrops and land mines and whatnot, and the underside of the vehicle is composed not of steel but these nylon-sheathed plates, so they’re not magnetic. The main thing is that when they’re in the vehicle, the FBI agents will be likely shielded from a single rifle bullet.”

“I’ve got a full magazine of standard USGI tungsten armor-piercing .308, if that helps,” said Lockhart.

“It might,” said Hatfield. “A lot of this so-called bullet-proof glass is quirky, and if you hit it at the right angle or velocity it breaches, as we found out on numerous occasions in Baghdad.

“One last little reminder, gentlemen,” Hatfield went on in a grim voice. “These are bad people and they’ve done very bad things. I for one think they still owe us for Sam and Vicky Weaver. There are times when vengeance is thoroughly justified, and this is one of them. But there’s more to it than that, much more. We’re not just sending a message to the FBI today, we’re sending our message to Joe Six-Pack. He has to understand that these people no longer rule the roost in the Northwest, that when he sees something he shouldn’t or he has some kind of problem with the NVA, the last damned thing on earth he wants to do is call the police or the FBI, because they can’t even protect themselves, much less him and his family. This is about destroying the occupation’s credible monopoly of armed force.”

GOT IT, LET ME KNOW WHEN replied Zack, and closed the phone. “Jeez,” he said softly, shaking his head. “Luck is with us. This couldn’t be better. Only two FBI agents, one white male and one Asian female, driving a green SUV. Let’s roll, boys!”

FBI Special Agent Rabang Miller practically pranced into the day room of the Clatsop County sheriff’s office. In ten years with the Bureau she had mastered what she saw as the necessary combination of brisk efficiency, no-nonsense assertiveness and a touch of arrogance.

She was a short, orange-ish woman with long black hair in a severe bun, dressed in a dark green pants suit with matching jacket to cover the 9-mm sidearm in a clip holster by her side, a Glock with a specially modified grip to fit the generally smaller hands of female agents. Rabang Miller was Filipino, the child of a Subic Bay bar girl and prostitute. Her father was an unknown American serviceman of undetermined identity or racial ancestry, but judging from her appearance, most likely a Hispanic of some kind. After entering her mother’s trade at 14, she had eventually achieved the ultimate life coup that all Filipino bar-girls dreamed of. She had fucked and sucked a dumb-ass alcoholic redneck Army sergeant from North Carolina into marrying her and bringing her to the Great Golden Paradise of the U.S.A. From then on it was up, up, up all the way for this strong and valiant womyn of color.

Rabang proceeded to ride every available affirmative action program out of Bragg, into Duke University and an eventual law degree, then into the United States Attorney’s office, whence she slid into the Bureau as a trade-off for not bringing formal charges of sexual harassment against the federal judge who was her boss. She kept Miller’s name because all of her original immigration documents were in that name, and she didn’t want to provoke any official examination of them through a legal change that might reveal certain discrepancies such as her age and the fact that her marriage to the sergeant was technically statutory rape. She was now married to another judge in Portland, with a twenty-room Colonial mansion in a wealthy gated suburb, a 13 year-old mulatto son who was already on the crack pipe, and her eye on bureau chief if she could find some way to finesse it. She was already throwing the present SAIC two-hour Subic Bay Specials in an assortment of motels around town, looking for his weaknesses, anything she could use to bring him down, but a good case clearance or two on her record certainly wouldn’t hurt. Cracking the Goldman murders and reeling in a gang of white racist domestic terrorists would be just the ticket.

Agent Miller’s partner was Special Agent Brian Pangborn. Pangborn was the kind of agent who would have gone far under the old régime of J. Edgar Hoover. He was tall and lean, with sandy hair and blue eyes, sharp from his freshly pressed suit and his spit-shined shores up to his buzz cut, and active member of Promise Keepers and the 700 Club.

Pangborn was Rabang Miller’s third partner in the two years since she had come to the Portland office. Her previous two had asked to be re-assigned, and he was about ready to do the same. Pangborn had come to admit to himself that he loathed the officious little Asian woman; being in her presence was like continually hearing nails drawn across a chalkboard. Pangborn had one serious drawback as an FBI agent—he suffered from occasional spurts of independent thought and initiative. Combined with his race and gender, Pangborn knew these character flaws were enough to blight him forever on the Bureau’s career track.

Rabang Miller stomped up to the nearest deputy behind a desk. “Where’s the sheriff?” she demanded. She whipped out her badge and ID with a practiced flourish. “Miller and Pangborn, FBI.”

The deputy was remarkably unimpressed. “I’ll see if he’s in.” He picked up the phone. “Ted, those people from the FBI are here.”

Another deputy came into the day room. “Hey, is anyone here driving a green Chrysler Aspen with completely illegal full-tinted windows, parked in my parking space in the garage?” he yelled across the room.

“That’s our vehicle,” Rabang called back. “What about it?”

“Well, I just gave you a $250 ticket!” snapped back the deputy. “Tinting is against the law, and taking my parking space damned well ought to be!”

“We are FBI agents!” hissed Rabang in a rage.

“So you don’t have to obey the law like everyone else?” demanded the deputy. “Oh, sorry, silly me! What a question!” At one end of the day room was a raised platform enclosed with three cubicle walls, which contained the combined law enforcement and emergency services 911 and dispatch radios, maps, and unit location board. No one noticed a slim blond girl in long sleeves and trousers [Christina Ekstrom], sitting at a computer with a radio headset on. The girl quietly leaned over, took a look, and then surreptitiously pulled out a cell phone and started texting a message.

Ted Lear came out of his office and extended his hand. He was a surprisingly young man of medium height and auburn hair, with a slim and strong physique. “Hi,” he said, forcing a polite smile and extending his hand. “Ted Lear, Clatsop County sheriff.”

“Miller and Pangborn, FBI,” replied Rabang in a clipped staccato voice like a drill sergeant, flashing her ID again. She ignored the sheriff’s outstretched hand and Pangborn reached over and shook it before the snub became obvious. “Brian Pangborn,” he said with genuine warmth. “Glad to meet you, sheriff.”

“There seem to be an awful lot of people hanging around in here fourteen hours after a major homicide,” said Rabang, looking around the day room disapprovingly. “I understand that your department doesn’t give priority to hatecrimes, sheriff. This is the second double murder you’ve had in three months, both incidents clearly motivated by hatred against sexual orientation in the first case and racial hatred in the second. Why aren’t all your people out there pounding the pavement, or better yet pounding your local racist inbreds and getting some answers as to who killed Jake and Irene Goldman?”

“We’re kind of old-fashioned here, Special Agent, ah, Miller,” said Ted mildly. “We like to ask the questions first, before we start beating on people. By the way, you said the homicide here last night was racially motivated?”

“Of course it was!” screeched Rabang. “Our information is that the fascist terrorists called in to your local newspaper and claimed credit!”

“Someone called the editor of the Astorian, yes,” said Lear in the same mild tone. “No, I was curious because you used the term racially motivated. I didn’t think Jews were a race.” Miller suddenly pulled up, realizing she had inadvertently made a potentially dangerous error in politically correct nomenclature that did not need to get back to her superiors. “Well, you know what I meant,” she explained lamely. “Persons of the Jewish faith are one of the officially recognized politically protected special victim categories. All offenses against Jews are hatecrimes under the law.”

“So they are,” agreed Lear. “Would you step into my office, please?”

Once inside Lear’s office with the door closed, Rabang launched herself at him again like a striking snake. “Alright, cut the bullshit, sheriff! You know damned well that you’ve had four hatecrime homicides on your turf plus the disappearance of a large number of privately held firearms, and the NVA claimed credit for the killings last night! Time for you to wake up and smell the coffee. You’ve got a racist death squad operating right here in your little tourist paradise, and we are here to make sure it gets crushed out of existence, and fast! The Portland office doesn’t want any of this disgraceful foot-dragging that occurred in the murders of Elizabeth King and Martha Proudfoot. If you don’t get some results within forty-eight hours, the U.S. Attorney in Portland is assuming jurisdiction over these cases under the Patriot Act as domestic terrorism, the Bureau will be taking over completely, and I will tell you right up front that these murders and that gun raid aren’t the only things that we will be investigating!”

Lear ignored the threat. He sat down behind his desk and replied calmly and rationally, like someone trying to explain something to a stubborn child. “As I have repeatedly briefed the U.S. Attorney, the Oregon Attorney General, and various people from your own office, there was no foot-dragging in the Liddy King and Martha Proudfoot murders,” he told them patiently. “The case is still active and I have detectives assigned to the ongoing investigation. The reason we haven’t arrested and charged anyone is simple. We have no idea who did it. It wasn’t the husband, because he was in jail here on a potential domestic violence preventive detention warrant and also pending an indictment for hatespeech. Whoever it was left us not a jot, not a smidgeon of forensic evidence. It’s true someone wrote the letters NVA on the wall, but that could have been a red herring to throw us off.”

“You know perfectly well that ever since 9/11, evidence isn’t necessary!” argued Miller. “The Patriot Act gives local as well as federal law enforcement broad proactive powers to protect lives and property and the security of the United States against both foreign and domestic terrorism! If you’ve got two brain cells to rub together as a law enforcement officer, you know or else you damned well should know every individual in your county who so much as harbors a racist thought!”

“I have to admit, I’ve never arrested anyone for their thoughts before,” confessed Lear.

“Well, with two murdered Jews on your doorstep, don’t you think it’s fucking well time you started?” shouted Rabang in anger. “You’ve got to know who these people are! It’s your business to know!”

“No, ma’am, I don’t know,” said Lear wearily. “Where do I start? Anyone who has ever complained about losing his job to an illegal alien or an affirmative action employee? Anyone who has ever had his son rejected by every college he applied to and then dragged away into the Army and killed in Bumfuckistan? Anyone who has ever had a child raped or murdered or mutilated or their brains fried like an egg on drugs in our Brave New World here? Anyone who has ever walked through a public park with their children and seen two Third Worlders copulating like dogs under a tree? Where do I start? No, I mean it, really. Since we’re just pulling names out of a hat, who would you like me to arrest first for unapproved thoughts?”

Pangborn and Lear both understood that this was terribly dangerous talk and if he kept it up, there was every chance he would leave his own office in handcuffs on a federal charge of hatespeech, but Lear couldn’t seem to help himself. Pangborn caught Lear’s eye and shook his head.

Lear picked up a torn sheet from a notepad from his desk and read, “At 8 p.m. on February 14th, an active service unit from D Company, First Portland Brigade, Northwest Volunteer Army, carried out an enforcement action under General Order Number Four issued by the Army Council on November 24th of last year, ordering all non-whites including Jews to leave the territory of the Northwest American Republic forthwith. The NVA accordingly has shot dead Jacob and Irene Goldman for non-compliance with that General Order. All Jews and non-whites who are apprehended by the NVA will be similarly dealt with.” He put the paper down. “That’s it. I gather that’s pretty much their style?” he asked.

“That’s their racist fascist anti-Semitic jargon, yes,” snarled Rabang. “And do you still deny you have one of these racist murder gangs operating in your county, sheriff?”

“I never denied that we did,” protested Lear. “Maybe we do, God help us. But you will notice they said Portland Brigade. I think there’s a very good chance the shooters came down here from outside, from your bailiwick up in the city.”

Rabang was getting more and more steamed. “You need to get out of your denial phase really fast, sheriff, because I am starting to wonder about you.”

“We passed the crime scene on the way in here, and we saw the units there. Did the CSI team from the Oregon State Police get here yet?” interrupted Pangborn. He was used to trying to keep a leash on Rabang, but it was getting harder and more distasteful all the time.

“Yes, they’re out there now and I just came back from there when you arrived,” said Lear. “I was out there all night, if that improves your opinion of my professional zeal any, Agent Miller, but there was damn-all to find. The rain washed away any traces of anything and they must have used revolvers, because there were no cartridge casings found.”

“Or else if they were real pros, they policed up their brass,” said Pangborn.

“Maybe,” conceded Lear. “The medical examiner’s preliminary opinion was medium-heavy handgun rounds, either .357 or capped .38s, Devastators or something like that. Both of them shot once in the chest and twice in the head. Judging from the blood splatter patterns, they got hit in the head when they were down, to finish them off. That sounds pretty professional and pretty damned cold to me. Like the kind of thing we’re seeing in Portland or Seattle or Spokane.”

“We’ll take a look ourselves,” snarled Rabang, getting up.

“Knock yourselves out,” said Lear cheerfully, glad to be getting rid of them. “Agent Miller, if you guys can find anything out there I missed, I’ll buy you both dinner when Rigoletto’s re-opens.”

Rabang ignored his tentative peace offering. “Bullshit,” she said. “I told you. You get the cuffs on these racist motherfuckers within forty-eight hours or the U.S. Attorney is assuming jurisdiction and you can look forward to a career as a security guard at Mighty Mart.” She stalked out, followed by Pangborn, who turned at the office door and looked at Lear helplessly with a shrug. Lear gave him a friendly wave, the unspoken acknowledgement of helpless chagrin between white males in all strata of society that had been growing more and common over the years. When the door was closed, Lear picked up the intercom.

“Dispatch,” said a female voice.

“Hi, Chrissie,” said Lear in a weary voice. “Chrissie, could you radio Leo Galli out at Rigoletto’s, and tell him to tell the officers on the scene and those state forensics people that they are about to have the edifying experience of a visit from two charming folks from the FBI? They’re on they’re way now.”

“Sure, sheriff!” chirped Christina Ekstrom brightly. “I’ll let the guys know right away!”

“Hey, lieutenant, you know what they say,” responded Lockhart cheerfully. “No plan survives the first day of combat.”

“I don’t want the plan to survive, I want us to survive,” said Hatfield.

“Down,” ordered Zack. “They might be able to see us out here, especially if they’ve got binoculars.” The two of them low-crawled across the roof to a low brick parapet topped with an ornate iron railing, approximately twenty inches high, and Cat-Eyes looked around him.

“Uh, I don’t know about this, sir,” he said dubiously, shaking his head. Zack saw what he meant. From where they lay, they could see the 39th Street pier and the platform at the end of it whereon stood the yuppie restaurant and a series of smaller shops. There were at least eight police cars there or parked along the pier, blue and red lights flashing, and a large official-looking van that had to be a crime scene unit. Cops were standing in clumps, smoking and drinking coffee, or sitting in their cars, obviously waiting for something.”

Hatfield’s phone beeped. He took out his phone and saw I CAN TASTE THAT GREEN BEER NOW. “They’re coming,” he told Cat. He closed the phone and it beeped again almost right away. This time he read TWO DELIVERIES SHOULD BE THERE SOON. “Okay, Mr. Green is on them. Green SUV, fully tinted windows, remember.”

“They’ll have to exit the vehicle when they get out there on that pier,” said Lockhart confidently. “When they do, I’ll knock both their asses into the river!”

In the Chrysler Aspen, Rabang Miller had finally finished tearing the deputy’s citation into the tiniest possible shreds, and she rolled down the window and tossed the confetti out. Brian Pangborn, who was driving, looked over and said to her sharply, “Roll that window up! You know procedure!”

“Like these bumpkins are going to give me another ticket for littering?” Rabang sneered.

Rabang’s cell phone chimed with the first few bars of “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” and she opened it. Pangborn drove along in silence and turned left onto 39th Street while Rabang engaged in a conversation with someone apparently from her son’s expensive private middle school in Portland. Sounds like Junior has dropped himself in the shit again, thought Pangborn. He drove past Columbia Prospect on his right, onto the pier, and toward the police cars and yellow crime scene tape on the platform.

“There they are,” said Hatfield, looking through a crack in the blinds.

“Got ’em,” replied Lockhart, sighting the rifle and slowly matching the Chrysler’s pace.

In the SUV Rabang closed her phone in a fit of irritation. “What’s Juan done now?” asked Pangborn, hoping to distract her from the previous conversation.

“The usual,” snapped Rabang. “Just a few rocks in his locker this time, but this is one time too many and they’re talking expulsion. If he gets kicked out of Westwood Academy that will be the second school this year! I told the principal I’d be in for a parent teacher conference at 1 o’clock.”

“That’s going to be cutting it pretty close,” said Pangborn as he slowed to a stop by the state police forensics van. “We’ll be at least half an hour here, then two hours minimum back to Portland, where we’ll run into lunch hour traffic. I don’t think you can make it. You better call him back and re-schedule.”

“Fuck it,” said Rabang. “I’m not going to risk throwing another eight thousand dollars down the tube because that little junkie can’t even finish a semester. Let’s go back now.”

“Back to Portland? Now?” asked Pangborn, stunned. A senior Clatsop County deputy was walking over to their vehicle. “Aren’t we supposed to be investigating a double homicide?”

“Screw that,” said Rabang. “You heard me tell Cletus back there that he’s got forty-eight hours to catch these racists, and since I doubt if he could catch a cold, in two days we’ll be back here with full authority and our own team, with a list of names from Homeland Security. We will shake every tree in this county, gather up all the apes who fall out, and use the Dershowitz Protocol to get the information we need, as well as all the confessions we need.” The deputy was knocking on the window. Pangborn rolled his window down and flashed his badge.

“FBI,” he said.

“Hey there,” said the deputy. “Sheriff said you guys would be coming out. We’ve been waiting on you.”

“Can you give us a minute, deputy?” asked Pangborn, and rolled up the power window again.

“Never mind that,” said Rabang. “Turn around and head back for Portland.

There was something else, a sixth sense left over from Pangborn’s own time in Iraq. The roof, all those windows. In Baghdad he and his men would never have gotten anywhere near a building like that until it was cleared and secured.

“Fine,” said Pangborn, backing the SUV around and driving slowly back off the pier and out onto 39th Street. “Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.” Behind them the deputies stared at one another in astonishment.

“What in the name of the devil? They’re leaving!” hissed Hatfield.

“They were tipped off somehow,” said Lockhart.

“I can’t believe it!”

“Do we abort, sir?” asked Lockhart.

Zack took a deep breath. “Like hell we do! Maybe they’ve been tipped, maybe they just got spooked, maybe they got called back, who knows? But I can see them, God damn it, and they’re not getting away from right under our noses! No matter what, we’re taking those bastards down today! Let’s go!”

They pelted down the hall and down the outside stairwell, and they were in the front seat of the Yukon, Cat’s rifle between his knees, and Zack was firing up the engine in twenty-eight seconds. Zack pulled onto 39th Street just in time to see the green SUV turn left onto Leif Erickson Drive. “Looks like they’re going back to Portland for some reason,” said Hatfield.

“Or luring us into a trap,” suggested Lockhart.

“If it was an ambush they would have either hit us in the apartment building or at least outside in the parking lot,” said Hatfield. “Feds always try to surround and contain. They never let their targets get mobile if they can help it. No, for some reason those two must have got spooked, and they’re trying to make it back to their nest. Roll up your mask,” he said, suiting the action to the word. “Don’t want people to see two masked men driving down the road, after last night.” After a little speeding Zack now had the Chrysler in sight. They were doing the speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour on the winding road out of Astoria. There was another vehicle between them. Zack took out his phone and hit the speed dial for Charlie Washburn’s phone. It rang and Charlie answered. “Praise Jesus!” he shouted.

“Sorry about the call, Reverend,” said Hatfield, “But I don’t see any other way to do this. You know we were all gonna gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river, but we got a couple of sinners here who done backslid and have turned their faces against salvation. They’re headed in your direction, ETA maybe ninety seconds, green Chrysler Aspen, fully tinted windows, which I can’t think of any way to say Scripturally. Could you please show them the error of their ways and await our second coming, that we may smite them with a rod of iron?”

“Verily, we shall vouchsafe unto them the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.”

“Uh, Reverend, that’s not the Bible. That’s Monty Python,” said Hatfield in exasperation.

“Just keep far enough back so you don’t go to your own heavenly reward. And always look on the bright side of life, my son.” Charlie hung up.

“I tell you, if that was recorded and played back in court, we could plead insanity,” said Hatfield. “They’re going to try and use their pipe to bomb blow the feds off the road at Tongue Point. As soon as their vehicle stops, we take them. Somehow.”

“I’ll get up on the roof and fire from there,” said Lockhart.

The funny feeling in the back of Brian Pangborn’s mind hadn’t gone away. He glanced in his rear view mirror and saw the car behind him turning off into a driveway. Behind that car came a battered OD green Yukon SUV. It was coming up a little too fast for his liking. He interrupted Rabang. “The witnesses in the restaurant said the shooters were two men who fled the scene in a dark colored SUV, right?”

“Yes,” said Rabang. “Why?”

“That’s a Yukon behind us,” he said. “There seem to be two men in it.”

Rabang twisted around to look back. “It could be anybody,” she said.

“See the way he speeds up a bit and then slows?” pointed out Pangborn. “He’s trying to keep a set distance between us, a bit too much distance, like he’s hanging back for some reason. On this winding road at thirty-five, if he’s a local yahoo he should be getting in closer. It’s just a feeling, but I don’t like it.” They passed the point where Lief Erickson drive transmuted into Highway 30, and the speed limit went up to forty-five. “See? I’m speeding up now, and so is he, but he’s still keeping about seventy yards between us.”

At Tongue Point Charlie Washburn had turned the black Toyota Camry around and pointed it into the highway. “We gonna ram ’em?” asked Lee. “Not unless we have to,” said Charlie. “I’ll hit them with the Uzi and you get ready to flick your Bic, light that fuse, and see if you can blow an axle off, and not endanger Zack and Cat who will be coming up behind them. God, I hope traffic stays this light and no one else comes driving along right into the middle of this! Masks on!”

In the Chrysler, Rabang Miller pulled out her pistol and jacked a round into the chamber. “Be careful with that!” snapped Pangborn, looking for a place to pull over so he could let the Yukon pass, or not as the case might be. He saw a possible pulling off spot right at the intersection of Tongue Point Road and Emerald Drive, and so he was actually slowing down and veering right when all of a sudden the Camry roared out of Tongue Point Road and stopped right beneath the blinking yellow light hanging over the intersection. Pangborn saw two men in ski masks leap out of the car. He heard the stuttering of the Uzi, saw the muzzle flash and heard the pop pop pop as the 9-mm slugs slammed into the windshield. The polycarbonate glass held, but big ugly white splotches blossomed on the windshield before him.

“It’s them!” screamed Rabang in terror. “Fuck the car behind us, you asshole! They’re in front of us!”

Pangborn decided to try for a right turn up onto Emerald Drive, but he briefly saw a black cylindrical sailing through the air toward him. It banged against the windshield, bounced off, and just as he yelled “Bomb!” the pipe bomb exploded in the air about four feet in front of the FBI agents, with a weird crushing sound rather like a cross between a crump! and a clink! The Chrysler’s armor still held, but the front bumper was ripped almost entirely off and flapped up onto the windshield, and the force of the explosion crumpled the front end and caused all kinds of hissing and steaming fluid leaks and electrical shorts within. Pangborn lost control and the Chrysler slid into the ditch. The Uzi was still pattering bullets against the armored body.

A mere 50 yards behind them, the Yukon rolled to a stop. Hatfield got out and covered down on the disabled FBI vehicle with his submachine gun, leaning over the Yukon’s hood, waiting for a target. Cat-Eyes Lockhart was out the other door and he slithered up onto the roof with the agility of a serpent, spreading himself prone and sighting the rifle. “If they don’t come out I’ll move in with our bomb. Get ready to cover me!” called out Hatfield.

Steam, smoke and the smell of burning began to fill the passenger compartment of the Chrysler through the vents from the damaged engine. “We’re on fire!” shrieked Special Agent Miller. She tore her door open and bailed out of the car.

“No, wait!” yelled Pangborn. Rabang had thrown down her gun and she was running up the embankment, screaming hysterically in pure fear. She was completely open to the Uzi and Pangborn jerked open his own door and leaped out, crouching behind it with his handgun at the ready, planning on using the armored panels as cover to fire at the Toyota and the Uzi gunner, make them keep their heads down so Rabang might have a chance to get down or into the woods. He was convinced that the two men in the Toyota were the killers of Jacob and Irene Goldman, and the simple fact was that he had completely forgotten about the green Yukon that had been following them.

Nor did Pangborn have any more time to remember. Lockhart’s first armor-piercing bullet entered the base of his skull from behind and decapitated him; he never even heard the shot.

One second later, Lockhart’s second shot snapped the fleeing Rabang Miller’s spine, tore through her heart and sternum, and sent her spinning to the ground as bleeding rag that twitched and kicked and scrambled and then lay still.

Cat-Eyes leaped down off the Yukon, ran up to the smoking Chrysler’s open driver’s door, leaned down and inserted a Jack of Diamonds from a Bicycle playing deck into the dead hand of Brian Pangborn. He snagged Pangborn’s piece and stuck it his back pocket, ran up the hill to where Rabang Miller lay with her dead face staring at the sky, and stuck a second Jack into her mouth. He then ran back to the Yukon. Hatfield waved off the Washburns, who got into the Toyota and pulled off down Highway 30 toward John Day. The Yukon followed. From the moment the Toyota pulled out into the road until both NVA vehicles left the scene, the elapsed time was thirty-four seconds.

Cat-Eyes Lockhart turned to Zack Hatfield. “That’s it? he exclaimed in amazement. “That’s the big, bad FBI? The rough tough G-Men that we’ve all been so afraid of for seventy years? Jesus, I’ve shot rabbits that put up more of a fight!”

Hatfield chuckled. “I think they’ve always been scared of this,” he said. “Scared that one day we’d find out just how easy it is.”