Arch Patton Adventure
By James Strauss
“So, what’s the point of this exercise, since it would appear we are not under attack by the hordes from hell?” David asked, as the Mercedes G-Wagon headed pell-mell along the surface of the winding asphalt road. He was cradling the lethal machine pistol, while trying to hold onto the overhead bar with one hand to keep from being tossed from his seat.
“Demonstration,” Arch answered. “Open the glove compartment and take out a couple of ear plug sets.”
David pushed a button next to a bulge in the padded dash and a rectangular door opened. He took out two small plastic boxes. “You keep ear plugs in your car? Who the hell keeps earplugs in their car? What kind of missions do you run, anyway?”
“Put them in,” Arch instructed, ignoring the comments. “You’re going to need them. Give me the other set,” Arch put the plastic container in his lap while he cracked it ajar. He maneuvered the box open, and put one plug into each ear while he continued up the road, their speed unabated.
“And they say texting while driving is dangerous,” David quipped.
Clarence sped along North Highway 14 at just over a hundred miles per hour, until Arch slowed to make a right turn onto a nondescript, unpaved road set between two decaying fence posts. Dust billowed behind their flying vehicle as it approached a steep hill. The road snaked up the hill. Arch leaned to his right, and depressed two switches, locking up both of the car’s differentials. The Gelandewagen dove into the steep curves, able to rocket in at sixty, slow to forty upon reaching the apex of each turn, and then return to speed as it came out, barely sliding on the light gravel surface at all. After only a few moments, they pulled up next to a house made up of little more than two double-wide trailer’s patched together.
“Say nothing,” Arch said, retrieving the assault pistol from David’s lap. He pulled back the bolt follower and let it slide home, feeding the first bullet into the chamber and cocking the weapon at the same time. “Let’s rock and roll,” he whispered, opening his door and stepping out into the hot rays of the High Desert sun.
Arch stood next to the car, the submachine pistol in his right hand hanging down at his side, partially hidden between his thigh and Gelandewagen’s square fender. Thompson came out of the house with a small stocky Asian at his side. Both men were smiling broadly.
“This is Toon,” Thompson introduced. “He’s my martial arts instructor. A Yondon in Aikido who speaks four languages and plays a hell of a game of chess. He’s perfect for the mission. He’s been down to where we’re going before.”
Toon stepped forward with his right hand extended.
Arch didn’t hesitate. He pulled up the gun, pointed the tip of the barrel into the air and pulled the trigger. He held the trigger for seven full seconds, firing off all one hundred rounds, emptying the drums. Thompson and Toon both cringed back, Toon bending down almost the ground. The men cupped hands over their ringing ears. Arch swung the weapon down and tossed it directly at Toon’s chest, as the man came back up to a standing position.
Toon reacted, with both of his hands reaching out to catch the gun. As soon as the smoking barrel touched his skin he screamed and dropped the gun to the ground. Toon turned and ran back into the house.
Arch slowly pulled the earplugs from his ears, and then leaned down to retrieve the empty gun, being careful not to touch any of it’s near glowing metallic parts.
“I imagine he’s gone for ice,” Arch said. Thompson was still clutching his ears and looking back at him plaintively. “The burns will be small, but third degree in severity. His ears will ring, like your own, throughout the night, but he’ll be fine by tomorrow. This is why we don’t bring citizens into the business. He doesn’t know a thing about mission weaponry. There are other really good reasons, Thompson, but this revealing one might drive our orders into your small reptilian brain. Don’t ever do anything like this again. I wish I could scratch you from the mission, but I can’t.”
Arch got back in the car, setting the still overheated weapon on the rug of the back seat. He waited, staring into Thompson’s angry, glaring eyes, until David was belted in, and then backed down the road until the double wide was no longer visible. Then he turned the vehicle around, and headed toward the paved highway. David didn’t comment until they were rolling on the pavement. Arch was driving much slower, and within legal limits, on the way back.
“Has anybody ever told you that you might be a little over the top? How in hell do you get anyone to work with you?” David asked, placing his earplugs into their small container, and then locked both cases back inside the glove box. “I don’t believe it. So the guy slipped up. He’s a knuckle dragger, for Christ’s sake. It’s part of his nature. If he had a brain he’d be a mission commander. He might not even get fired, like you’ve been three time and headed for a fourth.”
“That it? Arch asked, without taking his eyes off the road. “If I recall correctly, mission parameters are strictly the province of the mission commander. Who also has responsibility for discipline, as well.”
David laughed. “Strict? Strictly speaking, the mission should have pickled right away. Security was breached, but you just kept it going. You do make it more interesting than it has any right to be. I’ve heard about how you run your missions, and watched from a distance, but man oh man, that’s nothing like being up close and personal. Living the dream, or pursuing your bliss, is sort of foreign to the way you go through life.”
“I live in the moment. “Sorry, or thanks, or I don’t know what the hell you really mean, or all three,” Arch said. “Thompson jeopardized the mission. The Godsend of all missions. The only damned mission that might keep me from going bankrupt. Hell, the only mission that has a chance of keeping me out of jail,” Arch offered in his own defense.
“Again,” David added.
“Yes, again. So what?” Arch responded.
“What’s are the mission details and what can I do?” David asked, after a moment of silence. “There are only rumors about this one. Let me in. Or out. The right thing to do here, the truly rational thing, is to pickle the whole operation. If that martial arts fool tells anyone, and they tell someone else…besides, when you report this, Langley will pickle it for you.” David turned to look directly at Arch as he finished. “Shit. You’re not going to report it, are you?”
Arch drove on in silence, refusing to talk or even look over at David. They drove for several minutes without speaking.
“You know, if we continue we’re both going to prison,” David concluded aloud, following the words with a deep sigh. “Tell me about the mission. And this better be good or I’ll turn you in myself.”
Arch still didn’t answer. He exited the freeway, coming back into Albuquerque from the East, got off on Central and drove back along the busy street until they reached the university. He parked in front of a Frontier Restaurant, and got out of the car. David stood next to Clarence, with the door still open. Arch walked around.
“Here it is,” Arch said. “Two hundred million U.S., in the Caymans. A couple of tons of cocaine to go with it. About a dozen bad guys guarding and hauling stuff. They have an air operation. They’re bringing the stuff into the Keys by flying boats, staying fifty feet or less off the water. Damned near invisible, running under radar and over sonar. We go in at night: take their pier; take their facility; take their money; burn the whole thing down with the bad guys and cocaine inside; sink their boats; and go home. We get to keep the cash. There it is. Budget is five hundred thousand, plus whatever equipment we need. This is CIA treading on the DEA, so there’s probably more political stuff going on than we want to know. Or ever will know. And when we get out, we split the cash even.”
“Can you get me aboard?” David asked. “If you can, I mean. I’d appreciate it.”
Arch drove on without replying.
“How are we getting there?” David asked, when Arch made no response. You seem dead set on hauling the team to Florida without any ingress arranged, or am I wrong? What does the Intel look like, presuming you have satellite and everything else already?”
“Max is control, with Pickwick cleaning up the pieces, if there are any,” Arch answered. “Navy’s handling cover and egress, if needed. Within hours we’re headed down to Miami to find the right boat. Something big and fast, but tough and survivable. They’re giving us a million for everything. I’ll call Max about your involvement. Be nice to have something more than what we have as a team, so far. But there’s no time on this one.”
Arch hit the lock button on the clicker, and both men walked across the street into the Frontier. Arch ordered two green chili cheeseburgers, while David stuck with a plate of huevos rancheros. The Frontier served breakfast twenty-four hours a day. They were quite used to the strange taste of cramming students and geeks who slept only in daylight hours, or took all manner of chemical adjustments to get through.
“The martial artist up on the hill,” David began after the server left. He breathed in deeply before taking in a huge draught of whole milk, the only known damper for the pain from the Hatch green chili slathered all over his egg and bean mix. “Is there a more effective way to make sure Toon remains incommunicado? He’s going to be one pissed off little asshole, you know? And that can spell trouble.”
“Take him out? I don’t think so,” Arch answered, biting deep into one of his burgers.
“Very funny. You shouldn’t even joke about that post 9/11. NSA is everywhere and they hate us.”
“Not to mention the DEA,” Arch replied. “I don’t like this agency competition thing. It’s worse than ever. And with this gig we could get stuck right in the middle. Never mind though, we’re going on this one. I’m not likely to last until retirement, not with the way they think of me, anyhow. How do we isolate the Aikido jerk without doing him in?”
“Cut him in,” David responded. “I know that might piss you off, especially after that little stunt you pulled, but it’s the only way. If he has a stake, then he’ll shut up. If he doesn’t, then he’ll blab to somebody, and we don’t know all of his somebodies, and we don’t have the time or personnel for a full court press of surveillance.”
“Right,” Arch said, his face red from the chili. He drank the rest of his own milk down before going on. “Next time I see that little prick he’ll probably turn me into a pretzel. I’ve got no belts, and you know I can’t kill him with a real weapon. Toon deserves nothing. He should get Thompson’s share, if he gets anything.”
“I’ll handle it, if I’m in. He’s got no issue with me. A couple hundred grand should keep him quiet, and we’ll leave him outside Miami. A couple hundred large will let him run his own dojo for a century, beating young kids half to death to prove how tough he is. And then there’s Pickett to consider. What a prick. He hates your guts and barely tolerates me. We’re going to depend on that clown for backup? ‘I don’t think so.’ We better be prepared to fend for ourselves, especially on a wild card mission like this one.”
“Okay,” Arch agreed. “I’ll call Max and let you know. You take care of French Fried Toon. You understand the importance of the boat? The right boat gets us in and out in one piece. The wrong one forces us into Pickett’s loving hands. Nash is stupid, like Thompson, so they’ve got to be watched about the drugs. No drugs, not one gram, can come out of there or we lose the money. Griffin’s cool, but at heart he’s a real buff. He continues to think the Agency will eventually let him show his video stuff. Fat chance of that. But his stuff might help save our ass later on, if we need proof for the Agency.”
“I’ve worked with Hebert and Lee,” David said. “Herbert has a Special Forces corn cob pipe stuck way up his ass, but he’s okay under fire. Lee is way too smart for his own britches, and the Shakespearean quotes drive me nuts, but he’s a genius with the pyrotechnics and we need that.
“One more thing,” Arch said, drinking down his entire glass of ice water to stop the burning. “I want to bring Ilke down to Florida, so she can play while we’re gone.”
“Ilke being the new girlfriend we’ve all heard about, I presume? David asked. “The one that is idiotic enough to think you and your playmates are selling some sort of security insurance? That one?” Have you lost it totally??? We’re already hanging our ass out a mile with this Toon character, and not reporting the breech. Bringing the chick would be a major violation. We don’t take citizens. Ever. You just demonstrated that with élan!”
“Nobody will know except you,” Arch argued. “I need something. I need an edge. I’m beat. I’m rattled. And I’m finding life hardly worth it. It’d help. I know it would,” Arch finished, looking down at his cleaned plate without expression.
“Shit, you’re the Team Leader,” David said, pushing his empty plate away from him. “So do what you think is best. I don’t want to be attending Ilke’s inquest though. These things have weird ways of going bad, and her being left in Florida offers no guarantee. I know you know that. She’ll be at risk. Marginally so, but at risk nevertheless. You sure you want to do that to her?”
Arch took out his cell phone and dialed a number. “I need David to back my play on this one,” he said softly, looking around to make sure none of the ill-dressed scholar types were paying attention to them. He hung up without saying anything further.
He looked at David, “We’re all in on this one
“Yeah,” David replied, “in more ways than one.”