First Sergeant Wilcox opened the door and shoved Billy into the conference room before walking in himself, closing the door as he entered. All eyes locked on Billy. He blushed and frantically took the nearest seat, trying to press his body deep enough into the chair to escape the searing gaze of Colonel Peters.
“He was still eating,” First Sergeant Wilcox said as he took up a position standing behind Billy’s chair.
Billy didn’t like the burly first sergeant looming over him from behind but didn’t think he had a choice. He returned his attention to the group gathered around the conference table and noticed Seth standing behind Angela in the same manner as the First Sergeant stood behind his chair. Then he noticed Colonel Peters staring at him and he dropped his gaze.
“I’ll address punctuality later,” Colonel Peters said. Billy didn’t look up but he was certain the heat he felt was not from his embarrassment but rather from the colonel’s gaze trying to burn holes in him. He purposefully looked up at the screen on the wall that showed a grizzly scene. Two men lay sprawled on a couch and while a third flopped over in a recliner. All three had been shot in the head as evident by the spatters of blood on the walls behind where their heads would have been while seated upright. Billy recognized the room as the one he had been in the day before with Angela and Brandt before those little creatures had showed up and he panicked.
“As I was saying,” Colonel Peters continued. “Initial assessments were that the subjects had rabbited, had disappeared after this man showed up.”
The slide changed on the screen and four pictures replaced the picture of the room. Three of the pictures were of the dead men, but the fourth was larger and showed the man who had barged in through the door. He looked as angry as he had when he came bursting through the door before. His neatly trimmed black goatee beard and mustache gave him a dashing appearance, as though he were in a movie about musketeers or pirates.
“Our initial assessments were wrong. Apparently this man shot the other three before taking all identification from the bodies, including that detonator, before fleeing the scene,” Colonel Peters continued. “The good news is Cheung and Hendrix worked through last night and found this location in the heart of Detroit. Nice work gentlemen.
“This guy is the mastermind. We need him. This afternoon we’re going back out to figure out where he is, where he lives, who he is, and how we get to him. Simple snoop and poop. Once we get the intel on his location we sit on him round the clock until we figure out what his target is and how he plans to attack it. When we have that information we take him down. Questions?”
“He’s distinctive enough. We should be able to find him easily,” Brandt’s voice said from the speaker phone in the center of the conference table. Angela nodded her agreement and slipped a glance to Billy. Billy nodded reflexively but had no idea how he’d find him if he had to.
“Are we going to use locals or send in the snatch team?” Sergeant Sanchez asked.
“If we decide to pull the trigger we’ll have to use locals. Delta has a squad flying in as we speak, but they won’t be in position before we go out,” Peters answered.
“We can’t wait for Delta to get into position?” Wilcox asked. Billy turned around and looked up at the older man. First Sergeant Wilcox scowled down at Billy until he returned his eyes forward.
“Time is against us here First Shirt. He had a strike going today or tomorrow at the latest until we showed up and queered the deal. Now he has to find another poor soul who thinks he’s going to get seventy two virgins before he can strike. We don’t know if he has that man in his pocket already or if he has to recruit him, and I don’t want to wait around to find out,” Peters said. The First Sergeant grunted his approval but said nothing more.
A thought occurred to Billy and he found he was speaking his question as the thought formed in his mind.
“I thought people couldn’t see us when we’re out in the ether?” Billy asked quizzically.
“They can’t cherry,” Brandt’s voice said. “Just relax and let us manage the details.”
“Hold a second, he’s got a point,” Sergeant Sanchez said sitting forward in her chair.
“What do you mean?” asked Colonel Peters.
“Why did Blue Eyes here kill his three guys if he was ready to execute an operation?” Sanchez asked the group.
“Brandt was the last one in the room. Play back his perspective,” Peters ordered.
Sergeant Sanchez opened her laptop and began working intently. Her fingers flew around the keyboard and mouse pad for a minute or two as the room looked on in silence. The screen on the wall shifted and then reset with a full-screen video player. A title screen appeared announcing Guardian One’s feed with the date and time stamp before it began playing from the beginning of the operation.
“Fast forward to when Cherry bolted from the room,” Peters said.
“I’m getting really tiered of that name,” Billy said under his breath. First Sergeant Wilcox leaned down and whispered in his ear.
“You’ll get your real call sign when you earn it,” Wilcox paused for effect as the video feed rapidly streamed through the encounter. “Cherry.”
“There, back there, just before Cherry bolts. Play it from there,” Peters said.
Sanchez clicked the requested point in the feed and the scene began to play out at normal speed. Everyone watched as the scene played out and they all saw it at once. Then, all eyes turned to Billy who was already starring at the conference table trying desperately to figure out how to escape from the room.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.