Thriller Thursday 2 15

Chris Lowry
8 min readFeb 15, 2024

The Fall

He sat on the edge of the creaky wooden porch, rocking back and forth in the scratched rockers that old lady Walden kept out there for her guests. He wanted a cigarette, could almost taste it, but he gave up that habit ten years ago. He wasn’t about to start again.

“They’re late,” he said to no one in particular.

He was alone out here, except for the crickets, and lightening bugs winking in the thick, humid air. He had been on the porch for over an hour, forty-five minutes longer than he was scheduled to wait. He didn’t mind. When he was a young man, what felt like a thousand years ago, he had crouched in a hollowed out tree stump barely three feet tall, and half that deep for nine hours. He was on a mission to shoot a North Vietnamese Army General that intelligence said would pass by with a convoy. He did, Bog sniped him, and had to be folded out of the stump by a Green Beret patrol. They carried him for three miles before he got the feelings back in his legs.

They still pained him in the rain. He’d never had to do anything like that again, though he would have. That one shot had promoted him out of the field and into a command track.

Which led him all the way here, to a tiny town, a village really, on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, sitting on a run-down porch at a run-down bed and breakfast waiting to be picked up by them.

Them was the Agency, he was pretty sure, though it could be NSA or any of the other pseudo secret organizations that handled intelligence operations these days. He had worked for or with one or the other several times over the past three decades. No one spent that long in the military and not encounter them.

They had called him after dinner, asked him to meet them outside at 8:45. It was nine o’clock now, he could tell without looking. Another gift of his was time. He was very aware of it’s passing, and hadn’t needed a watch in over ten years. He wore one out of habit, a gift from one of his long term girlfriends who wasn’t around anymore. They never stayed that long.

They all wanted marriage, but he had a wife, and her name was the Corp. She was a jealous bitch, but she had stuck by his side and made him the man he was. The girlfriends couldn’t handle being mistresses, and left, sooner or later.

A car pulled up at the edge of the driveway, blinked it’s lights.

At that same time, a voice whispered out of the darkness at the other end of the porch.

“General?”

He almost jumped, but caught himself just in time. Good thing he didn’t have a gun, or there would be one less spook in the world. Or one more spook of a different kind.

“I’m ready,” he said, rising out of the rocking chair and flicking his imaginary cigarette out into the yard.

He ambled down the steps and fell in line behind the tall man in the dark. They marched toward the waiting car, and Bog was surprised to hear a second soldier fall in step behind him.

Damn, they were good. Who were they with?

He didn’t ask the question aloud. They wouldn’t answer, and he might lose face in whatever poker game they would play next, with information as chits. He played it close, pretending to know who they were and why they wanted him, knowing all the while that they knew he was wondering.

“Watch your head,” said the tall one as they reached the car. He opened the back door to the sedan and Bog ducked in the back. The tall man got in with him, and the other slid into the front seat beside the silent driver.

CHAPTER

The car pulled away from the B & B, accelerating quickly up the deserted road. It ran along the beach for almost two miles and pulled off on the side of the road. The driver and the tall man got out, never saying a word. Bog opened his own door, followed them across the sand to a waiting skiff.

The three of them climbed in the rocking boat, fighting the heaving surf. The driver of the car become the driver of the boat, clinging to a small twin engine motor clamped to the stern.

They motored out past the crashing white water into the relatively smoother chop of the ocean.

This wasn’t some protected bay that pocketed the coast of Florida, this was the actual Atlantic. Bog was surprised at how smooth it was. Still, he gripped the side of the boat with his left hand, keeping the right hand free out of habit. The right hand was his gun hand, like some slinger out of the old west.

He had never liked boats. And every time his country wanted to put him in harm’s way to protect its interests, they had sent him by boat.

Now, these men were taking him somewhere by boat. He didn’t like the way things were starting.

“Thanks for coming.” said a voice from the far side of the room.

“I had a choice?”

“We all have choices,” said a second man from the corner. “We chose you.”

There were three of them sitting in eerie half-darkness. Tiny, shaded lamps were placed on low tables, throwing light across the floor. It only reflected halfway up the walls, making the cabin look as if it belonged on another world. Maybe the lost city of Atlantis, rumored to lie beneath the haunted waters, was on this yacht.

He could almost imagine it, but for the shiny polished shoes illuminated in the light. They were strictly Brooks Brothers, buffed and expensive. They were shoes that belonged to powerful men, as much a part of their uniform as combat boots were a part of his.

“Did you lose anyone in the attack?” asked a forth voice from the corner. He’d missed that one. They had him surrounded.

“I was fortunate,” Zach answered.

“Have a seat,” said the first man. “Would you like a drink? I took the liberty . . .”

A servant, faceless in the dark, brought him a glass of iced tea. Zach noted the man moved like a soldier, even carried the tray with one hand to keep his weapon arm free.

“Good awareness,” he thought, but said thank you aloud.

“I’ll be brief,” said the voice behind him. “Your country needs you.”

Here it comes, he thought, sipping the tea. It was spiced with mint, which surprised him. They always invoked patriotism before asking for the sacrifice. It was familiar and to be quite honest, comforting.

“We took a heavy blow that day,” the man continued. That was an understatement.

“We’re still reeling. We thought that striking back was the answer, but we’re hitting with an open fist. They still have the upper hand.”

There was no need to fill in the details. Zach knew them, hell, everybody knew the details. But there was something they weren’t telling him. Only men with secrets hid in the dark.

“Six days ago, one of our Covert Action Teams intercepted a cell before they detonated a nuclear warhead on the mainland. For security reasons, we didn’t release that information to the media.”

“Yes sir,” he took another drink. His throat had suddenly gone very dry. He was out of the intelligence loop, but he remembered how the cells operated. There would be more than one plan, that’s the way they worked. Plans within plans within even more plans. The cells were scattered across America and chances were, another would have a second nuke, maybe even a third. It was only a matter of time.

“We have teams in every city, searching for more,” said the man from the corner.

They knew his questions, even if he didn’t ask.

Zach almost squirmed, would have if he hadn’t held himself still by force of will. If they knew his questions, then, they would know how he would answer theirs.

“What do you need from me?” he asked.

“I tol d you he was zero bullshit,” said the first voice, the one directly in front of him. “No tolerance.”

“Son, we need you to be Hitler.”

He put the glass to his lips, but it was empty.

“Can I get some more tea?” he asked.

“Something like that makes your nut sack shrivel, won’t it?”

The man in front of him had a southern accent, almost Texan. He was big, or at least he had big feet and long legs that stretched up through the artificial twilight and disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding cabin. He stood with his legs slightly apart, to compensate for the rocking of the boat.

Zach suddenly became aware of the noises around him. He chided himself for not paying attention before. He felt old, very old.

He didn’t hear anyone call for the servant, but the man brought him a second larger glass of iced tea.

He took two long swallows, draining half the glass. They gave him the time. He sat for a moment, feeling the gentle rocking of the boat, the steady slap of waves knocking against the side.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” he said.

The man in the corner stood up, marched over, dragging a chair with him. He sat across from Zach, revealing a youngish face he didn’t recognize.

The man was young, younger than the General by a good fifteen years. His shirt was starched, expensive, the silk tie knot loose around the collar. His blue eyes were large, discerning and sad, with thick heavy bags underneath. The man hadn’t slept in awhile, or if he had, it wasn’t well. He looked haunted.

Zach had seen that look before. Combat vets got that look. After.

The young man drilled him with those penetrating blue eyes, as if trying to find his soul.

“Keep looking,” Zach thought as he held the man’s stare.

“I was in New York that day. My wife and daughter were on one of the planes. She was only a year old.”

“I’m sorry,” said Zach.

“Yeah, well,” the man gulped. “I’ve dedicated my life to revenge. Which is why I’ve collected these gentlemen around you. We are prepared to make certain sacrifices to ensure the American dream lives on. We’re asking the same of you.”

Zach finished the rest of his iced tea. He set the empty glass on the floor between him and the man. The ice clinked on the rocking boat.

“I took an oath to serve my country,” he said. He wouldn’t say more. That oath was his life and these men would know it.

“It’s easy to die for your country. There’s honor in that.”

Those eyes still drilled into him, probing, searching, searing.

“We’re asking you to sacrifice honor, morality, maybe even your soul. We need you to push beyond the boundaries of evil. It won’t be easy.”

Zach got it. He’d seen those eyes before. Eyes like that in Vietnam, in Granada, and the Gulf. He’d closed them a thousand eyes, trying to send the departed into whatever peace they could find. Those were dead men’s eyes. He wanted to reach out and close this man’s eyes with his hands. Maybe even grab him by the throat and finish killing him. It would be a favor.

“You brought me here because you knew how easy it would be for me,” said Zach.

The dead eyes kept looking at him in the weird semi-darkness.

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Chris Lowry

Author at https://payhip.com/ChrisLowryBooks Runner writing books both fiction and non fiction, crypto investor, real estate and urban renewal.