Molly was cold and her burned hands were throbbing in pain. The physical exertion had aggravated her bad knee. She knew she had to keep moving in order to feel warmer, but her body wasn't cooperating. She weaved her way across the desert and headed towards her trailer. The violent game with Lamar had taken it's toll both physical and mental. The knowledge that she had killed a human being was a heavy burden. In that dark and lonely desert her thoughts became impaled on the soul consuming daggers of self degradation. Now totally exhausted, she slumped to the ground and tried to rest. Rachel was at least another hour walk. Staring at the desert through eyes blurred with tears, she did not see the shadow coming towards her.
The sudden feeling of a cold, wet nose on her arm made her jump almost out of her skin. She patted the dog and said, "I didn't hear you coming, Jez, You sneaking up on me, too?" Molly and the stray black dog she called Jezebel had made friends since she had been living here the past week. Some jerk in a blue truck had tried to run the dog down, and had almost succeeded. The poor thing had watched, puzzled, as the truck sped off in a cloud of dust. As she got up and painfully limped down the road she would pause periodically, looking behind her as if she couldn't imagine why the truck had harmed her. Molly had taken the dog in and now she could identify even more clearly with what Jezebel had felt that day.
Rubbing her face against the softness of Jezebels neck, Molly asked, "Would you like to come with me, Jez? What do you say, girl? 'wanna be my familiar?' "
She knew the hardship involved in traveling with a pet, mostly for the pet, but she also knew that her new friend had nothing going for her in this mean little town. 'And I need someone, too,' Molly thought. Startled by the cracking of dry desert cactus, Jez let out a long low growl. But her growl turned into tail wagging when she recognized the smell of the man walking towards them. Molly trusted Jez's instincts and did not run, but she remained cautious. Approaching slowly, Tyler Paulson, the mad man of Rachel, introduced himself. " Blacky and I are old friends," said Tyler. Stooping down to pet Jez, Tyler said very softly, "Don't be frightened, Molly. I only want to help, but we must hurry. Don is still alive and you have a chance of getting him back, but we will need help."
Molly was not frightened, but was somewhat taken back by Tyler's appearance. In his left hand he carried a large staff. He was wearing a long robe or coat and with his long beard, he looked like he had jumped right out of her tarot deck, The Hermit. 'Who is this guy?,' Molly wondered, 'some kind of religious fanatic? He doesn't look like a prospector and he certainly isn't with the military'.
"Why should I trust you?" asked Molly.
"You probably shouldn't," said Tyler. "But you can trust your own instincts and the dog's."
" Ok," said Molly. "You obviously seem to know me and my friend Don. I don't know who you are, but I'm just too tired to care. Just tell me how you can help and what you know."
" That's a lot of knowing," said Tyler. "However, I do know that there are some people coming this way that are also in need of help. I don't know who they are, but they are being chased by the same men that are after you. Come with me and we'll search for them together. I have a good idea of where they may be hiding."
" I wasn't being chased by a gang," said Molly. "Just one lunatic who somehow managed to get Don's truck." Then sarcastically she added, "probably related to somebody in Rachel."
"I could wish it were that simple, but it's not. I know for a fact that you have been under government surveillance since your husband disappeared four days ago. It's the U.S. government that wants you dead. Right now Don is being held prisoner in area 51. I also know for a fact that they plan to kill him. If you don't let my appearance get in the way of your reasoning, I can prove what I'm saying."
Smiling Molly said, "If I were bothered by appearances, I would have left my husband a long time ago. So, what are you waiting for, lead the way. "
Tyler gave Molly his staff to help her walk a little easier and they went out to find 'the others'. Jezebel followed happily.
There was no moon, but the stars were spectacular. It had been Sal's idea to drive without headlights then turn off the highway just outside of Rachel. Jake knew the area fairly well and gave Sal directions to a secluded spot that was no more than two miles from Rachel. Jake would lead the way on his bike. Juniper felt an eerie sense of non-reality as Sal drove the car along the desert road in complete darkness. She wasn't completely convinced that the best course of action wasn't just to seek help from the local authorities. Still, it couldn't hurt to be cautious, those men had tried to kill her and would have killed her friends, too. Now, these bikers were in trouble for saving her and her friends lives. Looking over at the shadow driving silently through the night, she shook her head slightly and then stared up again at the stars. 'This just can't be happening to me,' she thought as she went over and over the events of the day. Juniper could find absolutely nothing in her past that would make someone want to kill her. Nothing made any sense at all. The girl named Jennie had said that the government didn't make mistakes about this kind of thing, but Juniper was certain that they had made a big one. Deciding to find out for herself, she turned to face the back and asked, "Do you know you almost killed me and my friends by mistake? What's the matter with you, have you gone nuts? I don't care if you are government agents, you just can't go around killing people!"
Juniper could hear the hysteria in her voice and realized she had started babbling. Knowing that she would never get any answers this way, she quickly composed herself and calmly asked, "You do realize that I am not the woman that you are looking for, don't you?"
The agent seemed to stare at her for a moment before turning his head away without answering. The other agent just groaned in pain as he regained consciousness.
" Answer me - why did you try to kill me?"
" Shut up! Juniper," Sal interrupted," You won't get any answers from them."
The string of bikes following the car resembled a funeral procession. Sal and company followed Jake off the highway and down a twisting dirt road. The few lights of the town ahead disappeared as the group drove behind a hill and parked. Sal got out of the car and walked over to the others. Juniper, not wanting to be left out of the conversation this time, quickly opened her door and stumbled in the dark after him. The bikers each knew from past experiences that it was important to act quickly. In this case even more so because of the advanced skill of trained government agents.
"Eddie and Bert should be here in about an hour," Jennie said, "Maybe I should go up by the highway and watch for them."
" If it's all the same to you, I'd rather you stay here. Mort, do you want to go keep watch? We need to keep an eye on the agents, too."
Juniper, Hank, and Sandy watched for a moment before Juniper marched over to the group and expressed her concern over the injured agent, suggesting that he might die without medical attention.
" You want to give first aid to the asshole that tried to kill you!" Sal said with disbelief.
" I can't just stand and do nothing, while someone is hurting!" Juniper explained.
" How about you and Frank helping Florence Nightingale here, take care of those dickheads in the car? Hurry it up, too, we got some plans to make."
Under Juniper's direction, the agents were quickly taken care of and secured within sight, but not earshot. Frank and Jake looked at each other and found it hard to believe that Juniper would be so concerned with these two jerks on the ground. When Frank asked Juniper about her strange behavior, she asked in return," You really don't get it, do you? Has any body ever hurt a friend of yours?"
Frank replied, "Sure! Lots of times some other gang would hurt or even kill some of my friends."
Juniper then asked, "And what did you do?"
" I always got ahead, it's better than even."
" And after you got ahead, then what did they do?"
" They would come after us and some of them would die and some of us would die, but mostly them." Frank bragged.
" Aren't you getting tired of losing friends?"
Confused, Frank walked away and turning to Jake he asked, "When shit happens, don't you take care of it?"
" Sure!" Answered Jake. "But maybe what the broad is trying to say is that shit don't just happen."
The bikers gathered together and started to talk about their situation. Hank, Sandy and Juniper were not excluded, but neither were they invited to participate. Sal knew that it would be just about impossible to escape. All of them were smart enough to know that the roads would be blocked because the agents they had captured probably should have called to check in. Knowing this call would never occur, they assumed the government would flood the area looking for their agents.
" You mean there's no way out?" asked Jennie.
Sal replied, "I can't see any way out of this one, Jennie. And it don't look like they're going to take prisoners."
" Can't we just head for Las Vegas and get lost in the city?" Hank suggested.
" There won't be enough time. By now, the roads out of here are probably blocked." Showing Hank the two cellular phones confiscated from the agents, he continued, "My guess is, they last checked in when they spotted you, but haven't called since. If anybody has any ideas, I'd sure like to hear it."
" I have one!" said a shadow, walking toward them.
No sooner had Tyler spoken than he suddenly found himself on the ground, with a .9 mm stuck in his mouth. One biker had a foot on his chest, another was holding him by the hair and the others were holding his arms and legs.
"Who in the hell are you?" shouted Sal.
All Tyler could utter was, " ugguhh"
Sandy jumped over, shouting at Sal, "You must have been a dentist in your previous life, he can't answer a question with a gun in his mouth."
At the same time a woman and a large black dog came running out of the desert. The woman was yelling, "Don't kill him, don't kill him!," and the dog began to lick Tyler's face.
" Christ, is there anybody that don't know we're here?" asked Sal as he took the gun out of Tyler's mouth.
" I don't think anyone else knows that you're here." Tyler said, "That woman is a friend of mine. If you're willing to listen, I might be able to help you."
Molly walked over and helped Tyler to his feet.
With suspicion, tentative introductions were made. Tyler explained how he had found Molly wandering in the desert and what had happened to her. Understanding who this woman was, Juniper excitedly yelled, "If you're Molly, then you know where Don is!"
Sal, now totally disgusted with everyone asked," Who gives a shit? I'm trying to keep from getting my ass shot off, and you want to make this old home week."
" Don is tied up in a van on the base." said Tyler, "If you help us get him out, I'll show you the way out of here."
"Are you nuts?" Jennie cried. "Go on a government base and risk getting killed just to rescue somebody we don't even know?"
" That's the idea," said Tyler.
Jake jumped up, drew his gun, and growled," How about if we just shoot all you assholes and be done with the problem."
Stepping in front of his friend's gun, Frank said," We still gotta get outta here, Jake, and I don't think we can do it without help."
In a menacing tone, Sal threatened, "What if you just show us the way out of here, and we let you live?"
" I'm not afraid of dying, Sal, are you?" Tyler answered softly.
The air was tense. No one spoke for a moment and Molly soothed Jez, who was growling softly. Sandy stepped in and tried to relieve the tension, knowing Sal well enough by now to realize that he would kill Tyler just to save face. Juniper, Molly, and Hank also sensed what was about to happen if a compromise of some kind wasn't made; or something that would at least give Sal a chance to think.
"If you shoot now, somebody's liable to hear it." Hank said. "Can't we talk about this?"
His temper cooling a little, Sal answered "You gotta point." and lowered his gun slightly.
Jennie, realizing that it was pointless to kill everybody said, "I think they're right, Sal. Besides, what the hell do we have to loose? Sure it's a risk, but my guess is no matter what we do some of us ain't gonna make it, but I'd sure like to try." Turning her head in Frank's direction, she added," What do you think?"
" What are we supposed to do? Just walk up to the front gate and start shootin'?" Frank answered.
" It may not be that hard," interjected Tyler "I know how to get onto the base without being seen. Their friend, Don, is tied up in a van outside the front office. I heard the two agents that brought him there say that a plane was coming to pick him up around 2 in the morning. They're not going to move him until then. I just need some backup."
" Two a.m.?" Juniper asked, "You wouldn't happen to know what time it is now, would you?"
Hank and Sandy broke into hysterical laughter, born of fatigue and fright. The bikers were puzzled, to say the least and Tyler calmly asked," Tell me today's date, and I'll tell you the time."
Jake totally astonished at this bizarre conversation, said, "It's the 13th, now what the hell does that have to do with what time it is?"
Nonchalantly, Tyler looking up at the stars, said," It's 11:30, Jake, and knowing the date tells me the time by the position of the stars."
Excitedly, Jake said, "No shit? Can you teach me how to do that?" The others looked in awe at Tyler and then up at the stars.
Sal was staying with the group by sheer force of will. Hours ago, his survival instincts had told him to cut and run. His teeth were tightly clenched and his jaw worked in a slow pulsing motion. In an effort to maintain control, he walked away from the group, hands on his hips, and took some deep breaths.
Purposely, Sal strode over to the others and said, "Ok, cut the crap! Let's get the guy and then get the fuck outta here!"
Tyler suggested that they leave the vehicles here, hidden between the mountains. If they brought the wounded agent along, they could put him in the van to take Don's place. Also, that would enable the wounded man to get medical help a little sooner than if they just left him out here. Sal suggested that they only needed three men to get Don out and the others would be safer waiting here. It was then that Tyler sprung the surprise; the path he would lead them on was on the far side of the base. Not going through the base would be a 35 mile walk which they could not complete before daylight. If they were going to get out, it would be through the base under the cover of night. Tyler also pointed out that the last place they would expect the fugitives to be would be in area 51 right under their noses.
" Ok, we take the sick one, and kill the other." Sal said.
" No!" The voices of Juniper and Sandy rose in alarm.
" Now what the hell's your problem?" Sal asked annoyed.
Molly said calmly, "Sal, it really isn't necessary to kill anyone, and it will only create more problems if you kill him. Let's put the agent, back in the car where he'll be safe from any animals in the area, and also be a little warmer. He'll probably be found in the morning and we'll be gone by then."
Sal nodded, not because he agreed, but because he was anxious to get started. Mort, Eddie, and Bert showed up as this last decision was made. Jennie filled them in as they put their packs on their backs and started out into the night. Hank and Sandy helped the wounded agent to his feet and supported his weight between them. Sal and Frank shoved the other agent back in the car and taped his hands to one door and his feet to the other. Just before the gag was placed in his mouth, the agent looked at Sal and said, "You won't live to see the morning."
Uncharacteristically, Sal said softly, almost to himself, "You're probably right, but somehow it doesn't seem to matter anymore." Frank was amazed that the agent didn't get the butt end of Sal's gun across his head. Tyler led this odd assortment of planetary inhabitants on their quest for survival. Silently, they traveled through the desert darkness, each occupied with their own thoughts. Frank was wondering at the strange behavior of Sal, and also his own feelings regarding what Juniper had asked him about being tired of his friends dying. He was almost overcome by the image of his younger brothers face as he held his head in his lap as he died. Just me and Jimmy against the world, he had thought in those dark days. After Pop was killed, their mother began her descent into oblivion with drugs and alcohol. Frank would protect Jimmy and the 'gang' would protect Frank. However, it didn't work out as planned. Jimmy got caught in the crossfire of a street fight. After respectfully taking his 9 year old brothers body to Father O'Hara, Frank, at the age of sixteen, had systematically wiped out 10 members of the rival gang, one at a time; then disappeared. Since then, he had done what was necessary to survive, drifting in and out of society. The best thing that ever happened to him was running into Jake and the others.
"They do not yet know that the drones they hold captive are only part of the assimilation process. Humans are odd creatures. They believe that the drones can reveal information about the technology of the craft that appeared to crash. It just doesn't seem to matter to them that the craft has no moving parts and is obviously a simple container."
Shifting back to physical form Llondell said," The gradual presentation of three dimensional objects has worked well in helping them adjust to the concept of awareness existing beyond their planet. However, they are so obstinately fixed in their beliefs regarding what they call time and space, that they continue to insist their individual experiences must be referenced by these two concepts."
Sensing discouragement, Albendell said, "They are close to achieving a fundamental understanding of the collective consciousness. The process is delicate and any major interference by us will only inhibit our goal towards universal transmutation. Most of The Collective believe that the governments of the humans will eventually become rational."
Llondell was not convinced that humans would ever be capable of breaking out of the bonds of self serving own creativity. Their individual awareness seemed bent on maintaining a separation from existence. The drones were introduced on the blue planet as a method for initiating contact without upsetting the delicate balance of the human psyche. The contact from Rendell, across the continuum of existence, was informative, but not very encouraging. Apparently, entities that returned from the human psyche had become addicted to belief in the concepts of the fixed structure they themselves created. In addition, the awarenesses of both Rendell and Mikell were having difficulty in gaining the cooperation of The Collective for attempting transmutation. The thought passage they requested from Llondell's collective seemed like a waste of effort. Not only was the amount of energy required to maintain the opening exhausting, but the energy for its maintenance could not be replenished. It was this fact of creation that lead to the concept that the thought passage may be the way out of the endless loop.
In response to Albendell's statement, Llondell said, "Their own collective governments seem concerned only with maintaining control.
Most of their public officials fear that the balance of power and stability of the their world economy would be upset should contact be revealed. They believe that technology from our civilization would devastate their existing corporations. Oddly, these corporations seem to be the real governing structure of their planet, but most humans fail to come to that realization. At the center of these corporations is a small collective of humans that literally rule the planet."
" What you say is true," said Albendell.
"However, they did attempt to develop a government based on the concept of collective awareness."
" And how long did that last," chided Llondell. "The very government that was formed to help each awareness achieve its full potential now controls every waking moment of their human lives."
Looking down at the hole they had prepared for Lamar's body, Llondell continued, "The government officials are only dupes for those few that rule the planet, yet look at the insanity they instill. This awareness cannot manifest without becoming insane. The governments of this planet seem to have a propensity for using sick souls to help them achieve the goals of their own mindless greed."
" It is well planned," said Albendell.
"The level of paranoia bred by their religious and political leaders has been a useful device in keeping the earth collective from realizing its potential."
Dismayed by the denial process of the human psyche, Llondell asked, "How can they not see the Armageddon their leaders have cultivated?
The wars, crime level and exposure of the situational ethics of their leaders in newspapers and television screams the truth on a daily basis. Is no one home?"
" That is what we are attempting to find out, Llondell. If we scratch the human psyche will it produce a flow of fundamental collective awareness? Or, will we all eventually collapse into the madness of self-serving creative thought? If this is a human disease, let's hope it isn't contagious." Albendell said, as he concealed Lamar's grave with desert brush.
The group came to a halt as they reached the fenced area. From the darkness, they watched the guard until he was no longer visible. One at a time they crawled through the opening as Tyler explained that the guard wouldn't be in this area again for two hours, the length of time it took to make his rounds.
The closer Juniper got to recovering her purse, the better she felt. She was certain that Don would be rescued and then they would return to Salt Lake. She guessed that Molly might come with them, since the old man was dead.
Juniper mused that uncle Harry had been alone for a number of years now and might be interested in the pretty widow.
Sal was convinced they were walking straight into the jaws of death. He knew there was no way to get this many people out of this situation, 'and a god damned dog, to boot.' he thought. Knowing that he would have to watch his friends die, he wondered again, why he hadn't left the group at Warm Springs. 'Strange how things happen,' he mused. Sal always knew that he would die a violent death, but he never expected to have so much company.
Seeing the look of resignation on Sal's face, Jennie could guess what he had been thinking. She knew some of them would not make it, but she had to. Looking over at Frank, she thought of the life growing inside of her. She wanted her child to experience life the way that it should be, not the way she had. Three years ago, she had been 5 months pregnant when Roger had kicked her in the stomach, pushing her down the stairs and into the street. When she regained consciousness in the hospital, they had told her that she would never conceive another child. The Safe House helped her to relocate. Roger had threatened to kill her if she ever left him.
Jennie had drifted from town to town for a year before meeting Frank and the others at a truck stop where she worked as a waitress. Frank had asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She took off her apron, hopped on behind him, and they had been together ever since. Roger had eventually tracked her down as he had promised. The scenes from that night, alone in the apartment, flooded ther thoughts..
The memory of the knife flashing in Roger's hand was quickly replaced with one of the apartment door shattering under the heel of Sal's boot. It seemed as if it happened to someone else. She quickly turned her thoughts to the new life style she planned for herself and her baby. Frank did not know she was pregnant, neither had she told him about the property she purchased in Michigian. She wanted to surprise him with both.
The tension and mixed messages that Tyler received from the variety of people was building in his head. For the past five years Tyler had lived as a hermit in the desert surrounding Rachel. He only came to town occasionally to purchase food. A successful career in Hollywood as a stage designer, could not make up for the disgust and impatience he felt toward a society that was totally self indulgent. In order to maintain some sense of his sanity, he would travel to remote areas such as this in hopes of finding meaning to his own existence. In fact, it was near Rachel that he had his first experience with the metaphysical. Despondent over the death of his father, he had come here to seek answers. Tyler had been wandering the area for days, hardly eating or sleeping, when he had found an oasis. Falling into a deep sleep by the pool of water, he was spoken to in dreams and given a message that he would find the answers he sought by preparing a sanctuary in the desert for others. That he should stay in this place and people would come to him. At that time he would know where he should go and what should be done. Tyler had returned to his job in the city and began to study the metaphysical. His intuitive abilities increased with his search, the more he asked for, the more he was given. Finally, no longer willing to cope with the mental confusion of city life, he left his job, family and friends. Tyler accepted the messages and retreated to this remote area of Nevada where he had been gaining spiritual energy and learning how to survive as he waited for others. 'My wait is over, my task has begun,' he thought, as he looked around at his charges and said, "The parking area is just ahead, I'll go get Don while you're moving across the lot. Be sure to crouch low, move slowly, and stay away in the darkness near the edge." Tyler pointed out the van and Sal and Frank volunteered to cover him while he pulled Don out.
Don was beginning to think more clearly, now that the men had gone into the building. As he struggled against his bonds, without success, he heard a noise outside. The door of the van slid open. A shadow slipped into the van. It was Don's worst nightmare, someone had come to slit his throat, and be rid of the problem.
A scream rose from deep in his guts, but the gag muffled the sound. He struggled against the strong hand that was clamped against his mouth. The knife wielded by his assailant glistened in the light shining from the front office window. As the knife plunged down, Don prepared for death. However, instead of feeling the crushing blow to his solar plexus, he felt the pain of the tape being ripped from his wrists. As the man pushed Don out onto the ground, he whispered with authority, "I'm here to help you. Don't make a sound and follow everything I do precisely." Don rubbed his wrists, removed the gag from his mouth, then crouched and did as the man demanded.
Suddenly, the roar of the plane broke through the desert silence. As Tyler and Don turned to run for cover, the two government agents came out of the office. Surprised to see the two men crouched near the van they drew their guns. Just as Charlie yelled a warning to stop a bullet tore through his chest, but the only thing that came out of his mouth was blood. Bob turned in the direction of the gunfire, before he could fire, another burst from Sal's gun tore through his throat. Bob managed to hit the alarm on the wall before he went down. Bob's arm slowly came up and his last act on earth was pulling the trigger. Sal fell to his knees as the bullet penetrated his side. Holding back the flow of blood with one hand, Sal ran towards Bob and shot him between the eyes. Seeing Frank run to help Sal, Jennie sprinted across the compound. She shot once at the desk sergeant who had come running out of the front office, his gun pointed at her; then watched in horror as the man's face seemed to disappear in a mass of blood and tissue from the force of the bullets that fired from Frank's gun. It looked to Hank like all hell was breaking loose as the shooting began, he looked over to the agent and said, "You're on your own, buddy." as he grabbed Sandy and ran toward the van. It seemed that there were guards everywhere. Quick to take advantage, the agent, still bound by the wrists, ran toward the front office door.
" Piece of cake, huh?" Sal asked Tyler as he dropped to the ground behind the van.
"I never said that, but I never promised you a rose garden either." Tyler responded, while trying to stop Sal's bleeding.
Looking up into Tyler's eyes Sal said weakly," Don't bother, asshole, I'm as good as dead."
" Sorry, you're not free to leave, just now, the show ain't over 'till the fat lady sings." "You're just chock full of bullshit, ain't cha?," Sal groaned.
The guards were not military personnel. The base had hired a civilian security system because keeping military personnel in any large quantity at the base required to much explanation at the congressional level. However, because the base was so remote, it was believed that security was only needed to keep out the more persistent UFO watchers. Base security amounted to an expensive high tech system of video and sound equipment monitored by a small band of guards. Unlike military, the guards were hired guns that lacked the patriotic call of the military. Seeing some of their friends bleeding to death on the ground caused serious reassessment of their desire to plunge into this crowd and risk getting killed. Usually all they had to do was chase tourists off the roads leading to the base and confiscate cameras. However, these tourists were shooting bullets, not film.
The hesitation of the guards was enough to give Tyler some encouragement for escape. A rapid burst of obligatory gunfire from the guards shot out the tires of the van and pierced through the chassis. Except for Molly and the dog hiding in bushes at the side of the front office, everyone else had managed to make it to the van. A military truck on the far side of the plane caught Tyler's attention. From his experience of investigating the base he knew the keys would be in the ignition. He told them to run for cover behind the plane and then attempt an escape with the truck.
With a startling display of strength Tyler easily lifted Sal onto his shoulders and ran toward the cover of the plane as it taxied toward them. Except for Frank the others were quick to follow.
" Jennie, you go with the others, and I'll cover from behind." Frank told her.
" No, way Jose" was Jennie's response," I'll leave with the guy I came with."
In their desperate lunge for survival Sandy was shot in the leg. Hank never broke his stride as he scooped her up into his arms and raced towards the plane. Juniper was last in line and hesitated when she saw Sandy get shot.
Thinking that she froze from fear Frank yelled, "Go, this is your last chance."
" Uh, my purse it might be in the van."
Exasperated Jennie yelled, "If you don't move your ass out of here I'll shoot you." With the encouragement from Jennie's gun pointed at her nose Juniper burst from the side of the van and ran towards the plane. The gunfire from the guards was effectively slowed down by the hail of bullets coming from Frank and Jennie.
Mort and Eddie were now racing ahead of Tyler, but came to a sudden halt as the door of the plane burst open and three men with machine guns began to spray the landing field. Seeing that they were shooting at the guards instead of them, the bikers dove for the safety of the plane. No one could understand this sudden turn of events, but all were quick to take advantage of it. As the others arrived they were quickly grabbed and tossed through the door. Molly and Jez were the last to make it through. Jez was reluctant to jump in the plane because of the height and began to whine.
Jake saw the problem immediately, jumped down to make a bridge, and Jez quickly ran up the human ramp.
Several guards now lay wounded or dead on the landing field. The others had retreated to the safety of the base. Seeing a chance for escape, Frank and Jennie ran to the plane. Frank boosted Jennie up into the plane as a burst of gunfire came from one of the wounded guards. As Frank turned in order to return the fire, a single bullet exploded into his chest and found it's way to Jennie. Seeing them fall to the ground Jake jumped out of the plane after them. However, it was to late, both had died instantly. The others helped him pulling the bodies of Frank and Jennie into the plane as it moved forward for takeoff. The roar of the plane engines, breaking through the night sky, announced their rescue.
After the plane reached its cruising altitude, the pilot walked into the cabin and announced, "My orders are to take you to Arizona."
" Whose orders?," asked Tyler.
" No one you know, and you're better off not knowing. There's some camp gear stowed on the plane. Take whatever you want. It's not much, we weren't expecting this many people. We'll land at an old gold mine not far from Quartzsite. From there you're on your own."
After the pilot spoke the only sound heard was the drone of the plane's engines. They were all exhausted and could barely keep their eyes opened. Molly tried her best to bandage Sandy's leg. She would limp for a while but no bones were broken. The bullet had passed through her leg. Sal's wound was much more serious. He needed medical care and surgery to remove the bullet lodged in his side. Molly was able to stop the bleeding, but there was little else she could do. Sal had already lost so much blood that he had trouble remaining conscious. Jez laid down next to Sal in the back of the plane. Each time he moaned from the searing pain she would lick his face.
Molly tried to stop her, thinking it would make Sal more uncomfortable. However, she soon noticed that Sal seemed to be comforted by the dog's affection.
Don walked over to where Juniper was sitting and asked, "Juniper, what are you doing here?"
" I left my purse in your truck."
" Are you sure? I didn't notice it. Well, I would have returned it to you when I got back." Don replied, "I'm not a thief, I'm just a mechanic."
" It had some critical codes in it that I needed for my job. Anyway I guess it doesn't matter now. If I'm not back to work by Monday, I'll probably loose my job." Juniper sighed, "Hank and Sandy were just trying to help me and nearly got killed for it. Do you know why you were kidnapped, and why those agents tried to kill me and my friends?"
Don shook his head and said, "Maybe we'll find out when we land."
Eddie suddenly spoke as it dawned on him that they had escaped, "Quartzsite? Where the hell is Quartzsite?"
A tired voice from the rear of the plane, said," It's about 80 miles north of Yuma. Me and Gaf used to spend the winter's there." Molly then said, to no one in particular, "I think he might be dead."
Tyler broke in and advised that everyone stay quiet and try to rest; there would be time enough for discussion when they reached their destination. Most of them were lulled into a half sleep listening to the hypnotic sound of the plane's engines. After a few hours the sound of the engines changed as the plane approached the desert area and made a smooth landing. One of the mercenaries unceremoniously threw open the door, and simply said, "This is it folks, everybody out." He then threw the camping gear to the ground, refusing to answer the questions that were asked of him. The group struggled out the door, Jake and Bert first carried Sal then returned for the bodies of Frank and Jennie. Sandy was in pain, but had no problem negotiating the exit. Each one of them stared into the early morning mist and watched as the plane disappeared into a cloud.
Tyler suggested that for now the bodies should be place towards the back of the mine entrance. Everyone agreed to have a burial in the morning, somewhere deep in one of the mine shafts. Hank walked over, picked up a tent and started putting it together as Jake and Bert moved Sal into the mine. Mort and Eddie nonchalantly began picking up gear and carried it over to the entrance of the mine. Sal needed emergecy care but it seemed impossible to get without revealing who they were and why he had been shot.
Molly spoke up and said she had a friend named Ben, that should be here. Years ago, he had been a medical technician in Korea. He always parked his rig in the same place, near the wash. Mort and Bert volunteered to go and get him. She drew a map on the ground directing them to Tyson wash. Ben's motor home would be surrounded by several radio antennae and a big satellite dish, she described him as best she could. "He's real surly and won't trust you, so maybe Juniper should go with you.
He's more likely to trust what she tells him. Is that OK with you, Juniper?" Juniper quickly agreed, thinking that going for a walk was certainly better than sitting on the ground or going into a dirty cave. While the three of them went off to find Ben, the others tried to bring some order into their new camp.
It was not long before Juniper spotted Ben's rig," You guys wait here, and I'll talk to him" she said as she walked over and politely knocked on the door. Impatiently, Bert strode up and pounded on the door loudly.
The man they assumed was Ben poked his head out and asked what they wanted and if they knew the time. Juniper spoke up quickly stating that Molly had sent them here and needed his help. Before Ben had time to answer her, she asked, "And would you please tell me what time it is?" Stunned at this strange group that had appeared on his doorstep in the early hours of the morning Ben cautiously began to question Juniper about how she knew Molly and Gaf.
"Oh, I don't know him, I just met her today, when me and my friends were trying to get my purse back from Don, this mechanic..."
Juniper began rambling. Jake lost his patience and grabbed Ben as Mort hit him square on the jaw, knocking him unconscious. "What's the matter with you people?" Juniper yelled, jumping up and down, "How're we going to get him back now?"
Without answering, Jake took the keys out of the downed man's pocket and the two men unceremoniously threw Ben into the back of his own truck. Mort jumped in with Ben while Jake opened the door and started the trucks engine.
"Are you coming?" He asked the baffled woman. As the truck started to roll, Juniper quickly jumped in and Jake drove down the wash like a bat out of hell and then turned up the path to the camp.
Molly found a lantern in the camp gear and went back to check on Sal. His face was ashen and his blood had soaked through the pressure bandage. She noticed that the guys had stacked some of the camping gear against the far wall. Rummaging through it, she found a medical kit. 'Probably a bottle of aspirin and a few bandaids,' she thought. To her surprise the kit contained morphine derivatives for pain, antibiotics, and what appeared to be surgical tools. This medical kit was obviously not the usual 'let's play doctor kit,' this was intended for serious emergency medical treatment in isolated areas. Placing the kit back in its place, she looked over at Sal and left the mine. Molly walked up the hill and stared out at the desert. She saw Ben's red truck barreling down the wash and ran to greet him.
When she arrived, Ben was out of the truck and madder than hell. "What the hell is goin' on here, Molly? And who are these goons? Where's Gaf?" Ben continued to spout off questions one after the other while pacing in front of her. When he stopped she walked up and gave him a hug," It's good to see you, too." Molly said, "but it's a long story. Why are you so angry?"
Juniper couldn't wait to tell Molly exactly what these crazy bikers had done and became very animated as she gave her report. "I couldn't believe it, one minute I'm trying to explain to him what happened and asking him to help, just as you asked me to do, and then all of a sudden these two attacked him and stole his truck."
Looking at Mort, Molly asked, "Is this true, Mort?"
With a sheepish look on his face and shuffling his toe in the dirt, he said, "Uh, you said to get him here, and Sal needs help real bad.
Besides, this guy was taking too long and she," Mort continued gesturing at Juniper," just wouldn't shut up. So we convinced him."
Ben turned to Molly and said, "Since when is a punch in the jaw a way of asking for help?"
Molly quickly explained that Sal would die if someone didn't remove the bullet from his side, and also briefed him on what had happened at the base. The group entered the mine and watched as Ben examined Sal's wound. Shaking his head slightly, he accepted the kit Molly held out to him and said, "This is real bad, even if I can remove the bullet he might still die from loss of blood and, under these conditions, even antibiotics may not be able to control the infection. I haven't done anything like this for a long, long, time, Molly. And I've never done this without the patient having, at least, a local anesthetic; this kit doesn't have any. The morphine will help, but when I reach for that bullet, he's gonna think someone is ripping him apart with a rusty saw."
Putting her hand on her old friend's shoulder, she said, "We'll understand if you don't want to try this, I know it's a lot for us to ask."
Ben looked at the expressions on the faces around him, as they watched patiently. "Well, I guess if the Lord's with us, the guy might make it."
Ben had them prepare a place for the operation and get more lanterns. then he used the peroxide from the medical kit to clean the wound. Even though the mine was dark and dusty, Ben preferred it over the outside, where a cold wind was blowing. The bullet was lodged about two inches above the point of entry and appeared to be stuck behind a rib. Ben would have to literally dig in the wound until he could grasp the bullet with the forceps. Jake and Mort held Sal's arms, Hank held his head and Eddie, Don, and Bert held his legs as Ben carefully began probing the wound. Even so, it was all the five men could do to hold him down. Sandy and Juniper went outside for air.
Sal's screams were echoing off the mine walls. Juniper turned to her life long friend and asked in a tiny childlike voice, "Let's go home, Sandy, I don't like it here."
" Hon, I don't like it either, but right now, we don't have a choice. The only thing we can do is survive while we try to figure out what has happened and why the government is after us. Maybe things will look a little brighter when this operation is over and we can get some food and rest." She and Juniper sat on a large rock and tried not to hear the screams coming from the old gold mine. Cringing from the sounds, Juniper bowed her head and placed her hands over her ears.
The screaming stopped as abruptly as it had started.
Ben cleansed and bandaged the wound as carefully as he could, while the others breathed sighs of relief, grateful that Sal had passed out.
They all left, except Bert and Jez.
Ben took Molly by the arm and suggested they walk for a while. She carefully recited the details of what had happened from when they arrived in Rachel to arriving in Quartzsite.
" You can't be sure that Gaf's dead just because you had a bad dream."
" That's true, but it seemed so real. Anyway, they searched down the hole and found nothing. I looked in that hole, myself. That was where he had been standing, and I only looked away for a moment. Since his body wasn't in there, I have no idea where he is."
" How can I help, Molly?"
" You already have," answered Molly.
"But I don't want to involve you, any more than I have already. And I'm sorry about that, but the young man would have surely died without your help. I don't know what the others are going to do, but it looks like I may have to disappear for awhile."
" I doubt that there's a better place to disappear than here, on the desert around Quartzsite. Your best chance for staying alive is probably right here, the others, too."
" You're probably right". said Molly.
"But an awful lot of people know me here. The government seems to know everything about everyone. I'm sure they know that Gaf and I have friends here."
" And that's why they'd never find you here," answered Ben. "The people that come here for the winter aren't exactly in love with the federal government. As you know, most of them have worked very hard all their lives to provide for a comfortable retirement. A comfort they will never have because the federal government has taken everything in taxes. And what the fed's haven't taken the state has. Whatever is left is eaten up by this outrageous inflation. Gasoline in Quartzsite is now two dollars a gallon. A lot of these old folks can't even afford to drive to the store to buy their food and they are having a tough time affording that, too.
My guess is that most of them would jump at the chance to get one over on the fed's. They may be to old to join the militia but they sure as hell can help in other ways."
" How did gas get that high? It wasn't that much last week."
" I guess you've been too busy to hear the news, something about the oil market."
" Got any ideas about what I do now?," asked Molly.
" Yeah, why not stay right here at the mine. I can bring you what you need and no one needs to know. Anybody passing through here will just think your part of the normal Quartzsite snowbird crowd."
" Thanks, Ben. You're a wonderful friend."
" No problem, Molly. I'll be back tonight with some supplies and news if I can find any. You won't believe what's happening in the cities. A lot of folks are just walking out and leaving their homes for the bankers. Even those that have jobs can't make enough money to pay rent or buy food. There's a lot more people on the road now, and not all of them are friendly." Looking back at the bikers, he said, "Be careful of strangers."
Molly walked Ben back to his truck and gave him a hug. As he drove away she turned back to the others and watched as Mort tried to teach Juniper how to light the gasoline lantern. Most of the day was spent in setting up camp, taking care of Sal and eating the little food that came with the camp gear. Jez didn't wait for dinner to be served, she found her own on the desert. There seemed to be plenty of rabbits to chase. Ben returned after dark with plenty of supplies but not much in the way of news. Sitting around a camp fire they gradually began a discussion of what they would do. Everyone agreed that it would be best to stay here for a while, if they needed to run, Mexico wasn't too far away.
Juniper said she could not just stay here without contacting her family and thought she should contact her attorney for some advice. "I can also call the bank on Monday and request sick leave, but at some point I've got to put my life back together."
Hank and Sandy agreed that calling her attorney might help. "That's probably a good idea," said Sandy. "I'm sure that our boss will know what's going on in Salt Lake. I'll call him tomorrow he'll know what to do."
The talk of phone calls made Don nervous. Having been held hostage by his own government gave him a new perspective on the meaning of law and order. "Making phone calls from here might not be the smartest thing to do. Right now it's the only place to hide. After what I've just been through, I'm not sure I want to risk losing it. I've got a business to get back to, but its not worth risking my life over."
" Don is quite right," said Tyler.
"Even if you don't divulge your location to your friends and family, you can bet their phones are tapped by now."
The bikers were used to being chased by the law and saw no reason to leave. Eddie made it very clear that they would do nothing until they spoke to Sal. "It's no worse than any place else, we're used to staying low."
Looking at Juniper he said, "You just don't get it yet, missy. Whatever you had you don't have anymore. They took it from you. You just learned your first street lesson."
Laughing, Jake said, "All four of you have got a hell of a lot to learn. Right now you think somebody is going to help you, like maybe the law or some dickhead politician. You ain't got enough money to pay off the politicians or the cops so now you become a piece of street shit just like us."
Stunned by Jake's remark Juniper said, "You don't understand, I'm not like you. I haven't done anything wrong, therefore there's no reason that I can't just go home and get this misunderstanding cleared up."
" You got some hard lessons coming.," said Jake. "Why do think we all belong to a gang? You think I was born with a motorcycle up my ass? You're gonna learn the same thing we all learned. Nobody out there gives a shit, and what you get in life, is only what you're willing to take."
" Somewhat over stated," said Tyler," but to the point. It's a matter of trust, Juniper. You trust what you think you know. Right now you trust that there is some sanity left in this world. And there is, but you'll not find it in the bureaucracy of government. However, there does seem to be someone on your side. That plane was suppose to take Don to Denver. Someone out there had other ideas."
Molly was exhausted and found the conversation tiring. She stood up and stretching said, "I'm just too tired to think anymore. Right now what I need is sleep. Maybe we can make some sense out of it in the morning."
Ben said he would return in the morning with some newspapers and also his motor home. "Might as well camp here," he said. Looking at Molly he added, "It looks like you'll be here for awhile. And that young man in the mine would do a whole lot better if he stayed warm in my rig. Besides, I could use a change, its been a long time since I've slept on the ground. Might do me some good."
"Jerome, I'm so glad you were able to join me for lunch, I know I didn't give you much notice." Katrina said as she greeted Jerome and led him to the sun room.
" No problem," Jerome answered, "It's always a pleasure to see you."
" It's a good thing you stepped in with our little problem with the SSQ. I've heard there have been problems with some of their agents, lately. I hope everything went as you planned."
" Yes, the SSQ was very cooperative, they admitted their agents underestimated the targets. The local police in Nevada are convinced that Molly Rockwood's escape with the mechanic from Salt Lake City was evidence of foul play in the disappearance of her husband. Also, the local papers will be reporting a 'high speed chase of drug dealers' by the FBI. The suspects are also wanted in connection with the murder of a bar owner in Salt Lake City. The sheriff's department in Utah has searched and found evidence of drugs in the apartments of the woman bank executive and the mechanic. All were released a couple of hundred miles across the Mexican border and all personal effects of those involved have been collected and have been brought here. The material has been searched, but nothing has been found which would give the location of Gaf Rockwood. "
"What about the military at area 51," asked Katrina.
" They are asking the SSQ for an investigation," answered Jerome, "but are convinced, as are the residents in Rachel, that the plane was hijacked and guards were killed as a result of drug traffickers attempting to escape. It was too dark for any of the guards to notice that it was the crew of the plane that attacked them."
" And the bikers?," questioned Katrina.
" Not a problem, they're already wanted by the law."
Jerome knew the ploy for Katrina's trust would not last long. It was only a matter of time before he would have to reveal his true intentions. However, for now it was working. Waving good bye as he walked to his car, he wondered what else he would have to do in order to conceal his duplicity. Katrina had previously discussed with everyone her spirit guides insistence that Gaf Rockwood be stopped. She had been told that the aliens had developed an 'infinity vortex' which would allow Gaf Rockwood passage to the 'Keeper of the Gate'. After Jerome left, Katrina pushed aside questions of his loyalty in favor of focusing her thoughts on finding the location of the 'infinity vortex' and it's destruction. " Excuse, me, Madame, shall I put the boxes in storage?" Her thoughts were momentarily interrupted by her assistant's question. After telling him to put them in her personal library, she resumed her mental gymnastics.