Chameleon 14

© 2018, Jack H. Tyler

The walk to the big house hadn’t been difficult.  All she had to do was be careful.  Careful, and cunning.  Finding a fresh pile of dog droppings on the way up, she had trodden heavily in it with both feet; let the bastards get a snootful of their own shit if they wanted to track her!

Making her way to a row of dark windows along the side, she quickly found one open to the night air and let herself in.  It was some sort of den or sitting room, and she scraped her shoes as best she could, grinding the feces into the expensive carpet.  She listened at the door for a moment, and satisfied, slipped out into the dark hall.    

It was lined with doors, all showing no light underneath, and she carefully opened a few, finding spacious, luxurious bedrooms, obviously the private realm of Rodriguez’s chosen consorts.  Door by door, looking for a phone, she worked her way down the hall.  She opened one door to be greeted by a snore, and almost slammed it in her start.

Careful, Colleen!

At the end of the hall, she found what she needed, a small office containing a desk with two phones.  Breathing a sigh of relief, she picked one up expecting a dial tone, only to hear, “Switchboard.”

“Shit!” she exclaimed involuntarily, and slammed the receiver back onto the base.  If that operator was worth her paycheck, and Rodriguez wouldn’t tolerate anyone who wasn’t, she would dispatch guards to investigate.  She had to get out of here!

Transferring the knife from her belt to the top of her military-style boot, she peeked quickly out of the room, then made her move, sprinting down the hall toward the far door.  Reaching it, she listened briefly before easing it easing it open.  She stepped through, turned left, and ran right into two thugs who leveled MP5 submachine guns at her.

“Arriba sus manos!”

 *          *          *

Douglas paced back and forth in front of her, occasionally stopping to regard her as an angry headmaster might regard a student who had carved his initials into the front door of the school.

“You see the value of low-tech systems like switchboards?” he finally asked, punctuating the question by waving a blue leather folder bearing some inscription in gold.  “A relay panel would have simply put your call through, and then we would have been denied the opportunity to have this chat.  Who were trying to call, by the way?”

“My mother.”

“Your mother’s dead, Miss O’Reilly.  Do try again.”

“It was long-distance.”

Douglas nodded to the guard to her right, who struck her suddenly with his elbow, causing her to double over.  The two of them jerked her upright.

“Who were you trying to call?”

“A cab.”

“Whatever for?”

“It’s a long walk to town.  I’m injured, you know.”

“How sad.”

Her guards had certainly noticed the fact.  Because of that, and because she was just an insignificant chica, they had been abominably careless in their search.  Oh, they had paid close attention to her hips and thighs, inside and out, and ran their hands over the firm little bulges of her breasts several times.  Had they bothered with a professional search, they would have easily found her borrowed knife, but they hadn’t, and it still rode uncomfortably in her right boot, its unyielding blade a promise of infinite possibilities.

Douglas fished the small radio from his jacket pocket.

“Lancelot, this is Arthur.”

“This is Lancelot, go ahead, Arthur.”

“How is the search coming?”

“Just a matter of time, sir.”

“Really?  Allow me to save you some of that time.  She has come to us.”

“Sir?”

“She’s up here at the main house, a wounded prisoner.”

“I knew I hit her!”

“Yes, yes, great work and all that.  Shift your search to Sir Gawain.  Without Morgan le Fay to help him, you should be able to ferret him out in no time.”

“Yes, sir.  Good work, if I may say so, sir.”

“Never mind the brown-nosing, just find the boy, understand?”

“Yes, sir.  We’re on it, sir.”

Douglas pocketed the radio, and opened the folder, studying its contents raptly while he pointedly ignored her.  Finally, he closed it.

“So, this is the end of the great Chameleon.”

“Maybe not quite yet.”

“Oh, I so admire you.  Hopefully, just knowing you has made me a more formidable adversary.”

“You have to have fiber, and a bit of honor, to be a formidable adversary, then.  All you have is naked greed.”

“Dear child, all that baiting and taunting may have worked wonders on Two Eighty Three, but I’m afraid this is the big league.  My original plan, you know, was to get you into the compound, have Rodriguez capture you, and sell you to the IRA.  They’ve offered to double the reward that any government offers for you.  Alive, you understand.”

“I’m flattered.”

“As you should be.  Alas, you have demonstrated to me that you are altogether too volatile to transport safely to Ireland, and so I’m going to shoot you to death, turn you in to a certain well-paid policeman as an intruder, and be oh-so-surprised when you turn out to be a wanted felon.”

“Where’s the money in that?”

“Why, right here.”  Again, he brandished the folder.  “Rodriguez made it worth engineering a change in plans.  Hell, maybe there’s a reward for him on top off the rest.  Poetic, huh?”

“Careless of you to discuss his demise right in front of his guards.”

“His guards?  Who do you think they are, the SAS?  If I pay them more, they become my guards.  That’s all they want, and all I want is to be rid of you.  Even wounded, you’re altogether too unpredictable to be kept alive.”

“Think of the money you’ll be losing.”

“Sorry, child, but I just can’t take the risk.  I say, what the devil’s all that?”

As they stood in the receiving room with its wide expanse of glass doors and windows, Douglas could see the drive to the gate behind her, and what had caught his eye was many flashing, colored lights, and the long shadows of men running through floodlight beams.  In the silence, orders shouted through a bullhorn carried up the hill to them.

“God damn it!”

O’Reilly turned between her guards, and instantly took in what was happening.

Policias!  Where the hell had they . . . Takeri!  God bless and keep him!

 *          *          *

Douglas moved quickly to the open door to take in the chaotic scene below, and the two guards turned to see as well, letting their attention drift momentarily.

Time to go.

She drove her elbow into the throat of the man on her right, and as he staggered back, she dropped down, grabbed her knife, and thrust it deep into the solar plexus of the man on the left.  Evan as the first guard tried to recover, she swung around the second in a graceful dancer’s slide and triggered his MP5, cutting him down in a hail of bullets.

Douglas, panicking now, turned and fired three shots at her with a small pistol that he produced from inside his jacket.  She fell with the guard, using his dying body as a shield, and as she tried to align the MP5, Douglas turned and jumped through one of the full-height windows into the garden.

“Not this time, you bastard,” she growled, and taking the machine gun from the guard’s shoulder and the knife from his chest, she stepped through after him.  He would be heading for the vehicles, and he wouldn’t be wasting any time.  She couldn’t either; the coppers would be up here in a matter of minutes, and although she welcomed their rescue, she didn’t relish being banged up in the jail of a country that had an extradition treaty with England.

The trucks would be to the left.  He would risk crossing the driveway, and so she must, too.  She scuttled across the front of the house, hugging the shadows.  Her heart was pounding now with extended exertion, and her wound throbbed painfully in unison.

At the back of her mind, the nagging question of why she was doing this picked at her attention.  She had no answer.  All she felt was the pain of her wound, and a towering rage at the arrogance of this man who had, for decades, used his public trust to accumulate wealth, and how many little people had just gotten in the way, and been made to disappear?  Well, no more.  If the police rounded him up, a flash of his CIA credentials would have him out on the street before she could hitch a ride to town.  No, he was her job, and one of them wouldn’t walk away from here.

She came to the back of a light utility truck and leaned against it, waiting for her breathing to slow.  Ready, she looked between the truck and the next car in line, seeking a face in the rear view mirror.  None.  She went to the next, and the next with the same result.  Then, two cars up the line, a starter began to crank.

Got you, you son of a bitch!

She moved quickly to the opening beside the offending car, laid the sights on the graying head behind the wheel, and squeezed the trigger.  Just as the burst erupted into the car, a random motion, maybe pumping the accelerator, caused his head to move aside as the windshield and side window exploded into thousands of jagged splinters.  Douglas wasted no time trying to see who was shooting at him, but simply dived toward the passenger door.

She saw his move in the mirror, seemingly the only bit of glass that had survived her onslaught, and crouched to be waiting for his exit, but he simply stuck the pistol out and fired three rounds blindly, causing her to duck back behind the car.  In that second of confusion, he made his exit.

O’Reilly retreated to the next vehicle, a pickup truck.  Her advantage was a more devastating weapon; his was the ticking clock of the approaching police.  He could survive their attention.  She might not.

Switching to semi-automatic, she moved to the front of the pickup and risked a look over the hood.  She was instantly fired at for her trouble.  Forced back down, she heard his foot splash in one of the puddles formed by the recent shower.  Moving back to the back of the truck, she risked another look.

She didn’t get shot at this time, but she didn’t see him, either, but she did hear stealthy movements again.  Ducking back down, she ran through his options.  Where was he trying to get to?  Then, seized by a new idea, she lay prone in the mud and looked underneath along the line of vehicles.

There he was, about five cars away, crouched, gathering himself for his next move.  Bringing the MP5 up, she took careful aim and shot him in the ankle.  He cried out, loud, and fell to his back, holding his ankle and rolling back and forth.  Laying the sights on his head, she squeezed the trigger again, but felt nothing but the spring flexing as the bolt was held open by the top of the empty magazine follower.  She rolled back behind the truck’s wheel, lest he copy her example, and discarded the now useless gun.

The ground would mean death for her as soon as he shook off the pain of his wound.  Taking the knife from her waistband, she stood up, risking that he wouldn’t have recovered yet, and climbed into the pickup bed.  Five cars away.  Pray to God that she had counted right.

Decisive action had saved her in more close calls than anyone could count, and her body moved now, seemingly of its own volition, almost quicker than her mind could think.  Rising to her feet, she jumped to the top of the next car, the next, and the next.  Arriving at the fifth, she simply bounced on the roof and dived straight down point-first.

She had counted right.  Douglas’s eyes and mouth made three round holes of surprise as she descended on him like an avenging fury.  His gun hand came up and took the knife thrust before he could fire.  The pistol flew off behind him as his hand spasmed with pain.  He hit her in the side of the head with his other hand, but the blow was softened by the fact that he still held that blue folder.  What the hell was that, that he wouldn’t let go of it even to fight for his life?

She swung the knife at his face, his right hand deflecting it so that it barely missed slicing through his eye.  She shifted her body, got his left arm trapped between her legs, and his right trapped under her left armpit.  He was twice her size and more, but he had been shot, cut, and bound with the living ropes of her lithe muscles.  She shifted the knife in her right hand as her blazing eyes marked a spot just below his chin.

“Colleen, wait!  You don’t have to do this.  There’s plenty for both of us.  Why, think of the team we’d make!”

“Two Eighty Three O’Reilly?  Doesn’t have any melody to it, you know?”

“Don’t be a fool!  With my protection, you’ll be free, and with my influence, you’ll be rich to enjoy it.”

“How many little people like me have you seduced with that lie before you killed them?”

“That’s your beef, killing?  I doubt my body count would approach yours if I had ten lifetimes to work on it.”

“Probably not, but at least I killed for a cause, as misguided as it was, something bigger than myself.  All your killing has been in the name of greed, and lust, and gathering wealth and power.  The world will be a far better place with one less parasite attached to its neck, and I’m going to be the surgeon.”

“Colleen, think!  It doesn’t matter what you do!  You only get this one life.  Why not have it all?”

“Because I have to look in the mirror every day, and I don’t want to be sickened by what I see.”

“Colleen, no!  Nooooooo!”

His back arched, he bucked and tried to roll over, but she was the implacable goddess of death as she brought the blade to his throat and cut short his screams with a single deep, powerful thrust.  She checked his pulse, put her cheek by his mouth to test his breath, and when she was satisfied that no life remained in the body, she stood up and brushed off the mud as best she could.

The blue folder caught her eye, and she took it from his lifeless hand and opened it.  There, sealed in plastic, were row after row of postage stamps.  These were worth more than her?  Hard to believe, but if that was really the case, they would make ample payment for a job completed.  Closing the case, she walked through the returning rain into the dense foliage at the side of the house.

 *          *          *

The noise, smells, bright sun and colors assailed her senses.  Rio was never so beautiful as when she had been to some hell-hole on the far side of purgatory, and nothing Rio offered could be as invigorating as the gracefully aging borough of Ipanema.  She strolled the busy sidewalk in bright, summery clothes, one more precious flower in the timeless city’s bouquet.

She reached a storefront, on of a long line of nondescript shops on a block frequented by tourists, and had to fight the habit she had of opening the door with her left hand.  The sling was off, but she still wore a pristine white dressing over the holes made by Bradford’s bullet.  As she stepped in under the bilingual sign that read “Western Union of Brazil,” she was greeted by the attendant.

“Miss Colleen, we haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I’ve been out of town.”

“Business?”

“No, Justin.  Vacation.”

“Happy, I hope.  What happened to your arm?”

“I fell down a hill.”

“Not a big one, I hope.”

“No, my friend,” she said with a smile, “nothing serious.”

“Well, you are all right now, so Rio is once again beautiful.  Welcome home.”

“Thanks.  Is there anything for me?”

“Just the one.  It came in last night.”  He passed her to a yellow envelope, which she tore open and removed the folded form inside.

“DEAREST COLLEEN STOP DESPITE OUR RECENT DIFFERENCE OF OPINION I HOLD YOUR PROFESSIONAL ABILITIES IN THE HIGHEST REGARD STOP IF YOU WOULD CONSIDER UNDERTAKING A PARTICULARLY GRITTY PROBLEM ON MY BEHALF CONTACT ME AT 505-820-698-6565 STOP TWO EIGHTY THREE SENDS

THE END