Jennifer Hendricks grabbed the piece of paper, and headed out the door. “Thanks, Cortez,” she said over her shoulder. She ran to the car and jumped in.
“Well?” Trent asked.
“The plate on the van that followed Carlos belongs to a defense contractor,” she said. “They have a building on the outskirts of the city.”
“We’ll start there then,” Trent said as he glanced at the address. “Call Tiffany and tell her to meet us there.”
Carlos rounded a corner, stepping back slightly as two men walking from the other end saw him. He turned running back from where he came, but stopped as soon as he went a few steps. The two men ran around the corner in pursuit. Carlos acted swiftly, catching one man across the neck with an open hand. He turned on the other, not even watching as the first fell to the floor, gagging and gasping for air.
Carlos fell to the floor as a foot hit his midsection, and he swept out a leg, catching the other man just below the knees. He swung out with the gun and connected with the other man’s chin. He heard a bone crack as he scrambled to his feet and took off down the hall again.
Damn it! This is getting out of hand…hope I didn’t hurt them…I hope I did hurt them…Oh, God…I gotta find someplace to think…I have to get out of here…I have to rest…I have to keep moving…Tiffany…Tiffany…Tiffany…Tiffany…
Tiffany ran up the steps to the courthouse, barged through the doors, and hurried to a small office. She knocked, entered, and stopped short when she saw that the Judge she had come to see was not alone.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
Detective Richard Ryan stood from his chair. “This is my case, remember?”
“Dick,” Tiffany said in an annoyed voice. She decided that it wasn’t worth it, and turned to the Judge. “Do I get my warrant?”
Judge Harper nodded. “There is enough evidence to support a search of the premises.” He held out a paper.
Tiffany took the search warrant. “Thanks,” she said and turned to the door.
“Just a minute here,” Ryan said. “You’re still on days off, Chambers.”
Images of her fingers digging into Ryan’s eyes flashed through her mind as she turned to face him. “Your point being?”
“My point being,” Ryan began, “is that you’re going to need someone with you to make this a legal search.”
Tiffany stared at him as what he said registered.
Carlos stumbled as he ran down the hallway, landing on his knees. He stayed there for a few minutes, trying to get his thoughts in order. Gotta find the way out…Gotta find who’s behind this…gotta get up and get moving. He stood slowly, half tempted just to stay on the floor, close his eyes, and sleep.
He took out the keys he had taken from the man in the room and tried on of the doors. It opened and he peered in cautiously. He ran to the window on the far wall, and looked down at the vacant lot behind the building. His gaze went to the high fence about twenty yards back. He reached a decision, opened the window, and climbed onto the fire escape. His head started to swim as he looked at the ground five stories below him.
Swallowing hard, he gritted his teeth and climbed down. He pressed himself against the building when he reached the ground, and listened. He headed slowly for the fence, constantly looking around for anything that could case him problems. He was about five feet from his target when he heard the sound of running feet.
Carlos jumped at the fence and scurried up it as gunshots erupted behind him. He threw himself over the top, and landed in a pain filled heap on the stony ground. He turned, fired a few shots at the men chasing him, then set off at a dead run across the field.
Trent pulled off onto a side road, slowing as the ruts started to become larger. “You’d think that a company like this could afford better roads.”
“Did you hear that?” Jenny said. “It sounded like gunshots!”
Trent pulled over and shut the car off. His head jerked up at a sound. “That was gunshots.” He jumped out of the car. “Come on.”
As they set off quickly in the general direction the shots had come from, Trent knew that somehow Carlos was involved. He prayed that they would make it in time to save his friend.
“I want to make one thing clear here,” Ryan said as he pulled up to the building. “You tell Carlos about this, and I will make your life a living hell.”
“Business as usual, eh Dick?” Tiffany opened the passenger side door and hopped out.
A tall woman met them just outside the door. “Your search warrant?” she asked as she held out her hand. She read it over after Tiffany handed it to her, then looked at them. “I can assure you that we have no unauthorized people here.”
“Then you won’t mind if we look around then,” Ryan said as he walked past her and into the building.
Tiffany nodded politely to the woman, then followed Ryan.
Carlos hit the ground hard, picked himself up, and continued with his mad rush through the forest. He could hear the men behind him, and knew that they were close. He jumped as a bullet imbedded itself in the bark of the tree beside him. He turned to the right, and slipped on the ground. Pain erupted in his side as a foot can in contact with his ribs. He rolled over and looked into the face of a uniformed guard.
“Well, go ahead,” Carlos spat in anger. He tensed as the man started to pull the trigger.
A sudden movement caught his attention, and he watched in wonder as a blonde blur knocked into the guard. The figure delivered a series of blows, then turned from the unconscious guard, to Carlos.
“Are you okay?” Trent asked as he crouched in front of him.
“I am now,” Carlos said in a shaky voice. His eyes grew wide as another figure appeared and raised a gun. Before he could get out a warning, the man fell to the ground in a heap.
Jenny dropped the large branch she was holding, and approached.
“Where are you going?” Ryan asked as Tiffany walked down a hall.
“Down here,” Tiffany said.
The woman, who had since introduced herself as Captain Parker, U.S.M.C., hurried to walk in front of Tiffany. She stopped in the middle of the hall, and faced them. “This section is completely off limits…even to a search warrant.”
“It is in the interest of national security…that is all you need to know.”
Tiffany folded her arms across her chest. “Silent Justice,” she said, and had the satisfaction of watching the surprise on the other woman’s face.
Captain Parker recovered quickly. “Where did you hear that?”
“I have my sources, Captain…that is all you need to know.” Tiffany walked past her. “Coming, Richard?”
Ryan followed as Captain Parker lagged behind; whispering into a hand held radio.
Trent grabbed onto Carlos’ arm and steadied him as he stumbled. “Easy, buddy.”
Carlos nodded, but kept moving. “Where’s the car?”
“This way,” Trent said. “You want to rest for a few minutes? You look tired.” Truth be told, he thought Carlos looked like hell.
“Well, I haven’t slept since I’ve been here,” Carlos replied. He stepped over a root, caught his foot on it, and fell to the ground. Trent put a hand under his arm to help him up, but Carlos pulled away. “Don’t,” he whispered. “Just…don’t.”
Trent was about to say something but Jenny touched his shoulder and shook her head. They watched as Carlos slowly got to his knees, then his feet.
“Carlos?” Jenny asked.
“What?” Carlos kept his back to them. He didn’t want to turn around; didn’t want them to see the pain, anger and frustration in his eyes.
“It’s okay, Carlos.”
Carlos closed his eyes. It’s okay…it’s okay…it’s… He spun around and glared at them. “No, it’s not okay.” The calmness in his voice was a direct contrast to the anger in his eyes. “I have just spent…I don’t know how many days…locked in a small room, being…” He stopped and looked at the ground. “They wouldn’t let me sleep,” he whispered.
Trent and Jenny looked at each other, unsure of what to say. Carlos took note of their uncomfortable silence, and smiled slightly. “Oh, come one you two. I’m going to be…okay. I’m just really tired.” He turned and started to walk. “Let’s just get to the car.”
Detective Ryan bent low as he inspected the bullet hole in the wall. “This is recent,” he said as he stood. He looked at Captain Parker. “When did this happen?”
“A few days ago,” she replied. “We had an unauthorized entry, and this was the result.”
Tiffany sighed. “Look, lady…there is a person missing, and we have every reason to believe that they were held on these grounds. I want to hear the truth, and I don’t care if it’s a national security matter.”
Captain Parker folded her arms across her chest. “I have already told you that the man you are looking for is not here.”
Tiffany smiled. “Did we mention that the missing person was a man?”
“The search warrant said you were looking for…”
“A ‘C. Sandoval’,” Ryan finished for her. “No mention of gender.” He took his cellular phone out of his pocket. “Now, either you tell us, or in five minutes, we’ll have this place crawling with NSA, CIA, FBI, and anyone else you can think of.” To suit action to his words, he started to dial.
“You cannot do that,” Captain Parker said. “What we do here is…”
“Highly classified, yeah, I know.”
“Oh, hey, Dick,” Tiffany said. “Don’t forget to call the local news. They’d be mighty interested to know about Silent Justice.”
Ryan nodded, then moved out into the hall as someone answered his call. Captain Parker took out her radio, “Code Alpha.”
That sounds bad! Tiffany thought. Within moments, she could hear running in the hall, and the sound of Ryan protesting as his phone was ripped from his hand. She stepped back as two uniformed guards entered, guns drawn, and then slowly raised her hands.
Jenny hit the redial on her phone, frowned, then hung up. “Still no answer,” she reported. “I’m going to call the precinct.” She dialed again. “Cortez? It’s Jenny…is Tiff there?” Disbelief crossed her face as she listened. “They did? When?…Thanks.”
“Well?” Trent asked as he drove onto the highway.
“Tiffany and Ryan left for here two hours ago,” she said. “We didn’t pass them…if they saw your car parked, they would have stopped…I got a bad feeling about this.”
“Me too,” Trent said as he pulled a quick U-turn and headed back for the dirt road. He glanced in the rear view mirror at Carlos, who was staring vacantly out the window, his head on his open palm.
Tiffany turned and glared at the guard behind her. “No need to be pushy!” He replied with another shove to her shoulder. She sighed, and started to walk again. “Did you get through to anyone?”
Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know. They took my phone while I was on hold.” He glanced at her. “This is all your fault.”
“I never invited you along, Dick,” Tiffany replied.
“I was trying to make this legal.”
“Whatever,” she snapped back. “You wanted to come along so you could lay into Carlos for being kidnapped.”
He glanced at her in shock, saw her wink her eye, and caught on to what she was doing. “What if I did? This is, after all, so typical of the trouble that guy causes.”
“No, it isn’t!”
“He’s a magnet for trouble!” Ryan argued. “Everywhere he goes, something happens…and it’s usually all his fault.”
Tiffany stopped walking and faced him. “You are such a jerk, ya know that?!”
“Keep moving,” one of the guards ordered.
“You keep outta this!” Tiffany snapped, putting some of her New York accent into her words. She put her hands on her hips and leaned close to Ryan. “Ya wanna know somethin’? You have been an ass since the first time I met ya, and ya keep gettin’ more obnoxious as time goes by!”
Suddenly, she struck out with her arm, catching the nearest guard in the middle of his face. The guard instinctively put his hands to his face, allowing Tiffany to grab his gun. Before the other guard could react, she already had the gun trained on him.
“Nice and easy now,” she said. “Hand the weapon over to Detective Ryan…butt end first.” Ryan took the gun from the other guard. “Now, ya got two choices,” Tiffany continued. “You can take us to Mr. Sandoval…or I can kill you.”
“He’s not here,” the first guard said.
“Ohhh…wrong answer.” Her finger tightened on the trigger.
“He escaped earlier today.”
Captain Parker looked at the man beside her. “This is getting out of control. I have received orders that we are to move out immediately.” She paused. “Silent Justice will be put on hold pending a full investigation.”
The man sighed. “In other words, brass is covering their ass in case Sandoval makes it out alive and talks.”
“Exactly.” Captain Parker took a few things off of her desk and put them into a box. “Find someplace safe for our police guests.” She looked away and out the window. “Preferably someplace permanent.”
Tiffany stopped and looked around. “Which way did we come?”
Ryan glanced around the corner. “This way…I think.”
“Face it, we’re lost.”
“You want I should stop the next armed guard we see and inquire as to where we are?” Ryan asked sarcastically.
Tiffany smiled sweetly. “I think that would be a grand idea.” She paused, as if reconsidering. “On second thought, no…I wanna get through this day alive.”
“You’re obnoxious.” Ryan peeked around a corner. He started down the hallway, not seeing Tiffany as she stuck her tongue out at him.
An alarm suddenly sounded, causing both of them to jump slightly. “What the?” Ryan asked as he looked around.
“I think they know we’re on the loose,” Tiffany said as she opened a door and poked her head in. “Come on,” she said. “We can get out through that window.”
Ryan walked to the window and looked. “It’s a two story drop, Chambers.”
“You would rather stay here and get shot?” Tiffany opened the window and lowered herself out. Please let me land right!
“Texas Rangers are on their way,” Jenny reported as she put her phone away.
“Good.” Trent parked the car about a mile from the main building, then turned to face the other two. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” Jenny answered.
“Let’s do it,” Carlos said.
Trent looked at him. “You sure you’re up for this?”
Tiffany grabbed onto Ryan’s arm as he started to fall and hauled him to his feet. “Move it!” she yelled and shoved him through the trees.
“Don’t push,” Ryan snapped as he nearly avoided smashing his face into a large spruce. He stopped running and pointed. “There’s the fence.”
Tiffany looked behind her. “I think we lost them!”
Ryan paused to catch his breath. “We should have gone…the other way…” He inhaled deeply. “There’s nothing in this direction.”
Tiffany squinted. “Is that…Hey!” She smiled and started for the fence. “That’s Trent’s car!”
Ryan sighed slightly as he followed. “How are we going to get over the fence?”
“Over, under, or through…I don’t care,” Tiffany said as she reached the fence. “I just want to be on the other side of it!”
Ryan arrived beside her. “No one’s here!” He leaned against the fence in aggravation.
“Don’t pout, Dick,” Tiffany said as she started to climb the fence. “It’ll give you wrinkles.” She paused at the top and looked down. “Coming? Or are you gonna become a resident.”
Ryan shot her a dirty look as she hopped easily to the ground on the other side of the fence. “Just keep a lookout for those guards.”
Trent stopped and looked around. “I’m not sure if we’re going in the right direction.”
“We could go back and wait for Walker,” Jenny suggested.
“That might be a good idea.” He looked at Carlos. “What do you think?”
Carlos closed his eyes slightly. “Yeah, fine, whatever.” He turned silently and headed back for the car.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Tiffany turned. “I’m going to follow the road, and get…”
“We should wait with the car,” Ryan said. “They’ll be back.”
“What if they need our help?”
Ryan shrugged. “Not my problem.”
“Your kindness towards others is most heartwarming…Dick!” Tiffany turned and continued in the direction she had been going.
Trent, Jenny, and Carlos hid behind a large tree as a vehicle approached. Trent took one look as the truck rounded the corner, and stepped out of his hiding spot. He waved as he walked onto the dirt road.
A silver Dodge stopped and a window rolled down. “Need a lift?” Ranger James Trivette asked.
“Glad to see you,” Trent replied as the others joined him. He helped Carlos into the back of the truck and climbed in with Jenny.
Ranger Cordell Walker turned to face them. “We’re going in through the main entrance. The FBI will meet us there.”
“Do they have jurisdiction here?” Jenny asked. “This is a military instillation.”
Trivette smiled. “Not anymore. As of one hour ago, it was officially closed down.” He looked at Carlos. “Good to see you.”
Carlos smiled weakly. “Yeah.” He closed his eyes and leaned against the box of the truck.
Trivette looked at Trent, who replied with a small shake of his head.
“Why is it officially closed down?” Carlos asked as he opened his eyes.
“Budget cuts,” Walker answered. “Or that’s the reason they are using.”
Carlos snorted in disgust and closed his eyes again.
Captain Parker was void of emotion as she took one last look at the military compound in the rearview mirror. She watched as the car she was in rounded a corner, then she turned her attention to what lay in front of her. It had been a pity, really. She had liked Dallas, and had been intrigued by the prospects of Silent Justice.
But, that was life in her branch of the military…when threatened, pack up and relocate; leaving nothing behind to show that they had even been there.
But, I did leave something behind she thought as the car pulled onto the main road. That damned Sandoval, and those two annoying cops.
Captain Parker shook her head. Ah well, such is life. I'm in no hurry. Besides, revenge is much sweeter when the other person doesn't expect it.
Carlos shook his head as he walked through the room. "There's nothing here."
"They left in a hurry," Jenny replied. "Looks like they took everything…including Silent Justice."
Carlos whirled to face her. "What?" His eyes narrowed. "The essence of danger is silent justice."
"That's what the guy…uh…Professor Hill? Told me to remember. Just what the hell is Silent Justice?"
Jenny shrugged. "According to Tiffany's research, it's an experimental bio-chemical the government has in the works."
"That's why I was held here?" Carlos asked in anger. "Because of some dumb ass project?" He rubbed his eyes. "This chick kept asking me for the codes that Hill passed on to me."
Walker looked up from his spot by the doorway. "What codes?" He approached with a FBI agent.
"No idea," Carlos said. "That's all he told me…the essence thing."
The FBI agent glared at Carlos. "What exactly…word for word…did Professor Hill tell you."
"The essence of danger is silent justice."
"That's all he said after we were forced off the road."
"Does that mean anything to you?" Walker asked.
"Yes." The agent took out his cellular phone, turned away, and made a quick call. After he hung up, he turned back to the group and motioned to the empty room. "None of this ever happened."
"The hell it didn't!" Carlos said.
"No," the agent said slowly. "National Security says that this never happened."
Carlos rubbed his eyes as he stepped out from the darkness of the building into the afternoon sunlight. He looked around for Tiffany, sighing when he could not find her.
"There's Trent." Jenny pointed as his car drove up. She frowned as Ryan stepped out of the passenger side. "Where's Tiff?"
Ryan shrugged as he walked away. "No idea. She took off after we escaped and found the car."
"And you let her go?!" Carlos asked.
"Hey!" Ryan walked up to him. "I didn't let her do anything!" He turned away. "Besides, if anything happened to her, remember…it's you she went to look for."
Carlos' eyes grew wide as he started towards Ryan. Trent grabbed an arm and held him in place.
"It's not worth it, Carlos," he whispered. He watched as Ryan walked away, oblivious to how close he had come to bodily harm. "Just sit down and relax."
Carlos glared at Ryan's retreating back as he sat against the bumper of Walker's truck. He glanced as a police car puled up, and started to stand as the door opened.
Tiffany got out, a huge smile crossing her face as she spotted him.
“Tiff!” Carlos jumped to his feet and started towards her. He held on tightly as Tiffany threw herself into his arms. He pulled back, bent his head, and kissed her.
Tiffany held onto him, not wanted to let go. Carlos moved back slightly and looked into her eyes. “Miss me?”
“No,” she whispered, then kissed him again.
“Didn’t think so,” Carlos murmured against her lips.
Captain Parker smiled as she viewed the work going on in her new facility. It had not been hard to relocate…rather easy, in fact. The government, although they denied it, was anxious to get Silent Justice from the prospect stages to the ready for use stages. Although they had been set back by the 'defection' of Professor Hill, and the time spent trying to find out if he had told Carlos Sandoval about the state of the bio-chemical, things were back on schedule.
A contact in the FBI had informed Captain Parker that the Professor had indeed passed on a code to Sandoval: "The essence of danger is silent justice." It was just as well that she had been wrong about Sandoval working for the Professor. Wrong place, wrong time. she thought with a shrug. Lucky for him that he had no idea what that phrase really meant.