Here is the third chapter of the new book:
The Divine Devils
Monument Colorado was a town which sat directly north of Colorado Springs and the United States Air Force Academy, split down the middle by interstate 25. Though a small town, it had tripled in size over the last twenty years, expanding out from the Rampart Range and Pike National Forest. All part of the booming growth of much of El Paso County.
A portion of that growth was a strip mall housing several small businesses, including Family Hobby World. A retail establishment where you could pick up anything; from various plastic models for assembly, to remote control cars, trucks, airplanes, and drones to fly, covering every price range. It was a grand place to come and find an activity you or the whole household could savor. But beyond the storefront of all this hobby entertainment items could be procured that were not meant for the family. This was where The Train Man could be found, for the right price.
On a previous trip to the store, Zackery had seen The Train Man operating the extensive railroad set he’d built in the store, which circled a one third section of the retail space. He had been dressed in engineer overalls, a floppy blue and white striped hat, and blowing on a wooden train whistle as the replica steam engine rolled around the track pulling several cars behind it. The man’s childlike love of the setup had been a bit disconcerting for Zackery on that initial meeting. Confused he had wondered if this was correct location. Surely this couldn’t have been the man who could set him up with the tools he needed for the job he was planning Zackery remembered thinking. In time, after The Train Man was done showing off his railway enthusiasm, Zackery learned he was wrong.
Today, when Zackery walked into the store, two other customers were there, a man and woman, getting a quick demo on a remote-control drone with video camera from the man in question. He had the drone hovering above them, in total control, showing them the live camera feed in flight on his iPhone which connected via Wi-Fi. The two potential buyers were impressed, though surprised at the cost of the unit, which was over a thousand dollars. While trying to seal the deal on the sale The Train Man saw Zackery, recognizing him from the previous trip into the store. He wrapped up his demo before passing it on to a female employee and lumbered over to Zackery.
“May I help you sir?” he asked with a broad smile, his left hand running through his two-inch-long brown and gray chin hair.
Zackery had known him as The Train Man for as long as he had been in his acquaintance, but his name badge showed Owen, not that it really mattered. Today he was dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt with the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad steam engine locomotive emblazoned on it. His appearance was more in line with what you’d expect of the man known as The Train Man, other than wearing the same engineer’s hat which covered his thinning brown and gray hair.
“I’m looking for a long-range drone,” announced Zackery. “Tech a little more—robust,”.
Rubbing his hands together in joy, Owen grinned showing his crooked teeth. “Come this way please.”
He led Zackery to the back room, closing and locking the door behind him. There was extensive overflow stock on wire rack shelves, along with a maple desk, two chairs, a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Owen waved to the extra chair which Zackery gladly took. While sitting down the faux leather made an annoying squeaking noise.
“Needing additional equipment?” inquired Owen after sucking down an energy drink from an ugly black and green can.
“Need air transport from a remote location. A house up on the hill, likely at night, meaning the pilot needs to be skilled. What can you provide?”
Owen seemed unconcerned with the request. “Not an issue for the right price. How soon?”
“Early Sunday morning.”
He took another sip of his drink, the brightly colored liquid staining his lips green.
“I’ll have to make a call. Quick turnaround time. Payment the same as before?”
Zackery pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to him, it was easier than trying to list it all. Owen looked it over, nodding his head.
“Not an issue, though again this will be pricey. The same timeframe I’m to assume?”
“Yes, though I’ll need it in my hands by tomorrow afternoon…evening at the latest.”
“I believe we can make it work. I will text you on where to pick up the merchandise.” Owen tucked the piece of paper under his keyboard before turning back to Zackery. “Anything else?”
Zackery nodded. “I’m down a team member. I understand you may have connections for someone I can use.”
Owen leaned back in his chair, mulling over the request. “What are you looking for?”
“Trustworthy, reliable, tough and one who will follow a plan as it’s laid out. I don’t need a hotshot who will improvise—I need a team player. And I need them ASAP.”
Owen stopped to think for a minute, draining the last of his energy drink, the stimulating ingredients keeping him charged up.
“I believe I have the right person. I will text you and setup a meeting. I will require a finder’s fee and they’ll expect payment.”
Zackery stood up. “Not an issue, add it to the bill.”
“Then you have what you need?” wondered Owen, now standing. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a train set, car model or drone for your kids?”
“At the prices you’ll charge me for the list I handed you, aren’t they included?”
Owen snickered. “Hardly. But I might be able to sell one to you at cost.”
Zackery’s head quivered in disgust and strolled out of the store.
Within an hour Zackery received a text from Owen telling him to go to Whistling Pines Gun Club. Being from out of town he had to locate it via his GPS on his phone. Owen informed him that the person would be on the shooting range in lane eleven, firing with their 9mm Glock 19. It was a chance for Zackery to see them in action, which would assist in his decision.
Exiting on I-25 and heading west on Garden of the Gods Road, the female GPS voice told him when to turn and soon he located the facility in a business district. Once inside he found a vast set of displays showing all kinds of guns, bullets and accessories a gun owner would salivate over. After speaking with someone who worked there, Zackery signed some waver forms, went through a brief safety training, and was given eye and ear protection before entering the range.
Inside he found there were fourteen lanes, seven of which were in use. He counted down the line until he reached number eleven. To his surprise there was a woman there shooting, ear protection over her long black hair tied into a ponytail. She was currently emptying her fifteen-round magazine into the paper target at the maximum distance of fourteen yards. When she was done, she made sure her Glock was empty, placed it on the shelf before her, then pushed the button to bring the paper target forward. She’d hit the kill zone on thirteen of her fifteen shots, barely missing on the other two, which was impressive.
Sensing someone behind her, the woman turned around glaring at Zackery. She sized him up via the description she’d been provided; proportions of the man, hair color and the clothes he was wearing. Her head nodded, putting out her hand, then turning back to the range, sending down a clean target, before loading her gun with a fresh clip, taking aim and firing. It was easy to see the ease at which she squeezed off each shot, taking her time, both hands steady on the gun, eye down the sight, the bullets hitting their mark, impressing Zackery with her skill. After all the shots had been fired, she brought the target back again, this time hitting fifteen of fifteen within the kill zone. Making sure her Glock was empty, she packed everything away into her silver backpack and waved for Zackery to follow her.
After checking out at the front desk, the two went outside, where she tossed her bag into a late model red Jeep Grand Cherokee before turning to Zackery to introduce herself.
“I’m Valerie,” she said, leaning against the front passenger side fender, arms crossed before her modest sized chest.
“Zackery,” he replied. “Your shooting was spot on.”
She shrugged, unimpressed with what she did. “I missed two on the first round. Always takes me a of couple shots to warm up.”
Zackery admired her looks as she leaned against the Jeep. Besides the long black hair, he noted that she was close to six foot with a good proportioned and fit body, covered in blue jeans and gray t-shirt with a Red Hot Chili Peppers logo covering the chest. He enjoyed the light bronze of her skin, a pre-summer tan in the works, a mole on the side of her neck. There was no doubt she was attractive, her hazel eyes stirring his loins, which he did his best to ignore, his wedding ring a reminder to stay faithful. He needed her to provide support for his team on the mission planned for Sunday morning. That was if he could pull it all together in the short time he had.
“What else can you do besides shoot?” he questioned.
“I have martial arts and boxing training. I can run a marathon in under four hours, even at this altitude, and I have a nice smile to lure any red-blooded male or curious female into my clutches.”
Zackery nodded his head, a slight grin graced his mouth at her humor. She appeared to have the qualifications and the confidence he needed. Not that there was a lot of time to be choosy.
“Are you available now and through the weekend?” he inquired.
“I’m ready to go whenever necessary. I always have a bag packed with any essentials. What does the job pay?”
He gave a her a figure. “That will be for this operation. If it carries on longer, we can work out additional payment.”
Her face lit up at the dollar amount. “I can work with that. Where do we go from here?”
“You can follow me to our base.”
She drove behind him in her Jeep through the winding roads, up the foothills, arriving at a multi-room cabin. Zackery entered the room through the door, with Valarie close behind him with a bag and backpack, the three other members of his team sitting around playing cards. A rousing hand of poker it would seem, with some money changing hands. One of the men looked up, his eyes opening wide when he saw Valerie. He elbowed the Hispanic man next to him who was too locked onto his cards to notice.
“Gentlemen, meet Valerie,” Zackery announced. “She is going to be helping us out over the next couple of days.”
Dirk, the elbowing man, had a sheepish grin on his face. “Hello gorgeous,” he proclaimed. “You’re one hot gal Val.” He stated before he started laughing, his bug-eyed attention fully on her.
Valerie immediately grimaced at the statement. Pulling a ten-inch Bowie knife out of a sheath of her belt she walked over and grabbed him by the shirt with her left hand before yanking him out of his seat, the knife blade up against his throat. Her movement was swift and effortless, further impressing Zackery with her skills. Dirk never saw it coming, cringing at her aggression.
“If you ever call me Val again, I’ll slice open your throat and cut off your balls,” she threatened with a tenor that froze the room.
Dirk glared into her eyes, his fearful expression showing her threat had been received loud and clearly.
“Put him down, please,” Zackery proclaimed calmly. “He didn’t know. We will all remember in the future not to shorten your name.”
Valerie let go of Dirk’s shirt before pushing him back into the chair. Valerie slid the knife back into the sheath after rubbing the flat of the blade on her pants to remove the sweat that covered it from the man’s neck.
“Damn Girl, you have a short fuse,” stated Dirk, once he’d gotten back his breath.
Her cross look returned, though at least the knife didn’t come out.
“And don’t call me girl either or this lady will kick you all over this room.”
“Let me show you where you’ll be sleeping,” interjected Zackery, before the situation got out of control.
He led her down the hall, her bag and backpack in hand, showing her where she would be staying. Zackery did his best not to stare at her, her body tempting him. There was a fire about her he liked. Though he had concerns about how she’d mesh with the rest of his team. He returned to the table alone looking at his men, all of them showing concern on their faces.
“What the fuck!” uttered the Hispanic man, Pablo, who had won the last hand and was counting his winnings.
“She’s good and we need another person for what we have to do,” declared Zackery. “Treat her properly and there won’t be any problems.”
The third man, Kyle, remained silent through it all, now dealing another hand hoping his luck would change. He’d showed little emotion, as if he didn’t care remaining calm through the confrontation and the presence of the woman.
“Whatever you say,” proclaimed Dirk, wiping the sweat from his face and neck. “Hopefully she’s as good as you say. Because I won’t stand for any shit from her.” Dirk talked big, but inside felt a sliver of fear he did his best to hide.
Zackery looked down on him with his own cold stare. “You mean like the shit when she put that cold blade to your throat and you sweated through your shirt in ten seconds. I’d say it would be best to stay clear of her or you’ll end up bleeding out all over your cotton fabric.”
Getting fired up, Dirk was ready to respond, but Zackery put his index finger to his lips telling him to keep quiet. He planned to keep control of the situation and didn’t need to lose another member of his team before they even got started on the next mission.
Valerie sauntered back into the room, walking to the fridge and finding a cold beer which she promptly opened. She leaned against the marble countertop; her thumb tucked inside her belt. She felt like she was in command of the room, all but one set of eyes on her. She enjoyed the power, with plans to use it to her advantage.
“Are we here to play or work?” she asked, before taking a long drink.
Zackery looked at her and nodded. “Put away the cards men, it’s time to get down to business.”