Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified Feb. 23, 2019
Chapter Title: A Second Car Bomb, A Litte Over Three Years Later
Chapter Number: One
Copyright: (c) March 1, 2019
John Falkowsky, a twenty-one-year-old black-haired man of slightly less than medium height but muscular build complained to his light-haired, taller, twenty-two-year-older brother, "Clothes shopping is boring. Watching the girls do it is worse."
"Shhh, they'll hear you," warned Fritz. He sat next to his brother on an uncomfortable vinyl-covered bench.
Wearing differently styled but clearly expensive dresses, Vicky and Christine came out of the dressing rooms. When John saw Vicky's dress, his expression changed from disinterest to great interest.
Christine asked, "What do you think of our dresses?"
John barely gave Christine a glance. His gaze was on his own girlfriend to the point of an uncomfortable stare.
Vicky encouraged, "Come on, you two. Tell us your opinions."
John wistfully said, "I love your dress, Vicky!"
Vicky blushed. They had dated for about a year and a half, but this was the first time he'd ever given her such a look.
Christine turned to her boyfriend, "What about you?"
Fritz remarked, "My honest opinion is I find yours a little too frilly for my tastes, but get it if it's what you like. It's not that bad. As for Vicky's dress, it looks familiar. Don't you have one in the same style, dear?"
Christine replied, "No. Wait, I know what dress you mean. Iris had one almost exactly like it. She let me borrow it for a dance you took me to in high school. Her dress fit me well. John and Iris were still juniors then, but the rest of us were seniors."
Fritz thought back, "That wasn't prom, but homecoming dance. John and Conrad were there. Iris would have been John's date, but was away at a Speech and Debate tournament, and Conrad had just broken up with...forgot her name. Iris wore the dress other times, though."
Vicky snapped, "I'm not wearing this dress just so you can pretend I'm your old dead girlfriend, John Falkowsky! I'm getting out of it right now!"
Vicky stormed off. Christine started to go after her, but reconsidered and came back to the two brothers. She looked angry.
After Vicky was out of earshot, John said, "That car bomb ruined everything in our lives!"
Christine scolded, "Vicky has a valid point. Iris was a wonderful friend, but she was never as perfect and idealized as John has treated her since the explosion took her away that summer. You and Fritz should go to college like normal boys your age."
Fritz replied, "I went for a year while John finished high school."
Christine counted, "Fritz, you flunked out after a year."
Fritz remarked, "I didn't flunk out, not like Gordon Fink. I was on the Dean's List both semesters. I dropped out."
"My parents cannot see your transcript. They call it flunking out, and want me to stop dating you," Christine explained.
John put in, "We aren't normal, as you put it, boys, Christine. We cannot tell you what we've been doing."
Christine shot back, "Whatever is it, you've been doing it too long! I just started my Senior year. Vicky is a Junior. John, you've never even been to college. Believe me, high school becomes a distant memory when in college as long as I have been there."
John angrily said, "We had to catch Iris's killer."
Christine retorted, "You solved that within a few months. At least the news reports had you two as Wunderkinder for solving Iris's murder while also stopping an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate. So, Fritz should have missed maybe one semester for that. You, maybe take a skip year to grieve for Iris, but not three skip years in a row!"
What looked like a cell phone in a leather holster on Fritz's belt gave an unpleasant sound. Fritz's face showed great concern, although John's showed relief at any excuse to get out of this painful argument. Fritz yanked the device off his belt. The LCD display changed to show a color video image.
Fritz announced, "It's our SUV alarm. Look, a man has broken in! He just took off his sunglasses, so I got a clear image of his face. Everything is being recorded. He must have some skill to get past those locks!"
"No normal car thief could do that," John agreed.
Their SUV had replaced the sedan that had been blown up three years ago after Iris entered it. While that car had been a normal car, this SUV was not. It had been created and was owned by the Entangle organization. It had a roll cage. It had thick polycarbonate windows instead of glass. It had Kevlar batting under the sheet steel. This, along with special tires and other modifications, made it practically bulletproof. The door locks clearly were not as impenetrable as the engineers at the Entangle organization had claimed, though.
Without a word, John spun and ran. Fritz was peering so intently at the image that he did not notice his brother disappear. Christine peered in close, touching her boyfriend. The phone's display screen showed a man with long dark hair and a nose that looked like it had once been broken getting under the dashboard. He wore a leather coat. He pulled out a pair of needlenose pliers from a coat pocket and a device from inside his coat.
Christine asked, "Is he planting a bomb?"
"Almost certainly," answered Fritz. "Our SUV is bulletproof, but I don't know if it is bombproof. Hey, where's John?"
"He ran off," Christine volunteered.
Fritz turned and ran after him. He had not properly stowed his smartphone. He bumped into Vicky, who with tear-stained face was walking back toward Christine. That dislodged the phone so it fell to the store floor unnoticed by Fritz as he got around Vicky and continued to run. Vicky picked it up as he went down an escalator. He shoved by other people, knocking packages out of their hands. A mall cop noticed the commotion. Fritz did not know this guard, but ran by so close that he could see the badge on his chest said Bob. Bob wasn't as fast as Fritz, so Fritz got steadily ahead.
At the glass exit door to the parking lot and intently looking out into the lot was a second mall cop. Fritz recognized him as Gordon Fink, the college flunk out. Gordon had been an effective blocker in the high school football team, but had only lasted one year in college playing football. His football skills in college had been admirable, but not his academic studies. He had put on some weight since then, but still moved fairly fast. Gordon took up the chase as he saw Bob chasing Fritz.
Far out in the parking lot, John was still pounded toward his SUV. The leather coated man put his sunglasses back on as he stepped out, carefully closing the SUV's door behind him. A sporty yellow car raced up. A blonde-haired woman, also in sunglasses and leather coat, drove. The man leaped in. John reached out and touched the car's door handle, but then the car managed to pull away from him. He stopped running, gasping. He pulled out a pen from a pocket. He scribbled the license number on the back of his hand. He then walked back toward the SUV.
At the other end of the parking lot, Gordon managed to do a flying tackle around Fritz's ankles, causing him to trip and fall hard.
Despite this, Fritz yelled at the top of his lungs, "John! He planted a bomb!"
Understanding immediately, John ran away from the SUV as fast as he could, heading toward his brother.
A well-intentioned bystander who had heard Fritz's yell misunderstood. He thought the mall needed to be evacuated for a bomb put in it instead of the SUV. He stepped inside the mall. The bystander pulled the fire alarm to accomplish this. People streamed out.
Inside the mall, Vicky handed the still running smartphone to Christine. Over the past three years, Christine had discreetly watched Fritz use it. He often had to step away from her to take a call from somebody he called Dr. Ruby. Christine made some finger swipes on the phone, and got it show back to showing the video display from the SUV. With Vicky peering over her shoulder, the two had witnessed what was going on in the parking lot. With a swipe of a finger, Christine flipped the image from the SUV's interior to the exterior. REC kept flashing on the small screen, showing this was all being recorded.
Wiping away her tears, Vicky remarked, "Even though it stinks competing with the perfect dead girl, being with the Falkowskys certainly is exciting!"
A saleswoman hurried over and warned, "Leave the mall, girls! The fire alarm is going off."
Christine informed the saleswoman, "We're safe here. There's a car bomb out in the parking lot that might go off."
The saleswoman said with a trembling voice, "The parking lot is where we're supposed to go when the fire alarm goes off!"
Out in the parking lot, John ran up and said, "Let go of my brother, Gordon! People's lives are in danger! There's a bomb in our SUV. We have to keep people away from it, and get the bomb squad!"
Bob, the other mall cop, had arrived and heard this, so said in surprise, "Hey, I've seen you guys in the news. You're the Falkowskys! Your car was blown up a little over three years ago. Gordon, I don't think they are kidding!"
John clenched his fists and said, "My girlfriend Iris was killed in that explosion."
Some people were getting into a car parked next to the SUV. John and the mall cop named Bob noticed, so ran to shoo them away. They weren't in time, but the car pulled away without incident, so Bob and John backed away from the SUV again. They were more successful in keeping others responding to the fire alarm away from the SUV, making a large perimeter around it.
Gordon declared, "There is no bomb! You Falkowskys always exaggerate everything to get media attention. I noticed a long-haired man in a leather coat who was probably stealing your car radio."
Gordon finally released Fritz's legs. Fritz was still on the ground from being tackled. Gordon strode toward the SUV.
Still getting up, Fritz yelled, "Get back, Gordon!"
Gordon snidely said, "I'll see if your SUV still has its radio."
Gordon grabbed the SUV's door and opened it. A sound like thunder roared. Gordon flew back and hit another parked car so hard the window of it shattered.
In the clothing store inside the mall, the saleswoman shrieked at the sound.
Vicky said to Christine, "What are we going to do?"
Christine loudly explained, "Fritz may get in trouble for this, but he does something like this to his phone during an emergency."
Christine held the device to her head like a regular cell phone, "Hello, who am I talking to? I've heard Fritz say your name into this phone, Dr. Ruby. This is Christine, Fritz Falkowsky's girlfriend. Yes, I know about your supposedly secret organization. Shut up, we'll talk about how I found out later! There's been an incident you need to know about right now! A car bomb just went off that was planted in the Falkowsky's SUV. We're at the Westgate Mall in Port City, Maine. The phone video link showed me that John and Fritz should have been far enough away to survive, but I think a mall cop may be badly injured or dead!"
Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, John had managed to stay on his feet. He put his hand to his back, then brought it forward to see blood on it.
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