Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 1, 2019
Chapter Title: Conspiring in a Motel Room
Chapter Number: Three
Copyright: (c) March 1, 2019
A woman walked down the corridor of the hotel. She brushed back a bright red lock of hair. The red was so garish that her hair had to have been dyed. She carried a purse over one shoulder and dragged a suitcase on wheels behind her. She stopped and read a room number. This was room 302. She looked carefully both ways. She knocked in a strange pattern and waited. Minutes passed with no response. She took an envelope out of her purse. She shoved it under the door.
She then went to the next door. The even numbered rooms were all on one side of the hallway and the odd on the other. That made this room 304. The faint sound of a television came from it. She took a deep breath, let it out slowly in an effort to relax, and then knocked firmly.
There were sounds from inside the room, then a male voice said, "What do you want?"
The red-headed woman replied, "I was sent from Nevada."
"Did you gamble?"
"I won twelve thousand, three hundred and twelve dollars."
The magic code given by that number, the man came and opened the door. His nose looked like it had been broken, then healed in a crooked way. Inside the room were a black-haired man and a blonde-haired woman. Both held handguns.
The woman smiled and put down her gun, "Karen, I didn't think they'd send you. We've come a long way since our senior year in that high school in Las Vegas."
"Hello, Joyce. Long time, no see. I just flew in and came to the hotel by taxi."
Joyce turned to the man, "Jason, remember Karen from training camp three years ago?"
The man lowered his gun too and said, "The quiet, shy girl recruited from the same high school you were in? Sure. Get in here."
She did, pulling her suitcase in with her. Jason closed and locked the door.
The man said, "Sorry about the guns. We can't be too careful since we killed one of the Falkowskys today!"
Karen's face twitched, then she asked, "Which one?"
"The black-haired one," Jason replied
"He means John, but I don't think we killed him. We parked the car a couple blocks away, then snuck back to watch. The boy was taken away strapped on a backboard used for those with back injuries. There was some mall cop also put on this own back board, so I don't think he was dead either. I doubt the medics would bother with those if they were dead," confided Joyce.
Karen noticed two leather coats tossed casually over a chair. She hung them in the closet on hangers, then sat in the chair.
Joyce announced, "We're waiting for the TV news."
Jason insisted, "The bomb exploded just after we drove off. I still think we killed the black-haired one!"
Joyce argued, "John Falkowsky was chasing you, for goodness sake! He even touched our car. We barely got away!"
Karen instructed them, "Tell me what happened."
Jason and Joyce did so.
Jason ended, "I just can't figure out how the Falkowskys discovered what I was up to. They were nowhere in sight. I did notice a mall guard watching me just as I was finishing putting in the bomb."
Joyce suggested, "The big guy by the glass doors who looked like a football player?"
Joyce offered, "I saw him too."
Karen wondered, "It might have been that big mall guard who spilled the beans."
Jason responded, "The mall guard might have informed the Falkowskys. Too bad we didn't get the light-haired one too! I didn't see him anywhere."
"His name is Fritz," explained Joyce. "Sometimes, I'm amazed you remember your own name, Jason."
Jason said, "Nobody will care what their names are after they're dead."
Karen said, "Excuse me, I ate something that disagreed with me."
Karen went into the bathroom. Water ran and then the toilet flushed.
Joyce called out, "Hurry up, Karen! The news is starting!"
"This is going to be great!" Jason said with gusto.
Karen came out, her face slightly damp. She was pale and she unsteadily said, "Never eat at an airport restaurant. My stomach feels terrible."
Jason pointed at the television, "Look, there's the story! Look at the damage my bomb did! That doesn't even look like an SUV anymore! I love setting off bombs!"
Karen informed him, "We won't be using explosive bombs for the rest of this mission."
Jason replied, "I think using the device Tomlin told us about will be fun too. It'll be elegant to kill lots of people without destroying objects. Granted, I think destroying objects is fun, but this'll be a nice change of pace."
Karen remarked, "Tomlin provided me with a small-scale version of that same device. It's in my suitcase. We are going to practice with it, but it is a working device and dangerous."
"Can I see it?" Jason begged.
"Let's wait until after the news is over," Joyce insisted.
The television cut from surveying the lot to show Gordon Fink strapped on a back board with head immobilized being loaded into an ambulance.
"That's the big mall cop who was watching. Who is he?" demanded Jason.
"I have no idea," said Joyce.
"He's a private detective named Gordon Fink," said Karen confidently.
Jason asked, "How'd you know that?"
Karen thought a moment, then replied, "Tomlin let me know more than you two. That's why I was sent to help you on this important mission."
The narrator on the news explained that mall security officer Gordon Fink was injured the explosion at the mall. He was out of surgery and listed in satisfactory condition. He was expected to make a full recovery.
Jason screamed, "Look at the TV! There he is! The black-haired kid!"
"John," Joyce supplied again.
Footage showed a muscular, somewhat short, black-haired young man being strapped to a back board by E.M.T.'s, then being very gently lifted onto a stretcher.
Jason gloated, "I told you we got him! Look at that crying chick coming over! It's got to be his girlfriend! Ha, ha! The black-haired kid...John...looks like he's going to kick the bucket! Tomlin will be pleased! Even if John doesn't die, it looks like his back was broken! That'd be even better as he'll be stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life! I love what my bombs can do!"
Jason was so excited he got up and did a little dance. Joyce moved out of his way. Neither Jason nor Joyce noticed Karen wasn't even looking at the television. The newscaster then announced that John Falkowsky had received only minor injuries and had already been discharged from the hospital.
"Only minor injuries? That's not fair!" Jason growled as he stopped his dance and snatched up an ashtray.
He looked like he was about to throw it into the television, but Joyce jumped in the way.
Joyce said, "Not this time, Jason! I've had it with you breaking things when you get mad. Smashing the television attracts the wrong kind of attention."
Karen stood, reached out, and grasped the ashtray in Jason's hands, saying as she did so, "Relax, you drew blood! John just got lucky. We'll get him and his brother next time."
Jason let go of the ashtray, and Karen set it down.
With John Falkowsky not on the screen anymore, Karen could finally bear to take a look. The camera was panning over the wreckage of what had once been a SUV.
Karen noticed, "It's hard to tell through the television picture, but that SUV looks like it had some kind of armor in it. Those pipes look like a roll cage."
Jason said, "When I last spoke to Tomlin on the phone, he mentioned that possibility. I took that into account and used an extra powerful explosive. Last month, I blew up an armored, bullet-proof limousine and killed a prime minister in South America."
On the television, a reporter said, "It appears the alert Mr. Fink, a private detective who moonlights as a mall guard, discovered a bomb was being placed in the vehicle. While another mall security officer named Bob and the Falkowsky brothers kept people away from the SUV, Gordon bravely but unsuccessfully tried to disarm it. The true hero of today was Gordon Fink."
The news show went to a commercial break.
"Tomlin is going to punish us for failing," remarked Joyce.
Karen asked, "Have you ever met Tomlin?"
Joyce replied, "Never, only spoken to him by phone. We know him by his reputation as the most effective Obliterator ever. Have you met him?"
"Yes, several times."
Joyce looked at Karen with new respect.
Jason slammed down a fist, "The Falkowskys are cowards, sending that gullible Gordon Fink in to do the dangerous work! That's why it didn't work!"
"Tomlin's not going to buy that excuse," announced Joyce.
"What's the big deal with killing these two young brats anyway? Our talents would be better used overthrowing a government again," Jason snapped.
"Tomlin ordered me not to tell you two the final target until after the Falkowskys were disposed of," replied Karen.
Joyce asserted, "I heard there's a mole in our organization who's doing even worse damage than the Falkowskys. Still, the Falkowskys have crippled many Obliterator projects over the past three years. I'll bet we're taking them out to prevent their later interference in this mission."
"A preemptive strike," Jason agreed.
Not exactly confirming that, Karen said, "This job is so important that Tomlin sent me here to see you did the job properly. Tomlin didn't think you two could hack it. So far, it seems he was right, but I think we can turn that around."
The TV commercials were over. The newscaster started a retrospective of the bombing of the car three years ago.
The announcer said, "In that earlier explosion, Iris Morrow lost her life. She had graduated as valedictorean from Port City High School just a month earlier."
A photo of Iris was shown on the screen. It looked taken from a high school yearbook, which it was.
Joyce announced, "Hey, she looks like you, Karen."
Jason looked from the TV to Karen, "Karen looks totally different."
Joyce came close to Karen and looked closely at her face. Karen confidently held her gaze, chuckling as though amused.
Joyce recanted, "Karen's face is a lot thinner, gaunter. Iris's face was cherubic. Besides, I was in high school with you on the other side of the country, Karen."
Jason asked, "What's that word cherubic?"
Joyce explained, "Cherubs are chubby, rosy-faced angels shown on greeting cards."
Jason pondered, "You mean Iris's face looked like those fat angel baby faces?"
Joyce agreed, "Exactly. Karen's face is nothing like that. Not even close."
Karen sighed in exasperation and said, "Now that you're done with the paranoid games, we need to discuss killing the Falkowskys! It has to happen before Friday evening."
Jason said, "I wish Tomlin would tell us more."
Joyce pondered, "Jason, it could be Tomlin thinks you or I might be the mole, so is limiting what he tells us."
Jason looked at her in surprise, "It never occurred to me that he could suspect you or me! We've been with the Obliterators since being recruited in high school. I was a a different high school then you two, but you and Karen knew each other!"
The television news then had a report about the President of the United States coming to Port City on Friday evening to give a speech. Three years ago, when he was only a presidential candidate and visiting Port City as part of the campaign circuit, the Falkowskys had stopped an Obliterator from shooting him. The Falkowskys had known and proven that same Obliterator had earlier planted the bomb in their car. Like all Obliterators were trained to do when about to be caught, he had taken his own life using a suicide pill to protect the organization and its secrets.
Joyce announced, "The President has got to be our target!"
Jason boasted, "We weren't members yet during that previous attempt. We're better skilled and trained than earlier members ever were. We'll succeed where they didn't. Since the Falkowskys saved the man before, no wonder we have to take them out first this time. This really is an important mission."
"Tomlin said that you aren't to be told the final target until after the Falkowskys are eliminated," insisted Karen.
Despite this statement, Jason bragged to Joyce about how famous they'd be among the Obliterators once they assassinated the President of the United States.
Leaving those two talking to each other, Karen got out a comb to straighten her long, garish red hair. As she looked in the mirror, she felt the hair coloring did not really change her appearance much. However, Joyce had been correct about her face not being cherubic anymore. Three years of intense stress and deep secrets had left a visible toll. She wouldn't pass for high school age ever again either. She thought back when she had taken a second senior year in high school in Las Vegas under her new name of Karen as a supposed transfer student. Christine and Fritz had been doing her first year of college at that same time. She thought of how hard it had been to pass as an unremarkable but perpetually angry at the world student student and treating Joyce as her best friend after being valedictorian back in Port City for her first senior year.
She thought of her parents and brother. They didn't know she was still alive. She wondered about the cost of her sacrifice. However, she then recalled how using her knowledge, Dr. Ruby had been able to direct John and Fritz to stop a nuclear bomb from being used in Washington D.C. last year. It was all kept out of the media, but she knew her involvement with Entangle has saved about a million lives. She put away her comb, and faced Jason and Joyce.
Neither confirming nor denying Jason's guess at the final mission, Iris back fully in her role of Karen said, "I came up with a foolproof plan to kill the Falkowskys. It'll also serve as a test run for the big event!"
Joyce speculated, "A small scale test of the device?"
Karen nodded and said, "Let me get it out of my suitcase."
Jason said, "Great, Karen! I can't wait to use it."
Joyce insisted, "Neither you nor Karen will use it. I will."
“I should do it,” Karen suggested.
Joyce declared, "You aren't stealing credit for this kill away from me. I'm doing it."
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