Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 1, 2019
Chapter Title: A Missed Phone Call
Chapter Number: Four
Copyright: (c) March 1, 2019
A car pulled into the driveway of the Falkowsky home. A sticker on the back identified it as a rental car. Fritz got out of the driver's side and John out of the passenger. Fritz unlocked the door, then they entered their house.
Fritz remarked, "It was different working with the Port City police than what I am used to. They have different paperwork requirements than we were taught in the Entangle training program."
John said, " They didn't even know about Raman spectroscopy could do."
Fritz conceded, "True, but you and I weren't hired as consultants because we have pretty faces."
John felt like shouting at Fritz, but John's Entangle-approved psychiatrist that had been helping relieve his post-traumatic stress disorder after one very terrible case a year ago involving a nuclear bomb. He and Fritz had successfully stopped the bomb from being used in D.C., but how very close things had come to disaster with maybe a million dying haunted John. The psychiatrist had been helping him, and amazingly Dr. Ruby had not removed John from field work. John deliberately brought to mind calming thoughts as instructed. He turned to gaze out the kitchen window. He could see the moon, but the light from the many streetlights kept him from seeing the stars. He thought of how he used to visit Iris out at the Morrow farm. Unlike here, there weren't street lights out in the country, so the stars shone brightly. He and Iris used to take long walks and stare up at them. Iris could name many of the stars, while all John could ever find was the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star. John kept his face toward the window. He didn't want Fritz to see his eyes were filled with tears.
Blinking tears away, John could see the rental car parked in the driveway. He and Fritz had picked it up at a rental car place at the airport after they'd finally finished at the crime scene. The car rental place had been out by a series of cheap hotels. Officer McCormick had given them a ride there. The car was so they would have transportation. It had been a tense drive home from the airport. John had driven. He had felt his emotions were so strong that he couldn't concentrate on his driving while saying what was on his mind at the same time, so he'd remained silent.
John grabbed the mail and as he flipped through it said, "Here's a wedding invitation for both of us from Craig Peter."
Fritz recalled, "Even in high school, he wanted to join the Army. He said he wanted to make it a career, but I guess he's done after a two-year enlistment."
John remarked, "No, he was in your high school class, not mine. He was in four full years, not two."
Fritz pondered, "Four?"
"Christine changed majors, otherwise she might already be done at college. Iris graduated high school with me, a year later than you guys. She's been missing three years. Tack on the Freshman year you put in at Port City U, and there you go."
Fritz said, "Four year enlistment, then. I saw him a couple weeks ago. He mentioned having buddies losing limbs from IED's. Coming home whole himself, he?s wasting no time getting married. He said to expect the invitation. When is it?"
Looking at the card, John said, "Not for another three months. I guess after all that danger as a soldier, he's ready to settle down. How about you?"
Fritz said, "I have no plans to join the Army. Dealing with Entangle is more than enough!"
John explained, "I meant are you ever going to marry Christine?"
Fritz, surprised about this question, replied, "I think even Craig's too young for marriage, to tell the truth. I do not know how much Christine and I will change if I ever start college."
"We been through several training programs with Entangle. They always seem to have them in Texas for some reason."
Fritz smiled as he thought of something his mother used to say, then said, "Unfortunately, we can't get into law school or medical school by completing various practical training programs that we aren't allowed to tell anybody about."
John wryly said, "I keep forgetting. Does Mom want you to become the doctor and me the lawyer or is it the other way around?"
"I think she'd be happy either way. Did you know that besides telling Dr. Rudy about this new case, Christine tried to get him to hire her into Entangle today?"
"She gives you a hard time about not being in college, then tries that. Figures. She was probably just itching for an excuse like today's so she could speak to him directly. You know you were supposed to keep Entangle a secret from her."
Fritz said, "I tried. Well, you asked me if I'm going to marry Christine. Are you going to marry Vicky?"
John continued to stare out the window, now not daring to face his brother, "How can you ask me that on the very day I learned Iris was alive?"
Fritz said, "I think the lecture on autopsies of bomb victims in our very first training camp was just as obvious to you as it was to me. You should have known Iris was alive this whole time, but you chose to date Vicky."
John wiped his eyes, then turned to face his brother. John stood, crossed his arms, which caused his massive biceps to bulge, "What are you implying?"
Fritz remained seated and said, "Rather than implying anything, I'll state it directly. I think you figured out Iris was alive at the lecture on autopsies when we started our Entangle training right after high school, if not before."
John's voice was rough as he said, "I didn't, but you could have told me that you'd figured it out."
Fritz said, "I thought you went to Dr. Ruby about it and found out what I did. I thought that was something that upset you so much you didn't want to talk about. If you didn't figure it out, do you really want to be a detective as a career? Maybe you're just an adrenaline junkie who likes all the action and excitement of our cases. I take being a detective seriously, John. Any detective worth his salt should have figured this out!"
John said in a voice so quiet Fritz could hardly hear him, "In one lecture, we were shown photographs of nearly naked human bodies. The blast had been so great the clothes had been ripped off, but the bodies remained. Even with lesser blasts, it was very common for a victim to have his shoes come off. In another lecture, we watched videos of real autopsies. The location and angle shrapnel entered the body can tell provide clues to the victim's position when the bomb went off. In yet another lecture, we learned about the effects of firestorms after a nuclear blast. The blast of a nuclear bomb can vaporize a human body, but generally some remnants of a body are left behind even then. Yes, I was at those lectures. Yes, I got an A in the course. Yes, I still want to be a detective even after taking that gruesome class. Officer McCormick knows this stuff too, as he talked about it at the hospital, but when McCormick said it, I couldn't ignore it any longer."
"I thought the teacher was going overboard telling us about nuclear bombs. Yet, later we once stopped a nuclear bomb from going off in Washington DC. That's why I have a psychiatrist. If we'd failed, then what that teacher had taught in those firestorm lectures might have been useful after all. Not to us, though. We'd have been at ground zero. We probably really would have been truly vaporized. The public has no idea how close we came to unprecedented disaster."
Fritz insisted, "What about realizing what all this meant about Iris's body was not found in our car after the conventional bombing?"
"I really didn't put two and two together until today. I know I should have, but I didn't. Maybe emotionally, I just couldn't."
Fritz retorted, "Sorry, John. I really thought you'd figured it out and simply didn't want to talk about it. Maybe you should take it up with your shrink why you didn't put the pieces together."
Rather than snapping at his brother at how rude that comment was, John said, "Maybe I should at that. If she's alive, I can't see why she'd stay hidden for a little three years. What about Conrad? He's her brother! What about Mr. and Mrs. Morrow? The only way I'd think she would not tell them she's alive would be if she were brain-washed or imprisoned. Did the Obliterators kidnap her?"
Fritz responded, "Considering the situation, as a detective, what do you think went on our day the car exploded, knowing what you do now?"
"We've already established that Iris's body wasn't in the car. Not even a trace was left. Not very convincing unless you're gullible, which I guess I was. I saw Iris going into the car, but not coming out. So, I'd guess she was quickly taken out the other side, but that would be risky. If setup time was great enough, maybe underneath, like having a manhole cover removed. This means it was a highly planned operation to fool anybody watching. If it was the manhole, the floor of our car was modified without us knowing about it."
John asked himself, "I can't see the Obliterators going to that much trouble. If it was our group or somebody affiliated with it, why would the Entangle go to that much trouble? Wait, I think I see it. We'd already gotten locally famous. We'd have been the right age and had just the skills Entangle would want to place as a mole in the Obliterators, but even modest and localized fame would be a detriment. We got into Entangle anyway, but we're still pretty well known. Even that random mall guard named Bob who we'd never met before in our lives knew just who we were from media reports."
"He did," agreed Fritz.
John said, "I hate to give Gordon Fink credit, but he did claim we were after media attention. I don't think either you or I ever sought it, but we seem to get it anyway. And now with Dr. Ruby's permission, Chief Clymer and Officer McCormick has some idea what our day job is, so that may lead to even more media attention. If Iris Morrow was recruited as an Entangle agent, or some other good-guy agency, and been under deep cover for three whole years, she's a lot better at avoiding media attention than we ever were. Probably better than I ever will be!"
Fritz said, "According to Dr. Ruby, because of our local fame and digging in to what was going on with the people opposing the presidential candidate when we suspected somebody might try to kill him?"
John said, "We were right about that."
Fritz continued, "That we were. The Obliterators saw us as a threat to the assassination planned a little three years ago in Port City. Iris went unnoticed by them. Entangle couldn't not let the bomb in our car go off or else the Obliterators would have known what they were doing was discovered, so changed their assassination plans and perhaps succeeded. I think there was a cutout in the floor to an open manhole. The manhole cover was put back, and the car bomb allowed to go off."
John asked, "Why didn't Iris reappear after the case was over and we stopped the man who tried to shoot the candidate? I still believe we did get the right guy, even though he committed suicide with a pill right after we caught him."
Fritz answered, "You're forgetting our lessons. The best type of spy is one who seems to not be a spy at all. I hate to admit it, but Iris has a better personality type for become a successful spy than you or I! We're both too flamboyant, and you're worse than I am by about a factor of ten!"
John wondered, "Is that what you thought I didn't want to talk about? My being jealous of her success at undercover work?"
"Well, yes! Sorry, John. I guess we have gotten where we keep secrets from each other."
John remarked, "Keeping secrets is a way of life in this line of work. It becomes a habit, even when not appropriate. As for Iris, why she agreed to do it?"
"He said she had some of the same reasons we do. A need to see justice done. Preventing pain, destruction, and death. Patriotism. However, he also said she wanted to prove to you how capable she was."
"She didn't have to prove anything to me. Especially not in a task that has taken over three years!"
Fritz explained, "It was supposed to be only for two or three months, but her cover remained sound, so she stayed under. You know how bad the Obliterators are. How many people has she saved in that time, John?"
John said, "Dr. Ruby had some mysterious information that led us to the nuclear bomb that we stopped from going off in D.C. That information might have come from Iris! If so, she is as much or more responsible for saving those millions as we are!"
"I suspect so," said Fritz. "Just a guess, though. You know how it is trying to get a straight answer out of Dr. Ruby. He went on about me not having a need to know, and it could put people in danger just asking these questions."
John slapped his hand to his forehead and said, "Iris's in danger, Fritz. I didn't know until you just told me that she was an Entangle agent like us, but undercover. I just realized I let her continued existence slip to Vicky back in the hospital room when talking with McCormick! I wasn't thinking straight after the explosion! Who knows who Vicky told?"
Fritz dropped his cup, which overturned, spilling tea on the table. He ignored the mess and ordered John, "Phone Vicky right now!"
John didn't argue. He grabbed his cell phone and dialed. Her phone rang and rang, but was not answered. He left a voicemail As John did that, Fritz retrieved his own cell phone and called Christine's number, thinking that she and Vicky often hung out together.
Then, the landline in the kitchen rang. John grabbed the land line, and said, "Hello."
He heard some breathing, then a click.
Fritz meanwhile into his cellphone said, "Hello," then listened for some time with just an uh-huh and I see. He hung up.
Fritz then told John, "Christine's with Vicky. Both girls are at Leone's restaurant. Christine wants me to come, but doesn't think it would be a good idea to bring you. Vicky is really mad at you! Christine says Vicky wouldn't even answer her phone when she saw the call was from your number just now. Maybe Christine's right and I should go alone."
John replied in a calm voice, "Go!"
Fritz looked doubtful, but headed out to the rental car.
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