Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: Planning a Deception
Chapter Number: Eight
Copyright: (c) March 2, 2019
Fritz yawned, forcing himself to keep watching the road. He noticed a yellow car parked a block from his house. Next to the car, a sign proclaimed there was no overnight parking on this street. Of all people, his mother had gotten a ticket. That was before she and their father had moved away. Back then, John had blocked the driveway with the SUV, so she had parked in the street. John had paid the ticket, and it wasn't cheap.
Fritz glanced at his watch. It was after one in the morning. No wonder he felt exhausted. He read the license number on the parked car, illuminated by his headlights, as he drove up. Having an extraordinarily good memory for numbers, Fritz had memorized the license number that John had told him, which had been written on John's palm. This was it. Sleepiness washed away from Fritz in an instant. He passed the parked car, taking a good look. A woman with long blonde hair sat in the front seat. She had on a leather coat. Although it was night, she wore sunglasses. She matched the description John had given of the driver of the getaway car.
Did she recognize him? He felt she must, then realized she might not because he was not in the SUV. Even with the streetlights, it was semi-dark. He'd only had this rental car less than a day and it was a generic type of car. Because of her sunglasses, he couldn't tell if she had been starring at him or not. He passed his own house as though it was not his destination. He pulled around a corner on the next block and circled back. He shut off the car lights and crept back. He shut off his motor, parking illegally himself around a corner. At this distance, he could barely see the car.
Fritz took the cell phone off his belt. He had punched in the number for Dr. Ruby. Although Dr. Ruby had said John was there earlier, Fritz was still surprised when John answered. Fritz explained the situation to his brother, then complained, "Other than this phone, I don't have any of our gear in this rental car. I don't even have regular binoculars. I'm tempted to leave the car and move in closer on foot for a better view."
At the other end, John said, "You might want a full environmental suit to protect against chemical weapons before doing that. That's something we never had even in the SUV. Dr. Ruby's listening in on the stethoscope right now trying to hear more details from Iris and Jason. He told me to answer this phone, as he's hearing something important."
John then explained to Fritz the entire situation. John got choked up after describing meeting Iris in the lobby and having to pretend he did not know her. Fritz had to prompt John to stop talking about Iris and get on with telling him about the chemical weapon. Once Fritz did that, John supplied all the relevant details he knew.
Fritz cut John off in midsentence, "Joyce stepped out of the car! She's walking toward our house. I can't see her through the trees."
"Given how impulsively I normally act, I'd likely go chase after her and be seen, blowing the whole thing."
"Good idea, John."
John protested, "No, it's not! I was just commenting on how you avoid doing stupid things like that, unlike me."
"I'm getting out. Don't talk, just listen. I don't want any extra noise or distractions."
Fritz opened his car door as quietly as he could and crept along. He moved along from tree to tree for cover. Through the phone, all John could hear was Fritz's heavy breathing and the occasional swish of a branch. Minutes passed. John expected to hear the sound of an attack. John could barely contain himself from speaking, only able to do so because he could still hear his brother's breathing.
Finally, Fritz's voice came back on the phone, "Joyce went to the heat exchanger unit behind our house. She didn't bring anything with her, but there is some device already in place that doesn't belong there. She checked it, then went back to her car. John, I think she's waiting for us! I'll bet it's another bomb! The Obliterators couldn't get us in the SUV, so they're trying at our house!"
John said, "Dr. Ruby just put down the stethoscope. He wants to talk to you."
Fritz listened for a while, then hung up the cell phone. He waited for about half an hour. A car with its headlights off quietly rolled in back of Fritz's illegally parked rental car. The new car also parked illegally. Two men got out. Even in the dark except for distant streetlights, Fritz could tell the short one was his brother John. That meant the other man was Dr. Ruby. John noted dampness through his running shoes coming from dew on the grass. The two men quietly moved up to Fritz. Fritz had chosen a location well hidden from Joyce by a large pine tree.
Dr. Ruby carried a briefcase. He set that down and opened it. He pulled out a pair of night vision goggles. Fritz and John were both familiar with those. Each used to have one, but those were now part of the wreckage of the SUV. John went into the same briefcase and pulled out another pair. John also got out some earphones and a directional microphone that could pick up conversations from far away. While Dr. Ruby looked at the external heat exchanger unit of the Falkowsky house with the goggles, John kept his binoculars trained on the car, as well as pointing the directional microphone at it. All this was done without a word.
Dr. Ruby finally whispered, "It seems a simple mechanism created from a common electronic garage door opener. It's a gas weapon, not a bomb."
"Criminals don't usually change their modus operandi. Why not a regular bomb like before?" Fritz asked, thinking of their SUV and the car bomb that has supposed killed Iris.
Dr. Ruby replied, "I had just overheard this was to be a small field test of the gas when you called. I thought it might be already too late for you, Fritz. From what Iris told Jason, she proposed this idea to Tomlin, and he went along with it. What Iris didn't tell them was getting a sample of the gas will help us tremendously. We'll have antidotes that might work if we know what the gas is. It'll also prove to some naysayers in the Secret Service that the threat is genuine."
Fritz suggested, "Do John and I need to apparently die to help save the city and the President?"
Dr. Ruby responded, "I was hoping you'd come up with that. Tomlin has a large supply of the nerve gas. We don't know yet where he is, or where the supply is. If you two appear to die, it'll greatly assist Iris in keeping her cover so she can find that out."
John asked, "How long will we have to play dead?"
Dr. Ruby said, "A day or two should to it. The President's here in two days, then gone. Three days maximum."
John asked, "How long did you tell Iris she'd have to play dead?"
"Much longer, as that involved infiltrating the Assassin's training camp in Nevada."
"How long was Iris supposed to be undercover?" Fritz asked in support of his brother.
"Six months to a year," Dr. Ruby sheepishly responded.
John declared, "You were wrong by two years. How do we know that won't happen to us?"
Fritz didn't seem concerned, "Come on, John. Look at the stakes. Of course, we'll do it."
John insisted, "Three years from now, I don't want to still be thought dead."
Dr. Ruby solemnly stated, "I promise you won't."
John said, "I bet you consider the stakes so high you'd lie for the cause, just like with Iris."
Dr. Ruby responded, "I had good reasons for leaving her in place. She agreed they were good reasons and stayed."
John said, "You may find good reasons for my brother and I to continue to appear to be dead too."
"If you're so confident I'll do that, then don't bother asking for promises I may not keep," Dr. Ruby said.
Fritz said, "We have to protect our city and the President, John."
Dr. Ruby sounded like an Army recruiter as he said, "Brave young men like you have been at the forefront of protecting..."
John interrupted, "Spare me the patriotic speech, Dr. Ruby. I had my fill of that. I think what happened to Iris stinks. I think that this stinks too, but I'm going along with it."
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