Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: The Prey Escapes
Chapter Number: Eleven
Copyright: (c) March 2, 2019
Fritz used his smartphone to call in the fire.
He had watched the alley opening the whole time while calling and seen nobody. He went back. Despite the smoke, he could see there were no doors on or fire escape ladders. He was puzzled. He then guessed they had parked right up against the fence, doused the car with gasoline, then climbed over the fence by climbing up on the car. They had then lit the car and run away on the other side of the fence.
Fritz rode his motorcycle around the block. He saw the fence and the burning car from this side, but not the people he sought. They had no car, so were going to walk, steal a car, get a taxi, or catch a bus. He saw a sign ahead for a bus stop with a modest sized crowd. He drove close and saw his prey! Fritz drove by without slowing. He saw the bus pulling up the road.
Fritz went up to the corner and turned around. He waited. His prey had boarded the bus, and the bus had pulled away. Fritz came around the corner and pulled behind the bus. His heart sank. This was a new style of city bus with a rear window, not the old style without one. He could see Jason, Joyce, and Iris in the back of the bus! He felt there was no way he, on a motorcycle, could follow the bus for stop after stop and not get spotted!
He then read the bus number. He'd seen it before. He remembered that he and John had taken it. Fritz took a calculated risk. He raced away, leaving the bus miles behind.
In the motel room, John stared at the ceiling, bored out of his mind. The cell phone rang and he grabbed it.
"Hello, this is John Falkowsky."
"It's your brother."
John asked, "What are Jason and Joyce doing?"
"They burned the car. They got on a bus, but it hasn't arrived yet."
John said, "I don't understand."
"They got on a bus. We've taken that same bus occasionally to come to the airport. I assumed they are coming here."
John whistled, "You don't usually play hunches!"
"It's not just a hunch. It's their most logical course of action."
"It's still a hunch."
Fritz claimed, "I'd surely have been spotted if I continued following a bus that stops every couple blocks while I'm on a motorcycle! That's the kind of bus with a big rear window. I had to play a hunch or fail."
"They can't be ready to fly out of town yet. Why do you assume they're coming to the airport?"
"Most of Port City's car rental places are here. They need a new car."
"They could just steal a car from any parking lot in any mall," John noted.
"The cops would be on the lookout for a stolen car. If caught for that, it could ruin their whole plan. We know the Obliterators have deep pockets and plenty of fake ID's. I think they'll rent a car. I see them! I guessed right!"
Some time later, Iris yawned as she sat in the rear seat of a shiny white rental car as it cruised down the highway. Jason drove and Joyce sat in the passenger seat.
"Comfy back there, Karen?" Joyce asked, turning to look at Iris.
"This has a better rear seat then the last car. More knee room."
Joyce's eyes suddenly focused behind Iris and her face suddenly showed alarm, "Jason, we're being tailed!"
Iris turned and saw a man on a motorcycle. Even the sound of the motor brought back sweet memories. That was John's motorcycle. The rider was Fritz, though.
Jason said, "I see several cars and a guy on a motorcycle. Who's following us?"
Iris held her tongue and silently prayed Joyce wouldn't mention Fritz, even though that had to be whom she meant.
Joyce replied, "The hot rod with the big guy driving. See it?"
With great relief that Fritz hadn't been spotted, Iris looked to see the car. Iris couldn't contain herself and screamed! It was her brother Conrad driving his hot rod! If the Falkowsky boys had survived, as they clearly had, she wasn't too surprised for one of them to show up, as that's just the sort of thing they did. Her brother Conrad, though? Where on Earth had he come from? He had never shown any detective skills!
"Quit screaming," Jason shouted at Iris. "It's nothing to panic over. Joyce is right. I noticed that car at the airport. A big guy is driving it, looks like a football player. Any idea who he is?"
Iris didn't say anything.
Joyce guessed, "I don't know who he is by name, but he has to be an Entangle agent! Hey, there was a big guy at the mall parking lot when you planted the bomb, remember?"
"Yes," Jason said. "He was shown wounded afterward on the television news. They said he was just a mall cop. I forgot his name. I thought the news said he had surgery."
Joyce guessed, "It probably wasn't nearly as serious as it sounded, just like how John barely had a scratch. A mall cop sounds just like the sort of cover an Entangle agent would use to watch us! The television said his name was Gordon Fink."
Jason said, "Yeah, that's the name. This must be Agent Fink. I'll stop him!"
Iris yelled, "Watch out for the motorcyclist!"
"He'd better watch out for me!"
Jason yanked the wheel and slammed on the brakes.
Fritz swerved hard to avoid the white car he'd been tailing as it suddenly came at him. Fritz was positive he'd been made! Avoiding the car, Fritz turned into the breakdown lane. Broken glass bottles lay there and he fought to retain control as he rolled over it. He expected the white car to crush him against the cement barrier, but that didn't happen. He looked for the white car and saw it up ahead hitting a hot rod! Fritz knew the car. He was shocked to see Conrad Morrow here. The driver of the white car had caused the hot rod to slam hard against the cement barrier. The sound of metal against cement was painful. The hot rod came to a slow stop while the white car raced away.
Fritz gave the motorcycle some gas, but the front wheel shimmied. The broken glass bottle he'd run over had punctured the tire. Fritz shut off the motorcycle, put it up on its kickstand, then got off. He then jogged up to the hot rod.
Conrad had his seat belt on and didn't appear injured.
"Are you hurt, Conrad?"
"I'd act more surprised you're alive, Fritz, but the news report wasn't convincing. A gas leak in your furnace? I'm hurt that my best friends let me think they were dead. I'm not hurt by this accident, though."
Conrad undid the seatbelt and got out. He looked for a moment like he was going to hug Fritz, but hesitated as he saw great anger in his face. Instead, he stiffly stuck out his right hand. Fritz hesitated a second, then shook it.
Conrad smiled, "I'm glad Christine was right about you being alive. John is too, I assume?"
Conrad walked around the front of the car. The passenger fender was crumpled so badly it pressed against the wheel underneath. That tire was flat.
Fritz demanded, "Conrad, how'd you know to tail the white car?"
"I wasn't. I was tailing you!"
Conrad explained, "Christine initially was all in tears about you and John being dead, but then she set out to prove that you two are still alive. She sent Vicky and me out to get into your house to search for clues while she went to see Chief Clymer directly. Clymer wouldn't talk with Christine and had her thrown out of the building. At your house, Officer McCormick was waiting and turned Vicky and me away with a warning not to mess in police business. We reconvened at Christine's place. When I left, Christine had Vicky breaking into the Port City Police's computer network. Christine sent me out to the airport. She thought you and John might appear there...and she was right!"
"Anybody else in on this conspiracy? Leone, maybe? Craig Peters?"
"We didn't want to bother Craig. He's busy enough preparing for his wedding. We tried Leone, but he claimed if you two really were alive, there was a good reason you wanted to appear dead. He said that we should stay out of it. Christine, Vicky, and I didn't agree."
Fritz slammed down his helmet on the ground. Conrad had seen John blow up in rage many times before, but never Fritz. Fritz got his face inches from Conrad's and bellowed, "Leone was right! Conrad, you just screwed up a very important case! Losing that car puts your sister's life in grave danger!"
"She really is alive!"
Fritz realized he had just screwed up himself by saying that. There was no way he'd get Conrad to stay out of the case now.
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