Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: The Poison Gas Device
Chapter Number: Fifteen
Copyright: March 2, 2019
The sporty dark blue car with the large trunk pulled into a driveway. The driveway was for a house that looked similar to the other houses in this middle-class neighborhood. The lawn was mowed and the house well maintained. This suburb was about fifteen miles from Port City itself. Iris realized that even the amount of toxic gas the Obliterators had wouldn't reach the convention center from here.
A short, slender, mustached, black-haired man came out the front door before the others got out of the car. His prompt appearance indicated he'd been waiting for them. He waved and walked to the garage. He pulled open the garage door, then came to their car to make introductions.
"Hello, I'm Tomlin. Karen and I have met before, but this is the first time I've met you two."
"I'm Jason. I'm glad to finally meet the greatest Obliterator of all time," Jason said, vigorously shaking Tomlin's hand.
"In less than two hours, I'll turn that honor over to you," Tomlin said flatteringly.
"As you know already, I'm Joyce," Joyce remarked, then reluctantly shook Tomlin's hand. She was still fuming about not being allowed to listen in as Karen talked to him.
Tomlin also shook Iris's hand. Iris noted his hand was sweaty and his grip weak, unlike the firm handshake the other times she had met him.
Tomlin took them to the garage. The poison gas device was inside. It looked like about four large propane tank for a barbecue grill, with pipes and valves for connecting them all. On the top was a timer.
Tomlin explained, "The use of this is very simple. As you can see, this timer is set for one hour. This red push-button starts it. Just push it, then spend the next hour getting away."
Both Joyce and Jason nodded.
Tomlin said, "Joyce, please open the car's trunk. Good, it looks big enough. We'll do each of the tanks one at a time, then I will connect them together. A little gas will be in the pipes, so you cannot move it after this. You will leave the trunk open when you leave so air can flow freely."
Jason, Joyce, and Iris lifted each tank, one at a time. They were heavy enough that it took the all three of them as Tomlin watched. When all four tanks were in the trunk, the rear of the car hung low to the ground.
Tomlin looked at the back of the car, then under it and said, "If you watch out of potholes and don't speed, you should be okay."
Tomlin got out a crescent wrench. Climbing partially in the trunk, he connected all the pipes. When done, he turned four mechanical valves. They all heard a faint hiss, then it stopped.
Tomlin pointed at a device at the top with thick wires to it and said, "That's the electrical valve. Once it gets electrical current, the gas is released. One hour after you push the big red button, the timer will make that happen."
Jason, Joyce, and Iris all nodded that they understood.
Tomlin said, "Please come into the living room. I've got further instructions."
Tomlin led the way in. Joyce and Jason sat together on a couch. Iris sat in a large easy chair. The television was on with the volume quite loud. A commercial played.
Tomlin faced away from his guests, "Let me turn this off."
He then turned back from the set and peered directly Iris, "I saw the most fascinating news report just before you came."
Joyce asked, "Tomlin, why are you pointing a gun at Karen?"
"Because her real name isn't Karen. It's Iris Morrow," Tomlin explained.
"No, it's not," Iris said angrily.
Tomlin insisted, "Sure it is. I saw your photograph on television. Your hair wasn't red, but it was you. An inquisitive doctor from the Port City hospital said Iris's autopsy report was misplaced. I know why that happened. Jason, I put some rope in the kitchen. Get it."
Jason protested, "You've got this wrong. Joyce and I knew Karen back in training camp."
Joyce added, "Karen was with me in my senior year of high school at Las Vegas before getting recruited by the Obliterators! Do you think Entangle would put somebody in high school for a year just for that?"
Tomlin declared, "Clearly, that is just what Entangle did do! That she infiltrated our organization that far back is why so many of our operations have failed. I didn't know until now Entangle got their information. It was her. I see it now, especially for stopping that nuke in D.C. Too bad we haven't any more nukes, but what's in the trunk of that car will still get people's attention."
Jason asked, "What about Iris's cherubic face compared to Karen's?"
Tomlin remarked, "I imagine being a traitor to the great cause like Iris has been is stressful enough burn off a little baby fat in the face. Go get some rope from that closet, Jason."
Jason retrieved the rope. With Tomlin keeping the gun trained on Iris, Joyce and Jason tied her securely to the easy chair.
"That looks good," Tomlin said. "Now, you two are going to usher the Obliterators into a new era. Killing the American president will be out greatest accomplishment."
Joyce declared, "You're brilliant for coming up this way to kill him while remaining out of the two-mile security zone."
"Brilliant?" protested Iris, who was bound but not gagged. "Think of the tens of thousands of innocent people will be killed. You can't do such a thing!"
Joyce and Jason both looked at Iris as though without any comprehension as to why what she was saying should worry them. She might as well have just spoken Greek.
Tomlin ordered, "Here's a map I made and printed out for you on my computer. This is the intersection I want you to park at. I checked the weather report at the airport. We have perfect winds for this operation. It couldn't be better. You know what to now. I'm staying here to find out what Iris Morrow knows. I'm going to enjoy that, but she won't. Don't speed or break any traffic laws while going to your destination. Especially don't speed as that car will bottom out easily. It'd be a shame to have something silly go wrong now."
Joyce and Jason headed out to the blue car, which then pulled out of the driveway.
A mile and a half from the house, they drove by Conrad's loud hot rod going the other way. Since Conrad drove a brightly painted hot rod with a badly mangled front fender, they would have noticed if they had been paying attention. However, Joyce and Jason were engrossed in discussing how much they soon would be respected by the other Obliterators. For their part, Fritz and Conrad did not know to look for a sporty blue car with a large trunk with the rear end hanging down very low.
Two blocks from the address, Fritz warned Conrad they didn't want to get too close. He pointed to a Port City Police squad car, "Pull behind that."
Conrad did so. He and Fritz got out.
Fritz noticed Conrad was shaking, so reassuringly said, "John hasn't called, so Iris's cover should still be holding."
They both walked up to the squad car and peered inside. It was empty.
"That's strange," Conrad said.
Fritz pointed up a block, "See behind that house?"
Conrad replied, "I see a man in a uniform and two women. Hey, that's Christine and Vicky."
Fritz nodded and they quietly approached the three.
The officer had binoculars up to his face, gazing at the house with the reported address. Christine noticed Fritz and Conrad approaching and said something to the officer. The officer momentarily took his eyes from the binoculars, which revealed he was McCormick. He glanced at Fritz and Conrad, nodded once, then went back to his binoculars.
Fritz hugged Christine. Neither spoke as both had much to say, but now was neither the time nor place.
McCormick took down the binoculars, "Hello, Fritz and Conrad. I see what you're up to with that outfit on Conrad. I think Conrad will pass for Gordon Fink, assuming the bad guys haven't seen him up close. Did you hear that Chief Clymer got a fake news report put on the air about Fink? Dr. Ruby told us the bad guys think Fink is a great secret agent, so we decided to play along."
Both Fritz and Conrad indicated they did not know about the leaked, phony report, although they both thought John should have phoned Fritz if he'd seen it.
Fritz said, "It probably aired on a different channel then he was checking. John can't watch them all."
McCormick handed the binoculars not to Fritz, but to Conrad, "Look in that picture window and into the living room. See the red-headed woman?"
Peering through the binoculars, Conrad said, "Hey, that's my sister and she's tied up! Red-hair looks terrible on her. How can her cover be blown? John hasn't contacted us."
McCormick said, "Beats me, but we have to deal with it. I just wanted to check if that was Iris. From this distance, Christine and Vicky weren't sure, but I figured you'd be."
Fritz commented, "Dr. Ruby made it sound like the cavalry, National Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, F.B.I., and Secret Service would be here by now."
"Chief Clymer radioed me that a whole lot of agencies are so busy arguing over whose operation this is that they're log jammed. They even told him that since the President is in town, he can't even give orders to the Port City Police even though he's the police chief! He walked out of that whole mess and jumped in a squad car. He's on his way here himself."
Christine said, "I talked McCormick into bringing Vicky and me. Unlike Dr. Ruby, he likes the work we?ve done on this case."
Fritz told Christine, "We'll discuss that later."
Conrad said, "A slender, short guy with black hair and a mustache just entered the room. He must be the guy mentioned back in the hotel room."
"That's Tomlin," Fritz stated.
Conrad reported, "Tomlin's got some metal tools. I think he's going to torture my sister!"
McCormick grabbed the binoculars and looked himself, then handed them to Fritz.
McCormick said, "We have to act immediately. We need to get Tomlin away from Iris."
Fritz suggested, "Why not just have Conrad drive up to the house, park in the road, and get out? Don't go in, but just stand there and honk the horn. Tomlin will think this is the great Agent Fink. He may come out to talk and then we can take him while he's away from Iris."
McCormick said, "More likely he?ll just shoot Conrad."
Conrad yanked the binoculars out of McCormick's grasp and looked at the house, "Iris's screaming! I'm doing it."
McCormick firmly grabbed Conrad before he could move, "All right, but listen. Stand behind your car and not in front of it. That is, behind the front hood. If he starts shooting, squat down. Bullets can go through sheet metal, but not an engine block. Got it?"
Conrad nodded and McCormick released him. In mere seconds, the hot rod raced up to the house and screeched to a stop directly in front of the house. Conrad held the horn down for many seconds. He then got out of the car and stood just as McCormick had told him.
McCormick looked in the binoculars, "Tomlin's moved away from Iris. He's at the window. Here's what we'll do."
In the house, Iris saw Tomlin move to the window. Despite not having heard it in a few years, she recognized the distinctive horn of her brother's hot rod.
Tomlin related, "It's Agent Fink! I saw a report on him on television just before the missing autopsy report for you, Iris. Man, he's good! I can't imagine how he found this place."
Iris had given this address directly to Dr. Ruby, so she knew how the place was found, but saw no need to mention that. She guessed her brother was impersonating Fink.
Still not gagged because Tomlin had been trying to get her to talk, Iris said, "You might as well give up against somebody like Fink."
"I can't figure out what he's doing now. He's just standing at the car, reaching over every so often to blow the horn," Tomlin complained.
"I'd like to come see for myself, but I'm all tied up right now."
Tomlin frowned at Iris's bad joke and said, "This is peculiar."
A few minutes passed where Tomlin and Iris heard the horn blow about every twenty seconds.
Iris suggested, "Why don't you go out and have a friendly talk with him?"
"I don't think so."
Tomlin pulled out his handgun, the same one he'd pointed earlier at Iris. He pointed it at her head, clearly intending to use her as a hostage. However, he realized the chair wasn't in a position for the big man standing at the car to see. Tomlin tugged at Iris, but couldn't move her an inch. When Tomlin had Joyce and Jason tie her up, they had also tied her down to the large easy chair. He looked at the many coils of rope and frowned deeply. Undoing enough of them to get Iris out of the chair would take a while. He put the gun under his belt and shoved the chair. He was a slender, short, lightweight man. It only moved two inches closer to the window. He shoved again. It went another two inches, but he was breathing hard. Iris could see sweat pouring down his face. He shoved once more and the chair only moved one inch.
He gave that up and walked back to the picture window and peered out, "Agent Fink is still standing there. He doesn't even have a gun out."
Without warning, Tomlin pointed his gun at the picture window and fired. Iris screamed a warning, but too late. The first shot hit the glass and was deflected. Normal glass, and this was normal glass, isn't nearly strong enough to stop a bullet. Yet, the glass slightly deflected the bullet's trajectory as it went through. The result was the first shot at Conrad missed. Conrad immediately crouched down behind the hood where the engine would be. He could hear a bullet slam into his beloved car. Conrad felt like a soldier in a war doing this and realized in a very real way, that's just what he was.
Officer McCormick, who'd been crawling out of Tomlin's sight and already moved just below the picture window, returned fire. This was only about three feet from and directly below Tomlin. In the living room, Iris saw Tomlin fly backward as shots hit him. His gun flew from his grasp.
As that happened, both the front door and the back door of the house were kicked in. Fritz came in the front. Christine came in the back, followed by Vicky. To the surprise of everybody in the room, Tomlin stood up and dove toward his gun!
Fritz snaked out a hand and caught Tomlin's belt at the small of the back. At six foot one with medium build, Fritz was able to lift the lightweight Tomlin and physically toss him to the far side of the room, far away from the handgun.
Tomlin regained his balance and went into a karate pose. Fritz did a forward kick, but Tomlin blocked it with a forearm, then kicked Fritz in his ribs. Fritz felt the kick dig in. If Tomlin had gotten more force behind it, Fritz's ribs might have cracked. Fritz struck out with his right hand, but Tomlin blocked that blow with lightning speed. Seeing such a little guy, Fritz had thought this would be an easy fight, but had been wrong. Fritz barely blocked a kick from Tomlin. Fritz's forearm stung from the force.
However, as Tomlin was striking at Fritz, Christine delivered a solid side kick into Tomlin's ribcage. She, John, and Fritz had practiced karate together at the same dojo under the same sensei. She and Fritz worked together as a team against Tomlin. Tomlin couldn't block blows from both of them. Vicky dove for the discarded gun. Vicky pointed the gun at Tomlin, but Christine and Fritz had already managed to beat Tomlin unconscious.
Fritz ripped opened Tomlin's shirt, buttons flying off. Under it was a bulletproof vest. Without it, Tomlin would be even more scrawny.
McCormick stood outside the shattered window. McCormick could see the vest now that Fritz had undone the shirt, so he had his gun pointed at Tomlin's head. Currently, the only motion Tomlin was making was breathing. He was not faking being unconscious.
Conrad got out from behind the bullet-holed hot rod and ran in. Conrad, Vicky, and Christine undid Iris's bonds. While they did that, Fritz got McCormick's handcuffs from him. McCormick's gun did not waver from Tomlin's head as Fritz put on the cuffs. Tomlin did not wake up. Only after this was done did McCormick leave the shattered window and enter the house.
After Iris's bonds came loose, she kissed her brother, smudging his make-up. She hugged him tightly and the pillow used to make him look fatter squashed down. She had never in her life been prouder of her brother!
Fritz heard a siren and saw a squad car pull up to the house. This wasn't McCormick's squad car, but one driven by Chief Clymer himself. Clymer was alone.
Iris suddenly pushed Conrad away and gravely announced, "You're too late! Joyce and Jason got away with the device! They're in a blue car. The rear end hangs down low because the poison gas device is so heavy."
Conrad remembered, "We passed that car when coming here!"
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