Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: Home Sweet Home
Chapter Number: Seventeen
Copyright: (c) March 2, 2019
Conrad and Iris came out of the house in the suburbs, being careful of the broken glass from the destroyed picture window.
Iris whispered to Conrad, "Where's John?"
Conrad said, "He couldn't come. He's injured."
She asked, "How bad?"
Conrad reassured her, "Nothing serious, just a couple stitches. John wanted to come here despite the injury, but his boss named Dr. Ruby persuaded him he could help more staying behind."
The two approached Vicky and Christine, who stood next to Officer McCormick's cruiser. Tomlin was in the back seat, his eyes now open. He glared hatefully out at everybody. Sitting on the dashboard was a large pill. Iris had told McCormick to search for that before McCormick took the prisoner out of the house. McCormick had found the pill, just as she had said he would. Iris thought how the higher up in the Obliterator organization, the less likely the people were to actually take their suicide pills.
McCormick himself sat in the car's front seat, talking on the radio.
He finally put down the mike and jumped out, a smile on his face, "I just talked with Chief Clymer. The device was stopped in time! Experts are there, and it's all been dealt with."
Everybody expressed great relief.
McCormick added, "They've got Jason and Joyce."
Iris asked, "Alive?"
McCormick said, "Yes. Vicky, the Chief told me the poison gas device was two miles from the convention center on the same intersection your map indicated. You saved the city coming up with that. The Chief said he may contact you later about hiring you to improve the security of our computer system."
Iris seemed to notice Vicky for the first time, "Excuse me. Vicky, is it? Who are you?"
Christine made a hasty introduction, "Vicky, this is Iris Morrow. Conrad's sister."
"I know who you are," Vicky said coldly
Ignoring her friend's rudeness, Christine remarked, "It's a miracle to see you, Iris! What's with that bright red hair?"
Iris ran a hand through it, "Just part of my disguise. It'll wash out."
Conrad cleared his throat, then said, "Sis, other than Mom and Dad, we all thought you were dead. Over three years have passed! John and I thought..."
"Oh," Iris said, catching on at last to the hints about who Vicky was.
A car hurried down the road and pulled in behind McCormick's cruiser. Dr. Ruby got out. He said a few words to McCormick, then came over to Christine, Conrad, Vicky, and Iris.
Dr. Ruby informed them, "Some more cruisers are coming. I want the rest of you to stay here with Officer McCormick while I take Iris for a ride."
Conrad grabbed Dr. Ruby's coat, "You're not taking her anywhere! I don't trust you."
Dr. Ruby twisted his arms in one quick motion and Conrad found he was holding only air, then Dr. Ruby said, "Relax, Mr. Morrow. Agent Morrow now, just like your sister, since you signed that contract. Being her brother and an agent, you can come too. I'm just taking her to the hotel to fetch John."
Conrad blushed at that. Iris loved her brother, but did secretly wish he was not coming along for this reunion.
Christine asked, "Where is Fritz?"
Dr. Ruby said, "Downtown with Chief Clymer."
Conrad, Iris, and Dr. Ruby climbed in the car. The whole trip there, Iris quizzed Conrad about the last three years in Port City, Maine.
At the hotel, Dr. Ruby led the way to the room. Suddenly, he froze. The door to the room was torn from the hinges and laying on the floor.
"John?" Iris called loudly.
Conrad started forward, but Dr. Ruby held him back with one hand. With the other, he pulled out a handgun. Seeing that, Iris held back too.
Dr. Ruby moved toward the room when a voice from the room, a voice definitely not John Falkowsky's demanded, "Drop that gun! Right now!"
Dr. Ruby did so.
"Put your hands on your head."
Dr. Ruby did that.
Two men dressed in black including face masks that made them look like ninjas and carrying big guns came from the room. Conrad screamed while Iris fell into a karate stance.
Dr. Ruby calmly said, "Cooperate. These are government agents, although from a different agency then the one I work for. Even with the black hood, I know I've encountered this one before despite the mask."
One of the two got right in Dr. Ruby's face, "Oh, you work for the government too, you prima donna! You could be the President himself with a fancy gray suit like that. Which agency might you work for?"
"Entangle," Dr. Ruby stated.
"Never heard of it, but you do look familiar. Are you familiar from being on a Most Wanted list?" One of the masked men said with a laugh.
The other man in black demanded the other two put their hands on their heads. Conrad and Iris hastily complied. As that happened, the rude man shoved Dr. Ruby up to the wall, telling him now to spread his hands. Dr. Ruby did that.
Iris politely requested, "Could you two gentlemen tell me if is John Falkowsky here, please?"
The man who liked being rude to Dr. Ruby snarled, "Nobody here but us chickens."
The other man laughed and laughed, then said, "That's too mean! He's teasing you, Miss."
"John's here?" Iris asked.
"He was, but not anymore," replied the friendlier of the ninja men.
The rude man said, "We already took that Obliterator punk into custody. Now, we're doing the same to you."
Dr. Ruby suggested, "In my wallet is a card with a phone number on it. I highly recommend you call it."
The rude man shoved Dr. Ruby harder against the wall while saying, "Tell it to the judge."
Later at Port City's Justice Center, Iris stared across the scratched table at two government men. She could see faces now, and the voices told her that these had been in the masks that let only the eyes show earlier. The room smelled of both disinfectant and sweat. She guessed many people had sweated nervously in this room. Dr. Ruby had been right that they did work for an agency of the federal government. Dr. Ruby had been taken from the holding cells before her. She had last seen Conrad, Christine, and Vicky downstairs in their holding cells. She assumed they'd be left there until she was done, then one by one, it'd be their turns.
A large mirror was mounted behind the men on the wall, reflecting their backs and Iris's face. Iris knew that was oneway glass and others would be watching her from behind it. The men started with their questions. Five minutes into the interview and they already insisted she was really named Karen. They accused her of lying every time she said her name was Iris Morrow.
The door to the room opened far more forcefully than necessary. All three in the room turned to see Chief Clymer. Directly behind him was Dr. Ruby.
"I've got something to say to you two men," Dr. Ruby angrily said, trying to get around Chief Clymer.
"Hold it, Dr. Ruby. This is Port City, so it's my show. We've got a letter you need to see," Chief Clymer said, sounding furious.
The Chief handed it over. The ruder of the two men took it. He frowned.
"This has to be a fake! This letter is supposedly signed by the President himself!" he remarked, showing it to the other agent.
"Not supposedly. It really is signed by the President," Dr. Ruby explained.
Chief Clymer put in, "I was there and watched the President do it! He is in town, after all."
The rude man looked back at Dr. Ruby, this time more carefully, "I remember when I saw you before. You were talking with the President two months ago."
"Correct," Dr. Ruby said.
"I wish I'd remembered that."
Dr. Ruby unsympathetically said, "I told you that you should have called the number from my wallet. Do it next time somebody says something like that."
Chief Clymer indicated the two men, "Get out of my interrogation room."
The men glared at both Chief Clymer and Dr. Ruby, but hastily left.
Chief Clymer than took them to his large office, which was a friendlier location than the interrogation room.
Once there, Chief Clymer asked, "What's to become of you, Iris?"
Dr. Ruby said, "Iris, you've been our best undercover agent in the Obliterators ever! However, your undercover role there is over now that the news broadcast your picture. Furthermore, Jason, Joyce, and Tomlin have been captured alive, and they know who you are. You can stay with Entangle with new assignments, probably overseas where you aren't known, go into protective custody, or you can return to your family."
"I'd like to go home. It's been over three years. Will my parents and brother be safe if I do?" Iris Morrow said.
Dr. Ruby answered, "I wish I knew. Tomlin's the highest up person we ever captured alive for the Obliterators, but I don't know how the rest of that organization will react."
"I still want to go home," said Iris.
Dr. Ruby announced to Iris, Chief Clymer, and Officer McCormick as if stating proven facts, "Unknown to anybody, Iris, you were close to the explosion and received a head injury. You had amnesia for some time and hitchhiked around the country. You ended up in Los Vegas. You recently regained your memory, and made your way back to Maine."
Iris nodded at that. The Obliterators training camp was located out in the Nevada desert, about a two-hour drive from Los Vegas.
Iris sadi, "With that story, many people will assume I never had amnesia and simply chose to run away."
Dr. Ruby shrugged and said, "So what if they do? This way, you can at least still go home."
Iris asked, "All right. I'll go with it. Can I see John?"
Chief Clymer tugged at his collar, then said, "There's a problem. Tomlin claimed John and Fritz Falkowsky were coconspirators. Clearly, they weren't, but some federal agency folks think it is best to assume Tomlin is telling the truth!"
Iris asked, "Why didn't Tomlin include me, then?"
Clymer speculated, "It'd be hard to convince people of that after he'd already kidnapped you. As for Fritz and John, there are also records in the Port City Police computer system that seems to support Tomlin's claim that they are Obliterators."
Dr. Ruby said, "We have proof that system was compromised by Tomlin! He planted those files."
Clymer replied, "I know that, but various federal agencies are acting as if something was in our computer system, it must be true."
Dr. Ruby turned toward the door, "I'll go get the situation with Fritz and John straightened out."
Dr. Ruby was to find that was a far harder task than he had expected, even though he could get another Presidential signature with just a phone call. It was still going to take him several days to help the Falkowskys.
Some days later, Iris rode toward her family's farmhouse on a boy's singlespeed bicycle. She was sweaty from her long ride. It was Conrad's bicycle.
On the other side of a fence, a brown horse trotted along keeping pace with her.
Still pedaling, Iris smiled over at her horse, "Too bad I can't ride you into town, Suzy. Port City has an ordnance against horses."
Suzy had to stop as a fence blocked her way at the driveway. Iris pedaled up the driveway, then she got off the bike and pushed it into the barn. Conrad was already in the barn, moving some hay.
Seeing her, Conrad paused in his work, "Did you find the Falkowskys?"
"I rode out to their house. Not a sign of them. The motorcycle you repaired and left is still sitting out."
"It is? I thought they'd be released the same day we were. I wouldn't have left John's motorcycle in the open if I'd known they'd stay away so long."
Iris wondered, "Where could they be?"
Conrad speculated, "In the past three years, they've disappeared for days or even weeks at a time without any notice. They've been to France, Kenya, Germany, and other countries. For a while, Fritz made a game out of sending Christine and me postcards from countries like that which said nothing about why they were there. Maybe they're doing something like that again."
"I just wish they would have contacted me first! I wanted to see John after all this time!"
Conrad moved back toward the bales of hay as he said, "The Falkowskys will reappear in a few days or weeks. They always do."
Iris asked, "How are Mom and Dad today?"
"Still upset. I suggested they let you use their car rather than that bicycle, but they wouldn't hear of it. Dad just about took my head off for even mentioning it. He wants you to never see John Falkowsky again. Mom agrees. They think relationship trouble with John is why you ran away. They don't buy that amnesia story."
Iris insisted, "I'm twenty-one years old. They can't stop me from seeing who I want."
Conrad grunted as he moved more hay, then said, "Perhaps not, but they can prevent you from using their car. You can use my hot rod whenever you want, just as soon as she comes back from the body shop. That'll be a few days yet. A new front fender for a car that vintage is hard to get. I've got a used one being shipped in from a wrecking lot in New Hampshire."
"Thanks, Conrad. I tried renting a car, which I can afford to do now, but I was told I had to be twentyfive for that or have my parents' co-sign. I could just buy a car, but I think I'd prefer to use the money for college."
"No chance of our parents signing for you to rent a car with the mood they're in. At least they can't keep complaining about your hair. Most of the red stuff is gone," Conrad declared
Iris fingered her hair and said, "It was supposed to wash out easily, but I've washed my hair every day, and it's still not completely gone."
"Mostly gone now, though," Conrad said
Back at the fence, Suzy neighed.
Conrad remarked, "Going to take your horse out for a ride today?"
"Yes, but it is frustrating having to stay on the farm with her. Before I went away, the farm always seemed so large, but now it feels small and constrained. I think I'll go back to the woods with her. The woods aren't large, but at least I can pretend to be away when the trees block my sight of the farm," Iris remarked.
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