The Doll 11（文稿）
Manage episode 310290935 series 3051597
Chapter 11 DALLAS, TEXAS
Miles Bradford stood in the middle of the war room and dumped two Kevlar vests on the floor.
Jahan and Walker stared at him, both silent and sullen. “Fight it out between you,” he said. “I’ll be in my office.”
More specifically, he’d be on the floor in his office, beneath the desk, grabbing a moment of sleep before heading out again.
He turned from the room, and the heated whispered exchange started once more behind his back. Someone had to stay behind and there were no volunteers.
It was nearly one in the morning, technically into day three of the hunt for a trace on Munroe and Logan, and they were running on empty: nerves strung a little tighter, edges a little sharper.
Bradford’s body couldn’t handle this lack of sleep crap the way it could eighteen years ago when he was twenty and king of the world.
He needed five minutes, ten, if he was lucky.
For a full day they’d stalked information, putting aspects of running Capstone on temporary hold to pore over gigabytes of data, tracking leads and cutting off dead ends—
tedious brain work, numerous phone calls, and the occasional in-person visit to pull records—
until what they had now was a short list of four valid possibilities, four locations where if Logan was being kept in Texas, they might actually find him:
a residential home, an office condo, a warehouse, and a transport company, all within the Dallas metro area. Might find him.
At this juncture, everything was a crapshoot, and this was the best they had.
Bradford threw a bedroll under the desk. Lay feet to the window, head to the darkness,
and before closing his eyes, he checked his phone, the same flick of the wrist he’d been making at ten-minute intervals throughout the day,
hoping against hope that either Munroe or Logan might have gained access to a phone, might have called, texted, or emailed, and somehow he’d missed the alert.
But nothing. He closed his eyes and opened them to Sam Walker’s feet.
From where she stood, he could see the bottom of the vests, one draped over each shoulder, and gripped in her right hand a backpack that held the war room’s ready stash of tracking and surveillance equipment.
The clock on his phone said fifteen minutes since he’d blinked.
“You awake?” Walker whispered.
Just enough of a hiss to ensure that even if he hadn’t been, he would be now.
“Yeah,” he said. “What’d you get?”
“Jack stays, I go.”
Bradford scooted out from under the desk.
“That so?” He turned his back to roll up the bed. “How’d you manage that?”
Walker sighed. “Two on, two off, and we break after dawn.”
Bradford nodded. “Does he have a shopping list?”
“He’s good with whatever we get.”
He handed her the Explorer keys. “You drive,” he said. “I’ll sleep.”
THE ARMORY WAS a war-room legend, on par with Bigfoot or the whispered rumors of Munroe’s ability to absorb languages.
Only a handful knew of its confirmed existence, and of those only Bradford and Jahan knew where it was or how to get inside.
The armory was just in case; it was hell-in-a-hand-basket, old habits die hard:
a collection that had steadily grown over the years in anticipation of a scenario in which he with the biggest guns wins.
Walker pulled the Explorer out of Capstone’s garage space, and Bradford recited the address.
She glanced at him with that look of hers but said nothing until they were off the 80, east of Dallas, a full thirty minutes from where they’d started.
She pulled off the access road to stop in front of a twenty-four-hour storage complex and nudged Bradford awake.
The cluster of cinder-block buildings sat back off the feeder road in an area of used-car lots and bodywork and pawn shops—
an area just derelict enough that the razor-wire fencing, powerful lights, and security cameras would have been necessary if they hadn’t already come as part of the package.
Bradford leaned over Walker, half planting himself in her lap to enter the gate code.
She held her breath. It seemed unfair that after days of burning the midnight oil, she still smelled human and lightly floral.
The fenced gate rolled open, and Bradford directed Walker through the maze of alleys between buildings to the rear of the complex and the front of a cinder-block ten-by-twenty leased in a fake name and registered to a fake business.
Bradford stepped out, keyed the padlock open, and lifted the reinforced door up on its rollers to the midpoint, then went in under and moved through the darkness to the left wall.
By touch he deactivated the alarm on a pad without a backlight.
If the door had passed the three-quarter mark, if he’d taken longer than forty seconds to get to the numerical pad, the storage unit would have filled with smoke and CS gas,
and the war room, so many miles away, would have been notified that the cache had been compromised and to stay the hell away.
Bradford raised the door the remaining distance, and Walker backed the Explorer as close to the opening as the limited width of the alley allowed.
The unit housed seven fireproof gun safes, chained together and lag-bolted to the concrete.
Bradford unlocked two. The fragrance of gun oil and metal overpowered the musk of dust from the storage space.
He paused to scan the contents, and Walker, guiding the flashlight for his benefit, let out a low whistle.
“Armageddon, much?” she said.
“Grab that duffel bag to your right, will you?”
She swung the beam just long enough to snag the canvas and toss it in his direction.
Paused and then also toed an empty plastic foot locker toward him. In the silence, it groaned, loud against the concrete.
Bradford stared at her. Shook his head and returned to a safe. Pulled the door wider so that she had a clear view of the inventory.
“Pick your flavor,” he said.
Walker pointed with the light. “One for me, one for Jack.”
Bradford unracked an MP5, ran the bolt, and handed the weapon to her. Did the same for the two he placed in the locker.
“And that sniper,” she said.
He followed the light to the lone M2010, his newest addition to the cache,
a tool that in the right hands had an effective range of 1,200 meters: agent of death from three-quarters of a mile away.
Walker didn’t have traditional military training, hadn’t gone through a conventional war that might look good on a private contractor’s brag sheet, or give him cause to hand over such a piece.
Instead she’d had her overly protective father who’d lived as a shooter for nearly two decades and treated her as if she was his only son.
Walker knew more about the art of sniping than some men who’d been hunting their entire lives,
and although Bradford wouldn’t risk putting her up against elite military, the jobs he ran typically didn’t require that level of skill.
She slid from the tailgate to take the rifle from him. Handled the piece with the same tenderness and admiration a mother would show a newborn.
Bradford collected the scope and bipod and passed them to her, then shut that safe.
Walker said, “What about plastics?” She wanted controlled explosion.
Bradford reopened the safe, grabbed several C4 bricks and the detonators. He raised them to her. “Good enough,” she said.
He added the explosives to the duffel bag, then locked the safes. She helped him lift the supplies into the Explorer.
Against everything his heart wanted, he would use what was left of the morning’s darkness to track Logan— not Michael, Logan.
Because Logan was here and Munroe was not, and if they were successful in rescuing Logan before the Doll Maker’s men finished him, it just might also be enough to save her.
Valon Lumani stood in front of the wall of dolls, hands behind his back and his focus entirely on Uncle, who sat studying papers.
In the thirty minutes since he’d been summoned, not once had Uncle acknowledged his presence.
He would stand here for a touch of acceptance, something to show that he had value in the eyes of the only father he could remember.
And he would stay silent, because to speak and be ignored, as if he was a ghost passing unseen and unheard among the living, would only reconfirm his worthlessness, and in that lay infinitely more pain.
So Lumani stood and waited, while the events of last night became his private movie and the whispers among the men the sound track,
words that filtered back to him as resentfulness, as accusations of favoritism, because for failure Uncle punished him with silence instead of taking flesh.
The men would never understand. For physical pain there were painkillers to last until the torment faded,
but for emotional pain there was only the perpetual numbing of drugs and alcohol: a weakness that served to emphasize his defects and bare the humiliation in his lack of perfection.
Physical pain would be preferable— far easier to block out and endure.
Time passed, Uncle shuffled more papers, while the actions that had forced Lumani to his knees rewound and played again.
Even after all his training, she had used him like a puppet to make a point to Uncle, had moved with speed so stunning he’d had no time to brace for it,
utilized surprise to lead to the hidden weapon that if he’d followed the warnings, he wouldn’t have carried.
In front of Uncle’s eyes, he had been humiliated, and he had failed.
The successful completion of his latest mission, the orchestration of perfection in Texas, all the history of success was now so far away— nothingness, erased like marks in sand on the beach.
The only thing that mattered was the moment, and the moment for him was failure.
Uncle paused from his papers to pet the silky hair of a nearby doll, his action distracted and peaceful in the same contented way an old woman might stroke a cat.
This had always been the way of the old man: love and attention lavished upon nonliving things while breathing flesh and blood held no space in his heart.
The door reverberated with a knock, and Lumani’s heart answered with its own beat.
He had been humbled last night by a woman, outsmarted in a way that none of Uncle’s men had ever managed.
He wanted what she had, even if she was only a woman, and that realization brought a touch of fear, and more, the rush of feeling alive.
The door opened. Lumani didn’t turn. The Michael woman stepped inside and Uncle glanced up from his papers, his expression transforming from indifference to a welcoming smile.
“My friend,” he said, and motioned for her to sit.
Hatred and jealousy crested over Lumani’s rush.
She, through no good thing, she, this woman, this disposable commodity that would be used and destroyed, had earned another smile that should have been given to him.
The woman sat, then slow and deliberate turned to look in his direction.
Without words she spoke to him, and without words said that she knew his thoughts, his prison.
He focused on the desk to ignore her, though his heartbeat quickened again.
If he could have, he would have gone to her now and forced her through her pain to allow him her secrets.
Instead, frustration and resentment seeped through his pores.
The movements of Uncle and the Michael woman seemed to set out in slow motion.
Uncle reached into a drawer for the car keys and GPS system, the map, the passports and car papers:
as transport, she was given full responsibility for the package, would be alone in the car with it.
More conversation until Uncle’s voice cracked through the mirror of oblivion and Lumani raised his eyes to find both Uncle and the woman staring at him.
His face flushed. He hadn’t heard the words, but he knew their intent, the purpose for which he’d been summoned,
and so he straightened, pulled the phone off his belt, and approached the woman. Offered her the phone, careful this time to keep a safe distance.
He would have liked to have read from her body posture that no strike was imminent,
but he hadn’t anticipated the attack in her last night and did not trust himself to properly gauge her now.
She took the phone and stared at him again, as if attempting to read him the way he had tried to read her.
Lumani, offering nothing, stepped back; she glanced at the phone and tapped the screen to play.
She wanted proof of life and they were happy to make sure the evidence was plenty, but no matter what Uncle had promised, live streaming wasn’t going to happen.
There was too much risk that Logan might, in some coded language, give away information that would aid her in circumventing well-laid plans, even from half a world away.
Lumani studied the woman for reaction, and as he had done, she offered nothing. Unreadable.
She raised her eyes to his when the clip ended and handed back the phone.
Uncle pushed the supplies in her direction and she considered them a moment before speaking.
“I want duct tape and a blanket,” she said, and when Uncle protested because none was at hand, she replied in his own words, “No drugs, no bruises.”
She would get what she wanted because Lumani would be tasked with making sure of it, though nothing in that regard was said here in this room.
The client was impatient and demanding. If they couldn’t deliver on his schedule, he would rescind his order,
or worse, up the stakes and create more hoops for them to jump through, else the doll would have to be terminated.
Uncle risked losing his investment, so therefore Lumani would provide and they would leave today,
even if it meant this afternoon, which would turn this delivery into a minimum two-day event.
Uncle spoke again, words of control, words of deterrence, to keep this woman from straying from the plan; every action had consequence, each delay a price.
He offered her another smile, a smile that made Lumani’s insides burn.
The Michael woman stood and Uncle handed her a cell phone. “This phone is your life,” he said. “Don’t lose it. Keep it on always.”
The phone was the line of communication through which they were tethered, the means through which she would receive instructions for each leg of the journey.
It was also bugged for sound and tagged for location so that they could electronically see and hear her always.
Should she choose to risk damage to Logan by pulling the battery, the car held similar equipment. But these things Uncle never mentioned.
Lumani, with his rifles, with his training, would be the one to ensure that she didn’t deviate from the plan, the one to report the moves upon which Logan’s life depended.