Stan watched over his many monitors as the cameras on the BSL-4 level were blacked out with spray paint one by one. He could see the culprits; they weren’t exactly being sneaky about it. One was the hero bitch, one of the thousand Chinese or whatever grad students that came through this place. The other was Rick Benes, whom Stan Kijek had no problems with, it’s just that he’d mouthed off to Malanan and gotten a pretty good crack for it. Two, in fact. Stan didn’t think either man would let those slights stand. There would be trouble as long as both of them were around.
As his Eye in the Sky was in the process of being poked out, the first creeping sensation of doubt visited Stan in his guts. It was a sort of deep rumbling like undercooked chicken or bad Chinese–haha, bad Chinese, how ironic, Stan thought–that reminded him that, in spite of all their preparation, this was a contingency they hadn’t prepared for. And now at least two rogue agents were loose in the facility while Stan was rapidly losing control of the situation, and his bowels.
He radioed his team. “Malanan, what’s the status of Phase II?”
“In progress. No eyes on the package yet. Our inside man seems to have up and disappeared on us.” Malanan paused as if sensing that there was more to the hail than simple curiosity. “What’s the problem?”
“Those heroes, they’ve started blacking out cameras in the hallway with spray paint. They’re up to something. And with all the Feds swarming around outside, I can’t help but think that’s not good for us.”
If Malanan was frustrated, he hid it well. His voice was cool, even, almost as if this had been expected in conceiving one of his many possible plans.
“We can’t move our timetable up that far; we’ve been pushing it as it is. Do what you can to stall the Feds.” There was a moment of hushed conversation. Stan felt a shift in gravity over the otherwise empty airwaves. Something very heavy had just passed between the two men on the other end of the walkies. “As for our heroes,” Malanan continued, “Strong will take care of them. Over and out.”
That crawling feeling in Stan’s guts didn’t exactly subside, it just switched places with a different fear. Malanan was smart, calculating, ruthless when he needed to be, like in letting Mulgrew and West play the patsies so that his more ambitious plan could be pulled off without anyone knowing the wiser. Stan knew it was in Malanan’s best interests to keep the old Polish guard alive at least until they’d split the take and gone their separate ways. Strong, however … there was a man who was good at killing and also happened to enjoy it. Maybe he was so good at it because he enjoyed it. Whatever the reason, setting that dog loose in the facility had been a last resort as far as Stan was concerned. And now that he’d been blinded, he’d never see Strong coming.
So when Stan Kijek hailed the FBI’s Agent Johnson with another fabricated message from the terrorists, it was with an earnest edge of terror in his voice that he spoke.
“Agent Johnson, please listen closely. I’m going to read another statement from the terrorists in their words:
“We are willing to give you the names of seven hostages so that you might inform
their families that any failure on your part to comply with our orders will result in their loved ones’ deaths.” He rattled off a list of first names only.
Let them have fun wasting time on corroborating names and tracking down relatives, Stan thought. He continued.
“If you attempt to cut the power, we’ll kill a hostage. It would be futile anyway since this facility has a redundant connection to the electrical grid and enough fuel to run the backup generators for 72 hours.
“If you attempt to breach this facility from any door, window, wall, floor, or ceiling, we’ll kill a hostage. And your men would also be risking a full-on pandemic.
“If you do not free our brothers and sisters held unjustly and without cause by the corrupt state, we’ll kill the hostages. Here is a list of those to be freed into our custody.”
Stan read from a list of names he’d never heard of in his life. The list had been given to him by Mulgrew, so Stan had incorporated it as another puzzle piece connecting this Four Horsemen nonsense to Mulgrew and his disciples. Plus, it would chew up significant time and resources on the outside, which is what Stan needed at the moment.
“And when we kill these hostages, we’ll kill them in pieces and broadcast the process for the world to see, all because you failed to follow our simple instructions. It doesn’t have to be that way, unless you force our hand.
“That’s it, Agent Johnson,” Stan said, breathlessly. He was done acting for the moment, but the final curtain call had not yet arrived. He had one performance left to turn in and, if it wasn’t the best damned performance of his life, it would surely be the last.