“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXVI – A Conversation

Kacie took stock of her situation. Her phone was gone and she’d dropped the bag of supplies before hiding in the cabinet; all she had left was her jewelry in her front pocket and the walkie talkie in her back one, covered by her shirt. The deck wasn’t exactly stacked in her favor. The gunman held his unwavering weapon on her the entire elevator ride down into the sub-basement, into the unknown as far as Kacie was concerned. She was caught  between 1,500 pounds of meth and 200 pounds of mercenary in a 10ft x 10ft metal cage. This wasn’t the time, place, or situation for heroics, so she took another approach.

“So what’s the plan now?” she asked.

If he was surprised by her demeanor, he didn’t show it. A slight smile curled up one side of his mouth. “I should probably kill you, for my partner’s sake and to cover my own ass,” he said with a tone that suggested he was considering it, but hadn’t decided one way or the other just yet. “You might still be useful.”

He shifted his injured hand into a more comfortable position; it was clear to Kacie that he was still favoring it. The elevator came to a rest and the doors opened with a ding. If Kacie had been hoping for the cavalry to arrive, which she most certainly had been, she was severely disappointed.

“You can start by pushing this cart where I tell you to,” the gunman said. He nodded once and waved her out of the elevator with the barrel of the gun. It took her a bit to get the heavy cart going, but he wasn’t about to help her. He kept the gun on her at all times. He guided Kacie on a path through the sub-basement’s maze of machinery: pumps, boilers, water-treatment tanks, furnaces, back-up generators, and mothballed equipment filled the unoccupied space. There was nothing here but hulks of metal and the occasional steel support beam. The walls were solid, impenetrable, no windows at all, and the solitary door was an emergency exit so rusted over that it looked like it hadn’t been opened in years. Kacie maneuvered the cart past it.

“If you so much as look at that door in a way I don’t like, I’ll shoot you in the back of the head,” the gunman threatened.

“Where would you like me to look, then?”

“Straight ahead will do just fine.”

Kacie pushed on, the emergency exit falling out of her peripheral vision as they ventured deeper into the shadowy recesses of the sub-basement. There was something about this place that didn’t mesh with the rest of Black C.A.S.T.L.E. The equipment jibed, but the bones of the facility’s foundation didn’t. It was almost as if this structure had existed long before the building that rested on it was even dreamed of. She knew Black C.A.S.T.L.E. but she didn’t know this place, and that made her nervous.

“So how long has Michael been making illegal drugs for you?” she asked, slowing her pace and keeping her tone conversational.

“Can’t say, exactly.”

“Can’t? Or won’t?”

The gunman gave a small chuckle. “Miss Lin, you should understand something: I’m a thief, not a killer, but I have no desire to leave loose ends. So whatever I tell you, it’s with the utmost confidence in the fact that you will not be able to tell another living soul.”

Kacie, undeterred, pressed on. “Pretty clever setup though, using a legitimate lab to mask the illegal synthesis of street drugs. And transporting them through the waste removal service was pretty ingenious.”

The gunman chuckled again. “I can’t take credit for the plan to make the stuff nor the one to transport it. I’m just here to steal it and sell it for pure profit to the highest bidder.” This time he laughed even louder at his own in-joke. “And when the real disposal team shows up tomorrow for the scheduled pick-up, they’ll have a tough time explaining to their bosses how $50 million in meth disappeared. Then again, all they have to do is turn on the news to see that their product has gone up in smoke. And by the time they figure it all out, I’ll be sipping caipirinhas on a beach in Rio.”

Kacie had reached the end of the line. Ahead of her in an alcove cut into the foundation wall was what looked like another freight elevator, except this one was had a sliding metal grate in front of it that had to be opened manually. The gunman did just that. Inside, on the floor, lay a pile of surgical scrubs topped with a face mask.

“What, are you some kind of modern-day Robin Hood, robbing from drug dealers?” Kacie asked. She had the feeling she was getting perilously close to the end of her usefulness. She could have made a run for it while the gunman was busy changing out of his burnt, reeking clothes and into the hospital scrubs, but he managed to keep the gun on her the whole time. Besides, there was nowhere left to run.

“Not really,” the gunman said. “The drugs will end up in the hands of some celebrity junkie or Ivy League kids or Wall Street traders, just the same as they would have if I hadn’t stolen them. The only difference is that I’ll be on the receiving end of the deal, one last big paycheck, a retirement plan, you might say.” A ding sounded from the other end of the sub-basement. Kacie wasn’t sure he’d heard it. She stalled a little longer.

“So what was the deal with that eco-terrorist nutjob and his plan to weaponize the plague? If you just wanted to steal drugs, why bother with the theatrics?”

“It was a smokescreen, but I think you’ve figured that out already. The Feds, however, are slower on the uptake They’ll waste time and resources dealing with a domestic terror threat that doesn’t exist but is sure to grab headlines and tax dollars, maybe even a congressional hearing or two. All the while, the real crime will be so buried under all that nonsense that it’ll be years, decades, before they even get a clue.” He paused, now fully dressed in scrubs and appearing every inch the hospital orderly, save for the drawn gun.

“As for Mulgrew, well, that guy is a real nut, through and through. But he was actually planning to do some very nasty things. We used him as a legitimate cover and had planned on putting a stop to him before he brought about the end of the world with his apocalyptic “Four Horsemen” nonsense. Luckily, you did that for us.”

“Again, why tell me all of this?” Kacie asked, having run out of questions at the moment.

“You’re in over your head, Miss Lin. Have been for a while. You drew the short straw when you decided to stay behind and complicate our plans rather than just let us be. So, I’m sorry, but you’re time is almost up.”

“I thought you were a thief, not a killer?”

“True, true. But the last member of our little party is almost here. He’s the cold-blooded killer type, and he hates loose ends even more than I do. So if you have any other questions, you should probably ask them now.”

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Image of PPG Place via Derek Jensen(Tysto), Wikimedia Commons
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