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HAVE YOU EVER FELT like you were being watched?
It’s a rather unique feeling and somewhat hard to describe. In fact, I don’t think that the feeling is the same for everyone. It’s just something you know, like deep down in your gullet, when it’s happening.
As I crept through the open farmland between where I’d parked my Scout and where the abandoned factory sat, the sense of being watched crawled over me like a hill of army ants. It was so intrusive that partway across I stopped and gave the surrounding area a good scan. But, as the light was quickly draining from the day, I couldn’t see squat. There could have been someone lounging in the dirt four feet from me and I probably wouldn’t have seen them.
But that didn’t stop me from trying.
I stood as still as I could, moving only my eyes, locking on various shapes in the field beyond me. I’d stare at a shape until my eyes watered, trying to catch movement, but coming up empty. Nothing stirred. Not for twenty minutes. Yet, I still felt eyes on me.
I’ve never liked that feeling, especially when I can’t see who, or what, has eyes on me. Makes me twitchy. I wanted to pull both my pistols and fire them off in every direction till I hit something.
But I didn’t.
Instead I tried my best to ignore the feeling and moved on.
When it comes to approaching what is most likely the secret lair of a group of psychotic fanatics, there are three schools of thought on how best to get inside without getting caught, captured, and then killed.
The first is the stealth approach. Use the cover of night to sneak up, take out any sentries as silently as possible, then use a lock pick or stolen key to get yourself inside.
The second option is to use trickery. Pose as a deliver person, meter reader, basically someone who belongs. Then, using said disguise and a cocksure attitude, talk your way inside. Actually, if you do it right, you won’t even need to talk.
I do things a little differently. I’m not all that sneaky, and I lie about as well as a cat in a canary costume trying to talk its way into a bird sanctuary.
I prefer to walk right up to the front door and force my way in — shooting, if necessary.
I didn’t want to do that here, however. I had to think about Maggie. If I walked up and just started shooting, the Brotherhood might jump the gun and kill her before midnight.
So I tried the stealth route.
Like I said, I wasn’t very good at it. Never have been. I can track a single squirrel across two hundred miles of forest; I just can’t do it quietly.
My feet found every stick, branch, and clump of dry grass as I made my way cautiously through the empty field. Basically, anything that made a noise, I stepped on it. I even managed to kick a sleeping cat that made the field its bed for the night. It hissed and yowled as it ran into the night.
Eventually I made it to the building. My plan of using stealth failed as I stepped nearer and walked into some type of motion sensor, causing all of the exterior lights to power up, bathing everything around the building in what was nearly daylight. I ignored the set back, but approached with a little more caution.
Then I hit my second roadblock. I couldn’t immediately find a way into the building. The south side was nothing but brick. The west side of the building was paved and wide. This was where the trucks would arrive and back into a docking area to unload. The docking area was there, but all of the doors had been removed and the opened spaces filled in with more brick.
I moved around to the front of the building, the north side, and finally found a door. Two doors, actually. They were glass and were mounted side to side. This would be the front entrance for visitors to the facility. I couldn’t see inside. Though the doors were glass, someone had covered them in black paint.
Then I noticed the camera. It was mounted just above the two doors. There was nothing on it that indicated if it was functional, most security cameras don’t come with the convenient red light on the front, but I had to assume that I was being watched.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.
But, I had Maggie to think of. The tracking spell was pulling me toward those glass doors. I had no choice.
I tested the door. It was unlocked.
I backed away. I didn’t like this at all. It had just occurred to me that there should be a bit more security here than motion activated lights and a solitary camera. Where were the guards?
Something screwy was going on and frankly, I smelled a trap. I was being guided here by the tracking spell, which should be taking me right to Maggie, but only if the hair that Anthony grabbed hold of had been her hair.
But still, I had to chance it. Besides, the best way out of a trap sometimes is to spring it.
I cleared leather on the left Peacemaker, and using my right hand, eased one of the doors open. I slid inside, the barrel of the pistol leading the way.
I found myself in a well-lit lobby with clean, new furnishings and freshly waxed wood floors. The door closed behind me, its closing arm quiet and smooth as it pulled the door shut. I heard a mechanical click as the door came to a stop. Curious, I reached out and pulled at the handle.
I was now trapped inside the building. That is unless I wanted to smash through the glass of the door, which I wasn’t above doing, but I wasn’t interested in getting out. Not yet anyway. Not without Maggie.
It was about this time that it dawned on me that I’d made a mistake. And a pretty big one to boot. In my hurry to find Maggie, I never updated Pat on my progress. She had no idea I was out here, locked inside an abandoned factory building.
I don’t carry a phone. Never have. I find them annoying and intrusive. I have a CB radio in the Scout, I could have gotten through to Pat with that, but again, in my haste it had slipped my mind. As I stood there facing those locked, glass doors, I started to re-think my phone prejudices. But then, whatever I decided wouldn’t do my any good now so I pushed it out of my mind.
I moved quickly around the room, taking everything in.
A desk stood just a half a dozen feet from the door in the center of the room and against the back wall. No one behind, or under it.
To the left of the desk was a couch and four chairs arranged around a coffee table, atop which sat a fan of magazines. They were all current.
There was a small table to the left of the couch and chairs. It held a coffee maker, four white mugs, sugar, sugar substitute, creamers of various flavors, and a few plastic spoons for stirring. The carafe was full and the power light glowed red. I touched the carafe and found the glass hot. The coffee was fresh. It smelled wonderful.
To the right of the desk was an unmarked wooden door with no window. The tracking spell pulled me toward it.
I left the door and sat behind the desk, which had nothing on it. No computer, no stapler, no little cup full of pens and pencils, and no phone. I checked the desk drawers and found each of them but one empty. The beep bottom drawer on the right contained one three by five index card. On it, written in thick black magic marker, was one word:
I pocketed the card and stood. I moved to stand about four feet away, but facing, the plain wooden door. From there I stood, waiting and listening.
I could hear nothing but the occasional car passing by outside on the highway. But then, in the silence between each vehicle I began to pick up a hum from somewhere beyond where I stood. I could feel it beneath my feet.
The tracking spell gave me a sharp tug. I wanted to give in and get moving, but I didn’t. I continued to listen. If there was anyone waiting for me beyond the door, then I was gonna see if I could wait them out. If they were there, they knew I was here.
Eventually they might grow tired of waiting for me to stumble on to them. They may start wondering what I’ve been doing out here for all this time. They might think that maybe I left, or fell asleep, or had a heart attack, or went crazy and ate my own feet. The possibilities were endless. Regardless, if I could wait them out, they might come looking for me.
If that happens, if that door opens, I start shooting.
That’s when I heard the scream. A woman’s scream. It had come from the other side of the door.
I rushed forward and kicked the door so hard that it flew off of its hinges and slammed violently somewhere inside the room beyond.
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