The last installment of Road Kill confirmed the thoughts of many on Ben Simpson. I wavered back and forth about whether to have him end up being a bad guy or a good guy. In the end, it made more sense to put him on the wrong side of things along with Donovan. It will be interesting to see what this will do to the remainder of the story. As I write this next piece, I am trying to stop myself from thinking too far ahead, but it’s time to start pulling all of the threads together into a coherent conclusion. Please enjoy Road Kill Part 25.
Road Kill Part 25
As we pulled into the strip mall where Jones and his partner, Frank Rozzani, had their office, we could see Jones nervously pacing in the lobby with a backpack slung over his shoulders and a duffle bag in his hand.
As he saw our SUV pull up, he emerged anxious to get in.
“Remind me to thank you guys,” Jones said. “I was hoping that somehow I’d be able to abandon my business and go on the road with a bunch of government crazies hurtling toward danger rather than my preferred direction of running away from it.”
“Your country thanks you,” Rafferty said. “Besides, if you stayed here, I couldn’t guarantee what might happen to you. Donovan has moved into the mode of shutting us down.”
“Which part of the country is thanking me? Is it the crazy part with the maniacal scheme and all of the power or the rogue part with the boy scouts that hope to thwart the maniacal scheme? Not much of a choice. Kind of like deciding whether to stick a fork in the top or the bottom electrical socket.”
Jones had a very good point. We were heading off to try to stop a plot that would change the world order forever. We were doing it with a very small group against someone with a daunting number of resources at her fingertips. Rafferty put it in perspective.
“We may be outnumbered, but we are on the right side. The United States has never been a country that conquers others and divides up their resources. When we defeated Japan and Germany during World War II, we stayed in those countries and helped them rebuild and recover making them some of our closest allies in the process. We didn’t annex their land or enslave their people. We can’t allow this to happen. If it does, it makes this country no better than other conquering dictatorships around the world.”
I could see Jones soften a bit. Rafferty’s statement gave us some context for how important what we were trying to do would be. Even if we didn’t succeed, we had to keep going forward and try to stop what was planned.
We finally got onto I-95 south just as darkness was settling in. It was a beautiful cloudless night. As we moved past Daytona Beach, I could see millions of stars above the dark highway as we moved through a more rural area of Florida. I asked Rafferty how long the trip would be.
“It’s about a five-hour drive. You might want to settle in and get some rest. I’m not sure how much sleep we’re going to get once we get there.”
I settled in to the seat, as did Jones, and spent the rest of the trip falling in and out of a napping state.
When I woke up, we were exiting I-75 in South Florida. We had apparently traveled all the way to Miami and we were following the infamous Alligator Alley that traversed the northern part of The Everglades.
The road was extremely dark and had a feeling of the swamps and vegetation of the area trying to overtake as it was barely held at bay so that vehicles could travel through this area. Occasionally, the headlights revealed a red pair of eyes just off the road that appeared to be standing watch making sure that no one encroached on the territory off the road.
After an hour or so of plunging into this protected area of Florida, Marcus turned the SUV off onto an unmarked gravel road. The vehicle seemed to be swallowed by the vegetation. I could see water and murk on either side of the road. There was only enough room for one vehicle.
“I assume you guys know where you’re going,” Jones said. “My trust tends to waver when someone takes me onto a dark road to nowhere.”
“We’re almost there,” was the curt response that Jones received from Rafferty.
I could feel the SUV slowing down as if in anticipation of a turn. When we made the turn, a set of solid-looking metal posts blocked our turnoff. The headlights also revealed a long line of barbed-wire fence, that appeared to be electrified, trailing off in either direction from the posts.
Marcus pressed a button on the visor of the SUV and the posts descended into the ground allowing the vehicle to pass down a paved driveway that was beyond it. We passed through a heavily wooded area that appeared to be much more trimmed than what we had passed previously. Then we suddenly emerged into a gigantic clearing that was filled by a gigantic one story concrete fortress that was minimally lit, but appeared to be extremely secure.
“Well, this is unexpected,” Jones said as we passed through a gate flanked by heavily camouflaged guards.
“And very useful. Even Donovan doesn’t have access to this place,” Rafferty said. “It is a secure military facility that is off the books. It’s often the base for special forces and other military black ops that plan and launch from here. You, Mr. Jones, are one of the few civilians to pass through these gates. I had to talk to some highly placed people to even allow you to come.”
“Yeah, I can feel the honor churning in my stomach,” Jones replied.
We approached an intimidating guard shack. As we came to a stop before the sturdy metal gate, three heavily-armed military guards approached the vehicle. Marcus rolled the window down and flashed some sort of identification card.
“We’ve been expecting you. We’re going to have to inspect the vehicle and then you can go in. I need to ask you all to exit the vehicle while we do this.”
We stood behind the vehicle along with the three armed guards. From out of nowhere, four additional guards emerged and began combing the vehicle with high-powered flashlights. One of the guards used a mirror at the end of an angled metal pole to thoroughly inspect the bottom of the vehicle.
Once the inspection was over, one of the the guards, who appeared to be the lead, approached Jones.
“You’re Clifford Jones, correct?” he asked.
“Yes I am,” Jones replied.
“I’m going to need your identification.”
Jones fished his Velcro wallet out of his board shorts and handed his Florida driver’s license over to the guard. The guard glanced at it and put it in his pocket. Jones looked at him expectantly.
“You’ll get it back when you leave. We aren’t used to civilians on this property. You’ll need to go through a full debrief before you leave.”
Jones glanced at Rafferty with a bit of concern.
“It’s standard operating procedure,” Rafferty said. “No need for concern.”
“How can it be standard operating procedure if no civilians ever come here?” Jones responded shaking his head.
“You’re cleared to go in. Admiral Baker is here waiting for you,” the lead guard said.
I was taken aback that the Admiral that oversaw the Southern Command of the U.S. Navy was here. Then I remembered that he was Rafferty’s mentor and was instrumental in helping him take down the terrorist behind the Carrier Dome bombing. It was encouraging that he was here and on our side.
Marcus maneuvered the SUV right into the warehouse. As we exited, a tall woman in Navy camouflage greeted us. She saluted Rafferty who returned her salute and then she broke into a big smile.
“It’s great to see you, commander Rafferty.”
“I’m glad you could make it Maria,” Rafferty said. “This is Maria Colluccio. She was instrumental in helping us gather intelligence in the Carrier Dome incident.”
Rafferty introduced us to his longtime colleague.
“The Admiral has been pacing and waiting for you to get here. You better get over to the office and see him,” Maria said.
We followed Rafferty across the massive warehouse space. There were rows of armored vehicles and heavy duty trucks, some of which were attached to trailers that had helicopters, their rotors folded for transport, mounted to them.
We ascended a small ramp to a row of offices. We eventually came to a wooden door with a glass panel reinforced with a panel of chain link. The word “Command” was stenciled on it. Rafferty knocked.
He opened the door and we followed him into the surprisingly large and well-appointed office. It was adorned with photographs of aircraft, sea and land vehicles from all branches of the military.
Seated behind a large desk made from heavy dark wood, was a uniformed man in his mid-fifties. As he stood, I could see that he was in incredible shape. He shook Rafferty’s hand and put his other hand on his right shoulder in a show of familiarity and affection. He motioned for us to sit at a six person conference table that was off to the side in his office.
“Well, I guess we need to have a talk. We’re almost all here,” Admiral Baker said as there was another knock on the door.
“Good, that must be our final strategic command team member,” Baker said. “Come in,” he said in a louder voice.
When the door opened, my stomach dropped to somewhere in my toes. Filling the door frame with a smug look on his face was Donovan.
He glanced around the room and then broke into the closest thing I had ever seen to a smile on his face.
“It’s great to see you all again,” Donovan said as he entered the room and took the remaining seat at the table.