This is where I'm posting excerpts as I'm going along, so keep in mind that everything on this page is Rough Draft. --G
The Angel in the Rock
l'Histoire Secrete des Anges
"Nichols, this is Dillon, come in Nichols."
"I read you, Dillon. What did you see?"
"Sir, the truck was totally empty. I've come around the side of the house."
"Can you see anything through the windows?
"Yes, sir. There are three men walking around. They seem to be waiting for something."
"Are they armed?"
"Yes, sir. Each one appears to have a pistol in a belt holster."
"Can you see what they're guarding?"
"Not that I've seen yet, sir. I'm going to go around the corner and try for another view."
"Affirmative. Roberts, follow him and watch his back."
"Roberts here. I copy that."
"Good. Let me know what you see, Dillon. Nichols out."
"Yes, sir. Dillon out."
I pointed at the screen. A small dot was circling the house counter-clockwise.
"Sir, this is Dillon. I've rounded the corner and am now looking in on what appears to be the kitchen."
"There are two more men in the kitchen, both armed. They seem to be guarding a door, maybe the door to the basement."
"Good work." There was a muffled bit of conversation, which sounded like Nichols was conferring with either Mason or Allen, one of the two men he'd brought with him. "All right, Mason and Allen and I are going to go around to the external entrance to the root cellar and try to enter that way. Dillon, you keep watching that door and let me know if we're detected."
"Yes, sir. Dillon out."
On the laptop screen, three tiny dots moved around to the side of the house. They huddled there for a minute, not moving.
"Dillon, Roberts, we've cut the lock and are about to attempt entry. Stand by."
I felt a sudden pressure on my arm. I looked down to find Vicky's hand gripping my sleeve. I put my hand over hers and went back to watching the screen.
A minute passed, then two.
"Dillon, Roberts, Mason and Allen have achieved entry." Nichols' voice was very, very quiet, almost a whisper. "I'm going to guard the entrance. Allen, what do you see?" "We're standing in a long, narrow hallway, sir. There's a turn at the end, and there's light and noise coming from around the corner."
"Mason, go to the end of the hall and check it out. Allen, I want you to stay where you are and cover him. Mason, do you copy?"
"Yes sir, Mason here. I'm almost to the end of the corridor. I'm looking now."
There was a moment of silence. Vicky's fingers dug deeper into my arm.
"Sir, there would appear to be ten men, all engaged in some form of ritual." His voice was strained. "They're standing in a circle, and they're wearing masks and dark purple robes."
"Purple robes, Mason?"
"Yes, sir. They could be very dark red. The light's pretty bad."
"Any sign of prisoners?"
"There's someone lying in the middle of the circle, sir. It looks like they're naked, and they're not moving."
"Christ! Does it look like..."
"What is it, Mason?"
"One of them just pulled out a knife! It looks like they're headed for the guy in the middle "
"Mason, Allen, silencers on, move in! Now!"
"Yes, sir!" There was a loud burst of static. "You! Hold it right there!"
Another agonizing moment of silence passed. I exchanged glances with Michael, whose face had gone completely white. I expected mine was pretty much the same.
"Sir, this is Allen. Mason and I have the group covered. The man in the middle is dead. Sir, it's Jacobs."
Vicky let out a huge sigh of relief.
"Wait a minute," Jack demanded. "Who's Jacobs?"
"Got me," I replied. "Maybe it was the driver they kidnapped."
"Shhh!" Vicky hissed.
"Goddamn it," Nichols was saying. "All right, bind and gag each one of them. Dillon, any sign the guys upstairs are onto us?"
"Okay. Allen, start unmasking those guys. See if they're anyone we know."
"Jesus wept," Jack said. "I wonder who these guys are. Satanists? Masons?"
Michael snorted. "Masons don't engage in ritual sacrifices."
Jack cocked an eyebrow at him.
Suddenly the speakers roared with static, punctuated with what sounded like loud handclaps. "This is Allen, Mason's down, repeat, Mason's down, we are exchanging fire!"
"This is Dillon, the upstairs is alive, they're coming down!"
"This is Roberts! The doors just opened, and Dillon's been spotted! We're returning fire!"
"This is Nichols, everybody out, now! Dillon, Roberts, get back to the truck!"
"Jesus Christ!" I cried.
"What do we do?" Vicky asked.
Jack swallowed. "There's at least five baddies upstairs and ten more downstairs, we've only got stun guns, and it sure sounds to me like they're using live ammo in there."
"Look!" Vicky cried, pointing at the monitor. The tiny dot that had been Dillon was now lying still on the yard. Another dot had emerged from the bushes and was slowly making its way toward the house.
"What the hell...?" Jack said. "That doesn't look like someone in much of a hurry!"
"Oh, God," I said quietly. "I think that's Roberts. I think Roberts just took out Dillon."
Vicky's eyes widened. "But if Roberts is working with the kidnappers, who else do you think...?"
Suddenly the radio blared to life again.
"Allen, this is Nichols what the hell's going on in there?"
"Save yourself, sir get out of here, now!"
"Negative! I'm coming in!"
"Goddamn it, sir, get back to the fucking truck!"
"Get down, Allen, I'm coming around the corner... What the hell? Mason?"
The transmission cut off with a loud bang.
"What was that?" Jack cried.
I didn't even stop to think. "Everybody, give Michael your flash-bang cartridges!" I pointed at Vicky. "Vicky, start the car and keep it running. Jack, try and grab Dillon off the lawn, if he's alive. Michael, come with me and load those flash-bangs into your gun we're going in for Nichols!" I threw open the car door and began running across the lawn.
A second later Michael caught up beside me. "You know what's going on?"
"Nichols and Dillon were double-crossed," I yelled back. "Mason, Allen and Roberts were all in on it Roberts shot Dillon from the bushes and then headed into the house. Mason and Allen, that nonsense about a ritual was just a show for Nichols! I'll bet you there wasn't anybody in that basement Nichols was supposed to come back and lead us on a wild goose chase after some cult, but they shot him when he wouldn't take off!"
"So what do we do now?"
"I'm betting Nichols left the cellar door open for a quick escape. You and I are going to run down there, and you're going to fire one of those flash-bang cartridges over my head every five seconds. If I close my eyes every fifth second, with luck we'll keep them blinded long enough for me to run in, grab Nichols and get out!"
We sprinted across the lawn and headed for the cellar door, which was standing wide open. A few muffled voices drifted up from inside. I looked at Michael.
"You ready for this?" he whispered.
"God bless the first-person shooter," I hissed back, then jumped into the cellar. My landing was a lot louder than I'd expected.
"What was that?" Allen's voice came from around the corner. Shit.
Then Michael landed behind me, and in one smooth motion he brought his pistol up and fired the first flash-bang at the end of the hallway. I closed my eyes and ducked my head, but the explosion was still like a huge firework going off at close range. I shook it off and ran for the end of the hallway, with Michael following close behind me. When we got to the turn at the end, I saw that I'd been right.
There were no men in robes. The basement was empty except for eight men standing and two lying on the ground. Allen, Roberts and Mason were all holding their guns at the ready but blinking blearily around them. Beside them were the five guys that Dillon had seen through the upstairs windows, who also had their pistols drawn but were obviously still blinded from the flash. On the ground were Nichols and another man in a security uniform. It looked like Allen and Mason had been at least been telling the truth about Jacobs, judging by the round, red hole in the middle of his forehead. Nichols, though, was clutching his knees and rocking back and forth.
I took all this in without stopping. I came around the corner, glanced around and sprinted around the edge of the room before firing my first shot. When they returned fire, I didn't want any of it to be leveled at Michael. When I was standing behind one of the thugs, I fired my first shot over his shoulder, right at Roberts' nose, then ducked and ran.
Impossibly, the ruse worked. The others returned fire blindly, spraying bullets across the room where I'd been just a heartbeat before. The thug never knew what hit him. He hit the floor just as Michael fired the second flash-bang canister, right at the ceiling in the middle of the room. I ducked my head and covered my ears, but the second blast only compounded the ringing still in my ears. I almost felt sorry for these bastards. Almost.
I ducked and ran again, this time firing two shots right at Allen and Mason. There was a flurry of bullets, followed by two more screaming bodies hitting the floor. There was blood everywhere. My stomach heaved. Fuck the critics, I thought to myself as I gritted my teeth. This is nothing like the movies or a videogame. Nothing.
The distraction from that thought was what screwed everything up. My count was off by a fraction of a second, just enough time for the third flash-bang to go off an instant before I thought it would. I closed my eyes just a heartbeat too late, but the damage was done I was blind.
Instinctively, I dropped to the ground and scrambled for where Nichols had been a second ago. I tried to crawl towards a spot that had been empty a second ago, but slammed into the back of somebody's legs. There was a cry, followed by a shot; it brushed by my shoulder and thudded into the ground a hair's breadth from my left hand. I glanced up. Just enough of my sight had returned to make out the shape of the guy. I jumped to my feet and delivered a single powerhouse uppercut to the guy's jaw. He went down, and I dove after him just as the bullets flew. Two more bodies fell. There were now only two guys left standing, Mason and Roberts. They were both clutching their faces with blood running from between their fingers. It looked like my aim wasn't bad at all for a beginner.
"Hold your fire!" Mason's muffled voice barked from overhead. "Hold your goddamned fire!"
"Hold this," I muttered, and fired my last bullet right at his crotch.
"Pi?" Nichols groaned incredibly. I crawled towards his voice as Mason hit the ground screaming.
"Can you walk?" I yelled in Nichols' ear.
"No," he barked. "They shot me in the knees!"
I turned to Michael, intending to get him to help me carry Nichols out. The last of my sight returned to show me Michael leveling his gun right between my eyes.
"Down!" Michael yelled.
I dropped to my knees as Michael fired the last flash-bang cartridge. I felt a small breeze tousle my hair as it whistled over my head, then a sharp scream cut through the air as the cartridge caught Roberts, who had been about to fire straight into my back, directly in the face. The last explosion of light and sound were joined by the sharp, acrid smell of something burning. We didn't stick around to see it. Michael dashed over and grabbed Nichols' feet, and together we ran for the cellar doors.
We emerged onto the lawn and ran back to the car as quickly as we could with a big bleeding guy between us. Jack was holding the car door open, and an unconscious Dillon was propped up in the front seat beside Vicky, who was gunning the engine.
"Come on!" Jack yelled.
Nichols bit off a sharp groan as we shoved him into the back seat and jumped in beside him. Jack climbed in next to Dillon, and we took off down the snow-covered road and into the sunrise.