Derek waited on the gravel road for the police to arrive. The change in temperature was affecting his movements. The weather was cold in Virginia compared to Los Angeles. His raincoat wasn’t quite warm enough.
The estate was outside Williamsburg on the York River. The owner recently redid the road into the estate. There were tall trees surrounding the property which showed their leaves turning gold and red. The house looked like a veritable white fortress with huge pillars out front. He wondered how old the house was. The structure’s age was hard to tell. His other investigator, Brandon Keller, was with him, because Rhonda Peters took another assignment for Derek. She would be off that assignment in about two days.
The police arrived and blocked the road.
“Hi, I’m Derek Wright and my partner, Brandon Keller, are here courtesy of the Los Angeles police. We have interest in the owner of the estate. There is a woman who currently goes by the name of Kendra Brooks living in the estate. We believe that is not her real name, but then, we don’t know her real name. We call her Snake woman, and she is wanted around the world for numerous crimes. She is sought out by us for questioning regarding a murder in Fontana and Los Angeles, California. The Miami police also would like to talk with her about a murder at a salon.”
The police detective extended his hands to Derek.
“I’m Harry Jenkins, the one in charge of the case in Virginia. We do have our search warrant but are not sure the owner is home. There is a man and woman who are caretakers staying at the house. They occasionally go boating. We have notified the inland waterway patrol and coast guard in case we need their help tracking down their high-speed boat. We don’t know the names of those two people. Here comes the rest of my team. Let’s start the process.”
“Great, we’re ready to get this over and done,” said Brandon. He shivered, turning up the collar on his jacket. Brandon put on his leather gloves.
Two police cars accompanied Derek’s vehicle and they parked in the large parking area a hundred feet from the house. Approaching the door, Harry knocked on the large double wooden doors and then used the brass knocker and hit the doorbell. They couldn’t hear any commotion inside and no one answered. Harry motioned his man to unlock the door with his special tools. Harry, two of his policemen, Derek and Brandon went inside the home.
The house contained a minimum of furniture on the first floor. The kitchen was almost empty of food. Derek wondered if anyone even lived here. Harry and his men went upstairs. Derek and Brandon walked down a long hallway toward the back of the house to what looked like a library. The doorbell triggered a clock within the home, unknown to the visitors. The something was a timebomb.
Pushing one of the library’s double panel doors aside, Brandon stepped inside as did Derek with the other door. They heard the tick-tock sound. Then the clock stopped. Derek and Brandon stopped. The hesitation of the clock might be a problem. Two gunshots rang out. Derek and Brandon staggered backward.
Derek saw Brandon was still standing. The man was bent over. Derek scrambled behind the sofa inching closer to Brandon. He didn’t see any wires. Next, they heard two shots upstairs. There was no one in the library, just two guns set up to fire when a wire was tripped. Derek saw the wire. There could be more and much more. They were all in danger.
Derek was reminded of Minnow Surf’s marijuana farm that blew in Nevada. He yelled, “Back out, the whole house is rigged. Back out now.”
They heard the men running down the stairs and they all ran toward their vehicles. Derek and Brandon reached the back of their vehicle first and then the other policemen were helping Harry, who appeared to be shot also.
Derek swore, “Man, that hurts.”
Harry choked out his words, “Tell me about it.”
Brandon was hit in his gun hand and looked white. The hands were always sensitive. Derek opened the back-vehicle hatch and told the two men to sit down. Derek decided that he needed to do was sit as well. Ambulances were summoned and fire trucks.
Ten minutes went by and they could hear the sirens in the distance coming to help them. Derek knew he couldn’t call his wife, Jess. She would be on the first plane out and he couldn’t have her anywhere near the premises. He called Rhonda to get on the next plane from Los Angeles. He hung up and the ambulance was at the end of the road when the first bomb went off. The sound appeared to be in the location at the back of the house near the library.
A helicopter flew close to the house and made sure the men were outside a minute before the blast.
Five minutes passed, and the ambulance took Harry and Brandon to the hospital. A second ambulance turned the corner when two more bombs went off, levelling the old estate. Derek was taken to the hospital.
The firemen waited for three hours and let everything burn before they approached the structure. They wanted to be sure the bombs were done. The bomb squad arrived to sift through the mess as soon as the water spray cooled things down. The area wouldn’t cool down until the next day because there was a basement to the structure. The basement was full of the upper floor debris. A bucket truck and grader were called in to level an opening. A fireman saw a steel door at the left side of the house.
Around midnight, Rhonda approached Derek’s room at the hotel. She politely did her signature knock so that he would know who was there.
Derek opened the door to let her in. He changed his bloody shirt for another one, but his bandage was already leaking a little. Rhonda helped him remove the shirt. She went into his bathroom and brought out a large towel and wrapped around him. She went over to the bar and opened the small refrigerator with the hotel key. After pouring him a glass of whiskey, she opened her water.
“Well, this is a very deep mess you have stepped in. I guess Snake woman was more prepared than we thought. We’ve not seen her use this setup. I’m thinking her two employees had some influence on her party. I called the fire department and they did pry a basement steel door open. Guess what they found in the dark?”
Derek shook his head. The burn marks around his wound were stinging. He didn’t have a clue. The pills were finally working, and he put more salve under the bandage area. The hospital didn’t want to discharge him until he assured them that he would go to the emergency room to get his bandage changed in the morning. They didn’t like his tough guy attitude. Rhonda, as one of his co-workers, was worse than his wife. She informed him that he should been smart and stayed at the hospital. She wasn’t cutting him a break.
“There was a new cement tunnel that went under the entrance road and exited out by the culvert.”
Derek remembered the location of the culvert. That was the reason for the new road, an escape route. The woman could buy anything she pleased. Her money and contacts made it difficult to catch her.
“I called the police station and the powerboat disappeared. The police watching the boat left their station when the house blew the second and third time. That is when they took off. The coast guard is looking for the boat and any occupants as we speak.”
Derek told her that he wanted to see the tunnel in the morning after checking in with the emergency room. Next, they would visit with Brandon and Harry. Rhonda agreed and went directly to her hotel room. She called her husband, Skid, to let him know she arrived. She couldn’t tell him about the investigation other than the players were marginally and stubbornly fine. Skid received the message.
Derek called Jess and calmed her down. He asked her to take their yacht out as soon as she could with their daughters. He would call the Cortez brothers for extra security for their son who was visiting in Miami. Jess was familiar with the security drill.
The next morning, they would find a second tunnel which was something built around the civil war days to hide slaves and favored troops. The second tunnel exited into a hill which housed a newer structure. This building contained a movable roof allowing a helicopter the ability to lift off.
Derek and Rhonda figured Snake woman made her escape that way. The bombs were timed giving her the minutes she required for escape through the narrow tunnel. She rode a special, newly-designed bike that had no spokes, but lighted wheels which would help her see in the dimness of the tunnel. The bike was extremely lightweight and easy to steer. The rubber on the tires was like a dirt bike for traction on the hard-packed earth.
“She may have made her way through the tunnel in five to six minutes, especially if she did practice runs with the bike. I believe she rode this path daily for exercise, because she needed to make sure the helicopter was safe. Once she was at her destination, the timers kicked in. The doorbell set off the clock and we met the guns. She must have walked the theatrical set like we did to make sure of exactly where you boys might be standing.”
“How did she know we would ring the doorbell?”
Rhonda looked at Derek.
“Call it woman’s intuition. The ensuing gunfire and our confusion were her cover to exit the grounds permanently. The tall trees camouflaged the blades on the helicopter as she flew close to the tree line beyond the hill. She probably flew under those high wires. That shows expert skills, because I know that I wouldn’t even attempt the move. She plays dangerously close to death. We have those words in her profile, if you recall.”
“Yes, I do remember. You must give her credit; the plan was a perfect escape. Besides skill, she is very brazen and amazingly talented. I wouldn’t fly my helicopter under those wires either. She flew directly over us, knowing we put our guns down. We believe she survived a plane crash into the ocean some time ago, so she’s like a cat with nine, dare-devil lives. Her ability to find escape in difficult situations is phenomenal.”
Rhonda said, “Because the helicopter flew close to the house, she was able to set off the first bomb via a remote device. I’ll bet the rest were set to a timer sequence. Snake woman made sure you were out before she blew her house. Chaos major. The question is why?”
Derek wouldn’t be so stupid next time. He rubbed his lower left side where the bullet hit. The spot was very sore, much like his temper.
He didn’t want to be reminded of Snake woman’s perfect plan. He didn’t think she was a cat.
“No, she didn’t belong to those beautiful creatures. The woman was a thing, a robot, or freak of nature.”
He remembered the waves in the Atlantic when he and his wife, Jess, chased after sunken treasure. A calm sea could churn into a nightmare of waves. Snake woman was the wind causing the storm surge.
“A large wave always crests and falls. She is currently on the upside. We will catch her coming down.”
Rhonda nodded. She worried the woman would make it to shore on some other newly-designed device. High tech was entering this game of cat and mouse.
“I find her use of guns interesting before making the great escape. Snake woman sent another warning? I like your wave idea. Let’s hope she doesn’t hurl a volcano at us. Then we’ll be facing a tsunami.”
Rhonda found the second steel door behind a bookcase in the burned house which held canned goods. Rhonda identified the location of the hidden release when she started moving the smoky glass jars with paralyzed macaroni in them. She didn’t like macaroni much, hence the name.
Rhonda didn’t know anyone who put macaroni and spaghetti noodles in glass jars especially since they came in a nice box. There were no jars of canned spaghetti sauce, just large cans of tomato sauce.
Snake woman didn’t appear to be a woman who enjoyed cooking in the past. Tomato sauce was bland without spices. It was odd which made her more curious. Rhonda would find the garden behind the house with vegetables and massive mounds of herbs. The woman obviously took some classes and knew how to cook or hired excellent chefs. She would add this information to her profile.
She lifted the rest of the cans of artichokes and capers to another shelf. Rhonda found the electronic door opener under a large empty can. The bottom was missing but the label was intact. The closure button was in the same spot on the other side, again covered by a fake can.
“Clever design. Cheap, but functional.”
There were oxygen masks and tanks if needed to traverse this tunnel of three hundred yards. They could see where she worked to enhance the structure with new pretreated timbers to keep the older structure from collapse. There were additional metal attachments and an occasional heavy girder at each end. They found new vents in the large yard disguised with a top layer of grass. The vents were impossible to see from the house or the air. An entire new sprinkler system was in place to keep things watered and hidden.
“Nice rabbit hole,” commented Rhonda.
They both knew the helicopter would not be found. The item was already in parts and probably was up for auction on the black market.
Derek contemplated and told Rhonda, “The black market is where we will find her.”
Rhonda looked alarmed. “There are too many of those types of places. The odds of finding her game in the underground are a million to one.”
Derek laughed. “That’s quite a number, but you have to remember that Jess will enter the game. She will secretly pursue this woman behind my back. She won’t be afraid of a tsunami. Therefore, I need you and the other girls to become my ally. Whatever my wife is up to, you will need to figure out a way to join her.”
“You want me to act as an infiltrator to protect and defend your wife?”
“Yes. This game is the worst we’ve ever encountered. Jess could get hurt. I know she flies too close to the wire.”
Derek clicked the remote for the building retractable roof and clicked the thing again to reclose it, shutting out the sky. He could imagine the snake woman’s face as she lifted off to freedom, leaving the police behind. The police and Derek’s team were gnats to her. The woman didn’t need to look backwards at the ruin. She had done this same act before.
“Whatever it takes, I want Jess to be safe. She goes way beyond in her eagerness to catch the criminals. I’ve been protecting her my whole life. This time, I do need help.”
“I get that. I’ll talk with Tami and Tiare to see what type of force we can bring to the table.”
Derek disgustedly threw the remote on the table and took off his gloves.
“I also want Snake woman. The cost will be high, I’m afraid.”
Rhonda saw Derek’s deadly calm expression. She knew a storm was coming. The sun was setting into a brilliant fire from the low setting clouds. She worried about what was headed their way. A frown crossed her face. Skip would worry about her getting that close to the Snake woman, her evil tricks, and heavily-controlled spheres of influence.
Privately, she said, “Think, girl, where is our badass culprit hiding?”