“We really should get out of this room,” Genius tells Amy Lindsay. He anxiously scans the office. “But there are guards at the door who will likely slow us up, and I don’t want to get caught out in the hallway, when that happens!”
“When what happens?”
“When the bomb detonates.”
“The bomb set to blow up the shipment of bird flu that Captain Valdez thought he’d bought in secret on the black market.” He checks the wall shared by the room
where Amy had been held captive. “I’d really like to have at least another wall between us and the bomb when it goes off. It’s in the next room. Two bombs, actually,” he amends. “One set to blow open the crates and expose the remaining vials, then another bomb set to destroy them. Going to make quite a mess.”
“Set to go off when?”
As a beeping erupts from his watch, Genius repeats, “Set to go off when? In less than sixty seconds.
With exasperation Amy asks, “Why didn’t you say so in the beginning?” She steps over Valdez, quickly finds a small niche in the wall that opens the secret spring loaded door leading to the adjoining room. “You want another wall? Will this one do?”
Genius grins. “You are a goddess.” He steps toward the door, then pauses to turn and spit on the unconscious body of Valdez. “No one’s that good an actress, huh? You son of a - ”
Amy shoves him down toward the trick door. “I keep forgetting fan is short for fanatic.”
“He’s going on The List,” Genius insists, referring to the list of critics and others who the Alcomist Club felt showed her insufficient homage. While never quite precise about what evil was to befall those on The List, the ‘bad luck’ suffered by those on it defied statistical probability.
Even before Amy clears the closet Genius is pushing at the room’s single window. “Nailed from the outside,” he announces, joining her beside the bed. He consults his still beeping watch.
“The bed!” Amy realizes. “Get under the bed.”
“Right,” Genius starts bending, then straightens and smiles wide.
“Of all the commands I dreamed of you giving me concerning a bed, getting under one was never one of them.”
Eyes rolling, Amy grabs his arm and pushes him toward the floor. “I’m sure its not the first time a married woman has said this to you, but: Quick! Get under the bed!” As he complies, she grabs the mattress and wedges it under the bed. “Will this help protect us?”
“Couldn’t hurt,” Genius says, and they struggle to wrap it around themselves.
He chuckles and notes, “Good thing this is a Cheating Wife bed.”
“A Cheating Wife bed?”
“Lots of room for a lover to hide when hubby comes home early.”
“You sound like an expert.”
Amy shakes her head as much as their cramped position allows. “There is no way Louisa was too weird for you. No way.”
The watch beeps and whines.
A distant ‘THARUMPH’ precedes a slight bit of shaking. As the explosions erupt, Amy stares with disappointed. “That wasn’t so -.”
“Wait for it.”
A protective arm around Amy’s neck draws her face close to Genius’ heaving chest.
The world bellows and crashes in on them.
A coughing sound scratches Amy’s ears. After a moment, she realizes these sounds are her coughs. She blinks against a swirl of smoke and dust and fans her
hands to shoo the dust and smoke from her face.
She realizes her hands should be hitting Genius. A rush of dust into her throat chokes off an attempt to call out his name.
She barely registers the sensation of movement. Through the dust, a hand has appeared to pull away the mattress. She recognizes the OBG watch on the wrist of Genius. Amy snakes after the mattress. Once clear of the bed, hands lift her and beat her back purple. Amy catches her breath and pushes away the well-meaning hands.
Amy squints through the settling dust and dissipating smoke. Two of the room’s walls stand intact, the north and south. But the east and west walls display massive holes. The blast has come through the office next door, and above through their hiding place. In the direction of the office, she sees straight through to four or five rooms, almost the entire length of building. The furthest wall remains intact, to a cafeteria it appears, as bodies and tables lay in jumbled heaps.
Captain Ramirez and Valdez are no where to be seen, but, as she turns, Amy sees the large oak office desk, having punched a massive hole in the wall, laying upside down in a large, open courtyard.
Genius catches her attention by gently grasping her chin and turning it to face him. “Are you okay?”
Genius holds up a hand to quiet her. In quick pantomime, he conveys that the blast has affected their hearing. Covering her ears Amy mouths: ‘For how long?’ Genius shrugs. With further pantomime he indicates she should walk with her hands behind her back, and he would act like a guard escorting her.
Stepping through the hole they see a large hacienda to the left. Their adobe building is part of a ‘U’ shaped complex that looks surrounded by desert.
With wrists held behind her and a guiding hand from Genius on her arm, they stroll out of the compound. A fifteen minute walk ends where Genius has stashed his copter.
Two hours later finds them in a hotel in Acapulco, fed, cleaned, and with Amy planting herself in front of Genius and demanding to know what was REALLY going on.
“Okay, Goddess,” he agrees. “Fair is fair. Give me a moment.” Closing the laptop he had been busily typing on at the coffee table since their arrival, Genius stands from the couch and walks over to the balcony to stare out the balcony’s glass door at the lights of Acapulco.
After a minute he returns and waves for Amy to take his place on the couch. He remains standing.
“The Hollywood Operational Team branch of the Bureau for Anti-Terrorism Bounty Enforcement is almost strictly a ‘courier’ operation. Very few are asked to become field agents, and even fewer become one.”
“I was beginning to suspect that.”
“It isn’t from a lack of talent or skill. We’re just not willing to risk the emotional damage to the country if some of their favorite entertainers start getting killed off.” He spreads his hands. “On the other hand, there is a war on terror going on, not just radicalized Muslims in the Middle East, but others all over the world. And, we can’t ignore the assets that actors with certain skills can bring to that fight.”
“Like me?” Amy asks, hoping to sound confident, not merely hopeful.
Genius sighs. “That’s what we’ve been trying to determine. So far -.”
“Okay, wait. Who’s ‘we’?”
“B.A.B.E. and the Alcomist Club.”
“So, the Alcomist Club is really not a fan club after all?”
“Oh, no. We definitely are a fan club. You are Our Blonde Goddess. In fact, you were that long before we hooked up with B.A.B.E. When we began to talk among ourselves at the forum, we discovered common interests, occupations, backgrounds.”
“Like backgrounds in intelligence work? You and Captain Ramirez seemed to have encountered one another before.”
“A couple of times, actually.” Genius recalls with a smile. “But I can neither confirm nor deny that.”
“One of those many alphabet agencies in our government?”
“I repeat my previous answer.”
Amy relents. “Okay, I won’t push it.”
“Like I said, few have been chosen. For security reasons, I can’t tell you which ones actually made the cut.”
“But I can tell you there is a ‘process’. It includes assignments both real and staged. It involves evaluations and reports and recommendations. You’re not supposed to know this. Not as its happening, and not that it ever took place if you eventually fail.”
“But you’re telling me now. Why?”
“Because we’ve come across an extraordinary bit of information that’s more than a bit puzzling. And, frankly, scares the hell out of me.”
“That a South American assassination cult called the Brotherhood of the Blood Orchid has been hired to kill me?”
“Your insights serve you well, young Jedi,” Genius confirms with a grim smile. “Where did you hear about the B.B.O.?”
Genius curses and rubs his forehead as if battling a sudden headache. “What did he tell you about them?”
“Nothing. Except, they didn’t want me dead any more.”
“How would he know that?”
“Someone named General Fu.”
With his head suddenly lulling back like his neck was made of rubber, Genius whispers just loud enough for her to hear: “Sweet, Jesus, what have we gotten you into?”
Genius retreats to stare out the balcony’s sliding glass door. His reflection shows him gnawing at a thumb nail, a position her holds for several minutes. Just as Amy is about to ask him to explain who General Fu is, Genius spins and strides resolutely to stand before her.
“The Department of Homeland Security gets all kinds of terrorism tips. They handle the most plausible ones, and hand off the rest to groups like the Alcomist Club - organizations with shared interests like celebrity fan clubs, T.V. and movie fans.”
Genius smiles. “We’ll, they’re a little out there for our needs, but there are SF writer’s fan clubs that are invaluable. We have a nice little information network, kind of like the Baker Street Irregulars Sherlock Holmes had. So, when something O.B.P. passes across a desk at the DHS, a call goes out to us.”
“Odd But Plausible,” he translates. “That’s the designation the DHS gave an anonymous warning about a renegade Chinese general living in South America planning to infect Illegals crossing the US border with the Bird Flu as a way to start an epidemic in America.”
Again things click in Amy’s mind. The mention at the compound of vaccines. And coyotes. Not the animal. Rather, the men hired to guide Illegals across the border. She realizes, “Captain Ramirez sent off a bus load of coyotes!”
Genius raises a cautioning hand and nods toward his laptop. “I’ve been checking that out. The bus was stopped before it reached the border. They’re all in Quarantine. The last bit of information I needed, that confirmed that, came at almost the same instant of your kidnaping.”
“That’s how you were able to get to where I was so fast.”
“It was quite a shock, tracking the homer in your trick bra and finding you were taken to where we had an imminent mission planned.”
Amy unconsciously toys with the top button of her blouse. “Then there wasn’t some ‘additional information’ waiting for me to pick up at the airport and deliver to Area 51?”
“Nothing important. We just needed to make sure your were wearing one of those special bras so we could track you. Just in case.”
“I don’t think I like the idea of you being able to track me wherever I go.”
“Its just for missions, I swear. Anyway, because it was my contact who confirmed the plausibility of the General Fu scenario, and because I’d had dealings with ‘Ramirez’ before, I was able to exercise ‘executive privilege’ and take for myself an assignment first meant to be just a demolition mission, that suddenly became a rescue mission, too.”
“I’m just an office wonk. I don’t do field work,” Amy recalls.
Genius grins. “I make an occasional exception. When the situation warrants it.” His smile fades. “Ramirez has been taken out, his supply of flu - the ‘vaccine’ he was giving the coyotes and their clients under the guise of keeping them healthy for their trip across the border - has been destroyed, and his men are in Quarantine. Unfortunately, one ’situation’ remains.”
“And that is?” Amy asks, though already uneasy at the answer she senses will be coming.
“How all of this, and some renegade Chi-Com general, ties in with an order, later rescinded, for the Brotherhood of the Blood Orchid to assassinate you?”
“I really, really don’t know why.”
“Neither do I. That’s why I’m heading down to South America to meet personally with the contact who developed the information on General Fu. And, I’m making another ‘executive’ decision. You are not leaving my side until we find out what the hell is going on here.”
“Congratulations, Goddess, you are now an official H.O.T.B.A.B.E. Field Agent.”
Amy smiles, but quickly dimming the triumph triggering that famous smile’s usual luster is and remembers that damned old axiom: Be careful what you wish, you just might get it.
TO BE CONTINUED