Chapter XXV December … and ten years later
The three stood staring at each other. After all this time, both Cooper and Jacob got what they had each wanted. Cooper looked at the man who had killed his mother. Jacob looked at his legacy’s salvation. Only one was going to leave the room alive and they both knew it. Both were determined to be the victor although Jacob was a little more smug with his aspirations.
“Shoot the girl,” Jacob said.
Cooper took a step in front of Al. “Wait,” he said. “You can’t shoot her.”
“You’re wrong, I can shoot her. She’s expendable,” Jacob replied. “Don’t worry, you’ll be joining your girlfriend shortly. Just need you to give me a few things first.”
“First of all,” Cooper said slowly. “She is not my girlfriend.”
“Yeah, gross,” Al said.
Cooper turned and looked at her. “That’s hurtful,” he said and turned back to Jacob. “And second, you don’t realize that a team is about to bust through that door. You are completely surrounded. You should just give up now.”
Jacob smirked. “That door? A team you say? What team would that be? Luck and that useless appendage – that team?”
“Useless appendage?” Cooper asked. “That’s not nice. He’s my friend.” He continued to stall. “We knew you wouldn’t be able to resist the bait. The two of us at dinner, seemingly unaware you were watching us,” he said nodding in Al’s direction. “What you didn’t realize is this is exactly what we wanted. You are right where we want you.”
Jacob’s patience wore thin. “I know your mission here is not sanctioned by your superiors. No one knows you are here except the four of you. You have no would-be rescuers about to break through that door other than a washed-up old fool and his sidekick.” He seemed to gain momentum with every word. “You have lost your bid at revenge.”
Cooper listened intently and nodded. “It only seems that way to you.”
Jacob’s face changed expression. He would have called it a smile. Cooper just called it creepy. “You sure have confidence, kid,” he said. “Misguided as it is.”
The doors opened and Ant limped in with men pointing guns at him.
“Uh oh,” Jacob wheezed which Cooper assumed was as close to laugh as he could get. “Here comes your team.” He looked at Ant and sized him up. “You’re a hard man to kill, Luck. Maybe this time you will stay dead. I appreciate you bringing me the Samson Pill,” he nodded in Cooper’s direction. “I would have appreciated the actual pill but I will take what I can get.”
Ant glared at Jacob.
“All this time, only to fail,” Jacob said and stared at Ant. “I think your,” he cleared his throat, “luck ran out. Shoot him.”
A man standing next to Jacob extended his arm and pointed a gun at Ant’s head.
“I’m getting really tired of you shooting me,” Ant growled.
“This will be the last time,” Jacob responded.
Just before the man squeezed the trigger the lights went out. Ant ducked and heard a man behind him moan as the bullet hit him.
Cooper grabbed Al’s hand and they ducked down.
“Get the lights back on now!” Jacob hollered. “That’s why we have back-up generators.”
“Should I tell him or do you want to?” Ant yelled in the dark.
“I’ll tell him,” Cooper responded. “Funny thing about your generators, they won’t be turning on.”
Jacob listened intently trying to force his eyes to adjust to the dark.
“See, and I think you’re going to laugh,” Cooper said as he and Al felt along a wall to keep moving. “A couple of nights ago we came and hid a duffel bag of supplies. You know, things like guns, flashlights, phones, trackers…”
“A change of clothes,” Al said.
“Yeah, that kind of thing. We weren’t entirely sure where you would bring us so we determined the three top locations and hid duffel bags at all three. One was your home. One was the hotel you like to frequent. Why is that, by the way? You have a perfectly nice home but you sure spend a lot of time at the hotel.”
“That was my choice,” Al said. “I thought for sure we were going to end up at the hotel.”
“I picked the office,” Ant said from across the room.
“I picked here though,” Cooper said proudly. “Anyway, while we were here I couldn’t resist tapping into the electrical system and giving it a little bug. More like a cancer, really. I just didn’t trust that much electricity flowing into an abandoned building. Not safe.”
“Give me the gun,” Jacob yelled. He felt for the man standing next to him and managed to get the weapon. In a rage, he fired several rounds into the dark. The room was quiet for several minutes.
Cooper felt Al fall. He bent down beside her but couldn’t see anything.
“I’m alright,” she whispered.
The gun fired again. The bullet hit glass and there was a sound of water leaking out.
“Nice shot!” Cooper said. “But you missed me.”
“And me,” Ant said.
Jacob listened to the sound of the water leaking. “No!” he yelled. He squeezed the trigger again but the gun was empty.
The lights came on and everyone’s eyes adjusted. Cooper looked at Al whose shoulder was red. He took off his jacket and used it to cover her wound.
Jacob looked at the damage. His grandson’s chamber had been drained and a bullet hole lodged in the body’s chest.
“What have I done?” Jacob moaned and fell to his knees.
“In all fairness, your plan probably wouldn’t have worked anyway,” Cooper said standing up.
“Shoot them all,” Jacob said in low voice.
Cooper looked at the men surrounding them. All of them leveled their guns at Cooper, Al, and Ant.
Suddenly, the doors burst open and a team of federal agents ran into the room. Jacob’s men lowered their guns and raised their arms in defeat.
Malone walked in. “Useless appendage?” he asked. “Who is useless now?”
Cooper looked at Jacob still kneeling on the ground. It seemed as if his age finally caught up with the old man. He looked years older since the lights went out. The agents were busy detaining the men with the guns so Cooper walked over to Jacob. He grabbed his lapel and lifted him to his feet so that they were looking eye to eye.
“You shot Al. You shot my uncle – twice.” Cooper spoke so low others couldn’t hear what he was saying. “You killed my mother. MY MOTHER!”
Al watched the two intently as someone tended her wound. “Cooper,” she said softly but he couldn’t hear her.
“What?” Jacob asked. “You want to kill me? Go ahead. I’m as good as dead anyway.”
Cooper stared at Jacob with narrow eyes and breathing hard.
Suddenly, Jacob made a quick movement and attempted to stab Cooper with a knife. But his reflexes had slowed and Cooper avoided the blade. He let go of his hold and Jacob fell down again.
“Years of survival instinct,” Jacob said slowly. “That was muscle memory for me.”
Cooper grabbed the knife and held it up to Jacob’s face. “Understand this, I would like nothing more than for you to be dead.”
Jacob looked straight ahead at the wall and closed his eyes. “Do it.”
A moment of stillness passed between the two.
“I am not you.” Cooper said slowly and tossed the knife away. An agent grabbed Jacob and lifted him back on to his feet and handcuffed him.
Malone put his hand on Cooper’s shoulder and Al breathed a sigh of relief.
Ant walked up to Jacob. “You’re right, our mission wasn’t exactly sanctioned. But there were other departments just as interested in you as we were. Turns out just about everyone wanted a little piece of you. You really ticked off a lot of people. Including some of your own people. You know, if you want loyalty you should be a little nicer. Otherwise, you just get a bunch of canaries on your team. Almost all of them are willing to do a little singing.”
Jacob looked around the room and back at his grandson. He shrugged his shoulders. For the first time in a long time, he had failed. He really didn’t like defeat.
Ten years later…
Cooper and Al sat at a booth in a restaurant. “What are you having?” Al asked.
“Probably a burger. Less chance of you eating my food that way,” Cooper said.
“There will be fries with that though.”
“Of course, I will share my fries with you,” he said and kissed her cheek.
She smiled and absently-minded played with her wedding ring.
Ant walked toward them. “Cut it out you two,” he said groaning. “Try to keep your hands off each other during lunch. Think you can do that?”
They both shrugged and Cooper slid a menu toward him.
“Thanks,” he sat down.
“How’s retirement?” Cooper asked.
“Boring. Last weekend I put together nine puzzles,” he looked at the menu. “Don’t suppose you have any part-time jobs for your uncle?”
Cooper scratched the back of his neck. “Nothing on the horizon. How part-time do you want to be? We can always use somebody in the van.”
Ant grunted. “No more vans.”
“Hello friends,” Malone said joining them and sliding in next to Ant.
“Hey, Malone,” Al said. “Trish didn’t want to come?”
“Nah,” he said. “She stayed home with the baby. For some reason, she’s tired about hearing Jacob Peterson and didn’t really want to join us today for more stories.”
Cooper nodded. “Don’t blame her.”
“Don’t blame her at all,” Al said.
“I didn’t think he was ever going to die,” Malone said. “I was beginning to think it wasn’t possible.”
“Yeah, he survived a lot longer in jail than I thought he would,” Ant said. “He was definitely a tough old codger.”
“How old do you think he was?” Cooper asked.
“No one knows for sure,” Ant said. “As far as anyone was able to track though he was well over 100.”
“That’s crazy,” Al said.
Cooper nodded. “Well, good riddance to garbage!” Cooper said.
“May we never see the likes of him again,” Ant answered.
“Not to focus on him,” Cooper said and lifted his glass of water. “Here’s to my mom who died way too young.”
“An absolute angel,” Ant said and raised his glass.
Cooper looked at Al, “She would have loved you.”
Al and Malone raised their glasses.
After the toast the four sat in a moment of silence.
“Can you imagine if he had gotten his hands on the Samson Pill?” Ant asked.
“I’m glad no one else seems to know about it,” Al said leaning her head on Cooper’s shoulder. “One is definitely enough. Sometimes more than enough.”
“Hey!” Cooper laughed. “Well, you don’t have to worry. It seems like Henry Buttlefeld’s work stops here.”
“Thank goodness!” Malone said. The four ate lunch and shared stories. As far as Jacob Peterson was concerned though, they had already said what they needed to say. No need to share any more details.
Edgar Ramirez was cleaning out his grandmother’s attic. She had died years ago and his mother had lived in the house until she died. Now it was time to sell it. His grandmother had worked as a maid at a hotel and he found a box labeled “Found” on it. The contents appeared to be things that she had found in hotel rooms. Useless knick-knacks that he wondered why she kept. Knowing his grandma, she probably kept them because they appeared to have sentimental value for others. He figured she kept them in case the owners ever returned looking for them.
A leather-bound journal was among them. He noticed the name Henry Buttlefeld inscribed on the cover and opened it. As a professor of molecular biology at the university he became intrigued at once. It appeared to be a formula for something called the Samson Pill.