Team Coop, as he called it though everyone else on the team referred to it as Luck’s Team, sat around a table. For the better part of two hours they had been reamed by a General who was less than impressed with their track record. In summary using a lot less descriptive words than she did, the team was a failure and was disbanded effective immediately. Al and Ant would receive their new assignments in the morning and Cooper was dismissed to return to his previous life. Malone was never an official member of the team as far as the General was concerned and would now be able to return to Salt Lake or wherever he decided to work since he quit his job when he found out his friend needed him. Not only his friend, but his government really.
“Hey buddy,” Malone said warmly and gave Cooper a bear hug. “Long time no see. Decided to hang out in our country for a bit, eh?” he smiled.
“Something like that,” Cooper said and scanned the mall’s food court to see if they were under surveillance. Just because he didn’t notice anyone didn’t mean he wasn’t being watched. Ever since he agreed to help Ant and Al he felt like he lived in a fish bowl. Always being watched. It was with some reluctance Ant agreed to give Cooper the weekend off. But the fact that did give in to this request made Cooper suspect he and Malone weren’t entirely alone.
XIII. More January
Ant smiled and held out his hands slowly to show he meant no harm. “That’s impressive,” he conceded. “I did not expect to have this conversation until much later. No, I did not kill your mom that night.”
“But you were there,” Cooper said slowly. “That was you I saw running up the stairs.”
“Yes, that was me. I was there. But I was trying to save her, save you both,” Ant said slowly. “But regrettably I arrived too late.”
XII. Still January
Cooper squinted as a barrel-chested man with slicked back dark hair entered the room.
Ant Luck nodded his greeting without any expression.
Cooper closed one eye and then the other. “I never forget a face. Have we met before?”
Cooper walked slowly to his hotel room and smiled. He ran his fingers through his hair out of habit. If his dad were here he would tell him to get a haircut. Cooper paused at the thought of his dad and shook his head to change his thoughts back to his plan. The night had been what he would consider a success. His plan was working. So far anyway. A week earlier he didn’t touch one thing in the casino. Not even a slot machine. He spent his time observing and making mental notes. It was time well spent. His first night sitting at the tables he won $10,000. Not too much to draw attention. Just enough. Vegas is a big town with plenty of casinos. All he needed was patience and he would leave town a very rich man. Not that becoming rich was his goal. He planned to donate most of his winnings to charity. No, this was a game to him. He was doing it for the simple reason he could. And he was bored.
VII. 16 years ago
Liz Baldwin stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. She had a dishwasher but when she had a lot on her mind, she preferred to wash dishes by hand. Keeping her hands busy helped with the racing thoughts. Her husband Jo was working late. Again. Conveniently enough. He had dropped a bombshell before he left for work that morning about a promotion. While a promotion seemed like a good thing Liz also knew it would involve a lot more work which translated to more time. More time at the office and away from home. Jo already devoted so much time and energy to the office. She preferred him to spend more time and energy at home with her and Cooper. Their son was growing up, he was already nine. Soon he would be a teenager and then all to quickly he’d leave for college. Liz knew now was the time for a father and son bond to develop.
VI. 17 years ago…
The next few days after Cooper recovered from his illness he felt different. He couldn’t explain why but he noticed his world differently. Colors seemed more vibrant and sharp. Conversations he overheard between his parents he seemed to understand. Maybe he just never paid attention before and maybe that was the difference – he paid attention to everything now. Almost like he couldn’t shut his brain off. His brain’s computer was on and running all the time. He couldn’t explain any of this to anyone because he was still processing it. Was this normal and he just never noticed before? His mom noticed something was different but she wasn’t sure how to explain it either. Suddenly, her boy that liked to keep his hair trimmed in a crew cut style now hated getting his hair cut. He refused to let her cut his hair. That wasn’t a battle worth fighting so she let him grow it out. One other thing that was obvious to everyone was he no longer needed his inhaler. When his mom questioned the doctor, she was told that sometimes “children outgrow asthma.” She also mentioned to the doctor that he started coming home with stories of winning races at school. His energy level seemed to spike. The doctor’s response was to give him some meds which she declined. It wasn’t an uncontrollable energy; it was more of an intense, albeit focused, energy. At the first parent-teacher conference after his fever she was told that he was exceling in every subject. His teacher commented on his outstanding performance. Even the PE teacher remarked on his ability. At the previous conference, the PE teacher couldn’t remember who exactly Cooper was. Up until then, Cooper blended in with the background. Not anymore. He was getting noticed, remarked on, and remembered.
V. 17 years ago…
Cooper Baldwin looked out his bedroom window. The other neighborhood children played tag together and ran in and out of front yards. How he wanted to join them in their games but he couldn’t go out to play. His father had made some house rules, if you stay home from school sick you stay inside. Basically, Jo Baldwin didn’t want his son to use any excuse to stay home sick. What he didn’t realize was Cooper really didn’t want to stay home either. Sometimes he just couldn’t help it. He really was sick.
IV. One last look at 25 years ago…
Tony Layton was not a patient man. He had served two tours of duty and now worked as a member of the LAPD Swat Team. Despite many tedious and dangerous missions that required him to sit tight he still fidgeted when things seemed to slow down too much on a job. He never could learn to trust the quiet when experience taught him things were about to get noisy.
His team had been called in to save a well-known party girl who had made the fatal mistake of partying with the wrong crowd. The silly woman had chosen terrorists to mingle with and now they were holding her hostage in her hotel’s penthouse. His team was in position waiting to storm inside all they needed was the go order. But it was slow in coming. That made Tony nervous.
III. Still 25 years ago
At the time, Oz was employed by a very wealthy woman that happened to enjoy the anonymity her gender provided her. She played the socialite playgirl well. Despite her public persona she was very much involved in politics and power. Namely, it was her money that was used to buy the election of a small country that year. No one could link her to it though, her pockets ran deep enough to erase any trails that would lead back to her. Besides, who would have thought she would be involved in something so serious?