(Merry Christmas everyone! It isn’t much, but here’s a little episode with a sweet-for-now ending for the Holidays. Enjoy your time with friends, family, and/or yourself!)
Luanda, Kenya: a simple market town hardly an hour from Kisumu, but vastly more intact than Kisumu’s outskirts. The squad had arrived in Luanda after discreetly delivering a broken, bloodied Beitel to Kisumu’s Obunga police station. His ID, German arrest warrant, and a forged note “from” Dr. Houk simply stating the German word for betrayal were all tucked in Beitel’s shirt pocket. They had learned from Beitel that he wished to break away from his terroristic group against their wishes, but was successful in his break by faking his own arrest and forcing the others to flee from one of their hideouts. He had planned to stay in hiding in Kenya until he could trek his way to a new life in Australia. Obviously, Australia would not be in his future most likely ever again thanks to Freudenberger’s squad.
Primal thought it best to include the note allegedly from Dr. Houk to help quiet any ideas of foul play outside of the scientists’ terroristic group. The group resumed Freudenberger’s original plan to stay in Luanda where they contacted their leader in hopes of learning new, helpful information.
Delia reached Freudenberger from their professionally hacked, untraceable phone. “Beitel, the intern, has been dropped off at a police facility in Kisumu.” Delia said.
“Glad to know you were successful in convincing Spade to not kill the man, although not surprised because I knew you’d be good at this.” Freudenberger congratulated Delia. “I did, however, find word of his condition… But at least our interference in this debacle should go unfounded.”
Delia agreed, hoping that would indeed be the case. “He told us that the Chancellor’s niece was actually a proponent, possibly a founding member of the research group and was not considered an intern.”
“Spade and Primal feel certain he was telling the truth?” Freudenberger asked.
Delia eyed the two behind her, behaving causally as though they were tourists while doubling as lookouts. “Yes, and Beitel claimed that the niece and the ring leader of the group, Dr. Houk, were having some sort of affair.”
After a pause, Freudenberger supported the idea. “That would not throw me off entirely… I could see her being involved in this. And it all backfired on her. She was, after all, desperate for an internship to graduate.”
Primal sauntered to Delia, making an expression which indicated to Delia she wished to speak to Freudenberger. “Right, so it would make some sense if she prompted an experienced, respected scientist to start one for her. Also, Primal has some concerns she wished to share with you. I’m not fully filled in as to what they are, but she made mentions of them on the trip here.”
Freudenberger’s tone changed, her key shifting a little lower. “Put her on.”
Primal took the phone, “Although Beitel genuinely seemed to be telling the truth, something was off. I could tell he wasn’t lying, but after playing it over again in my head, it almost seemed like he was relaying information…” The others had grouped closer to Primal, their focus intent on her words.
Freudenberger remained silent as Primal continued. “He was genuinely terrified of us, and definitely didn’t have a clue as to who we were or what was going on, but there was just something different. It also bothers the shit out of me that he was so easily left behind. He said it was because he made it seem as though he were arrested or captured, which scared his group off, but I don’t know… Seems lacking.”
“Do you believe he was withholding information?” Freudenberger asked, somewhat disturbed and wholeheartedly curious.
“Not entirely. He didn’t seem like he was withholding information about his group, but there was something missing as to how he got away from the others. But that wasn’t what got me the worst.” Primal sighed. “And I feel so stupid for not catching it while we had him.”
“What is it?”
Primal sighed again, disappointed in herself for not realizing her mistake before rendering Beitel speechless. “He never once asked who we were, who we represented or anything like that. He just kind of accepted that he was about to be tortured, possibly killed, and questioned about his group.” She locked eyes with Spade. “They always ask who we are.” Spade’s face transitioned to dumbstruck realization then furrowed his brow in searching thought.
Freudenberger’s voice dropped again. “Maybe he was just too scared and stupid.”
“They always ask that question because they’re scared and/or stupid.” Primal stated.
“Maybe he was smart enough to piece it together himself?”
“Even then, they ask that. It’s just a first response, go-to question.” Primal looked at Delia. “Even Delia asked us who we were and what we planned to do with her.” Deli nodded.
Freudenberger exhaled sharply. “Are you sure this isn’t your paranoia getting the best of you?”
“Of course not!” Primal said sharply. “You know good and damn well that most of the time my paranoia is just good sense.”
“Most of the time…” Freudenberger did not need to continue her sentence, already having reminded Primal of few, but definite, situations in which her paranoia was nothing but that.
Primal breathed deeply, reordering her thoughts to convince Freudenberger. “I know you trust me, and you know that yes, sometimes it really turned out to be nothing. But that’s it, if I’m wrong and it’s nothing then what is there to lose? This isn’t just a concern that I might have; this is a weird, out of place, piece of missed information that I do have.” She quieted her voice further. “You’re my closest friend, and I am telling you something is not right and it’s fucking me up pretty bad for such a seemingly small fact.” She raised her voice again. “And I have been right about these things too often for us to ignore it.”
Freudenberger conceded. “I believe you; I just needed to make sure that you really believed this too. Honestly though, I don’t know what exactly to do about this other than to tell you all to be more vigil, which I already know you are, and that I will see what I can find on my end.”
“As long as we’re all aware, that’s all that matters right now.” Primal stated.
“Before you go, I need to speak to Delia once more.” Freudenberger requested.
Primal handed the phone back over to Delia, and then conversed with the others about her notions.
“I’m with Primal on this; I didn’t catch it at first either, but that does come off as sketchy.” Delia said.
“I agree. Just keep in touch as often as possible. I will spend the evening searching for anything new. Until then, make your way over the border to Uganda. Once you reach a small town or village, contact me.” Freudenberger paused; a clack was heard indicating she had removed her glasses. Freudenberger rubbed her eyes, stressed from hardly leaving her desk, constantly searching for the Germans. “I have found distressingly little on their movement and whereabouts, but from what I’ve pieced together I believe they have already crossed over into Uganda. They may be changing their direction entirely if they truly think Beitel was arrested. They’re more difficult to track than ever now.”
Delia sighed tiredly, but refused to relinquish her proactive mentality. “We’ll work harder on our end too. We’ll head into Uganda and call you as soon as possible. Here’s to hoping one of us finds something valuable.” They said their goodbyes and ended the call.
“Primal, good catch.” Delia told her, but Primal didn’t look as proud.
“It’s a missed catch.” Primal insisted.
“Not missed, just late, but still caught.” Delia pressed, “Just take the compliment.”
Primal laughed. “In our experience, realizing something too late still equates to missing it. It’s not a touchdown when the quarterback catches the ball one second after the game has ended.”
Delia attempted to argue with her, but knew it would be fruitless. Primal was a survivalist and would think of her mistake often to prevent any similar mistakes in the future. To her, everything she missed was a potential step towards death for her and her companions. She knew she would not always be able to afford her mistakes, but Delia knew she was human and would always make them.
Flyboy drove the Jeep through the Kenyan terrain which allowed the five to see out for miles into the plains. Sunset had been visually delicious; an array of molten oranges and lipstick reds and blushes layered throughout the sky, intermingling, soaking clouds with their rich colors. Dali stared and admired her favorite colors painted above her. She smirked at the thought that God must laugh at humans for always being intimately fascinated with the sun’s and ozone’s daily interactions.
Delia had crawled into the backseat for some rest, letting Primal take her place in the passenger seat as a sort of navigator to Flyboy. As soon as the fluffy-haired blonde took her spot, Flyboy thought she looked like a mewing cat. He loved it when she was happy, when she smiled, which was all he ever hoped to see from her. He was not surprised when he noticed she had brought her Mp3 player with her as she plugged it into the Jeep’s audio system. She clawed every chance she could get to play her favorite music. As often as he could, Flyboy would seek out cars with audio jacks and all-consuming stereo systems for that very reason.
Primal loved music; she often worked for hours on playlists and coming to life at the mention of one of her favorite bands. She was not a stranger to breaking out in song with Dali, but since Delia’s recruitment Flyboy had noticed both their musicality had subsided. Primal firmly believed in using music to build herself up and prep herself mentally, riding high on its affect on her. There were times she would even play music while they fought for their lives against enemies. Flyboy beamed at Primal, ecstatic that she was sinking fully into herself again with Delia around. He knew it was only a matter of time before Primal could not stand the silent “road trips” anymore.
Dali’s interest was pulled to Primal, seeing her rugged companion curled up in the front seat as though she were finally softening a little since Delia’s arrival. Primal scrolled through her Mp3 player. Their musical tastes sometimes clashed, but she was confident that Primal would choose something they all loved. Sure enough, a familiar combination of strums and high-hat taps flooded the Jeep. The speakers came alive with bass and band as Cage the Elephant’s “Aberdeen” swarmed the air. Both Dali and Primal started a little late, nervous at first, but sang along.
Delia did not know the song, but as soon as the chorus came up, she was awestruck by everyone having joined in, loud and proud. She laughed, overwhelmed by their sudden joy upraise. Delia had seen them all do some gruesome, worrisome actions that day. She knew they were trained to attack, to kill, to survive. She had heard of their rough, atrocious missions. And yet, at that moment, they were just a car full of mid-twenty something’s enjoying a rock song on a road trip. By the time the final chorus came around, Delia had gotten the hang of the song and had joined them. Dali nudged her, smiling wide and singing beautifully, a trait Delia had never known Dali possessed.
As the song petered out, the companions in the car grew quiet, but Primal played more music throughout the remainder of their trip. Delia noticed how it changed Primal’s mood to content, calm, yet happily energetic. It seemed to bond her and Dali too. She wondered what else it did for her. Delia knew for a fact that it boosted morale at least.
Sadly, darkness haunted the back of their consciousnesses. They knew this would end soon, and they would be right back to their straining mission. What they didn’t know was just how straining and wholly destructive it would be.