Bill and the Sting of Death

A Bittersweet Ending

Bill followed as Harold led the procession straight to the bar. Darla was dressed in a navy-blue pants suit. Garcia looked uncharacteristically dressed up, but his trademark sunglasses were still in place. He left the pair to join his wife. Darla and Harold whispered at the end of the bar, and Harold’s hands kept fluttering about as he spoke.

Joshua said, “This isn’t the mood I expected from these two. I wonder if it’s bad news.”

Garcia raised his voice, “Everyone, let’s get together at that table.”

Darla and Harold stopped their conversation. Carol and Maria grabbed their drinks and walked over together. Bill noticed Maria had gotten Carol to try a rum runner. Everyone sat down, except for Darla and Garcia, who stood at the head of the table.

Darla spoke up, “First, let me give everyone the good news. We’re officially free.”

Applause broke out, and Joshua pumped his fist in the air.

Darla put up her hands to quiet the group and then continued. “There are some complications that Garcia will address, but let me finish with the good news. All of us will be able to return to our homes. For Joshua, Maria, Harold, and myself, that means we are going home to Malibu. Bill, you and Carol will be returned to Charlotte.”

Joshua spoke up, “What about you, agent Garcia?”

Darla stood silent, looking at her partner. Garcia responded, “That’s classified.”

Harold rolled his eyes, “We should’ve known.”

Carol asked, “So, what’s the bad news?”

Everyone sat quietly. Darla walked over and took an empty seat next to her husband, and took his hand.

Garcia removed his glasses and cleared his throat. “I’m not sure how to say this. A pandemic is coming.”

Bill interrupted, “Come on, there’s a pandemic rumor three or four times a year in the markets. They never turn out to be true.”

Bill looked around the table and noticed Harold looking straight at him, slowly shaking his head.

Garcia continued, “I wish it was a rumor. Our people in China confirmed some sort of biological agent was accidentally released from a lab in Wuhan. How contagious and deadly it is, we don’t know. I’ve heard all kinds of rumors. We’ve been made aware of at least two planes that have come to the U.S. from Wuhan since the virus was discovered. Whether the Chinese government was aware of the situation before then we don’t know, and the communist government there isn’t sharing.

“The President briefed us while we were in Washington of a likely government shutdown.”

Bill interrupted, “You mean like Washington D.C. or the whole country?”

Garcia leaned forward against the chair in front of him. “The entire country.”

Bill responded, “That’s insane.”

Garcia stood back up. “It may not be as crazy as you think. China’s leaders have shared they are heading that way, and our allies are planning to follow the same path if it appears in their country.”

Carol spoke up, “So, what you’re saying is everyone here is exchanging a tropical prison for house arrest.”

Garcia answered, “I’m afraid so.”

Carol asked, “How long?”

Garcia said, “We don’t know.”

Darla stood back up and walked next to Garcia, “There is a small silver lining for the people at this table.”

Bill said, “I can’t wait to hear this.”

Darla ignored his quip. “Obviously, we haven’t been near any of this. As long as we remain isolated, we can move around more freely. The government is coming up with a protocol to identify the virus. Once they do, we can all be tested as needed if we want to do any traveling.

“Harold and I are going to volunteer the PDS jet to anyone who needs to come to California or would like to return to the island if things get worse.”

Harold asked, “What about my yacht?”

Garcia frowned, “What about it?”

Harold said, “Well, I want to know when I’m getting it back, and can we use it to travel?”

Garcia answered, “What I am about to tell you can’t leave this table. Carol, Bill, normally I would make you leave, but I want you to know you’re part of this family. That said, nothing can be shared with anyone else, especially to family members.”

Bill answered, “I don’t have any other family.”

Carol said, “He’s talking to me. I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

Garcia nodded. “Harold, your yacht is being looked over with a fine-tooth comb. We want to figure out what sort of explosives were used to breach the hull and where they came from.

“In the meantime, we were able to find and capture the small sub Hunter was using. Thanks to our cold war hydrophones, the craft was easy to pick up when the crew panicked and headed for deeper water after our ships began to patrol the surrounding area. It didn’t take us too long to track it down. Because of the intel, we found on the vessel, we were able to fire two cruise missiles at a camp near the southern border of Turkmenistan.”

Joshua said, “I thought Chuck said their compound is in the center of Iran.”

Garcia nodded, “It is, but the sub had intel on an ISIS training camp that Hunter was supplying arms to at that location. Satellite images confirm over fifty people were killed, and the camp was wiped out. Assets on the ground confirmed it was an ISIS training camp. We were able to remove some mid-level leadership in the attack.”

Harold asked, “What about Iran?”

Darla shook her head, “If we launch anything into Iran, it will start a war, possibly a global war.”

Carol sat back and crossed her arms, “So, Hunter’s little racist camp of super-warriors is safe and sound.”

Garcia frowned, “I wouldn’t call them safe. We’ve spoken to Iran through side channels. That village is a liability for them. We hope they’ll encourage them to leave. Since Hunter is dead, and Harold was the heir apparent, they have no chosen leader. With any luck, they’ll break up and try to find their way back to where they all came from.”

Bill said, “The “cut off the head” theory.”

Garcia and Darla nodded. Carol asked, “And how has that worked for you in the past?”

Darla looked at Garcia and then answered, “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.”

Joshua spoke up, “Well, none of this is our problem anyway, right?”

Darla answered, “Exactly. None of the remaining people have any reason to come after any of you. The submarine was captured by the navy ship, and Hunter was killed by the CIA. None of you are involved.”

Harold spoke up, “Can we get back to my ship?”

Darla answered, “Of course, dear. Garcia was trying to tell you that the CIA will have to keep it for a while for more intel. In return, they are paying to have all the repairs completed. That’s quite an offer since it looks like it could run into the seven figures. I’m not sure I’d let you spend that kind of money.”

Harold crossed his arms, “Fine. So, if we are still locked down when I get it back, I can get out on the open ocean and away from whatever insanity is going on in the country.”

Garcia answered, “I don’t think you’ll want to use it. My intel tells me of at least two cruise ships with signs of this new virus. It’s only a couple of people, and they are keeping it very quiet. Still, their ports of destination have already refused them docking. It’s just a matter of time before the papers get hold of this. After that, I would be surprised if any ships will be allowed anywhere.

“Once things get that bad, I can give you access to military airstrips, and of course, you have your own here. Those are your best bets for travel.”

Maria asked, “When can we leave?”

Darla said, “Anytime you like.”

“I want to go home today.”

Joshua gently touched his wife’s shoulder. “Easy, sweetheart. We need time to pack.”

Carol said, “I want to leave today.”

Darla nodded, “Okay, so you and Bill are going today?”

Bill shook his head, “No, I’m staying. I want to spend a day or two getting to know you and my brother if that’s alright.”

Harold slapped the table, “Alright? That’s a terrific idea.”

Bill looked at Carol, “I promise to call as soon as I arrive home.”

Garcia nodded, “Terrific. Carol, I’ll fly with you as far as Charlotte. I have a company plane that’s going to take me to my destination.”

Harold asked, “So, just like that, it’s over?”

Darla nodded, “Just like that.”

Harold’s eyes glistened.

Joshua asked, “What’s wrong?”

Harold choked back his tears. “When we started this journey, I had a mom and dad, and of course you Doc, and Maria. I can’t forget my best friend, Tom. Now I have my brother back and new friends I would trust with my life. I just never thought this is where my life would end up.”

Bill answered, “Yea. I lost the one family before we even got started, and now I have another.”

Joshua said, “God’s ways are truly mysterious. Through our pain and loss, new beginnings emerge.”

Garcia added, “Death and resurrection, it’s all around us.”

Carol looked at Garcia and Joshua, “You two some sort of preacher men?”

Garcia smiled.

Joshua answered, “No, just a believer who has learned more over the last few months than I thought I knew my entire life.”

Carol added, “I guess that’s worth more than blowing up some camp in the middle of nowhere.”

Bill took her hand and kissed the back of it. “I agree.”

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