by John Nation
One of the richest men in the world declares war on Sheriff Johnson and the Pack.
|Igor left the house used as a base of operations and walked to a convince store about two miles away. He was hungry and Whitingham and not been there in over a day to go after food. He did not enjoy the walk. It was a bright sunny day, two features he did not like. Overcast and stormy was much more to his tastes.
There were two cashiers and a customer paying for gas when he walked in. They did not pay any attention to him until they heard him mumbling. They looked up at him. He saw expressions of fear come to all of them. He did not understand why. As he walked down the aisles choosing candies and donuts, he saw his reflection in one of the curved mirrors used by the cashiers to keep an eye on everyone in the store. He saw the customer hurry out of the store to her car and jump in. She almost hit one of the guardrails around the pumps as she left. The two cashiers were huddled together as they looked at him in the mirror. When they saw him returning the stare, they looked away.
He studied his reflection. The left side of his hair was standing on end because he had slept on it. His eyes were bloodshot, but they always were. His hospital greens had patches of dried blood smeared across the chest and over his arms and legs. Some of the blood clots had pieces of hair stuck in them. It was an occupational hazard. He did not see why it concerned the cashiers, it was not their blood.
He put his items on the counter. Both the cashiers paled as he looked at them. 'Sometime today would be nice,' he said.
After a few seconds hesitation, the male inched forward and rang up the sale. Igor paid him and as he turned to leave he said, 'Igor could make you scream, scream so loud the bitch behind you would hear it all the way from the house.'
The two employees trembled in fear.
Miranda and Sara landed in El Paso. This time it was a rented plane, nowhere near as nice as the one they lost. The foreman of her cattle ranch was waiting for her.
'Miranda, it is so good to see you again,' he said as he hugged her.
'You too, Sam. What's it been? Close to ten years now.'
'At least.' Sam stood back and looked at her. 'My lord, Miranda. You haven't aged a day.'
'So nice of you to say so, Sam. My fitness trainer does not let me have a day off, no matter how hard I beg, and she has me on a diet that would starve a canary. I have a woman that is the best on the planet with makeup.' She turned to Sara. 'Sara, this is my dear friend, Sam. He takes care of things for me in the West Texas area.'
'Nice to meet you, Sam.'
'You also, Sara.'
As they moved to Sam's truck, Miranda said, 'Tell me what is going on.'
'Three days ago, I had some guys claiming to represent a union show up, trying to unionize the workers. I told them if we went to union wages, we would be taking a pay cut, but they would not let me get in a word edgewise. It was all I could do not to put my boot up their asses. Anyway, two days ago, they gave us an ultimatum. They told the guys that if they did not join the union within twenty-four hours, bad things would happen. Their imposed deadline expired at six o'clock last evening. An hour later, one of the workers house burned down. He barely got out with his family. Everything he had is gone. This morning I went to check one of the cattle fields. Four dozen head of cattle were slaughtered, killed with shotguns.
'I now have men at all the other locations, armed for bear and pissed off to high heaven. If any of the union reps show up, my guys are liable to blow them away. I have no problem with that, but I sure as hell don't want any of my men going to prison for shooting one of those bastards.'
'Let the man who lost his home know I will replace it for him. Get hold of the ranch hands and tell them not to do anything rash. I will meet with these union reps. Tomorrow they will be gone and not pester you anymore.'
'Miranda, me and a couple of dozen men are itching to back you up. Give the word and we can handle it ourselves. No need for you to get your hands dirty.'
'Let me try first, Sam. If I fail, we'll give you a shot at it. Meanwhile get with the men and check to see if any of them have had any other problems from these guys. While you do that, Sara and I will talk with these union reps.'
'Miranda, these are mean people. They would have no problem hurting the two of you.'
'We are willing to take that chance. You do what I ask and we will see what comes of it.'
Twenty minutes later they were at one of the main cattle farms. Miranda took a truck and drove to the hotel where the so called union reps waited. Sara sat next to her.
'We will not kill them unless they give us no other option.' Miranda said. 'They may not die, but we are certainly going to make them pray for death. I want them hurt. I'm talking broken arms and legs. Maybe a rib or two thrown in for good measure. It will be a week before the swelling in their faces goes down enough for them to see again. Count their teeth and divide by five. That will be the number they lose.'
'Gotcha,' Sara answered.
It did not take long until they entered the parking lot of the hotel. The entire hotel had been rented by the people threatening her workers so there would not be a lot of third party people in the area. They heard them before entering the lobby. Once through the door, they walked down the hall to one of the conference rooms. The clerk at the desk came running for them. They could see the nervousness in his eyes.
'Ladies,' he said. 'You probably do not want to go in there. These do not seem like pleasant men and they have been drinking.'
Miranda grinned at him and then faster than his eyes could follow her hand, she rapped him in the head. She caught his unconscious body and tucked him in the office, pulled his cell phone from his pocket and the telephone lines from the wall and after she left, jammed the door so it would take the fire department axing it open for him to get out.
They returned to the conference room and stopped outside the door to listen. There were a lot of people in the room. It seemed as if reinforcements had been called to give them an advantage in numbers. Miranda looked at Sara and winked. Sara nodded back and the two of them went into the room. They did not open the doors, but shoved them down and walked on top of them. All around the room, the people stopped what they were doing and turned towards them. All of them were armed. They weapons were not in their hands, but they could pull them from their holsters quickly.
'You assholes tried to harm my workers and killed some of my cattle. You screwed up,' Miranda said. Then they charged. Miranda went straight ahead and Sara moved for the back of the room. At first, the men laughed. They stopped laughing a second later when two of them flew across the room. The room started to fill with screams as arms and legs broke. Along with blood shooting over the walls, teeth began to litter the aisles. Sara was taking Miranda's instructions about the teeth literally.
More screams filled the room as weapons were drawn. Every hand holding one was quickly crushed. It took two minutes before the floor was covered with broken and bleeding bodies. Soon only one man was left conscious. He was hiding behind the lectern. The lectern was shoved away and he was picked up by his ears.
'What union do you represent?' Miranda asked as she twisted.
'No union,' the man screamed out. 'That was the cover story we were told to use as an excuse to attack your workers.'
'Who told you to do this?'
'Montgomery. Lyle Montgomery. He promised us a bundle if we could close the operation down.'
'Are you guys planning on sticking around any longer?'
'Hell no. We are out of here as soon as we can start the cars and go.'
Miranda looked at Sara and said, 'I count thirty teeth.'
Sara smashed her hand into the side of the man's face. Blood and teeth spilled out of his mouth.
'Count again,' Sara said. 'I think you will see he only has twenty-four.'
'I'll take your word for it.'
They turned and left the room.
Once back in the truck, Miranda said, 'We've played around long enough. Montgomery has threatened and killed my people. He came extremely close to killing us. He will not do this anymore. We return to Houston, find him and remove him.'
'Works for me,' Sara said.
As they drove for the airport, Miranda called Sam and told him the problems with the so called union were over. She politely turned down his request to spend a few days checking out the ranches, saying she had pressing business elsewhere, but promised she would visit him again soon.
Lyle Montgomery looked at his telephone when it rang. He dreaded this call. It was Samuel Robinson on the other end and he would ask for a progress report. At the time, he had nothing positive to tell him. All efforts to acquire the deed to the property in question had failed. So far, two dozen people hired to kill Miranda and her companion were the ones that died. There had not yet been any news from the people sent to West Texas to disrupt her operations there. None of his calls to any of them were answered.
He wondered how any of these things could happen. Miranda did not travel with an army of guards. There were no jets flying overhead to give her air cover. There was not a platoon of Marines on every corner seeing to it no one could get close to her. Despite the obvious lack of protection, she was still alive.
He braced himself and picked the receiver up.
He felt a wave of relief pass over him at the first words Robinson said.
'Lyle, do not concern yourself any longer with getting the deed to the property. We will get it from Skinner's estate after she is dead. I figured out what is going on. That conniving bitch and the murdering Sheriff are working together. All this time I thought I was the one moving in on Skinner. Turns out she is making a power play for me.
'That bank robbery where Johnson killed my boys was only the opening salvo. They were lured there and murdered. Skinner hoped I would be so stricken with grieve that I would not figure it out. I've done some checking on my own. It seems as if she has several identities. I have found four other aliases besides Skinner. This bitch is richer that either one of us suspected and wants to move in on my properties.'
'Sir, that could explain a lot of recent events here in Houston.'
Montgomery told about how dozens of people died in an effort to kill Miranda.
'Makes sense,' Robinson said. 'She's been playing us for fools from the start. She could have a hundred operatives working for her in Houston. We both know a young woman like her could never do all of these things on her own.
'Here's what I'm doing. I'm sending some people to back you up. These are good people. You'll be in charge, but I suggest that you heed their advice.'
'I understand, sir.'
They talked several more minutes before disconnecting. Montgomery felt as if he had a new lease on life.
He spent some time figuring out what he should do. If Robinson was correct and Miranda had a hundred or more people in the Houston area working for her, there was a good chance they were aware of his location. He would have to move and make if difficult if not impossible to follow him. It explained how the gang he hired was killed. A task force of her mercenaries had seen him make the deal with Roberto and his gang. That night a small army moved in and killed many of them. That was far more believable than Miranda doing it by herself. He was willing to bet her and her red haired companion were not even on the plane when it crashed. It was more of the tricks she pulled, trying to convince anyone opposed to her that she was indestructible.
It took him ten minutes to come up with a plan to leave with a good chance of not being followed. He picked up his phone and started to make some calls. What he wanted would take a few hours to set up and would cost a lot of money. He was not concerned with the money part of the operation.