Lawrence Lanigan gave Schmidt’s body a shove with his boot. The body flopped over face up as Schmidt’s daughter screamed through the duct tape covering her mouth. The girl shook free of the two men holding her arms, stumbled and then rolled over to her father’s body. She put her head on his chest sobbing.
“Get her back in the Hummer,” Lanigan ordered the three men standing near the rear of the HMMWV.
All three men stood, silently. Each of them had seen and done a lot of nasty things since the crash, but nothing as cold-blooded as this. Recovering from their shock, the two former law enforcement officers folded their arms across their chests in unison. The ex-gamer bent over, leaned against the HMMWV and vomited the remains of his most recent MRE on the ground near the rear passenger tire.
“What are you waiting for?” Lanigan’s voice had the same edge as it had just before he shot Schmidt.
The two lawmen looked at one another and began to unfold their arms, but they were too late. Lanigan’s pistol was already in his hand and he had correctly interpreted the looks on the men’s faces. They were going for their guns.
Lanigan lifted his pistol, almost lazily it seemed, and put a single bullet in each man right at the base of their necks between the collar bones. The hollow point bullets expanded as they encountered resistance and severed each man’s spine. Both ex-cops dropped to the ground alive but completely paralyzed. Their blood spattered onto the third man.
Lanigan walked calmly over to where the two men lay and looked into their eyes.
“Stupid sons of …” Lanigan’s voice was drowned out by the sound of his pistol.
He fired twice more – a bullet into each man’s brain. Neither felt anything but fear and the assurance that death was coming swift and certain.
“How about you, gamer boy?” Lanigan let his gun dangle at his side. “Care to register any complaints?”
“N-n-no, sir,” the gamer stuttered and then spit the bit of vomit that had jumped involuntarily into his mouth out onto the ground.
He had killed thousands from the comfort of his couch, but death and dying on the TV screen was nothing like this.
“Well … what are you waiting for then?” Lanigan’s voice gave the other man chills.
He rushed over to the girl and grabbed her by the arm, dragging her to the rear of the HMMWV. Once the girl was inside the HMMWV, the gamer turned to find Lanigan standing next to the Hummer with his pistol pointed.
Despite thousands of hours of split-second, on-screen decisions, the gamer’s reflexes weren’t quite fast enough to get the word “no” out of his mouth before the bullet went through his brain.
Lanigan sighed, “What a shame.”
That evening Lanigan pulled the HMMWV into the parking lot of Bellevue West High School. Bellevue West had become a FEMA camp as well as General Wei’s southeastern Nebraska headquarters. Lanigan wanted to have a chat with the general.
Before he spoke with the general, however, Lanigan removed the duct tape from Schmidt’s daughter’s wrists and ankles and carefully peeled off the strip of silver tape covering her mouth.
“You OK, sweetheart?” Lanigan asked as if nothing had happened.
The girl merely stared. She was in shock and dehydrated to the point of near hallucination.
Lanigan picked the girl up and carried her to the infirmary that had been set up for the camp.
“Take care of this girl,” Lanigan ordered the nurse on duty. “She needs fluids and rest.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Lanigan,” the nurse responded smartly.
She knew better than to hesitate when Lawrence Lanigan gave an order.
General Wei was in good spirits. He had just beaten one of his soldiers in a game of chess and was enjoying his nightly baijiu when Lanigan rapped his knuckles on the frame of the door leading to Wei’s quarters.
Wei had commandeered what had formerly been the high school’s administrative suite for his living area. Much of the school-issue furniture had been replaced with far more plush furnishings – most of which had been acquired for Wei by Lanigan’s crew.
“Good evening, Mr. Lanigan,” Wei’s English was quite good.
“Good evening, General,” Lanigan replied. “I see you sent that young soldier away with his tail between his legs.”
“I handed him an embarrassing defeat on the gentleman’s field of battle,” Wei made an expansive gesture toward the chess board. The king opposite Wei’s seat was lying on its side.
Lanigan was not a chess player. He had no appreciation for the game, but he knew Wei loved it only as long as he won. Lanigan also knew that it was fairly unhealthy for Wei’s men to beat him at the game.
“General, I have a proposition for you,” Lanigan cut right to the chase. Spending time with Wei made his skin crawl.
Wei clapped his hands together as his eyes lit up, “Do tell, Mr. Lanigan.”
Lanigan recounted many of the events of the last several weeks, giving Wei just enough details to whet his appetite and draw him in but no more.
“A very interesting proposition, indeed, Mr. Lanigan,” Wei was fairly bouncing in his seat. “When shall we begin?”
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