“Red what in the hell is going on. We made this agreement less than a week ago and here you are with an assignment.” I said angrily. It was real anger, not acting for the cameras, which were recording us as we spoke. The agreement was that the TV people could film, but Swamp Rat got to approve or reedit the files. Even so I didn’t plan to be too honest in the meeting.
“Might as well get started. You are finished with this place, and I’m not going back into the field for a long time, if ever.” Martin said.
“Poor baby, is this their idea of sending you to your room without supper?” I asked.
“Something like that I’m sure.” He paused to give me a serious look, then continued. “So, are you finally ready to hear about the job?”
“Sure hit me with your best shot,” I said as a joke.
“You smart off again at me Missy, and I just might do that,” he said seriously.
“Sure you will, when you find out you are terminally ill and want a quick way out.” I said it with a smile. “Nonetheless continue and I’ll be good.”
“Okay, there is a small town in rural Georgia. The place is too small for more than one cop and he tries to do as little as possible.” Martin said.
“Ah oh, that must make for some interesting residents,” I suggested.
“You know it.They are our targets,” he said tossing a couple enlarged Mug shots onto the old registration desk..
“Handsome devils,” I said sarcastically.
“Yes and even with those good looks, they are still forced to resort to violence.”
“Rape?” I asked.
“Rape, extortion, probably a murder or two,” Martin said as he looked at the file.
“Who the hell is there to extort from in a town that small?” I asked seriously.
“It looks like everyone, but mostly they are just bullies.” Martin said. I looked at him and smiled but didn’t say a word. He shook his head no, but he also smiled. He knew I was thinking the easiest thing would be to just to set them up and then kill them. To plan that on TV moved it from self defense, justifiable homicide to stone cold murder. I was not ready for that kind of weight.
“What if one or both of them commits a crime and we can prove it.”
“Nobody will testify,” Martin said.
“How about if he commits a crime and we can prove it, then I testify.” I suggested.
“That might just work. What kind of crime?” Martin asked.
“Well you said he liked the girls, how about he rapes me. I’ll be careful. so maybe it will be an easy take down.”
“Well it almost beats dropping in from a chopper and just killing the son of a bitch.” Martin said.
“Oh, you are always joking like that,” I said trying to cover for him,
Martin was no idiot, he realized what he said, but it needed saying. I was not playing with retired cops or bad boy bounty hunters, I was working with an assassin. Martin would have been happy to make him disappear, of course without the TV show’s involvement, I might have helped him myself. I had no problem playing judge and jury. I could even be the executioner, if need be.
This one was going to require dotted Is and crossed Ts, or we might be looking at some serious time. Hell maybe they still had Cheryl’s old bed available.
“So you are thinking just drop in, heat the good old boys up, and just say no, When he brings it out to play, we call in the cops. Then when his brother tries to intimidate you, we have his ass arrested as well.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” I said.
“No, it sounds like an idea, it isn’t really a plan.”
“For more planning, we need more information.” I agreed.
“In that case pack your bags. They tell me Georgia is beautiful this time of year. The crisp air keeps the smell down. Martin suggested.
“Very funny, but I would hold those kinds of jokes to a minimum,” I replied. “You know this is likely to end poorly?” I said to Martin. It was true, and it would also make good TV Drama to have a little doubt.
“Mike, you need to pack your shit, if you are going with us,” Martin said.
While mike was on his way back to his apartment, Martin flipped to the last page of the file laying on the reception desk in my living room. The page read in big letters, I’m going to Jam the audio feed, look as though you are packing while we talk.
I watched closely while he held up what looked like a Bic lighter. He twisted the top part of the case then said. “Go on with your packing while we talk. First of all, I hope we can find a way to get some law enforcement people to take these guys down. However. if we can’t get anyone interested, we need to find a way to end this problem creatively.”
“We are talking permanently end it,” I suggested
“About as permanent as it gets,” he said.
“Why is the boss interested? I asked it as I continued to put things in a half duffel bag.”
“The older brother raped the wrong girl. He has intimidated her and the other witnesses. So he got out of it, as he always has in the past.”
“So who was she?” I asked.
“Her Grandfather received the CMH on D Day in 1942. Swamp Thing, as you like to call us, never forgets, and we never forgive. So this is a freebee, but it still gets done right.”
“Then it is something you would prefer to do yourself?” I asked.
“Don’t matter who does the deed, just so long as it gets done. Remember me telling you that there was no money for our operations. On this one, forget what I said. We get whatever it takes, anything from a kilo of smack, to a hellfire missile.”
“First let’s see what I can do,” I suggested. “Turn that thing off we might want this on the record.”
I pressed the menu and speed dialed the number I found in my contract list. “Anya, this is Maxine in Aster. Give me a call, we might be able to help each other.” I closed down the phone then turned to Martin. “So Red, let’s go meet Thomas and Blain Atwood.”
“And let them know hell has come to Georgia,” he suggested.
“Nothing like it since Sherman,” I said with a giggle. Might as well go along with the macho bullshit, I thought. I made a second call. That one was to Lois.
“Lois it’s me Max. Honey I have to go out of town for a few days. I’m not sure how long I’ll be. It is about this TV thing. So if anything comes up call Jennifer. I’ll text you the number.”
“Sure Maxine, do you need me to do anything else?” Lois asked.
“No just call Jennifer, if you need anything or anything out of the ordinary happens. I’m going to put a note on my door to tell the other tenants.” I said just before we rang off.
I speed dialed another number. “Cheryl honey, I have to take a road trip for a few days. It’s really nothing. We are just going to look at some property out of town. The Irishman and I will be back in a couple of weeks at the latest.”
“Can’t I come along?” she asked.
“Maybe next time. This one is going to be a bore,” I informed her.
“I don’t know, he is kinda cute. I saw him when he came in after lunch.” she said.
“You aren’t celebrating anything are you?” I asked.
Cheryl laughed and said, “No, but all of us in one bed might be an experience worth trying once.”
“Don’t tell me Johnathan knows about that too?” I said with a laugh.
“No, but you just told me it’s true. There was gossip about you and multiple partners.”
“It’s all lies,” I looked up to see Martin tapping his watch. “Look hon, I have to go. Lois is taking care of the place while I’m gone. I would have asked you, but you need to talk to Helen.”
“I understand, don’t worry no harm no foul,” she said.
“I have to go now, hugs and kisses,” I said. Then I closed the phone down.
“Let’s get moving. It’s a long drive to Hayseed Georgia,” Martin said.
“The name is Haymarket, but Hayseed will do,” I replied. I wanted to take a few of my own things, so we made three trips from the apartment to his car. ”So, where are we going to stay, I can’t imagine a motel in Haymarket?”
“Tonight. in a Motel a few miles away out on the interstate. Tomorrow we have to find a place in Haymarket to live and open our church,”
“You are serious about that stupid cover?” I asked.
“Don’t matter what we use, I doubt that they will buy it.” Martin said.
“Well Red, we better be ready to do some fancy tap dancing.” I suggested.
“Dance or die pilgrim,” he said in a John Wayne imitation. It actually wasn’t too bad,
“Pretty much,” I agreed.
The drive was long and boring. Mike was somewhere behind us, but out of range of the mic so we talked openly.
“For the TV we keep pretending that we are going to go to the cops and to court, but what we really do is look for a way to do the deed and make it look legit,” Martin suggested.
“I have a call in to a friend at the FBI. They might have something we can use,”
“Good, having friends always helps,” he said.
“I would be surprised, if my friend knows any more than yours,” I suggested.
“What we really need is a local connection. Try to work out one of those with your friend.”
Right, we spent most of the time with bad country music and conversation about other things. There just wasn’t much we could do until we got there and got a read on the place, We needed to know the lay of the land, and where the bodies were buried,
We stopped somewhere in South Carolina for dinner that night before we pushed on into Georgia. Haymarket was fifty or so miles southeast of Atlanta but it might as well have been a thousand miles and a hundred years away. Even though we weren’t staying, and the town was dark, Martin insisted on driving though it. The town was even smaller than Aster, by at least half. I couldn’t see it, but I knew that it would be depressingly dirty in the daylight.
“Well we are going to make big news just by showing up,” I suggested.
“Too bad it’s so late, or we could just start now,” Martin suggested.
“Martin, we get the info from my FBI contact, then we scout this out. This is not Baghdad,” I informed him,
“Hell Max, even Baghdad wasn’t Baghdad,” he said with a mysterious look.
The phone played the mag 7 theme before I could dig it out of my purse. Martin was laughing his ass off. “I did not do that,” I explained.
“Hello Anya,” I said into the phone. “How you like DC?“ I asked.
“If I ever finish this training, it might be okay. So what you got for me?” she asked.
“Thomas and Blain Atwood, I need to know what you can find out, If they are not on your radar, then get me the name in some Georgia lawdog. I’m gonna shake their tree,” I admitted.
“Okay, but you be careful till I get back with you. You got lucky with the Russians, that kind of luck only comes around once.”
“You know me, I’m the poster child for careful. Never met a condom I didn’t like,” I said.
“I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” Anya said and then cut the connection.
“So lets go meet up with Mike and pretend we are just going to play games with the terrible two,” I suggested. “You are going to have to manage this story to keep us out of jail,” I suggested.