A split second before the wall exploded Pike grabbed Elizabeth’s wrist and pulled her into the hallway.
He’d instantly recognized the signature flash of a helicopter-launched missile. This was a military attack, or an assault by someone with access to military weapons.
His ears rang from the explosion, and the back of his neck stung from some kind of shrapnel. There was no time to check it now. He towed the petite archeologist through the hall. Behind them, there was another explosion. Several framed photographs fell from the walls. Plaster dust from the ceiling coated their heads like snow.
“Nugget won’t be happy about this,” he said. His voice sounded like it was coming from under water.
“What?” Elizabeth said.
Whoever was attacking them intended to bring down the whole house. Pike would have to take his chances outside.
They made their way to the mansion’s foyer. Explosions shook the entire structure. Next to the front door one of Jiminez’s men lay unconscious or dead. A large metal shield, like something out of a Roman gladiator movie, had fallen from the wall onto his head.
Pike knelt to check his pulse. The man was gone. Reaching under the dead man’s jacket, Pike removed a gun. It was a Sig Sauer P220 Combat model with a 10-round magazine. It wasn’t much against missile-firing helicopters but it would have to do.
Pike threw open the door. The sun’s harsh glare was in sharp contrast to the rumbling explosions behind the house and the cacophonous thumping of the chopper blades. He pulled Elizabeth out of the house.
“We can’t stay here,” he said.
He spoke louder. “We have to go. We’re going to run to the jungle, okay?”
With the enemy choppers concentrating on the back of the house, they would have to take an indirect route to cover. Pike would head for the road, then enter the jungle slightly north of where he and Drake had first stumbled onto Jiminez’s property.
“Let’s go.” He released Elizabeth’s hand and they ran.
They had covered less than 40 yards when one of the choppers sailed over the house. The road was at least two hundred yards away. Pike stuck out an arm to stop Elizabeth. He turned and fired at the chopper. One shot cracked the cowling in front of the pilot before the man nosed the craft up. Pike’s other shots bounced harmlessly off the undercarriage.
“Come on,” he said.
They ran toward a long detached carport. The sides were open to the air, but the roof was metal and might offer some protection.
Unless the chopper launched a Hellfire missile at them.
There were only two vehicles parked under the carport: a Mercedes SUV and a Bentley Continental Supersports convertible. Jiminez’s other transportation must have been stored somewhere else. If they were behind the house, they were probably already gone.
“Notice anything about that helicopter?”
“It was white,” Elizabeth said. “Do you think it’s the Brotherhood of the First?”
Pike nodded. “I think whoever killed Swift called in the air strike.”
“For the last time, Drake is not my friend,” Pike said. “Let’s get behind the SUV. Try to keep it between you and the chopper.”
They heard the Brotherhood’s helicopter hovering overhead. Then came the chattering of automatic gunfire. Bullets pierced the carport’s roof and shredded the top of the small convertible.
“Slide under the truck,” Pike ordered.
They both crawled under the SUV. Elizabeth fit easily. The space was cramped for Pike’s large frame, but he made it.
Once again, gunfire rained down on the carport. He heard the metal tearing into the roof of the SUV.
“What are we going to do?” Elizabeth said.
Pike wasn’t sure. He only knew that if was going to die it wouldn’t be on his back, hiding under a drug lord’s Mercedes.
When the gunfire ceased, he said, “Stay here.”
He pulled himself out from under the truck and climbed to his feet. He checked the magazine of the Sig Sauer. Six shots remained. If he chose his targets carefully, he might be able to do some damage. He stepped out of the carport’s cover just as the sound of the chopper blades doubled.
Both Brotherhood choppers were hovering over his position. They looked like Russian KA-52s, the attack helicopter of the air force there. Both were painted white. Pike couldn’t see any more missiles. Maybe all of the heavy stuff had been used on the house.
One of the KA-52s came closer to the ground. The cowling in front of the pilot was unmarked. So this was the second craft. Pike waved a hand in greeting and smiled. Two men were in the craft. One pilot and one weapons man, he guessed.
“Hey! How’s it going?” Pike shouted.
Then he raised the Sig Sauer P220 and emptied it into the pilot’s cabin. The cowling starred, then shattered. The gunner slumped in the seat. Pike saw blood spread across the chest of his white jumpsuit.
The pilot yanked the stick, and the chopper rose into the sky.
Pike tossed the empty gun away as the other helicopter opened fire again.
But the gunfire instantly stopped.
Pike heard the roar of an engine and felt the vibrations of another helicopter rotor. He shielded his eyes with his hand and looked to the north.
The new arrival was a black AgustaWestland Apache, the British version of the U.S. Army’s AH-64. The Apache fired a missile. The Brotherhood chopper vanished in a ball of flames.
Pike stepped back under the flimsy protection of the carport as metal and flaming fuel and body parts fell to earth.
He heard the distinctive sound of the other KA-52 growing fainter. The other Brotherhood pilot was fleeing.
The black Apache landed lightly on the expansive front lawn. When the rotors stopped turning, the pilot’s door opened.
The man was short, but built like a fireplug. An unlit cigar was clenched between his teeth.
He removed the stogie and smiled at Pike.
Pug Benson said, “Boss, is this a good time to ask for a raise?”
To Be Continued
© Mark Justice 2011