It was dusk when they landed at Fort Meyers. Pug radioed ahead for transportation. One of Ravencroft’s big SUVs was parked on the runway. It was empty and the keys were inside.
Pug and Andre climbed in the front. Pike was in the back with Elizabeth, so they could continue their discussion from the flight home.
“It’s a waste of time,” she said. “I’ve been to that facility. There’s nothing there.”
“So you believe me?”
“Sure,” he said. “But I have to point out that Jimmy Swift told me the same thing about the Brotherhood place down in Mexico. Right before he turned to stone.” He smiled.
Elizabeth paled. She remained silent for the remainder of the drive to Pike’s residence.
After Pike cleared the security measures, the four of them entered the large warehouse. Pug and Andre headed to the armory.
“Where’s the bathroom?” Elizabeth said. She looked like she was going to be sick.
Pike gave her directions. After she took off, the sound of a big engine came from outside.
“They’re here,” Pug said.
In a moment, they were joined by the final two members of Pike’s crew, Travis Maynard and Larry Bob Maynard, jokingly called “the twins” because of their identical surnames. Travis was tall and black, and dressed like an accountant. Larry Bob was white, big as a barn, hailed from Geogia and wore more gold chains than a Rolls Royce full of rappers.
“Good to see you, Donovan,” Travis said.
“Word,” Larry Bob added.
Pike embraced both of them, then explained the situation. The five men were mostly silent as they loaded handguns and shotguns into the SUV and the classic Impala belonging to Larry Bob.
Elizabeth returned from the restroom just as the weapons were stowed away.
“Yo, little mama.” Larry Bob grinned at her, revealing four gold teeth. With her face scrunched up in disgust, she moved closer to Pike.
He introduced the pair.
“Am I staying here?” she said.
Pike shook his head. “We may need you there. After we secure the facility, we’ll bring you in.”
“Wait,” she said. “What if the brotherhood, uh, secures you?”
Larry Bob hefted his Pancor Jackhammer automatic shotgun. “Can’t happen, yo. We gone blow up they shit.”
Travis rolled his eyes. “Lord, help us.”
Pike and Pug laughed. Andre concentrated on sharpening his knives.
Pike herded them into the vehicles. He, Pug and Elizabeth took the SUV, while the rest rode in the Impala.
As they turned onto Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pug said, “Hey, boss, does it bother you that these Brotherhood yahoos have a base 20 miles from your door?”
“A little,” Pike said.
That was the sum total of the conversation until they reached the warehouse on Sanibel Island. It was smaller than Pike’s place, sitting in the middle of a block of similar structures within sight of the Sanibel lighthouse. Pug parked about fifty yards away. The Impala pulled in behind them.
“Stay here,” Pike said to Elizabeth. He had Pug leave the keys in the ignition. Pike and his four friends walked to the lighthouse.
“What if she runs off with the truck?” Pug said.
Pike shrugged. “You can sit on Larry Bob’s lap in the Impala.”
“He be like my ventriloquist dummy,” Larry Bob said. “He ‘bout the right size.”
“Bite me,” Pug said.
“The place looks empty,” Travis said.
“Yeah,” Pike said. “Maybe Elizabeth was right.”
“We find out,” Andre said. A long knife with a serrated blade was in his left hand.
“Maynards, you and Andre find the back door.” As they moved away, Pike and Pug approached the front of the structure. Two large garage doors faced the street. Between the big doors was a smaller metal door. A glass window was set in the upper half of the door.
“Got your pry bar?” Pike said.
“I never leave for a petty crime without it,” Pug said.
“This isn’t petty,” Pike said. “Bust it.”
Pug jabbed the metal bar against the glass. The first impact produced a large crack. The second blow knocked out most of the glass. Pug used the edge of the tool to clear the jagged piece from the bottom of the window. Pike slipped his arm through the opening and unlocked the door.
They both stood outside for a moment, waiting for the wail of an alarm.
“Maybe it’s silent,” Pug said. “Wired directly into the police precinct.”
“Oh, goody,” Pike said. They walked through the door. Pike found a panel of light switches on the wall near the entrance. As the large fluorescents came on, Andre, Larry Bob and Travis entered through the back door.
There was a small enclosed space against the rear left corner, probably an office. Otherwise, the warehouse was one big room.
The warehouse was empty, save for a table in the center of the space.
Travis sniffed the air. “They haven’t been gone long.”
Pike smelled cigarette smoke.
Pug stood next to the table. “Looks like they left us something.”
The others joined him. After staring at the object on the table for a long minute, Pike said, “Somebody get the girl.”
“I’ll do it,” Larry Bob said. “She into me.”
In a minute, he returned with Elizabeth.
“What? Did you find something?” she said.
Pike stepped aside to give her an unobstructed view of the item on the table.
It was a stone hand. It might have been chopped from the arm of a very large statue. The hand was twice the size of Andre’s, and he possessed the biggest mitts among Pike’s crew.
The stone hand also had a thumb and five fingers. It ended in a jagged stump just below the wrist. The end of the stump showed bone and, Pike presumed, veins or arteries.
He thought of the way Jimmy Swift had died. If Pike had cut off Jimmy’s stone hand, it might have looked like this.
If Swift had been a six-fingered giant.
“Tell me that’s fake,” Travis said.
“No,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not”
To Be Continued
© Mark Justice 2011