by Toni Jackson
“Bitter? Did you send the signal?” I glanced around surprised to see him alone. The old Bitter traveled with an entourage ready to attack like feral dogs at his signal. Not that he couldn’t handle himself. He just preferred to let others do his dirty work. A fact I knew first hand.
With the exception of the salt and pepper strands at his temples and the faint wrinkles near his eyes, Bitter looked exactly the same.
He shook his head before tossing the snowball away. “Not me. That was your boy, Dispatch. Things have gotten interesting since you’ve been gone. A little too interesting. I’ve been working with D to get an idea of just how bad things are and how much worse they could become. You know outside trouble tends to be bad for business.”
“Things must be bad if you’re helping out the good guys.”
He stuffed his hand into his pockets before shrugging his shoulders. “What can I say? I’m not hero material, but I don’t mind diving into things from time to time.”
Typical Bitter. “What’s the deal with this lot? You know out of everyone I would be able to see that none of this is real.”
“This was just to keep everyone away. No one has gotten close enough to figure out it’s fake. That’s all that’s important. Follow me.”
He turned and walked further into the lot, straight into the line of trees stretched out behind it. The path zig-zagged, blocking the view of the street the deeper we traveled into the woods. After about 10 minutes, we stepped into an opening. A few feet away, a house stood dark and silent, surrounded by woods in all directions.
“What is this place?” Even though I could sense it was empty, there was a strange...energy flowing through it and around it.
“It’s somewhere we can talk freely. The energy you’re sensing is a force field programmed to admit people with a particular DNA. You, Hitman, and Engels have already been coded. It’s one of a few different operations centers we have set up. At some point, we may need to add Morningstar and the kids, but for now, I’m pretty sure my Godson can keep them safe.”
He turned to me, smirking. “You know, you should let Chase come stay with me, for like a Summer or something.”
“When hell freezes over,” I muttered, turning away. The last thing I needed was my son coming under Bitter’s influence. The ramifications would be crazy.
His grin stretched across his face. “That can be arranged. I’ve been working on it in my spare time.”
I’m sure my expression let him know how I felt about his comment. I moved forward, cringing as the static electricity from the force field moved over my body and twisted the knob to move inside. Stepping through the doorway, I found myself inside a warehouse that reminded me of our old U30 headquarters.
“D developed the portal. There are several around town. Let me show you around. I let Bitter lead me through the location, amazed. The place was nearly an exact duplicate of the old headquarters. He started with the computer room, the nerve center for operations. A glass partition divided the room and several meeting rooms, all equipped with what looked like UHD TV’s. The main room sported several high tech laptops, and a few items that shouldn’t have been on Earth.
Next, we went through the barracks, which had been divided up into suites to accommodate the families, the training room, and the kitchen.
Things got interesting when we reached the weapons cache. This one was twice the size of the previous one, with each group of weapons sectioned out. One full wall held a range of Katanas and other swords, some that were illegal on this planet. Another wall carried handguns and rifles. From hanging around Hitman, I noticed MP5’s, AK-74s, M4 Carbines, and even a few FAMAS. Another section held Browning semi-automatics and several Mossberg pump-action shotguns. There were sections of handguns, grenades…
“This place is better stocked than most military bases. What in the hell is going on?”
He shook his head. “He’s paranoid. But with good reason.”
A chill went down my spine.
If Bitter was worried, we should all be.