The moon was nearly half-full, but light clouds intermittently veiled and unveiled stars like grey gauze drawn across the sky and retreating. It was nearly two o’clock.
A time when guards get lazy.
Boyd had ridden with Russell and Flynn, as before, in the back of the Major’s Hummer. Memories of his last visit and the death of Babue Dostrem flooded back and generated an ache that came from his jaws and spread to his gut recalling the gush of hot blood in his mouth as the man’s life pulsed through his teeth, into his throat. He worked to control the fire that lay behind his eyes. Throbbing in his pulse, beating like distant drums, through his ears.
He was relieved to get out of the vehicle and into the street. Flynn had parked one block away from where they’d been before.
“Wil, don’t take unnecessary risks. Plant the bugs and come back. If you happen to see something we need to share, use the camera, but it isn’t a critical part of your mission. We’ll be here. Use the earpiece radio if necessary,” Russell said.
The vampire vanished down the alley, no more than a changing shadow in shifting light.
Boyd slid through blackest darkness and approached the Dostrem compound from the opposite direction than he’d used before. As he neared the main gate, differences were obvious. The death of Babue had changed the Elder’s security. There were two guards on the gate and, from the sounds that came to his heightened hearing, a third guard moved about the courtyard. In the courtyard sat three Toyota SUVs.
He climbed to the roof of a silent building across the street, lay on his stomach, then waited and watched. His eyes, had the guards looked with binoculars, flickered a waiting glow. He was like a patient tiger assessing a herd.
The roving guard stopped at the gate, lit a cigarette and chatted with his fellow watchmen.
The vampire was off the building and in the alley, his movement, like a blur of rushing darkness. He rounded the compound and scaled the wall, stopping atop the roof where Babue’s room had been, when he lived. A miniscule listening device went above the outer window.
No hesitation. Boyd stayed atop the compound’s walls to avoid nervous ears, in the houses, to the corner of the compound where, presumably, the Elder Dostrem lived and held court.
Atop the roof on silent feet, Wil felt a unique sensation. It was as if a host of molecule-sized caterpillars had invaded his bloodstream and were slithering aimlessly through his body. The sense of crawling persisted as he skimmed across the flat roof and leaned out to place the bug just above a window.
He glanced down into the courtyard and saw a cigarette’s brief glow in one of the vehicles.
Another guard, but no more observant than the others.
The itching and uneasy sensation was stronger as he faced the SUV holding the guard.
He considered taking a picture, but there was too much risk. He had no personal fear, but the mission’s importance made any threat of compromise unacceptable.
Boyd placed listening devices on every window that faced the outside of the compound. When the roving guard again stopped at the gate, he dropped from the wall on the side of the compound away from the gate.
He returned to the Hummer where Russell and Flynn waited.
“Sir, I’ve put in six audio bugs,” he said.
“Shit, I didn’t see or hear you,” Flynn said.
“Good work, Wil. Get in,” Russell said.
As soon as Boyd was in the rear seat, Flynn had the engine running and drove to the battalion headquarters. Using night-vision goggles was safe, but slower than desirable.
Vic called the General’s office. When the radio operator answered, he gave a brief situation report and the agreed order.
“This is Russell, devices are in place, activate surveillance,” he said.
“Vic, this is McCaskill. I couldn’t sleep.”
The general told the radio operator to stand by.
“Sir, Boyd did the job.”
“I can see that. We already have an audio feed from the drone. The only sound besides snoring is intermittent chatter from people who must be guards. I don’t speak the language, but we’ll have it translated in a few hours. Good job. Congratulate your Sergeant. I knew I could rely on you. Get some sleep.”
“Sir, I need him assigned directly to my unit. Can we do that today?”
“Send the specifics and dream up a slot for him. He can move in today, the paperwork will follow. Any questions, refer them to me.”
The General signed off. Vic locked the radio system’s door and turned to Flynn and Boyd.
“Let’s all get some sleep,” he said.
Once Wil was away from the Dostrem compound, the creeping sensation in his body had subsided.
“Major, there’s something I need to tell you and Sergeant Major Flynn.”
As he described the sensation Russell and Flynn sat down and listened to every sensation the vampire described.
“What do you think caused it? Was it some electromagnetic signal disrupting your nerves?” Flynn said.
“No. I’ve been around high-powered radios and power transmission towers and never felt the sensation before. There were three SUVs inside the wall—white, red, and black Toyota Sequoias. What I felt came from the red one.”
Russell was silent. His thoughts sent sensations through him much like Boyd had described.
The man may really be a vampire. He may feel energies the rest of us can only detect with sensitive equipment. He may have sensed radiation through the shielding.
There’s probably nuclear material in the back of that red SUV.