“Hello? Wake up Dude! I do not know how long you have been asleep now, but you need to wake up!” Pierre Bellerose said as he nudged Dude in the shoulder with his hand. “Bellerose, if they’ve not exited the facility by now, what makes you think they’re going to do it before daylight? In this damn cold?” Dude asked his partner, “We’ve been out here for six hours now, and I’m freezing my balls off.” “What? Does it not snow in Scotland?” Pierre questioned, with a smirk on his face.
“Of course it snows in Scotland, just not in July. The southern hemisphere’s counter seasons drive me mad. As if the time zone adjustment wasn’t enough, right?” Dude responded as Pierre nodded, and quickly looked back at the compound. “Still nothing?” Dude asked. “Whatever, Dude.” Pierre said, as he rolled his eyes. “Aye, well if that’s the case, then wake me up at sunrise,” said Dude as he repositioned himself to fall back asleep, “besides, it’s bloody hard to sleep in this cold.”
“You do not take your job seriously enough Dude.” Pierre said. There was a momentary pause before Dude’s response: “That’s why I’m glad you’re here, to take it seriously for me.”
It was just before dawn when a hangar or garage door at the compound opened. The noise woke up Pierre, who spasmed as he was startled. “Dude, Dude, Dude!” he said demandingly. “I’m already awake, Bellerose, I have been for hours now. When I woke up, you were spooning me, but I couldn’t move because we were frozen together. Now do be quiet because the guards may be about the premises,” Dude said, in a covert position giving him a clear vista into the hangar and of the truck that was about to leave. “I do not understand,” Pierre began, “why do they leave at sunrise? Why not leave in the dark?” “Well, we’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Dude started, “the nearest major city where anybody could possibly be looking for them is, at the fastest, four hours away by plane. So why worry about it now? Besides, they have to make it down the mountainside and to the coast before there’s any real danger, that’s at least a two hour car trip. Now, by the looks of things, I’d say we’ve got about twenty minutes before they take off. How are we going to do this?” “Well, do you think that we can... sneak across the snow and make it inside of the hangar?” Pierre asked. “No, see that watchman on the roof?” Dude asked as he pointed out the oblivious watchman, “Making a run for it won’t work, but I’ve got something else in mind that just may...”
Dude and Pierre collect their equipment in a duffle bag and creep behind the tree line and follow it on the long way around the open area surrounding the compound. They make it to the plateau’s edge, which they sprint along to the backside of the facility. They make it to the building, backs pressed against the southernmost wall of the building. The building is constructed to hang off the very steep slope. Dude observes the backside of the building; as it hangs over the slope face, it is divided into two halves, one half being an intricate set of support beams to keep the building safe from falling and the other half being what appears to be another part of the building, as if it’s some sort of staircase leading down to a back entrance halfway down the side of the slope, which is a few hundred feet above the winding mountain road. At the base of this presumed enclosed stairwell is an observation deck, currently populated by fifteen men, a few of whom appear to be watching the road for any unwanted visitors, the rest seem to be enjoying cigarettes and coffee as some of them are to go on the journey to the coast in a few minutes. “You think that’s most of the security?” Pierre asked Dude. “Oh, I’m sure of it. They’re only delivering one thing, so they’ll only be taking one truck, so I’m sure most, if not everybody who’s due to go on that trip is down there right now. Okay, so here’s my plan, we cross over to that stairwell underneath the building, hug the building as much as possible, you see...” “What makes you so sure that’s a stairwell and not a lift shaft?” Pierre interrupted. “A lift shaft, Bellerose,” Dude began, pointing out two open windows on the side of the building, “wouldn’t have those windows. Anyways, hug up to the building as much as possible and try not to get out onto the beams because then it gets too slippery and someone will notice us. I’ll fill you in once we get inside the stairwell.”
The men crawled under the overhang and made their way over the frigid rocks to reach the stairwell unnoticed. Dude climbs up to the open window and pulls himself to the ledge. He peers up and down the inside of the stairwell; not a soul to be seen. He then takes a moment to calculate the distance from the window to the stairs, a little under two meters of open air between him and the stairs. “Are you alright?” Pierre asked, holding the supplies. “Aye, I’m grand. Just give me a moment,” Dude replied, “Once I’ve made it to the stairs, I want you to toss me that bag, and then you’ll need to jump across. I’ll help you on. Don’t do anything until I tell you to though, alright?” Pierre nodded. Dude took a deep breath, and then after a brief moment of contemplation, he lunged himself through the window, through the air, and just as gravity began to take effect, he’d managed to take a strong grip on the railing around the stairs, all of this and barely made any noise. He grunted as he pulled himself up and over the railing. He looked back up to the window where Pierre was watching with great interest. “Alright, toss me that bag now.” Dude extended his arms to catch it. Pierre lofted it through the air and straight to Dude, who quickly caught it and shouldered it. “Alright, now come along here, we’ve got to get moving” Dude said. Pierre put himself on the window ledge, leaning through, holding himself up with his hands clutching the window frame. He looked down to the floor of the enclosure; maybe not a long enough fall to kill him, but certainly enough to cripple him, maybe in this cold, kill him eventually. Pierre had entered a trance of uncertainty, staring down, and beginning to sweat an even colder sweat than the usual fear sweat, augmented by the chilling breeze of the South Chilean winter.
“Pierre! Come on, make the gap, damn it!” Dude demanded of him without raising his voice too highly in the echoey stairwell. Pierre swallowed a final time, leaned back, and then with all the might his muscles could bear, he forced himself off the ledge and flew through the air. He made it, weakly clinging to the rail for less than a second before he began to fall. He felt an uncomfortable, unsettling, and unnerving feeling jolt up his spine as he was, momentarily, without any base on a solid foundation. That changed instantly when Dude grabbed him under his shoulders, catching him almost before he even fell, with just enough time between being pulled down by gravity and being pulled up by Dude to have that micro moment of unadulterated fear. Dude hoisted Pierre over the railing and sat him down on the steps. Pierre gasped for air as though he were just saved from drowning, almost appearing so as well by the amount of sweat visible on his face. “Relax mate, you knew I wouldn’t let you fall like that, right?” Dude asked. Pierre looked up at him, breathing slightly softer now, and nodded. “Right, now stand up, we’ve got a job to do.” Pierre stood up, clasped the rail, and followed Dude up the stairs.
Upon reaching the top of the staircase, Pierre reached for the door handle that would lead them inside the main portion of compound. Dude grabbed Pierre’s hand to stop him from opening the door. “Ah ah ah,” said Dude, releasing Pierre’s hand, “we’ve got something we need to do first. “What is that?” Pierre asked. Dude pointed to the fire sprinkler and the water pipes suspended from the ceiling. “Why would they need that in here?” Pierre asked. “Wooden stairs; covered by traction tape.” Dude opened their supply bag, and produced a pic-axe. “This should do nicely,” he said, eyeing the tool, “Spot me, would you?” he asked as he stood up on the rail. Pierre grabbed Dude by the jacket to hold up steady so he wouldn’t fall. “Now, my theory, Bellerose, is that it’s cold enough in here to freeze this water on the stairs, making them impossible to climb, and believe me mate, it’s cold enough; I checked more than one thermometer if you catch my meaning” Dude joked as he angled the pic-axe to strike just over the stairs. Dude designated a spot over on the pipe, carving an X onto it before he pulled back the sharp tool, and swung it powerfully to the left, piercing the hard metal pipe, and jumping down before the torrent of water could spray him. Dude and Pierre watched the water flood the staircase, falling down the central spiral, crystalizing on every step. “That ought to do the trick, right?” Dude said to Pierre, nodding his head. Pierre, awestruck, agreed with an abrupt “Yes! How did you come up with that idea?” Dude was opening the bag to put the pic-axe back in as he said “Well you see Bellerose, in any given situation, unless one has incredibly thorough information beforehand, one can never completely plan a mission. That’s why any good mercenary should know that scheming is just as important as improvising, and I know it sounds cliche, but always mind your surroundings and never trust anyone.” As he was speaking, he returned the pic-axe to its proper compartment, and pulled out a couple of pistols, sticking one in his belt and placing the other in Pierre’s hand. “Now you can open that door, but make it quick so nobody inside hears the water.” Pierre nodded, and held his gun up to the door as he touched handle. “Let’s see if we can’t do this without firing, alright?” Dude requested. Pierre nodded again, and relaxed his stiffened arm as he opened the door quietly and just enough for them both to slip through.
The two men coursed their way through the cramped facility until they had made it into the garage, inside of which the truck was idling and two men are preparing for the icy road trip. Dude looks through the window in the door; he instantly recognizes Ray Townes, the second in command of the whole operation which has been, up to this point, successful in acquiring its object of interest: some very rare documents, of which there are no copies, and which do confirm Dude and Pierre’s current benefactor, a mysterious Mr. Jones’ right to his ancestral estate in rural Wales. Mr. Jones’ right to the land is currently in dispute, and the documents proving it were discovered and taken from a hall of records in the United Kingdom under the orders of Townes’ boss, international real estate developer Neil Kliebert, and are to be destroyed in his presence at his home in Auckland, New Zealand. Once said documents are destroyed, Kliebert may finally unjustly obtain the estate. Dude opens the door and comes into the garage followed by Pierre. He addresses Townes: “Townes, you clever weasel, you’re quite resourceful finding a place like this as a hinging point.” “Dude Miller? How the hell did you find us? We’re completely off the grid!” Townes scolded. “Oh, we’ve got our ways, me and my clan, so don’t you worry yourself one bit. Also, I see your friend there has clearly pressed the alarm button, but I’m not worried about your cohorts coming in here from the deck, because I’m willing to bet they can’t make it up the stairwell. Now my associate and I are going to give you a few options: you and your friend here can give us the documents and lend us your auto and we’ll be on our merry way, or, my associate and I can kick the living piss out of you, we’ll take the documents, borrow your auto and be on our merry way. Now which one sounds more agreeable, hmm?” Dude smiled, walking over to a table on the side of the hangar-like garage, looking through the various papers and items, before looking back up at Townes. Just then Townes’ looked at his colleague and said “Well, Dude, you make an enticing offer, but... JUAN, NOW, LET’S MOVE!” Townes and his associate instantly spring into action: Juan opening the truck’s door as Townes dives through the passenger seat into the driver’s seat and Juan sits in the front seat. Townes throws the truck into drive and floors it. Dude looks to Pierre, who is by this point, flying through the air into the back of the truck. Dude smiles as he realizes Pierre is learning the art of improvisation. “I’LL MEET YOU DOWN THE ROAD!” Dude yells to Pierre before dashing out of the hangar and back through the compound to the stairwell. The staircase is now completely frozen over and by now the water has frozen at it’s leak. Dude bursts through the door and breaks through the ice cascading down onto the staircase and repositions himself from a stance to a slide on his rear without losing any momentum as he slips down the spiraling staircase. He makes it all the way down the frozen stairs and bowls down the henchmen that have congregated at the base. The ice slide delivers him through to the door at the base where he stands up. He is very dizzy by this point, and stumbles across the deck and hops over the handrail, not anticipating the two meter fall onto the snow coated slope, which he then tumbles all the way down to the road. Dude lays at the side of the road for a moment, trying to shake off his dizziness. He stands up and walks out to the middle of the road and draws his gun, pointing it at the approaching truck. The truck comes to a halt on the icy road; the passenger door opens and Juan falls out onto his hands and knees and Townes falls on top of him. Dude then stops pointing the gun at the truck, realizing that Pierre is now behind the wheel. Dude walks over to the passenger seat door, kicking Townes as he does so, and enters the vehicle. Pierre then accelerates, leaving the compound behind.
“Ah, you learn very quickly, Bellerose, I’m quite impressed” Dude complemented. “Merci, Dude. Would you like to drive to Puerto Natales?” Pierre asked. “No, no, no, I’m all shaken up from making it to the road. To be honest, my head was spinning so fast that when I drew my gun, I wasn’t sure which truck to aim at,” Dude responded with a chuckle. “So what is the next step?” Pierre questioned, “Where are we going from here?” “Well, we’ll meet up with Jan in Puerto Natales, and he’ll have us a ride back to London,” said Dude. “Jan is your main partner, yes?” Pierre asked, “You and him have been working together since... eh... you were at university in...” “Brussels. Aye, he’s one of my best mates. We’ve been working together for a few years now,” Dude recounted reassuringly.
Dude and Pierre arrive in the snow-laden city of Puerto Natales. Life in the small city appears to be functioning as usual. “Where did Jan tell you to meet him?” Pierre asked as they lumbered through what seemed to be the main drag of the town. “Jan said to meet him in an airfield just south of the city, so for now, we’re going the right direction. He said it can’t be that hard to miss, a big expanse with a few tin buildings and hangars at the north end of it. He also mentioned the view of the mountains,” Dude said, “of course everywhere here has a view of the mountains.”
The men pull into the desolate airstrip. It matched the description to a tee: a few tin buildings and hangars and a big expanse with a view of the mountains. Dude scoured the area with his eyes, looking for Jan. “There he is,” Dude designated, pointing out the blond man in the dark green jacket standing outside of a single engine prop-plane, the propellor spinning, and the plane angled for take off.
“Dude Miller. You never fail,” said Jan, smiling as Dude and Pierre approached the plane. He warmly shook hands with Dude, patting him on the back and continued: “Good to see you. How are you keeping? How was your night staking out in the blistering cold?” “Wasn’t too bad. We were only out there for five hours at the most. These jackets and blankets really did do the trick. The worst part of the whole operation was wandering through from the other side of the woods to find the damn compound,” Dude replied. “You do always go to great lengths to avoid detection Dude. Now I do have one small request before you step onto the plane,” Jan said. “And what might that be, mate?” Dude grinned. “That you hand me the case with the documents and step away.” Jan leapt into the open door of the plane and produced a pistol from behind his back and pointed it at Dude, whose grin had now faded into a look of disbelief. Pierre was quick to draw his gun. “Drop it Bellerose, we’ve already lost. It’s impossible to outshoot Jan,” Dude said as he unshouldered the attache case, opened it and examined the documents inside, “You know Jan, out of all the people we’ve worked with over the years, all the people with flimsy alliances and even flimsier constitutions, I never once would have thought that you’d be one of those people who betrays their colleagues and collects they’re dirty recompenses.” He took one final look at the case and tossed it to Jan. “Thank you Dude, now as a token of my appreciation, I will not kill you or your friend as I was instructed to do,” Jan said, smirking as he laid the case down inside the cabin of the plane. He then turned back around and shot Pierre in the shin. At that moment, the plane began to taxi down the runway. Pierre shrieked in pain as he collapsed onto the ground, his blood staining the snow red. “AFSCHEID DUDE MILLER!” Jan yelled before he closed the plane door. The plane was now halfway down the airstrip, beginning to come off the ground. Dude watched as the man who was his best friend up until now ascended towards the mountains, shrinking away into the sky. He then turned to his partner, suffering in the snow, still screaming in intense pain. Dude scooped him up in his arms and ran to the truck, and laid him down in the bed of the idling truck and placed a blanket over his legs. Dude then sped off towards the town, looking for a hospital.
When Pierre came to, he was in a hospital bed and he first looked down to examine his gunshot wound: it was red and swollen, and still radiating heat and still tarnishing any fabric it touched, as every bit of bed sheet around it went from white to red. He then looked across the room to see Dude’s white jacket now stained with blood and hanging over a chair. Just then the door opened and Dude walked into the room. Pierre felt a feeling of guilt over having lost the documents, and thus failed the mission. “I am so sorry Dude. I feel like it is my fault,” Pierre said, avoiding eye contact, feeling so ashamed. “What are you sorry about?” Dude asked, “All that Jan flew away with was some paperwork from a car lot confirming the purchase of a 1982 pick-up truck. It was sitting on the table in the garage at the compound.” Dude then grabbed the bag on the floor, reached inside and pulled out the deed to Jones’ estate, “I’ve got those documents right here! I switched them out on the car ride to the airfield” A smile forged its way across Pierre’s face as he stared at the documents in Dude’s hands. “But you said that Jan was your best friend; some one that you could, eh... always depend on,” Pierre said. “Aye, Jan had seemed to be a true friend, but remember what I told you in the stairwell Bellerose: always mind your surroundings and never trust anyone.”
© Copyright 2017 Bobby Stevens. All rights reserved.
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