Prelude to the Hunt
Kelly spun, temporarily blinded by the sudden surge of light entering the darkened cavern. He squinted up into the stairwell, shielding his eyes until they adjusted. Tompkins, the ever so lazy foreman, was standing there with a smirk on his face and a gun in his hand. He was a big man, with hulking shoulders and craggy features. Worst yet, though, were his eyes. They had always appeared half-lidded and slow. Now there was an almost manic brightness to them, a glee for what was about to come. He no longer resembled the lackadaisical man he had first seemed.
"Thought I was gonna have to snore `til doomsday, the rate it was taking you to find this place," he grated out, his shifty eyes alight with delight." Mr. Leighton sure had you pegged. He said if we left out the bait we'd be sure to catch our rat. Hey, rat, how's it feel?"
"Like the other shoe finally dropped," Kelly casually answered. He appeared totally nonplussed though his eyes were making a careful circuit of the room as he weighed the odds. "I was wondering if you clowns were ever going to show. Have to admit, though, that you had me buffaloed. Never figured someone as all out stupid-looking as you could even manage to tie his shoelaces, much less point a gun. Guess your boss needs the occasional muscle job here and there though, huh? Don't need much upstairs to qualify for that. Must be right up your alley."
As Kelly was talking he was slowly moving ever closer to Tompkins. The big man was so busy reacting to Kelly's words that he wasn't paying much attention to anything else. His eyes had gone from shiny anticipation to a duller flatness, the flatness of a predator. Kelly's words had struck deep, and Kelly was startled to see the light of psychosis fill those dead orbs.
`You think you're so smart," Tompkins shrieked, what little control he generally possessed blown all to piece . I'm not the one that's gonna die here today, mister. You and your other rat buddy are gonna be shoveling your own graves soon enough. You two thought you were so smart coming in here with all your play-acting, but we were always one step ahead of you. My boss had you pegged right from the start. I could have finished you any time, any time at all, and I would have too, except for Mr. Leighton. He says we have to know for sure so he practically writes you an invitation to snoop. And you're dumb enough to walk right into it. So don't be calling me the stupid one, jerk. I'm not the one caught flat-footed."
Tompkins had surged down to Kelly while spouting off this diatribe. With his final words he back-handed Kelly into the nearby table. Kelly went down heavily, searching hands looking for the large wrench he'd spotted earlier.
"So why isn't your boss here then, if this is such a big deal trap?" challenged Kelly, wiping the blood from the side of his mouth. This guy wasn't going to go down easy. That wrench could be a big equalizer.
"You'd think he'd be mildly interested, wouldn't you? Can't be every day your organization is opened up for inspection. Why leave some half-witted muscle to spring the trap?"
Tompkins flung Kelly to one side with a powerful kick. Kelly's ranging fingers found what he'd been looking for as he curled up in pain. Not exactly his favorite way to effect an escape, but he'd go with any method at this point.
"You just shut up now or I'll forget what the boss told me," Tompkins spat out, death looking out from his grim visage. " You don't question nothing the bosses say, neither. They know what they're doin . They always know. They're right in the middle of some big plans and you're just a puny little nuisance. You and that so-called salesman. You walked right into our trap and your partner's bound to be just as easy. The boss will let me have some fun with you once he sees what all your people know about us, then we'll pack up and start all over somewhere else. You and your little squealing co-rat won't be caring at that point. And once I get done with you ain't no one even gonna find the pieces."
Another kick accompanied that last remark. Kelly rolled with it, bringing the wrench up close to his body, legs tensing as he readied for action.
"You think you're in their league, huh? What's to say I haven't already radioed my partner with all the information. He could be halfway out of the county already while you're sitting there preening. Think your boss would like that?" Kelly grated out from between clenched teeth. This guy's kicks were getting a little hard to take but he wanted to keep him talking and off-balance.
"What kind of a moron do you think I am," yelled Tompkins, aiming another well placed kick. Kelly rolled once more, then used the wall at his back to regain his feet. He kept hunched over though, as if in great pain.
"These walls are so thick, nothing could get out from here. And I was watching you the whole time. You couldn't have called out. No way. You ain't pulling that on me. Nah, nobody stops us, man. And you two aren't gonna be the ones to start. We got more brains than ten of you put together. Mr. Leighton knows that I can handle you `til he gets here. He trusts me, see. He knows that I can take you just like I took the last clown that came in, trying to bust us up," boasted Tompkins, eyes glittering wildly once again.
"Oh, so you're the one who dealt with him, huh? Good job, pal. Course, he was able to relay Leighton 's name and location before he died. Guess you slipped up a little bit there, didn't you? Don't suppose your boss was too thrilled with that little detail, was he?" taunted Kelly, braced against the wall .
Tompkins lunged forward, goaded beyond his small capacity for control, yelling as he came on.
"It's Mr. Leighton to you, rat. And he said he'd give me another chance. He knew I couldn't help that guy getting away. It wasn't really my fault, see. He's showing how much he trusts me, letting me correct that little mistake," whined Tompkins, fists clenching into massive balls. He stopped, looking almost defensive, almost normal.
"Mr. Leighton was real mad at me about that other guy," he muttered, rubbing some half healed bruises on his face." He didn't like that we'd have to move on if someone showed up. But he said it'd be ok, that he'd just build up a new name, new place. The others would follow his lead. And it'll be ok, just like I promised him. Soon as I dispose of the rats," he giggled, bringing up his pistol.
Which was when Kelly pushed off from the wall, letting his momentum carry him directly into the crazy man's body, striking out with his arm as he barreled into him. His first hit with the wrench landed exactly where he'd been hoping it would, knocking the pistol from Tompkins' grip. It went off, the shot burrowing harmlessly into the floor. Tompkins' shrieked, clutching at his numbed arm while Kelly took another swipe at him. His second blow was not nearly as effective. It landed on the big man's shoulder, a punishing blow but not a disabling one. Kelly had tried for the head but Tompkins was already moving, rage giving him added power. Kelly scrambled forward, trying to keep on the offensive . If he ever let this big behemoth get near the fallen gun he'd be done for. He plowed into the man again, allowing him to pummel him with ferocious intent, fists connecting with brain-numbing force. Just as Kelly felt consciousness leaving, he once more felt the intense thud of contact travel up his right arm. He'd connected.
Tompkins gave an audible grunt, then landed atop Kelly with all the force inherent in dead weight. The fight was definitely over . Kelly fought to stay conscious. Tompkins heavy body didn't help in the slightest. One of the big man's last blows had connected with Kelly's head and it was nearly as bad as a hit with the damned wrench. He shoved the massive man off him, only mildly interested to hear a moan issue from the man's lips. So, he hadn't killed him. He had to be down for a bit though and that should give Kelly time to get into town. Scotty had to be pulled out quick and then they'd both vamoose. The saboteurs had been overly confident and that might just let them pull this thing off.
He staggered to his feet, wavering a bit as he attempted to reach Tompkins' gun. They could use all the extra firepower they could get. Their cover was blown all to heck and gone anyway. Scotty had their guns stashed in the motel but they might not have time to go for them. His head pounding, he reached almost blindly for the fallen gun, doing some grunting himself when his ribs protested the move. The big man had definitely not been any fun .
In addition, Kelly was trying to mute the surge of disgust he was feeling. He'd blown this one so badly. If they got out it would be pure luck . He had to put that aside for now though and concentrate on grabbing Scotty and running . He quickly confirmed that he still had possession of the list, then staggered up the stairs and out of the house.
Scotty would be holding up the fort at the barn dance, waiting for his oh so brilliant partner to come and reveal what he'd found. If there was one thing he was going to remember about this little job, Kelly promised himself, it was that the two partners would stay together from now on. No more of this "you go there, I'll go here" stuff. Their strength was in their conjoined efforts and he was just damned lucky that he'd been able to get that wrench.
Kelly shook off the wobble in his gait and moved on, with purpose. The day had waned away in that hole in the ground and Kelly was glad of that. He was tired of the oppressive heat and welcomed the coolness of the night air coming on. He moved as fast as possible, knowing there was an old ranch truck that he could swipe. He'd pick up Scotty and they'd be gone.
Only Scotty wasn't alone when Kelly arrived at the barn social. There was a gentleman sitting next to him, very close, wearing sunglasses and a quietly smug expression. Scotty glanced up at Kelly, giving an apologetic shrug.
"Oh, don't tell me now, let me guess," said Kelly, sarcasm dripping with every word." You need rescuing, right? I've been off being absolutely brilliant, battling King Kong and saving the day while you're here sipping apple juice and getting in trouble. Sheesh! I can't leave you anywhere any more, Miles," complained Kelly, flashing Scotty a signal to indicate he had the goods. "And what about your good buddy over there? Didn't anyone ever bother to tell him that sunglasses at night can ruin your vision?" With that pronouncement, he directed a dead-pan stare at the newcomer.
"Mr. Leighton, I presume ?" Kelly asked .
"Very good, Mr. Robinson, and most amusing. I'm sure you keep your partner well entertained. I think I will relieve you of that duty now, though, just as I will relieve you of your wallet and any other little incidentals you might have on you," Leighton blandly ordered, turning his blinkered gaze to Kelly."Any attempt to cause a disruption or to call attention to our little group will have dire consequences for Mr. Scott here. I'm sure you understand my meaning."
"He's talking about the gun he's got jammed into my side, Kel. He's going to start pumping up oil any minute if he keeps drilling that thing into me. I'd say this mission hasn't exactly been an unqualified success so far," said Scotty.
"You'd gathered that too, did you? I've been getting something of the same impression all day long now," mumbled Kelly, as he started fishing things out of his pockets.
"Sorry, man," apologized Scotty. "He had a gun on me before I knew who he was. We've been sitting here for hours, waiting to see if you'd show. The rest of the crowd here must think we're engaged by now."
Kelly snorted, handing over his gun and wallet and all the little bits and pieces he'd accumulated. The list, in his shoe, was going to stay there for as long as he could keep it hidden.
"If you think you're getting a wedding gift out of me, think again, Jack. Besides, I only give it three months, max. But I got to say, you make a lovely couple."
Directing his gaze over to the completely unamused saboteur, Kelly leveled an equally straight look at him.
"What's to stop me from just calling out, pal? I might lose a partner but I'd stop you before you could get us both. Partners can be replaced, you know. Who's to say that I'm not a little tired of this one. And there'd be no way you could shoot your way out of here."
"I have no intention of doing tha . No, I'd just shoot Mr. Scott here, then you. Your partner's death would be ensured. Perhaps you might have a chance but I doubt it. You see, I'm very good with guns. Then, in the chaos that followed, I'd slip out. No, I think you'll do as I ask. I'm willing to wager that you don't want to risk losing your partner. Would you like to call me on it?" challenged Leighton, still with very little expression.
It was very difficult to read a man wearing dark glasses. Leighton used this fact to full advantage.
" Nah, I'd never find anyone else that I could tolerate sharing a hotel room with . Scotty is nicely housebroken in that regard. Sides, he's the only guy I know who has a mom that knits," said Kelly, shrugging off his lousy attempt at a bluff . Now he was the one who had to give his partner an apologetic grimace .
" For that, you get the green sweater, man . Even if I have to make it
myself," vowed Scotty . " Just so long as you promise not to be going on about partners needing replacement . Even I thought that was a total crock, Jack ," said Scotty, shaking his head in mock disgust .
" You, knitting ? God help us all," replied Kelly, his cheerful what-the-heck look back in full display . " We could be talking a fate worse than death
here, folks ."
His eyes were flicking everywhere even as he continued bantering with his partner, looking for an opening. His partner was matching him, look for
" So what's the story, then ?" queried Kelly . " I thought you were elsewhere, Leighton . Your little watchdog thought you'd left him in control of everything . What gives ?"
" Tompkins ? Have you killed him ?" the saboteur asked, with complete indifference.
" Don't think so . He's going to be sporting a real bad headache though . Nice to see such concern from an employer ," said Kelly, sarcasm present in every syllable .
" Too bad . You see, I don't tolerate mistakes . Tompkins made his first and last when he allowed my name to get out . I was going to dispose of him just as soon as he took care of you . I insist on people cleaning up their own garbage, you understand . Unfortunately, it seems as if Tompkins was just as sloppy with this last job as he was with the previous one ," said the saboteur, wiping his lapels down with fastidious concern .
" He's always been very good with my occasional disposal problems but I'm afraid he's a liability now. He's become a little too fond of his little white powders. I was no longer certain that he could accomplish the tasks I laid out for him . So, I decided to wait right here with Mr. Scott . If Tompkins had dealt with his rat trap in an effective manner, I would have happily accepted his presence here for the short time he has left . If not, well, I'd be here to snap that trap myself . As you can see, my presence was needed ."
" Glad I'm not on his pension plan . Sounds like it's a doozy ," muttered Scotty, subtly shifting a bit in his seat .
" Hey, bet he saves big time on retirement dues," murmured his partner, eyeing the slight shift with major disfavor . He needed more .
Leighton 's hidden eyes surveyed the two men, a grim little smile his only concession to his nasty little speech . Kelly was a bit spooked, though he'd never show it . He couldn't get a handle on this faceless non-entity and that made the man doubly dangerous . It threw Kelly a little off-balance and he couldn't afford that right now .
" What's next ?" Scotty asked . " I don't know about you, but I'm getting real tired of these benches . This wood is feeling harder and harder ," he complained, shifting just a bit more .
" Next is that your partner is going to hand over that list he's been trying so hard to distract me from," said Leighton, the first hint of anger briefly cracking his faÁade . " I've been doing this for a while, gentleman, and I'm not stupid . If you got away from Tompkins you undoubtedly took that list . I want it back ."
"Kel, you got the names ? Alright, good going , man," said Scott, trying to buy more time.
" Yeah, I told you I was off being brilliant . It's light reading but it keeps your interest . Names, locations, codes galore . Maybe not ready for the top ten, Duke, but it's a keeper," said Kelly, eyeing his partner intently . He slipped off his shoe, removing the list with his left hand as his right tightened up on the shoe . The saboteur's eyes went straight to the list .
And Scotty let out a yell at the exact same moment that Kelly swung his shoe with all his might at Leighton 's head. Scotty bolted forward at the same time as he yelled, hand automatically going down to knock the gun askew. The saboteur was momentarily startled but still able to fire, his shot barely missing the moving Scotty . Kelly was on top of Leighton then, fighting for control of the gun even as the room erupted into chaos .
People began vacating the barn as fast as possible while Scotty lunged for the list, which had been dropped in the struggle . He stuffed it in a pocket, then turned to help his partner . Kelly was losing the fight . He couldn't get enough leverage to take away the gun . It was only a matter of time before Leighton got the upper hand . Scotty belted the saboteur, hard, and then watched as the gun flew across the barn floor .
Where it landed at the feet of another man in sunglasses. A man who wasn't fleeing in consternation. And there were three others with him, all in sunglasses .
" Oh man," groaned Scotty . " Come on, we got to get out of here. I've got the list ."
Kelly was winded from the fight but he immediately turned to follow. He was still feeling the effects of his encounter with Tompkins but knew that his partner must have seen something to elicit that kind of remark . Looking up as he turned, he suddenly saw why . He figured they might still have a slight chance. The other men wouldn't want to risk gunplay here , especially as some of the braver town folk were just now beginning to tentatively reappear. Leighton would have some questions to answer eventually, but the other saboteurs were still in the clear. They'd hold back from opening fire . He slapped Scotty lightly between the shoulder blades to let him know he was right behind him and then they began dodging and twisting their way out of the rapidly filling barn .
The chase that followed was fast and relentless, brutally tiring in its effect . The partners tried every trick they'd ever learned to shake their pursuers, but nothing seemed to work for long . The four saboteurs were just too conversant with the locale they were working . Soon the fifth man joined them . Capture seemed inevitable . There were a lot of little lanes and farm equipment to hide in but time was running out .
" Ok, Scotty," panted Kelly, hands on his knees as he desperately tried to suck up more air, " what's your brilliant plan for getting us out of this mess ? Come on, give ."
" The plan ?" gasped his equally winded partner . " The plan is not to become a dead person . You fill in the details ."
" Two for two there, Dobbsie . I'm keeping count , you know . Alright , since our resident Rhodes scholar seems to be asleep at the switch , I guess I'll have to produce once again . I'm thinking that we better separate . You've got the list . I'll figure out some kind of distraction and you take off while they're busy with what I'm doing . Then I'll catch up later, after you've had enough time to get that list away ," said Kelly, fighting hard to still his breathing .
" Lousy plan , Kel," said Scotty, sharply . " Worse than mine . It's not going to work cause I'm not going to do it ."
" Alright, Einstein . What's your idea ?" questioned Kelly . " And think fast cause were running out of time here ."
" Damn it," spouted Scotty, showing his true agitation . He was not a man given to cussing . " You take the list and I'll do the distracting . I'm a lot fresher than you . I've just been sitting on my can for hours while you've been off fighting and carrying on like you're trying out for Zorro or something ."
" John Wayne, John Wayne," crowed Kelly, with a grim little smile on his face . " Won't work, Duke . You most definitely are a lot fresher and that's why you're going to take the list . You never had a chance to meet the gorilla from this morning. He's got to be nursing a big headache right about now but he also gave me more than a few souvenirs and I'm just about all played out . We need someone with a chance at getting that blasted list out and you're it. So don't give me an argument on this one . Just get going . I'll see you later," panted Kelly as he took off, throwing the words over his shoulder.
" Ok, Kel, we'll do it your way," Scotty softly said, watching the back of his swiftly receding partner . " But, I swear, you get yourself killed and I'll bury you in that pink sweater . Just you wait and see ."
Scotty gave in to a brief venting of his emotions, kicking the nearby wall in frustration and rage . Then he too took off, running with an easy power. Every rotten expectation Scotty had held for this mission was falling into place and bitter regret pounded along with him . He'd bungled it all . Obviously, he'd given himself away somehow, right from the start, and now Kelly might have to pay the price for that bungling . The saboteurs had been ahead of them all along, toying with them . Kelly was going to get himself killed and Scotty was just supposed to let it happen . Bad plan, really bad plan .
Scotty stopped dead in his tracks, looking back the way he'd come . Maybe it was time to throw away all the bad plans and bad consequences . And maybe it was time for him to stop thinking like a spy and start thinking like a partner . Partners just didn't quit on each other .
Scotty was well known for his staunch adherence to a long list of beliefs . Very high on that list ranked his loyalty to country . His sense of duty told him that he needed to get the information on that list out to his superiors . That loyalty was superceded by almost nothing else except family . His family would always come first, over every other consideration . And Scotty had included one extra name on the familial list for some time now . Kelly Robinson. Kelly was brother, friend, and partner all rolled in one . Scotty suddenly realized that he had no intention of just running away from that. He was going to have to make a judgement call here and Scotty already knew what it was going to be .
He ran to a long line of garbage cans stacked in a small alley and began to frantically rip off lids, burrowing deep in the cans, looking for a relatively clean plastic bag . He could hear far off sounds , shouts and other indications of mayhem in the making . His pace increased until he finally saw what he wanted . He grabbed the plastic bag and took off running, veering off into the nearby woods, even as the sounds behind him increased in volume . It sounded as if Kelly had found just about every conceivable noise-maker in town . He was definitely creating one heck of a distraction .
Scotty ran on, traversing the creek and running through it for some time , so that there was little possibility of his tracks showing where he'd been . He finally opted to stop at a spot that he figured he could easily remember . The area was far enough away from the stream and well-marked by the distinctive rocks around it . Then he began digging, going as fast as he could, wishing for a shovel or any other implement that might have increased his speed . As his hands dug into the soft ground all he could do was hope the noise behind him would continue . So long as there was noise, Kelly was still alive .
As soon as the hole was deep enough, Scotty shoved the protected list down as far as it would go, desperately shoveling dirt back on top of it . He could hear sirens now , which intensified his concern . Sirens would only make the saboteurs fight harder to get their quarry, knowing that they'd have to finish it fast . And the sirens made it impossible for Scotty to track the sounds of fighting . He had no way now of knowing if Kelly was still on the run.
Scotty would simply have to go to the last area where he'd heard activity and hope for the best . He picked up some rocks, shoving them in his pockets . It wasn't much but maybe they'd come in handy. He certainly wasn't going to get any help from those sirens . Their boss had been more than specific about that .
Scotty took one more look at his burial site, covering the recently overturned dirt with a large rock, then covering the rock's displaced area with leaf
litter . All this would be pointless if he was captured but Scotty had to go for it, no matter what . If they somehow got out of this mess, the list would be waiting .
As soon as he could, Scotty carefully and quietly made his way over to where he'd last heard his partner . There was only ominous quiet now .
Kelly had been having quite a time of it, slinging garbage can lids down, upsetting stacked crates, overturning barrels . Anything and everything to make noise . He knew the pursuers were all keyed on him now because he could hear their occasional shouts as they tightened the net. He was well aware that his options were fading fast . If he didn't find a loophole soon, they'd have him . He hated the fact that he'd had to separate from his partner once again but figured that there was no other way to get that list out .
Rounding a corner of a building, Kelly was startled to find a shadow step up to him with deadly speed . Kelly had no time to react as he felt a hard jolt hit him just below his breastbone. He moved instinctively, pulling back with a gasp . Then he went up on the balls of his feet, ready to fight . Something was wrong though . He didn't seem to have any strength, all of a sudden, feeling a wave of weakness course up his legs . He also felt flush all over, as if hit with sudden heat . And then there was blinding pain, radiating out from the point on his abdomen that had taken the blow . He could see the moonlight glinting off something in the shadow's hand, glistening off the liquid dripping from the object . It hadn't been a fist coming at him. He'd been knifed .
The shadow spoke . " Maybe you'll think twice about crossing me again, Robinson . I don't like to be made a fool of and I always pay back when people cross me . That wound won't kill you but you aren't going to forget it soon either . You'll die, alright, but on my terms ."
Kelly was struggling to stay upright, his legs wanting to give out from under him . If he could take this creep he might still have a chance . The knife wound was draining him way too quickly though . He had to move soon or not at all . He could hear Leighton speaking into his walkie-talkie even as he geared up to fight .
" I've got subject number one . Subject two is still open for pick-up . Converge at the corner of Elm and Forrest . Neither subject has any firepower . Keep eyes and ears open . Omega three out ."
Kelly kicked out at the hand holding the knife, surprising the shadow man, who thought his capture was secured . It was his weakness , this underestimation of his enemies, and Kelly intended to take full advantage .
The kick didn't have nearly the power it normally contained but it was sufficient . Kelly saw the knife arc up, flying from the saboteur's hand . Then Kelly was on his man, hoping for a fast end to the contest . He'd lose unless he could overpower him quickly . Two kicks to the side and head and his opponent was down .
As was Kelly . He found himself on his knees, fighting to overpower the lethargy creeping up on him . He forced himself back up, stumbling into the wall as he tried to steady himself . Then he was off and running, staggering a bit but determined not to give up . His wound was throbbing in time with his accelerated heartbeat, acting as a distraction, giving him something to focus on as he ran . It actually helped him to stay upright . He had no time to attend to the wound now though he did grab some old cloths that he found lying in one dirty alleyway, stuffing them in his shirt to stop the blood
flow . Not the most sanitary of measures but it would have to do, for now .
He was in enough trouble as it was without the wound slowing him down even further . It would also be the last straw if those creeps decided to track him by his blood trail .
Kelly moved on, trying to find a way out of his rapidly diminishing box . He felt like the rat he'd been called, running in an endless maze . At least it sounded as if Scotty was still in the clear . Something good had come from the diversion after all . He spied an old ladder, propped up next to an equally dilapidated house . If he could just get up on the rooftops, maybe he'd find an out . He started up the ladder as quickly as he could, feeling every movement pull on his torn flesh .
Which is when two more shadow men grabbed his legs and heaved him off the ladder . Kelly landed with a hard thud, trying to struggle even as the world around him dimmed and went out . The saboteurs had finally secured their first captive .
One of the men pulled out his walkie-talkie and spoke into it as the other rolled the unconscious man onto his stomach and secured his hands . The saboteurs were finally learning not to give this man any leeway .
" Capture of subject one confirmed . Omega three temporarily disabled but full recovery is expected . Will remove primary subject to Alpha Post One .
No assistance deemed necessary . Continue search for second primary. Omega four out ."
With that , the two men began dragging the unconscious Robinson to their waiting car . All of this activity had occurred with frightening professionalism and minimal loss of time. There were no lights coming on in the row of old homes near by, no questions from a wondering public . Only one pair of eyes followed them to the car . Scotty had just arrived .
Alexander Scott was normally a man who maintained very tight control of his emotions . He almost never revealed the spring coil tight anger that could rage within him at the stupidities of life . Perhaps only his partner knew those aspects of the real Alexander Scott . Everybody else was presented with his relaxed, cheerful, easy-going mien . Which was why no one but his partner would have recognized the ugly, intent stare on his face now .
He'd arrived just in time to see Kelly's motionless body laying splayed out on the ground . He didn't know how badly his partner was hurt, nor why he was down, but he was clearly out of it . At least he was still alive . You don't bother tying a dead man's hands . He couldn't do a darn thing at the moment, not while both men had their guns ready for use, but he wasn't ready to count Kelly out as yet. There was a strong likelihood that that the saboteurs would keep his partner alive in the hopes that he would reveal Scotty's whereabouts . That would buy Scotty some time .
He had a location too . He'd heard the fellow's report so he knew where they were going to take his partner . In theory, that is . The location had been coded . Scotty knew that the buried list would tell him that location . He'd just have to find a way to get back to the burial site. That was going to be easier said than done . The saboteurs were combing the area with ever increasing intensity . He was going to have to be very, very quick on his feet if he had any chance at all to stay free . It might take a while before he could double-back to where he'd left that list, which meant Kelly would have to hold out for a while .
Scotty closed his eyes briefly, anger and regret fighting for domination . There wasn't even a chance of his following their car either . That would be a clear invitation to capture . Taking his time, much as it hurt to think of leaving his partner in the saboteur's hands, was the only way he might have a chance at rescue .
Scotty watched as Kelly's limp body was dragged into the nearby car, then pounded his hand down hard into the dirt as the car moved off . His partner was nothing but a commodity now . He would be kept alive only as long as the saboteurs felt he could be useful, then disposed of like so much offal .
Scotty was well aware that Kelly's life was hanging by the thinnest of lines .
Scotty figured he had only one thing going for him . Over-confidence . Not his, but the saboteurs . They had consistently played with the two spies, granting them little likelihood of success . The saboteurs had allowed the list to be lost simply because they believed too strongly in their invincibility . That was their major weakness . Perhaps they'd run too long unfettered . Scotty didn't know, didn't care . All he knew was that it gave him a chance and he'd take anything he could get .
He'd have to trust that his partner was basically ok and that he would be able to hold on until Scotty could come for him . The worst of it was that Kelly would be the one getting the short end of the stick . That angered Scotty enormously but there wasn't a thing he could do about it . His captors wouldn't get anything from Kelly either cause he'd have nothing to give them . Kelly would have no way of knowing where his partner or the list was . Yet he'd have to buy time with nothing to work with, not even knowing if a rescue attempt was in the cards . Kelly would think he was long gone. He'd have no idea that anyone might even know where he'd been taken .
Scotty's fist clenched in helpless frustration, emotions roiling . Then his head lifted, the cool, almost emotionless exterior of his working face back in place. Time to find a good hidey-hole . It might take a day . It might take two . Eventually the searchers would leave a loophole . And that's when Scotty would come out and spring his partner.