̴ ̴About 30 Minutes Earlier
The FOX Corporation, EPA Hill
“What is it, Richard?” Nelson, the head of the IT department walked into the large open office which was shared by over 40 agents.
Richard, whose table was positioned at the left corner, got up and turned to the man. “Sir, we’re receiving some feeds from Agent Maria. I think everyone needs to see this.”
“What’s it about?” Nelson questioned as he approached the place.
Richard maximized the window receiving the feed and waited for the man to get to him. Nelson squinted at the screen for a moment.
The streaming video showed Hutton standing with Chanda and another man beside him in a large open space. They could see vehicles behind them as well.
From the way Hutton and the men flanging were staring, they could tell there was someone or some people in front of them. However, the video only showed Hutton and his men, giving the idea that the camera was placed in front of the people or persons at the opposite end.
“You motherf**ker! Why did you have to ki*ll a child?” a man, who they couldn’t see in the video, yelled.
Hutton spoke next. “I didn’t plan to do it, but I had no option. Everyone connected to you had to go. By the way, I gave Sarah the choice to help k*ll you and save herself and your son, but she’ll never agree to do it.”
“What?” Nelson gasped and stared at the screen in confusion. “Put it on the screen and activate the speaker,” he ordered Richard and turned towards the large screen at the center of the office which was used for showing a video to everyone in the hall.
The video appeared on the large screen five seconds later. Everyone else in the office turned to face the screen.
“I know you think Sarah betrayed you,” Hutton continued with a chuckle. “I wished she did. It would have made things easier for all of us, and you won’t have had to be a pain in the neck for so long.”
“Stop messing with me, motherf**ker!” The unseen male voice yelled again. “Sarah killed Rex’s family and she led your men to that Italian restaurant.”
“What the heck is going on?” the other FOX agents began to whisper to themselves.
Hutton laughed again. “Those are just false imaginations I created in Rex’s head, the same way I made you believe that your wife and son died in that burning building a long time ago. My initial plans were to make Rex ki*ll Sarah and turn you two against each other. One of you was going to ki*ll the other, and the surviving one would have been vulnerable for us. It’ll have been an easy job. Surprisingly, something always goes wrong to stop it from happening.”
“Are you recording this video?” Nelson asked Richard who nodded in affirmation. He turned his focus to the video again.
A female voice joined in. “Maybe we need to finish this off faster, boss. Samantha and some of his men may be tracking us here. We kept his phone on to lead them to us. You may want to finish off Carl now, so we have time to deal with whatever they’re bringing.”
The FOX agents could not see the woman in the video and had no idea whose voice it was. However, her voice confirmed that it was more than just one person on the opposite side of Hutton and the two men beside him.
“That’s true,” Hutton responded to the female voice. The FOX agents watched him reach for the gun behind him.
“Why did you do all these, Agent Hughes?” The other male voice came in again. It sounded teary this time.
“Agent Hughes…” Nelson re-echoed under his breath while still keeping his eyes on the screen.
“You used to be an inspiration for us all. We wanted to lay down our lives protecting the people and saving our nation. How did you turn to the complete opposite? You didn’t just wipe out my family, but you killed thousands of people for no just cause.”
Nelson cleared his throat and scratched his beard slightly. Now, the other male voice was accusing Hutton Ryker of killing thousands of people. He was eager to hear the response.
“Being just and loyal is a weakness, Carl. I learned that the hard way. Unfortunately, you never learned it, and that’s why you’re here today,” Hutton replied.
“Carl…” Agent Nelson muttered again. But this time, he could hear other people whisper the name to him. They understood that the male voice behind the camera belonged to a man named Carl.
“You were an inspiration for me too. Watching you grow as a young kid was inspiring, but all of that was just the delusion they sold to us,” Hutton added.
“So, you decided to lead the Red Wolves, ki*ll thousands of people, ki*ll the president, and take over? Is that how strong people lead?” Carl’s voice was heard again.
This time, Carl’s response ruffled all the agents listening. He had just accused the new Chairman of the FOX of being the leader of the Red Wolves, which was shocking to all of them.
“The strong ones survive, Carl. It doesn’t matter how you do it. When one cares so much for the weak ones, they always end up like you – at the mercy of those who are strong,” Hutton replied.
“Oh, sh*t!” Nelson cursed, his heart beating so fast. For some reason, he had hoped that Hutton Ryker would deny the accusation of leading the Red Wolves, but there was no denial. “Richard!” he called in a commanding tone. Richard got up and turned to him. “Send the feeds to every top-level senior FOX official right away.”
“On it, sir,” Richard replied and quickly sat down to do as he was told.
“Is anyone working on getting the location?” Nelson asked and looked around. Three hands from different angles of the room went up. He nodded satisfactorily for a moment. “Can someone work on the voices too?”
“I’ll get on it now,” a female agent raised her hand.
A FEW MINUTES LATER
“What happened? Are we no longer getting feeds?” Nelson asked as he walked back into the place. He stepped out after the part where Hutton had proven that there was an explosive setup in a place where over a thousand people could get hurt.
Fortunately for them, the location “Venus” had been mentioned, and that helped the FOX having to avoid trying to identify the state. However, they still needed to identify the precise locations. Nelson had stepped out to make calls and instruct security agents in Venus to start looking around.
“Maria stopped streaming sir,” Richard got up to answer Nelson.
“What else was seen in the video?” Nelson moved closer to Richard to ask.
“The stream ended not long after you left. It stopped after they agreed to let Agent Hutton Ryker go. The woman there did not agree with the decision, though. She tried to fight it and even stepped into the video…”
“Was it Agent Maria?” Nelson asked anxiously.
“No,” Richard asked and quickly opened the screenshot he took from the scene.
Nelson squinted at the screen. “You didn’t get her face?”
“No, it was only her back view?”
“Then, how sure are you that it wasn’t Maria?” Nelson questioned.
“We scanned the image already sir,” another agent who was not too far from Richard answered. “It doesn’t match Maria’s.”
“Does it match with anyone in the FOX corporation?” Nelson asked.
“Only two female agents were close matches. We checked the two of them and they’re in the office today. They never left.”
Nelson gasped and placed his hands on his waist. “Has anyone gotten information about the exact place in Venus where the video is being streamed from?”
There was no answer from anybody, which angered Nelson.
“Does anyone have information about the damn location?” he yelled.
One of the agents got up. “Sir, there are several similar large halls with the same width in Venus. It’s pretty difficult for us to determine which place is it as the camera position does not let us measure the length of the place.”
“What about the voice? Any voice confirmed yet?” Nelson asked again.
“No, sir,” the female agent replied immediately.
How about the man that showed up in the video from the side? Has his identity been confirmed?” he asked aloud.
“Sir,” another agent got up. “We’re not sure of anything yet sir. The only accurate match now is late Agent Rex Morris. There are no other close matches on the FOX. But it might take several hours for us to run the citizen’s database scan sir.”
“Start running it immediately, we need to identify everyone in the video as soon as possible,” Nelson replied. Then he turned to think for a moment. “That man must be someone else. Agent Rex Morris died more than a year ago.”
“The man you saw in the video was Agent Rex Morris,” a loud female voice startled them all.
They all turned towards the direction of the office hall and saw Maria Khaleed walking in. Some of the agents got up on seeing her.
A few hours ago, Maria had been declared wanted by the FOX, after she was accused of being a part of the Red Wolves and helping the previous FOX agents carry out attacks. The FOX had gone to her home to look for her and saw that she had left with her parents. The story from the police of how she kidnapped her parents with two other armed persons made her even more suspicious. Now, she was walking into the same FOX office confidently.
“Agents Rex Morris and Carl Winston were never dead. You saw Rex Morris there and you heard Carl Winston’s voice,” Maria added.
Nelson’s eyebrows gathered together as he pondered on her words. Does that mean Carl Winston was the other man whose voice they heard? He asked himself.
“What the heck are you talking about?” He asked after snapping out of his thoughts. “Those two agents died.”
“They’re alive, and they’ve been working together to bring down the Wolves,” Maria insisted. “Some of the previous FOX Chairmen knew this and worked with them too. Unfortunately, Hutton Ryker’s plan was too deep and almost infallible. He almost succeeded and he took over the FOX temporarily.”
“How the heck should we trust you?” Nelson questioned her.
“Why wouldn’t you trust me?” Maria retorted. “I’m one of you?”
“A few hours ago, you were on the run with your family. Why didn’t you come to the FOX to say what you know?”
“With Hutton Ryker in charge?” Maria stopped in front of Nelson and stared into his eyes. “What would have happened if I’d come here to say what I knew with the devil himself controlling everything? And now that you know the truth, would you rather trust me that sent you proof, or the devil who confirmed that he killed thousands of people to get power.”
Nelson heaved a sigh. “Where exactly is Hutton Ryker now?”
“He’s trying to escape from Venus,” Maria replied.
“You need to tell us everything we need to know so that we can stop him,” Nelson urged her.
“No, we need to focus on locating the area he placed the explosive in Venus now and stopping it, in case he tries to trigger it nonetheless.”
“I’ve given the order and our FOX agents with other security officials are searching the whole state right now. But we need to go after Hutton Ryker at the same time. It would be dangerous if we let him escape. He could cause more problems.”
“Didn’t you listen to the stream, sir?” Maria raised her brows. “It would be dangerous if we don’t let him escape. If he senses that we’re after him before the explosion goes off, we’re going to be killing thousands of people.”
“What if he’s just bluffing?”
“You’re gonna bet on that with the lives of people?”
Nelson sighed and clasped his hands in anger. “It’s damn hard to just let that motherf**ker go like that. He was f**king here, acting like the Messiah and giving out orders. We didn’t know he was the devil himself. We f***ing need to go after him.”
“Let Carl and Rex worry about catching Hutton. We focus on ensuring that no explosion occurs,” Maria replied. It sounded more like a piece of advice.
“Carl and Rex…” Nelson muttered under his breath and chuckled amusingly. “Tell me, what the heck are you talking about? How are those two alive after the FOX confirmed them dead?”
Maria raised her hand to check the wristwatch. “Sir, President Jerry who is an accomplice of the Red Wolves, will be finishing his meeting in the next few minutes. Hutton will try to contact him. We need to go after President Jerry right now.”
“But we can’t arrest a sitting President.”
“Yes, but we can make sure he doesn’t escape,” Maria replied.
“Why is no one telling me anything about how we plan to capture Hutton and Jonah Chanda?” Florence walked angrily to the dining table where Rex and Henry were eating.
Rex suspended his spoon in the air while Henry continued to munch the food in his mouth slowly while staring at her.
“Shouldn’t we be going after them now instead of stopping by to rest and eat?” Florence added.
“If you’re gonna work with us, Florence, you gotta trust us. I and Carl have also had our loved ones killed by the Red Wolves and we’re more desperate to put them down than you are.”
“I understand that, but what I don’t understand is the silence. It’s killing me…”
“Go and eat and rest for a few hours, Florence. I’ll tell you everything you need to know soon, be patient,” Rex replied calmly.
Florence took in a deep breath, considering whether or not to listen to Rex. It seemed that she finally decided to listen and began to step back slowly. She stared at Henry’s face for a moment before she turned and walked away.
There was silence at the table for a brief moment. Henry finished eating and was about to stand up when Rex broke the silence.
“Carl,” he called softly.
Henry paused and looked at his friend’s face. He noticed that he wasn’t looking up. All through the time they ate at the table, they’d both avoided making eye contact.
“You have something to say about your plan now?” Henry questioned after a few more seconds of silence.
“No, it’s not about the plan yet,” Rex replied and finally looked up.
Rex looked away for a second and then stared into Henry’s eyes again. “I’m sorry about your family.”
Henry gasped. He stopped to think for some seconds and then sat back on the chair.
“I said everything I was asked to say to Hutton, but I’ve yet to understand what happened. Yesterday, you were sure that Sarah was helping Hutton but you didn’t tell me how you found out. Today, the story is different. You said it was an illusion. Hutton also said Sarah would never give me up.”
“Yes, I found out late that Sarah never betrayed you,” Rex replied. “Hutton made me think she was the enemy. Until yesterday, I thought I had evidence to prove that Sarah gave out our location for the FOX to attack. Just like Hutton made you think Sarah and Kellar were burnt to death in that fire, he also made me think Sarah killed my family. I found out that Hutton only used our weaknesses to create imaginations in our heads and make us think they were the truth. I only discovered what was true yesterday.”
“Did Florence reveal the truth to you?” Henry questioned. “And how were you able to make her join our side?”
“I think the pictures I’ve got are enough,” Xavier remarked after taking several pictures of Rex and Sheila lying on the ground, feigning death.
Florence stepped close to him to look at the pictures. He swiped a few times for her to see the many pictures he took.
“They’re more than enough. I’ll be sending only one or two,” she said before taking her phone from him.
She selected a few pictures from the gallery and click on the share button. She was about to click on “Hutton” among the list of contact when she changed her mind and returned to the gallery to unselect most of the pictures. In the end, she only sent one picture to Hutton.
Immediately after confirming that the messages were delivered, she dialed his number.
“Florence?” Hutton answered from the other end.
“They tried to cause us trouble. I had to do it.”
“I was going to tell you to do so. What about Carl? How are you going to get him?”
“Their death has messed up my plans, but I’ve got to proceed anyway. I’m gonna hope Carl doesn’t suspect they’re dead and continue with the plan.”
“What are you going to do with their bodies?” Hutton asked.
“What do you want us to do?” Florence asked. “We could discard them or I send them to you to do so.”
“No, discard the bodies. What I need now is Carl Winston, whether dead or alive. We need to present him as the head of Red Wolves somehow.”
“I hope to achieve that, boss.”
“I hope you do too, and I have no doubt you can,” Hutton added before ending the call.
Florence took in a deep breath after the call. She turned to look at Xavier, who was beside her. From the look on his face, she could tell that he had a lot of questions on his mind. She wished he’ll just keep bottling them up, but her wish was not to be granted.
“Are you sure about what we’re doing, Florence?” Xavier whispered to her as they both stared at Rex and Sheila who were up now and trying to clean their bodies.
“Yes, I’m sure. You don’t need to ask me questions for now,” She replied. “Just trust and follow my lead.”
Xavier nodded and heaved a sigh.
Florence took in slow deep breaths as she stared at the bodies still on the floor.
“We can’t discard all these bodies, can we?” Xavier asked. “We don’t even have enough body bags.”
“No, we can’t,” Florence replied. “Just these two will be enough.”
Xavier looked at the bodies she pointed at – the dead bodies of Tanko’s men.
“I’ll bring the bodybags but I’ll need help to put them in,” Xavier replied before walking to the boot of the vehicle he and Florence stepped out from.
“You’ll get help,” she replied dryly. She took in another deep breath and stared intently at Rex’s face before turning back. “You and Sheila Jack have to help Xavier to get rid of the bodies, I got to think for a moment. I’ll be waiting in the vehicle.”
“Sure, we’ll help,” Rex agreed without arguing.
Florence paused for a moment on seeing Thiago’s dead body again. “Tough bas***d,” she muttered under her breath and chuckled. “Sorry, you had to die like a chicken.”
*Sixteen Minutes Later
After clearing off the bodies, the four of them left the scene of the gun war in the bullet-proofed car. Xavier drove while Sheila sat with him in front. Rex and Florence Brown were sitting at the back.
“Have you thought of a plan?” Florence asked Rex after a few minutes of silence during the drive.
“We had a plan before you met us at the Vints ground,” Rex replied. “We’re just going to go ahead with the plan.”
“When are you telling me this plan?”
Rex stared at her. “As I said to you earlier, all you need to do is act like we’re dead and continue with what you’re doing with Carl. We are following someone that’s gonna lead us to Hutton Ryker. So, I’ll just proceed with that while you continue yours.”
“You’re talking bullsh*t man! I always get the full details if I’m gonna work with anyone. Even Hutton Ryker could not hide stuff from me,” Florence flared up.
“Hey, calm down, ma’am. Maybe you should ask questions. I’m not aware of what else you need to know.”
“I want to know who’s leading you to Hutton Ryker and how you plan to nail him. You don’t expect me to sit in the corner and follow your lead while you possibly screw things up.”
Xavier and Sheila were glancing at them from the front seat as the conversation got heated.
Rex gasped. He shook his head and took in a deep breath to calm himself. “I think we should stop somewhere, so we can talk well about this.”
100 minutes later
They finally got to the building where they were going to stay till morning. Florence got Rex and Sheila a cup of water before they began the conversation.
They were sitting in a living room. Rex and Sheila were in the one-seater sofas placed beside each other. Florence was sitting on a sofa directly opposite Rex while Xavier was standing somewhere behind them.
“We had a plan to track Hutton Ryker down with Carl’s wife, Sarah. We wanted to get here first and start to track her by morning,” Rex explained after gulping down half of the cup of water.
Florence frowned at him. “How’s that gonna lead you to Hutton?”
Rex squinted at her, not expecting the question. “I…errm,” he stuttered, unable to think of how else to explain.
“You’re gonna be tracking Sarah Winston who’s probably dead by now?”
Rex’s jaw dropped. He wondered why Florence was sounding so clueless.
“Sarah can’t be dead. Hutton Ryker just killed almost all of Carl Winston’s team. He couldn’t have pulled that off without the help of Sarah.”
“What the f**k!” Florence looked disgusted. “Sarah’s never gonna help Hutton Ryker for anything.”
Rex raised his brows. “You didn’t know?”
“I didn’t know what?” Florence asked.
“Sarah has been working with the Red Wolves for a while. She helped the Red Wolves locate us and plan our murder the first time.”
Florence laughed at Rex’s ignorance when she finally realized what he was talking about. “Sarah will never have helped Hutton. He’s tried several times to get her to help him but she never agreed.”
Rex was confused.
“Sarah doesn’t work with the Red Wolves, man. This, I’m sure of,” Florence added.
“But why the heck has she…”
“Look here, man. Sarah only looks like an enemy to you because Hutton wanted her to appear that way. I was not with him from the beginning but I know he tricked you into believing she was your enemy.”
“But…but…she led them to ki*ll my wife and chil…”
“Did you see her do it?” Florence cut in.
Rex went quiet.
“I don’t have answers to your questions, man. But I know Sarah never helped Hutton willingly. Or do you mean the tracker Hutton planted in her gave out Carl Winston’s team location?”
“No, Carl took out that tracker but he placed another in her.”
“If he took out the tracker, Hutton must have found the location some other way. Sarah would never lead Hutton to hurt her husband. And if she was in that same building that exploded, she’ll be probably dead in it too.”
“Huh?” Rex widened his eyes in unbelief.
He shook his head, trying to assimilate all that she had said. She sounded so sure that Sarah wasn’t the mole and that Sarah would never hurt Carl. Then, how did Hutton discovered the location of Carl’s team?
“By the way, we were talking about your plan. Can you let me know what it is now?” Florence questioned.
Rex raised his head slowly. “We thought Sarah was a mole. We were certain at some point that she must have given out the location, so we planned to track her down and get her to lead us to Hutton.”
Florence gasped. “For f**k sake! That means you have no plan?”
Rex looked straight into her eyes, still confused. He couldn’t say anything.
“Why the heck did I let you live then?” Florence got up and pulled out her gun angrily.
Rex got up slowly with his hands raised in the air. “Hey, relax! You didn’t make a mistake by letting us live. We were never your enemies, the Red Wolves were. I just need some time and I’m gonna figure out everything. I’ll come up with a plan.”
Florence gasped and shook her head.
“We need to reach Carl and inform him that his wife wasn’t who we thought she was. After that, we can all figure out a plan together.”
“F**k your plan, man!” Florence cursed and returned her gun to her pocket. “We’re not letting Carl know anything. Hutton Ryker has eyes on me and will suspect if I don’t keep playing like I’m after Carl.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
“We’ll get Carl like we plan to do and tell him after that. I can then lead you guys to Hutton Ryker when I set up a meeting with him to deliver Carl Winston. We just have to finish them off that way.” Florence replied.
“That might not be easy…”
“Do you have another way?” Florence raised a brow.
Rex shook his head. “Not for now.”
“Then, we’ll follow this way.”
To be continued.