Note: This chapter was being beta read when the events of September 11 unfolded. Not to give any of the storyline away, a major part of this chapter takes place with the Beaver floatplane. If you do not want to read anything about planes, please skip to the last few paragraphs to find out how the story moves onto part ten.
"I knew it, I knew they were back here!" Bill said excitedly as he turned back towards the plane. "You guys spread out around here. Look under every rock and up every tree. They are somewhere near here, and I want them found! I'm going back to check out the plane, they won't get away from us this time!"
Vin muttered a curse as he dove behind a bush. All the men on the path started to spread out and search the trees and shoreline that surrounded the lodge. The man on the balcony went back inside to check the lodge out. Vin needed to figure out where JD was hiding and then get them the hell out of here.
Vin glanced down at the plane again, just in time to see a boxer-clad JD swim out from behind the wharf, and slip into the fuselage of the plane. While all of Sorenson's men had their backs turned to him, Vin darted out from behind the bush where he had been hiding and sprinted as fast as he could towards the wharf. Shotgun slugs suddenly kicked up around his feet and angry voices shouted at him. Another bullet zipped by him forcing him to duck the deadly gunfire. Running for all he was worth, Vin jumped over logs and dodged trees while trying to gain traction on the loose pine nettles and sand that rolled under his feet.
Bill was so intent on getting back to the plane he never heard his men shouting at him, or Vin's running feet coming up fast behind him until he was grabbed around his knees and tackled to the ground. Both men got up moving. Vin deaked and ducked as Bill swung powerful roundhouse punches, but none of them came close to hitting the agile dancing agent. Waiting for the man to leave an opening, Vin suddenly pounced with a blow to Bill's throat, and dropped him with one chop. Jumping over the now motionless figure, Vin continued his dash across the beach.
Leaping up onto the wharf he raced to the plane. JD stared out the side window at him, where from inside the plane he was frantically playing with buttons and switches.
"Get the ropes!" JD yelled at him.
Vin shrugged his shoulders, not understanding JD's words as he tried to get the passenger side door open.
"The ropes Vin...undo the ropes!" JD again yelled and took his hands off the instrument panel long enough to gesture towards the ropes that bound the plane to the wharf.
Nodding his understanding, Vin moved to the end of the wharf and yanked on one of the ropes while trying to keep the plane between him and the approaching men.
JD yelped and covered his head with both arms as a bullet shattered the small side passenger window behind him, sending flying glass all over the young agent.
"JD...you okay?" Vin paused from his job to holler at JD.
"Fine...just get them damn ropes off!" JD answered back as he shook the glass off his bare skin and feet and went back to work figuring out the instrument panel.
Vin threw off the front rope and made his way to the back of the plane. Bullets threw chips of wood up at him as they penetrated the wharf near his feet. Swearing, he struggled with the knot, his usually steady hands fumbling with the wet rope. He just managed to get it undone when something struck his arm, throwing him back against the plane and splattering some of his blood on the side of it. Another expletive flew from his lips as he stared at the small hole in his sweater and the blood that dripped from his bicep. Grasping his injured arm tight against his stomach he climbed inside the cockpit and slammed the door shut.
"They're off. Whether we want to be here or not, we've ended smack-dap in the middle of plan B, kid...you better get us the hell out of here, JD and fast!" Vin shouted over the sound of rifle fire and glass shattering when another window in the back of the plane was hit.
"What do you think I'm trying to do?" JD shouted back, his face ashen as he madly switched buttons on and off.
"JD...take a deep breath and think about what it is you need to do to get us out of here," Vin spoke in a calm voice, trying to get his rattled young friend to settle down.
"I'm trying..." JD said, then he muttered the starting sequence again. "Turn on mag switch...did it. Three shots prime...done. Turn prop with starter...okay."
"JD...are you sure that's the right order to start this thing?"
"No...I am not sure if that's how I start this thing! I told you I've never done this before!" JD screamed at Vin, then turned and screamed at the men nearing the edge of the wharf, "Stop shooting at us!"
"It's okay, JD...try again." Vin said through gritted teeth.
"Oh cripes, Vin...you're bleeding." JD turned away from his side of the window when he heard the funny tone in Vin's voice.
"It's not bad. It just caught me in the arm, and took out a chunk of my hide. It'll be a lot worse if you don't concentrate on starting this blasted plane and getting us the heck out of here."
"Damn...I think I flooded the motor." JD beat on the dashboard with his fists. "Start damn you...start!" JD tried the sequence again, muttering, "Please, please...."
Vin automatically ducked as another round of bullets hit the fuselage, saving his life as his door was flung open and a pistol was fired repeatedly right where his head had just been a second ago. Sparks flew across the cockpit as the bullets hit the instrument panel instead. Expecting Tanner to be dead, Stan wasn't prepared when Vin reached through the door and grabbed the back of his neck, slamming his head hard into the side of the plane.
Vin grabbed the semi-automatic pistol from Stan's hand before he sank unconscious onto the cedar boards. Vin yanked the magazine out of the handle and counted how many cartridges were left. Cursing, he fired the last remaining bullet from the gun at the men sneaking onto the wharf and then tossed the useless weapon to the floor of the plane.
Lights and warning bells were now flashing all across the instrument board. "What's happening JD? Fix it and get us the hell out of here!" Vin said quickly, as more of the men were now cautiously moving onto the end of the wharf.
"I'm trying...I don't know how to fix it!" JD yelled back as he continued to flip switches. Suddenly the plane fired and started to sputter and the prop slowly starting to wind up.
"Come on...come on!" JD fiddled with the throttle some more. "Yes. Thank you, thank you."
The plane finally roared to life. JD throttled away from the wharf amidst a new volley of gunfire, as Sorenson's men ran to the end of the wharf and fired a barrage at the Beaver. Bullets thunked off the side of the plane as the two agents pressed back into their seats, trying to stay hidden behind some of the fuselage's protective metal.
JD steered the plane out into the middle of the lake and then straightened it up the middle. "I can't believe I'm doing this. Oh frick...here goes nothing," he said and pushed down hard on the throttle. The plane slowly built up speed as it bounced across the lake's rough surface. JD grimaced each time he pushed his with his sore leg against the foot pedals that controlled the rudders and ailerons.
Vin gripped the underside of his seat and hung on for dear life as the plane accelerated across the waves. Then out of the corner of his eye he saw movement.
"Oh, gawd damn...JD go faster!" Vin screamed as the ski-boat appeared racing along beside them. Two of the gunmen tried to open fire on the plane as the boat slammed up and down on the choppy water.
"I can't...I'm wide open throttle now."
Suddenly, oil sprayed out all over the windshield after a blast from a shotgun splattered buckshot all across the engine. "Oh...that can't be good!" Vin hollered as more warning lights started to flash across the dashboard. How many flashing lights could a bloody plane have? Vin didn't think a single function was running properly, as he looked at the instrument board that was now lit up brighter than his last year's Christmas tree.
Still the plane continued to bounce across the water, picking up speed and gradually leaving the boat behind.
"Ah, JD...those mountains are getting awfully close! I think you need to get this bird in the air now!" Vin's white fingers gripped the dash tighter as the large dark mountain loomed straight up in front of them.
"What do ya think I'm trying do?" JD's voice cracked.
Vin tore his eyes away from the looming mountain to glance at his young friend. JD's eyes were wide and fearful as he frantically worked the foot pedals, trying to get the elevators to push down on the tail section and lift the plane's nose. Sweat pored off his brow and ran down his face in a stream, as he played the throttle with one hand and pulled back hard on the control stick with the other. The plane started to smooth out over the rough water, and Vin let out a triumphant yell as the nose started to lift upwards.
Broken glass and loose papers swooshed around the cockpit and the wind whipped their long hair against their faces, making it hard for JD to see what he was doing.
JD pulled back as hard as he could with both hands on the control stick as the dark mountain reached out to swallow up the plane. The plane started to vibrate and groan under his hands. Rivets started to pop out of the metal from the strain as it was asked to climb almost vertically straight up. The prop chopped off the tops of the monstrous evergreen trees and splintered them into toothpick size pieces.
The metal creaked and the engine sputtered. Vin again gripped the bottom of his seat with a white knuckled grasp, as he was pressed back deep by gravity rushing past him. He wanted to close his eyes, but could not tear them away from the green blur of the mountain. His heart raced, threatening to pound right out of his chest, as nervous sweat broke out over his brow and upper lip.
"Come on...come on!" JD yelled at the plane, his shoulder, forearms, and triceps bulging under the effort. The cords on his neck stood out as he gritted his teeth and fought to keep the plane flying. And then with a whoosh of air they cleared the mountain top, and flew right into another dark shadow.
"JD...look out!" Vin screamed and ducked his head as a Huey helicopter suddenly appeared in the direct flight of the sputtering Beaver.
The startled heli pilot went into an immediate evasive maneuver and swung the Huey left.
JD hit the foot pedals and tried to get the slow reacting rudder to bank the Beaver to his left.
Vin could make out the whites of the helicopter pilot's eyes as the two aircraft missed hitting each other by mere feet. The Beaver shook violently and pitched the two agents around as it passed through the turbulent air created by the helicopter.
Vin looked behind him and let out a whoop as he saw two Hueys and two large, impressive Chinook helicopters heading for the lodge, and recognized the ATF symbol on one of them." Ya...go get them boys. The Calvary has arrived JD!"
Not getting an answer, Vin turned back to JD, the smile leaving his face as he watched JD slam his fist in frustration on the dash, as warning lights continued flashing.
JD instantly had to return both hands to the control stick as the plane shook and rattled under him. "Oh god, Vin...I don't think I can hold her!"
With his chest tightening again, Vin started to scan the area below for a clear place they could try to land on. In the distance he saw the small lake they had fished on the first day at the lodge. "Over there JD, the lake! Lets try to put her down on it."
"I don't know if I can hold her that far. Oh...geez! Hang on, Vin," JD yelled out as the plane suddenly dropped vertically several feet, tossing their stomachs up to their throats. JD's bare feet frenetically worked the floor pedals and his hands fought the control stick to keep the plane flying level, as the nose and tail kept dipping up and down like a bucking horse.
JD could see the lake rushing at them, so he started to play with the flaps to slow down their airspeed. Instantly the plane engine sputtered and threatened to stall as the plane dropped in altitude.
"JD!" Vin hollered and grabbed his seat as JD throttled up again.
"I've got to slow down...we can't land at this speed." JD clutched the stick tighter and tried to glance at the instrument board, "I don't know what my landing speed is supposed to be, but this is way too fast! Ah crap...get ready to swim, Vin!" JD screamed, as he again lowered the flaps and approached the lake with the plane threatening to stall and plummet from the sky.
Vin closed his eyes and ducked his head to his lap as the lake rushed up to meet them.
The Beaver landed first on one float and then bounced onto the other as it skipped across the lake. JD fought to bring the flaps down and hold the plane level at the same time. Again it bounced down hard, jarring the two men and throwing them about. JD cracked his head against his door while fighting to keep the plane's nose up, and Vin thought his head was going to whip right off his neck as the plane snapped him back against his seat.
Once more the plane bounced down on one float, and both men heard a loud crack as the float crumpled under them, tipping the plane onto its side as it was still propelling across the water. The wingtip plunged deep into the lake like an anchor, and the plane pole vaulted over its self twice before landing upside down in the water.
The men inside the helicopter swore as they were suddenly thrown to the side. "Hey, where did you learn to fly?" Buck yelled at the pilot, as his hand with the broken finger bounced against the metal wall of the helicopter.
"Does JD know how to fly?"
"Fly a plane? That boy can't walk and chew gum at the same. How in the world would he know how to fly a plane? Why?"
Josiah looked into the back of the helicopter from the passenger side of the cockpit, "Because I could swear the pilot in that plane that darn near hit us was JD and Vin was sitting in the passenger seat."
"Nooo..." Buck hissed.
"Pilot...you better radio the rest of the team and let them know we are going after the Beaver." Chris moved up to the cockpit and looked out the big bubble window, to the plane that was disappearing into the horizon in a cloud of billowing, black smoke . Emotion tore at him. If Josiah was right his two men were still alive, but if Josiah was right, it meant his two men were also flying on a damaged aircraft, which to the best of his knowledge, no one on board knew how to fly.
The pilot banked the helicopter to the right and put them in a tight turn against the mountain. Ezra felt his stomach lurch as he again cursed this mode of transportation.
The helicopter flew between the mountain peaks in the direction the plane had disappeared, and soon the seven men on board could see the Beaver in front of them. The plane was bobbing all over the sky as it's motor sputtered, and shot out more black smoke. No one on board the helicopter could tell what was keeping the Beaver in the air. Then the plane dipped down towards a small lake and approached it in a what looked like a landing attempt.
"They're going in way too hot," the helicopter pilot shouted to Chris, "There's no way they can land at that speed."
Buck shoved Ezra out of the way and clutched his hands and face to the window. "Josiah...you sure you saw JD flying that thing?" he asked in a quiet shaky voice, as though afraid of hearing the answer.
The Beaver disappeared from their view behind the tree line.
"What's happening..." Buck yelled out, as Nathan and Judge Travis pulled him away from the window.
Flying over the trees, the lake reappeared again, but the Beaver was nowhere in sight. Circling the lake, all eyes in the helicopter scanned the lake and beach for sight of the yellow plane.
"Chris...there! Check out the north end of the lake!" Ezra yelled out loudly, and tapped hard on his window with a pointed finger.
"Pilot...find a place and land this thing now!" Chris shouted as a film of oil started to break the lake surface, but not either of his men.
Nathan finally turned away from the window to gather his medical supplies as the lake disappeared from his view. The helicopter pilot searched for a place to land before these crazy men just bailed out of the moving helicopter.
The pilot spotted a small clearing hidden from the lake by a low ridge, and set the bird down. The men leaped out of the chopper, and ran stooped over out from under the rotors. With Chris and Buck leading the way, they sprinted back towards the lake.
Blackness suddenly obstructed all outside light, as the plane sank slowly into the murky depths and the dashboard lights stopped flashing .The roar of rushing water blocked out all other noise, as it poured in the plane from the small shattered back-windows.
Hanging upside down by his seatbelt, Vin shook off the shock of the crash, and struggled to find the clasp to release himself as the cold water started to fill up the plane and soak his dangling hair. "JD...we got to get out of here!" Vin yelled as he worked the clasp with his quivering fingers. "JD...?"
Not getting a response, he paused in his struggle for a second to check on his teammate. JD was also hanging upside down from his seatbelt and appeared dazed, as a thin trail of blood ran in a small rivulet off his forehead and into the water below. Hearing his name, he turned his head to stare up at Vin with shaken eyes.
"You okay, JD? We have to get out of here." Vin pulled on his clasp again and tumbled into the water when it finally released.
Tripping over the radio that was attached to the roof, Vin fought his way to JD and yanked his seatbelt open as well. The cold water hitting JD in the face seemed to bring him back to his senses, and he struggled to stand up beside Vin.
"We have to get out of here," Vin screamed over the noise of rushing water and grabbed a door handle, but the door would not budge.
"We're going to have to break the windshield," JD hollered, as the water now rose up to his chest. Diving under the water, he frantically looked for something to break the window with.
Coming up for air, he found the cockpit almost filled with water and the air bubble disappearing fast. Both men again dived down and tried to pry something loose from the dash to use on the window. Coming up empty-handed Vin started to kick at the window with his feet, but it would not give. JD pushed him out of the way and started to pound against it with the small handgun that Stan had dropped. Vin moved to the other end of the window and both continued to pound as the plane filled completely up with water and now started to roll on to its side.
With lungs burning and their vision blurring, the window finally shattered and they wriggled through the broken glass and flailed weakly to the surface. At least JD hoped it was the surface and not heaven's lights. Having survived the crash, he really didn't think it would be fair for them to die on the bottom of a little fishing lake now.
Both took choking gasps as they broke out from under the oil covered water and spasmodically splashed with their hands as they fought to stay afloat.
"Ah..." JD yelled in pain as his lungs re-inflated.
"You alright?" Vin gasped out as he struggled under the weight of his waterlogged clothes that were trying to drag him back under. Vin fought to get out of his clothes while he still had a small amount of strength left. He dragged his sweater over his head, hissing as his sore arm slid against the rough wool, and then let out a relieved sigh as he felt JD go under the surface and help tug his shoes and jeans off.
Breathing hard, the two men wearily treaded water and stared at the oil slick that was slowly spreading out and surrounding them. Taking as deep a breathe as their sore lungs would allow, they dived under the surface and made their way to clear water.
Hurting, and with cold and exhaustion gnawing at them, they scanned the shorelines and then set out for the closest one. Doing everything from a crawl, to a breaststroke, to finally dog paddling they struggled to reach shore. Wheezing, on hands and knees, they heaved their beaten bodies part way out of the water and collapsed on the beach.
Blood from the cut on JD's forehead ran down the side of his face. Reaching up, he tried to brush it off, but just ended up smearing it across his cheek.
"You okay, kid?" Vin asked, as he heard JD moan from a few feet away.
"Again with the 'uh uh's," Vin thought. 'I'm going to have to take a course on deciphering the kid's grunts.'
Relief slowly started to build and flow over Vin. He and JD had gone through hell and came out on the other side battered, but alive. "I guess we should just stay here, and let the guys come find us," Vin mumbled, not even bothering to raise his face out of the sand, it's gritty warmth feeling surprisingly good against his bare skin.
"It's too bad that when they do, you will both be dead." A steel edged, menacing voice made them both snap their heads up. Sorenson stood above them, still in his camouflage gear and now with heavy khaki war paint smeared all across his face.
"Oh damn!" JD said in a tired voice. This couldn't be happening...not when they had endured so much all ready.
"Sorenson...its over. Your lodge is crawling with cops and ATF agents as we speak. Just give yourself up, this doesn't have to get any uglier," Vin pulled his sore arm closer to his stomach and tried to rise.
Sorenson gave Vin a heinous smile as he slowly placed his rifle against a tree and drew a twelve inch hunting knife out of its sheath. "Oh, but I like ugly, Tanner." Sorenson said, then he kicked out and connected with JD's bruised leg.
Smiling at the cry of pain that escaped from JD, Sorenson then reached down and wrapped his hand in the young agents dark hair, lifting him off the ground and in a swinging arch brought the knife down towards JD's chest.
JD threw both arms up instinctively to deflect the knife's trajectory.
"Ow..." JD yelped as the razor sharp knife sliced a slit along his collarbone.
Sorenson raised the knife again. "Damn you...why won't you just die?" He screamed and brought the knife down again.
Vin caught Sorenson in his midriff and tackled the gigantic man to the beach. Sorenson brought a meaty fist down hard on Vin's injured bicep. Vin howled in pain and momentarily released his hold, then charged in again. They wrestled across the wet sand, grunting and punching. Sorenson winced when a fist connected with his left eye, then laughed as he clobbered Vin across his mouth with a meaty backhand, and knocked Vin to the ground.
"What the..."Sorenson grunted, as JD leaped onto his back and started to rain punches down on Sorenson's hulking frame.
Sorenson reached around and tried to tear the smaller man from his back, but the kid hung on with the tenacity of a pit bull and refused to let go, as he punched first with his left than his right hand. Sorenson's ears were starting to ring, so he ran backwards into the trunk of a pine tree, and got a jolt of pleasure when he heard the young agent scream as his bare skin was ripped open on the rough bark.
Tears of pain and raged burned the back of his eyes, as JD fought for more leverage and continued to pound blows down on Sorenson's head. With another roar of anger, Sorenson again threw himself backwards against the tree and landed with his full weight on the young man.
JD would have screamed as the bark again tore at his bare skin, but he could not get enough air into his lungs to do so. Laughing, Sorenson pushed harder against the smaller man.
"Get off me! Gawddamnit, get off me! You're crushing me!" JD barely wheezed out, while arching and bucking under the heavy weight.
He just managed to gasp in a breath before Sorenson grabbed him by his hair and yanked him off his feet. As Sorenson stepped away from him, he slithered helplessly to the sandy beach. Sorenson drew back a leg and started kicking at the coiled up agent anywhere he could.
"Say good-bye, Agent Dunne...it's time for you to go away!" Sorenson hissed at JD.
JD vehemently tried to roll away, but his battered body just could not catch up with the fact he needed to move.
Sorenson continued to kick and stomp at the squirming young man, when with a yell Vin staggered to his feet and launched himself across the sand, tackling Sorenson around the waist and knocking them both into the lake.
Through the shallow water they rolled with elbows jabbing and hands grappling. Both grunting loudly as they fought for control over the other.
Sorenson regained his feet first and whacked Vin in his ribs with a fist, but before he could get off another punch, Vin yanked Sorenson's leg out from under him and Sorenson hit the water on his side. Vin got to his feet, slipping on slimy weeds, hunched over his own damaged ribs, and hit Sorenson hard. Sorenson just laughed and rose out of the water to tower over Vin, and then he stuck the agent with a balled up fist across his jaw. Vin was rocked under the blow, his vision dimmed and he felt his legs go weak.
Sorenson's big beefy hands wrapped around Vin's throat and he was pulled down under the water in a chokehold. Vin's feet kicked out into empty air, as he desperately fought to get the fingers unwrapped from around his windpipe. His world started going gray and he felt his arms slide helplessly to his side. His mind yelled at him to keep fighting, but he had no strength left to fight. The gray veil grew darker, and he went limp in Sorenson's grip.
Sorenson's knees buckled under him.
Blood sprayed across the water as a large cut appeared on the back of Sorenson's head. With a roar he released Vin, and stood to face the dark haired kid again.
"Let him go, ya big hairy freak!" JD screamed as he swung the club again.
Moving with speed few large men possess, Sorenson grabbed the club from JD's hand, and tossed it into the water before it could connect with his head a third time.
"Why won't you die?" Sorenson shouted and grabbed JD around his waist and threw him onto the beach.
JD choked back a yell and tried to scramble to his feet, but Sorenson was upon him in a flash, dragging them both down to the sand.
"No..." JD cried out, trying to cover up with his arms as Sorenson lifted the knife above his head and struck.
A blast came from behind.
Sorenson toppled over onto JD, and his knife plunged to the hilt into the sand.
Evan Watts stood behind them, Sorenson's rifle shaking in his quivering hands.