I had almost gotten away when I felt The Sheriff take ahold of my mind. I stopped cold, my limbs unresponsive. It happened once before, in the beginning, and while he could no longer exert control over my physical form, he instead shuffled through my memories searching for information. I summoned the memory of Arthur’s resistance training, but that memory was pushed away. I concentrated on another of Arthur’s tricks, remembering the events of the night in reverse chronological order: me falling behind, the sound of the alarm, the empty safe on the floor, opening the safe, dropping the spray cans, spraying the cameras, sneaking through maintenance tunnels. These were not pushed away so quickly, the Sheriff surely curious about why we were there. He’d know soon enough.
The rewinding filmstrip of the night’s events hovered on a frozen image of a conversation I had with Lieutenant Pilgrim, and I immediately tried to think of the best sex I ever had. For men and women both, it is such a powerful memory that it always throws a monkey wrench into the Sheriff’s mind tricks. It was with Valencia, on the beach during summer break. She began to blur and I heard the sound of rain. But it hadn’t rained when I was with Valencia. Her face sharpened again backlit by the moon, framed by her long, dark hair and shielding her breasts. The sound increased in volume and I knew it was gunfire a micro-second before I felt my face hit the gravel rooftop.
My vision cleared and again my mind was my own. My right hand immediately searched for my pistol. I felt the barrel with my fingers and pulled it close to me, my index finger searching for the trigger-well. Once my gun was secure, I rolled onto my back, ready to shoot any guard at the end of my barrel. However the Sheriff and his security detail retreated back into the building, probably awaiting reinforcements. In just a few seconds, I was up over the side of the roof and onto the adjoining building, the location from which my comrades had launched their counter-attack. I stayed in the shadows as I made my way to the opposite end of the other roof, my team already rappelling down the side of the building facing the lake, our escape craft waiting below. Once we were secure and the silhouette of the building grew smaller behind us, I pulled the Sheriff’s journal, an old, withered-looking thing, from my inside jacket pocket. I was tempted to open it, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the secrets it contained.
I spent the trip back to our mobile basecamp drifting between wakefulness and sleep, a side effect of the Sheriff’s mind-meddling. I felt for the journal next to me, it was there. Finally Captain Foster announced our arrival as our craft docked with the submersible battleship that Arthur called home when we had active operations. “Grab your gear,” I shouted, “Everyone needs to be debriefed before heading to your racks.” A moment, then, “And good job tonight ladies and gentlemen, you saved my ass.”
The troops let out a weary cheer and exited the craft. I headed straight for the command center. Arthur stood at the front of the room, there was a large window, the waterline dancing between half and three-quarters of the way to the top of it. He didn’t face me but just said, “It’s entrancing, you know. The water. A few minutes of this and everything I worry about just washes away.” He looked over his shoulder, “It kind of reminds me of when I was working for the Sherriff.” He smiled a weakly. His face had a weathered agelessness to it. He might be forty-five or seventy, no one knew for sure. His eyes were bright and active they would switch from green to brown dependent on his mood. Despite his weariness, his eyes blazed almost fully green, “Is that the book?”
“Yes, sir.” I replied. Then, “He got me, Arthur. The team opened fire on him and he fell back, letting me go. He saw where we were, I think we got away because he went to see what we took.” I held up the leather-bound book and smiled, “He was worried we had this!”
Arthur reached for it, and then hesitated as if he was afraid of it. Then he took it.
We were silent a moment and he burst into laughter. “Oh you should see your face!” He doubled-over again and then composed himself, “Tell me, did you find it strange that I ordered you to spray those cameras and leave the cans there?”
Had he snapped? “A little, but I didn’t really give it a second thought.”
“And that was by design.” He tucked the journal under his arm and spun me around by my shoulders. He pulled something from my ammunition pouch. When I turned back to face him, he held up a small device, the LED on the front a bright pulsing red. “Do you know what this is?”
I did. It was a distance detonator, used to detonate abandoned vehicles and other things once we reached a certain distance from the detonator.
“I am sorry, my friend, I never expected him to catch you, but I assumed he would capture someone. It’s what he does. Once he did that, I also assumed, he would rush to his office.”
“The spray cans—“
“Were not just spray cans.” He walked over to one of the workstations, empty now, and flicked on the scanner we used to monitor enemy frequencies. The voice emerging from the speaker sounded winded. Also, frightened.
“It looks like the explosion has taken out the Sheriff’s residence and main compound. We need all teams to rally at the main compound now, over!”
The cold, ominous tone of the Deputy answered back, “I want patrols on the lake doubled, we will find them and make them pay! I also want word immediately when the Sheriff is found.”
Arthur flicked it off, a flash of pity crossed his face, but his smile soon returned. Arthur held the book in front of him again, regarding it. Then to me, “Well, your mission was a success no matter which way you look at it. Now, let’s see if we can’t figure out how this bastard gets in our heads.”