'The Untrackables: Zhang Rule' Sample Page

Chapter One

     “Fairly soon; I’m going to die.”

     I could stand the solitude, were it not for the abyss of loneliness. It’s like someone has emptied my cup and left me not a drop to drink. I suppose you look at these chains and shackles and presume that I have received justice and deserve my aforementioned loneliness. But, you don’t know my story as of yet. I am not imprisoned for some heinous crime or transgression of the law. I have not harmed or offended any persons or damaged properties. Only, my Constitutional rights have been violated by the powers that be and I chose to stand up for what I believe. Then, merely by undying love did they manage to capture me. Perchance, if you permit me to tell my tale, you can judge for yourself whether or not I be deserving of such an incarceration as this.

     It was a terribly damp night that my wife and I chose to attend the movie theater. I remember thinking that it was so wet outside for it to not have rained in a fortnight. I suppose you think it odd of me to use such a term. My mother, being of Austrian descent, used it quite often. She married my American father some thirty years ago. They created my sister, Carley, some two years afterward. In their fifth year of marriage, I was produced. For legal purposes, they agreed that I would be their last, yet my mother would not totally succumb to government tyranny. I am called Aquila by those who know me best. As I am in captivity, I am at liberty to reveal to you my birth name: Jeffrey Lawson. As you can see, I am of medium height. But, my mother would say that I am short for such a tall man. I agreed to disagree.

As I was saying; my wife and I had attended a showing of one of our favorite classics. We chose a small theater in a small town in Texas, quite naturally to avoid an abundance of devices. It’s always wonderful when you don’t have to look over your shoulders constantly like we do in the big cities. But, as we exited the building, I noticed a vehicle, typical of the ones that they drive. With gas prices toppling the nine dollar mark, practically nobody drives sports utility vehicles anymore, except them.

     We walked along the narrow sidewalk towards our filthy motel room. It’s nearly impossible for “our kind” to stay anywhere nice that’s rated above half a star. We were always prepared to self-fumigate our room. The closer we got to our place, the more I realized that the vehicle was slowly following us. I knew it had to be them so I made my wife aware of their presence, warning her not to turn around.

I apologize for not introducing her earlier. My wife’s legal name is Emily Lawson, McGregor by birth. I and our loved ones call her Priscilla as you may have anticipated. I think she is the loveliest little thing that God placed on our green earth, though I am quite biased. She’s a bit shorter than me, just enough to have to stand on her toes to kiss my lips, which I love insanely. Every time she wants to convince me to do something, she kisses me in this manner and I concede defeat. Truth be told, one look into her eyes is enough to get the job done.

I am not her first spouse, though she is mine. Her first husband was a decent enough fellow until he discovered that she was one of “our kind”. Before they had even been married a year, he tried to turn her over to the authorities and she fled. The government allowed her husband to get an annulment based on her status. I met her six months later, hiding out with a small gathering in what I call the real Smallville of Kansas. I led them to our group in Utah where we convene on occasion, though we spend most of our time traveling the country, incognito.

     “What should we do, Aquila?”

     I turned my head slightly to determine their position and proximity, “There’s an empty alley just a ways up there. I believe it leads to a neighborhood. When I say go, we’ll take off running. Okay?”

     “Alright,” she clenched my hand with her moist palm. I could feel her shivering nervousness.

     A hesitant drizzle began to fall upon us as we approached our detour. I couldn’t help but wonder who had tipped them off about our whereabouts. Had we missed one of the readers and not registered, revealing what we are? I hadn’t the time or information to fully answer my own question. I exhaled slowly as we drew near our turn. Our lives would be in jeopardy once the chase began. I couldn’t bear to go on without my Priscilla by my side.

     “Alright, Priscilla; we’re nearly there. Remember, no matter what happens to me…”

     “Keep running. I know.”

     We took a few more steps and nearly passed by the alley.

     “I love you, baby.”

     “I love you, too.”

“Go!”

     We turned right and sprinted through the alley, Priscilla in front. Three suited gentlemen exited their vehicle and pursued us while the driver attempted to cut us off on the opposite side. Fortunately, the fence door was open and we passed through easily. I closed and locked it behind us to slow down our trackers. It worked…temporarily. They hopped the fence and continued pursuit, which was quite impressive in those suits.

     We managed to extend some distance between us and them with a series of random turns and passages. We slowed our pace to a fast walk, believing ourselves to have created a safe lead. It was in that moment that the SUV darted towards us. I tackled Priscilla out of the way and landed on top of her. The vehicle crashed into a tree behind us. I tried to get my wife up, but her knee was sprained and she couldn’t walk.

     “Leave me here, Aquila.”

     “Never.”

     “Remember the deal? No matter what happens to me…keep running.”

     “That was for you.”

     “Incredible,” she was furious at me. “There.”

     “Where?”

     She pointed, “Look, there’s a tree house. The driver’s unconscious. Hide me in there and keep running. You can always come back for me.”

     “I don’t know.”

     We heard voices yelling in the distance.

     “There’s no time. The trackers are coming!”

     I lifted her up and carried her to the tree. She got a boost from me and managed to crawl inside. We heard the voices approaching.

     “Climb inside with me.” I scrambled up the tree. “When they go past, you can double back and get the car. Make sure you get our things from the motel.”

     “Alright.”

     “And maybe the ice bucket for my knee?”

     “Of course. Only, I’m not sure about leaving you behind.”

     “I’ll be fine, Jeff.”

     “Jeff? You only call me that when you’re extremely worried.”

     “Of course I’m worried…about you.”

     “I think I should stay.”

     “Jeff Lawson, if you don’t get your butt back to that motel…”

     “Alright, alright; I’ll go. Just don’t look at me that way.” I tried to push the door open.

     “Wait until they pass by, Einstein.”

     “Oh, yeah.”

     I waited until I heard the voices pass us. After another three minutes, I stole a peek. No trackers. I scurried down the tree and headed in the direction we had come from. I didn’t know the area well, so I located a nearby street sign: Chestnut Drive. When I arrived at the motel, it was obvious that someone had been through our stuff. They must’ve ransacked our room while we were at the movie. Luckily, I parked the car a couple of blocks away for just such emergencies. I seized some of our clothes amongst those scattered about the floor. We always kept our valuables in the trunk. I paid the bill and made my way to the car.

     I had difficulty finding the road until I saw the smashed SUV. It was completely empty. I supposed they may have called in a new vehicle so I proceeded at a snail’s pace. I finally found the tree house and pulled up next to the old oak. I stood on top of the hood and whispered for her. No answer. Perhaps, she’s asleep; I thought. I climbed up into the tree house; no Priscilla. Where was she? Why would she leave when she knew I was coming right back? I pulled my mini flashlight and searched the room for clues. There was a padded brown envelope by my hand. I opened it and a disposable phone fell out with a note.

     “We have your wife,” I read to myself. “Expect a call in the morning. Until then, she’s ours.”

     You can imagine the turmoil my mind went through in that moment. I knew I should’ve taken her with me, even if I had to carry her on my shoulders. After climbing back down the tree, I stuck the phone in my pocket. I didn’t dare go back to the motel, so I slept the night away in my car, behind bushes, underneath a billboard with a dental school advertisement. Sleep didn’t accept me at first, but she eventually relented. The ring of that phone awoke me at exactly eight in the morning.

     It was one of the guys from last night, “Good morning, Mr. Aquila.”

     “I want my wife back.”

     “Just like that? What do you have to offer me?”

     “We promise to never involve ourselves with the activities of “our kind” ever again.”

     “We are well past that. How could we trust you to keep your word? We need something bigger. Give me Mordecai and I’ll give you Priscilla.”

     “No way. Never.”

     “Surely you wouldn’t want her to endure another night like last night: cigarette burns, electric shock, hanging by her limbs, and a new thing we call, the ‘Bird Test’. That’s where…”

     “Okay.”

     “Okay what, Aquila? You’ll give me Mordecai?”

     “I can’t. I don’t know where he is,” I lied. “Nobody does. Last time we had contact was in Chicago. But I can give you something better.”

     “What can you give me?”

     “Me. I can give you myself. I know everything that Mordecai knows. You won’t get anything out of Priscilla. She knows hardly anything. I keep her in the dark on most things for such occasions as these.” I continued lying. “If you release her, I shall surrender.”

     There was silence on the phone, so long that I believed that he had hung up.

     “Hello?”

     “I’m still here, Mr. Aquila.”

     “Do we have a deal?”

     “Yes, we will acquiesce to those terms.”

     “One condition; let me speak to my wife.”

     “Alright,” there was a space of quiet until I heard a familiar voice.

     “Aquila?”

     “Yes, Priscilla; I’m here.”

     “I’m sorry. I meant to just take a peek, not knowing they were nearby. I didn’t mean…”

     “It’s alright, Priscilla. I’ve made arrangements to secure your freedom. When you get out, I want you to catch a storm and go to the tower.” It was a code that only Priscilla and I share and understand: ‘storm’, meaning bus; and ‘tower’, meaning a small café on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas, where we often ate.

     “Are you going to be there?”

     “Not just yet, honey.”

     “You will not trade yourself for me, Aquila. You’re much too important to the cause.”

     “And you’re much too important to me. It’s already done. Just follow my instructions and we shall see each other again.”

     “Okay, Aquila; I will trust in you.”

     “Thank you. I love you, baby.”

     “I love you, too.”

     “And I love you, too,” the other voice returned to the phone and laughed.  “Touching reunion. Be at the old mechanic’s garage on Tallapoosa Street in one hour. When we see you, we’ll let your wife drive off in a dark blue sedan. She will blow the horn three times. You’ll be able to see her face. Once she has passed, you will approach us with your hands up. When you get in front of the ice cream shop, we want you face down on the sidewalk. Do you understand?”

     “Yes. I understand.”

     “Don’t get any ideas about running or our sharp shooter will take you out. One hour. If you aren’t there, we will kill her,” he hung up.

     I immediately headed to my destination, uncertain of where it was. I found it, easily enough, and secured myself behind a dumpster in the alley, just in case they tried to ambush me before I saw them. When they finally appeared, they stopped about a block away. Three men and a young woman with a bag on her head departed the vehicle. A fourth man drove up in a blue sedan and joined them. They put the woman in the car and kept the key. I made my presence known by waving my arms, prepared to run if it was a ruse. Once they saw me, they gave her the key and I walked out onto the sidewalk. She drove off and immediately stopped to let me in. I waved her away, knowing they would have shot up the car or chased us down. She looked at me, understandably and drove away. I proceeded to follow their directions and descended to the sidewalk as they bombarded me. They chained my arms and legs together before throwing a burlap bag over my head. I can’t believe someone still uses burlap for anything.

     We drove for quite a while when I heard one of them say they found the sedan abandoned somewhere. I knew then that Priscilla had escaped. She was smart enough to know they’d follow or track her. I imagine she made her way on foot to the bus station. When we finally stopped, they removed that hot, scratchy bag and I adjusted my eyes to the light. We were at the old state detention center in Dallas. They led me in and tossed me in an old, pee stained interrogation room that desperately needed cleaning and remodeling.

     “Are you him?” I asked the only guy remaining.

     “Who? Justice? Nah, we’re just the pick up crew. He’s in transit as we speak, e.t.a. of twenty minutes.”

     “E.T.A.?”

     “Estimated time of arrival.”

     “I know what it means. I just didn’t think anyone talked that way anymore. What are you gonna do with me?”

     “Justice will decide when he arrives.”

     “I forgot; you bloodhounds can’t bark unless the alpha dog says so.”

     “Shut your mouth before I start the interrogation without him!”

     “A coward like you? Unlikely. Yeah, I imagine a guy like you can’t take a piss unless he signs an affidavit.”

     He hit me in the face, “I said shut up!”

     “Big man; hitting a guy in chains. I bet you’d beat your wife if you weren’t a self-loathing virgin who couldn’t find a woman if he paid for her.”

     He struck me again, busting my lower lip. I just laughed. The door opened and another man entered.

     “What’s going on here?”

     “He keeps running his big mouth.”

     “You wanna have to explain this to Justice? I didn’t think so. Get out of here.” They left.

     So, now you’ve been caught up on how I ended up in this predicament. What I haven’t explained is the why. Hold on; someone’s coming. A man entered, smoking a recycled cigarette. He dropped it on the floor and stomped it out.

     “You must be the uncatchable Aquila.”

     “Justice?”

     “The one and only. How do you like your accommodations?”

     “Other than the pee smell and the abuse? Swell. I thought it was the Ritz-Carlton, only I didn’t see a mini bar or the little mint on my pillow.”

     “I’ll make sure the boys bring you up something. Now, you know what I want and I know what you want, so let’s avoid the banter and unnecessary torture that I so detest. Give me what I want.”

     “Which is?”

     “The location of Mordecai and coordinates of your headquarters.”

     I laughed, “That won’t be happening anytime soon.”

     He called someone, “Bring up a beer.” He hung up. “You like beer, Mr. Aquila?”

     “I could drink.”

     “I got one on the way. You sure you can’t tell me that location?”

     “Sell out my people? Never. I’m ready to die for the cause.”

     “I’m sure you are, but that shouldn’t be necessary.”

     The man who had hit me reentered with what appeared to be an icy cold beer.

     “Colorado, maybe? Or Nebraska?”

     I laughed, “We’re in Yemen…in an underground sand pit.”

     Justice laughed, “All this dry air. I bet you’re really thirsty. You can either tell me and I’ll give you the beer or you can keep your secret, but I’ll still give you the beer.”

     “I’ll keep my secret; thank you kindly.”

     He bashed the bottle across my forehead, knocking me silly, “There’s your beer.” I had pieces of glass embedded in my head and face. He pressed the biggest piece deeper into my flesh and grinded his teeth. “You think you’re so smug and clever, you and “your kind”: Untrackables. I hate the whole lot of you!”

     “You’re the ones who violate our Constitutional rights in the amendments.”

     “You are in direct violation of the law, section twelve, part one of Zhang Rule. You are required to reveal the whereabouts of your fugitive accomplices.”

     I spit in his face while his mouth was partially open. Some got in. He took his handkerchief and wiped his face. He would have punched me but he didn’t want to cut his hand, so he kicked me instead.

     “Give him the spa treatment,” he ordered his eager inferior coworker.

     “The spa treatment? Yes, sir!”

     Justice squatted in front of me, “The location?”

     I tried to spit the blood from my mouth towards him, but it went down my shirt instead.

     He stood and looked up at the security camera, nodding, "Hook him up, Epstein.”

     “Yes, sir.”

     Two other men entered as Justice departed. They attached wires and clips to my body, shocking me with minute amounts of electricity. The less I talked the more they increased the amps. I still didn’t utter a sound. So they proceeded to dump buckets of ice water over my head, while my arms were suspended above my shoulders. It hurt worse than death, but still I said not a word.

     “Give him the ‘Bird Test’,” Justice’s voice came through the speaker.

     For those of you unfamiliar with this manner of torture; these ‘civilized gentlemen’ take regular honey and spread it over your body, covering you with live worms and bird seeds in the process. Then, they release starved birds into the room and let them have their way with you. I can’t explain to you how painful it is to have those beaks pecking at your naked body. Still, I didn’t say anything. They knew then that I would never squeal. Once they cleared the birds and cleaned me up, they let me sit in pain and silence. Two days and nights, I lay in worry about my sweet Priscilla. She knew to head back to headquarters if I didn’t show in five days.

     On the fifth day, two masked men came and set a plate of what I assume is food in front of me. As they left, one of them dropped a key through what I presume was a hole in his pocket. I was able to unlock my shackles and cuffs, letting myself out the door. I saw no one as I crept toward the front of the building. But when I opened the outside door, alarms sounded and I heard men yelling. I ran toward the front gate and jumped it. By the time they got there, I had hitched a ride on the back of a truck.

     I hopped out in a part of Dallas with which I was familiar. But, I knew it was a good hour walk to the café, two in my present condition. I limped for twenty minutes until I found someone going in that direction. They were passing by the café so they allowed me to bum a ride. I thanked them heartily when I exited the vehicle and gave them my last ten for their trouble. There she was, sitting on a little wooden bench outside of the café. She ran up and hugged me, running her fingers through my hair.

     “My goodness; what did they do to you?”

     “What didn’t they do?”

     “Let’s eat something.”

     “I haven’t any money, Priscilla.”

     “I do.” We went inside and got a table. I ordered a Reuben sandwich and fries. She got a small salad and a bowl of vegetable soup.

     “Did you have a hard time catching the bus here?”

     “I didn’t catch the bus. I doubled back and drove our car.”

     “You know better than that, Priscilla. They could have seen you and tracked you here.”

     “Relax. They’ve never seen our car, right? Once I got here, I sold the car to a woman on her way to Oklahoma City for eight hundred bucks.”

     “Smart thinking, just in case they did see it.”

     They brought our food and I inhaled mines in my breath. She ate slow and steady. The aroma of it was so refreshing after five days in that awful stench.

     “We have to go back to headquarters,” I informed her.

     “I already have two bus tickets out of here at eleven o’clock tomorrow morning. I knew you’d be here by the fifth day.”

     We spent the night in possibly the filthiest motel that I’ve ever seen. The sheets were dirty and stained, so we ordered new ones. The floor was covered with bugs and the occasional mouse. We finally procured clean linen from the manager and tossed the mucky stuff in the corner.

     “I oughta burn this. I’m sure there are fleas.”

     “Let’s just get some sleep, Aquila.”

     When we awoke in the morning, we ate breakfast at the café again. I had the big breakfast platter with two blueberry pancakes, two eggs, two sausage links, two pieces of bacon, and a bowl of grits. Priscilla only had a bowl of cereal and two pieces of cinnamon toast.

On the way to the bus station, she bought me two bags of sunflower seeds and honey roasted peanuts for herself. I am absolutely addicted to barbecue sunflower seeds. Priscilla always joked that if the bloodhounds ever discovered this about me, they’d be able to track me easily by training their real bloodhounds to follow that scent.

     I remained on the lookout for tracker vehicles, but I never saw any. We boarded the bus and found seats in the middle. We put on our non-conspicuous sunglasses in case there was a description or picture of us on the digital news feed. Nobody even noticed us as they filled the seats, two by two.

     “I didn’t get much rest last night,” Priscilla yawned. “I’m gonna get some sleep.”

     “Okay.” I wanted to sleep too, but I didn’t dare while she was napping. One of us had to stay on watch. I might as well keep alert. I can get plenty of sleep once we get to Salt Lake City. Well, at least that’s what I had in mind.