Guard Duty

Being a patrolling guard for the local rich weirdo hadn’t exactly been Isaac’s life goal, but the pay and hours were good and the benefits were insane. Isaac had all three of his kids in braces and had only had a twenty buck co-pay for each appointment. Sure, he wasn’t the pediatrician his mother had always wanted him to be, but him and Lisa were ahead on the mortgage and they were taking the kids on a vacation at the end of the month so fuck it. He hated any kid that wasn’t his, anyway.

It wasn’t a perfect job. There were…certain risks that had been outlined to him when starting. Risks that hadn’t needed any explaining, if he was going to be entirely honest. He was guarding the secret testing facility of Dr. Norman Jorgenson, and everyone knew that dude was insane. Some of the experiments Isaac had walked past had been so insane his brain hadn’t even tried to comprehend what he was seeing. The whole place was built into the side of a mountain, for Christ’s sake.

But Isaac didn’t give a shit. He clocked in, went to his section of the fence outside, walked up and down with brief pauses at each end to look around, and then after he did his eight hours with an hour lunch break (a full hour! No one offered that anymore!) he clocked out and went home to Lisa and the kids. He’d decided when he got the job that whatever went on inside the mountain was above his paygrade.

Isaac wasn’t thinking about any of that. He was thinking about the money he’d put down on the basketball game that at that moment should have been well into the second quarter. They weren’t supposed to have their personal phones on them and the last guy that got caught was tossed into some pit at the bottom of the facility so Isaac was going to have to wait until he got into his car to find out if he was taking Lisa to Ruth’s Chris or the Olive Garden for their anniversary. Lisa like cheap chicken alfredo so either would work, but-

Sounds, from ahead of him, further down the fence.

Something whizzing through the air.

“Gauughaughgh!”

Another thing whizzing through the air.

A heavy, muffled thump. The sound of something big hitting the ground.

Big enough to be a body.

“Shit shit shit,” Isaac muttered under his breath as he hustled down the fence. Mikey was supposed to be watching this area, the one near the back gate with the burnt out flood lamp. But as Isaac approached, gun up in front of him, he couldn’t see Mikey anywhere.

Until he got past the shipping boxes that still needed to be processed and found Mikey in a heap on the ground, two arrows sticking out of his chest.

“Mikey!” Isaac shouted, coming around the boxes. He looked all around, and then called out, “Hey, help! Mikey’s down!”

From farther up the dirt road he heard people shuffling toward him. Hull and Mallory arrived, leaning over the body.

“Shit, are those arrows?” Mallory asked.

“Yeah,” Isaac said, wiping his mouth. “I don’t understand how they got through the body armor.”

“Precision aiming,” Hull said. He stood up and started looking around, into the darkness. “Must be someone from the Supreme Elite Squad.”

“Yeah, I guess, it does look like…who?”

Isaac stood up, too. Suddenly the idea that someone was out there, in the darkness, taking precise aim at him, really sunk into his mind. He shivered.

“The Supreme Elites,” Hull said like it was the most logical choice of words ever. “You know, boss’s new enemy? We’re on their radar for some shit he did in London? Didn’t you read the company newsletter?”

Isaac nodded. A little. Sure, he’d read it. Skimmed it, really. While on the can. There was a lot of stuff in there about HR’s book club.

“They’re here,” Mallory said. “They’re trying to get in.”

Isaac reached for his radio. “I’ll call it in.”

“Not yet,” Hull said, holding up a hand.

“What? Why?”

“I want to see if we can catch the fuckers,” he said. He turned from the darkness and waggled his eyebrows. “Think of the bonus if we drop their dead bodies in the main office ourselves.”

Isaac took a breath. This seemed, to him, extremely stupid.  Someone was out there, in the dark, waiting, and they’d already managed to perfectly fire two arrows into the smallest breaks in Mikey’s body armor. Whatever bonuses they were going to get for finding the guy first didn’t seem worth the risk of getting an arrow in the eyeball.

But Isaac had worked with people like this at every single job he’d ever had. Opportunistic climbers. If Hull didn’t get his way, he was going to get shitty, and then there’d be breakroom drama, and Isaac just wasn’t having it. If Hull wanted to look around for a few minutes before they called it in, fine.

The three of them got into a loose formation and headed toward the gate. Nothing but the woods surrounding the mountain out there. Trees looming up into the darkness above the flood lamps, lots of clumps of that chest-high grass, and the sound of wind through the leaves.

A branch cracked to his right.

“What was that?”

“Probably a squirrel.”

“Too big to be a fucking squirrel.”

Isaac walked further into the darkness, away from the other two. Ahead was some more of that tall grass. He’d talked to landscaping about maybe cutting that shit down but they had laughed him out of their office. This was exactly what he was afraid of. There could be someone in that grass. Crouching. Waiting. And in this darkness, he’d never know.

“I think-”

“There’s nothing,” Hull said.

“Jumping at my own shadow,” Mallory said.

Isaac turned back to the other two and found they were already heading back toward the gate. The spot between his shoulder blades itched and he ran after them.

“What? What the fuck are you two talking about?”

“There’s nothing out there, Isaac,” Hull said, not stopping as he beelined for where he usually patrolled.

“What the fuck do you mean nothing? Mikey’s on the ground with two arrows in his chest!”

“I’m sure it was an accident,” Hull said with a shrug. “If there was someone out there we would have found them!”

“We looked for twenty seconds! It’s dark. There’s plenty of places to for them to hide, and…wait. Where’s Mallory?”

Hull paused and turned back to the gate. Besides Mikey’s rapidly cooling corpse, there was nothing.

Hull shrugged. “He’s back on his rounds. Which is where you should be.”

“But Hull, that’s two men down, now! You can’t seriously believe that this is all some sort of weird coincidence and that there isn’t someone in the shadows slowly killing us to get inside?”

“You’re just hearing things, Isaac,” Hull said. “Get back to work.”

Isaac stood in place, staring at where Mallory should have been. Then his eyes went back to the tall patches of grass. Then back to Hull.

How the fuck…Mikey is dead…what does he think…what is happening…what do I do?

This is insanity.

I ain’t dying for insanity.

Isaac clutched as his stomach and started moaning. Finally, Hull stopped walking and turned back to look at him.

“What the fuck is it now?” he asked, annoyed at being further delayed.

“Oh, sir, it’s my stomach. I’ve…uh…I’ve got IBS. Crohn’s. And I’ve been having a flare-up.”

To his surprise, Hull’s face changed to one of concern. “My sister has Crohn’s. Terrible stuff, that. Do you need a fifteen, or do you need to go home?”

Isaac froze for a second. His plan was to just hide in the bathroom until all of this blew over, but if he went home he’d be even farther away from it. He could find out who was winning the basketball game.

“I better just go home, sir. This is…it isn’t going to be pretty.”

“Well, I don’t need you to paint me a picture, for fuck’s sake. Just get out of here. I’ll call for a replacement.”

Immensely grateful his car was in the opposite direction of whoever was killing them, Isaac continued to keep up a pained face as he shuffled away as fast as he dared. Not that it mattered. Hull would probably be dead by the time Isaac came in for his next shift.


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