A Loner Mentalist Pt. 09

bysycksycko©

He looked out of his cloak for the man that was going to fly to Delaware today. After a few tries, he managed to connect with him. He was on the highway, driving to the airfield and feeling very excited to be flying today. Seeing there was nothing he could do to hurry the man along, Jack let his cloak reform and talked to Mia, who was eager to hear every single detail of his hotel escape. After he told her the story twice over, she looked a little pensive.

Telling the story allowed Jack to cool off and stop devoting all his brainpower towards fretting over his mother's well-being. He remembered he had a hacker at his disposal. He pulled his laptop out of his bag and Skyped George Henderson.

The redhead was quick to answer. "Hi, Boss! I've gathered up some info on Jacobs' tours. I've got the dates of-"

"Belay that!"

"Yes, Boss."

"I just got Skyped-twice-by my enemy. Can you trace it?"

George nodded on the screen, making his chins wobble. "Sure thing, Boss."

"Do it! Quickly! Call me with any info as soon as you have it and then keep digging for more."

"You got it, Boss!"

"Oh, and I haven't got a cellphone anymore so, when I say call, I mean Skype."

"Yes, Boss."

Jack loaded George's application and clicked George's name as the only one allowed to Skype him. He folded the laptop closed and sat back in his seat, trying to come up with something else he could do to help his mother. The only thing coming to mind was prayer.

"Jack," Mia said and hesitated. "What about that stuff Eric told us about?"

"What stuff?"

"You know, the stuff about little girls getting telekinesis and all that?"

Jack's mouth tightened. "What about that stuff?"

"Well, couldn't you use an ally with telekinesis, right about now? I'd like to volunteer."

Jack sighed. "What I need right now is my wits about me and all my strength. What I need is a friend I can trust to do what I say, when I say it. I don't need to waste my energy on an experiment that would likely not work. Plus, it might leave you catatonic, or worse. I am not doing anything like that to you, ever. Not even as make-believe."

Mia was stopped from further arguing her point by the owner of the plane showing up. He was a middle-aged man of slim build. His blonde hair was graying in clumps, just like his beard. He was wearing a leather jacket and slacks and couldn't be more than 5'7" tall. His eager face wrinkled up into an expression of annoyance. "Who the hell are you?! What are you doing here?! This is private property and I-"

Jack made holes in his cloak in the shape of angrily saying those words and got inside the man's mind. He casually made the man shut up and feel happy to give them a lift to an airfield fifty miles from Springfield. It was on his way, after all. The man gave them all a warm smile and went to do the pre-flight check.

Jack saw in his mind where the food and drinks were on the plane, so he fed his dogs some pâté and crackers, while Mia and he munched on strawberries and cream. Half an hour later, the plane taxied to the runway and took off. Jack heaved a big breath. He was finally heading home. Answers awaited him there. Answers and danger. He had no illusions about what awaited him at his mother's house. It was an ambush. He held hope that he could surprise them by coming to spring it so early. With all the transportation hubs on alert, whoever was behind this must be expecting Jack to hitchhike his way across the country. They probably weren't expecting him to fly there on the same day as their arrest attempt failed. It was a long shot, but he was desperate for any advantage he could get.

He spent the flight meditating, while Mia mostly looked out the window at the scenery below. At one point, she moved into the cockpit, where the owner greeted her warmly and showed her the sights through the big windows.

The flight seemed to last forever, yet Jack could also swear that it only took them ten minutes to take off, level for a cruise as he meditated, and then land at the tiny airstrip fifty miles from Springfield. By the time the plane slowed down approaching the end of the runway, Jack's meditations hadn't managed to allay his worries about his mother's safety and his fears of not being able to help her. He beat them down with sheer anger and counted on his wrath to lead him through the ordeal ahead.

His dogs, Mia and he disembarked and the owner of the plane took off for Delaware without much delay.

"You ready for this," Jack asked Mia.

She nodded. "Whatever you need, babe, I'm here for you."

"Good."

Jack found them a ride to Springfield in an empty delivery truck that was headed there to make a pickup. He then used his power to erase them from the pilot's memory. He made the man think he had stopped at the tiny airstrip to practice touch and go landings.

The drive to Springfield lasted about an hour and halfway through it, Jack's laptop finally beeped to indicate Henderson calling. "What've you got for me?" Jack asked.

"Bad news, Boss," George said. "The computer you were Skyped from is also a laptop, and it had been bought by the FBI some five years ago. It sat in storage up until two years ago, when it had first been activated."

"Where is it now?"

"I don't know. It's switched off." Jack's lips tightened at the news. "But, when it was last active, twenty minutes ago, it was at, or very near, your house, Boss."

Jack frowned. "Which house?" George looked confused on the screen. "My mother's house, or my own? Is it in Springfield, or-"

"Your mother's house, Boss. Springfield. Definitely Springfield."

"And what could you get from it?"

"Next to nothing, Boss. Whoever's got it, they know what they're doing. The machine's got protection up the wazoo. I'd need the computer to be at my disposal for a day, or two, to run my scripts on it and find the chinks in its armor. The way things are at the moment, Boss...I can only tell you where the laptop had been when it had been connected to the internet during the past year."

"Where?"

"Mostly in Washington, D.C., Boss. It was activated several times in Florida, Georgia and California."

"What's the overlap with Jacobs?" Jack asked.

George perked up at the question. "I just figured that one out, Boss. It wasn't obvious at first glance and it took a lot of digging. I even had to make voicecalls to get to the bottom of the matter." George looked like he was waiting for praise, but one good look at Jack's expression was enough to make him talk. "Whenever the laptop had been connected to a server in one of those states, Jacobs was elsewhere, in the Midwest, or down in Tennessee. But! After the laptop was online, Jacobs would spend the next few days booking venues in whichever state the laptop had been in. A few weeks later, Jacobs would be there, presumably doing his thing."

Jack chewed on his lip as he considered this new piece of information. Whoever had his mom had FBI cooperation, obtained one way or another, and was a scout for Jacobs. If it was a mentalist, scouting targets with clairvoyance, why would they even need Jacobs? Why not just attack mentalists themselves? It was a conundrum and Jack lacked the info needed to sort it out.

"Can you track the communication this laptop had with Jacobs?"

George shook his head. "No, Boss. Sorry. I've tracked down Jacobs' email accounts right off the bat, but they're all wiped. No info to be found in them, not even a single contact. Whoever cleaned up after Jacobs...they had admin privileges to the internet service providers, too, Boss. Short of time travel, there's no way to recover that info from the servers."

Jack sighed. "Keep digging at it, George. I need those emails. I need to know every bit of that communication."

"Will do, Boss!"

Jack ended the call and turned off his laptop. He rolled down his window and leaned his head out to catch the whipping wind, hoping it would clear his mind. He felt like a poker player on tilt. Every course of action seemed wrong. But every second his mom spent in enemy hands was unacceptable.

He looked up at the purple sky. The sun was just setting. To Jack, it seemed to be hours early. The delivery truck dropped them off at the edge of town and Jack wiped the driver's memory of them after he drove off. They were half a mile away from Jack's mother's house. They hid their bags under the nearest house's porch. Under cover of darkness, the six of them snuck through the backyards. Aramis was in the lead, sniffing the air, while Athos and Spot held the flanks. Porthos was between Mia and Jack, as ready for action as the rest of them.

The night was quiet. The closer they crept to Jack's mother's house, the worse Jack felt about the whole thing. Every instinct he had told him to turn around and run away. He stifled them, but started looking through a hole in his cloak, shaped like someone waiting in an ambush. He got no results. They came to the intersection of his mother's street. They hid between a pool house and some bushes. Jack sent Spot and Athos to scout ahead. Spot was walking along the sidewalk, pretending to be just a stray dog sniffing for food. Athos was taking the backyard route, sniffing everything thrice before scurrying to the next hiding place.

Jack crouched next to Mia, his unease growing with every second. Something felt horribly wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly what it was. I need info. He made holes in his cloak in the shape of seeing government people visiting his neighbor. He hoped to see through one of his mother's neighbors if the FBI had been setting up shop at his house. He got no hits. He kept watching through his dogs' eyes to follow their progress. Athos smelled something interesting and Jack froze, his eyes wide.

"What?" Mia whispered. "What's wrong?"

Jack hesitated before whispering back, "There's a faint smell in the air. It's a cream that dog trainers sometimes use while they're training a scent dog. They mask their own smell with it, so as not to confuse the dog."

"What does that mean?" Mia whispered.

Jack rubbed his brow as he whispered, "If you wanted to hide yourself from a dog's nose, you'd apply that cream all over your exposed skin."

Mia's eyes grew wide. "So, they know we're coming?"

"Of course they do," Jack whispered back. "They've known all along."

"What do we do?"

Jack chewed on his lower lip as he thought. Though he had thought they might be lying in wait for him, he hadn't expected them to be so prepared. He craned his neck to look all around. Nothing felt right. "I don't know. We go on. I need the dogs to take a look so we can come up with a plan of action. Maybe take down one of the feds and remove his necklace so I can start figuring this shit out."

He had his dogs go on and tried to guess what any of his mother's neighbors were doing, so he could try and spy through their eyes. As he thought about the evening routines of the people living on this street, it finally became clear to him what was wrong.

There were no people around.

Jack stood up and gaped at the houses he could see from his hiding place. There wasn't a light on anywhere. It was a complete blackout. He hadn't noticed it until then, cause the sun had just set and he was still on Arizona time, but now that he had, it was a giant turd in his punchbowl. "Oh, fuck," he gasped.

"What?" Mia asked, also rising to look around.

"There's nobody here, Mia. This entire block is empty. No people."

Mia spun to look around and her jaw dropped as she saw that was true. "I don't like this, babe. We should get out of here. Right back the way we came."

Jack nodded and sent his scouts the order to sneak back to his location. He almost screamed out loud as he felt Spot and Aramis ripped apart by large caliber bullets. He crouched back down and grabbed his head. Mia hissed something at him, but he could barely hear her. Spot was lying on the street, fire creeping up his flank as his own blood poured into his lungs, choking him. Athos was no better, his guts blown every which way by the enormous projectile that had nearly bisected him. Jack bit back a snarl of rage and grief.

Aramis' ears pricked up and he dashed out of their hiding place, guided by anger at the threat to his master and the desire to avenge his brothers. The sudden, sharp crack of automatic fire made Mia scream. Jack looked towards where Aramis was ripped apart by the bullets. Muzzle flashes illuminated five figures shooting the dog dead. They were wearing tactical gear and armor, as well as night vision goggles over their eyes.

A second later, red dots appeared over Jack and Mia's bodies. Porthos barked furiously, warning the approaching men of what he was going to do to them if they got any closer to his master. Jack managed to find the concentration to send the dog the order to stop and surrender. As horrible as the loss of three of his dogs was, he didn't want to lose the fourth, too. Not in the same minute. He raised his hands and slowly stood up.

After a few seconds, the men with the guns came close enough to be seen. They were covering him from two directions, but their lines of fire were perpendicular to each others'. If they shot at Jack, their bullets would be stopped by the pool house behind him. He had no choice but to surrender.

Two of the men came forward with batons. Electricity crackled loudly at the ends and Jack realized with fear that those were cattle prods. Porthos barked again, baring a terrible snarl at the armed men. A short burst of automatic fire and the last of Jack's dogs was no more.

"Fucking assholes!" Jack roared as he launched himself bodily at the nearest gunman. His whole side exploded in painful convulsions as the prod was applied to him. He collapsed to the ground, fighting to stay conscious. Mia was screaming something, but to Jack, she sounded like she was a million miles away. A heavy man knelt atop him and bound his wrist behind his back with a zip tie. His ankles were tied together, too. Jack struggled to catch his breath as four men picked him up and carried him off. He could barely stay conscious.

He hoped he was just having another nightmare, those left him just as dazed as he was right now. The tight grip the men had on his limbs was a constant reminder that his predicament was as real as it was horrible. His head lolled around with each step the men took. He couldn't find the strength to lift it, let alone see where he was being taken, but he soon recognized his mother's front steps.

The thought of his mother being in danger made his mind finally rally. He checked his cloak and was relieved to find it still intact. Months of meditations and training had paid off. He was recovering from the prod and his faculties were rapidly returning to him. He craned his neck this way and that to see as much as he could. I'm not dead yet.

The SWAT team brought him to his mother's living room. Jack gasped at the sight of his mom calmly sitting on the couch, fingering the large crucifix around her neck. "Mom! I'm here! Mom, talk to me!"

"Hello, Jack," she said in a sad, small voice as he was being forced to his knees in the middle of the room. Jack immediately made a hole in his cloak in the shape of her words. Her mind was not available to him. No mind that just heard those words was.

Jack tried to get up and go to her, but the two bastards holding him down would be too strong for him even if he wasn't bound hand and foot. "Don't worry, Mom! Everything's going to be fine!"

"Yes, but not in the way you'd like," said the man sitting on the couch, next to Jack's mother.

Jack looked at the man. He was skeletally thin and looked like he'd be very tall if he wasn't seated. His hair was equal parts gray, copper and brown. His face was long and sunken, with prominent cheekbones framing an aquiline nose. His thin lips were spread into a sneer. His clothes hung loose on his skeletal form, making him look like an ancient vampire come back to life. The thin man gestured at a SWAT member and a necklace was fastened around Jack's neck. Jack felt his cloak become his prison. This is the true cloaked figure, this thin, old freak sitting next to my mother. This is what I have been dreading for months. He must have become one with the aether and learned about me from the memories of Jacobs' goons on the day we had fought.

Mia was brought in at that moment. She was as bound as Jack, except she also had a gag in her mouth. She was screaming into the gag, even as she was squirming to try and slip out of the hands of the men carrying her. She was set down on her knees next to Jack, also facing the couch. Jack wanted to reach out and touch her, to give her comfort and wipe away her fear. He'd give anything to save her. He'd even negotiate with their captors. After giving his mother an ignored look of encouragement, he faced the thin man.

The thin man looked positively ecstatic. "Finally," he rasped in joy. "I've been praying and praying and praying to know who was interfering with our noble work. I almost lost faith in ever succeeding, but I knew that Our Lord was only testing me. I kept praying and The Lord finally saw fit to give me the answer. You. You're the one that's been meddling with The Lord's plan."

Jack gaped at the thin man and then looked up at the faces of the SWAT team. They were all wearing masks, so he couldn't see their expressions, but none of them acted uncomfortable with the thin man's words. Jack looked back at the pale blue eyes, sunken deep into the thin man's skull. "What?"

The sneer grew into a devious smile as the thin man shook a finger at Jack. "Now, now, don't even try to deny it. You're the one that killed Jacobs and his four knights."

"No, I'm not."

The thin man snorted. "How could anyone as stupid as you get the drop on Jacobs?"

"I didn't kill him," Jack insisted.

The thin man spread his hands. "And now you expect me to believe such a blatant lie?" He shook his head. "My, my, my...and here I thought you might present a challenge. You cannot imagine my disappointment as I watched you stroll into our trap."

"You didn't see me coming," Jack said. Despite it being painfully obvious that they had, indeed, seen him coming, he wasn't ready to admit it. Not to the skeleton sitting next to his mother.

The thin man smiled a quick, thin smile and nodded at a man that was sitting at the coffee table. Despite looking like a SWAT member, the man in question wasn't wearing any body armor. He picked up a tablet from the coffee table and showed it to Jack. Jack squinted at it in confusion.

"Yes, I did." The thin man cocked his head. "Surveillance drone. Yet another one of Our Lord's little helpers."

Jack bristled. On the screen was an infrared aerial image of the neighborhood. It hadn't occurred to him that there might be a drone circling overhead. I should have driven up in a car, pretending to be just another person in the street. No! Wait! Jack frowned at the thin man. "Where is everybody?"

"In a safe place. We evacuated this town."

Jack's jaw dropped at the scale of the undertaking. "On what grounds?"

The thin man smiled again. "You." He nodded at the drone operator again and the man tapped the tablet screen a few times. Then he showed it to Jack. A national news anchor was telling the story of how Jack was the most dangerous terrorist of all times, an insane cult leader with plans to use weapons of mass destruction against innocent Americans.

Jack's face fell. "You've got to be shitting me."

The thin man's smile vanished. "Language, young man!"

Jack's rage, simmering the whole day long, boiled over. "Fuck you, you fucking cunt! You take my mom prisoner, brainwash her, set me up to be a terrorist, kill my dogs and now you think you get to scold me for my choice of language?! Fuck you and the fucking cunt that gave birth to your sorry ass! I'll-"

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