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     The Patriot: A Short Story

       Sean Dexter / Mystery & Detective
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*****

It was close to two in the morning when my phone rang. A call at that time of the morning never is good news. This was no exception.
"Alex?" a man said, his voice raw with anxiety.
Even in my early morning stupor, I recognized Ken Turner's voice immediately."What's up, partner?" I felt under my pillow for the .38.
"We was spotted today. They made me tell who I was up there with. I'm real sorry, Alex. There's somebody here who'd like to speak with you about that." His voice broke repeatedly with fear.
"Calm down, Ken. We'll work this out whatever it is. Put him on." I figured Sheriff Boyd would be on the other end of the telephone. I was wrong again. Batting zero was not particularly unusual for me.
"We need to meet," a man said. His voice was thick with a guttural accent straight out of the good ol' USSR.
"What's this about?" I said, but I thought I probably already knew.
"We need to meet," the man repeated, only there was an edge to his voice now.
As I mentioned earlier, low level spies during the Cold War were as common as mouse turds in a church. And Dow Chemical was a perfect target. Looks like I had rattled the enemies cage."And what if I tell you to fuck off?" There was a moment of silence and then I heard Ken scream like a woman.
"He has nine more fingers," the Russian said. Another scream. "Eight."
Ken was a good man. He didn't deserve to be tortured. "Okay," I said. "Where?"
"Good," the man said. I could hear Ken whimpering in the background. "I think the airport office would do nicely."
It took me fifteen minutes to reach the airport. I saw the sheriff's cruiser parked off to the side of the terminal building. I reached in to the glove compartment and fished out my .38. I slipped the gun into an ankle holster. It wouldn't survive a thorough search, but it might get by long enough to keep me alive. I coasted my truck up next to the sheriff's.
I climbed out of the truck and knocked on the terminal door. I didn't wait for a response but instead just walked in. The sheriff and a tall, skinny man in a bad black suit stood in one corner. Damned if I didn't recognize him. I should have known. The sheriff had his pistol aimed at Ken, but when he saw me, he stepped forward and gave me a half-assed pat down. He missed my hidden gun.
"Shit," Boyd said. "We need to know who's feeding you information from inside the plant." He sidled back over to the other man as if seeking protection.
I looked over at the tall man. "Я слышал, вы бежал, полковник Kabinov," I said…I'd heard you'd defected, Colonel Kabinov…Kabinov had come to the U.S. as a Russian diplomat a year or so before and had requested political asylum. It had been granted on the condition that he work for the CIA. "Ты трус и предатель," I said…You are a coward and a traitor…My anger at the man had caused me to slip back into my native Russian. It felt good. I spat at his feet. There's nothing worse than a man who betrays his country.
"Who was your contact in the plant?" the Russian said. He spoke in English.
I couldn't help noticing he used the past tense. This was not going to end well. "Hardly matters now," I said, also speaking English. "How much are the Americans paying you to betray our country?"
Over in the corner, Ken was following our conversation like it was a tennis match. He looked deeply confused. I didn't blame him. Boyd's gun swung my direction. Ken Turner launched himself out of his chair. He'd never been much of a thinker. He had no idea who was who in this situation, but he knew who had broken his fingers. He hit both men like a defensive lineman intent on getting to the quarterback. I snatched the .38 from under my pants cuff just as Boyd's gun fired. I heard Ken grunt.
I'd been in fire fights before. Panic is what got you killed. Boyd was still tangled up with Ken, so my first shot was directed at the Russian. I was aiming for his chest but hit him in the throat instead. He dropped his gun and both hands went to his neck like he was trying to strangle himself. From the corner of my eye, I saw Boyd shove Ken to the ground, but I had plenty of time to put a bullet between his eyes.
Except for a few pathetic horizontal dance steps from the Russian, it was over…well almost.
I picked up Kabinov's gun with a handkerchief and placed it back in his hand. I pulled a sheet of paper from my pocket and slid it into the Russian's coat pocket. The paper held a few pieces of information about the chemical plant: hours of operation, employee names, but nothing meaningful. But the few words typed on the paper would go a long way in explaining what happened here. The sheriff's gun was still locked up in his hand. It would have taken a crow bar to pry out of that dead claw. I smiled. Seems everyone had been carrying a .38. Convenient for me when they tried to match the bullets.
I turned to Ken. He was hurt, but he'd make it. Too bad, I'd always liked him. I walked back over to Kabinov, and with the gun still in his hand, I fired one bullet into the pilot's head. The fear and disbelief was there in his eyes…and then it was gone.

*****

I'd driven home—careful to stay on back streets—cleaned up, and slept for a few hours. At around 8 a.m. that morning, I drove to a phone booth on the outskirts of town and called the Russian embassy in Mexico City. I told my handler everything I'd been able to pry out of Jimmy Lauper about the defoliant being manufactured at Dow Chemical. He seemed grateful. I hoped it would help in my country's effort to stop the spread of U.S. aggression. I drove to my office…just another day.
The headline in the local paper that morning screamed the news:

Russian spy, two others killed
Patriotic sheriff dies a hero

The story went on to say that the Russian had information about Dow Chemical in his possession at the time of his death. Somehow—this part was a little short on details—Sheriff Boyd had learned of the Russian spy's efforts and had confronted him. In the ensuing shootout, Boyd and the Russian had been killed. A local pilot had been caught in the crossfire. A memorial service for Sheriff Boyd would be held the following day. There was even mention of a possible statue in his honor.
And the local paper was right…Sheriff Boyd had died in the service of his country. However misguided the man had been by the constant barrage of U.S. media propaganda, he was still a hero.
I tossed the newspaper into the trash and looked up just as a young woman walked into my office. She was tall and slim and had everything tucked into just the right places under her dress. I could tell she'd been crying.
"Sit, down, Miss." I gestured at the chair in front of my desk. I waited for her to tell her story, and she did. She was almost certain her husband was cheating on her with one of the bank tellers at Morris Mercantile. I assured her I was most definitely the right man for the job. She seemed to relax while she was writing the check. The tears had dried up.
I reached across my desk for the check and smiled my most reassuring smile. It had been known to melt statues with its warmth.
Hell, even spies have to earn a living.

*****

If you enjoyed this free short story by Sean Benjamin Dexter, please check out these full length works by the same author:

Maggie’s Drawers: The JFK Assassination (A Jack Burke Thriller)
Dark Artist: The Black Doodler (A Jack Burke Thriller)
Denial of Duty: A Novel of political intrigue and murder
Oklahoma Justice: Hard Time
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