Written by M.J.C
“Antonio de Mendoza”
“Okay, everyone stop talking and get out your ID’s!” the cop screamed over the voices of Beast, Niwt, Niece and AP, who were all telling the officers they were going to be late to the funeral.
They had met at the rendezvous and a cop cruiser happened to drive by and decided to see what was wrong and if he could help. And, he thought today might be his lucky day since this was a pretty group from Ohio, judging by their license plates.
His partner was collecting ID’s now as Peg drove up.
“Hello officer! It’s a sunny day, did you remember to put your sunscreen on?” Peg asked jovially.
The officer just stared at her for a moment.
“Sunscreen,” Peg repeated. “It’s so much sun here that you can get skin cancer, or spots, or any number of skin ailments. I recommend an oil free 15 spf for a day like this. Just a basic one like Aveeno should be fine,” Peg said to the cop sitting in the car.
The other cop, who stood with his mouth ajar while holding the licenses, she said, “For you with your skin tone I recommend…”
Peg never finished her sentence.
Beast and Niwt had attacked the two cops with swift moves that quickly incapacitated both men. Beast hit the standing cop on the side of his head with the heel of her hand, followed that with a knee to the balls, and then two fists to the back of his head which caused him to fall.
As he hit the ground Beast was on him. She punched his kidney and caused him to soil himself. Then she turned him over, punched him square on his nose, breaking it, causing blood to splatter. As the cop reflexes caused his hands to try to protect his nose, Beast grabbed his right wrist, grabbed his thumb, and broke it. Then she broke his left thumb.
She wasn’t finished.
Beast pulled out a small vile of liquid. Using her fingers, she pried open his mouth and poured the liquid down his throat. He had to swallow since he could no longer breathe from his broken and smashed-in nose. He instantly started choking.
Beast then punched him in the throat as hard as she could.
At the same time, Niwt punched the sitting cop with a straight right hand that landed square on his nose. His hands went up defensively, or they tried to, before Niwt grabbed his face with her left hand and pulled it forward so that his forehead hit the side of the police cruiser. She repeated this move four more times before finally letting go.
Niwt looked at Beast who was bloody and still sitting on the now dead cop. “Beast, you really went off on him.”
“I missed my workout. And I’m hungry. This fucker was unlucky to get me at this moment.”
“I can show you a more efficient way to kill with your hands,” Niwt said with a sly smile.
Beast chuckled. “Nah, I’ll stick to poison. Like I said, I’m hungry and I needed a workout.”
“Ladies, let’s go, shall we? Peg said as if nothing had just happened.
“MOVE!” She said with more force and a fierce look, before she returned to her steady self and smiled at them. They jumped to action, jumped in Peg’s Dodge Caravan SUV and headed West.
Peg drove to highway 80 West, for the 32 hour drive to Mendocino, Ca. They didn’t know that’s where they were going, All that AP said, via KJ from AP’s laptop, was: “Get on 80 West right now!
St. Louis is in flames and the national guard, the Federal military, the President’s personal guards and other spy agency personnel were headed to the area due to the “Islamic Terrorist” attack” as the Federal News Agency was calling it.
A medley of Diana Krall, Rising Appalachia, Fergie, J. Balvin, Adele, and Ed Sheeran songs played and the ladies criticized each other’s musical choices and each person took turns cursing KJ every time a song came on that they didn’t like.
So they drove West on 80, all the way home to California. They never stopped, since KJ had equipped the Dodge Caravan SUV with a toilet, food, enough gas, Satellite access for NetMovie, laptops, Cards Against Humanity, a game of Farkle, extra facial supplies, and all the writing tools AP needed to finish her written story and her video essay – which KJ told her she would put everything online as soon as they returned. She wanted to add context and other videos that she’d gathered from the day’s activities.
After a day, they finally shared their stories with one another. They laughed about Beast losing her mind on that cop, and of the balls Niece had to shoot that arrow and almost kill Niwt. Niwt didn’t laugh at first, but then she got into the fun and talked about killing “Ed Sheeran,” and the other creepy cops.
Beast talked about the cops at Stacey’s diner and their comments on her body and slapping her ass.
And they all wanted to know about Peg’s bombing, but Peg would only say that she had visited the Arch as a kid and it was a big disappointment anyway. When pressed about the cops though, Peg said: “I loved our friend. He deserved better and those idiots were proud of how they killed and how often they killed.”
Peg was applying lotion to her hands now.
“He loved my facials and always had a kind word, even when he was struggling. He always had time for me.” Peg was now tying her curly hair in a bun. Niece smiled at “Aunt Peggy” as she called Peg.
“As his “therapist” I heard things from him that maybe you all did not. I know you all know his struggles, that’s not what I’m saying. I just… I just heard his struggles from his own mouth, in moments of vulnerability that.. that.. I don’t know. They were raw, scary, sad, honest, and conveyed so much pain that I sometimes.. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle listening.. but he was actually dealing it with it all. I tried to help him and always gave him my best facials because he said they healed him for a spell.”
Tears were flowing as they each remembered parts of him that Peg recounted.
“So, they deserved to die,” Peg finished coldly. “He deserved to live, and not be shot down in his car while minding his own business.”
Peg finished her routine and asked: “Who wants a facial?” and the friends wiped their eyes and waited for their turn for one of Peg’s facials.
A few days later, and 5 license plates later, they approached the California border crossing. There were armed guards every few miles in towers who worked to prevent Federal troops, as well as illegal immigrants, from Federal Red States whose economies were in shambles now that California’s taxes stopped supporting them.
KJ had made certain that they would pass. In fact, once they got within twenty miles of the border, they were met with an overwhelming show of force from California’s military and they were escorted across the border.
They continued their drive West, finally reaching highway 101, and driving North along the coast. They were a long way from the chaos they’d started, or accelerated. The two nations would soon be at war, and at the moment, none of the crew felt bad about the pending war; all were energized. And tired.
They drove the redwoods, enjoyed cool weather – Peg reminded them they still needed sunscreen – and they drove the long, slow, and winding drive to Mendocino.
Mendocino was named after Antonio de Mendoza, a Viceroy of Spain, when the area was settled in the 1880’s, and was long an artist’s resting place, with million dollar homes and billion dollar views.
They entered the city and they were tired. It was a long drive, and they talked very little to each other about what they’d all done but they’d opened up to AP as she debriefed with each one in 1-1 sessions that they all could overhear in the small SUV.
They each congratulated one another and told each other how proud they were. And then they took a moment to remember their friend. That moment lasted a couple hundred miles.
Now they pulled up to the Mendocino home and Dez walked out and greeted them.
“Dez!” Beast said and they hugged. Then they all hugged.
Well, come in, it took you all long enough to get here, Dez said, slightly annoyed but also very happy. They got their things and started heading inside.
The home was warm, with beautiful ocean views, and Diana Krall’s Wonderful played softly.
“I knew I liked you, Dez, Beast said. Finally someone else with good taste in music.”
“You handled yourself beautifully in that restaurant, Beast. I would have gone off once they slapped my ass.”
“Dez… you were the lady in the booth?” Beast asked incredulously, thinking back to the lady in the booth sitting alone. Beast then said: “Dam. And I knew that wig was ugly but never thought more about it. I saw right past you. “Shit.”
Niwt was right there and simply said: “Thanks for your help in the hotel.”
“You are most welcome, Dez replied. You were a bloody mess. Keep your Kukri knife in your bag, thank you very much. That thing is awful.”
“In fact,” Dez said, “all your weapons need to be stored in my storeroom downstairs. This is a safe place. Relax.”
As they all settled into the house, they saw KJ, and she was crying. They each went to her in turn and shared a long hug.
Dez interrupted the reunion, offered coffee, tea and drinks, snacks, food, told everyone where they were sleeping, where to shower, and that they all were meeting first thing in the morning. Which was noon, since she knew they were all tired.
The group laughed.
They enjoyed each other’s company for a couple of hours, recounting the mission again for Dez and KJ, even though Dez and KJ already knew all the details. KJ had prepared for this time – the decompression and informed Dez to give them all the time they needed.
After a while the talking slowed down.
Then Dez got everyone’s attention and she paused. And then she said:
“We are off the grid here. This place already had bad access to everything, and KJ made it better. And worse. But definitely better.”
“You all did a great job in the field. Beast, I wanted to poison those cops myself after I saw two of them touch your ass. And Niwt, could you try avoiding some blood next time?”
“You really were everywhere, weren’t you,” Niece stated more than asked.
“Yes.” Dez said matter of factly, as was her way of talking and answering obvious questions or statements.
She continued. “The war will start soon, she said. What you have done was historical. Frightening. And just awful. I saw all the videos. Remind me never to cross any of you.”
“I not only saw the videos, but I made sure they uploaded to every social media platform before you got here. There are tens of millions of views so far. I have been in touch with the Federal Government and they have convened an emergency cabinet meeting in a few days, after meeting tonight and tomorrow to prepare statements and a show of force for the media.
They will say it was a terrorist attack and that they are hunting the bombers and killers. But they don’t know who did it and are worried.”
“Dez,” Beast started. “How do you know all this?”
“Simple,” Dez said. “I’m the Spy. Oh come on, isn’t it obvious now? Sheeshz. I was there with you because I provided KJ the intelligence that she couldn’t get from hacking.”
They all looked at her. Then they looked at KJ.
They smiled back at Dez.
Dez took her glasses off, and pulled her shoulder length hair into a bun. Niece laughed to herself, knowing Uncle would cringe at the bun.
“I have infiltrated the highest levels of the Federal Government, Dez started. It has taken a few years but I have the trust of the inner council who believe I am spying for them.”
“You’re a double agent?!” Niece asked with a shocked voice.
“How do we know we can trust you, Dez? Now it was Niwt’s turn.” She went on: “I don’t trust easily and I certainly don’t want to trust a double agent. Why should we trust our lives with you?”
Dez stared at Niwt and the others while remaining quiet. “I saved all your lives already.”
She then let out a heavy sigh and then quietly and matter of factly said:
“I knew him longer than all of you. We were both in our twenties when we met and we spent almost every day together; we camped and took small vacations together, saw movies, and worked together for years and years. We loved each other for many, many, years. We argued, of course, because he could be difficult and bullheaded. Like me. And I knew and share some of the struggles he fought to control. I know his battles. And I know his failures, his successes early in his career, and all the work he did to improve his life and move beyond his childhood. I protected him with our other friends when he wanted to be quiet and not talk or when he wanted to leave an event without saying good-bye. I understood him.”
“I hope you can trust me because I trust you and the reason I do, and the reason you are now hiding here, in my home, is because he trusted you.”
They were all quiet now, considering Dez words.
“Look I can’t do what you all do, but I can do this one thing: work my way to and through an organization, any organization and get useful intelligence. How do you think KJ knew all that she knew to get you all in the right place at the right time, and to ensure all the right people were there?”
Beast spoke. “Dez, thank you for helping and for loving him. If he trusted you, I do, too, and now I need to go to sleep.”
“Thanks, Dez,”Niece said. “I like knowing you were close to Uncle.”
Peg hugged Dez tightly and whispered to her: “He loved you.” Let me exfoliate you in the morning.”
Dez smiled at Peg’s words. “Thank you, Peg, and by all means, my face is yours in the morning.”
They all looked at Niwt.
Niwt didn’t turn away from their stares. She was considering Dez. Dez looked back.
Then Niwt gave a half smile, and simply said: “Thank you. Good night.”
Dez had won them over.
“Now, you all need to go to sleep because we have a lot to discuss tomorrow, Dez finished.
“KJ, what are you up to?” Beast and Niwt said almost at the same time.
KJ, who had been quiet after greeting everyone at the door looked around the room. She looked into each lady’s eyes.
“ATM.” She said, finally.
Operation ATM starts in a week.
“Dammit, KJ, stop being cryptic! What, are we robbing banks now?” Beast said with rising frustration.
Niwt added: “I’m not robbing a bank.”
“Me neither,” Niece added.
They looked to Peg.
“I don’t think “ATM” means what you all think, does it Dez and KJ?”
“No,” Dez and KJ said one after the other.
KJ went on: “Operation ATM is: All the President’s Men.”
“That’s not ATM, KJ, AP said. That’s ATPM. All. The. President’s. Men.” She finished.
“Told you, KJ,” Dez said, triumphantly.
“Okay, okay, okayyy. I know, it’s not technically “ATM” but that’s such a cool acronym so I decided to stick with it.”
“Well, whatever you call it, what is it, KJ,” Beast questioned, clearly annoyed at the cute word game going on here. She was tired. They all were.
KJ said: “You are going to kill all the president’s men. All of them. All twenty-five cabinet members. The Federal government is reeling right now, your actions set a lot in motion and we are going to capitalize on the chaos. The meeting Dez talked about? That’s the one. They will all be in place – in one place – and that’s where they’ll all die.”
It was quiet.
Then Dez said: “And you want to know the best thing, or worst?”
They looked at her:
“I’m going with you this time. As a Diplomat of the State of California.”
“We leave in a week. Get your rest.”
KJ smiled. AP wrote. The ladies were thinking of how they’d carry out their assignment.
The Federal Government was not prepared for what was coming.
The ocean breeze danced through the home and mixed with the smell of red wine, camomile tea, and spice cookies.
Everything was changed and nothing would be unaffected.