Absolution: The Clandestine Saga Book 4

Chapter 18 Up In Smoke


Once the plane disappeared over the tree line, Cadence began to count. She wasn’t sure why--it just seemed like the right thing to do. “One, two, three,” she thought to herself. For the second time that day, she heard the jolt of an aircraft making hard contact with the ground, followed by a plume of smoke beyond the trees. “Ten, eleven, twelve…. ” She felt Meagan’s hand in hers, absently listened to Sam begging to be shot on the ground behind her. “Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…” heard Pam’s vehicle coming to a stop not far away. “Twenty. ” It had been twenty seconds, and nothing. She felt tears at the corners of her eyes, and slowly began to walk in the direction of the downed plane. Aaron jumped just seconds before the plane hit the ground. He estimated his speed to be at about fifty knots when he bailed, which is about sixty miles per hour. Unlike his fiancée, he had remembered not only to bend his legs, but he had also tucked and rolled, trying to avoid the obstacles on the ground, those raining down from the plane, and the explosion that was sure to happen when the aircraft made impact. Hitting the ground had been painful, but he was fairly certain he was all right. When the plane made contact with the ground, there was a burst of scorching air and smoke, which left him gasping for breath. Instinctively, he had pulled himself up off the ground and ran toward the cover of the trees. Once the smoke began to clear, he was able to ascertain that he was actually okay. In fact, he wasn’t able to find a single scratch. Apparently, those superhuman Guardian powers brought on by the double dose of Transformation Serum Cadence had given him in Ireland allowed him to jump out of airplanes. He stood looking at the ruined aircraft in disbelief, shaking his head for a moment before turning around and beginning the journey back to his teammates, turning his IAC back on as he did so. The whole thing was over in about twenty seconds. She hadn’t gone too far when she realized Aaron was back with her. Stopping in her tracks, she surveyed the damage as best she could from his own vantage point. “Are you okay?” she asked, even as he was explaining to all of them that he was fine. She wasn’t sure how that was possible, and she didn’t want to believe him, but she could see him with her own eyes now, making his way back to them, and all she could do was shake her head and thank God that he really did seem to be okay. “I believe you owe me one,” she said just to him. “I believe you’re right,” he agreed. “Now, don’t you have a job to do?”. Shaking her head for clarity, Cadence returned her attention back to Sam at that point, realizing Christian was standing over him with a Glock pointed at his head. Clearly, Christian had trusted Aaron was all right a lot more quickly than she had, and he had not wasted any time returning to the matter at hand. “How do you think Elliott felt?” Christian was yelling at the old man as she stepped over. “Christian!” she yelled, pulling him back a few feet. “Let me handle this. “He deserves to die,” Christian reminded her, jerking away from her

Meagan, who had actually taken two bullets from Sam, was standing nearby, sniffling back tears. Cadence looked at her sympathetically before stepping back in front of Christian. “No,” she explained. “He wants to die. He deserves to live. “What are you talking about?” Christian asked, anger clearly clouding his judgment. Cadence stepped out of the way. “Look at him,” she replied gesturing at the broken man on the ground. Sam just barely seemed to be conscious. He was bleeding from several places on his head. One arm was twisted awkwardly, and he had a large piece of metal protruding from his left side. “He should already be dead. A human would have died upon impact. He wishes he were dead. Why would we put him out of his misery? Let him suffer for a while, and when Jamie gets here in a few minutes, he can make it tolerable enough for us to move him back to KC and throw him down in the cells with Laura. “You mean you’re gonna let him lay there like that till Jamie gets here?” It was Pam’s unfamiliar voice, and Cadence averted her attention from the cowboy for just a moment. “Seems kinda cruel when you could just shoot ‘im in the head and get it over with. “Yeah, well, he killed my best friend, so he can lay there for as long as it takes. ” Cadence turned to see Aaron had joined them, and she was doubly relieved that he was taking the responsibility for this call and that he was able to make it back to them. She embraced him momentarily, stepping back then to look him over and check for injuries before stepping away, fighting the thin line between professionalism and raw emotion. Christian clasped his boss’s hand and patted him on the back, and Meagan completely lost it, throwing her head on his shoulder and collapsing in a fit of tears. “Well, you’re the boss,” Pam replied, thro wing her hands up. “Just, if he was a horse , we’d take him out back and put him down. “He’s not a horse; he’s a jackass,” Cadence explained, dropping down to one knee next t o Sam’s head. “Do you have anything at all to say to us, Sam?” she asked, hoping someho w, some way, there was something he could say to shed any sort of light on his behavior. Sam coughed, blood splattering his chin as he did so. In a labored voice, he whispered, “Henry… killed… my brother. ” Cade nce’s brow furrowed, wondering what in the world that had to do with Elliott. After another fit of coughing, Sam tossed hi mself onto his back, and while wincing in pain, he managed to choke out, “You interfered with our plans to… get him back. The realization of what Sam was saying to her hit Cadence like a sledgehammer to the stomach. “You killed Elliott because I killed Henry?” she asked. “But… he had nothing…” . “He defended you,” Sam explained. “Came to your defense that night

Said we should leave you alone. Cadence clearly remembered the events of the night in question, eve n though it had been nearly a year ago. “No,” she said, just above a whisper. “That was the night he demanded I be thrown off the team. She glanced back over her shoulder at Aaron, who was still holding Meagan. The expression on his face let her know that he didn’t have any more information than Cadence did. As Sam began to speak again, she retu rned her attention to the cowboy. “Elliott wasn’t the mark that night. You were. He just got in the way…. Cadence already knew that was true; she had gathered enough information from Laura to know they had truly pla nned on taking her and Aaron out, and anyone else was just frosting on their cupcake. She shook her head slow ly, formulating an answer, “Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” she muttered, not sure what else to say. “I have,” Sam replied, his eyes hooded with pain and weariness. “I’m sorry…” he began, and Cadence wanted to believe him, wanted to believe that maybe he was sorry--sorry he had killed Elliott, that he had shot Meagan, that he had wanted to kill her, “that Laura missed,” he adde d. With those words, he pulled his Glock out of his waistband, and using every bit of energy he had left, whirled it around to point at her. Cadence was confused and shocked at first, but her instincts took over in plenty of time to jerk the gun up and out of Sam’s hand. He fired as she did so, and the bullet went straight up into the air, falling down in the pasture nearby doing no damage. Despite his shattered state, Cadence took the opportunity to punch him in the face, and pulling herself to her feet, she kicked him hard in the ribs. She might have continued to unleash her fury if Aaron hadn’t pulled her off. “Okay, Cadence. Stop,” he demanded. Turning her to face him, he added, “It’s over. That won’t bring Elliott back, and if he’s not sorry now, he’ll never be sorry. She looked at him absently for a moment before finally nodding her head. With one more glanc e at Sam, she walked away, Aaron on her heels. “Where are you goin g?” he asked as she approached her bike. “Home,” she replied, pulling the motorcycle up off of the ground. “We have another plane,” he reminded her, resting his hand on the handleba rs as she threw her leg over the seat. “I’ve had enough planes for one day ,” she explained, cranking the bike to life. “See you in a few hours. He nodded in understanding, knowing he needed to let her go. Without another word, he step ped back and watched her ride away, hoping that, by the time she got back to Kansas City, s he would find a way to make peace with Sam’s version of what happened the night Henry died