Farlowe realized that he’d hit the trip wire a split second after the top of his boot had rubbed against it.
“Nothing to do now but wait for the vapor I’m about to become”, he thought to himself.
Farlowe wondered if it would be a Claymore, which is basically an explosive propelled shotgun with a killzone of about one hundred yards, or perhaps a Type 69 Bounding mine. If so, he should see the Chinese made device leaping airborne for a split second before it detonates. The lethal scythe of shrapnel it would send his way would be beyond his ability to watch, but he would definitely feel it. But only for a moment.
Or maybe something new, Farlowe thought. He was dealing with Hulong men after all. They had the budget and the connections to end his existence with the latest in life terminating hardware.
“The joke’s on them”, he smiled inside. “My life ended long ago...”
Farlowe looked down at his feet. The snapped wire was whipping back toward some dry brush to his left. A bizarre light suddenly appeared. “Here we go”, Farlowe thought. “Sorry I failed you, Devra.”
He thought that would be his last memory. He was wrong.
Fourteen hours earlier, Farlowe had found himself Perth, Australia. Like most of his travel the past year, it was fast and unexpected.
He’d gotten word of Devra’s stunt in Shanghai. The repercussions were still being felt and analyzed. He didn’t like it that she had insisted he stay away, but he honored her request. He didn’t like it even more now that he knew at least part of what Hulong had planned for her.
Two things about this bothered him. The first was that what they intended to do to Dr. Devra Bogdanovich would be worse than death. This was something he had experience in. But the second gnawed at him even more. And that was how he had come to learn of this information in the first place. First, there was the sense. Devra’s fear. He had followed that as far as he could. Ni’s tip had taken him a few steps further. But now, now he was being pulled in by someone else. Smith? Probably...
Whoever it was, they wanted him here. He was walking into a trap. Which meant he had to take extra caution, because this hadn’t deterred him from using the information he’d been given.
Arriving in Perth, he went straight to an off-the-books safe house he had used before where he found what he needed. Two high powered weapons. The first was a Ruger SR-762 Assault Rifle chambering the Nato 7.62. It had three full Magpul twenty-round polymer magazines. More than enough with proper trigger discipline.
The second weapon was a .45 Kimber Ultra Carry II, 1911 Platform with a matte-black finish. 3emxsgoc2fas4xgu8vxb
The weapon fired the .45 caliber ACP cartridge, giving it excellent stopping capability.
A good balance of firepower. The Ruger could reach out and touch someone, while the Kimber could make the same brutal point in close if needed.
Farlowe loaded both weapons into a duffle bag he found in the kitchen and went to the beat up sofa in the living room. He sat for a moment and collected his thoughts. A vision of the metal man came to him again.
This had been happening since he heard about Devra. It was like a waking dream. A thin figure, similar to a child’s stick drawing, but around four feet tall. A rusted metal man standing alone near the banks of dry lake. The sun was low in the horizon behind him. The rusting metal man had no eyes, yet Farlowe sensed he was staring at him.
Farlowe tried to focus.
He didn’t know if the room was monitored. This place was a secondary site, set up by fellow agents from various agencies. Everybody put a little into the pot. An insurance policy in case you were ever officially burned by your employer.
Farlowe took a large stack of Euros from his pocket and sat them on the coffee table in front of him. He didn’t expect to be bringing the weapons back. Someone would replenish the supply. It was understood.
Then Farlowe pulled his phone from his pocket. No one had this number but Devra, and yet he had received the same text every hour on the hour for the past two days. It appeared to be a phone number, but every time he called it, no one answered.
If he couldn’t figure this out, he was stuck.
Twelve numbers in total. Two numbers. Space. Five numbers. Space. Five numbers.
Farlowe inhaled deeply, tiredly, and dialed it one more time. The line rang continuously, but no one answered.
He had gotten this far. He had the tools. Now he needed a target. And he knew the number was the answer. The number and the rusting metal man.
Farlowe grabbed the duffle bag with the weapons and exited out the shattered door he had kicked in five minutes earlier. The money he left would be more than enough to cover that too.
He walked slowly back toward his rental car in the parking lot of the condominium complex. No one was paying attention to him. Two numbers. Five numbers. Five numbers.
Farlowe tossed the bag into the back seat and slipped behind the wheel. The rusting metal man was staring at him. As if to say “Come on, Hubert. Don’t be so damn stupid.”
Two numbers. He started the engine. Five numbers. Farlowe put the car into reverse. Five numbers. He pulled out and then shifted into drive and pulled out of the parking lot, onto a side street and began driving toward an intersection at the end of the block. The next decision had to be correct if he was to catch up to Devra and have any hope of saving her, and he was approaching the corner not knowing which way to turn.
The rusting metal man wasn’t a man after all, Farlowe realized. Two symbolic breasts, like arrows, pointed down from the figure’s chest. How did he miss this detail, Farlowe wondered to himself.
A rusting woman. Alone. Abandoned. Left to elements in a lifeless landscape. Standing for eternity. Two numbers. Five numbers. Five...
“Damnit”, Farlowe thought to himself. He jerked the car toward the curb and slammed on the breaks. He grabbed the phone from his pocket and activated his Google Earth app. He punched in the numbers. Five numbers west. Five numbers north.
The map zoomed in on a salt lake in the outback of Western Australia.
The first two numbers: 08. Farlowe looked at his watch. It was approaching five in the evening. About three hundred miles from his current location to the salt lake. He could make it with time to spare. Certainly long before 8:00 AM.
Farlowe smiled and threw the car back into gear. When he reached the corner, he didn’t stop but made a hard left and accelerated. He knew where he was going and was going to get there as quickly as possible.
Nine hours later, Farlowe found what he was looking for, a single series of coordinates that had been crudely drawn in the dry sand. Farlowe imagined that if he were to come back a thousand years from now, the message would still be legible. He knew where they led, and who had left them.
There was no mistake.
The Hulong symbol was something he had committed to memory, clear even through the beam of his flashlight. It was at the feet of the rusting woman.
Farlowe reached out and touched the sculpture. Exactly as he had seen it. Or was it as remembered it? Did he feel something? He wasn’t sure. It had been so long.
If he had suspected he was walking into a trap, Farlowe was now sure of it. And the messengers who had left this knew he would realize it as well. It was clear they didn’t care.
Farlowe returned to his car and pulled the duffle bag with the weapons into the front seat.
At this point, Farlowe didn’t give much of damn either. He was going in without any backup, help or guidance against a force of unknown size with a massive tactical advantage. He figured he’d never see another sunset, so he was going to make the best of this sunrise.
Hubert waited in his car until the vision was complete. When the sun was behind the rusting woman as he’d seen it in his mind, he threw the car into gear and headed for the Hulong Mining Operation.
Then he stopped suddenly and reversed. A thought. Just one more thing. Maybe he had some help after all.