Book: Recovery (2015)

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“Got it, sir!”  Martinez called out across the dark room, holding a file folder in the air and waving it over her head.

Colonel Crawford dropped the stack of files he was thumbing through and stood, meeting her half way across the booking area of the jail section.  She handed him the file and he looked at it then turned for the open side door.

“Let’s go outside where there’s enough light to read,” he said and led the way.

Checking the tab on the folder he verified it was the name the prisoner had given him.  Walker, Johnnie Ray.  Opening the file he flipped through the first several pages as Martinez looked over his shoulder.

The first page was the booking sheet with basic information about the man and a mug shot paper-clipped to the top of the paper.  The face in the photo matched the man he’d met.  The form listed details about the person being incarcerated, including the date, time and location of the arrest, the arresting officer’s name and the reason for the arrest. 

The listed charge was possession of stolen property.  Crawford kept turning pages until he found the report filed by the officer who had brought Walker in.

An Oklahoma State Trooper had pulled him over for failing to signal a lane change at 0341, or 3:41 AM.  The subject had been cooperative at first, providing his drivers license and proof of insurance, but had become agitated when asked what he was doing out so late at night.

The Trooper had called in Walker’s name and when he learned the man was on probation for burglary he hadn’t needed permission to search the vehicle.  Pulling Walker out and cuffing him, he’d placed him in the back seat of the patrol car.  He had conducted a quick visual scan of the interior of the vehicle then popped the trunk.

When he’d gotten a look at the stash of rifles, pistols and shotguns hidden beneath a thick blanket he’d called for backup and read the suspect his rights.  They were in the middle of nowhere and it took close to half an hour for another Trooper to arrive. 

With two officers at the scene they began pulling the weapons out and recording serial numbers.  A quick check over the radio of the first number he had written down and the Trooper was advised the rifle was reported as stolen in a burglary three weeks prior.   

Several hours later Johnnie Ray was booked into the jail.  It turned out all of the firearms had been stolen and when the information was entered into the State Police computers a flag from the ATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) on the suspect’s name popped up.  The flag meant the Feds wanted him, and he was placed on a federal hold.

But the Federal Agents that were scheduled to come get him never showed up.  That night, several American cities were devastated by nuclear weapons and a deadly nerve gas was released in many others.  Johnnie Ray Walker was forgotten, except by the local officers who kept the prisoners fed as the outside world crumbled.

Colonel Crawford scanned several other documents, pausing to read one titled “Suspect’s Criminal History”.  Walker had been in and out of jail and prison since he’d turned 18 and the Colonel suspected there was also a long juvenile record that wasn’t included in the history search.  Burglary, armed robbery, possession of stolen property, assault, assault with intent, aggravated assault, possession of a prohibited explosive, possession of a prohibited firearm and a long list of misdemeanor charges.

“He’s a real sweetheart,” Martinez commented. 

“I’m sure he’s just misunderstood,” Crawford grunted and closed the file.

“Scott’s here, sir.” She said a moment later when they heard a machine gun fire a short burst at the front of the building.

They walked to the corner in time to see Igor wheeling the gate open.  Scott had the commander’s hatch up, his head sticking out of it.  Martinez waved until he spotted them and waved back.  The Bradley rolled through the opening and stopped, waiting for Igor to close the gate.

“Always have to make an entrance, don’t you?”  Martinez joked when the big vehicle pulled to a stop next to them.

“Not me,” Scott answered.  “It was our trigger happy Russian friend.”

Igor had climbed onto the hull of the Bradley for the short drive inside the gate and jumped to the ground with a big grin.  Martinez wondered if his English was getting better.

“Is the Major on the road?”  Scott asked.

“About forty-five minutes ago,” Crawford answered, tapping his leg with the file folder he still held.  “Get on the FSOC and see if you can find someone that can put you through to Dr. Kanger in Seattle.  You’ll probably need to call Admiral Packard’s aide.  Commander Jensen.”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll let you know when I have someone,” Scott said, disappearing back into the Bradley a moment later.

“May I ask what you’re thinking, sir?”  Martinez asked as Irina emerged from the rear hatch and stretched her back.

“I’m thinking that man in there is a real dirt-bag and not someone we want with us.  But it’s really bothering me that he hasn’t turned.  I want to have a conversation with the Doctor and see if it’s even remotely possible that we’ve found someone who’s immune.”

“You really think that’s even possible, sir?”  Martinez asked.

“That’s why I want to talk to the expert,” Crawford said.

“Could he be a Russian agent that was vaccinated before they sent him in?”

“The Major asked the same thing, but I don’t think so.  Not with this criminal record.  I think he’s exactly what he appears to be.” 

“Maybe we should ask?”  Martinez tilted her head in Irina’s direction, a moment later Crawford nodding and walking over to the Russian woman.

“Captain Vostov,” he greeted her.

“Colonel,” she met his eyes.

“I have a question for you and I need you to be completely truthful with me.”

“Of course, sir.  There’s no reason not to be any longer.”  She replied.

“I know your KGB, now the SVR, as well as the GRU placed sleeper agents among the American population.  We did the same to you.  I’ve got a man inside the jail that hasn’t turned, and I can’t understand why, unless he was vaccinated.  But he’s been in jail since before the attacks so there’s no chance he received any of the vaccine you brought us.  Do you understand where I’m going with this?”  Crawford asked.

“I understand, Colonel.  But I don’t know how I can help.”

“Was vaccine sent to Russian agents in place ahead of the attacks?”  He stood watching her intently, looking for any sign of deceit.

“I don’t know, sir.  It could have happened, but if it did I have no knowledge of it.”

“I believe you,” he said after a few moments of looking intently into her eyes.  “Is there any way for you to determine if someone is an agent?”

“Without prior knowledge, no sir, there isn’t.  If there was your FBI wouldn’t have had to work so hard to find them.” 

“I accept that,” he said.  “Final question.  Are you aware of any instances during the development of the virus where a test subject was found to be immune?”

Irina stood for a moment, thinking, then shook her head.  “Nothing that specific.  All I can tell you is that I remember reading a document my Uncle gave me that discussed the project.  It said the infection rate in a given population was predicted to be ninety-nine point nine-nine percent. 

“I don’t recall anywhere that the term immune, or immunity, was used, but it would seem to me that by extension point zero one percent of the population would not become infected.  The US population at the time of the attacks was slightly over three hundred million.  Estimating thirty million killed in the initial nuclear attacks and subsequent radiation and another one hundred million killed by the infected or each other that leaves one hundred and seventy million.  Point zero one percent of that is seventeen thousand.”

Crawford and Martinez stood staring at her, stunned at her cold calculation of the death toll of millions of Americans.

“I’m sorry,” Irina said softly, looking down at the ground.

“You simply answered my question, Captain.”  Crawford said after a long pause.

“Colonel, they’re connecting me to the SEAL team leader with Dr. Kanger in Seattle.  Should have him on the line in a moment,” Scott shouted from the Bradley.

“Ladies,” Crawford excused himself and headed for the vehicle.

“You OK?”  Martinez asked Irina when she saw a tear run down the Russian woman’s cheek.

“So much death,” Irina answered.  “All that blood.  I feel like it’s on my hands just because I’m Russian.”

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