We didn’t encounter any additional infected on our drive back. As we pulled up to the base of the wall, Martinez tossed the line over the edge. I would have preferred to just ride the forks up, but the edge of the roof was more than three times as high as they were capable of reaching.
The rope had been sitting in the rain the whole time we were gone and was slick as hell, which made for an interesting climb. I had a couple of bad moments when my feet slipped, but I made it. Colonel Crawford followed, a little slower than me but not enough to mention.
Katie and Martinez were soaked and shivering. Both of them had waited at the edge of the roof for us to return. Dog had taken shelter under the belly of the Pave Hawk but trotted over to see me when I appeared. Kissing Katie, I got us all moving towards the bulkhead door. As I approached I could see the lights in the stairwell.
“We were starting to get worried, then the lights came on and we knew you were OK,” Katie said.
“Piece of cake,” I said, the Colonel nodding in agreement.
Focusing on getting us in out of the weather I led the way down the stairs, one cautious step at a time. The rifle was up to my shoulder and ready to go.
I wasn’t confident that everyone that had been in residence was dead from my raid the other night, and neither was I willing to bet that someone else hadn’t shown up and moved in. Dog stayed next to me as I descended, Katie and Martinez right behind and Colonel Crawford bringing up the rear. Reaching the bottom step I paused to check Dog. He was alert but remained quiet.
Holding up a clenched fist to signal the rest of the group to freeze in place, I stepped fully into the VIP area and scanned. No bad guys and no infected waiting to pounce. Moving across the room I stepped over a dark stain on the red carpet where Martinez had lain bleeding. Checking the small foyer that was at an angle to the room I quickly returned to the stairs and signed for the group to join me.
On the far side of the space was a large door covered in thickly padded leather. It was unlabeled and other than a small kitchen was the only remaining location in the VIP area where someone could be hiding. Leading the way, I paused and signaled for Katie and Martinez to stay in place and watch the rear as Crawford and I checked whatever was on the other side. I held a flattened hand in front of Dog’s face to tell him to stay.
The doorknob was on the right side of the door and Crawford and I stacked up against the wall just to the left. I was in front, closest to the opening, and dropped to a knee as he tucked in tight against my back. Gently turning the knob I pushed the door open and pivoted my body around the doorframe, rifle pointing into the hallway that was revealed. Crawford remained standing and swiveled around at the same time I did so that his rifle was above my head, pointing in the same direction.
The hallway was at least two hundred feet long, ending at a fire door with an emergency crash bar. There were five closed doors, three on one side and two on the other. A discreet brass number was on each, labeling them one through five. Nothing was moving and after a moment Crawford tapped my shoulder.
Standing, I pushed the entrance door firmly against the wall, taking a second to peek through the gap on the hinge side to make sure there wasn’t a surprise waiting for us. Seeing it was clear I moved into the hall, staying on the left side, Crawford to my right and slightly behind me. We moved to the first door on my side and repeated the room entry process.
The room turned out to be a suite, almost certainly exclusively reserved for high rollers. The floor was marble, the counters granite and the fixtures gleaming gold. The furniture was substantial and stylish, subdued art on the walls. I quickly checked the entire suite while Crawford remained at the open entrance. He was only feet away if I needed backup, but an eye needed to be kept on the hall in case someone or something came out of another door.
Space cleared, I rejoined the Colonel and we stepped across to clear the next suite. It was as opulent and empty as the first. Continuing on, we moved down the hall. The next suite was clear, then a pair of infected males greeted me when I opened the door to number 4. They were both Indians and dressed like casino workers. Dropping the rifle to hang on its sling I drew my Kukri and quickly dispatched them before clearing the rest of the room.
Suite 5 was situated at an offset from the others so that when the occupants exited they weren’t directly across from another door. I expected this one to be the largest and most luxurious and I wasn’t surprised when I pushed in. It took me slightly longer to check the space as it was nearly twice as large as the others, but it was empty.
“Dibs,” I mumbled to Crawford as I walked past him into the hallway.
I took a moment to check the fire door, glad to find it was securely locked as well as having a stout chain and padlock that would prevent it from being opened. The Colonel and I made our way back to the VIP area where Katie, Martinez and Dog waited for us. They were behind a long bar, rifles trained in the direction of the stairs and the exit to the casino floor.
Behind the bar was a paneled swinging door that blended well with the surrounding wall. It led to a small kitchen.
“Did you check it?” I asked Martinez in a low voice, tilting my head towards the door.
“Didn’t go in,” she answered without taking her attention off the area she was responsible for. “Just pushed the door open and stuck my head in. Dog’s keeping an eye on it.”
I patted Dog’s head and shot a look at Crawford. He nodded and we moved to the door, a moment later pushing it open as both of us aimed into the room. It was most likely there to service the five high roller suites. This time, with the ladies at our backs, he followed me in and we cleared the space quickly before returning to the bar.
“All good,” I said in a low voice. “Just don’t open number four down that hall. I left a mess on the floor.”
“What’s next?” Katie asked.
“We’re going to get some rest, but first this whole building has to be cleared. I don’t know if we accounted for everyone when we got you out, and I’m not about to go to sleep until I know we’re alone. After that I want to find a maintenance closet and get some tools to put that door on the roof back in place.
“We stay in pairs. You and Martinez remain here and make sure no one slips into this area behind us, or comes down the stairs. The Colonel and I are going to take Dog and go clear the building.”
“Big building,” Martinez said. “The power’s on, so why don’t you find the security office? I’m betting the cameras are on, and there’s probably not an inch of floor space in a casino that isn’t covered by video.”
I nodded, glad she was here. Digging in my pocket I pulled out two small tactical radios with earpieces. I had taken them off the bodies of the two Marines in the downed Osprey. Handing one to Martinez I clipped the other to my vest and inserted the earpiece. We briefly tested them and I was happy when they worked. Giving Katie a quick kiss I headed for the exit to the main floor, Dog at my side and Colonel Crawford right behind me.
We spaced out several yards so as not to give anyone lying in wait a nicely bunched up target. They might get one of us, but by keeping some distance between us it would be much harder for an ambusher to get both. Dog stayed close to me, ears straight up and nose twitching as we moved.
I had forgotten just how large the building was. And how many hiding places there were. Martinez was spot on, as usual. With only two of us we needed an advantage, and finding security would hopefully give us just that.
We made our way through the dimly lit interior. I kept half an eye on Dog, counting on his keen senses to alert me to any danger before I could detect it, but he remained quiet. The smell of the bodies had been noticeable as soon as we’d left the VIP area and grew as we progressed across the floor. Soon the stench of decomposition was nearly overpowering, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t dealt with before so we pushed on.
Passing the poker room that Martinez had assaulted I noted the carnage from the grenades she had used. Bodies and body parts were tossed about, blood and other fluids staining the carpet, furniture and walls. Nothing was moving and I pushed Dog farther away so he didn’t step on any of the shattered glass that was scattered across the floor.
I remembered seeing an entrance to the administrative offices and suspected that was also where security would be located. Reaching a set of heavy wooden doors I tugged on the handle, but they were secured with an electronic lock and didn’t budge. Stepping back I fired a burst into the bolt that held the doors closed. Wood splintered, but I had to fire a second burst to damage the mechanism enough to force it open.
We made entry into the hall the same way we’d cleared every other space, and it took a long time to work our way through a rabbit warren of small offices and cubicles. The casino apparently had employed a lot of people that worked behind the scenes. One of the rooms we’d cleared as we moved through the area was a large space with banks of monitors mounted to the wall and a control station that looked like something out of a Sci-Fi movie.
Satisfied the entire area was clear, we moved to the monitoring room and stepped through the door. All of the monitors were dark, but the control station had numerous lights of different colors glowing softly. It looked like things hadn’t come back up when the power was restored.
“You have any idea what you’re doing?” Crawford asked me as he turned to check the hall behind us.
“Nope,” I said, pulling out a rolling office chair and taking a seat at the station. “But it’s not like I’m going to start World War III if I push the wrong button, so…”
I took a close look at the buttons, switches and keyboards in front of me. Everything was neatly labeled, but it was all technical terms specific to the system and none of it meant anything to me. Saying the hell with it, I reached out and began flipping switches and pushing buttons.
It took some time but I finally hit the right sequence to activate all the monitors at the front of the room. They flared to life, each resolving into a blue screen. Several minutes later I finally figured out how to start the computer that ran the whole thing, a large screen set into the console winking on.
Once the PC finished its boot sequence it automatically loaded a menu for controlling the casino cameras and I smiled when I realized it was actually very user friendly. I grasped the mouse next to the keyboard and began clicking. With each click a monitor changed from blue to a sharp, color image of part of the casino.
On the lower half of the PC monitor a graphic outline of the building appeared with about five hundred red dots scattered across. As I activated each camera a corresponding dot on the schematic changed from red to green, letting me know what part of the structure I was viewing. I clicked until all of the monitors on the wall were in use, but only a small fraction of the dots were green. This was going to take a while.
Getting the hang of the system, I took a video tour of the large property. When I got to the VIP area I could see Katie and Martinez still behind the bar, keeping an eye on the two entrances into the space. They were talking, but the system didn’t seem to have sound so I couldn’t listen in.
Rolling through the cameras I moved up to the roof, getting a clear shot of both helicopters, then came back down into the building. I eventually spotted a maintenance area, making note of where it was. I kept moving, having failed to detect any sign of life by the time I’d viewed every location. But there were still some areas that didn’t have video. Restrooms and a few storage closets couldn’t be viewed.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” I said to Crawford. “Have to clear the restrooms and four closets on the far wall, but I’ve been able to see everything else and it looks like we’re alone.”
“Let’s get moving,” he said without taking his attention off our rear. “I saw some food in that kitchen that’s calling my name.”