Denver Cereal Denver Cereal

Chapter Five Hundred and Seventy-seven : Tunnels and trick (part three)


(part three)

“Sir,” Vince said. He went back to taking pictures. “I’m done with photos. I’ll set up back there so we can get the entire scene.”

“Thank you,” Seth said.

Alex dropped down to him.

“The easiest way to do this is to be fast,” Seth started.

“Yes, sir,” Alex said with a soft smile. “I have done this before.”

Seth gave her a quick look.

“Of course, you have,” Seth said. “Please forgive an old man’s arrogance.”

Alex grinned at him. Her grin slipped as they began the grisly work. Seth found a wallet on the first man.

“If you can set it like this, we’ll take a photo of the remains and the identification,” Seth said.

“Good idea,” Alex said. She pulled a pocket knife and a clump of keys out of the young man’s pocket. “They seem so young.”

“Teenagers,” Seth said. “They’re always teenagers.”

Alex nodded. They continued the rest of the work in silence. When they finished, Vince took a series of photos. They waited while Vince sent the images to the cloud. He gave them a nod.

“Where is our next tunnel?” Vince asked.

“If it is a replica, the exit to this room would be …” Seth looked from wall to wall. “There.”

He pointed to the wall they’d come from. Along the floor was a square sized hole.

“It should go to a chamber behind this mechanism,” Seth said. “Do we have gas masks?”

“In our packs,” Alex said.

“Including mine?” Seth asked, taking off the pack.

“Yes sir,” Vince said. “Our Sergeant packed your backpack last night.”

They rummaged through their backpacks and came up with gas masks.

“Handy,” Seth said. “The chamber next door is should be gas. Let’s put this on in case we trigger it.”

“Good thinking,” Alex said.

The belly crawled into the next chamber. Margaret and Pierre led them to the “off” switch. They stood up in a chamber with two more bodies. One of Troy’s drones hovered over them.

“The air is clean there,” Troy said.

They took off their gas masks and got to work on the bodies. With Vince taking photos, Alex and Seth found identification for the men. Vince took photos and video. They waited while he sent them to the cloud.

“They really came after this tunnel,” Seth said, mildly.

“Make the story about the nuclear detonator seem more probable,” Vince said.

Alex nodded. Vince looked up to indicate that the images had been sent.

“After you, sir,” Vince said.

“The next tunnel always looks like nothing,” Seth said. “But it could be anything. When I say anything, I mean any thing — flooding, crushing walls, ceiling dropping, anything. The more unlikely, the more it’s possible to happen.”

“Yes, sir,” Vince said.

“Do you think they could do ceiling drops or …?” Alex asked.

“It’s unlikely,” Seth said. “Given these conditions. I’ve seen the most unlikely things in the most unlikely places. You’d be surprised what can be rigged up. So mind your ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s’.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Five Hundred and Seventy-seven : Tunnels and trick (part two)


(part two)

“German soldiers,” Seth said. “Can you take photos?”

“Why should we care?” Vince asked. “A dead Nazi is a good Nazi.”

“While that may be true, even Nazi’s have mothers and children,” Seth said. “Someone has been waiting a very long time for these men to come home. Imagine if this were you? Or someone you loved? Because, in terms of the human family, this is someone in your family.”

Vince gave him an unsure look.

“I’ve spent time with your father,” Seth said. “You can’t honestly tell me you don’t have scumbags of questionable intelligence and morality in your family.”

“You know my father?” Vince asked.

“And mother,” Seth said. “And that brutal older brother of yours.”

“Sir,” Vince said and began digging around in his backpack. When he looked up, he squinted at Seth, “How …?”

“I’m Catholic?” Seth shrugged.

“I thought you were Jewish,” Vince said. He pulled out the camera.

“So does my father,” Seth said. “My step-father was Catholic. Which means that my brothers and I were raised Catholic. My daughter, Sandy, is Catholic. Lizzie is Jewish, now, but she was Catholic before she married Jammy. Julie Ann is a Marine so …”

“A Marine, sir?” Vince asked.

“That’s short hand for I don’t know,” Seth said. “It may surprise you but I am not the world’s best father.”

Thinking that Seth was a lot better than his own father, Vince gave him a vague nod.

“You met my father at …” Vince said.

“Vince?” Alex asked. “What is it?”

“I thought everyone thought my father was awesome,” Vince said.

“I never have,” Seth said. “He was cruel, brutal, at best. I thought he was horrible to you, in particular. I was sent away to school when I was young. I argued with your parents about it, but they couldn’t be swayed. How can you be an ‘every life is precious’ Catholic and send your son away for getting his girlfriend pregnant? Just pathetic.”

Vince gave Seth a nod and went to take the pictures of the men. Seth looked up at Alex.

“Can you help me?” Seth asked.

“Of course,” Alex said.

“When he’s done, let’s see if we can find some identification,” Seth said. “That means that we’ll have to go in their pockets. Are you okay with that?”

“Kind of gross, but I agree with you,” Alex said. “Everyone deserves to come home.”

“Yes, I thought you did.” Seth gave her a curt nod.

“Can you take video, Vince?” Alex asked. “You have a lot of practice with it.”

“Of course,” Vince said with a grin. “My daughter is a world class soccer player. Plays for the American team.”

“Amelia is a wonderful girl,” Seth said. “Before you ask, I know Lamberton. And, as point of reference, I was officially always on ‘Team Vince.’”

Vince’s face broke into a rare, wide smile.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Five Hundred and Seventy-seven : Tunnels and trick (part one)


(part one)

There wasn’t space for Alex to turn over or around. Instead, she started the even slower journey back twenty feet to where she thought she’d see something that might be an off switch.

“Sir, it’s Margaret.”

“Yes?” Alex, Vince, and Seth said in unison.

“Um … okay,” Margaret said. “I was referring to the Fey.”

“Roger that,” Vince and Seth said in near unison.

“But actually, if you’re listening,” Margaret said, “which of course you would be … um …”

“Peaches?” Vince asked.

“Yes, sir,” Margaret said. “That’s not the release. The one the Fey is climbing back toward.”

“Oh?” Alex said. Her head dropped to her hands to take a few deep breaths.

“I don’t think so,” Margaret said. “The catch appears to be next to Mr. O’Malley’s left foot.”

Seth turned to look.

“I see it,” Seth said. “Vince?”

“Yes, sir, I’m backing up,” Vince said.

After a few moments, Seth was able to belly crawl backward toward the object Margaret was talking about.

“Do we have gas masks?” Seth asked.

“In your backpack, sir,” Matthew said.

“We assess that gas is not what this chamber is about,” Margaret said. “I cannot send you an image but there are wood spikes that come out of the walls. It will hearten you to know that there is more than one Nazi body stuck there.”

“Tunnels of death,” Seth said under his breath.

“This appears to be correct,” Pierre said. “I realized that I have heard of this place. It is an replica on the ‘Subtarreaneis Mortis’ in Rome.”

“Really?” Seth asked.

“Does that mean something to you?” Leena asked. “Sorry. He’s been saying that for a while.”

“Yes, in fact, it does,” Seth said.

He pushed down the lever in the wall and crawled to the chamber opening. Without hesitation, he turned so his feet dangled into the chamber before dropping down.

“We’re safe here,” Seth said. “If this tunnel is a replica of the ‘Subtarreanis Mortis’, we have three more chambers to go.”

“Any news from up top?” Vince asked.

“You won’t believe me if I told you,” Matthew said.

“Try us,” Alex ordered.

“Trece and White Boy are here,” Matthew said. “We were about to open the tunnel to talk to them when Pershing and his entire team arrived by chopper. To review this as some kind of a heritage site.”

“Oh great,” Raz said from the root cellar. “I wondered if that might come through.”

“Our little Polish government official is furious, but there’s little he can do,” Matthew said with a chuckle.

“Good to have friends,” Alex said.

“Good to have lawyers,” Royce said.

“They were Nadia’s,” Alex said. “Her company has an entire departments of world class lawyers on staff. They took it on. With Sandy’s permission, of course.”

“Friends with brilliant timing,” Ben said.

Alex dropped into the chamber. The wall on her right was embedded with at least twenty of what looked like lodge pole pine trees sharpened to deadly points. The last foot of tree and the horrible points stuck out of the wall. There were four human remains on the points.

Seth knelt next the remains while Vince stood next to him.

“German soldiers,” Seth said. “Can you take photos?”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

Chapter Five Hundred and Seventy-six : The root cellar (part six)


(part six)

Alex took a handkerchief from her pocket. She wiped her face and blew her nose. She looked up to see Seth and Vince doing the same thing. Alex put her hand on Vince’s arm.

“Can you send these images to the cloud?” Alex asked. “In case we can’t keep possession of the camera.”

“Already done,” Vince said with a nod. “I used your satellite codes.”

“That’s why I shared the codes,” Alex said.

They heard someone shout and some amount of shuffling above them.

“We need to keep moving,” Seth said.

Vince and Alex nodded. Seth moved to the next tunnel.

“From here out, we need to consider each area to be booby trapped,” Seth said. “Every. Area. Use extreme caution.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex and Vince said in unison.

“There is only one way to bring justice to these children,” Seth said.

“Bring their deaths to the attention of authorities,” Alex said.

“Yes,” Seth said. “And get into that salt tunnel. Someone went to great lengths to hide something there. It’s up to us to bring all of this to the light.”

Alex gave him a curt nod. Vince was looking at the floor.

“Vince?” Seth asked.

“Yes, sir,” Vince said. “I’m just … my youngest is this age.”

Seth nodded.

“Let’s make it matter,” Seth said. “Ready?”

“Ready,” Alex and Vince said reflexively.

The entrance to the passageway was a few feet off the ground. Seth boosted himself into the tunnel. He peered down the passageway and turned back.

“Do we have lights?” Seth asked. “It’s dark.”

Alex nodded. She took three head lamps out of her back pack. She gave one to Seth and another to Vince. They attached the lamps to the clip on the front of their helmet. Seth gave them a nod and went into the next passage. Vince went in next. As soon as Vince’s feet were inside the passage, Alex followed.

This section of tunnel was long and the going slow. They belly crawled through the square passage. There were small shafts for air flow every six feet or so. Whoever built this passageway had made provisions for the possibility that someone would come down here.

Alex swallowed hard and wondered if they would find more bodies. They continued their silent journey through the small passageway. Alex felt Vince slow and then stop.

“Room,” Vince passed the information to Alex. “He thinks there’s a trigger plate at the entrance.”

“Roger that,” Alex said.

She rested her forehead on the passageway for a moment.

“I didn’t see anything. Do you?” Vince asked. “Any button or off switch?”

“Not here, but …” Alex said. “I think I saw something behind us.”

There wasn’t space for Alex to turn over or around. Instead, she started the even slower journey back twenty feet to where she thought she’d see something that might be an off switch.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday…

Chapter Five Hundred and Seventy-six : The root cellar (part five)


(part five)

“Testing,” Matthew said.

“Got it,” Seth said.

“We can hear you as well,” Matthew said. “If you need attention, hit the button. It makes a beeping sound so we can pay attention to what you’re saying.”

“But you pick up everything?” Seth asked.

“Everything is recorded,” Matthew said. “And yes, we can hear it. We just might not be listening to you. Try it.”

Seth pushed the small button on the ear bud. There was a bell and Seth nodded.

“That works,” Seth said. “Anything else?”

Matthew shook his head.

With a wave, Seth jumped down into the root cellar. Vince dropped to where he was sitting on the edge of the opening. He tightened his helmet and went in after Seth. Raz stood at the entrance. He caught Alex and helped her into the root cellar.

Seth turned on the video camera in his helmet. With a nod to Raz, he climbed into the square hole and began to move into the mine. They watched his body disappear and then his legs. Vince went next. Alex waited until his feet disappeared before she started down the dirt hole. She belly crawled forward through the dirt. Her legs had just entered the hole when she heard Troy shouting.

She rolled over to look up at Raz.

“Car pulled up outside,” Raz said.

“Mercs?” Alex asked.

“It looks like the official,” Raz said. “The one we’re supposed to meet.”

“I should …” Alex moved to get out of the tunnel.

“No,” Raz said. “We can handle this. Go I’ll wait right here for you.”

The tunnel darkened as he closed the hatch to the root cellar. The team on top shoveled the dirt back into place. Raz sat down in the darkened root cellar and waited.

“Go,” Raz said.

Alex gave him one last look and followed Vince into the tunnel. She belly crawled a little more than ten feet before dropping into the room with the children’s corpses.

“I forgot the camera,” Alex said.

“I have it,” Vince said with a nod. “It’s in my pack.”

He opened his backpack and took out their digital SLR camera. He took a series of videos of the area and followed up with detailed digital photos.

“Together,” Seth said.

He gestured to the children. One child at a time, Alex and Seth moved the corpses away from the tunnel while Vince took copious photos. In the last forty years, the bodies had dried out almost completely. They had to use special care to not to break the tiny children. They moved the bodies from where they had huddled back to the beds.

Their noses and mouths filled with the dust of the dead. The tiny figures brought tears, which fell unnoticed from each of their eyes. Overwhelmed with emotion at the macabre work, they worked in silence. When they finished, they stood over these precious babies for a long moment. Alex bent down to pick up the paper from the floor.

“Order for execution,” Alex said, wiping her tears.

“Fucking Nazis,” Seth said, numbly.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

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