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Against All Evil: The Intruders, Episode Three

Welcome to another episode of The Intruders. But first, a review of the previous installment.

Max and Lena had discovered that the Killoff crime ring had found Max and Lena again and hired two Portland Russian mob thugs to capture Max and deliver him to Nicki Killoff. Nicki intended to coerce Max to reveal his secret for producing a lethal plague virus. Ivan Killoff, the gang’s leader, had sent his son Nicki with two of their best men, Boris and Stravorski, to Portland for this purpose. But when two local Russian thugs on loan to the Killoffs invaded Max's home, Max and Lena subdued one and fatally wounded the other. The kidnapping failure prompted Nicki to have Stravorski killed by Boris. Nicki then commanded Boris find Max as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Max and Lena had decided not to run from the Killoffs, but to end the threat to what they had hoped would be their golden retirement years.                                

And now, we continue . . .

Nicki Killoff called his father Ivan after Boris removed Stravorskie's body from the basement of the North Portland laundromat Nicki was using as his Portland headquarters.

Ivan, waiting in his office in the gang's trucking warehouse on the edge of Oxford, Mississippi, answered the phone on the first ring. “Nicki! Did you get them?”

“Well, ah . . . no. They got away. But we'll find them. I pro . . . promise,” Nicki stammered.

“What? Again? This is their second escape. Your promise is meaningless. Obviously, you're not up to this task. Stay close to the phone and do nothing. I’ll call back soon.”

“But father, we had a good plan. But they knew we were coming and were prepared. They fought like wild animals.”

“I’m not interested in your excuses, Nicki, and won’t accept any more of them,” Ivan replied in a stone-cold voice, then terminated the call.

Meanwhile, later that same night, having turned over the captured intruder to the police and then quietly leaving their house, Max and Lena were comfortably ensconced in a cozy cabin on a remote slope of Mt. Hood. It was a neighbor's weekend retreat and they had been there before. They sat together in front of a low fire, both lost in deep thought.

“The Killoffs will hound us forever if we don't destroy them once and for all,” Lena said, breaking the silence. “We have no choice,” reiterating what they had decided after learning the identity of the would-be kidnappers.

“You're right, Lena. That has to be our single focus. We can't allow them, or anyone else for that matter, to obtain the formula. I wish I had never tested the energy enhancement procedure on that virus. But it was the only one we had in the lab at the time, and I was anxious to confirm the process. I should have waited to get a less dangerous strain. This mutation can turn a person into a bloody corpse in 24 hours, and it’s highly contagious. It would be a horrible way to die: massive internal bleeding, spasms, excruciating pain. I don’t know exactly why those bastards want it so badly, but I know damn-well it’s not for the good of mankind.”

“Don't fret, Max. What's done is done. But now . . ., now it’s time to put an end to this game. So get on with your planning,” Lena said in her calming manner.        

About five a.m., with Lena asleep on the sofa, Max saved the document he’d been diligently working on, then closed and put aside his laptop. He went out onto the cold grass and breathed in the crisp, clean mountain air. After stretches and yoga exercises, he hurried back into the warm cabin. But, in his haste to get on with the task ahead of them, he didn’t notice the fresh boot prints in the damp dirt below the living room window. Back inside, he showered and shaved, then ate a hastily-prepared breakfast. Finally, he was ready.

“Lena, let's talk.,” he called out to her from the little kitchen where he sat at a table set with two steaming cups of green tea.

Lena was already awake, finishing her isometric exercises. She smiled and answered immediately.

“I'll be right there.” She too was ready: anticipating the possibilities that Max could come up with, she had made her inquiries, called in a few favors, issued orders. Her people were standing by and could be deployed at a moment’s notice.

While Max and Lena were in the cabin finalizing their plan, in North Portland at the gang's hideout, Nicki Killoff had just answered the call from his father, Ivan, informing him that help was on the way.

“And Nicki…we have to have the formula no later than ten days from now. Our client is insistent, and has moved up the delivery date. They mean business. There’s no room for mistakes,” Ivan added before hanging up.

Two hours later, Boris ushered the man sent by Ivan into the basement hideout. Nicki was sitting at his rickety table in the dingy room and greeted the man, who was of medium-height, well-muscled and hard-looking, with a sullen stare. He looked to be in his mid-fifty’s, was bald and dressed in black. To break the tension, Boris introduced Nicki, but had no idea what the man's name was.

The man stepped forward, leaned over a bit, spread his large, thick-fingered hands on the table and looked directly into Nicki's eyes. In a low, gravelly voice, he said, “Just tell me what you need, Nicki boy.  All I know is you want a couple of old people grabbed, right? So who and where are they? And what's the big picture here? If I'm gonna get this done, I gotta know what's going on. Ivan didn’t say much”

Nicki blinked nervously, but otherwise held his own, trying to maintain control of the situation.

“Who the hell are you? What have you been told?” he spat out, as if he was in charge rather than his father, far away at the other end of the phone line.

“Relax, junior. I'm The Albanian. I provide necessary services, so to speak. Your old man hired me to capture the two you're looking for. I deliver them alive, I get fifty thousand apiece. Dead, I get nothing”

“Well . . . okay,” Nicki said, reluctantly accepting the fact that he had no choice but to cooperate with the hired enforcer. “I'll tell you what we know.”

“The old man is Maximilian Manus. He’s a scientist. He made some kinda killer virus. He's the only one knows how to produce it. There’s gotta be a formula or recipe or something. Whatever it is, we gotta get it. His crazy wife, a big woman named Lena, is always with him. We want ‘em both, but especially him.”

“So what's the problem?” asked The Albanian. “There's just two of them, right? And they're old, aren't they?”

“Yeah, . . . but there’s a few complications.”

The Albanian said nothing, just waited.

Nicki continued, “Two years ago they dodged our attempt to capture them, and then again last night. We've got to find them and get that formula. We have to deliver it to a client within 10 days. If we don't meet their demand, there’ll be disastrous consequences.”

“Don't worry, Nicki. I don't do failure. But tell me, how did these two geriatric retirees manage to escape? Two times, right?  Do they have a secret army? Is there something special about them? If there is, I need to know.”

Nicki glanced at the open notebook on his table. “Max Manus; some kind of science genius in biochemistry and neurobiology, whatever that is.

Nicki looked up for a second from the open notebook, towards The Albanian, then continued.

“He’s rumored to have discovered a way to increase energy. Like science fiction, super-hero stuff. He's supposed to be the only one that knows how to make it work. His wife helps keep it secret. But instead of his energy discovery, we’re after is his formula for the plague virus. It says here he created it when he was studying the energy thing. Like a test experiment or something.”

“Okay, I get the picture. It sounds like this old guy’s a little nuts, but no dummy. But, that doesn't mean we can't capture him. What about the old lady? This Lena dame? What's her story?”

Nicki withdrew a printout from a file box under the table and recited its content:

 

Name: Lena Hock; Born 1948, Blauberg, Switzerland.

Father: General Gustav Hock, Swiss army.

Mother: Irena Cordreseau, Carpathian gypsy; WW II anti-Nazi partisan, tall, cunning, ferocious; descendent of Genghis Khan.

At young age, acknowledged intellectually and athletically precocious.

Disappeared age 20:

Escaped Syrian maximum-security prison 1975

Surfaced in Israel same year.

Identified as US CIA assassin 1979; trained killer.

Met Manus 1995 during covert Central Asia high-tech CIA operation; married 1996.

Out of sight until rumor of Manus’ energy discovery leaked 2005.

Retired CIA 2006 (age 58)

Considered extremely dangerous.

 

The Albanian stared at the young Killoff with disbelief for a moment, then said, “Are you afraid of these fossils?  They're past their prime. Let's find them and bring them in. I'll collect my bounty and get the hell outta here.”

“Right, but first we have to find them,” Nicki responded. “We've got a dozen of the Portland Russian guys searching for them. It shouldn't take long to track ‘em down. They couldn't have gotten too far.”

Just then Boris' cell phone rang. He recognized the number and answered at once. After a second he turned off the phone. “They found them. Let's go!”

 

To be continued . . .

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