In the months following Carrie’s death and finding the note in her treasure box, he had been working with the underground taking up where Carrie had left off. At first, it had been a burning rage that had driven him, but the rage subsided, leaving a deep and powerful need for justice with a hint of revenge for good measure.
Benny had long ago burned the note Carrie left him inside the treasure box, which now sat on his mantle. A daily reminder of why he was risking his life to help bring down the totalitarian government that had slowly steadily taken over the country for several decades. Freedoms, once casually bantered about, were no longer theirs—now only spoken of in secret. It was past time that the government was held accountable by the people.
Benny knew it was easy to say the government was evil, but it wasn’t the government that was evil. The prominent players in office who were running things were the problem. He was under no illusions that getting rid of them would instantly fix anything, but it would go a long way toward it. There had considerable pushback in the early days, but now only a few souls refused to do as ordered. They learned to keep their resistance secret.
As far as they could tell, State Security had chosen to ignore Benny publicly after Carrie’s death. While there appeared to be no surveillance on him, tail, phone, or email tap, they suspected he was watched and took appropriate precautions.
Benny leaned against the brick wall of a storefront near a bus stop, pretending to read a newspaper while he waited for his contact, and hoped she wouldn’t be late.
Laura was a short redhead, an attitude that managed to get her into the top government offices. She was intelligent, pretty, and flirty enough to get their attention but not make them suspicious. Her current position in the IT department gave her access to many top-secret documents but getting them out of the secure file server room had been impossible until recently.
They had introduced a door access code that bypassed normal security protocols and gave her access to any file on the server regardless of security clearance. It also wiped any trace of her snooping and copying behind her. She was fully aware that even with those precautions, it would be possible, with the right tools, to figure out someone had been there. But it should eliminate how or who. At least, she prayed it did.
Getting the information out of the building was challenging as getting into the secure rooms. She had become friends with one of the guards, and he often let her pass without looking too closely. Thus, she could slip past with a tiny USB drive hidden in plain sight. Laura had started wearing computer-themed jewelry—cutesy jewelry designed to look like cartoony thumb drives. She would slip the real thumb drives inside, and the guards didn’t notice that she smuggled a working drive out.
Benny spotted Laura’s red mane bouncing half a block from where he stood. As she approached, he dropped the newspaper just in time for it to land in front of Laura as she reached him. Laura helped him pick up the scattered paper, and they made polite conversations, with him thanking her for helping pick it up. She went on her way down the block and around the corner while Benny spent a few minutes refolding the newspaper before he headed off in the opposite direction. The drop was made.
Benny took his time. He stopped at a coffee shop for a cup of java to see if he had picked up a tail. As he sipped his coffee and nibbled on a couple of donuts, he slipped the USB drive from the folded newspaper and placed it in his pocket. He detested sports but pretended to read the sports section while he finished his last donut and downed his coffee. Paying his bill, he collected the newspaper and headed to the sidewalk.
Turning right, he thought he caught a glimpse of a figure standing across the street and down the block a bit. His blood ran cold. They would kill him instantly if they found the USB drive on him. No questions asked, and Laura would be next.
Spotting a bus stop with several people waiting, he slipped inside the group. Within a minute, the city bus pulled up, and the doors hissed as they opened. He resisted the urge to be first in the line up the steps into the bus. When the bus pulled away, he started to breathe again. That was close—too close.
Benny slouched down as low as he could in the seat to avoid anyone seeing him. He assumed they had seen Laura stop to help him with the dropped newspaper and worried that they suspected her or that they would now.
Benny got off at the next stop, a large box store, leaving the newspaper on the seat. He followed a group heading into the store and broke off to find a restroom. Once inside, he grabbed a handful of paper towels and headed into a stall, where he took the USB drive from his pocket and slipped it into a hidden slit in the back of his leather belt. He took the usual precautions, wiping the door and anything he’d touched to remove his fingerprints, then left the restroom. He felt calmer, but the kicked-in-the-gut scared feeling never left him. The outline of the thumb drive pressed against his back was a constant reminder to keep on guard.
He returned to his apartment and busied himself with housework. His regular job had left him little time to keep up with everyday chores, and now that he was doing covert jobs for the resistance on the side, he had less time. As he cleaned, Benny would stare at the treasure box on the mantle and let his mind replay that horrible moment when Carrie had been murdered right before him. Swearing to himself, he vowed that someday they would regret that killing. He didn’t know how yet.
It was dusk when Benny ventured out again. Over the last few months, taking an evening walk had become his practice. The route took him along a street with several deserted houses and tall lawns filled with debris. Benny had wrapped the USB drive in a candy wrapper, placed it into a plastic grocery bag, and as he passed the first house, he dropped the wrapper in the grass near the well-worn sidewalk. Returning home, he casually checked his mail, lifted the red flag on his mailbox, and went inside.
The following day Benny found the flag on his mailbox down. His indication that the drop was successful.
Benny met with Laura again the following week. This time was no less stressful, but the stakes were even higher. The files she had stolen from the secure server room proved invaluable in formulating a plan to bring down the current regime.
For that to happen, certain people had to die simultaneously. The list was specific. The top name on the list was Maxx Barker, head of the State Security Department and known to be responsible for the disappearances of a large number of members of the resistance underground. Laura had also found the paperwork ordering the killing of Carrie. Benny trembled with rage as he read the documents. The moment all those months ago came rushing back to him. Replaying the scene one more time in his mind, he almost crumpled the paper, but Laura gently took it away from him.
“We need this.” She spoke calmly.
Benny sighed and let go. He knew they needed all the paperwork to prove what they would announce in a few days.
On Friday, July Fourth, Benny found himself waiting on a back street near the headquarters of the security department. While the Fourth of July was still an official holiday, the government discouraged an active celebration and chose to mark the day with a ceremony and speeches broadcast over the media, with as little fanfare as possible.
As expected, Maxx Barker emerged from the rear of the building into an alley where his car was waiting. With two security guards in tow, Barker approached the Mercedes,
Benny whispered into a concealed mic, “Got Barker,” stepped out of the shadows, and fired two quick rounds, dropping the guards where they stood. Barked stopped in his tracks, a glint of fear in his eye.
“Maxx, Maxx Barker?” Bennie aimed his rifle at the center of Maxx Barker’s chest. “You remember Carrie Anderson? You ordered her murdered in the street like a dog.”
Maxx swallowed but seemed to gain his composure. “Yes, I remember her. She was a remarkable young woman. Pity, she had to die so soon.”
Benny felt an iciness in his voice as he replied. “Yes. She was remarkable and believed in standing up for what’s right and true.”
“Like you are now?” Maxx sneered, seemingly unafraid of Benny or his shotgun. By now, Benny could see the scars and wrinkles on Maxx’s face and smell his alcohol-induced bravado. Benny chuckled. The bastard seriously didn’t think he would shoot him.
The knuckles on Benny’s hand turned white as he gripped the shotgun. His right hand firmly wrapped around the grip and his finger in the trigger guard gently touched the trigger. His left hand extends to the stock and holds the wooden slide under the barrel, keeping the gun level with Maxx.
“Yes, I am.”
Maxx reached out to take the gun from Benny, “You might have shot a couple of thugs like my guards, but you know who I am and what I am capable of doing. You don’t have the balls to shoot me.” He showed a toothy grin.
“I grew them the day you killed Carrie.”
Benny’s earpiece crackled, and a voice yelled into his ear. “NOW!!!!”
Benny fired the shotgun three times, dropping Maxx Barker onto the street like the mangy creature he was.
The revolution began with revenge for Carrie.