This story is by B. Shaun Smith and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Memorial Medical Center Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Mandy sat down in the waiting area. Her mother’s surgery was to take about three hours. The waiting area was large, with flat screen TV’s showing updates to loved one’s surgeries. An elderly gentleman sitting across from her made eye contact. She smiled. He smiled back.
“It’s hard to wait.” Said the elderly man.
“Yeah it is.”
“My wife is the one having surgery.”
“So’s my mom.”
“I have had several surgeries. This is the first for my wife.”
She realized the gentleman was lonely. “I’m Mandy.”
“Liam.” He stretched his right hand to her. They shook.
“Why is your wife having surgery? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“I’m not sure what kind of surgery she is having. It’s in her private parts.”
Liam nodded and looked away.
Mandy thought for a moment. “Would you like to go to the gift shop with me? Get something to read.”
“I’d like that.” Liam started to get up when a man in scrubs came in.
“I need to speak to you in private.”
Liam followed the doctor through a door marked family room. The doctor closed the door.
“That can’t be good.” Said a woman a chair away.
Mandy turned to the woman who made the comment. “What do you mean?”
The woman looked up from her magazine. “Doctor takes you into that room, it means a complication has happened during surgery.”
“Routine surgery is not as safe as everyone thinks. All it takes is a nurse, anesthesiologist or doctor to be distracted and someone’s dead. Hospitals are not like the ones on TV.”
“I didn’t realize that could happen.”
“Sorry. I do mean to scare you.”
“I must have misheard you. Did you say—.”
“Answer your phone.” The woman went back to her magazine. Mandy’s phone vibrated.
Mandy looked at her, wanting to say something. She answered her phone. “Hello?”
“The old man’s wife will be ok, eventually. However your mother is a different story. Do I have your attention?”
Mandy’s mind began to race.
“Your silence tells me that I have your attention, but are you comprehending me?”
“Be at the front entrance in two minutes. Get in the white van that pulls up.” The phone went dead. Mandy looked at the woman with the magazine. She smiled at Mandy
Mandy grabbed her purse and went to the elevator bank. She kept pushing the down button until one of the four elevator doors opened. She had the car to herself as it began to descend. The elevator stopped to pick up a man in blue scrubs. When the elevator dinged for the ground floor the lights in the car went out and the doors did not open.
“You need to listen to me.” The man in blue scrubs shined a flashlight in Mandy’s face.
“I’m going to the van!” She held up her hand to block the light.
“Is that what they told you?”
“Yes…Who are you?”
“Not important. I’ll have your back.” He turned off the flashlight. The elevator doors opened. Light flooded into the car as the man stepped out. It took Mandy’s eyes a moment to adjust after she got off the elevator. She looked around trying to spot the man in blue scrubs. He blended into the hospital staff.
Mandy made her way to the front entrance. A white van flashed its lights at her. As she made her way to the van the sliding door opened. She got in. Sat on a bench seat. The driver was separated by a steel partition. The sliding door closed. As the van began to pull away a black hood was slid over Mandy’s head.
“You will not have to wear it for long.” Said a man behind her.
“Where’re we going?”
“A familiar place.”
“What do you want from me?”
Mandy was sure it was the guy who had called her. “Please don’t hurt my mother.”
The man didn’t respond.
“You know my name. What’s yours?”
“Call me Carlos, I’ve always liked that name.”
The driver stifled a laugh.
“Ok, Carlos. What—?”
“Stop with the twenty question.”
Mandy held her purse tighter and kicked the steel partition. She then felt something press against the back of her head.
“This is a twenty-two with a suppressor on it. Your head will not explode if I pull the trigger, but you will still die.”
Play along! Stay Alive!
They drove in silence. Mandy was sure they were on either Interstate Twenty-Five or Ten. Eventually the van slowed, making a left turn. After a few more minutes of driving the van came to a stop.
The sliding door opened. Mandy was pulled from her seat. Men on either side, guided her into a building. Her purse was taken from her as she was pushed into a chair. The hood was yanked off. She looked around to see where she was. They were in a hangar at the Las Cruces International Airport. It was used by the New Mexico State University Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center. She was sitting in a cockpit to operate the drones.
“No.” she said.
“Mandy, you are one of the best drone racers in the country. You’re also one of the student drone pilots at NMSU.” Said Carlos.
Mandy turned to get a look at him. Except he was wearing a ski mask. So were four other men. “What do you want me to do?”
“It’s obvious. Fly a drone.”
“Ok.” Mandy turned toward the six screens before her. Two rows of three on top of one another.
“Told you it would be easy boys,” Carlos smiled at his men. His cell phone beeped. He looked at the screen. “An update from the hospital.”
“What’s going on with my mom?” Mandy demanded as she stood.
“Did you meet with someone?”
“Tell me how my mom is doing!”
“She is fine. Look at this man,” Carlos held his phone up for Mandy to see the screen. There was a picture of a dead man with blue scrubs laying on a gurney. “Do you know him?”
“I…Maybe.” Stammered Mandy.
“An associate of mine saw him get off the elevator before you did. My associate then questioned him. Might have been a fed. He died before he could tell us anything important.’
Mandy stared at the photo.
Make them think they have you!
Carlos backhanded Mandy across the face. She hit the floor. Her lip was bleeding. Carlos grabbed her by the arm, pulling her from the floor.
“What did he say to you?”
“That…that he had my back.”
Carlos smiled and then began to laugh. As did his four friends. He shoved Mandy back into the chair. “Time to fly or the next person to die will be your mom.”
Mandy took hold of the joy stick with her right hand. “Where am I flying?”
“The drone you will be flying is already in the air. Just follow the course on the center bottom screen.”
She looked at the screen Carlos had indicated. It showed a digital map. She recognized the map was of New York City. The destination of her drone was One World Trade Center.
“Please don’t make me do this.” She begged.
“No one will ever know that you flew a drone packed with HMX into the World Trade Center.”
“But I would.”
“Live with the death of many or live with the death of you and your mother.”
“Why have me fly? If it is already in the air, clearly you have a pilot.”
“The site the drone took off from is compromised. This way my associates can get away.” Carlos sat down in a folding chair behind her.
Mandy continued to fly the drone. She would adjust as needed to keep the drone on its course. Twenty minutes from the drone’s destination a window popped up on the bottom left screen.
Mandy, your mother is safe and the hospital is secure. Nurse arrested. Help is on the way, but will not make it before the drone reaches its target. We do not want to shoot it down over a populated area or reveal the defenses of One World Trade Center. Unless we must.
From the man in blue scrubs, they killed a male nurse thinking it was me and your eyes are green.
Mandy read the message twice. She inhaled and exhaled. She wanted to cry with joy. She then set the drone to auto pilot. Putting it on a course that would take it over the Atlantic Ocean.
“Could I have lip balm from my purse?” she asked Carlos.
“Fine.” Carlos nodded toward one of his men. He handed Mandy her purse. She found her lip balm. As she put it back in the purse, her fingers found their way to her Glock 42 subcompact. Loaded with six bullets of the three eighty caliber, it was the smallest pistol Glock had ever introduced. Mandy’s mom had gotten it for her two Christmas’s ago. It was her second favorite gun after her Mossberg Shotgun.
Mandy allowed her purse to fall to the floor as she stood. Carlos followed the purse with his eyes. He knew Mandy had a gun when the bullet hit him in the chest. He fell out of his chair.
Mandy turned the gun on his four associates. Two began to pull gun’s from behind their backs. Mandy shot one in the stomach. He crumpled to the floor. The second got a shot off. The bullet went over Mandy’s head. She fired again. Her bullet caught him in the neck. His gun fell to the floor before his body did.
The last two of Carlos’s men just stared at her. “My mom was a United States Marshal. She taught me how to defend myself and prepared me if I ever had to take a life. Now drop your guns.”
One did as she instructed. The other ran for the door. Mandy shot him in the back. She then pointed the Glock at the last man standing.
“Please don’t kill me.” His hands were up as he knelt to the floor.
“You have no problem trying to bring a building down.”
“Never assume someone is weak!”
“They may surprise you!” He joined his associates on the floor. With a double tap to the chest.
Mandy went back to the controls of the drone. After turning the autopilot off she increased the drone’s speed. Sending it further out over the Atlantic. Six miles off shore Mandy flew the drone into the ocean. She sat back. A few minutes later the hanger door burst open.
“FEDERAL AGENTS!” Men in black SWAT gear came streaming in. White FBI letters prominent on their chests. They were followed by a man in blue scrubs. He looked at the men in ski masks as he walked past them to Mandy.
“I guess you got my message.” He stopped in front of her.
“Yeah. How’s my mom?” She stood.
“She is out of surgery and in recovery. I have two agents with her now.”
“No. Thank you. A lot of people are alive because of what you did.”
“What happened to the woman in the waiting room?”
“In the wind.”
Mandy nodded. “Do you know why they did this?”
“Eco terrorists trying to make a splash.”
Mandy smiled. “Well that drone of theirs sure did.”
They both laughed.
“My names Ken.”
“Ken, thanks for protecting my mom.”
This time he nodded. “Let me get you back to her.”
Mandy followed Ken out of the hanger and to a black SUV. In a few minutes they were on I-10. Heading west to Las Cruces. The sun was setting. Making the Organ Mountains a shade of purple.
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