This could not be happening.
Johnny couldn’t get back to Colorado fast enough the moment he heard from Scott that they managed to get information out of one of the five men they had captured. Ever since his activity in Berlin when he had been shot, the Schrecken had been searching for information on Johnny and they finally found it. That mixed with the fact that Johnny had just helped bring five more of them down, there would be no doubt that the Schrecken’s next target would be in Monte Vista.
“Drive faster!” Johnny groaned, his head in his hands. He could not sit still for the life of him.
“You know what, punk?” Scott growled, his lip curling in a snarl. “Why don’t you drive next time and I’ll make the phone calls? Maybe I’d actually be able to reach someone.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Johnny exclaimed. “Nobody is answering their phones. Mom always has hers turned off, Dad usually answers his phone unless he’s busy. I don’t know why Gabby isn’t answering her phone. She always answers her phone.”
Scott frowned as the changing leaves of fall passed by their windows. “Why not try Lily?”
Johnny shook his head wearily. “Lily and Nick are in Pueblo, so there isn’t anything they can do anyways.” He dialed Gabby’s number again but it went straight to voicemail and he couldn’t help the sick feeling in his stomach. Was his family okay? Why wasn’t anyone answering their phones?
“Wait, hold up,” Scott mumbled under his breath as they slowed the car down for a group of people dressed up in costumes crossing the street. “Is it Halloween already?”
Suddenly Johnny’s eyes lit up. “It’s the Fall Festival today! That’s why no one is answering their phones. I hope you have a costume, Scott, because I have no doubt that the Schrecken will be here.”
Scott rolled his eyes, mumbling something about how even without a costume, he was still the scariest thing there and Johnny normally would have laughed, but his family was in danger. He had to get to them as soon as he possibly could.
After Scott parked the car at the park, the two of them hopped out, and Johnny only wished that he had time to put together a good costume. Instead, he pulled his hoodie over his head and stole a mask from the shop set up just outside when no one was looking, leaving a few dollars on the table for good measure.
The festival looked extra good this year with cobwebs, pumpkins, booths, and even a corn maze that the farmer living next to the park had grown this year. His dad used to do the corn mazes but he decided that it was too much work to keep up year to year.
Johnny’s eyes scanned the area, taking in kids in costumes, parents talking and laughing with other adults, and lots of candy and food everywhere. But still no sign of his parents or Gabby, and still no sign of anything that looked remotely suspicious. He really didn’t want to be able to find the Schrecken just because they lit off a bomb or attacked innocent bystanders.
“You take the right, I’ll take the left,” Scott ordered before disappearing, leaving Johnny on his own. Johnny had never felt so terrified that something bad would happen to his family. He had seen firsthand what the Schrecken was capable of, and he knew that they wouldn’t hesitate to hurt any one of his family members.
A picture of what Keller had looked like when Johnny found him flashed through his mind, making his stomach clench sickeningly. If it was the last thing he ever did, he’d make sure something like that would never happen to anyone else he cared about.
Johnny’s heart thumped loudly in his chest as he caught sight of his beautiful wife stooping down with a smile and holding out a bowl of candy for several little children. The children chose their sweets before scampering away to the art activities a few booths over. But that wasn’t what made his heart beat fearfully. It was the man standing several yards away watching her. Without a doubt, he knew that this man was one of the Schrecken.
Hastily scrawling a quick note, Johnny passed by his wife in the crowd and without looking at her, without speaking to her, he stuffed the note into her palm that read:
Gabby, the Schrecken are here at the festival. Scott is already looking for my parents, but a man is targeting you as I write this. I will take care of him, but I need you to find Scott or Tristan. They can keep you safe. Keep away from cars and buildings, and shred this note once you read it.
On his way past, Johnny lifted his mask to look directly in the man’s eyes so he knew exactly who Johnny was. Then Johnny continued his way into the corn maze and he knew without a doubt that the Schrecken would follow him inside.
Sure enough, three of the Schrecken cornered him at a dead end, grinning menacingly as if they were cats who just caught a mouse. Johnny threw his mask to the ground and pulled his hood down to show his face.
“I believe you’re looking for me,” Johnny said, eyeing the other three men carefully.
“And you came right to us,” one of them with curly jet black hair chuckled evilly in an accent that sounded Irish. “We didn’t even have to do anything to your pretty wife.”
“You leave her alone,” Johnny snarled, his heart beating fast in fear for Gabby. The last time she had been in danger was when they had been dating. It had been nearly three years since then.
The Irish man shrugged lazily. “We weren’t able to get anything out of your partner, Agent Keller was it? You thwarted our plans with Keller. You’ve had a hand in arresting a significant portion of the Schrecken. Come with us willingly and we’ll spare that wife of yours.”
Johnny clenched his jaw as he stared down his enemies. “You forget how many spies are at this festival as we speak. If you even try to lay a finger on her, you will be shot dead.”
The man seemed to be losing patience as he lashed out at Johnny, landing a decent blow to his stomach and making him bend over to try and catch his breath. “And you forget that we have planted a bomb at this festival. If you don’t comply with our demands, we’ll let it go off.”
As Johnny stared at the dark eyes of the man in front of him, he knew the truth. He had seen the Schrecken’s activities often enough to know that they’d let the bomb go off whether or not Johnny complied.
The three men lashed out and Johnny tried to block, but he couldn’t block all three and ended up receiving a punch to the face and another punch to the gut. But then he brought his knee up lightning fast into the groin of the Irish man’s lackey, jumped backward, and shot the man in the torso, watching as the man fell over, his trembling hand clutching is wound. The shot wouldn’t kill him, only wound him long enough to get arrested.
A gasp behind him made him spin around and to his horror, Gabby had found him in the maze and stood vulnerably out in the open.
“Perfect,” the Irish man chuckled as he took a hold of Johnny’s head in his distraction and slammed it against his knee before starting toward Gabby. Johnny’s head spun wildly and black dots danced at the edge of his vision, but giving up would mean Gabby getting hurt. He couldn’t allow that.
With all his might, Johnny rushed forward, jumping on the Irish man and digging a knife deep into his calf. The man screamed in pain, but Johnny didn’t stop. He leapt to his feet and wrapped his arm around Gabby’s waist, pulling her into the cover of the corn stalks. Johnny’s head spun wildly and he felt intense, stinging pain at his back, but he never stopped. Not for a second.
The two of them kept running and running, the sound of pursuit behind them, and finally, Johnny pulled Gabby behind a sign and into the cover of the stalks before he dared stop. Then again, he didn’t feel like he could make it any further.
“Johnny, I’m sorry,” Gabby cried, tears trailing down her cheeks. “I was just so worried about you.” She took his face between her hands and he tried to focus on her eyes but it was difficult through the haziness that fogged his brain.
“That man… He’s not dead. I didn’t kill him.”
Gabby nodded and they both fell completely silent as they listened for their pursuers, but Johnny had a feeling that even if the Schrecken were still on their tails, they wouldn’t hear them approach.
“Gabbs,” Johnny gasped, grimacing as it hurt more and more to breathe. “Can you do me a favor?”
Johnny grimaced again, his breathing a little more ragged than before. “Can you take this knife out of my back?”