“Pathmaker” Ep 2: The Inquisitor

I sat in the living room of a target that had slipped away. The disappointment from when a target slipped through the cracks swirled in my mind, and the superiors will look at the report asking how this lowly unbeliever had escaped. I already knew the answer. The scheduling is what tipped him off. Undoubtedly, the sight of his neighbor being taken into custody inspired his flight. The two houses were supposed to be taken at once, but somebody failed to coordinate the business effectively. Looking towards the front window gave me the view; the subject would have seen commotion the across the street. I could tell that nothing had really been moved or taken. A search was already underway, but his car and license plate were the only leads.

Moving to the bedroom, I looked about for any clues as to where the target might have gone. Any clothes in the closet had all been taken, yet the room looked as though someone was still living within. I sorted through some useless mail on the dresser it slowly dawning on me that this was a dry hole.

Opening the loosely hinged back door, I moved into the back yard. Woods completely dominated the view giving an immediate sense of solitude. A path into the woods across the yard was the only gap in the foliage; my impulse was to enter the darkened entrance. The target had obviously spent a great deal of time crafting the trail, so I decided that I would pay homage and walk the path myself. The undergrowth had been manicured in such a way that gave a U-shape to the canopy of branches above. A little sunlight streamed through the bows to allow complete and comfortable vision down the path and into the wooded surroundings. I walked a while, thinking about what the target must have felt when contemplating the act of deserting such a marvelous creation for his home. It would have been difficult for me.

A small rabbit crossed the trail about thirty paces away, pausing only a moment to look my direction before bouncing off. After about twenty minutes of walking I noticed that the trail started to bend to the left. After a short distance, I noticed that there was a branch off of the trail to the left that was styled the same. Looking forward and then down the new path, I guessed that the trail made a large loop. I turned back towards the entrance noticing the beginning was not visible from this location. Complete solitude, how nice.

There had been no surveillance on the home, or the target himself for that matter. Nobody from his office or the neighborhood had noticed the man had left until they arrived to arrest him. That meant that his head start could be anywhere from a handful of hours to nearly an entire day. Disappointment set in again. Letting down my superiors was bad, but my personal sadness at letting down God created a pit in my stomach. There seemed to be no clues in the house, no tips from anyone, and no ideas on where to start. This was the first failure for me in this office, and as Head Inquisitor, my reputation would hinge on this situation.

I had taken down far more important people since the “war on sin” had started. Great thinkers and vocal dissenters alike had been captured and detained under my command, and this lowly citizen could not blemish my name on a national level, but I would know; God would know too. Walking back towards the house, a bit of purpose had seeped into my stride, carrying me out of the wooded area faster than I had pushed into it. Once back in the yard, looking at the house, I could only shake my head. I felt my fists curl up at my sides, anger started to cloud my thinking. The next move would be very important to closing this case, and I didn’t need emotions bubbling up to distort my decision making process. I took a slow breath and tried to let the rage pass, as pain in my right palm began replacing the anger. Looking to my palm I noticed my finger nails had been digging into my flesh, bleeding a bit. This put out my internal fires. Such a weak and pathetic display was not becoming of a vessel doing God’s work. I needed to remember that. He would guide me and assist when I needed, so letting emotions and personal ambitions would only lead to distraction, which would lead to more failure. I needed to put my faith first and let it guide me.

I moved to the middle of the yard and knelt down. Placing my hands on my thighs I closed my eyes and tilted my head to face the sky letting my eyes follow the tiny spec of an airplane cruising thousands of feet above me.

“Lord, I come to you in this moment of weakness. You have granted me great success and prowess in doing your biding. “I have always been so diligent in my efforts to make the world a place of faith, but this cursed and immoral creature is still free to infect the minds of the weak with doubt. I know that I am filled with faults, but I cannot bear to fail you in this task. I am an imperfect creature though, and I have made a mistake doing your good work to cleanse this great nation and people. I have let a deviant slip through the gaps of my efforts. I have no means to peruse the heretic. I turn now to my faith and trust in your guidance to rectify this failure. I humbly ask for your help, your servant in all things for all of eternity. Amen.” I let my torso fall forward putting my hands on the ground in total submission to the will of God.

I noticed that the ground was cold on my knees, and I become aware of the breeze rustling the leaves in woods behind me. Feeling the sun beating down on my back, the Holy Spirit filled me. I felt tears well up. My eyes opened slowly, slightly blurred by the misting of tears that still lingered between my eyelids. Still kneeling, I looked to the backdoor of the empty house. The paint job was like a rainbow exploded. I wiped away the remaining tears and collected my resolve, cleared my throat, and stood, dusting the bits of grass and wetness from my slacks.

Going back into the house and into the bathroom to compose myself for the task ahead my nerves were still humming. My reflection revealed a navy-blue suit coat which still had all the shape it began the day with. I used a little water to wash the shame and tears away, preparing to face the world and give the orders that will bring this escaped sinner to justice. Toweling off the remainder of the water around the edges of my face and absentmindedly straightening the black and white pin-stripe tie that lies against my gray shirt, I run my hand through my thick white hair and settle it back into a composed part. Those emotions would not distract again while on this case, nothing but the most hardened focus from this point out, and there was plenty of work to do. Heading out the front door, I reached into my inner coat pocket and extracted my phone. A few swipes and a tap later the phone was ringing. The call was answered with a respectful greeting.

“I am coming back to the office, call Preston and Brooke, please. Tell them that there is a meeting in my office at one o’clock. Thanks.” I replace the phone and climb into my official jet-black Mustang. On the way back to the office, the feeling that I am in for some surprises on this job came over me, so I must be sure that there are some surprises of my own to dish out, when the time comes.

At the meeting I line out the plan of attack. Full search was the model, in the air for the vehicle, surveillance on the house, and local sheriff’s offices for the ground search. After the meeting my team of three got on the phones issuing orders down the appropriate channels. I also decided to get the technology division to put out social media flags allowing the public to be a part of my team. By midnight the plan was fully engaged. I lay back on my office couch to catch a nap.

A hum against my chest woke me. We had a hit.

***

The report said that a few hikers passionate for the cause had noticed the target’s car parked in a national forest lot several hours away at the “D” trail site. The sheriff’s men were the first on the scene, and had reported that it was the correct car, but the target had not been spotted. I accelerated faster down the state highway leading to the park anticipating the hunt to come, and it was only a few more hours until that time. My only real worry was that he had left the car here and found some other form of transportation, but I had my doubts. He was there, and would be found somewhere in the forest. Only a little further now.

I felt the vibration emitting from my phone, with a single hand I answered the phone.

“Go for Trevor.” It was one of my agents at the campsite telling me that the car was now completely searched and its contents itemized. They only waited for my arrival to proceed. “Good work, if you would please take a few officers and cover the perimeter at about two-hundred yards from the entrance to the trail, and post at least one guard at any auxiliary trails you find, even if it looks old or rarely used. I don’t want random hikers wandering in and out of our investigation site.” The voice on the other end confirmed that the tasks would be seen to immediately. Everything would be in order by the time I arrived. I would walk into the environment and have a two-way radio placed in my hand, and my two lieutenants would be waiting to brief me on anything they deemed important. Then we would dig this heretic out of the woods. I smiled in spite of myself and couldn’t help but daydream a little about what the encounter would be like. The various possibilities darted through my mind moving from scene to scene. I was passing the time, but it also served a purpose of preparing me for anything that might come up. My team would be ready.

As I saw the “D Trail” sign rays of sunlight poured through the trees lighting the road and the entrance into the parking area. This was a sign showing me the way. Pulling into the parking lot, I was greeted by one of my agents who pointed me to the target’s car and explained that the van to set up a base camp was within half an hour of arriving. I was anxious to start working. The hatchback was surrounded in sheriff’s cars, and a small troupe of agents and officers sifting through items from the vehicle. I found a space off to the left, parked, and strolled over to the scene. As imagined, an agent walked over to me and handed me my radio. “Channel 13, Sir,” the agent said as he turned to get back to work. Looking over the scene everything seemed very much in order and my mind moved to other business. Searching the faces I saw my second, Brooke. She had long brown hair that she kept in a braid under a black cap. She had obviously dressed for the occasion as she was in black combat fatigues and black hiking boots. Her clear blue eyes were already on me when I noticed her. I motioned for her to come over and we met halfway to the abandoned car. She handed me the list of items from the interior of the car and watched me as I scanned over the paper.

“Sir, how would you like to proceed? The car and area are secure.”

“Thank you, Brooke. Let’s get the base camp tent set in the parking spaces on the other side of his vehicle. Then once you see that is moving along fine radio me. Where is Mr. Preston?”

“Scouting some of the trails we have found.”

“Has he a radio?”

“Sir,” she said with a nod.

“Good, go ahead with base camp when the van arrives.”

She turned and walked with purpose over to another agent and began getting the area cleared for van’s arrival. I lifted my radio, “Preston, this is Trevor, over?” There was a short pause before his voice came over the radio.

“Preston here, copy.”

“What’s your twenty?”

“Coming back down a side trail that leads southwest from the main. Nothing out of the ordinary so far, and no sign of our target, over.”

“Understood. Come on back to the lot and we’ll get our ducks in a row, over.”

“Copy that, on my way.”

I let the radio drop to my side and begun to notice the world around me. The tall forest was mixed evergreen trees of various breeds and leafy counterparts in equal numbers. The undergrowth was sparse for the most part near the trail entrance. I imagined that it became a little thicker deeper down. There were birds and rodents all calling out to each other, and likely to us, complaining about today’s ruckus in their woods. It had occurred to me is that it would be virtually impossible to hide for very long anywhere near this location. If he didn’t know that we were here and readying search efforts, it could be a short day. If the target was aware of the force that now congregated to track him, he would not have stuck around for very long. Chances were that Preston had already scouted more than one trail, so the target was going to be hid, possibly deep in the woods, and possibly dug in pretty well. I noticed Brooke was walking my direction, soon Preston would arrive and battle plans would be drawn up. I was ready.

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