The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 3.50: Deadly Cargo

Book Three — The Stone in the Stream

NOTE: This chapter is available in audiobook format on the TLHOC Podcast.
Access previous chapters of the book on the Table of Contents page.

June 16, 6:15 pm

As he drove the Jeep with the two scientists in the back, Bradley thought it strange how his chest was in his way. Each time he turned the steering wheel, the rubbing of his arms against the sides of his newly acquired breasts brought a pleasant thrill, which made it rather difficult for him to concentrate on what he needed to do.

God had told them to expect one or two MPs at the helicopter itself, and that there would likely be others in the command post a quarter mile further down the airstrip. As a pilot who had served in combat in Afghanistan, Bradley knew how critical it would be to get the chopper into the air and angling sharply away from the airfield quickly, if they hoped to avoid any damage from ground fire. Even in this strange body and with these strange physical sensations demanding his attention, he felt his years of combat and flight training kicking in. And as the Jeep approached the guarded helicopter, he felt every nerve in his new body firing at once.

He raised his hand in greeting to the two MPs and gave them Susan’s best smile.

The two Dark Ghosts in the white lab coats stood up at once. Before the two guards could react to their bloody and battered appearance, the scientists opened fire over the Jeep’s windshield.

Surprise and the audacity of the trio’s attack appeared to work. But perhaps because of the moving vehicle, or the unsteadiness of the scientist with the charred hand, only one of the two MPs went down in the initial blast of gunfire. The other fell backwards, landing hard on the tarmac, with bullets sparking all around him. He immediately started crawling for the chopper, but was still a dozen unprotected yards away when another burst of gunfire drove the cursing man back toward his fallen colleague.

As they pulled to a halt, the MP was still on his belly and crawling quickly toward the only spot he might be safe from further gunfire. By the time the gunmen were out of the Jeep, the MP had found a position on the far side of his mortally wounded colleague.

The bigger of the two scientists put a few more bullets into the fallen guard’s body, but it was not enough to drive the other man into the open.

Bradley and the smaller scientist were hauling the two black suitcases out of the Jeep when a lucky shot by the MP caught the scientist with the burned hand under the left armpit, and he went down, hard, onto the tarmac. Bradley didn’t pause, but grabbed both suitcases and dove behind the Jeep to protect their lethal cargo from the gunfire.

The ghost of the old cowboy abandoned the dying scientist’s body, and moving like the shadow of a panther, shot across the twenty yards that separated them, diving headfirst into the prone MP. The man reacted as if he had grabbed a live wire. He convulsed on the ground for a few seconds before climbing calmly to his feet. The MP on the ground was now dead, full of at least a dozen bullet holes, one of which had caved in the side of his head like an over-ripe melon.

The larger scientist quickly advanced on his fallen colleague, who was emerging quickly from his possession, and was looking around with a combination of terror and agony. He put up his burned hand and moaned something that Bradley couldn’t decipher. The bigger scientist pumped three rounds into the shocked and confused man at his feet: two in the chest, and a third in the forehead.

In an instant, the tarmac was as silent as the empty desert in which it sat. Only the hiss of the wind through the rotor blades disturbed the peace of the beautiful late afternoon in June.

Quickly, the three ghosts used their host bodies to haul the two suitcases and a stash of weapons to the helicopter. They stashed the two black suitcases on the floor on the co-pilot’s side of the aircraft, and as the Dark Ghost in the MP was tying them down, Bradley powered up the rotors. He paused for a moment to glance at their new arrival. The ghost of the old cowboy, now in the body of the MP, was flexing his hand in front of his face, as if he was relieved that he once again had one that was functional, and didn’t look like something forgotten on a summer grill.

As they had expected the sound of the firefight had alerted the other MPs at the command post, and even before the three ghosts were settled into the chopper, another Jeep tore out from behind the small building and began zipping quickly down the tarmac, heading directly for them. Bradley thought he could count at least three, perhaps four occupants in the Jeep, and he counted the seconds as the helicopter’s blades continued spinning up. They had less than a minute to get into the air.

It’s going to be close, he realized.

With the scientist and the MP now hanging out of the big sliding doors with their automatic weapons, Bradley throttled up the engine faster than was technically safe, and felt the whole helicopter shudder around them under the strain.

The Jeep was getting closer now, and the big scientist leaned out from the left side of the aircraft and sent a long burst of automatic fire directly into the face of the approaching vehicle. It spun out on the tarmac, and a spray of blood appeared on the windshield. But as it finally stopped, three clearly living and uninjured soldiers jumped out, took up positions behind it, and began to fire.

But by this point, the helicopter was already jerking unsteadily into the air, and Bradley pulled back hard on the throttle, hoping to gain altitude quickly. He looked over to ensure that the two suitcases were stowed securely in the foot space of the seat to his right, and then, when he was sure they were at a safe distance from the ground, banked as quickly as he could away from the gunfire.

The helicopter shot skyward, at a forty-five degree angle from the ground, moving like a rocket into the sky. Bradley only started breathing again when he was clear of the airfield and could see the town of Dugway to the east.

The other two ghosts, one in the body of the big scientist with the battered face, and the other in the body of the MP in his battle fatigues, looked as calm and undisturbed as they would look if they were strap-hangers on the subway. Only Bradley’s heart (or was it Susan’s heart?) felt as if it might beat itself out of his chest.

He remembered well what he had been told to do next.

As he had been instructed, he brought the chopper low, skimming just a dozen yards over the roofs of the high school and the various administrative buildings in the center of town. Just to their right he could see the golf course, and then the open desert. Less than a mile ahead of them, on the straight arrow of road that led out of town, he could see the low, gray complex of buildings that marked the security perimeter of the West Desert Test Center. He looked back to make sure that both his passengers were there, and still hanging onto the straps above their open doors. They were there, both looking straight forward, as if they were statues.

He remembered that the guard station below was one of the few places that had shown signs of life as they had entered Dugway, a few hours earlier. And now he was carefully following his instructions to fly low and slow as they passed over that small complex of buildings.

Bradley knew what was about to happen, but the sudden shift in the helicopter’s center of gravity when the Dark Ghost in the MP leapt out of the open door was still a shock. Freed of over two hundred pounds of cargo, the helicopter jerked skyward. He couldn’t see the MP fall, and even though he tried to wrench his head back, he wasn’t able to see the man’s body impact the roof of the security complex.

It would be a mortal impact, most likely. But he also knew that the Dark Ghost would have at least a moment or two to step free of the MP’s body before he died. And that would be all he would need. God had given him a special task, and as far as Bradley and the tall scientist were concerned, his part in their mission was over.

As they zipped west over the desert, Bradley brought the chopper to a higher altitude, and only then did he look back at his lone remaining passenger. The big scientist with the battered face and the torn and bloody white coat now looked as if he had achieved some state of bliss, or liberation. The crooked and bloody smile on his mangled face was haunting, and Bradley could not look at it for long.

Best just to do God’s will, he thought, as he piloted the helicopter and its deadly cargo east—toward Salt Lake City.

The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.

For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.

To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.

If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.

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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.

Wess Mongo Jolley

Wess Mongo Jolley is Utah native, who is now an expatriate American novelist, editor, poet and poetry promoter, living in Montreal. He is Founder and Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project, and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast for more than ten years. His poems and short stories have appeared or journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre, Apparition Literary Journal, Grain, and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He loves hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at https://wessmongojolley.com. If you are enjoying this story, please drop him a line, and consider supporting his work as a novelist at http://patreon.com/wessmongojolley. All of the trilogy's over 207 chapters are available there for subscribers, and new poems, short stories, and other content is posted there every Friday.

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