Sharon was unable to process the information she’d just received from Natalie. “The entire joint task force…dead?”
“It just came in over the wire while we were on the way here,” Natalie said. “President Stugotz is mobilizing the National Guard and declaring a state of martial law in South Florida.”
“Mother of God,” Sharon said. “If a SWAT team wasn’t able to take this alligator down then I have no idea who can.”
Rusty raised his hand. “I do…but I don’t have a right to ask.”
Everyone around the table looked to Rusty as though he was about to utter the most important words anyone would ever say ever. Rusty pointed to Cole.
“Me?” Cole asked.
“I have no right,” Rusty said. “I failed you and left you on your own against that dog ten years ago. But you faced down Old Mongo, cheated death, and lived to tell the tale. Since then, you’ve hunted lions, tigers and bears…”
“Oh my,” Maude interjected. Seeing that no one was amused she added, “What? Too soon?”
Cole sighed. “It’s funny. I’ve been thinking lately it might be time to hang up my hunting gear. People don’t seem to have the same amount of respect for big game hunters that they used to. They feel like it’s too macho, cruel, uncivilized…”
Moses scoffed. “Liberal whack jobs who want to crawl up Hillary Clinton’s…”
“Yeah, I know Moses,” Cole said. “You think everyone who disagrees with you must be a liberal whack job who wants to crawl inside Hillary Clinton’s vagina but either way, I’ve been thinking that hunting has run its course through me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be able to change what happened that day and I could kill a thousand big beasties but that will never bring my leg or my pride back.”
Professor Lambert intervened. “You lost your leg?”
“To a big ass dog,” Rusty said. “While saving a little girl’s life. He’s the best hero I’ll ever know.”
“Then, my good man, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you are the most qualified person I can think of to go up against an alligator of this magnitude,” Professor Lambert said.
Sharon frowned. She reached across the table and grabbed Cole’s hand. The move stunned Cole. He had so longed for the feeling of his ex-wife’s hand in his and now it was happening again.
“Cole,” Sharon said. “Haven’t you done enough already?”
“I hate to admit it but Rusty is right,” Cole said. “I’m the only one around I can think of with police training who doesn’t lose his cool when a big animal with sharp teeth is looking at him like he’d make a good meal.”
The room went silent. “One last trophy,” Cole said. “And then I’m out of the hunting game for good.”
The ex-chief stood up and took command of the room. “Maude.”
“Cole you need to try some of this,” Maude said as she held up her joint. “It’s like Woodstock all over again baby!”
“Focus Maude,” Cole said. “You still talk to Arthur’s old trucking buddies?”
“On occasion,” Maude replied.
“Good,” Cole said. “Think they could muster us up a couple of big rigs, no questions asked?”
“I’ll have to turn on the old charm,” Maude said just before emitting a loud burp. “Excuse me.”
“Good,” Cole said. “Moses.”
“Sir, yes sir,” Moses said.
“You got any firepower?” Cole asked.
“I’m the owner and operator of Freedom Firepower, aren’t I?” Moses asked.
Cole winked at Moses. “Yeah, but I’m talking about…firepower.”
“Oh,” Moses said. “Yeah, I might have one or two or a dozen pieces that are strictly um…kosher.”
“Sharon,” Cole said.
“Yes?” Sharon asked.
“You still drive like Mario Andretti?” Cole asked.
“I don’t get as many tickets these days,” Sharon said. “But yes. I can put the hammer down.”
“What about me, Cole?” Rusty asked. “I’m not going to screw you over again, that’s for damn sure.”
“You’re going to protect what’s most valuable to me,” Cole said.
Rusty looked bewildered until he noticed that Cole’s hands were resting on Sharon’s shoulders.
“Aw,” Rusty said. “Son of a…”
Maude coughed loudly into her fist. “Cough cough, pussy! Cough, cough. Pardon me. This is some good shit.”
“Have you still got those breakaway pants?” Cole asked.
“Probably somewhere in the back of my closet,” Rusty said. “Why?”
“Just get them,” Cole said before turning to the scholar in the room. “Professor, we’ll need your brain of course.”
“You have it,” the Professor said.
“Hot Ass Blonde Chick with Big Titties?” Cole asked.
“Um, I prefer to go by Natalie off camera.”
“Sorry,” Cole said. “Natalie, can you get me on air?”
“I can swing that,” Natalie said as she turned to the Professor. “And Professor Lambert, I am so sorry I ever doubted you. I’d like to get you on air as well.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Madame,” Professor Lambert said. “When I contacted you earlier, it was not about obtaining fame and fortune for myself but rather out of a need to warn the public of a very significant danger. Now that the public is aware, I don’t know if I…”
“I can probably get NN1 to pay you a scientific analyst fee,” Natalie said.
“Who am I to deny my knowledge to the world?” the Professor asked.
“It’s settled,” Cole said. “The Professor and I will go with Natalie. Moses, I’m going to need to check out your hardware later.”
“You got it,” Moses said.
“The rest of you reconvene at my place,” Cole said. “We’ve got to draw up a plan to take this gator down.”