THE SILVER STAR
Matt Shepherd grimaced irritably at
a light tapping on his office
door. "Yeah, what?" he grumbled.
Margo Vincent poked her face around
the door. "Is it safe to come in
"That depends," he replied,
not looking up. "You're not here to
bring me any more tax forms are you?"
"Nope." Margo grinned impishly
as she crossed the room to perch on
the corner of his desk. "Actually, I'm here to take you
"Oh, really?" he muttered,
continuing to work.
Margo reached over and shut the file
he was using. "Really."
Matt glanced up and did a double take
as he got his first really good
look at Margo's uniform of the day. In lieu of her usual black,
was wearing a pair of white shorts and a bright pink halter top
tied across her back and behind her neck, leaving her shoulders
midriff bare. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail and a pair
sunglasses was perched on top of her head. Matt's face relaxed
an appreciative smile. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
"Well, for starters, we're going
to get you out of this office! It's
an absolutely beautiful day outside. I thought we could spend
the boardwalk - you know, ride the rides, play some games
maybe even go for a walk on the beach. Just like real people,"
He might have been able to hold out,
if she hadn't thrown in that
last sentence. There was a wistful note in her voice
someone who didn't know her as well as Matt probably wouldn't
have picked up on it. He understood her unspoken plea. They could
never be 'real people' - their chosen line of work simply did
not allow for that - but it would be
for a while
if only for one afternoon.
Matt leaned back in his chair, trying
to maintain a serious expression.
"So, let me get this straight. My options for the day are
staying in here, dealing with this very ugly mess
out to the beach and having fun with a very pretty lady. Hmmm
I'll have to think about this."
Which he did
for the two seconds
it took her to get out a
mock-outraged "You!" and take a swipe at his arm.
Laughing, Matt caught her hand and allowed
her to lead him from the
Matt had to admit that it was a gorgeous
day. Fluffy white clouds
dotted the azure sky, silvery waves crashed on the golden sand,
the sweet music of children's laughter rang in his ears. Having
most beautiful woman on the beach for his companion did nothing
detract from his enjoyment of the day, either. He looked down
Margo and smiled.
She walked with her arm linked through
his, laughing delightedly at
the sights and sounds of the boardwalk. So far, she'd talked
into the Ferris wheel, carousel and bumper cars. Matt felt a
foolish, but he'd decided a good hour ago that it was a reasonable
price to pay for seeing Margo so relaxed and happy. The events
her life and career had forced her to erect a hard protective
around her emotions. Matt knew that Margo lowered her defenses
only in the presence of a few well-chosen friends. He considered
it one of the highest honors of his life to be one of them.
As if sensing his thoughts, Margo tilted
her head up at him and
smiled. "See? I told you this would be fun."
Matt chuckled indulgently. "And
you were right
as usual. Wanna
check out the games?" he asked, keeping her earlier-stated
Margo agreed readily.
An hour later, Matt had beaten her soundly
at the softball toss and
she'd returned the favor at the pinball arcade. "OK, this
Matt announced, leading her over to the shooting range.
"You're kidding, right?" Margo
no kidding. Loser
buys dinner," he added slyly.
"Hope he doesn't have expensive
taste," the attendant muttered as he
handed Margo her rifle.
She ignored him and proceeded to hit
every target. The attendant's
jaw dropped as he reset the game for Matt, who also pegged every
you folks wanna play another round?"
"Oh, yeah," Margo assured
him. She and Matt played several more
rounds, each consistently hitting every target, no matter how
the attendant set the speed.
Margo was in the middle of yet another
successful round when she
suddenly froze, lowering the rifle. She looked inquiringly at
who nodded tightly. He'd heard it too. The noise sounded like
"Gunfire," he murmured.
with live ammunition,"
Margo completed his thought.
Margo set down the rifle and they moved
off quickly, ignoring the
attendant, who was yelling for them to come back and collect
"I don't suppose you're armed?"
Matt asked hopefully, as they scanned the area for a way around
the shooting arcade.
Giving him a you-should-know-better-than-to-ask
look, Margo slipped her hand out of her pocket just enough for
Matt to see the Derringer Model 7 Ultra Lightweight concealed
in her palm.
"How many shots?" he muttered
out of the corner of his mouth.
"Two. Beats spitting," she
said with a shrug.
"Not by much." Matt spied
a narrow alley that ran between two of the boardwalk's attractions
and tapped Margo's arm, steering her in that direction. The alley
was evidently for service entrances and ran back to the area
where the garbage dumpsters were arrayed.
"Charming," Margo muttered
under her breath as the rank stench of
rotting garbage assaulted their senses.
Matt laid a finger over his lips, gesturing
for silence. He carefully edged forward, straining to see and
hear around the corner.
"Geez, man! You shot a cop! Are
you crazy?" a slightly panicked
"Welcome to the big leagues, Johnny,"
a second voice replied. "Now
help me get rid of him before someone else comes along."
said anything about killing any cops! I don't want any part of
"It's a little late for that,"
number two replied ominously. "You see, Johnny, Mister Enrique
doesn't like it when the police manage to
infiltrate his operations. He doesn't like it one bit. He always
them, you know
just like this fella here."
Matt looked at Margo and raised two
fingers. She shook her head -
she hadn't heard anything to indicate that there were any more
Margo leaned in close to murmur into
Matt's ear, "Maybe we should
just call the police."
Matt waved her to silence as they heard
a heavy, dragging sound issue from around the corner.
"How'd you find out he was a cop?"
the one called Johnny was asking.
"We have our sources Johnny. In
fact, our sources have been very
good to us this week. They not only told us about Phil here
told us about you, too."
Margo's gaze met Matt's in a silent
agreement - they simply couldn't
stand by and allow a peace officer to be murdered.
The men in the alley froze as Matt and
Margo strolled around the
corner arm-in-arm. One was in the act of dragging a dead body
the second aimed a pistol at his head.
"Darling, I told you we made a
wrong turn!" Margo exclaimed
"You've made a very wrong turn,
lady." The deep voice belonged to a third man at the far
end of the alley, a tall, bulky man who's eyes
were hidden behind reflective sunglasses and who up until now
been silent. As he swung around to cover them with his three
seven, the man dragging the corpse dropped his burden and launched
himself at his own assailant, tackling the man around the legs
wrestling for possession of the gun.
Matt and Margo took advantage of the
confusion to take cover behind a dumpster. Shots ricocheted off
the metal, deafening in the enclosed space. They heard someone
grunt in pain, but when Matt edged his head out to look, another
bullet whizzed by.
"Damn," he muttered.
Margo had her weapon out, alert for
an opportunity to use it.
They heard footsteps approach, then
stop just around the corner of
the dumpster. Matt set himself against the heavy container and
it a sharp push, knocking it into the gunman who was stalking
He pounced before the larger man could regain his balance, bearing
their assailant to the pavement and pinning his gun arm against
ground. Matt's opponent was every bit as tough as he looked however,
and a fierce battle was joined.
Margo slithered carefully past them
to the spot where Johnny and his
attacker were still battling for control of the gun. The weapon
discharged, and Johnny slumped to the ground, clutching at his
shoulder. Mister Enrique's associate raised his pistol again,
the shot that rang out was Margo's, impacting with his gun arm.
second shot grazed his temple, taking him down for good. She
stepped closer and kicked his weapon out of reach, then looked
to the fallen police officer, intending to check on his condition.
His eyes widened as he saw something
beyond Margo. Catching his
expression, she whirled around and slammed her elbow into the
hulking gunman's gut as he tried to grab her. Matt struggled
to his feet, blood running from a cut over his eye. He delivered
a powerful kick to the back of the man's knees, effectively cutting
his legs out from under him. Margo clubbed him over the head
with her now spent weapon and he crumpled to the ground.
The silence that descended was sudden
and complete as Matt and Margo stood trying to catch their breath.
She reached up to probe gently at the cut on his face.
"Ouch," she said, wincing
"I'll live," Matt assured
her with a grin.
"You'll live longer if you take
a long hot shower," she told him,
wrinkling her nose at the aroma of garbage rising from his clothing.
was softer to land on than asphalt!" Matt
protested, chuckling softly.
"But so much more fragrant,"
"Who are you people?" Johnny
asked, groaning in pain.
"Just some friends who happened
to be in the right place at the right
time," Matt replied carefully.
"Military?" the fallen man
"Something like that," Margo
"You?" Matt inquired cautiously.
Matt nodded noncommittally. "Will
you be all right here? We'll call
nine-one-one from the boardwalk
help'll be here in a few
"No wait - we'll need your names
Matt kept walking.
"Whoa - what the hell happened
to you, Major?" Benny Ray exclaimed as they entered the
back room at The Silver Star.
"Pe-ew!" Nick added, waving
a hand in front of his face.
Margo looked her usual impeccable self,
but Matt had blood on his
among other things
and a swollen, discolored
lump over one eye.
Matt looked at Margo and smiled. "I'm
fine, Benny Ray, really. We
just went for a walk on the beach, that's all."
Benny Ray looked from one to the other.
"If you say so, sir. I'll
go get something to clean up that cut you got there."
"And I'll get a trash bag for that
outfit yer wearin'," Nick added
pointedly. "You smell worse'n a Central Park wino!"
"Gee thanks, Nick," Matt replied
acidly. He looked back at Margo as the others vacated the room.
"You sure you're all right?"
I just wish we didn't
have to leave him."
"You know as well as I do that
we couldn't afford to get tangled up
in a police investigation. We saw the ambulance and black-and-whites
if he really is DEA, then he made two collars
if he's not, well, he's still in the right hands."
"I know," she sighed, "it's
just that I have this thing about leaving
"I know," Matt agreed. He
reached out as if to drape his arm around
her shoulders, but Margo backed away out of his reach.
"Don't you dare!" she warned.
Matt laughed quietly again. "You
know, Margo, this was a really good idea - spending a day at
the beach like normal people - we'll have to try it again sometime!"
"Right," Margo laughed, "just
like normal people."
Thanks to: Chris for letting me bounce
ideas around, Ellen and Grace
for being my preview victims
audience, and everyone
else who listened to my whining! ...Kath
Disclaimer: SOF is the property of Rysher,
et al this is a
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infringement is intended.