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Silver Star
1630 hrs

Matt was sitting behind his desk going over the paperwork for the bar. It was a nightmare, how the hell did he ever get into this mess in the first place. His left leg was propped up on an open desk draw. The last mission had been a killer. He'd twisted his ankle, tripping over a damn dog no less and it still hurt like hell.

He groaned as a loud knock sounded on the door. He debated on answering it. But the knocker entered without an acknowledgement.

"Trout," Matt groaned.

"At least this time I knocked," the older man said smiling.

"You were suppose to wait until I invited you in," Matt said huffily.

"I didn't think you were going to," Trout smirked.

"I wasn't," Matt, murmured back.

"Now that you're in, what can I do for you? But before you ask let me just say one thing - NO!! What ever it is the answer is NO. Not only NO but HELL NO!! Three lousy missions in a row, my team needs a break, and I'm going to see that they get one."

"It's a simple delivery, Matt, nothing strenuous, nothing sinister."

"No," Matt growled, "if it's such a simple delivery, why don't you have your secretary do it.

Matt jumped out of his chair wincing as he landed wrong on his ankle. Limping from the room he slowly negotiated the stairs to the ops room in the basement. Trout followed, droning on about how easy and simple the new assignment was going to be.

"Why do I get the feeling I'm being hustled," Matt questioned?

"Matt," Trout said his expression full of hurt indignation. " I wouldn't hustle you, couldn't even if I tried."

Snorting in disgust Matt steps down into the room. Seeing Benny Ray sitting at the table putting his Glock 19 back together, Matt grins at the Sniper as the cloth in his hand smoothly caressed the gleaming metal.

Looking up his eyes filled with amusement, Benny Ray asks, "What's up boss, how's the ankle?

"Hurts," Matt mumbled, rolling his eyes he points over his shoulders as Trout steps into the room. Before Trout can even say a word Benny Ray gives him a hard look and growls, "NO!!"

Throwing his hands up in disgust, Trout sits on the couch watching the sniper clean his weapon.

"Coffee," Matt asks as he limps into the kitchen.

"Yes Sir!"

"Small one for me Matt," Trout grins.

Scowling at him Matt pours three cups, placing Benny Rays on the table at his elbow. Handing Trout his, Matt accidentally sloshes it over the side.

"Sorry," Matt says grinning.

"How about…"

"NO," they both yelled in unison.

"You didn't even let me finish, I'll throw in two weeks - all expenses paid to Rio - for your whole team."

Matt groaned, two weeks in Rio, would be heaven. Benny Ray's hands stopped in mid stroke, his eyes meeting Matt's.

Knowing he had them now, Trout plunged on, "I need someone to escort a young lady and her companion back to Brazil. Her father is the Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S."

"Why doesn't the ambassador provide her escort," Matt questioned?

"Food poisoning," Trout answered. "Her regular guard came down with food poisoning yesterday and the ambassador asked me if I could provide someone."

"What about the Secret Service," Benny Ray asked, "They could escort her."

"I tried," Trout grumbled, "but every agent in the country has been assigned to the economic summit in Montreal."

"Please Matt," Trout coaxed?"

Matt was tempted to say yes, two weeks all expenses paid in Rio, but with a bum ankle he wasn't moving too fast. Sitting beside him Benny Ray saw the indecision as the Major glanced down at his ankle.

"I'll deliver your package Trout," Benny Ray growled.

"Wonderful Mr. Riddle, the plane leaves in two hours,"

Raising his eyebrow, Benny Ray shoots him a look of disgust.

Tossing the packet on the table Trout hurries out of the room before he can change his mind.

Thumbing through the packet, Benny Ray groans, "Fifteen," he mumbles sarcastically, "The young lady and her companion are fifteen. I just signed up to be a babysitter." A look of horror crossed his face as he stares at the pictures. He shuddered when he thought about having to spend the next 24 hours in the company of two giggling schoolgirls.

Looking at the sniper, Matt wanted to burst out laughing, but he knew Benny Ray would deck him if he even grinned.

He watches as Benny Ray starts throwing things into his bag, mumbling the whole time. Pulling himself together he snatches the packet off the table and stuffs it into his pack. Looking up he catches the amusement in Matt's eyes and grins sheepishly.

"Stay in touch, I want to hear from you every six hours," Matt states.

"Roger that Sir! Meet you in Rio day after tomorrow, Major," he states. "If I don't kill a giggling teenager first," he mumbles beneath his breath as he walks up the stairs.

1915 hrs

Benny Ray went silent as he moved into protective mode. He checked the plane and all it's compartments for any items that looked out of place or didn't belong. So far he had found nothing. The plane was clean. The pilot and steward matched the dossiers in Trout's packet and they were already onboard. The pilot was finished with his preliminary checks all that was missing were the two girls.

The Lear Jet was built for both speed and comfort. The dark blue metallic paint glowed in the sunlight. The inside held a complete living suite. A small well stocked kitchen sat across from the entry hatch. The center of the plane was elegant and comfortable with mahogany woodwork and soft powder blue overstuffed reclining chairs. The rear of the plane contained a bathroom complete with shower and two small sleeping quarters, everything money could buy.

Benny Ray was dressed casually in jeans and a long sleeve gray cotton pullover. Dark sunglasses hid his expressive eyes. He stood leaning against the fuselage his arms crossed over his chest as the limo pulled up - forty-five minutes late.

Throwing open the door a tall, slim, mahogany haired beauty steps out, behind her a shorter though no less beautiful, blonde follows.

Benny Ray stood waiting as the duo came toward him. Following them with his eyes he saw the belligerent attitude written on the dark haired girls face, this was Carla Santiago, the ambassador's daughter. If he hadn't read her dossier he would have taken her for at least twenty with all the makeup. Behind her stepped Dominique Douglas, Carla's long time friend, companion and schoolmate. Though less lavish, Dominique's make-up put her looks at eighteen or more. "Fire and Ice," Benny Ray though, pure trouble!

Stopping beside him Carla runs her finger along his chin line. "So this is what a Benny Ray Riddle looks like, and you're the new watch dog! Daddy sure knows how to pick them," she purred running her hand down his neck and across his well-muscled chest.

Benny Ray was tempted to reach out and throttle her. Holding himself in check he ground his teeth and growled low in his throat. But two could play at this game and Benny Ray was no slouch when it came to seduction.

Beside her the blonde whisper, "Carla, leave him alone."

"Oh Dom, no wonder you never have any fun your such a prude!"

"Maybe," the blonde whispered, "but at least I'm not making an ass out of myself."

Carla laughed delightfully as she stepped onto the plane, waiting until Benny Ray put his foot on the steps before sticking her head back out.

"Sweet cheeks, would you get our bags - please," she pouted at him, her eyes dancing with mischief.

Benny Ray went still, as he slowly pulled his sunglasses off, hot seductive fire glowed in his eyes as they roamed up and down the girl's body. Seeing the flush steal into her checks he smiled, that pure heartbreaking smile that drove women crazy. Silkily, in his slow southern drawl he purred, "Yes, Ma'am" Licking his lips Benny Ray clicked his teeth together before turning away and putting the sunglasses back on. Grinning to himself thinking maybe, just maybe this trip wasn't going to be too bad after all.

Shaken to the core, Carla stumbled back into the plane. No one had ever looked at her like that, and it made her blush with angry embarrassment. Sitting across the plane, Dom had watched the new bodyguard as he played with Carla. Dom loved Carla with her whole heart, but sometimes the girl was just way out of control. It was interesting to see her get taken down a peg or two.

Carla was buckling herself in when Benny Ray came on board. She never even glanced up as he walked by.

The steward quickly and efficiently closed the hatch then checked the girls' seat belts. Feeling eyes on him Benny Ray looked up, catching an assessing look in the stewards' eye. Quickly the man smiled as he turned back to take up his seat. But Benny Ray didn't like that smile, it was slick and didn't reach the man's eyes. Filing it away, he sat back preparing for take off.

Mexico City
1140 hrs

Benny Ray stared out the window catching short glimpses of lights as they passed over western parts of Mexico. So far the trip had been quiet and relaxing, Carla had ceased to play her games but he could feel the hostility emanating from her.

Hearing faint sounds of urgent whispering voices coming from the cockpit, Benny Ray unsnapped his seat belt and walked to the front of the plane.

"Problem gentleman," he asks, seeing the steward and pilot with their heads together staring at a blinking red light on the front console.

Snapping their heads around the two of them stumble over their words, clearing his throat, the pilot says, "I'm not sure, it says we're leaking hydraulic fluid but all my systems are working correctly. Just to be on the safe side, I've called the tower in Mexico City asking for emergency clearance. It's probably nothing, just a fuse, but I'd rather not take the chance. We'll be landing in twenty minutes."

Returning to the main cabin he see the girls anxious faces. His eyes mask his concern as he says. "Problem with the hydraulics, the pilot doesn't seem to be concerned, but he wants to be sure, he's setting down in Mexico City in twenty minutes."

Twenty-seven minutes later the plane lands without incident. Telling the girls to stay put, he talks to the pilot.

"With this being a diplomatic plane," the pilot says, "we have first priority, it shouldn't take more than an hour and we'll be back in the air. It would be better if you took the ladies inside."

Benny Ray didn't like it, some sixth sense told him something wasn't right, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Slipping on his jacket he checked the Glock and slipped it back into the holster, grabbing a couple extra clips he steps cautiously out of the plane. Scanning the area he finds nothing threatening and quickly motions for the girls to follow him into the main terminal.

Carla slipped easily into her playful, mischievous persona. Benny Ray had come to realize she used it as a shield.

It was late and the terminal was sparsely populated as they walked in. Carla was unwilling to sit in the lounge and wanted to walk through the terminal. Benny Ray groaned at the thought of trying to protect her in this type of environment, but it was either that or tie her up. Forty-five minutes later, Benny Ray was aggravated. Carla had flirted with every male between the ages of ten and thirty. She had done it strictly to annoy him, throwing glances at him over her shoulder every few minutes. Dominique had basically stood back and watched her friend in action. Carla on the prowl was a thing of beauty. She twisted and manipulated every man that caught her fancy - except her new bodyguard, and that made Carla mad. Dom watched Benny Ray as well. His eyes never rested in one place too long, always watching always moving, his face never betraying any emotion. She had to wonder what made him tick. He moved with the unconscious grace of a panther, lethal and silent.

Benny Ray had had enough, as Carla moved on to a new conquest, he stepped in front of her. "Time to go," he snapped, his eyes hard and unyielding.

"Ease up, watch dog," Carla snapped back, "I'm not ready to leave yet."

His sapphire blue eyes turned to ice, lowering his voice he growled, "I think you are."

Carla's eyes flashed with hatred but she turns walking back up the terminal, Dominique following closely on her heels.

Pulling the satellite phone from his pocket, Benny Ray dialed Matt.

"Morning Major," Benny Ray chuckles as he hears the sleepy voice on the other end.

"Problems Benny Ray," Matt asks instantly alert.

"Just with the plane boss, hydraulic malfunction according to the pilot. Once we're back in the air it will take another seven hours to reach Brasilia. I'll call again when we get there."

"Any other problems," Matt asks chuckling.

"Nothing I can't handle, both ladies are alive and well."

"Damn glad to hear that Benny Ray."

"Roger that Sir, Benny Ray out." Snapping the phone shut he slides it back into the pocket of his coat.

When they reach the small executive waiting room Benny Ray sees the steward standing still staring out across the runway, his face oddly blank as the trio walk up.

"Fixed," Benny Ray asked?

The steward jumped at the sound of Benny Ray's voice, lost in thought he hadn't heard the snipers silent tread.

"Yes," he stammers in confusion. "The pilot just cleared it with maintenance, we should be back in the air in twenty minutes. "Please" he mumbled, "assist the ladies back on board."

Walking out to the plane Benny Ray tensed as he looked back to see the steward talking to several men in overalls. He turns to find several pairs of eyes on Carla and the hair on the back of his neck bristled. Every nerve in his body screamed as he stepped across to guard her back and block their view. Pushing the girls quickly into the plane his hand reaches for the weapon beneath his jacket.

Behind him the steward stepped up eyeing him strangely as Benny Ray's eyes scan the area. He watches as the men walk away disappearing into the building. Releasing some of the tension, the nagging feeling of impending disaster stayed with him. Going back down the steps he checks the baggage compartment for any tampering, before moving back inside and checking the interior.

Dominique coming up to stand beside him asks, "Is something wrong?"

Seeing the anxious look on her face, Benny Ray smiles saying, "No ma'am, just doing my job."

Relieved at his words, Dominique gets the feeling he's not happy about something.

Mexico City Airport
Maintenance office 0115 hours

Five men stood watching as the Ambassadors' Lear Jet smoothly rises into the sky. A few minutes later four turn away, but the fifth stands silently, his cold malevolent eyes watching until the little planed disappeared into the inky black sky.

Behind him he could hear the men talking, as his second in command taps his shoulder.

"What is it Arturo," he asked.

"Michaels seems to think the America could be trouble."

"Michaels is getting paid to do a job, if the American gets in the way, Michaels knows what to do." "Come, its time we left, we will see them again in a few hours. I wouldn't worry Arturo, Michaels knows what will happen if he fails."

Lear Jet
0635 hrs

Six hours later the little jet crossed the border into Brazil, the last several hours had shown weary eye nothing but ocean and blackness below. The sun was rising over the horizon, bathing the forest below in an orange glow. Trees, miles and miles of trees extended out in all directions. With only an hour left Benny Ray was glad that the spoiled brat was almost home and he could go relax on the beach.

The girls had retired to the sleeping quarters about four hours ago. The steward had dozed fitfully in one of the chairs, but he was now sitting in the cockpit talking to the pilot. Benny Ray couldn't hear their whispered conversation but he was surprised to feel the little plane making a hard turn to the left. Trout's flight plan had them flying straight into Brasilia. Unbuckling his seatbelt, Benny Ray moved forward. Sticking his head in he asks, "What's going on gentleman?"

The steward snaps his head around panic in his eyes as raises the weapon in his right hand pointing it at Benny Ray's chest. "Back up," he croaks!

The pilot grimaces as he sees the gun in the steward hand saying, "Take it easy Michaels one shot in here and we're all dead."

"Shut up," Michaels yells. "Just do your job and get this thing on the ground now!"

Benny Ray went still, his eyes cold and hard as he stares into Michaels eyes. The man was terrified, and terrified people were unpredictable.

Moving slowly backward Benny Ray assesses his opponent. Michaels was slightly taller and less muscular, but his terror would make him a formidable enemy. Beneath him he could feel the little plane beginning it's decent.

As they reach the main compartment, Michaels waves the gun toward the seat, saying, "Sit." But it was enough for Benny Ray stepping to the side his right hand coming down on the Michaels gun arm, his left coming up he catches Michaels off guard, twisting he sends Michaels to the floor the weapon falling away. Hitting the floor hard Michaels kicks out catching Benny Ray above the knee before he can draw his weapon. With a grunt of pain Benny Ray falls to the side as Michaels reaches for his weapon. Kicking out Benny Ray pushes the weapon out of his reach. Desperately Michaels throws himself on top of Benny Ray swinging crazily he catches Benny Ray in the jaw.

With a quick twist, Benny Ray slams his right fist into Michaels face, snapping his head backward. A punishing left follows and Michaels falls to the side. Picking himself up Benny reaches for the fallen gun as he's slammed from behind.

Hearing the scuffling from the main cabin the pilot had put the little jet on automatic pilot. Seeing Michaels on the floor, he slams his fist into the back of Benny Ray's skull. Stumbling forward Benny Ray turns pulling the Glock from beneath his jacket, but unwilling to fire on the pilot. Behind him Michaels retrieves his weapon spinning to face Benny Ray he fires but the shot goes wide of its mark. Dropping to the floor Benny Ray brings his gun around and squeezes the trigger. Michaels body snaps backward, his face registers shock as his finger reflexively pulling the trigger several time more. Swinging back to face the pilot Benny Ray swears as he sees the blank look on the pilot's face and the spreading bloom of blood across his chest. Slowly the pilot sinks to his knees before falling face first to the carpet.

Hearing the gunfire the two girls come running out gasping in horror at the two bodies lying on the floor.

Just then the plane rocks uncontrollably as the automatic pilot kicks off. Running into the cockpit, Benny Ray grabs hold of the wheel trying to steady the little plane and keep it flying straight. But Michaels stray bullets had found their mark and the controls were badly damaged.

Behind him Carla and Dominique stand in the doorway shock and horror written in their eyes. Ever the optimist Dominic asks Benny Ray, "I don't suppose you know how to fly this thing do you?"

Without taking his eyes off the controls Benny Ray says, "No Ma'am, I don't!" Beneath his breath he mumbles, "But I do know someone who does."

Looking over his shoulder he says, "There's a phone in my jacket pocket… before he can say any more Carla turns running for his jacket. Seconds later she comes back pulling the phone and mike out of the inside pocket. Plugging the jack into the phone she hands him the earpiece. Telling her the number he waits as the phone connects. The line connects and Benny Ray heaves a sigh of relief, "Chance, I have a little problem on my hands."

"And what would that be Amigo," Chance asks sleepily?

"I'm sitting in the cockpit of a Lear Jet, 20,000 ft in the air and ummm, there's no pilot!

"Your what, Chance asks incredibly?

"But the bad part…" Benny Ray continues, "The controls are all shot to hell and we're going down fast."

Chance knows the odds of Benny Ray landing the crippled plane and surviving were pretty damn slim. Benny Ray's one flying lesson didn't include landing.

"First thing you need to do is look for a place to set it down."

"That could be a problem," Benny Ray whispers, "I can't see anything but treetops for miles.

"Well, we'll face that when we have to," Chance answers. Chance goes on to ask a myriad of question, the answers weren't always satisfactory and he cringed at the though.

"Altitude," Chance asks a few minutes later?

"Down to 10,000 ft," Benny Ray relayed.

Chance works diligently, telling him how to get the landing gear down, the necessary air speed and how to lift the nose of the little plane on landing.

Behind him he hears Carla's voice, "There, there," she yelps, "To the left, I can see a small clearing."

Turning Benny Ray winks saying, "Buckle yourself in ladies this is not going to be pretty." Side by side the girls buckle themselves in, holding hands they close their eyes and wait.

With the information Benny Ray is relaying Chance knows that they are going in too fast and too steep. "Slow her down Benny Ray, and keep the nose up. Line her up in the center of the clearing. When she touches down, throttle all the way back and hit the brakes."

"Roger that Compadre!" Benny Ray had never faltered before and he wasn't about to start now, but looking at the tiny little field in front of him made him shiver. He could hear Chance's comforting voice in his ear as the little plane touched the ground. The plane bounced hard several times before the wheels finally settle to earth. The clearing is strewn with rocks and debris and Benny Ray can barely hold her straight. He can hear the sounds of muffled screams, as the girls get jolted and jarred by the landing.

The clearing is just too short, as the front wheel support gives way beneath them the nose of the plane plows into the earth, sending the plane skidding sideways, it crashing into the trees, the sounds of breaking glass and crumpling metal ripple through the little glade. Seconds the later the plane comes to an abrupt halt, the nose crunched beside a huge bolder.

Silence echoes through the forest as the plane comes to a halt. Too frightened to move, Carla and Dominique sit in shock. Slowly raising their heads they realize they actually survived. Unbuckling their seatbelts, they look around at the broken little plane. Shattered windows and broken branches tell their story of destruction. Carla listens for sounds from the cockpit, but only silence greets her. Stumbling from her chair she slowly makes her way into the front of the plane. The cockpit is a shambles of twisted metal and glass. Benny Ray was silent his body slumped forward over the control panels. Feeling for a pulse, she is relieved to find it pumping erratically.

Her voice is filled with fear as she cries for Dominique to come help.

Benny Ray had lost consciousness as the plane made its final stop. He woke slowly hearing familiar voices beside him. All he could feel was the pounding in his head and the blinding flashes of pain that course through his left leg.

Opening his eyes he looks down, his hand is covered in blood as it rests on his left thigh. The twisted metal of the torn hull is buried deep in the muscle about six inches above his knee.

Groaning he lifts his head to get a better look. The twisted metal had hooked him good, if he pulled straight off he knew he'd tear his leg to shreds, his only option was to move backwards and try to slide out from beneath it. He couldn't do it alone.

"I'm so scared Dom, what are we going to do," Carla's whispered words catch Benny Ray's ears as he looks up seeing tears coursing down both girls cheeks.

"What do we do," Carla asks as she sinks to her knees beside him.

His voice cracks as he says, "I need to go backwards to slide out of the seat and I need your help. I need each of you to grab an arm and pull as hard as you can.

"I can't." Carla whispers.

Putting his hand on her chin his pain filled eyes lock with hers, "You have to Carla."

"No," she cries, "Help will come they can get you out better than we can."

Taking a deep breath he says, "Carla, someone tried to hijack this plane, they wanted something, my guess would be you. We can't stay here. The pilot was looking for an airstrip close by. The kidnappers are probably already on the way, if we stay they will find us. Do you understand?"

"Yes," she cries leaning her head against his shoulder.

"Come," he says cracking a smile, "This is going to hurt me a helluva lot more than it's going to hurt you."

"Wanna bet," they mumble in unison.

Entwining their arms beneath his their hands lock. Taking a couple of deep breaths he closes his eyes and grits his teeth before saying, "Go!"

Pulling with all their might the two girls can hear the ripping of skin as his leg slide from beneath the metal. He cries out as the sharp metal rips through flesh sending waves of white-hot searing pain coursing through him. He goes limp in their arms as the darkness claims him and all three fall to the floor.

Now its Dominique's turn to take over as she barks orders, "Carla, grab the first aid kit and a bunch of towels out of the closet. We need to get the bleeding stopped. Tearing the fabric of his jeans, all she can see is blood. Beneath her touch Benny Ray doesn't move. It's nearly ten minutes before the bleeding is finally under control and the ugly wound cleaned and bandaged.

Taking the ammonia capsule from the first aid kit she breaks it, wrinkling her nose at the smell she turns her head away waving it beneath Benny Ray's nose.

He rises to consciousness quickly, coughing and waving the hand from in front of his face. He can feel the lethargy setting in loss of blood had already sapped his strength.

Pulling himself up to a sitting position he ignores the throbbing in his leg as he spots the phone beneath the flight console. Reaching for it he's amazed to see it's still operational.

"Dominique, get my pack," he whispers.

Dialing Chance's number he listens as it connects.

The voice on the other end goes wild with joy at hearing his voice. "Where are you Benny Ray," he asks.

"Northern Brazil, somewhere," he adds.

"Hold on Benny Ray, here's the Major."

"What's your situation, Benny Ray."

"The package is safe sir, we are currently still in the plane, but we'll be moving out shortly. The steward, Michaels and the pilot made an attempt to hijack the plane. Michaels accidentally killed the pilot and shot up the controls. I get the feeling whoever started this is going to come looking."

"And you," Matt asks, hearing the strain in the snipers voice."

"Bum leg and a headache Major."

Beside him Dominique puts his pack on the floor beside him.

"What's your location?"

"Wait one sir," he says as he pulls the hand held GPS from his pack. Finding it undamaged he actives it, punching in the code he reads the coordinates to Matt.

"Twelve hours Benny Ray!"

"Roger that sir, I'll check in every few hours with new coordinates."

"Hang tight Benny Ray, we'll be there as soon as we can.

"Roger sir, we'll be waiting."

Hanging up he hands the phone and the GPS to Dominique, showing both of them how to activate and obtain the precious coordinates.

"Carla, you need to grab blankets and the first aid kit. Dominique, we need food and water - Go," he whispers quietly.

Checking the contents of the pack he finds several clips for the Glock and a box of shells for the rifle. Pulling the Glock he checks it before settling it back in the holster, putting the clips in the pocket of jacket. Loading the rifle he sets it down on the seat beside him as he pulls himself to his feet placing as little weight as possible on the injured leg. A wave on nausea and dizziness was over him and everything goes black. Tightly gripping the seat beside him he waits for it to pass.

Seeing the map in the pocket of the pilots' chair Benny Ray pulls it out stuffing it into his pant's pocket.

A few minutes later the girls are beside him, loaded and ready to go. His first step on the injured leg sends bolts of agony shooting through him, gritting his teeth he takes another step pushing the pain to the back of his mind.

As they pass through the main cabin, Benny Ray looks around for Michaels weapon, but he can't see it, probably thrown around during the landing. Cautiously the trio make their way out of the plane

Silver Star Hotel
0810 hrs

Matt's heart had taken a dive when Chance called him. Benny Ray his mind screamed, his best friend, his second-in-command and the best damn man he'd ever met. He couldn't loose him not like this. He called Trout, ripping the man apart. "I want the fastest plane you've got ready to go in an hour, Matt yelled. Trout was silent as Matt "s rage crashed around him.

"It will be ready when you are, Matt!"

"It better be Trout or I'll come find you personally. Furiously he hangs up vowing that someone was going to pay.

Calling the rest of his team he explained the situation, knowing none of them would refuse to help search for the missing sniper - their friend.

Matt had nearly cried when the second call came through. He was so relieved to hear Benny Ray's voice he'd stammered. Pulling himself together he slid back into the leadership role, finding out and assessing the situation. Now all he had to do was come up with a plan and put it into play.

Twenty minutes later the team was at the airport, True to his word, Trout had put a plane and an extra pilot at their disposal. If all went well it would get them to Brazil in a little over 11 hours.

The trip was going to be long and fraught with questions that none of them had answers for, but as long as they knew Benny Ray was alive they'd press on. They could all feel the urgency of the situation and hope that they'd make it in time.

100 Miles North of the Crash Site
Hijackers encampment

Arturo stood in front of his commander, amazed at the calm demeanor of his superior. He had expected the man to rant and rave at the incompetence of his co-conspirators, but he remained calm. The man's eyes were cold and empty as he stared out the window.

"Ready the choppers, get men out there now, we know where the plane went down. If they are still alive I want them brought here. Send men here and here he said pointing to several small black dots - villages - on the map."

His name was Maxwell Stuart. He had spent too many years plotting his revenge to be stopped now. If the girl were alive his revenge would be complete he would send her back to his one time friend in little pieces. But dead was just as good. The bastard would suffer a thousand deaths knowing he had caused it. The deaths of his wife and son would be avenged.

In the distance he could hear the sound of the helicopters as their engines were started. Men shouting and Trucks rolling were music to his ears.

Crash site
0815 hrs

His instincts were on overload they screamed danger. Doing his best to cover their trail Benny Ray moved as quickly as he could driving them in a southeasterly direction. The map had indicated a river and a small settlement about twenty miles away. He doubted his leg would carry him that far, but at least he could get the girls as far away from the plane as possible.

Arturo and his men arrived at the crash site a little over two hours later. He wasn't surprised to see Michaels and the pilot dead. The American was good, damn good, to have landed the plane with the controls shot to hell. From the amount of blood in the cockpit, the man was hurting and badly. Outside he gave orders for his men to find the trail. But Benny Ray, hurt or not had done his job superbly, Arturo's men could not pick up their trail.

Radioing back to Stuart, Arturo apprised him of the problem. The line went deathly quiet before Stuart started swearing and ranting about incompetence. "Dogs, Arturo, did you think to take the dogs with you. NO! I suggest that you come get them!"

Hanging up, Arturo shot orders to his men to keep searching. Climbing back into the chopper he cringes at the thought of facing Stuart.

The first hour the three weary travelers found it rough going through the dense underbrush, the lush tropical forest making it very difficult to move quickly. They climbed for nearly two miles before the landscape began to change, becoming rockier the underbrush less dense. They had been on the move for nearly four hours, Benny Ray had taught them a few things about covering their trail and moving silently. Carla and Dominique began to see it as a game, a deadly one, but a game they knew they had no choice but to win if they thought about it they would fall apart.

From the map Benny Ray knew they had covered less than half the distance to the river and he was tiring fast. If they could just reach the river they had a good chance of shaking any pursuit. He had no intentions of taking the girls into the village, whoever was after Carla would probably have men waiting.

"Hurry Boss," he whispered!

Stuart was waiting as the helicopter landed, the dogs one bloodhound and two Rottweilers sat patiently beside him. His face was cold and implacable as Arturo stood in front of him. Handing him the leashes Stuart climbed into the chopper, waiting impatiently as Arturo and the dogs settle in. With a nod to the pilot Stuart sits quietly staring out into morning sky as they head back to the crash site.

The dogs quickly picked up the scent, but Benny Ray had again done his job, sending the girls off in circles to confuse anyone who might be following. Several time the dogs split off from the trail and Stuart's frustration grew, a dawning respect for the American was kindled. An adversary worth hunting!

Benny Ray knew his tricks had only slowed the pursuit, someone wanted Carla and they wouldn't give up easily. Nearly ten hours had passed since they had left the plane, his body protesting every movement. Beside him the girls were tiring, but he drove them relentlessly. They were scared, he could see it in their eyes, but they knew the consequences if the tango's caught up with them.

In front of him Dominique stumbled, her feet slipping on the rocky trail. Carla reached out to steady her friend. A few minutes later Benny Ray called a halt, they needed a few minutes to catch their breath and eat. Pursuit was not far behind he could feel it.

Ten minutes later they were back on the trail. Another hour and they would reach the river.

Plane Crossing into Brazil
1815 hrs

Chance had pushed the plane as hard as he could making up for lost time. Another hour would put them close to Benny Ray's position. The pilot Trout had assigned to the plane was sitting beside him. When the time came Chance would make the jump with Matt, Margo and CJ then the extra pilot would set the plane down in a small field near the village. The last call from Benny Ray had been three hours ago. His voice had betrayed his exhaustion, Chance knew the sniper would push himself and girls hard, he just hoped the tango's didn't catch up to them, Benny Ray was in no shape to deal with an assault.

Matt sat quietly only the drumming of his fingers showed the frustration and apprehension he felt. Beside him Margo put her hand in his, feeling the pent up tension coursing through him. "We'll make it in time Matt," she whispered encouragingly.

His head swiveled toward her catching the hope and optimism in her eye. Benny Ray was survivor and he would make it through this.

Nearing the River
1920 hrs

He approached the river cautiously pulling the binoculars from his pack he scanned the riverbank and the surrounding area for any sign of movement. So far they'd been lucky, the jungle had allowed them safe passage though several times he'd heard the unmistakable sounds of a big cat-prowling close by.

Pulling the little phone and GPS from his pack, getting a fix on their location he dialed Matt. The phone didn't have much power left in her battery he just hoped it held on long enough to get the new coordinated passed. Several rings later Benny Ray is relieved to hear Margo's voice. Copying the coordinates Margo could hear the pain in his voice. "Margo, we're headed south following the river."

"Twenty minutes Benny Ray," she informed him, "we'll be on the ground in twenty minutes."

"Roger," she heard him say before the line went dead.

Breaking cover Benny Ray cautiously slides down toward the river's edge. It was the dry season and the river was fairly low and flowed gently to the south. That's when he heard the sound of a hound baying. They were close now, too close. Hurrying the girls into the river he headed downstream. The little village was east of their position, but he knew if they were to reach the village they would have to go around - a straight on approach would only get them captured.

The peaceful river was deceptive, beneath the smooth surface the water dragged at them, the uneven surface making it hard to maneuver safely. Behind them he could hear the sound of men and dogs growing closer.

Stuart stood at the rivers edge his face impassive as he looked up and down the river. The dogs had ceases they're barking and sat sniffing at the waters edge. Motioning for the handler to take the dogs across to the other side he waited but the dogs could not pick up the scent. Pulling a coin from his pocket Stuart flips it into the air, catching it he opens his hand, the tail lay face up. "Arturo," Stuart snapped, take half the men and two of the dogs and go north, I will take the others south. I want them alive, even the American, do you understand me?"

"Yes Mr. Stuart," Arturo replied. Waving one man to each side of the river Arturo and sets them to combing the riverbank while he and six others wade into the river, Stuart did the same. Stuart and six men move downstream. The men walked quickly along the bank but the Rottweiler failed to pick up a scent.

Benny Ray knew he was out of time he was exhausted and his leg wasn't going to hold up for much longer. Parts of the bank were overgrowing with brushy leaves cascading over the edge into the water. Pushing the girls beneath the leaves he arranges the brush to cover them completely. "Stay low and don't make a sound," he warns them.

Wading about 20 feet further down he pulls himself out of the water taking up a position beneath some brush with a decent view of the river. Brushing the back of his hand across his eyes did nothing to clear his vision. Closing his eyes he takes several deep breaths before steeling himself for the coming battle. High above him he could make out the sounds of a plane but the forest around him was too thick to catch a glimpse. He knew in a few minutes the girls would be safe and that was all that mattered.

Inside the plane Matt gave the order. Seconds later four bodies were hurtling through the door and four chutes billowed above them. They soon settled to the ground below. Dropping their chutes, Matt motioned for them to move quickly toward the river. A few seconds later the sound of a gunshot echoes through the trees. "Damn, Matt whispers, "Lets move it people."

The rottweiler raised its nose into the air. The breeze along the river swirled beneath the trees and the dog caught the scent. Lips curled menacingly showing razor sharp teeth as the dog growled low in his throat. Jerking the lead from the man's hand the dog leaped into the water heading toward the far bank where Benny Ray lay hidden. Taking aim, Benny Ray fired, the dog squealed in pain and changed directions going back the way it came, but Stuart had seen the dog and the direction of his attack. Reaching dry ground, Stuart motioned his men to circle around.

He was tired his body was numb and his vision was beginning to blur, he saw men spreading out moving to get behind him. Turning left Benny Ray fired one shot, hearing a grunt of pain as his target went down.
Stuarts voice rang out, "I know you are there American, I suggest you come out or I will have my men open fire."

With Matt on the way Benny Ray took a chance and slowly climbed to his feet leaning heavily on the tree beside him. With hands raises he turns to face the voice. Quickly crossing the distance between them Stuart pulls the weapon from his hand and drags Benny Ray out onto the trail.

"Where are they," Stuart ask his voice low and threatening.

Sapphire blue eyes stare coldly at the man in front of him. "I won't ask you again," Stuart murmurs!

Steeling himself for the blow, Benny Ray shivered as Stuart takes the butt of the rifle and pounds it against his injured leg. Gasping as the fiery pain races through him Benny Ray fall sideway as consciousness begins to fade.

Moving silently into position across the river, with Margo beside him Matt sends Chance and CJ across the river and behind Stuart's men.

"Take them out people," Matt states, giving the order. Behind him Stuart's men begin to shout in alarm firing wildly at an unseen enemy. Pulling a sagging Benny Ray back to his feet Stuart moves into the trees using Benny Ray's body as a shield.

Frantically Stuart searches the forest but he can't find the attackers. Yelling at the top of his lungs he says. "I'll kill him, do you hear me. I'll blow his brains out."

"Put the weapon down," Matt's voice rings out, "and you'll live to see tomorrow."

"No," Stuart yell, "I'm leaving and I'm taking him with me."

Carla trembled as she pulled Michaels gun from her pack, she'd found it lying on the floor outside the kitchen. She couldn't let him kill Benny Ray, she couldn't. Quietly she crept from beneath the leaves and climbed onto the bank. Moving closer she raises the weapon aiming it at Stuart's back.

Hearing the rustling of brush from behind him, Stuart hears a quavering voice from behind him. "No you're not Mr. Stuart"

A frenzied light comes into his eyes as he recognizes the voice and the figure of the girl standing behind him. Releasing his grip on Benny Ray he pull the weapon around as shots ring out. Pulling the trigger Carla fires three shots.

From across the river Matt had been unable to get a clear shot, but the man suddenly turned releasing Benny Ray. Squeezing the trigger he watches as Stuart's body flips backward.

Limping slowly across to the trembling girl, Benny Ray takes the gun from her hand as she sags against him tears streaming down her face. Carla hugs him close as relief washes over her.

Crossing the river Matt stands quietly beside the sniper putting a steadying hand on his shoulder.

"Howdy Major you're late," Benny Ray chuckled dryly, before the darkness claimed him.

Catching him, Matt lowers him gently to the ground.

Rio DeJaniero
Two days later

Benny Ray lay basking in the sun, his injured leg stretched out in front of him on the lounge chair propped up by several pillows. With Carla on one side and Dominique on the other Benny Ray was enjoying their pampering. The girls looked different today, leaving off the heavy gaudy make-up had done wonders. Their skin was fresh and clean and they looked young and carefree.

Swinging her legs off the chair Carla kneels beside him. "I'm sorry," she whispers sincerely.

Reaching up Benny Ray slowly takes off his sunglasses his eyes filled with laughter and tenderness as he catches her eyes. Smiling ruefully Carla continues, "For being horrid and saying all those stupid things when we first met."

Benny Ray's eyes searched her face, liking what he saw Carla had done a lot of growing up out in the jungle and he was glad of the change.

End of Line

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