It was a warm spring day in west Texas and Sergeant Travis
Collins was returning to his home town to take care of some things
that were long overdue. He had just been released from his obligation
to the Marine Corps. While being stationed in North Carolina,
and had not been back to Odessa since the birth of his son some
six years earlier. He gathered up his things on the bus that
had brought him home. He shouldered his duffel, grabbed his Alice
Pack and took a walk down to the local VFW bar, to ask some questions.
He was told that the woman he had returned home for was gone.
He also learned that she had taken her son with her. Travis picked
up his things and headed home to see his father, who was not
doing very well at the present time.
As Travis arrived at his father's house, he noticed two cars
in the driveway. The first car had two men inside, both dressed
in suits. He could tell they were both armed, which meant his
older brother was at home. He then noticed the Suburban parked
behind it and the five kids playing in the yard, which brought
a smile to his face. He waved to the kids who did not recognize
him at all, which was understandable, since he'd been away a
long time, and headed into the house.
Inside was a different story. He walked into the living room.
His sister Donna, two years younger than himself, gave him the
hug of a lifetime. Into the room, came his older brother, Stephen,
whom he'd never gotten along with.
"Well, look who has showed up - the prodigal son,"
Stephen said sarcastically.
"Stephen, you should leave Travis alone. He hasn't been
home in years and really doesn't need this," Donna interjected.
"Donna, be quiet! This is between Travis and myself,"
Travis ignored Stephen. He put down his bags, took off the
jacket of his Marine uniform, stripped off his tie and tossed
both items onto the couch. He then walked past Donna and Stephen
and went into his Father's room.
"Dad, I'm back."
His father, who was lying on the bed, moved his head and looked
at Travis. He said, "You look good, boy. I always knew you
would come back for Alicia and your son. I even told her as much.
But she left with that trucker just the same."
"Yeah, I know you would have told Alicia. So what does
the doctor say?" Travis asked.
"Well, I'm dying, Travis; and the bank owns the place
now," his father replied.
"If you needed me here, you should have said something,"
Travis said with anguish in his voice.
"I knew from the day you enlisted, that you would stay
in for the long haul."
His father then slipped into unconsciousness. His head fell
sideways on the pillow. Travis looked hard at his father. He
left the bedroom and returned to the living room where Donna
was standing at the window, looking outside at the playing children.
His brother was seated on the couch, glancing through the daily
"How long has Dad been this way, Donna?" Travis
"A couple of months," Donna replied. "I tried
calling you, but they said you were always on assignment."
"They were right, sis."
"So Travis, what are your plaTravis gave his brother
a cool glance. Just by looking into his cold blue eyes - the
same as their father had when they were kids - Stephen knew he
"Well I really don't know. The woman I left behind, has
gone and she has taken my son. So I guess there's really nothing
keeping me here now," Travis replied.
He looked at Stephen with contempt; "Well older brother;
since I've been home, you've given me nothing but attitude. What's
your problem? If you knew Dad was this bad, you could have gotten
in touch with me through your office with the DEA, Mr. Deputy
Stephen took a step closer to Travis and tried to hit him.
Travis put him in a chokehold and told his brother to behave
himself. Stephen struggled wildly and Travis increased his pressure.
Finally, Stephen quieted down and ceased his actions. Travis
released him but kept a wary eye on him, ready to defend himself
if the need arose again. Before Stephen could say anything, the
doctor walked through the door.
"I let myself in, I usually come by at this time of the
day," the doctor explained, as he eyed the occupants in
the room. "Travis, nice to see you home again. I wish it
was under better circumstances though."
"Thanks Doc. Nice to see you too," Travis replied,
shaking hands with the doctor.
The doctor went into the other room to check on his patient.
He looked at the unconscious man in the bed and sighed. He lifted
the wrist, but found no pulse. He covered him with a blanket
and left the room.
The Doctor announced, "I'm sorry Stephen, Travis and
Donna but your father's gone."
Donna turned from the window and gave a cry of dismay. Travis
crossed to her, and held her while she sobbed. Stephen glanced
at the doctor, a muscle twitching in his cheek. They thanked
the Doctor for all he had done. After saying that he would let
the funeral parlor know, the doctor left the house.
After comforting Donna as best as he could, Travis walked
upstairs to check for some other clothing to wear. He found some
jeans and a shirt and realized he really didn't have much here.
He dug through the closet and found his Winchester 88. It was
still in good condition, along with an oilskin leather duster
he had been given for Christmas a few years ago.
THREE DAYS LATER AT THE FAMILY CEMETERY
Family and friends gathered for the funeral of Charles Collins.
The service was a quiet one, with only the immediate family present
and some old family friends. There was also someone else there,
whom Travis recognized, but had not seen in years. After the
funeral was over, he walked up to the woman and gave her a hug.
"Mary Ellen, what are you doing here?" Travis asked.
"I was visiting my brother in Dallas and read the obituary,"
Mary Ellen replied.
"So where's Benny Ray?" Travis asked impatiently.
"Travis, we're divorced now. Besides, his job keeps him
pretty busy," Mary Ellen answered.
"Yeah, I know about that! He told me," Travis said.
"Just what does he do?" Mary Ellen asked warily.
"Mary Ellen, I'm sorry, I can't tell you that. I promised
him I wouldn't," Travis said.
"Damn, you men are always keeping secrets from us women,"
Mary Ellen said with a trace of sarcasm.
"Look, Benny Ray's my friend. I knew when he left the
corps, that he'd get bored with civilian life and would miss
what he was trained for," Travis replied defensively.
"So how about you?" Mary Ellen asked.
"Got no clue what I'm gonna do now, but whatever it is
I'll find it eventually. Look, Mary Ellen, I really need to talk
to Benny Ray. So do you know where I can find him?" Travis
"Travis, he usually hangs out at a place called the Silver
Star Bar in Hermosa Beach Ca," Mary Ellen replied.
Travis noticed a car had pulled up to the house and two men
got out. One was wearing a deputy's uniform and the other was
wearing a suit. He and Mary Ellen started walking toward the
THE RANCH HOUSE
Travis got there in time for the man in the suit to start
yelling at Donna. He stepped forward, but was stopped by the
"Look Henry, either you take your hand off me or I'm
gonna shove your arm where the sun don't shine," Travis
said with a cold gleam in his eyes.
The Deputy looked at him. "Travis, is that you?"
"In the flesh old buddy; now what's going on?" Travis
"Mr. Quinn wants everyone off the bank's land now,"
Travis walked over to where Quinn was standing, "Get
away from my sister!!" he growled.
Quinn hastily took a few steps away from Donna, and stood
next to the Deputy.
Stephen came out of the house and walked up to Travis and
Donna. He had a will in his hands. He motioned them aside and
started reading the will aloud. He glanced at Donna and said,
"Dad left you Ma's jewelry, Donna. He left everything else
Quinn looked in Travis' direction. He strode over and handed
him an eviction notice. He spoke sneeringly at the three family
members; "You have three hours to get out, so do it. Oh,
by the way, the bank owns everything on this little ranch now;
from the furnishings inside, to the motorcycle in the barn, so
don't take anything."
"Wrong, Quinn!" Travis replied. He turned to Donna
and Stephen. "Sis, take what Dad left you and Stephen, you
do the same."
Travis pivoted back to Quinn and said in a steely tone of
voice, "As for the motorcycle in the barn, that's my property,
not my Dad's!"
"Travis, things have changed around here and these things
now belong to the bank," replied Quinn, his tone still sneering.
Travis grabbed the man by his tie and pulled him in close.
"Look Quinn, I just got home yesterday. We'll be gone in
a few hours. But if I hear that you even touched the family plot,
you'll be very sorry."
Quinn looked at the Deputy and told him to arrest Travis.
"Mr. Quinn, I can't," the Deputy explained, "because
Travis means what he says and he's only ruffled your feathers
Quinn turned and stomped back to the car. He turned around,
glared at Travis, got in the car and slammed the door closed.
The Deputy followed, after saying his goodbyes to Travis, Donna
TWO HOURS LATER
Travis put a footlocker in his sister's Suburban.
"Donna, I want you to hold on to these for me, alright?"
"No problem Travis," Donna replied. "But what
"Just some momentos from the Marines," Travis answered.
He picked up his belongings and walked over to the motorcycle.
He lashed everything onto his rucksack and duffel, along with
a ballistic nylon rifle case. He said his good-byes to Donna
and Stephen and hit the road, heading west. He had no idea where
he was going or what his future held. The only thing he knew
for sure, was he needed to talk to his friend, Benny Ray.
THE SILVER STAR BAR THREE DAYS LATER
A new bartender was working the bar. It was a kind of quiet
afternoon and Nick was making a pest of himself as usual. He
was trying to get a date with the new bartender, whose name was
April. The girl was playing it smart, by just ignoring Nick.
Matt was in his office doing paper work and Margo was on the
beach playing volleyball with some friends.
A stranger entered the bar. He sat down in front of it and
asked for a draft. Nick noticed the man spoke with a Texas twang;
he also recognized a Marine corps haircut. What he thought was
strange about the guy, was the leather duster the stranger wore.
April handed over the draft of beer to the stranger. He drank
it down in a pretty fast fashion and he then ordered another.
With the same effect, this went on for six 20-ounce glasses.
Matt had come into the bar and was watching the stranger quite
intently. The man stood, ordered another beer and took off his
duster. What everyone saw, was a man in jeans with a very good
build. He looked at April and said, "Darlin, maybe you can
help me out. I'm looking for a friend?"
"Mister who isn't? Look, I've been hit on all day and
I'm sick of it," came April's reply.
"Well then, you got me all wrong darlin. I'm looking
for a friend of mine - his name's Benny Ray Riddle," the
stranger said gently.
"I'm sorry," April said contritely. "Benny
Ray's out of town on personal business, but he should be back
in a couple of days. Can I give him a message from you?"
"Yes, can you tell him that Travis Collins was here looking
for him and I'm staying at the Motel down on the beach."
"No problem, Mr. Collins," April assured the stranger.
"Please, call me Travis."
Nick stopped Travis on his way out of the bar. In a very heavy
New York accent Nick spoke, "Are you related to Stephen
"Yeah, why?" Travis asked warily. Nick suddenly
hit the Travis square in the jaw and knocked him to the floor.
Travis picked himself up and tasted his own blood in his mouth.
Travis looked at Nick and spoke gratingly; "Whatever
your problem with Stephen is friend, don't try it on me again
or you'll get hurt."
"So if you feel lucky, can I have another sir?"
Travis foolishly said and Nick went for Travis again.
This time Travis stepped aside, grabbed Nick's arm and took
him down in a wrist lock from behind. He heard Nick scream, as
he applied pressure to his wrist.
Matt stepped forward and spoke. "I think you can let
him go. You've made your point, Mr. Collins."
Travis let Nick go, who dusted himself off. He stood up besides
Matt, muttering to himself about Stephen Collins and family.
"I really wasn't looking for any trouble," Travis
said, looking at Matt. "But this guy," pointing at
Nick, "he threw the first punch, so naturally I had to defend
"I know you weren't," Matt replied. "I saw
the whole thing. You were heading out the door, so don't let
us keep you."
Travis turned and left with his Duster over his arm.
THE BEACH ACROSS THE STREET
Travis threw his duster on his bike and crossed the street
to see what everyone was looking at. He found himself watching
a women's volley ball game. He noticed the women who were playing,
but only one woman caught his eye. He then thought back to the
one woman he had truly loved and the night down in North Carolina
when they made love for the first time.
Travis was brought back to reality real quick, as the volleyball
that gotten away from the players, hit him in the head. He was
suddenly looking at the auburn-haired blue-eyed beauty that he
noticed earlier during the game.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Ma'am, I'm just fine. Takes more than that to knock
me out," Travis replied with a grin.
"So can I have the ball back?" the auburn-haired
beauty asked, grinning innocently at him.
"On one condition! You agree to have dinner with me and
you tell me your name," Travis replied, handing the ball
over to her.
"Alright, you got both. I'm Margo and I'll meet you here
around seven tonight. OK?"
"Sounds good," Travis said easily.
"By the way, what's your name?" Margo asked.
"Your accent is unique," Margo said. "Where
are you from?"
"West Texas," Travis replied with a laugh. "You
never heard a southern accent before?"
"Yes I have, but never one like yours. See you tonight,"
Margo replied. She turned and headed back to the game. Travis
walked away and started to get things straightened out in his
head. As he walked, he thought that women could cause a man to
THE VOLLEYBALL COURT VENICE BEACH.
Travis was right on time. He got the feeling that he was going
to be stood up, until he smelled the scent of perfume in the
air and saw Margo walking on the beach. She was looking better
than he had hoped.
"Well you clean up pretty good!" Margo exclaimed.
"Thank you, Ma'am. May I say you are looking pretty spectacular
yourself," Travis rejoined easily.
"You know, you can call me Margo."
"Alright Margo, so what would you like to do tonight?"
Margo started to giggle a little bit. "Travis, how long
have you been in town?"
"Not even 24 hours, why?" Travis asked curiously.
"You are a fast mover, aren't you?" Margo countered.
"Well, I've been told that before," Travis grinned
"Ok, why don't I show you around and you can pick a place
They walked off towards Margo's jag and took off.
THE SILVER STAR BAR SEVEN DAYS LATER
Things had been quiet. Benny Ray had come back from his business
trip to Alabama and he was told that a friend of his was in town.
He was happy to hear that Travis was around, because he could
be a lot of fun. Margo had not been around for seven days, which
had them all very nervous, this was not like Margo at all.
Margo came in that afternoon. Everyone wanted to know where
she had been in the past few days, including Matt.
She looked at all of them and said "Ok, you win. Nick
asked who he was. Well I met a guy on the beach last week and
we've been together ever since."
Benny Ray looked at her and started laughing.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Margo, is this guy about 5'10" tall, one hundred
and ninety-five pounds, has blue eyes, dark brown hair and with
a tattoo of a horse shoe on his right arm bicep."
"Who told you?" Margo looked at him really confused.
"Well it looks like you met 'Heartbreaker'." Benny
Ray replied with a grin.
"Friend of yours?" Margo asked sardonically.
"Well yeah, we were in force recon together, same outfit."
Benny Ray replied.
"Good, because he's meeting me here in a little while."
Nick looked at Benny Ray. "He use another name besides
"Yeah Nick, he does. His name's Travis Collins."
Benny Ray grinned disarmingly. Upon hearing this. Matt started
laughing and Nick was frowning. "Hey Boss, what's so funny?"
Benny Ray asked.
"Well, when he first came in here, he put all these beers
away. Nick asked him if he was related to Stephen Collins and
when he dropped his name, Nick here tried to knock him out, but
was almost fed his wrist," Matt explained.
"Well sir, Nick got off lucky then, because Travis would
rather fight than take anyone's crap. Delvecchio, what do you
have against the man?"
"It's personal - something between me and his brother,"
"Well Nick," Benny Ray explained, "take it
up with his brother. Just in case you don't know, Travis can't
stand his brother - some kind of family feud they had when they
Travis walked into the bar, not knowing what to expect. Margo
had told him she wanted him to meet some of her friends. He noticed
Margo sitting with three men, two he had run into when he first
arrived. He looked at the third man whom he recognized, but had
not seen in a very long time and his face broke out into a welcoming
He approached the group very slowly and pulled up a chair
after kissing Margo on the cheek. The waitress came over and
he ordered a beer.
"Travis, I'd like you to meet Matt, Nick and I guess
you already know Benny Ray." Margo performed the introductions.
"Been awhile, compadre," Benny Ray greeted, after
slapping Travis on the back.
"Amigo it surely has!" "So the corps let you
"Was more of a mutual parting of the ways, Benny Ray."
Matt was looking at Travis. "Benny Ray told us about
some kind of feud, that you and your brother have. What's it
"Stephen and I had a falling out years ago. He choose
the DEA and I choose the military. We've never seen eye to eye
on much. He always thought I should have stayed home and worked
the ranch with our father," Travis replied.
"So I take it, you're both pretty strong willed."
"You could say that."
"But what I want to know is, what's with your friend
here?" Travis looked at Nick
"What did I do?" Nick asked plaintively.
"Well for one thing friend, you started something with
me, that you should have taken up with my brother. So if you
ever do it again, you and I are gonna dance out in the alley
and you'll find out just how mean I can get," Travis replied
with a growl.
"That a threat?"
"Nope, a promise!"
Benny Ray moved closer towards Nick and whispered in his ear.
"If I were you Delvecchio, I'd leave him alone."
The waitress came with a new round of drinks and Travis paid
"Travis, mind if I ask you a question?"
"Sure thing, Matt!"
"Just what are your plans for Margo?" Matt asked,
ignoring Margo's protests that he has no right to ask that sort
of thing, and that she is a big girl and can look after herself.
"Well sir, I see that as none of your business,"
Travis retuned, taking Margo's side before he remembered something
of a conversation he had with Benny Ray previously. "Let
me guess, you're all in the same business as Benny Ray."
"Well, how did you know about that?" Matt asked.
"Well sir, I got a call from Benny Ray about two years
ago, telling me he was still doing what he was trained for. So
it just occurred to me that you might be calling the shots with
"Very good! Benny Ray told us you were pretty smart."
They were all drinking their glasses when Trout walked in.
He signaled to Matt, who got up from the table and met him half
way. They walked upstairs to his office.
The two men took no time in getting down to business. Trout
handed Matt a folder. "Matt, this is top priority and needs
your personal attention immediately."
"Trout what is it this time?"
"Should be a simple snatch job in Africa; since Force
recon botched the assignment and was unable to get the virus
before it was sold."
"What virus, Ebola?"
"Your group is going to the Congo. Whatever you need
- transpo or hardware just ask."
Trout then left. Matt stood there thinking for a minute. Margo
came in and asked what Trout wanted. He handed her the folder
and looked at her. "Do you think you can tear yourself away
from your friend?"
"Of course! He'll understand about my work."
"Good! Assemble the troops and we'll go over this in
Margo then left the office and headed for the bar.
OUT IN THE BAR
Benny Ray and Travis had left Nick and went to another table.
They sat down with their drinks in their hands.
"Well amigo, I really can't believe the corps let you
go," Benny Ray said.
"Well that last op kind of turned my blood cold Benny
Ray. Our orders said one thing, but the LT said we're going to
do this. The whole thing turned into trouble from the word go,"
"So where were you?" Benny Ray asked.
"You know the rules buddy, it's classified and a need
to know basis. You don't have the need to know," Travis
Both men laughed. Margo approached and told Benny Ray that
the eagle had landed. He got up, bid his friend good bye and
left the scene. She then sat next to Travis and began to speak,
"I need to leave on business. So please no questions, ok?"
"Margo, I understand, believe me! But if you're not back
in a week's time, I'm coming after you."
"You'd better." She then kissed Travis good-bye,
and headed down the stairs.
BASEMENT OF THE SILVER STAR
They all assembled in the basement while Matt went through
his mission briefing. He eluded to the fact that the Marines
botched the job which made Benny Ray angry. "Well Boss,
personally I don't think the Marines could of botched it up.
They're too well trained."
"Benny Ray, I knew you would say that, but the mission
debriefs say otherwise."
The team then got busy and headed out.
TWO DAYS LATER - HERMOSA BEACH
Travis had been keeping himself busy by taking runs on the
beach - early in the morning and again at sunset. He could not
believe that he could miss a single woman so much. On his runs
he had thought of Margo and how much she was his equal in just
about all facets of their relationship.
But something still bothered him. While running along the
beach, Travis had seen the same two men twice today and he felt
it was no accident. But when he approached them, they ran in
two different directions and he didn't know why. But he did wonder
what was going on. After his run, he made a phone call to Donna
to see how everyone was. He was told that they were all fine
and that she missed him very much. He told her to call Stephen,
to find out what was going on. Donna said that she would do that.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING - TRAVIS' MOTEL ROOM.
Travis was sleeping, when heard a sharp knock on his door.
He rolled over and glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside
table - 4:30am. "Who the hell was it at this hour?"
he thought. He picked up the Berretta 9mm by the clock, checked
through the peephole on the door and answered the knock. He waited
and two men walked in. One he knew, the other was a stranger.
"Well Stephen, what brings you here?" Travis asked.
"A call I received from Donna. She's worried about you."
"Ok older brother, we'll talk, but your goon waits outside."
The man turned on Travis and was suddenly looking down the
barrel of a 9mm pistol.
"Like I said son, wait outside." The man moved outside
"Ok Travis, what's going on?" Stephen asked his
"Are you having me followed, Stephen?" Travis replied
with a questioning glance.
"No, why would I?" Stephen replied evasively.
Travis put the pistol down and started making some coffee.
"Ok Stephen, yesterday, when I was running along Hermosa
Beach in the morning and afternoon, I noticed two gentlemen,
both dressed nicely and both black. Same guys - both times. It
was definitely a tail." He handed over the coffee mug to
"Did you try talking to them?" Stephen asked, taking
the coffee mug and settling into a chair.
"Yes, but they ran in two different directions."
Travis stood by door to the lounge, taking a gulp from his mug.
"Travis, you were definitely being followed," Stephen
"Well thank you for the news flash older brother,"
Travis said with sarcasm in his voice.
"Travis, all I can do, is make some calls and that's
"I'll take what ever I can get." The two brothers
finished their coffee and then Stephen headed for the door.
"Stephen, before you go, what did you ever do to a guy
named Nick Delvecchio?"
Stephen stopped suddenly and he looked at Travis. "Sorry
little brother, it's a need to know basis and you don't need
"Very good Stephen! Did you learn that on your own?"
"No, but it's private and personal though." With
that, Stephen left, but he wondered how his brother knew Nick
FOUR DAYS LATER - THE SILVER STAR
The team returned after a successful mission in the Congo,
but Matt didn't say a word to Margo, and she left it at that.
Combined with the late hour that they had returned, she did not
want to get into it. She just put her things away, quietly left
the building out the backdoor, got into her car and drove away.
Benny Ray had decided to stay and do some weapons maintenance,
while Nick and Margo left. He cleaned their subguns, pistols
and put them up on their pegs. Matt stayed and cleaned his own
Benny Ray then grabbed a beer from the fridge and spoke. "Boss,
I think you should have talked to Margo at least."
"Benny Ray, you know that I value your opinion, but she
froze! There is no excuse for that."
"But everything turned out for the best, Boss."
Matt knew what his friend was saying. He knew that most people
froze, but Margo was not most people. "Benny Ray, can you
call your friend in the morning and have him stop by sometime
tomorrow, so we can have a little talk?"
"Sure boss! Not a problem, but a word to the wise. Tread
carefully with him."
"Yeah, I get the impression from what he did to Nick,
that he is one person not to get upset with."
Benny Ray looked at him and nodded in agreement.
TRAVIS' MOTEL ROOM
Margo used the key Travis had given her to his room. She opened
the door slowly and entered quietly. Travis awoke suddenly and
watched while she took off her blouse and jeans, put them on
a chair and slipped into bed beside him. She very carefully kissed
him on the cheek.
He spoke, "Welcome back darlin."
She moved into Travis' arms, as he deepened their kiss. Later
she fell asleep. He watched her sleep and let his thoughts drift
back to his Mother. She had told him that he would know if he
was with the right woman, everything would be okay. He drifted
off to sleep. They slept for hours before Travis woke up to a
banging on the door. He got up, checked the peephole and saw
that it was Stephen. He opened the door and said, "Stephen,
what the hell are you making that racket for? Come in."
Margo awoke to find the bed empty. As she was just sitting
herself up, all hell broke loose. Stephen had come into the room
and had seen Margo in bed. "Travis, I think you should get
rid of the whore because this is important," he said.
Travis didn't think, he just hit his older brother in the
gut. "Stephen, apologize to the lady," he gritted.
"Sorry Miss," Stephen apologized, as he rubbed at
his stomach. "I didn't realize that you're Travis' lady!"
"You're Travis' brother then," Margo said coolly,
as she looked over at Stephen.
"People do call us that, but it's more like Cain and
Abel." Stephen walked over and sat in a chair. He looked
over at Travis who was sitting on the bed. "Well Travis,
what did you do to piss someone off in the Congo?"
"Stephen, it was my last assignment," Travis answered.
"Because your two tails are enforcers for one of the
war lords there," Stephen replied.
"Thanks, that's all I needed to know."
"Whatever you do little brother, be careful."
Stephen stood up, looked over at Margo and asked. "How
on earth did my little brother get you? You're not exactly his
Margo flashed him a look of disbelief and told him to get
out. Stephen called over to his brother and told him that he
was leaving. He said his goodbyes and went out the door.
Travis stood up, opened his alice pack and withdrew a sig
P229 in 357 sig.
"Travis what's going on?" Margo asked.
"Margo, I wish I could tell you, but I can't without
the proper clearance."
"Well, then." She was not happy with his answer
and she stomped off to the bathroom. The phone rang, he answered
it and told the person on the other end he would talk with him
later. When Margo came out of the bathroom, she was dressed and
ready to go.
"Look Margo, if I could tell you I would, but it's classified."
"Travis, I understand that, but I've had a bad week."
Travis walked over to her, took her in his arms and kissed
her on the forehead. "Margo, let's get some breakfast."
She nodded in agreement and they both left the motel room.
SILVER STAR - AFTERNOON.
Travis and Margo walked in around noon, saw Nick and Benny
Ray having what seemed to be quite an intense conversation. Margo
walked over to them and took a seat. Travis bought a couple of
beers at the bar and was joined by Benny Ray.
"Amigo, a word to the wise. The Major is not very happy
right now and he thinks you're to blame," Benny Ray explained
"Come again, Benny Ray?" Travis asked, feeling puzzled.
"What exactly have I done?"
Benny Ray steered him to an empty table and told him what
to expect when he went to talk to Matt.
"Amigo, thanks for the heads up," Travis said gratefully.
"No problem, Compadre," Benny Ray said.
They both got up and joined the others at the table. Surprisingly,
Nick was laughing. Benny Ray looked at Nick. "All right
Delvecchio, what's so funny?"
"Margo told me that your buddy here, must really dislike
his own brother to hit him like that," Nick said laughingly,
gesturing towards Travis.
Travis downed his beer and stared right at Nick. "Friend,
if our daddy had heard what he called Margo, they'd still be
fighting behind the wood shed."
"Oh! Not more hillbilly talk!" exclaimed Nick.
Travis looked at Margo "I'll be back soon. I have some
business to take care of with your boss."
Margo looked stunned when she heard it. "Travis what's
"Well I don't really know, but I'm gonna find out."
With that, Travis stood up from the table.
Margo got up and told him. "Then, I'm going with you."
Travis sat Margo back down and explained they were only going
to have a talk and that was all. He stood up again, then leaned
down to her and kissed her on the cheek. Travis walked back to
Matt's office and knocked on the door.
"ENTER.," he heard Matt yell and into the office
"I was told you wanted to see me about something,"
Travis told Matt.
"Yes I did, Collins," Matt replied.
"Then let's hear it then," Travis pulled up a chair
and sat down in front of Matt.
"Alright, I'll get to the point of all this. Margo froze
on our last mission and I think you have a share in some of the
Travis got up angrily and put the chair back. "Very convenient
for you to have someone to blame! Let me ask one question. How
long does your team rest in between missions?"
"Sometimes days and other times there maybe weeks or
"For one thing Shepherd, anyone can freeze in a combat
situation. Me, you and maybe even Benny Ray, Delvecchio - now
there is a possibility," Travis said with a ice-cold glance
"Look Collins, I'm only looking for answers here."
Matt was also getting worked up.
"Wrong! You're looking for a scapegoat and I'm it, because
I'm with the one person you want to be with yourself."
"Where are you getting this from?" Matt asked.
"I've noticed how you look at her," Travis said.
"Collins, we're only friends," Matt said heavily.
"Keep telling yourself that and maybe you'll stop believing
it some day."
Matt opened his mouth to retort, but Travis had opened the
door and left the office. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs
to give himself some time to recover his thoughts and then he
rejoined the others at their table.
TWO DAYS LATER THE BOOGALOO CAFÉ
Travis and Margo were out for dinner and dancing and the restaurant
seemed to have just the right atmosphere they were looking for.
They ate, drank and danced till the placed closed at midnight.
They paid their bill and left but something outside disturbed
Margo greatly when she saw a man sitting on the hood of her Jag.
Travis recognized the man as one of his shadows. He suddenly
heard a click that sounded like a safety being released from
a pistol. His fears were realized when the man appeared close
to Margo holding a Browning Hi power. Travis was searched and
his weapon was found, Margo was also searched and her weapon
found. Margo looked at Travis and told her to go along with what
was going on. They were then put in a car and driven to a hotel
in LA. Then they were taken to the penthouse.
THE PENTHOUSE ATOP THE LA MARRIOTT.
They were brought inside a well-furnished room and made to
"Travis, what the hell is going on?"
"Well, Margo, I wish I knew."
A door opened and a tall black man emerged in a tailored suit
and tie accompanied by the two men that Travis knew were following
"Well, Sergeant Collins, we finally meet again."
"Well, Motoumbo, it seems as if you've come up in the
"Yes, amazing what an assassination will do."
" Yeah it is."
The man moved to the bar and poured himself a drink.
"Collins, the reason I am here is to meet with the UN.
To start a peace dialogue with my neighbors since the outbreak
of Ebola. I need you to introduce me to a Dr. Donna Warren."
"You can forget it, she's retired."
Margo was quiet during all of this but she came to the conclusion
that this not only had something to do with Travis's last mission
but also tied in with hers."
"You see, I have tried calling your sister but no one
answers the phone."
This worried Travis a great deal. He felt an urge to call
his sister, Donna, right away but put it out of his mind for
"I'm the one you want so how about letting my friend
The man laughed very loud. "I may be from the Congo but
I am not stupid." One of his men put their guns on the coffee
"Well it seems as if you both have good taste in firearms;
two SIGs, one a man's gun and the other definitely a woman's
His bodyguards moved around behind them. Travis noticed one
of them had a compact stainless steel pistol. Margo turned to
give this guy a piece of her mind. As she did she met Motoumbo's
gaze. "You do realize that you may end up dead?"
Motoumbo just laughed again. "A threat by a women how
interesting. Once Collins is killed my dear we shall have some
Travis knew he had one chance and very quickly made his move
by dropping down and coming around with a high leg whip, which
caught his man behind the knee. As his adversary fell Margo immediately
hit the deck and carried out the same maneuver. Travis was on
top of his man very quickly. He relieved him of his gun while
controlling him with a wrist lock. He tucked the man's gun into
his jeans and tightened his grip. He then stepped over his shoulder
with his leg and jerked his arm across his shoulder until he
heard a crack which told him bone and cartilage were broken.
He then broke the man's wrist by applying more pressure. He was
rewarded by a sharp crack in the wrist so he then let the man
go. The man stayed on the ground screaming in pain. His partner
had gotten up and made a move for his holstered gun but he had
no chance as Travis came up with the shiny S&W 45 Recon and
shot him twice in the chest. Margo picked up their guns and they
TRAVIS'S MOTEL ROOM
Travis had decided his place was not safe any more so he packed
his things and attached everything to his Harley. Margo helped
him pack up and she pulled two gun cases from the closet.
"Travis what are these for? The pistols I can see, but
He looked at Margo who was looking for answers and he thought
she had a right to know after what she had been through this
evening. He took each gun out of its case. "Margo the shotgun
is a Mossberg 590A1 given to me by my grandfather before he died
a few years ago. The other is a Winchester 88 given to me by
my father when I was old enough to hunt. Ask Benny Ray he has
seen me take deer with it as far away as 450 yards." He
zipped up the bags and tied them to his bike.
"Travis those were not the answers I needed."
"I know those will be forthcoming. Just be patient, OK?
I really need to find another place to sleep and live."
Margo gave him a stern look. "You're staying at my place
and I'm not taking no for an answer."
"OK you win." He got on his bike and followed Margo.
Travis and Margo moved his things in as it was getting pretty
late. He picked up the phone and called his sister in Odessa.
He got an answer but it was an FBI agent. He was told practically
nothing, which angered him even more. Then he was told about
his niece and he got even madder. Margo entered the room and
asked if everything was all right.
"Well Margo I called my sister and she's missing. Plus
I learned my niece Beth, who's seven, is not talking to anyone.
She just watches the yard and clutches a necklace I gave her
a few years ago. "
"Travis, talk to Matt in the morning. He knows someone
who can get you some answers."
"Margo I'm just gonna sit here for now. It's getting
late why don't you get some rest and I'll be in soon."
Travis opened one of his bags and took out an olive drab blackhawk
assault vest and checked his Ka-bar and that his other things
were attached. He then took his Beretta and made sure it was
loaded and holstered it. He then put his things away and went
off to bed.
THE SILVER STAR
By the time Margo and Travis got to the Silver Star it was
around 1:00pm and Travis finally got through to his brother-in-law
and not the damn FBI. When he called again, this time he tried
Tim's cell phone. Tim told him that that the FBI, DEA, NSA and
the CIA were all over the place. As they approached the bar they
noticed two government cars out front; one a silver Mercury with
two armed guards, the other a black vehicle with the same big
burly guard his brother used. Margo entered the bar with out
incident but the big bodyguard made an issue of Travis waiting
in the car. Travis quickly turned the tables on the big man by
bringing his knee up in the man's gut and grabbing his family
jewels. Travis spoke, "You know I really don't like you
one bit and the next time you get in my way you'll be wishing
you were dead. He then entered the bar, and ordered a shot of
`old grand dad` to settle his nerves. He noticed that the place
was full of activity and saw Stephen coming out of a rest room
and going into Shepherds office. He quickly followed suit.
As Travis entered the office he noticed Matt behind his desk.
Benny Ray, Margo and Nick, who looked like he wanted to spit
nails, were sat on a couch. He then noticed his brother, a dark
haired woman and the man who had briefed his men on their expedition
into the Congo, who handed Matt a file. Travis' brother grabbed
him by the arm and dragged him outside the office.
"Travis what the hell do you think you're doing. This
is a closed meeting! I thought I gave instructions to Lou to
put you in my car and for you to wait there for me."
"Well right now your boy is having a hard time breathing,
plus he's in a lot of pain."
"What did you do to him? Never mind I don't want to know."
"Look older brother what's going on with Donna?"
Trout emerged from the room and asked them both inside. Trout
handed Travis an envelope that contained his reactivation papers.
"You're kidding right?"
"Afraid not, you've been recalled, Sergeant Collins."
Travis looked at the man.
"Well you can go to hell, because I'm not going anywhere
under Marine Corps. Orders."
Margo stood and looked at Matt.
"He should not be included in this, he's a civilian Matt
and you have always said we don't work with civilians."
Matt rubbed his temples and looked at her because she seemed
"Margo you're right, but the man is qualified to go on
this mission, more so than any of us."
She threw her hands up in disgust and sat down. Travis grabbed
a chair and also sat. Trout introduced everyone present. Then
the women took over. She introduced herself as Patricia Akkerman.
"Approximately three weeks ago three vials of Ebola virus
were sold in the Netherlands to a man named Frank Martin, the
leader of an outlaw biker gang who operates in Texas. Among their
activities are drug smuggling and gun running. Plus, as of late
yesterday afternoon, the leading authority on Ebola went missing.
A Doctor Donna Warren. I will be going with you because the CIA
is involved in this big time."
Stephen Collins introduced himself as deputy director of the
DEA. "Look, we have a man in deep cover with them and want
him to remain intact."
Travis looked at his brother and spoke. "Stephen if these
are the guys who took Donna then they got themselves a problem
after I get her back."
"Travis you are only involved in this as a guide for
these people and nothing else and only because you're the one
Grandpa took hunting and fishing along the border."
Travis got up, threw the chair and grabbed his brother by
the tie and pulled him in close. "Stephen I care what happens
to our sister even if you don't. Besides don't you care about
what's happened to Beth?"
"Travis all that is unfortunate but other things proceed
Travis then slammed his brother into a wall. "Stephen
if she gets hurt it's you'll I'll come after and give you the
beating our father should have given you a long time ago."
Trout spoke again. " There's another problem. Francis
Motoumbo is raising hell. It appears he has no bodyguards left."
Margo got up and spoke. "Trout that's his own fault.
He took Travis and me by force last night."
"So which one of you put his man in the hospital and
shot the other?"
Travis let go of Stephen and stepped forward.
"That would be me."
As he tossed Trout the S&W 45 Recon. Can you tell me how
he got that gun?"
Trout then tossed it back.
Matt stood, " All right people lets get packed, we leave
in three hours. Collins what will we need as transport?"
" Two hummers, non military should work fine. If you'll
excuse me I need to get a few personal items."
Margo threw him her keys and he was off.
THE BASEMENT OF THE SILVER STAR
Travis returned with two bags plus a pack. Benny Ray came
out of the armory and greeted his friend. He had laid out two
MP5'SD's and two car-15's, one with an M203 grenade launcher.
Benny Ray also had a snipers rifle out. "Amigo, help yourself".
Travis walked into the room and pulled down one weapon, an
HK53 that he fitted with a silencer. "That's it compadre."
Benny Ray looked at him a bit confused.
"Amigo look in the rifle cases."
Benny Ray examined each one. In the first he found a combat
shotgun with a sling that held fifty rounds. He closed the bag
and opened the second and found a Winchester 88 with a powerful
scope on top. All the bags were put into an SUV and they were
off. Miss Akkerman was very quiet all the way to the airport.
She knew she was an outsider but it seemed everyone accepted
the other outsider, probably because he was ex-military.
They climbed aboard their flight heading for Texas. It would
take them about four hours to get on the road from Fort Hood.
Since they were in west Texas Travis needed to stop in Odessa
first. Then they would proceed south.
THE WARREN RESIDENCE IN ODESSA TEXAS
Travis walked to the door with Benny Ray and everyone else
took a look around. Patricia went with Margo. They saw a little
girl sitting on a tractor clutching a Marine Corp. medallion
made of silver. They both tried talking to the girl but the only
thing she would say was "He will come. He promised if I
wished hard enough."
They left the little girl and noticed a lot of motorcycle
tracks. All the law enforcement was gone except for one FBI agent
waiting for the phone to ring. Benny Ray and Travis emerged from
the house and heard Nick complaining about the heat. Travis walked
over to him and told him.
"It's cool for this time of year."
Travis noticed his niece who had been kept home from school
sitting on the tractor he walked over to her.
"Beth I'm back." The little girl jumped into Travis'
arms. He caught her on the fly. "Beth lets you and me go
inside and have some lemonade and you can tell me about who took
mommy all right?."
The little girl nodded and took her uncle's hand.
Once inside Travis sat his niece down and went to the refrigerator
and, just like he remembered from his last visit, there was a
full pitcher of home made lemonade inside. He poured two glasses;
one for Beth and one for himself.
The kitchen was empty besides the old hound that lay in the
"Beth who took your mother?"
"Men on motorcycles like yours and Daddy's."
Travis took a sheet of paper and drew something on it. Then
slid it across the table.
"Did any of them wear this symbol on their backs or as
"Yes they did."
"OK honey now for something more serious. You know that
I can't be here every time you need me right. You should have
trusted your Dad more."
"I know but Grandpa said you would always turn things
"Well Grandpa was right honey, I will. But right now
I want you to listen to your dad and Uncle Stephen if he's ever
Travis got up and kissed his niece on the forehead. Then walked
into the living room where Matt and Benny Ray were looking at
his brother in law's gun cabinet.
"Well Ole buddy this guy has some nice stuff."
"Yeah but you really have not seen anything yet."
"Tim I need a few things that I left with you before
I left the last time."
"These guys are not gonna confiscate anything are they?"
Matt spoke up. "Sir we're not law enforcement, unlike
Agent Moore here."
"All right gentlemen, follow me."
They were lead to a closet. He punched in some numbers and
the door opened. Rows of sporting weapons were lined up on one
side and an old BAR was mounted on pegs in the corner along with
boxes of ammo. Benny Ray gave out a whistle.
"Boss, every house needs one of these type of rooms."
"Yeah, no kidding."
Travis took down a big semi auto pistol and he helped himself
to some ammo for it. He also took a Springfield M1A1 national
match fitted with a sniper's scope and a can of magnesium tipped
ammo for it along with two mags. He then checked the pistol and
inserted a loaded magazine into the well. Benny Ray noticed it
was a Dessert Eagle chambered for .357 magnums. He then put everything
into a duffel bag and headed out towards the humvees.