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Author: Rattler.
Rating: Rated R for Violent content
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Rysher Entertainment. I am only borrowing them for  a bit, except for the characters I have developed.


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," Stephen replied.

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 newspaper.

"How long has Dad been this way, Donna?" Travis asked.

"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 was angry.

"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 Director."

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.


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 asked.

"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 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 Deputy.

"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 asked.

"Mr. Quinn wants everyone off the bank's land now," Henry explained.

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 to Travis."

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 a bit."

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 and Stephen.


Travis put a footlocker in his sister's Suburban.

"Donna, I want you to hold on to these for me, alright?" Travis asked.

"No problem Travis," Donna replied. "But what are they?"

"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.


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?" she asked.

"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 Collins?"

"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 myself."

"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.


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 go crazy.


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?" Travis asked.

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 disarmingly.

"Ok, why don't I show you around and you can pick a place tomorrow night."

"Fair enough."

They walked off towards Margo's jag and took off.


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." Margo replied.

Nick looked at Benny Ray. "He use another name besides 'Heartbreaker'?"

"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," Nick replied.

"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 were kids."

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 smile.

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 go too?"

"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 about?"

"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 for them.

"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 this group."

"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 five downstairs."

Margo then left the office and headed for 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," Travis replied.

"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 grinned.

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.


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."

"Yes Sir."

The team then got busy and headed out.


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.


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 very quickly.

"Ok Travis, what's going on?" Stephen asked his brother.

"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 his brother.

"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 stated firmly.

"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 it."

"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 to know."

"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 Delvecchio.


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 guns.

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.


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. "Why?"

"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 type."

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.


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 to Travis.

"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 going on?"

"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 he walked.

"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 blame."

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 months. Why?"

"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 at Matt.

"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.


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.


They were brought inside a well-furnished room and made to wait.

"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 him.

"Well, Sergeant Collins, we finally meet again."

"Well, Motoumbo, it seems as if you've come up in the world."

"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 the moment.

"I'm the one you want so how about letting my friend go?"

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 table.

"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 pistol."

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 fun."

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 left.


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 long guns?"

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.


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 very angry.

"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 it."

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.


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.


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 corner.

"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 a tattoo?"

"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 right."

"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 around."

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.

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