Somewhere in South America
He stood in front of the mirror fingering the puckered scar on his cheek. But it wasn't his face he saw framed in the mirror. A blue-eyed stranger stared back at him and that stranger would pay with his life for scaring him and destroying everything. He'd hunted and searched for this man for nearly six months. Money could buy most anything and five minutes ago the call had come. The man had been found in Hermosa Beach California and Benny Ray Riddle was his name.
Morgan's dreams had crumbled that day in that warehouse. Kane was dead and his mother's death remained unavenged. He had adored his mother, idolized her in fact. She was the angel who walked beside him. Everyday she would write a little poem and leave it by his bed. It always said "I Love You" and she signed it with a little red heart.
She had been the only one who had ever understood the emotions raging inside. She had been horrified that morning when she walked into his room twenty years ago and found the little beige and white hamster gutted and pinned to the wall. But she had overcome her horror trying to understand why he had done it and channel those energies in other directions. His lust for blood and violence was tempered by the gifts she gave him - her time, her energy but mostly her love. Morgan had been a brilliant child but a chemical imbalance in his brain had tempered that brilliance. In reality she had recognized his brilliance for what it was - insanity. His mother's brilliance hid his insanity from the world.
His father was a police officer, killed in the line of duty by drug dealers when he was eighteen. Morgan wanted revenge. His mother again channeled those energies, encouraging him to study law enforcement and join the DEA. Morgan rose to the top of the DEA ranks he had become one of the most brilliant agents in DEA history. His cases were legendary. Many of the major cartels had been destroyed because of his exacting work. Yet each case was discussed with his mother before he made a move. Little did his peers or superiors know that he was seeking his revenge. Under cover of a mission he dealt death and destruction to those that that he felt deserved it. Many of his cases had seen men drawn and quartered or disemboweled, all were written off as Cartel vengeance. Ten years after his fathers' death all those involved were dead most had died horrible death and Morgan had been the dealer.
When his mother died Morgan had lost control. His rock had turned to quicksand and his mind snapped. To those who had killed her and their loved ones his vengeance would be swift and complete. None would survive!
One man had caused those plans to crumble and that man would pay dearly with his life and the lives of the people he worked with, already his men were searching for Rico Velasquez, Sherri Thornton and Diana Amberleigh.
La Paz, Bolivia
Sherri had known someday that Morgan would return she just hadn't counted on it being today. Two hours ago she had been forcefully taken from her apartment, gagged and tied up. She was now sitting in the front seat of a van outside the DEA office. She watched as all her friends and co-workers entered the building, yet unable to reach out and warn them of impending disaster.
Beside her Morgan sat quietly running his thumb across the scar on his cheek. Looking at his watch he says, "It's time Sherri, say goodbye."
Sherri tries to scream but through the gag it comes out as a muffled yelp. In front of her eyes the building explodes sending shards of glass and mortar through the air. Her eyes fill with tears knowing no one could have survived that. Tears fill her eyes as Morgan nods to the driver and they pull away.
The head of the DEA receives the call less than five minutes later. Five DEA agents dead, yet he knew there were six agents working out of that office. At the same time he receives an e-mail. "Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep, yet no one knows where to find her." In the bottom corner of the e-mail a broken little black heart is emblazoned.
Coronado Naval Base
Rico and his partner were almost finished with their shift as the call came in. Sliding into the passenger seat, Rico cringes as a sleepy eyed Jeff grinds the gears putting the big ambulance into reverse. Shrugging Jeff grins, mouthing sorry as he backs the truck onto the street.
The call took them to a small abandoned building near the airstrip - a heart attack. Dawn was breaking as they pulled up. Grabbing their gear Jeff puts his shoulder to the door and it flies inward. Though the inside is dimly lit both men can see that the tiny one room building is empty. As they walk outside Jeff reaches for the radio on his shoulder, instead he looks down in shock reaching for the knife sticking out of his left side. Six men converge on Rico dragging him to the ground. Fiercely he fights but the odds are too great and he can't win free. Tied and gagged they drag him to his feet as Morgan steps in front of him. "Mr. Velasquez, how wonderful to see you again. It's too bad about your friend though. But someone must pay for your mistakes, cackling laughter erupts as Morgan says, "and he's it." Reaching down Morgan pulls the knife from Jeff's side. Writhing in agony Jeff is unprepared as Morgan grabs him by the hair and slits his throat." Tears well from Rico's eyes as he furiously kicks his captors. Laughing Morgan nods and a tall man standing off to the side steps in dealing Rico a hard blow to the back of his head.
When the ambulance fails to report a Police car is dispatched to the their location. One of the officers is overcome as he finds the torn body of Jeff lying beside the building. Pasted to the window a lone piece of white paper carries the words. "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack failed to jumped over that candle stick." Emblazoned in the left corner is the symbol of a broken black heart.
Vale Emergency Clinic
Diana was at the office a mountains of paperwork waited in her inbox, coming in early had been her only option. Maria the office manager had also come in early complaining of the same problem. Standing by the front desk the two of them sipped coffee and shared a laugh. Groaned in anticipation of tackling the paperwork. From behind them the doors are thrown open and several men rush through. Four of them reach for Diana as she begins to struggle, breaking one's nose she's slowly brought under control by the other three then bound and gagged. The hapless Maria stands wide-eyed in fear between two large men. Morgan is the last to walk through the door his arms folded behind his back. Standing in front of Diana he reaches up taking her chin in his hand as he whispers, "Ah the fair Diana, I have been waiting so long to meet you. You have committed a grave crime my dear and this poor woman will have to pay for your mistake." Nodding Morgan's men begin to beat Maria mercilessly. Screaming and kicking in fury Diana's tear stained eyes can only watch in horror.
Nodding once more Morgan watches as the man standing behind Diana plunges a syringe into her shoulder. Slowly Diana sinks into unconsciousness.
Walking out the door, a piece of paper taped to Maria's chest says, "Little Miss Muffet sat on her Tuffet eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider and sat down beside her and stole little Miss Muffet away." The little black heart's sinister presence was Morgan's calling card.
Silver Star Hotel
Sitting behind his desk Matt is surprised when the secure phone beside his desk rings. "Shepherd," he answers. The voice on the other end cracks with emotion as Trout says, "Matt, we have a problem"
Leaning back in his chair Matt sigh, "What kind of problem would that be?"
Clearing his throat, Trout continues, "Two days ago the DEA office in La Paz was blown up five agents killed and Sherri Thornton is missing. A nursery rhyme was sent to the director's office. Less than two hours ago, Rico Velasquez went missing his partner had his throat slit." "A second nursery rhyme was attached to their ambulance."
"Morgan," Matt says swearing.
"I think so," Trout answers. "I've got a call in to Diana right now but I haven't received an answer. I suggest you get the rest of your team together, find out if anyone else is missing. I'm sending everything we have to Miss Vincent's account. Take care Matt, this could get ugly"
"It already is," Matt replies before hanging up. Dialing furiously Matt reaches the rest of his team giving them the priority one signal. Less than ten minutes later Margo and Nick walk through the door. Pacing the floor Matt is relieved when Benny Ray walks in five minutes later.
Margo working at the computer suddenly says, "Oh my God, Matt look at this."
Crowding around the computer the three men look over her shoulder as Margo shows them the pictures of the La Paz office and Rico's partner. Putting the little rhymes up on the screen Margo says, "What the hell is this?"
"He's taunting us," Benny Ray says quietly. "Who else is missing Major?"
"No one yet, Chance and CJ are on their way in, Deke is in DC and Matt stops speaking as the phone goes off answering it. Without a word he hangs up throwing the phone across the room. "Diana, was taken about thirty minutes ago, a co-worker was beaten to death. The left another nursery rhyme."
"That's the key," Margo says turning to Matt. "Look at this"
"The first one - Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep, talks about all of Sherri's co-workers being killed." "And yet no one knows where to find her means she's been kidnapped."
"The second one, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick is about Rico." "Last year Morgan put a hit out on Rico but he was nimble and quick and eluded capture, yet this time he didn't"
The Last one Little Miss Muffet sat on her Tuffet is Diana, which we know. But Morgan had no history with her, his only encountered was in the warehouse the final reference is he stole her away." "These aren't just nursery rhymes Matt, they have a story - they are riddles."
Standing up slowly Benny Ray goes still. Beside him Matt says, "Riddle, he's centering his revenge on Benny Ray but why?"
"Matt," Margo says quietly, "Benny Ray is the one who shot Morgan." Turning to Benny Ray she says, "By being there, by killing Kane, his mind has picked you has his target."
"I didn't kill Kane," Benny Ray answers, "Morgan did."
"In his mind Benny Ray you are the one responsible for Kane's death, and foiling his plans. If I'm correct, he's going to come for you next. Sherri, Rico and Diana are his means of getting to you."
"Jeez," Nick whispers in the background, "I knew the man was a psycho, but this "
"I have to find them," Benny Ray whispers walking away.
"NO!" his teammates answer together.
"That's exactly what he wants Benny Ray, " "We'll do this together," Matt says angrily. Standing face to face they glare angrily at each other. But Matt is not going to back down on this one. "You're the target Benny Ray, either your part of this team or your not. I can't protect you if you go haring off after ghosts."
"Please Benny Ray," Matt murmurs.
Benny Ray's shoulders sag as he nods, knowing this time he wasn't going to be able to do the job alone.
The next few hours are fraught with tension as Margo diligently searches for any hint of where Morgan might have gone. Every contact, every friend had been queried, but so far nothing has turned up.
Beside her Nick's dialing finger was close to the blistering stage. Every DEA agent in the world was on alert hunting for Morgan.
It's nearing two pm as Matt's phone rings, the team jump to attention but Matt waves them back. "Benny Ray, come with me, there's someone upstairs asking for you."
"Roger Sir," Benny Ray says checking his weapon then returning it to its resting place in his belt before heading up the stairs. Cautiously Matt steps into the bar looking around. Standing beside the bar he saw a tall, slim woman her dark mahogany hair piled on top of her head. Though he had never met her, Matt knew this was Flame from Benny Ray's description. Giving Benny Ray the ok, Matt steps out of the way. Seeing Flame by the bar he walks up. Tears are barely controlled as Flame hugs him. "What the heck is going on Benny Ray," she asks? "Diana and I were supposed to meet for lunch, when I show up the police are everywhere. They say she's been kidnapped and another woman was killed."
"It's true," Benny Ray says, "and it's my fault."
"What," she asks?
Behind them Matt throws his hands up in disgust. "That's not true Benny Ray and you know it. This may be the result but you are not the cause. Downstairs now," Matt says, "We can't talk about this here."
It took Benny Ray about an hour to explain the situation. Flame immediately volunteered to help.
Two hours later Deke walks through the door his face grim, even he has been unable to trace Morgan's whereabouts.
It's almost 1930 before Chance and CJ's tired faces come walking in.
It's nearing midnight before Matt calls a halt. No one was going to sleep but he knew he had to make them try. Benny Ray had gone reluctantly to his room, nodding to Chance Matt watches as the big man follows him out. Whether he liked it or not Benny Ray wasn't going anywhere without an escort and Chance had first watch. The rest of the team slowly dispersed to their rooms, stretching sore muscles and rubbing tired red-rimmed eyes.
Leaning against the door jam with his arms crossed, Benny Ray waits as Chance comes around the corner. "So you're the first watchdog," Benny Ray says quietly.
Shrugging Chance then asks, "Do you want to talk."
"Not particularly," Benny Ray says his eyes empty and silent.
"I'm here if you need me," Chance says quietly.
Giving him a sad, tight smile Benny Ray says "Thanks," as he pushes himself away from the door. Heading for the bed he lies down fully dressed hands laced behind his head. He didn't even want to think about what Morgan might be doing to his friends. If he did he might just go crazy. Rico was a tough nut to crack, but from everything they'd seen in the last 24 hours Morgan was not going to let anyone out alive and Rico did not deserve to die. His whole life had been dedicated to saving people, first as a medic now and EMT.
Sherri had lost the most because of Morgan. It had torn her apart when he killed her friends and co-workers. Now it seemed he planned on seeing her dead too.
Pictures of a tall, smiling blonde, fly through Benny Ray's head, her laughter, her crazy sense of humor had touched his heart. The tender touch of her hands had soothed his pain yet taken him to the heights of passion. Her sweet gentle demeanor touched him where no other woman ever had. Frustrated he reaches out picking up the water glass beside the bed. Throwing it across the room, he doesn't even watch as it shatters against the wall. Sitting on the side of the bed his elbows resting on his knees, he rests his aching head in his hands. He was lost and he was having a hard time finding his way back.
In the hallway Chance hears the glass crash against the wall, peering into the room, he sees the hunched form of Benny Ray sitting on the edge of the bed. Stepping back into the hall, Chance closes his eyes, knowing there's not a dam thing he could do for his friend.
Morgan was frustrated his men had been unable to take Mr. Riddle. When they arrived he was driving away in a huge red pickup truck following him to a bar in Hermosa Beach. They had even seen him go in, but never come out. His men were even now surrounding the building. If he was still in the building Morgan knew he needed a plan to drive him out.
Silver Star Hotel
Tempers flared as another day of fruitless searching continued. Even a call from Trout had turned up negative. Morgan had disappeared completely with leaving a trace.
From above them in the bar the heard the sounds of shouting voices as footsteps can be heard coming down the stairs. Two fireman, come to a stop at the bottom of the stairs as one says. "I need you to please evacuate the building,"
Stepping up Matt say, "What's the problem?"
"There was a bomb threat called in on the building next to yours. EOD is on the scene now and they want this place evacuated just in case. "Please" the fireman, says, "it's for your own safety, we're only trying to do our job."
"Alright people grab your gear, let's go. Stay alert watch your back, this could be it."
Taking her computer and jacket Margo heads for the door, Nick, Deke, and CJ close behind. Grabbing his jacket from the back of the couch, Benny Ray follows Chance with Flame in front of him and Matt last securing the room as he walks out.
The walkway is filled with people milling around, watching as the police, fire and EOD squads try to work. Matt was on edge, if Morgan showed now a lot of people were going to get hurt. Swearing beneath his breath he looks around spotting his team about 20 feet ahead. The wait seemed to stretch interminably but still Morgan didn't show. Maybe it wasn't him after all.
Benny Ray stood silently on the edge of the crowd, one hand in his pocket his jacket draped over his arm. Chance and Flame stood less than ten feet away. But their attention was focused on the crowd when Benny Ray felt the muzzle of a gun press into his back and a voice whisper in his ear. "You make one move Mr. Riddle, or one sound and everyone here is going to die. Do you understand?" Nodding, Benny Ray waits. Thinking quickly Benny Ray hand searches for the key in his pocket, as the voice behind him speaks again. "Now back out slowly, if even one person notices, everyone is dead."
Scraping his hand across the sharp edge of the key Benny Ray draws blood. Backing out he wipes the blood on the jacket dropping it to the ground in the midst of the crowd. "Now Mr. Riddle," the man says poking him hard move toward the van and get inside. Stepping into the van Benny Ray is hit from behind and slumps to the floor unconscious.
Matt scans the area searching the rooftops and alleyways for any sign Morgan might be in the area. Turning back to the team he searches the crowd, Margo, Deke, and Nick are standing to his left, glancing right he find Chance and Flame, but the place where Benny Ray has so recently been standing is empty. Running the short distance he taps Chance on the shoulder asking, "Where's Benny Ray?"
"Damn," Chance yells spinning around. Soon the whole team is searching but find nothing. Widening the search they begin to ask the people in the crowd.
Standing back in Benny Ray's original spot, Flame begins to move toward the parking area. Seeing the crumpled jacket laying on the ground she spots the fresh blood smeared across the sleeve.
Running up to Matt, Flame holds out the jacket saying, "I found this over by the parking area, I think it may be his, there's blood on the sleeve."
It had been over five minutes since they discovered Benny Ray missing. Matt knew he was no longer nearby. Benny Ray was gone and they had no way of finding him.
"We'll find him Matt," Margo says
"Your damn right we'll find him," Matt says. Running his hands through his hair Matt turns to face the ocean overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness. First Sherri, next Rico, then Diana, now Benny Ray taken right out from under their noses.
By this time the crowd was beginning to disperse, the police and EOD finding nothing. Slowly Matt walks back toward the Silver Star his heart heavy with guilt. Opening the door to his office Matt slumps into his chair Benny Ray's jacket still held in his hand.
Standing in the doorway Margo quietly breaks in, "Matt, it's not your fault."
Looking up his eyes bleak with despair he says, "Yes Margo it is my fault. I made him stay here. I told him we could protect him. I put him in the cage and they took him. He would have been better off on his own, he knows how to hide, how to track better than anyone. It is my fault Margo, it's my fault," he whispers.
Margo knew nothing she could say or do at that moment would change the way he felt. Turning away her heart filled with sorrow she quietly closes the door behind her.
Benny Ray woke slowly his head pounding. Trying to move he finds his wrist and ankles bound to the floor, but worse a leather strap lay snugly across his neck.
A voice seeming to come from a great distance fills the void saying, "He's awake Sir!"
The rustling sounds of movement break the stillness as Morgan sits beside him. Studying his enemy Morgan fingers the scar on his cheek. "Do you know how long I've been looking for you Mr. Riddle?"
"Almost as long as I've been hunting you," Benny Ray answers.
"Very good Mr. Riddle!" Morgans cackling laughter fills the small space.
Morgan's eyes go hard as he looks at the man lying before him. "You did win the first round but it seem I have won the second, I do not think there is going to be a third, do you?"
Across from Benny Ray another one of his captors hands Morgan a syringe filled with a thick dark liquid.
"I owe you Mr. Riddle," Morgan eyes change, their depth taking on a smoky insane light as he continues his voice grows wilder with each word. "You destroyed everything, my home, my business, you killed my partner and my mother's death remains unavenged. How should I repay you?"
Staring down into Benny Ray's face his pupils wide and dilated his voice goes suddenly quiet. "I'm going to kill you Mr. Riddle, but first I'm going to make you suffer. I'm going to make you scream in agony, I'm going to watch your face as your friends scream in agony. Before your eyes I'm going to tear them apart. Then and only then Mr. Riddle will I kill you."
A fission of fear tingles through Benny Ray as he looks into Morgan's eyes. The man truly was insane and totally unpredictable.
Popping the cap off the syringe Morgan's cackling laughter erupts once more, "But first this," he says holding up the needle.
Benny Ray was prepared his eyes followed Morgan's hand, what he wasn't prepared for was the tearing pain as Morgan thrusts the needle deep into the muscle of left shoulder. Pressing the plunger Morgan sends his drug deep into Benny Ray's flesh.
Seconds later the drug takes hold, spreading it tendrils quickly into every nerve and fiber of Benny Ray' body. The tearing pain was only the beginning, fire sizzles across his body the nerve ending shatter beneath the onslaught. His body goes taunt as the nerves begin to fire then misfire sending his body into convulsions. The agony rips through him, but he doesn't make a sound. Time stops for Benny Ray as his world turns to flames. His hands clench and unclench as body shivers uncontrollably.
Morgan had expected screams of pain as the drug worked it's magic, his prior subjects had proven it so. Only it was he that screamed in frustration as he watched his victim silently writhes in agony. Pulling himself back under control Morgan looks at his enemy with hooded eyes. He liked a challenge and the man lying before was going to present him the greatest challenge of his life. Morgan smiled in anticipation.
Small Marina North of LA
Rico and Diana lay on the hard wood floor their muscles stiff and cramped with pain. They could feel the gentle swaying of the boat as it lay anchored. A day and a half had passed since their capture, Morgans' men had fed and watered them, but the small room beneath the deck was cramped and airless. Their gags had been removed but handcuffs had replaced the ropes at their wrists. They had been warned, threatened with drugging if either of them made a sound. The door was flung open and the blazing afternoon sun bathed the room in light, blinding its two occupants. A body was unceremoniously dumped into the room and the door closed behind him.
Diana's breath had caught in her throat at the sight of Benny Ray. Sliding across the floor she checked for a pulse, his pounding heart evidence that life still beat within him. Feeling him shivering, Diana gathered him into her arms, but his skin was hot to the touch.
"Something's wrong, Rico." Diana whispers. "It's almost like he's in convulsions, and it's only growing worse." Just then his body erupts into spasms. Hugging him tight Diana tries desperately to keep him from flailing about and causing more damage. Less then a minute later the spasms subside and the shivering lessens. Benny Ray's mind was awake he could hear the voices beside him but his body was wrapped in fire, he can do nothing now but endure.
Suddenly the door is thrown open and one-man steps inside as sirens erupt from close by.
"One sound, their captor warns and you'll die, do you understand." Putting tape over their mouths, he backs out of the room closing the door behind him. From above them they can hear muffled voices as the sirens come closer. For nearly forty minutes the sounds of muffle voices are heard all around them, then silence.
Later they heard the roar of engines as the boat begins its journey. Despair settles over them as they tear the tape from their mouth resting back against the hard wooden floor. Over the next four hours Benny Ray's shivers continue lessening slowly. Holding him close Diana whispering words of encouragement. Beside her Rico leans closer listening as she hums the tune to a child's lullaby.
Benny Ray came slowly back to life his head resting in someone's lap. Every bone and muscle in his body ached with exhaustion, but the fires had been quenched. He'd never felt such pain. Above him he could hear gentle breathing and the familiar scent of a perfume. The scent was that of spices and wood, she had called it Amber Incense. "Diana," he murmured.
"I'm here Benny Ray," she whispers gently caressing his cheek. "Rico is beside me."
Rolling over he tried to sit up, but his muscles just wouldn't respond. Above him Diana whispers, "Drink" holding a cup of water to his lip. "Then sleep if you can, you need to regain your strength."