The Wind Runner
75 miles south of Key West, Florida
"How bout this one, Boss?" Benny Ray handed Matt
the map he had been using to navigate. "Theres a small
airstrip, maybe someonell have shelter."
"All right. Theres an inlet on the south side, circle
around and see what it looks like."
Benny Ray started to reply, but stumbled to the side as dizziness
washed over him. The pounding headache had not lessened any in
the past hour. "Rico, you take it."
"Will do buddy, are you okay?"
"Yeah." Benny Ray thought for a minute. "I think."
Rico had his hands full with the boat. The water was getting
choppy, with a strong current running in the opposite direction
of where they were headed. The south side of the island was sheltered
by large rock formations. The medic guided Wind Runner through
into a small harbor. A boat was moored in the middle. Rico asked
Margo for the fog horn and blew it for several seconds.
A figure soon appeared on the path leading to the beach. He did
not look happy about his visitors at all. Pushing a small outboard
into the water, the islands owner headed for the teams
boat. "I hope yall have a good reason for coming here."
The voice had a strong Southern accent, more pronounced than
"Yeah. Sorry for the intrusion, but were too far away
to reach a harbor before the hurricane hits." Matt studied
the other man. He had serious brown eyes that reminded Matt of
the look in Benny Rays sometimes. Thinning brown hair topped
a square face.
"Oh, right. Id forgotten bout that." The
man looked at the boat. "Well, come on, put out the anchor
and Ill give you a ride."
"Thanks. Rico, tell Margo and I what you need us to do."
"Hang on a sec...Margo?"
Margo came up from the cabin, where she had been waiting in case
"Jimmy?" A wide grin spread over her face."How
long has it been?!"
"Not since Prague..." Margo cut her sentence short
when she remembered the
rest of the team.
Jim returned her smile. "Lets get to the house."
"Nice place ya got here." Nick looked around the one
story ranch house.
"It suits my needs."
"So how do you know this dude, Margo?" The New Yorker
wasted no time in
"Later. Ive got food, that kid of yours looks hungry."
Ricky looked at Jim. "Im not a kid!"
"All right, young man. Lets go see what we have to
After dinner, Rico insisted on checking Benny Ray again. The
dizziness earlier worried him.
"Im good to go, honest. I think Im just tired."
Rico looked at him skeptically. "It didnt look like
that to me."
"What happened?" Jim asked.
Matt glanced at Margo, silently asking if this guy was trustworthy.
"Heres whats going on. Ill tell you as
much as I can."
It took Matt almost 15 minutes to brief Jim on their situation.
During that time, both Ricky and Benny Ray looked about ready
to pass out from exhaustion.
"Interesting. Sounds like yall have a real can of
worms there. Get some rest, I have space. Ill do some digging,
if this damn storm doesnt knock out my gear."
He got no arguments on that one. The team found places around
the house to crash, after dividing up guard shifts for Ricky.
Matt would take no chances, it wasnt his nature. The hurricane
didnt wake up the exhausted operators. The house was sheltered
by a cliff, minimizing the noise.
"Oh shit, Major!" Nicks yell woke Matt.
" Matt rolled off the couch and landed on
a sleeping Benny Ray, who
had stretched out on the floor next to the sofa. The sniper let
out a surprised yell and tried to get out from under Matt. Matt
grinned and stood up.
"This better be good, Nick." Benny Ray peered out from
under the pile of blankets that had landed on him.
Nick laughed nervously. "Id say, the boats are gone."
"Youre kidding, right?"
Margo looked at Nick.
"Nope." Benny Ray gazed out the window. "Theyre
Matt and Jim traded glances. "We have a plan."
"Yall are going to split up
" Jim began.
"Wait, thats never a good idea. Remember the last
time?" Margo said.
Benny Ray winced, he remembered the last time very well.
"We have to. Its not safe to have Ricky near his parents
until we find out the whole story." Matt looked at each
of his team members.
The plan was to have Matt, Margo, and
Nick go to Colorado in order to meet
with Rickys parents. They had a cabin for winter getaways
Deke had called with the location and had confirmed that the
couple was there. Matt had not bothered to ask why they werent
at the island house as originally briefed. There was a lot more
going on than the team knew. Answers would come, one way or another,
from Mr. and Mrs. Austin. Rico and Benny Ray would escort Ricky
to a safehouse unknown to anyone but the team members. Jim had
offered the use of his seaplane to ferry the team to the mainland.
They could catch flights from different airports. Matt took it
for granted that they were being followed.
"Sounds good, Matt." Margo grinned, she liked Colorado.
"Ill take you three first." Jim said. "The
other two can wait here with Ricky, itll be safe."
"What about weapons? Were kinda short, Boss."
Benny Ray asked.
"Got that covered." Jim answered. "In the basement,
The team found an arsenal down there. Everyone was able to outfit
themselves with favorites, and Rico refilled his first aid kit
"You sure you dont mind me taking this, amigo?"
Benny Ray held up a
"No prob. Just send it back if it survives the trip."
"Good idea, Benny Ray. So far theyve found us everywhere
weve gone. Find a spot on the cliff and watch out for guests."
Matt sounded tired. He couldnt wait for this to be over
Quickly pushing those thoughts from his mind, the major
began organizing the supplies for Colorado. Margo helped him
pack the computer and satellite commo equipment salvaged from
the boat. "That should do it, lets get going."
Benny Ray watched through the scope
as the small four-seat seaplane took off. Why did he always get
a bad feeling when they split up? As a sniper, he had often gone
on missions alone
but now was different. He had gotten used
to always having someone there to watch his back. He would do
the same for any of them. Splitting up just didnt feel
right. Although he would probably never say it aloud, the team
was like his family. Movement in the scope broke into his thoughts.
He zeroed in on the small object, waiting until it grew closer.
The boat was a fast Cigarette model, capable of speeds over 100
mph. Benny Ray could make out two people in it. "Rico, we
got tangos, inbound. Call Jim, see how fast he can get here."
"Roger that." A pause. "Hes 15 minutes out,
but hell need fuel."
"Too long, Im gonna move and see if I can slow them
down some." The sniper made his way down to a better spot.
The boat had to come ashore to the beach, it was the only place
that gave ready access to the island. The other sides were protected
by sheer cliffs, which would take hours to climb. Jim had chosen
The boat reached the beach after another ten minutes. The two
motored slowly into the small bay, scanning the beach to see
if anyone was there. Benny Ray took aim and put a bullet squarely
into the boats starboard engine.
"Sniper! On the cliff!" The driver yelled.
"Go, go, go!" The passenger shoved the remaining engine
to the max, going
for the beach.
"Benny Ray, the planes back. We gotta go!"
Benny Ray ran back up the path, locating the hanger. He jumped
into the back seat, next to Ricky.
Rico looked back as the sniper gasped
"Im fine, ribs hurt." Benny Ray answered before
Rico could ask.
The seaplane took off, flying low over the water to avoid radar.
Ricky thought that was the coolest thing he had ever done, and
let everyone else know. The flight would take almost an hour.
Rico spotted the second boat seconds before they flew over it.
He was about to call out a warning when a stream of tracers reached
for the plane.
Benny Ray unbuckled his belt, using
his body to shield Ricky.
They all felt the thump of bullets hitting
the plane. Alarms went off in the cockpit, and they lost altitude.
Rico was able to see land ahead.
"Hang on, Ill have to put
her down. Riddle, get your belt on!"
Benny Ray refastened his belt. He could see trees now. They were
coming up towards the plane. Too fast. Jim tried to land in a
field but the battered airframe couldnt make it. They hit
with a loud crash. The four passengers felt themselves being
thrown around, then everything went black.
Matt stretched as he got off the plane.
He looked around the small airport. It catered mostly to business
planes. The Austins Learjet was parked in an open hangar.
Mechanics were clustered around the plane.
"Margo, see what you can find out from them."
"No problem." Margo smiled.
She headed for the hangar, throwing a purse over her shoulder.
One of the
mechanics looked up. "Can I help you, maam?"
"Well, yeah, you see Im kinda lost. I dont have
a car and I need to get
to the Eagles View area."
"You have a house up there?"
"Yes, the Austins are neighbors of ours."
"Really? This is their plane. They came in a couple of days
ago. I dont know if theyre going to be good company
"Are they all right?" Margo put the right amount of
concern into her voice.
"Well, Mr. Austin was muttering about his business associates
not paying on time. He ordered us to fix some electrical problems
on this crate. The wife looked pretty upset. Funny though, their
son wasnt with them. I asked how he was doing and she told
me hes visiting with his grandmother."
Matt grinned at the expression on the mechanics face. Margo
did have that effect on people.
"Well, theres a rental company that services this
airport. Ill call them for you. Any preference?"
"Anything with 4-wheel drive."
"I know just the thing. Those trucks are popular. The guys
who flew in with the Austins wanted the same thing."
Now thats interesting, Margo thought. "Really? Well,
I guess we have the same tastes. I wonder if I know them."
"Well, one of them was tall, dark brown hair, and he had
two different colored eyes. The other was shorter, blond hair
and blue eyes."
"Hmmm." Margo thought for a minute. "No, I dont
"Ill call the rental place for you."
Margo flashed him her best smile. "Thank you. I really appreciate
your help." She headed back to the rest of the team and
briefed them in. "Ill contact Deke and see if he can
match descriptions. The one guy should be easy to get intel on."
Matt nodded. "Hang on a sec, we have a commo check with
Rico in five minutes."
"Hey, do you think Deke would want a poodle for his birthday?
Then he could go on those shows where people look like their
pets." Nick grinned.
Margo rolled her eyes. "Im going to get something
Matt sighed in frustration. "Bravo one, this is Alpha one.
Come in, over." He looked up as Margo approached with the
"No luck. Theyre not replying."
"Im sure theyre okay. We can try again later."
"Heres our ride. Nice, Margo." Nick watched a
Lincoln Navigator pull up
next to their plane, followed by the rental companys car.
Blackhawk Mountain, Colorado
The Austin house was enclosed by a stone
wall. A massive iron gate was the only entrance. The house itself
was barely visible through the trees. Two guards sat in the guardhouse
just inside the gate.
"I can get in this joint," Nick said. "No problem."
Matt looked at him. "Thats a last resort, Nick. Watch
the delivery schedule. Then well get someone inside using
one of their trucks. I want a general idea of the situation."
"The biggest question being, are Rickys parents there
willingly," Margo said.
A schedule of sorts was noticed over the next two days. The papers
delivered to the gate in the morning. Someone from the main house
came down to get them. In the middle of the morning a truck appeared
Matt liked the possibilities of using
The Real McCoy Catering Co.
1000 hours, two days later
Margo and Matt strolled into the catering
office. A salesman headed over right away. He needed a big sale.
While he began talking to Matt, Margo headed for the ladies room.
She took a left into the managers office. The schedule
book was lying on the desk, open to that days date. Margo
grinned as she pulled out a hand-held computer scanner.
"You getting this, Nick?"
"Yeah. Damn, youre good."
"We can take care of your party, no problem. Heres
my card, when you finalize your guest list call me."
They got back into the Lincoln. Nick headed back for the hotel,
managing to keep the truck under the speed limit. Barely.
"We have the schedule. Theyre having a dinner tomorrow
so thatll mean an
extra delivery. Maybe we can help." Matt grinned.
"I like food," Nick replied.
"Matt, any word from Rico or Benny Ray."
The major frowned. "No."
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