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Page One

Club Venetia
Venice, CA

The sparkling lights and fountains all along the wall made the club look like a fairy tale. The booths and chairs imitated the gondolas used to ferry lovers on a leisurely tour through the canals. The walls were painted in bright colors. Scenes of San Marcos square and other famous sites were depicted on the walls allowing the revelers imagination to run wild. Several huge spun glass chandeliers hung from the wooden rafters. Venetia was a beautiful place and the club had only been open for about three months and from the crush of people it was a popular place.

It was her twenty first birthday, she'd been to clubs before but now she was legal and was very much enjoying the Amaretto Sour she was sipping. The club was packed standing room only and the music was just a touch too loud but it had a wonderful beat and Alita swayed easily with the music.

At least ten of her friends were here tonight celebrating with her and she planned on closing the place down. Laughing as Jonas grabs her by the arm and spins her around Alita follows him willingly onto the dance floor. Around her people are swaying and twirling to the music, behind her at a small table beside the dance floor a young man stands up, reaching for his throat. Struggling to breath he falls forward onto the table. Giving way beneath his weight the small table crumbles sending glasses and bodies scattering. Landing face first on the floor his body begins to shake. Around him the sounds of screams and yelling break the magic on the dance floor. On the other side of the room another reveler falls, this time a woman.

Breathing heavily, Alita watches as another man falls several feet away from her. Gasping for air Alita turns toward Jonas reaching, hoping, praying as her world begins to topple. Around her the club turns to a kaleidoscope of swirling colors as seconds later it deepens into darkness as the floor rises up to meet her. Startled Jonas reaches for her as she goes limp, settling her gently to the floor.

The club is a riotous mass of pandemonium as people hurry toward the exits. Minutes later the police and paramedics arrive. A tall dark haired paramedic immediately realizes the magnitude of the problem and calls for back up. Motioning for his partner to take the left side of the room he moves toward the dance floor. Reaching the man he checks but is unable to find a heartbeat or signs of breathing. Shaking his head he moves on to next victim.

Kneeling down he gets his first good look at her, in a startled voice he says, "Alita."

"Rico, what are you doing here, never mind it doesn't matter, thank God your here," Jonas exclaims!

Going to work Rico finds a pulse, weak and thready, but a pulse nonetheless. Her breathing is labored and Rico quickly starts her on oxygen.

Calling in to the hospital, Rico starts an IV and preps her for transport as he looks around the room.

"Jonas," Rico asks, "what happened here?"

"One minute we're dancing and the next she's falling." "Is she going to be alright?"

"I don't know Jonas, but we'll do everything we can."

"Did she eat or drink anything," Rico asks?

"She had this little fu fu drink an Amaretto Sour I think she called it," he answers, "it's right there on the table," he says pointing.

Turning Rico looks at the table but only a tall bottle of beer remains.

"It was there a few minutes ago," Jonas whispers, "she didn't drink very much of it before I asked her to dance."

Just then a second team of paramedics had arrived and Rico motions for their assistance. Transferring her to the gurney, Rico hears loud voices coming from behind him. Turning toward the voices he sees two men standing on a set of stairs about twenty feet away. He recognizes the owner of the club, Carlo is his name if he remembered correctly but the second man he doesn't recognize.

Trying to pick out pieces of the conversation Rico stands up. The crowd is still too thick and the noise deafening and he is unable to hear them. Taking a step toward the stairs he gets a good look at the second man, committing his face to memory. He sees a tall man, his head shaved and his eyes a washed out gray in startling contrast to his darkly tanned skin. The suit he's wearing is impeccably tailored in a dark gray silk, probably costing hundreds of dollars.

Looking up both men turn seeing Rico watching, they immediately halt their conversation. A hard look crosses the second mans face as he looks at Rico, assessing a potential problem. Raising his head in dismissal he turns back to Carlo. Reaching up he tightens Carlo's tie and flicks an imaginary piece of lint from his shoulder as he whispers into his ear. The look in his eyes is one of triumph as he steps down and walks out of the club.

Carlo still standing on the stairs watches as the big man struts out of his club, his body hunched in despair, his whole attitude that of a beaten man.

With all the victims ready for transport, Rico hurries out behind them.

Silver Star Hotel
Hermosa Beach, CA

Most of the room is steeped in shadows. One light illuminates the table where Benny Ray sat cleaning his already spotless rifle.

Feeling the vibration at his hip Benny Ray pulls the phone from his belt flipping it open.

"Benny Ray," he says.

"Hey Amigo," the voice says, "I could use a little help if you've got some free time."

"Sure Rico," he says recognizing the voice, "Problem."

"Not sure yet," Rico answers, "That's what I want to find out." "Can you meet me at Club Venetia in about ten minutes, I'm at the back door."

"Roger that compadre," Benny Ray answers, "See you then."

Hanging up the phone he turns gathering up his gear. Twin Glocks rest comfortable in the holster beneath Benny Ray's jacket. Three minutes later, he walks out the door stepping into his truck. It was only a few minutes drive to the Club. Parking besides the building he looks around spotting Rico's car before getting out and heading for the back entrance.

Club Venetia

Leaning against the brick wall beside the back door to the club, Rico looks at his watch. He knew he was early but was still impatient for Benny Ray to show up. Suddenly the door beside him opens and a little man wearing a cook's apron and carrying a large trash bag walks out throwing the bag into the dumpster a few feet down the alley.

Shaking his head the little man mumbles as he opens the door going back inside. Less than a minute later the door opens again, only this time, two large men stand expectantly with weapons pointed at his head. Grabbing him by the front of his shirt they drag him into the building and up the stairs to the office. Rico eyes the guard stand outside the door as he opens it. Pushing Rico into the room they close the door still holding their guns to his head.

Across the room the two men from the night before, the club owner and the tall black man stand arguing. Their conversation halts abruptly at the interruption.

"Well what do we have here," the tall man says turning around. Walking over to stand in front of Rico his eyes take on a hooded angry look. "Ahhh" he says, "I remember you, the paramedic from last evening." "It's too bad you couldn't keep your nose out of things that don't concern you, you might have lived a little longer."

Turning back his voice harsh and threatening he says, "One last chance Carlo, take the deal or pay the price."

Rico could see the fear in the Carlo's eyes but he could also see determination as he answers, "I won't have your or your filth peddling drugs in my club Morgan. I'm certainly not going to pay you for the privilege!"

"Suit yourself Morgan says a smile crossing his face yet not reaching his eyes."

Opening the door Morgan walks out, standing on the top step the guard beside him stands patiently awaiting orders. On the landing Morgan pulls his shirt cuffs down and smoothes his sleeves before saying, "Kill them."

Turning the corner toward the back door, Benny Ray is surprised to see the alleyway empty. Reaching beneath his jacket he pulls one of the Glocks from it's resting place. Checking the handle he finds the door unlocked, opening it partway he peers inside, finding the room unoccupied he silently slips in. Hearing footsteps he backs into the shadows, as the little man with the apron comes into the room only this time he has a weapon tucked into the front of his pants. Reaching out Benny Ray grabs the man around the neck pressing hard. "Where is he," Benny Ray asks releasing him slightly?

"He's dead," the man answers gasping, "and so are you."

"In your dreams," Benny Ray answers as he hears one shot from above him. Struggling the man tries to loosen the hold, but with a quick twist and snap, crackle of bones the man falls lifeless to the floor.

Hurrying from the kitchen Benny Ray checks the next room before moving in. The room is empty but he can hear the sounds of struggling coming from above him. Taking the steps two at a time he slams his way through the door. Seeing one man standing over Rico a weapon in his hand, Benny Ray without hesitation fires, catching the man in the head. Turning to his right he fires again taking out a second man. The third standing to his left leaps forward at Benny Ray a knife in his hand. Jumping back Benny Ray throws his left arm up trying to fend off his attacker. A fiery line of pain builds as the knife sears a path across his left forearm. Bringing his right hand around he catches his attacker in the side of the head. Stunned his attacker stumbles backwards, lashing out once more as Benny Ray tries to move in.

Bringing his weapon up Benny Ray his voice deadly says, "Put the weapon down now."

With the knife held high the attacker smiles a slow grim smile as he launches it. Firing one-shot Benny Ray watches as the bullet hits the man in the center of his chest knocking him off his feet. Beside him the knife embeds itself in the wall inches from his head.

Kneeling beside Rico he finds a pulse and can see that he is breathing, finding no bullet wound. Across the room he can see another man who wasn't so lucky, the front of his blue suit dark with blood.

Pulling his phone from a jacket pocket, Benny Ray calls for an ambulance. Dialing a second number he waits.

"Shepherd!"

"Major, Rico and I have run into a little situation."

Explaining quickly Benny Ray answers the Matt's questions as the police and paramedics arrive.

Sitting down abruptly he closes his eyes as waves of dizziness wash over him. He felt like the world around him was exploding. His mind and body felt like they were being torn apart. God he felt like he was going to be sick, every sound seemed to vibrate through his entire body setting it on fire. He could hear them as they came through the door, the police shouting orders the paramedics clamoring up the stairs.

Standing up just a little too quickly Benny Ray sways sideways, beside him a paramedic steadies him catching sight of the blood on his left arm. Moving in a police officer catches him by the shoulder, trying to help. Anger and resentment flare deep inside him as the officer makes him sit on the floor. Fury engulfs him.

Confused by the sudden feeling inside him, he shakes his head in bewilderment as he tries to understand what's happening to him. Breathing heavily he watches the people around him seemingly from a great distance.

Minutes later his arm wrapped Benny Ray sits in the rear of the ambulance Rico on the gurney beside him. Two officers sit beside him one on each side. Anger and resentment again well up inside him, what the hell was their problem he though. People's lives were in danger and I did what I had to do. Closing his eyes he takes a deep breath. He knew he was tired and hurt but the feelings inside him confused the hell out of him. His fingers itched to tear something apart.

Mercy Hospital - 1045
Day 1

Rico had regained consciousness. Matt was glad to hear that he'd only sustained a mild concussion, some bruised ribs and a few cut and bruises. The doctors wanted to keep him overnight for observation - just to be on the safe side.

Rico was still a little groggy but had no problems answering Matt's questions, especially the facts about Carlo being killed because he wouldn't pedal Morgan's drugs in his club

In the next room Benny Ray closed his eyes trying to keep the demons haunting him at bay. But each time he opened them he could feel the world close in around him, his enemies ready to strike. His mind screamed in protest knowing this wasn't right but unable to beat the darkness hovering around him. Beside him the doctor puts the final stitches in his arm wrapping it snugly with gauze. Lying on a bed his eyes open slowly wandering toward the two officers standing at the foot of the bed. The room disappeared!

Fury raged within him, they were the enemy! Leaping off the bed he hit the first officer with his body taking him to the floor. His attack was vicious and violent; the two officers were clearly outmatched.

Hearing the scuffle Matt hurries out opening the door to Benny Ray's room.
In disbelief he sees Benny Ray struggling wildly with the two officers and two more orderlies who are unable to stop his rampage. Entering the fray Matt tries desperately to get Benny Ray to listen to reason, but the eyes staring back at him are filled with frenzied hatred. Rearing back Matt deliver a bone jarring right to his jaw and he lay still.

Kneeling down a syringe in his hand the doctor reaches for his arm.

"No!" Matt yells.

"He went berserk," the doctor, exclaims, "he nearly killed these officers."

Grabbing hold of the doctor's arm Matt lowers his voice saying, "I know this man doctor and he would never do this of his own volition. Something is wrong here. Find out what the problem is before you fill him full of drugs!"

Rocking back on his heels the doctor stills, thinking. Reaching into a nearby draw he pulls out a syringe and several empty vials. Finding a vein in Benny Rays arms he inserts the needle filling two vials then handing them to the nurse. Barking orders he whispers Stat!

"Lets get him back on the bed," the doctor orders. From under the table he pulls a set of restraints, attaching them to Benny Ray's wrists and ankles. Ten minutes later Benny Ray is still unconscious as a technician rushes back into the room the results in his hand.

Matt watches as the look on the doctors face changes saying. "He's been drugged."

"Drugged," Matt says his voice rising ominously.

"The numbers here indicate a pretty high dosage." From the combination of chemicals listed here, it's a new drug, we really don't know much about it."

"It's slow to take affect but can stay in the system for a few hours or even a few days, we just don't know enough. We've seen a few cases in the last week or so. This drug is a little different from the ones we've seen in the past. The taker becomes violent and uncontrollable, as you've just seen. The drug enhances the darker aspects of their personality. On the street they've nicknamed it Dark Angel! We have two other victims upstairs now, only they weren't so lucky, theirs was laced with poison."

Turning to one of the battered officers Matt says, "Find that knife and get it analyzed, that has got to be the key."

"What happens now," Matt asks?

"He will have to be restrained or sedated the entire time." "My recommendation is to keep him sedated, from his reaction a few minutes ago I think it would be safer for everyone."

Laying his hand on Benny Rays arm Matt sighs, his heart filled with sorrow as he looks at his friend. Watching as Benny Ray's eyes flicker open his blue eyes staring up at him. A wan smile crosses his face as he whispers "Major?"

"Here Benny Ray, Matt answers, "I'm here."

Matt watches in amazement as his friend's eyes begin to change becoming darker his body thrumming with resentment and anger. Testing the bonds at ankle and wrist he once more begins to thrash around.

Behind him the doctor puts a hand on his shoulder. Saying "Your choice."

"Do it," Matt whispers stepping up to lay his body across his friends holding him still, yet unable to look into the face of this stranger."

Beside him the doctor slides the needle into Benny Ray's arm waiting as the drug slowly begins to take affect. The thrashing lessened his eyes slowly closed as if he is unwilling to give up the fight.

Silver Star Hotel
Day 2- 1400 hrs

The group assembled in the ops room sat quietly grim expressions on their faces. Margo sat in front of her computer gathering information. Beside her Nick sat mumbling something about scum of the earth and paybacks. Rico sat carefully on the small couch so as not to aggravate his bruised ribs. He blamed himself for Benny Ray's current trouble. He never should have gotten him involved. Both Matt and Margo had tried to make him see, that he couldn't have stopped him. No one could have known something like this would happen. In reality he knew it was true, but it still didn't make him feel any less responsible.

Matt had called in a little while ago. It had been almost thirty hours since the drug had entered Benny Ray's system. He had regained consciousness again but nothing had changed. He didn't recognize his friend. He fought a private war, in a hell of his own making, the only enemy himself and his dark consciousness. Matt was amazed at the ferocity and viciousness of his darker side. On the outside he was all cool and calm with nerves of steel. He would trust him in any situation and could always count on him to be there when and if he was needed. If these were the emotions and feeling he hid from the world, he was glad Benny Ray was his friend and not his enemy.

Mercy Hospital 0645
Day 3

They were all worried; each time he'd woken he'd been the same, violent and hostile. During the last two episodes the hostility had begun to diminish, but still he didn't recognize anyone. They were worried, extremely worried. The doctors didn't know enough about the drug to even predict the long-term consequences. This was not your average designer drug. Drug addicts wanted a blissful high, something that would make them forget their cares and worries for a short period of time. Dark Angel created havoc and violence. What possible purpose could someone have for creating this kind of drug?

This time it was Margo's turn to keep vigil. Forty-two hours, that's how long he'd been under the influence. She'd talked, she'd hummed, she'd read, she'd told him all kinds of wild stories but still no response. Her heart ached, but she didn't know what else to do except be there when and if he woke up. Opening her book once again she settles in the chair beside his bed. The pages in front of her were a blur, her mind wandering to the first time they'd met recalling his antagonism toward her and it made her smile.

Lost in thought she didn't see him move, all she heard was, "Hey Sweet Pea."

Turning she squeaked in surprise jumping out of her chair the book falling un-noticed to the floor. "Oh my god," she yells. "Your awake, your… you!"

A tired smile crosses his handsome face as he replies, "I don't know who else I'd be," stopping suddenly he sees tears in her eyes, "Margo," he queries?

Wiping the tears away she brushes her hand across his cheek.

Reaching up with his hand he is surprised to find them and his ankles in restraints. Looking up he sees a rueful look on her face as he asks, "What's with the handcuffs?"

"It's a long story," she answers sighing.

"Well it doesn't look like I'm going anywhere," he answers back. "How about getting me out of these?"

Hesitantly she answers, "I… can't."

Reaching across she grabs the call button, punching it hard several times. Less than a minute later a nurse rushes through the door toward the bed with a syringe in her hand. The look of surprise on her face is comical as she realized he isn't struggling just laying there looking at her.

Stammering she says, "he's…"

"Yes, he's awake," Margo, answers, "I don't think we need that."

Without a word the nurse turns and rushes back out the door.

"This has got to be one helluva story Margo," he says grinning.

"Do you remember anything about Rico calling you and asking for help?"

"Yes," here he pauses, trying to pull the fleeting memories from his mind before continuing. "But the last thing I remember was seeing Rico laying on the floor with a gun pointed at his head. The rest is a blur, I remember a brief fight but that's about it."

Sitting on the side of the bed, Margo begins the tale. Telling him about the club his part in rescuing Rico and getting cut with a knife that had been painted with a drug they called Dark Angel. Continuing she slowly tells him about the last two days watching as the expression on his face turns grim.

Behind her the door pops open and the doctor walks through the nurse hard on his heels.

Winking at Benny Ray, Margo steps back pulling a phone from her pocket dialing Matt to tell him the good news.

After a lengthy exam and half a dozen questions the doctor pulls a small syringe and vial from his pocket. Sliding the needle into a vein in Benny Ray's right arm he pops the vial in and fills it with blood then hands it to the nurse.

Swabbing the area the doctor looks hard at Benny Ray asking, "How do you feel?"

"Feel?" "What exactly are you looking for doc," he asks in return?

"How do you feel, are you angry, frustrated?"

Margo standing behind the doctor draws a deep breath as she sees the imp of mischief enter his eyes, waiting for his reply.

"Frustrated, he exclaims!" "You mean because I'm tied to this bed and if someone were to release me the possibility exists that I might reach up and grab that person by the throat and strangle him," here Benny Ray pauses staring straight into the doctors eyes.

Stepping back the doctor mumble, "Yes, something like that."

"No," Benny Ray answers with a straight face.

Beside him Margo laughs swatting him on the arm.

"Ahhh, a joke," the doctor answers relieved.

Reaching down the doctor unbuckles the restraints at his wrist, while the nurse does the same to the leather straps at his ankles.

Waving his right hand he asks, "What about this thing," meaning the IV? "And when can I get out of here?"

"Not just yet," the doctor answers. "At the moment you need rest and time to flush the rest of the drug from you system. That was one helluva ride you took Mr. Riddle and I want to be sure your back to normal before I set you loose on the rest of the world. Maybe in a day or so, we'll see."

Getting ready to protest, beside him Margo lays her hand on his shoulder, chuckling at the glowering look he throws the doctor.

"If you need anything," the doctor continues, "ring for the nurse. Heading for the door he says, "but we'll need more blood in a few hours to check the drugs progress."

Mumbling a few choice words Benny Ray watches with hooded eyes as the doctor leaves. "I think they enjoy torturing people, he grumbles into the room.

Margo grinning answers, "You've had shots and been stuck before."

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!"

Just then the door is pushed open as the rest of the team stumbles into the room. Stopping they stand silently beside the bed staring, mouths open. Just as quickly they break in with a myriad of questions all at the same time. Beside them Margo breaks into laughter at the stunned expression on Benny Rays face.

"Whoa," Benny Ray shouts, grinning. Watching as sheepish grins of relief cross the concerned faces of his friends.

"I'm fine," he mumbles, hoping they will quit asking, but knowing they probably won't. "Rico," he asks, "how's your niece?"

"No change," he answers, "She's still in critical condition, but the doc's say it's not Dark Angel keeping her there, it's the poison they mixed with it."

To the group in general Benny Ray asks, "What have you found out?"

Looking into his friends face Matt turns and nods to Margo.

"The guys name is Rafe Morgan, he's X-DEA. He had a long distinguished career until one day he just disappeared. The agency thought he'd been killed on assignment or possibly kidnapped. They started an investigation but it turned up empty no clues, he just dropped off the face of the earth. At the same time a huge shipment of cocaine was stolen from the DEA lockup. Investigators never put the two together until last year. Morgan emerged over year ago, all reports say he's living the highlife, fast cars, fast women and lots of money to throw around." "But he hasn't been seen in the U.S. until Rico saw him at the club a few days ago.
"Rumor on the streets is he's the brains and muscle behind Dark Angel. He's head of a new Cartel peddling designer drugs; headquartered in Bolivia. DEA reports have it that Dark Angel has been released in only five cities through out the U.S. and Europe. Experimental, yes, Dangerous, absolutely."

Sitting on the side of the bed Matt looks closely at his friend, his face was pale and drawn and there were dark bruises under his eyes, he looked exhausted. The Dark Angel had definitely left her mark.

"Whoa, whoa," Matt shouts into the fray, "I think the rest can wait until later. Right now I think our friend here needs a little down time." Expecting a protest Matt was prepared to make it an order. Glancing down he saw a look of relief cross Benny Ray's face.

As they leave the room Benny Ray's face breaks into a heartfelt smile as he murmurs, "Thanks for being there!"

Silver Star Hotel 1415 hrs
Hermosa Beach, CA
Day 4

The doctor had reluctantly agreed to discharge Benny Ray, but only if his friends were prepared to keep a close eye on him, to which they agreed. The doctor had once again asked how he felt. His answer of fine and just a little headache seemed to satisfy him. But the doctor had also warned him that traces of the drug were still in his system.

Earlier, Benny Ray, and Rico had sat relaxing in the ops room, Rico had started to thank him and apologize for saving his life and in the process get him hurt and drugged, but Benny Ray had smiled and given him that look that said the apology was totally unnecessary. He would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant saving his friends life.

Now Benny Ray stood leaning against the table, fiddling with the shell in his hand. Listening with half an ear to Chance and CJ arguing. Rico sat alone across the room,

They all waited patiently for Matt and Margo, knowing that what ever held them up was directly related to their new mission, at least Benny Ray hoped it was their mission. Finding Morgan and putting him and his drug operation out of business would please him. Maybe he would even let a little bit of his darker side out to take care of him. The thought sent tiny shivers up his spine.

Walking across the room, Benny Ray sits down beside the silent Rico. "You look like hell, he says."

"You don't look much better yourself Amigo," Rico answers.

"Where's Nick, he wasn't at the hospital yesterday, did the major give him a vacation?"

Turning serious Rico answers, "Nick's on his way to Bolivia, he still has a few contacts in the DEA. He looked pretty upset when he found out Morgan was involved."

"Does he know the guy, " Benny Ray asked?

"Said he knew of him, but had never met the guy. Matt was reluctant to let him go. I personally don't think he could have stopped him. The look on the guys face reminded me a lot of you when you've got some bone to chew."

Just then footsteps could be heard descending the stairs. Matt and a not always welcome face - Trout's follow stepping into the room behind Margo.

Nodding hello his face grim, Matt calls the team to order. "The DEA has asked for assistance with finding and eliminating the "Dark Angel" cartel. Trout here has asked for our assistance, any objections?" When no one answers he continues.

"Two weeks ago, Dark Angel was released in LA, DC, Paris, London and a small town in Germany. It was administered through, drinks, food and even through the water supply. The recipients all reacted the same, violent and destructive. Innocent people were used as guinea pigs to test this drug. Morgan has an agenda and a purpose for creating Dark Angel we need to find out what it is. Our objectives are to find and destroy the lab, bring Mr. Morgan back to the US for prosecution on charges of Drug Smuggling, Money Laundering and Murder.

"There isn't a whole lot of information about this new cartel. Reports have linked several highly placed businessmen and politicians to the cartel but no actual evidence. None of these men have ever been associated with drugs in the past. They are wealthy legitimate businessmen. Why have they crossed over now - Money - Power? We just don't know!"

The DEA has recently discovered Morgan's compound in Bolivia but haven't yet been able to find the lab."

"Nick is currently in Bolivia working to infiltrate the organization. If he can get close to Morgan we have a good chance of finding the lab and keeping tabs on him long enough for us to snatch him. Questions?'

Again no one answers.

"One more thing, Matt continues, "it seems our Mr. Morgan has put a contract out on Rico. He wants you dead my friend," he says looking at Rico. "No witnesses, no one to place him at the scene. He knows you survived he may know you had help. I want both of you to stay out of sight."

Grinning at the looks of protest, Matt says, "But he won't expect you to show up in Bolivia so I think we have a good chance of avoiding trouble. Either way I'm not leaving you behind we need you on this mission! So pack your gear we leave in twelve hours."

Bolivia

Nick rubbed his sore jaw as he sat on the floor, the wreckage of the bar strewn around him. He hadn't started the fight, but he'd sure as hell finished it. He'd been pissed, when he'd first heard about Morgan, he felt betrayed. Morgan had been his hero. He'd read every one of his case files. Someday he'd hoped he would be half as good, only to find out that Morgan was now a scum sucking traitor, dealing drugs and murdering innocent people.

Fighting had taken the edge off his temper but it really hadn't made him feel any better.

His contacts had informed him the bar was a known hangout for drug dealers and thugs many of which were connected to Morgan's operation. Earlier in the evening he'd gotten semi-drunk and let it slip that he was out of work. The company he'd worked for had been bought out and he hadn't been pleased with the new management. But so far no one had taken the bait.

Picking himself up off the floor Nick stumbles out the door. Turning the corner he stops short as three men stand facing him. Recognizing the men from DEA photos, he takes the aggressive tack. Crouches down into fighting position his fists raised he yells, "You want a piece of this?"

The tall man in the center laughs before saying, "No Mr. Del-Rio, we have a proposition for you, work if your interested?"

Wary, arms still raise, Nick says, "What kind of work?"

"Well, you handled yourself pretty good in there tonight," the man says waving toward the bar, "but we are more interested in your skills as a chemical engineer."

Without relenting, Nick says, "How the hell do you know who I am and that I'm a chemical engineer?"

"Oh, we were in the bar earlier when you mentioned you were out of work. Then I had you checked out Mr. Del-Rio, and your qualifications are quite impressive."

Saying a prayer of thanks to Margo for inventing his new persona and getting it to all the right places. Nick lowers his arms and stands up straight.

"What kind of job," Nick asks?

Stepping forward his right hand outstretched, the tall man introduces himself, "I'm Kane, this is Conley and Hammer, dinner first and then we can discuss it."

Bolivia
Day 5

The flight down had been long but uneventful. Their contact a DEA agent named Sheri had met them at the airport. Trout had given Matt her file and he'd been surprised by her qualifications. With the DEA ten years, she was a decorated officer, expert with small arms and trained in hand-to-hand combat. She was fairly tall, slim and graceful with large expressive hazel eyes and lustrous red - gold hair braided down her back.

Driving through a maze of streets and alleyways she takes them to a small safe house. On the outside, the house gave the impression of a run down little shack, but on the inside it was clean and comfortable. The team was surprised to find everything they needed, weapons, gear and explosives. Margo smiled contentedly upon discovering the house was even wired for access to a secure Internet service. The team spent the remaining hours of the first day gathering information and checking out their newly acquired gear. Everything was in readiness; the plan would soon be put into operation.

It was nearly midnight as Benny Ray slips out the back door, checking the area again. Silent and unseen he moved through the streets and alleyways. That sixth sense he had told him they weren't' being observed. But after the events of the last week or so he wasn't sure he could trust himself. Two days ago the headache had struck, hitting him like a sledgehammer, almost knocking him off his feet. The glass in his hand had shattered sending a shard deep into the palm of his left hand. The doc had said there might be headaches or even relapses into violent behavior he just hadn't been prepared for the mind-ripping onslaught of the headache. It was like someone had driven a spike into the back of his head. He couldn't see, he couldn't hear, he felt like he could hardly breath. The pain had lasted for barely a minute but it had scared the hell out of him. Rico had bandaged his hand, but Benny Ray didn't tell him about the headache he should have but something made him hesitate. He'd made up some excuse about tripping but he didn't think Rico had believed him. He'd caught Rico watching him a couple times, a concerned look on his face, but truthfully he didn't mind and it hadn't happened again.

Safe house
Day 6

Gathering the team, Matt discusses the plan one more time. Gaining everyone attention he says, "Currently we don't know where Morgan is. Rumors have it he's hold up at his compound, while others say he is still in LA. We do know that Morgan is a player, when he's in town there are several restaurants and nightclubs where he can usually be found. He likes beautiful women," Matt says. In the past he has taken several of them to his compound for days at a time. As far as the DEA knows they have all returned safely. He also has several business partners here and routinely visits them. Either way "Chance and Margo will remain here, it is more than likely that he will show up sooner or later. When he does we need to keep tabs on his movements. A Reception at the French Embassy is scheduled for this evening. Many of Morgan's business partners are on the guest list. Sheri in her capacity as liaison to the American embassy was able to obtain four invitations and I have every intention of being there."

Rico spent most of the day quietly grilling Sheri about Morgan and his operation. She'd been more than willing to share the information with him just unhappy with the fact she didn't know much. He'd taken an instant liking to her. Her calm quiet demeanor had a soothing effect on him and besides; she had a great smile. They'd sat talking for hours. Rico had looked up once to find Benny Ray and Margo watching them a quirky little smile on their faces. He winked back.

...end of page 1

 

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