THE SILVER STAR
HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Margo Vincent walked into a scene
of complete chaos. Debbie, the
bartender, stood nervously wringing her hands behind the bar.
the waitresses Carol, Margo thought her name was
was in tears.
Benny Ray and Nick were trying desperately to calm her.
"Look, honey," Benny Ray
soothed, "Matt's just a bit tired, is all.
He didn't mean it."
"Dat's right," Nick chimed
"Why don't you just take the
afternoon off go do something nice for
yourself," Benny Ray suggested. "We'll talk to Matt,
and I'm sure
this will all blow over."
"Oh, no!" the young woman
exclaimed half-hysterically, "I won't even
come back here to pick up my last paycheck you can mail
Margo just barely managed to get out
of the way as Carol ran for the
door. "Isn't she the second this week?" she asked
the room at large.
"Three, if you count da busboy,"
"Margo, you have got to do something!"
"Don't worry," Margo assured
Benny Ray stepped close so that his
words fell only on Margo's ears.
"Darlin,' are you sure about this?"
"I've got it covered," she
told him with an enigmatic smile.
* * *
Margo paused just beyond the doorway
of Matt's office, silently
observing the love of her life. He was staring uncomprehendingly
a sheaf of papers on his desk, most likely tax forms, to judge
the calculator and teetering stack of files on the corner of
Rico had been right when he suggested
that they take a vacation after
Kepper's attack. Unfortunately, real life had conspired to postpone
their R&R. It suddenly seemed that every terrorist organization
the planet had gone into overdrive. They'd spent the last month
shuttling back and forth among three different continents. Between
ops, when the others had had some slight respite, Matt had come
to the Silver Star only to have to deal with the health department,
the labor board, and most recently, the IRS. It really was enough
make anyone crazy, but the problem was, it was making everyone
around Matt crazy too. And the bigger problem was that in their
of work, they simply could not afford to have a leader who was
out, so Margo had taken the redeye to DC and paid a call on
informing him that she and Matt were taking a non-interruptible
Xavier Trout had snorted derisively
and said he'd be sure and tell
the bad guys not to bother anyone for the next couple of weeks.
Margo had countered that the CIA, Delta Force and the SEALs
managing quite nicely for a very long time and she was sure
they could hold down the fort for a week or two. Trout had eyed
the sparkling diamond nestled in the hollow of her throat and
accused Margo of thinking with her heart and not her head. She'd
stared straight back and reminded him that the only thing an
operative on edge was good for was getting himself and others
around him killed. Finally, Trout had sighed and relented.
And so, here she was. Tapping lightly
on the doorframe, Margo leaned
inside the office.
Matt looked up, his scowl fading as
he saw her standing there. The
sight of Margo in a gauzy summer dress definitely lightened
"Hey." A grin warmed his features, erasing some of
the worry lines
that had been accumulating over the last few weeks. "Are
sure you want to come in here?" he asked wryly.
"Yup," she answered, smiling
as she shoved aside his paper work to
perch on the desk in front of him.
"Margo, I have to "
Margo laid a gentle hand across his
mouth. "No, you don't. The only
thing you have to do is pack, because our plane is leaving in
a half hours."
Matt scrubbed his hands wearily over
his face. "Again? I swear, I'm
gonna wring Trout's "
"Now, now," Margo chided,
her voice rich with laughter, "Trout didn't
have anything to do with this. It was my idea, and in fact,
the damndest time getting him to go along with it."
"Go along with what?" Matt
"We're going on vacation,"
Margo answered promptly. "Just you and
me, at a beautiful old seaside resort."
"Just you and me, huh?"
Matt leaned back in his chair. The view in
front of him was terribly distracting and he was suddenly finding
it very hard to breathe.
"That's right," Margo answered
mischievously, "You and I have some
At the word 'business' the light faded
from Matt's eyes. "Yeah, well, speaking of business "
"Deke is going to take care of
all this," Margo informed him.
"Deke?" Matt scoffed. "I
won't have a hotel left to run when we get
"Well, not exactly Deke. He knows
a really good accountant. Her name is Helga, I think."
"Helga?" Matt said skeptically.
"While Helga is straightening
out the books, Deke and the guys are going to try to patch up
your labor relations. One more word out of you to the staff
and you won't have a staff."
"That bad, huh?"
"And what did you have in mind
to rectify this...situation?" Matt asked curiously.
"Well, if I recall, back before
we were interrupted by a homicidal maniac bent on revenge, there
was something you and I were discussing... something you said
that you wanted everything to be perfect for."
"O-o-oh," Matt responded,
drawing out the single syllable as understanding dawned. "And
why exactly do we have to go to where
are we going, anyway?"
"We're going to Mystic, Connecticut,"
Margo informed him. "We'll be
staying at a quaint bed and breakfast that's furnished with
nineteenth century antiques."
"What sort of antiques?"
Matt inquired with a suggestive gleam in his
Margo leaned down to whisper in his
ear. "The sort that involve feather beds and hand-pieced
"What time did you say that flight
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
Matt watched all bemused as the
colorful New England scenery flashed
by the windows. Margo had arranged every detail of their excursion
the rental car had been waiting at Logan when they'd landed,
Margo had produced a map and printed directions from her carry-on,
informing him in no uncertain terms that she was driving. He
could tell that she was enjoying herself immensely, and he was
having too much fun watching her to argue. Signs for Connecticut
started to appear and he roused himself slightly to read them.
"Hey, look a casino! Maybe
we could "
"No," Margo told him firmly.
"Too many people. I want you all to
myself," she added with a wicked grin.
"Well, you've got me," he
answered, reaching out to take her hand.
He raised it gently to his lips and placed a soft kiss on her
Smiling, Margo reluctantly withdrew
her hand. "Later," she promised
with a sidelong look for Matt.
"I've, ah, been kind of a jerk
lately, haven't I?" Matt asked quietly.
"Yes, you have," Margo agreed,
"but you're my jerk."
"Thanks... I think. Are we almost
Another sign caught Matt's attention.
"I didn't realize we'd be this close to Groton Sub Base."
"No," Margo told him flatly.
"No military bases. No guns,
no bombs and no tangos. This trip, it's just you... and me,"
Margo concluded with a self-satisfied little smirk.
Matt noticed and decided to play along.
"Well, if there's no bad guys to chase, what are we going
to do with ourselves for a whole two weeks?"
"Don't worry," Margo assured
him, "I've got something in mind."
THE SILVER STAR
HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Daryl Drummer entered the Silver
Star and made a beeline for the bar.
"Well, I see someone left the
door open an' a big ol' squid washed up," Benny Ray observed
"Aren't you supposed to be fightin'
on the shores of Tripoli or something?" Drummer growled.
"Who's ya friend?" Nick
Drummer glanced down at the little
New Yorker with evident disdain.
"What's yaw problem?" Nick
"Delvecchio, shut up," Benny
Ray advised. "Daryl Drummer, this here's Nick Delvecchio.
Delvecchio, this is Drummer." The two continued their staring
contest, reminding Benny Ray very much of a little Chihuahua
yapping at a Rottweiler. "Ah, gentlemen, we're gonna be
workin' together here for a while so maybe ya'll should start
over and shake hands."
The two just continued to glare, a
perfect case of hate at first sight if ever there was one. Deke
slid onto a barstool next to Drummer and smiled at Debbie, who
supplied a tall, cool drink without being asked.
"What the hell are you supposed
to be?" Drummer demanded, looking him up and down like
he was a new species of bug.
Deke just sipped his drink impassively.
Benny Ray groaned inwardly. "As
I was sayin', fellas, we're all gonna be working together for
a while, so "
"Over here, Rico," Benny
"Where'd ya find dat guy, gigolos-r-us?"
"Delvecchio," Benny Ray
"Awright, awright," Nick
Benny Ray sighed heavily. It was going
to be a long two weeks.