"Matt, where are you? We should have a visual by now."
"I'm going to have to make a detour.
Some sort of demolition project. The
"I'll check. We need to make visual
contact with you." Margo was antsy
"CJ, I'm continuing one block further.
Get into a better position for a
"Roger that, Major." Rico,
filling in for Chance on this op, picked up the
CJ started up the suburban.
"Black van slowly approaching from
your six, CJ. License alpha, mary, jack,
"Major, the van is turning and
heading straight for you. Major, do you copy
The suburban squealed around the corner
in pursuit of the black van. The
Matt slowly woke up feeling groggy and
disoriented. He felt a wave of
Her eyes fluttered open. She reached
for her head with her right hand;
"You should move a little slower
until that stuff wears off," Matt commented
Erica looked around slowly.
"Hi, I'm Matt." Matt was glad
to see that she was not panicking. She
She looked at him inquiringly with just
a hint of anger. Matt noticed her
The door to the office opened and two
men started down the stairs. Matt made an attempt to stand, but
could only lean over, still attached to Erica's
"Hello, Major Shepherd. We have
a few simple questions for you and then you and your new friend
here can be on your way. Let's get right down to
"Retired major, actually. What,
no introductions? I like to know who I'm
The second man grabbed Erica's left arm, yanking her around to face Matt and forcefully knocking the side of her head against the bars, holding her there.
"If you do not help us, Major,
the lady here is going to have a really bad
Matt looked at Erica, who just stared
at the ground. He had a bad feeling in
"You cage me like an animal and
use a defenseless woman to hide behind. You call yourself a man?
Why don't you come in here with me and go for it?" Matt
had to try and divert their attention away from Erica. It may
not work or
The two men glanced at each other. The one in charge nodded toward the door. The other one let go of Erica and unlocked the door to the cage, picking up a piece of pipe. Matt knew it would be difficult to defend himself hand- cuffed to Erica. Pipeman swung at him as Matt ducked away, landing a glancing blow off the back of Matt's shoulder. The pipeman swung again, connecting solidly across his back and then his side. Matt hung on to the bars to help keep his feet, fighting for air. The man left the cage, leaving the door unlocked. Matt felt Erica's hand slide gently over his handcuffed hand still grasping the bar.
"Now that I have your attention,
Major, maybe you will cooperate?" The man in charge stood
out of Matt's reach looking overly confident and smug. "Let's
"I already told you. Myself!" Matt responded through clenched teeth.
The man with the pipe hit Erica repeatedly
until she slumped down on her
The leader stopped and looked back through
the bars. "Ma'am, it would be in
Both men climbed the stairs and disappeared into the office.
Matt was dazed but ok. Erica was gasping for air.
"Try to relax and take slower,
deeper breaths, if you can," Matt coached
"Yeah," she responded weakly while attempting to get up and crawl toward the bars next to Matt.
"So you can talk. I wasn't so sure earlier. Although your glares told me plenty," Matt said playfully, smiling at her.
Erica was attempting to turn and sit
down against the bars, but stopped to
"Maybe you should let me take a look at those ribs." From her awkward moves and grimaces, Matt was fairly sure she had some broken ribs. She sat down with her back to Matt so he could check her.
"Typical man. Change the subject
instead of admitting any fault." Erica was
"It feels like a couple of cracked
ribs, nothing too serious. You would
"I'll stay right here, if you don't
mind." She had turned with her back to
"Maybe we should try again with
the introductions." Matt wanted to keep the
"Sure, let me start. We already
know that you are Major Matt Shepherd who
Matt noticed a hint of playfulness in
her voice and eyes. He chuckled to
"Ok, since you aren't going to
tell me anything about yourself, then you can
"You are Erica N. Everett,"
Matt started, emphasizing the N, "From
"Whhaat?" Matt asked totally confused.
"You wanted to know what the N
stood for. And I am a senior computer
"Ok then, let's see what you've
figured out about me, Erica." Matt suspected
"Now, why would you think I figured anything out about you?"
"Oh, let's just call it a hunch."
"Alright then, I would bet you
live in a warm locale which would be the same
Matt looked at her quizzically.
She gestured toward his jacket on the
floor. "It's not cold enough here for
"Not bad. I'm impressed."
Matt was beginning to think it would've been nice
"Now for the hard part, Matt. These
guys have gone to a lot of trouble to get
"CJ, left into the alley," Rico instructed into the comlink.
As CJ turned into the alley, he saw
the black van with the driver's door open.
"You find all kinds of garbage
hanging around in alleys," Rico joked as CJ and
"My, my, my, look what we have here," CJ chuckled as he bound the man's hands behind his back. "I think you need to come have a little chat with us."
Rico, CJ, and Margo corralled the man into the suburban.
"Benny Ray, we have a present for
you," CJ chimed into the comlink. "On our
"Sorry, Erica, I'm really not an
important person. I own a hotel and that's
"Well, I don't think hotel owners
are abducted and beaten on a regular basis,
"There is nothing I can tell you."
"Ahh, so you do know what is going on," Erica interrupted.
"Erica, all I can say, and hope,
is for you to trust me and give me some time
The office door opened and the leader
and his thug, pipeman, returned to the
"One last chance, darlin'. What's it going to be?" the leader asked.
Erica tried to shake free. She stomped
on pipeman's foot. His grip loosened
Matt checked Erica out again, stopping
the external bleeding as best he could.
Erica opened her eyes and smiled weakly.
She could see tears in Matt's eyes.
He smiled back surprised at her lightheartedness. "It's not even open yet. I'm still renovating."
"Promise me something, Matt."
"Promise you'll get those bastards."
"Oh, you bet I will." Matt
looked at her with determination. "I'm also going
Matt looked at her questioningly. "My eyes? You're kidding, right?"
"Hurts too much to kid." Her
voice was getting weaker. "You have the eyes of
"Erica, come on now, stay with
me," he pleaded as she closed her eyes. He
Matt heard an explosion at the far end of the warehouse.
"That looks like the place," CJ commented as he stopped the suburban.
The van driver had been more than willing
to cooperate at Benny Ray's
"I'll get to that window from the
fire escape. That should be a good vantage
"See anything, Benny Ray? Do you see Matt?" Margo questioned impatiently.
"Matt is in a cage at the north
end of the building. There's an office with
"On my way. I'll set up a diversion."
CJ moved out around the left corner of
"Rico and I will cover Matt and
the office. Give us a minute to check out the
"Matt looks to be ok. There's someone
else with him. Doesn't look to be in
"The diversion is good to go." CJ waited for the ready signal.
"We're in position and ready to go," Rico confirmed.
"Blow it, CJ," Benny Ray instructed.
The explosion blew in the big door.
At the same time Benny Ray broke the
"All clear up top," Benny Ray said into the comlink.
"All clear so far," CJ informed
as he moved the length of the building toward
"I'll cover the office from here," Benny Ray updated Margo and Rico.
Margo cautiously made her way toward
the cage. Shots rang out from the
"There were four tangos. Did you
get them all?" Matt asked concerned. "Can
"Margo, can you get this handcuff off while I check them out?"
"CJ, cover us." Margo moved to undo the handcuff while CJ arrived to provide more cover.
"Benny Ray, the Major said there
were four tangos. Can you confirm that?"
"Tell the Major that I can only
confirm three," Benny Ray said looking through
"I'm ok, Rico. Check on her. She's
lost a lot of blood. Most likely a
Rico quickly looked her over. "We
need to get her out of here fast. Who is
"Just someone in the wrong place
at the wrong time. She saved my life." Matt
"Benny Ray, we're coming out. Cover
us," Rico said into the comlink. "Major,
"I've got point. Let's go." Margo started retracing her steps to the door.
"I've got your six, Rico."
CJ followed Rico, who covered Matt as they
"CJ, cover me. I'm coming down."
Benny Ray slid down the fire escape rail
Margo secured the suburban and got in
to drive. Matt laid Erica down on the
Hermosa Beach, Ca
A heated volleyball match raged at the
sand volleyball court by the pier. The
"Oh, sorry. Would you guys excuse me?"
Matt approached the woman, picking up
a towel to use on the way. They
"Hey boss, I don't know what's going on, but I do know you can't quit this game. Not now! We have these guys on the ropes," Nick challenged, breaking everyone's silence as they stood watching this drama unfold in front of them.
With his arm protectively around her shoulders, Matt guided the woman toward the group. "Everyone, I want you to meet Erica. How about taking a breather and I'll be back in a few minutes." Matt picked up Erica's luggage and they headed for the Silver Star arm in arm, without giving anyone the opportunity to talk to her.
"I'm sorry for putting you in such an awkward position with the team. I wouldn't have come if I knew you had planned an alumni get-together." Erica had already been nervous about meeting the team without interrupting their social time. It had been two months since Matt and her had seen or heard from each other. Matt had been perfectly clear when he left after his last visit that the next move was hers. She had thought long and hard about the decision to enter Matt's world. She had expected the entrance to be much less obvious and certainly not so intrusive.
"Don't worry about it. I couldn't be happier about your visit. Now is as good a time as any to meet the team." All that Matt knew was that in the instant he had recognized Erica tossing the ball back to Benny Ray, he had felt like the luckiest man in the world. Their last encounter left him with little hope of seeing her again, especially since two months had passed with no contact.
They arrived at the Silver Star where Matt showed Erica into his office. He took her in his arms and kissed her passionately. The mood was interrupted by a quick knock as the door opened.
"Trout, you're supposed to wait for an answer to the knock. And, as usual, your timing stinks," Matt chastised as he released the obviously embarrassed Erica.
"From the looks of this, if I hadn't barged in, you would never have answered the door," Trout explained.
"You're probably right. Why don't you get a drink at the bar and I'll be out in a minute."
"Excuse the interruption, Ms. Everett. I'll be waiting, Matt." Trout put the case he was carrying on the floor and left.
"I wonder how many awkward moments
can be stuffed into one day. I guess I
Matt laughed. "It could get much more interesting before this day is over. Do you mind if I go back and finish the volleyball match?"
"No, not at all. In fact I would enjoy watching. Why don't you go on ahead? I'll change into more appropriate beach attire and be out shortly."
Matt gave her a quick kiss and left. Erica changed clothes and went out to the bar.
"Can I get you a drink, Ms. Everett? By the way I'm Xavier Trout."
"Thank you, Xavier, a lemonade would be good. You can call me Erica. Hey, why don't you accompany me out to watch the volleyball match? It has the potential to be quite entertaining."
"I'm not really dressed for the occasion."
"Oh, just take your jacket and tie off, roll up your sleeves, and you're good to go." She thought he looked like he needed to loosen up anyway.
Trout figured this was a perfect opportunity to get to know her, so he did as she suggested. Then they headed out to the beach.
"Does anyone have a clue as to what that was just now?" Margo couldn't believe Matt had been seeing someone secretly.
"I believe the term is love," CJ responded smartly.
"How long has Matt been seeing her?" Chance asked curiously but approvingly.
"Didn't know he was seeing anyone." Benny Ray couldn't believe Matt had never mentioned her.
"If you ask me that looked pretty serious." Nick was surprised but still impressed with Matt's deception.
"I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt and save this discussion for Matt." Deke believed everyone deserved their personal freedom.
"I agree," Rico said supportively. "Do you guys realize who she is?"
"What do you mean? She's obviously
someone after Matt and she has him
"She's the woman from the Baltimore incident," Deke stated smoothly.
"You weren't even around then, Deke. How would you know, even if it were true?" Benny Ray whipped back at him.
"I have my sources." Deke wasn't going to reveal too much.
"That's where I saw her before," Rico confirmed.
"The last report I heard, she had brain damage and was in a coma," CJ brought up.
"What was the Baltimore incident?"
Nick asked frustrated at being in the dark
"About a year ago, Matt was abducted along with that woman. She was severely beaten. We rescued them, dropped her off at a hospital, and that was, we thought, the end of it," Margo recapped for everyone.
"The Major and I did visit her the next day before her husband arrived. She was in a coma. The doctors feared she had suffered permanent brain damage from severe blood loss resulting from her internal injuries." Rico was unaware of the Major keeping tabs on her.
"She better not assume Matt owes her too much." Margo knew Matt would be an easy target, if this woman wanted to use his guilty feelings to her advantage.
"Well, it's obvious the Major is the only one that can clear this up," Benny Ray said with finality.
"Speaking of the Major, here he comes," Chance warned them.
Matt noticed all the questioning looks as he approached the volleyball court but decided to ignore them for now. "OK, everybody ready? Well then, let the games begin again," Matt said cheerily. Matt ran back to the service line and waited for everyone else to get ready, then served the ball.
It wasn't long before Matt spied Erica and Trout heading for the beach chairs he had set up. Matt chuckled to himself knowing that it wasn't Trout's idea to be on the beach. It was just an opportunity to talk with Erica privately and Trout just couldn't pass that up.
The game continued a little more subdued
than previous to the break, but the
"Come on CJ, it can't be that bad," Benny Ray encouraged.
"Let me take a look at it." Rico checked it out. "I'd say he's done for the day."
"Too bad guys. Looks like you'll just have to play with three. Or you could go ahead and forfeit to us." Nick just couldn't resist needling the others.
Rico helped CJ over to the sideline where Erica and Trout sat. "Erica, would you like to fill in?" Rico figured this would be a good way for her to break the ice.
Erica looked Matt's way. He nodded ever so slightly in a way that said 'go ahead if you want to'. "Sure, if it's ok with everyone else. I think you should know, I haven't played in a long time." No one opposed it, so Erica headed for CJ's spot in the rotation between Deke and Benny Ray.
On the very first play, the ball was headed up by the net right for Erica. She yelled, "I got it." Benny Ray jumped in front of her to hit the ball, bumping her out of the way.
"Come on, Benny Ray, give me a chance to screw up before counting me out," Erica challenged as calmly as possible.
Benny Ray just shrugged his shoulders. Matt chuckled to himself, pleased that she had not backed down from Benny Ray. Benny Ray hadn't accepted Margo until she stood up to him. Matt figured the same was in store for Erica.
The next rotation was Erica's turn to serve. She punched the ball over the net with no spin and watched it float like a knuckleball toward Nick. Nick ended up hitting the ball out of bounds.
"Come on Nick, pay attention," Matt criticized.
"How'd ya do that? The ball wobbled back and forth," Nick complained.
Erica shrugged innocently, "Luck, I guess."
She served two more times. Matt's team had no success in returning them.
"She's a ringer, Matt. I can't believe you brought a ringer into the game," Nick whined.
"I didn't ask her to play."
"Quit whining, Delvecchio, and just play," Benny Ray yelled over the net at Nick.
The next serve grazed the net; side out to Chance. Erica handled the serve nicely and Benny Ray smashed the next hit over the net. Erica anticipated Matt's block, lunging quickly for the ball keeping the play alive. The game continued two more rotations, placing Erica up by the net across from Matt. The ball came toward the net where Erica was ready. Erica went up after it like she would spike it, but just dinked it over Matt's outstretched arms. The ball fell harmlessly to the sand. Rico, Deke and even Benny Ray ran over, giving high fives to Erica. Erica went back to her position across from Matt and winked at him.
"What kind of lame hit was that?" he asked.
"You scared me, looming over me like that," she teased right back.
The ball barely cleared the net, down the line on the next play. Matt came flying over to block with his body angling toward the line slightly. Erica spiked it, connecting pretty solidly, but the ball went straight into Matt's block, coming back over the net and falling out of bounds. Erica looked over at Matt with a twinkle in her eye. "Our ball. Sorry!"
"You know what Erica, I could learn to really hate playing against you," Matt said disgustedly.
"Maybe this is just beginner's luck," Erica taunted.
"Somehow I don't really think so."
The match ended with Erica's side winning two games to one for Matt's side. CJ hobbled over to congratulate his side and gave Erica a cheerful hug, much to her surprise.
"You can fill in for me any time you want," CJ commented excitedly.
Erica headed over to help gather up all the belongings. "So, did you enjoy the match?" she asked Trout.
"I have to admit, it got much more interesting after you started playing."
Matt ran over to join them, picked up the chairs and started to walk back to the Silver Star.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to
survive after the first couple of plays," Erica commented
and laughed while taking a good look at how Trout awkwardly
Matt burst out laughing. "You might as well save your breath. I told him that a long time ago. I am impressed though. The tie and jacket are missing."
Trout laughed along with them, then waved good-bye and headed for his waiting car and driver.
Everyone made their way into the Silver
Star and claimed the team's favorite
"Hey Erica, I thought you said you weren't any good at volleyball. From what I saw you could teach us a thing or two," Chance said.
"I never said I couldn't play. I said it had been a while."
"You played some volleyball in college, didn't you?" Deke brought up.
"Ahh, you've done your homework,
haven't you," Erica said surprised, but not
"Erica, I've got to ask. How long
did the coma last?" Rico couldn't wait any
"Three months with another month of rehab before getting back to work."
"That's amazing. Those doctors had written you off. You sure showed them just like you showed us out on the volleyball court," Rico responded excitedly.
"From the reports I heard, you
were married at the time," Benny Ray wanted
Erica felt Matt tense. She squeezed
his fingers trying to signal him to let
"What, you dumped him to chase
after Matt?" Margo interrupted before Erica
"No," Erica paused to choose
her words carefully, "and I would hope none of
This news shocked everyone into an awkward
silence. Erica sat staring at her
"I'm really sorry for your loss, Erica," Chance said sympathetically.
"Thanks, I appreciate that," Erica responded softly.
"The bottom line here, people, is that I initiated the relationship with Erica." Matt let that soak in. "Is anyone up for lunch?" He wanted to keep things moving.
Everyone decided to get cleaned up and
go to lunch together. Matt grabbed
"Well that turned out better than
expected," Matt told Erica, chuckling at all
"That was plain 'ol exhausting."
"Don't worry, you're doing fine."
"It didn't feel like I was doing fine when Benny Ray was knocking me around."
Matt smiled mischievously, "I thought
you handled him pretty well. You
"It just really ticks me off to
be dismissed before having any chance at
Matt took Erica in his arms. "I
sure have missed you. Watching you handle
"Yeah, yeah, ok. Why don't you
lie down and rest while I take a quick
"So Erica, I would assume the Major swept you off your feet," Chance pried as everyone ate lunch.
"Yeah, the poor grieving widow
needing a shoulder to cry on," Nick added as
"I'm sure glad I wasn't expecting any sensitivity from this bunch," Erica replied jovially. "Go ahead and start this off, Matt. I'm sure they'll enjoy your perspective."
"Are you sure?" Matt knew he was going to have to feed them more details than he was really comfortable with. But this was a very unusual situation and he really wanted the team to accept Erica.
"Yeah, might as well be your version,
rather than waiting for these guys to
"I went to Tennessee and found
Erica's house. I was about to knock on the
"See, here comes the crying on the shoulder part," Nick throws in.
"Shut up!" Benny Ray and Deke yelled simultaneously at Nick.
Matt continued. "I asked if I could
give her a hand. She slowly turned her
Everyone looked Erica's way for an explanation.
"Well, I was confused.
"So what happened next? You obviously
didn't throw him out." CJ wanted
"No, she opened the door and let me in, stared at me for a little while longer, then finally asked if I would help carry boxes to the garage." Matt laughed along with everyone else.
"I needed time to make sense out
of my thoughts, so what better way to stall
Now it was Matt's turn to go on the
defensive. "She was putting me to work.
"So did things heat up then," Nick asked deviously as only Nick could do.
"Right, Delvecchio. We were carrying
boxes containing all of Erica's recently
Everyone seemed to enjoy or at least be interested in the story.
"Matt was the perfect gentleman. He invited me to dinner."
"Which she declined," Matt added quickly.
"What?" almost everyone responded in unison, looking at Erica.
"Hey, I wasn't comfortable with
the idea of dating so soon after the funeral.
"Good line, Major," Chance said laughing and giving him a thumbs up.
"So how did he get in the door the second time?" Rico asked.
Matt gave Erica a look like 'got you on this one'. Erica blushed. "You really did play me quite well, didn't you?" Erica smiled and threw a wadded napkin at Matt. Matt just shrugged. "Find the weakness and move in for the kill. I should have seen that one coming, since that is what you do best."
"Is someone going to fill us in
or just sit there making faces at each other?"
"She likes to play golf. I just
offered to caddy for her and she consented.
"Golf?" Deke couldn't believe it.
Erica looked around the group. "Why
is that so hard to believe? Just like
Matt winced knowing that comment would not go unnoticed, or unchallenged.
Hermosa Beach, Ca
Matt and Erica went for a walk after
lunch. Erica's reference to Benny Ray had set off a chain reaction
of opposition and questions. Matt reminded them this was not
the place for this discussion and set up a meeting for everyone
"I'm not so sure now that I should have come to L.A."
"What do you mean? I think things are going well."
"That is a tough crowd you run
around with. They'll never trust me. And I'm
"Come on, Erica. You're a fighter.
I've been a witness to that. You're not
"We have no proof of my story. Nothing to back up the whole thing. You have to admit, you were pretty easy to convince."
"Not that easy. I checked you out
every way I could. Trout did too. And it
"I told you before, they have no reason to believe me. They have more reasons not to believe me. Obviously, they will assume your judgment has been impaired because you're sleeping with me."
"Stop worrying so much. Trout and I are both on your side. From what I could tell, I think you already have Rico and Deke leaning your way. You can't give up before you even try. Besides, now you've made a strategic mistake." Matt smiled victoriously at Erica.
Erica glanced at Matt mischievously
and took off running down the beach. He
"Don't let it go to your head,
Major, sir," she said toying with him. "I came
Matt put his hands up in the air submissively
while smiling back at her. "Oh,
"I thought it would be a good idea
for everyone to have a chance to clear the
"Where's Erica?" Margo asked.
"She's upstairs. She'll be down after while."
"Matt, it seems to me that she is just too familiar with us. How is that? I keep telling myself that you would never breach security like that, so what is going on?" Margo started with the question on most of their minds.
"I'm going to let her brief you on the details. I will tell you that I have not breached security. Trout and I have both checked her out very thoroughly."
"I've done some digging, too. She checks out," Deke added.
"With all due respect Major, I
just don't buy it. If no one has leaked
"You know Benny Ray, even if I
knew nothing about you, I would still assume
"Benny Ray, you remember when I ended up ordering you and Margo to wear full wrap-around vests for that one mission?" Matt asked.
"Yeah, I remember thinking you were off your rocker if you were that paranoid. The mission didn't call for it, but I did it. It saved my bacon, too. I had a dandy bruise, but I survived. You never did explain that one."
"We were too busy trying to get
out of there and no one brought it up later."
"So why did you give us that order, sir?" Benny Ray asked officially.
"The first weekend that I went
to visit Erica, she gave me a note. All that it said was if we
went on a mission to a government installation looking for evidence
of chemical weapons, Benny Ray would be seriously injured from
"Ok boss, are you trying to tell
us she has a crystal ball? Can she tell me
"Like I said before, I'm going
to let her explain. She doesn't have a crystal
"Matt, I'm really concerned if
you're seeing straight on this one. You know
"That's a fair question. I can't explain everything, at least not in absolutes. Her intel has helped this team in ways we may never fully understand. After she tells her side, you can choose to believe or not. I will tell you this, I personally owe her a lot." Margo started to interrupt, but Matt cut her off. "This team will continue to benefit from her intel. Margo, she's the reason I found my father."
"Major, you really found your father?" Chance asked incredulously.
Matt flashed a smile of pride and relief.
"Yes. Erica knew he was John
"So he's here?" CJ was happy for Matt.
"Yeah! Actually he's in Michigan.
He went through a lot of deprogramming but
Matt's phone rang. "Excuse me."
He answered the phone, "Shepherd." He
"I have no idea what Matt has told
you. You are the only people that I will
"I'm going to start this out by saying that I am not an overly religious person. I do believe in fate. This sounds like Star Trek; fate, the final frontier." She chuckled. "That day in Baltimore was fate. I believe that now with all my heart. I was on my way to my company's Baltimore office to teach a class. I arrived the night before the class and happened to see the sign for an antique shop, so I stopped to check it out. I was looking at the stuff in the front window. That's all I remember until I saw Matt in that cage."
"Just seeing him probably scared you to death," Chance joked. Matt picked up a football and threw at him.
"After I woke from the coma, I had a lot of different memories and thoughts going through my mind. The time in the coma was like one long dream, but then the images became more real. Usually a dream just fades from your memory, but these kept invading my thoughts again and again. I finally decided to create a journal just hoping that I could get these over- riding thoughts out of my head. Normally I repeat whatever it is I want to remember over and over in my mind so I don't forget it, or until I write it down. I thought maybe if the details were recorded, then my subconscious would let it go, and I could continue my recovery so I could get back to work sooner. In the process I lumped everything about Baltimore and Matt into that dream. I guess subconsciously, it was easier than dealing with their reality."
"The dream covered the rest of
Matt and my lifetimes together. Each lifetime
"Before the dream started, I was in this quiet perfect place. It was bright and cheery, but I can't say there was actually any scenery or anything to catch your attention. It was just so peaceful. This older couple met me there, like they were expecting me. They reminded me of my grandparents, but they weren't mine. They sat with me and talked. I felt so happy to be with them. It's hard to describe, it was so comfortable. Sometimes it seemed like they talked in riddles. They warned me. No, it wasn't a warning. It was more like a plea to learn as much as I could from the lessons yet to be revealed. I had no clue what they wanted me to learn. This was just part of the riddles. They did introduce themselves, but at the time for some reason, I didn't understand the connection."
"What a way to get a man's attention on your first date!" CJ interjected.
Everyone got a kick out of that. "Actually,
I waited until his second visit. He received it about as well
as you can all imagine. That does have me a little puzzled. You
aren't even making faces at me. Did Matt hypnotize you or
"Nope, didn't do a thing to them.
She really did tell me on my second visit
"So you're telling us this couple
in your dream was Matt's grandparents?"
"Yes. They introduced themselves
as Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd and they had a son named Quentin."
Erica let all this sink in for a moment. "When Matt showed
up at my door, my mind went into an instant whirlwind. His presence
meant that a lot of my dream may not have been actual dreaming
after all. I couldn't sort through everything fast enough. That's
why I didn't believe that he was real. He had to be a ghost or
something, but he wasn't. There was so much information from
the dream. I needed to find out if any of it was true or
"That was cruel, Erica. You left
the Major with a whole lot of doubts for that long ride home.
He should've been able to sit back and bask in the warm
"I'm really surprised there ever
was a second weekend in this relationship."
Erica looked to Matt for some kind of
support. Matt shrugged as if to say
"If I didn't know better, I'd think
you guys were much more interested in the
"OK, moving along." Erica
looked a little sheepish as she waited for everyone
"After Matt's second visit, I painstakingly
reviewed my post-coma journal. If
"Why would you think you could tell how best to change something that you had no experience dealing with?" Margo was concerned about decisions made on her behalf.
"I read her journal. Besides gleaning
specific names and events from it, I
"The conclusion for Benny Ray and I to wear full vests was a no-brainer, Matt. How could this be so hard?" Margo continued.
"Wearing full vests was my reaction
to her intel. She never suggested how to
"I believe that Matt's father eventually
would have surfaced whether Matt went after him or not. In the
dream he was part of a Chinese plot to kill one of
"Another situation was a conspiracy
to force Matt's team into extinction.
"I have to admit, I had selfish reasons to alter these cycles. I personally got hurt, emotionally and physically, quite often. I will not enter Matt's life under these conditions. So I summarized what must change and why, then passed it on to Matt on his third visit."
"All these things have already
taken place. You still could be part of the
"If you're looking for a black
and white answer, you're going to be
The entire group had become very somber.
Erica looked around the room
"Major, did you know about this?"
Benny Ray asked, starting to get agitated
"No, Benny Ray, I must have missed that one."
"Matt, what's wrong? Don't tell
me you're the reason Katrina and her father
"I'm sure you noticed the scars on Matt's legs. Katrina just about killed him," Margo clarified.
"She came close to taking out the
whole team," Matt added. "Is there anything
"All I know is her father dies
in prison and she gets out somehow after that.
"When does her father die?" Benny Ray demanded.
"I don't know. I wish I did."
Erica was afraid everything was going to fall
Matt was already dialing his phone. "I'll alert Trout to monitor the situation. We'll know the status of Herrara soon enough."
Benny Ray walked over to Erica, still
sitting on the table, and put his .50
"I have no way of telling what the timelines are in the dream. I wish I did, I really do. I'm still trying to figure that out."
Matt hung up the phone and came over
to stand right next to Benny Ray.
Benny Ray still faced Erica and kept eye contact with her. "No sir, it isn't. She either fesses up to the source of her intel or she has no business being here."
"Benny Ray, back off. That's an order."
Benny Ray walked away from Erica and Matt.
"If I had dug into the team like
you obviously assume that I have, then
Matt followed her to the tunnel. "Erica,"
he pleaded. He knew he couldn't
"I'll go after her, Major." Rico headed in the direction of the tunnel.
"She threatened my boy, Major, and she threatened me," Benny Ray said sharply, face to face with Matt.
"Benny Ray, the dream may have
been threatening to you, but she did not
"This dream thing is like voodoo.
The power of voodoo is whether you believe in it. The fear it
creates is all a state of mind. You're letting her voodoo
"Voodoo or not, what if her intel
is good? Can we afford to ignore it?" CJ
"So what do we do now?" Matt
threw it out to the team breaking eye contact
"She knows too much. We have to
protect ourselves and our interests. Matt,
Matt didn't like where this was going,
but he had little choice. The team had
"Sir, you're forgetting something," Chance pointed out regretfully.
Matt lowered his head and ran his hand
through his hair grasping the back of
Margo's eyebrows raised as she looked at Matt questioningly. "Can we?"
"Yes," he answered, feeling beaten. "I'll update you tonight on my plan."
"What about checking out her place?"
Nick asked just to be safe all avenues
"Deke and Chance can cover that."
Matt figured they would be the most
Rico ran out the tunnel after Erica.
He saw no sign of her in the alley, so he headed for the beach.
He scanned the beach, finally spotting her jogging
"Can I join you?"
She wiped the tears from her face. "If
you're not afraid of being labelled a
"They mean well, even though it may not seem like it."
"I told Matt this would happen."
"Did you know it would happen this way?"
"No. It always happens differently, but the results are always the same; Margo and Benny Ray make my life miserable," she said dejected. "Matt was so sure this way would work."
"It was working."
"Yeah, if I just hadn't picked the Billy story."
"If something is really going to happen to Billy, then it was an important story to bring up."
"I should've waited until Benny Ray was more comfortable with the whole thing, but, for Billy's sake, I didn't dare wait." She paused. "Do you believe me, Rico? Do you believe any of it?"
"In my line of work, I've seen
just about everything. I believe it could be
Erica and Rico sat in silence for a while watching the waves.
"They're going to tear my life apart now, aren't they?"
"What would you do if you were in my situation?"
"I think you're just going to have to trust in that fate you told us about. Be patient and let the cards fall where they may."
"I should just have gone on with my life without Matt."
"It sounds to me like you're trying to do the right thing and make things better. That's what the team is all about, too. I would think Matt and your relationship would be worth a fight."
"I'm going to sit here for a while, Rico. I'm ok. You don't need to babysit me."
"Alright. I'll let the Major know you're here."
"Yeah," she chuckled bittersweetly.
"He's probably got his hands full." Rico
"It will work out ok." He felt sorry for her. She had been through a lot in such a short time, no matter what her motives.
Matt was sitting on the patio outside
the bar when Rico returned. He looked
"She's ok. She's out at the rock outcroppings. How did it go?"
"Not good." Matt filled him in.
"She's expecting this. It must've
happened before. Do what you must, Major.
Matt headed out to get Erica. He walked
out to the water and headed up the
"Hi," Matt said as he slowed to match her stride.
"Hi." She continued watching the sand in front of her.
"Who was that?"
"Chad, an off-duty lifeguard out for a jog."
"What did he want?"
"He wanted to be sure I knew it
wasn't safe to stay by the rocks with the tide
"No. Actually I was more concerned for your safety than suspicious."
"Sure.... There's always that ever present seed of doubt, isn't there. Tell me, was that two percent or forty-eight percent suspicion?" she asked crisply.
"I told you before, I do trust you."
She stopped and faced him. "And
I told you before, this wouldn't work. There
He knew she had every right to be angry,
but there was nothing he could say to make it better. He wanted
to make it up to her somehow. "Hey, come on, let's go,"
Matt said as he caught up with her, grabbing her hand and pulling
She continued resisting his tugs while she considered. "Alright, I guess."
He offered her his arm and she took
it. They headed for the boardwalk trying