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Wednesday
Margo's flat

With a start Margo sat up in bed. 3:15 the red, luminous dials of her alarm
clock read.

"Damn! Damn! Damn! Not again!"

She got up and went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of milk. Not
that she was convinced it would help, it hadn't done any good last night or
the night before that, either. But everybody said that if you were suffering
from insomnia, a glass of milk would surely cure it, so, she drank a glass of
milk.

A person could learn to hate milk this way. She sighed and took another sip.

After a while Margo went back to bed. Soon she was lying comfortably; she closed her eyes and tried to will herself back to sleep.

10 minutes later she angrily tossed the bedclothes aside again.

"Damn Steve! Damn all men!"

She had never had problems like that before. She used to sleep like a log.
Her insomnia had started a short time after Steve had broken up their
relationship.

She would prepare for bed as always, find a comfortable position, close her eyes and wait for sleep to come. Instead she'd start tossing and turning,
unable to relax properly. After about an hour of that she would finally fall
asleep, only to wake up soon again. For the rest of the night she would lie
awake, thinking, and then there'd be a short, uneasy stretch of sleep in the
early morning hours. That had been the pattern of the last few days.

She couldn't go on like this for much longer. She wouldn't!!!

Margo got up and put on a jogging outfit. She'd do something useful with the rest of THIS night at least.

* * * *

Wednesday
9.25 hours

Silver Star Bar
Los Angeles

Matt had called them in for a meeting at 9.30 today. He wanted to discuss
something.

Nick and Benny Ray were already in their usual seats at the corner table,
drinking coffee and munching their way through a platter of doughnuts, when Margo entered the bar.

"Hey, Margo, c'm here!" Nick called out, signaling her and spraying Benny Ray with doughnut crumbs in the process.

"Damn, Delvecchio, can't you even keep your mouth shut when you're eatin'? You're worse than a pig!" Benny Ray glared at the other man.

Unperturbed, Nick only grinned back at him, but Benny Ray wasn't paying him any attention anymore. He was looking at Margo, appraising her covertly. The slightly puffy eyes, the dark circles under them, the drooping
shoulders,....was she even dragging her feet a little?

Margo dropped down into one of the comfortable, red armchairs.

"Here, take a doughnut! Dey're fresh and real tasty." Nick was pushing the
platter over to her. "And dere's some coffee for you, too."

With a grimace of disgust Margo shoved the doughnuts away. "No, thanks! I've already had breakfast."

"Breakfast! Hmph! A pot of black coffee is what you mean, isn't it?" Matt had come up to the table, too, flopping down into another armchair.

Yawning, he took the rejected cup and selected one of the doughnuts. After taking a bite out of it and washing it down with some coffee, he turned to Nick. "Where's Deke?" Nick tried to swallow first this time.

"He said, he'd be here."

Matt yawned again.

"Heya, boss, you're lookin' like hell! What did ya do last night?" Nick was
his usual diplomatic self.

Matt threw him a forbidding glance. Before he could say anything, though, a familiar figure took the last remaining seat, next to Margo.

"A good morning to you, my friends! I trust you all slept well..... Pretty
lady, it is always a pleasure to see you." Deke kissed her hand.

Yet the look he cast her, belied his words. But neither Margo nor Matt seemed to notice anything.

Benny Ray, though, did.

"What did you call us here for, Matt?" They had better get down to business, he thought, before those two fell asleep right there. They looked tired enough for it.

"Hmm?" Matt looked up. "Oh, yeah! Trout called last night. He doesn't need us for that job in Europe after all. So we're free for the next couple of days."

"How long are we talking, boss?" Nick clearly had something in mind.

"A week, maybe two. He didn't say. Only that there wasn't anything urgent at the moment."

"Dat's enough!" Obviously satisfied with Matt's time estimate, Nick was
quickly finishing his doughnut.

"Enough? For what?" Benny Ray was watching Nick with suspicion. Deke only looked amused and Margo seemed to be far away.

"Vacation!!! Carmel, here I come!" Nick's eyes were shining. "Sun, sand and pretty girls!"

"God, Delvecchio, you can have all that right here as well. Whadda ya want to go to Carmel for?" The look Benny Ray threw him would have cowed another man, but not Nick Delvecchio. He only grinned. "None o' your business!"

Swallowing the last of his coffee, Nick licked his lips, got up, companionably slapped Deke on the back, blew Margo a kiss and told Matt, all the while pointedly ignoring Benny Ray: "You know the number of my cell phone, boss, in case anything urgent shows up. Otherwise, see ya in two weeks, guys!"

He left the bar. No one said anything.

Benny Ray and Deke looked at each other.

Matt sat slumped in his chair, already more asleep than awake.

Deke considered the second zombie on his other side. He raised an eyebrow at Benny Ray, a question in his eyes. Benny Ray nodded.

"Come on, pretty lady, I'll take you home." Deke gently shook Margo, took her hand, pulling her up, and steered her towards the door. "Be seeing you, fellas!"

With a silent sigh Benny Ray turned to Matt. He cleared his throat. Startled, Matt almost dropped the coffee mug. He blinked at Benny Ray. "What...?"

"What's wrong, Matt?"

"Nothing!"

"Hey, Matt, it's me, Benny Ray! Don't give me that crap! We're friends,
remember?"

"Look, Benny Ray, this is personal! You don't...."

"Personal, my ass!" The sniper could be very determined when the occasion warranted it. This one definitely did. "You're lucky the mission got cancelled. In your present state a three-year-old could take you out. You'd never even notice!..... Something must've happened to shake you up pretty well and I wanna know what it was."

Matt looked at his friend for a moment, hesitating, then he seemed to come to a decision. He rubbed his neck and took a deep breath.

"Alright, but.... it's nothing, really. Uhm...., well, I'm .... I'm just tired, that's all. I haven't been sleeping too well lately,....uhm....you know,..... ever since..."

* * * *

Wednesday
11.00 hours

Silver Star Bar
Los Angeles

Benny Ray was sitting at the counter, nursing a coke, when Deke stepped
through the door again into the empty bar. He took the seat next to the
sniper and helped himself to a bottled water. Benny Ray turned to him.

"Well?"

"Insomnia! Steve!"

Deke raised an eyebrow at the ex marine.

"Insomnia! Grace!"

"Thought as much. .....What are we going to do? "

"Do?" Benny Ray almost choked on his drink. "Whadda ya mean? What can WE do about it?"

"Oh, I'm not sure yet. But there's an idea brewing in my mind." He turned the bottle in his hands, contemplating it for a moment, took a sip and put his
hand on the other man's shoulder.

"Well, my man! What do you think of this?......"


* * * *

Wednesday
22.15 hours

Silver Star Bar
Los Angeles

The bar was packed full and everybody seemed to be having a good time.

Benny Ray was watching the crowd through the window in Matt's office, half turned to the man at the desk, who wasn't looking quite as tired now.

"Well, Matt whadda ya say? Are you game for it?"

"I don't know.." Matt obviously wasn't too happy with whatever his friend had been suggesting.

Benny Ray turned to face him. "C'm on! You know it'll be good for you. Just what you need. Look at you, you can't go on like this. Lying awake at night, sleeping during the day, too exhausted for anythin' else ..... Besides
what've ya got to lose? And who knows what might come of it ....! Or is it that you're afraid?" His look was all challenge.

Matt gave in. "Okay, I guess you're right. After all, it's no great deal.
Might even turn out to be fun." He sounded resigned.

Benny Ray turned away before Matt could notice the grin on his face.

* * * *

Thursday
19.00 hours

Margo's flat

Margo sat on her bed, one leg stretched out in front of her, the toes of her
foot held apart by wadded cotton pads. She was bent over the other one,
attempting to apply a second layer of nail polish to nails separated by
another set of pads.

"Damn, why am I doing this? Men and their ideas of what's good for a woman!"

The door bell chimed. With a sigh she put the bottle of nail polish down, got up a bit awkwardly, wrapped her robe tighter around her body and waddled to the door.

When she recognized a familiar face through the spy hole, she opened the door.

"Hi Matt! Anything wrong?"

"Uh, no, nothing!" He hadn't expected to be met by an apparition clad only in a silk robe, curlers and cotton pads. He gestured to the still open door.
"I'll leave again..."

"No, why should you! You've already seen me in stranger outfits." She turned back, going into the bedroom, resumed her seat on the bed and picked up where she had left off. "Come on in! I'll just finish this."

Matt hesitated, then he closed the door behind him and slowly followed her into the bedroom. "If you don't mind...?" He looked around him for a place to sit. Finding nothing suitable, he finally sat down gingerly on the other side of the big double bed, stiffly leaning against some pillows, and tried not to watch her.

"It's alright. ... Why did you want to see me?" Margo looked up from her work.

"Oh, ahem!" He cleared his throat. "Nothing special, really. It's just,.... I
seemed to recall that you looked sort of down yesterday. Only wanted to make sure you were alright." Matt shifted uncomfortably.

Margo shrugged. "I was tired, that's all. I'm fine now." She scrutinized him.
"You are looking better than yesterday, too. In fact, you're looking
smashing! Going somewhere?"

Matt grinned a bit sheepishly. He had stopped fidgeting. "Yeah, sort of! I've got a date .... later."

Indicating her apparel he asked. "What about you? Any particular reason for this?"

"Me, too. ... I mean I have a date, too." She answered with a marked lack of enthusiasm. She was done polishing and had started fanning at her nails to get them to dry faster.

"Oh, .... anybody I know?"

"I don't know." Margo was wiggling her toes. She looked up at him. "I.. ahem ... I mean I don't know who I'm going out with."

Noticing his rising eyebrows, she hastily explained. "It's a blind date. Deke
has arranged it for me. He simply wouldn't let up, until I finally agreed. He
thought I needed a change." At his doubtful look she added almost defensively. "You know how Deke is. When he is determined that something needs doing, he'll pester you until you give in."

Matt couldn't help grinning. He nodded. " Sounds like Deke alright."

"Who are you going out with?" Margo decided to turn the attention away from her and her questionable date.

"Weeeell, I .... " Rather self-consciously, Matt laughed. "As it happens, I
don't know my date, either. Benny Ray has set up everything for me." Her
disbelieving glance made him shrug. Now it was his turn to explain.

"It has been going on ever since Grace broke up with me. When she told me she was sick and tired of waiting for someone who courted death like I did, I guess, I kind of flipped. I thought she had come to terms with our work. But she obviously hadn't, not really anyway. It's hard on a woman to accept what we do, I suppose. .... I kept thinking about all she had said and what I might have done, whether I could or would ever change and so on. Kept me up for hours each night. .... Yesterday Benny Ray made me realize that it's time I stopped moping around like a love sick fool."

"So, you'll try your hand in the game again?" Margo smiled at him.

Matt smiled back at her, glad that she understood.

He glanced at his watch. "When's your meet? I can take you there, maybe look the guy over first?"

Margo was on her way to the bathroom. She picked up the dress lying at the end of the bed.

"You think that'll be necessary? After all, Deke selected him for me."

"All the more reason. Who knows what his idea of a suitable date for you is. Sometimes his humor is a bit on the sick side."

"If you really don't mind. I'll just put this on and brush out my hair. Won't
be but a minute."

True to her word she reappeared shortly.

"Wow, I only hope this guy realizes what a lucky fella he is. You look great!"

Margo smiled a "Thank you!" at Matt and preceded him into the living room.

There she grabbed a hand bag and a scarf and turned to him. "Alright now,
shall we go?"

"You're sure you want to go through with this? You can cancel the whole thing if you don't feel comfortable with it, you know!" Matt thought he had noticed a faint unease flash over Margo's face.

"Hell, no! I'll see this through. After all, what is the worst thing that can
happen? If I don't like the look of the guy, I can always leave. It's only a
blind date! It's not as if I had to marry him."

With a flourish Matt opened the door for her. "Where to, Madam?"

"'Le Maison', Monsieur!" Smiling, Margo dropped a curtsy.

When Matt stopped as if he had been hit over the head with a board, the smile disappeared from Margo's face. Worried, she took a step towards him. "Matt, what is it?"

"'Le Maison'?? Your dinner date is at the 'Le Maison'?" Suddenly he found it difficult to swallow. "At eight? And you're to ask for Pierre, the waiter?"

"Yes, why? Matt, how do you ....." Margo looked at Matt, comprehension
dawning.

"No! Tell me that isn't true! Your date is...?"

Matt could only manage a weak "At 'Le Maison'! At eight!"

They were staring at each other, struck dumb.

"I won't kill them! But when I'm through with them they'll wish I had! That's
a promise, Margo!"

Deeply embarrassed, Matt looked at her, waiting for the inevitable explosion. But it didn't come. Instead he saw Margo suddenly double up, .... with laughter?

"Margo?" He wasn't sure what to make of her reaction. "Are you alright?"

"Oh God, Matt!" Tears were streaming down her carefully made up face. "Those beasts! They set us up! Blind dates with each other!" She almost collapsed in front of the door.

Slowly a grin was appearing on Matt's face, too, developing into full fledged laughter. Soon they were both sitting on the floor next to Margo's door, whooping with laughter at the absurdity of the situation.

* * * *

Thursday
20.15 hours

'Le Maison'

'Le Maison' was one of the really elegant, new French restaurants, very
chique, with an excellent cuisine. Also very expensive.

Margo and Matt were seated at a table close to a large window with a breath- taking view over the city. They were bent over large, elegantly bound menus, trying to select dinner.

After they had recovered from their bout of laughter, they had gone back into Margo's flat where Margo had restored her make-up and the two of them had talked the whole thing over.

"Let's go through with it." Margo had finally said, a devilish twinkle in her
eyes. "'Le Maison' is first class in everything, including prices. We can run
up a truly impressive bill and stick our two friends with it real good! Hm?"

Matt hadn't had to think about it for more than a second. His grin mirrored
Margo's. "Yeah, let's!"

They had left Margo's place in high spirits, never noticing the two watchers
following them in a nondescript car at a discreet distance.

Having observed their friends enter the 'Le Maison' laughing and talking
animatedly, Benny Ray and Deke were sure that THIS night those two would be enjoying themselves. The pattern had been broken.

Now, Benny Ray and Deke wisely decided that it was time to take a few days off.

Ende

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