A low whistle escaped from Matt's
lips as he pushed Margo's
"Sort of," the slender blonde woman replied with a wink.
"I could get usta dis,"
Nick remarked as he propped Margo's crutches
"Don't," Matt told him,
wheeling the chair directly into one of the
"There's a much nicer view from the sitting room," Margo wheedled.
"Uh-uh. The doctor said we bring
you home and put you right to bed,"
"But I feel fine!" Margo insisted.
"And we wanna keep it that way,"
Benny Ray said, patting her shoulder
"Come on, Matt - this is a beautiful
city - I want to get out and see
"Margo, the doctor said that
if you rested today, we could maybe take
"Hey - doctor's orders!"
"Well, can I at least get cleaned up a little?"
I'll give you
a hand," Alison responded immediately. "If
"C'mon, Delvecchio, that means
you," Benny Ray said, hauling his
"Awright! Awright! Jeez - leave the arm attached, willya!
"You call us if you need anything," Matt added.
"I think we can manage,"
Alison told him, shutting the door quite
* * * *
An hour or so later the door to Margo's room remained closed.
"How long does it take ta get cleaned up?" Nick wondered.
"Nick, we're talking about women,"
Matt reminded him. "I'd say we've
"Roger that, Major," Benny Ray chuckled.
"'Cawse, when they look like Margo-" Nick mused.
"Delvecchio-" Benny Ray interrupted.
"-shut up!" Matt finished for him.
The door finally opened thirty minutes
later and Alison emerged. "If
"Thanks for all your help,"
Matt said warmly as he walked her to the
"It was my pleasure," Alison told him. "When you see my dad "
"We'll give 'im your love," Benny Ray promised.
Matt poked his head into the room
where Margo lay propped up on her
"Do I have a choice?" she pouted, looking up from her magazine.
Matt grinned. "No, as a matter
of fact, you don't," he told her,
Matt and Nick departed and Benny
Ray settled down to his favorite
"How about a trip to Strøget?"
"Tomorrow, darlin.' You heard
the doctor and you know the drill -
Eventually, Margo's voice issued
from the other room once more.
"Right here, darlin,'"
came the immediate reply. She didn't answer
"In the hospital," she
began tentatively, "when you were talking
"'Course I meant it. I ain't
never been to Paris - leastways, not as
"Of course I would!"
There was a knock at the door and
Benny Ray was instantly on the
"Benny Ray, it's me," Matt called out.
Letting out a breath he didn't even
know he'd been holding, the
Matt laid a finger over his lips
in a gesture for silence as he
"Bored," Margo relied flatly. "How was your errand?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
Matt asked with a broad grin. Half-turning,
Puzzled, Benny Ray stepped back courteously
to let the older man
The sniper found himself a bit misty-eyed
as he watched Margo launch
"Oh, my little Margie what have you done to yourself?" John murmured.
"It's nothing," Margo said quickly. "Just a scratch."
"That's not what your friend
has been telling me," John admonished
"Matt worries too much," Margo grumbled.
"He worries about you
I'm glad he does. You are all the family I
"How long can you stay?" Margo asked eagerly.
"Only today, I'm afraid."
Matt leaned in close to Margo and
asked quietly, "Now, will you stay
Margo nodded, her eyes still shiny.
She caught Matt's hand as he
"Thank you," she whispered.
Matt squeezed her fingers gently.
"Anytime." He nodded to John and
Margo's eyes followed him as he left the room.
John noticed where her attention
was focused and smiled knowingly.
Margo avoided his eyes, blushing slightly. "I know."
"And how do you feel about him?" he asked gently.
"I trust him with my life," Margo replied immediately.
"I know that, Margie, but that doesn't answer my question."
"I never could fool you, could I?" she said with a nervous laugh.
"Not even when you were a little girl," John agreed. "So tell me."
"I care for him - very much but it's complicated..." Margo sighed.
"Why?" John asked curiously.
"Well, for one thing, our line
of work isn't exactly what you'd call
"True, but he shares your work
understands the way you live and
" She paused,
biting her lip as she tried to compose her
"There is someone else?" John guessed.
I don't know
mean, he's my friend
one of my best friends. I
Her brother chuckled softly.
"I'm sorry," Margo apologized. "This is so silly."
John leaned forward and caught both
her hands. "No, it isn't silly
John's comical expression and tone conjured up a giggle.
"It is nice to just talk about
normal things, isn't it?" Margo agreed
"Now, tell me about your friend," John instructed.
Matt tapped politely on the open
door of Margo's room. "Margo, I
"So soon?" Margo asked plaintively.
"I'm afraid so," Matt apologized.
John squeezed his sister's hands
reassuringly. "After all the time
"Is that a promise, big brother?"
Margo asked, a hint of tears in her
"It is," he vowed. Leaning
forward in his chair, he wrapped his arms
"I'll remember I promise."
* * * *
He smiled to himself, thinking that
only he or maybe Matt would have
"Yeah, Margo," Nick added,
quickly catching on, "what's it called?
"Huh? Spell dat, would ya?"
She did, and a moment later he crowed
"What is it, Delvecchio?"
Benny Ray asked curiously, wondering at the
"It's a giant shoppin' mall!"
A cheerful argument was in full swing
when Matt returned. "What's
"Nothin' much, boss," Benny
Ray said cheerfully. "We're just tryin'
"And you're being so loud because ?"
"Because Margo wants to go shoppin'!" Nick squawked.
"And what do you want to do?" Matt asked reasonably.
"How 'bout the Viking ships?" Benny Ray suggested.
"Margo's in a wheelchair,"
Matt reminded him. "Let me see that," he
"That sounds great!" Margo enthused.
"What they got there?" Benny Ray wanted to know.
"A little bit of everything," Matt told him.
"Sounds good to me. Lemme see that book, Delvecchio."
* * * *
A few hours later, Matt found himself
moderating yet another spirited
"I ain't sharin' no bunk with Delvecchio," Benny Ray insisted.
"So go sleep onna couch!" Nick shot back.
"Why don't you go sleep on the couch?" Benny Ray shot back.
"I'll go sleep on the couch,"
Matt announced. "It's quieter out
Margo stirred and rolled over. "Matt?"
she asked sleepily, "What're
"I'm sorry," he apologized,
"I didn't mean to wake you. I was just
"Couch? What's wrong with the other room?"
"Nick and Benny Ray," he replied shortly.
She laughed quietly. "Say no
more. Why don't you just take the
Matt eyed the offered accommodations
longingly - that bed would be a
"Mm-hm," she sighed drowsily.
"Anything to get you to shut up so I
"Now how can I refuse an invitation like that?"
Even in the dark, Margo knew that
he was wearing that mischievous
* * * *
Despite the upgrade in sleeping accommodations,
Matt still had a hard
A moment later his eyes shot open.
There was a noise out in the
She slid one hand under her pillow
and came up with the P232 that
Matt smiled grimly as he swung his
legs over the side of the bed. He
As if conjured by his thoughts, Benny
Ray appeared in the doorway of
Matt nodded and placed himself just
behind the door. When it slowly
Benny Ray took out the black-masked
point man with a single shot to
"Matt - down!" Nick yelled.
Matt dropped instantly, dragging
his opponent with him. Nick's
Taking advantage of Matt's momentary
distraction, the man he was
Matt shoved the soon-to-be-corpse
contemptuously aside and scrambled
There was a thump from inside the
room and a feminine voice was
"Margo!" Matt yelled above
the din of gunfire. His knees nearly
Recognizing Matt's voice, Margo peered
cautiously around the foot of
"You OK?" he asked, keeping his eyes on the door.
"Fine," she assured him.
They both heard the telltale singsong
of police sirens approaching
"Benny Ray!" Matt called.
"All clear, sir."
Matt huffed out a sigh of relief
and set down his weapon. He
"I'm fine, really. I just tried
to get up and moved a little too
Matt lifted Margo carefully in his
arms and settled her gently on her
"No worse then usual,"
Margo quipped. "It doesn't feel like I pulled
"Good." Matt flashed her
his trademark grin and she smiled in
He stepped out into the remains of
their sitting room, where Benny
"Is she OK?" Nick wanted to know.
"Yeah. The guy who tried to
break in there is another story,
"I'll bet," Benny Ray purred.
"Do you still have that number
Alison gave us?" Matt asked the
"Yes, sir," Benny Ray replied,
quickly retrieving the card from the
Matt handed it to Nick. "Call
Alison and tell her that you and I are
"You and Delvecchio?" Benny Ray asked with raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, me and Nick. I want you
to take Margo and get on the first
"Where to, Major?"
"I don't care. This is twice
now that there's been an attack with
* * * *
"Somehow, this isn't quite what
I had in mind when I mentioned
"I know," Benny Ray commiserated,
"but the Major wants us to sit
"Deke thought the man who attacked
me in the hospital was a
"Mm-hm. And the Major thinks
the bunch that came after us in the
"What I can't figure out is
how they kept tracking us," Margo
"Your guess is as good as mine,
darlin.' It's strange, though...I
"We did - rather permanently, as I recall."
Further speculation was halted by
the ringing of Benny Ray's cell
Margo noted the abrupt change in Benny Ray's posture.
"I see, sir. You're sure? Yeah
you wouldn't say somethin'
Margo's face registered shock - that
one word could often have a very
"Yessir, I know sir." Looking
dazed, Benny Ray switched off the cell
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Margo asked, finally unable to contain
Benny Ray got up and moved to her
side, careful of her injured leg.
Margo's eyes went wide as she guessed
what was coming next. She
"Margo, that was Trout. He identified the bodies himself."
"No! I have to go back - I have to see-"
Benny Ray wrapped both arms tightly
around her and caught her
Margo's hands clutched fistfuls of
his shirt as she wailed her agony.
"I can't believe they're gone," Margo sobbed against his chest.
"Neither can I, darlin' neither can I."
* * * *
The sun shining full in his face drew Benny Ray out of a troubled sleep. Margo lay in his arms, finally sleeping. He gently brushedher hair back from her face. As often as he might have wondered whatit would be like to hold her, this wasn't the way he wanted it tohappen.
"I am so sorry," he whispered into her hair.
There was a tapping sound that Benny
Ray's sluggish mind recognized
He stood carefully to one side of the door. "Who is it?" he rasped.
"Deke," a blessedly familiar voice rumbled.
Benny Ray slumped against the wall
in relief. He checked the peephole,
"You look like I feel,"
Deke remarked as he slouched through the
In response, Benny Ray laid a finger
over his lips. Deke nodded and
"What happened?" he asked hollowly.
"A car accident."
"I'm not buyin' that, man. People like us don't have 'accidents.'"
"Well, if it wasn't an accident,
no one can find any evidence," Deke
"Who looked?" Benny Ray wanted to know.
"I did. Personally."
Benny Ray hung his head and rubbed
the back of his neck tiredly.
"Trout identified them. I saw the autopsy reports. It wasn't pretty."
"Where are they?"
"Ramstein Airbase. Trout arranged
for them to be interred at
"We can take care of ourselves,"
Margo said, leaning painfully
Deke rose swiftly and crossed the
room to her side, slipping his arm
"I think he's right, darlin,'" Benny Ray said tiredly.
Margo nodded as tears began to stream from her eyes once more.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Matt watched from the front seat
of a park maintenance vehicle as two
Deke carefully pushed the wheelchair
across the uneven ground while
Nick saw Matt's knuckles go white
as he clutched the steering wheel.
"Couldn't we just tell 'em?" he grumbled.
"No," Matt said firmly.
"I want them safe. Believing that we're
" The smaller
man hung his head. "Look, I know you and Trout
"We're not," Matt answered,
his eyes still on the drama unfolding at
"You think it's another leak
inside the Pentagon?" Nick wanted to
Trout cleaned house
pretty thoroughly after the last incident.
"Who?" Nick asked curiously.
"I don't know yet."
The lonely echoes of Taps reverberating
from the marble monuments
"Someone has a lot of pain to answer for," Nick stated grimly.
"That they do," Matt agreed,
"and I intend to carve it out of their
"So where do we start lookin'?"
"We're going to collect some
of those assets I mentioned before.
* * * *
Benny Ray sat on the couch in the
luxurious suite Trout had provided.
"I can't believe they're gone,"
she whispered in a voice raw with
"I'm not so sure I believe it myself," Benny Ray said slowly.
"Which part?" Deke asked
curiously. "That they're gone, or that it
"Both. I mean, think about it - none of us actually saw the bodies."
"The pictures I saw were-"
"Pictures, Deke. Pictures of
badly burned bodies that someone told
"Trout ID'd the bodies himself,"
Deke reminded him. "You really
"Hell, I'm not sure what to
think anymore," Benny Ray groaned in
Margo struggled to sit up and Benny Ray wrapped his arms around her.
"If they're alive, we've got to find them," Margo insisted.
"And if they're dead?" Deke asked gently.
"Then we find out who killed
them," Benny Ray stated, tightening his
"I don't suppose this would
be a good time to mention that I have
"No," they informed him in unison.
"Didn't think so," Deke replied complacently.
* * * *
Deke looked up from his magazine
when the cell phone in his pocket
* * * *
"Deke, where the hell are you?" Trout demanded.
* * * *
"Now, you know I can't tell
you that. Can't be sure of the security
* * * *
"Deke, you have orders to-"
* * * *
"To keep our friends safe, and
that's what I'm doin'. 'Course, the
* * * *
"Deke!" Trout shouted into
the phone, veins bulging on his forehead.
* * * *
"Deke," Benny Ray said
quietly, "we happen to know from hard
"I can't afford not to,"
Deke replied gravely. Margo stretched her
"You assume correctly,"
Margo informed him. "That's the first place
"Besides," Benny Ray continued,
"Somethin' or someone that's bad
"So, where we goin'?" Deke repeated.
"Hawaii," Margo told him.
* * * *
Matt checked the worn business card
against the airport directory.
Matt? If dese guys
run a charter company, why'd we waste all dat
"Because I'm trying not to advertise
our presence," Matt explained
Matt found the office and pushed
the door open, interrupting a card
"Welcome to C&C Charters
- Major!" C.J. exclaimed as he recognized
"You should have told us you
were coming, Major, we'd have fetched
"That's exactly why I didn't call ahead," Matt said gravely.
"This isn't a social call, is it?" Chance asked perceptively.
"No, it isn't," Matt admitted.
"Look," he said, scrubbing a hand
"What do you need, Major?" Chance asked, with no hesitation.
C.J. nodded his assent.
Matt let out the breath he'd been
holding as he sank into one of the
"Tell us what you need," the Brit encouraged him.
"Well, first off, we need a
place to stay. I don't think anyone's got our
"Not a problem," Chance
assured him. "How many people are we talking
"Just myself and Nick,"
Matt said, gesturing to his companion. "C.J.
"Pleased ta meet ya," Nick offered.
C.J. and Chance exchanged concerned
glances, then the former SAS man
"But where are the others?" Chance finished.
C.J.'s face paled. "My God, they're not "
"No, C.J., they're alive. I want to keep them that way so-"
"So he had Trout tell 'em we
were dead," Nick interrupted. "Dey even
"Matt, there's no way Margo's
gonna buy that for long. You know
"You noticed dat, too, huh?" Nick remarked cryptically.
"Mate, you'd have to be blind,
deaf, and stupid combined not to
Matt sighed heavily and turned back
to his companions. "Margo was
"Matt," Chance said gently,
"how long do you think it will take her
Matt whirled on his friend. "You
think I didn't consider that?" he
"All right, Major, we'll sort
this all out," C.J. said laying a comforting
Matt was still steaming, so Nick
spoke up. "We'd been having a lot a
"But the security problems continued?" Chance guessed.
"Yeah dere was two hits while we was in Copenhagen," Nick continued.
"The target seemed to be Margo,"
Matt added. "Now, Trout's
"So, you think that someone
has found another way to monitor one of
"Or maybe the hotel," Matt agreed.
"I'd say we've got our work cut out for us," C.J. commented.
* * * *
"Explain to me again exactly
what we're doing here," Drummer grumbled
"We're supposed to keep an eye
out for Margo and Benny Ray," Rico
"And some big, freaky-lookin'
guy that neither of us has ever met,"
I've seen pictures.
I don't think he'll be real hard to
"And we're supposed to intercept
them if they try to come home,"
"Because someone's trying to kill them, that's why."
"I think Trout's goin' senile
if there's any one group of
"Trout and Matt think there's
some kind of security breach, and that
"And we got picked for this duty because?" Drummer groused.
"Because Trout trusts us, and Matt trusts us."
"And because we owe them," Drummer finished.
* * * *
"So, let me get this straight,"
Deke began conversationally as he
"Sure we do," Margo hedged,
"we know that they retired to Hawaii. We
"Look, this place is an island,
right? How hard can it be to find
"It's a chain of islands,"
Deke corrected. "Do you even know which
Margo and Benny Ray exchanged troubled
looks. "No," Margo finally
"Didn't think so," Deke responded.
"Look, if you've got a better idea " Benny Ray started.
"Unfortunately, I don't."
Rising to his feet, Deke went over to the
"What're you gonna do?" Benny Ray asked suspiciously.
"I'm gonna get us somethin' to eat," Deke informed him.
"Just go easy on the shrimp
and filet mignons," Margo instructed, "we
"Maybe you do, but I've got
all sorts of resources that Trout doesn't
Margo and Benny Ray exchanged incredulous
looks. "Now he tells us,"
* * * *
"I think I got somethin'!"
Benny Ray crowed triumphantly a couple of
"What?" Margo asked curiously.
"C&C Charters. 'Island hops,
helicopter tours, and vintage aircraft
"That sounds like Chance, all right," Margo agreed.
"Where's that?" Deke wanted to know.
Benny Ray checked the listing. "Lana'i."
Deke found a map in the in-room tourist
magazine. "That's a small
"I'd say that's your department,
Mister Moneybags," Margo informed
"But of course, mademoiselle," Deke replied with a florid bow.
* * * *
Deke rolled over cautiously on the
small couch. He wondered for a
Margo pressed a hand to her mouth,
trying not to disturb the others.
right, darlin,'" Benny Ray crooned, rocking her
"I'm sorry," she whimpered.
"There ain't nothin' for you to be sorry for," Benny Ray assured her.
"It's just I miss him so much it hurts "
"I know hell, I even miss Delvecchio," he chuckled.
"So do I."
Benny Ray was pleased to see the
ghost of a smile curve her lips. He
"Will you will you stay with me a while?" she whispered.
"I'll stay as long as you want me to," he replied simply.
Margo felt the steady beating of
his heart and the comforting rumble
As Benny Ray gradually felt her body
slip back into slumber, it
* * * *
Matt tossed and turned restlessly
on the bed in Chance's spare room.
"Go to sleep, Matt," Chance called softly from the next room.
"Sorry," Matt murmured.
"I'm sure they're fine,"
Chance said soothingly. "Benny Ray and
"You have no idea," Matt laughed quietly.
There was a long silence, during
which Matt thought that Chance had
"Did you ever tell her how you feel?"
Matt didn't bother to insult his
friend's intelligence by asking whom
"If you don't mind my saying
so," Chance offered, "when this is all
"It could never work, Chance
life we lead
it's just too
"I never knew you to back down from a challenge, sir."
she deserves better.
She deserves to have someone who can
"What?" Chance asked derisively,
"A big house and a fancy car?
Matt sighed heavily. "I don't
know why we're even bothering to have
that's not the way
she'll let you live, so she can
"Thanks - that's very encouraging," Matt said sardonically.
"Anytime," Chance told him complacently.
* * * *
After pounding steadily on the door
of C&C Charters for ten solid
"Why don't we just pick the
lock?" Margo asked. "There's got to be
"You really want to try an'
open a door that C.J. Yates don't want
"Point taken," Margo sighed.
"I happen to have a master key
for every door," Deke stated, moving
Benny Ray stopped him with a hand
on the arm. "No way, amigo.
"So we're back to square one," Deke groused.
"Hello, there!" a cheerful
voice called out from behind them. "Hope
"Why's that, amigo?" Benny Ray asked conversationally.
"Oh, these guys - they won the
lottery or somethin'! They're retired
"Thanks, amigo maybe some other time," Benny Ray said amiably.
They nodded and smiled until the
pilot had disappeared into his own
"Let's see that," Benny Ray said.
"Well, it can't be too far
whole island's only about ten miles
"There," Margo pointed,
"that's the airport, and there's Palaua
"Let's do it, people," Benny Ray said firmly.
* * * *
Deke gritted his teeth as their rented
four by four bounced along the
"Nope," Benny Ray told
him cheerfully, "These two compadres of ours -
"Livin' on a road like this,
privacy is about all their gonna get,"
"Look, is that a driveway?"
Margo asked, pointing to an overgrown
"One way to find out,"
Deke answered. "Hold on to your lunch,
"You sure about this?"
Benny Ray asked after a few minutes of winding
"Yup," Deke answered, nodding
towards the large house that loomed
A trim dark-skinned man stepped put
of the house. "Something I can
"I sure hope so, amigo,"
Benny Ray said, stepping around the car,
A huge grin lit Chance's face as
he came down the steps to them.
Margo tried to smile for her friends,
but the closer Chance came, the
"Hey, I missed you," Chance
said lightly. "To what do I owe this
The sniper offered his hand. "Good
to see you, Chance. Just wish it
Chance disentangled one arm to clasp
Benny Ray's hand. "What's going
"Chance it's Matt he's "
Chance looked to Benny Ray as Margo
buried her head against his
"The Major he's dead."
"Come on inside, all of you,"
C.J. invited, wrapping his arm around
"Deacon Reynolds, at your service."
"You're the man who likes to
blow things up?" Deke asked for
"That's right, mate. Demo is
my specialty," he replied, accenting
Benny Ray began to speak slowly,
staring at the carpet. "We were on
Margo picked up the story, speaking
in a strained voice. "Three days
"He sent me to bring them home
for the funerals and keep an eye on
"So Trout sent you lookin' fer us?" C.J. asked.
"No, that was their idea,"
Deke informed him. "Trout wanted them to
"So why didn't you just stay put?" Chance inquired.
"Because somethin' just ain't
right about this whole thing," Benny
"Then there's the question of
the bodies," Deke added. "No one but
"You really think he'd lie to you?" Chance asked.
"If he thought it was in the
interest of some 'greater good,' he just
Margo raised her tear-stained face
from Chance's shoulder. "If Matt
Chance gave C.J. a look she couldn't
interpret and the Brit nodded
"Delvecchio?! What the hell?" Benny Ray spluttered.
Margo stared at Matt, her face ashen.
Chance moved to assist her as
"You're alive?" she whispered
wonderingly, resting both hands against
"Yeah the, a, rumors of my death ," he said with a shaky laugh.
"How can you joke about this?"
she whispered harshly, tears seeping
"Look, I'm sorry "
"How could you do this to us?"
she sobbed. "Do you have any idea of
"Margo, I'm sorry," Matt
said firmly, as she struggled in his arms.
"Didn't it occur to you that
there are things that mean more to me
"You son of a bitch!" Margo
punctuated her words with a solid right
"Benny Ray " Matt pleaded, rubbing his jaw.
"I think we all need a minute
here, sir, 'cuz right now I'm tempted
Matt stood there in the center of
the room with the weight of several
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