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A sequel to "Coming Home"

1044 HOURS
HOTEL D'ANGLETERRE
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

A low whistle escaped from Matt's lips as he pushed Margo's
wheelchair into the sitting room of the spacious suite Alison had booked
for the team. "Your father really authorized this kind of expense?"
he asked incredulously.

"Sort of," the slender blonde woman replied with a wink.

"I could get usta dis," Nick remarked as he propped Margo's crutches
against the wall.

"Don't," Matt told him, wheeling the chair directly into one of the
bedrooms. "Here we go - last stop!" he announced cheerfully.

"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,"
Matt informed her.

"But I feel fine!" Margo insisted.

"And we wanna keep it that way," Benny Ray said, patting her shoulder
as he passed with an armload of flowers.

"Come on, Matt - this is a beautiful city - I want to get out and see
some of it!"

"Margo, the doctor said that if you rested today, we could maybe take
you out for a couple of hours tomorrow - in the wheelchair."

"Ma-att!"

"Hey - doctor's orders!"

"Well, can I at least get cleaned up a little?"

"Of course…I'll give you a hand," Alison responded immediately. "If
you gentlemen will excuse us?" she asked pointedly.

"C'mon, Delvecchio, that means you," Benny Ray said, hauling his
teammate out of the room.

"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
firmly in his face.

* * * *

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
got another hour or so."

"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
you gentlemen don't mind, I really need to get back to work."

"Thanks for all your help," Matt said warmly as he walked her to the
door of the suite.

"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
pillows, wearing a pale silk robe. "Nick's gonna make a supply run
and I have an errand…think you and Benny Ray can manage for a while?"

"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,
ducking the throw pillow she heaved in his direction.

Matt and Nick departed and Benny Ray settled down to his favorite
pastime of breaking down and cleaning his weapons. "Margo, you just
give a holler if you need anything," he called.

"How about a trip to Strøget?"

"Tomorrow, darlin.' You heard the doctor and you know the drill -
you rest today and we'll take you someplace nice tomorrow." Benny
Ray chose to ignore the distinctly unladylike mutterings that issued
from the other room. After a few minutes, Margo seemed to run out of
cuss words in whatever language she was speaking, and he heard the
soft rustle of her magazine pages turning. Chuckling softly to
himself, Benny Ray turned his attention back to the project at hand.

Eventually, Margo's voice issued from the other room once more.
"Benny Ray?" she called softly.

"Right here, darlin,'" came the immediate reply. She didn't answer
at once. In fact, he was on the verge of getting up to check on her
when she spoke again.

"In the hospital," she began tentatively, "when you were talking
about going to Paris…did you really mean that?"

"'Course I meant it. I ain't never been to Paris - leastways, not as
a tourist - and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather see it with.
If you'd like to, that is."

"Of course I would!"

There was a knock at the door and Benny Ray was instantly on the
alert, drawing his sidearm.

"Benny Ray, it's me," Matt called out.

Letting out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding, the
sniper holstered his weapon and opened the door. He was surprised to
see a tall, grey-haired man wearing a priest's cassock standing in
the doorway.

Matt laid a finger over his lips in a gesture for silence as he
walked over to Margo's room. "How's the patient?" he asked casually.

"Bored," Margo relied flatly. "How was your errand?"

"Why don't you tell me?" Matt asked with a broad grin. Half-turning,
he made a 'come in' gesture to someone Margo couldn't see.

Puzzled, Benny Ray stepped back courteously to let the older man
pass. A moment later, he clearly heard Margo's joyous exclamation.

"John!"

The sniper found himself a bit misty-eyed as he watched Margo launch
herself into her brother's arms.

"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
gently.

"Matt worries too much," Margo grumbled.

"He worries about you…and I'm glad he does. You are all the family I
have left."

"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
put?"

Margo nodded, her eyes still shiny. She caught Matt's hand as he
moved to leave the room.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Matt squeezed her fingers gently. "Anytime." He nodded to John and
left.

Margo's eyes followed him as he left the room.

John noticed where her attention was focused and smiled knowingly.
"He cares for you very much, you know."

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
safe."

"True, but he shares your work…he understands the way you live and
why."

"Yes, but…" She paused, biting her lip as she tried to compose her
thoughts.

"There is someone else?" John guessed.

"Maybe…I don't know…I mean, he's my friend…one of my best friends. I
- I could just be imagining things," she concluded lamely.

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
at all. I can't tell you how much it pains me that I couldn't be
there to watch you grow up and play the big, bad, older brother
glaring menacingly at all the boys you brought home."

John's comical expression and tone conjured up a giggle.

"It is nice to just talk about normal things, isn't it?" Margo agreed
laughingly.

"Now, tell me about your friend," John instructed.


* * * *

Matt tapped politely on the open door of Margo's room. "Margo, I
hate to interrupt, but we've got to get your brother back to the
airport or he'll miss his flight."

"So soon?" Margo asked plaintively.

"I'm afraid so," Matt apologized.

John squeezed his sister's hands reassuringly. "After all the time
it took me to find you, I don't intend to lose you again."

"Is that a promise, big brother?" Margo asked, a hint of tears in her
voice.

"It is," he vowed. Leaning forward in his chair, he wrapped his arms
around Margo, who held on as if she'd never let go. "Remember what I
told you," he whispered, "follow your heart - it will always lead you
home."

"I'll remember…I promise."

* * * *

After Matt and their guest left for the airport, Benny Ray resumed
his post in the sitting room. After allowing what he hoped was a
decent interval for Margo to pull herself together following her
brother's departure, he called out to her quietly. "Margo?"

"Yes?"

He smiled to himself, thinking that only he or maybe Matt would have
noticed the faint sniffle that preceded her response. "Delvecchio
got himself a tourist book. What's that place you wanted to go to?"

"Yeah, Margo," Nick added, quickly catching on, "what's it called?
I'll look it up."

"Strøget."

"Huh? Spell dat, would ya?" She did, and a moment later he crowed
triumphantly. "Here it is: Str…whateva. Located close to the
center of the city, this walking street is lined with all manner
of…aw, jeez!"

"What is it, Delvecchio?" Benny Ray asked curiously, wondering at the
other man's stricken expression.

"It's a giant shoppin' mall!"

A cheerful argument was in full swing when Matt returned. "What's
all the ruckus?" he demanded.

"Nothin' much, boss," Benny Ray said cheerfully. "We're just tryin'
to decide what to do tomorrow."

"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.

"Anythin' else!"

"How 'bout the Viking ships?" Benny Ray suggested.

"Margo's in a wheelchair," Matt reminded him. "Let me see that," he
requested, holding out his hand for the book. "How about Tivoli
Gardens?" he suggested.

"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
discussion.

"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
there!" Stepping out into the sitting room, Matt kicked off his
shoes and flung himself down on the couch. Almost immediately, he
realized that the couch in question was considerably shorter than he
was. After tossing and turning for the better part of an hour, he
finally sat up, rubbing his stiff neck absently. There was no way he
was going to get any decent sleep like this. He padded across the
room to Margo's door, which stood ajar, and very softly whispered her
name. When she didn't answer, he quietly pushed the door open.
Going over to the extra bed, he began gathering up a couple of
pillows.

Margo stirred and rolled over. "Matt?" she asked sleepily, "What're
you doing in here?"

"I'm sorry," he apologized, "I didn't mean to wake you. I was just
borrowing some pillows for the couch."

"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
other bed?" Margo suggested.

Matt eyed the offered accommodations longingly - that bed would be a
definite improvement over the couch. "Are you sure?" he asked
diffidently.

"Mm-hm," she sighed drowsily. "Anything to get you to shut up so I
can go back to sleep."

"Now how can I refuse an invitation like that?"

Even in the dark, Margo knew that he was wearing that mischievous
grin and she smiled into her pillow. "Quietly," she advised.

* * * *

Despite the upgrade in sleeping accommodations, Matt still had a hard
time settling down. 'Get a grip,' he scolded himself. 'It's hardly
the first time you've slept in the same room.' That thought stirred
some memories…that night in Berlin…the very air had shimmered with
possibilities, but he'd turned away. Later, in that squalid prison
cell, he'd made a promise - to Margo, and to himself, that they would
finally explore all those possibilities. He had yet to follow
through...and now he was close to losing her again, either to the
violence that was a standard part of their lives…or to his best
friend. Matt wasn't sure which thought disturbed him more. He
rolled over and readjusted his pillow, hoping for sleep.

A moment later his eyes shot open. There was a noise out in the
sitting room - someone was unlocking the door to their suite. He
glanced over at the other bed and saw that Margo was wide-awake too.

She slid one hand under her pillow and came up with the P232 that
they'd given her for her birthday.

Matt smiled grimly as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. He
rose silently on bare feet and stalked, cat-like to the doorway.
Motioning for Margo to stay put, he peered out into the main room.
Matt's eyes were accustomed to the dimness of the room and he saw the
doorknob turning as someone picked the lock. He cursed silently as
he realized that his weapons were in the other room and there was no
time to retrieve them or to wake the others.

As if conjured by his thoughts, Benny Ray appeared in the doorway of
the other bedroom, weapon at the ready. He took up a position that
would allow him to pick off the intruders as they entered.

Matt nodded and placed himself just behind the door. When it slowly
creaked open, he grabbed the doorknob, flinging the door open wide,
surprising the intruders.

Benny Ray took out the black-masked point man with a single shot to
the chest. Matt grabbed the second shooter as he came through the
door, chopping at the assailant's gun arm. A P226 dropped from the
intruder's suddenly nerveless fingers and skittered across the
hardwood floor.

"Matt - down!" Nick yelled.

Matt dropped instantly, dragging his opponent with him. Nick's
bullet whistled through the space he'd just been occupying, taking
down another shooter. Matt finished his opponent with a solid blow
to the jaw, then swept the feet out from under another attacker who
tried to come at him from behind. He wondered vaguely where they
were all coming from, when a cry of pain from the direction of
Margo's room claimed his attention.

Taking advantage of Matt's momentary distraction, the man he was
grappling with pulled a knife, and managed to inflict a long slice
down the length of Matt's arm. Mere seconds later, he stared in
befuddlement at the hilt of the knife protruding from his own chest.

Matt shoved the soon-to-be-corpse contemptuously aside and scrambled
to his feet, pausing only to collect a fallen Uzi. He fired a
controlled burst from the sub gun at another goon who was trying to
enter Margo's room and had the satisfaction of seeing the man go
down.

There was a thump from inside the room and a feminine voice was
raised in a decidedly indelicate oath.

"Margo!" Matt yelled above the din of gunfire. His knees nearly
buckled in relief when she answered him immediately, albeit in a
slightly pained voice. Entering her room, Matt kicked aside the body
of a man who'd made the fatal error of thinking that a small,
delicate-looking woman would make an easy target. "Margo!" he hissed
again.

Recognizing Matt's voice, Margo peered cautiously around the foot of
the bed. "Right here," she replied with a tight smile.

"You OK?" he asked, keeping his eyes on the door.

"Fine," she assured him.

They both heard the telltale singsong of police sirens approaching
the building.

"Benny Ray!" Matt called.

"All clear, sir."

Matt huffed out a sigh of relief and set down his weapon. He
switched on the lights and moved quickly to Margo's side. "Are you
hit?"he asked urgently.

"I'm fine, really. I just tried to get up and moved a little too
fast - I lost my balance, that's all."

Matt lifted Margo carefully in his arms and settled her gently on her
bed. He cautiously checked the bandage on her injured leg. It
looked clean and intact. "Any pain?" he asked.

"No worse then usual," Margo quipped. "It doesn't feel like I pulled
the stitches or anything."

"Good." Matt flashed her his trademark grin and she smiled in
return. "I'll be right back," he told her, patting her leg
reassuringly.

He stepped out into the remains of their sitting room, where Benny
Ray and Nick were methodically collecting weapons from the fallen
intruders.

"Is she OK?" Nick wanted to know.

"Yeah. The guy who tried to break in there is another story,
though."

"I'll bet," Benny Ray purred.

"Do you still have that number Alison gave us?" Matt asked the
sniper.

"Yes, sir," Benny Ray replied, quickly retrieving the card from the
other room and passing it to Matt.

Matt handed it to Nick. "Call Alison and tell her that you and I are
going to need some assistance with the local constabulary."

"You and Delvecchio?" Benny Ray asked with raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, me and Nick. I want you to take Margo and get on the first
flight out of here."

"Where to, Major?"

"I don't care. This is twice now that there's been an attack with
Margo as the apparent target. I want you to get her clear of this
and lay low until we can figure out what the hell's going on."

* * * *

HOTEL DUMINY-VENDOME
PARIS, FRANCE

"Somehow, this isn't quite what I had in mind when I mentioned
visiting Paris," Margo sighed, looking around the hotel room where
they'd been holed up for the last three days. The sounds of the city
wafted through the open window, making the walls seem closer every
minute.

"I know," Benny Ray commiserated, "but the Major wants us to sit
tight until he can get that mess in Copenhagen sorted out."

"Deke thought the man who attacked me in the hospital was a
disgruntled buyer who believed I'd killed Bjornson and taken the
disk."

"Mm-hm. And the Major thinks the bunch that came after us in the
hotel worked for Bjornson or his partners."

"What I can't figure out is how they kept tracking us," Margo
remarked.

"Your guess is as good as mine, darlin.' It's strange, though...I
mean, I thought we cleaned up the leak in Trout's office."

"We did - rather permanently, as I recall."

Further speculation was halted by the ringing of Benny Ray's cell
phone. "Talk to me," he said.

Margo noted the abrupt change in Benny Ray's posture.

"I see, sir. You're sure? Yeah…I know…you wouldn't say somethin'
like that if you weren't sure of the facts. Yessir, we can hang
tight til he gets here. Sir, what about…" the sniper drew in a long
shaky breath. "…arrangements, sir?"

Margo's face registered shock - that one word could often have a very
ominous meaning.

"Yessir, I know sir." Looking dazed, Benny Ray switched off the cell
phone and set it down on the table. He rested his head in his hands
for a long moment.

"What is it? What's wrong?" Margo asked, finally unable to contain
herself.

Benny Ray got up and moved to her side, careful of her injured leg.
He sat down beside her and took both her hands in his own. "Margo,
honey, there was…an accident in Copenhagen."

Margo's eyes went wide as she guessed what was coming next. She
shook her head in denial. "No…" she whispered, "…no…"

"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
flailing hands. "No, baby, you don't want to see…it was a car
fire…you don't need to remember 'em that way."

Margo's hands clutched fistfuls of his shirt as she wailed her agony.
Benny Ray fought to contain his own pain as he rocked her in his
arms.

"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
as someone knocking on the door of their hotel room. He carefully
eased himself out from under Margo and settled her on the pillows,
then collected his Glock from the nightstand and checked the clip.

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,
then unlocked the door.

"You look like I feel," Deke remarked as he slouched through the
door. "How's Margo?"

In response, Benny Ray laid a finger over his lips. Deke nodded and
flopped onto the couch. Benny Ray glanced into the bedroom to assure
himself that Margo was still asleep, then dropped into the easy
chair.

"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
told him.

"Who looked?" Benny Ray wanted to know.

"I did. Personally."

Benny Ray hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck tiredly.
"What about the bodies?" he finally asked.

"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
Arlington. My job is to get the two of you back to Washington
intact. You're all that's left - Trout doesn't want to take any
chances with you."

"We can take care of ourselves," Margo said, leaning painfully
against the doorframe.

Deke rose swiftly and crossed the room to her side, slipping his arm
around her and easing her onto the couch. He knelt in front of her,
resting his hand on her good leg. "Pretty lady, any other time I'd
agree with you, but right now you're hurt. I know what it's like to
lose someone you love. You need to let someone else take care of you
for a while. Both of you," he added, taking in the sniper with his
glance.

"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
hearses and a row of limousines pulled up to a section containing two
newly opened graves. It was a very strange sensation to be a
spectator at his own funeral. His expression hardened as he saw
Benny Ray and Deke assist Margo from one of the cars.

Deke carefully pushed the wheelchair across the uneven ground while
Benny Ray walked beside the chair, holding tight to Margo's hand.

Nick saw Matt's knuckles go white as he clutched the steering wheel.
He didn't like seeing their friends go through this hell either, but he
knew it went much deeper for Matt. He knew that each tear that fell
from Margo Vincent's eyes was a knife twisted in the other man's gut.

"Couldn't we just tell 'em?" he grumbled.

"No," Matt said firmly. "I want them safe. Believing that we're
dead is the best way to accomplish that."

"Yeah…" The smaller man hung his head. "Look, I know you and Trout
think we got a security problem, and I know ya wanna keep de uddas
safe, but how're we gonna crack dis thing all by ourselves?"

"We're not," Matt answered, his eyes still on the drama unfolding at
graveside. Benny Ray and Deke flanked Margo's wheelchair
protectively, each holding one of her hands. "I have assets that you
don't know about. Hopefully our security problem doesn't know about
them either."

"You think it's another leak inside the Pentagon?" Nick wanted to
know.

"Nah…Trout cleaned house pretty thoroughly after the last incident.
I'm thinking that somehow, someone has latched onto one of us."

"Who?" Nick asked curiously.

"I don't know…yet."

The lonely echoes of Taps reverberating from the marble monuments
drew their attention back to the funeral. They watched as Benny Ray
wheeled Margo over to the caskets, so she could lay a long-stemmed
rose on each. She lingered longer at the second, laying her hand on
the polished wood and bowing her head for a long moment.

"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
hide."

"So where do we start lookin'?"

"We're going to collect some of those assets I mentioned before.
We're going to Hawaii."

* * * *

WATERGATE HOTEL
WASHINGTON, DC

Benny Ray sat on the couch in the luxurious suite Trout had provided.
Margo's head rested on a cushion in his lap and he absently ran his
fingers through her hair.

"I can't believe they're gone," she whispered in a voice raw with
misery.

"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
was an accident?"

"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
you were Delvecchio and the Major," Benny Ray pointed out.

"Trout ID'd the bodies himself," Deke reminded him. "You really
think he'd lie to us about something like this?"

"Hell, I'm not sure what to think anymore," Benny Ray groaned in
frustration.

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
arms around Margo.

"I don't suppose this would be a good time to mention that I have
orders from Trout to keep you two safe and out of trouble?" Deke
rumbled speculatively.

"No," they informed him in unison.

"Didn't think so," Deke replied complacently.

* * * *

Two days later…

Deke looked up from his magazine when the cell phone in his pocket
shrilled. Glancing across the aisle at Margo and Benny Ray, he
answered the call. "Talk to me."

* * * *

"Deke, where the hell are you?" Trout demanded.

* * * *

"Now, you know I can't tell you that. Can't be sure of the security
of this line, you know."

* * * *

"Deke, you have orders to-"

* * * *

"To keep our friends safe, and that's what I'm doin'. 'Course, the
longer you keep me on this call, the more chance there is of someone
tracing it," Deke said, winking at Margo. He switched off the phone
and removed the battery.

* * * *

"Deke!" Trout shouted into the phone, veins bulging on his forehead.
"Deke!"

* * * *

"Deke," Benny Ray said quietly, "we happen to know from hard
experience that there's just so far you can push that man. Are you
sure you can afford to do this?"

"I can't afford not to," Deke replied gravely. Margo stretched her
hand across the aisle and he caught it, squeezing her fingers gently.
After a moment, Deke leaned back in his seat. "So, in one hour,
this plane's gonna land in Texas. You want to tell me where we're
goin' from there? I assume we're not goin' home."

"You assume correctly," Margo informed him. "That's the first place
Trout will look for us."

"Besides," Benny Ray continued, "Somethin' or someone that's bad
enough to take down the Major and Delvecchio…well, that's gonna take
more'n the three of us to deal with 'em, so we gonna get us some
help."

"So, where we goin'?" Deke repeated.

"Hawaii," Margo told him.

* * * *

LANA'I AIRPORT
LANA'I, HAWAII

Matt checked the worn business card against the airport directory.
"There it is - C&C Charters."

"Uh…Matt? If dese guys run a charter company, why'd we waste all dat
time waitin' for the commercial shuttle?" Nick asked.

"Because I'm trying not to advertise our presence," Matt explained
patiently. "Besides, I told you…these guys are out of the game. I
want to protect them as much as possible."

Matt found the office and pushed the door open, interrupting a card
game. A trim, shaven-headed man had his back to the door, studying
his hand. His opponent began greeting his customers without
bothering to look up first.

"Welcome to C&C Charters - Major!" C.J. exclaimed as he recognized
his guest. He dropped his cards and bounded over to greet Matt,
enfolding him in a rough bear hug. Chance wasn't far behind.

"You should have told us you were coming, Major, we'd have fetched
you ourselves!" C.J. admonished him.

"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
through his hair, "I know you two are retired. Just give the word
and I'll leave right now - no harm, no foul."

"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
chairs C.J. hastily pulled up.

"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
trail, but I can't make any promises."

"Not a problem," Chance assured him. "How many people are we talking
about?" he added.

"Just myself and Nick," Matt said, gesturing to his companion. "C.J.
Yates, Chance Walker, this is Nick Delvecchio."

"Pleased ta meet ya," Nick offered.

C.J. and Chance exchanged concerned glances, then the former SAS man
spoke up. "Uh, Major…not that we aren't pleased to make the
acquaintance of Mister Delvecchio here…"

"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
buried us - at Arlington, no less."

"Matt, there's no way Margo's gonna buy that for long. You know
that," Chance stated flatly.

"You noticed dat, too, huh?" Nick remarked cryptically.

"Mate, you'd have to be blind, deaf, and stupid combined not to
notice," C.J. replied with a telling glance at Matt, who was staring
out the window, oblivious to their by-play.

Matt sighed heavily and turned back to his companions. "Margo was
hurt on our last op…I thought…hearing something like this might throw
her off balance enough that she'd go along with Trout's security
precautions…at least until she's recovered from her injuries."

"Matt," Chance said gently, "how long do you think it will take her
to recover from something like this…emotionally?"

Matt whirled on his friend. "You think I didn't consider that?" he
spat out angrily. "I don't care if she hates me…or never forgives
me…as long as she's alive!"

"All right, Major, we'll sort this all out," C.J. said laying a comforting
hand on Matt's shoulder. "Now, exactly what can we do to help?"

Matt was still steaming, so Nick spoke up. "We'd been having a lot a
problems wit' bad intel…then, a few months back, we plugged up a real
bad leak in da Pentagon. After dat, Trout went troo da place wit a
fine-tooth comb and figgered we was awright - for a while, anyway."

"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
reasonably sure that the problem isn't coming from his end."

"So, you think that someone has found another way to monitor one of
you?" C.J. guessed.

"Or maybe the hotel," Matt agreed.

"I'd say we've got our work cut out for us," C.J. commented.

* * * *

SILVER STAR
HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

"Explain to me again exactly what we're doing here," Drummer grumbled
from his post at a panel of sophisticated wire-tap equipment located
in the back of a dark van that was parked across the street from the
hotel.

"We're supposed to keep an eye out for Margo and Benny Ray," Rico
explained patiently, watching a monitor that covered the employees'
entrance.

"And some big, freaky-lookin' guy that neither of us has ever met,"
Drummer interjected.

"Yeah, well…I've seen pictures. I don't think he'll be real hard to
miss."

"And we're supposed to intercept them if they try to come home,"
Drummer continued.

"Yup."

"Why?"

"Because someone's trying to kill them, that's why."

"I think Trout's goin' senile on us…if there's any one group of
people in this world who can look after themselves, it's Shepherd's
team."

"Trout and Matt think there's some kind of security breach, and that
it's connected to the Silver Star somehow. Matt wants the leak found
and plugged - permanently."

"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.

* * * *

BEST WESTERN PLAZA HOTEL
HONOLULU, HAWAII

"So, let me get this straight," Deke began conversationally as he
folded his lanky frame into a rather small armchair, "we came all the
way out here because you've got some friends who can help us out, but
you don't know where to find them?"

"Sure we do," Margo hedged, "we know that they retired to Hawaii. We
just don't know exactly where in Hawaii."

"Look, this place is an island, right? How hard can it be to find
two guys on an island?" Benny Ray added. He carefully propped
Margo's injured leg on a cushion and made sure her crutches were
within reach, then settled himself on the floor.

"It's a chain of islands," Deke corrected. "Do you even know which
one your friends are on?"

Margo and Benny Ray exchanged troubled looks. "No," Margo finally
admitted.

"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
closet and started rummaging through the contents of the top shelves.
A few moments later, he returned with an armload of phone books.
"OK, folks, let's get started," he said, handing the ponderous
volumes out to the others. Settling back in his chair, Deke picked
up the room service menu.

"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
have to use cash so Trout can't track the credit card transactions."

"Maybe you do, but I've got all sorts of resources that Trout doesn't
know about," Deke informed them smugly.

Margo and Benny Ray exchanged incredulous looks. "Now he tells us,"
the sniper groaned in exasperation.

* * * *

"I think I got somethin'!" Benny Ray crowed triumphantly a couple of
hours later.

"What?" Margo asked curiously.

"C&C Charters. 'Island hops, helicopter tours, and vintage aircraft
restoration.'"

"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
island near Maui. We'll need transportation."

"I'd say that's your department, Mister Moneybags," Margo informed
him.

"But of course, mademoiselle," Deke replied with a florid bow.

* * * *

0130 HOURS

Deke rolled over cautiously on the small couch. He wondered for a
moment what had wakened him, then realized that it was the sound of
soft, muffled sobs coming from the other room. He'd heard that sound
nearly every night since he'd caught up with Margo and Benny Ray and
it tore at his heart until he felt a powerful urge to hurt someone.
His acute ears picked up the sound of Benny Ray's movements, and he
closed his eyes, knowing that Margo and the sniper shared a longer
history and that Benny Ray's presence would be more welcome than his
own right now.

Margo pressed a hand to her mouth, trying not to disturb the others.
She cursed her weakness, but she just couldn't seem to help herself.
She felt a strong pair of arms slip around her, and a gentle hand
smoothed her tumbled hair.

"Shh…shh…it's all right, darlin,'" Benny Ray crooned, rocking her
gently. His own eyes stung as he felt her body wracked with
powerful, gut-wrenching sobs.

"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
softly pressed his mouth to her forehead. "Go on back to sleep now."

"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
of his voice against her cheek and she began to relax, feeling safe
and protected.

As Benny Ray gradually felt her body slip back into slumber, it
occurred to him that he hadn't simply been mouthing platitudes to
offer hollow comfort - he would stay with her as long as she wanted
him to…he'd stay forever, if she'd let him.

* * * *

0220 HOURS

Matt tossed and turned restlessly on the bed in Chance's spare room.
Trout had done well by his people in terms of a pension…they'd gone
halves on a small pineapple farm. The house was large and rambling,
and the two men maintained peace by maintaining their personal
quarters at opposite ends of the second floor.

"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
Margo are very resourceful people, and that Deke fellow sounds like a
pretty savvy guy."

"You have no idea," Matt laughed quietly.

There was a long silence, during which Matt thought that Chance had
gone back to sleep, until he heard the other man's soft voice once
more.

"Matt?"

"Yeah?"

"Did you ever tell her how you feel?"

Matt didn't bother to insult his friend's intelligence by asking whom
he was talking about. Instead, he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to
block out the persistent images of all the lost opportunities that
kept rising in his mind's eye. "No," he finally whispered.

"If you don't mind my saying so," Chance offered, "when this is all
over, you really ought to tell her what's in your heart. She's a good
woman and she cares for you very much."

"It could never work, Chance…the life we lead…it's just too
complicated."

"I never knew you to back down from a challenge, sir."

"Chance…she deserves better. She deserves to have someone who can
give her -"

"What?" Chance asked derisively, "A big house and a fancy car?
Margo's not that kind of lady. Face it, Major, we're players, and
people outside the game just don't understand the way we live."

Matt sighed heavily. "I don't know why we're even bothering to have
this discussion - when this is all over, she's probably gonna kill me
herself."

"Nah…that's not the way women work…she'll let you live, so she can
make your life miserable for years," Chance laughed.

"Thanks - that's very encouraging," Matt said sardonically.

"Anytime," Chance told him complacently.

* * * *

LANA'I AIRPORT

After pounding steadily on the door of C&C Charters for ten solid
minutes, Benny Ray was ready to scream in frustration.

"Why don't we just pick the lock?" Margo asked. "There's got to be
something in there that we could use to track them down."

"You really want to try an' open a door that C.J. Yates don't want
nobody to open?" Benny Ray asked.

"Point taken," Margo sighed.

"I happen to have a master key for every door," Deke stated, moving
to take out his .357.

Benny Ray stopped him with a hand on the arm. "No way, amigo.
C.J.'s a demolitions expert. We can't take a chance that he's got
the door booby-trapped somehow."

"So we're back to square one," Deke groused.

"Hello, there!" a cheerful voice called out from behind them. "Hope
you're not waitin' around for those boys," the speaker was a
florid-faced man wearing an Atlanta Bluejays cap and the loudest,
ugliest Hawaiian shirt any of the team had ever seen.

"Why's that, amigo?" Benny Ray asked conversationally.

"Oh, these guys - they won the lottery or somethin'! They're retired
and they got this big ole pineapple farm, somewhere out around
Palaua Point. Never know when they'll show up. Hey, if you're
lookin' to take a tour of the island, I'll be happy to set that up for ya!"

"Thanks, amigo…maybe some other time," Benny Ray said amiably.

They nodded and smiled until the pilot had disappeared into his own
office, then Deke pulled out his map.

"Let's see that," Benny Ray said.

"Well, it can't be too far…this whole island's only about ten miles
across," Deke added.

"There," Margo pointed, "that's the airport, and there's Palaua
Point. This - here - is the only road that branches off from the
highway, so if it's a big farm, it must be along there somewhere."

"Let's do it, people," Benny Ray said firmly.

* * * *

Deke gritted his teeth as their rented four by four bounced along the
unpaved road. "They couldn't buy a pineapple farm in the city?" he
griped.

"Nope," Benny Ray told him cheerfully, "These two compadres of ours -
they like their privacy."

"Livin' on a road like this, privacy is about all their gonna get,"
Deke agreed.

"Look, is that a driveway?" Margo asked, pointing to an overgrown
track that turned off from the main road.

"One way to find out," Deke answered. "Hold on to your lunch,
people."

"You sure about this?" Benny Ray asked after a few minutes of winding
through the dense vegetation.

"Yup," Deke answered, nodding towards the large house that loomed
ahead. He pulled to a stop and climbed out of the vehicle.

A trim dark-skinned man stepped put of the house. "Something I can
help you with?" he asked, eyeing the seven-foot-tall man warily.

"I sure hope so, amigo," Benny Ray said, stepping around the car,
guiding Margo carefully.

A huge grin lit Chance's face as he came down the steps to them.
Behind him, Deke saw a window curtain twitch, and a moment later C.J.
came down to join them.

Margo tried to smile for her friends, but the closer Chance came, the
more pronounced the tremor in her lips became, until she was close
enough to throw her arms around his neck.

"Hey, I missed you," Chance said lightly. "To what do I owe this
pleasure?" he continued, stepping back just enough to see her face.
When she didn't answer, he looked to his other former teammate.
"Benny Ray?"

The sniper offered his hand. "Good to see you, Chance. Just wish it
was under better circumstances."

Chance disentangled one arm to clasp Benny Ray's hand. "What's going
on, guys?" he asked as Margo started to cry softly.

"Chance…it's Matt…he's…"

Chance looked to Benny Ray as Margo buried her head against his
shoulder.

"The Major…he's dead."

"Come on inside, all of you," C.J. invited, wrapping his arm around
Margo to help Chance lead her up the stairs. They got her settled on
the couch, then C.J. gestured to the others to make themselves
comfortable. He looked curiously at Deke, who offered his hand.

"Deacon Reynolds, at your service."

"C.J. Yates."

"You're the man who likes to blow things up?" Deke asked for
clarification.

"That's right, mate. Demo is my specialty," he replied, accenting
each syllable of the word. "Now, what's all this about the Major?"

Benny Ray began to speak slowly, staring at the carpet. "We were on
an op in Copenhagen and Margo was hurt. While she was in the
hospital, someone attacked her. Later on, a buncha goons broke into
our hotel room. Again, it looked like Margo was the target. After
that, the Major told me to get Margo out of the city and lay low
until he could get the mess straightened out." The sniper paused,
sucking in a deep breath.

Margo picked up the story, speaking in a strained voice. "Three days
later, Trout called us. He told us that Matt and Nick had been
killed in a car accident."

"He sent me to bring them home for the funerals and keep an eye on
them," Deke continued.

"So Trout sent you lookin' fer us?" C.J. asked.

"No, that was their idea," Deke informed him. "Trout wanted them to
stay in a safe house in D.C."

"So why didn't you just stay put?" Chance inquired.

"Because somethin' just ain't right about this whole thing," Benny
Ray told them. "People like the Major and Delvecchio don't just have
accidents. Somebody got to 'em - and I want to know who."

"Then there's the question of the bodies," Deke added. "No one but
Trout saw them."

"You really think he'd lie to you?" Chance asked.

"If he thought it was in the interest of some 'greater good,' he just
might," Deke responded.

Margo raised her tear-stained face from Chance's shoulder. "If Matt
was alive, he'd have contacted us by now," she whispered.

Chance gave C.J. a look she couldn't interpret and the Brit nodded
once, then crossed the room to a closed door. Before he could open
it, the knob turned and Nick Delvecchio walked in, followed by Matt
Shepherd.

"Delvecchio?! What the hell?" Benny Ray spluttered.

Margo stared at Matt, her face ashen. Chance moved to assist her as
she struggled to her feet, then took a hesitant step in Matt's
direction. She swayed on her feet and Matt quickly closed the
distance between them, his strong arms catching her before she could
fall.

"You're alive?" she whispered wonderingly, resting both hands against
his chest.

"Yeah…the, a, rumors of my death…," he said with a shaky laugh.

"How can you joke about this?" she whispered harshly, tears seeping
from her eyes once more.

"Look, I'm sorry…"

"How could you do this to us?" she sobbed. "Do you have any idea of
what it was like…we went to your funeral!"

"Margo, I'm sorry," Matt said firmly, as she struggled in his arms.
"I needed to be sure you were safe…"

"Didn't it occur to you that there are things that mean more to me
than my own safety?" she ground out.

"Margo -"

"You son of a bitch!" Margo punctuated her words with a solid right
hook that connected with his jaw. The swing cost Margo her balance
and Matt automatically reached out to steady her. She shoved him
away violently. Benny Ray stepped up behind her and placed his hands
on her shoulders.

"Benny Ray…" Matt pleaded, rubbing his jaw.

"I think we all need a minute here, sir, 'cuz right now I'm tempted
to finish what the lady started." With that, he turned away and led
Margo back to the couch.

Matt stood there in the center of the room with the weight of several
accusing stares beating down on him.

* * * *
cont'd on next page / Return to Author's Page



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