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NORTH OF LA IN THE COUNTRY

I looked out over the open field and watched the herd of deer play as I cleaned my weapons from my last mission which was a 155 hour stand off by right wing extremists in North Dakota. I had done what was necessary to get my people home in one piece. As I placed each gun in its case except for my personal gear, I wondered how things would have changed if I had gone home to western Mass instead of coming west after getting out of the army. I had originally bought this cabin because of its location and that it reminded me a lot of the place I grew up where one could hunt and fish without worry of being hassled. I finished up and put my gear into the back of my twin cab Chevy Cheyenne. I then thought of the woman whom I had a date with this evening and I knew she had a right to know what I did for a living. Every time I tried, my beeper had gone off and I had to leave. It was always bad timing. I went to loading magazines for my pistols and placing the mags in my vest. I then checked my revolver to see if it was loaded. I believed that the revolver was still a valued piece of equipment as a defensive tool. My father had given the S&W 586 to me when I joined the army many years ago.

The phone inside suddenly rang. I went in to answer it and as soon as I heard the voice on the other end I knew it was gonna be a long day. I told the man on the other end to call everyone else in and I'd be there in an hour and a half and told him to have an agent onsite. I went outside, grabbed my personal gear and while heading to my truck I thought this was just great, a situation with political ramifications for both home and abroad. I got into my truck, started the engine and headed towards LA.

ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE LA SPORTS ARENA

I was stopped by a police officer when I tried to gain entry. I went back to my truck and pulled out my vest and put it on. But this time I blew past the officer. I saw the agent onsite was John Peterson just sitting and drinking coffee.

"Miller what are you and your people doing here?"

"We were called in. So point me to who is in charge."

He escorted me to the man in charge. I looked at a grey haired man who looked like he was in charge. I explained to him the situation and that I have the authority to take control of the situation. This made the Sergeant a bit angry.

"Look Agent Miller, with no disrespect intended but my men are the best in the business and with all the success's the FBI teams have had like Waco, Ruby Ridge and so on. Just to name a few."

"Well Sergeant how about that standoff recently in North Dakota. Your argument holds no water because in each case you mentioned the ATF were involved."

The sergeant did not respond. He told his men too pack up and go home. My men quickly took their places and my hostage negotiator Karen Reynolds tried to make contact.

THE SILVER STAR OPS CENTER

Matt, Benny Ray and Nick were doing some weapons maintenance and Benny Ray was doing an ammo inventory, when the news of the hostage situation came over the news. They all knew Margo was inside with her brother. Matt went over a plan very quickly. Benny Ray had handed out handguns to Matt and Nick and secured his own to his holster and had weapons ready in about five minutes. They went over the plan and hit the streets.

SECONDARY ENTRANCE NORTHSIDE OF BUILDING

The team arrived at the southeast entrance which led to the basement through a manhole. Benny Ray had taken the manhole cover off the entrance. They started to make their move when they heard the all too familiar sound of weapons being cocked. They turned and saw two men carrying HK Ump's pointed directly at them.

"Gentlemen, your weapons please."

One of the two men collected their weapons. They gave no sign of a fight what-so-ever. One of the men dressed in black spoke over his comm link.

"Boss we're heading in and your not gonna believe this."

They all headed back to the command post with their prisoners intact

COMMAND POST

I was busy looking over the building plans and formulating a plan of attack in my head. I turned to my hostage negotiator Karen Reynolds who seemed happy.

"What's going on."

"Well they've agreed to release all women and children except for one. Well it seems she's causing some kind of problem inside."

"What kind of problem?"

"Sorry Ray but they wouldn't say."

"Ok no problem then."

"I want those people debriefed immediately upon release."

"I got two agents standing by to do it."

I then turned as I saw two of my most experienced men coming in with prisoners and thought what the hell. As I recognized each one of them.

"Swanson and Simmons, what's going on."

"Well Boss caught these guys trying to go in an entrance we were guarding."

Simmons placed their guns on top of the map I was looking at. I noticed the handguns no big deal but when I noticed the MP5-SD's I was wondering who these people I called my friends really were.

"Swanson put them into the equipment truck and I'll take care of it."

"Yes sir."

As Swanson did as I asked I had to really wonder what was going on here.

EQUIPMENT TRUCK

Nick had taken a seat on a bench. Benny Ray had noticed black fatigues and weapons that were all unloaded. Matt looked around and was thoroughly confused.

"Benny Ray how much do we know about your friend Ray?"

"Well boss. All I know for sure is that he helped me get a job at the police academy teaching an advanced pistol course for police officers and at the time he was working as a deputy for the LA Sheriff's Department. The rest you know."

"So what's the big deal, he's obviously from some alphabet soup organization." Replied Nick.

In unison he got a. "Shut up!"

Then the truck door opened and the man they knew as Ray Miller entered.

I entered the truck and changed I knew I was not going to be rushed but the weapons we found had no serial numbers on the weapons which made me wonder exactly what was going on. I looked at each one of them.

"All right who's gonna tell me what's going on here?"

I then double-checked my gear a second time. As I was putting my vest back on along with my tactical thigh rig, Matt spoke.

"Ray who are you to be asking us that?"

"Ok Matt I think I owe my friends that much at least."

I pulled my ID from my wallet and handed it to him. They all looked it over.

"You're a special agent that deals with tactical situations?"

"That's right Matt I'm in charge here and had quite a confrontation with the local swat team leader to get them out of here. I am real sorry for not telling you guys sooner but you had no reason to know. Now that I answered your question how about mine. I'm not making any threats here guy's so speak up or I can guess."

Each one of them looked at each other. Then Benny Ray stated.

"Sir we do owe him some kind of explanation. After all he answered ours."

Matt looked at his friend and spoke. "Benny Ray I wish I could."

I did not like what I was hearing so I had to play my trump card.

"Alright I've heard enough. I'm gonna turn you boys over to the police when this is all over on weapons' charges."

A knock on the door came quickly. I went to the door and walked out. Wilson was the man who knocked on the door and he looked real nervous.

"What is it?"

"Well sir we got a problem."

"Which is what."

"Sir all the women and children have been released but one women is demanding to speak to you. She gave me this."

I looked at the ID wallet and inside it contained a picture and a name but it was stamped CIA. This gave me a bad feeling.

The woman was giving everyone a hard time about being debriefed. Everyone tried their best to calm her down but she was having none of it. I approached and told my negotiator that I needed to send in two paramedics we had standing by to check everyone inside. She started on that task. I then walked over to the red haired spitfire.

"I'm agent Miller and I've been told you refuse to be debriefed."

"That's right. I have a message for whoever is in charge."

"Well Miss Trout look around and you will see these people do as I tell them."

"You're in-charge? A bit young for this kind of thing aren't you?"

"Not really, what I need is the information in your head, then we'll talk. I promise you that."

Her debrief went quick and was right to the point and took her about fifteen minutes. I went over the debriefs and decided on a course of action if it went that far. I was informed the terrorists would allow the paramedics in as long as there were no tricks. I gave them an armed escort and I then signalled for Wilson to bring Miss Trout forward.

"Alright, what is so important it could not wait till you were debriefed and thanks for co-operating."

"Well agent Miller... my father, who is Xavier Trout, has told me to tell you to call the Silver Star Bar and to ask for Matt Shepherd and to give him this message... delta-two-zero."

"Thank you Miss Trout. By the way is your father a pentagon official?"

"Yes why?"

"Well he's part of the reason I'm here."

I remembered that call from my days with the 101st airborne. I saw the paramedics come back and they seemed healthy enough. I then walked back to the equipment truck.

EQUIPMENT TRUCK

I opened the door and everyone was seated on the benches inside. No one made a move but they were kind of somber. I looked directly at Matt. "A gentlemen named Trout sent you a message through his daughter.. the message was delta-two-zero."

Matt rose to his feet and walked straight towards me.

"I can see you know what that means."

"Yeah I do, heard it a lot in Somalia just after the gulf. Let me guess, you guys are some kind of pentagon strike team."

Matt looked into my eye's.

"How did you know?"

"Easy, weapons without serial numbers plus most of you have been in the military. It all adds up to total deniability. I know the game. One question though, is Margo part of your little group here?"

"Since it's truth time and you've been seeing her for awhile the answer is yes."

"Alright come with me then."

We walked back to the command post and I briefed them on the way.

COMMAND POST

There was one more debrief waiting for me. It came and it came in late. Benny Ray and the others got armed in a hurry.

"This changes things a bit."

"What do you mean."

"According to this last debrief they got a bomb inside the building."

I gave Karen the signal to terminate negotiations. Matt walked over to me.

"What's going on now."

"With a bomb inside this changes the game plan big-time. From the debriefs we'll get one chance at this. Plus it'll be done by the book."

Matt's team joined mine for the briefing on the situation.

"All right folks just so we're all on the same page. Johnson you'll take five men and will take the first floor and your men will take over everything down there. Take these gentlemen along with Wilson. So Wilson get your tools."

"Yes Sir."

Johnson spoke up next.

"Boss who are these three?"

"Well you do deserve to have an answer and here it is. These men work for the pentagon and that's all you need to know."

"Yes sir."

"We go in five."

Wilson came back wearing a tool pouch and handing over three comm units and radios. They made a quick change and were ready. Matt walked forward.

"May I have a word?"

"Sure."

"Look Ray I don't want you to get the wrong idea or anything but my people don't work with civilians and that includes the FBI."

"Alright Shepherd. I just listened to you and now you're gonna listen to me. My men are all ex-military. After Waco the director here gave me cart-blanch to re-organize the West Coast team. I can vouch for all my men, they are the best. As for myself, I did five years in the 101st airborne. I am sniper qualified. Postings include Kuwait, Somalia and a lot of things I can't talk about. If you got any further questions on my record why don't you call Col. Jameson who was my CO. Other than that we're finished Matt."

LA SPORTS ARENA

The first wave of agents hit the building and took out anyone holding a gun. The firefight lasted just a few seconds. Everyone heard the all clear come over our comm links. I gave the order to secure the first floor and the stairwells plus all the inside exits. The next communication that came through was another all clear. We then entered the building. Wilson, Delvecchio and myself took one set of stairs while Matt and Benny Ray took the other. Their job was simple, find the hostages and get them out. Ours was to find the bomb on the upper floor.

Benny Ray and Matt fought their way up to the upper dining room and took out the terrorists there and brought the hostages down. They had killed about fourteen terrorists. They watched the hostages get into the elevators. Trout and John were among them but Margo was not.

"Miller we have a friendly still on the field of play do you copy."

I heard that and Nick told me it was probably Margo.

"Roger that Shepherd now get yourselves out with the hostages."

We also fought our way up and were very careful. A terrorist appeared out of nowhere and my UMP drilled him from his waist to his sternum. I also took a hit in the side from his Uzi. It was only a flesh wound on my side but I remembered the pain from when I was shot in Somalia. I took a field dressing and put it over the wound to stop the flow of blood. As we started around the corner I heard gunfire. I moved ahead and what I saw was a sight... a women holding an old Thompson submachine gun. She then turned and looked at me.

"What are you doing here?"

"Well for one thing my job and I thought we had a date tonight?"

"Well we do but things happen."

"Ok, have you seen a bomb up here."

"Yes, it's around the corner I've been trying to get to it."

The others appeared. I looked at Nick.

"Look, get her out of here now."

Nick tried but to no avail. She was as stubborn as the day was long. I handed her some spare mags and my UMP and she gladly accepted them.

"What are you gonna use?"

I then withdrew my 1911-A1 and my revolver.

"Your kidding right"

"Afraid not Margo."

We rounded the corner and killed the remaining terrorists but they activated the bomb before we could stop them.

"Look Margo leave with Nick now."

"We leave together or not at all."

She was one stubborn lady but that's what I loved about her.

I ordered the men on the first floor to get out of the building immediately. Wilson rushed ahead and opened the breastplate of the bomb.

"Boss this is a piece of cake."

With bombs and other gadgets I tended to believe Wilson as he quickly defused it and started to carry it out of the building. We all exited the building together. The bomb was handed over to the bomb squad. An agent came up and told Margo she needed to be debriefed.

COMMAND POST

I was having my wound attended to and the paramedics told me I should be in the hospital. I told them I've had worse and to just stitch it up. An older man approached after I got changed back into my civvies.

"That was good work agent Miller. If you're ever looking for a career change give me a call."

"I was warned about you Mr. Trout but thanks for the offer."

I grabbed my gear and threw everything into the back of my truck. I was getting hungry at this point when Margo walked over.

"Look I really need to explain about my work. I have tried for month's now."

"Ray look, there's no need. Matt told me. He had to tell you what I did for a living but it looks like we're both in the same business so to speak."

"So your alright with that."

"Yeah I am."

"Okay, do you think we can make our dinner reservation?"

"Afraid not. But I was looking forward to it."

"Ok how does left over venison stew and rolls sound at my place."

She took a minute to answer me.

"Sounds good, can I follow you in my car?"

"Sure why not."

NORTH OF LA, IN THE COUNTRY

The drive north always helped clear my head from a hectic day and today was no exception but right now I had two reports to write instead of one. We both arrived at the same time. She followed me inside.

I put the stew on and set the table and she brought out a garden salad that she had found in the fridge. I forgot I had even made it. I brought out the stew after it had warmed and poured what was left into the bowls. I noticed Margo looking at the pictures of my family and my old army photos.

"Ray whose this?"

"Margo that's my father and me on my first hunting trip. That seems like ages ago."

I walked her to the table and we ate.

After dinner I took her into my arms and softly kissed her and it was as if the world had stopped. We then walked to the bedroom where we stayed all night. We awoke in each other's arms.

"Margo can you get away for a couple of weeks?"

"I'll check."

She grabbed her cell phone. I was guessing she was calling Matt.

"Well you're in luck. I can get away for two weeks. What did you have in mind?"

"Well I haven't had a vacation in the last four years and was thinking Maui."

I just wanted to stay in bed all day but knew I had to get those reports written and turned in.

"Look I need to finish some work so can I meet you later."

"Well if we're going to Maui it's shopping time."

Margo was gone in no time and I was typing out my reports on the two incidents.

FBI HEADQUARTERS LA

I walked in and the place was a busy place today as I handed in my reports plus I also put in for my vacation with the agent in charge.

"Miller your nuts."

"Well Charlie it's been four years since my last one and I'm taking two weeks."

"Ray look your making me lose the pool on when you'd take one."

"Oh who wins it?"

"Wilson, why?"

"Good because he owes me money."

I then left and headed towards the beach. I ran into Margo and we had a nice lunch.

Finni

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