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0900 Sunday
Silver Star

“Okay gang. Listen up. We’ve got a short time to do this, so we need to pay attention.” Matt said, as he walked out of the office and to the table where everyone was gathered. He looked at his team, making a silent note of who would be doing what on this mission. “Here’s the mission profile,” he said as he passed out the folders containing the brief. The group scanned the contents of the folders they each had received.

“Uh…is this for real, boss?” Benny Ray questioned.

“Trout came by with each of these a little less than an hour ago.” Matt replied.

Benny Ray reread his brief, gritting his teeth.

“So here’s what we have so far. This mission is taking us to a small town outside of Budapest, Hungary. The profiles you have are three people that you will be going in as.” Matt pointed to Benny Ray, Chance and Margo. “They were picked up two days ago by the FBI and were on their way to pick up some weapons that the Germans are selling to them. These three are BAD news. A militia leader that was killed six months ago by the CIA adopted them. He raised them with certain skills to take over and they are capable of anything. All the information you need is in the folders. You leave at 2200. CJ, Nick and I will be running surveillance on this.”

Matt dismissed them and walked back to his office. He wished he was in on this but after the volleyball accident he had had last week, his knee was dislocated. He knew this mission was important, but he had a bad feeling about it.

2200 Sunday
The plane

As Chance slept, Margo researched the man they were contacting.

Benny Ray sat next to her, looking over her shoulder at the computer screen. “What’cha think?” he said.

“Well…according to this, Sergei has a major grudge against the US. His family was killed in Bosnia a couple of years ago. He blames us, of course. He moved to Hungary and apparently “we” got in touch with him about a month ago. The girl, Amanda, contacted him over the Internet and made the deal. The brothers apparently are weapons experts. Have you been reading your folder?” Margo explained.

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be Jeremy and Chance is Marcus. Marcus was the weapons guy and I guess I’m the negotiator. So, Amanda is the computer geek, huh? Well it suits you.” Benny Ray teased, as Margo playfully punched his arm. “So tell me more about this Sergei guy.”

Margo punched up his profile. “Well, he’s good looking.” she smiled, looking at Benny Ray, innocently.

They reviewed his file for a while before Margo yawned and stretched. “I’m going to get some sleep. It’s a long flight. I suggest you do the same.” she said, curling up in the seat.

Benny Ray mumbled something and stretched out his legs under the seat in front of him. He watched out the window until his eyes grew heavy.

1830 Monday
Hungary

The plane landed and the three team members got off. Chance got a taxi and they went to check in at the hotel.

“When’s Matt supposed to get here?” he asked Benny Ray as Margo checked them into the hotel.

“Well, he, Nick and CJ are scheduled to get here at 0830 tomorrow morning. We have a meeting with Sergei in about an hour.” he said, seeing Margo walking back to them.

“Well, our friends arranged a suite for us. I guess they were used to the good life.” Margo smiled at Benny Ray.

The three walked out of the lobby and followed the hallway to their room. Chance let them in. “Where are we supposed to be meeting Sergei?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. It doesn’t say.” Margo answered.

The phone rang and Benny Ray went to get it. “Hello?” he said.

Margo and Chance watched as he listened and then said, “Okay. We’ll be there in a minute.”

“Who was that?” Chance asked.

“Our car is ready downstairs to take us to Sergei.” Benny Ray shrugged.

“This Sergei character must have sent a car for us.” Chance reasoned.

“Alright, folks. Keep on alert. We don’t know what to expect.” Benny Ray said.

The driver of the car was waiting outside as promised. He opened the door for the three and they got in. Benny Ray and Chance looked out the window, silently remembering familiar landmarks. Margo listened to the man talk on his radio. As they pulled up to a house, Margo noticed a man come out of the house. She recognized him as Sergei. The car stopped and the three got out. Benny Ray tensed as the man walked toward them.

“Ah, Mr. Jones.” the man said to Benny Ray, outstretching his hand.

Benny Ray took it and shook his hand. “Jeremy will be fine.”

The man nodded and greeted Chance and Margo.

“You are even more beautiful than I had imagined, Miss Jones.” Sergei said to Margo.

She smiled politely and said thank you.

“Shall we get down to business? I assume you are ready to make the exchange, Jeremy.”

“Yes, Amanda will transfer half of the funds now and the other half when we have received the weapons. I trust everything is ready for us.” Benny Ray said.

The man smiled at him. “Oh yes. I had hoped that we could talk over dinner tonight.” Sergei said, walking them to a pond. “You three are starved, surely.”

Chance grinned. “You got that right.” he mumbled to Margo.

“Good. It is settled then.” Sergei led them inside.

As they had finished dinner, one of Sergei’s men ran over to him. He whispered something and Sergei nodded. Two of his men brought in a third man, who was shouting at them. The man stopped as he saw Sergei. He began shouting at Sergei and pulled out a Glock. Benny Ray, Chance and Margo jumped to their feet.

“What’s going on?” Benny Ray growled at Sergei.

Sergei glanced at him and yelled at the man. He then pulled out his own weapon and shot the man. He motioned to his guards to carry the dead man out of the room.

“I am terribly sorry for that. That man was one of my…associates and was stealing from me. He knew that I had found out.” Sergei smiled at them.

“Maybe we should leave.” Chance told them. Benny Ray nodded and Sergei looked unhappy.

“Please. Don’t leave on my account. The mess has been taken care of.”

“We need to get some rest. We will be in contact with you tomorrow.” Benny Ray told the man. He then ushered Chance and Margo out of the house and into the waiting car.

2145 Monday
Back in the room

As they entered the hotel room, Chance plopped down on the couch. “Man! That guy is something else!” he exclaimed.

Benny Ray had notice that Margo was quiet the ride back. He walked over to her. “Hey. Something bothering you? You’ve been quiet.” he asked, touching her shoulder.

Margo looked at him and noticed that Chance was now looking at her also.

“He lied to us.” she said, softly.

“Who? Sergei?” Benny Ray questioned.

Margo nodded. “That guy. The one he shot. It wasn’t one of his associates. He was a grounds keeper.” she told them.

“Why would he lie? And why would he shoot an employee?” Chance asked.

“Apparently, Sergei has been taking advantage of his status and raping his employee’s families. That guy he shot, Sergei raped his wife.” Margo said, looking at them.

“What! Are you sure that’s what he said?” Benny Ray growled. Margo nodded.

“Why would Trout leave this out of our intel? I mean, no one said anything about this to us.” Chance said, angrily.

“I’m not sure. Unless Trout didn’t know.” Margo told them.

There was a knock on the door. Benny Ray tensed and reached for his weapon.

Chance called, “Who is it?”

A small voice answered, “For the pretty lady.”

Margo nodded at Benny Ray and opened the door. A young girl looked up at her and handed Margo flowers. She smiled shyly at Margo and took off running down the hall. Margo shut the door and noticed the card inside the bundle of wildflowers.

Chance reached for the flowers as Margo read the card. “Amanda, Brunch at 11. And I don’t take no for an answer. Sergei.” She looked up at Benny Ray and noticed his jaw clench.

Chance reread the card. “We have to call the Major.” he said.

“No. He will be here with the others in the morning. It can wait.” Margo told them. She eyed them, waiting for one of them to say something further. “Let’s just get some rest.” She said, walking into the bedroom and turning before she shut the door. “It’s been a long day. Good night.”

Chance and Benny Ray stood staring after her. Chance walked over to the couch and laid down. Benny Ray grabbed the other couch. Neither one of them slept.

0645 Tuesday
Hotel room

Margo woke up to sounds in the next room. She sat up in bed and listened, trying to identify what they were. She heard the low drawl of Benny Ray’s voice and heard Chance laugh. She slid out of bed and got dressed. Sighing, she opened the door.

Benny Ray and Chance looked up.

“Hey. Sleep good?” Chance asked, smiling at her.

She nodded and crossed the room to the makeshift kitchen.

Benny Ray had made a fresh pot of coffee and poured her a cup. “Morning, sweet pea.”

She smiled at him and plopped down on the oversized chair. “So, what’s on the agenda for today, Jeremy?” she asked, winking at him.

“Well, Amanda, I think we have the day off. According to our ’appointment book’ we have our next meeting with Sergei tomorrow.” Benny Ray replied.

“Not entirely true. I still have my brunch date.” Margo reminded him.

Chance looked at her shocked. “Margo, you can’t be serious!”

Margo looked sharply at him and then at Benny Ray as if waiting for him to challenge her decision. “If I decline his invitation, he might very well cancel our deal. You both know that. Besides, I can take care of myself, as you both are well aware of.” Margo looked at both men, and waited.

Chance just shook his head and walked into the bathroom.

Benny Ray looked at Margo with defiance in his eyes. “Margo..” he started.

“No, Benny Ray. You know I am right. We can’t give up on this now. I’ll be fine.” She told him and walked into the kitchen and got another cup of coffee.

0830 same day
Hotel

There was a knock at the door. Benny Ray grabbed for his weapon.

“Yeah?” Chance yelled at whomever was on the other side of the door.

“It’s us.” A voice answered.

Chance and Benny Ray nodded at each other and Chance opened the door.

Matt walked in followed by Nick and CJ.

“Hey. How’ya guys doin?” Nick grinned.

Benny Ray walked over to Matt, ignoring Nick and said, “How are ya, boss?”

“Well after all that time being cooped up in the plane with no where to go and listening to these two jokers, how do you think?” Matt teased.

“Gee, thanks, Major.” CJ said, trying his best to sound hurt but failing.

“So, what’s been happening here?” Matt asked, suddenly turning serious.

“We may have a situation on our hands, Major.” Chance started.

Margo walked in from the bathroom, toweling her hair. “Hey, guys.” she said to Matt and the others.

“Hey.” Matt nodded at her and turned his attention back to Chance. “What kind of situation?”

Realizing what they were talking about, Margo glared at Chance.

“Well, sir. Trout either left out certain details about this Sergei character or wasn’t aware of them.” Benny Ray started, ignoring Margo’s gaze.

“Like what?” Matt asked, noticing the growing tension between his team members.

“Last night, we met with him to exchange money and arrange for the drop off. Now, this guy comes running over yelling at Sergei and two guards come out of nowhere after him. They start yelling at each other and the guy pulls out a .357 and Sergei beats him to it and shoots him. Sergei tells us that the guy was stealing from him, got caught and panicked.” Benny Ray explained.

“Yeah, so?” Nick asked impatiently.

Benny Ray shot an angry glare over at the smaller man and continued. “SO, Margo told us that wasn’t the case. Apparently, our man Sergei raped his wife. And she wasn’t the first.”

“Yeah, and now he’s after Margo.” Chance told Matt, handing him the card from the flowers.

“He is not! He wanted me to meet him for brunch and that’s what I’m going to do.” Margo exclaimed.

“Sir, Chance and I think it’s too dangerous considering the situation to send her anywhere near him. I think we should go ahead with the plan and just tell the bastard we sent her on to our next deal or something.” Benny Ray reasoned.

Matt took in all of this and re-read the card. “Look, if Sergei lied to you about shooting the guy, then that means he thinks you three are still going ahead with the meet. Now pulling Margo off isn’t wise. Amanda is the one he made the deal with, so he’s probably comfortable with that. Margo, you go to this brunch, but you’ll be under surveillance. If anything goes south, I want you out of there. Understood?”

She nodded at him and returned to the bathroom to finish getting ready.

“Sir, I don’t like this.” Benny Ray told him through clenched teeth.

“Duly noted. But it’s all we got right now.”

1000 same day
Hotel

CJ and Nick were at work on Margo’s com unit when Chance and Benny Ray returned to the hotel.

“You guys see the sites?” CJ asked, his accent strong.

Chance walked over to where they were working. “We got some info on where the weapons might be kept.” he told them, examining the com.

“Ya’ll, where’s the Major?” Benny Ray asked.

Nick shrugged and said, “He went to go get some food. You guys ate everything else.”

Chance punched the man’s shoulder playfully and winked at him. “Growing boys, ya know.”

Benny Ray pulled up a chair to the table and straddled it. “So, what have we got here?” He asked CJ and Nick. CJ handed the unit over to Benny Ray for him to inspect. “Damn, CJ. That’s good.” Chance praised him.

Matt returned with three bags of food.

Nick jumped up from the chair, nearly toppling it to the floor. “What’cha get?”

Matt handed him one of the bags and rolled his eyes at him.

“Hey, Delvecchio! You act like you ain’t ate in days.” Benny Ray grinned at him.

“Have ya seen the size of the bag of nuts the airline gives ya?” Nick responded, taking the bag and jumping on the couch.

The phone rang, stopping short the laughter from the team.

Chance grabbed it and said, “Yeah?”

The others waited for the man to get off the phone. He hung up and told them, “It’s the car. He’s waiting for Margo.”

Matt looked quizzically at him.

Benny Ray quickly explained as he walked over to the bedroom where Margo had been holed up since that morning and knocked softly. “Margo, the car’s waiting.”

She emerged a minute later.

“CJ’s got your com. We’ll be listening. Remember what I said.” Matt told her as CJ handed her the unit.

She nodded and walked over to the door. Turning, she looked at Chance and Benny Ray for a moment, and then walked out the door.

1100 Tuesday
Sergei’s villa

Margo looked around at the lake that surrounded much of the property. She heard Sergei walk up behind her.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked, seductively.

“Yes, it is.” she responded.

She felt him reach out a caress her arm. Turning, she said, “Look. Just to get one thing straight, I don’t mix business with pleasure.”

“Oh. Well, I am sorry. Tell me….why is it you came? I mean, why did your brothers agree for you to meet with me privately?” He asked her, eyeing her suspiciously.

“My brothers trust my judgment. And they know I can handle myself.” Margo told him, partly to him, partly knowing that Benny Ray and Chance might be listening.

Sergei nodded, seeming pleased with her remark. He motioned for her to follow him to the table he had had arranged by the lake.

“This is charming.” She told him, looking at the setting.

He smiled at her, acknowledging her approval. “So, tell me a little about yourself. How did the three of you become family?” he asked, quizzically.

Same time
Hotel

As Matt and CJ listened to Margo on the com, Benny Ray sat and cleaned his glock 17. He was visibly angry, Chance noticed from his position on the couch. His eyes paced back and forth between Matt and Benny Ray. Nick was lying down in the other room.

“So, what’s going down?” Chance asked, nodding toward CJ.

“Oh, not much, mate. Romeo is laying it on thick. Nothing Margo can’t handle.” CJ reassured them. He also had noticed the hostility coming from Benny Ray.

Chance looked back over at him and walked over. “Hey, Benny Ray. Why don’t we go get some food?”

Benny Ray looked at him, realizing what was going on.

“Yeah, I guess. You guys want anything.” He asked Matt and CJ.

“Yeah! Get me something!” called Nick from the other room.

Chance shook his head as Benny Ray muttered something. He nodded toward Matt and left. Chance descended the stairs two at a time. When they had gotten outside, Chance turned to Benny Ray. “Hey, man. You gotta stay frosted, ok.”

Benny Ray narrowed his eyes at him and said, “Man, I don’t like this.”

Chance nodded and responded, “Yeah, I know. But it’s the Major’s call. As much as I hate to say it, Margo’s right. Sergei is a bastard but he isn’t stupid. He might have gotten suspicious if she was taken off this.”

Benny Ray gritted his teeth and inhaled deeply. His expression softened a little. “Yeah, maybe.”

The two walked across the street to the food stand.

1300 Tuesday
Hotel

Margo slowly opened the door to the hotel.

“Hey kiddo.” Matt called from the kitchen, as he saw her step into the room.

She smiled at him and turned to see CJ, Nick and Chance sitting in the small living room. Looking over the contents on the coffee table, she turned to Nick. “Save anything for me?” she teased him.

“Hell no. Besides, you already ate.” He winked at her. She walked over to Matt and Chance followed her over. “Sergei wants us to meet him tonight. He wants to make sure the weapons are ready for transport and wants the bank account number to verify that we aren’t screwing with him.” She explained to them.

“Damn! He doesn’t trust us?” Chance asked, innocently. He winked at Margo and turned back to Matt and asked seriously, “So, what’s our game plan?”

“What’s going on?” Benny Ray asked, coming in from the bathroom. Chance quickly filled him in.

“Okay, boss. How do you want us to play this?” Benny Ray asked.

The team gathered around the small kitchen and listened as Matt laid out the plan.

1500 same day
Hotel

Margo looked over at Benny Ray, who was busy cleaning his weapon. She walked over to him and sat down on the couch next to his chair. She turned and looked to see Nick, CJ and Chance working on the com units for tonight’s meeting. Matt had taken possession of the bathroom.

Benny Ray glanced at her and continued cleaning.

“Hey.” Margo said to him, smiling.

Looking at her again, he nodded.

“So, everything cool?” She asked him, noting his coldness toward her.

“Copasetic.” He replied, not looking at her this time.

“Benny Ray…I .. uh.” She started, but Nick interrupted her.

“Hey. Look, we got the coms done.”

She turned and nodded at him. Turning back to Benny Ray, she watched him continue to clean.

“I know you’re mad at me. But..”

“Hey. No harm, no foul.” He stated and got up from the chair and walked over to the kitchen to see the finished product Nick had told them about.

She shook her head angrily and got up from the couch and walked outside, slamming the door behind her.

“Whoa! What’s her problem?” CJ asked, stunned by the slamming of the door.

Benny Ray shrugged his shoulders and continued listening to what CJ was saying about the unit.

Chance excused himself and went outside to see Margo standing in the hallway. “Hey. You okay?” he asked, gently tapping her shoulder.

“Fine!” She answered quickly-too quickly.

“What’s the matter?” He coaxed her.

“This whole mission, its just..” She started, but stopped not wanting him to think she couldn’t handle it. She turned to see him watching her. “Never mind.” She told him, smiling at him, hoping he would forget what she had said.

He shook his head. “Nope. Now what’s going on?”

Just then, the door opened and Benny Ray walked out. “Hey, man. CJ and Nick need you.”

Chance nodded and closed the door behind him.

Benny Ray leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed. “So, what is it you wanted to say?” He asked her, staring at her.

She took a deep breath and said, “Look, I know you’re mad at me, but..”

“I’m not mad at you. I just don’t think this mission is the one that you need to go and try prove yourself on. We all know what you’re capable of. This Sergei character is dangerous. I just don’t want you getting hurt, ya know.” He told her, still observing her demeanor.

“Do you see that if I back off now, we could lose this entire thing? I mean, he could panic and run. We can’t let that happen, not with this much at stake. You know that.” She explained to him.

He walked over to her and brushed a piece of stray hair out of her face. “I know. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though.” He told her in a near whisper and motioned for her to follow him back in the room. He opened the door for her and followed her in. Matt was standing with Chance in the kitchen, listening to Nick.

Margo walked over to the table and picked up the com. “So, what’s the range on this thing?” She asked him. She continued to listen as Nick and CJ filled her in.

A few hours later, the team was good to go. Matt, CJ and Nick had already left to get into position. They were all to rendezvous at a small airfield about 7 miles outside of town. Nick and Chance had already secured a small plane that would get them into Austria. Since they didn’t know if the authorities would be after them, they were taking a plane from there back the US. Chance, Benny Ray and Margo sat around waiting for Sergei to call. They tested their coms and prepared for the meeting.

The phone rang and Benny Ray answered it. He watched the others as he listened, gave the thumbs up and then hung the phone up. “We’re a go, people.”

Margo grabbed her purse as Chance checked the room once more looking for anything they might have left behind. They walked out of the room and Margo went to check them out.

As she was talking with the lady behind the front desk, Chance asked Benny Ray how he wanted to play this meeting. Benny Ray explained to him that hopefully Matt and the others would have set the charges and have already blown the warehouse the weapons were supposed to be kept in, before Sergei knew what was happening. Trout wanted them to bring Sergei back alive, but Benny Ray had other plans.

“No, Benny Ray. Now we know Trout wants him back alive. There are too many people that want justice for that man’s crimes. It isn’t up to us.” Chance tried to reason with him.

“Good ole plan X.” Benny Ray mumbled.

Margo walked up to them and they headed out to the waiting car that would take them to Sergei.

2000 Tuesday night
Airfield

Matt, CJ and Nick arrived at the small airfield and found the plane right where Margo’s contact had promised it would be. Nick pulled the car off the side of the road and covered it with some branches. They had been to the warehouse where the weapons were being kept and CJ had set the charges. Now all they had to do was get the “all clear” from Benny Ray and they could blow it. CJ sat in the car, listening to Benny Ray and the others on the com.

“Matt, what time are they supposed to meet us here?” Nick asked Matt, checking his watch.

Matt sighed and told him, “Hopefully if everything goes okay, they should be here at 2300.”

Nick nodded and continued to watch the perimeter.

2000 same night
Sergei’s villa

The car pulled up to the sprawling estate and Benny Ray hopped out followed by Chance. He walked to the passenger side and opened the door for Margo. Sergei walked out to greet his guests.

“Jeremy.” he nodded at Benny Ray and reached out and shook his hand.

Chance shook his hand and then Sergei turned and led them into the huge foyer.

“I trust Amanda told you I was ready to make the deal and exchange the merchandise tonight.” Sergei asked them, eyeing them suspiciously.

Benny Ray nodded, “Yes, she told us. The funds are ready to be transferred. All you have to do is enter your pin number when we have the weapons and it will be in your account tomorrow morning.”

Benny Ray handed him the small palm pilot that Margo pulled out of her purse.

“Wonderful!” Sergei exclaimed, as he looked from the small computer to Margo. “I trust you will show me how to work this thing?”

She smiled and nodded. “As soon as my brothers have the weapons in our possession.” She told him, sweetly.

He laughed and led them into the den and motioned for them to be seated.

“We’re pressed for time right now, so if you will show us to our purchase, we will be on our way.” Chance told him, hoping he would get the message.

“Ah, Mr. Jones…Marcus, you are a very impatient man.” Sergei looked at him with disdain in his eyes. “I was hoping you would stay for a drink or two and then we could finish our business in the morning.”

Benny Ray stood up and Chance followed. “No, we must be going. Now, the weapons, if you please.” Benny Ray told him tensely.

Margo started to stand.

“Miss Jones, please stay seated. I will get your brothers their purchase but if you would, stay for that drink with me.” Sergei smiled at her.

“No, thank you. I must be going also. Perhaps another time.” She started to walk toward Benny Ray and Chance but Sergei grabbed her arm.

“No, I insist.”

Benny Ray stepped forward, jaw clenched. “Take your hands off of her. Now!” He told him slowly through clenched teeth.

“Relax, Mr. Jones. I just want to have a drink with your sister. Surely you don’t have any objections to that.” Sergei told him as he released Margo’s arm.

Margo walked over to Benny Ray and Chance, who placed himself in front of her as if trying to block Sergei. Benny Ray continued to glare at the man, his anger boiling. Sergei smiled at him and walked over to his desk and hit the small intercom. One of his guards answered and Sergei told him something in Hungarian. Chance looked at Margo, silently asking for a translation, when three of his guards came bursting into the room. Benny Ray prepared to fight but was stopped by the feel of the Mac 10 placed into the center of his back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the guards had Chance on his knees.

Margo stepped forward slowly and one of the guards raised his weapon at her. She placed her hands out in front of her as if trying to tell him she was unarmed. In Hungarian, she told him that they were unarmed and of no threat to them. She also agreed to have a drink with Sergei, who was surprised by her knowledge of his language. Benny Ray and Chance witnessed this exchange of conversation and were baffled as to what she was telling him. Sergei motioned for the guards to take Benny Ray and Chance and have them locked up. Margo turned to him. “No. That isn’t the deal. Let them go.” She pleaded with him.

Chance looked up at her and asked, “What deal? What’s going on, Amanda?”

“Your sister has agreed to have a drink with me if I let you go.” Sergei told them, triumph on his face.

“That isn’t part of the deal! We go, she goes.” Benny Ray told him, his face contorted in anger.

Sergei yelled to his guards to watch them. He then grabbed Margo’s arm and escorted her out of the room.

2100 same night
Airfield

As CJ listened to what was unfolding in the villa, Matt and Nick were getting into position.

“Uh..Major. We’ve got a problem.” CJ relayed into the com unit.

“What’s going on, CJ?”

“Benny Ray and Chance are being held by Sergei’s guards. Now what? Do we go and get them out?” CJ asked Matt, knowing that was impossible.

“Where’s Margo?” Matt hissed into the com.

“Sergei separated them. I don’t even know where to start, Major.”

“Damn!” Matt yelled.

Nick appeared on his right. “What do we do now?” He asked Matt.

Matt grabbed for the cell phone in his pack and dialed a number. As he hung up the phone, he told Nick to follow him back to the car. “Alright, I called Trout. Now he’s got someone tracking their transmission but it will take a while to locate them. So, I guess we just sit and wait.” Matt told them, feeling defeated.

0100 Wednesday
Villa

Benny Ray watched the guards talk to each other in the corner of the room. They had been there for a few hours and Margo had not returned. He was trying to undo the ropes that the guards had wound around his wrists. Chance caught his eye and mouthed that he had gotten his undone. Benny Ray nodded once and got one of his wrists free and then the other. He then motioned to Chance that they were going to overtake the three guards. Chance nodded that he was ready and started coughing.

“Hey! Help him, man! He’s epileptic!” Benny Ray yelled at the guards.

One of the guards ran over to Chance and grabbed him by the throat, pulling Chance’s face up to the guards. Chance sprang on him, breaking his neck and Benny Ray tripped the other guard that had rushed over to see what was going on. Chance grabbed the gun from the guard and shot the others.

“You okay?” Benny Ray asked him as they reached the door.

“Yeah, man. Let’s find Margo.” Chance told him, opening the door and firing at another guard coming down the stairs. Benny Ray told Chance to cover him as he ran toward the stairs. Taking cover, he motioned for Chance to follow.

“Major?” Benny Ray whispered into the com.

There was some static and then CJ’s voice came through. “Benny Ray, what’s going on?”

Benny Ray explained the situation and reassured CJ that they were okay and were headed to the rendezvous point.

“CJ, you’re breaking up. I can’t hear you.” Benny Ray told the man, before taking his com off.

“What’d you do that for?” Chance asked, still watching their sixes.

“We gotta find Margo, compadre.”

Chance nodded and took the stairs two at a time, followed by Benny Ray, who was watching the rear.

At the top of the stairs, there were three doors. Benny Ray stepped to one side of the door and Chance tried the knob. Opening the door, Benny Ray rushed in.

“Clear!” he yelled.

They moved silently down the hall to the next door, repeated their search of the room and found nothing. At the last door, Benny Ray nodded to Chance. They stood ready as Chance tried the knob. It was locked. Chance kicked the door in and they rushed in. They found Margo beaten and bruised. Chance rushed to her side and cut the ropes that tied her. Benny Ray heard a noise coming from the bathroom. He motioned toward the room and Chance saw the door open. Sergei stepped out, tucking in his shirt. The look on his face was of shock, then a sly smile replaced it.

“Well gentlemen. I believe we are ready to deal.” He told them.

“You bastard!” Chance shouted at him.

Benny Ray raised the Mac 10 and fired, hitting him once between the eyes. He ran over to confirm the kill. Satisfied, he shot him twice more. Turning to Chance, he saw his friend trying to help Margo. Chance looked at him and shook his head, concern flooding over his face. Chance helped him lift Margo onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry and they descended down the stairs.

Once outside, Chance saw the car sitting in the driveway. He ran over to it and opened the back door as Benny Ray laid Margo onto the seat. He then opened the driver’s side and began to hotwire the car. Benny Ray covered Chance as he worked. When the car roaring to life, Chance hopped in and Benny Ray ran around to the other side and got in the backseat, laying Margo’s head in his lap.

“How is she?” Chance asked from the front seat, his eyes meeting Benny Ray’s in the rear view mirror.

“Pulse is strong, no broken bones as far as I can tell. Nasty gash on her forehead.” Benny Ray told him, looking down at Margo. He pushed the hair back from the bleeding cut on her head, and gently applied the cuff of his shirt to stop the bleeding.

Chance caught his eyes in the mirror again and could tell he was worried. He pressed the accelerator and the car sped up.

Benny Ray felt Margo stir beside him and he looked down at her. Her eyes fluttered open and she started to flail around. “Shhh. Calm down, darlin. You’re okay now.” Benny Ray assured her but she kept on.

Her hands were thrashing about and flew up and scratched Benny Ray on the side of his face. He gently grabbed her wrists in one of his hands.

Chance looked at him and asked, “You want me to stop?”

Benny Ray shook his head and his eyes went hard. “She’ll be okay.” He mumbled to Chance.

He turned his attention back to Margo, who’s hands had went limp. She looked at him, her eyes clearing and recognition appeared. He let go of her wrists and she struggled to sit up.

“Sorry.” She told him, looking upset that she had hurt him.

“Don’t worry, hon. It’s just a scratch.” Benny Ray reassured her.

She looked out the back window of the car and asked, “Are they following us? Sergei and his men, I mean.”

Chance looked at her in the mirror. “His men might be. He isn’t.”

Margo looked sharply at him and then turned to Benny Ray. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” she asked him.

“Yep.” Benny Ray replied, his teeth clenched.

“We need to get you to a hospital.” Chance told her, changing the subject.

“NO!” she told them forcefully.

“Margo, you..”

“No!” she cut him off with a look of fear in her eyes.

Benny Ray just shook his head and looked back at Chance. He lifted the com unit out of his pocket and placed it back into his ear. “CJ?” Benny Ray said into the unit.

“Benny Ray, it’s Matt. Where the hell are you? What happened?”

“Sir, we’re about ten minutes out.” Benny Ray answered him.

“Roger that. We’re ready.”

0230 Wednesday
Airfield

Matt, Nick and CJ were in position.

“Uh…Matt?” Nick’s voice cut over the com.

“Yeah, what do you got, Nick?”

“There’s a car coming awfully fast. I can’t make out who’s inside.”

Matt grabbed his binoculars and in a second he saw the car flying around the corner toward the field.

“It’s them.” Matt told CJ and Nick.

The car came to a halt in front of the plane and Chance hopped out.

“You’re late.” CJ called, walking up to the car

“Better late than never.” Chance told CJ.

“Chance, get the plane going!” Matt yelled, running up to them, as best as he could.

Benny Ray had gotten out and walked over to the other side and opened the door to help Margo out.

“What the hell happened?” Matt asked, seeing Margo’s bruises and the wound on her forehead.

Nick reached out his hand to help steady her.

“Help her to the plane, guys. CJ, check her out.” Matt told them, looking at Benny Ray.

Matt grabbed his arm as Benny Ray started to follow. “I said what the hell happened? Where’s Sergei?”

Benny Ray looked down at Matt’s hand and Matt released him. “He’s dead.”

Matt looked at Benny Ray with anger. “What?!”

“Major, with all due respect sir, you weren’t there.”

Benny Ray turned and walked toward the plane as Matt stared after him. Matt shook his head and threw up his hands. As he climbed into the plane, he told Chance to take off. He shot Benny Ray an angry look and turned to see CJ cleaning the cut on Margo’s forehead. Matt noticed the haunted look in her eyes and the blackish blue bruise forming under her right eye.

“Anything else, love?” CJ asked, looking at her wrists.

She shook her head and noticed Benny Ray staring at her. She straightened under his scrutiny.

Noticing her action, Benny Ray got up and went to see how Chance was doing in the small cockpit. “Hey, amigo.”

Chance smiled at him as Benny Ray plopped himself down in the co-pilot’s seat. “How’s Margo?” Chance asked.

“CJ’s checking her out now.” Benny Ray told him.

Chance nodded and bit his lip. “Did you tell Matt?”

Benny Ray shook his head. “No. Isn’t my place to.” He told him, matter of factly. He got up and patted Chance on the shoulder.

Walking back into the cabin, he saw that Nick and CJ sat across the small aisle from Margo. Benny Ray walked over and took the seat in front of Margo. He closed his eyes, and listened to the roar of the plane’s engine.

Matt walked over and kneeled beside Margo. “Hey. How ya doing, kiddo?” He asked her, noticing the bruise under her eye getting darker.

She smiled weakly at him. “I’ll be okay.” She told him, hoping to convince his as well as herself.

“What happened back there?” He asked softly.

“I don’t know…it all happened so fast.”

“Benny Ray told me that Sergei was dead. Who killed him?” He asked her, hoping that she would give some of the answers that the sniper wouldn’t.

“I know Trout wanted him alive but it couldn’t be helped. He came after me and I shot him.” She lied.

He shook his head and patted her on the leg. “It’s okay. I’m sure Trout will understand.” He assured her, noticing the dark look in her eyes. He got up and walked to the last seat and dialed Trout’s number.

Margo squirmed in her seat. She felt like she was going to get sick. She got up and everything started swimming.

Nick saw this and grabbed her before she fell.

Her face was pale and her skin was cold and clammy.

“CJ.” Nick called.

CJ jumped up and crossed the aisle. Benny Ray opened his eyes and saw what was going on.

“I’m fine. I just got up to fast, that’s all.” Margo told them.

Nick eased her back into the seat. CJ bent down in front of her and shone his penlight into her eyes.

“You need to be taking it easy. That’s a nasty bump on your head there, love.”

Benny Ray watched the scene from his seat. His eyes caught Margo’s and conveyed the concern he was feeling.

“We need to get you to a doctor. When we land….” Nick started.

She smiled at him and shook her head. “No, I’m okay. I just got up too fast, that’s all.” She repeated.

CJ frowned and reached down and grabbed her wrists gently, careful of the bruises. He looked at his watch, checking her pulse. “Your pulse is getting stronger at least.”

Looking satisfied, he went back over and sat down in his seat, but continued to keep an eye on her.

Still wanting to get up, she looked up at Nick who stood in front of her. He held out his hand for her and she slowly rose to her feet. She walked to the back of the plane and saw Matt still on the phone. He was frowning at the phone and she smiled at him as she walked by him to the tiny bathroom. Once inside, she locked the door. Looking into the mirror, she saw a woman looking back at her. She didn’t recognize the woman with the black eye and the cut on her forehead. Most of all, she noticed the fear in her eyes. Margo slid down the wall to the floor and cried.

Thirty minutes later, Benny Ray looked at his watch. He noticed that Margo still wasn’t back.

Nick had seen him look at his watch. “You think she’s okay?” He asked the others.

Benny Ray got up and walked back to the bathroom. He tapped on the door and called her name.

“Yeah?” Margo answered, trying to compose herself.

“You okay?” Benny Ray asked.

She stood up, splashed some water on her face and opened the door.

Benny Ray was standing in the narrow aisle. “You wanna talk?” He asked, quietly so no one would hear.

“Nothing to talk about.” She told him, walking past him to her seat.

1000 Wednesday
Vienna, Austria

The team landed and grabbed their gear. They headed for the plane to take them back to the US. Matt looked up at the screens that announced the arrivals and departures.

“We’re at gate 15.” He told his tired team.

They trudged along from one gate to the next. Finally finding their gate, they sat down in some empty seats. Chance looked at Margo. Nick had told him about her almost passing out. He was worried about her. She was being stubborn about not seeing any doctors, he thought. She looked tired, withdrawn and most of all, scared. He had never seen her look so scared. He grabbed the seat next to her. Looking straight ahead, he mumbled “How are you holding up?”

She turned her head to look at him. “I’ll be fine.” She told him.

He leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs out before him. Crossing his arms across his chest, he sighed and nodded. “You should see someone. You know that. CJ said you have a concussion, that’s why you almost passed out.” He told her, still not looking at her.

“CJ worries too much. Nothing a little rest won’t cure.” She reassured him.

The flight attendant came out and opened the door that led to the plane. She announced the boarding. Margo told the others that it was time to board.

Matt stood up and stretched. “Let’s go home, people.”

The others got to their feet and walked toward the door. Chance grabbed Margo’s bag and held out his arm for her. She gladly took it, realizing she was still unsteady on her feet. Once on the plane, the team took their seats. Chance and Nick sat in front of CJ and Matt. Benny Ray was seated beside Margo. She avoided eye contact with him as he sat down next her after storing his bag in the overhead compartment. She sat staring out the window until the plane was off the ground. She felt him moving beside her and felt him tap her on the shoulder.

“Uh…you’re on my seatbelt.” He winked at her as she handed him his belt. She turned to stare back out the window. She closed her eyes and felt herself fall asleep, lulled by the sound of the people talking.

Benny Ray watched the flight attendant come down the aisle with the drink cart. He heard Nick trying to get her attention. He rolled his eyes. He heard Margo mumble something in her sleep and then whimper beside him. He dismissed it until he heard her again. He turned his attention back to her. She was shaking and whimpering in her seat. He gently touched her arm, hoping not to scare her. She awoke suddenly, startled. “Hey. Sorry. You were talking in your sleep.” He told her, gently. He noticed her bottom lip quiver and she quickly looked out into the blackness outside her window. She felt her face flush and tears start to fall. Embarrassed, she brushed them away angrily.

The flight attendant had managed to get herself away from Nick and had gotten to where they were seated. She noticed Margo crying and asked if everything was okay. Margo assured her that she was fine. The attendant nodded and asked if she or her husband wanted anything. Margo blushed and told her that Benny Ray wasn’t her husband, that he was just a friend. She told Margo she was sorry and gave them two cups of coffee and a snack and proceeded down the aisle. Benny Ray asked what the woman had said.

“She just wanted to know if we wanted sugar or cream for our coffees.” Margo lied.

Satisfied, Benny Ray sipped on his coffee. “You okay? I mean, is there anything I can do?” He asked her, seeing the look in her eyes.

She shook her head and continued to drink her coffee.

2100 Wednesday
Silver Star

The team had landed at the airport and headed toward the Silver Star. Matt and CJ unpacked the gear as Nick did inventory and unpacked some other bags.

Benny Ray grabbed Margo before she went inside. “Hospital. Now.” He told her, looking at her as if waiting for her to challenge him.

She was too tired to fight him anymore and her head had started hurting again.

He helped her to her car and caught up with Chance. “Hey.” He called as Chance was about to go inside the bar.

“Hey man.” He replied, seeing Benny Ray trot up to him.

“I’m taking Margo to a hospital. So if anyone asks..”

“Got ya covered. I’ll call ya later.” Chance told him, knowing what he meant.

Benny Ray slapped the man on his back and went back to the jag outside. He opened the driver’s door and slid in. He noticed Margo was sitting with her eyes close, her face deathly pale. He put the keys into the ignition and the car sped off. He checked her into the emergency room and sat in the waiting room, watching the other people.

After an hour, a nurse came up to him and asked if he was Benny Ray. He stood up and told her he was.

She smiled and told him to follow her. They walked through some double doors and down a long hallway. Finally, she stopped outside a tan door. Through a small window, he saw Margo sitting on a bed. Seeing his concern, the nurse touched his arm lightly.

“She’ll be okay?” He asked, noticing his voice sounding strange.

“She has a concussion, two cracked ribs and some cuts and bruises. Uh…did she tell you she was..”

Benny Ray nodded quickly, not wanting her to finish the sentence. Benny Ray felt his blood boil and he gritted his teeth.

“We’re running some tests now. You can take her home.”

The nurse turned and walked off, leaving Benny Ray alone in the hallway. He took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Smiling at Margo, he walked over to the bed. “Hey, sweetpea. Ready to get outta here?" He helped her down off the bed, observing the small bandage on her forehead and the black eye. He eased her into a wheelchair, against her protest. He wheeled her out to the car and opened the door for her. She carefully got in and Benny Ray pushed the chair back inside. He climbed inside the car and started it.

As they were pulling out of the parking lot, his cell phone started to ring. Reaching inside his jeans pocket, he pulled it out. “Yeah?”

“Hey man. How’s Margo doing?” Chance’s voice came through the line.

Glancing over at her, he noticed that she was sitting with her eyes closed again. “Fine. We’re headed back to her place. You can meet us there.”

The tone of Benny Ray’s voice made Chance start to worry. “Be there in five.” Chance told him.

Benny Ray closed the phone and stuffed it inside his jacket pocket.

They arrived at Margo’s place a few minutes later. Benny Ray parked the car and helped Margo up the stairs to her apartment. He took the keys from her, opened the door, and told her to go lie down. He handed her two of the pills that the doctor had prescribed her. She took them and walked into her bedroom. Seconds later, he heard the door close to the connected bathroom and the shower turn on.

A knock at the door brought his attention back to present. He opened it to see Chance. “Hey.” He said, turning to let the man in.

“So…what the doctor say?” Chance asked him impatiently.

“Concussion, two cracked ribs, cuts, bruises. They’re running tests, whatever the hell that means. Dammit!” Benny Ray slammed his fist down on the table.

“So he did…” Chance started.

Benny Ray nodded.

They heard the shower shut off and the door open a few minutes later. They looked at each other and each could tell what the other was thinking.

Margo appeared in her bathrobe. She looked up, startled that they were there.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you. Just thought I’d come by and see how you were doing.” Chance explained to her. He walked over to the couch and sat down.

Benny Ray watched Margo as she crossed the room to the refrigerator and got some juice out. She reached for a cup and it slid out of her hands, crashing to the floor. Chance jumped up from his seat.

Benny Ray came into the kitchen, kneeling down to pick the glass off of the floor. Chance led Margo to a chair and sat her down. He could see that she was shaking.

“Why don’t you try to get some sleep. It’s after midnight.” He told her, walking in front of her.

She nodded and walked toward her bedroom. She turned and looked at them before closing the door. Benny Ray walked in from the kitchen and asked where Margo was. Chance told him that he had told her to sleep and he walked into the hallway closet and got some blankets and pillows. Benny Ray settled on the couch and Chance grabbed the chair and ottoman.

0930 Thursday
Margo’s apartment

Matt walked up the stairs to Margo’s apartment. He had called earlier and no one had answered so he had just driven by. The team was now on down time partly to let Trout cool down. Matt had listened to Trout rant and rave for over an hour about killing Sergei. Matt had tried to explain to him about what Margo had told him had happened but Trout said that this was out of his hands, that it was higher than him. Trout told him to disappear for a few weeks to let the Hungarian investigators follow through on some leads that had come up. Also he was getting heat from the justice department that wanted Sergei to stand trial for various other crimes he had committed. Matt knocked on Margo’s door.

A few seconds later, the door opened to reveal Benny Ray standing there in a pair of jogging pants.

Matt eyed him suspiciously. “What are you doing here?” He asked, wondering what was going on. He had noticed that every since they had drawn this mission something was different.

Benny Ray rubbed his eyes and stepped back to let the Major in. “Morning sir.” He grumbled sleepily.

Matt walked in and saw Chance come out of the kitchen with a cup of coffee. “Well, I guess this explains why I couldn’t reach you two.” Matt snapped.

Benny Ray picked up his coffee cup from the end table and took a sip. Chance crossed the small living room and sat back down on the chair, stretching his legs out. He yawned and watched Benny Ray put his shirt back on and settle back down on the couch.

“Have you two checked your messages? We’re down for a few weeks. Trout wants us to lay low for a while. Seems he’s taking some heat for not bringing Sergei back alive.” Matt told them, watching each one’s reaction. When neither one responded, he continued, “I told him what Margo had said about killing him but he said it’s out of his hands.”

“Wait a minute, sir. What did you say about Margo?” Chance asked.

“Well, Margo told me that she killed him.” Matt told him, catching the subtle look that passed between his two operators. “What are you two doing here anyway? Where’s Margo?”

“She’s asleep, sir.” Benny Ray told him.

They had had a rough night. Margo had finally went to sleep at about 4:30 that morning only to wake up screaming twice. They had both taken turns comforting her, and staying with her until she had stopped sobbing and fallen asleep. Benny Ray felt his heart rip each time and silently cursed Sergei. He and Chance had gotten very little sleep, each staying awake by his own thoughts. Benny Ray was brought back to the present by the phone ringing. He quickly grabbed it, hoping it hadn’t awoke Margo. “Hello?”

Chance watched him as he sat listening to the person on the other end. Benny Ray answered a few questions and wrote some things down on a pad of paper by the phone and then hung up.

“Who was that?” Chance asked.

Benny Ray looked at him and then to Matt.

“Hospital. For Margo.” He said, seeing recognition on Chance’s face.

“Hospital? What for?” Matt asked, feeling something being kept from him.

Chance told him that Benny Ray had taken Margo to the hospital because of the head injury she had sustained. Benny Ray noticed Matt still looked suspicious. Margo emerged from her bedroom, clad in her bathrobe. Matt saw the dark circles under Benny Ray and Chance’s eyes and that the black eye that Margo had received had now swollen. He saw the bandage on her forehead and noted her pale color. She smiled at him, somewhat surprised to see him.

“Hey.” She said.

He asked her how she was feeling, and she assured him that she was fine. Matt told her about what Trout had decided. She crossed the room to sit at the small kitchen table. Benny Ray got her a cup from the kitchen and watched as he poured her a cup of coffee.

“So Trout decided a few weeks of down time are needed. You know, to let things clear.” Matt finished. Margo nodded grimly.

“I take it that he’s pretty pissed about not bringing Sergei back alive?” Margo asked, looking down into her coffee cup

“Well once I explained to him why you killed him, he calmed down.” Matt reassured her.

He saw Chance look up sharply and stare at Benny Ray, who was standing behind Margo’s chair. “Am I missing something?” Matt snapped at the two men.

Margo shook her head. “No, I told them not to tell you that I was the one that killed him. I thought that if Trout blamed anyone, it shouldn’t include them.” She told him, cutting off any further replies. “So what are your plans for the time off?” She asked Matt, changing the subject.

Matt shrugged and told her that he was going to spend some time with Cindy, his new girlfriend.

Margo nodded and smiled at him.

“I was thinking of taking her up to my father’s old cabin in Colorado. I just stopped by to tell you what was going on and if you need me, you know where to find me.” He told the three, walking toward the door. Whatever they were hiding, Matt thought, they weren’t going to let him know until they wanted him involved. Matt turned and walked out.

The three watched Matt leave. Benny Ray shrugged and turned and told Chance he was going to take a shower. Chance nodded.

Thirty minutes later, Benny Ray emerged, dressed and Chance went into the bathroom. As soon as the two men were dressed, Margo insisted that she would be fine and practically shoved them out the door. She seemed better and the color had returned to her face and she was moving around better. Chance had tried to convince her to let them stay for at least one more night, just reassure them, but she refused. Against their better judgment, they left her apartment. Once they were gone, Margo wandered around her apartment. Now that they were on down time, she needed to find something to do with herself. She didn’t want to go stir crazy. An hour later, she got dressed and pulled on her tennis shoes. A run is what I need, she thought. She locked her door and took off down the stairs. Outside, she stretched, taking in the fresh air. She started running slowly at first, then picking up the pace. She felt the sharp pain in her side as she took the air in her lungs. That made her only run harder. Rounding the corner that opened into the park, she saw a figure leaning against a tree. As she neared him, she saw him smile at her.

“What are you doing here?” she asked him.

“Figured you’d be running this way so I thought I’d join you.” Chance told her, still smiling at her.

“I don’t need a babysitter.” Margo snapped, glaring at him.

“You shouldn’t be pushing yourself this soon. Besides, I could use the protection. You know this place attracts good looking women.” He smiled at her, winking.

She tried to keep herself from grinning but failed. He fell in step beside her and they ran in silence. Margo sped off in front of him. Chance shook his head and caught up with her. She stopped, breathing heavily, holding her side.

“What are you trying to do? Kill yourself?” Chance scolded.

“No. Just working out the nerves.” She told him, wiping the sweat from her brow.

She turned around and started walking toward her apartment.

Chance watched her out of the corner of his eye. They walked a few blocks and he asked, “You wanna talk?”

Margo kept walking, not looking at him. She shook her head. “There’s nothing to talk about. I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not.” He reached out and gently grabbed her arm.

“Let go of me!” She snarled.

Chance’s eyes widened as if trying to prove his point.

She sighed and looked into his eyes. He reached up and cupped her cheek in his palm. Her eyes teared up and he brushed away a tear. He lead her to a bench and sat her down. She sat and quickly brushed away more tears. “So?” Chance pressed.

“I thought I could handle him, you know. All that training, and …” she started.

She looked down at her hands in her lap. “I should’ve listened to you and Benny Ray. You guys were right.”

Chance stopped her. “It isn’t your fault, you know that.”

She nodded her head, reluctantly. He put his arm around her and felt her stiffen. She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder. He felt her shoulders shake and he pulled her closer to him. “Shhh. It’s okay now.” He whispered into her ear and she pressed herself into his chest.

He held her for a while, letting her cry. It broke his heart to know she was hurting so bad and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He thought back to the time they had gone to Bosnia. He had seen how hurt she had been after that scum Vlady had used her. He had seen her eyes after they had rescued her after the lieutenant had beaten her in Grand Comoros. His anger raised to the surface and he swallowed it. He felt her relax and she looked up at him.

“Sorry. Your shirt is all wet.” She smiled at him, weakly.

He looked down at her and smiled. “It’s okay. It was dirty anyway.” He watched her stand and he quickly got to his feet. They walked back slowly.

“What about Matt and the others? You think I should tell them what happened?” She asked, feeling guilty about leaving the others in the dark.

Chance shrugged. “That’s up to you.”

She sighed, knowing she had to.

“Who shot him? Sergei, I mean.” Margo asked.

She had been wondering that since she had asked them in the car. Chance looked at her and continued walking.

“Does it really matter?”

“No, I guess not.”

They rounded the corner to her apartment. Chance watched her enter her apartment building and then took off.

A week later….

0900 Wednesday
Silver Star

Margo walked into the basement of the Silver Star. She saw Nick and CJ sitting at the computer terminals playing a game against each other. Nick looked up and saw her.

“Hey! What’cha been up to?” He yelled at her across the room.

She smiled and waved to her two team-mates and walked into the make-shift kitchen and got some coffee. It had been a long week. Both Benny Ray and Chance had called numerous times and Benny Ray had stopped by on Monday afternoon and insisted on taking her to lunch. She knew they were worried about her but she knew she was going to be fine. It would just take a while, she thought. Benny Ray and Chance bounded down the stairs, fresh from another volleyball tournament against each other.

“Who won?” CJ asked them, not taking his eyes off the screen in front of him.

They just grinned at him and went to sit down on the couch.

Margo saw Matt in his office and saw him push his chair back from his desk. The team gathered around the small living room. Matt looked around at his operators and grinned, knowing each one had enjoyed the time off.

“Uh…Matt, before you start, I have something I’d like to say.” Margo started, swallowing hard.

Benny Ray looked at her puzzled.

“The mission…..umm. …something happened and I just need to clear the air.” She started, looking at Chance, who gave her a wink. She sighed and continued, “I should have told you this before but I just didn’t know what to say. Now before any of you say anything, let me finish and if you decide you want me off of this team, I understand.” She looked around and knew she had everyone’s attention, especially Matt, who was perched on the edge of the sofa and was hanging on her every word. “Things went sour in Hungary. I let my guard down and Sergei took advantage of that. I thought I could take him, but I was wrong.” She admitted, not looking at her team-mates.

The men sat soaking in what she had just told them.

Benny Ray watched their faces as it registered.

“You mean…” Nick started, silenced by the shock of it all.

Margo nodded, getting up and walking toward the door.

“I’ll leave you guys to make your decision. I’ll be upstairs.” She told them and walked up the stairs.

Matt looked at Benny Ray and then to Chance. “You knew about this and didn’t tell me. Is that why you were over her place when I went by there?” Matt looked at them, watching them nod and scolding himself for not figuring it out sooner.

CJ looked at them, “Did you at least kill the bastard?” He asked, his anger seething and his face turning red. Nick muttered something and then slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair.

“Why would she think that we would kick her off the team for something that isn’t her fault?” Nick asked, looking at Benny Ray.

Chance watched Matt and softly said, “Because she dropped the ball.”

Matt shook his head angrily. “That’s ridiculous! It wasn’t her fault.” He half yelled at them. He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed.

Benny Ray stood and walked toward the stairs. “Make sure you tell her that.” He called over his shoulder, taking the stairs two at a time.

He found Margo sitting at a table in the corner. Walking over to her, he saw a distant look on her face. “Hey, sweet pea.” He called to her, sliding in next to her.

She smiled at him and asked, “So, did they send you up here to tell me the bad news?”

He put his arm around her shoulders and shook his head. “Now, you know that that won’t happen.”

He stood up and reached out his hand to her. She looked up at him and reluctantly took it. He pulled her to her feet and they walked toward the stairs. She stopped, sighing, not knowing what to expect. He looked at her and grabbed her hand again, descending the stairs together. As she hit the bottom step, she looked at her team-mates. She knew that by looking at their faces that they understood.

“Okay people. Let’s get to work.” Matt told them, winking at Margo.

She smiled as the rest of the team started getting ready for the day. She knew she would get through this, especially with her friends at her side.

The End

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