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201 Rosemont Ave.
Hermosa Beach, CA
30 Oct 99

Benny Ray Riddle studied the target area carefully. The camouflage on his
ghillie suit waved in the breeze, blending in perfectly with the surrounding
terrain. This was a difficult mission, the sniper thought, and they could be in
just a little bit of trouble should certain people find out. Well, maybe not
just a little. A lot. More than Benny Ray cared to think about. So far the
target had not appeared yet. Sweeping his gaze across the front walk, he
checked his partner’s position. A casual observer would never see the
other person. Remaining perfectly still, the sniper thought about the past few weeks…

Three Weeks Earlier
The Silver Star Bar
Hermosa Beach, CA

Matt Shepherd threw the latest batch of paperwork into the out basket with
an annoyed sigh. While the rest of his team was out playing volleyball, he was stuck in this office. It was a beautiful sunny day with perfect weather. Maybe
now he could go and…wait, no chance of that when he saw the envelope
sitting by the stapler. Benny Ray must’ve picked up the mail early, Matt
thought, and just my luck that the Health Department sent their survey today.
With a resigned sigh, the Major settled down to fill out this new form.

A soft knock at the door interrupted him. "Come in."

Grace walked into the room. "Hi Matt." She didn’t sound like her normal
self.

"What’s wrong? Need to talk?" Matt looked concerned. He and Grace had
been dating for the past few months, if you could call it that. Trout had kept
the team busy on missions. They had barely time enough to see each other
before Matt had to leave.

"Yes I do. I don’t think we should see each other any more."

Margo spiked the ball over the net, sending Nick diving after it. He missed
and wound up with a mouthful of sand for his troubles. "C’mon Margo!"

"What? Having coordination problems today?" She grinned at Rico. The two of them were taking on Benny Ray and Nick.

"Come on, amigo! You can do better than that!" The medic tossed the ball
up and caught it.

"You aren’t still pissed at-" Benny Ray started.

"You bet. Payback time!"

"What?" Nick looked confused.

Benny Ray did his best to look innocent. "That wasn’t me!"

"Oh yes it was. You’re the only one who likes to put Tabasco sauce on his
eggs. And it wound up in my orange juice." Rico glared at his friend.

Margo laughed, trying to imagine Benny Ray actually playing a joke on
someone. She didn’t think that was possible.

"But you…" Benny Ray trailed off as he spotted Matt walking towards them.

"Wow, he doesn’t look happy." Nick caught the volleyball as Rico served
it.

"You’re not supposed to catch it..." Rico trailed off when he saw the
expression on Matt’s face.

"What happened?" Margo asked.

"Not now. I’ll tell you later." Matt sighed. "Got room for another player?"

"You bet. C’mon, Boss, we can take them." Benny Ray threw Matt the ball.

But after Matt missed two serves and one of Margo’s now famous spikes,
they stopped playing. Matt knew he had to say something. The whole team
looked worried. "Okay, Grace just said that we shouldn’t see each other any more."

Silence.

"She didn’t like me leaving without any explanation or not being able to spend time with me."

More silence.

"She said we couldn’t have a relationship unless we could be completely
honest with each other."

"I’m sorry, Major." Rico clapped Matt on the shoulder. "Anything we can
do?"

"Not really, but thank you. I just need some time…"

"And Ben and Jerry’s," Margo said. She wasn’t about to say what she really wanted to.

"Ben and Jerry’s?" Nick asked.

"It always works for me."

"What about that new movie?" Rico asked. "The one with all the explosions."

Matt finally grinned. "As long as there’s no paperwork."

"Or exes." Nick sighed, remembering his own failed relationships.

"What, that disco girl didn’t work out?" Benny Ray asked.

"I don’t want to talk about it."

Margo picked up the ball. "Matt, you ready to play now?"

"Yep. Thanks, guys."

Maui Bar and Grill
2000 hours

Margo finished off the last of the hot wings. They had taken Matt out for the
night, knowing that he would need to blow off some steam. So after going to
Rico’s movie, stopping at Hal’s range, and going to Ben and Jerry’s, they had wound up here. Matt finally seemed to be relaxing and maybe not blaming himself for the break up. Margo twirled a straw around, then caught Benny Ray’s gaze. "When you get a minute, can we talk?"

He looked puzzled, but nodded.

After Matt left to go get more wings, Margo pulled the sniper aside. "You
remember what I said about Grace?"

"Yep."

"Well, I was thinking…"

One Week Later
Margo’s Apartment
0600 hours

Piles of camouflage stripping and other materials were strewn around the
living room. The apartment was a mess. Normally Margo would’ve hated
that, but right now the mission was more important.

"How much time before we have to be at the bar?" Margo asked.

"One hour. I promised the Major that we’d help paint over that graffiti."
Benny Ray handed her some more strips.

"How does it look?" She held up her part of the project.

"Better. We’ll take it out to Hal’s and field-test it before we leave."

Margo nodded, glad for his help. She smiled to herself. She always kept
her promises. And who better to enlist than Benny Ray? Despite his often
serious personality, she knew there was a streak of mischief there as well.
She knew he would be willing to help, especially because of what had
happened to Matt. ‘You broke his heart, now I get to-’ That thought was
cut off by the phone.

"Hello?"

"It’s Matt. You still coming by this morning?"

"Of course."

"Thanks. Do you know where Benny Ray is? Nobody’s picking up at his
place."

"I don’t know. He’s probably on his way over."

"Okay. See you in a few."

In response to the sniper’s questioning look, Margo quickly explained the
call. "We should get going. I’ll wait a few minutes so we don’t show up at the same time."

"Good idea. He can’t find out."

Matt brushed on the last coat of paint. Local kids were overdoing it with
the graffiti. Not one had been caught yet. A car driving by caught his
attention. ‘Grace?’ he wondered. The driver was definitely not Grace.
Kicking himself for that thought, Matt got back to work.

"I think it’s done, Boss," Benny Ray said, quietly.

"Yeah."

Seeing the look on Matt’s face, Benny Ray knew that the mission had to be
accomplished. He traded glances with Margo. She nodded. They would go
on with it as planned. A week and a half until execution.

Hal’s Shooting Range
California
1410 hours

"That’s a good one." Hal nodded approval.

"Yep."

"So what are you two up to?" The ex-sniper looked at Benny Ray. "Or do I
not want to know."

"We’ll fill you in later. It’s kinda personal."

"I understand. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the way Major Shepherd
was acting when you all were here a couple of weeks ago, would it?"

Benny Ray winced. His friend had scored a direct hit.

"I thought so. Don’t worry, she’ll do fine. And if you need any help, please
let me know."

"Well, what do you think?" Margo spun around in a circle.

"Outstanding." Hal smiled at Margo.

"Good. I did have help."

"Only a little," Benny Ray said. "And that definitely will work."

201 Rosemont Ave.
Hermosa Beach, California

And it would work. Now all they needed was their target. "How’re you
doing?" Benny Ray whispered into his comlink.

"Good. You?" Margo hadn’t stayed this still for this long in a while.

"Muy bueno. Target should be in sight shortly."

Fifteen minutes later the sports car pulled up in the driveway. Their target got out and walked towards the ambush site, holding a set of keys in one hand
and a uniform bag in the other. Benny Ray waited for the count from Margo.

Not suspecting a thing, Grace walked towards her front door, thinking that
she should cut the grass and shrubs soon. Suddenly, two figures leaped in
front of her. They looked like demons, dressed in ghillie suits with camouflage paint covering their faces and hands. Barely noticeable as being human, the two figures raced after her as she ran for the car, screaming at the top of her lungs.

Margo had to stop running. She was laughing too hard. Benny Ray came back to where she stood. "We’d better book."

"Yeah," she managed, between gasps.

Benny Ray was laughing too as they climbed into Margo’s car. "Confirmed
kill."

"Oh yes. True customer satisfaction," she replied, looking at her ghillie suit.

Margo was still chuckling as she cleaned off the paint in her apartment. The
ghillie suit was hanging in her closet. She headed back to the bar, pulling in
next to Benny Ray’s motorcycle.

"Hi Margo!" Nick waved from his seat. Benny Ray lounged next to him,
holding a beer. He handed her one.

"You two look happy." Nick looked curious.

"I am. It’s mischief night and they caught the vandals who were cutting tires at my building," Margo explained.

"My truck should be here next week. So I’m happy." That excuse was true.
The sniper had been waiting for the new one since his old pickup had been
shot up outside Los Angeles.

"Well, I got a date for the disco Halloween party." Nick looked very
satisfied with himself.

"Uh-oh." Margo looked across the bar.

"What?" Benny Ray followed her gaze. "Oh, shi-"

Matt walked down the stairs. He did not look happy. "You, you. My office
now."

Benny Ray and Margo traded looks and followed Matt up the three stairs into the office.

"Okay. Which one of you wants to explain why Grace just called here saying she’s afraid to go home."

They remained silent.

"Why two people dressed as snipers were waiting to ambush her outside of
her house. Why she called the police for an intruder and now they called
me!" Matt’s tone of voice would’ve made any drill instructor proud.

"Um…" Margo looked at her partner in crime.

"I, uh, well..." Benny Ray looked at the floor.

"Did you think that she wouldn’t figure out who it was? Benny Ray, she is
perfectly aware of what you do! And you’re the only sniper she knows! And Margo, it’s not hard to figure out you’re the other one! Don’t look at the
floor, look at me! I want an explanation, people. And make it fast."

"I had to keep my promise. And I wasn’t really going to break her neck."
Margo wasn’t about to apologize.

"What?!"

"I said if she broke your heart, I’d break her neck. Well, I couldn’t do that,
so I asked Benny Ray to help me, um, scare her a little."

"So we came up with a plan and executed it." Benny Ray finally met Matt’s
furious glare.

"You’re saying you did this because of her breaking up with me?" Matt was
starting to look a little less angry. He was too tired to keep that up.

"Yup." Margo sighed. "And it worked. You’re not feeling sorry for
yourself any more. You’re pissed at us instead."

"Damn right I am. She’s not pressing charges. I assured her and the police
that I would take care of it. So here’s what’s going to happen..."

Margo groaned as she made another circle around the parking lot. She could see Benny Ray on the other side of the lot, keeping an eye out for those
people who might try to vandalize the customers' cars. Pulling security for the parking lot, as well as cleaning it up, was not Margo’s idea of a good
time. But what they had accomplished had been entirely worth it.

Benny Ray must have been thinking the same thing. As they passed each
other, they both started laughing all over again.

The End

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