Author's Note: This is going to be the
first story in a two or three part series. Hope you enjoy and
any comments are appreciated.
Matt Shepherd gasped for breath. He
stumbled along, barely managing to keep up
with Margo. Someone else grabbed his elbow and propelled him
"C'mon, Major, just a little farther!"
Rico yelled, turning to fire behind them.
The team splashed across a shallow creek,
quickly going back under cover in the
thick vegetation on the other side. Benny Ray slowed the group
down as the
machinegun fire behind them slowed and finally stopped. They
crossed the small
ridge that adjoined the creek. Once they reached the other side,
Benny Ray halted them for a quick break.
"Everyone okay?" Rico, the
team's medic, asked.
"Yep." Benny Ray settled down
into a position to cover their rear.
"I think so," Margo said.
"No. I'm tired, and hungry, and
there's no burgers in a hundred miles." Nick
"He's okay," Benny Ray said,
looking over his shoulder.
"Yeah, I'm fine. They knew we were
"Oh, yeah." Margo went over
her weapon, checking to make sure that it was still in working
"I thought we had that problem
taken care of," Rico said, remembering what had
happened with Debbie, who was now residing in a federal prison.
"I guess not."
Two Weeks Earlier
The Silver Star
Matt looked up from the engine of his
old Corvette. Trout was standing there,
keeping his distance from the oily rags on the ground. "What
is it Trout? And those aren't going to bite."
"You're usually the one who gets
on me for not saying hello."
"It's my day off. What do you want?"
"Fine. Hello, Trout. Now will you
tell me what you want?"
"I wouldn't normally ask you to
"Yes you would."
Trout sighed again, then handed Matt
the familiar manila envelope. "Good luck,
Two hours later all of the team members
were assembled in the basement. "Did Trout say what he wanted?"
Margo asked as she finished disassembling one of her
"It's all here. We're going to
Costa Rica. It's a simple retrieval job, someone got their hands
on classified records again and we're going to get them back."
"There's that word again."
Nick looked suspiciously at Matt.
"He's got a point. Benny Ray, hand
me that wheel, would you?" Margo said.
"Don't worry. We leave tomorrow."
But the flight down had been the simplest
part, Matt reflected. They hadn't even made it near the compound
when they walked straight into an ambush. After getting through
that, Matt and Nick had gotten into the compound, barely managing
to get the records out before half a company had opened up on
them. They had been running ever since, managing to stay one
step ahead so far. Matt got to his feet slowly, signaling to
everyone that it was time to get going.
"Chopper pickup's in that field,
'bout two kilometers," Benny Ray said softly, pointing to
the spot on the map.
"I don't like it. There's not a
lot of cover." Matt looked over the terrain ahead, using
"They're on the way. We go slowly
and I'll keep us on this ridge as long as possible." Benny
Ray started off, moving through the jungle without a sound.
The line chief ran over to the chopper,
signaling the pilot to take off. Deke started the engines on
the old Huey. "Looks like someone needs taxi service."
"Yeah, but do they give good tips?"
His copilot grinned.
Nick heard the chopper first. He grinned,
thinking that the burgers he had talked about earlier were sounding
better and better right now. A loud whistle and then an explosion
sent him diving for cover.
"Mortars! Run!" Matt yelled,
abandoning any attempt to stay quiet.
More fire came in. One round hit a tree,
nearly sending it crashing down on Margo. She ran faster, keeping
up with Matt. Rico came last, still covering the rear.
Deke set the chopper down in the meadow.
The gunner waved for the team to
hurry up, not wanting to be a target for any longer then he had
to. Benny Ray hit the ground halfway across the meadow, going
into a prone position to cover the team. Matt was even with the
sniper's position, turning to check on Rico when another round
impacted just in front of the running medic. Rico disappeared
in the explosion.
"Rico!" Benny Ray bolted up
from his spot.
"No!" Matt grabbed the sniper
from behind, knowing with a sick feeling that Rico was gone.
But Benny Ray had other ideas. With one quick move, he swept
Matt's feet out from under him, sending the major crashing to
Benny Ray didn't look back. He ran toward
where he had last seen his friend, not hearing the next mortar
round. Something hit him hard on his right side, throwing him
off his feet. Benny Ray struggled back to his feet, trying to
run and not able to figure out why his right leg didn't work.
Matt grabbed the sniper, throwing him
over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Benny Ray struggled,
trying to get to Rico. The chopper medic came over to help. Deke
took off as soon as they were on the chopper.
It took both Matt and Margo to hold
Benny Ray down while the medic looked at him. "You need
to hold still, sir," he said, trying to get the wounded
man to calm down.
"Benny Ray, just relax." Matt
said, hoping that the sniper would recognize his voice.
"Hold his arm, please, sir."
The medic gave Benny Ray an injection. After a few minutes he
did calm down, although that was only because of the sedative.
"Is he okay?" Nick couldn't
"He's fine, Nick," Margo said,
trying to reassure him, and realizing that her hands were shaking
"Major?" Benny Ray's voice
was barely a whisper.
"I'm right here."
Matt met Margo's eyes. "He's not
here, Benny Ray. Hang on, we'll get you to the hospital."
Margo held Matt's gaze, knowing what
he was thinking. That not everyone was
coming home this time.
Coronado Naval Hospital
"Well, you can take him home now,
Major Shepherd." The discharge nurse cast a
glance at the quiet man sitting in the wheelchair.
"Thank you, ma'am." Matt looked
down at the paperwork on the counter in front of him. "I
appreciate you guys taking care of him."
"It's our job. But you're welcome."
Matt returned it, then turned and walked
over to Benny Ray. "You ready to go home?"
"Sure, Major." Benny Ray spoke
quietly, not seeming to care one way or the other.
Margo was waiting out front with the
Suburban. They got Benny Ray settled in on the bench seat. Matt
returned the wheelchair to the nurse. He climbed behind the wheel
and carefully steered the truck out of the hospital. They had
all taken Rico's loss hard. Time had allowed most of them to
deal with their grief. Benny Ray, however, held on to the hope
that the medic was still alive. He never talked about that mission,
not even to Matt. The Major had talked to everyone in the hospital
he knew, trying to help, but the only answers he got were that
Benny Ray just needed time.
When they got back to the Silver Star,
Nick was outside holding onto several pizza boxes. The ex- DEA
agent waved when he saw them. Matt grinned when he heard Margo's
"Sorry," she said, with a
slightly embarrassed grin.
Benny Ray tried a smile but it didn't
reach his eyes.
"I got lunch. Some of that barbecue
chicken pizza you like, Margo, and pepperoni and mushroom for
us normal people."
Margo glared at him. "It's good!
Benny Ray likes it."
"Yeah, well who said he's normal?"
Nick was trying, in his own way, to try to get Benny Ray to smile
Matt silenced them with a quick look.
He stayed next to Benny Ray as the sniper got himself and his
crutches down the ramp in back of the hotel. It was the old one,
used for truck deliveries when the hotel was open. Benny Ray
looked around once they were inside. Nothing had changed. That
was reassuring, at least.
As soon as they assembled in the kitchen,
Margo made a beeline for the pizza. Half a slice was already
gone before Matt got Benny Ray settled on the couch. The injured
man didn't look too happy about having to spend any more time
there. But maybe being home would take the sniper's mind off
Rico, at least for a little while.
Twelve-year-old Roberto Hernandez ran
along the path, followed by his dog. He had heard the noise earlier
and, being curious, had gone to check it out. He looked after
the dog, who was investigating something lying next to the trail.
"What's that?" The dog looked
up at his owner, tail wagging at his discovery.
Rico heard someone speaking in Spanish
and a dog barking. He groaned, knowing
better than to get up.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Roberto
peered down at the medic.
Right before he passed out again, Rico
managed to ask for help. Roberto looked the man over, then, realizing
what had happened, ran for home. Within the next half hour, Roberto's
parents had taken Rico back to their house.
"Who is he?" Roberto's mother
"I don't know. A soldier, maybe?"
"We don't need one of those here.
What if he works for-"
"I don't think he works for the
cartel." Roberto's father knew about the summer villa owned
by a key member in that group. "Besides, their security
people never come out here. We will find out more when he wakes
The Silver Star
Hermosa Beach, CA
Matt yawned as he worked on yet another
stack of paperwork. Benny Ray had
finally gone to sleep after lunch. Matt was debating on doing
the same thing. Nobody had talked about it yet, but the general
opinion was that everyone wanted to go back to Costa Rica. The
chopper had gone back one more time to look for the missing Rico,
but had found nothing at the rally point. Radio calls had produced
the same results. Trout would be coming by tomorrow and Matt
fully intended to bring up the subject again. He wouldn't leave
one of his own behind.
He was just falling asleep when all
hell broke loose. Trout came flying through the door, followed
by a full security team. Benny Ray woke with a start. The sniper
tried to get up too fast, reaching for a gun that wasn't there,
and nearly passed out. Matt was there in a second, trying to
calm his friend down and yell at Trout at the same time. Margo
came in running, her Glock up and ready until she saw who it
"Margo, take Benny Ray!" Matt
walked over to Trout. "What the hell do you think you're
doing? Who are those people?"
"I found the security breach. Right
"I'm shutting this team down, Matt.
* * * * *
"Would you care to explain what's
going on?" Matt's voice was flat, with no emotion.
"I think you know. Or at least
one of you does." Trout took a bug from one of his people.
"We found what we were looking for. Bag it."
"I swept last week." Margo
managed to say.
Trout stared at her. "Well, this
little device says otherwise, Miss Vincent. It was cleverly placed.
Matt, we need to talk."
"I'd say we do."
"Whatever it is, you can say it
in front of me."
"No. I'm in charge here Reilly,"
Trout snapped at the security chief. He walked outside, followed
"Margo, what the hell's goin' on?"
Benny Ray's voice was strained.
"I don't know. Just relax, okay?"
"I helped you sweep for bugs. We
had this place clean last week." Nick looked just as confused
as everyone else.
Matt and Trout came back in. Neither
man looked very happy. "I'm telling you, that is not going
to happen," Matt snapped.
"I have to take him in for questioning."
"On what charge?!"
"Espionage. Disclosing classified
information. Possibly even manslaughter if Rico isn't found."
Benny Ray pulled free of Margo's grip
at hearing his spotter's name. "What about Rico and manslaughter?"
"Trout, not here, okay?" Matt
said quietly. "If you're really serious, not here."
"Delvecchio, you'll need to come
with us," Reilly ordered.
"What?! I didn't do anything!"
"We have evidence that you did.
A large sum of money was deposited in your account. This is the
same type of surveillance device you used in the DEA. You sold
your team out and got one of them killed."
"You son of a-" Benny Ray
started. Margo tried to push him back down. He almost knocked
her over as he struggled to his feet. "Trout, we've been
over this before. And I was dead wrong about him then. I'm not
now. He'd never do anything like that. Rico's still alive and
I know Nick had no part in what happened."
"I'd think you'd want to know who
gave out your mission info."
"That's enough!" Trout glared
"Yeah, I do. But it wasn't Nick."
Benny Ray's voice was deadly. Matt took a step closer, just in
"Hand over your weapon, Mr. Delvecchio."
Trout's expression was carefully neutral, but as he looked at
Matt, he winked.
Nick looked at Matt for support. At
the same time, the security chief started towards him. Benny
Ray put himself directly in front of him, holding onto the corner
of the couch.
"Get out of the way."
Benny Ray held his ground. "Not
a chance. With all due respect, sir-" Benny Ray's voice
showed that there wasn't much respect due at all- "that's
a load of shit. You're lookin for someone to pin this on."
"Mr. Riddle, you're way out of
line." Trout glared at the sniper, reminding himself that
the team didn't know what was going on.
"I don't care what you think."
Reilly pushed past Benny Ray, knocking him off balance. Matt
lunged forward, catching Benny Ray as the sniper's leg collapsed
"Nick, get outta here!" Benny
Ray shouted, his face deathly pale from landing on his leg.
"Don't move!" Reilly shouted,
his gun out now.
Margo quickly pulled her Glock, aiming
directly at Reilly's face. "I think you've done enough here.
Now either get a warrant or leave."
Nick was still standing at the foot
of the stairs. He was a little surprised at Benny Ray's actions.
Sure, they hadn't always gotten along but Nick hadn't expected
Benny Ray to openly defend him like that. Matt made eye contact
and jerked his head toward the stairs.
"I'll arrest her too!"
"Sir, he's going to run."
Reilly's people were a little more focused than their boss.
Nick darted up the stairs, running past
a startled Autumn, who was getting the bar ready to open. She
heard footsteps behind Nick and pulled a bar stool in front of
the stairs to Matt's office. Reilly hit it going full speed.
He and the stool hit the ground with a crash.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!"
"Get out of the way!" Reilly
ordered. Then, to his team, "Seal off the building, now!
Nobody in or out!"
Matt followed, giving Autumn a thumbs
up. "Nice move."
"Mr. Shepherd, is everything okay?
Who are those people?"
"Long story. We're all fine."
Trout went after Reilly, handing Matt
a business card as he left. Matt looked at it. One of the Silver
Star's cards. He headed down the stairs. Benny Ray was back on
the couch, eyes closed. Margo took the card from Matt and read
"Come on, Benny Ray. We're going
for a walk," she said.
"Here." Margo handed Benny
Ray his crutches. The sniper managed to get up,
balancing unsteadily on them.
Trout was waiting under the pier when
they finally made it to the beach. "Glad you came."
"Trout, what's going on?"
"You all remember McPherson? Well,
Reilly's his deal. He's been looking to get rid of this team
for a while. It seems that you have been a bit too successful
for him. If he gets rid of all of you, then he gets my job."
"You told us about him a while
ago." Margo frowned thoughtfully. "So he's after Nick.
How are we going to get around this one?"
"I don't know. But obviously this
team's suspended for now. I'm to have no contact with any of
you. Right now, Reilly thinks I'm questioning you about where
Mr. Delvecchio is. So I'll make this quick. It's up to you to
find out who is behind this. I can't help you on this one."
"We'll take care of it." Matt
looked over at the boardwalk. "Look, Trout, if we were to
disappear for a while, could you run some interference?"
"I'll try. Be careful, Matt."
Coronado Naval Hospital
"And I don't think you understand,
Major Shepherd." The doctor paced her office in frustration.
"I know you saw the x-rays. He needs to be seen by me at
least twice a week. If I had it my way he'd still be in the hospital.
A shattered femur is nothing to just brush off. And that's not
counting all of the tissue and muscle damage."
Matt's shoulder's slumped. "Then
there's no way we can take him along."
"No. I have to be honest with you,
Major. Getting a hundred percent use back in that leg would take
a miracle. For his best shot at that, he needs to be here."
That came as a shock. Matt remembered
the doctors telling him that before. But somehow he had always
thought that Benny Ray would bounce back like always. But this
"Family is important. And I understand
why you need to go with Ms. Vincent. How about admitting Benny
Ray into our outpatient program? He'll stay here at the hospital
and I can keep a closer eye on him."
"Will he ever be able to
"I know what you people do for
a living. I'm sorry. I think that it is highly unlikely that
he will be able to rejoin your team. There's just too much damage."
"Then I'll talk to him about that.
I owe him that much."
"Of course. But there is always
a chance. It will help if you kept in touch. You know, call,
write, anything will help. People do better with that kind of
"We will. And thank you."
Matt said goodbye and then went out to the lobby to break the
news to his people.
"We are going into town for supplies.
There is a phone there."
"That would be great. I've probably
got a lot of people worried about me." Rico said with a
smile. He had gotten very close to the Hernandez family over
the past month. "I can't thank you enough."
"You don't have to." Roberto's
mother smiled. "What you are doing against the
cartel is thanks enough."
Rico grinned. "Still
"You want to thank me? Then you
can help with dinner."
Coronado Naval Hospital
"I'd rather go, Major."
"I know, but it's better that you
stay here. You know what the doctor said."
"Yeah, I know what the doctor said."
Benny Ray shifted in the chair, trying to get comfortable.
"Is your leg ever going to be normal?"
"Nope. I believe the doc said I'd
need a miracle."
"We'll call, everyday. Nick said
to tell you that," Margo said.
"Yeah. Anyone asks, I don't know
where you are." Benny Ray tried to smile.
"Don't worry, this won't take long."
Matt tried to be optimistic.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA
Nick stayed under the piling, trying
not to be noticed. Not a chance that would happen, however, since
the other people there were too drunk or stoned to notice him.
Finally the car he'd been waiting for arrived. Even though he
knew who it was, he still breathed a sigh of relief when he saw
Margo's face behind the wheel.
"Man, am I glad to see you guys."
"I bet." Matt handed Nick
an overnight bag. "Got some stuff for you."
"Cool. So where are we headed?"
"Washington. That's where this
whole thing started, we'll find some answers there."
New Castle County Airport
New Castle, Delaware
Matt climbed out of the small commuter
plane, stretching cramped muscles as he went down the stairs.
He followed the other passengers over to the terminal. The rental
car company had a car waiting. After picking it up, Matt headed
over to the small restaurant next to the airport. It was done
in a WWII bomber/fighter squadron motif, complete with old trucks
and a plane out front. Matt ordered lunch while he waited for
Nick and Margo's flight to get in. They had taken one to JFK
while Matt had gone to Philadelphia International. By splitting
up, Matt hoped to avoid notice from the people chasing them.
"What's for lunch?" Nick asked,
flopping down in the chair across from the Major.
"You ate at the airport,"
Margo said. Her patience was almost gone, the strain of traveling
cross-country with Nick having taken its toll.
"Yeah, whatever. I'm hungry again."
"Glad you made it. You got the
"Not a phone thing, Matt. It's
a scrambler, rerouting your call through half a dozen countries."
Margo handed over the small box.
"Okay. I'll be back. You go ahead
and order before Nick here dies of starvation."
Coronado Naval Hospital
Benny Ray yawned as he turned on the
news. Someone had taken a bank full of
people hostage in a screwed up robbery attempt. The Cowboys lost
their game. More car thefts. He reached for the ringing phone,
wondering if there was any good news.
"How are you feeling?"
"What do you want, Trout?"
"I want to know where they went.
And why you didn't go. You're still here, so it will be easy
for a certain mutual acquaintance to find out."
"The second question is none of
your business. As for where they went, I don't know."
"You know, Trout, I'm a lousy liar.
I really don't know and, trust me, it's safer if I keep it that
way. Reilly wants to come and ask, tell him to go ahead. He'd
be wasting his time."
"All right. Keep your eyes open."
Trout hung up.
Benny Ray hung up too, confused. What
was that for? Sure there was something
going on, but whatever it is, it's way above my pay grade. Not
if it affects the team, that nagging voice in the back of his
head told him. What team? Right now there isn't one.
"This is it, Room 313."
Benny Ray pulled himself into a sitting
position. A hospital bed was wheeled into the room, followed
by an IV pole and several monitors. The sniper watched as it
was set up in the bed next to the door.
"Morning, Benny Ray." The
doctor, Mary Shaw, walked in. "This is Dan Carter, your
Benny Ray looked over. "Okay. How're
He got a quiet hello in return, then
Dan closed his eyes.
"I'll be back later. You've got
x-rays and motion assessment later today."
Benny Ray watched her leave, then went
back to the news. The phone rang again.
"Trout, don't call-"
"Benny Ray? It's Matt."
Benny Ray grinned when he heard the
familiar voice. "Sorry, Major. Trout called, said I should
keep my eyes open."
"Really. Well, we're on our way.
Sorry we can't tell you where we're going to."
"Nothing to apologize for, Boss."
Matt chuckled. "Guess not. How're
"Been better. You made any progress?"
"Zero. Nada. Nothing at all. We'll
keep you updated though."
Benny Ray heard footsteps in the hallway.
Several people coming and it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure
out who. "Major, I've got incoming, Mind calling me back?"
"Nope. Take care." Matt hung
Reilly marched in through the open door,
glancing at Dan, who glared back. "Well, well, look who
it is," he said, looking down at Benny Ray.
"I said no visitors. That includes
"They won't argue. You're being
charged with aiding a fugitive."
Benny Ray didn't say anything.
"Just tell us where they are and
we'll forget the charges." When the sniper still wouldn't
say anything, Reilly lost it. "Don't pull that Marine crap!
You will tell me where they are or so help me I will take you
somewhere where we will find out!"
"Everyone out! This is a hospital,
not a police station!" Dr. Shaw ordered.
"You have no say here."
"Oh, yes I do. This is my hospital.
Don't make me call security."
Reilly stormed out, followed by his
people, one of whom gave Benny Ray a
sympathetic glance as they left.
"Interesting friends you have,
Benny Ray." Dr. Shaw didn't look very happy.
"Not my friends, ma'am. I hope
they weren't too much trouble."
"Not for me, they weren't. Like
I said, this is my hospital. Your appointment got moved up. Let's
Rico listened to the phone ring at the
Silver Star. Finally the operator came on the line and told him
that there was no answer. He thanked her and hung up. Roberto
came running up, followed by the dog. "Were they there?"
"No, amigo. Nobody's home. I'll
try again later."
The medic grinned and ruffled the boy's
hair. He got a shout of protest in return. The shop owner told
them both to be quiet.
"What is it?"
"The cartel's men. Rico, you will
hide here." He opened the door to the basement and storeroom.
"Roberto, tell your mom thanks,
okay? I'm putting you in too much danger staying."
"Okay. She'll understand."
"Go, quickly." The shopkeeper
looked outside nervously at the Mercedes pulling up outside the
Rico jumped down the stairs and found
a hiding spot behind some crates. 'C'mon
guys, get back fast,' was all he could think as he listened to
the footsteps start down the stairs.
South of Baltimore, MD
Matt yawned as yet another long stretch
of road unfolded in front of him. Margo and Nick were both sleeping,
stretched out on the bench seats of the van. They had traded
cars in Baltimore to keep from being noticed. The passenger seat
next to him was empty. Matt felt a sharp pang of loneliness when
he saw that empty seat, missing Benny Ray's calm, steady presence.
The sniper usually claimed shotgun, joking that someone had to
keep an eye on how much the boss exceeded the speed limit. Margo
shifted, knocking the paperback novel she had been reading off
the seat. He grinned, looking back at the woman he knew he loved.
'But how am I going to deal with that?' he asked himself. 'How
can I tell her
A loud siren interrupted him and startled
Nick and Margo awake. Checking the
rearview mirror, Matt groaned when he saw the state police car
"I can't wait to tell Benny Ray
Coronado Naval Hospital
At about the same time Matt was getting
pulled over, Benny Ray was trying to figure out how to get back
to his room. Bored, the sniper had managed to get himself and
his crutches down the hall to the TV lounge. On the way back
he had lost one crutch and was balancing on the other one. Bending
over to pick it up was out of the question.
"You really have a hearing problem,
don't you." A statement, not a question.
Dr. Shaw looked frustrated. She had
had more difficult patients
just not ones this stubborn.
"Look, if you want to go somewhere-"
"Ask the orderlies. I know. But
I did fine at the Silver Star."
"You didn't have slippery floors
Benny Ray started to reply, but saw
that it was pointless. This was one battle he wasn't going to
win. Instead, he grinned.
"Do that more often. Doctor's orders."
Rico looked out from underneath the
pile of burlap sacks. The truck bounced and groaned its way over
the bumpy road. The store owner had put him in the truck after
the cartel's men had almost found him on their way to get bar
supplies for the house. Now he was on his way to the capital,
and from there, he hoped, home.
"Last stop," the driver called.
The medic squirmed his way out and headed
for the nearest phone. "Hello. Collect call to the Silver
Star." After giving the operator the number, he waited.
Same thing. "Sorry sir, no answer." Yeah, I'm sorry
too. No money and, more importantly, no passport. Frowning, Rico
headed down the street. He looked down both sides and saw a stand
offering fresh caught fish.
"Who is this and how did you get
"It's Rico. I need help."
"I thought you were
"Yeah, so did I, but I made some
friends down here. I called the bar, but nobody picked up."
"They're out of business. No drinks
there for a while."
Rico made a face. What that meant, he
didn't know. Major Shepherd could have gone on another job, or
on vacation, or
The last possibility he didn't want to
dwell on. But he was on an unsecured phone.
"Don't worry too much." Trout
flipped through his Rolodex. "Go to 13 Jaco Street. I have
a friend there who will help you out."
"Okay. See ya." Rico hung
13 Jaco was a bar. Rico mentioned the
call to the bartender, who quickly got the owner up from the
"So, you know Trout. I owe him.
What can I do for you?"
Curious about why anyone would owe anything
to Trout, Rico outlined what he
needed and where he was going. Taking care of the documents would
be no problem
for him, the owner stated. "Just wait here for a little
"Good thing that fake id worked."
Margo started laughing again.
Matt shook his head, annoyed at himself
for that mistake. Getting pulled over was the last thing they
needed. He looked through the blinds, checking the small parking
lot in the bed and breakfast they were staying in. "Did
you find Deke yet?"
"No. I'm working on it. He's probably
on some beach somewhere."
"He said he'd be sticking close
to Coronado. Wanted to keep an eye on Benny Ray for us."
"I'll page him again. He probably
forgot the pager. Life in Beverly Hills is so hard on him."
"He didn't tell you? He met this
"I don't want to know." Matt
turned the TV on low.
Five minutes later, the door to the
room burst open. The first person in tackled Matt, sending both
of them to the floor in a heap. "Don't move!" Matt
froze. There was nothing they could do.
"Are you Matt Shepherd?" The
intruder spoke in a low, urgent voice.
"Good. I don't have a lot of time."
He released the Major. Finding himself able to move again, Matt
sprang to his feet.
"Hold your fire, people,"
Matt ordered, eyeing the intruders. Two other men and one woman
came in, carrying three large boxes.
"A present from your friend Deke."
"Deke?" Nick asked.
"There's a note
have to go." The four of them went back out the door, pulling
it shut as they left. The last one out tossed Matt a set of keys.
Matt caught them, then approached the
boxes with caution. Sure enough, a note was taped to the top
of one. 'Matt- Sorry I can't be with you. Here's a little something
you might need. Catch up with you soon. Later, Deke.'
"You know something's going on
when that guy is serious." Nick opened one of the boxes
as he spoke. Deke's note wasn't his usual flippant style. "Wow.
Check this out."
The boxes were filled with assault gear,
weapons, and cash. All of the supplies the team could possibly
want, right down to personal weapon preferences, were included.
There was even a sniper rifle and matching scope. Matt picked
up a Glock, grinning. "He does think of everything."
"Yes, but I'd like to know where
he is," Margo said quietly. She pulled out a laptop with
a secure modem and hooked it up to the phone line. "Let
me see what I can find."
Silver Star Bar
Hermosa Beach, CA
"Hello! Anyone here?" Rico
stepped inside the bar. "Major? Margo?"
"Hi, Rico!" Autumn came running
down the stairs and gave the medic a huge hug.
"Where were you?"
"Long story. Is Major Shepherd
"Nope. He had to go out of town.
I don't know why." Autumn wasn't sure what to say. She knew
about the long, often unexplained absences. Matt trusted her,
but not enough to tell her everything.
"I really need to get in touch
with him." Rico sighed, running his hand through his hair.
"Why not ask Benny Ray?"
"Where is he?" Rico asked,
a smile spreading over his face, wondering at the same time why
Matt would leave without the whole team.
"The hospital. They had an accident
on the last trip. Some international convention in South America."
Rico's eyes widened. "Which hospital?"
"You didn't know? He's at Coronado."
"Thanks!" Rico yelled over
his shoulder as he ran through the door.
Autumn frowned, wondering what was going
on. Why didn't Benny Ray's best friend know what happened? She
went back to filling the order forms out, puzzling over her employer's
stories that weren't fitting together all the time.
Coronado Naval Hospital
Rico caused quite a stir when he walked
into the hospital. His ambulance crew was just returning from
a call. As luck would have it, one of his fellow physical therapists
was discharging a patient at the same time. Rico answered all
the questions he could. Most of them were somehow centered on
himself being kidnapped by terrorists while at a convention.
'Must be the cover story. I just hope I don't put too many holes
"It's great to have you back! How
did you get out of that mess?" The therapist, Angela, asked.
"I really can't talk about it."
"Okay. I'll see you back at work
Rico smiled. After talking to his ambulance
crew for a few minutes, he headed to the information desk. "I
need information on a patient here. Benny Ray Riddle," he
said, giving the receptionist his medical id number.
"Okay. He's in outpatient, room
Benny Ray leafed through the paperback
novel Autumn had brought. She had also
sneaked in some real food. 'Oughta get the Boss to give her a
raise for that,' he thought. The door swung open then, an all
too familiar person stepping into the room.
The Pentagon, Washington D.C.
0900 hours EST
Trout watched as Deke finished scanning
the office for bugs. "They got the delivery?"
"Yep, sure did."
"Thank you." Trout sighed.
Worry had seemed to add years to his age. "This is a critical
time for all of us. I don't have to tell you how much McPherson
would love this office. I need something, anything, that will
give me room to maneuver."
'Get some dirt on the guy so you can
put a little pressure on him and buy us some time,' Deke translated
mentally, knowing Trout would never say that out loud.
"I think I can dig up something."
"Good." Trout passed a manila
envelope across the desk. "Be careful. We don't know who
we're up against here."
Coronado Naval Hospital
The book fell to the floor with a loud
bang. Benny Ray sat up fast. "Rico?"
"The one and only, amigo."
Rico said, grinning. He walked over to the bed and
grabbed his friend in a bear hug. "Sorry I couldn't get
Benny Ray couldn't say anything. He
just held onto his friend, trying to reassure himself that Rico
was really alive and standing there.
"We need to talk. I don't think
here's the place to do it," Rico said, his voice serious
and a little choked up.
Dan watched them leave. This was too
important, the guy who was supposed to be
/ Return to Author's Page
dead coming back to life and showing up here. He picked up the
a miniature scrambler, and dialed a number.