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Tuesday
The Pentagon
Washington DC
19:45

The woman glanced quickly down the hallway before stepping through the door. Checking one last time for any trace of intrusion a passing guard might spy, she closed the door firmly behind her. As she walked quickly down the hall, she allowed a small smile of satisfaction to cross her lips. When they found the body, she would be long gone, blond hair to brunette, blue eyes to green. But the information she carried, now the smile widened, oh, it was worth the risks. Revenge will be so sweet. To finally bring about the end of those CIA rats that ended her career. The smile was wide now, showing even teeth, below an attractive face, deceptively innocent. As she stepped outside and walked to her car, unnoticed, she mentally checked her escape route. Europe in the spring, this was going to be fun.

Saturday
Silver Star Bar
10:30

“I don’t believe you any more.” Matt Shepherd spoke firmly into the phone. “Every time you say the mission is just a baby sitting job, my people’s lives are put in serious danger! We aren't baby sitters!”

The voice on the other line cut through Matt’s objections. “I understand your concerns, but I don’t trust anyone else to keep this agent safe!” Xavier Trout’s voice sounded strained, evidence of sleepless nights. “There have already been 3 agents killed in Europe. There is just too much coincidence. The man killed here was one of MY men. I don’t know how much information is out there, and whoever is killing agents knows too much already!”

“OK, OK, you’ve made your point.” Matt ran his hand over his eyes and sighed. When’s the pickup?”

“She’ll come to you.” Trout ‘s voice softened. “Matt, she can take care of herself, I just need to make sure.”

“Right. I’ll be talking to you.” As Matt hung up the phone he heard familiar voices . As he watched from a window above, 2 men dressed in tank tops and shorts, and a woman, dressed in a sports bra and shorts entered the bar, all sweaty, and arguing good naturedly with each other.

“I would've gotten her number if you hadn't nailed me with the ball!” The smaller man tossed a volley ball to the other man.

“Yeah right, Nick. They only stopped because they thought you were having a seizure!” Margo Vincent leaned against the bar and waved to Matt at the window, her athletic frame stretching as she found a comfortable position.

“Seizure? I was showing my best moves!” Nick Delvecchio’s voice was indignant. “Seizure!” He hopped onto a barstool and swung around.

“I thought you looked pretty sick.” Benny Ray Riddle winked at Margo who grinned at him, “besides, mission accomplished.”

“Mission accomplished? What mission?”

“My mission, amigo.” Benny Ray waved a piece of paper at Nick, “I got their numbers.”

“What?” Nick’s screech was interrupted by Matt Shepherd’s entrance to the bar.

“What’s up, boss?” Benny Ray greeted the man.

“Let’s go downstairs, Trout’s got a new job for us.”

As they exited the room, Nick whispered to Margo, “Did he really get their numbers?” All he got in response was a laugh.

“OK listen up people,” Matt waited until the group had settled themselves. “There have been 3 CIA operatives killed in Europe within the last 72 hours. All three agents were in deep cover, and all three were under Trout’s direct supervision.”

“I don’t mean to be callous, Major,” Benny Ray’s drawl cut in, “but what does this have to do with us?”

“I’m not finished, Benny Ray.” Matt continued, “Trout’s aide was also killed. In his office at the Pentagon.”

Nick gasped, “The lists?”

Margo answered before Matt, “The lists. The lists of every operative both at home and abroad. I just hope our files weren’t there as well.”

“Well, there’s the one highlight." Matt smiled grimly, "Since the Raptor fiasco, Trout has deleted all our files, and has only one hard copy hidden away somewhere. Anyway people, Trout has asked us to keep one agent company.Apparently she’s here in the states, and is high on the list.”

“What’s so special about this agent?” Benny Ray’s question was echoed in the faces of the others.

“Well, first of all, Trout trained her, and she knows a lot of names. But apparently, she’s also too valuable to lose. According to Trout, she can decrypt anything.”

“Why can’t the CIA look after their own?” Nick muttered half under his breath.

“It’s up to you.” Matt looked at each person in the eyes. We just need to keep this agent company until the killer is caught. She’s a trained operative, we won’t be baby sitting.” He didn't voice the "I hope."

“I’m in.” Margo looked at the others.

“I’m with you, Major.” Benny Ray looked at Nick.

“Yeah sure,” the man said, “It’s not like I have a date or anything.” Benny Ray and Margo exchanged private grins at the smaller man’s mutterings.

“Well, relax people. We don’t even need to make travel plans. She’ll come to us.”

Silver Star Bar basement
Saturday
13:45

Margo looked up from the computer terminal she was at and tipped her head at Benny Ray, who was lifting weights nearby.

He’d heard it, too. Benny Ray silently lay the heavy piece of equipment on the floor and a gun materialised in his hand, as if from nowhere. Knowing that Margo had his
back, the sniper eased toward the doorway. Silently, Benny Ray turned off the light switch.The sound was louder now. Someone was making their way down the stairs and trying to be silent. Why? Benny Ray waited, all his muscles tense. Who would be sneaking in here? There was a pause as the person reached the doorway.

“Don’t try anything, amigo.” Benny Ray was quiet and serious. The figure tensed, as Benny Ray rested the barrel of his gun against the intruder’s temple.

Margo flipped on the lights....

“Hey, what’s wit all the spy stuff?”

Benny Ray rolled his eyes as he released his hostage and put his gun away. “What are you doing sneaking around? You wanna be shot?”

“That was dumb, Nick” Margo sounded disgusted. “Really dumb.”

“What dumb?” Nick turned from one to the other, “I wasn’t sneaking. I was trying not to spill my coffee which is now all over me!” He gestured to the large brown stain spreading down his shirt. “Awwww, man. That was good coffee, too!”

“Serves you right, amigo.” Benny Ray chuckled and turned back to his weights.

“Serves me right, yeah, just wait ‘till you’re carrying a hot drink.” Nick kept up his angry stream of mutterings as he tried to clean himself up.

“Don’t try anything.” The quiet voice startled them. “Keep your hands where I can see them.” A woman stepped through the doorway, a gun in each hand, one pointed unerringly at Benny Ray’s forehead, one at Margo’s.

“Margo, you gotta sister you didn’t tell us about?” Nick held his hands up. The woman looked at Margo, as the men were staring at her. They could be sisters, same dark hair, light eyes, athletic build. Privately Benny Ray was thinking this woman couldn’t hold a candle to Margo.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Margo Vincent, formerly of the CIA.”

“Listen lady, there’s nothing for you here.” Benny Ray and Margo both held their hands up high, away from their weapons.

“Nothing for me, Benny Ray Riddle?” The woman smiled, green eyes sparkling. “I could get a lot of money for shooting you.” She paused, pretending to think, “Give me a reason to spare you.”

“I’m not worth much.” Nick tried to look innocent.

“You’re right, Mr. Delvecchio, I wouldn’t get anything for shooting you, just the others.”

Nick opened his mouth to complain, but closed it again at a look from Margo.She rested her hands on her head and looked the woman straight in the eye. “I’ve got a reason for you.”

“This ought to be good.” The woman challenged, “What?”

“Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

“What?” Benny Ray and Nick both stared at Margo as if she’d lost her mind. The stranger cocked her head, smiled and lowered the guns. Benny Ray reacted immediately, leveling his weapon at the stranger’s head. “It’s nice to see you again, Margo.” The woman held her arms relaxed, fingers holding the butts of the guns, to show she was no threat.

“Ya know this lady? She could’ve killed us, and dis is a buddy of yours?”

“Relax Benny Ray, this is our case. Nick, Benny Ray, this is Sparrow. We worked crypto on a couple of cases together.”

“And Margo knows, I was always a sucker for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

“Matt was right, she can take care of herself.” Nick shook his head as he collapsed onto the couch.

“You always sneak up on your friends like that?” Benny Ray was still eyeing the newcomer uneasily.

“Relax people.” Matt walked into the room, smiling, “Sparrow asked if she could check to see how on your toes the team is.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“I gave her the go ahead.”

"Lady, it's never a good idea to sneak up on trained operatives. I tend to shoot first and ask later, comprendo?" Benny Ray did not look happy.

"I know all your reputations, even yours Mr. Riddle. You don't shoot unless there's a need to shoot. Believe me, I wasn't going to play that card."

Benny Ray only shrugged. He wasn't going to pass judgement yet.

“You’ve got a good team here, Matt. But I really don’t need babysitting.”

Matt and Margo exchanged a grin at her choice of words. “What I really need is a place to crash, and right now, a nap sounds great.”

“Make yourself comfortable.” Matt gestured to the others. “Anyone up for a little more volley ball?”

“Not me,” Margo responded, “I hear a shower calling.”

“I’m in.” Nick jumped up. “Maybe those girls’ll be there.”

Benny Ray grinned. “Sure, you guys are up for another beating?” The three men left together.

Sparrow stretched out on the couch and pulled a blanket over her. “Margo?”

Margo turned. “Yeah?”

“You’ve got a great team.”

“I know. I’ll use the shower down here. Shout if you need anything. Get some sleep.” Margo smiled as she walked away. She’s right, this team is the best. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Even Nick, she admitted.

Silver Star Office
13:55

Benny Ray finished his inspection of Sparrow’s laptop. Satisfied, he replaced it in it's case. He closed the door firmly behind him as he left, and went to join Matt and Nick on the beach.

Silver Star Basement
14:10

Margo finished combing her wet hair and wrapped a towel around her body. 'Stupid,' she thought to herself, 'I left my duffel in the other room. Oh well, it’s not as if I’m naked.' She opened the door and stepped into the room. The lump that was Sparrow was motionless under the blanket on the couch. Margo smiled; 'She's buried herself like a turtle! How can she sleep?

She must be exhausted.' She didn’t notice the figure behind her. Her last conscious thought was of a blinding pain in her head.

Silver Star Basement
15: 25

“Shhh”, cautioned Matt as he, Benny Ray and Nick entered the room. “Sparrow’s still asleep.” All he could see was dark hair.

“Doesn’t she have a real name?” Nick’s not so whisper was shushed by the others.

“I guess Margo’s still in the shower,” Benny Ray gestured toward the closed door. They could hear the water running from behind the closed door.

Nick checked his watch, “Man, she’s been in there a long time.”

“She and Sparrow probably talked for a while, you know, catching up.”

“Yeah, well let’s wait upstairs. She’ll find us.” Matt gestured for the others to precede him up the stairs. They left quietly.

Silver Star Bar
16:05

“Margo’s really soakin’ it up. What’s wit women and their long showers?” Nick asked no-one in particular.

“Margo’s always been quick in the shower.” Benny Ray looked at his watch. “How long has it been?”

“More than half an hour!”

“Major, I’m going to see what’s up. Maybe she slipped or something.”

“Have fun. Just don’t blame anyone but yourself when Margo yells at you for disturbing her solitude.”

Benny Ray’s knocks yielded less than satisfactory results. He pounded on the door, not caring who he woke up, to no avail. Margo was not answering. He glanced at Sparrow, still sleeping on the couch. She was still, too still. Suddenly afraid, Benny Ray kicked in the door to the bathroom. The steam from the room was over- powering. “Margo?” Images of Margo unconscious and drowning filled his head. Benny Ray didn’t wait before pulling back the shower curtain. Margo wasn’t there. Benny Ray didn’t bother to turn off the water. He whirled and ran for the couch. Pulling off the blanket, he turned the woman to face him. It was Margo, unconscious and bound.

Silver Star Basement
16:12

“Margo? C’mon honey, open your eyes.” Benny Ray held the unconscious woman in his arms. He caressed her cheek as he willed her to awaken. She remained limp and unresponsive. “Where’s the damn ambulance?” A muscle twitching in his cheek was the only outward sign that he was seething within.

“It’s on it's way; Nick’s waiting for it.” Matt Shepherd was pacing back and forth across the room. “Can you find any other damage?” He clenched a crescent wrench in his fist.

“No sir, just the massive wound on her head.” Benny Ray swallowed nervously as he examined the bleeding area again. His voice shaking, Benny Ray looked up at Matt, “I ain’t no medic, but her skull might be fractured.”

“If she was hit with this....” Matt gestured helplessly to the heavy wrench in his hand.

“I’m going to find Sparrow and rip her apart.” The sniper spat the words. “I knew she wasn’t what she seemed. I KNEW she was hiding something.” Racked with guilt, Benny Ray held Margo closer to him.

“Trout gave us bad intel. But there’s something not right about this. If Margo was Sparrow’s target, why leave her here alive and tied up?”

“Maybe she’s not the target, but a warning.” There was no more time for speculation as Nick ran in, followed by two uniformed paramedics pulling a stretcher. While the paramedics assessed Margo’s condition, both Benny Ray and Matt were silent, each lost in their own thoughts of revenge. When Margo was strapped into place on the gurney Matt brushed her forehead with his lips and whispered, “Hang in there kid, we’re with you all the way.” The two men followed their injured friend up to the waiting ambulance.

Matt pounded twice on the back of the ambulance door to signal it's readiness to depart. As the ambulance sped off, sirens blaring, a black suburban squealed to a stop next to the hotel. Nick punched the button to roll down the passenger window. Seeing Matt and Benny Ray standing dazed on the sidewalk he yelled, “C’mon, let’s go!” They hopped in the van and took off after the ambulance.

Hermosa Memorial Hospital
Trauma Waiting Room
18:30

Rico noticed the lines on Matt’s face as he walked down the hall. Benny Ray had turned away from the doctor and was pounding the wall in silent agony, as he rested his forehead against it. Rico couldn’t see Nick anywhere.

“The next 24 hours will be critical,” the doctor was saying. “Unfortunately her brain is swelling under the skull fracture, so we are also starting an anti-seizure drug regimen. Is she allergic to any medication?“

Mutely, Matt shook his head.

“What about brain damage?” Rico asked walking up to the group.

“Let’s worry about that if she comes out of the coma.” The man acknowledged the newcomer with a nod. Rico had put some time in the trauma center before devoting all his time to the military. “I would suggest you notify her family.” The doctor suddenly seemed more human, “Now, you all need to go home and get some rest. The nurses on duty know to call you if there is any change.” The doctor turned to leave.

“Can we see her?” Benny Ray turned from the wall.

“I’m sorry, family only.” The doctor smiled sympathetically before walking briskly down the hall and disappearing behind the automatic double doors that separated the trauma wing from the waiting area.

“IF she comes out of the coma?” Benny Ray’s voice cracked.

“Hey man, Margo’s strong. She’ll be out in no time.” Rico managed to sound more convinced than he felt. “She just needs a little rest.” He looked each man in the eyes. “In the meantime, are we going to sit here, or are we going to find the person,” He snarled the word, “that did this to her?”

Matt tore his gaze away from the double doors that led to the trauma wing of the hospital. “Right.” He took a deep breath. “Nick’s checking up on Sparrow, and bringing Trout up to speed.”

“Maybe we should call in the Big Man.” Benny Ray took his cue from Matt and pushed all emotional thoughts aside. There would be time enough to show his emotions when he was ripping Sparrows' arms off. Benny Ray clenched his teeth. She would be okay, she would be okay.... he almost missed Matt’s reply.

“It’s already done. Deke’s got first watch. Nobody will get through him.”

“Good call, Major.” Rico gestured the men toward the exit. “ Let’s get to work. Fill me in from the beginning. Who’s Sparrow?”

Silver Star Basement
01:35

“So that’s it.” Nick leaned back in his chair and eyed his companions. “It’s like da lady doesn’t exist. If Margo was here, she’d be able to hack into a few places I can’t get to.”

“What about Trout?” Rico asked.

“The guy was no help,” Nick replied. “He couldn’t believe that Sparrow could be the missing link. “

“It makes sense, though” Nick, Matt and Rico all turned to look at Benny Ray, chiming in for the first time since returning from the hospital. “who wouldn’t assist a damsel in distress? She asks for protection, we didn’t say no.”

“Dat’s no damsel.” Nick piped up. “Dragon is more like it!”

The phone rang. The men jumped, startled. They looked expectantly at Matt, who quickly picked up the receiver, saying “Shepherd.” He listened silently and hung up the phone. “That was Deke.” Matt avoided looking at the other men. “Margo had a bad seizure. Her heart stopped.”

Benny Ray hunched over, holding his head in his hands.

Rico sat silently, shaking his head.

“Is she...” Nick couldn’t finish the thought on everyone’s mind.

“They rescusitated her, but she’s still in a coma, and now she’s on life support.” Matt ran his hands through his hair and exhaled forcefully. “Deke says he talked to John, but he can’t get here until the day after tomorrow. He’s asking for all our prayers.” The men nodded silently, and Rico crossed himself and said a quick prayer under his breath.

“From now on, no more babysitting jobs.” Matt shook his head ruefully. As the team’s leader, he held the responsibility for accepting a job in which his people got hurt or worse. “Don’t even think that it might be worse!” He kept that thought playing over and over in his head. Matt clenched his fists and tried to focus on the task at hand. “As far as I’m concerned, all we need is a location. I am not interested in keeping Sparrow alive, no matter what Trout might have to say.”

“Not a problem, sir.” Benny Ray sat up, as if remembering something.

“Whaddaya mean not a problem?” Nick howled. “I jus tol’ ya that the lady practically doesn’t exist, and you say that’s not a problem? What, ya have radar or somethin’?”

“Almost,” A ghost of a smile passed Benny Ray’s lips. “Before going out to play volleyball, I put a tracer on Sparrow’s laptop. She’s into crypto stuff, and needs intel on her next victim, she won’t be far from it. We find the laptop, we find Sparrow.”

“Now that’s the best news I have had all day!” Rico clapped his hands together. “Let’s get started!”

Hotel Intercontinental
Los Angeles
04:30

Matt gestured to Benny Ray as he planted himself against the hotel wall. Benny Ray nodded and held up two fingers followed by eight. If the trace was correct, Sparrow should be on the 28th floor. “Okay people, this is it.” Matt spoke into his mouth- piece. “ Nick, you stay with the trace. Rico, you cover the back lot. I do not want her getting away. Benny Ray, with me.”

Benny Ray gave a thumbs up sign. His hand shook almost imperceptibly. The strain of the night was beginning to take it's toll.

“Just don’t think about Margo,” Benny Ray was telling himself. “Don’t think about her.” His mind kept showing him images of her lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and machines. “She will be okay. She’s gotta be okay!” At a touch from Matt, Benny Ray shook himself out of his reverie. “Let’s do it.” The three men activated their FOF beacons.

Nick commented from inside the van, “Okay, that’s one, two, three little blips. I got ya.”

As the two men crept into the hotel’s basement, Matt’s thinking was taking him down a similar road. He flashed back to Bosnia, Germany, Columbia, Iraq, Korea. Every place they had ever been to, each knew he or she might not return. But to be caught on the home front? Matt’s concern for his fallen teammate just barely overshadowed his intense hatred for Sparrow. “When this is all over, we’re taking a long vacation.” Matt promised himself. “Hawaii to visit Chance and CJ, Margo will like that.” Not even thinking of another ending to this mission, Matt focused on how happy Margo would be to travel. He gestured for Benny Ray to cover them as the elevator opened at the basement level.

Stepping off the elevator on the 28th floor, Benny Ray checked the hallway. Empty. Lucky for them it was too early even for room service to be out. Matt spoke quietly into his mouthpiece. “Talk to me.”

“Alive and kicking,” Nick responded. “I’m showing our girl three doors from the end of the hall. Benny Ray, do me a favor? Inflict some pain for me?”

Benny Ray grinned coldly. Pain he could do.

Outside the door to room 2821, Matt and Benny Ray paused, listening. There was no sound from inside the room. Benny Ray covered the hallway as Matt kicked in the door in a spectacular splintering of wood and metal. The deadbolt snapped in two, and the security chain hung from the door, swinging back and forth. The two men entered the room, swiftly, guns high, aiming from side to side as they looked for their target. They swept the room thoroughly, nothing was out of place. It didn’t even look like someone was staying there. A check of the first bedroom also revealed nothing.

A slight sound to the right alerted them. They both raced for the door to the second bedroom. Pushing the door open with his shoulder, Matt was surprised to see a young, blond woman sitting in a chair, ankles bound, hands behind her back, and tape over her mouth. In front of her on the desk was a laptop computer, open and on.

Matt entered the room as Benny Ray went to check the rest of the suite. He gently removed the tape from the frightened woman’s mouth.

“Please don’t shoot me,” the woman begged, blue eyes filled with tears. “Please help me, she’ll be back any minute!”

“Relax, ma’am,” Matt replied. “Where’s Sparrow?” He took out a knife and sliced through the ropes tying the woman’s feet together. Taking a pick from his vest pocket, he began to work on the handcuffs.

“I don’t know.” The woman’s voice trembled. “She left here about an hour ago. She, she..” The woman broke down in tears. “She said she’d kill me if I didn’t hack into some government files she wanted.”

“You’re safe now.” Matt soothed, “I’m Matt. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything happen to you.” He spoke into his mouthpiece. “Benny Ray, anything?”

“Not yet, sir. I’m about to enter the bathroom.”

“I’m Kate.” The woman rubbed her red wrists, “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Just getting Sparrow will be thanks enough.” Matt eyed the woman, still trembling. “Will you be okay?”

“Fine, now, thanks to you.” Kate looked at Matt adoringly. He turned to examine the laptop on the desk.

Benny Ray had found nothing in his search of the suite. The door to the bathroom was barely ajar. As Benny Ray eased it open, his sniper sense told him the small room was occupied, yet he didn’t immediately see anyone. There was a shadow behind the shower curtain.

Aiming carefully, Benny Ray ripped the curtain aside, coming face to face with his enemy, Sparrow. The woman looked very different from the last time he had seen her. She was tied to the shower head. Beside that, she had been beaten, badly. Benny Ray could barely make out the woman’s features beneath the swelling and blood. He cut her down and held her. As he was feeling for a pulse, the woman groaned, her eyes fluttering open. “No more,” she whispered through lips cracked and bleeding. “I won’t tell you anything. Just kill me and get it over with.”

“Sparrow?” Benny Ray asked he smoothed the woman’s hair back from her fore- head.

“Oh Benny Ray,” Sparrow sobbed. “She’s got my laptop. I wouldn’t decrypt the files she wanted.”

“Who?” Benny Ray’s voice hardened.

“Kate.” Sparrow fought to keep conscious. “She used to be CIA, but was caught selling secrets. This was her revenge.”

Benny Ray spoke into his mouthpiece. “Major, we got a problem.” He froze at the sound of a gunshot coming from the bedroom.

Benny Ray eased the now unconscious Sparrow to the floor and picked up his weapon. “Major?” There was no answer. “Major, talk to me.” Benny Ray picked his way through the still suite. “Rico, get up here, now!”

“I’m on my way,” Rico began sprinting for the hotel door.

Benny Ray reached the bedroom door. There was no sound from within. He stepped through the door carefully aiming for the now empty chair. Matt lay on the floor face down. Kate stood over Matt, her pistol aimed at his head. As Benny Ray stepped through the door, she looked at him and smiled. “I think he’s still alive. Put down your gun or I shoot.”

Benny Ray only aimed his weapon more carefully. “You’re only chance to walk out of here alive is to move away from him and put your gun on the floor.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Kate kicked Matt. “His only chance is for you to back off!” She smiled sweetly. “By the way, how’s Margo?”

“You bitch,” Benny Ray snarled. “I should shoot you right now.”

“But you won’t, will you?” Kate’s finger tensed on the trigger. “Because you know I can still shoot him before I die.”

“Lady, “ Kate interrupted whatever Benny Ray was going to say. “Either you put your weapon on the floor, or I am going to start shooting.” When Benny Ray hesitated, she shouted, “NOW!”

Benny Ray realizing that she was about to lose control, raised his hands and said, “Okay, okay.” He began to lower his weapon.

Kate’s face changed to a look of triumph, then surprise as her feet were taken out from under her. She didn’t lose her grip on the gun, and turned it to face Matt as she fell. He hit her solidly in the face, and took the gun from her limp fingers.

“Nice punch, sir,” Benny Ray said mildly as he retrieved his weapon. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” Matt grunted as he got to his feet. “Nothing like taking a bullet at point blank range. It took me out for a few minutes, but the vest held.”

“Ya’ gotta love Kevlar,” Benny Ray answered. “I found Sparrow. She’s hurt pretty bad. Rico’s on his way up.”

“Good.” Matt poked the unconscious woman on the floor before turning to the lap- top. “Kate needed Sparrow to decrypt the list for her. She told me all about it before shooting me. She followed Sparrow to the Silver Star and grabbed her while we were playing volley ball. Margo surprised her as she came out of the shower. “ He grimaced as he remembered how Margo looked when they found her.

“Major, she’ll be all right. Margo knows we’re all pulling for her.” Benny Ray tried to make himself believe it.

“Benny Ray? Major?” Both Matt and Benny Ray turned as Rico entered the room breathless. “Are you okay?”

“We’re fine,” Matt reassured him, “but there’s a woman badly injured in the bathroom.”

“Yes, sir!” Rico turned and went to find Sparrow.

They both heard the click of a gun before they saw it. Turning simultaneously, Matt and Benny Ray fired one shot each. Kate was dead before her head hit the floor. They watched the gun fall from a limp hand. Both men heaved a sigh of relief. Matt picked up the laptop while Benny Ray gathered both of Kates' weapons. “Let’s see how Sparrow’s doing.”

“I almost feel like I owe her an apology.”

“I know how you feel, Benny Ray.”

Rico was bundling Sparrow in a blanket and lifting her as they got to the bathroom. “I ordered a chopper. It’s meeting us on the roof.”

“Nick, meet us at the hospital. Oh, and call Trout.”

“Yeah, sure. Everybody’s secretary, dat’s me.”

There was no time for talk on the chopper. Both Matt and Benny Ray were lost in their own thoughts, mostly of Margo. Rico’s only concern was for his patient.

As the helicopter landed on the pad at Coronado Naval Hospital, Sparrow’s eyelids fluttered. “Benny Ray?” she whispered.

“Don’t talk, just rest.” Benny Ray leaned close to hear her. “I’m here.”

“Benny Ray, is Margo all right?”

“She will be, darlin’, don’t you worry.”

“Tell her,” the woman gasped for breath, “tell her she owes me those Reese’s.”

“I will,” the man grinned. “Sparrow?” He leaned close and whispered in her ear.

Sparrow smiled and whispered, “Rachel; my name is Rachel.” She relaxed and slipped once more into unconsciousness. Rico took charge as she was wheeled away.

Hermosa Memorial Hospital
Sunday
15:30

“You gave us quite a scare.” Matt kissed Margo on the cheek and placed the bouquet of flowers on the window sill.

Margo smiled. “Sorry.”

“We’re just glad you’re back with us.” Benny Ray said. His eyes said a lot more. Margo blushed and shifted her gaze to a man walking through the door.

“Rico!”

“Hello, gorgeous,” Rico smiled as he bent to kiss her cheek. “That was some beauty sleep.”

“How’s Sparrow?” Matt asked the medic.

“Much better.” Rico shook hands with the man. “Four broken ribs, a collapsed lung, some internal bleeding, bumps and bruises, but she’ll be fine. She sends her love.”

“Well, I’m glad that’s over.” Margo said, “What next?”

“What next?” Matt smiled at her. “I’m thinking Hawaii........”

The End

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