This is my first fanfic, so some feedback would be nice, though not necessary. :-)
Disclaimer: Soldier of Fortune/Special Ops Force and all the characters therein are the property of Rysher, et al; this is a recreational endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended. I respectfully thank The Powers That Be for allowing me to indirectly dabble for awhile in the little universe they've created.
Rating: R, for violence, language, adult themes and sexual content.
Summary: When a mission in Colombia goes awry with disasterous results, the team must find a way back to friendly soil alive.
6 August 2000
Margo was fading
fast, and Matt could tell that it was a physical struggle just
to keep her eyes open. She was leaning against the window of
the van, her weapon propped up beside her, one hand trailing
down beside her to continually stroke Benny Ray's pale, sweaty
kid?" His voice seemed too loud in the strained, exhausted
silence, and he turned around in his seat to catch her tired
"Yeah, I'm fine." She nodded wearily, reaching up to rub at the bridge of her nose.
forty-five minutes to the border, and we're home free,"
Matt told her. He turned back to the road, navigating through
a series of potholes so deep they could have been craters. "Go
to sleep. You look like hell."
gentleman," she retorted, but shook her head. "Someone's
got to keep an eye on Benny Ray. I'm all right."
He glanced at
her through the rearview mirror and recognized her plea. They
were all exhausted. Nick had fallen asleep in the seat beside
him ages ago, and was now snoring above the muted roar of the
van's old engine. They had forced enough painkillers to knock
out a horse down Benny Ray's throat, and now he lay pale and
silent across the back seat, his head in Margo's lap. "How
Margo ran her fingers across the sniper's face, pointedly looking
at the bloody bandage wrapped around his right thigh. "He's
running a fever, though."
Matt chewed his lip in frustration. "I thought you said
the wound was clean."
the jungles of Colombia, for God's sake," she spat back.
"I said I did my best. There's not much you can do with
half a first aid kit in the middle of nowhere. I wish Rico was
here." She was furious, and terrified that Benny Ray was
going to die. Truth be told, Matt was scared himself. "One
of these days, we're going to die on one of Trout's 'easy missions'.
We should have had air support, the Colombian Army be damned."
Trout really should have known better." He hunched over
the steering wheel, flexing his hands as though they were around
the throat of his boss. Once again, a case of need-to-know information
had left them with less than they needed to know, and now Benny
Ray was shot, everyone was exhausted, and they were still forty-five
minutes from a safe border.
a relative term, of course.
glance, and he saw the telltale slick of moisture on Margo's
cheeks as she bent over Benny Ray, tenderly cradling his head
in her arms. "Close your eyes, Margo, and get some sleep.
This road was clear when we came in." When had they come
in? It couldn't have been yesterday. Was it the day before? Two
days ago? Had it really been seventy-two hours since they'd last
slept? "I promise I'll wake you up if something happens."
"I can make
it until we're over the border," she told him. "I'll
keep you awake, and make sure Benny Ray's all right."
He was too tired to do much more than nod wearily, concentrating on keeping his eyes open and not driving off the road. Forty-five minutes...
6 August 2000
The van had stopped.
Margo felt the cessation of movement with a distant, clinical
sense of detachment, and her fingers brushed against Benny Ray's
forehead as if to reassure herself that he was still there.
We've got company," Matt said tightly, apparently giving
Nick an elbow because the ex-DEA agent squawked in sleepy surprise.
"Hope everyone's Spanish is convincing."
They must still be in Colombia. Damn. Margo forced open
leaden eyelids, crawling back to consciousness with Herculean
effort. She had fallen asleep. She didn't want to wake up. She
didn't want to face anything more dangerous than a pillow. Right
now she couldn't even think in English, much less Spanish.
Matt was talking again. She'd never heard him sound so tired.
"Margo, you fell asleep on me, kid."
It took incredible will to get her eyes to focus, and as she
did, she saw the two green trucks pulling over beside the van.
"Where'd these guys come from?" She looked at her watch.
Seventeen minutes to the border.
"Soldiers, looks like." Nick frowned, and for once, Margo was just too exhausted to offer some acerbic remark about his habit of stating the obvious. "On patrol."
Army never patrols this road," she stated, fumbling around
in her brain for some reason to her words. "We've never
seen trucks like that on the satellite images."
that we were followed out of San Pablo." Matt swore violently,
and scrubbed a hand across his face as the soldiers approached
and surrounded the vehicle. "Maybe we can talk our way out
it. Those are Don Castillano's men. I recognize the patch on
their shoulders." With a rapidly sinking heart, Margo watched
one of the soldiers motion for the window to be rolled down.
On his shoulder was the bright red star that was the emblem of
Domingo Castillano. They had stopped the minor drug lord from
receiving his shipment of stolen U.S. munitions, but had failed
to retreat fast enough when he retaliated. Margo's stomach clenched
as she stole a quick glance at Benny Ray and the bloodstained
cloth around his leg, and felt his shallow breathing against
the palm of her hand. I'm going to get you out of this,
she promised silently. Just hang in there, okay?
Matt rolled down
the window, but before he could speak, the soldier brought the
butt of his gun up against his face. There was nothing Margo
could have done. They were all too sleep-deprived and sluggish
to really respond. Unable to resist, she fell limp as they dragged
her from the truck, the shock of hard ground doing little to
wake her. We were almost there
Her face pressed
to the dust of the road, she rose halfway when they hauled Benny
Ray out and unceremoniously dumped him beside her, but then rough
hands seized her arms and wrenched them behind her back, tightly
tying them with rope.
her eyes shut as they rolled her over on her back. Oh God
They were pulling at her clothes, harsh fingers restraining
her as she struggled against her bonds. "Goddammit, don't
you touch me!" she shouted in Spanish, along with other,
even less ladylike epithets until one of her assailants finally
shoved a gag so far down in her mouth it made her retch. She
chewed at the fabric, trying to force it out, but more rope,
this time around her face to secure the gag, quickly squashed
that idea. The smell of cheap cigarette smoke was so overwhelming
she wanted to vomit.
The soldier unbuttoned
his pants, and straddled her as his fellows held her down. Unable
to look, she fought against him until one of the others gave
her such a clout in the head that her whole body just sort of
relaxed and stars swam behind her eyelids. She didn't want to
see what they were doing, but it became painfully obvious when
the first stab of agony tore its way up her spine.
The first time hurt the worst. After that, she started feeling a little numb and disconnected, as a second took the place of the first, and after the second, a third. Wave after wave of pain ripped through her, and after a while, she just gave up, gave into the pain and the humiliation, silent tears streaming down her face. It went on for what felt like hours. Margo lay there in the dusty road, blocking out the sights and the sounds of her violators, and tried not to feel anything. She thought she heard Benny Ray call out her name, once, softly, weakly, but he was so distant, so far away Where are you? she wondered vaguely, and then bit down on the gag as another jolt of agony tore through her innards. Blood filled her mouth from where her teeth had fiercely connected with the inside of her cheek, and she almost choked on her own saliva. She was past screaming. She was past praying. She just wanted to die. Please, God, just let me die
Just when she thought she couldn't possibly stand it any longer, and death was surely just around the corner, blessed darkness rushed in, and she passed out.
8 August 2000
Matt was the
first one to come to, and was promptly greeted by a pounding
headache and a mouthful of hay. Rolling to his side, he discovered
that his hands were firmly tied behind him, and he was in what
appeared to be a cell, solidly constructed of stone. The equally
stone floor was liberally strewn with straw. In one wall was
a small, high window, firmly barred, through which wan moonlight
trickled. He squinted in the gloom, making out the vague outline
of a very thick wooden door along the opposite wall, also barred.
Around him, in various heaps where they had been dropped, were
Nick, Margo and Benny Ray.
Memory came flooding
back to him, and so did the awful realization that they were
in a really bad situation: Oh, shit. We're in San Pablo.
In the clutches of Don Domingo Castillano, the exact worst place
they could be.
Trout had been
very clear about the nature of the mission: get in, get the munitions,
get out, and under no circumstances make contact with anyone.
Well, that had been blown when Benny Ray had been shot, and Matt
had absolutely no idea how Don Castillano's men had managed to
beat them to the border. Twenty minutes, and we would have
made it. Maybe if he'd kept himself a little more awake and
driven a little faster, they would have been okay. Now they were
stuck, Benny Ray was out of commission, and he had absolutely
no idea of what they were going to do next.
He could hear
Nick coming awake nearby, and squirmed around to face the other
man. "Nick, you all right?"
The ex-DEA groaned.
"Dis ain't no four-star hotel, dat's for sure."
you. Your hands free?"
Nick uttered something that was a cross between a defeated laugh
and a sigh. "I feel like a damned Christmas turkey. I don't
suppose dey let you off easy, right, Boss?"
"Not exactly. Roll this way. I'll see if I can get at your knots." The two men maneuvered so they were back-to-back, and Matt proceeded to pick at the ropes binding Nick's hands. Whoever had tied the knots had known what they were doing, and had tied them tight enough to restrict a great amount of movement. When the first strand finally came loose, Matt's fingers were almost numb from the strain. "Almost almost there!"
Nick slipped off the rope and started untying Matt. It didn't
take nearly so long, and in a few minutes, both men were sitting
up and massaging the pins and needles out of their hands.
else is awake?" Nick asked, somewhat pathetically. It was
clear that he was not at all at ease with their current situation,
and Matt didn't blame him one bit.
Nick's pained exhalation caused Matt to turn. "Boss, you'd
it?" But he knew the second he saw. Margo was curled on
the ground, long-dried tear-tracks cutting through the dust on
her face, blood crusting at the corner of her mouth, her clothing
torn and, in what little ambiance there was, stained with...
"Oh, God. Those bastards." An almost overwhelming
rage flooding through him, he gingerly brushed her bangs back
from her eyes, revealing the livid bruises and scrapes inflicted
upon her. He glanced at his watch, trying to gauge the length
of time since the incident had occurred. "August 8? We've
been out for two days?" Margo shifted slightly, a soft sobbing
sound escaping her lips. Matt reached for her hand, but she jerked
away. "Margo, it's me," he whispered to her. "It's
Matt." He gently untied the gag, and pulled the blood-soaked
fabric from her mouth. It was a wonder that she hadn't drowned
in her own blood.
She took another
breath that caught halfway in her throat, curling up even tighter
into a protective, fetal ball. A lone tear slid down her cheek.
Fury thundered in his ears, and Matt forced himself to take several
deep breaths, slipping off his jacket and tucking it around her
shoulders. "We should sleep while we can," he told
Nick. "We don't know what's coming next."
For once, the skinny little man had nothing to say, and moved off to keep an eye on Benny Ray. Matt made short work of the rope that bound Margo's hands, wincing as he saw where her wrists had been rubbed raw. Settling down beside her, he stared out the window before closing his eyes, wondering how they could have gotten into this hell in the first place.
8 August 2000
A heavy boot
in his ribs rudely awakened Matt, and he lay gasping and blinking
on the straw-strewn floor, blinded by a flashlight beam. It took
him a moment to remember exactly where he was and what had happened,
but the memory recovered itself rather quickly.
The words were in heavily accented English, punctuated by another
all right," Matt groaned, putting up his hands to ward off
more blows. There was nothing he could accomplish by resisting,
especially since the four other guards accompanying his assailant
all carried semiautomatics. He was painfully aware of Margo's
body against his back. It had to have been his imagination that
she felt so small and frail. She hadn't moved since he'd lain
down beside her some hours before, and her motionless frightened
to his feet, his stunned diaphragm hiccupping sharply as he started
breathing again, dull pain echoing through his entire ribcage.
He concentrated in taking deep breaths to overcome having the
wind kicked out of him. "Where are we going?" he dared
would like to ask you questions." The guard swiftly retired
the roped around Matt's wrists. Gesturing to the others, he let
loose a rapid stream of Spanish at his compatriots, which Matt
correctly interpreted to be a command to check the others' bonds.
One of the guards moved towards Margo, his hands lingering a
little too long near her lifeless body.
Matt called out, and the guard turned slightly to regard him
with contemptuous eyes. "Don't hurt her any more. If you
leave her alone, I'll go quietly." He could feel Nick's
heavy stare, and out of the corner of his eye, caught the little
man's infinitesimal nod of approval.
The guards conferred
a moment, and in the end, left Margo alone. As promised, Matt
allowed them to roughhouse him through the halls, reminding himself
of Margo's still form every time he was pushed into the stone
They turned so
many corners that he was quickly lost. It seemed like the guards
were going in circles just to confuse him, and indeed, they might
have been. If they were truly inside the San Pedro Mission, then
Don Castillano's private quarters would be on the second story.
Matt looked long and hard, but saw nothing to indicate any staircases.
Perhaps this was one of the outbuildings, then. The guards led
him into a room very similar to the one he had just left, and
proceeded to tie him to a chair. Then, they walked out and promptly
locked the door behind them.
Matt looked in
dismay around this new cell, trying to work the ropes to a tolerable
tightness. Judging from the morning sun streaming through the
barred windows, he was on the other side of the building. The
floor was strangely absent of the covering of straw that seemed
ubiquitous throughout the area. There were large dark stains
on the stones, and he looked away, knowing instinctively that
he was sitting in a seat once shared by several dead men. He
shuddered involuntarily, hoping that the Don's 'questions' had
nothing to do with knives or guns.
The sun had moved
almost a foot across the wall by the time the door opened again,
and Matt had almost convinced himself to doze off. This time,
the guards were escorting a short, stout little man in a well-tailored
business suit. It was obvious from the way Don Castillano moved
that his broad build had nothing to do with fat, and everything
to do with muscle. The drug lord stood in front of his prisoner
with the haughty ease of a tiger surveying his prey, his hands
clasped behind him in a position faintly reminiscent of the military's
own 'at ease' posture.
Shepherd. What a surprise." The Don's cultured English was
that of an educated man. With his muscular body and keen intelligence,
Castillano was a very dangerous, unpredictable enemy. When Matt
didn't answer the drug lord merely smiled, faintly amused, and
spoke again. "You do realize what great danger you are in,
do you not?"
Matt wished for
Nick's gift for snappy, irritating retorts, but he suspected
that that sort of movie-style defiance would only gain him acquaintance
with the men whose blood stained the floor. The Don would remain
unperturbed in the face of insolence
until he ordered his
toadies to break Matt's skull.
a very talented man leading a very talented team, Major,"
Castillano said, and Matt could just taste the hint of true admiration
behind the silky words. Castillano himself was a former military
man, and that made him all the more perilous. "It is a true
shame that you will all have to die."
There was inspiration. "Do
what you want with me. Let the others go," Matt heard himself
saying. In his mind's eye, he saw Benny Ray on the day the sniper
had been shot, blood streaming down his leg and face as gray
as death, insisting he could walk on his own. Nick, for once
uncharacteristically serious as they all piled into the van and
spun the tires in an effort to get away. Margo, who had fought
against her third sleepless day in order to watch over Benny
Ray, and had paid so dearly. "They were only following my
do you get your orders, Major?"
The drug lord thoughtfully stroked his neatly trimmed beard.
"So, do you routinely stage militant maneuvers in foreign
countries just for fun? A risky business, to be sure."
Matt didn't answer,
and Castillano began to pace slowly. "Tell me, on these
you normally bring your lover? Does the atmosphere of danger
make your lovemaking sweeter? A woman is a great liability to
take care of. Or do all of the men share her
as I am sure
mine have done?"
one that hit Matt in the side of the head, and made his vision
go indistinct with fury. "Margo is not my lover,"
he ground out, angry beyond reason and filled with the shame
that should have belonged to her attackers. He could feel the
ropes cutting through his wrists, and the slick of blood on his
skin. He wished it could have been Castillano's blood. "When
we escape, I will personally kill everyone who touched her, and
I know I won't be the only one after their heads."
so sure of yourself." Don Castillano smiled thinly. "What
makes you so confident that you will escape? I want you to know,
Major, that I am watching you every moment of the day. Now, where
did you get your orders to steal the munitions that I legally
At a nod, one of the guards delivered a blow to Matt's face that left him slightly stunned and drooling blood. "That is the wrong answer," Castillano said calmly.
you get your orders?"
Matt repeated, and this time, the blow came from the other side.
"I am a
very patient man, Major," the drug lord told him. "And
I suspect that I will be able to wait for the answer much longer
long as you want, it'll never come, bastard." He
spat blood off to one side, gingerly probing a loosened tooth
with his tongue. A hard hit to the back of his head made stars
spark before his eyes.
"I see we
will have to discuss this later, when you are much more compliant."
Castillano gave the guards an idle gesture. "They will do
what they wish with you, Major, and I can guarantee it will not
be pleasant. When you feel the urge to speak with me, I will
The door hadn't even clicked shut when the guards came at him with several blunt objects, and Matt silently retreated inside himself, away from the rest of the world, the blood leaking from a thousand different places, and the agonized wailing of his body for mercy. Staying conscious was a show of his personal strength, but after a while, strength didn't matter.
He didn't remember
passing out, only the slow realization that he was back in his
own cell, with Nick peering down at him with concern, told him
that he must have lost consciousness. "Margo?" he asked
thickly, his tongue and lips swollen to what felt like twenty
times their normal size.
Boss, it's just me," Nick said with his usual candor. "Dey
usually do dere negotiating with blunt objects, or are you just
a special case?"
I'm just a special case," Matt groaned, "but I suspect
it's the former. How long was I out?"
maybe?" The weaselly little man shrugged. "It's been
pretty quiet. Dey seemed to be interested in just you."
He rolled over to his side, easing himself upright. "How
is Margo? Is Benny Ray holding up?"
awake for a little while," Nick told him, "an' he was
talking okay, but Margo's still out."
Matt glanced over at her motionless form. She hadn't moved. The
only thing to indicate that she was still alive was the slow
rise and fall of her ribcage. What if she was in a coma? What
had those bastards done to her? "Did the guards try anything
after I left?"
gawd." He shook his head. "Dey tell you what dey wanted,
or just feel like roughing you up a bit?"
wants to know who we work for," Matt said, gingerly probing
one of the larger bruises on his shoulder. "He knows we
redirected his munitions shipment."
"I bet he's
doesn't even begin to describe it. We're dealing with a very
patient man who cares nothing for our lives."
Matt looked around,
and focused on Benny Ray. "You said Benny Ray was talking?
How's he feeling?"
he was okay, but you know him
" Nick shrugged, the
only thing he did eloquently.
he was fine if he was missing both legs and several major organs."
Matt chuckled dryly.
long's they didn't get my trigger finger, Major
Ray's voice was hoarse, but everyone could hear the wry smile
in the Southerner's words.
Matt moved over
to where the sniper lay. "How are you holding up?"
more of them huge pills, Major?"
all our supplies, but I'll see what I can do." If Benny
Ray actually admitted needing painkillers, then he was truly
hurting. "How's your head?"
there. Still feelin' a bit chilled." The sniper looked around.
"Where the hell are we, anyway?"
I think. Castillano knows we diverted his munitions, and he wants
to know who we work for."
"And I take
it them bruises ain't the result of you getting' in a bar fight,
dawned in the sniper's eyes as he finally saw Margo's insensate
form, and he struggled halfway up to reach out and smooth her
dark bangs from her clammy forehead. "They do anythin' else
to her?" he asked, the vicious intensity of a protective
pit bull in his tone.
"No. I wouldn't
let them touch her." Matt frowned. "How
'em, Major." Benny Ray's words were heavy with loathing.
"I couldn't do a damn thing. She fought them off for a while,
but then they hit her, and she passed out. I tried to do something,
" He shook his head, and Matt could see the moisture
glistening as tears threatened to fall. "Has she woken up
yet? Has she said anything?" He was almost pleading.
She hasn't even moved." Staring at the dark bruises on her
face, he slowly bit into the side of his lip. Please, Margo,
give us something. He hoped she could hear them.
Benny Ray lightly ran his fingers over the dried blood on her
know. She wouldn't wake up earlier."
if you can hear me, I promise I'll kill those bastards,"
the sniper whispered to her, easing himself over to curl around
her motionless body. "An' if you wanna help me, the last
one's yours." He looked back up at Matt. "It's gonna
be hell bustin' outta here, right?"
less. I counted at least ten guards, but I guarantee there's
given, with da boss aroun' and all," Nick interjected. "We'll
be lucky if da odds are twenty to one."
those odds," Benny Ray told him, "if they get us outta
you gonna do, glare at 'em until dey go away?" The ex-DEA
narrowed his eyes. "Dey took all our guns, an' dey got us
the ray of sunshine today, amigo."
me for statin' da obvious, den!" Nick grumped off to stare
out the window.
out of here," Benny Ray said, snuggling Margo's head into
the crook of his arm. "Major, you been outside?"
say that." Matt winced as he touched a bruise on his forehead.
"I don't think we're in San Pablo itself. It's got to be
one of the outbuildings, because Castillano is around, but I
didn't see anything indicating that this is less than some sort
of jail facility."
motto is 'don't do anything you can let your toadies do for you',"
Nick said from across the room.
get out of here," repeated Benny Ray, glancing at the window
for emphasis. "We've been gone
incommunicado for two days," Matt told him. "Trou-I
mean, someone's bound to get worried if we don't show."
have dis place wired, could dey?" asked Nick, looking around.
"Dis place is archaic."
even know how to spell 'archaic', Delvecchio?" Exhaling
a deep sigh, Matt got to his feet and started pacing. "During
Castillano said he was watching us all the
be hard to conceal a bug in these walls," Benny Ray observed.
"Major, did you notice if there was anyone else bein' held
close to here?"
not. All the doors are the same, solid wood." It was getting
a little easier to talk around his swollen lips, but his head
still ached. "We obviously can't crawl out of the window."
Nick grudgingly rejoined the group, and the three men discussed
possible escape plans in hushed tones over Margo's still form.
Some hours and
twelve useless plans later, the door opened again, and the cranky-looking
guard delivered a tray containing a large plastic jug of water
and four bowls of what looked to be oatmeal. Miraculously, the
meal included spoons. "Eat," the soldier commanded,
and then promptly left just as suddenly as he had appeared.
room service here sucks." Nick prodded suspiciously at his
bowl of glop.
tell me you was expectin' McDonald's?" Benny Ray quipped.
He shifted Margo slightly in his lap, and dug in. "'S not
Elmer's glue's not that bad." But he shut up and ate anyway.
After everyone had eaten, Matt took the water and gingerly pulled back the bandage on Benny Ray's leg. The wound was red and swollen, but at least the bleeding had stopped. In the dim afternoon light, Matt was able to determine that the area was at least clean, and Benny Ray's short battle with fever had probably been due to fatigue and shock, not infection. Still, the sniper hissed in pain as Matt splashed water over the wound and used a different section of bandage to bind it.
you'd be in a hospital right now," Matt told him.
sir, but I'm not complainin'." Wetting the cuff of his sleeve,
Benny Ray gently washed the blood and dirt off Margo's face,
smoothing her unkempt hair with his fingers. "As long as
we're talkin' 'bout ideals, none of them bastards'd've done to
Margo what they did."
to kill them," Matt said matter-of-factly. "Once we're
out of here, none of them will live to sunrise."
the sniper agreed.
we start?" asked Nick.
as we can." Matt finished with Benny Ray's leg and took
a swig of the water himself. Surprised, he swallowed hard, offering
the jug to everyone else. It wasn't water, it was an alcohol
solution. He wondered if the alcohol was to disinfect the water,
or to just make them more complacent."Drink up," he
instructed. "I know it's warm and tastes...off, but it's
all the water we're going to get. We can't have anyone dehydrating."
water get off?" Nick wondered. "Hey, this tastes like-"
to disinfect everything," Matt said quickly, and was abruptly
silenced as the door opened again. This time, four guards came
in, and gestured to the New Yorker and the major.
you. On your feet."
Nick wanted to know, but his answer was a quick backhand across
the face that shut him up, and left him stunned enough to comply.
Matt allowed himself to be hauled completely upright, trying to ignore the bruises on his back and legs. Here we go again. Catching Benny Ray's eyes, he wordlessly let the sniper know that under no circumstances was he to let Margo get hurt again. Matt needn't have said anything; the sniper was in perfect understanding of the situation, and nodded his acquiescence. Then, there was no more time for chitchat, and the guards shut the door behind them, leaving Benny Ray and the still-unconscious Margo alone in the cell.
8 August 2000
Benny Ray sat
in the silence of the cell, watching the door and listening to
Margo's slow breathing. He wanted her to be all right. He had
washed the dirt and blood off her face, but she was still so
pale and lifeless. "Come on, darlin'," he whispered.
"Just gimme somethin'
As if in response,
a soft sigh escaped her lips, and she shifted slightly. "Sweet
Pea," said Benny Ray, "you gotta eat somethin' sometime.
Can't have you weighin' the rest of us down when we get outta
That struck a
chord, and Margo's eyes fluttered open, focusing with great difficulty
on the closest thing, his face. She said something that sounded
vaguely like his name, twisting around to get a better look at
him. "You're up
.?" Her voice was hoarse, and
he could tell that just breathing hurt.
How're you?" He poured some water into his cupped hand and
made her drink. She didn't resist, swallowing what few mouthfuls
she could manage, and then her head collapsed back against his
chest, eyes half-lidded with pain.
imagine it does. D'you feel like eatin' somethin'?"
She glanced at
the bowl of oatmeal-like glop and shuddered. "Probably be
drink some more, then. That'll make you feel a little better."
She managed a
few more sips, this time with a little more energy than she'd
had before. "Your leg?"
worried 'bout you, Sweet Pea. You're gonna be okay, you know
Margo took a
shaky breath. "I'll make it." There was no conviction
in her hollow words, and the deadness in her eyes scared him.
There was nothing behind the greenness, no hope, no sparkle,
nothing to indicate that Margo Vincent was still in there.
wanted to tell her that he'd been there, that he'd shared her
torture, how badly he wanted to kill those men. She must have
read his thoughts, because she whispered, "You were there,
wanted to kill those bastards, and I will, Sweet Pea, believe
as if she hadn't even heard. "I hear you say my name
thought it was God." Benny Ray blinked in surprise, and
leaned forward. Her voice was so soft he had to strain to make
out her words. Her lips barely moved. "Thanks," she
He couldn't think
of anything to say, just stroked aside her sweaty bangs, and
gently kissed her forehead. "We're gonna get through this,
Sweet Pea. I promise. I won't let anythin' else happen to you,
For just a brief moment, there was a flash of something akin to fear in her eyes, but it was gone as soon as it had come. "I know," Margo whispered, and wearily laid her head back against his chest. Two breaths later, she was asleep.
9 August 2000
Benny Ray had
tried to stay up and wait for Matt and Nick to be returned to
the cell, but somehow, Margo curled safely in his arms, he fell
asleep. The cell was lit with pale moonlight when the door finally
opened, and Nick and Matt were unceremoniously dropped inside.
The sniper came instantly awake. "Major? Nick?"
Benny Ray." Matt sounded terrible, but at least he was conscious.
His words were so badly slurred that the sniper wondered briefly
if the major had been hit in the head one too many times.
Thank gawd dat's over wit'," Nick groaned. "I tell
you, Boss, remind me never to piss him off again."
"'S a little
late for that, I think." The major rolled to his back, not
entirely successful at hiding his pained grimace. With a flick
of his wrist, he tossed something at Benny Ray; the small object
landed near the sniper's hand. "How is she?"
for now. She did wake up, and was pretty lucid, but I guarantee
we ain't walkin' outta here, Major." He gripped the object,
turning it over in his fingers. It was a matchbook, still half-full.
a burning desire to go home," Matt replied meaningfully,
speaking as clearly as he could. Benny Ray quickly got the point.
a fire in me tonight, sir."
"No, sleep now. I know you need it." A gesture to the moon, and the sniper understood. Almost directly overhead, the full moon would aid their pursuers in tracking them. In a few hours, the shadows would be longer, and they would have a better chance of escaping undetected.
9 August 2000
back to consciousness like a man crawling up a plate of glass.
The cell was almost completely dark, which meant that the moon
had moved enough for them to put their makeshift plan into action.
Easing himself across the room, he pulled the book of matches
from Benny Ray's fingers, after which the sniper woke rather
abruptly, almost dumping Margo from his lap. "Major, you-"
awake, scrambling backwards in a panicked escape that no one
was prepared for. A terrified squeak was forced out of her throat
as she quickly retreated to the corner of the room. "It's
all right, Sweet Pea," Benny Ray crooned. "Margo, it's
just us. I didn't mean to wake you up. It's all right."
She hugged her knees to her chin and started sobbing. "Oh,
I thought you were
I would never do that to you, and you know it," he said
firmly, trying to move over to comfort her, but wincing from
the pain in his leg.
we're going to get you out of here," Matt told her, reaching
over and taking her in his arms. She offered no resistance, becoming
a boneless doll as tears streamed from her eyes.
she asked, voice hoarse. "I don't want the
to come back
This very moment. But you have to hold it together until we get
out, okay?" He looked into her green eyes, wiping away a
stray tear with his thumb. "With Benny Ray out of commission,
we need everyone we've got. I know it's hard, but can I count
She nodded stiffly,
scrubbing at her eyes with the palm of her hand. "I'm okay."
It was patently clear that she wasn't, but she was determined.
"What do we do?"
da fires of revolution," Nick told her.
the plan, Matt liberally soaked the door with some of the alcohol-laced
solution in the water jug as Benny Ray expertly twisted handfuls
of the straw on the floor into tight bundles. Setting the bundles
on fire, Nick lobbed them out of the window. Soon, flames were
licking up towards the window from the nice grassfire started
outside. As the fire started to grow, there came the startled
shouts of the guards, who ran outside to try and extinguish the
Nodding to Benny
Ray, Matt lit the pile of hay stuffed up against the door, and
then leapt backwards as the solid wood exploded into flames.
Watching the soldiers outside, Margo looked back at him and shook
her head: no one outside had noticed the small explosion inside
the cell. Smiling, Matt allowed the door to burn for a few more
minutes before shoving his booted foot into it, and it immediately
collapsed outward with a satisfying whoosh as the flames were
spread throughout the hall.
timbers'll go here pretty soon too, and then the place will start
to collapse," Matt said over the roar of the fire. "We
have to find our way out of here in a hurry. Nick, you're with
Benny Ray. Margo, you're with me."
"Do we know
where they're keeping our weapons?" the sniper asked, leaning
heavily on Nick.
Matt shook his
head. "If you see any, grab them for the others. Good luck,
everyone. See you outside." Glancing at Margo, who was pale
but clearly more than ready to leave, he turned and made a running
leap over the blazing door, stopping on the other side to slap
off the sparks that had caught on his shirt. "Go!"
Margo took a
deep breath, and launched herself through the flames. He quickly
grabbed her, putting an arm firmly around her shoulders, and
heading off down the hall. Looking back, he could see Benny Ray
beating out the embers on his good leg, and Nick following him
over. Everyone had made it out of the cell fairly unscathed,
and now it was time to run.
The fire spread
with frightening quickness through the dry timbers of the building.
Already, the smoke was so thick that it was hard to see, and
even harder to breathe. Matt's eyes streamed, and he kept Margo's
face buried in his shoulder as they maneuvered through the burning
hallways. Rounding a corner, he found himself staring at a panicked
guard, and before the other man had a chance to react, Matt knocked
him into the stone wall with a fierce kick and grabbed his gun.
Stunned by the sight of one of her assailants, Margo froze when
he appeared, and Matt had to yank on her arm to bring her back
to reality. "You still with me, Margo?"
She took a shaky
breath, and started coughing from the smoke. "Yeah,"
she said, but the high, unsteady tibre of her voice and the look
in her eyes said otherwise, but there wasn't time to press the
They ran into
several dead ends, and were cornered another time by a wall of
flames. Finally, through the corner of his eye, Matt spotted
what looked to be the outside door. Running to it, he reached
for the handle, eyes and lungs burning from the acrid air.
It was locked.
It wouldn't budge.
frustration, Matt pounded on the wood, rattling the hinges in
a futile attempt to get out. "Open, dammit!" Gritting
his teeth against the pain in his tortured shoulders, he body-slammed
it, but it remained closed.
Margo knelt down
and inspected the lock. "Shit! It looks like it's been welded
shut." Just then, a section of the hallway behind them collapsed,
and Matt dropped down to shield her with his body. Hot embers
scorched his skin, and the resulting gust of searing, oxygen-deficient
air made them both choke and gasp.
he wheezed, after the worst of the fireball was past.
Stifling a cough,
she nodded. "What are we going to do now?"
Matt shook his
head, glancing back over his shoulder for Benny Ray and Nick.
"I honestly don't know." They were going to die, trapped
in the fire just inches from fresh air and freedom.
others got out without us," Margo whispered, as Matt settled
in beside her, his singed back gingerly resting against the obstinate
see them behind us. They must have."
The heat grew
more oppressive, and it grew harder and harder to breathe. Both
of their eyes were streaming, and Margo had her sleeve up to
her mouth and nose, trying to filter the air. Her free hand reached
over and snagged Matt's. "I'm glad I'm not dying alone,"
she said hoarsely.
won't die," he told her, but he knew she was right. There
was no way they could escape, with the door behind them welded
shut and the hallway in front of them a wall of flames. "This
isn't the way I wanted to go. It's too soon."
Margo was silent
for a while. "When Castillano's men
" Her voice
trailed off, and she cleared her throat and continued. "I
wanted to die. I was prepared."
bastards aren't already dead, I'll kill them myself," Matt
said resolutely, wrapping her up in a bearlike embrace.
Matt." She hugged him back. He leaned down to kiss her forehead
with fierce protectiveness, and was not at all prepared when
she moved and kissed him full on the mouth instead. After a moment
of shock, he kissed back, and then they broke apart, breathless
from the moment and the smoke. "I should have done that
a long time ago," she whispered. Her watery eyes held fear
and pain that were totally at odds with her words.
time ago," he agreed, and kissed again, more gently. "We
were both overdue." Putting his hand down to get into a
slightly less uncomfortable position, his fingers brushed against
the gun stolen from the guard, and he stiffened.
it?" Margo asked.
I've figured out how to get us out of here," he told her,
stifling a cough. "Stand back." Crawling as far away
from the door as he could manage, Matt fired two quick rounds
at the lock. The door swung open, and they both staggered out
into the cool night air, gasping for the precious oxygen. Falling
to the ground, they spent several long moments just breathing.
Margo noticed the two guards coming around the corner of the building first, and, unable to speak, grabbed the pistol from Matt and fired. Two of her shots went awry, but the others found their targets, and the soldiers fell to the ground, silenced.
"Got to run for it," Matt hissed, and, hoisting one of her arms over his shoulder, they started for the jungle. Not bothering to be quiet, they crashed through the underbrush, trying to put as much distance between them and the flames of San Pablo as possible.
At first, Matt
thought they had been found and were being attacked when something
whacked him across the chest. His eyes popping open, his fingers
tightened unconsciously on the pistol until he realized that
it was Margo, caught in the throes of a nightmare. She was shaking
convulsively, ragged sobs wracking her whole body. His heart
seizing up within his chest, Matt gently gathered her into his
arms, crooning soft words into her ear. "It's okay. It's
just a dream, Margo, just a dream."
Fresh tears cut
wet trails through the soot and grime on her face. "Oh,
they were after me
they had me again
She coughed, and he guessed they were both suffering from the
effects of the night's smoky escape.
right," he soothed. "We're out of there."
Benny Ray and Nick made it out alive," she whispered.
it out. I'm sure they did, too."
One last shuddering
sigh swept through her thin frame-when had she gotten so small
and frail?-and she relaxed against his chest. "I'm so scared,"
she confessed. "I've never been this scared in my entire
life." One hand moved down to her pelvis. "It hurts.
Everything hurts. It hurts in places I've never hurt before."
do any internal damage, did they?" Matt felt helpless, totally
lost when it came to gynecology, and hating it. He wanted so
badly to make her pain go away.
know." Margo shrugged, obviously feeling as powerless as
he. "It hurts to walk, to-to move
" She blushed
in shame. "I should have done something. I know how to fight,
I had my gun; I was just so tired
all exhausted," Matt told her. "It wasn't your fault."
that." Margo rubbed at her eyes, and abruptly changed the
subject. "We have to get back to the van. Our radios are
they're still in there." He tried to smile to soften the
reality of their situation, but her eyes were hooded, and the
set of her mouth indicated that she was still unconvinced. "It
never hurts to check, kid. You know that."
other to their feet, they checked each other over. Matt was covered
with bruises and cuts, his lips still swollen, and his back and
shoulders were spotted with first- and second-degree burns. He
had on only his light undershirt, which was riddled with holes
from flying cinders and blackened with soot. "It doesn't
hurt," he said quickly as her soft intake of sympathetic
breath. "Not much, anyway. I'll be all right." They
were both grimy from the smoke, but of the pair, Margo had faired
the best. She was still wearing Matt's jacket, which hid the
ragged condition of her own clothes.
Taking care to
be a little quieter in their escape, Matt took the lead and automatically
fell into 'commando' mode, which Margo unconsciously imitated.
It was midafternoon in the jungle, and the sun, high overhead,
beat down mercilessly. His teeth clenched against the pain of
sweat on his burns, Matt forced his thoughts elsewhere. Where
had the road been? He tried to visualize it in his mind. Pulling
up short, he turned to Margo, who straightened abruptly from
her makeshift crutch and tried to pretend she hadn't been leaning
so heavily on it. "Margo? Do you remember where the road
was?" He knew she would know.
She dropped to
her knees and pulled a chunk of moss from a nearby nurse log,
using a sharp stick to engrave a map in the soft wood. "North
was here, south was here, and east and west
Okay. The road
went something like this, and San Pablo was here." She drew
a squiggle in the log, and placed a small, waxy leaf for the
former mission. "I don't know which direction we escaped
" Sighting the direction of the shadows and
the height of the sun, she pointed her stick to a spot that was
closer to the leaf than it was to the squiggle. "I think
we have to head north of northwest," Matt observed.
go, then." Margo glanced over her shoulder, as if worried
that Castillano's men would pounce on them from within the dense
underbrush. "They'll have realized we're not dead, and will
be after us." She patted the moss back into place, and pulled
herself to her feet, muttering, "I'm fine," to Matt's
skills proved to be true, but it was well after sundown when
they finally came to the road. "We did it," Matt whispered,
giving her a celebratory kiss on the cheek.
haven't found the van yet," she reminded him, but she didn't
avoid his lips.
you holding up? Feel like walking a bit longer?"
The moon was
low in the sky, but he could still see her pale complexion. "I'll
make it. Let's go." She had given up being shy about her
walking stick sometime before dusk, and now, Matt was willing
to be it was the main thing that kept her standing. He wanted
to stop and rest a while, if not for her sake then for his aching
body, but each moment they delayed was one more moment the soldiers
could find them.
Matt was right
behind her, holding her hair back as she retched dryly, having
nothing to bring up. Once her guts stopped heaving, she collapsed
back into his arms, shaking with the tears she was bravely trying
to contain. "That's where they
I remember what they
can still feel it," she moaned. "My skin crawls when
I think of it."
to go check for the radios," Matt told her. "You stay
need help." Her voice was not at all convincing. "I'll
manage." She did manage, but she stayed on the side of the
van farthest from the spot, refusing to look at it, and she did
not move to retrieve her coat.
Inside the van,
they found radios, water and the emergency food rations stashed
there for such instances. Handing one of the water canteens to
Margo, Matt made sure she drank before draining his own. They
hadn't had anything since the night before, and Matt tore through
two granola bars just as fast as he could get the wrappers off.
He was so ravenous he would have eaten the wrappers, too, if
Margo hadn't rolled her eyes in the first 'real Margo' gesture
since this whole ordeal started, and handed him another one.
She made an effort to eat, and did in fact choke down one, but
refused any more. Matt was content to not force the issue, so
long as she kept up her liquid intake.
After their hunger
had been somewhat satiated, he turned his attention to the radios.
After checking the batteries, he pressed the button, and called
the hell are you?" The worry and relief in their leader's
voice was almost comical.
with half a team and no backup," Matt snapped. "Tell
Chance to get his sorry ass up in a chopper and get us out of
you? You're three days late!"
men tracked us to the border. Seventeen more minutes and we would
have made it," he told him. "Benny Ray was shot, our
cover was blown, we've spent the last three days in a cell in
San Pablo, they played Spanish Inquisition part two on Nick and
me, and Margo-" he had to swallow hard, blind fury choking
him, "God, Trout, those bastards-"
all right?" Trout demanded.
not all right," Margo said softly, speaking into her own
radio. "There-there was a fire, and we don't know if Benny
Ray and Nick made it out of there in time. They beat Matt up
pretty bad, and they raped me, sir. A whole bunch of them."
when this is over, I want out," she said, her tone dead
serious. "I want out, and I meant it."
we can get counseling-"
she hissed, hot tears streaking down her face. "I don't
want anything to do with this ever, ever, ever again. I'm going
overseas and finding my brother."
made, sir. Now please send someone out to come get us."
The last sentence was almost begging, and she resolutely cut
the power on her radio, hugging her knees to her chin, silently
crying to herself.
am truly sorry-" Trout began, but Matt cut him off.
later, Trout, please. I think we can make it to the border, but
there'd better be someone to grab us within twenty-four hours."
have any idea where Benny Ray and Nick are?"
He involuntarily looked out the window, into the darkness. "We
have to move. We're too exposed."
On the other end of the channel, Matt could tell Trout was leaning
forward, fingers steepled in thought. "When you didn't show,
I took the liberty of recalling Chance and Rico from their vacations,
and they can be at the border in half an hour with the helicopter.
Deke can provide covering fire. When you and Margo are safe,
then they can go back and look for Benny Ray and Nick."
Matt was suddenly
too exhausted to argue. "Yes, sir." Deliberately not
thanking the man, he signed off, and took a moment to give Margo
a reassuring hug. "We're going to make it out of here, kid."
Helping her into the front of the van, he climbed into the driver's
seat and turned the vehicle back onto the road. Leaving the headlights
off, he drove by the rising moon.
After a long
while in silence, he looked over at her. "Were you serious
about what you told Trout? About quitting?"
my own safety," she answered softly, still staring out the
window and refusing to meet his eyes. "There's so much mixed
up in my head right now. I know it wasn't my fault, but
will help me sort things out."
you stay?" he asked.
"If I can't
stay with John, there's a nunnery a few miles away."
He narrowly avoided running off the road in his surprise. "You?"
just be living there, Matt," she explained. "I was
thinking about it last night. I was ready to die; I thought I
was going to. I realized that there are a few religious issues
I still need to work out before-before I go."
been there before." Some of the sorrow and fear lifted from
her eyes. "Remember when I visited John last summer? He
took me to meet a friend of his, the Mother Superior over there,
and they do a lot of charity work together. She said
said they helped battered women
it, Matt. Just listen to me, because this is what I'm going to
do." She was on the verge of tears again. "I want to
get as far away from here as I possible can. I don't want to
do anything that even remotely resembles this trip for a very,
very long time, and if I don't leave the country, I'll end up
being snagged by Trout in two or three weeks. Going away tells
him I'm serious: I don't want to do this anymore. I'm not safe."
he'll understand. He'll give you time off."
don't want time off. I want an indefinite sabbatical." She
finally met his gaze. "This isn't the first time someone's
tried to rape me in the line of duty. Being female is a liability,
and I don't want to deal with it anymore."
you're going to come back sometime," he said, trying to
keep from pleading. He wanted to believe that the kiss they'd
shared was a promise of things to come.
be a nun, and I'll never be a civilian, Matt," she told
him softly. "There's nothing else in my life to do. I just
need to forget these last few days, and I won't be able to do
that if I'm still at Hermosa Beach." Changing the subject,
she pointed down the road. "Look, there's the border sign."
drained out of his shoulders, and he refused to look back as
they crossed the border. He started to say, "We're safe,"
but froze, icy dread pouring over his body as he saw one of Castillano's
patrol trucks parked on the shoulder. "Dammit!" he
swore, and then said a few other choice phrases.
by them," Margo instructed. "Maybe they won't notice."
But they did
notice. The headlights of the truck came on, and the horn blared.
Matt had Benny Ray's abandoned Glock up to the window and was
about to fire at the other driver when the man got out of the
car and started jumping up and down. "I don't believe it,"
Matt said, dubious as he slowed the van down, "but I think
it take ta get a ride outta here?" Nick asked, peering through
guys, nothing," Matt told him, and watched with profound
relief as Nick hauled a slightly toasted Benny Ray into the back
of the van.
the sniper said reverently, and kissed Margo's outstretched hands
as she reached to touch his face. "Major, we thought you
was goners. After that ceiling came crashin' in on you, we figgured
that was the end."
Margo whispered. "We thought you were dead. We couldn't
find you after we got out."
his cocky smile shining through the soot and grime that blackened
his skin. "Hadda rack up a body count, but we stole one
of their vehicles and blew da tires on da others. Target practice."
out a bunch for you, darlin'," Benny Ray told her.
Her face darkened
slightly. "Thank you. How's your leg?"
but I don't think Heloise's ever talked about gettin' bloodstains
outta camo after they've set." The joke made the corners
of her mouth twitch. "It's somethin' she'll need to address."
Suffused in the relative safety of friendly territory and the relief that everyone was together and alive, Matt leaned back in his seat and headed for the rendezvous point.
The flight back
had been uneventful, which was good, because Margo doubted she
would have been able to handle any excitement. As it was, she
was torn between a fierce desire to scream in rage and the desperate
need to weep until the pain went away. Every time she opened
her mouth, tears welled up in her eyes, and she knew she wasn't
thinking rationally. The lady doctor at the hospital had been
kind but firm in checking her over, clucking sympathetically
at Margo's bruises and raising disapproving eyebrows at her low
blood sugar. Margo could have cared less. She was exhausted and
spent, and when the tests came back saying that there was no
chance she'd gotten pregnant, she'd broken down in the middle
of the office and cried in relief. She took the pain pills they
gave her, and cried again when Matt brought her a fresh change
of clothes and held her hand as the nurse gave her the saline
IV that would balance out her electrolytes, and maybe make her
stop feeling so damned lightheaded. When they'd been picked up
by Chance and Rico and Deke, she had clambered into the helicopter
and promptly fainted.
She had fallen
asleep in the chair during her saline session, and was awakened
some time around four in the morning by a very concerned Alison
Trout. "What are you doing here?" Margo demanded, feeling
peevish from lack of sleep and disturbed blood chemistry.
how you are," the other woman replied, giving her a brief
hug and sitting down. "So how are you?"
drained from Margo's limbs, and she struggled not to cry again.
She was sure that the hospital staff thought her a veritable
faucet of tears, and she knew the rest of the team had no idea
of what to think. "I'm exhausted, I'm starving, I'm cranky,
I've been beaten and raped and imprisoned and dragged through
the jungle God knows how many miles after being dragged through
a burning building and everything hurts and I just want to go
home!" The tears started and this time, she couldn't make
them stop. Beyond embarrassment, she buried her face a wad of
Kleenex. When the nurses had given her the box of tissues, it
had been brand new. Now, it was half empty, and the little garbage
can nearby was threatening to overflow.
Alison gave her
hand a hard squeeze. "We're all here, Margo. It's all right."
not all right."
any consolation, satellite pictures have indicated that no one
escaped the fire in San Pablo."
at the far wall. "Bastards deserved to die."
being blamed on a guard's carelessly thrown cigarette."
of cigarette smoke. A
sudden wave of nausea swept through her, and she leaned back
in the chair, swallowing hard, trying to ignore phantom hands
crawling on her skin.
all right?" Alison asked, truly concerned at Margo's abrupt
change in pallor. "Do you want me to get a nurse?"
Margo shook her
head, grateful there was nothing in her stomach. "No-no,
that's all right."
me what you were planning," she said softly. "My father
says he's more than willing to pay for any of your expenses.
If, of course, you were serious."
uncomfortably. "Why, Margo? Why go halfway around the world
going to be a nun, Alison, I'm just living there."
no one else knows where it is, and my brother is close."
The other woman
seemed about to say something else, but she apparently changed
her mind. "Well," she said finally, "I hope you
find what your looking for, Margo. Everyone will miss you when
winced at Alison's choice of words. "I'm not a civilian,
Alison. I will be back."
much time as you need," she said, smiling sympathetically.
"This was never supposed to happen."
"Is it ever?"
hand one last reassuring squeeze, Alison got to her feet. "I'm
going to go check on Benny Ray, all right? When you're done,
Matt wanted to take you home."
She didn't feel like protesting. "If-if he's awake, could
you tell Benny Ray something for me? Only if it's not disturbing
" She swallowed again, feeling another wave
of tears coming on. "Tell him thanks for everything, please?"
She would have preferred to tell him in person, to take his strong
hands in hers and kiss his fingertips, but fatigue left her pinned
in her chair.
him that." Alison smiled, and then disappeared down the
hallway, leaving Margo alone in the room, an almost-empty bag
of some liquid stuff slowly draining into her arm.
in the stillness, suddenly terrified of being alone. With her
free hand, she reached for the phone on the nearby table, dialing
His voice echoed over the long distance, and she started crying
did you know it was me?"
Shepherd called me," he said, and she could tell he was
close to tears himself. "I am so frightened for you, Margie.
When he told me what those men had done
No creature under
God should endure such pain."
coming over," she whispered, not trusting her voice any
louder. "Remember when you introduced me to Mother Maria
already contacted her," he told her. "She was as shocked
as I, and insisted that you are very welcome to come as soon
as you wish, and stay as long as you need."
me what you had told him."
remember what I told him."
you right now?"
I was mostly fine." She wanted to tell him face-to-face
about the hellish mixture of emotions she was feeling, the anger,
betrayal, loneliness, the pain and fear. And the shame. Shame
that she hadn't done anything to protect herself. I had my
gun right there, dammit
She was jolted
back to reality. "Yeah, I'm here."
away for a moment."
I'm so tired. I had to hear your voice."
"I am glad
you called," John told her. "I am catching the next
he said, adamant. "You are not flying over here by yourself.
I know that was your intention."
A ghost of a
smile flickered across her lips. "I love you, John, you
know that, don't you?"
She could hear
his own echoing smile. "As I love you, little sister. Now
sleep, and I will pray for you. God will be watching your dreams."
Margie." The line clicked off, and she gently placed the
phone back in its cradle. Curling up in the chair, she dozed
for some time before actually falling asleep. She didn't even
feel the nurse take away the empty bag of electrolytes. The next
thing she knew, Matt was gently shaking her.
you home now," he whispered.
"He's doing fine. They were able to remove the bullet, and he's sleeping like a baby right now." His eyes flashed brief, dark amusement. "Like we all should be."
At least she was sleeping quietly, Matt mused, as they pulled into the Silver Star's parking lot. C.J. and Chance had left some of the lights on, and that, combined with the first streaks of dawn in the sky, took the edge off the night's darkness.
me," Rico said, from his vantage point near the window.
"So long as she actually does eat something."
she will." Once upstairs, he gently tucked her into the
waiting bed, kissing her gently on the cheek. "Sweet dreams,"
he said softly.
Before he closed
the door, he paused, and stood a moment just looking at her.
The bruises on her face would heal in a matter of days, but the
scars on the inside would last a lifetime. He remembered Trout
saying that the fire had left no survivors. No one suspected
that, by a unanimous decision, Chance had turned the chopper
around after Margo had fainted and they'd opened fire on the
still-smoldering ruins and the few soldiers who had made it through
the night. "Retribution," he whispered in the darkness,
knowing that although Margo would appreciate the gesture, she
would never find out. On a whim, he crossed the room and readjusted
her blankets. God, he loved her. She was beautiful, intelligent
and resilient, but he hoped that her resiliency hadn't been pushed
too far this time. He wanted so badly for her to stay where she
could be protected in his arms, but her reasons for leaving made
perfect sense. He could only count the days until she felt healed
enough to return, and pray that fate smiled on her recovery.
He gave her one
last gentle kiss, and then shut the door quietly behind him.
are you sure about this, darlin'?" Benny Ray asked for the
thousandth time, leaning heavily on his crutches as he watched
her pack. "There's gotta be other ways to work this out."
she told him again, fastening the locks on her suitcase and hefting
her duffel bag to her shoulder. "My plane leaves in two
hours." Giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, she twisted
her fingers through his. "I'll be back. I promise. I'm not
like it," Matt said from the doorway, not quite joking.
"Your brother's downstairs waiting for you. You know the
chaos in the airports these days."
She waited until Benny Ray had crutched his way down the stairs,
lingering back a moment. It was the last time she had to be alone
with Matt for who knew how long. "I'll miss you," she
He took one of
her bags and pulled her to his chest. "Just take care of
up and kissed his lips softly. "I will. You take care, too."
job to worry about you." They turned to the door,
and she followed him downstairs.
The general attitude
of the people assembled was that was supposed to be a hearty,
happy send-off, but in reality, it resembled something far more
funereal. Even Nick was fairly subdued, going so far as to give
Margo a quick, uneasy hug.
for her, padre," Benny Ray said to Margo's brother in a
whispered aside. "Don't go lettin' her beat herself up too
not allow that," John said, smiling at the sniper to show
he understood the request. Turning to his sister, he took her
bag from Matt. "We should go." She nodded, and after
a quick flurry of goodbyes, both Margo and John got into their
rental car and drove away.
A few miles down
the road, she glanced back at the hotel, her friends still gathered
on the front steps looking forlorn. "I hope I'm doing the
right thing," she whispered. "I just know I can't stay
little sister," John told her. "Your heart will tell
you when it is time to come home again."
"I know." Heaving a melancholy sigh, she leaned her head against the window, and closed her eyes.
and is part of the Soldier of Fortune/Special Ops Force FanFic collection.
Copyright © 1998-2002 by MeadowsV. All rights reserved.
Email me at email@example.com with your questions or comments.