"Can I take this thing off?"
Margo Vincent pointed to the blindfold covering
"Not yet," Matt Shepherd's
voice hid a smile as he helped her find a comfortable
"As much as possible, I guess."
Margo felt Matt's hand on the arm rest, and held
"I'm glad you've gotten your
strength back." Grinning broadly as the woman tried
"What the...?" Margo's voice trailed off as she looked around and out the window. Below them was nothing but the big blue ocean.
"My idea, Trout's bank account."
Matt gestured to the private jet. We all think
"A rest?" Margo looked
at him indignantly. "I've been doing nothing BUT rest.
"Hey!" Matt looked at her
with a mock frown. "I thought every woman wanted
"Hawaii?" Margo smiled, then frowned. "I'm thrilled, but don't think this is going to let you off the hook for keeping me bedridden." Margo adjusted the scarf she wore to cover the bald patches on her head. Absently, she reached under the scarf to scratch. The drill holes had healed nicely, but the hair growth was much slower, the patches barely grown over with peach fuzz. "Hawaii," Margo smiled and stretched again.
"She looks like a cat just waking
from a nap." Matt thought as he watched her
"Mmmm," Now Margo smiled directly at him. "Warm water, white, sandy beaches. You're right. I do need a rest. Hawaii is the perfect place!"
"I knew you'd agree." Matt gently caressed the hand still holding onto him.
"Now how about some lunch?"
"Hmmmm! Don't these smell heavenly?"
Margo was taking a deep breath, inhaling
She was walking next to a similarly
bedecked Matt, who was carefully pushing a
"Just look at the light! And
those colors! " Margo's enthusiasm at the surprise
Out of the corner of his eyes Matt
sent her a covert look. She was changed. The
Nothing plenty of rest, sunbathing and some light sightseeing and having fun in good company wouldn't take care of. But he just knew that making her stick to the "easy" part of those instructions would be anything but easy.
"It's a different kind of air, too! I swear, there's something special in it!"
Matt had to duck his head away to
hide a smile. "It's the smell of freedom!" He
"Freedom?" Puzzled, Margo looked at him.
He turned back to face her again,
his expression giving nothing away. "No phone
"No Trout!....Freedom!" A smile lit Margo's face as she finally caught up with his train of thought. Laughing they both stepped through the doors and outside into the brilliant sunlight, oblivious of the curious, bewildered or plainly amused stares of the passers-by.
"Aah, the sweet tinkle of silver
bells! Sweet memories! Doesn't that remind you
"I'd recognize that laugh anywhere
and anytime, no matter how much she tries to
Turning to their right Matt and Margo caught sight of the owners of those voices, a tall, handsome black man and a short white guy in flowered Hawaii shirt and shorts, languidly leaning against a blue van.
With a delighted cry Margo dropped her hand bag onto the trolley and ran up to them, hugging each man tightly.
"CJ! Chance! Is that really you?"
"Well, if there's another one
like me running around, I hope they catch the guy
"Another one like him! I should
hope not! Even one of him is already too much!"
"Let's stow your luggage away
and get going, major." Chance opened the back door of the
van. Together he and Matt stacked the bags and suitcases inside,
"Where are we going?"
With a grin her former colleague
raised his eyebrows at Margo's question and
"CJ! Not you, too! I don't know
how many more surprises I can take!" For a
"Don't you dare tell her, CJ!"
Chance admonished from the driver's seat. When
"Oh, come on! All this suspense isn't good for me! I'm not allowed any excitement! Doctor's orders!" Margo wasn't above using that to her advantage when it suited her purpose.
Unfortunately, it didn't get her the expected information. As Margo looked around her inquiringly, her gaze was met by three perfectly 'innocent' smiles. Sighing, she gave up and settled back into her seat, determined to at least enjoy the scenery .
"So, this is where you spend your retirement?"
Matt couldn't quite keep his astonishment from showing.
"Well, major, you know how it is! Once you decide on a course of action, there is nothing but going all the way." CJ was clearly enjoying himself. "After all, we're men of impeccable taste and style!"
"Impeccable taste and style!" Margo's voice sounded the way she felt, thunder- struck!
All the way from the airport to this,
their final destination, Margo had been
"No, of course not!" She
smiled at him. "Just wondering about this surprise of
"You'll see it soon enough."
He promised her with an answering smile. "We're
That had been half an hour ago.
They had already left the city behind,
going in the direction of the imposing
"Welcome to our place!" That had been all Chance had said.
Margo had exchanged a questioning
look with Matt who now had seemed to be
"Let's show them the house, before they bolt!" CJ couldn't help chuckling.
A small path led through the wilderness and to the house it had been hiding.
Though, calling THIS a house had to be the understatement of the year.
They were standing in front of a small villa, overlooking a spacious garden.
They could only stare at the red-tiled
flight of steps, the well-kept lawn, the
"Well, what do you think of
our humble abode?" Chance and CJ were clearly
"Trout certainly wasn't stingy
when he set you up here!" Margo still wasn't sure
"Oh, he could pick it up cheap."
CJ told them. "The former owner got into some
"We each of us have a set of
rooms..." Chance started to explain, to be
"Snore! You mean, so you can be alone with your harem!"
"Harem!" CJ wasn't having
any of it. "It's simply that the ladies know a man of
"Yeah, makes me wonder why they keep falling for you, then!"
"Has retirement changed them, Margo? What do you think?" Matt was grinning. He hadn't felt so relaxed for a long time.
Margo was following the dispute with
equal enjoyment. "Not at all! I don't think
"Hey, it's our fault!"
CJ was instantly contrite. "We should have given you some
"Damn, I've done nothing but
lie down for far too long!" Margo was furious all
"Hey, hey, hey!" Matt looked
at her, alarmed by the sudden outburst. "Easy,
"I know exactly what he was
trying to do!" There were red spots on her cheeks,
"Margo, please, listen to me!"
Chance could see that she was talking herself
"Of course, we're worried about
you! When Matt called and told us what happened
When Matt saw that the genuine anguish
in Chance's words and CJ's obvious
Margo took a shaky breath and rose from her chair, smiling at them uncertainly.
"I'm so sorry! Can you forgive
me, CJ? Please?" She looked at her former
CJ smiled, gave her a wink and blew her a kiss for an answer. "Already forgotten, sweety!"
"Tell you what," Margo tried to laugh, " a compromise? I'll lie down, but I'll do it on that glorious little stretch of beach you've shown us, the one that belongs to the house. How's that?"
"Great idea!" Matt tried not show his relief too openly. Chance smiled at her and CJ took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly.
"Pretty lady, a first class dinner will be waiting for you upon your return. And if you've been really good, we may have another little surprise for you."
"CJ!" Margo hit his arm
in exasperation. " Careful! A girl can get tired of
She turned and lightly stepped down to the small single-storied guest house, which she was sharing with Matt. Access to the beach was directly behind the house. All she needed was to change into her bathing suit and grab a towel.
When she was out of sight the three men exchanged uneasy glances.
"What did the doctors say, Matt?" Chance face showed how worried he was.
"They said she would be perfectly
alright again,....in time!" Matt took a deep
"Like that little scene just
now, I suppose?" CJ wasn't as carefree as he had
"No way, CJ, that's Margo we're talking about. She just needs a little time, that's all. She'll be fine!" Matt tried to convince himself as much as his friends.
Matt was walking down to the beach
to fetch Margo. He, CJ and Chance had talked
Then they had made plans for the
next few days. The two men had excused
The prospect of a little sightseeing
and some hiking would put Margo in a better
When he reached the end of the little
path he immediately noticed the yellow and
It was a truly beautiful place his
two friends had here, he mused as he was
"Hey, lazybones, it's time to change for dinner!" He called out.
Worried, he ran the last few steps.
If anything had happened to her, he'd never
"Margo!! What's wrong?"
Hastily Matt turned the sunshade
over. There was the beach towel.....and nothing
Matt straightened and looked around him. The beach was empty.
There wasn't any human movement in
the water either. Only the waves were gently
Matt took a few, hesitant steps towards the water.
There was no sign of her anywhere.
Behind him Matt heard footsteps.
Quickly he turned around. Chance was coming
"What's wrong, Matt?"
"Margo,..... she's gone!"
Matt was looking at the other man helplessly.
"We've taken the chopper up and down the beach for as far as she might have gone. Nothing, no tracks, no signs of a struggle, it's as if she had never been there." Matt's voice sounded as desperate as he felt. Margo's inexplicable disappearance had shaken him deeply.
Chance and CJ were equally disturbed. The three of them were sitting around a big table in the living room of the villa. Chance had a map spread out in front of him, trying to determine other ways off this part of the beach than the ones they had already covered.
Lost in thought, CJ was biting the insides of his mouth without even noticing it.
Matt started fidgeting. Margo was missing. He couldn't just sit here, doing nothing. She needed his help. He had to do something.
Chance looked up. "Matt, we can't do this alone. We either inform the police, get them to look for her, too, or we call in some help."
"Call the fuzz!" The disgust in CJ's voice told his friends what he thought of that idea. "They wouldn't find her if she was standin' right there in front of them! No way! We've got to bring in our own people on this one."
"CJ is right. We're the only
ones with any chance of finding her and finding her
"Benny Ray! Phone call for you!"
The bartender was holding out the phone to the
The smile disappeared as soon as he heard the first words the man at the other end of the line had to tell him. His expression turned grim.
"I'll call everybody together. We'll get the first flight out to you. I'll be back to you at this number as soon as I know our ETA, so you can have Chance or CJ standing by at the airport. ... And Matt, don't worry, we'll find her!" It was a promise.
Chance was talking to a pretty dark-haired
woman, who was checking her computer
"Hi Chance, any news?" Benny Ray wasn't one for wasting time.
Chance nodded a greeting at him and
the three other men. "Nothing, as yet. Linda
"So where does that leave us?"
"We go on looking for her right here on Oahu." Chance turned back to the woman.
"Thanks for your help, Linda. I'd really appreciate it if you and the other girls stayed on the lookout for our friend. If anything turns up, you know how to contact me."
With that he motioned the others to follow him out of the airport building.
"What if she left some other way. By boat or ship?" Drummer asked.
"CJ is checking with his pals at the harbor and we've asked a couple of friends at the marina to keep their eyes open. If she has left Oahu, we'll know soon enough."
They had reached the van. Chance opened the back door for the others to put their bags in and went round the side to the driver's seat.
"Damn! A parking ticket! That's
exactly what I need right now!" He grabbed the
Benny Ray had taken the other front
seat, with Rico, Nick and Drummer piling
Alarmed by the unusual posture of
his friend, Benny Ray's instincts were kicking
For an answer Chance simply held out the paper to him.
MEANWHILE AT THE VILLA
Matt and CJ were going through their list of possibilities once more.
"Well, Trout's people have checked
the hospitals and the police stations, discreetly, of course.
No one matching her description has been admitted to any hospital
on the islands and there's no record of an unknown female of
Margo's type being arrested last night either."
"If she has suffered some kind
of brain attack and went of her own accord, not
"In the plane, on the way here
we talked about what we wanted to do except for
"Okay, maybe that will give us a clue. What was she interested in?"
"Nothing special. All the usual
tourist stuff. For once, we wanted to be just like everybody
else. Hike up to Diamond Head, visit Iolani Palace, the National
Cemetery of the Pacific, go shopping in Waikiki, walk through
the Museum of
"That doesn't help us very much."
"No. Damn, there's GOT to be
some trace, some indication of what happened,
"Can we be sure that she didn't
just leave? She was pretty well pissed off at us
"Negative, CJ! She'd never disappear
like that without leaving at least a note
"Yeah, you're right. The way I see it, it's either she has lost her memory and is wandering around the island not knowing who she is or something or rather SOMEONE has made her leave that beach."
Both men looked at each other, fully aware of the consequences if it was the latter.
From outside the sound of male voices intruded upon them.
Chance, Benny Ray and the rest of their friends had arrived.
As they stepped through the big glass
doors, one glance at their grim faces told
"Good morning Mr Shepherd, is it possible that you have lost something? If it is of any value to you, then you might perhaps be interested in our help at retrieving it. Don't call us, we will call you!"
"Signed: 'A friend'. What 'friend'? Who the hell is that damned message from?"
"Benny Ray, you've read that message 10 times at least and it still doesn't tell us more." All Rico got from the sniper was a dark look that would have scorched a hole into a steel plate.
"What's much more important
is this, have they got Margo or are they, whoever
Matt was slumped back in his arm
chair and the others were scattered around the
The silence lengthened. Finally Drummer
spoke up. "So, what are we gonna do
When the others looked at him, he
growled. "Just hanging around here weepin' and
"You'd better not let her catch you calling her that!" Chance made a feeble attempt at lightening the atmosphere.
"She's obviously not here to
catch anybody at anything, any fool can see that!"
"Hey, hey, ease up, compadre!" Rico put a hand on the sniper's shoulder.
"We all want to do something
to get her back." Matt saw that Rico would need
"But for any kind of action
to be of any use to Margo we need more info. For one
"Well," Rico had already thought that one through on the way here. "I don't believe that her trauma went so deep. She was already well into recovery. All she really needed was some rest and some time away from it all to recharge her batteries, sort out her emotions, get rid of the stress, that kind of thing. ...I'm sure we can rule out amnesia."
"So, where does that leave us?"
"Somebody took her! She didn't
jus' go fer a walk, she was abducted!" Nick could
"If we know the one, we also
know the other." CJ flopped down on the couch, next
"So, now that we can be reasonably
sure of foul play, where do we start?" With
"Anybody with an axe to grind
against her or the team as a whole?" Drummer got
"Yeah, sure, lots, ... most of 'em dead or behind bars for good." Benny Ray tried to remember whether there had been any loose ends in one of their last missions.
"This isn't just against Margo."
Chance said thoughtfully. He picked up the note
"Yah, and they've been watching
you! They knew that van was yours, when they
Benny Ray turned to Chance. "What did that guard at the parking lot say?"
Chance shrugged. "Only that
he couldn't be sure anyone had been near the van. He
"Doesn't take long to stick
a folded piece of paper behind a windshield wiper." Rico
remarked pointedly. "Hard to notice anything. Especially
when someone else
"Chinese?" Drummer looked
at the team members thoughtfully. "Ever had a run-in
When everybody, except for Chance
and CJ, tensed up, he whistled softly through
"WOW! Quite a story!" CJ
was wide-eyed with surprise when Matt had finished
"It's been more than a year, now. You really think they'd still be after us?" Matt wasn't sure that they were turning in the right direction.
"These guys have notoriously
long memories. Believe me, I was stationed in the
"How can we be sure, we're not
barkin' up the wrong tree and wastin' precious
"We'll tackle it from two sides."
Matt reached for the phone. "I'll get Trout to do some digging
and you," he was indicating Chance and CJ, "you're
An hour later
Matt put the phone down and looked
at Drummer, who was the only one still left
"So, it's possible, huh?" Drummer had followed the conversation over the speaker.
"You heard Trout. But let's
wait until the others are back. Maybe CJ can tell us
"Taking my name in vain, hm?"
Matt looked up at CJ who was coming back, a puzzled look on his face.
"CJ? Found out anything?"
"Might be! The Chinese are stirring alright, but not where you'd expect them to. At the official places there's nothing unusual, but according to my source, one of their business men has been behaving mighty funny since yesterday. Strange people coming and going from his office at all hours, hurried conferences in the middle of the night, but only with the boss himself and one or two of his closest associates, staff suddenly being transferred to places unknown. All highly unusual and very suspect if you ask me! ... What did Trout have to say?"
"Some guys from the Chinese
embassy sure have been nosing around Washington,
"I sense a 'but' there!" CJ raised his eyebrows.
"Trout says there have been
rumors. Rumors about a high ranking Chinese official
"High ranking Chinese official? Government? Military? Who?"
The frown on CJ's face deepened. "What I don't get is this: If these people want to know where your father is, why leave that message? If they've got Margo, wouldn't that serve their purpose?"
"I don't know!" Matt sighed.
"There's still too damn much that we don't know!" Drummer didn't like the situation one bit. "Like where they're holding her, for one, ... always assuming they're the ones who took her."
"Well I should know more about that by the hour." CJ stated confidently.
"Your source is that good?" Doubt was coloring Matt's already tired voice.
"Believe you me, he is!"
CJ wanted to add something, but was interrupted by the
"Your friend was true to his word, we've got everything we need. Help yourselves, gentlemen!"
They were starting for the boxes Benny Ray was indicating, when the phone rang.
They all froze. CJ went to answer
it. He listened for a moment, grabbed the map,
"You're sure?" Matt desperately wanted to believe him.
"Mark is sure! He went on the
assumption that they would be holding her at one
"This Mark, is he any good and
what's more, can we trust him?" Benny Ray wasn't
"Uhm, Mark is okay! A bit whacky
at times, but okay. He was born here, has heaps
If CJ was a bit reluctant, the others
didn't seem to notice. But the glance he and Chance exchanged
didn't go unnoticed by either Matt or Drummer, though both
"Alright, folks, let's gear up and go get her back! They won't be expecting us in broad daylight. ... CJ, did your friend give you a description of the place?" Matt wasn't going to waste any more time.
"What if they've already started working on your girl? You say she isn't very stable emotionally at the moment. How much pressure will she be able to take?"
Drummer was seated next to Rico,
behind CJ and Benny Ray in a covered Range
"Margo will be alright!" Benny Ray answered the former Navy SEAL emphatically.
"Hey, remember how they brainwashed
Matt's Dad. Granted, it probably took them
But Benny Ray wasn't having any of it. "Shut up, CJ! She'll be okay!"
Rico and Drummer exchanged an uneasy glance.
"There are two guards at the
gate, another one on the roof and I make it three
The vegetation around the old farm
was very dense. Nobody had taken care of it
The team had left the vehicles further
down the mountain and hiked the rest of
Matt, Benny Ray, and Rico had taken
up position facing the front of the large
"Shepherd!?" Drummer's voice over the head set sounded urgent.
"Talk to me!"
"I don't like it! Apart from a lousy electric fence and some perimeter guards there's nothing on this side. This whole set up stinks!" The older man sounded deeply worried at the apparent lack of security measures.
"You're sure there are no hidden guards, alarm triggers or traps?"
"How are we supposed ta see 'em if dey're hidden?" Nick was indignant.
Rico rolled his eyes at this particularly intelligent observation.
"Shut up , Delvecchio!" Benny Ray snarled.
"Shut up, yourself, Riddle! Jus' who do ya think ya are, huh?"
"Now listen here, you little
twerp..." Benny Ray was in no mood to take anything
"Whoa! Hold it right here, boys! Save the fightin' for later. No sense in doin' these thug's job for them and attack each other! So, ease up, will you! We're here to do a job, remember!" Drummer's dry voice put an immediate stop to any possible argument.
"CJ, got your little toys in
place?" Matt ignored the by-play. They were all running
on nerves and extremely worried. Once more he had reason to be
glad for Drummer's calming presence. Yet, despite the other man's
reservations Matt was
"Just say the word, boss!"
"Wait until they notice us! We want to keep this quiet as long as possible. No use in alerting the whole compound. ... Drummer, are you set?"
"On your mark!"
"Alright, Drummer, you're a
go!" Matt nodded to Benny Ray who calmly sighted on
As soon as the first of them fell,
Matt and Rico started forward. Quickly they
Suddenly gun fire could be heard
from the back of the building. Benny Ray ran up
"Yeah, looks like Drummer was
right, there was more than just the fence and
Before any of the others could notice
the three men, Matt spoke into his head
Hardly a second later several explosions at the far end of the farm drew the guards away from this side.
Unobtrusively, Matt, Benny Ray and
Rico slipped through the door into the
"We said not to call us, Mr Shepherd! But then, you're not known for listening to orders, are you?"
The voice came from their left, where
a second door had been hidden by a corner
"If you indeed value Miss Vincent's life, I suggest you gentlemen put your weapons down."
The outer door had opened behind
Benny Ray and showed another set of guards,
Matt looked around him and nodded
at his two friends. Cautiously they lowered
"Since you seem to have the
means of contacting your friends outside, please, do
"CJ, Nick, surrender!" Without hesitation, Matt spoke into his head set.
"Boss? What's wrong?" Nick
wasn't about to just lay his weapons down without a
"Margo's here! They're holding
her at gun point! She'll have to pay if you won't
A short time later, Nick and CJ were
led into the farm house, hands on their
After they all had been relieved of the rest of their weapons and equipment, they were herded into a large room at the back of the building.
"Damn, take the gag off her!
What's the use of it now?" Matt started to get to
"We need to talk without distractions.
Better show Miss Vincent back to her
Then he pointedly looked at Matt
and continued with a cold smile. "Please, don't
One of the guards held out a head
set to Matt, who took it and called Chance to
"Well, Mr Shepherd, this is
as far as you and your friends will get. Here your
"You've got a nerve, old chap!
Trying to take our whole group! Think we won't be
One of the guards hit him in the small of his back with his gun, sending the Brit staggering a few steps, before Benny Ray caught and steadied him.
"Please, Mr Yates, don't play me for a fool. I know exactly who and what you are. Nobody will miss you or come after you. Your government would never admit to the existence of your little team. Your friend, Mr Trout, will wonder what has become of you, but even he will give up after a while, when you disappear without any sign. Especially as you came here of your own accord, so nobody knows anything about us. You may have arrived somewhat earlier than we had planned, but the timing isn't important anymore. You are in our hands, that is all that matters now."
Before any of the others could react to this statement, Matt addressed himself to their captor. "Who are you? .... And what's the purpose of all this? What do you hope to gain?"
"My name? My name is of no consequence
to you. If you like, you may call me ...
"And now that your team is complete again, we will talk!" Motioning to his men to separate Matt from the others and lead him off, 'Mr Lee' turned to the other team members before leaving the room, too. "I want you all to remember, gentlemen, that Miss Vincent is still subject to your good behavior! Please, don't attempt anything foolish."
Benny Ray, Rico, Chance, CJ and Nick
were made to follow their guards to another
"Shut up, CJ! We're still alive,
aren't we?" Benny Ray was much more in control
Rico got a hold of Nick's arm, drawing
him closer, and quietly asked him: "What
"They didn't get him!"
Nick whispered back. "I don't think they even realized he
With everybody's attention on the
prisoners, Drummer had seen his way clear to
So far nobody had come looking for him.
He had observed Chance's arrival
in the chopper and his subsequent capture from
Cautiously the old soldier tried the back door. When it opened under his touch, he silently slipped through the crack, crouching on the other side to check the terrain. Voices were approaching his position. Quickly he flattened himself next to an old cupboard, weapon at the ready.
Two of the Chinese guards turned the corner, relaxed and no longer alert, now that their prisoners were secured. Drummer shot them, using another silenced tranquilizer gun. He hastily caught them both before they could fall down and alert anyone to his presence. Then he dragged them into an empty side room, leaving them there bound and gagged with their own clothing, before locking the door.
Quietly, Drummer moved on along the
corridor, expecting to be discovered any
Still watching, the ex-SEAL was waiting for the guard to turn away from him. When he did, Drummer silently crossed the distance between them, grabbed the man and snapped his neck in one fluid movement. Lowering the body to the floor he tried the door handle. It opened to reveal Margo, still clad in her bathing suit and bound to a bed.
Drummer slid inside with the dead man in tow and quietly closed the door again.
"Drummer!" For a moment
Margo wasn't sure her eyes didn't deceive her. But he
Drummer cut her loose and helped
her up. "You alright?" He looked her over
"I'm fine!" Margo took a deep breath. "Let's just get us all out of here!"
Drummer had taken off his cammo jacket and handed it to her. She accepted it with a grateful smile and quickly put it on, wrapping it around her slim body and fastening it with the belt.
"Any idea where they're holding
the others?" When Drummer held out the guard's
"Behind a door with a guard in front of it?"
Drummer opened the door and they
both slipped out of the room, each of them
"Alright, let's go find 'em!" Drummer motioned her to stay behind him.
"I've got your six!" Margo told him. For a second Drummer looked at her, as if in doubt, then he nodded and moved out down the passage, grinning to himself.
They passed several rooms, all empty, until they heard someone approaching.
Quickly they stepped into a room
to let the man pass. Drummer then grabbed him
"Where are our friends being
held?" Margo asked him softly. "Careful, you make
"Like a Thanksgivin' turkey!"
Drummer growled menacingly. "You better heed the
With a squeak, the man answered Margo's
question. "Third door, next passage,
"How many guards?" When
he didn't answer Drummer's question promptly, Margo
"How many are there all in all? And where is everybody?" Drummer emphasized his questions with a light squeeze on the guard's throat.
squeeze hastened the breathless answer to the second
Drummer started adding up numbers.
"Eight, I took out three, four with this one,
He turned to Margo. "Do we need him for anything else?"
"Can't think of anything."
Margo hadn't quite finished her sentence,
when Drummer tightened his hold on the
Stopping at a staircase they found
the corridor behind it empty. Puzzled, they
They looked at each other. Drummer
raised an eyebrow questioningly. Margo nodded and handed him
her gun, slipped out of the jacket, took a deep breath and
As expected the two men called out something and followed her.
The moment they rounded the corner,
Drummer took out the one nearest to him,
"Benny Ray, CJ! Are you in there?"
Margo, who was putting the jacket back on,
"Margo? That you?" Benny Ray's voice sounded back at her through the door.
"Get away from that door!"
Drummer ordered. With the need for silence gone he
"Margo! Are you alright?"
Benny Ray and the others crowded around her, carefully
Margo flashed them a relieved smile. "I'm fine, .... really!" She added emphatically when she noticed the doubtful looks that passed between her friends. "They didn't do anything to me. I was just the bait to lure Matt and you others here, that's what they told me right away. Anything else would have come later." For a moment she seemed to shudder.
Then something else caught her attention. "Where's Matt?"
While Benny Ray and Rico quickly
filled her in on what had happened after she had been taken away,
Drummer and CJ were watching both ends of the corridor, and
From the front end of the building they could hear shouts and the sounds of running feet.
"It looks like your friends
suffer from the same malady as you do, Mr Shepherd.
Matt just returned the look, a slight smile playing around his lips.
When their leader motioned to the guards at the door, one of them left the room.
"Don't think this will save you from your fate, Shepherd!" The polite Chinese mask was beginning to slip. "You will pay for what you did to my brother. The slight on his name will be cleared, if necessary by your death."
As more shouts and shooting could
be heard, Matt's captor barked a couple of
The door opened and the fourth guard
came running back, hurriedly giving his
"Your friends might be free again, but they haven't won, yet. And they will not!"
Another order sent the guards out
of the room, dragging Matt off between them,
The fighting was clearly moving from the back of the house closer to their position. It would eventually reach them. Matt could see the man on his right throw a nervous glance back over his shoulder in the direction of the steadily approaching sounds of gunfire. Matt knew his team was gaining ground, but it would take them some more time to get to him, time he somehow had to buy them.
"You don't really think you're
gonna make it, do you?" Matt asked almost
"Shut up, American!" The guard on his left hit him a blow to his head. At another gesture, the guards hauled him outside through the big front door of the farm house.
"You are wrong, Mr Shepherd,
we will get away and you will accompany us. We will
Before Matt could manage an answer, they were roughly dragging him on.
Outside everything seemed to be quiet.
No one was around. All the fighting was
They had taken several steps towards
the helicopter and were passing some rusty,
Matt reacted before any of the remaining
guards could make a move. He dove
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the man at the chopper turn around, drop down into the grass for what little cover it would offer and aim his weapon at the three men still standing openly in front of the farm house. Rico! At the same time a familiar voice called out from behind him.
"Drop 'em or die like your friends there!"
Benny Ray was crouched against one
corner of the barn, his sniper rifle sighted
"You'd better listen to the man!" CJ's words came from the other side of the farm house, where he lay half hidden behind a couple of barrels with another gun trained on the group.
The Chinese leader shouted an order,
but before his men could act upon it in any
"All secure over here!"
Drummer's deep voice drawled from the direction of the
A cautious glance showed Matt that
his team was all around them. He relaxed. The
The party would soon be beginning.
At the moment there were only the team members on the brightly
decorated terrace. Chance and CJ had invited some of
Nick hadn't left her side since she had been introduced to them. He and Benny Ray were keeping her company, though Nick had done all the talking so far.
"Amal, what a beautiful name!"
They could hear him enthusing. "Dat's the first
"Oh, it's not Hawaiian." The beautiful girl responded with an enchanting smile. "It's Arabic. In honor of a very dear friend of our mother's. It means 'hope'."
"Yeah, and I HOPE you'll send
this jerk packing, if he's making a nuisance of
"Hey, watch what ya callin' people, will ya?" Nick glowered back at the Brit.
"Hi Amal," Chance had come
up to the table, too. "Can I kidnap you for a dance?
With a silvery laugh Amal rose and
accepted Chance's hand. They went down the
Taken by surprise, Nick could only watch them leave, open-mouthed.
"Keep your dirty paws off her,
Delvecchio, she's a nice girl! Besides, we got here first! Ever
heard of advantage to the home team?" CJ's whispered crack
A sputtered squeak was all Nick could
muster. Before he could come up with any
"Looks like the lady's got your number!" Rico grinned at Nick.
"My number! I'm not the one
who should be careful about what he's sayin' around
"A gigolo!? CJ?!" Matt
turned to the former SAS demolitions expert. "I'd have
"Aw, come on!" CJ's face had taken on a decidedly reddish hue.
"You should have seen him yesterday mornin', boss! He was playing the ladies like an expert! And they LOVED it! They were practically hangin' on his very lips!" Benny Ray was having just as much fun as Matt. "And that's not all they were hangin' on to!"
"I don't BELIEVE it!" Margo's lips were twitching and her eyes were slowly filling with tears of suppressed laughter. "THAT's what you do for a job?" She and Matt hadn't accompanied Benny Ray, Nick and Rico when they had followed CJ to find out more about the job, the Brit had been so secretive about. But they had already got an ear full about it.
CJ started fidgeting. "It's nothing like what you're thinking. We're just showing some nice girls around the islands, that's all."
"Some nice girls!" A wheezing Rico couldn't resist joining in the fun, too. "You've got to picture it to really see the beauty of it! There was our CJ, in the midst of all those pretty ladies, who were just dying to get their hands on him. All of them talking at him non-stop and trying to hang on to a piece of him. And he was so busy explaining proceedings to them, he was absolutely helpless about it."
"An' ya should have seen 'em
when dat Mark arrived to play guide." Nick was
By now the whole group was bent over with laughter.
"Oh God, CJ! So you've finally
found your true vocation!" Margo was giggling so
"Come on, it isn't half as bad
as you lot make it sound." Chance and Amal had
"All!!!" Nick wasn't about
to let them off the hook so easily. "What about dose
"Nick!" Amal reproved him
sternly. "I'm disappointed! How can you imply anything
"Uhm, Amal, I'm sorry, I didn't, ... I mean I ..." He began to stutter, but Amal was already turning away.
"I'll see how Mark is getting on with his drinks. Maybe I can help him."
"Looks like the last remains of any chances you might have had just vanished down the drain, Delvecchio!" Benny Ray at least tried to sound regretful as they were watching her enter the house. The others were grinning openly.
"Ahem, and how are ya feeling,
Margo?" Ignoring the grins, Nick quickly changed
Taking pity on him, Margo answered the question.
"Fine! A hundred percent better, in fact! Ask Rico."
"She's right." The medic added with a smile at everybody's inquiring glances. "No damage of any kind. No heightened stress factor. No headaches. Nothing! She's as good as new. It's as if the kidnapping was what she needed to get over the after-effects of the coma."
"Maybe we should let her get
abducted more often!" Nick was fast bouncing back
It got him a dark glance from Margo.
"Watch it, Nick, you know what happened the
"Yeah, she took that Chinese thug out rather efficiently and without much ado. The guy never knew what hit him!" Drummer had joined the group as well.
Margo flashed him a smile. "You weren't bad there either."
Drummer shrugged, but smiled back
at her. " Anyway, there's something I wanted
Instinctively, Matt winced at the
ex-SEAL's way of addressing their teammate. CJ
"You can cover my six any time. I'd be honored. We made a good team out there!"
Daryl Drummer held out his hand to her. Rico and Matt both tried to step forward, to stop the inevitable, but Margo was faster. She took his out-stretched hand, stepped up to the older man, and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Thank you, Daryl. I'm very
grateful to you for coming to my rescue. Who knows,
Open-mouthed, four flabbergasted
men stared after her. Then, as one they turned
After a moment, CJ cleared his throat
and changed the subject. "What happened to
Matt was still trying to grasp the surprising reaction of this unpredictable female. "Oh, ... " He sat down and turned to the Brit. "Trout's people took care of them. He called this morning to say that the whole bunch had been rather unceremoniously carted back home. He doesn't think we'll ever see anything of 'Mr Lee' and his friends again."
Drummer nodded. "He'll probably
simply disappear, never to be seen again. The
"You mean dey...?" Nick made a cutting move across his throat.
"It's their way." Drummer shrugged. He sounded almost philosophical about it.
"What's still bugging me is
why they went through with the thing now ... and how
Matt shifted in his seat to find a more comfortable position. "I think I can answer that. When they took me for their little talk, the old man told me quite a lot. He was at the airport on Wednesday, recognized Margo and me and saw his chance for revenge. He called in a couple of favors from an old acquaintance on the island to get first Margo in a surprise raid from the ocean side and then, through her, the whole team. Seems like he made it his business to find out as much as he could about us after what happened to his brother in Paris. Somehow he must have either obtained or put together complete dossiers on each and every member of the team. Trout is already looking for a possible leak."
"So, that's how he knew about Chance and me, too." CJ nodded.
"Yes, the only one he didn't
know anything about was Drummer. That's where we
"Yeah, mate, that's what I wanted
to ask you the whole time, what brought you to
"You mean 'retired' like in Veteran's home?" Benny Ray asked slyly.
Matt almost choked on his drink, but Drummer didn't move a muscle.
"I may be a bit more seasoned
than you, but that doesn't put me in a Vet's home
"Seasoned? Now that's a word
I like. Much better than being called over the hill
"Some things simply get better with age."
Amal, Margo and Mark were leaving the house, carrying glasses of Mark's creation. They had only caught the end of the conversation.
"You mean like wine or champagne?" Mark asked.
"Nope, more like Navy SEALs!" Drummer retorted grinning.
"I'll drink to that!" Matt raised his glass at his friends. "To friends, old and new ones, and to tomorrow!" Laughing, they all joined him in the toast.
Tomorrow! The word had a nice ring
to it. They'd been lucky there would still be a tomorrow for
them. Tomorrow their vacation would really start. Sunbathing,
sightseeing, shopping ... who knew, maybe they'd even go looking