THE SILVER STAR
HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
"Listen up, people," Matt
addressed his fledgling team, "Trout just
handed us a hot one. Any of you ever heard of a shooter called
"Yeah, Boss," Benny Ray laughed,
"'an I've heard of Santa Claus an' the Tooth Fairy, too."
"Well, Santa and the Tooth Fairy
haven't just been hired to
assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister Viper has. Now,
intel suggests that the hit will take place at the Middle East
"That's only forty-eight hours
away!" Margo exclaimed.
Matt nodded gravely. "Which is
why Trout could only arrange transpo for two of us."
"And who might the lucky parties
be?" C.J. inquired.
"Margo and Benny Ray," Matt
answered. "The rest of us will follow as quickly as possible
using commercial transportation. Ideally, we
want to eliminate the target before the conference starts. Trout
will be a very happy man if you two manage to make the rest of
unnecessary this time around."
"Uh, Major?" Benny Ray interrupted,
"If we want this guy taken out so bad, wouldn't it be better
to send in two shooters?" he asked,
carefully not looking at Margo.
"And how would these two shooters
figure out what they're supposed to be shooting at? Look, didn't
we already have this discussion?" Matt demanded heatedly.
"Look, sir-" Benny Ray began.
Margo folded her arms across her chest
and frowned irritably. How
many times would she have to prove herself to this man?
Matt sucked in a deep breath and then
very slowly let it out again.
"OK, fine...you want to assign personnel? Be my guest. We
have two jobs to fill. We need one shooter capable of
taking out a single target from among a crowd at a great distance.
We also need one intel operative to get him to his target. That
operative needs to
speak at least one local language, and have contacts in-country
intelligence and weapons for the rest of us. Who would you pick?"
The sudden silence was deafening.
"I'm waiting," Matt said impatiently.
"If you wanted something blown
up," C.J. considered, "then I'd say I was your man,
but I'm better at making big messes than small ones."
"I hear that," Chance muttered.
C.J. continued as if he hadn't spoken.
"I speak Arabic, but I don't
have any contacts in Israel at the moment. I suppose I could
something up, but who knows how long that would take?"
"Thank you, C.J., that's why I
had you on the backup team for this
one," Matt responded candidly. "Anyone else?"
"Well, I could probably make the
shot," Chance said modestly, "and I speak some Arabic,
but in Israel, quoting the Koran is not the healthiest of pastimes."
Matt nodded. "Margo?" he asked
with exaggerated politeness.
"I speak fluent Hebrew, Arabic
and some Aramaic," Margo replied
without hesitation. "I have contacts in several branches
of the IDF
as well as non-official sources, and I can get you weapons."
fixed Benny Ray with a challenging stare as she spoke.
"Hell, she's got me beat by a mile,"
"Me, too," Chance added.
"And me," Matt admitted. "So,
if there are no further objections,
would the two of you please get your gear together? Your flight
leaves in ninety minutes. It's military, so Benny Ray, you can
whatever you want in the way of weapons."
At the word 'weapons,' Benny Ray felt
a twinge of guilt, recalling
how, a week or so back, he'd made casual mention of a minor
refinement he wished could be made to that fancy, custom-built
sniper rifle that Margo had provided him. The weapon had disappeared
for a couple of days, then she'd presented it to him, with his
enhancement perfectly implemented. "Yes, sir," he mumbled.
He caught Margo's eye as he moved off to gather his equipment
and winced slightly. It was going to be a long two days.
Matt touched Margo's arm lightly as
she passed him. "Try not to kill
each other, OK?"
"Matt, I'm not the one who started
this," she stated tartly.
"I know," he soothed. "Benny
Ray's a good man...he'll come around."
"If he lives long enough,"
"It's your job to see that he does,"
Matt reminded her.
"I wasn't talking about Viper,"
she answered sweetly.
EN ROUTE TO ISRAEL
Benny Ray watched his companion out
of the corner of his eye. She
was asleep, but he didn't look on that as a sign of weakness,
one of common sense. Once they landed, they'd be too busy to
get any rest. He liked Margo he really did. She was funny
and smart, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Under other circumstances,
he'd probably be overjoyed at the thought of spending a couple
of days with a woman like her.
As if sensing his scrutiny, Margo blinked
up at him. "You should get
some sleep," she admonished with gentle practicality.
"I know...just thinkin', is all."
"What about?" Margo asked
curiously, straightening in her seat. She couldn't figure out
what exactly his problem with her was, and she'd take any opportunity
to draw him out.
He eyed her once more, then figured
'what the hell' and decided to
just spit it out. "Mostly, I'm wonderin' how the two of
supposed to find this guy who I ain't even sure exists
him out - in just a little under two days."
"Finding him is my job," Margo
informed him coolly. "And I assure
you, he does exist."
"The stories I've heard about this
guy," Benny Ray shook his head in disbelief. "Nobody's
"He does exist and he is that good.
I have sources in-country who
are on the alert and looking for him as we speak."
"Well, if you've got people on
the lookout for him," Benny Ray
pressed, "why'd you even have to come along? Couldn't you
co-ordinate all this from home?"
Margo's jaw dropped in disbelief. Her
voice stayed low, but her words were clipped and heavy with anger.
"Aside from the fact that
these are my contacts who, by the way, probably wouldn't
even allow themselves to get within ten feet of some redneck
who looks, sounds, and acts like he just fell off the turnip
truck - I am too much of a professional to allow anyone to risk
their life on second-hand
"You sayin' you don't even trust
your own sources?"
"I don't trust anything I haven't
verified myself. It's the only way
to stay alive in this business," Margo snapped.
Benny Ray was silent for a ling time.
"If you're sayin' you came
along to protect me, I'm grateful for the thought," he said
carefully, "but couldn't Chance or the Major have checked
Margo sighed in exasperation. Why couldn't
he understand? "No," she said finally. "There
are people here whom I've fought with, side by side they'll
talk to me, because we share history."
Benny Ray nodded, understanding. "There's
blood between you."
"Yes. And there are others who
will help me because it's a way
to... " Margo's voice trailed off and pain filled her eyes.
honor someone's memory."
Benny Ray saw the flash of raw agony
and wondered, but knew this was hardly the moment to question
her about her personal life. "OK," he said neutrally.
"Why are you so sure this guy exists?"
"Because I've seen his handiwork.
The last time he surfaced... I
don't know...maybe if we'd had a top-notch shooter..." Margo
turned her head to face the window, but she was really looking
back to the past.
Benny Ray tentatively reached out and
touched the back of her hand as it lay on the armrest. "Well,
you've got one now. We'll make real sure that this Viper guy
don't bother no one ever again." To his surprise, Margo
turned her hand palm up. He responded by closing his callused
fingers gently around hers.
* * * *
Benny Ray's eyes snapped open as a soldier
tapped his arm.
"Sorry, sir," the young woman
apologized, "but the pilot is getting
ready to take us down."
Benny Ray nodded his acknowledgement
and turned to his companion. Margo's head rested against his
arm. Sleep softened her features to innocence, and he tried again
to reconcile this image to the woman who had contacts among arms
dealers and intelligence brokers. He felt the plane begin its
descent and shook his head to clear it. For better or for worse,
they were stuck with one another.
"Margo?" he murmured, shaking
She awoke quickly, tensed to fight,
only to relax again as she
realized who was beside her. "Are we there yet?"
"How much time do we have?"
"'Bout thirty four hours."
"Then I guess we'll have to work
"I hear that," Benny Ray replied.
"Let's do it," Margo said,
holding out her hand, palm up.
Benny Ray grinned and slapped her outstretched
hand with his own.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
"Remember what I told you,"
"Yes, ma'am," he muttered,
"eyes open, mouth shut."
"Look, I'm sorry about what I said
on the plane," Margo apologized.
"No need," he replied quietly.
"I only been here an hour and I can
see fer myself that I don't blend in. You sure do, though,"
"That's my job," Margo told
him simply. She checked the number of the house in front of them,
then walked up the path and knocked on the door.
The man who answered was in his thirties,
wearing neatly casual
attire, as befitted a homeowner in this prosperous, middle-class
neighborhood, but there was something about him that said 'soldier'
to Benny Ray. He kept his expression carefully neutral as the
gentleman greeted Margo with a musical flow of Hebrew that was
completely incomprehensible to him. Margo responded in kind,
and the man nodded briefly, then stepped aside to usher them
into the house. Hoping like hell that she knew what she was doing,
Benny Ray stepped inside.
The stranger pulled the door shut, then
enveloped Margo in an
enormous bear hug. "It's been too long, Margo," he
slightly accented English.
"I know," Margo whispered.
There was an obscure pain in his dark
eyes, one that was mirrored in Margo's. They parted, and the
man offered his hand to Benny Ray. "My name is Daniel. Welcome
to my home."
"Thank you, sir," the sniper
replied. He didn't offer his name and
Daniel didn't ask. Benny Ray shot a wary glance at Margo and
Daniel observed their by-play tolerantly.
"I know you have urgent
business to attend to. If you'll come with me, I'll see what
people can do to help." With that, he turned on his heel
and led the
way down the corridor. He paused in front of a door and fished
small brass key out of his pocket, then unlocked the door and
flipped on the light switch. They crowded into the landing, then
waited while Daniel locked the door behind them before leading
the way down the steps.
The basement looked like any other basement
the world over washing machine and dryer, hot water heater,
storage shelves and assorted junk. Daniel rolled back a worn
throw rug and produced a folding knife from his pocket. He used
the blade to probe around the edge of a board and pry it up.
To Benny Ray's surprise, what lifted free wasn't one board, but
rather the cover of a hidden trap door that was set into the
floor. Daniel gestured for them to precede him and Benny Ray's
hackles started to rise. Margo shot the former Marine a warning
glance and headed down the ladder herself.
A man working at a computer terminal
looked up, reaching for his gun, and relaxing only when Daniel
called down to him.
The lower chamber looked an awful lot
like the basement of the Silver Star. Besides the computers,
there was a short-wave radio set-up, a police monitor, even old
Morse code equipment. Battered metal lockers lined one side of
the room, and a workbench took up another.
There was a dull thump as the trap door
closed above them, and then Daniel came down. "I've got
people checking out the venue for the conference and David here
has been pulling records from Viper's other known hits."
He looked to Benny Ray. "We're hoping that an expert marksman
like yourself would be able to compare the two and come up with
the most likely place to catch Viper."
"I'll do my best," Benny Ray
"Excellent. If you'd like to begin
with what we have now, you may do so. There are bunks, food,
a shower and toilet just through there," Daniel told them,
indicating a small passageway. "This was
originally intended as a bomb shelter," he explained in
answer to Benny Ray's surprised expression. "Should you
require anything else, please just ask."
Benny Ray moved over to the computer
desk. "Let's see what you got."
JFK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
"G'day," C.J. said pleasantly
to the dour customs official.
The officer glanced up from C.J.'s papers
with a peculiar expression. "State your name, please."
"Christopher J. Yates."
The customs man seemed to be listening
intently to C.J.'s accent.
Out of sight of the team, he pressed a small button and two security
agents appeared beside him. "Could we have a moment of your
"'Scuse me?" C.J. spluttered
"We would like to have a few words
with you, in private. If you'll
step this way?" One of the agents had a hand resting lightly
baton it wasn't a request.
"What are we gonna do, Major?"
"Nothing," Matt ground out
from between clenched teeth. "If we try
to get involved, they'll just detain all of us, and we can't
that right now."
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
Benny Ray carefully studied the floorplans
of the venue for the trade
conference. "There," he decided finally, stabbing a
finger at the
drawing. "If he gets up there, he'll have a clear field
of fire. He
can take out anyone on the platform."
"But how would he get out again?"
Daniel asked, scrutinizing the
"There's a picture window
here," Benny Ray pointed. "He can rig a line, rappel
straight down to the parking lot and be gone in about a minute."
"That's how you'd do it?"
the Israeli operative asked intently.
Daniel nodded. "Then how would
you take him out?"
"Here," Benny Ray indicated
another point on the blueprint.
"All right then," Daniel said
firmly, "I'll get word to the
appropriate parties. Perhaps we can, as you say, 'get lucky.'"
"Mister, I surely do hope so,"
Benny Ray replied fervently.
"Damn!" Margo swore.
Benny Ray hurried over to look over
her shoulder at the screen of the laptop. The satellite connection
was fuzzy, but he could still make out Trout's scowl. "What's
wrong?" he demanded.
"Matt and the others have been
detained at JFK," Margo told him.
"Detained how?" Benny Ray
The image of Trout sighed in frustration.
"Mister Yates was stopped
at customs. Evidently, there is a terrorist alert for members
IRA anyone who sounds even remotely like they come form
the UK is being stopped as a matter of course."
"Well, sir, couldn't you fix that?"
Benny Ray wanted to know.
"Yes, I had him out within an hour.
Unfortunately, they'd delayed
the flight to offload his baggage. By the time I'd gotten everything
straightened out, a serious electrical storm had set in
is grounded until it clears."
Benny Ray's oath was considerably more
sulfurous than 'damn.'
"So what you're saying is that
we're on our own?" Margo asked
merely for clarification, of course she already knew the
Trout sighed heavily. "I'm afraid
so. Is there anything else I can
do from this end?"
"I don't think so," Margo
responded after a moment's quick thought.
"Keep me informed," Trout
instructed before breaking the connection.
Daniel approached diffidently. "My
friends, already you have given
us the best chance we've ever had to stop Viper. Anything else
you need, if I can provide it, it is yours."
"Thank you, sir. I really hope
we don't have to take you up on
that," Benny Ray answered wearily.
Daniel looked form one to the other.
"I have people checking out the conference center. There
is nothing more to be done for the moment. Why don't you rest?"
Margo stretched her neck, working out
a kink. "That's probably not a bad idea," she admitted,
shutting down the laptop.
Benny Ray followed her through to the
next room, unconsciously taking up a sentry post at the door
as Margo flopped down on one of the cots.
"Yes, ma'am?" he replied automatically.
"We're safe here get some
Benny Ray thought about it for a moment,
then moved over to sit down on the bunk next to hers. "Can
I ask you somethin'?"
"Sure," Margo answered.
"How come you trust this Daniel
guy so much?" Benny Ray wanted to know.
Margo glared at him, but her expression
softened when she read only simple curiosity in his eyes. "It's
a long story, but...you were
right when you said there was blood between us, just not quite
way you were thinking. We both lost someone that we loved very
much. You see... in...another life... Daniel would have been
brother-in-law." Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears and
she looked away quickly to hide them.
Benny Ray reached out and gently covered
her hand with his own. "I'm real sorry," he said sincerely.
"Was it Viper?"
She shook her head. "No. Just...someone
"They never caught that guy, did
they?" Benny Ray guessed shrewdly.
"No," Margo whispered.
He tightened his grip on her hand. "Well,
we're sure in hell gonna
catch this one, I promise you that."
Margo gazed into his honest blue eyes
and allowed herself to believe. She squeezed his fingers in return.
JFK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Chance tried once again to settle himself
comfortably in the plastic
airport chair and failed dismally. The sound of rain pounding
down on the roof and thunder crashing overhead did nothing to
lighten his mood.
"I can't believe they thought I
was a terrorist," C.J. said for about
the twentieth time.
"C.J.," Matt warned, "you
are possibly the least popular person in
this airport right now, so do us all a favor and put a sock in
"Hey! It's not like I came in here
waving a gun and yelling 'arrest
me, I'm a terrorist' is it?" C.J. protested indignantly.
didn't they give us these lovely seat upgrades to make up for
"Yeah, C.J., that's wonderful,"
Matt shot back, "except that the
first class seats aren't going to arrive in Israel any faster
the coach seats, on account of the fact that the plane can't
"Matt," Chance said quietly.
"They'll be fine."
"I hope so," Matt muttered.
He squeezed his eyes shut against the
dull throb of an encroaching headache. 'Please...if anyone is
listening...let them be all right.'
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
"My people haven't spotted anything
unusual at the conference
center," Daniel was saying. "Is there any other vantage
Benny Ray studied the plans carefully
once more. "I don't think so,
sir. This is really the only useable position." He shook
"You ain't gonna catch him. From everthin' I've heard, he's
too good for that. All this information you got he's got
it, too. He knows what he's doin,' and when his target takes
center stage, he'll be there."
"Looks like we get to do this the
hard way," Margo quipped
mirthlessly. "You take the high ground, and I'll take ground
"Oh, no," Benny Ray replied
flatly. "I don't want you in the field
Margo patted his arm condescendingly.
"I'm a big girl, Benny Ray,
and I can take care of myself. Besides, I think you can tell
difference between me and a hitman. I trust you," she added
Benny Ray refused to be amused. "Margo,
this guy is a professional
assassin. I don't want you anywhere near him."
"I'm a professional, too,"
Margo reminded him. "That auditorium is
going to be filled with civilians and press maybe
we'll catch a break and I'll be able to take him out at close
so you don't have to fire across a crowded hall."
Benny Ray opened his mouth, then shut
it again. He really couldn't
argue with her logic. "You wear a vest, you hear?"
he said finally.
"And you be damn careful!"
"Aren't I always?" Margo answered
with an impish smile.
* * * *
"Anything?" Margo murmured
into her comm.
"Negative," Benny Ray replied
tersely. He could see Margo quite
clearly through the scope of his rifle as she patrolled the gallery
where he expected Viper to take his shot.
"You were right," Margo said
quietly, "he's got a perfect shot from
"Not to worry, darlin'...I've got
a perfect shot from here," he
Margo didn't bother looking for him.
She knew from the blueprints
that he was on the opposite side of the auditorium, a level or
above the stage, but she also knew that she'd never spot him.
smiled pleasantly at two people who were hurrying to their seats,
anxious not to miss the opening remarks. Margo swept a practiced
eye over them out of habit, but they weren't carrying anything,
besides, they knew that Viper worked alone.
"Heads up," Benny Ray muttered.
Margo heard the tension in his voice
and fought the urge to stiffen
up. Instead, she forced her self to lean casually against the
looking out. "Talk to me," she whispered, barely moving
"Coming up on your right, you got
a janitor. He's pushin' one of
them big ol' wheeled trash cans."
"I'm on it." Daniel had supplied
her with police I.D. for just such
a purpose. If they were wrong, she could apologize later.
Plastering a professional smile on her face, she took out the
and approached the 'janitor'. Margo greeted the man in flawless
Hebrew, demanding to inspect the contents of the trash barrel.
"Move right," Benny Ray instructed,
trying to keep a clear shot. He
saw the suspect dip a hand into the pocket of his grubby coveralls,
and there was a dull gleam of light on metal. "Gun!"
Margo reacted instantly, shoving the
trash barrel into her opponent
and drawing her gun in one fluid motion.
"Get clear!" Benny Ray ordered,
"I got him!" Holding his breath, he
pulled the trigger, just as the target lunged for Margo.
Three shots echoed through the chamber,
causing instant panic. Viper tumbled backwards as his head was
blown away. Benny Ray wasn't sure, but he thought he saw another
bullet hole in the shooter's chest. He looked for Margo and felt
his heart stop she was lying on the floor, her left side
soaked with blood. Then she sat up, scrubbing at the blood with
her sleeve and the sniper felt dizzy with relief. Security personnel
were filling the area, including Daniel, who produced some sort
of badge that the others respected enough to let him lead Margo
away. He'd wrapped his arm around her waist and she seemed to
be leaning heavily on him. Benny Ray hoped it was an act. At
any rate, it was time for him to beat feet for the rally point.
* * * *
Daniel offered Benny Ray a hand up into
the back of the van, grabbing the sniper's gear bag as he made
beeline for Margo.
"Are you all right?" he demanded,
looking her over carefully. Margo
had discarded her ruined jacket and Kevlar vest and was scrubbing
the blood from her skin with a towel. She looked a bit rumpled,
otherwise none the worse for wear.
"I'm fine," she reassured
him with a smile.
"You're sure?" he pressed,
tipping her face up to ascertain that all
that blood really wasn't hers.
"You scared the hell out of me,
you know," he told her seriously. "I
saw him drawing down on you..."
Margo laid a gentle hand on his arm.
"Hey if you hadn't warned me, that might have gone
a lot differently. And Viper wasn't the only
one who got off a shot, you know."
"But you had better aim."
"Not as good as you that
shot was incredible!"
"Thank you, ma'am," Benny
Ray responded in his best courtly manner. "But I never would
have been able to make that shot without all your fine help."
He looked as thought he wanted to say more, but didn't quite
Margo saw his discomfiture and decided
to let him off the hook. "Now aren't you glad I came along?"
Benny Ray pretended to consider that
for a moment. "Well," he
decided finally, "you're prettier'n Chance...and you don't
C.J., so yeah...I'm glad you came along." He ducked the
mock swing Margo aimed at him, then used her own momentum to
pull her tight against his side in a friendly bear hug.
BEN GURION INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Matt, Chance and C.J. stumbled stiffly
through the airport.
"Please, God, let there be a hotel
room waiting for us," C.J. moaned.
"After we check in with Margo and
get a sitrep," Matt reminded him sternly. "I only hope
those two haven't killed one another," he
added under his breath.
"I don't think so, Major,"
Chance said, grinning.
Matt followed his pointing finger and
his jaw dropped in disbelief -
Benny Ray and Margo were strolling through the airport arm in
arm, smiling and chatting like old friends.
"Wonders never cease," Chance
chuckled, shaking his head.
By this time, Margo and Benny Ray had
spotted them and were headed their way.
"What happened to you guys?"
Margo asked, eyeing their rumpled
clothing and generally unkempt state with amusement.
Matt noted that she was looking disgustingly
neat and well rested.
"Well, for starters, C.J. here just happened to fit the
profile of the day in New York," he began sourly.
"Then Mother Nature decided to
make up for last summer's
drought...all in one night," Chance continued.
"And so we spent six hours sitting
in the airport and sixteen on a
plane and here we are," C.J. concluded. "And you?"
"Yeah," Chance prompted, "what's
the deal with this Viper guy?"
"He's got himself a real cozy slab
at the morgue," Benny Ray assured them.
"Oh," Matt said flatly. "Which
one of you...?"
Benny Ray pointed at Margo, and Margo
pointed at Benny Ray. Then they saw the expressions on their
teammate's faces and started laughing. Feeling slightly foolish,
the others joined in.
"Come on," Matt invited, "you
can tell us all about it on the flight
Copyright © 2000 Kathleen Klatte
All Rights Reserved
Miss Kathleen A. Klatte
Feedback and commentary are most welcome.
Disclaimer: SOF is the property of Rysher,
et al; this is a
recreational endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright
infringement is intended.
Historical Note: Takes place at some point between "Genesis" and
Thank you to: Grace (as always!) for proofing and editing, and
the folks on the SOF Fanfic List and the Rysher SOF Forum for
answering my ballistics' questions .