"The people of Grand Comoros will
protect the capital until our
And God knew, she was entitled, Matt
thought to himself. It was an
Matt gathered up his team with a glance and started down the steps.
"Wait!" Halle exclaimed. "I
know you wish to return home, but you
"Thank you, ma'am, but we'll be fine," Matt replied, trying to rebuff the offer as gently as possible.
Halle chuckled softly. "Forgive me, but I do not think you would make through even our airport looking the way you do right now."
"Lady's got a point," C.J. admitted grudgingly.
"And, even if by some miracle we
did make it through this airport "
"We'd get arrested soon's we landed
in the next one," Benny Ray
Matt looked around at his people. Now
that the adrenaline rush was
"No, my friend, thank you," Halle reiterated.
Halle installed them in a spacious suite
that had evidently been the
Margo had immediately taken possession
of the larger bathroom. The
"I'm feeling a powerful urge to
go find that bastard and make Margo's
"You and me both, mate," C.J. replied in a low voice.
Benny Ray sat cleaning his weapon, with
an expression that boded ill
Matt emerged from the bedroom carrying
some clean shirts that he'd
Benny Ray bounded to his feet. He gestured
angrily towards the door
"I saw what he was doing," Matt replied in a flat tone.
"Maybe, sir...but you didn't see her eyes," C.J. said quietly.
Further argument was cut off by a polite tap at the door. It was Halle, with a tray of food, a pail of ice, and a first aid kit.
"Thank you kindly, Miz Mustafa," Benny Ray said politely as he relieved her of her burden.
"How is your friend?" she asked, not seeing Margo, but easily recognizing the sound of tears a sound she'd become all too familiar with.
"I think she'll be fine, ma'am," Benny Ray answered soberly.
Halle smiled tiredly. "Good."
There was a muffled sound of gunfire from the vicinity of the basement and the four men automatically reached for their weapons.
"It's all right," Halle assured them. "Justice is swift tonight for those who have abused my people for so long." Her eyes showed regret, but her voice was firm and her head held high.
"So much for enlightened government,"
Chance sighed as the door
"That's another reason I'd like us to be out of here as soon as possible," Matt stated.
"I think I'm gonna like this new government," Benny Ray approved.
"I'm gonna go take that shower
now," Matt told them. "Remember what
A few moments later, the water was shut
off in the other room and
"How long you think she's gonna
be in there?" C.J. wondered, shifting
"As long as she wants to be," Benny Ray told him bluntly.
"Look, mate, my kidneys-"
"C.J., I do not wanna hear about your kidneys!" Chance retorted.
There was a sound of something dropping
and shattering in the
"Margo? You OK?"
"I'm fine," she answered quickly too quickly. There was a fine, ragged edge to her voice that betrayed her. "I dropped a glass."
"Well, whenever you're ready, I
got some stuff to clean up them cuts
"OK," Margo called through
the door. She tried to keep her voice
Wincing in pain, Margo slipped back into Benny Ray's shirt. It smelled faintly of him a compound of cordite, sweat and the plain soap he favored and she found that strangely comforting. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and walked out into the sitting room.
Benny Ray grinned with relief when he saw her. "Well, now, Miss Margo, you look as fresh as a spring morning."
"Yeah, right," she said shakily, smiling a little, just the same.
"Hey, you're still the prettiest thing in this room," Chance said in his easy manner.
"I'm not too sure how I should take that," Margo snorted as C.J. barged past her into the bathroom.
Benny Ray slung an arm around Margo's
shoulders, being very careful
Margo sat very still as Benny Ray gently cleaned the lacerations on her face. She tried not to flinch, but he could see the strain in her eyes, and he tried to be especially careful. "Anything you want to talk about?" he asked quietly.
"I didn't tell them anything."
"I know that," Benny Ray stated calmly.
Margo looked up and met his eyes he really did mean it. "Sorry. It's been a long day."
"I know. All I meant was...if you need to talk...I'm here to listen." His hand cupped her chin, tilting her face up to the light.
With a gentle smile, Margo reached up
and covered his hand with her
"Any time," he chuckled. "Lemme
see your wrists." She complied and
"I wasn't thinking too clearly just then," Margo admitted.
"Benny Ray," Chance called
from the doorway, "there's a free bathroom
"Go on," Margo encouraged. "I'm OK."
Benny Ray leaned in and rested his forehead
against hers. "You sure
"Yeah, I'm sure." She was lying...and they both knew it.
"Try to get some rest, OK?" He wanted to hold her, but wasn't sure how well that gesture would be received just now.
"I will. Where's Matt?"
"He's talking to Halle about getting us out of here," Chance supplied. "You want me to get him?"
"Well then, how about if I get
you some ice for that hand...Slugger?"
"That would be nice."
"Maybe something to eat?" Chance coaxed.
"I don't know about that,"
Margo replied dubiously. The thought of
"Well, I'm gonna get you something
to drink so you can swallow some
Margo nodded. She was acutely aware
of every tortured nerve ending
"I was really hoping you'd have dozed off." He set a glass of juice and a small pill bottle on the nightstand, and perched on the edge of the mattress. With infinite care, he lifted Margo to rest against his chest. "All right?"
"I'll make it," Margo told him in a strained whisper.
Her choice of words made Chance wince.
He wondered how Matt could have said that after witnessing the
scene they'd walked in on...and
"Not just yet," Margo answered with a wan smile.
"You afraid you'll heave if you try to eat something?"
"How poetically you phrase it,"
Margo murmured, sidestepping the
"I'll take that as a yes. It's OK, you know...hell, I was ready to upchuck when I came to in that cage. And that was nothin' compared to the time-"
"You've made your point,"
Margo interjected. "Can we have a new
That sounded more like the Margo they all knew and loved, and Chance relaxed somewhat. He retrieved an ice pack from the nightstand and pressed it gently to Margo's injured hand.
"I didn't tell them anything," Margo whispered.
"Nobody thinks you did," Chance assured her.
Margo tensed at the sound of gunfire. "What was that?"
"The, ah, judicial branch of the
new government is in full swing this
Words Margo had spoken earlier echoed through her head. 'I'll sleep... when you're dead.' "Chance?" she asked suddenly.
"What do you need?" he asked, returning to her side immediately.
"I...did General Djohar..."
"I don't know," he answered
gravely. "Somehow, I suspect he's pretty
Matt entered the suite's sitting room, quietly pulling the door shut after himself. C.J. lay snoring on the couch, and Chance was sitting at table, slicing a piece of fruit with his favorite knife. Benny Ray emerged from the smaller bathroom toweling his hair.
"How's Margo?" Matt asked.
Chance spitted an innocent piece of fruit with his knife and glared at Matt. "She was tied up, beaten, and nearly raped. How do you think she is? Sir."
"She also seems to have the idea
that we think she talked," Benny Ray
"Margo didn't talk," Matt stated with firm conviction.
"I ain't the one who needs convincin'," the sniper replied.
Matt nodded slowly. He paused in the
door of the master bedroom.
"I didn't tell them anything, Matt."
"I know that," he said reassuringly.
He saw a tremor run through her
"You don't understand," she sobbed, "I didn't tell them anything...but...if he had gone much farther..."
"Margo, don't go there," Matt told her resolutely. "Everyone has their breaking point, and no one knows exactly what that is until they come face to face with it. The only thing that matters is that you held out you didn't break."
"This time," she whispered.
"This time is the only time that counts. Hell, I know plenty of men who would have folded from the flogging, without..." Matt crushed her to his chest, tightening his arms around her until a tiny whimper of pain reminded him of her injured back. "I'm sorry," he whispered into her hair. "God, I'm so sorry." He held her until her ragged breathing evened out and her tears ceased. "If it helps...the man who..." Matt swallowed bile, remembering what he'd seen when he burst into that room. "He was one of the first ones convicted of crimes against the people. He's... he can't hurt anyone, anymore."
"Somehow, I don't think he's going to make it til dawn."
"Score one for humanity,"
Margo replied with a touch of her usual
"Yeah," Matt murmured as he
softly stroked her hair. He sat that way
There was another round of muffled gunfire from below. A few moments later, he heard the door to the suite open and a quiet conversation taking place, then the door closing once more.
Finally, Chance appeared in the doorway.
"That was Halle. She says
"Thanks," Matt mouthed.
Chance nodded and left.
Looking down at Margo, Matt saw that
she was sleeping peacefully at
Copyright © 2000 Kathleen Klatte
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