After two years of heavy hard hitting make or break cases and a little arm twisting Maria as take her family to Sicily on vacation. Unknown to them or the OICA a deadly ghost from the past would rear its ugly bringing with it death and destruction.
by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.
Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.
Edited by my husband Paul, and AJC Snowfall.
KOA Campground just north of Richmond 0630…
Anna had sent the teenagers to bed the moment that the adult team had cleared the downtown area of Bethesda. She knew that the teenagers were going to be needed in the morning. Their work had just begun, while the adults would be able to sit back and relax for a bit. As it was, the two teenagers had pushed themselves to their breaking point. Only Anna knew how HARD the teenage members of the Black Badge Deputies had worked in the last forty-eighty hours.
More than once she had, had to pull the girls away from their computers. They were able to make the connection between Robert Hines, Canterbury Medical Industries, and the assassination teams in the last few hours before Anna sent them to bed. Kasey and Kristine, had truly out-done themselves. Not only had they found Hines’ hidden assets, they had also found where the man was holed-up, and gotten printouts of the house’s layout. Along with the number of people he had guarding him and his property. The teenagers work had made her proud.
When the adults returned at 0400 in the morning both girls were asleep in the overhead bed of the camper. Maria and the rest asked where the girls were. Rinaldo just smiled and placed his finger over his lips. He led them inside the ALOC and pointed to the overhead bed. All five just smiled and stepped back outside where Anna was using the camp stove to make coffee for the Deputies and tea for Maria. The older woman knew what they would need after the night they had.
As they sat around giving the after-action report to Command on one of the team’s laptops Anna served them their coffee or tea. When Kasey and Kristine woke up they stepped outside to greet their parents and grandmother. The sight of them had the girls running over to the picnic table. After hugs were exchanged, the girls got down to business. They ran back inside the ALOC and returned with the Intel they had gathered on Robert Hines and his estate.
Looking at the massive amount of data, ALL five members of the Black Badge team stared at the teens in amazement. Even Rinaldo, who had been there watching them, was amazed at the pure unadulterated amount of data the girls had been able to gather. The fact was that Kasey and Kristine had used the connection to ONYSSIUS to the fullest. What was unknow to the two teens, was that back on Ram’s Rock Island Krystel and Kimberly had taken turns overseeing their dives and their usage on ONYSSIUS. It was the massive data flow that had at first drawn Kimberly’s attention, which she then turned over to Krystel to continue to monitor.
As the girls sat down at the table to join their parents, Anna handed them both a cup of tea. “Drink up girls. You need to wake up now. Your parents need you to explain all of this data.”
“Yes ma’am.” Kasey answered after taking a drink of her tea. “We understand.”
Samantha looked over at their oldest daughter with worry in her eyes. “We’re not pushing you girls, are we? You’re not pushing YOURSELVES to do more than you’re ready for, are you?”
Both teenagers shook their heads 'no' as Kristine answered. “No ma’am. Miss Anna is making sure we take breaks and keep our heads in the game. Neither of us have gotten lost in a dive out here.”
All the adult members of the Black Badge Team sighed with relief at hearing this. They knew the dangers the teens faced when in the electronic ether. They had one true Diver already on their hands, that being Kristine, then there was Kasey who was fast reaching the same level as her younger sister. Between the two girls they truly were the twin Goddess Gemini. With this in mind, the adults of the Black Badge Deputies made sure that the teenage members of their team ALWAYS had oversight.
“Okay, girls. We just worry about you at times. As we should.” Annette told them both with a smile. “Now, what goodies do you have for us?”
This brought a giggle from the teens as Rinaldo just sat there in disbelief at the flippant way the team operated.
Kasey started off for the teens. “We got just about everything you would want on our good friend Robert Hines. It took us awhile using the big boy back home, but we got into Hines’ files on Handready’s servers. That man is about as trusting as a CIA field operative about to be burned.”
“How bad are the defenses around Hines’ estate, girls?” Bobby asked them.
Kristine picked up one of the printouts. “It is multi-tiered and a major way. The only time I have seen a layering like this is on one of Nonnina’s places.”
“Damn. Not good. If Hines has a system anywhere near what mom has on her places, then we have a problem.” Annette told the other three Deputies.
Maria just chuckled. “No dear we don’t have any problems along those lines. In fact, we have more than one-way in. Look closely at each layer of the layout for the sensor coverage. Why, Rinaldo has a harder system to penetrate then this fool.”
Annette, Sam, Bobby, and Hunter, followed Maria’s direction. As they looked at the placement of the alarm sensors the gaps began to show. First there were the blind spots between three of the outer wall cameras’ coverage. Those blind spots were so glaring, that even Kasey and Kristine found them.
Next, came the missing coverage on the heat sensors. There must have been a three to five-meter-wide gap in the coverage. This gap was wide enough for the whole team to walk side-by-side straight up to the main house undetected until they were within ten to fifteen meters from the patio doors.
Next up came the sound sensors. They had been badly placed. Instead of covering the must inaccessible approaches to the main house, they covered the driveway and roads leading up to the estate. This would have been fine if the sensors were calibrated for pedestrian traffic. This layer was basically useless.
After the sound sensors came the magnetic-metal detectors. These were army surplus equipment that had been used for tracking enemy vehicles. They were sensitive enough to detect more than just vehicles though. They could also pick up the metal in weapons and personal equipment. The problem with this layer was the sensors were spaced too far apart to do thing cohesive. Just as with the heat sensors, there was a massive gap in the coverage.
"Mindy could drive her buggy practically to the back door." Maria remarked, getting giggles from the teens.
Next the team looked at the blueprints of the house and estate outbuildings. While the normal person would have missed specially constructed ‘saferooms’ and ‘hidden passageways’ Annette, Samantha, Anna, and Maria spotted them right off. It took Bobby, Hunter and Rinaldo a few more minutes to spot them, but they did. Yet, it was what Kasey and Kristine pointed out next, that had their undivided attention. Under the main house was an escape tunnel that lead straight to a boathouse on the river that ran alongside the estate grounds.
Listed among Hines’ assets was a high-speed V-hulled jet-boat. Currently docked in that same boathouse. One that Hines could use to escape. Yet, the tunnel was another matter entirely. The tunnel was not covered by any type of sensors, and the only way to access the tunnel was through Hines’ privet office. This was the team’s way in, and Hines delivery point for justice.
Rinaldo was amazed at how fast his sister’s team was able to tear apart Hine’s security system and with such ease. He had always known how good his sister was in the family traditions, but the fact that his nieces were just as good if not better was frightening. Their husbands were even more professional than his nieces. These people were not your normal law enforcement personnel.
The more time he spent with Maria and her team, the more he came to realize that the stories of an elite black bag American Law Enforcement team were true. One that worked in the shadows of the law to first hunt and then bring down those who believed themselves above the law by any means. Even among the International Law Enforcement community, everyone had heard the stories of these off the book units. Yet, no one had ever been able to prove the stories. Now, he could. If he wanted to face his sister’s wrath as she came for his head. Something that he knew Maria would have no problem doing, to protect her family.
His attention was brought back to the briefing by Kristine pointing towards a list of personnel. “We have confirmation of there being five domestic household servants on the estate. ALL are listed as being foreign nationals in service to the Hines household on work visas, really vague and definitely hinky. If I were to hazard a guess, these five servants could very well be some of the missing Juvenile Offenders from the Vassago case. One of which is a possible second Blank. No hard confirmation on this, just a gut feeling and what we’ve been tracking in the Network flow coming out of and into Hines' estate. All we can tell you is he does have a Civilian Rate-A hacker working for him. Now, if that is by their own will or not, is another story.”
Rinaldo looked over at the hardened grim faces of the four younger adults and his sister that suddenly appeared. He KNEW without having to ask that there was something about the Vassago case that unsettled the team. Something that they prayed never to face again, but knew they would have to like all police officers. He also knew that NOW was not the time to ask questions about that case. Rinaldo saw one problem for the deputies. One that he could broach without causing upheaval. How, in the world, were they going to get their trucks into Europe?
“Um… Mi scusi, maresciallo, but how are you going to get your trucks into Europa? I assume that you will be using your trucks for any operations. As it is, I know for a fact that Interpol has nothing to match what you have.” Maria looked over at her brother and smiled then waved for Kasey or Kristine to answer her brother.
“We have already arranged for a heavy lift cargo airplane to meet us at the cargo terminal at Ronald Raegan. As for the security arrangements those have been seen to by the airport police. They should arrive this afternoon between fourteen and fifteen-hundred local standard time. Speaking of that flight, we have a request from the Skipper to return the SUV to the Marshal’s motor-pool. They have it loaded on board already.” The smile on Kasey’s face let them all know that there was something else Rodrick had said. Sam just waved for her to get it over with. “The Skipper complained to the Major about running out of room for our equipment.”
This elicited a round of laughter from the Deputies. Even Maria and Anna joined in, as they understood the joke. Only Rinaldo remained silent. Bobby looked over at Kasey and Kristine with a smile.
“I think we can get rid of the SUV. After all it hasn’t moved in two years. It would be best though if we just stripped the communications gear before returning it to the motor-pool. Better yet would be for it to disappear into the streets. That way there will be no way to trace it back to us.” Bobby said for the others.
“Yes, that would be best Robert. You and Hunter handle that for us if you would be so kind.” Maria ordered then she looked back over at Kasey and Kristine. “Girls, in your rummaging around in Hines’ estate personnel listings did you by chance happen upon the number of guards he has?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Kristine answered quickly. “Thirty-two in total. All are former military of some kind, most with something called a BCD, or DHD on their DD-two-fourteens. We weren't sure what that meant.”
Kasey nodded and added. "didn't sound good either."
Hunter and Bobby both groaned when they heard this last bit. Bobby explained why when the others all turned to look at the former Green Beret. “A BCD is a Bad Conduct Discharge, and a DHD is a Dishonorable Discharge.”
“I take it that neither of those are desirable?” Maria asked with a good deal of sarcasm ringing in her voice.
“Only the most stupid and foolish want those. Most of those guys and gals that get those; really FUCKED UP while wearing the uniform. They are the Military’s way of telling civilian authorities and employers they don’t trust someone. Not even the CIA will hire a BCD or DHD.” Hunter told everyone without a military background. Then he thought about something, and amended his statement. “Usually that is. CIA has been known to do the unthinkable.”
“Damn. Could these men have high level training such as your own boys?” Maria asked.
“Unfortunately, mom the answer to that is yes. More so in the last six to eight years than before, twenty-ten.” At the blank looks he was getting Bobby expanded on his answer. “The former POTUS made a lot of GI’s pissed at the way we were fighting the war. More than a few of them got sick and tired of having to fight insurgents with one hand tied behind their backs, constant redeployments, unending or uncertain deployment lengths. Plus, a lot of other things, led to more than a few of our boys, and girls, saying fuck it, and just going AWOL taking the BCD in absentee. More than a few of them went to work for the PMC’s and PPC’s doing the same thing, only getting paid a hell of a lot more with better benefits.”
Kristine held up her hand when she heard this last part. “Um… why would these companies knowingly hire such people?”
“Because they have the training and don’t care who they are facing off against any more, or who is paying the bills. So long as they get their paycheck, they’ll fight for whoever is the highest bidder. In short kiddo, just like all Private Contractors, they’re nothing more than mercs. sometimes even giving THAT a bad name.” Hunter explained to her.
“Thank you, Hunter, for explaining that in a manner that we can all understand. Now, to the next question. Are those guards PMC, PIC, or PPC?” Annette asked.
Kasey answered this one. “PIC, mom. They were all at one-time employees of Vassago International. We still had the personnel records from their take down. Between Kristine and me, we were able to match-up faces with names, and records. Of the thirty-two guards, all, but seven have standard Infantryman training. Of those seven, three are something called Force Recon, three are British SAS, and one Navy SEAL.”
“What are the names for the heavy hitters?” Sam asked.
“They’re in the briefing folders in front of you. They’re all pretty much on the same level, but nowhere near the training of our team.” The note of confidence in Kasey’s voice was not lost on her parents. Bobby was the first to take her to task.
“Being confident in our abilities is one thing Kasey, but being over-confident is another. Force Recon, Special Air Service, and SEALs are nothing to screw around with. They very well could hand us our asses.”
“I know and understand that, Sergeant.” Kasey smiled over at her second father. “AND, I would grudgingly agree with you if not for one thing. The medical records for all seven of these men.”
That grabbed Hunter’s attention more than it did the others. “How did you get ahold of their medical records? No wait, don’t answer that. I really don’t want to know. Just what do those records tell us?”
“None of them have kept up with their PT for starters. Then there is the fact that only the SEAL doesn’t have any shrapnel in his body or metal of any kind. He was discharged in twenty-twelve, he is also the youngest and has the only General Discharge of them all. Name is Paul Mitchel. According to the Skipper, Mitchel was given his discharge when his team was wiped out in an ambush deep in the Bamyan Province mountains of Afghanistan.” Kasey looked over at her second father. “I know that this is going to sound cold, but does the Navy normally kick someone out for what is basically surviving a really shitty situation?”
Bobby sighed then answered Kasey’s question and Kristine’s unasked question. “No, they don’t, girls. There must have been more to it than what is in that report or what got out. Your teacher Krystel can give you a better idea on what can be left out of a report of that type. Especially for a Courts Martial.”
Both teens looked over at their fathers and understood the unsaid reference. This was one time that they would have to settle for what was right in front of them. With this in mind, Kristine changed the threat assessment for the guards. She moved it higher on the threat scale. Looking over at her parents.
“Now that we understand that, deputies, I believe that the threat level the guards present is higher than originally assessed. The standard guards will present a minimum threat level. The seven that are marked as having more advanced training will present a level one threat. I suggest that they be tagged as Tangos Two through Eight for elimination. Mitchel being Tango Two, and Hines himself as Tango One.” Kristine could tell that her reevaluation had been the correct suggestion.
“Now you’re starting to think like the deputy we’re training you and your sister to be, dear.” Maria told Kristine with a smile. “However, did you take into account the standard training of an Infantryman?”
“Um… No ma’am. Would their training have that great of an effect?” Kristine asked in confusion. After all, her fathers and most of her trainers were so far beyond your normal Infantryman that it was crazy.
Bobby and Hunter both sighed. Hunter looked at both teenagers and saw the confusion in their eyes. “Okay listen up, kids. This is again one time that you don’t have the reference point or training to understand the full situation. Your standard US Infantryman training covers both light and heavy crew served Infantry weapons, basic marksmanship, Infantry tactics, both small unit and platoon level, plus a whole lot more. You get a group of trained Infantrymen in a platoon sized unit and you have a very deadly force. You provide that force with the right amount of leadership and you got something that can give anyone a hard time. Believe it or not, sometimes they actually do have their shit together.”
Both girls felt their mouths drop open as they said in unison. “Oh.”
“Now, what can you tell us about their patrol schedules?” Sam asked them.
“Nothing Mama Sam. Sorry, but the household security server is a standalone complex.” Kasey answered for the teens. “This is along with the heavy follow of Internet traffic is what has both Gemini one and myself believing that we have a second Blank on our hands somewhere on the estate grounds.”
“Any idea of what that hacker is hunting for girls?” Annette asked them.
“Yes, mama Annette.” Kristine answered for them both with a smile. “Whoever they are, they’re hunting for the lost LOG and Vassago monetary assets. You know, the ones that were 'seized' during their take-downs.”
All six of the adult Black Badge team members started laughing. The fact that the only people who actually knew where those funds where, were sitting at the very same picnic table as they were was not lost on the team. For Rinaldo, it was all very confusing. He had always known that his sister would ‘confiscate’ the money of a target or contract holder if they crossed her, as was the DeMarco family way. Yet, here were five US Deputy Marshals talking about seizing vast fortunes belonging to a massive political organization and international company. None of this was making any sense to him, until he remembered that his oldest sister Maria was first and foremost the Donna for the DeMarco crime family.
She may have stepped away from the life, but she would always be the Donna of his family. As such she would conduct her business as a Marshal in the manner of a Donna. She would use every underworld connection she had ever made to bring justice to those that thought they were above the law. If needs be, he knew that Maria would also play the parts of judge, jury and executioner. There was still something that bothered Rinaldo and he felt it should be address.
“Excuse me, but how is it that you two young ladies are able to gather so much information from the server that governs Hines estate?”
Kasey just smiled, while Kristine blushed. Thankfully Sam answered for the teens. “They have very unconventional ways of gathering information, Uncle Rinaldo. If it is anywhere near a computer, they’ll rape that server and leave nothing behind but a smoking pile of metal and silicon behind.”
“GOD LORD! I want them working for me and Interpol!” Rinaldo said with a smile. “IF this is just a taste of what they can do. Do you know the kind of damage they can do with real backing? Why if I had them working for me, they could destroy organized crime in Europe in six months.”
All six of the adult members of the team chuckled when they heard this. Maria just smiled as she looked at her brother’s confused face. “Trust me, Rin. You do not want to deal with your grand-nieces when they go hunting for a target on the Internet. When they get something in their heads, they’re more stubborn than a Missouri mule, twice as mean and more than likely to destroy whatever gets in their way. That is just for amusement. What they do when it's something they hate, you never want to see.”
Rinaldo didn’t quit get the reference, but understood the meaning. He just didn’t have the background to deal with his great-nieces. He also understood that there was only two people who did. They were his sister and Anna.
Maria looked over at Sam and Annette. “Girls, while Bobby and Hunter are taking care of the SUV, I need you to take care of a little shopping for me.”
Kasey smiled before Kristine gave them the last piece of good information. “Oh, we got a really good piece of information. It seems that some of the locals in Garret County took care of that Gloria problem for us.”
“That is wonderful news girls. I take it that other team of undesirables crossed with some of the legendary hillbillies of Appalachia?” Maria asked them.
“Oh… you could say that Nonnina. We don’t have all the details, I don't think anybody does, but it seems that one of the Deputies assigned to the school is from Garret County. All we know it was a team of six men hired by Hines’ wife. Which was confirmed by John Wait. According to the Intel sent to us regarding the canceling of the Code Gloria, the locals don’t like having one of their own killed. Even if they are a Game Warden.” Kristine said with a total smile of pride for the people of Garret County.
“Well, that is even better news.” Maria quirked her lips just before laughing. Once, Maria, stopped laughing; her voice turned cold and harsh. “Now, we really, need to get moving. We have places to be, and a man to kill.”
Rinaldo did raise his hand. "Excusi. Just what, exactly, is a 'Code Gloria'?"
"Oh, that. There was a movie made sometime back, set in Vietnam, about a Firebase that was under imminent threat of attack. It was based loosely on some of the events leading up to the infamous Tet Offensive. Well the military now uses 'Code Gloria' as a way of saying that a certain location has a verified threat of impending attack." Bobby explained.
Rinaldo saw the sense in that. "I don't recall seeing such a film, but the concept does sound sensible. A very good way of warning without being obvious. Sister, I am constantly amazed at how you have incorporated the valuable military experience these two young men have."
"Train to Insane, crazy becomes do-able in combat." Kasey and Kristine recited with smiles.
Maria crossed herself. "Heaven help me, they now love to jump from the aeroplanes too."
The four Deputies and two teens laughed, then Bobby rapped his coffee cup on the table. "Let's get it. We got business." At just after ten in the morning the Black Badge Deputies broke camp and headed for the cargo terminal at Ronald Raegan to meet the C-17.
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean…
LoneStar and Pete sat at the controls for the massive C-17 as it winged its way towards CONUS. The two men were more than happy to be making this flight. The late-night briefing from Gemini had let the OICA branch on Ram’s Rock island know that the Black Badges had been successful in stopping the last hit team. That and the video feed of Maria beating the shit out John Casey Wait. They all ended up watching that three times.
With this in mind, Kimberly suggested that when the Black Badges had regrouped, they take a few hours for downtime and rest before loading up to head overseas to complete their mission. Everyone knew that the job was only half done. That the Deputies would have to go after Hines was a given. Until they could no longer operate, Dannigan had given strict orders for the military side of the OICA to stay out of their way, but to deploy into the zone and remain on Standby. As it was, the Black Badges had already shown they could get the job done and this was still a fugitive manhunt operation. However, nothing was being left to chance. Back-up was in place if needed.
The only difference between this and a normal manhunt was; the Lethal Finding hanging over Hines head. Something that Paul Dannigan, knew Maria DeMarco would carry out on her own if she had to. Her or one of her two daughters, Samantha Justice or Annette DeMarco. Only one other person truly knew just how deadly those three women could be, when push came to shove. And Paul was pretty sure that Lyssa wasn’t going to say anything.
Down in the cargo bay of the big plane, Carl was busy removing the communications gear at the request of the Black Badge ground team. He didn’t know why they wanted it done. Just that Rodrick passed long the request and to do it. Carl, like Pete and Eddie, didn’t always understand half of what the Deputies did. To him the only ones he understood, most of the time, were Bobby and Hunter. They, like him, were ex-military and they did things in a manner he could grasp. Though from different services, they spoke most of the same language.
Now the women of the Black Badges, a total mystery to him. None of what they did ever made sense. The one time he asked Lyssa about some of the training that they went through he regretted it. The training with real knives was not something he would normally think of a family doing with their children. The fact that he had seen Kasey and Kristine facing off against Sam and Annette like that was just crazy, in his eyes. Then there was the way they taught the teenagers to use firearms. None of what he and the others saw ever made sense. Except to Lyssa, though she always saw things differently.
Lyssa knew how the adults were training the teenagers. She had sat down and explain the ways, hows, whys, and whats of that Kasey and Kristine were being trained in to other members of the OICA. That fact that the teenagers were being trained in the ways of Law Enforcement, Assassination, Cyberwarfare, and Espionage floored most of the members of the OICA. Only Rodrick and Lyssa truly understood what the teenagers were being trained to be. And they; weren’t talking.
When he had the last piece of communications equipment removed, Carl stood up and stretched. He had spent the last two hours stripping the SUV that the deputies had first shown up with. Now, all they needed to do was land and turn it over to the ground team. Whatever they were up to, it was none of his business. All he knew was that they would be down in two more hours. After that they had a two-hour layover for refueling and servicing. Then they were off to Ramstein Airbase, in Germany.
Once there, their orders were to standby to back up the Black Badge team or extract them. The Major had been very clear on the matter. This was a Black Badge operation until he ordered the rest of the team in. As far as Carl was concerned, the Black Badges could have all this running and gunning bullshit that law enforcement has to do. Give him a set plan, with possible options if things go wrong, and he was happy. This cleaning up a mess after it already happened was bullshit in his mind. And from what he saw, that was all the Black Badge team ever did. Reactive, not Proactive.
When they cut their Leave Time short just to hunt down nine scumbags from outside CONUS, Carl was dumbfounded. He was impressed by their dedication to their trade. They dropped everything and jumped right into the hunt, without a second thought. He and Pete had sat around talking about it over dinner with Krystel the night everything went pear-shaped. Even Krystel, who was helping to train the teens and had more interaction with the deputies, couldn’t explain it to the two men.
Pete leaned down from the flight deck. “Twenty minutes out. How's it going Carl?”
“All set down here. All we have to do is hand this beast over to the Deputies and they’re down to just the four trucks. We get back some of our hanger space. I can’t see the rig that the girls have to work with.” Carl let the curiosity show in his voice, after Eddie told him about the Earth Rover A.L.O.C.
“Well, it’s a good thing the Super Spook got us this bad boy. As it is, we can carry six of those new M-1117 Armored Security Vehicles.” Pete said to his friend. “We’re going to need the room with four damned pick-ups. Too bad about the SUV though.”
“Bro, I have a feeling that the Marshal is going to have this thing disappear into the streets of DC. It’ll free up space back on the island.” Carl now had a clipboard in his hand. “I do wonder why Madam Maria asked for an additional two-hours layover.”
“If I had to lay odds, it would be to give us time to get the trucks locked down solid, serviced and refueled, before making the hop across the pond. Remember, this big boy maybe able to make the hop to England with ease. But, going all the way into Germany without a refuel ain’t happening.” Pete answered with some thought. “That and the time to get rid of the SUV.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right. Well, all we can do is land and find out.” Carl had a strange look on his face. “You know there are times that I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the shit the Deputies do.”
“We have our own snakes to kill, Carl. I can tell you with all certainty, all of us on this side of the house feel that way. Remember that night I got Hunter drunk?” Pete asked Carl, who just nodded his head. “I got him talking about some of the cases he, Bobby and Sam have worked. I know we gone after some really bad guys in the past, but some of the people they have hunted down are real scum of the earth. What is truly sickening is the sentences these people sometimes get. Shit that any sane world would put down them for? Only ten years for double murder, five for a pedophile. It just doesn’t make sense. We're pretty cut and dry. Go in, take out whoever and bail. Clean. Minimum Murphy factor.”
“Trust me, I hear you bro. Sam, Bobby, Hunter and Annette were all talking one night down on the beach and I overheard them. Did you know that some of the members of the LOG party got off with just fifteen years? For the ones that got snapped up in the dragnet, that was the most of them got. All thanks to some slick-assed lawyers working out plea bargains. Only the really sick fucks got any real time.” Carl sighed. “I’m amazed that more cops don’t go off the reservation to get justice for the victim of these types of crimes.”
“I think that’s why the Super Spook made Maria a Marshal and all that. They give him an option for taking down some of the really big pieces of shit in CONUS without sending in our heavy guns, like Tiffany or Lyssa.” Pete quirked his lips with a smile. “Not that the team is a bunch of slouches. Have you been watching their training lately?”
“Oh man have I ever.” Carl smiled at his friend. “They’re covering everything from parkour, TNG’s, firearms, hand-to-hand, Jump training for the girls. Not to mention that crazy martial art of the Madam’s. I thought I would shit when she had Gemini come at her with real knives. I knew that the European countries had some form of martial arts revolving around swords and shields, but that Dancing Blade shit is fucking so far out there I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen the footage. You expect that kind of shit to come out of Asia, not Sicily of all places for fucks sake.”
“I know what you mean. Maybe we can get the Madam to tell us how her family came to be perpetrators of the art during the flight across the pond.” Pete said before turning to head back towards the cockpit. “Find your seat and strap in partner. Fifteen minutes or so to touch down.”
Twenty-five minutes later the big cargo aircraft was wheeling in front of a set of unmarked hangars and shutting down it’s engines. Waiting off to one side, with Flight-line security, were the trucks belonging to the Black Badges. Maria looked out from the Hangar window at the airstrip as the C-17 rolled to a stop first, then lowered its loading ramp. Once the ramp was down, the last of the engines shutdown.
Maria had stood off to the side from the moment they entered the hangar area. Anna, knew that Maria had something weighing heavily on her mind. She had kept the team away from her longtime friend to let her think. Anna knew that part of the problem was John Casey Wait, and that Maria had been the one to kill him.
As Anna walked up behind Maria, Maria sighed. “Have I become too old for this game?”
Anna just smirked at Maria question. “No, Maria. We’re not too old. It’s just the game is changing in ways that we would never have allowed in the past. This new generation of so-called assassins have no code of honor. That boy in South Carolina taught me that harsh lesion. You cannot fault yourself with young John’s choices in life. You taught him the ways and sponsored him into the Fellowship; yes. But, you did not set his foot on the path he took in life.”
“Of all the young that I have taught over the years Anna, he was my second greatest success, and now, greatest failure.” Maria sighed out. “Why didn’t he follow the code set down by his family? I have to face his mother now and tell her the sad truth that her son turned his talented mind to terrorism.”
“That may be, Donna Maria, but you did not issue the contract that lead to his death. That man will pay for what he has done. And more.” Anna had stepped close behind Maria, and place a friendly hand on her shoulder. “And I shall be there, when we tell Natasha that her son is dead.”
Reaching up and squeezing Anna’s hand. “Thank you, Anna. I doubt that I could face her on my own. I truly wish he had not forced my hand.”
With a small bow of her head Anna smiled at Maria’s refection. “It is my honor, Donna Maria. I have been, and always will be, your friend.”
Maria chuckled, then whispered. “You did not just quote Star Trek to me.” Only to see Anna gave her a slight nod of her head, and a wink of the eye. “You’re not right Anna, you know that, don't you?"
"Perhaps I too, have spent too much time around the others and that twisted thing they call their humor. Even Prima Lyssa has her moments." Anna commented.
Maria did her best to contain her laughter. "That she does. She even ambushed me with it. For a few moments, I thought she was about to have me brought up to jump out of a plane. I may be adventurous, but not enough to willingly jump out of a plane that wasn't crashing."
"Trust me, My Donna, neither am I." Anna chuckled.
Hunter and Bobby walked over to Maria once they saw her turn around smiling. “Okay boys, once the SUV is off the plane, get it out of here fast. You know where to dump it. Just make sure that no one sees you.”
“Don’t worry Marshal. We got this one covered. In fact, we’ve had Gemini do a little digging for us. There is a car theft ring working the Annadale area. The average time for a boost is ten minutes in the right area. Gemini, has plotted out a zone for us to lose the SUV in that should have it gone in that time frame.” Hunter told Maria with a smile.
“Good work boys. Hopefully you should be back well within the two-hour layover time frame. If not, we’ll just have to hold until you do return.” Maria said, then ordered. “Now, go get that beast out of our hair.”
Both men smiled, saluted Maria and headed out to help unload the big truck as an Air Force ground crew began to go over the cargo plane. Rinaldo stood off to one-side watching as the team set about their assigned tasks. He marveled at the military like precision as the two men of the deputy marshals helped unload the black SUV from the big aircraft. He had been told that there was one other truck that the team had, but were getting rid of it now. The resources that were available to his sister Maria filled Rinaldo with jealousy.
Walking over to stand beside her, Rinaldo gave his sister a sly smile. “I envy you sister. Your team does not lack for needed supplies, Intelligence or transportation. What can I do to help you when we reach Germany?”
“Rin, I need you to start clearing the way for us to operate. I know that we’ll have to cross more than one border to get our man. That is where you come in. One way or another I have the feeling that we’re going to wind up chasing that man across more than one country.” Maria answered her brother.
Rinaldo was surprised. “What makes you think that?”
“The teams will have been out of contact for over twenty-four hours by the time we reach Lausanne, Switzerland. Yes, we can land at an airport closer, but I don’t want to push our luck if he has already bolted.” Maria explained.
When Rinaldo heard this, his stomach filled with lead. “Why do I have the feeling that Hines has done that already?”
“Remember when we were little? How we would chase the rats in the olive fields? How many times did they dive into a hole in the ground?” Maria let Rinaldo think about that for a few seconds before answering. “Almost always. How did papa get the rats out of their holes? He would pour coal oil down the hole and set it ablaze. That is what we have done here by stopping the assassination and assault teams. I fully expect for Hines to have abandoned his home in Lausanne, along with the staff that is there to face whatever is to be their fate. We may also need you to officially take charge of them temporarily to get them back to the U.S. so they can join the other poor, tormented souls in regaining their lives.”
“I see.” Rinaldo truly did understand. He had been a police officer long enough to know the depths of human depravity and cruelty. There truly was no honor among thieves. Especially among those at the top, like Hines. “Where do you think he will run to? If he does run?”
“To the one place where his money and reputation will do him the most good.” Before answering Maria gave her brother a smile that few people had ever seen and lived to tell about. The smile of a pure predator. “Home. Our home.”
Rinaldo just chuckled as what his sister said was the truth. In Sicily, money still equaled power and safety in certain areas. Rinaldo had spent the last twelve years fighting that very corruption. Now, his sister was fearing that she would be facing off against a situation that would put her at odds with the old families.
Maria watched as Hunter and Bobby left with the SUV and Black Beauty. As they departed, Maria whispered. “Be safe boys, and come back quick.”
Kasey and Kristine had spent their time waiting for the C-17 to arrive by working on finding any additional safe-houses that Hines might have in Europe. So far, they had failed to find anything, but they had only covered thirty-four of the forty plus nations that made up western Europe. The two girls had long ago stopped caring about the outside world and had fallen deep into the realm of cyberspace. With nothing more than their music playing in the background, the teens were living up to their classification as the first ever Gemini.
All across Western Europe, national cyberwarfare agencies were trying to stop the relentless assault on their property tax servers. Gemini knew that there were two things that every government kept track of better than nuclear weapons. Tax records and property records. Those records would be the ones to lead the girls to the needed information on Hines' other homes. They had been at it from the moment they had left the campground. The two teenagers never left the ALOC while waiting for the C-17 to arrive and yet to do so.
All the adults of the Black Badges knew where the teenagers were. They also knew that nothing short of losing their connection to Ram’s Rock would stop them from hunting for the information Maria wanted. With this in mind, Anna stepped had outside to talk with Pete and Carl. “Gentlemen, we have a slight problem.”
“What’s wrong Miss Anna?” Pete asked quickly.
“Nothing much really. We just need to hold off loading the ALOC for as long as possible, Peter. We can load the Gray Ghost while we wait for Black Beauty and Big Blue to return. Then they can be load next.”
Pete scratched his head for a minute. Then pulling out his calculator he began to crunch the numbers. When he had put in three sets of numbers he stopped. “Miss Anna do you know the weight of the ALOC?”
Pete’s question caught the older woman off guard. “May I know why you need to know this Peter? It’ll help me understand what your worry is.”
“I need to make sure of the weight distribution for flight. If the weight of our cargo isn’t properly distributed it could cause us all kinds of problems with stability. Trust me, we don’t want a shift in cargo during landing or take off that is not accounted for. Things like that tend to end badly.” Pete left the meaning of badly unsaid. More than one aircraft had crashed to shifting cargo over the years.
“Oh my. I had no idea that the way a plane was loaded played such an important part in the way it flew.” Anna had picked up on the unsaid meaning behind ‘end badly’. Looking over at Carl, Anna asked him for the needed information. “Carl, would you know the needed information for your comrade?”
Carl just chuckled. “Yeah. Eddie told me. Pete, the ALOC’s gross weight is twenty-one-hundred pounds, max weight with fuel and water is twenty-three-hundred pounds. It's twelve feet high, eight and half wide, and twenty-nine long. The our best option is to load it last. This is just my opinion, but I say we wait until the other Black Badges have regrouped then start loading, with Big Blue going first. Followed by Black Beauty, the Grey Ghost and finally the ALOC.”
Pete shook his head 'no'. “I hate to tell you this, but that won’t work. The ALOC weight alone will throw off the flight characteristics if it’s the last one loaded. We need to load it second, then Black Beauty, with the Grey Ghost last.”
“So, we wait for the rest of the Black Badge ground team to regroup before loading. You want to go tell Darth Vader about the hold up?” Carl asked with a mile-wide grin, knowing full well that it was Pete’s job as Co-pilot.
When Anna saw the grimace on Pete’s face she smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder. “This is not your fault Peter. This is on the Madame. Let me handle the bad news to our pilot. I know how prickly he can get about unplanned things.”
With that Anna marched up the loading ramp and into the belly of the aircraft. Anna didn’t waste time and just called out to LoneStar. “Colonel, a word if you please?”
LoneStar climbed down from the cockpit at hearing Anna’s voice. LoneStar’s muffled voice came to Anna’s ear before she saw him. “You don't have to call me Colonel, just LoneStar. Is there a problem with the team Anna?”
Even with the always present helmet muffling his voice Anna could hear concern in the man’s voice. “No. No problem with the team per-se Master LoneStar. We just have two of our trucks and their teams handling last minute chores. These chores are holding up the loading of our trucks it seems.”
Lone Star was quick to pick up on Anna’s meaning. “No problem, Anna. So long as nothing is going to hold us up more than the two hours that has been allotted for our layover. Andrews is busy and we can't tie up the flight-line and scheduled traffic. Can you tell us why we’re not loading the other trucks while we wait?”
“According to Peter, it has something to do with the weight of the trucks and ensuring there is no shifting of the load during the flight.” Anna answered him.
“If that is the case, we have to do our best to work with what we have. I have no desire to test the crash performance of this big boy. I’ve heard they can belly in at nine g’s with a full load and survive, but I’m in no hurry to find out such claims again.” LoneStar told her. “By the way where are the girls? They’re normally the first ones aboard.”
“They are doing some last-minute mining trying to find out if our target has additional bolt holes. The Madam has a feeling that Hines may have abandoned his home and the servants there for somewhere safer.” Anna told the two men.
Both men knew what that meant for the slaves in that house. It wasn’t good either way. LoneStar just grunted while Pete shook his head in disgust. “Miss Anna, you’ll have to forgive my language, but when you all catch this fuck stick; do the world a favor. Slit his goddamned throat, ear to fucking ear.”
“Trust me Master Peter. I have a feeling that it will be a race to see who gets him first.” Anna remarked.
Maria had joined them. "Wagers will be allowed."
LoneStar shook his head. "You might not want to do that."
"Oh? Would that be in poor taste?" Anna asked.
Pete shook his head. "The Super Spook. He upgraded tasking."
"Has he recalled Tiffany?" Maria asked, knowing that the young woman was in Moscow and therefore closer.
LoneStar nodded. "She should be in Geneva by now. She won't be alone, either."
Maria quickly understood. "Lyssa."
"Her and Rod took off before we did. They'll refuel in England before we're halfway across. You will have back-up in place, but on Standby until needed." LoneStar informed her. "Also, somebody will meet us at RamStein to give you license plates for the trucks for use in Europe."
"Thank you, Gentlemen." Maria said.
Pete called down to Carl to get with one of the Flight-line and get them some food and coffee for the flight. LoneStar had wanted a mid-air refuel over England, but Dannigan had to deny the request. They would land at Mildenhall to refuel. Though a Royal Air Force base, it hosted many units of the U.S. Air Force, much like RAF Lakenheath. However, the C-17 would draw less attention at Mildenhall than at Lakenheath.
As Maria and Anna walked back out of the cargo hold Anna asked. "Does the Major not trust in us?"
"He does. They will be there because they know that plans never go the way originally intended. Lyssa told me once, that having one plan is good, but not to have multiple contingencies to stay on that plan will doom it. For the take-down of that accursed ship, Rodrick did have a plan. There were also sixteen ways to stay on that plan when things went wrong. Things did, just as expected, yet they were able to still make the plan work." Maria explained.
Anna took that in. "That does sound sensible. What has you worried so?"
"That he not only sent Tiffany, but Lyssa and Rodrick as well. Any one of them would be enough, as I have learned, but he sent all three. Paul is taking no chances. He wants this whole madness ended to never rear its ugly head again. That, I do agree with him on. I, too, want this insanity to end. I do hope the girls are correct that these are the final lost souls to be found. My heart has broken so many times over those tortured children being in such misery, I'm surprised there is any of it left." Maria lamented.
Anna felt the sorrow Maria held. "Do not forget the ones that have been saved. In your own way, you have helped them muster what courage they had to reach out for salvation. That means so much, they may not know your name, but I am certain they have included you in their prayers."
Maria nodded. "Yes. Kristine's friend, Kendra, said that since the moment they stepped off that ship; they all give thanks daily for the secret soldiers that saved them along the man and woman on the computer that gave them the courage to do the first thing for themselves in a long and miserable time. The tears of joy they shed when Scarlett greeted them. And again, when Kendra recognized Samantha and Annette in the Pizza parlor. Yes, Anna. You are right. It does mean much and I should not forget them. Thank you."
Tiffany walked into the house and deactivated her alarm system, then her secondary system. After bringing in her bags, she took out her phone.
"In Genenva, no problem." Tiffany said when the call connected.
Krystel replied. "You're on Standby-no notice. Lyssa and Rodrick should be arriving soon."
"I'll be ready. Tell Kim, I'll send something for Mindy before I go back to Moscow. I'll video to her when I'm back there." Tiffany said.
"Sounds good. She misses you, but loved the stuff from Japan." Krystel assured her. "Eat and sleep for now. Out."
Tiffany signed off as well. "Will do. Out."
to be continued…
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