Maria DeMarco never thought that she would find trouble amongst her many businesses. After all they were the public face of where her money came from. She was after all a retired Prima Ballerina and like most such women she invested her money wisely. But trouble she did find and in the one place she would never have thought to look. One of the schools she loves and sponsors. Can the Black Badge Deputies ferret out the people behind the troubles before Gemini has to deal with Gym Class?
by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.
Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.
Edited by my husband Paul, and AJC Snowfall.
Office of Immediate Cover Actions Washington DC: 1530
Paul Dannigan sat back and thought about the phone call he had with Maria. He knew that the woman wouldn't hit the alarm button unless she felt it was bad. For some reason Maria knew there was more going on than just some local yokels trying to make a play on the schools.
The one part of this mess so far that really tweaked his nose is the press leak. If it was just some teenage princess trying to get even for some insult that was one thing. However, this leak had all the earmarks of an inside job. Then there were all these rumors that were flying around the two schools. Normally Dannigan wouldn't get involved in something like this, but once again there was something about the whole mess that didn't feel right.
Maria's suggestion about there being someone behind the scenes, driving all this mess, felt right. Paul had long ago learned to listen to his gut instincts about these things. Those instincts had saved his life more than once in the past. He made the mistake of not listing to his instincts one time before and because of that mistake, the LOG party caused a world of trouble. Trouble that had hurt a lot of innocent people.
The fact that someone was using children to attack the two schools though really pissed him off. Sending in the deputies undercover wasn't going to be too big of a problem. NO it was sending his two teenage granddaughters in as part of the investigation that bugged him.
He knew that the girls were more than capable of handling any physical confrontation. It would be the emotional ones that were up in the air. In his mind, they weren't ready for field work, but he and Maria knew they needed someone in the student body. The last time he looked though, none of his Operators could pass themselves off as teens. That left only two people to do the job.
The problem that was bugging Paul finally came into perspective as he thought about his granddaughters. They were both highly intelligent, and talented, just like most of the girls at that school. They were both, very pretty and quick witted, just like most of the girls at that school. They were both connected to people of great influence and power, just like most of those girls at that school. They were both a prefect cross-section of that school's student body. The only difference was that while those girls had families in political and business circles, Kasey and Kristine were connected to military and intelligence, which they were being groomed for themselves.
With this in mind, he set about writing up the tasking for the Black Badge Deputies. When Madison informed him that the teams had been assembled, Paul opened the link to the TOC.
"Deputies, the Madam has come across a situation that needs your talents." Dannigan addressed them.
Hunter, Bobby, Samantha, and Annette all looked back at him from deep inside of Ram's Rock Island. They had enjoyed their down time for the past few weeks. They had been able to hone their skills as team and work most of the bugs out of their team work. They had started to forge themselves into a solid working team. Even becoming jump qualified for even the two teens.
"Go ahead Sir. What have you got for us?" Hunter asked with a smile then went on to joke. "A pack of rabid shoplifters? No wait, I know; drug dealing nuns in the Vatican!"
"Cool it Sergeant!" Dannigan's use of rank got their attention. "Have any of you heard of the Akin Equestrian Girls School or the Savannah River Military Academy?" it took them a few moments, but Annette finally nodded her head. "I take it by the nod Deputy DeMarco, that they hold some meaning for to you?"
"Yes sir, Major. A few years ago, those two schools were part of Mama's investments to hide part of our family's money. Both schools were having a hard time due to the market crash. Why, is there something going on with one of them? Is somebody trying to pressure them into selling out?"
"At present, that is an unknown factor DeMarco. What we have is; two very respected schools under attack by unknown sources. We also have a security breach, of the worse kind. Four of the LOG party victims have had their covers blown. The person or persons behind that exposure and their motive, are also unknown. Both schools are currently shorthanded due in part to death threats against the teachers. Someone is going to a lot of trouble to drive these schools out of business Deputies. I want answers."
Samantha had been thinking about what the Major was briefing them on. "Sir, the best way to investigate something like this is from the inside. Is there any way to arrange covers for us?"
"Already being worked up as we speak deputy Justice. They'll be in your hands before takeoff in two hours. And deputies you're taking Gemini with you." All four adults did a double take while the two teens just stared at him in shock. "You heard me correctly Gemini. The two of you will be going undercover as students at AEGS."
"WAIT ONE DAMNED MINUTE HERE MAJOR!" Bobby hollered along with Hunter. While Annette wasn't far behind them with something else.
"NO WAY in Hell DADDY! You're not using my daughter, or Sam's, to flush out some scum bag!" Annette may not know her real father all that well, but she knew that her mother was in love with him. As such Annette wasn't above playing the daddy-card in this situation, not when it came to protecting her's and Sam's daughters.
"You can just shove that idea Major!" Sam put her feelings into a very simple act. She flipped the main screen the one finger salute.
"CALM DOWN PEOPLE!" Paul Dannigan roared.
Rodrick bellowed. "STAND TO!"
Bobby and Hunter went off reflex and immediately stood at Attention. Sam and Annette went silent.
"You WILL at least hear the parameters BEFORE you go ape-shit." Lyssa said in a cold voice behind them. "Hoo-aah?"
"Hoo-ahh Sergeant Major." All four grumbled.
Dannigan waited for the four adults to regain their professionalism. Once they had he approached the subject of the teens differently. "We need someone in the student body and the last time I looked, NONE of you can pass for being teenagers. Sorry people, but that is the truth. I'm not happy about this either. There is a group, or groups, of students in those schools that are part of the problem and we need to flush them out. If you know of another way, I'm all for it. On a personal note; I am reluctant to send them in, but confident in their abilities for mission success."
It took the deputies several minutes of arguing among themselves before they came to the same conclusion. Bobby spoke up for them. "Fine. We'll go with your plan. Our only requirement is; if things start to get dicey, they're pulled. Is that acceptable?"
"Absolutely. Besides, I would have set that condition myself. I don't like putting children in harm's way. I hate that I have to do it this time." Looking over at the two teens. "Gemini, at no time are you to allow yourselves to be put in place of danger. You think something is off; you exfiltrate then and there. You are to fall back to your grandmother's safe house or another secure location and await extract. That is an order! Am I understood?"
The two teens stood straight and called out together. "Sir. Yes, Sir!"
"What about their covers?" Sam asked.
Dannigan explained. "They'll be going in as the granddaughters of an appointee stationed here at the Spanish Embassy. He was a NATO officer and I know him personally, he owes me a favor and is cooperating. Their home is in Molina de Aragon, Spain. Far enough off the tourist routes that most people will be unable to recognize their accent. The Madam had informed me that they can pass themselves off as being from that region of Spain."
Both teens started to giggle then as one they started to sing the opening lyrics to one of their parents' least favorite songs, in Castilian Spanish. "Allí estaba completamente desperdicié, sin trabajo y hacia abajo. Todo dentro de ella de tan frustrante como que deriva de ciudad en ciudad. Siento como si a nadie le importa si viven o mueren. Tan así podría comenzar a poner algo de acción en mi vida. Violando la ley."
The four deputies started to laugh as the junior members of their team showed off for the big spook. Even Kimberly was having a hard time keeping a straight face as the teens sang 'Breaking the Law' by Judas Priest. When Paul heard his two granddaughters singing he was impressed and decided to see if they really knew what they were getting into.
"Así que señoritas hacen crees que puedes mantener con las partes de dos señoras castellano de clase alta de la riqueza?" So young ladies do you believe that you can carry on with the parts of two high class Castilian ladies of wealth? Dannigan asked.
"Sí a Comandante. Español fue uno de los idiomas más fáciles que hemos aprendido. La parte más difícil será recordar donde estamos de. Molina de Aragón no es uno de los destinos turísticos. ¿No sería mejor para nosotros que en lugar de decir Madrid, o Sevilla?" Yes Major. Spanish was one of the easier languages we have learned. The hardest part will be remembering where we're from. Molina de Aragon is not one of tourist destinations. Would it not be better for us to be from say Madrid, or Seville instead? Kristine answered for the two of them.
"Sería mejor si tuviéramos un punto de refinanciamiento para nuestros compañeros de clase, Señor. Mayoría de las personas no tiene idea de parte de España." It would be better if we had a point of refinance for our class mates, sir. Most people have no idea about part that part of Spain. Kasey laid out what she and Kristine saw as a flaw in the cover story.
"Very good girls, I am impressed by your ability to learn the subtle nuances of the Spanish language. However, that is the main reason you will be from the Castilian region. The less people know where you two are from, the better off and safer you will be. I don't trust these people to not take a run at two children. They have already seen fit to blow the cover of four young people who have already been hurt beyond reason to the media. Kristine, they targeted your old friend Kendra." Paul saw something come over the fourteen year old girl's face. Something he had seen in the eyes of his older operatives and her parents.
"Then THEY have made a mistake. They screw with Kendra, they must really want to get a beat down. That girl may have been broken by Carstairs and those pigs from Vassago, but she was still able to get a message out to me. She'll bide her time then strike." Kristine knew that Kendra was stronger than what people thought.
"Well, we're not going to leave her swinging in the breeze, waiting for that to happen. You girls are going in and your mission is to find and report the bullies behind this. If they screw with you; you are cleared to handle the problem, short of killing them. You want to put the fear of god and the devil in them, fine. You want to put the beat down on them, you're cleared for action. However; no matter what happens, you are not cleared to blow your cover by hurting them beyond needing to go to the school nurse. Bloody noses, and black eyes are okay. Broken bones and burst organs, are not." Paul felt he had to put that restraint on the teens. If he didn't, he knew that the girls could go too far. He was not surprised by their response.
"Yes sir. We understand. Life-altering beatings are fine, but doctor visits are off limits. We'll find the leak for you, Sir." Kasey and Kristine said in tandem.
Dannigan hid the smile. "How did you know that I was looking for a leak Kasey?"
"It's simple sir. Someone in the student body had to be the one to notify the press about Kendra and the others being there. The staff of that school, and its brother school are beyond reproach. To them, security of the students comes first. Grandmother and Mama have told me about them and the students that go to those schools." Kasey explained.
Annette like all the adults in the TOC was impressed by the maturity of the two teens. Krystel was the proudest of all those not seen as a parent to the two girls. Sure, she was their mentor and primary teacher, but she was still proud of the girls. Krystel had taken the order from the Major to spend four hours twice a week with training the girls to heart. She had even gone so far as to push that time to four hours four days of the week. It had taken some talking with Annette and Sam to do it, but she got it done. Now her two students were about to go into the field for the first time.
"It seems, deputies, that your junior team members are further along in their training that what we all believed. I can only say I am sorry for tasking them like this, but only they can get us the needed Intel." Dannigan said then said pointedly. "And that is EXACTLY your mission. INTEL. Observe and report, do not engage unless you are engaged."
Sighing Bobby stepped forward for the team. "Sir, we know that this is an unusual situation. We just hope that you have a plan for us to be there to cover Gemini."
"You better damned well believe I do Sergeant First Class Everbrite." Paul cleared his throat. "Attention to orders. Sergeant Frist Class Everbrite and Sergeant Frist Class Taugh are to report to retired Colonel Charles Boatwright, USMC retired, at the Savannah River Military Academy. There you will act as instructors for the students there. Your point of contact will be Gunnery Sergeant Jacob Hightower, USMC retired."
Both Sam and Annette started to laugh when they heard that both Bobby and Hunter would be acting as teachers at the military academy. It was just too funny for the women. They stopped laughing though at Paul's next words. "Deputies Justice and DeMarco; you are to report to the Akin Equestrian Girls School where you will both take up positions as substitute teachers for History, Modern History, English 101 and 102 at the request of Mrs. Scarlet Boatwright. Team members Gemini; are to be enrolled as students at AEGS. Their cover will be as stated before. You have your orders Deputies. Carry them out and put a stop to this before it gets further out of hand."
The entire Black Badge Deputy team stood up and called out. "Sir, YES SIR!" then Paul cut the connection.
"Well Maria, they are on their way. I hope that they can stop this before it gets to the point that the other side of the house needs to be deployed." Paul said into thin air.
Ram's Rock Island, 1630;
Kimberly had been reading the tasking and now took the briefing. "Alright girls time to earn your stripes. We know that you have wanted to get out in the field, and this looks like the perfect chance for you. Well, you couldn't be more WRONG. We currently have several unknown subjects targeting those schools. Then there is the fact that we don't have any idea of how many students are in on this. We have an unsub, or unsubs, working in the background putting pressure on the local cops to stay out and not investigate the threats or violence against the schools or their teachers. In short we have a terrorist cell operating in the back ground that is well funded and most likely in the pockets of whomever is behind all this."
"Girls, this is not playtime. Neither your father nor mothers want you anywhere near this mess. If things go south; you bail." Hunter had taken to the role of uncle to the teens ever since they had returned from the reservation. He wasn't about to let them get hurt.
"Uncle Hunter we know this is no game. We know that we wouldn't even be going if it wasn't for the fact that we can work undercover as students. The only way to find out who blew Kendra's and the other slaves' covers is for us to go in." Kasey wasn't going to let their parents put any more restrictions on her or Kristine.
"We can handle a few bullies. We may even be able to help the other girls in the school." Kristine said before she smiled at her sister. "Look, all those girls are stuck in a boarding school far from home. Most of them may only see their parents once a year, twice at most. We can show them how to be strong and rely on themselves and each other. The right way."
All of the adults could tell that the teens were afraid. That they were covering it up by acting like the adults that were their role models. They wanted to be Operators and Deputies. This would be the next step into that world. One that none of the adults wanted them to take.
Kimberly walked over to them and started to hand out packets. "Deputies these are your cover ids. Inside you'll find everything you'll need. Deputies Justice and DeMarco, to give you a reason for being with Deputies Everbrite and Justice off school grounds I have arranged for you to be their wives. Samantha, as you have the educational background for History, you will act as the incoming History sub. Annette, seeing as how you have an educational background in both dance and languages, it was best if you went in as the English sub. Bobby, Hunter, we're in a slight bind when it comes to your covers."
"Let me guess. The Gunny didn't want to give up the Intel on which classes the schools needs covered. Don't worry about that Kimberly. Between Hunter and I, we can cover most educational courses in a Military Academy. The biggest problem will be finding uniforms for us. Uniforms that won't give away too much about us, but will still be creditable among the cadets." Bobby told her.
"I have arranged for you to land in Columbia, South Carolina. You'll be able to get what you need at Fort Jackson. You will find a DA 3645 and a DA 3645-1DA uniform replacement request in your packets. There are also DA 5691-R, DA 1618-R, DA 591A, forms for to cover your transfer to civilian instructors along with PCS ORD AMD orders. You will also find a DD 2760. That should cover the gun lockers in your trucks and your personal weapons. With all that, you should be covered. You take off in three hours deputies. Gemini will follow tomorrow on civilian transport. I believe that you all need to go get packed. Gemini pack your school uniforms. They'll cover you for at least two weeks before having to get the school uniforms for AEGS." Kimberly had been working on the packets from the moment that the major called.
Kasey held up her hand. "Question. Why we are going by civilian transport, instead of traveling with the others?"
The question caught Kimberly by surprise. "Why would you be traveling with your parents on the C-17 Kasey?"
When Kasey shrugged Lyssa explained. "You're underage and coming from outside the country officially. Therefore you must enter the country officially. You'll pass through customs in D.C. and catch a hop down to South Carolina. Shawna will meet you at the airport and fly you down there on her Lear. Do you understand why you have to go to D.C. to enter the country?"
"No Prima Lyssa." Kristine said then it hit. "You said Customs. So our passports get stamped and we're entered into the system. A PAPER TRAIL!"
The Operators softly clapped to confirm her theory.
"But our passports are American." Kasey stated.
Krystel smiled. "You'll have Spanish passports by morning."
"Will they look real enough?" Kristine asked. "Or is that a dumb question?"
"Not so dumb." Kimberly told the girl. "However, the answer to your question is yes, they will be the real thing. As will Anna's. She will travel with you as your Governess. High-echelon girls, such as you, would never be traveling unsupervised. They would have a handler of some kind. Anna will ensure you are accepted into the school before returning to consulate to report and receive new instructions. In reality she will rejoin your Grandmother. Now are there any more questions?"
"What exactly are we supposed to be looking for? Are we there to just find the bullies or the leak?" Kasey asked with concern filling her voice.
"Good question Kasey, and it's not an easy one to answer." Sam told the teen. "Your main responsibility is to find and identify the bullies, after that, whoever is acting as the leak. Once you have done this, let either me or Mama Annette know soon as possible. You are NOT to engage them unless you're forced to. Understand; your primary duty is investigation, not apprehension. That is OUR job."
"Okay, we get that. What about the other part? What if we find that there is more going on in the student body?" Kristine asked.
"Then you tell either Mama Sam or me, Kristine." Annette answered. "We do not want you two getting in over your heads. And remember; if things go sideways, YOU BAIL. We'll make sure that you know where to go. Your grandmother is most likely setting up two or three safe houses for us to use as we speak. You two are not ready for taking on the bad guys head on yet. Do you two understand?"
Both teens nodded their heads yes.
"Observe and Report." Kimberly stated. "You are working INTEL only."
Kasey asked one more question. "What about our uniforms? They don't have any school crest on them. How do we explain that? Do we just say that we've bounced between so many that it was best not to have crests put on them?"
"Yeah, when we get to the schools will there be enrollment paperwork for us?" Kristine asked on the heels of her sister's question.
"Damn they have been paying attention in class and training. We'll have the enrollment paperwork ready for you girls along with school transcripts ready for you by the time you launch. You'll be fully backstopped, not even the NSA will give you a second look." Kimberly answered. "You'll have to forgive us girls but we never thought we would have to set something like this up for teenagers. We're used to setting these up for adults. Lucky we have the time to get it together to pass civilian inspection. We spent a week at the time setting up all of Shawna's legends. A month for Tiffany."
"Mrs. Kimberly, this is not a normal operation. Putting together cover ids for our parents was easy, normal. You're having to deal with a whole new set of factors for setting up our cover ids." Kristine said to the Intel Operations operative. "You never thought about these things as they don't apply to our parents or to Lyssa and the others. The reason is they are all adults and have believable back stories in place. As far as the rest of the world knows we don't exist. Right?"
"Well I can guarantee you that this will never happen again." Krystel commented from her terminal. "By the time you two get back I will have at least three, possibly four or five, legends for you girls. I should have started on these before now."
"Krystel, it is not your fault. We." Sam said as she pointed to the four deputies. "Should have thought of this possibility long before now. The problem is none of us ever thought that we would be needed to investigate a school. We've been dealing with criminal organizations, political power brokers, and white slavers. They were never to be put in harm's way like this. They were supposed to be learning how to be something other than deputies or operatives."
Sam was interrupted by the teens as they wrapped her in a hug. They could see that this situation didn't set well with her. After they hugged Sam they did the same with Annette.
"We got this moms. You guys have the hard part. You have to find who is behind all of this and shut them down. All we got to do is make ourselves targets for the school bullies and put them in their place or turn them over to the teachers. Which will be you two." Kasey said with a smile.
"Yeah, those princesses will never see us coming. When we hit them it will be like a Mack truck hitting a compact." Kristine was smiling at the trucker reference. She had a great deal of respect for truckers.
"Okay you two, but don't let them put you in a situation you can't get out of. That could be just as dangerous for you as it is for them." Bobby told the two teens.
"Yes Sir. We'll keep an eye on our Six." Kasey quipped.
"You have been spending too much time around Eddie young lady." Annette said with a lopsided grin.
Annette's joke got everyone laughing as the two teens blushed. They had been found on more than one occasion hanging around the aircraft mechanic. They both could almost always be found helping Eddie with something and grease up to their elbows when not in class or training with Krystel.
"Okay people, we need to be wheels up in two hours. Kim I take it that Lone Star and Pete are flying us out on the Globe Master?" Bobby started off with and at her nod, smiled. "At least this time we're not disembarking in flight ladies. While Hunter and I get the trucks loaded you get our bags packed. Kristine seeing as how you know more about the secure laptops and cells, draw what you need for you and your sister. Kasey, make sure that you and your sister's personal protection weapons are cleaned and secured in your black bags. Have Lyssa inspect them. Also you'll need to pack one Smith & Wesson M&P BODYGUARD® 380 with extended barrel with suppresser for each of you."
"Bobby are you sure you want them to have access to firearms?" Krystel asked, already working up the girls' covers.
"Yes Krystel I'm sure. Their knives, collapsible batons, and shock gloves are fine for close in, but if they have to run; they'll need the reach the pistols will give them." He looked over at his daughters. "Girls, at no time are you think that you're."
"We know dad. We get it already. If things go south, we bail. No questions, no bold attempts to help, we just bug out and let you guys do your thing. We are not to engage the bad guys, unless forced to engage." Kasey sighed then looked up at Bobby. "We got it already. We know we're not to put ourselves in danger. My only question is, how are we going to explain them to the house mothers if they find them?"
"That is why I told you to pack the black bags. So you won't have to! In the bottom of each case is a hardened lockbox. Place the BODYGUARD® 380s in those and keep the keys ON you at ALL times. Keep your batons with you, leave your knives and shock gloves in your lockboxes. You’ve come a long way in your single stick fighting and you should be able to hold your own in a pinch." Bobby gave the teens a look that he reserved for trainees. "You are going in blind to a hostile situation, but you can't carry firearms, what do you do?"
Both teens had, had this question put to them before. They answered at the same time. "Bide our time. Collect Intel on our unsub. Wait for backup. Avoid contact. Report in on hourly basis."
"Good girls. Now we all have our individual duties let's get on it people. Like Kimberly pointed out, we have less than two hours before wheels up." At Bobby's command the Black Badge Deputies left to take care of their assigned tasks.
Kimberly called out. "Sam. Annette. Take at least three suits with you. Madison is picking up a few more. Suits with pants and skirts. I already sent her your sizes. Shawna will have them with her and have Anna take them. Girls, we'll have some gear for you to take along with your kit."
The five nodded back and left.
Kimberly and Krystel looked over at each other. Kimberly was the first to comment. "You would know best; do you think Gemini is ready for this Krystel?"
"Honestly Kim; I have to say no, but then again when it comes to those two teens, I think we have to use a different scale. A few months ago if you had told me that there was a pair of teens that were just short of Deity Class cyber-warfare specialists, I would have laughed in your face. Now though, I have to revise that. With just the short time that I have been working with them over last year they have grown by leaps and bounds. I won't even go into what they have learned from the Madam, Major, and Lyssa. Hell, even now they speak what seven languages fluently."
"It's nine languages, and you're right. They are scary as hell already in hand to hand; single stick, knife fighting, and that hybrid martial art Madam Maria has been teaching them. I don't even want to think of what they'll be able to do in three to four more years. Krys I thought I would never say this, but I believe that by the time those two teens finally leave the island they’ll be just as deadly as Tiffany, if not more so. The only reason I am saying that is they have two of the deadliest women we know of teaching them. Lyssa admitted there are things she'll never teach, and some things she can't."
Krystel looked up at her friend and then over at the door. She thought about the woman who had brought her into the OICA and the woman that was Lyssa's friend, and wife of their commanding officer. "You know something Kim, I almost feel sorry for the boy that tries to pressure one of those girls into prom night sex."
"I don't." Kimberly grinned, prompting both to laugh.
Akin Equestrian School for Girls, 1600;
Maria DeMarco was not a happy person as she left AEGS grounds. She had promised help for her friend Scarlet and the help was on the way. That wasn't what was on her mind though. What she couldn't figure out was why the two schools were under attack like they were. It made no sense in her mind. Both schools brought a level of respectability and international recognition to the local area. Not really thinking about what she was doing Maria voiced her question into thin air.
"Ma'am, was that question directed at me?" The driver asked from up front.
"What? Oh, I didn't realize I was speaking out loud, driver. No, I wasn't asking that. Besides, this is my problem, and none of your concern." Then Maria remembered what the driver had said before she went into the school. "However, if you want to answer my question, I would like to hear your answer."
"Okay ma'am, but remember you had the chance to tell me to mind my own business. The reason that AEGS and SRMA are being attacked is because of two families. They don't want the schools here because they draw too much attention to the area and the dirty politics that take place here." The driver said flatly.
Maria now gave her undivided attention. "How so? And who are these families?"
"Well ma'am, I think I would be best if I tell you about the two families first. Now you have to understand that they have been going at each other sense the Civil War. On one side, you have the Gilroy family. Old money made off the cotton and tobacco trade in the eighteen hundreds. They also dealt in the slave trade. After the War, they were able to keep most of their land by forcing the freed slaves into signing it back over to them. While Collin Gilroy was doing that, he was able to grab up a few acres from Ashburn Henley. That was what started the feud between the two families during the reconstruction era." The driver said.
"So he was arrogant, treacherous, vindictive, mean-spirited and greedy." Maria listed. "I take it those were his good qualities?"
The driver nodded. "There were a few deaths between the families, but the feud never really heated up like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s did. Over time, the two families went at each other using lawyers and the courts. After the First World War, the two families sat down and called a truce. You see, they both lost more than one of the heirs to the family fortunes."
Maria sighed. "Yes. That happened to many families of influence."
"Not wanting the Feds, or the State, getting their hands on all that money; the two families started to work together. Now over the next few generations they have been able to pretty much tie up every elected positions in the County Government and the City Council. In short ma'am, they run the county, not just Akin city. As for North Augusta, that city's entire council owes either the Henley’s or the Gilroy’s." He told her.
"Sounds familiar." Maria commented.
The driver nodded. "Both families get a cut of every dollar spent in this county. If I had to guess, I would say that Mrs. Scarlet and the Colonel haven't been making payments to the Business Council and other local 'business charities'. If you're really one of the owners’ ma'am, take a little advice. Just pay the Gilroy and Henley families what they want. After that they'll leave you alone. If you don't; they'll make life for those two schools a living hell. They'll go so far as to have the schools investigated for faking grades on scores on the Common Core Tests. I wouldn't put it past them to fake up charges to get the creditability of the schools destroyed."
Maria's eyes took on a glint. "Oh really?"
"Trust me ma'am, those families don't play by the same rules as the rest of us. They have been taught from the time they could chew on their silver spoons the Golden Rule. The one that goes, 'He who has the gold, makes the rules.' They believe that too ma'am." The driver never took his eyes off the road as he filled in Maria on the two families.
"Out of curiosity; why haven't the local police put a stop to these over-indulged individuals? Surely there have been violations of the laws by the younger members." This was something Maria needed to know.
The driver gave her the look of disbelief. "Are you joking ma'am? The amount of jobs and banks they control, makes them harder than diamonds to crack. Even the SC SLED won't go near them. Not like they haven't tried mind you. On more than one occasion they have been all set to take down either the Gilroy or Henley families and the case had to be dropped. Always due to lack of evidence or witnesses. Something always happens to the evidence, it has to be thrown out because it has been tainted or the witnesses disappear. Some of the witnesses have even wound up dead. Most looked like accidents, but a few were true hits."
The more Maria heard, the more she realized that it was more than just a few insider families at work here. The more she heard, the more she came to look at the situation from a Mafia Donna's point of view. Yes, it was a good thing that she had really called for her team. She knew that she was going to have a fight on her hands. This time she might even be able to cut the head from the snake before it got too big.
Maria shifted mental gears. "How is it that you know so much about the two families’ young man?"
"Ma'am you must really not be from anywhere in South Carolina. There isn't a man, woman, or child in these parts who haven't heard about the Gilroy’s or Henley’s. They are some of the most infamous people in South Carolina. They are part of that whole Old Southern Rich Families deal. Some people say they even started it, and I wouldn't put it past them. Not when you think about how they came out better off at the end of the war, than the start of it. Trust me ma'am; when it comes to those two families, expect them to play dirty and use the law to do their dirty work." The conviction in her driver's voice had Maria's attention.
"I take it young man that you or your family, has gone up against these Gilroy’s and Henley’s at some point in the past?" Maria asked.
"I wouldn't be driving this limo if not for them ma'am." The driver looked up at her in the review mirror. "My father used to own one of the bigger lumber companies in the area. Old man Gilroy decided that he was a threat to his own lumber yards and made my father an offer, a third of the going price. When my dad didn't accept Gilroy's offer, our lumber yard burned to the ground two weeks later. When the Arson Investigator showed up, he didn't even try to make it look good. The bastard told my father straight to his face that he should have accepted the Gilroy offer. Anyway; the Arson Report read that the fire was caused by negligence, on part of the owners. The insurance company refused to pay out and SLED was told that the report was correct. So no ma'am, there is no love lost between me and those two families. If one of them was on fire in front of me right now, I wouldn't put out the fire with a sledge hammer or piss."
Maria thought about what the young man had just told her. While she was used to dealing with criminal organizations and full blown syndicates, families like this were a whole another matter. They had political influence and economic power. They would not be easy to take down. Especially if they had the local law enforcement in their pockets along with the District Attorney's office. If they had their hooks into one or more of the local judges’ things could get dicey.
Maria asked to make sure. "Tell me. Are any of the family members sitting Judges?"
He shook his head. "No ma'am. The Gilroy’s and Henley’s have been real careful about that. None of their members are anywhere near political positions. They stay out of the lime light as much as possible. They like to work from behind the scene. You know the power behind the throne so to speak. Own them, not be them. If you know what I mean."
Maria nodded. "I'm familiar with it. Thank you young man. You have given me a lot to think about. I take it that the Gilroy’s and Henley’s not above hiring outside talent to handle unwanted problems?"
"You would be right to assume that ma'am. It is nothing for somebody to show up in the Akin or North Augusta area one day and a problem for either the Gilroy’s or Henley’s to disappear the next. The biggest problem is connecting them to the families. Nobody wants to talk and the SLED DA just can't get anything on either family." The driver stated.
"So, whenever the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division District Attorney tries to take one of the two families to court, something always pops up to end the investigation or destroy the case. Is that what you're telling me young man?" Maria asked.
"IN a nut shell ma'am. Oh, we should be at the offices for Southern Costal shipping in another ten, maybe fifteen minutes ma'am." He informed her.
"Thank you driver, just pull around in front and let me out at the main entrance. After you drop me off, I would like you to remain on the clock. I know that I have already gone past the contract limit." Maria knew that the girls would need a pickup at the Columbia Airport and a limo driver would be perfect for that. She also knew that this young man had a beef with the Gilroy and Henley families.
"Sure ma'am, no problem. MMACS has a standing contract for unlimited miles and hours, so you're not over any limit." The driver affirmed.
"Thank you so much. The reason I need you to remain on the clock is a pickup at the Columbia Airport. Can you make it there in three hours?" Maria asked
He nodded. "Not a problem ma'am. I can be at the main terminal in two hours using the Interstate or an hour and a half going the back roads. Who do you need me to pick up and where do I need to drop them off?"
Maria doubled checked the text message form Kimberly that she had received as she was leaving AEGS. "Oh. My mistake. Not today, but tomorrow at noon I need you to pick up two women and two girls at the Eagle Airlines terminal over at the private charter and cargo annex. Their names are Justinian and Angeles Carmen. It is a pair of sisters that need to be delivered to AEGS. They will be accompanied by their governess and a woman with the State Department."
"Excuse me ma'am, but are the young ladies by chance part of a diplomatic family staff?" Asked the driver.
Maria nodded. "Yes, they are. Is this a problem?"
"No ma'am, I just need to know who I am picking up for our records. As for when and where to pick them up, no problem." He replied.
Maria smiled. "Thank you. I know that you wanted to be heading home by now."
The driver stopped Maria with a smile. "Mrs. DeMarco, you'll have to forgive me, but I'm a bachelor with no one waiting for me at home. Besides it is not every day that I get to say I did a favor for Prima Maria 'the Dove' DeMarco. Yes ma'am, I know who you are. I googled you after I dropped you off at the AEGS admin building."
Maria chuckled. "Very clever. I must say young man, you have me at a disadvantage. You know a lot about me, but I don't even know your name."
"It's Steve Cox ma'am. And if you can help Miss Scarlet and the Colonel, then I'll make the pickup free of charge." Steve chuckled.
"Well Steven, it is my prevailing hope to do just that." Maria answered truthfully. "You have already given me a great deal to work with."
Steve tapped a finger to his forehead, tipping an imaginary cap. "You're welcome, Mrs. DeMarco. By the way, how are you going to get around after I drop you off?"
"I will use a company car Steve. I may be getting up in my years, but I can still drive a car just fine. Now please be careful with the young ladies. They are more than just the granddaughters of some political hack. They're the granddaughters of a very dear friend."
"Well if you should need a driver while in the area ma'am, take my card please?" Steve handed Maria a business card with just one number on it. "That number will reach me twenty-four seven Mrs. DeMarco. I may not live in the Akin area anymore, but if you can help take down the Gilroy or Henley families; you'll be hailed a hero. Nobody likes them, but everybody is afraid of them. You'll have your hands full."
Maria smiled. "Of THAT, I have no doubt Steven. No doubt at all."
To be continued.
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