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.
Savanah River Military Academy…
Walker Lange stood outside of the fourth-floor latrine making sure that younger kids were left alone to shower and cleanup. He, like the other six hardcore bangers, knew that this was one of the Drill Team’s favorite targets. Stoney McFeeters was inside standing guard in case the dirt bags got past him. Not that Walker was going to let that happen any time soon. The other members of the team were watching over the other floors.
Walker knew that the Drill Team had to make a move soon. Ever since Gunny Hightower put their asses in a sling earlier that day. After calling them out on their bullshit hazing ritual of forcing the younger kids to shower in ice cold water. Gunny told them in no uncertain terms that it stopped tonight. Everyone could tell that the Drill and Rifle Teams didn’t like having their fun screwed with.
Those two Sergeants had called Walker and the others, their Force Multipliers. The former gang members may not have the training that Everbrite and Taugh have, but they knew how to fight. This was their first stand. Tonight, he and the others were sending a message to the fuck-sticks in the Drill and Rifle teams. Walker looked down the hall and smiled.
Knocking on the door Walker called out. “Got company Stoney.”
Stoney McFeeters stepped out into the hallway. The two gang bangers stood there waiting as the Henley punks, and four of their stooges walked up.
Bradly Henley walked straight up to Stoney. “Beat it McFeeters; or I’ll make sure your parole officer hears you’ve been banging again.”
Stoney McFeeters used to go by the street name of Blue Black for a reason. He liked to turn people black and blue by beating the piss out of them. For the past two years, he had gone out of his way to keep his more violent tendencies under control. Now, though he had orders to facedown the Drill Team and put a stop to their bullshit.
“Not happening Henley. In fact, you and your little clique are done. From now on; you want to screw with the underclassman, you got to go through us. Personally, I hope you’re dumb enough to try us. I have been wanting to send you, your brother, and Gilroy to the Medics for a while now.”
“Look, you ignorant nigger, we run this school! Not the Old Man or the Gunny. We run the fucking county, and soon the State. If you don’t want to end up back in juvie, you’ll do what you’re told. BOY.” Bradly Henley made three mistakes in his little speech. The first was jabbing Stoney in the chest with his finger. The second was calling Stoney a nigger and boy.
Stoney grabbed Bradly’s finger and bent it backwards, while punching him in the jaw with his right hand. The other members of the Drill Team seeing this decided to jump on Stoney. Walker Lange had known Stoney for a while now and knew what was going to happen the minute Henley opened his mouth.
Walker, like Stoney, had left his street name behind when he was accepted to SRMA. He had also left the weapon that had given him that name behind. However, as he waded into the fight it was not Cadet Lange, but Batboy that took the fight to the Drill Team. Like Stoney, Walker had kept his anger in check for the past two years. Now that he had orders to put an end to the Drill and Rifle team’s horseshit, he was going to carry out those orders, starting right now. The unexpected attack from the two former gang members had caught the Drill Team members off guard.
The fight had another twist as a third individual stepped in on the side of the last chance boys. Tommy Hickman had been at SRMA since the fourth grade. He was there thanks to a scholarship from the VFW. He was awarded the scholarship after the death of his father in Afghanistan. He had watched Gilroy and the Henley’s screw with everyone they could get away with. When they tried him four years ago, Tommy Hickman put a beat down on Stephen Gilroy in their eight-grade year.
Of the six team members, none of them had ever really had any type of training. Their arrogance was coming back to bit them in the ass. They truly believed that numbers made for lack of training or experience. Between the two gang bangers and military brat, all six members of the Drill Team would be needing medical attention.
“Damn Hickman, I never knew you could fight like that. Who taught you how to throw a beating like that?” Stoney asked Tom who had taken out four of the Drill Team.
“My dad and uncles. What I want to know is; why are you two endangering your chances by dealing with these fuck-sticks?” Tom Hickman asked.
“We got orders that cover our asses, bro. Check it, just walk away now and the Gunny won’t know about this. We appreciate you helping us out man, but you don’t need to get sucked into a scene.” Walker really like the scrappy white boy from Lexington. “We know you’re here on one of them special VFW scholarships Hickman. Just walk away and we’ll cover for you.”
Stoney chuckled. "Walk, Hell. You can strut Hickman. We got this."
“Not happening, guys. I know that you and four other members of the last chance crew met with those SF guys earlier. I figure they tagged you guys as their local assets to take on the alpha assholes and have some way of covering your asses. Even if you take out the core members of the alphas, you will still be outnumbered and outgunned. Four to one. You guys are all experienced streetfighters, but none of you have any real training. That’ll get you by with most of them, but not Sterns, Case, Hall, Freeman, Rogers and Daily. Those six are also members of the karate team and carry brown belts or higher. They know how to fight and are trained to do so. You get where I’m coming from?”
“So, what? All that fancy-assed kung fu bullshit will do is get them hurt all the faster. It’s no good in a REAL fight, man.” Stoney just knew that he was right. He had taken out more than one martial arts dipshit back in the day. Sure, none of them had been brown belts or higher, but it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run.
Tommy just shook his head and sighed. “You know something Stoney, you can be a real dumb-ass at times. Listen to me before you go thinking that taking on those six will be easy. They’re all TRAINED fighters, not a bunch of posers. They’ll wipe the floor with your asses. Now I can handle them, I have the training and the background. You guys don’t, none of you have the training. You go at them and you’ll get hurt. Hurt bad in ways that none of you have ever seen. You want to take them; you need training, I can give that and then some.”
The two gang bangers shared a look, then said as one. “De oppresso liber!”
“Damn; they really suckered you guys in if you’re using that motto. By the way, what are these orders you guys were talking about?” Tom really wanted to know. Especially if they were the ones he was thinking about.
“The ones we were given were from some General in JCS. They talked about standing against the darkness and freeing the oppressed. Becoming teachers and leaders of men. Being more than just a blade, but healing the soul of the people. There was a whole lot of other shit like that in those orders. Oh yeah, and the orders were signed by some guy named Kennedy.” Stoney then reached into his pocket and pulled out the copy he had been given.
It didn’t take Tommy long to recognize the orders. Two seconds actually. He had read them before, several times. Just about every Brat that had gone to the Infantry Museum had read those orders in the Special Forces annex. Those orders were signed by President John F. Kennedy when the Special Forces Units were first formed. They were not really orders in the traditional sense, but were part of a speech JFK had given explaining the mission of those brave men in Vietnam at the beginning of their deployment.
“IF you guys are truly following these orders then I'm in and to Hell with whatever comes down the pipeline.” Tommy handed the copy back to Stoney with a smile.
“Say bro, can you tell us why these orders got you so worked up? I mean they’re just like your ordinary special operations orders right?”
“You guys really need to learn about the man who wrote those orders and why he gave them. After that, you need to read about the man who signed them. Don’t you get it? Those are the original orders for the Special Forces in Vietnam.” At the stunned looks on their faces Tommy almost laughed, but held it in at the last moment. “Those orders have been in place for more than half a century and have never been changed.”
“Damn dude. How do you know all this shit?” Walker asked him.
“Because my dad, wore the Beret. I know those orders better than anyone else at this school with the exception of those two new instructors. If there is one thing that I want more than a spot in a university, is to win a Green Beret of my own. And if helping you crash a bunch of alpha assholes gets me closer to that; then I am ALL in.” The two gang-bangers knew that there was now no way of talking Tommy into walking away.
“Welcome to the fight bro. Know of any more hidden fighters?” Stoney asked with a twisted smile.
“More than a few bro, more than a few.” Tommy gave them a sly smile. “Follow me gentlemen and I’ll be more than happy to introduce you to a pack of fighters that not even the Drill Team Heavy weights screw with.”
The temporary home of Maria DeMarco…
Maria and Anna pulled into the driveway of the house Maria was using in Akin. Anna started to giggle, the giggle quickly turned into a chuckle, which turned into a full blown belly laugh. There, sitting on the door-step were the adult members of the Black Badge team.
“As I said Anna. They better have their happy asses waiting for us to get home. Now, seeing as we are running late and the boys have most likely not eaten yet, let’s not keep them waiting.” Maria exited the car and greeted Sam and Annette with a hug and kiss. “I see that you have managed to bring the pizza girls. Let’s get inside before we attract any unwanted attention. By the way, how long have you four been waiting?”
“We waited for Gemini and their friends to get back to campus before heading over here. As for our friend Farley, she won’t be bothering anyone at the school for a long time.” Annette smiled at her mother.
“Yes, it seems that she has a terminal case of P.D.S.” Smirked Samantha.
“I take it that she was the main cause for most of the problems among the teaching staff, ladies? Oh and what is P.D.S.?” Anna asked of the two younger women.
“Perpetual Dumbass Syndrome.” All four deputies said at the same time. When Anna and Maria heard this they busted out laughing.
“Yes, I can see how that dreadful condition can be harmful to one's health and well being. Why, if one were not careful they could end up in the hospital or even the morgue.” Maria said with a straight face. “I do hope you were able to get her to someone who can help her?”
“Sorry Madam Maria, but PDS is incurable unless caught at an early age. In Alice Farley’s case; it is way past the point of just PDS.” There was a twisted smile on Hunter’s face.
“Oh and what is past that point? What could be worse than PDS?” Maria asked doing her best not to laugh.
“I'm afraid her P.D.S. evolved into Cranial Rectal Inversion, coupled with Explosive Decompression of Fecal Face. I swear mother that woman truly had her head up her ass and was shit faced at the same time.” Maria and Anna finally gave into their laughter at Sam’s crude and off-color description of Alice Farley.
“Alright you lot, let’s get down to business.” Once Maria had regained control of herself, she called her to team to order. “Now, what exactly happened that pushed my granddaughters to use their training?”
“From what I could ascertain mama, the girls were just taking their friends out for pizza. When they arrived at the local pizza joint, two men attempted to kidnap the eight of them. From what we could get out of the local PD; the two primary suspects have yard long criminal records.” Sam told Maria.
“Do you have names?” Maria asked.
“David Longmire and Mark Elise, Madam.” Sam dropped into using Maria's call sign as a show of respect.
“I was able to pull their records on our way over, Madam. If Gemini hadn’t put them down straight out of the gate, we would have had to do it later. I have read some really f’ed up rap-sheets, but these two made my gut turn. I wouldn’t have put it past Longmire to have a little rape fest before letting our girls go, just to 'put them in their place'.” Hunter told Maria grimly.
“Any idea of who might have been able to send those pigs after Gemini?” The tone in Anna’s voice left no doubt that she wanted the people behind the attempted attack on Kasey and Kristine. Even Maria, who had known her for years, felt sorry for whoever it was behind the attack.
“Miss Anna, I would place long odds on the order coming down from one of the Alpha bitch crowd at our school. The most likely suspects in that crowd are Chantel Henley and Mary Sue Gilroy. However, before we go AFTER them we need proof. Besides, I believe that Gemini will be having a very informative discussion with the two young ladies in question sometime soon.” Sam had a smile that left no doubt about what type of ‘discussion’ the teenage members would be holding.
“Hunter and I were able to secure a workable set of local assets within SRMA. They all have records and are on their last chance, but all-in-all not a bad bunch of kids. Most of them are real hard asses. We got the Gunny to approve a special program for those students who want to take part. They get to receive Special Forces training from two SF Rangers. All they have to do is help pull down the alpha dicks. From what I could tell of these kids, by this time tomorrow we’ll have around two to three teams ready for training. I swear, I never have seen a more motivated group ready to take on the status quo.” All the women gave Bobby their undivided attention as he went over their progress at SRMA.
“Have you been able to identify the ring leaders?” Maria asked.
“Yes Madam, we have. The problem has been getting the needed surveillance on the little shits. As much as I hate to say this, but I think we made a mistake by placing both halves of Gemini in the one school.” Hunter said to the very dark looks from the others. “Look, I know that none of you here are happy about the girls even being here, but they are and now we have to deal. They’re the only asset that we have that can work inside the student body and not draw attention. That is why, I wished we had spilt them up between the two schools.”
Maria got a thoughtful look on her face. “Alright Hunter, let’s say we can get one of the girls transferred into SRMA. Which one would you send?”
“That’s the kicker, Madam Maria. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. So, it would have to be a coin toss to decided. Either girl would be fine on their own, but in this situation, I would have to go with Kasey. Just because she has more real world experience.” Hunter may not like the idea of splitting up the girls, but if they had to, he wanted Kasey. For no other reason than Kasey had a record.
Maria sighed and looked down at the table. “If, and this is a big IF; we cannot get you the needed Intel gentlemen, we will consider this option. I believe thought that if we let Gemini know of your problem they might be able to do something from AEGS.”
“Madam Maria, we’re talking about surveillance systems here. Those are closed systems. They’re not connected to the Net.” Hunter pointed out.
When Anna heard this, she started to giggle. “They very well may be Master Hunter, but we are talking about Gemini. Those two know more about these new security and surveillance systems than we all do. I am positive they can get into your school’s system.”
“Miss Anna, I know that you know more about what the girls have been learning, but common here. We’re talking about a standalone computer network system. There is no way for them to hack something like that.” Hunter should have quite while he was ahead. Anna reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet.
“Master Hunter, I will give you any odds you want that Gemini can do exactly that. In fact, I will make it easy for you.” Anna pulled out a one-hundred-dollar bill and placed on the table. “My Benjamin, against whatever you care to wager.”
When Hunter reached for his wallet Bobby stopped him. “Don’t bro, that is a sucker bet. Before you ask why, remember who you are about to bet against and on.”
Hunter looked over at Sam and Annette who were nodding their own heads. “Thanks, but no thanks Miss Anna. If Sam and Annette aren’t willing to place their own money on the line with you I sure won’t.”
“You made a wise choice Hunter. I have known Anna for more than thirty years. She never gambles with her money. Her life maybe, but never her money. If she believes that Gemini can get you that Intel, they can. Even I forget that they are learning things we don't understand. The ways of Criminals, Law Enforcement, Soldiers and Spies. Even Lyssa has said they are the likes of which have never been seen. An evolution different than her own, formidable in its own right.” Reaching over, Maria pushed the bill back over to Anna. “Now that we have that problem discussed, let’s move on to the next order of business.”
“About that Madam Maria, none of us are at all comfortable with you having a sit-down with the Gilroys or the Henleys, let alone with both at the same time, on your own.” Bobby thought now was the time to bring up her little dinner plan. He had told the others about it and they had mixed reactions to the idea.
Maria sighed and looked at her team. “I can handle a sit-down with these people. It is not like I am dealing with the Organization. There is no in-fighting with these people, only pitiful politics and greed.”
“Mama, that is not the point. NO, wait that is the point. They are NOT mafia, let alone La Cosa Nostra. They lack Honor, mama. Don’t you see that?” Annette was the most vocal of the Deputies against the idea.
“ENOUGH! I have been the Boss of this Family for the last thirty-five years! I will NOT have MY Familia questioning me.” Maria’s anger caught the Deputies all off guard. The fact that she was pissed off was driven home by her steady use of Sicilian. “It is bad enough that I am having to deal with the ‘associates’ of these people, I will not have my decina questioning my orders. These fools have dared to challenge ME, Maria the Dove of Death DeMarco. If this were the old country, I would have already called in the Hitters and declared war.”
“MAMA!” Annette’s scream got Maria’s attention. “What happened that has you so pissed off? And please tell that you’re not thinking about bringing in outside contractors for a war.”
“The Dove has already given that order Miss. Annette.” When everyone looked over at Anna she explained about the conversation in the offices of SCT. “As for dealing with that associate of the Gilroys, Kelly Hartwell. That was beneath a Boss or Consigliere of our stature. Why wasn’t he taken care of the other night gentlemen?”
“That was my fault Madam Maria. I figured that the local PD would have been faster in their reactions to that explosion. If I had known that there aren’t near enough LEO’s we would have gone after Kelly ourselves. What I can’t figure out; is why the local PD is so shorthanded.” Bobby figured that he needed to calm Maria down before things got out of hand.
“As to that, I have your answer Robert. It seems that the Gilroys and Henleys have been using their influence to keep the police budget down. While they were doing this, the Hartwells were taking out hits on detectives or investigators that got too close to their operations. Young Kelly Hartwell was very informative, once we convinced him to talk.” Maria had calmed down as she spoke by the time she was done she smirked. “AS for your apology, forget about it. We have been working on too little Intel and not enough local knowledge. That is my fault.”
“So, you’ll at least think about not going to that sit-down mama?” Samantha asked.
“I wish I could Samantha. This is one time that only I can get the needed Intel. I do have a possible reason behind the Gilroys and Henleys taking out a contract for my head. It seems that the wives are the real power in these two families. When I saved the two schools in oh-eight, I ruined the plans of Patricia Gilroy and Grace Henley. It seems that those two women have a grudge, of some kind, against Scarlet Boatwright going back years, if not decades. That was not all I was able to find out, from Kelly.”
“Well, don’t keep us in suspense, mama. What else did you learn?” Annette, like all the other deputies, was on the edge of her seat.
“We were able to learn who all the local talent is and who our suspects will use and for what. To say that the talent pool is quite large is an understatement. Not to mention varied. On the plus side, we have been able to whittle down the options a good deal. Their choices of hitters are down to one, and we have completely taken out the strong-arm and kidnapping crew in the last few days. My only real concern is the local DA. Do we know anything about the man?”
Hunter set his laptop on the table and opened a file on DA Strongwell. “The man is a true contradiction in his stance on crime. Some cases he throws the damn library at a suspect, in others he’ll deal faster than a Vegas auto-shuffler. He has a constant stance on protecting CI’s and witnesses, unless it comes to the Old South Families. He will throw a CI under the bus in a heartbeat when it comes to them. He has constantly turned a blind eye to the way things get done in certain counties. It’s as if he feels he can’t win, so he doesn’t try.”
“Master Hunter, how did this State DA earn his name?” Anna asked.
“What are you thinking Anna?” Maria asked her.
“I need to know how the man made his name before I answer that Madam Maria.”
“Okay Miss. Anna, I think I know where going but I am not sure. Anyway, DA Strongwell made his name by taking on street level drug dealers, bicker gangs, street gangs like the Bloods and Crips, and the normal clean up the street crime. His one major break came four years ago, when he was able to take down a black market and counterfeiting ring in Charleston.”
“That’s what I thought. I would give you all short odds that Strongwell was put in place to handle that case by his predecessor. A predecessor that was looking to retire. All Strongwell needed was funding and one major headline grabbing case. Either the Henleys or the Gilroys, if not both, gave him the money and the counterfeiting ring was his big headline case. He is just like that awful man in Toledo who came after Miss Annette, and you Madam Maria, twelve years ago. Only Strongwell is one of these old family sycophants. He believes that if he shields the old families, but makes a big noise by taking down street crime they’ll take care of him.”
“Damn! Talk about cold case profiling. Miss Anna, are you sure you never worked in law enforcement? You’re better than some FBI profilers we know.” Bobby asked out loud what the others were thinking.
“Master Robert, I will have you know that I have never disgraced my family. Why the very thought of me being an officer of the law would cause unnatural disasters on a global scale. Earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, plagues and locusts! Please don’t ever mention such a horrifying thought again?” Anna stood there with a smile as the others laughed at her joke.
“I learn the art of profiling Master Robert long before all of you were born. Back in the day before the Internet, assassins needed to study our targets. Learn their ways, mannerisms, every nuance of their personality, before moving in for the kill. With this in mind you must see how assassins were the very first true profilers.” Of all those present only Maria knew this fact about Anna. For the old woman to share even a small part of her background with the deputies was a great show of respect.
“Miss Anna, when we get back to the island would you mind sitting down with us all. I believe that we can learn more from your vast experience.” Bobby knew a source of knowledge when he saw one.
“We both will, Robert. Yes, I can see where not only Gemini can learn from us, but both teams as well.” Maria gave the team a nod.
"I do not think my lessons would apply for the team under Prima Lyssa. They are a group I am always at a loss to understand." Anna commented and when everyone looked at her in confusion, she went on. "When the government should send in an army, only one of them goes. They shout day and night about safety, then do the most dangerously insane thing. So many times, I am almost convinced that they believe they are already dead."
Maria nodded to Anna. "You are not the only one that has trouble understanding them Anna. Robert, Hunter. You are the most like them we know. Perhaps you may shed a little light."
"I understand a little, because I've had some of the same training. Tiffany, I understand better because she was only in Special Forces. She wasn't an Operator. Lyssa, I believe, has gone through things none of us could imagine. Training we wouldn't believe real, much less comprehend. To her, she is a dot of ink in a global picture. Totally expendable and absolutely replaceable, and if I'm right; has been. Tiffany can do many things I wasn't trained to do, but Lyssa is different. At a core level and has nothing to do with training." Bobby stated.
Anna asked. "Master Robert, are you meaning to say that Prima Lyssa has some sort of born-ability?"
Bobby thought about that. "I'd say that if she did, the Army would definitely make the most use of it. I do know that some people do have genetic-predisposition for some things. I think we're getting side-tracked though."
“By the way mother, what happened to your flea problem? I mean, do we need to arrange for a cleaning service?” Annette asked thinking that there might be a body needing disposal.
“My dear, you know that I have always practiced recycling and environmental friendly disposal methods. We made sure that some of the local wildlife would be well fed, therefore, helping a local hunter this season. I am sure that he will be able to harvest at least two, possibly three, animals from the body.” Maria had a very sly smile.
“Please tell me that you’re not talking about gator season?” Hunter groaned. When the two older women smiled, Hunter started laughing. “Did you at least leave the body on the edge of the water?”
“No. We left it in a mud wallow about ten feet up for the water’s edge.” Anna said straight faced. “Are the wild hogs in this area really getting that out of hand?”
When Hunter heard this he really did lose control and busted out laughing. The looks on Bobby, Samantha, and Annette faces were ones of confusion. It took Hunter a few minutes before he could explain. “Our team leader, and her most valued companion, used the natural wildlife of South Carolina to get rid of Kelly Hartwell. Not only that they have set some hunter up with the perfect bait zone. Some hunter out there is going to have a bag limit year in both hogs and gators.”
Once they understood what Hunter was getting at, the other three deputies started to laugh. Yes, Maria had taken the law into her own hands, but then she was the Operations Chief for the Black Badge Deputies. They were Judge, Jury and Executioner. Maria wasn’t supposed to be in the field, but she could still teach the younger members a thing or two.
“Now, that you have taken care of that problem mother. What is our next move? I presume that you have one already.” Annette could tell that her mother was holding something back.
“Oh, that is simple my dear. First, you’re to inform Gemini that they are cleared for information retrieval at both schools tonight. As for methods used; they have no limits. If they must break into SRMA, then so be it. The same goes for AEGS. Next, I want two of you to have a talk with the Editor and Chief for the Citizen Newspaper, a Tracy Lee. That woman believes she is the next Maureen Dowd, without the ethics. She was the one to run the story that blew young Kendra’s cover. I want that bitch’s source. I don’t care how you get the information, just get it. Next; Gemini is to use whatever means necessary to find the criminal element in their school and eliminate it. While you and they handle your assignments, I will be handling the Henley’s and Gilroy’s on the outside. Lastly; I want these thugs that have been threatening the teachers’ shutdown. Do it hard and fast, children. This is a war that I plan to win, once and for all.”
All four deputies knew that Maria DeMarco was past the point of subtlety. They knew that it was a mafia Donna that now ran this Operation. A Donna that no Organization in their right mind would double cross.
South Carolina Highway Patrol Station the next morning…
Annie Shackle sat at her desk in stunned disbelieve. She was still reeling from the information that the State DA Strongwell had given her the day before. Everything she had thought about the man was wrong. While she had been getting pulled from a case, Strongwell had been sending in UC’s.
Strongwell had been trying to get one of his UC’s into place for more than four years. The problem had been Annie going after the Under Covers. It had been Strongwell’s plan to use the Hartwell boys to introduce his UC’s. As it was now, that plan was no longer viable. The real kick in the ass, Kelly Hartwell was in the wind and the final count had come in from the CSI team. Strongwell and Annie were shocked to say the least.
Annie didn’t waste any time in updating the BOLO for Kelly. Not that adding Serial Killer to the list of charges would make any difference to the already Armed and Dangerous status Kelly already enjoyed. The way the charges were adding up against Kelly Hartwell, the first cop that sees him will shoot first and ask questions later. As Annie sat at her desk going through the late shift reports her phone rang.
“Corporal Shaw here Detective, we located Kelly Hartwell’s truck.” An officer informed her.
“Where?” Annie could barely contain her excitement. If they had Hartwell’s truck then Hartwell was still in South Carolina.
Shaw paused then said. “It was found abounded off SC302 and Shumpert Road.”
“How bad is it Corporal?” Annie knew that if the truck had been abounded then it was most likely torched. The reporting Officer could tell by her tone that she was now expecting bad news.
“Complete loss, Detective. The only way we could ID the truck was by the VIN number. We’re having to call in a flatbed to bring it in.” Shaw stated.
“Damn! Thank you, Corporal. Contact me if you find anything.” Annie instructed.
Shaw lamented. “Will do Detective. Sorry, I couldn’t give you better news.”
Annie reassured him. “Not your fault, Corporal. I was kind of expecting something like this. Do me favor; sweep the area where the truck was found.”
“Sure Detective, not a problem. Any idea of what I should have our people look for?” Shaw asked.
“To be honest Corporal I have no idea. All I have is a feeling that something is off. It’s not like Hartwell to just dump something like this. The man is a narcissus in the worst way. By all rights, we should never have found that truck in South Carolina, let alone Akin county.” Shackle admitted.
“Okay, Detective. I see where you’re going with this. I’ll have the troops spread out and search the surrounding area. If there is anything to find, we’ll find it. If you’re right about Hartwell, I doubt we will.” The Corporal said.
“Do what you can Corporal Shaw. Have a good day.” Annie hung up the phone and sighed. It wasn’t even eight in the morning and it was already shaping up to be one hell of a shitty day. Reaching for her coffee cup Annie looked up to see Akin County DA Tim Tease walking towards her desk. “Just fucking great, this is all I need.”
“Detective Shackle, may I have a moment of your time?” The District Attorney asked.
“What do you want Counselor? I already have my fucking hands full trying to clean up the Hartwell mess, thanks to ADA Strongwell.”
“In this case, it is I that will be helping you Detective.” Tease set his briefcase on her desk and pulled out a set of transcripts. “Full depositions from known associates of the Hartwell’s. Not only on their criminal actives inside the county, but statewide.”
Annie took the offered statements and began to read. When she saw the names at the top of the first two statements Annie looked up at Tim. “Damn! What DID Longmire and Elise do to roll on the Hartwell’s like this?”
“They were stupid in a MAJOR way Detective. Have you seen or heard about the social-media video hash-tag; 'KIDNAPPERS GET SCHOOLED!’?”
“Not yet, but I take it that has bearing on the need for confession by Longmire and Else?” At the nod from Tease, Annie sat back down and opened her browser. Once she had the video up Annie clicked play. “HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD! Those dumbasses went after a pair of Embassy kids. Please tell me, we’re not going to have another International Incident on our hands? We just got that mess with the other kid settled. I heard that even somebody from the State Department paid a visit.”
“No, we have things well in-hand on that front. I was however, able to convince Longmire, Elise, and Farley that they would be better off in OUR prisons than a Spanish Federal Prison.” Tim had a very lopsided grin as he told Annie this.
“Wait a minute, Tease. They would only be facing charges here in the US.” Annie pointed out.
“We know that, but they don’t. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t tell them the whole truth. All I said was that they stood a better chance here than in Spain. I never said that they could be 'Extradited to our Spanish allies'.” When Annie heard this, she started laughing. It was the perfect con-job.
“You know something Counselor I have a feeling that we could become the best of friends. You keep this up and you’ll give Lawyers a bad name.”
Gunnery Sergeant Hightower looked out at the morning formation. He smiled to himself as Everbrite and Taugh led the school in grueling PT. It was good to see the cadets showing the new Instructors real respect again. The sight took him back to his days in the Corps, when he was the one out front. He was brought out of his memories by Colonel Boatwright entering his office.
“Great day to be in the Corps, Gunny.” The Colonel announced.
Hightower saluted out of habit and respect. “You forget Sir, we’re no longer in the Corps. But I do get where you’re coming from. You wanted to see me about something?”
“Yes, I did. I got a request in my inbox this morning. I was wondering if you know anything about it?” Colonel Boatwright handed over a copy of the email to his longtime friend.
Hightower took a few minutes to read the printed-out email. Once he was done, Hightower smiled. “Yes Sir, I do believe I know where this request came from and what it's about.”
“Well, don’t stand just there. Fill me in, Gunny.” Boatwright said.
“It’s like this Sir. I gave Taugh and Everbrite permission to form a special unit inside the student body to take on the bullies. We both know who they are, but our problem has been getting the kids to come forward. I picked the first six kids for the new unit. I made sure that they all understood they could walk away if they didn’t want the deal.” The old Marine stated.
Boatwright nodded. “Alright, Gunny. I leave you to handle this. So long as those boys know they can walk away, I have no problems. Like you, I am sick and fucking tired of certain students undermining our student council. I want them either expelled or run out of my school. Now, as for this request.”
“I say we let the students do it Sir. The names on here are ALL either second chancers or military brats. Sure, most of them will never get into the Point or Annapolis but, with the additional training those Army pukes can give them; they all stand a better chance at the other Academies. At the very least the enlistment will take note and see to it they're marked for fast-track.” Hightower remarked.
Colonel Boatwright saw a potential pitfall. “You do know that if they get recalled, we lose two teachers? They are both on active reserve duty. If we start this new program, we’ll need teachers who carry on with the mission.”
“Sir, you and I both know that if they get orders, the Puzzle Place will send us replacements. Hell, I’ll bet if you call Top Gun, we’ll have replacements here inside the week. If not the day.” Hightower just chuckled at the look on his old friend and boss’s face.
“Alright Gunny, I’ll sign off on the request. Get the new platoon their berets. Make sure they're green.”
“HELL NO! SIR! If anything their berets will be tan. We may have to deal with a Special Forces platoon in our school, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let them walk around here in Green Beanies.”
The two men laughed at one of the oldest jokes in the military, then went about their business of running their school.
Kasey and Kristine had just returned from their morning shower run. After getting dressed the two girls sat down at their desks and signed onto their laptops. After entering the secure area each girl took care of their assigned priorities. For Kasey, it was going over the surveillance camera footage, while Kristine checked to see if their orders had changed.
“Justi, we got new orders from the Madam.” Kristine announced.
Kasey looked over. “What’s up, Ang?”
“Rumrunner and Stalking horse, need us to crack the surveillance cameras over at SRMA and patch the feed into their laptops. The same needs to happen with what we have going on here.” Kristine summarized.
Kasey groaned. “They don’t want much, do they?! Do they understand how hard that’s going to be? Fuck! We’re good, but that system over there is a stand-alone.”
Kristine shushed her. “Calm down sis. We can do this. And it won’t be that hard. Besides the systems at both schools use an offsite server for storage. We just need to hack the feed to the server.”
“Do you know who they use? Because I sure as fuck don’t.” Kasey snarled back at her younger sister.
“We don’t have too. Just give me a minute to compose this email.” A few minutes later Kristine hit send. “We should have the answer to where that feed goes by the time we get out of third period.”
“Who did you email?”
Kristine turned and smiled at her sister. “Miss Krystel.”
"SMART." Kasey remarked.
The laptop chimed and both looked to see a reply from Krystel then exclaimed. "THAT WAS FAST!"
Immediately they set to work. There was just enough time to make it happen. Barely.
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