Chapter 03

Wanderer Chapter 03

 

Present – Ben – Washington DC the "shop"

 

As Dwight meets me at the door it snaps me out of my flashback. He gives me a hell of a hug, pulls back and says, "What the fuck are you doing wearing that tactical gear from a bank? It looks like crap."

 

I explain and then agree with him, "Hey, it's just a disguise I used to get out of the bank. And it is crap."

He continues, "Get your ass inside before someone thinks something is going on." I walk into the "shop" and see it's different than before: It's even better. Dwight notices me scanning the walls and says, "It's sure good as hell to have someone walk in here that really appreciates fine weapons."

 

Yes I greatly appreciate the "shop"! To think that on the outskirts of DC there would be a place that houses so many excellent weapons still amazes me. I answer, "Dwight, this looks even better than the last time I was here. I see you've stayed on top of the game."

 

He chuckles and replies, "Banzai, you don't know the half of it! This is just the room the regulars get to see. I have a special room just for friends like you."

 

The thought of a special room almost makes me salivate so I tease, "Well, are you going to show me this special fucking room or let me die of old age just having wet dreams about it?"

 

He motions for me to follow him into the back room, walks up to a bookcase, looks over his shoulder to make sure no one but me is watching and pulls on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The book case swings out, we step into an entry way as I laugh and remark, "War and Peace that's some book you chose to use for this."

 

He looks at me as a fellow conspirator and explains, "Yeah that's your fucking fault. After you saved my ass in Morocco and talked to me so much about how I should improve myself on the trip home, I figured I needed some classics in my life." There was a huge steel safe door at the end of the entry way and we approach it.

 

Dwight starts turning the knob as I ask, "So, have you ever read War and Peace?"

 

He turns, looks sheepish, (I know he hasn't) but he says, "Well, I did look it up on 'Book-A-Minute'. It says, ' History controls everything we do, so there is no point in observing individual actions. Let's examine the individual actions of over 500 characters at great length.' Once I read that I figured I had read enough."

 

I about bust a gut laughing and reply, "'Book-A-Minute', what the fuck is that? Is it something like Tolstoy for dummies, or even better, Sex in a minute? You need to read War and Peace in the original Russian."

 

He gives me a nasty look and responds, "Yeah we all know your abilities in Russian just about cost you your life."

 

Damn, I haven't thought about that mission for a long time. I continue the banter. "Shit! It wasn't knowing Russian that wounded me, it was the fucking idiots I had to work for and with." As if by magic the mere mention of the mission set the old wounds to aching. Dwight notices and says, "Yeah my leg gives me hell when I think about the mission where you and Jack saved my ass. Sorry for bringing up that mission."

 

I wave him off and reply, "Anyone who's done their job well has a few aches and pains to deal with. It's really nothing."

 

Dwight enters the last number in the combination lock, turns a big handle, pulls the door open, looks back at me and says, "Welcome to Oz, Dorothy."

 

My mouth drops open as we step into a massive vault! There are weapons on the wall I'm not sure I've ever seen. I look around at the beauty and splendor and respond, "Toto I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

 

Dwight closes the door, chuckles and says, "Yeah, I've worked hard to get some of these and the ones I couldn't get I made myself. Now that we're alone and away from prying ears which shouldn't hear what we say - what the fuck is really going on with you?"

 

I start with, "Dwight we both need to sit down." We pull up chairs, sit, and I do my best to explain almost everything to him. There are still things that…since I can hardly admit them to myself, how the fuck am I going to explain it to him?

 

He scowls at me and growls, "Banzai, I know you're not telling me everything. And I hope what you're not telling me makes up for the chicken shit thing you did to your fiancée. You're lucky as hell she doesn't hunt you down."

 

I look at him and give him the best answer I can. "Dwight that's one of the reasons I'm here. I know she's going to be pissed as hell at me and she will try to hunt me down. So not only do I need some weapons from you, I also need several new identities and disguises plus a few medical supplies."

 

He looks long and hard at me and replies, "Shit Banzai! It isn't like you to run away…"

 

He never gets to finish because I jump to my feet, get in his face and curse. "Listen here you bastard! I'm not doing any of this for me! This is the hardest damn thing I've ever done and I'm doing it so she can have the sort of life she deserves - and that I can no longer give her. I thought I could count on you to help me, but it's plain to me that you won't."

 

I turn and start to walk away, but Dwight says, "Dammit Banzai! You know I'd give my left nut for you. Sorry I offended you but this just isn't like you and I need make sure you're doing the right thing."

 

I glare at him and answer, "Dwight, the only thing you need to do is either help me or not. Can't you see this has me torn up inside?"

 

He shakes his head sadly and replies, "Well, I sure as hell see it now. Sit your ass back down and let's make a list of the things you need."

 

I sit down and pull the list out of my pocket. He looks it over and says, "Banzai, what the fuck sort of list is this? Many of these weapons are non-lethal. And what the hell is this medicine doing on here?"

 

I reply in anger, "Dwight, give me my damn list back. I'm fucking leaving." I reach for my list and he moves his hand so I can't get it. Then he says, "Look Banzai, I have no idea what the fuck is going on with you. But I can see you're serious about it and of course I will do my best to help you. It would just be easier if you could tell me everything."

 

I look at him and say, "NALTS!"

 

A grin slowly spreads across his face as he answers, "Okay, you've made your point and I do owe you a debt. But next time you come in here for help, I'm going to kick your ass if you tell me NALTS."

 

I reply, "Well, it's not like you're a bartender whose job is to listen to everything people tell him."

 

Dwight jumps quickly, and as his leg reminds him of his old injury, grabs his leg and says, "Shit, I keep forgetting about my damn leg. But you reminded me, I've got some bourbon you have to try." He heads over to a shelf and pulls down a bottle.

 

I state, "Dwight only half a finger - I'm on a mission."

 

He turns, damn near drops the bottle and says, "Well fuck me silly! I never thought you'd become an almost teetotaler."

 

I grin and explain, "After this mission, I'll come back here and we'll have a real drink, but right now I can't."

 

He pours what ends up being one finger. I take the glass, inhale the oaky aroma, take a sip and let swirl it in my mouth. It's one of the smoothest bourbons I've ever tasted. I have to know. "Okay Dwight you have my curiosity going what bourbon is this?"

 

He replies, "Yeah I thought you'd appreciate that - it's Parker's Heritage Collection, 'Golden Anniversary'."

 

I take another sip and analyze the situation, "Dammit, this is too good to throw away the other half finger. You did that on purpose didn’t you?"

 

He grins and seals the deal, "Plus, it's one-hundred-fifty dollars a bottle so you'd better not waste it."

 

He glances at my list again and says, "You know I'm going to need to make some phone calls for some of this. Do you mind?"

 

I take another sip and answer, "Dwight, if you trust them, it's good enough for me. You mind if I have a look around?"

 

He answers, "Knock yourself out, nothing's loaded."

 

He starts making some phone calls, and I start looking at weapons… and modifying my list.

 

Present – Liz – Jens' hospital room Ramstein Air Field Germany

 

Jens wakes up and immediately demands, "I'm a hungry-hungry hippo - where's my fricken-fracken food."

 

Ira replies, "Ms. Donaldson, I will go and bring you some food right away."

 

Jens rudely orders, "I want fricken breakfast. Pancakes and French toast and a bunch of scrambled eggs and a couple pounds of bacon and don't forget the sausage and lots and lots and lots of butter and syrup. Oh, and some coffee."

 

I grin at Ira as she says, "Yes Ms. Donaldson, I will be back as soon as possible with your impossible order." She turns and leaves but doesn't see Jens stick her tongue out at her comment.

 

I move over and sit on the bed beside Jens and ask, "Jens, how do you feel today?"

 

She giggles, "Liz, I told you I'm hungry as heck."

 

I give her the look and say, "You know what I really mean."

 

She looks down at her bed, fumbles with the covers and says, "Yeah Liz I know. I feel fine physically, but I well - I know I don't really still act right. But I'm really, really, really trying Liz."

 

I decide I really need to test Jens to see if she if her mind is damaged. I think for a moment, come up with a question I know the old Jens would answer quickly and I ask, "Hey Jens, I've got a game for you, would you like to play?"

 

She looks up at me, claps her hands together and says, "Oh goodie I love games. I hope I'm good at this one."

 

I smile at her and start the game. "Jens there was a time when you were one of the best ever, so here's the question: You're firing a rifle at a target eight-hundred yards away, and you're at eight-thousand feet elevation. How far will the bullet drop before it reaches the target?"

 

Wow, did I ever get her attention! She replies right away, "Liz you didn't give me nearly enough information. I need to know the bullet manufacturer, caliber and weight, the zero range of the rifle and the scope height."

 

Shit! I don't have any idea what she is talking about so I look at Mira for help. She smiles, comes over to the bed and says, "Ms. Donaldson, you are using m-one-one-eight-l-r ammo. The rifle zero is one-hundred yards and the scope height is one-point-seven-five inches."

 

Mira certainly shocks me but not as much as Jens amazes me when she spits right out, "This is easy-peasy. You didn't give me the temperature but at eight-hundred yards it doesn't matter it's a steady 6.9 mils1.

 

1  Milradian or 1/1000 of a radian which works out to 3.438 MOA which is commonly rounded to 3.44. Let's do the math on the bullet drop and convert it to inches 6.9 * 3.44 = 23.7 MOA but an MOA at 800 yards is eight inches so 23.7 * 8 = 189.8 inches of bullet drop.

 

I look at Mira and she nods her head. Jens says, "I like this game, give me some more questions!" I look at Mira but she announces, "Ms. Donaldson, would you rather have more questions or eat. Because I hear Ira coming with you breakfast."

 

Jens rudely yells, "I want food! I need food!"

 

Sure enough, Ira walks into the room with a huge tray of food and sets it in front of Jens. She digs right in and mumbles with her mouth full, "Thanks Ira, this is perfect."

 

Mira motions both of us to the far side of the room and says….

 

Present – Mira and Ira – Jens' hospital room Ramstein Air Field Germany

 

"Ira, Ms. Morgan was very smart and asked Ms. Donaldson to range compensate for altitude."

 

Ira looks with surprise and queries, "Ms. Morgan you knew all the parameters."

 

I laugh and say, "No Ira, I had to give her many of the parameters."

 

Ms. Morgan answers, "Jens gave me the answer right away. Does this mean she's okay?"

 

We look over at her and she is shoveling the food in her mouth at a tremendous rate of speed. I answer, "She would have memorized the data for the bullet I gave her. But she was able to answer immediately. I would agree with the doctor, her mind is fine and for some reason she just acts like a teenager."

 

Ms. Donaldson is already finished so she lets out a huge burp and giggles. "That was sure tasty. Now I'm going to brush my teeth and take a shower. Hey Liz, when can we get on the plane back to America because I can't wait to surprise my Ben?" She accidentally knocks her tray on the floor. It makes a huge noise, everyone jumps and Ms. Donaldson says, "Oh Rats! Don't worry anyone, I'll clean up my mess." Then she starts picking things up.

 

 Ms. Morgan answers Ms. Donaldson and says, "I'll get the plane ready." Ms. Donaldson finishes cleaning up her mess and skips to the bathroom. Ms. Morgan looks at us and requests, "Will one of you please get the nurse for the discharge instructions while I call for the plane."

 

I say to Ira in our special language, "Ira please get the nurse, and check with our agents to see if they have found Mr. Blaine. I will listen in on Ms. Morgan's phone call and also make sure things are safe for us to land in America."

 

Ira replies, "Thank you sister. With the many things happening in America, Ms. Morgan and Ms. Donaldson could be in grave danger."

 

I smile and answer, "Ira, I have been able to hear the news report in the next room. Things are not as bad in America as they were. It seems their President was forced to flee the county in disgrace, and he is rumored to be hiding out in a Muslim country. The President of Vice was inept and was removed so America is now under the control of the Speaker of the House."

 

Ira laughs and says, "I told you he was a Muslim - you owe me sister. And the Speaker is much better than the President of Vice so I think he will make America safe soon." Ira changes the subject, "I do have a big concern about you my sister, what happens to your hearing when there is a very loud noise such as gunfire?"

 

I smile at her, "Ira I was very concerned about it, but when Ms. Donaldson knocked the tray to the floor it did not bother me."

 

Ira leaves the room and I listen in on Ms. Morgan's phone call. There is nothing interesting about it, so I go back to listening to the news report in the next room. It is hard to listen because Ms. Donaldson is humming the wedding march in the shower and it is very distracting.

 

Present – Ben – Washington DC the "shop"

 

I feel like a fucking kid in a candy store because there's everything here I could ever want and more. But I think I know what I need for this mission and I don't want to be greedy. I pull what looks to be part of a crossbow off the wall and ask, "Hey Dwight what the hell is this for?"

 

He finishes his phone call, comes over and says, "Watch this." He grabs an M4 off the wall, pulls the upper off and puts the crossbow in its place. I ask, "So is this thing any good?"

 

He laughs, "You bet it is. About four-hundred feet per second with a four-hundred-twenty-five grain bolt."

 

I do the math and say, "Shit! That's about one-hundred-forty-five foot pounds of kinetic energy. What about its accuracy?"

 

Dwight looks at me and grins, "You're going to be Robin Hood2 at fifty yards."

 

2 Robin Hood – Split the arrow or same hole.

 

I keep looking on the same wall and I pull down another upper. Dwight laughs and says, "You've got a good eye."

 

I say, "Hey, I wasn't captured forever and I've always wanted one of these - a single-shot M4 upper in three-thirty-eight Lapua." I grin at him, and continue, "Since the M4 lower has become a full weapons platform, where's your three-thirty-eight whisper and fifty Beowulf?"

 

He hands me the uppers and I swear, "Shit! I can't carry all this crap at once because they and the ammo would weigh two-hundred fucking pounds. Here's what I want." And I name off a totally changed list.

 

Dwight shakes his head, "Yeah all that is very doable, but I need to make a phone call for a couple of the unusual things. And I sure as hell don't understand your weapon choice. By the way, what's that piece of crap pistol you're carrying?"

 

I pull out the Taurus, drop the mag, clear the chamber and hand it to him. He gives it the evil eye and says, "Fuck! What are you doing carrying this plastic piece of shit?"

 

I answer, "It was all I could get at the time and is much better than the piece of crap Glock I took off the bastard with the car. Besides it holds twelve and one."

 

He offers, "Come over here and look at this." He locks open the slide and hands me a Para Ordinance clone of a 1911. The first thing I ask is, "Where the fuck is the hammer."

 

He grins and says, give it here a minute. He drops the slide, then he hands it back and says, "Pull the trigger."

 

I squeeze the trigger, it feels like a nice three pound pull and I wait and wait and wait and finally after what seems like a pull that takes forever, the trigger breaks cleanly and goes click. I look over at Dwight and say, "Well that's certainly one fucked up trigger."

 

He laughs and comments, "I just wanted to see if you would flinch waiting for the trigger to break. That's the Para LDA3 trigger and you're either going to love it or hate it."

 

3 Para Ordinance LDA – Light Double Action trigger - a "solution" for a problem that doesn't exist. Carrying a 1911 cocked and locked is very safe, but is not allowed by most law enforcement agencies. So Para came up with a way to make the 1911 a "safer" pistol.

 

I reply, "Well, what the hell is wrong with a good 1911 single action trigger."

 

He goes, "Okay, we know you hate it so try this one."

 

He locks the slide open and hands me another Para Ordinance 1911 clone. This one looks normal, so I drop the slide, take aim and it goes click like any good 1911.

 

Dwight notices I'm using my left hand and asks, "So your right arm's too fucked up right now for good work?"

 

I look at him and lament, "Yeah, I can use it if I have to but it's not very comfortable." I ask, "The grip seems wider on this, what's going on?"

 

He hands me a mag and I know right away when I see eighteen holes in the back and I say, "Shit! This is a double stack mag in ten millimeter."

 

He grins as he answers, "Yeah it started life as a P-sixteen-forty in forty-short-and-weak4. I put in a new barrel, fixed the mags and wham, bam thank you ma'am you've got a smoking ten."

 

4 Forty-short-and-weak – .40 S&W for those who can't handle a real 10mm.

 

I notice the ports in the top of the barrel and ask, "It looks like you did a bit more work here too?"

 

I can tell I've hit his hot button as he explains, "Yeah! That tames this baby down. She now kicks like a nine."

 

I challenge him, "I would like to see that."

 

He continues, "Well that we can certainly do, but we need to go back into the shop. There's a sound proof firing range in the back."

 

I comment, "Now I remember that." We walk out of the vault carrying my new weapons. Dwight locks the vault, closes the bookcase and says, "Your other stuff will be here tomorrow."

 

I panic, "Shit! I don't have any place to stay. Think I can crash here for the night?"

 

He nods his head and answers, "I was going to give you shit again about dumping her, but I know it won't do any good. You might as well crash here."

 

I pull out the rest of my cash and say, "This is all I have right now, but I can get more tomorrow."

 

Dwight gets pissed and argues, "You should know better! Your money's no good here. Put that away before I kick your ass."

 

I answer, "Well at least let me buy the beer and pizza."

 

He grins and says, "Now that you can do."

 

I offer, "How about I sneak out and scare the hell out of one of those wannabe snipers and send him after it."

 

He laughs, "Make sure you don't scare him so bad he craps his pants. I don't want the shop all stunk up."

 

Present – Liz – Flight back to America

 

We were going to have a bunch of armed Marines escort us on this flight. But with things getting better in America, and with Mira and Ira on the plane, Glen decided we would be fine.

 

However, Jens made it a fucking three ring circus getting her, Glen and Evelyn on the plane. We'd made a huge mistake and she had whole fucking pot of coffee with her "breakfast." It wired her to the gills and she bounced off the walls. Thank God once she got on the plane she promptly crashed. Evelyn is on a gurney in the front of the plane, Glen is sleeping in the back of the plane and I'm sitting beside Jens and… Oh My God, what the hell is that smell! I look over at Mira and Ira and they start running for the front of the plane with me right behind them.

 

We get up front and Ira says, "Ms. Morgan, I believe something crept up into Ms. Donaldson's nether regions and expired."

 

I laugh so hard I cry and say, "Ira, you mean to say, something crawled up her ass and died."

 

Mira answers, "Yes Ms. Morgan that is what Ira said." I just shake my head.

 

Evelyn looks over at us and says, "What's so funny?"

 

Her voice grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. It's her fucking fault things are so fucked up and with Ben taking off the bitch finally got her fucking way! I dream for a moment about choking her and I actually start moving towards her. Ira stops me and says, "Ms. Morgan please do not do something you will regret."

 

The stress of the emotions are too much so I collapse in Ira's arms and cry, "Why did this all have to happen? Why did that fat bitch have to finally get her way?"

 

Evelyn yells, "What in the world is she talking about? Why is she calling me a fat bitch and how did I finally get my way?"

 

I break away from Ira, get in the bitch's face and yell, "You nasty fucking fat bitch. You finally fucked things up so much that Ben has left Jens. And when she finds out she's never going to talk to you again."

 

Mira gives me a shocked look and points behind me. I turn and see Jens looking at me - but more like looking through me. I've never seen this look on her face. I watch the fire rise in her eyes as she sputters, "Ben-Ben-Ben has left me? Liz what the hell are you talking about!"

 

Oh Shit! I answer, "Jens, this isn't the way I wanted to tell you this. But Ben left a note in his hospital room for you and has disappeared."

 

Realization sweeps over her face that Ben is really gone. She glares at me and yells, "Liz you fucking bitch! Just how long have you known about this."

 

Son of a bitch, the old Jens is back, swearing like a sailor and she's angrier than I've ever seen. I need to try to defuse this situation so I answer, "Jens we found out about it a couple days ago and we have been doing everything we can to find him."

 

She gives me an evil grin and swears, "You backstabbing bitch! Instead of treating me like a sister you hide this from me. Didn't you think I have some fucking resources that could help? I bet you just wanted him for yourself!"

 

I start to cry, "Even though I love Ben, I would never try to take him away from you…"

 

She interrupts, "So you finally admit you love him. It's about fucking time."

 

She lunges towards me…

 

 

Present – Ira – Flight back to America

 

Ms. Donaldson has turned into a wild animal full of rage and attacks Ms. Morgan so quickly, we are not ready for it. She hits her in the face and Ms. Morgan crumples to the floor while Ms. Donaldson shouts, "That's for trying to take my man you backstabbing bitch."

 

She tries to kick Ms. Morgan, but Mira recovers, jumps between them, intercepts her kick and orders, "Ms. Donaldson, please do not make me hurt you."

 

Ms. Donaldson steps back, laughs and says, "I've put up with enough crap from your bony ass! You think you can take me Eurobitch? Come on because I'm your Fuckleberry Huckleberry." Then she unleashes a terribly violent attack on Mira and Mira barely holds her own. I can feel my sister's pain as the she block the blows with her arms and legs. So I step in to intervene.

 

Mrs. Donaldson yells, "What is everyone fighting about. Jennifer, stop trying to hurt everyone right now." It distracts Mira, so Ms. Donaldson punches her right in solar plexus and Mira flops to the floor like a rag doll, unconscious.

 

She turns towards me and says, "I kicked your sister's ass now it's time to give you the ass-whipping you deserve."

 

She attacks me, but does not know about or count on my increased strength. I dodge her punch, put her in an arm bar, force her to the floor and say, "Ms. Donaldson, while you were able to defeat my sister you will not defeat me. Please do not make me break your arm."

 

She struggles and swears, "Let me up Eurobitch and fight fair."

 

I realize the only way to subdue Ms. Donaldson is to render her unconscious. I take my free arm and put her in a sleeper hold. She struggles terribly like a bear, scratches my arm until it is bleeding, and says, "Damn fucking sneaky Eurobitch won't fight me in a fair fight."  I increase the pressure until she slowly drifts into unconsciousness and hold it for another thirty seconds just to make sure she is not acting like a possum.

 

Then I carry her to the seats, pull my handcuffs and handcuff both her wrists to the plane seat. I just get ready to go take care of Ms. Morgan and my sister when General Donaldson limps up to the front of the plane and demands, "What the hell is going on - it woke me up. And what did you do to Jennifer?"

 

Mrs. Donaldson replies, "Glen, thank God it's you. Jennifer went crazy and was attacking everyone. This nice young lady was finally able to help Jennifer rest."

 

General Donaldson looks at me and says, "Well, if that's the case then thank you young lady. But you need to do something about your arm."

 

I smile at him and say, "I will as soon as I take care of Ms. Morgan and my sister. Will you please go back to your seat General Donaldson?"

 

He bravely asks, "Are you sure I can't help?"

 

I look at him, even injured as he is he still wants to help. I say, "No Sir! I can take care of this by myself." He turns and limps back to his seat.

 

I go to Ms. Morgan as she is just starting to recover. I help her to a seat and say, "Ms. Morgan, let me help my sister and I will be right back with an ice pack for your face."

 

Ms. Morgan answers, "Ira, I'll be fine. What the hell is wrong with Mira?"

 

I answer, "She is fine - Ms. Donaldson just knocked the wind out of her."

 

Ms. Morgan orders, "Ira, bring her in the seat beside me." I smile and think even now, even though we failed her and will have to bear the shame of self-flagellation, she still takes care of us. I pick up Mira, sit her beside Ms. Morgan, run to the galley, get a bunch of ice bags and bring them back. When I get back, Mira is awake and is hugging Ms. Morgan. I check Ms. Morgan's face and say, "Ms. Morgan I think you will have eyes of black very soon. Please keep this ice bag on your face."

 

I ask my sister, "Mira how do you feel? If Ms. Donaldson broke any of your ribs I am going to make her pay a very big price."

 

Mira looks at me in obvious pain, "Ira, she did not break my ribs but I will have a very big bruise on my chest, worse than that I feel terrible about letting Ms. Morgan get hurt and then letting Ms. Donaldson defeat me. But Ira, your arm has many scratches and is bleeding."

 

I smile, touch my sisters face and say, "Mira, you were distracted and Ms. Donaldson was very angry and out of control, just like a wild animal. I am happy only your chest and ego are bruised. Let me go take care of my arm and I will be right back."

 

I go to the galley, wash the blood off my arm, clean the many scratches with peroxide and cover them with gauze. This takes many minutes and when I get back to Mira and Ms. Morgan I hear Ms. Morgan ask, "Mira, I'm worried what Jens will be like when she wakes up. She could injure herself."

 

Mira answers, "If you would like, I could sedate her Ms. Morgan."

 

I walk up and add, "There are some leather restraints on Mrs. Donaldson's gurney. I think we should replace the handcuffs with those."

 

Ms. Morgan thinks for a few moments and replies, "I like both of these ideas. But Mira, I don't want her so out of it she's loony tunes."

 

I ask Ms. Morgan, "Why would sedating Ms. Donaldson cause her to be crazy about music?"

 

I watch Ms. Morgan shake her head and say, "Ira and Mira, loony tunes is a euphemism for crazy. You two really need to learn not to take everything so literal."

 

We both smile and reply in unison, "Yes Ms. Morgan," then we move over and start working on Ms. Donaldson.

 

Mira says, "Ira, now that Ms. Donaldson knows that Mr. Blaine is gone we can use it to our advantage but we will need Mrs. Donaldson."

 

I blink at Mira and question, "Mira tell me why we need Mrs. Donaldson?"

 

Mira laughs and says, "Who will Ms. Donaldson blame for Mr. Blaine leaving?"

 

I understand, "You are very right sister, she will blame her mother for all of it."

 

Mira adds, "And while she is busy blaming her mother, it gives us time to find Mr. Blaine for Ms. Morgan."

 

I grin, lean over and whisper another idea into Mira's ear.

 

Mira pulls away, hits her head with her hand and answers, "Sister you are very right. That will be an excellent distraction for Ms. Donaldson.  Once we land in America we will have to put this plan into action."

 

I hug Mira and say, "Ms. Donaldson will be so busy she will not have time to look for Mr. Blaine. I'm still not sure how we will find him and get him and Ms. Morgan together. But we must be very careful so we do not make a mistake. Otherwise everyone will be very upset at us."

 

Present – Ben – Washington DC the "shop"

 

I still can't believe that 'sniper' made such a rookie mistake of not putting camo paint on his hands. It's one of the first things you learn in sniper school - cover your face and hands. I was going to scare the hell out of him but figure he would shoot me by mistake. So instead, I go out of the shop, walk right up to the tree, see him plainly and yell at him, "Stop pretending to be a fucking sniper and get your ass down here."

 

He yells back, "I can't desert my post."

 

I smirk and think, like you've ever had a post.

 

I order, "Listen here you piss ant! I'm here to relieve you so you can go on an important mission."

 

That gets him out of the tree in a hurry. He hits the ground and excitedly says, "What's my new mission because it's boring as hell sitting in this tree?"

 

I look at him and say, "Your mission should you decide to accept it is called, Pizza and Beer Run." I hand him one-hundred dollars, the keys to my car and say, "My car is at the shop, head over to the second closest pizza place and bring back a bunch of pizza and beer."

 

He gives me a stupid look and replies, "Why don't I just go to the closest pizza place?"

 

I get in his face and say, "Because numb-nuts, it's the fucking closest to us and we don't want to draw attention to us. And make the fuck sure you get me a pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple."

 

He salutes and says, "Sir, yes Sir! I'll be right back. Here's my rifle and ghillie suit." It takes him forever to get out of what the hell he calls a ghillie suit and leaves it on the ground. Then he hands me his rifle, without clearing the action and takes off.

 

I look at the 'ghillie suit' and since it's a piece of shit, I throw it in the trash. I look at the rifle - it's a fucking Norico5 M-14 clone. I open the action, and note it's not even chambered as I pull the magazine and put it in a pocket. Then I put the barrel through some slats in the bench, sit on the butt of the rifle and bend the hell out of the barrel and throw the piece of shit rifle in the trash too. I figure I'm better with my pistol than an unsafe rifle. I almost laugh: A 'sniper' with a fucking Chinese M-14 clone that wasn't even chambered or scoped! I guess he could always use it to beat intruders to death.

 

5 Norinco – Chinese M-14 Clone that has many problems, such as inconsistent heat treatment of the receiver, head space being incorrect, a bolt that's totally fubar, etc..

 

I don't bother to climb up into the tree since I'm not a monkey. I walk over, sit on a bus bench, pull out a book, put my pistol in my lap and pretend to read. I'm more fucking concealed than he ever dreamed of being.

 

The idiot 'sniper' drives by in my car, honks and waves at me. Damn amateur! I should shoot his ass but then I'd have to go get the pizza! However I am going to chew Dwight's ass when I get back to the shop. And that kid had better make sure he has my pizza or I will kick (not chew) his ass.

 

It's a nice mild afternoon, so I enjoy sitting on the bench and pretending to read. I'm really checking out the neighborhood and making sure things look copasetic. And for once, things are good. In fact the sniper wannabe was right, things are fucking boring. So boring I almost fall asleep until numb-nuts drives by again, honks the horn and waves.

 

I watch, to make sure he wasn't followed, then head to the shop. I want to run, because Dwight is a pizza snaking bastard, but I can't because it would call too much attention to me so I take my time. I walk into the shop and numb-nuts says, "Hey where's my rifle?"

 

I grin, hand him his mag and say, "It's the same place as your ghillie suit, in the fucking trash. Now where's my damn pizza."

 

Dwight burps and interrupts, "Yours wouldn't have been Canadian bacon and pineapple would it?"

 

I give him an evil look and say, "You sure as hell know that's my favorite kind."

 

He pats his belly, smiles at me and answers, "Well, it's a good thing I only ate half of it then."

 

Numb-nuts asks, "Why the hell did you throw my rifle and ghillie suit away. A real professional sniper helped me buy those."

 

Before I answer, Dwight laughs so hard it rattles the wall and says to numb-nuts, "Do you have any fucking idea who you're talking to?"

 

He says, "He's just the guy that relieved me."

 

Again Dwight roars and replies, "That's Banzai Ben one of the best fucking snipers in the world. You should be honored he threw your ghillie suit and rifle away."

 

The kid stares at me and says, "He's right, I recognize you now. Sir, I'm sorry Sir if I showed disrespect earlier. If it wouldn't be a bother I'd really like your autograph."

 

Dwight's laughter thunders through the shop and he says, "Kid, why don't you leave him alone and let him eat his pizza. He'll be much less crabby then and might even give you a few pointers."

 

I hold my beer bottle towards Dwight in a toast, smile at him and mouth, "Thanks!" He nods his head while I enjoy this excellent pizza. The pizza is good but not nearly as good as Jens' homemade pizza…

 

Present – Jens – Flight back to America

 

Ben is still groggy so I help him out of the bathtub, I even need to lead him to the kitchen. It is so funny when he sits down and sees the food because it wakes him right up and he says, "You made pizza tonight?"

 

"I sure did, I know we had pizza just the other night but it wasn't my pizza. I was too tired to make something special," I answer.

 

I pray and watch Ben out of the corner of my eye -  he is so funny because he never knows what to do when I pray so he sort of fakes it. I hand him a slice of pizza and enjoy watching him take his very first bite of my pizza. He gets all excited and says, "Shit this is the best pizza I've ever had, I could eat this all the time!"

 

I give him one of my dazzling smiles, "Thanks hon, you should taste it when I have time to make my own sauce, it's even better. Now about what you said earlier, now that you've tasted my pizza are you going to marry me twice?"

 

Ben asks, "You mean once isn't enough for you?"

 

I tease, "Mmm, you know me, once will never be enough, especially for the wedding night."

 

The smell of pizza is so real to me that it makes my stomach rumble. Then I see Ben, sitting in a room with a bunch of other guys, they're all talking and bragging while Ben is alone, sitting by himself and feeling incredibly sad. I see the walls are covered with more weapons than I've ever seen. Ben takes another bite of pizza, another drink of beer and continues thinking of me, thinking of our first house at Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. When I was his spotter and had just brought him back from jail because the bastards kept him overnight for killing the fucking bikers that attacked him. It forced him to miss the end of the sniper competition, but I won it for him! I watch one lone tear creep down his face. As someone says something to him, he shakes his head and…  

 

I slowly wake and realize it was a dream from what seems forever ago. Shit No! It was a dream of the past combined with a vision of where my Ben is right now! I try to move my arms to wipe the tears out of my eyes and I can't. I open my eyes and see they're restrained to the arms of the plane seat and I feel sort of groggy. Shit! I've been drugged! And then I remember why… I went berserk after finding out, finding out, finding fucking out, Ben's left me!

 

I look up and see I have an audience. Liz, who looks like a raccoon with her black eyes, is sandwiched between a very tense Mira and Ira. Liz says, "Jens, are you okay? We heard you mumble, 'once will never be enough, especially for the wedding night.'"

 

I reply, "Liz, Mira and Ira, the first thing I want to do is apologize for going crazy earlier. That's not going to happen again so you can release my arms from these fucking restraints and stop drugging me because we've got work to do."

 

I watch the three of them exchange glances and Liz says, "No offense Jens, but just a few hours ago you almost killed all of us and now you want us to trust you? I want you to promise me you won't go crazy again."

 

Shit! I know I have to play their game so I promise, "Liz, Mira and Ira, I promise you I won't go crazy again on the plane and attack anyone. Now let me the hell loose because I know where the fuck Ben is and we just need to find the place."

 

They all three give me a look like I'm crazy so I say, "Look, for a few minutes I could sense Ben's feelings again because he thought of a time when we were together in Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. Then I saw him where he's located right now! He told me about this place once and called it 'the shop'. It's some sort of underground weapons store in the suburbs of DC, but that's all I know about it. So let me the fuck go, so we can start trying to find this place."

 

Liz nods her head and Mira releases one arm and Ira releases the other, I notice Ira's arm, gently touch it and say, "Shit Ira! I'm really sorry."

 

Ira smiles and says, "It's not really anything Ms. Morgan. But my sister Mira could use some of your healing on her bruised chest. It is very sore."

 

I look at the three of them, realize something else and say, "Mira, I'm so sorry and would help you if I could. But whatever I had that let me heal people is gone." Then I giggle and say, "But I'm sure you have some drugs in your traveling pharmacy that will help ease your pain. By the way, what sort of shit did you give me, I'm groggy as hell?"

 

Mira smiles and says, "It was a very high dose of Valium and should be totally gone in another three hours."

 

I look at the three of them and order with a threat, "Well, groggy or not I've got work to do and so do the three of you. Get your asses moving, get on the phones and let's see if we can find this 'shop' where Ben's located. Then I expect to hear all the details the three of you know about what the fuck Ben is doing and why the hell he's gone so fucking crazy on me. And I demand full reports with nothing hidden or I just might unleash crazy Jens again."

 

That lights a big fire under their asses and they start moving. Mom yells, "Jens what's going on?"

 

I yell back, "Shut the fuck up bitch, I have work to do!"

 

Present – Linus – Washington DC

 

The fucking President tucked his tail between his legs and ran away to a Muslim country which won't extradite him for his fucking crimes. The Vice President didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground and tried to continue what the ex-President was doing, to turn the country into a dictatorship. It only made a worse mess out of things and he turned tail and headed for the hills leaving the Speaker of the House in command.

 

And command he did! Calm is slowly being restored to America, not that all the elements who are trying to overthrow the United States like it and some still resist. But the 'work' of being Samantha's body guard has become very boring.

 

My mobile phone rings. I look at the number, smile and answer, "Hey you crusty old fart! It's good to see you survived the hell America's been going through. Why are you calling, you need me to bail your ass out of jail somewhere for messing with someone's girlfriend and getting in another fight?"

 

Thom caustically replies, "Hell No I don't need you to bail me the fuck out of jail! Listen Linus, I've changed, stopped chasing skirts and have settled down. I'm trying to start a relationship with this wonderful woman I've met so I'd appreciate it if you never mention that part of my life again."

 

I grin and think she must be one hell of a woman to make Thom settle down. I say, "It's about fucking time. Sooner or later one of those truck stop trollops or their boyfriend are going to kill you."

 

I hear Thom sigh and respond, "Typical fucking Squid! Didn't I tell you not to talk about that part of my life anymore? Now if you're done playing nursemaid to the cute young reporter for Liz Morgan the team could sure use your help."

 

I automatically stand at attention and reply, "Thom I'm always ready to help the team, but first I have to get back to the West Coast."

 

Thom answers, "Like hell you do. We're all right here in DC just like you."

 

I know better than to ask for any details over the phone so I say, "Just let me know where the truck is and I'll be there as soon as I finish up a few details here."

 

Thom gives me the location, in our usual code and hangs up the phone. I walk over to Samantha, wait for her finish a report, pull her aside and say to her, "Hey look, things are calming down and with Matt, Jim and all the other body guards you have, I don't think you need me around here anymore."

 

She smiles at me and gives me the reporter look. "I saw you on the phone and I may be young, but I know men like you. You're bored as hell taking care of me and are off on some other adventure." She kisses me on the cheek, gives me a big hug and says, "Thanks for always being here when I needed you." Then she swats me on the butt and orders, "Now get the hell out of here and kick some ass."

 

Present – Thom – Washington DC - TSIFFTS mission

 

We kicked ass all the way across America on our trip to Washington DC. My superiors decided they wanted us, their best team (when the fuck we ever became their best team I'll never know) in DC to help take out the trash. America had slowly through the years been infiltrated by terrorists who were bent on the total destruction of our Republic. They had many jobs throughout the government and private sector and this was the trash we were taking out.

 

The team had missed the hell out of Linus, and to be truthful I did to. For one thing he kept control, well almost kept control of our crazy-assed-kilted-Scotsman Hammer. Without Linus here, it felt like I was a nail and Hammer was literally his name. We bumped heads multiple times on every mission and I almost threw his ass off the team all the fucking time. But even though he was impulsive as hell he was also totally fearless and there were many times when those two unique qualities were requirements critical to finishing a mission.

 

I silently laugh as I hang up the call with Linus. I know he doesn't believe me about the change in my life. Shit! I barely believe it myself. Just by chance and at first as a joke, the young and beautiful wife of a good friend of mine got me e-mailing her mom. But something clicked when I started e-mailing her mom and well, emotions I hadn't felt for many years and I thought I'd never feel again came to the surface.

 

It still amazes me that a younger and very beautiful woman could show interest in a grizzled old war horse like me. She tells me she looks at my heart and soul and sees a beautiful man. Now that's funny as hell! Before I couldn't wait to get to a truck stop for the ladies, now I can't wait to get there to check my e-mail and see if my honey wrote me.

 

Of course the rest of the team doesn't believe me yet and gives me hell about it all the fucking time. But she is certainly worth any hell they can dish out to me.

 

I'm waiting for Byron and Hammer to return from our latest mission, and impatiently waiting for an e-mail from her, and neither is here.

 

As I get up and pace the floor, Jim asks, "What's wrong Thom, no letter from your girlfriend today?"

 

Todd signs, "I liked Thom much better before he had a full time girlfriend. He's too moody now."

 

Jim laughs and adds, "I think she gave him a dose of PMS."

 

Todd started signing, "Better than a dose of…"

 

I interrupt them and say, "Listen you two reject-standup-comics, how many times do I have to tell you I've changed and I sure as hell don't like being reminded of my old ways. Besides shouldn't you two be gathering intel for your next mission?" Jim and Todd are on board once Byron and Hammer get back. There are enough targets that we are running twenty-four/seven.

 

Jim smart mouths me, "Aye, Aye Captain."

 

I smirk and say, "Keep it up and your new nickname will be Gilligan."

 

Todd signs, "Then that makes me the Professor."

 

Jim announces, "Looks like the Terrible-Twos are headed our way."

 

I smile at the nickname Jim gave them. Finally Byron and Hammer are back, I check the wall clock and they're a fucking hour and a half late. I'm sure Hammer did something again and I dread having to cuss him out for it yet one more time.

 

Jim adds, "Linus is rolling up too."

 

Todd signs, "It's about fucking time. Now Thom can go with Jim and I can do missions on my own again."

 

Jim yells, "Hey, what's wrong with working with me?"

 

Todd signs, "You make almost as much noise as Linus."

 

Jim snaps back, "At least I'm not as noisy as Hammer."

 

Todd signs, "No one is as noisy as Hammer. Not even a herd of rampaging elephants in a china shop would make as much noise."

 

We all start laughing, the door opens, Byron slips into the trailer; Hammer crashes into the trailer. Byron asks, "What are you guys laughing about?"

 

I kid, "Todd was just saying how he heard Hammer coming two miles ago."

 

Hammer gives Todd a dirty look and Todd signs, "That's not true, I didn't say that."

 

Hammer asks, "Whit th' heel did he jist say."

 

"What the hell did he just say?"

 

Byron says, "Hammer calm down, they're just teasing you again. Why don't you go grab a shower, some food and some shut eye while Thom debriefs me?"

 

Hammer nods his head and agrees, "Noo that's th' best things i've heard aw feckin' day." He then starts for the truck stop to catch a shower.

 

"Now that's the best things I've heard all fucking day."

 

Before he reaches the door, it opens and Linus walks in. Hammer gives him a hell of a bear hug and says, "It's abit feckin' time ye got back haur. Thom's bin a feckin' asshole since yoo've bin gain."

 

"It's about fucking time you got back here. Thom's been a fucking asshole since you've been gone."

 

I yell, "Well that's sure the hell the leprechaun pot calling the fucking kettle black."

 

Hammer barks back, "If Ah was a feckin' leprechain, eh'd decorate yer auld bald heed wi' mah shillelagh."

 

"If I was a fucking leprechaun, I'd decorate your old bald head with my shillelagh."

 

Linus answered, "Shit! Have you two been like this the whole fucking time I've been gone?"

 

Jim yelled, "Shit Linus this is tame, you should see it when they really get going."

 

Present – Byron – Washington DC - TSIFFTS mission

 

Linus gives Thom a dirty look and I know I need to do something. I interrupt, "Linus, it's great you're back, but Thom needs to debrief me so I can get some sleep."

 

Linus answers, "Great Byron, and when you're done I've got a request from Liz for the team."

 

Thom remarks, "Shit! What the hell does she want now?"

 

I can tell Thom is testy right now. I surmise he hasn't heard from his girlfriend so I say, "Thom, don't worry. I'm sure she's fine. You know how busy she is with that new grandson."

 

I watch as a smile spreads across Thom's face as he replies, "Yeah that little rug rat's lucky because she's a hell-of-a-grandmother."

 

Linus spoils Thom's mood when he laughs, "Byron, don't tell me Thom was serious when he told me he settled down?"

 

Thom barks, "Squid when the hell did I ever lie to you? Hell yes I've settled down…" He is going to say more but his computer beeps announcing a new e-mail and he runs right over to read his message.

 

Linus looks at me and remarks, "Damn Byron, he's fucking serious and he's really got it bad!"

 

I smile and say, "Yes Linus he does and I have to say it's really been good for him. He's going to be busy for a while writing to her so why don't you debrief me so I can wind down and get a shower, some food and some sleep."

 

Linus says, "Yeah Byron, I noticed you look like hell. You're working too hard."

 

I grin, "We have to because it's a target rich environment. By the way, it good as hell to have you back. Now you can ride herd on Hammer."

 

Linus shakes his head, "Yeah, I've worried about the team the whole time I was with Samantha. I just knew that Thom and Hammer had to be going at it."

 

He doesn't know the half of it and doesn't need to. I change the subject with "So what does Liz want from us?"

 

Linus looks at Thom and says, "Byron it's really nothing. Do you know Banzai Ben?"

 

I chuckle, "Linus I sure as hell do. Shit! I think all Marines and most of America knows Banzai Ben. You heard about him capturing the DC serial killer?"

 

Linus nods his head, "Yeah Linus, but something about the way he did it bothers me. It's not like the Banzai Ben I've heard about."

 

I nod my head, "Yeah, I was shocked when I found out he captured the bastard and didn't kill him. Anyway, enough of this rabbit trail, what does Liz need from us this time?"

 

Linus replies, "Well Byron, Banzai Ben's sort of gone crazy and has dumped his fiancée Jennifer Donaldson…"

 

I interrupt, "What the hell is he doing! If there was ever a perfect couple it was those two. He's a fucking moron and if I ever find him I'm going to kick his ass!"

 

Linus adds, "Well, you're going to have to stand in line because I've got first dibs on that ass-kicking. He's a fucking fool for sure! I've worked with Jens. She's like a kid sister to me and I owe her big time. Anyway, Liz is sure he's still in the DC area and wants us and all the other teams to keep our eyes open for him. And second, she called me on the way over here and asked me if I'd ever heard of an underground weapons store called 'the shop.'"

 

I scratch my beard and answer, "Shit Linus, I've heard of it but always thought it was an old wives tale. It's supposed to be one of the best weapons warehouses in the world but I have no idea where it is."

 

Linus says, "Yeah that's the same shit I've heard. So tell me about your mission.

I begin the debriefing, "We were sent after a couple of tangos. Both were terrorist plants and worked for a weapons manufacturer. They had been leaking new weapons designs out of the country for years and of course had been 'investigated' multiple times by our corrupt and inept justice department but they 'didn't find any reasonable cause.'"

 

Linus nods his head and I continue, "Hammer and I setup on a rooftop fifteen hundred meters from the manufacturing plant and waited for them to come out…"

 

Linus smiles at me and says, "Don't tell me, two shots…"

 

I grin and finish, "Two kills of course."

 

Linus replies, "Shit Byron, I sure hope you and your rifle never come after me. Were there any problems?"

 

Shit! I was hoping he wouldn't ask, but even though our debriefings were very informal I knew it was coming. I look at Linus and say, "Yeah we had a little issue on the way back."

 

Unfortunately Thom picks that particular time to walk up. He says, "Byron what the hell did Hammer do this time?"

 

I waffle and say, "Thom it really wasn't anything. We just ran into a bunch of guys looting a store."

 

Thom interrupts, "Don't tell me Hammer shot all of them."

 

I say, "Well he sort of did."

 

Thom laughs, "Byron how in the hell do you 'sort of' shoot someone? Is that like sort of being pregnant?"

 

Linus laughs, "Don't tell me Byron, I bet he didn't kill them this time."

 

I nod my head, "Yeah your right Linus, he just shot each of them in the knees."

 

Thom grumps, "That damn loose cannon. That's it he's off the team!"

 

Linus stands up (did I mention it's good as hell to have him back?) walks right up to Thom and says, "Thom we've had this discussion before. You know if you kick Hammer off the team I'm gone too."

 

Jim yells, "And it Linus goes I'm outta here."

 

Todd signs, "You can forget about me hanging around."

 

I watch the two big dogs, the two alpha males as they face off against each other. Finally Thom caves and says, "Okay Hammer stays, but he's your fucking responsibility."

 

I need to cheer him up so I motion him over by me and ask, "Thom tell me about your letter from her."

 

A big smile spreads across his face and he says…

 

Present – Ben – Washington DC the "shop"

 

The pizza reminds me of the time Jens made me pizza at our home at Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. The next thing I know, it's like we're connected again and she's sensing my feelings. I have to struggle like hell to break the connection, finally someone says something to me and it breaks the connection. I shake my head and say, "I'm sorry, I was fucking distracted. Please repeat yourself."

 

It's numb-nuts and he asks, "Sir, I was just asking if I can do anything else for you Sir!"

 

I glance over and Dwight is grinning like hell, the bastard. I reply, "Well the first thing you can do is stop calling me sir. I work for a fucking living." Numb-nuts' face shows sadness, I feel mercy and add, "You can also give me your name."

 

Dwight grins even bigger as the kid says, "My name is Stevie Wonder." I fight back laughter and he continues, "It's alright sir. Uh, what would you like for me to call you?"

 

I smile and say, "My friends all call me Ben."

 

He smiles real big, "I'm one of your friends?"

 

I hold out my hand, give him a handshake and say, "You are now Stevie Wonder. I bet all the kids teased you about your name."

 

He looks down and says, "I still get teased about it all the time."

 

I look at him and say, "Well Shit! This is an easy problem to solve. You just need a good nickname."

 

He grins and asks, "You mean like Banzai Ben?"

 

Shit! That reminds me of young Jens when she first gave me that name. Of course I didn't know she was Jens at the time, I didn't figure it out until years later. I almost slip back into dreaming about her, shake my head to get her out of it and say, "That's exactly what I mean. Let me think for a moment." It comes to me and I announce, "How about you become Sniper Steve?"

 

His face lights up and he says, "That's a great name."

 

I give him a serious look and add, "Now with a great name like that it means you'll have to do great things."

 

He gets a worried look and says, "I'm not sure I know how to do great things."

 

I ask, "How are you at shooting?"

 

Steve replies, "I do pretty well because, well when I had a rifle, I practiced all the time."

 

I suddenly feel bad about throwing away his rifle and ask, "Define pretty well for me."

 

I'm shocked when he opens his wallet, pulls out a target, unfolds it and says, "This is what I shot last week at one-hundred yards."

 

I look at the group - it's about two MOA and confirm for myself, "You fired this group with your old rifle?"

 

He looks down, "Yeah, I know I should have done better with a rifle like that."

 

I restrain myself from laughing because two MOA with that piece of crap is a damn good group. I say, "Well, I would say with that rifle this is a pretty nice group. So here's what you do: As soon as the recruiting office opens, you take this target to them and tell them you want to become a Marine." I take the target, write a note on it and hand it back to him. He reads the note grins at me and says, "Thanks Ben."

 

As he walks away, Dwight comes over and says, "I fucking don't believe what I just saw. When the hell did you become a Marine Corps recruiter?"

 

I give Dwight a serious look and explain, "Did you see the group he shot? It was two MOA with that piece of shit Norinco rifle he had without a fucking scope. Shit! He's already a rifleman. He's going to make a hell-of-a Marine."

 

Dwight scoots his chair close to me, looks me in the eyes with concern and asks, "Alright Ben, I've put up with enough of this crap with you. You can get pissed and walk out of here but as one old friend to another, I want to know what's going on?"

 

I finish off my bottle of beer and say, "Shit Dwight I'm not sure you'll understand."

 

He answers, "I sure won't if you don't tell me."

 

I start peeling the label off the beer bottle and reply, "Tell me Dwight, do you ever see the faces when you sleep?"

 

He gets a serious look on his face and confirms, "Hell yes, I still see them almost every time I dream."

 

I continue and ask, "You ever make any mistakes on your missions and kill the wrong person?"

 

His face is grim as he answers, "Shit yes, haven't we all?"

 

I look him square in the face and say, "What if there was a way you could remove those faces from you dreams forever, would you take it?"

 

I hardly have the words out of my mouth when he replies, "In a New York fucking minute! Don't tell me you figured out a way to do it!"

 

I tell him about my dreams. The whole time I’m talking he is scrutinizing my face. I finish and he says, "So you've become the avenger for those you wrongly killed…"

 

I interrupt, "It's more than that. I also can't kill anyone now unless there's no other alternative."

 

Dwight nods his head, "Well now many things sort of make sense, like your weapons choice. But what the hell is going on with leaving your fiancée?"

 

I frown at him and say, "Dwight, that's still private." I stand up and continue, "You know what they say about beer, you never buy it you just rent it. I'm going to go take a leak." I don't take long, because you know anything more than three shakes is playing with yourself. I instantly see someone with Dwight and I'm pretty sure who it is. They've certainly attracted a bunch of attention because some of the other men are swarming around the table like bees around a hive. I walk up to the table and say, "Guter Tag Wilhelm! Wie geht es Ihnen?"

 

"Good Day Wilhelm! How are you?"

 

Wilhelm gives me a surprised look and replies, "Ich bin feiner Ben, wie wussten Sie, dass es ich war?"

 

"I'm fine Ben, how did you know it was me?"

 

I laugh and answer, "Keine Frau, die ebenso fein aussieht, wie Sie tun, würde jemals mit diesem alten drecksack sprechen!"

 

"No woman that looks as fine as you do would ever be talking to this old dirtbag!"

 

Wilhelm answers, "It's good to see you Mr. Ben. How did you know it was really me?"

 

Yes, Wilhelm is a true professional. He's done makeup for some of the best actors and actresses in the world. I answer, "Wilhelm, you fooled me once, the first time we met. After that I swore you'd never fool me again. First your costume is too outrageous, a lady in a dress in this place. Get fucking real! Second, you left your ears exposed and I recognized their distinctive shape.

 

One of 'male bees' asks, "You mean to say, she's a he? That would mean he's a queer?"

 

Quick as a flash Wilhelm moves, has a knife against his throat and says, "Listen bastard, you

must learn to not judge a book by its cover. I have a wife, a mistress and six fucking kids you Amerikanischer Schwein-Hund."

 

The idiot gets pale and Dwight says, "George meet, Wilhelm. Wilhelm used to be Stasi6. Wilhelm if you make a mess in here you're going to clean it up."

 

6 East German secret police

 

He pushes George, who falls on his ass as Wilhelm comments, "He's not worth the mess." Then he looks at me and says, "Someday, I'm going to fool you again and then you will feel the prick of my little knife as a reminder of who won."

 

I laugh and reply, "Das wird sein, wenn Hölle zufriert oder Schweine erfahren, wie man fliegt! Dwight can we use your office?"

 

"That will be when hell freezes over or pigs learn how to fly."

 

Dwight points to a door and consents, "Have at it." Then laughs and teases, "But you two behave yourselves in there."

 

We both flip him off and walk into his office. We get in the office, close the door and Wilhelm says, "It's great to live in a country where that's legal. In Germany I would be arrested for this." He flips me off.

 

I give him a jaundiced look and answer, "Like hell you would. No one ever fucked with the Stasi and lived to tell about it."

 

He grins and confirms, "You did my friend but I do think you're the only one. By the way, thanks again for getting me and my family the hell out of there when you did."

 

I wave him off and say, "It's no big deal. Wilhelm, I need a couple of new identities for a long term mission I'm going on."

 

Like a true professional Wilhelm doesn't ask why, and I appreciate it. He questions, "Do you want them to be American or foreign?"

 

I reply, "Which is easier for you to create fake documents for?"

 

He replies, "Foreign are much easier."

 

I think for a moment and say, "I'd like one identity to be Russian and one to be Brazilian."

 

He turns on the desk light, shines it on my face and answers, "Yes Ben, you have the bone structure which will support both those choices. But your current looks have been all over the news so you are very recognizable. Is there any chance of getting you to grow your hair long and a beard?"

 

I lie and reply, "The hair yes, the beard no. I have too much American Indian in me and what you see right now on my face is two day's growth." Ever since I was a kid I was always embarrassed since it took so long for me to grow facial hair so I always lied about it.

 

He grabs my face, moves it around and says, "You should know better than to lie to me. That's at least three or four day's growth."

 

I laugh, "Yeah your right, it's really four day's growth."

 

Wilhelm says, "Well that's better for the disguise I have planned for you. Next time don't try to lie to me." He hands me a disposable razor, points at a wet bar sink and orders, "Now go over and shave very well. Then come back and sit down."

 

I shave and watch him pull things out of his bag. I finish, come back over and sit down. He looks at my head and says, "Ben, it looks like you've got some gray hair but I can't tell because it's too short. So we will need to change this later to match your hair better." He pulls out a fake pencil-thin mustache, applies some spirit gum to my upper lip, presses the mustache in place and says pantomiming a female, "It's a shame honey you can't grow a real mustache like this." Then he slips a wig on my head, makes a few adjustments and adds, "You look simply marvelous."

 

He hands me a mirror so I can check it out. I smile because I remind myself of the I Love Lucy Show. I tell Wilhelm in my best Cuban accent, "Now all I need is a two-tone Rickie Ricardo jacket," and I start humming the tune "Pencil Thin Mustache" by Jimmy Buffet.

 

He gives me a dirty look and says, "That was not an accent - that was a speech impediment! It's a good thing you didn't choose Cuban. Now let me hear your accents."

 

The Russian was easy so I did it first. I said, "I am going to meet Molly and Sally at the movie teater."

 

Wilhelm listens and answers, "That's almost perfect, you even got the th just right. You should be able to fool most people unless they are linguists. If they are tell them you have a sore throat. Now let's hear your Brazilian accent." (Russians have a real problem pronouncing th. Theater ends up sounding like teater.)

 

I say the same line. Wilhelm shakes his head and says, "That was very bad. Let's practice on it."

 

We spend about an hour practicing my Brazilian accent and learning how to apply and remove my mustache and wig. Finally Wilhelm says, "Well my friend, that's about as good as you're going to get in such a short period of time. I would recommend you use your Russian identity the most. Now when your real hair grows out enough, clip off a good piece and send it to me. I will make you several mustaches so they match your hair exactly. Now what sort of documents would you like?"

 

I reply, "How about passports and green cards." Wilhelm nods his head, "Those will be no problem. Just make sure you don't try to use either of them to leave the country. I have no way of faking the identities in the homeland security database. Now what names would you like to use?"

 

I reply, "For Russian I would like Erast Petrovich Fandorin7 and for the Brazilian name I would like Paulo Roberto Fernandez."

 

7 Erast Petrovich Fandorin - is a fictional 19th-century Russian detective and the hero of a series of Russian historical detective novels by Boris Akunin.

 

I put on the wig and apply the mustache. Wilhelm pulls out a camera, takes several pictures of me and says, "I will have everything ready for you tomorrow evening. And the memory card containing these pictures will be burnt and destroyed. Do you remember where I work?"

 

I nod my head and answer, "Yes I remember."

 

He hands me a bag and says, "Take off your disguise and put it in here. Make sure no one you know sees you in this disguise."

 

I give him a dirty look and tease, "Come on Wilhelm, you know me better than that." I pull out my wad of money and ask, "So how much do I owe you?"

 

He gets a hurt look on his face and says, "After all you did for me I cannot take any money from you. Just consider it as a partial repayment for what you've done for me."

 

We both leave the office and this time the guys avoid even looking at Wilhelm. I laugh, "Well, it looks like word has traveled about your real gender."

 

He says, "Just for that I should give you a kiss in front of everyone."

 

I suddenly get serious, "Do that and I'll use my knife and turn you into a woman." We both laugh as Wilhelm leaves, but not before blowing me a kiss. I notice someone else is waiting at Dwight's table and he looks upset.

 

Present – Jens – Flight back to America

 

I'm upset as hell! Our phone calls trying to find the location of 'the shop' have reached a dead end. We all hear the same bullshit, "We've heard about it but we think it's an urban legend."

 

It's time to regroup and figure out a new plan of attack so I call out to the girls, "Looks this is getting us nowhere and we're wasting valuable time. Let's come up with some new ideas." We all gather around a table and I continue, "Okay it's time for the three of you to give me all the information you've been hiding from me. Dammit, I wished I knew what the fuck Ben is doing and I wish I knew what the note says."

 

Ira clears her throat and says, "Excuse me Ms. Donaldson. But I have memorized every word of the note."

 

I get anxious and exclaim, "Well Ira spill the beans!"

 

Ira gives me a funny look and says, "I do not have any beans Ms. Donaldson."

 

I shake my head and complain, "Ira it's just a saying telling you to tell me everything."

 

Ira answers, "Yes Ms. Donaldson, I understand now. Here is what Mr. Blaine wrote in the note."

 

"Dear Ms. Donaldson"

 

I interrupt the hell out of her and say, "What the fuck is this Ms. Donaldson bullshit!"

 

Liz grabs my hand and says, "Jens, don't interrupt, let Ira finish."

 

I grump and complain, "Ms. Donaldson my fucking ass. Go ahead Ira."

 

She starts over again, I get impatient because the Ms. Donaldson grates on my nerves, but I control myself.

 

"Dear Ms. Donaldson,

 

We've talked many times in the past about the life we were going to build together, a life full of love and many children. However circumstances occurred in the past, which I have recently found out about which will prevent me from being able to fulfill my obligations to you.

 

I have no other choice than to totally release you from your pledge to marry me, so that you can find a good man who can give you all your dreams and desires. Please keep my mother's engagement ring since you deserve that for the hell I've put you through. I've also directed my lawyer, Frank Azario that you are to take over the cabin and all our joint bank accounts.

 

Believe me when I say, this is the hardest thing I've ever done because I love you more today than ever before. I'm doing this for you and not me, so you can have the life you so richly deserve.

 

Do not bother to look for me, because I am going away and you will never be able to find me. Instead concentrate on finding a good man to live with for the rest of your life.

 

All my love, now and forever!

Bennie Blaine"

 

I sit there speechless! Mom opens her mouth and gushes, "Oh that was such a lovely letter." It snaps me out of my shock and I yell, "Shut the fuck up bitch! This is entirely your fault!"

 

I fight like hell to keep the tears from streaming down my face, look at the girls and ask, "Do any of you have any idea what the fuck Ben's talking about?"

 

Mira clears her throat and answers, "Ms. Donaldson, Ira and I have thought about this note, discussed it and we have a theory."

 

I fidget and urge them on, "Well come on, let's hear what you think."

 

Mira answers, "Now this is just a theory because we cannot locate Mr. Blaine's medical records to verify it. The key point of the note is the children Mr. Blaine mentioned. Because we know he would make you happy just being together with him, everything else is not as important."

 

I interrupt with, "He sure as hell would."

 

Liz squeezes my hand and Mira continues, "We know who held Mr. Blaine and we think during his torture they did things to his nether regions which have caused him damage."

 

I'm confused for a moment, I see Liz blush and I know she knows something. I squeeze the hell out of Liz's hand and demand, "Okay Liz. I'm not quite sure what Mira said, but it's obvious you totally understand it and have even more information, so out with it sister."

 

Liz snatches her hand away from me and says, "Jens, first you have to promise me you won't kill me for what I'm going to tell you." I watch as Mira and Ira tense up and I know if I don't promise I'm going to have a hell of a fight on my hands.

 

I look Liz in the eyes and say, "Liz, I've given you two black eyes so I figure I already owe you one. Yes I promise I won't retaliate for what you're going to tell me."

 

Liz takes a very deep breath, blushes to an extreme and says, "Jens, I'm embarrassed as hell about this and please forgive me. Several times when Ben was unconscious, I looked at his package, you know just out of curiosity. And I noticed it well…looked sort of weird to me. I think with what Mira just said…I now understand that they did something to Ben's package which has made him either impotent or infertile."

 

I blink my eyes, shake my head and think about what the hell I just heard! I cautiously affirm, "You three are telling me Ben left me because he either can't make love to me, or can't give me children."

 

Ira says, "We think the latter is probably more accurate."

 

So I yell, "He fucking left me because he can't give me children! What the fucking hell is he thinking about! That selfish, prickless bastard! I don't give a fucking rats ass about any of that. I don't even care if he can't screw my brains out! I love him. I've waited my whole life for him and now he pulls this shit on me! I'm going to hunt the fucking bastard down and turn him from a rooster into a fucking hen."

 

My mind is working overtime and I command, "Okay, here's your assignments: Liz, please get on the fucking phone to the network and offer a twenty-thousand dollar reward for information concerning the whereabouts of Ben - make sure you setup a separate phone line to trap all the incoming calls. Mira, please get on the phone and contact everyone you know, and I know you two know a hell of a lot of intelligence personnel, and let them know I'll make it very worth their time if they find Ben. And Ira, please figure out some way to get a copy of Ben's medical records. I'm sure the sneaky bastard took his when he left the hospital, but they must have copies. Come on ladies let's move our asses. I've declared fucking war on Ben and this is one war he's going to lose."

 

Ira holds up her hand like a little school girl and says, "Excuse me Ms. Donaldson. Have you considered calling Ben's old spotter, Sgt. Jack Reynolds? He might possibly know about this 'shop' or perhaps Mr. Blaine contacted him."

 

I get fucking excited and give Ira a big kiss right on the lips which surprises the hell out of both of us. I say, "Ira, that's the best idea anyone has had so far."

 

I grab my phone and call Jack…

 

Present – Ben – Washington DC the "shop"

 

I walk out and there's someone new at Dwight's table talking to him I walk up and say, "Greetings Doctor, I'm your patient."

 

He looks at Dwight and Dwight nods his head. The Doc stands and asks, "Dwight, do you have any place that I can meet with my patient in private?"

 

Dwight points to a door and again consents, "You can use my office."

 

We both head back to the office, I close and lock the door and the doctor says, "Dwight was pretty vague about your request and I normally don't make house calls…"

 

I interrupt, "Doctor, look this doesn't have to be hard. I just need a prescription for this." I hand him a patch and continue, "with the ability to get refills anywhere in the country."

 

He looks at the patch and replies, "I'd like to hear the history of why a young man like you would need these." So once again I go into the recitation of how I was captured and tortured. When I finish he asks, "You say this was verified by Walter Reed?"

 

I reply, "I had two analyses done, they both came back totally negative."

 

He orders, "Let's see the patch you have on now."

 

I take off my shirt and turn around because it's on my upper back. The doctor pauses for a moment, so I know he's looking at the old wounds and scars. Then he pulls off the patch and asks, "Have you been itchy around the patch lately?"

 

Now that he mentions it I do remember it being bothersome. I reply, "Yeah it has been some problem."

 

He explains to me, "I think you're developing and allergy to the patch…"

 

I interrupt, "Shit! That's all I need because without these I feel like crap."

 

He continues, "Yeah I bet you do, but don't worry. We have other things than the patch we can give you that might even work better. You know if you don't mind I'd really like to examine you."

 

I want to tell him fuck no, but I'm pretty used to being poked and prodded by now so I say, "Well, it doesn't thrill me…"

 

The doctor interrupts, "And it sure as hell doesn't thrill me." He goes to the bar sink in Dwight's office, washes his hands, comes back and says, "Okay you know the drill, drop your pants."

 

He finishes the examination and says, "I would concur with the doctors at Walter Reed. Those terrorists really did a number on you and it must have hurt like hell. However I don't see any atrophy so I don't think there's much vascular damage. Have you considered surgery?"

 

I pull up my pants and reply, "The doctors told me I wasn't a candidate for surgery and for me there would only be a two percent chance of success."

 

He washes his hands again and says, "I do agree you need the testosterone replacement, but I don't think I'd agree with their surgical evaluation. Many times the VA doctors aren't current and don't like to tell the patients about expensive procedures. I think you're an excellent candidate for the microsurgery that a friend of mine is doing. I'm going to leave his name for you should you ever decide to have this possibly fixed. Since you’re developing an allergy to the Androderm patch, I'm going to prescribe you the injectable form of testosterone with syringes. The bottle should last you for six months and I'll give you three refills. If you use Greenwalls pharmacy they should be able to access this prescription anywhere in the US and give you the refills."

 

I get nervous and ask, "Look doctor, I know you know who I am. I'm going on a deep undercover mission and I need this prescription made out in the name of one of my aliases. His name is Paulo Roberto Fernandez. Would it be possible to do that for me?"

 

He gives me a look until I pull out a couple thousand dollars and hand it to him. Then he says, "Well, this isn't normal but I guess I can do it." He hands me his business card, the prescription, a card for the surgeon he knows and says, "Just give me a call when you need a refill. If you ever get up in the Seattle area you really should have an evaluation by this doctor, he's one of the best."

 

I shake his hand and we both leave the office, Dwight motions me over to his table and says, "Look what's on the TV."

 

Shit! There's an ad with a current picture of me prominently displayed, offering a twenty-thousand dollar reward for any information on my whereabouts. I look at Dwight and he says, "This is on all the television stations."

 

I look at all the guys in 'the shop' and ask, "Dwight, no offense, but it seems to me your security has gotten more than a little lax. Do you trust all the guys in your shop not to turn me in?"

 

He doesn't even get upset and says, "Ben, you're right, I have let things slip and there are bastards in here that might have turned you in already."

 

I reply, "Dwight, I need a different car and I need to get out of here right now. Can I pick up the rest of my gear tomorrow morning?"

 

He nods his head, "Yeah, I don't blame you for getting out of here. He slides his car keys across the table and says, "Take my car because no one here knows what it looks like. Shall I meet you at 0500 tomorrow morning at the normal drop site?"

 

I take the keys, grab my current gear and slip out the back to Dwight's garage. I escape in his car. Two miles later I pull over, put on my wig and mustache and become Erast Petrovich Fandorin. I leave Banzai Bennie Blaine, my old life and Ms. Jennifer Donaldson forever behind me. I still have a few things to do tonight before I find someplace to crash…

 

Present – Jack - Hawaii

 

My beautiful and lovely wife Masha starts yelling, "Jack you must see what is on the tyelyevizionniy."

 

I smile because even after all these years she still uses some Russian words. It's probably another damn cooking show and she wants to know what I think about the recipe. I slowly rise out of my chair in front of the computer, curse myself for sitting too long again and stiffly amble into the living room.

 

I stop in shock the minute I see the screen. There's a picture of Banzai on it and there's an offer of twenty-thousand dollars for any information leading to the discovery of his whereabouts. Masha asks, "Jack do you know where your good friend is? Is he in some sort of trouble?"

 

I have no idea what is going on! I hear a noise and see that our overly-active son Ivan has been messing with the phone again and has left it off the hook - I sure as hell hope he didn't accidentally dial Bolivia again! The last time he did that I had one hell of a phone bill. I walk over to hang up the phone, and reply, "Masha honey, I have no idea what's going on with Banzai. By the way Vanya was messing with the phone again."

 

I hang it up as Masha replies, "Sorry my love. I try my best to watch him but sometimes he is very sneaky like you."

 

I grin remembering how I used to be one sneaky bastard, back in the good old days. But marriage to a good woman and having a young son - well they have sort of changed that. I'm not the hard assed bastard I used to be.

 

The phone immediately starts ringing. I check the caller ID, don't recognize who it is, pick it up and complain, "Sorry we gave at the office."

 

Jennifer Donaldson anxiously replies, "Jack I'm not a fucking phone solicitor so you'd better not hang up on me. I've been fucking trying to get ahold of you for an hour but it's been busy."

 

I answer, "Jennifer simmer down. Your Godson had the phone off the hook again. I see the reward on TV about Banzai, what the hell is going on?"

 

She abruptly answers, "Listen Jack, I'd love to chat another time and tell you everything. Ben has gone crazy and left me. I just need to know two things from you. One has Ben contacted you and two have you ever heard of a place in DC called 'the shop'."

 

Masha is standing by me and bugging the hell out of me, but I wave her off and reply, "Jennifer, I haven't heard anything from Banzai since he arrived back in the States and to be truthful I'm pretty damn hurt about it. When I see him again I'm going to kick his ass…"

 

She interrupts, "Well mister you're going to have to stand in a pretty long line because when we find him, first I'm going to kick his ass; and then Liz, Mira and Ira all want to kick his ass."

 

I silently chuckle and think that Banzai has made a huge fucking mistake because hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned and it sounds to me he has scorned at least four women. I continue, "Jennifer, I'll let you know if he contacts me. As far as the place called 'the shop', I don't know where it is, but I do know who the hell owns it and perhaps you can find it if you find him. He's a former Air Force STO and his name is Dwight Regan. If you have a minute Masha would love to talk to you."

 

She says, "Tell Masha I'm sorry but I can't right now. Thanks for everything Jack." And she hangs up the phone.

 

Masha gives me the look so I relate the entire phone call to her, making sure not to leave out a single detail. When I'm done Masha stomps her foot on the floor and starts swearing like a sailor in Russian. She’s quite a site, storming around the house and waving her hands.

 

Vanya hears his mama yelling and comes out of hiding. I laugh because he's in the little ghillie suit I made for him and is carrying his toy rifle. He's been playing his favorite game - sniper. Masha's yelling and swearing has scared him so he starts crying like hell and the whole house is in pandemonium.

 

I scoop him up and say in my loudest voice, "Don't worry Vanya everything is fine. I'm sure mama doesn't mean to be saying those bad words with the same mouth she uses to kiss you."

 

You know how you feel when you step in a pile of dog shit? Masha gives me a look and I get the feeling I have just stepped into the biggest pile of steaming dog shit in the world. She takes Vanya from me and says, "Mr. Jack Reynolds! You do not seem to have any problems with the other things I use my mouth for with you. Perhaps it would not be so funny if I stopped doing them? And I will have you know I use bad words much less than you. In fact just the other day your son used the f word in front of my friends and then laughed when I scolded him for it and called me the b word! We will talk about this later. Now if you expect to have joy or happiness ever again in our bedroom you will get busy and help Jennifer Donaldson find her fiancé and your son's Godfather."

 

I try to sidestep things and say, "I'm not sure what she wants me to do."

 

Masha orders, "I am a woman and I know what she wants done and I will tell you what to do. First you will get on that computer of yours which you spend entirely too much time on, contact all your friends and have them start looking for Ben. Tell them I will also be e-mailing their wives just to make sure they get the message. While you're doing that I will pack your bag because you are going to Washington DC to see if Jennifer needs anything."

 

All of a sudden Banzai's predicament no longer seems quite so funny. I head to my computer and reflect on how fucking spooky women are.

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