Amber Moon

By

Lady D

Chapter One

The Dance

Friday, 11 Aug, 0945 hrs

Washington D.C.

Trout's Office

A light knock sounds on his door. Looking up Xavier Trout sighs and says, "Come". His secretary, a large manila envelope in her hand enters the room. Smiling, Trout nods and takes the envelope from her and places it on the corner of his desk.

"It's marked Urgent, Sir," the secretary says over her shoulder before exiting the room, closing the door behind her.

Looking closely at the envelope, he notices a small insignia embossed in the corner. Gently rubbing his thumb across the emblem a smile of pure pleasure crosses his face.

Quickly he opens the envelope, tilting it downward, a letter and several gold tipped invitations fall onto his desk. Opening the letter he begins to read. The smile quickly replaced by a worried frown.

The letter reads:

Xavier,

I hope you can forgive me for the past, but I desperately need your help now. I am giving a small party tonight and hope that you will assist me. I need your best my friend. Enclosed is a diagram of the embassy; on the second floor in the south wing is the study marked in the diagram. Concealed in the bookcase behind the desk is the safe. The computer disc within must be retrieved at all cost. I will be wearing the Brooch you gave me a lifetime ago. That is how I can be recognized.

Please don't fail me Xavier. I will explain, I promise

Amber

Picking up one of the invitations, Trout swears softly under his breath. The address printed on the white vellum paper is 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles.

Looking at the clock on the wall he quickly punches the intercom button. "Yes Sir!" his secretary answers.

"Linda" Trout says " I need to be on a flight to L.A. as soon as possible". "Oh and a car to meet me."

"Yes Sir"

Three minutes later his intercom squawks. "Mr. Trout"

"Yes, Linda"

"There is a flight leaving from Dulles in 45mins. Arriving LAX at 1755."

"That's perfect, please cancel all my appointments for the next several days."

"Yes, sir"

Trout grabs his briefcase, placing the envelope with the letter and invitations inside. From the small closet behind his desk Trout pulls his overnight bag. Hurrying out the door he stops long enough to get the itinerary from his secretary.

"Thank you Linda, I will see you in a couple of days, you know how to reach me if the need arises."

Friday, 11 Aug 1830 hrs

Silver Star Hotel

Hermosa Beach, Ca

Sitting in a corner booth, at the far end of the room, three men and a woman sit and sip their drinks. The table is large enough so that none have to sit with their back to the room.

A slim, wiry, man his New York accent very evident deals, slapping a card down in front of a beautiful dark haired woman sitting to his right.

"Margo, the Queen of Hearts"

"Nick" she says before she laughingly blows him a kiss. On her left the tall dark haired man quirks an eyebrow up at their antics.

Turning over the next card on to his own stack, Nick triumphantly says "A pair of Aces to the dealer – Ha."

"Ah Nick, you know what that means don't you Amigo" Benny Ray sitting to the dealer right says in his smooth southern drawl.

"Lucky at cards, unlucky in Love"

All four break out in laughter, knowing the current state of Nick's love life - non-existent.

Matt, the tallest of the three men is dark haired with piercing blue eyes, and the Owner of the Silver Star swears suddenly as he sees a familiar face enter the bar. Seconds later all four of them groan as an impeccable dressed man walks up to the table.

"Trout" Matt says, a hint of sarcasm evident in his voice.

"I need to talk to you Matt," pausing he looks at all four of them and says "I need to talk to all of you"

"What no hush, hush keep us in the dark clandestine meeting" drawls Benny Ray.

"Easy Benny Ray" Matt says as he motions for all of them to move. Standing they all head toward Matt's office.Matt sits down behind the desk, the other three range themselves around him – almost protectively.

Trout moving to the front of the desk places his briefcase on top. Pulling the envelope out he hands Matt the letter and the invitations.

"I received these in the mail this morning." Trout states.

Matt reads the letter and hands it to Benny Ray with a nod of his head to pass it around. Picking up the invitation Matt asks.

"Who is Amber" looking up he stares intently into Trout's eyes.

Pausing, Trout takes a deep breath before he begins to speak. Knowing Matt will never agree to help if he doesn't explain.

"Her name is Diana, he pauses, Diana Amberleigh. We met about 10 years ago - in Libya. She was a doctor working with the United Nations. I was very impressed with her; she was smart, savvy, and very, very intelligent. Besides that she never took any crap from anybody." "Even Me." A smile of remembrance crosses his face.

"We became good friends, then one day totally out of the blue, she very much surprised me by asking if she could come to work for me."

"I laughed and told her I was just a plain, dull old business man."

"She laughed right back at me, this sly knowing smile on her face."

"I remember it as if it was yesterday." Trout says his voice getting husky; "she patted me on the check and says. "You my dear Xavier are anything but a plain, dull old business man." "And she walked away."

"She was one of the best. She was proficient in linguistics, hand-to-hand combat and small arms. She can crack a safe with the best of them." She was," here Trout pauses "a very fascinating lady."

"Was" Margo asks?

Trout's voice cracks as he begins again. "About 5 years ago she lost her partner, they were inseparable." "They worked together for over three years.

It was a mission gone wrong from the start, they were betrayed by someone very close to them." They were caught in an explosion and her partner was critically injured. She brought him home, it took her four days but she brought him home, alive. He died a week later!

In the background the small group can hear Benny Ray as he whispers "Everyone Comes Home."

Amber spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from her own wounds. She wouldn't talk about it she never said one word, even to me. When she walked out of that hospital I never heard from her again, until today. "

"Their betrayer was found dead three weeks later, one shot to the head."

Matt's team all stared, none of them had ever seen Trout this emotional, except for the time when his daughter had been held hostage.

"What do you want us to do," Matt asks?

"Help her Matt," Trout begs, " I don't know how, but you've got to help her."

Friday 11 Aug, 2100 hrs

Chilean Ambassadors Residence

Los Angeles

A black limousine followed closely by Caterers truck pulls into the compound. The wrought Iron Gates stand wide open, guards in uniform stand patiently, checking all incoming vehicles for proper identification and invitations. As they pull up to the main entrance, Matt and his team can see several guard standing at attention. Rifles slung over their shoulders. Looking left and right, Benny Ray says, "there are two more guards at each end of the building. Surveillance cameras in the trees and in every corner."

"Damn, I don't like this," swears Matt.

"Nick, how's it going back there?" Matt asks, speaking into his comm link.

"Heading for the service entrance now boss, I'll keep you up da date on what I see," Nick says.

"Benny Ray this is a big place, I hate to split up but I don't' think we have much choice," Matt says. "When you get inside go left, scope out the main floor. Margo you go upstairs and see what kind of firepower we might be up against. I'm going straight down the middle."

"Rob, stay alert," Matt says as he taps the limo driver on the shoulder.

"Yes Sir, understood," Rob replies.

"Our first objective is to find our contact, a blonde, with blue eyes wearing the Amber Moon broach. Yeah, this is going to be a walk in the park," Matt grumbles under his breath. "We're running late people, so lets do this as quickly as we can." Exiting the car Matt turns back to assist Margo. His black Tuxedo a perfect foil for Margo's red silk evening gown. Benny Ray dressed all in black exits last. Both men present their elbows and move to escort Margo into the building. Smiling Margo links her arms with both men as they walk up the stairs.

"Matt" Nicks voice all business, comes in strongly across the link. "There are two guards on da back entrance, lightly armed, handguns only. I don't see any movement on the roof at all." "I'll have more info as soon as I get inside."

"We're on our way inside now Nick" Matt says.

Inside the three split moving to their appointed positions. Margo goes directly for the stairway leading to the upper level. Going directly down the main corridor she can see only one man standing in the hallway. As she moves to pass him he steps out in front of her.

"Can I help you Miss" his Latin accent very evident.

Looking directly into his eyes, she says, " I was looking for the ladies power room, can you help me," lowering her lashes flirtatiously, she licks her bottom lip.

Staring, the man soon stutters the directions to her, "back down the hallway and to the left."

Motioning with her hand she mimics his directions, turning her body away, her eyes remain in contact until the last minute wiggling her finger, goodbye.

Turning left Margo queries, "Matt."

"Go, Margo" Matt returns.

"One guard stationed outside the room, armed. No surveillance cameras in the hallway. This place is not heavily guarded, I get the feeling they don't know we're coming."

"Roger Margo, keep your eyes open though, lets not get lax before the gig is played." Matt states.

"Benny Ray you copy that," Matt asks.

"Roger that boss, one guard, armed, no cameras."

Benny Ray going left enters the main ballroom. Moving around the room he can see many blonde women but none wearing the brooch. Taking up a position by the window he sees a tall very striking blonde woman making her way through the ballroom, she stops often to talk with many of the guests. For some reason Benny Ray can't seem to take his eyes off of her. The woman is not classically beautiful, but her face is alive and filled with laughter. A soft coral colored dress is a perfect compliment to her complexion. Rising above the noise of the crowd he can hear her voice, lilting and musical.

Shaking his head he turns away, scanning the room, hoping to spot the Amber Moon brooch among the mass of humanity in the ballroom.

From behind him he suddenly smells a soft hint of lilac, turning he sees the intriguing blonde standing in front of him.

With laughter in her eyes she says "It's not polite to stare you know," here she pauses for effect, seeing the confusion written on Benny Rays face she continues.

"Either I am the most beautiful creature you have ever seen or I have a smudge of dirt on my nose." Smiling she hands him one of the two glasses of champagne she holding.

Taking the glass in his left hand Benny Ray leans toward her, brushing the tip of her nose with his right thumb saying, "yes ma'am you have a tiny smudge, right here."

Laughing again, she cries, "Caught in a trap of my own making, and I was so hoping for the first choice"

Holding up the glass of champagne, Benny Ray, a playful smile on his lips says, "To you ma'am, the most beautiful woman I have ever met."

Raising her glass, she touching his lightly, the crystal glasses chiming in salute.

The world and time seem to stand still as their eyes meet, both can feel the air around them begin to heat up.

At the front of the room, the band begins to play; the lilting notes of a waltz fill the room.

"Would you care to dance," Benny Ray asks.

Breathlessly she answers, "Yes." Taking her glass he places them on a passing waiters tray. Holding out his right hand to her, beside him she gracefully places her left hand in his right as they come together. Gathering her close, they move as one onto the floor. Graceful and elegant they spin and whirl across the dance floor, lost in the rhythm and magic the music has evoked.

From across the dance floor a tall dark man watches them, his black eyes blazing with anger. As the dance ends, he turns away.

Slowly Benny Ray comes to a stop, still holding her tightly against him. For several more seconds they stand staring at one another. Breathlessly she pushes away from him, unsure of what just happened.

"I must return to my guests," she mumbles, gathering herself she moves quickly away loosing herself in the crowd.

Before he can move to follow her, the device in his ear brings him back to reality. "Benny Ray, Margo" Matt says, "Have you spotted our contact."

Taking a deep breath Benny Ray whispers in return "No sir"

"No Matt, not yet," says Margo.

"We're running out of time, people, lets hope she shows up soon. If she doesn't we are on our own."

Exiting the ballroom the blonde woman is caught and spun around, startled she looks up. The dark eyed man his voice masking his anger asks, "Diana are you enjoying yourself"

"Michael," she cries, trying to pry his hand off her arm "you're hurting me."

"I'm sorry my love," he says contritely as he releases her.

Holding up his other hand he says, "one of the servants found this, it is yours isn't it my dear." In is hand is a brooch, intricately wrought in gold and amber in the shape of a quarter moon.

Startled she looks down toward her right shoulder, shocked to find the brooch missing. Looking up she takes the brooch from him, "the clasp must have come loose, thank you so much for finding it, it means a lot to me." Standing on tiptoe she places her hand over his heart and a kiss on his lips.

"Thank you Michael"

Grabbing her around the waist he pulls her close, capturing her lips in a punishing kiss. Taking her lip between his teeth he bits down hard enough to draw blood.

Slapping his face she pulls away.

"You belong to me Diana, remember that," Michael hisses.

Raising her chin high in the air she replies, "I belong to no man, Michael, especially you." Wiping the blood from her lip she deliberately smears it across his white shirt cuff, and walks away.

Wiping his thumb across the stain, Michael watches as Diana leaves the room, anger burning in his eyes

Hurrying to her room, Diana lays the brooch on the corner of her night table. Hastily she washes the blood from her lip, the bleeding was slight and had already stopped. Slipping her evening gown off she throws it across the foot of the bed and changes into the black leather pants and loose fitting turtleneck laid out on her dresser. Sitting on the edge of the bed she pulls the little black leather soft-soled boots on, and ties them tightly. From the closet she grabs a small black bag and quickly fills it with her toiletry items and a change of clothes. Taking only those items most valuable to her, knowing she might never return to this place.

Reaching down she picks up the Amber brooch and lovingly rubs her thumb across the smooth stone. Sighing, she pins it at her throat beneath the cowl of the turtleneck in plain sight. Slinging the bag over her shoulder she moves to the closet. Opening the door she deftly turns the knob, revealing a dark passageway within. The ambassadors' residence was riddled with these passageways; build into the building to assist in escape if it should ever be necessary. Having spent many hours exploring, Diana knew exactly where she was going. Her shoes made no sound in the darkness, only the slight stirring of the dust revealed her passage. Less than a minute later she stops, putting her ear to the wall, listening intently for any sound from within the room. Hearing nothing she presses her thumb against the hidden key, the passageway door slides open. Closing the door behind her she scans the contents of the room. The room is dark except for one small light, on the desktop. Moving across the room she stands beside the door. Placing her hand on it she scratches lightly with her nails. Suddenly the door opens, a small beam of light pierces the darkness and a tall, heavily built man enters the room. From behind the door, Diana strikes quickly, knocking the man out. Catching him before he hits the floor, she grumbles under her breath at the weight of the big man. Closing the door with her foot she drags his dead weight into the corner of the room, hiding his body behind a big overstuffed chair, removing the weapon from inside his jacket. Moving back into the room she heads for the safe. Without having made contact with Xavier or his people she figured she was on her own.

"Nothing boss," Benny Ray says as the three operatives meet back in the foyer.

"I think it's time for plan B." Matt states.

"Benny Ray, Margo you know what to do, Nick?"

"Yeah Matt," Nick replies.

"Watch the back entrance, let us know immediately if things start to heat up," Matt says. "I'll be right here if anything should happen."

"Gotcha Matt" Nick replies one more time.

Heading up the stairs, Benny Ray is all business now, his mind running through the plan that was discussed earlier at the Silver Star.

"Margo I thought you said there was a guard up here."

"There was a few minutes ago, maybe he took a trip to the little boys room."

Pulling the Glock 21 out of its holster, Benny Ray slowly opens the study door. The room is in total darkness; only the moonlight shining in the window relieves the total blackness of the room.

Moving into the room toward the desk, Benny Ray quietly closes the door behind him. Holstering his weapon he removes the tools from the inside pocket of his tuxedo. Nearing the desk he turns, seeing a movement in the shadow beside him. Though he is not quick enough to ward off the blow to his left temple.

Beside him, Diana grabs hold of his unconscious body and quietly lowers him to the floor. Reaching up she turns the desk lamp back on. Shining the light of the lamp onto the still form, she gasps in surprise.

"Damn," she mumbles, "damn." Not knowing exactly who he is but relying on a hunch she tries to wake him. Several minutes later Benny Ray begins to stir. From her pack she pulls out a handkerchief, placing it gently against the bloody gash in his forehead, trying to staunch the flow of blood.

Opening his eyes, Benny Ray is having a hard time focusing. The first thing he sees is the brooch at her throat. Raising his right hand, he reaches for it. "Amber Moon" he murmurs. Looking up he finally focuses on Diana. "You," he whispers in surprise.

"Yes, Me" she whispers back.

Taking his left hand she places it over the blood soaked handkerchief at his brow. "Press tightly," she directs, " We have to stop the bleeding."

Benny Ray struggles to sit up, waves of dizziness and nausea wash over him. "Your Trout's, Amber Moon" he says, twisting around to rest his back against the front of the desk, the slightest movement causing the darkness to descend upon him once more. Benny Ray tries desperately to remain focused on her face, as his body begins to tilt sideways.

"Stay with me," Diana urges, grabbing the front of his shirt she asks, "What is your name." No answer, louder she asks, "What is your name."

"Benny Ray," he whispers, opening his eyes once more.

"Well, Benny Ray, we seem to have a problem. Somehow we have to get you out of here before Michael and his goons decides to come visiting." "Do you think you can stand," she asks.

"Benny Ray," a familiar voice whispers in his ear, "Benny Ray, can you hear me."

His voice wavers as he answers, "yes Margo I hear you"

"Are you ok, she asks, you don't sound so good."

"I found our contact, she's here with me."

"Have you recovered the disc," Matt breaks in.

"Do you have the disc," Benny Ray whispers to Diana.

Pulling the disc out of her pack she briefly shows it to him before stuffing it into his Tuxedo pocket.

"Disc Secured Major," Benny Ray says. "We are on our way out, maybe," he states.

"Benny Ray, there is no way you are going to make it out through the main entrance looking like this," indicating the blood stained suit. "We have to go out the south entrance. Tell your people to take out the two guard, you will meet them there."

Without hesitation he calls Matt, "I have a slight problem here major, we will have to go out through the south entrance. Do what you need to do to clear the path."

"Have to Benny Ray?" Matt asks?

"Yes, sir, but I will explain later. We are running out of time."

"Rob, Nick you copy that," Matt asks.

"Yes sir, moving into position now," states Rob.

"Aye, aye boss man," replies Nick

"I have a feeling, we are going to need a diversion to get us out of here." "Nick you up for this." Matt asks?

"Diversions are my specialty boss" chuckles Nick, "ready and waiting when you are."

"Set it for 2 minutes, then haul your ass out of there Nick. Rendezvous in 4 minutes south entrance, you copy," Matt asks

"Roger, set 2 and run like hell," chuckles Nick.

Inside the study, Benny Ray with Diana's assistance tries to stand. Closing his eyes against the dizziness, Benny Ray leans heavily on Diana for support.

"Come on big guy," she whispers, "hang in there for a few more minutes. Then we'll be free and clear of this place." Moving toward the bookcase Diana presses the hidden key that opens the passageway door. Struggling to get Benny Ray through and propped up against the inside wall, she closes the door behind them. With the butt of her weapon she smashes the door key, sealing the door shut. The passageways are dimly lit, but Diana knows exactly which corridors to follow. Their progress is slow, and several minutes later from behind them they can hear the smashing of the study door as it is forced open. A deep voice echoes throughout the halls.

"Diana, I'll kill you for this, do you hear me.

"In your dreams, you worthless bastard," she whispers under her breath. Beside her Benny Ray chuckles.

At the same time they can hear an explosion - Nicks diversion.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs they come to the end of the corridor.

"Major, do we have clear passage," Benny Ray asks?

No answer, again Benny Ray asks, "Major" as he hears shots being fired.

"Now Benny Ray, the car is 10 meters to you left as you exit the door."

"We go now," he whispers to Diana. Opening the passageway door, Diana, weapon ready searches the dimly lit hallway. Sighting nothing she moves toward the exit door. Behind her, a little unsteady on his feet comes Benny Ray.

"Go," she whispers to him, "I'll cover your back."

"You're coming with me Diana," he states as he reaches for her arm. Stepping out of reach she says, "Go Benny Ray, you have the disc, that is the most important piece of this puzzle. Please go Benny Ray I will see you again. I promise!" Stepping forward she brushes a little butterfly kiss on his cheek and moves away from the door.

Turning away, Benny Ray reaches inside his coat pocket for the Glock. Dropping the bloody handkerchief on the floor. Steadying himself against the doorjamb, he takes a deep breath before staggering out the door. Focusing on the waiting car he stumbles down the walk like a drunken sailor. Upon reaching the car he drops into the seat exhausted, closing his eyes. Behind him Margo slides in and closes the door. Matt jumps in through the opposite door, closing it behind him and taking the rear-facing seat of the Limo. Nick enters through the front passenger door.

"Where's the contact Benny Ray," Matt asks, but receives no answer.

Beside him Margo turns to look at Benny Ray for the first time, a hiss of indrawn breath reveals her surprise at the blood streaming down the side of his face.

"He's hurt Matt," Margo replies. Let me have your handkerchief, quickly." Taking it from Matt's hand she gently places it over the wound.

The flutter of his eyelids indicates he is at least partly conscious.

"She not coming with us," Benny Ray whispers, opening his eyes.

"Go Rob" Matt yells to the driver. "Nick, get Rico on the phone." Seconds later Nick hands the phone to Matt and holds a whispered conversation with Rico on the other end.

Turning to Benny Ray he asks, Dizziness, Nausea

"Yes sir," is his reply.

"How many fingers." Matt asks holding up two.

Trying hard to focus, Benny Ray smiles a little and says "about twelve".

"Lie him down Margo," Matt says. Taking off his jacket Matt rolls it up and places it behind Benny Ray's head as a pillow. "Keep him talking Margo," Matt whispers into her ear.

"All right Rico, we'll meet you at the Silver Star in about 20 minutes."

Margo sitting on the floor beside him asks, "How did you acquire this Benny Ray."

"It's a long story Margo," he whispers.

"I know you want to go to sleep Benny Ray, but you need to stay awake and talk to me."

Slowly, he begins to explain his meeting Diana in the study, leaving out all mention of their first meeting, champagne and waltz.

Saturday, 12Aug 0130 hrs

Silver Star Hotel

Hermosa Beach, Ca.

Rico and Trout are waiting just inside the door as the car pulls up to the side entrance of the bar. Rico and Margo assist Benny Ray out of the car and upstairs to a room. Sitting him down on the side of the bed.

Pulling the disc out of his breast pocket, Benny Ray hands it to Matt.

"Margo," Rico say turning away to pick up his medical bag, "lets get him out of those clothes and into bed. Matt exits the room, Trout and Nick follows.

Deftly, Margo removes his jacket and shirt, reaching down she begins to unbuckle his belt.

"Margo," Benny questions, placing his hand over hers, halting her progress.

"Well it was worth a try," she says, smiling.

Chuckling, a grimace of pain crosses his pale face; Benny Ray murmurs, "Don't make me laugh Margo it hurts too much."

"Go ahead outside Margo, I'll take care of the rest, Rico says."

About 20 minutes later Rico descends down to the basement. As he reaches the last step all eyes turn to him questioningly

"I put three stitches in, and he has a slight concussion, he should be back on his feet in a day or so." Rico answers their silent questions. "We need to wake him up every hour or so just to make sure though. I'll take the first watch."

"Now for this," Matt says, handing the disc to Margo. "I think it's time we found out what all the fuss was about."

Firing up her computer Margo inserts the disc into the drive. Frowning she looks up at Matt and says "it's encrypted" It may take me a while to break it.

Fifteen minutes later Margo crows in triumph, as the display on her computer changes revealing the contents of the disc.

"These she says, pointing to several entries on the screen, are geographic surveys, Matt, and this other document seems to be some kind of an itinerary. Give me a couple more seconds and I will try and plot these survey coordinates."

Less than a minute later a map of Chile opens with the survey areas boldly plotted in red.

"I'll do a little more research Matt and find out what these areas are," Margo states.

Walking over he places his hand on the keyboard. "It's 2am and right now Margo I think we all need to get a little sleep, you can finish this up in the morning."

With a slight frown, Margo complies, removing the disc and shutting down the computer. Taking the disc Matt locks it up in his office safe. The others slowly disperse to their appointed rooms.

Upstairs, nearly an hour has passed and Rico gently shakes Benny Ray awake. "How you doing pal, you need anything, Rico asks, as Benny Rays eyes flicker open.

"Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin," is the quiet reply. "What time is it," Benny Ray asks. "Almost 3am," is Rico's answer.

"Thanks Amigo, I'm glad you're here, Benny Ray says before he drifts off to sleep.

Ten hours later, Benny wakes up; in the chair beside his bed Margo sits reading. Looking over she can see that he is awake.

"Good Afternoon," she whispers.

"Afternoon sunshine, what day is it," Benny Ray asks?

"It's Saturday, you've been asleep for nearly 12 hours."

Rising up on his elbows, Benny Ray is surprised to find the dizziness gone. But the pounding in his head is only one reminder of last night's encounter. The bandage on his forehead over his left eyes the other. Pulling back the covers, Benny Ray swings his legs off the bed; each move is slow and methodical, being very careful not to upset the careful balance in his head.

Standing beside him Margo beings to speak, "No Benny Ray…"

But he cuts her off indicating his need with a lift of an eyebrow and a thumb towards the bathroom.

"Oh, she whispers, sorry."

Ten minutes later he emerges fully dressed. His rumpled hair and pale complexion the only indicators he isn't totally recovered.

"Where's Matt," Benny Ray asks before she can scold him.

"Downstairs an hour ago, with Trout," is Margo's reply, glaring at him as he heads for the door. "Where do you think you are going, she asks.

"I'm Hungry." is his reply, a sheepish grin on his face.

"Benny Ray, she scolds, you have practically been unconscious for 12 hours and the first thing you think about when you wake up is your stomach.

Winking at her he holds out his hand, "come on Margo," he drawls. "Help this feeble old man down the stairs."

The basement operations room is dark and quiet as they descend the stairs. Margo walks over to the wall searching for the light switch.

Taking several more steps into the room Benny Ray stops, a faint scent of Lilacs in the air. Suddenly alert he searches the room. As the lights come on a feminine figure steps out of the shadows. She is dressed in blue jeans, with a pink longs sleeved knit crop top. She stand ramrod straight, her hands clasped in front of her defensively.

"Diana" Benny Rays states?

"Hi, Benny Ray," she replies flustered. "I just wanted to see you… see how you were I mean."

"I'm Okay, how did you find us," he asks.

"Trout" is her only reply.

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for everything," She gestures toward his bandage on his forehead. "I know the whole thing was my fault, loosing the pin and hitting you I mean." "I should have been more careful." For several seconds they just stand there staring at one another.

Behind Benny Ray, Margo stands quietly; she can almost feel the electricity in the air, flying between the two. Seconds later she clears her throat to get their attention, breaking the spell they seem to be under.

"Margo?" Benny Ray replies slightly embarrassed.

"Margo Vincent, this is Diana Amberleigh," he pauses, "Amber Moon."

A welcoming smile on her face, Margo moves forward to greet Diana.

"He's always been like that, don't mind him." Margo says. I'm glad to finally meet you, I've heard so much about you," Margo smiles, as a blush spreads across Diana's cheeks. "From Trout," she finishes.

Behind them, coming down the stairs, they can hear Nick babbling away. Rico, a pained expression on his face follows along with Matt and finally Xavier Trout.

"Diana," Trout says. Moving across the room he wraps her in a big hug. I was wondering when you would finally show up.

"I was a little unsure of my welcome," is her quiet reply, looking towards Benny Ray, then to the rest of them. Gathering around, Nick and Rico beg for an introduction.

enny Ray, standing quietly just outside the circle, feels a hand on his shoulder and looks around. Margo hands him a sandwich. Standing on tiptoe she whispers in his ear, "I like her Benny Ray, I like her a lot." Giving her an exasperated look, he takes a big vicious bit out of the sandwich.

Matt, a smile on his face waits for the confusion to die down. "We're glad you're here, he says. I was hoping you would show up to help us with the information on the disc. Margo has figured out what's on the disc. Now we just need to know exactly what it means. Pulling the disc out of his pocket Matt hands it to Margo.

Walking over the computer, Margo accesses the disc, several seconds later the big TV screen beside the computer shows the contents.

"These are geographic surveys, Margo says pointing to the screen, and the other document seems to be a travel itinerary."

"Let me see the itinerary first," asks Diana. Quickly scanning the entries, she describes each entry to the rest of them. "All of the stops on the itinerary are in Chile. Several are government sites or facilities. The last one on the list is the Rannoir Dam. Only the Dam entry seems to have been marked, the date and time are underlined. Now let me see the survey sites."

Looking them over carefully she can't seem to find any connection.

"I did a little digging earlier," Margo says breaking in. And what I found out is that our friend Michael loves to spend money and his father has recently cut him off. Those survey sites are prime grounds for oil and mineral deposits. But several native tribes currently own the land and it is considered sacred ground not for sale - ever. "Let me put them on a map for you. " Several minutes later a map of Chile is initialized and the sites plotted.

Leaning over Benny Ray points to a black spot on the map where several lakes and rivers intersect, asking "Can you find out what this is Margo." Seconds later, the black blob becomes a picture of a dam – The Rannoir Dam to be exact.

Oh my God, Diana whispers. "Is it possible he plans on flooding that valley. There are thousand of people living there everything would be destroyed.

"But why the itinerary" Matt asks. What is the connection between the two"?

"He has to have someone to blame it on, Margo says. If some big wig is visiting the Dam, and it's blown up by terrorist, then no one would ever suspect him. He waits until the water recedes and moves in for the kill.

"I know the Ambassador is touring many of the facilities next week, surely he wouldn't murder his own father."

"This my friends, Rico pipes in, "is one clever, insidious, bastard."

"What's the date on the itinerary, Margo," Trout asks.

"The 18th, she replies, that's less than a week away. "

"Matt, I will be on a plane later this evening, Trout says. I will gather as much information as I can. I hope you plan on taking this mission."

Nodding in affirmation, Matt runs his hand through his hair, knowing all eyes are trained on him. "We can't let him get away with slaughtering those people." "Someone has to stop him… Matt's voice drops to a low menacing tone "and I want it to be us."

Standing to the left of Margo, Diana can see Benny Ray's knuckles clenched around the back of Margo's chair. Glancing up into his face she sees his eyes are closed. Moving quickly around behind him she wraps her arms around his chest under his arms and whispers into his ear, "let go of the chair Benny Ray and lean back." Whether he was obeying the order or instinctively trusted the voice, he abruptly releases his death grip on the chair. Leaning back, he falls into her arms, and is gently lowered to the floor. Tenderly Diana brushes the back of her hand across his forehead checking for a fever. His brow is cool and dry, and Diana sighs in relief. With his head resting in her lap she leans forward and whispers, "Relax and take a deep breath Benny Ray." "Now open your eyes."

Around them the other suddenly realize that Diana and Benny Ray are no longer standing. Rico immediately kneels beside her, checking Benny Ray's pulse and respiration.

Opening his eyes slowly Benny Ray looks up to see Diana's anxious face. "We've got to quit meeting like this," he whispers to her. A gentle restraining hand stays his movement as he tries to rise. "You just stay put for a few seconds big guy and catch your breath."

Looking at Rico Diana says, "I think he overexerted himself a little, we need to get him back into bed."

Matt and Rico slowly lift Benny Ray from Diana's lap and up off the floor and carry him up to his room. Laying him down on the bed Matt steps away as Diana moves in. Looking across at Rico she states "Lets get him out of these clothes." Rico reaches for his shoes as Diana reaches for the belt at his waist. A strong hand stays Diana's movements, as Benny Ray struggles to sit up. "What is it with my pants" he mumbles. Chuckling Rico says "I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, if I were you Amigo"

Diana a puzzled look on her face slides her hand out from under Benny Rays.

"I think he's shy," Rico supplies chuckling.

With a twinkle in her eye and husky laugh Diana turns her back while Benny Ray, swaying slightly stands up, he drops his pants to the floor and slides back under the covers, slowly laying his pounding head against the pillow.

Turning back Diana can see the pain in his eyes, with a quick "I'll be right back" to Rico she leaves the room. Several minutes later she returns. "These will help a little with the headache," she says. Holding out her left hand she drops two tablets into Benny Ray's outstretched hand and gives him the cup of water she is holding. Downing the pills quickly, Benny Ray quietly murmurs "thanks" and sinks back against the pillow.

"Benny Ray you took a pretty hard knock, you need to stay put for a couple of day," Diana states, looking Benny Ray straight in the eye. Seeing he was about to protest, Diana stands up saying "I mean it Benny Ray, I will tie you down if I have to." His answer of "Yes Ma'am" is accompanied by a mischievous little smile.

"Get some rest" Diana mumbles, as she tucks the covers in around him, and then exits the room.

Moving toward the door Rico says, "She's right amigo, stay put this time or I will help her tie you down"

"Thanks Rico," is Benny Ray's answers, closing his eyes as the pills take effect, and the pounding in his head slowly begins to recede.

Almost 12 hours later, Benny Ray wakes to find Diana curled up in the chair next to his bed. Seeing he is awake, she uncurls from the chair to stand beside the bed. Putting her hand to his forehead she can feel the coolness, indication he doesn't have a fever. "Hi, she whispers, how are you feeling"

"Better," is his only reply, his eyes locking with hers.

"Can I get you anything, she asks"

"Yes, he answers, placing both hands around her waist, he lifts her up, gently laying her down beside him on the bed. Diana settles herself next to him, laying her head in the hollow of his shoulder, her arm across his chest. Moving his hand up beneath her sweater Benny Ray's thumb caresses the hollow of her back. Soon the warmth and contentment lull them both to sleep.

Chapter Two

Double Jeopardy

Tue, 14 Aug 1100hrs

Silver Star Hotel

Hermosa Beach, Ca

Matt, Margo, Rico and Nick are quickly and quietly checking weapons and packing while Matt discusses the operation.

"Trout has arranged it with the Chilean government, they will have forces standing by to assist with the evacuation of the valley should it become necessary. Our contact, Colonel Juan Felinda will be waiting at the Dam, with explosive experts and facilities to diffuse the explosives on site. They are going to try and keep the facility operations as normal as possible so as not to alert the terrorist. But it's a big place folks with many passages and hidey-holes. We have only two days to stop them from setting the explosives or find them if that's already been done. Deke will be arranging for transportation in, we are meeting him in Santiago in 18 hrs."

Diana and Benny Ray are already enroute to the Ambassadors home; Trout and his own people have been unable to contact the ambassador. As far as we know he is alive and well, secluded at his Ranch near La Serena. Their job is to find the ambassador, inform him of the situation and keep him safe. Since Diana has known the ambassador for some time, both Trout and I felt it would be best if she informed him of his son's activities.

Trout has provided three encrypted satellite cell phone for emergency contact. Trout will be monitoring the operation from the American Embassy in Santiago he is there now.

Diana and Benny Ray are now on board the Ambassadors Lear Jet; it's 0300 hrs Tuesday morning. The interior of the jet is spacious and well appointed, with leather seats a kitchen and sleeping quarters. Their trip to Santiago would be accomplished in comfort and will take several hours.

Having spent the past 2 days in bed, Benny Ray was ready for a little excitement. The pounding headaches had settled down to a manageable dull roar, though he would never admit the headaches to Diana, he wasn't prepared to spend another couple of days in bed. Unless… looking over at Diana, Benny Ray smiled thinking about that morning they had awakened wrapped in each other's arms. He'd needed that, he'd been feeling a little sorry for himself and god, it had felt good having her beside him, even if only for a little while. Benny Ray knew the attraction between them was growing, but wasn't sure if he should do anything about it, his relationships never seemed to work out not in this line of work.

His gear and weapons were packed and stored beneath his seat. Being a diplomatic plane, no one could question or inspect his luggage.

The plane would land at the Ambassadors private airstrip, which was only about 5 miles from the Hacienda. Hopefully there would be some type of transportation waiting, he didn't know if he was up to a 5-mile trek carrying all his gear. (Wimp – he thought to himself, smiling) Closing his eyes, Benny Ray lays his head against the seat back cushion.

Beside him Diana's thoughts were on how she was going to break the new of his son's activities to the ambassador. She had known the ambassador for several years, and had met him during a difficult time in her life. Lost and alone, she was not looking for any romantic attachments. Marco nearly 20 years older than she, had sensed that, offering her friendship and a shoulder to cry on. Three years later when he had become ill, he had asked her to come work for him, to be his personal physician. Even after his recovery, she couldn't or wouldn't leave.

Even though Michael was his stepson, Diana knew that Marco loved him and couldn't see Michael for what he really was. An arrogant, egotistical, self-serving, conniving…

Michael wanted it all and it didn't matter who got in his way. She saw how he treated his women; many had telltale signs of abuse, but none ever pressed charges. Some disappeared and were never seen again, but then his thoughts turned to wanting her. He had tried wooing her at first, when she did not give in to his advances he had tried threats. She had laughed at him, and knew immediately that she had made a mistake. He hated to be laughed at and his love (or lust) turned to hatred, though he still wanted her. Sighing, Diana knew that breaking the news to Marco would be difficult he might not believe her.

Wed, 15 Aug, 0900 hrs

Santiago Airport

Santiago Chile

Deke as planned was waiting for Matt and his team at the airport. Standing beside him, is an army colonel, and Deke introduces him to Matt and the rest of the Team as Colonel Juan Felinda.

Taking the co-pilot seat, Matt slaps Deke on the shoulder. "Good to see you Deke, any problems" Matt asks?

"No Sir, smooooooth as a baby's bottom" Deke answer, with a smile.

Deke, holding out his hand, assists Margo into the chopper, "Good morning pretty lady" he whispers. Laughing Margo takes a seat behind Matt. Colonel Felinda, Nick and Rico follow closely behind strapping themselves in as Deke starts the engines.

"It's about 40 minutes to the Dam, Deke whispers over the headsets.

"Have you heard from Benny Ray," Deke asks?

"Not since last evening, Matt replies, they ran into a storm over Guatemala and were forced to land and wait it out. I haven't heard from them since. The were scheduled to take off around 3am and should reach the Ambassadors home early this morning." "I'm sure he would have made contact if there had been a problem."

Colonel Felinda speaking over the headset says, "My government has not been able to locate the Ambassadors son. We do know he entered the country several days ago but has disappeared. My people are still-hunting for him. It is possible that he has aborted his plans, I'm sure he realizes that his plan has been discovered.

Matt says, "Diana thinks that there is someone else orchestrating the whole operation. She didn't seem to think Michael had the funds or is smart enough to plan something this elaborate.

A few minutes later the chopper crests the mountain range. The huge Dam is visible for miles. Skirting the dam, Deke lands the chopper about a mile away south of the dam.

Exiting the chopper, the team moves out toward the dam. Deke remains with chopper.

Colonel Felinda leading the way heads up towards the Dam. Several minutes late he leads the team to a hidden access door.

Speaking quietly as the move along the dark, narrow corridor, Colonel Felinda explains what his team has already searched. "My men have replaced the guards on the Dam's access gates. I did not alert the dam's crew in the event that the ambassador's son has an accomplice inside. I also have men searching the lower levels in the event the bombs have already been planted. So far they have discovered nothing.

"Sounds like you have all the bases covered Colonel," Matt answers. If his plan is still in place I think they will strike tonight. Do you mind if my people look around."

"No Major Shephard, my orders were to give you full cooperation." From his right breast pocket the colonel pulls out a folded map of the dam and begins to explain the layout.

Several hours later after familiarizing themselves with the Dam's layout Matt turns to Rico, Nick saying "I want you both to take the south entrance, I want you outside, find a good vantage points to view the dam's entrances. Margo and I will take the north entrance. If you see any movement, alert us immediately. This is going to be a waiting game people, so stay alert.

Wednesday, 15 August, 0830 hrs

Hacienda Serena

The storm had raged for several hours, and Diana and Benny Ray didn't leave Guatemala until after 5am. Three hours later the weary travelers landed. Throwing their gear into Diana truck, they headed for the Hacienda; several minutes later through the trees Benny Ray got his first glimpse of the Hacienda. It was a sprawling complex, with outbuilding, barns and stables. The Hacienda itself was soft a beige color; the bright red, orange and yellow flowers surrounding it enhanced its quiet serenity. Pulling up in front, Diana and Benny Ray entered the Hacienda. Opening the door Diana steps into the elegant entryway. A tall distinguished looking gray haired man, stops and looks up as the front door is opened; a welcoming smile crosses his face as he sees Diana. He is dressed for riding, in a pair of dark chocolate colored breeches, a light blue open necked shirt and a Beige Tweed jacket. Walking across the room to meet him Diana is enfolded in a warm welcoming hug.

"It's good to see you Diana, why did you not let me know you were coming?"

"I tried Marco, it seems your phones is out of order."

Shaking his head, the ambassador says "Yes, I had forgotten, I was informed that the Relay Station is out and will not be fixed for several more days. But this is a good thing, I have finally been able to get some real work done and relax a little." "Come Diana, you and your friend must be famished, breakfast is waiting."

Putting a hand on his arm Diana says, "I must talk to you Marco it's very important."

Stopping the ambassador turns and smiles, saying, "This sounds serious my dear, but I'm sure it can wait until after breakfast."

Shaking her head she looks straight into his eyes.

"Of course Diana, please come into the Study."

Across the hallway, Benny Ray can see a servant enter then just as quickly leave as Diana and the Ambassador walk toward the back of the Hacienda to the study.

Opening the door the ambassador motions for Diana and Benny Ray to enter. Shaking his head no, Benny Ray watches as the ambassador walks into the room, closing the door behind him.

Sitting down beside Diana on the couch, he waits patiently while Diana gathers her thoughts.

"Marco, I don't know exactly how to begin."

"Take your time Diana, what ever it is I will understand."

"I hope so Marco, I sincerely hope so." Taking a deep breath, Diana begins to speak.

"Nearly a week ago I discovered some information, a plot really, Terrorist are planning to destroy the Dam, flood the Valley and… here Diana pauses, placing her hand on the ambassador cheek "and murder you!"

"Murder me Diana, Marco says surprised. What could anyone gain by murdering me."

"It seems someone very close to you has a lot to gain by your death, your estate and your fortune."

"Nonsense Diana, Michael will inherit when I die, everyone knows that." He's my son!"

With tears in her eyes Diana continues. "I know you don't want to believe this Marco, but it is Michael."

"No Diana, Michael would never plan something like this, he is my son," he repeats.

"Adopted son Marco, not your real son"

"I will never believe this Diana, the ambassador shouts standing up to pace the room, Michael and I have had our differences, but he would never do this, he's not capable of murder."

"Please Marco, you have to believe that your life is in danger, Benny Ray and I are here to ensure that nothing happens to you, will you at least come with us to the capitol where we can investigate further and find out for sure."

Seeing the intent look on her face, knowing she only wants to protect him, he shakes his head slowly in ascent. Returning to sit beside her Marco says, "Tell me how you discovered this information.

Out in the hallway leaning his left shoulder against the wall Benny Ray watches as the same servant he saw earlier enters with a coffee tray. From the corner of his eye he can see the glint of metal from beneath the tray. The air around him is suddenly charged with undercurrents. Without showing any outward sign, Benny Ray tenses for action. As the servant approaches he launches himself at Benny Ray. Grabbing the tray with his left hand and the servants' knife hand with his right, Benny Ray twists and kicks out, catching the servant in the groin. Dropping the knife the servant grunts in pain and falls to his knees.

Catching movement in the corner of his eye Benny Ray turns toward the corridor. A second manservant stands with a pistol in his hand pointed at Benny Ray's heart. Twisting right Benny Ray launching the coffee tray at the second man, and hears the shot. Striking the servant in the neck with the tray he goes down clutching his throat, but not before Benny Ray the weapon go off. A fiery burst of pain rips through Benny Ray's left shoulder as the bullet sears a path across the shoulder blade, sending him crashing into the wall.

Suddenly the door behind him opens and Benny Ray tenses. Turning to face the open doorway he sees Diana, the .45 now in her hand.

"I think it's time to leave, Benny Ray states, "Sir is there a back way out of here." Picking up his gear bag Benny Ray winces in pain as he slings it over his left shoulder. Sliding his Glock out from under his jacket he stands facing the entryway as two more men move toward the study. Firing, Benny Ray motions for Diana and the ambassador to move. Running across the lawn the ambassador heads for the stable. Looking around Benny Ray can see several more men moving in.

"Ambassador is there a vehicle close by we can use, Benny Ray asks?"

"There is usually a farm truck behind the stables, the ambassador answers.

"Diana stay put, I'll go take a look, Benny Ray says. Reaching into his bag he pulls out several more clips and stuffs them into his jacket pocket.

Standing up Diana takes aim and fires across the open lawn, catching one man in the thigh; a second goes down with a bullet in his shoulder. The rest take cover, unwilling to face the hail of bullets.

A minute later, Benny Ray returns, shaking his head. "They were prepared for this, the tires have been slashed, Ambassador do you know of another way out of here?"

Shaking his head no, he stops suddenly, "the horses, we can get up into the mountains on the horses."

Moving quickly the ambassador and Diana saddle three horses. Throwing Diana into the saddle, Benny Ray throws his gear bag across the horn he vaults into the saddle, the abused muscles in his left shoulder screaming in protest. With the reins in his left hand, weapon in his right Benny Ray spurs his mount out into the sunlight, firing as his horse crosses through the stable door, close behind the Ambassador and Diana follow. The attackers soon give up firing as the three horses' race across the field out of range. Taking the lead the Ambassador heads up the mountain trail. The ride up the rocky trail is swift and treacherous. Several minutes later Benny Ray turns in the saddle to see several of the attackers head for the stable. Minutes later two riders emerge and race for the mountain trail.

Calling to the ambassador and Diana to halt, Benny Ray dismounts pulling his rifle from his gear bag. Sighting on the first man Benny Ray feels a hand on his right shoulder. Beside him the ambassador asks quietly, "Please don't kill them."

Firing, Benny Ray's first shot hits the lead rider in the right shoulder, throwing him from his horse. His next shot catches the second rider in the upper thigh, and he too falls to the ground.

Diana, seeing the bloodstain on the left shoulder of Benny Ray's jacket dismounts. Pulling the first aid kid out of her pack, Diana says angrily, "Were you planning on telling me you were hurt Benny Ray?"

Looking up at her over his shoulder Benny Ray shrugs.

Beside them the Ambassador chuckles, "Diana, what would you have him do, stand up in the middle of everything that just happened, call a halt to all hostilities to have you bandage his shoulder!"

Sheepishly, Diana smiles and apologizes.

While she cleans and bandages Benny Ray's shoulder, the three discuss their situation.

The ambassador says, "My brothers home is several hours ride from here or we could go to Serena, which is almost a day's ride from here. I think we would be safe at my brothers' home."

"Marco, Diana queries, you have a brother, I'm not sure I've ever heard you speak of him."

Quietly Marco says, "Jules has ever been the Black Sheep of my family. Several years ago we argued." Marco stops speaking, looking off into the mountains a small sad smile on his face. "Come we must go if we are to reach the Hacienda before nightfall.

Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket, Benny Ray dials Matt. After several rings, Matt answers. "Shepherd."

"Major, we have the ambassador." Benny Ray says."

"Any problems" Matt asks?

"Yes sir, they were waiting for us, we are currently on horseback heading north over the mountains. The ambassadors' brother has a house several hours from here. We should reach there late this evening."

"Anyone hurt, Benny Ray," Matt asks.

"Nothing serious sir, anything happening on your end."

"Not yet, government forces have gone over the whole facility and found nothing. If it's going to happen it will be tonight. All we can do now is sit and wait."

"How long before you reach the brothers home," Matt asks?

"We should be there by 7pm, is Benny Ray's answer.

"Good, I want you to call me at 7 or as soon as you reach there."

"Yes sir, anything else, Benny Rays asks."

"Not at the moment Benny Ray… Stay safe, out."

Mounting up, Benny Ray in the lead, Diana in the rear, with the ambassador giving directions, the trio head north over the rugged terrain.

Rannoir Dam, 1830 hrs

Outside the fence, Matt and Margo wait.

Over the headset, Nick's voice warns "Heads up Matt, got movement, inside the compound heading your way."

The target rounds the corner of the Dam's powerhouse heading for the main gate, a silver cylindrical object in his left hand. The guard waves as the man approaches. Stopping to talk the guard holds out a mug and the man fills it from the silver thermos. The guard sips the warm liquid slowly, as the two discuss the weather. Several minutes later, after drinking the coffee the guard sways unsteadily sinking slowly to the ground. The man drags the guard into the shack, pulling the gate keys from the unconscious guards' pocket. Unlocking the gate he leaves it ajar then heads back toward the control room.

Pulling a radio from his pack Matt keys it. "Felinda"

"Si" is the answer from the radio.

"Senhor Jonas, is our man" He's heading back into the control room now.

"Nick, Rico I need you here now," Matt demands over the headset.

"Roger Matt, Nick answers on our way."

Below their position Margo can see movement, with hand signals she informs Matt.

Nick and Rico move silently into position behind Matt and Margo. They can hear the movement through the bushes as the tango's move toward the open gate. "Say the word Major"

"Not yet Nick, wait until they are nearer to the gate."

"Felinda, 30 seconds"

"Si, Major Shepherd, I have them in site."

As the tangos reach the gate, Felinda and his men break cover shouting for the men to halt and drop their weapons.

Only three of the men comply, the remaining seven flee heading for the shelter of the nearby trees. Only to encounter Matt's team. Unwilling to surrender the fleeing men are no match for the precision of the team and soon lay dead or unconscious.

The packs the terrorists carried are opened and the content revealed. Over 30 lbs. of C4 explosive are found.

Nick in his best New Yorker accent says, "Whew, now dat woulda made a big damn hole"

Felinda, walking towards Matt holds out his hand. "I would like to thank you Major Shepherd, I did not think your information was valid. I wish to offer you my deepest thanks for your assistance. Without your help this facility would be no more and a great man who has served his country wisely would be dead.

Shaking the Chilean officer's hand, Matt suddenly looks at his watch. Though it seems like the operation only took minutes his watch tells him it is nearly 8pm and Benny Ray had not called.

"Colonel, how much do you know about the Ambassadors family. Do you know where his brother lives?"

"I'm sorry Major I do not, but I can soon find out." Disappearing into the control room he emerges several minutes later. Handing Matt a slip of paper with the location of both the Ambassadors and his brothers' homes. He says, "my informant tells me the brother is not well liked, it seems he and the ambassador quarreled many years ago and are estranged.

Gathering his gear Matt speaks over his headset. Margo, Nick, Rico, back to the chopper now, Deke you there.

"Here Major" is the reply.

"Fire her up Deke we are coming in, ETA 10 minutes."

"Roger!"

Behind him, Matt can hear Colonel Felinda shouting orders. Talking into his radio the Colonel requests air support to airlift the terrorists away form the dam to the nearest military base.

Hacienda La Porte, 1830 hours

The ride across the mountains was long and arduous. Lack of water and supplies had taken their toll. Only one small stream encountered during the ride kept the horses watered.

Below them almost a mile away the three weary riders can see the hacienda and sigh in relief. Once more they mount the tired horses and slowly scramble down the treacherous trail.

Stopping suddenly Benny Ray holds up his hand, something just didn't feel right.

The front door of the Hacienda opens suddenly and a tall middle-aged man stands in the open doorway, waving his hands and smiling.

"Damn," seeing a flash of light from the corner of his eye, Benny Ray says, "it's a trap, go back, he yells, back up the trail." But he isn't quick enough. From behind him a flurry of bodies drops out of the trees and pop up from behind rocks. As the Ambassador rides up the trail several men try to drag him from his horse. Behind him Benny Ray spurs his tired horse forward, knocking several of the attackers away from the ambassador's horse. Leaping from his horse Benny Ray pummels several more into unconsciousness. Slapping the flank of the ambassador's horse, he sends him forward up the trail. Grabbing his horses' reins he leaps once more into the saddle, only to hear Diana cry out and the firing of a gun.

"If you don't give yourself up, a familiar voice shouts, she will die."

"Turning back, the ambassador pulls his horse to a stop. In front of him he sees Diana held tightly between two men. Michael standing beside her has his gun pointed directly at her temple.

"Father" Michael sneers, "If you value her life, you and your protector will give yourselves up.

Several men move toward Benny Ray and the Ambassador, pulling them roughly from their horses. Dragging them toward Michael.

A dark swarthy man with a red bandana and a large bruise on his neck from Benny Ray's accurately thrown tray, lifts his rifle, slamming the butt hard into the base of Benny Ray skull. Benny Rays head snaps backward, as the blackness descends he falls to the ground. The angry man is not yet finished, moving forward he lashes out kicking Benny Ray in the ribs not once but several times.

Laughing Michael speaks quickly to the man and his actions subside.

Turning away Michael moves toward the hacienda, the men holding the ambassador and Diana follow. Two men lift the unconscious body of Benny Ray and follow.

The Hacienda though not as big as the ambassadors is richly decorated. Inside the three captives are led to a big room at the rear of the house. Dumping Benny Ray onto the couch near the window they lock the door behind them as they exit the room

Diana moves to kneel beside Benny Ray on the couch, seeing a small trickle of blood coursing down his neck behind his right ear. Opening his shirt she can see several bruises beginning to appear across his right side.

Feeling around his side she is dismayed by the swelling and bruises, knowing several of his ribs are probably broken. Beside her he groans, and his eyelids flicker open. Sitting up he gingerly touches the lump on the back of his skull, his fingers coming away sticky with blood.

"Where are we, he asks?

"Inside the Hacienda, Diana replies. Kneeling beside him, Diana cleans the cut on his the back of his head.

2015 hrs, 1 mile from the Hacienda La Porte, Deke lands the chopper in a small clearing. Quickly and quietly Matt and his team move. When the hacienda is in sight Matt signals a halt. Motioning Nick and Rico to move toward the rear. Deke and Margo follow him silently as he moves toward the front.

"Nick, report" Matt says.

Three tangos, near the back entrance, another on the roof, all heavily armed. They don't look like they are expecting trouble boss," is Nick's reply.

In front of the Hacienda Matt can see several men dragging an unconscious man through the front door. It's hard to tell but the unconscious man had the same coloring and build as Benny Ray.

Two guards dressed in the traditional white peon garb stand on the veranda, smoking and laughing, their weapons propped up against the wall almost 10 feet away. Three more guards stand near the vehicles parked in front of the building. Across the yard Matt can see at least 10 other men resting in the shade under a tree. Reporting the information to Nick and Rico, Matt signals the group to move in. "Roger Everyone, lets move in, try to make this as non-lethal as possible."

Moving across the lawn, hidden by the shrubs and trees Matt and his team move in.

Inside the hacienda, the study door is unlocked; Michael, and several guards enter the room.

"Why my son, Marco asks?

Harsh laughter escapes Michael, "you really don't know why do you father." "You hurt my mother and drove her to her death and I hate you for that." Screaming he says, "you are not my father, and never will be." "You stole her from my father and she could never forget that."

Shaking his head, sorrow and pain reflected in his eyes as thoughts of his wife cross his mind.

"I'm sorry Michael, I tried many times to get your mother to tell you the truth, but she would not. She made me promise never to reveal her secret, it's too late for her, but its not too late for you."

"What truth, he sneers. The only truth is that she is dead.

"Yes Michael, your mother is finally at peace but it was not I that drove her there.

Taking a deep breath the ambassador begins to speak, "I loved your mother, but she was young and had fallen in love with another man. He took her; used her, then when she was with child he threw her away. He hurt her badly and she could never forget what he had done.

I never stopped loving your mother and would have married her under any conditions. When she finally agreed to marry me, I adopted you as my son, but the memories wouldn't fade and she could never forgive herself for choosing so unwisely. There were many nights she cried herself to sleep wrapped in my arms. I think near the end, she finally began to forgive herself, for loving someone who was totally unworthy of her.

"I promised your mother I would never tell you, but if it will save the lives of these people, my friends… I will."

Stepping into the doorway his brother stands arrogantly a weapon held ready in his hand.

"Jules" the ambassador says, turning towards the door. There my son, stands the man who used, and discarded your mother. "My own brother," he says in disgust.

Turning, an uncertain look on his face Michael asks, "is this true Uncle, is what he says true."

A harsh laugh escapes the newcomer, hatred burning bright in his dark eyes.

"Why," Michael asks?

"I too would like to know why, the ambassador asks."

Stepping into the room to stand in front of the couch, Jules begins to speak. Scorn and hatred dripping from every word.

"You were the perfect son, you could never do any wrong in fathers eyes and I was supposed to be just like you. I tried at first, but nothing I ever did was good enough for father. It was you, always you in his eyes. Even when I was in trouble, you took the blame, but father knew it was I. You were praised for looking out for you little brother. I began to hate you then! I could do nothing right so I decided I would do everything wrong. Be everything you were not."

"I gambled, stole, cheated, and lied, every vice I could think of. When Lynnae came into our lives I saw how much you loved her. My revenge was to take her away from you. It was sweet brother mine, very sweet. When I was done with here I threw her away, just as you said. I watched as you were forced to take my leavings. Knowing she had been mine first was my revenge. Knowing the son you raised as your own was my son. It was I who turned him against you brother, filling his head full of stories of how you abused your wife."

Michael stands shocked at the words spewing from his uncles' mouth. Suddenly everything he knew and believed in was a lie.

Beside him Marco shakes his head in bewilderment.

Diana and Benny Ray are surprised by the Jules naked hatred of his brother.

Time seemed to stand still as the assembled crowd digests all that had been said.

Suddenly - Wild demonic laughter erupts from Jules. A crazed look enters his eyes. Raising the pistol he takes aim at his brother. Beside Jules, Benny Ray leaps from the couch, knocking Jules arm up and away, but the weapon goes off. Across the room, the ambassador cries out and stumbles backward, a dark red stain forming on his left arm.

Across the room Jules and Benny Ray wrestle for control of the gun, but exhaustion and pain hamper Benny Rays reflexes. Twisting right, Jules steps back, dragging Benny Ray forward, slamming him into the wall. Fire rips through his right side as his abused rib protest. His grip on Jules loosens but he doesn't let go. Hauling back Benny Ray slams his right fist into Jules stomach. A whoosh of air can be heard from Jules as he doubles over in pain. Driving Jules backward, Benny Ray slams him into the wall, smashing his weapons hand into the wall several times, but Jules won't release his death grip on the weapon. In desperation Jules squeezes the trigger. The bullet burns a trail along the wall burying itself deep into the ceiling tile. Collapsing, Jules drops to the floor, dragging Benny Ray down with him. The weapon is now locked between their bodies.

Diana sitting beside the Ambassador is tying a makeshift bandage around the wound trying to staunch the flow of blood. Michael stands frozen, shocked by the revelations his stepfather and uncle, the man he now knows to be his real father disclosed.

Matt and his team hearing the shots renew their efforts to enter the Hacienda quickly. The guards, peasants not soldiers are easily subdued. Behind Diana and the Ambassador the French doors are suddenly flung open, as Nick and Rico enter the room, weapons ready. Matt, Margo and Deke move quickly through the front door to the study.

Jules wrestling with Benny Ray is desperate, all his plans, his dreams are crumbling around him. Suddenly his mind snaps and the gun in his hand goes off for the last time. Above Jules, Benny Ray slumps over, all resistance gone. Jules laughs triumphantly, an evil gleam in his dark eyes.

Slowly Benny Ray raises himself up on one knee, only to fall backward against the wall, the weapon now held in his left hand. Jules still lying on the floor laughs uncontrollably a small trickle of blood oozing from the corner of his mouth. The center of Jules shirt is now dark with blood – his blood. The gleam in his eyes quickly changes to pain and despair as he realizes it is he who will die and not his brother. Closing his eyes he takes one last shuddering breath.

Beside him on the floor, a wracking cough shakes Benny Ray's body as he gasps for air. Rico, kneeling beside him sees the bruises along his right ribcage. Wincing in pain as Rico probes the area, Benny Ray says, "Your late, but I am glad to see you Amigo".

"I think you've got a couple of broken ribs here my friend," Rico states, "We need to get you to a hospital."

Across the room, the Ambassador rises to his feet, anger and pain written clearly on his face as he gazes down at the body of his brother.

"I never meant for any of this to happen," he says, his voice cracking with emotion.

Looking up into the eyes of his son his face-hardens. He says, "I Love you my son, but I can never forgive you for the pain and destruction you have caused this day," as he walks out the door.

Stunned Michael steps towards the door whispering "Father No." The ambassador walks out the door, never looking back.

One week later

SOF Ops Room, Silver Star Hotel

Hermosa Beach, Ca

Margo, Nick, Deke and Rico talk quietly as footsteps can be heard coming down the stairs. Looking up all four can see Matt coming down the stairs.

"Good Morning Major, welcome back," Nick pipes in, "How's Benny Ray."

Stopping, Matt turns to see his team waiting expectantly. Grinning he says, "Better, they released him from the hospital two days ago. I guess he was giving the nurses a hard time." "The ambassador has invited him to stay at the Hacienda until he's recovered enough to travel home."

"And Diana" Margo asks.

"She's at the Hacienda."

"She mentioned moving back here to LA and opening up a Clinic and my guess is she will fly back with Benny Ray."

"Colonel Felinda and his men took Michael and his little band into custody. They will be brought up on charges of Premeditated Murder and Treason. I don't think he's going to get out of this one.

"How is the ambassador handling all this," Margo asks.

"He won't talk about it, he did talk about resigning his post though. I'm hoping Diana can convince him to stay and continue his work, his country needs him, regardless of what Michael and his brother did or tried to do."

Quietly they all go back to their earlier tasks, as Matt's cell phone goes off.

A long heavy sigh escapes Matt as he expels one word "Trout".

End of Line

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