Part 2

They had no problems getting inside the club. It was supposed to be members only, but the twenty pound notes Mickey tucked into the hand of the doorman had ensured their temporary membership. There were two huge bouncers on the door but Sam knew that Walker employed them purely to keep out underage drinkers. His connections to powerful, local crime figures were strong and well known, and his name inspired such fear that no sane person would go into his club to cause trouble. Well, not unless they were looking to wake up with smashed kneecaps.

Once inside, the noise and heat hit her. As Sam had expected, the club was already crowded with people, none of them over the age of forty. Robert would have stuck out like a sore thumb. A suave, debonair sore thumb, but he would have been noticed.

Mickey leaned close, "Whaddya want to drink?" His breath was warm against her ear and she felt his words more than heard them.

She stood put her mouth next to his ear and said, "Rum and coke, lots of ice." She would have preferred not to drink alcohol but it would have set them apart from the rest of the clientele.

She looked around her while Mickey went to the order drinks. Over on the far side of the room half a dozen almost nude women were dancing around vertical poles for the group clustered around the stage. Sam could see money poking out of their G strings. Other hostesses were moving through the crowd and no one, apart from a few real losers, was paying much attention to the fact that they were topless.

Sam felt a heavy hand land on her shoulder. She turned to see a guy of around forty standing, swaying in front of her. She turned her head to avoid the blast of beer breath as he leaned closer.

"Hallo, darlin’. Lemme buy you a drink?"

Sam held her temper, "No thanks. Someone’s already getting me one."

Sam saw the calculation in his eye before he stumbled and with exaggerated care put his hands out to stop himself falling. She wasn’t surprised when his hands landed on her chest and he took the opportunity to cop a feel.

Furious, Sam was tempted to castrate him there and then, but she restrained herself. She couldn't afford to reveal her combat skills and she didn’t want Mickey forced into the position of having to pick a fight with the drunk. "Get lost! I told you I was with someone."

"Don’t worry about him, darlin’. I can show you a real good time – know what I mean?" He squeezed her breasts again to show her just what she was missing.

Sam moved close to him and, hiding her actions with her body, stuck her hand in between his legs and grabbed hold of his balls. His initial look of pleasure very quickly turned to one of panic.

"I told you to piss off."

"Leggo, you bitch!" He didn’t dare try to free himself.

Sam made her voice low and threatening, "I told you I wasn’t interested, dickhead, but you had to push it. Maybe next time you’ll take no for an answer." She tightened her grip for a second and then released, pushing him away.

She was just wishing she could wash her hands when Mickey came up with their drinks, "Trouble?" he murmured, nodding at the tottering man.

"Nothing I couldn't handle," she replied, with a smile. She was pleased when he returned her smile with one of his own.

Positioning themselves near a doorway marked private that led to the offices at the back of the club, they waited. They spoke to each other as quietly as possible, inconspicuously watching the movement of people around them.

Sam found the aura of barely controlled violence that surrounded Mickey very exciting, and that same aura convinced the other patrons to give them a wide berth. He kept one arm around her as though establishing his claim.

Sam sipped her drink, to outsiders it might seem like Sam only had eyes for Mickey, but she’d already spotted the dealers working the club and now she could see drugs and money changing hands openly.

Time passed and the temperature in the club started to rise. As she expected, it was also getting hotter in other ways. Across the room in a shadowy corner, a girl was sitting astride her boyfriend’s lap on a straight backed chair. He had his hands up under her blouse and from the way she was moving it looked a lot to Sam like they were already going at it. Looking around she saw that they weren’t the only ones.

She glanced back at Mickey and saw that he had seen the couple too. She had warned him what it would be like.

"Interesting place this." He smiled at her and Sam found her heart beating harder.

She tried to keep her voice steady, "Yep. But it gets worse later."

"Really?"

Sam realised that she sounded like a regular visitor. "Well, so I’ve been told."

He seemed to be enjoying himself hugely as he gently let the hand slide lower down her hip. At the same time he whispered in her ear, "I'm keeping in character – we should be able to get moving pretty soon now."

The sights around her began to work on her senses and when a clearly intoxicated young woman began an impromptu strip Sam felt her own inhibitions slipping. There was something about the heat, thump of the loud music and pressure of Mickey’s hand that she found very exciting. Sam took a longer sip of her drink. Does he know what he's doing to me?

His frank open stare made her think that he was reading her mind. Then she was reminded of his reputation for being a loose cannon and she realised he was enjoying himself.

Leaning back against the wall, he rested his hands on her behind and pulled her closer so that she was standing between his legs. She put her hand against his chest for a moment, feeling the heat from his body through his light coloured shirt. Taking a last sip of her drink, she put the glass down on a nearby table and slid her arms around his waist, resting her head against his chest. She found herself mesmerised by his slow, steady heartbeat.

He put his hand under her chin and lifted her head. Putting his mouth next to her ear, he kissed her neck and then whispered, "I think it's time to make our move. What do you think?"

She felt goose pimples break out on her arms at his touch. Putting her arms around his neck she pulled his head down to hers. Beginning at his chin, she placed tiny kisses along his jaw line ending at his ear. She touched his ear lobe with her tongue briefly and then whispered, "It looks clear to me."

Sam felt his mouth brush against her ear. Shivering in delight, she tilted her head as Mickey traced a line of kisses down the side of her neck. Feeling herself react to him, Sam pulled his head up so that she could kiss his mouth. I've got to stay calm! She knew he could sense her inner turmoil and was deliberately using it to arouse her but she didn't want him to stop.

They kissed. The kiss was long and lingering and Sam couldn't suppress a gasp of surprise when his tongue darted into her mouth. She let him kiss her again, enjoying the seductive pressure of his lips against hers. Standing this close to him she couldn’t help but be aware that he wasn’t as uninvolved as he was pretending.

Fighting with the urge to stay where she was, she whispered in his ear, "Let’s go. Time to act like we want some privacy."

Taking his hand she pulled him over to the door marked private. She felt Mickey slip a lock pick into her hand as she reached the door and he stood behind her, blocking anyone’s view for the couple of seconds it took her to undo the lock. Anyone watching them wouldn’t have suspected a thing.

Laughing like a couple with nothing but pleasure in mind, they sauntered into a long, dimly lit hallway. The door must have been soundproof because the noise from the club ceased as soon as they closed it behind them. Sam caught a glimpse of a guard sitting in a chair at the far end before Mickey pushed her against the wall and covered her mouth with his. She sank into the kiss, sliding her arms around his neck and enjoying it, despite her attempt to stay focused.

Damn! The guard wasn't moving! Was he expecting a free show?

When Mickey's lips drifted down to her neck she whispered, "We’ve got to get him closer. We can’t take him out from there."

"Make some noise. He’ll have to come stop us or risk disturbing his boss."

Sam said, "Okay. Give me a reason."

When he lifted her leg and rested it over his hip, sliding his hand up the outside of the thigh, her gasp of surprise wasn’t all faked. Sam realised what he had in mind when he pretended to fumble with his belt and the fastening of his trousers, The guard wasn’t going to see clearly enough to know they weren’t really screwing until it was too late.

Mickey’s movements against her and the way his hands were moving over her thighs made it increasingly hard for Sam to concentrate. It wasn’t that she had never done this sort of thing before – there had been times when she’d actually had to have sex as part of a job – but she had never been as attracted to her partner before.

Throwing back her head she cried out, "Oh God that’s so good! Don’t stop!" Sam imagined the panic that she would see on the guard’s face as he realised he was going to get into big trouble for ignoring his duty and getting a cheap thrill instead.

She heard his footsteps as he hurried down the hallway now and she yelled, "Yes! Yes! I’m coming!" to hurry him up and keep him off balance.

She could hear his rasping breaths as he got closer, "Wait a minute! You can’t do that here!" From the dirty smirk the guard was wearing it was obvious that he suspected nothing.

Keeping one hand around Mickey’s neck, she grasped the butt of the automatic tucked into the back of his waistband and flicked off the safety with her thumb.

"Why not?" she asked.

The guard’s face registered complete surprise when Sam's hand appeared holding the gun pointing straight at his stomach.

Mickey moved away from her, leaving her to cover the man while he took plastic cable ties and duct tape from inside his jacket. In moments, the guard was bound, gagged and secreted in a nearby supply room.

With the coast clear, Mickey pressed the button of the small device in his pocket that signalled to McCall that it was safe to come to the back door. Less than a minute later all three were standing outside George Walker's private office.

Robert opened the door without knocking and he and Mickey entered the room. Sam would wait outside the closed door, while Mickey took his usual position at his back. The big man sitting behind the desk looked up in alarm, his hand sliding towards a button on the desk. Robert waved his gun in Walker's direction. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, you would find the consequences most painful."

Robert studied George Walker as he moved closer to the ornate desk. Walker was typical of his kind, tall and overweight dressed in an expensive suit that, on him, looked cheap. Years of hard living had taken their toll and he looked much older than the forty-three Sam had mentioned as his age.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Walker demanded, trying to appear in control, as he straightened his tie.

"Well now, George, I want some information."

"You can't be serious, do you know who I am?"

"Oh yes, I know exactly who and what you are and I don't like it one little bit. But, if you co-operate and tell me what I want to know, I won't kill you."

Walker blustered, "I've got men outside, you won't get away with this."

"Don't be stupid George." Robert sat on the edge of the desk, "You don't mind if I call you George, do you? I know you have the one guard but he is –how shall I put this – tied up at the moment. I have a couple of my people with me and they are armed and exceedingly dangerous. So if anyone is stupid enough to try anything, there will be a bloodbath." Robert saw the doubts appear.

"What do you want to know?"

"I know you were recruiting men for a big job. I want to know about this job and I want to know where your contact is staying. I know that one of your men..." Robert turned and looked at Mickey, "What was his name, associate?"

"Fred Starr,"

"Yes! Fred Starr picked up a man from the airport two days ago. I want to find that man."

"I can't tell you that, if I tell you where my contact is, he'll kill me."

Robert leaned forward, "I'll kill you if you don't, George. I suppose it depends on which of us you fear the most."

When Walker still looked undecided, Robert moved closer, aiming his silenced automatic at his leg. "I could start with your knee, a bullet in the right place and you would be limping for the rest of your life."

Walker looked from Robert to Mickey and back again, his expression bleak. With a shrug of defeat he said, "I was told to find twelve men and send them to a place in Hertfordshire, the address is in the first page of my book."

"Do you have a name for your contact?" Robert said.

Walker sighed, "Jason. I was told to ask for Jason."

While Mickey kept an eye on Walker, Robert searched the desk until he found a black address book. He tore out the page while Mickey forced Walker off his chair and onto his knees, his automatic pressed against the man's neck.

"Are you going to kill me?" Walker asked, his voice trembling with fear.

"Not if you lie face down on the floor there, like a good fellow." Robert suggested. His order was obeyed quickly. "Now put your hands behind you."

Robert watched while Mickey fastened his legs and hands together. Then, taking a hypodermic from his pocket, he stuck the needle into Walker’s bound leg.

"What's that you've given me?" Walker howled in terror.

"Don't panic, George." Robert bent down and patted his shoulder, "It's something to make you sleep for a while. We don't want you giving the game away, now do we?"

Sam looked at her watch, nearly 2am. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, it was late and she was out of practice at missing sleep. She wasn't complaining, there was the exciting expectation of spending more time working with Mickey and Robert to keep her interested.

Checking the safety on her Browning automatic, she slipped it into the back of her waistband. The hotel might co-operate with the department and offer complete discretion for any guests but they would draw a line at having weapons openly on display.

With a final check of the room, Sam headed out, locking the door behind her.

McCall, dressed in unrelieved black, answered her soft knock at once. "Come in, Sam. We're nearly ready to go, Mickey is just getting changed."

Sam glanced around the room, hoping for a sneak preview but when she saw the closed bathroom door she realised, with disappointment, that he was changing there.

Robert moved over to the low coffee table and pointed to the plans lying on the table. "These are very useful."

Sam shrugged, "No problem. As soon as you mentioned the address you got from Walker I knew it sounded familiar. Luckily a friend of mine was on duty in the registry at headquarters and he was happy enough to copy the plans for me."

"We're going up against twelve or more men, we need all the advantages we can get!"

"Do we have everything we need?"

"I think so. I'm amazed at how you could get everything together so quickly."

Sam had to laugh, "Practice and training with the SAS – they teach you how to obtain the best equipment in the shortest time – even if it means stealing it!"

The bathroom door opened and Mickey must have caught the end of her comments because he snorted with laughter, "Sounds like the SEAL's too."

Robert tapped the plans and they all sat around the table, "Right, we need to work out how we can get inside quickly and quietly. We're outnumbered, although the opposition aren't as well trained they will all be experienced in handling weapons and won't be afraid to use them."

Sam looked at the plan of the grounds of Mill House. The formal landscaping was shown on the blueprints. "Looking at the age of the building and knowing that those hedges must have been in place for more than fifty years I would guess they are at least twelve feet high." Sam sorted through a pile of aerial photographs of the house, "Look you can see here, from the shadows, they are taller than a man." She pointed to the plan again, and traced a line across in front of the house, "If we stay on the outside of the hedge to here, we will be out of the line of sight of anyone looking out of the windows. We know from Walker's notes that there will only be three men outside and that the rest will be inside in the warm. I'll lay you odds that those three men will be close to the house, the grounds are too big for them to patrol together and they won't want to split up."

Mickey leant forward to look at the plans and Sam felt his knee press against hers. Her hands immediately felt clammy and she knew her heart rate had increased. This is ridiculous! You need to get yourself under control right now!

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Mickey grinned, "It won't be the first time we've gone into a situation where we are out numbered, McCall. We could just kick down the door and hose the room."

There was some private joke going on here, because she saw the quelling glance Robert aimed at Mickey before he said, "I think a diversion is a better idea. The house is too big for us to clear it all at once and it is most likely that Control is being held a long way above ground level just to make such an assault impossible. I know the Company don't want the Control's knowledge out in the open market but I think they would prefer him to be alive!"

Sam let their word drift over her, she was still listening but an inkling of an idea had formed in her mind and she needed to think it through.

"This place is in the middle of nowhere, a believable diversion is going to be hard to find, McCall."

"I know. We need to get inside and deal with as many of these guards as possible before they know we are there."

Sam reached over for the pile of aerial reconnaissance photos again, she thought she had seen something that might help. "Here," she pushed a picture at Robert, "That shed in the field next door. If something were to happen to that it would be a diversion."

"Mickey? Any ideas?"

Mickey pointed at the pile of equipment and explosives Sam had obtained, "I could arrange something with that."

Robert looked thoughtful, "Even a loud noise is not going to get all of the men out of the house and those nearest to Control will have been warned to stand firm. And we really don't want that many people outside, it will just make getting inside unseen that much more difficult."

Sam had an idea but, as neither of the men knew just how good she was with a rifle, they would have to take a lot on trust. "It strikes me that even though they won't come outside, they might look out of the windows. If we could take some of them out that way that would make the odds more in our favour."

"Yes but they would hear the shots and that would alert them." Robert was dismissive.

But Sam persisted, "Not if the rifle had a silencer. In the time available I could make three or four telling shots." She sorted through the plans for the top floor of Mill House and pointed to a large room labelled 'master bedroom', "If we assume Control is here – which is likely – I can concentrate on that window and take out anyone there right away. Then I can go for any other targets that present themselves."

Robert tapped one finger against his lips, "I don't know. It could work I suppose. And if two of us were inside the house when the bomb went off we could take care of anyone who appears in the main part of the house." He looked at Mickey, "What do you think?"

Mickey turned to Sam, "How good are you?"

"With the gun?" She smiled knowing he would spot the innuendo. " Top of my class and I do happen to have my sniper's rifle in the car."

Mickey grinned in return and sat back on the couch. Sam thought she heard him mutter, "A woman after my own heart! She's got a candy store in the trunk!"

Perched on the perimeter wall of Mill House, Mickey looked at his watch, it was five-thirty. There had been little traffic about and it had only taken around twenty minutes to get there from the hotel.

Mickey had been surprised and pleased by Sam's efficiency, it made her someone he knew he could rely on. She had managed to obtain all the info they needed and to fully outfit them within a few hours. Her reference to the SAS had made him curious because as far as he was aware, like the SEAL's, they didn't train women. Whatever, he was finding her more and more interesting.

He turned his mind back to the job at hand, and studied the property through a night scope. It was large, too large he saw, for the dozen men Jason had on guard. He shook his head, typical. Jason was the type of stupid bastard to go for something big and showy. Any competent agent would know that a smaller place would have been a better choice.

It was going to be relatively easy to get into the house; he had checked the hedges Sam mentioned and they were still there. And he had spotted the three men on guard outside. He had seen them relieved by fresh guards only twenty minutes earlier so it was a safe bet they were there for the rest of the night. He studied the grounds carefully, foot by foot, looking for additions to the alarm system. Then, with a sigh of relief, he lowered the night glasses. Keeping low, he jogged over to where Robert and Sam stood, studying the plan of the house that they had spread over the hood of the car.

Balancing a cup next to the map, Sam poured an inch of coffee into it and passed it to him. Mickey wondered idly whether a rescued Control would honour his promise to let him have some serious down time. He didn't think it was his imagination, but Sam's gaze had seemed far from disinterested. Remembering the kisses – and more – that they’d shared earlier in the club, Mickey licked his lips and quickly wondered how much further things might go with a little encouragement. He couldn’t forget how her body had felt against his when they were pretending to have sex in the hallway. It was something he would very much like to repeat – but for real.

After a hastily gulped mouthful of the hot coffee, he pointed to the plans. "The security is nothing unusual. They don't seem to have improved on the existing alarm system at all. I only saw three men in the grounds, that means the rest are inside."

McCall nodded, "How do we get into the grounds?"

"There are couple of trees that overhang the wall, they look easy enough to climb. As we thought the guards are staying close to the house and they were changed twenty minutes ago. They should be over-confident that nothing is going to happen now. We can take them out one by one without raising the alarm." Mickey glanced at Sam for her agreement; she nodded and met his gaze.

"When do we go in?" she asked, looking over at McCall.

He looked at his watch, "In ten minutes, it's early morning - we'll take them by surprise."

"Okay, ten minutes. I need to make a call." She walked off.

Mickey watched her slide into the front seat of the car. She dialled a number and then spoke into the phone for a few minutes. In the vague half-light that showed dawn was not far away, he could see her nodding in agreement with whatever was being said.

She hung up and went round to the back of the car, opening the trunk. When came back towards them Mickey noted that, apart from a 9mm Browning in her shoulder holster, she was carrying the sniper's rifle she'd set up earlier. She also had a crossbow strapped to her back. He couldn't help thinking that there wasn't anything he found more exciting than the sight of a beautiful woman dressed for battle.

"I just spoke with Johnny, I told him to expect me to call in within the hour. He's going to have a clean-up team ready - I told him we would need one. Once he knows we have found Control, he can make this an official operation. He'll also take care of the local police."

Something closely akin to lust coursed through Mickey's lower belly as Sam put down the rifle, and unholstered the Browning. When she ejected the magazine, checked it and slid it back, Mickey almost grunted with pleasure.

Shit, Mickey thought as they ran towards the wall, if I don't cool down, I'm gonna need a clean up team myself - and soon.

Once they had scaled the wall, Sam headed off through the trees and towards the house. She couldn't see Mickey moving parallel to her, but instinctively she knew he was there. The day before she had given into temptation and had taken a quick look at the file the department had on him. It had made interesting reading. Moving unseen through the grounds of an English country house would be simple for someone who had started his military service in the jungles of Vietnam.

Sam knew she had missed the feeling of exhilaration that came with operations like this over the past few weeks and she admitted to herself that she was an adrenaline junkie. If she hadn't joined the WRAF, she probably would have been a racing driver or a circus tightrope walker.

Her crossbow bumped reassuringly against her back as she ran and she was pleased that she had practised with it only the previous week. It was a silent and deadly weapon over shorter ranges; for longer distances she would pick the rifle every time.

Reaching the hedge at the front, Sam turned and headed for the eastern side of the house. She knew that Mickey would be heading for the western side.

The guard was easy to spot; he was standing smoking a cigarette with his rifle hanging over his shoulder. Sam looked around, she could see no one and there were no lights showing in any of the windows. Dropping down onto her belly, she propped herself up on her elbows and fired the crossbow. The guard fell onto the grass without a sound.

She quickly strapped the bow onto her shoulders, drew the Browning and jogged cautiously over to the fallen man. Once she was sure he was dead, she holstered the gun and grabbed him under the arms, pulling him with a little difficulty into the undergrowth. A missing sentry was less likely to cause alarm than a dead one.

She whispered one word into her microphone, "One."

Seconds later, she heard Mickey's husky whisper, "Two."

Sam jogged back to their rendezvous point. Barely five minutes had passed since they came over the wall and two out of the twelve guards had been neutralised. She spotted McCall standing behind a tree, watching the third guard. He turned, saw it was her and resumed his observations. Sam smiled to herself, Johnny had been right, McCall was a consummate professional. In that one glance he had shown her all his years of experience.

Mickey returned then, just as Robert gestured for Sam to take care of the last guard. Re-arming the crossbow, Sam fired. As soon as the guard hit the ground, Mickey ran over and hauled the body under cover.

Taking the rifle, Sam gave them the thumbs up sign and McCall and Mickey moved off towards the house. Sam watched until they had disappeared inside the kitchen door.

Getting into the prone position, Sam made herself comfortable while she waited for the signal for the next stage of the plan. Earlier she had watched fascinated as Mickey had put together the remote control device that would be the diversion. Part of her training had included explosives, but she had never really liked handling them. He seemed to relish the task and had explained to her exactly what he was doing with the Semtex and the detonators. Mickey had planted the explosives in the small outbuilding she'd spotted on the photo and given her the remote control.

Sam checked the sight on her rifle once more. Through her earpiece she could hear McCall's heavier breathing. From Kostmayer she could hear nothing.

Sam tried to imagine them moving through the darkened house. The plan relied heavily on their skills and experience. Once inside the house, Mickey would take up a position in the middle of the main stairs. From there he would have a clear field of fire to most of the downstairs room. Robert was going to take a similar position in the upstairs hallway.

Sam looked at the luminous dial on her watch; McCall should be giving the signal any time now. She steadied herself. Calming her breathing and slowing her heartbeat, she waited, with unwavering concentration on the ten windows in front of her. Everything now rested on her skill with the rifle, she had to be fast and, most importantly, accurate.

Then she heard Robert's voice in her ear, "Diversion."

Sam pressed the button on the radio control device and with a satisfying bang, the bomb exploded. Carefully keeping her eyes averted from the sudden brightness, she waited. Subjective time slowed and it seemed like hours, though it could only have been a couple of seconds later when the curtains in the master bedroom were pulled aside.

Sam fired two shots in quick succession. From the way the figures twisted away from the window, she knew she had two kills. Ignoring the sudden noises in her headset, she continued to scan the house. Another curtain opened and she fired again. This time the figure tangled in the drapes as he fell, pulling them down.

A last figure appeared in one of the lower floor windows and she fired once more, but couldn't be certain of a clean kill. Free to think for a moment, she replayed in her mind the sounds she had heard over the radio. There hadn't been any sign to make her think that Robert or Mickey had been hurt.

She breathed a sigh of relief when Robert queried, "How many, Sam?" into his microphone.

"Three definite, one possible in window two. He moved quickly."

"Mickey?" Robert spoke again.

"Two." She heard Mickey's voice answer through her headset.

"Good. With the two I got in the upstairs hallway, that should leave only one or two at most."

Things were going well, Sam decided. Eleven out of twelve, thirteen if they were right with the numbers and counted Jason.

"I'm coming inside now." Sam said, "Then you can both go after Control."

Waiting on the staircase, Mickey heard Sam give her location, "Kitchen," and then in another moment she joined him. There had been no movement from either of the bodies on the floor in the lower hallway or from any of the closed doors. Using hand signals, Mickey indicated to Sam that he would go and help McCall and that she should stay put.

Just then, Mickey saw one of the downstairs doors open and a man scrambled out firing wildly. He and Sam ducked and returned fire, their bullets taking the man in the heart and the head. With a nod and a smile to Sam he stood and left her behind to guard the stairway while he continued up the stairs to meet up with McCall.

McCall gestured to a doorway, "I'm sure he's in there. I haven't seen anything of Jason."

"The little shit's probably hiding under a bed somewhere. He won't get past Sam if he makes a break for it."

McCall nodded in agreement and for some reason Mickey felt proud about that. She was good. Her speed of reaction and accuracy when the guy charged them downstairs had been impressive. Mickey was real happy to have her guarding his back.

Mickey got into position.  Then, Robert kicked in the door with a resounding crash. Before it had finished swinging open, they dove through to land on opposite sides of the room. Apart from Control lying gagged and handcuffed to the bed, and the two bodies beside the shattered windows, the room was empty.

"Fuck!" Mickey spat. "No sign of Jason."

"We'll get him later, " Robert said. Taking a pair of cutters from his pocket he moved over to release Control.

Mickey checked the bodies, just to be sure and noted that they had both been felled by clean shots to the head.

Well, what do you know? She might be a better shot than me.

Just then there was the squeal of a car pulling away quickly from outside.

"I'll check it," Mickey yelled as he bolted for the door, leaving Robert to look after Control.

He hurtled past Sam on the stairs and she turned to follow him; together they clattered into the main hallway of the mansion. Cautiously pushing open the huge front door, Mickey could just make out a large black car disappearing into the distance. From the marks on the gravel of the driveway, it had come from a garage at the back of the house. Mickey fired one shot at the retreating vehicle but it was out of range and had little effect.

"Shit, that has to be Jason."

Sam rested a hand on his arm, "Don't worry, I'll find a phone and call it in. Unless he is very clever - and I doubt that - he won't get far. Did you find Control?"

Mickey felt the heat and weight of her hand electrify his arm. It had been a long time since a woman's touch had affected him this bad. "Yeah, he looked okay."

Sam spoke, "We ought to check the downstairs rooms first, just to make sure we took care of all of them."

"Okay."

Methodically, they went down the hallway, checking each room in turn and finding no one.

Mickey holstered his weapon, keeping his voice even, "I'll go and get our car."

"I'll wait here until you get back. The cavalry should be here soon."

Mickey could still feel the touch of her hand on his arm while he jogged over to where they had left the vehicle.

Inside the upstairs bedroom, Robert helped Control to his feet. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Just a little stiff," Control said as he tested his legs and stretched his back.

"Come on, let's get you out of here."

Robert offered a supporting arm, but as he had expected, Control insisted on walking unaided. In fact, by the time they had reached the doorway, he appeared to be walking normally.

"Thank you, old son. You arrived in the nick of time I believe."

"We aim to please. But I think Mickey is going to hit you for a raise as well as some time off. He wasn't in the best of moods when I persuaded him to come with me."

Control smiled faintly, "I'll make it up to Kostmayer." As they left the room, Control glanced at the bodies. "Good shooting – remind me to congratulate Kostmayer."

"It wasn’t him doing the shooting, it was one of Johnny Stevens’ people."

"I see. Did you get Jason?"

"No. He was the leader of all this?"

"Yes, he was here a couple of minutes ago, explaining just how much money he was going to make by selling me to the KGB." He could barely conceal his anger.

"Stevens is going to take care of the clean up."

Control rubbed his hand over his eyes, but he flashed a smile at Robert. "Good."

As they started down the stairs, Robert decided that he might as well mention his question now. "Something strikes me as odd about this whole scheme. The snatch was too well orchestrated compared to the fiasco of keeping you in this house. We know Jason was responsible for keeping you prisoner, but I wonder if he was really the one behind the plan."

"The same thoughts have been going through my mind, old son, and when I get back, I am going to be asking some people some very difficult questions."

The two men descended the rest of the stairs in silence and by the time they reached the main hallway the green Range Rover was parked outside the front door. A couple of black vans and two dark coloured cars could just be seen in the distance turning into the driveway. Sam and Mickey were standing guard on the steps of the house, the crossbow and rifle at their feet.

Robert heard her say to Mickey, "It's okay I know the cars, they're friendly."

Control cleared his throat and nodded at Sam so Robert said, "She’s the sharpshooter."

Control lifted one eyebrow, "Ah, a point in favour of closer relations between Britain and the US, I suppose."

Robert chuckled and looked at the younger couple, they were talking and would not hear him. "From the way they have been staring at each other for the past twelve hours, I think the pair of them have much closer, personal relations in mind."

Chapter 3