Nemesis

 

Mickey was just glad to be home. He'd had a less than pleasant mission in Honduras where the mosquitoes and gnats seemed to find him despite his black fatigues. Closing the door he dropped his duffel and stretched. Yawning, he headed into the kitchen for an ice-cold beer, having looked forward to it for two grueling weeks. He popped the top off and took a big swallow. He finished in three gulps and opened another. It was then that he realized how hungry he was and heated a frozen dinner. Grabbing the neck of the beer bottle, he took his beer and his dinner and settled down on the couch to see if he could find a good game to watch. Finding a basketball game, he settled back on the couch and tried to relax. He finished his dinner and started to doze off when the phone rang.

"Damn," he muttered as he awoke with a start.

"Alright, alright! I'm coming!" he yelled at the insistent ring of the telephone.

"Hello?" he said, clearly annoyed at the intrusion.

"Kostmayer? I need you for another job."

"Control! I just got back this afternoon. Can't it wait?"

"No, sorry. I need you and Jimmy to fly down to Norfolk tomorrow morning."

"What's in Norfolk, besides memories?"

"Little Creek Amphibious Base is experiencing a rash of thefts of some highly sensitive material. The SEAL team there has been deployed to contain the threat in the Persian Gulf and there just isn't enough manpower to tackle this problem."

"It sounds like a Navy problem, not a company matter, Control."

"I know, I know. I just got off the phone with the Lieutenant Commander, and he wants someone with SEAL training to check into it, because of the highly sensitive training and material on the base. You'd be perfect for the job, and in fact, he remembers you from your training days there and asked for you personally."

"Lucky me!" Mickey muttered.

Control continued, "Yeah. So, pick up Jimmy and get down to the airstrip by 0700. A Navy crew will take you down to Norfolk."

Mickey agreed. Hanging up, he let out an audible sigh. He'd hoped he'd have a couple weeks off. It took him 2-3 days to settle down after the kind of mission he'd just been on. It had involved different factions trying to bomb each other to smithereens, and kept everyone on edge wondering who was the enemy and what faction did they belong to? Besides being covered with mosquito bites, he had suffered from a small case of dehydration when the water supply had been knocked out 4 days prior to his departure. His salvation had been the bubble gum he'd remembered to fill one pocket of his fatigues with.

He called Jimmy and went over some details. Mickey hung up after agreeing to meet Jimmy in front of his apartment at 0615 the next morning. Turning off the TV, Mickey shed his clothes and got into a hot shower, scrubbing the Honduras grime and dust off until the hot water ran out. He dried off and climbed into bed, setting his alarm for 0500.

 

 

The next morning was cloudy and rain was imminent. Mickey wondered if they'd be able to fly, and half-hoped the conditions would be too poor to risk it. Inside he knew they wouldn't let the weather hold up the mission. It must be pretty bad if the Navy had to call in an outside agency to help.

Mickey grabbed his duffel bag and spilled the contents on his bed. He reached into his closet for a fresh set of fatigues, a couple of black turtlenecks, and then checked his weapons and ammunition. He picked out his Colt .45, a Colt Commando rifle, and Uzi for the trip, and made sure he had extra magazines and ammunition for all three. Satisfied that he'd be covered in that area, he finished packing and glanced at the clock. It read 0557. He remembered to pack a couple packs of bubble gum and notebooks, and headed out the door to pick up Jimmy.

He pulled up in front of Jimmy's place and yawned. "I'm ready for a vacation," he said to himself.

Jimmy climbed in, they exchanged "good mornings" and Mickey maneuvered the brown van through the wet streets to the small airstrip. Mickey parked the van and he and Jimmy headed for the Blackhawk helicopter. Throwing their duffels on board, they settled into their seats and hooked up the earphones. Mickey was glad for the rumble of the engine and the seclusion the headphones offered. He liked Jimmy, but was tired of hearing of his marital woes. Still edgy from the Honduras mission, he welcomed being alone with his thoughts. The flight would only take 45 minutes, not enough time to get a nap. "I'm definitely not a 'morning person," he thought, grumpily.

Once in the air, Mickey reflected on the last time he had been to Norfolk, when he had been stationed there as a SEAL. He remembered their last training mission, and the accident that had taken the life of a member of his team. Mickey grimaced as he recalled the trial and the accusations that he had had something to do with the SEAL's death. He'd fought it as hard as he knew how, but had still ended up in the brig for a 9-year sentence. That was when Robert McCall had stepped in on his behalf and had gotten his sentence commuted. The only stipulation had been that Mickey would work for the company in whatever capacity they needed him, and he had agreed. At the time, he'd felt lucky because the job had sounded interesting and challenging, and it was a lot better than being locked up for something he didn't do. McCall had recognized his munitions expertise and had followed his case, then secured his release from Fort Leavenworth 2 months after Mickey's arrival.

The Chesapeake Bay was hazy with sun-filled beauty as the Blackhawk skimmed above its surface. The helicopter was making its final approach toward NAS, or the Naval Air Station at the tip of Hampton Roads where the James and York rivers met. Norfolk was home of the largest Naval base in the world, and in a way, Mickey missed its attributes.

Mickey and Jimmy checked their equipment one last time before disembarking. Upon landing they were greeted by Ensign Parks, the Lt. Commander's right hand man. Ensign Parks was all business in his crisp tan uniform, as he escorted them to a waiting jeep. He didn't say much, seemingly annoyed at having to take the time out to pick them up. Mickey and Jimmy looked at each other and shrugged at his attitude. A half hour later they arrived at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, a small base just a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which spans 21 miles from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore across the Chesapeake Bay. It was truly something to experience.

Ensign Parks came to a screeching stop in front of a two-story gray building. Both Mickey and Jimmy had had serious doubts that they'd make it to their destination alive after being in the jeep a mere 5 minutes. Parks didn't wait for them, instead briskly walked up to the front door and flung it open for the newcomers. He followed them in, and they in turn followed him to the Lt. Commander's office, taking a seat outside.

A couple of minutes later Lt. Commander Mahalik came out of his office and greeted them with a smile and handshake. They followed him into his office and shut the door. Taking seats around his desk, they sat back and waited. LTC Mahalik glanced out his window, then sat down behind the desk.

"Thank you for coming so quickly, gentlemen. Control has always provided me with good people when I needed them."

"So, what's up, Commander?" Mickey asked, crossing his ankle over his knee.

"I know of your SEAL experience, Mr. Kostmayer. You have quite an impressive record," the Commander said, opening a manila folder.

Mickey nodded.

"And you served in the Air Force?" he asked, turning to Jimmy.

"That's right," Jimmy replied, wondering if he would keep up the amenities or eventually get to the point.

As if reading Jimmy's mind, the Commander cleared his throat and began.

"Alright, let me see if I can put this problem into a nutshell, before we get into the details. Someone's been breaking into our armory and different facilities around the base. Things have been disappearing a little at a time."

"How long has this been going on?" Mickey asked.

"Too long. Actually, only two months. We're not sure if we're dealing with a terrorist group or one man with a vengeance. The weapons have been getting more sophisticated each time, and sensitive material has been leaking out a little at a time. That's why we asked for you, Mr. Kostmayer. Because of your SEAL background and your reputation in the company."

"Any leads so far?" Jimmy asked.

"Only a couple. We just don't have the manpower to follow them up, since most of our men have been deployed to the Persian Gulf right now. We want this to stay a SEAL issue, so we've kept a lid on it."

Mickey nodded. "We'll do what we can. Give us an inventory of what's been taken and the few leads that you have, and we'll get right on it."

The commander stood up, then pressed a button on his desk.

"Parks?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Take these men to their billets to store their gear, then I want to meet all of you at the armory in 30 minutes."

"Yes, sir," Parks replied, as he ushered the men out of the office and to the waiting jeep. He drove them to the VIP billets, and waited as they stowed their gear. Mickey grabbed his Colt .45 on the way out.

Ensign Parks whizzed them to the armory a block and a half away, and Jimmy wished they'd walked with Parks' jerky driving. Even though it was only a short distance, each of them had had to hold onto something or they would have been thrown out.

"What the hell is your hurry?!" Mickey yelled at Parks.

"I like to get where I'm going," Parks replied, jumping out of the jeep.

"Yeah, we noticed!" Mickey muttered, jumping out as well.

They followed Parks up the walk and met the Commander waiting inside the door. He gave them the necessary paperwork to move freely around the base, and left after giving them a map and phone number he could be reached if they had any problems. It was then that they asked for their own transportation. Jimmy tried to put it as diplomatically as he could, and the Commander ordered Parks to get them a rental car and deliver it to the armory within the hour.

"Yes, sir," Parks replied, and left.

As Mickey glanced around him, Commander Mahalik ordered one of the men to bring him the list of items stolen thus far. Receiving the list, he handed it over to the two men to look over.

"Holy shit! It looks like whoever's doing this is getting ready for war!" Mickey exclaimed, giving a low whistle.

"Yes, but with whom? And where?" Commander Mahalik asked as he sat on the edge of the sign out desk by the front door.

"Any witnesses?" Jimmy asked, looking over Mickey's shoulder at the items on the list.

"Only a couple. Here's a list of their names. We've only been able to talk to them briefly, and not much has been followed up. That's what we need from you. We need some people to do the legwork, so to speak." Commander Mahalik said, standing up to leave.

"We'll get right on it," Mickey assured him.

They followed the Commander outside as Ensign Parks alighted from a light blue sedan; their rental car. He and the Commander left to take care of other things, and said they'd get in touch with the two men late that afternoon. Mickey and Jimmy checked into the area and the clues it could provide, but found little of consequence, even after searching the perimeter. They then set out to talk to the guards in the guardhouse set back from the road a quarter mile from the armory. The guard on duty couldn't shed a lot of light on what had been happening, besides the basic facts in the alert that had been sent out all over the base.

Leaving there, they next tracked down the billet of the man who'd been on guard duty during the last break-in. The man was polite, but not forthcoming to their queries as to the theft just 3 days previously.

As they were leaving, Jimmy remarked that it seemed he was holding something back

Mickey agreed, saying he'd gotten that feeling, too.

"Who's next on the list?" Jimmy asked, as they paused next to the car.

Mickey took the list from his pocket and unfolded it, then folded it back up and sighed.

"Ah, it can wait. Let's do this our way, all right? I say we go find out what we can at the munitions depot."

"Okay, I'll drive," Jimmy agreed, getting behind the wheel. Mickey climbed in, and gave directions from the small map he had been given. They pulled up a few minutes later and parked.

Upon entering they were required to sign in at the receptionist area where an older woman sat, obviously a civilian civil service worker. She looked up and tried to smile; though it came out more as a grimace than anything else.

"I'm sorry, but no civilians are allowed in this area."

"We're not civilians. We're here to see Chief Smalls," Mickey replied, trying to be charming despite her frosty demeanor.

"Do you have papers authorizing you to be in this area?" the woman demanded in return.

Mickey pulled out the papers he'd received, and handed them to her.

"These simply allow you to move around the base. You need a DN-672 to enter this building," she said, thrusting the papers back into Mickey's hand.

"We have authorization from Commander Mahalik." Mickey replied, starting to get more than a little irritated.

"I didn't ask who gave you authorization! I will need to see authorization papers or you will be escorted out of this facility!"

"Look, lady! You call Commander Mahalik and he'll give you our clearance!" Mickey retorted, as he reached behind the desk to grab the phone.

"Now you just wait one minute, young man! I have enough to do without having to call everyone on this base to get your papers for you!" she yelled, grabbing the phone from his hand.

Mickey reached for his .45 and was about to even the score with the receptionist when Shore Police approached him, handcuffed both of them, and escorted them out to a waiting jeep. Both of them were fuming by the time the Commander showed up and cleared them. He then escorted them back inside and handed the DN-672 form to Mrs. Dowd, who was only too glad to give them permission to enter while the Commander chewed her out. Once inside, they were met by Chief Smalls, who apologized for the inconvenience and rudeness demonstrated by Mrs. Dowd.

She can be quite difficult to get along with, I'm afraid," the balding Chief Smalls said, leading them to his office. "And she's not partial to rank, either. She treats Admirals the same way. I wish you would have phoned me that you were coming, gentlemen. I could have saved you from Mrs. Dowd."

"It was a last minute decision, you might say," Jimmy replied. He glanced over at Mickey, who was taking mental notes on everything within the large room. It reminded both of them of a squad room because of its boxiness and desks arranged neatly in rows. Chief Smalls led them to an enclosed area in the back of the room where his desk sat, along with a pretty brunette; his assistant. They hoped she wasn't like the dreaded Mrs. Dowd!

They outlined to Chief Smalls why they were there and he in return filled them in on little more than they already had.

"We'd like to see all the records, if we could," Mickey asked.

"Certainly! Sarah can assist you with that. Actually I will leave you in her hands, because I need to get to a meeting at headquarters. I'm already running late."

They thanked him and turned to the brunette, who waited patiently with pen and paper to jot down what they would need.

Chief Small felt uneasy. Going to his car, he placed a call.

"Hey, it's me. There's two guys over here checking things out. What's going on at your end?"

"Who?" the voice asked.

"Some guy named Jimmy and another named Kostman, or something like that."

"Kostmayer?"

"Yeah, that sounds right; you know him?"

"Could be. Hang tight and I'll check into it."

Chief Smalls hung up the phone, then went on to his meeting, feeling slightly reassured.

Sarah looked over the two men who stood before her and waited. She wondered where they came from, and if they were in some sort of special branch of the JAG. They asked for an inventory list of the items stolen so far, as well as the shipment print-outs of items as they came into the base. Sarah turned and walked out, returning a few minutes later with what they asked.

"So, do you think it's an inside job, or what?" she asked as they started to sift through the pile of papers.

"Don't know yet. What do you think?" Mickey replied, glancing up and meeting her gaze.

"Most definitely. But I don't believe you'll find too many answers around here."

Jimmy and Mickey exchanged looks. She was definitely trying to tell them something.

"Where would you suggest we look?" Mickey asked.

Sarah felt uncomfortable and glanced around nervously.

"Why don't you talk to us? Tell us what you know?" Mickey asked, soothingly.

"It's too hard when I'm working, you know? Maybe later," she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Where and when?" Mickey asked, quietly.

Sarah glanced around again, and felt more nervous and unsure of what she should do next.

"I don't know. I gotta go," she said, hurrying out of the room.

"What do you think, Mickey?" Jimmy said, picking up a stack of papers.

"I think we should meet up with her after work, and hope she'll talk to us. She definitely knows something, but she's scared."

"How do we get her to open up? She seemed awfully nervous, you know?" Jimmy asked.

"We'll follow her, see where she leads us, then approach her and see what happens. It's a start at least," Mickey replied as they gathered up the papers and bid their farewell to Mrs. Dowd.

 

 

Waiting outside the depot, Jimmy and Mickey made sure that not only she wasn't followed, but that they hadn't been either. She lived in on base housing, so it had been easy to maneuver the near-empty streets as they followed her to a redbrick apartment building.

Once inside, Sarah put down her purse and kicked off her shoes. She tried to forget about the two young men, but her mind kept wandering back to the events of the day. The phone interrupted her thoughts.

"Don't even think about talking to anyone, Sarah! You hear me?" the voice on the other side warned.

"What are you talking about?" she replied, trying to sound calm.

"You know what I'm talking about! You be careful or you'll get your pretty little head blown off."

The phone went dead, as Sarah dropped it back on its cradle. She jumped as the doorbell sounded.

"Who is it?" she shakily asked.

"Mickey, from the base," came the reply through the door.

"Great, just what I need," she muttered to herself. She was tempted to tell them to go away, but instead found herself reaching for the doorknob. Cautiously she opened the door.

"What do you want?" she asked fearfully.

"We just want to ask you a couple questions, that's all. No one will know," Mickey said, quietly.

"I think it's too late for that," Sarah replied, as she stepped aside to let them in.

"What do you mean?" Jimmy asked, shutting the door behind them.

"I just.... well, I just," she gestured, starting to cry.

"You want to tell us what's going on, Sarah?" Mickey asked gently, as he reached out for her arm, gently guiding her to the couch.

Sarah didn't know what to do. The two men were so nice it was hard to say no to them. But what about the caller? How could she know what to do?

"Who are you with? Tell me again?"

Jimmy replied that they were both government agents and had no ties with the military and as such, had no vested interest. She nodded, then offered them some iced tea. They declined. She poured herself some tea in the kitchen, and leaned against the sink, trying to decide what to do. They both looked at her expectantly.

"I'm not sure I should stick my neck out. And I just don't know who to trust anymore, you know?"

"Why don't you just tell us what you know and we'll determine if you're really sticking your neck out, okay?" Mickey replied.

Glancing up, he noticed a shadow through the kitchen window.

"Get down!" he yelled, as he pulled out his automatic.

Alarmed, she looked at him as if he'd just lost his marbles. She screamed as the window shattered, sending a bullet into the wall behind her. Mickey made sure she was okay, then raced down the stairs while Jimmy stayed to calm Sarah. Holding the Colt .45 up next to his face, he pressed his back up against the brick building and listened. He heard the rustling of leaves and peeked around the corner. He spied a man in fatigues running for a nearby car and took aim. Squeezing off a round, he waited for the explosion that followed.

"Damn! I missed," he muttered as he saw the man jump into the passenger's side of the white sedan as it sped off. Mickey headed back to Sarah's apartment. This girl obviously knew something and was making someone very nervous. But who?

Mickey shouldered the weapon as he entered Sarah's apartment. Jimmy was comforting Sarah as she sat huddled on the couch.

"Are you sure you're not hurt?" Mickey asked.

"I, I don't know. I don't think so," Sarah stammered.

"Okay, calm down. He's gone now." Mickey said, replacing Jimmy on the couch. Jimmy stood by the window, to watch out as they talked.

"I should have listened! The man on the phone warned me."

"What man on the phone? When?" Mickey asked, as Jimmy looked alarmingly at Sarah.

"He called right before you guys got here. He said I'd better not talk to anyone or he'd blow my head off. What am I going to do?!"

Mickey and Jimmy exchanged glances.

"The first thing you're going to do is pack a bag. You're no longer safe here," Mickey said, standing up. He pulled her to her feet.

"But, where can I go?"

"Don't worry about that. We'll take you somewhere safe. Do you have any relatives or friends you can stay with?" Mickey asked.

"No relatives. I just moved here and the only friend I have is Dana. But she's TDY in Memphis right now. I'm supposed to be bringing in her mail and watering her plants. I guess I could call her and ask if it's okay to stay at her place until she gets back," Sarah said, starting to calm down.

"We'll call her from another location, just in case. When does she get back?" Mickey asked, helping her gather her stuff.

"In two weeks. But, what if they follow me there? What then?" Sarah asked, panic edging into her voice.

"Then we'll move you again. Don't worry, Sarah. We'll be staying with you to make sure you're safe."

"You'd do that for me? Are you sure I'm worth it?" Sarah asked as she flung her bag onto her shoulder.

Yeah, we think you're worth it," Mickey replied, smiling. "Besides, what you know must really be worth something if you're making these men so nervous."

Sarah checked the apartment, then they left. Mickey pulled the car up. She climbed in back and got down on the floorboards as directed by the two men. She gave them directions to Dana's townhouse off base, and they zigzagged around the city streets to make sure they weren't tailed.

Arriving as night was falling, Sarah led the two to her friend's townhouse and waited as they made sure it was safe. Turning on only a few lights, Sarah put her stuff away in the bedroom and joined the two men in the living room. They were looking through the first stack of papers to see if they could spot any inconsistencies.

Sarah called and spoke with Dana, who wholeheartedly gave her friend permission to stay for a while. Joining them in the living room, Sarah remarked on the events of the day, not believing the unreality of it all.

"I think you need to tell us what you know, Sarah, so we can put a stop to this," Jimmy said, firmly.

"I'm not really sure where to start," Sarah said, pausing. "I guess I started noticing something when Chief Smalls kept getting mysterious phone calls a few months ago. He'd send me out of the room so I couldn't hear them."

"What kind of calls? Could you tell what they were about?" Mickey asked.

"No, not really. I thought maybe it was a SEAL training exercise he was trying to set up, but things seemed to get more urgent after the SEALS left for the Persian Gulf."

"So Chief Smalls is in on this?" Jimmy asked. "What exactly does he do at the depot?"

"He's in charge of arming the men, and making sure they have all the weapons and munitions they need for wherever they're deployed. I've seen a lot of the inventory lists, and it's scary," Sarah said with a sigh.

"Maybe, but believe me, those supplies are necessary to attain a successful mission," Mickey said as he picked up one of the inventory lists.

"That sounds like a voice of experience. Are you a SEAL?" Sarah asked.

Meeting her gaze, Mickey answered that at one time he was, so he understood what happened behind the scenes.

Sarah nodded. She got up to make coffee and returned after pouring them all a cup. It was then that she realized she hadn't had anything to eat since lunch, and with all the excitement of the afternoon, had forgotten all about dinner.

"Hey, let's say we go get a bite to eat. Are you guys hungry?"

"Yeah. Let me check things out, and we'll get going," Mickey said, taking out his .45 and disappearing out the door. He returned a few minutes later.

"Everything's clear. Let's go, " he announced.

As she was about to leave, Sarah remembered the Beretta she had packed. Getting it, she grabbed a few extra clips and joined the two men at the door.

"Okay, I'm ready!" she exclaimed, noting the look of astonishment on their faces.

"Where'd you get that?" Mickey asked.

"Oh, just around."

"Do you have a permit to carry it?" Jimmy asked.

"No, but it's okay; I'll be careful. Pretty cool weapon, huh?" Sarah replied, reaching for the doorknob.

Mickey reached around her and firmly closed the door bringing his face mere inches from hers.

"Only if you know how to use it. Do you?" Mickey asked calmly.

"Well, no, I've never tried it. But I've used a .38 before and it can't be that much different, you know?"

"Give me the gun, Sarah," Mickey said, holding out his hand. He still had one hand on the door to deter her taking off with it.

"No! Don't worry about it, okay?" Sarah pleaded.

"I said, give me the gun!" Mickey repeated a little louder.

"And I said NO! It's my gun and I'm not handing it over. I'm going to need it with people taking shots at me. Besides, you have your own gun; what do you want with mine?" Sarah retorted.

"That's not the point! You're only going to get yourself killed. Now hand it over!"

Sarah looked at Mickey, then at Jimmy. They both seemed very determined, but she wanted to have a little control in this situation. Quietly she said, "I have a better idea. Let's talk about it over dinner, all right? I know this great place. It's down on Princess Anne Boulevard."

Mickey looked at her, sighed, and then released pressure from the door, allowing her to open it. They followed her to the car as she gave directions.

Jimmy drove them to the Italian restaurant, and as they enjoyed spaghetti and breadsticks, Sarah answered their gentle prodding as best as she could. She told them of the case of M-18 grenades that disappeared first, and the NCOIC that day had attributed it to the SEAL training mission the previous day and thus hadn't thought much of it.

"A whole case of grenades and nobody pays attention?!" Jimmy asked incredulously.

"Well, that's the way SEAL Team Four is when they train. They tend to not put the right requisitions in afterwards, and life gets confusing for a couple days after one of their missions. It happens almost every time," Sarah said, taking a bite of her breadstick.

"Team Four. Who's the 2IC (second in command) over there now?" Mickey asked, sipping from his glass of wine.

"Stephens. Do you know him?"

"Yeah, he was in my team when I was stationed here," Mickey replied

"You were stationed at Little Creek then," Sarah said.

Mickey nodded, then changed the subject by asking what else they had noticed was missing and what kind of time frame it had been in. Sarah thought for a moment, resting her chin in her palm so that her long brown hair seemed to float across her face. Mickey had a hard time concentrating on her answers and not on her.

"I think it was the 203's, the grenade launchers. We noticed a case was gone about three weeks later."

"Did it happen right after a SEAL mission again?" Jimmy asked as he studied their bill.

"Yes, I think so. It seems to me that everything that's been missing has been right after a SEAL Four training mission."

"And this started when?" Jimmy asked, taking out his notepad.

"In April, before 2IC Royalls left for the West Coast."

"When did Stephens take over as 2IC?" Mickey asked intently.

"About mid-May. But by that time, three or four cases of assorted weapons had been taken. Why? Do you think Royalls could have stolen it and fled to the west coast?" Sarah asked, meeting Mickey's gaze.

"I don't know. It's definitely worth checking into, but if I know Stephens, he's got his hand in this somewhere."

Soon they were all paralyzed by the heaviness of the food and left.

After arriving at the townhouse, Mickey set his gun down on the kitchen table and held his open palm up to Sarah and waited.

Sarah sighed and placed the Beretta in his open hand.

"I'm going to need that back, you know," Sarah said cautiously. She wasn't quite sure how to read Mickey and Jimmy yet, and if they were actually there to protect her or just extract their information and leave her high and dry.

"Prove to me you can use it safely and you'll get it back," Mickey asked.

Sarah was getting irritated at his cockiness. Mickey gave a crooked smile at her expression and said he'd keep the gun safe, and her too, for that matter!

They all settled into the living room, to relax after their meal. It was obvious Mickey was deep in thought, for all of a sudden he announced that he was going back over to the munitions depot to look around.

"At 9 o'clock at night? How will you get in?" Sarah protested.

"Don't worry, I'll get in," Mickey said, grabbing extra ammunition and his coat.

Sarah started to protest but stopped as Mickey quickly headed out the door. She looked at Jimmy, who shrugged and told her not to worry. Sitting down in the recliner, he sifted through the papers. Sarah went into the bedroom and tried to decide what to do. She waited until things were quiet, then got Dana's car keys and waited for a good time to join Mickey at the depot.

 

 

Mickey was glad to be back in the action. Putting a stick of bubble gum in his mouth to help him concentrate, he quietly closed the car door and crept toward the building. Cradling his Colt Commando, he watched as the guard turned the corner 100 yards away before he approached the alarm system by the entrance. He removed the cover of the alarm and carefully readjusted the wires as to not damage it, but rather disable it as he moved around inside. Slowly he entered the dark building and crouched down to get his bearings. He had to be careful not to disturb anything. He took out his Mag flashlight and made his way over to the file cabinets in Chief Small's area. He looked through a few files, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. As he was sifting through another section, he froze as he heard a noise outside. He crouched down behind a desk and switched off the flashlight. As his eyes readjusted to the darkness, he saw a shadowy figure walking toward him. Slowly he aimed the Colt Commando at the intruder and waited. Mickey held his breath as he saw the guard look around quickly, then turn around and leave. He wasn't sure he hadn't been spotted, so he gathered up the file he had been leafing through and replaced it as carefully as he could back in the file cabinet.

Stealthily he bid a hasty retreat and reset the alarm system. So far no alarm had been raised and he breathed a sigh of relief. Climbing quietly into his car, he mulled over the implications and clues that Sarah had raised. He knew Stephens to be greedy and underhanded, and didn't trust him at all. But what was gnawing at him about the items? Why steal specific weapons at first, then steal a little of everything? Was Stephens simply getting bolder or did it have a hidden meaning? Mickey was still deep in thought as he pulled into the parking lot behind the townhouse. He was careful to hide the weapon in his coat as he made his way toward the cluster of buildings. He heard footsteps from the parking lot behind him and darted into the shadows as he pulled out the weapon and aimed it at the noise. Was someone following him? He heard more footsteps and held his breath as they approached.

"Mickey? Is that you? Where are you?" Sarah said, clutching the car keys in her hand. Suddenly she saw a shadow of a rifle, and realized the gravity of the situation.

"It's just me, Sarah. I wanted to make sure you were okay."

Mickey came out of the shadow as he recognized her whispers. "What are you doing out here? You shouldn't sneak up on people! I could've blown you away!" Mickey exclaimed, frustrated by her carelessness.

"I'm sorry, but I had to make sure you were alright, so I went to the depot and diverted the guard so you wouldn't get caught."

"Don't you realize how dangerous that was? You could have gotten us both killed!"

"Oh, don't worry, I can take care of myself," Sarah said as she took out a silver Beretta and tried to sound braver than she felt.

Mickey looked down at the gun and exclaimed, "I thought I took...Hey, that's a different Beretta! Where did you get that?"

I was a little upset when you took mine away, so I got another one."

Mickey walked over to where she was standing under the eaves.

"Where are you getting these weapons, Sarah?" Mickey asked sternly.

"Don't worry about it! I've used a gun before; I know how to use it," Sarah replied as she started for the door.

Mickey grabbed her arm and led her aside. "I asked you where you are getting these guns," Mickey asked again firmly.

Sarah looked at the man in front of her, and for the second time, was unsure of what she'd gotten herself into. She took a gamble, leaned toward Mickey and said quietly, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

Mickey narrowed his eyes and looked at her closely. Was she serious? In one quick movement he grabbed the Beretta from her hand, catching her off guard. Sarah's resolve started to weaken and she knew she was in over her head.

"I was just kidding! That's the line from TOP GUN, remember?" she asked.

Mickey continued to stare at her, and suddenly she was very afraid as she looked into his hazel eyes and saw they contained a certain amount of danger.

Sarah sighed. "Come on, I'll show you."

Mickey followed Sarah into the townhouse where Jimmy was asleep in the recliner. Mickey patted his shoulder to wake him up, and motioned for him to follow. They followed her to the cellar access under the pantry stairs. Crawling inside, she turned on the light and crawled over to the crates stacked against one wall. Ducking down, the two followed behind her and removed the cover of the top crate. Inside lay carbines, cartridges, magazines, shells, munitions, ammunition, detonators, guns, automatic weapons, and other assorted firepower. Jimmy let out a low whistle as Mickey uncovered one thing after another.

You took this stuff from the munitions depot? You're behind all this?" Jimmy asked.

"I didn't take it from the Navy! I took it from Chief Smalls, I guess," Sarah retorted.

"How did you get all of this?" Mickey asked, picking up a grenade launcher and examining the number on it.

"Well, a couple days ago Chief Smalls told me to take this stuff to Stephen's office. He had it covered with a tarp in the back of the truck, but I noticed that a lot of it were things that had been reported stolen. Stephens wasn't in just then and I didn't want to leave the truck parked on the street, so...." Sarah stopped, looking up to see the two men staring at her. She felt like a fool then, and wished she hadn't shared so much with them.

"No wonder someone's out to ice you. You've got their stash, and they're real pissed off!" Mickey said.

"So what do I do with it?" Sarah asked with an edge of desperation in her voice.

"Maybe we can use this situation to our advantage. I'll talk to Commander Mahalik tomorrow to have you reassigned temporarily to assist in our investigation, and that way no one can get to you," Mickey said as they headed back into the living room.

"Then what?" Sarah said, as she settled onto the couch.

"Then Jimmy and I will do a little digging and see what we can find out. I think we'll start out with Stephens and see what he has to enlighten us in all of this. Until then, let's get some rest."

"Do you think the stuff will be safe here?"

"We'll be keeping an eye on it, don't worry. If we have to, we'll move it to a safer location," Jimmy said, jamming his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Sarah showed them where the blankets and pillows were. Mickey claimed the spare bedroom while Jimmy settled into the roomy couch. Sarah bid the two men good night and got ready for bed. When she closed the door to the master bedroom, Jimmy turned to Mickey and asked him what his thoughts were.

"I don't know. All I know is Stephens is slicker than an oil spill. And if he's anything like he was when he was on my team, then we're going to have to watch our step."

Jimmy nodded, then checked the locks and assured that all was secure, they both headed for their beds. Mickey was again glad for the solitude as he went over in his mind the events of the day and the plans for tomorrow. Sighing, he sat down on the bed and put another stick of bubble gum in his mouth. He made some notes of the few clues he had gathered that day, and tried to put them together like he would a jigsaw puzzle. Soon the house was quiet as everyone slept.

Hearing someone moving around the dark townhouse, Mickey forced himself to awaken from a troubled sleep. He glanced at the bedside table and saw that it read 6:47. Had he imagined hearing something? He reached for the Colt .45 and pulled the hammer back. He listened again to the stillness and confirmed the rustling he heard as a presence in the kitchen. Quietly he arose and put on a T-shirt over his bare chest until it rested on his boxer shorts. He moved toward the cracked door, the gun cocked by his ear and waited. "It's probably Jimmy," Mickey thought to himself.

Suddenly a scream echoed through the solitude. Mickey sprang through the door and rushed into the living area, crouching behind the recliner. He heard voices and peered around the edge of the chair to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

He stood up and put the gun down when Jimmy announced an "all clear."

Sarah stood in the kitchen, a glass of water trembling in her hand.

"What happened?" Mickey asked, approaching the two standing together in the small kitchen.

"I just got up to get something to drink, and I guess Jimmy thought I was a burglar or something, and he surprised me, and..." she looked anxiously at Jimmy, who just shrugged.

Mickey sighed, running his hands through his tousled hair. "Well, I think we're all up now, might as well get some work done. Jimmy, you and I need to plan our strategy with Stephens," Mickey said as he started some coffee. Sarah finished her water and announced she was jumping in the shower. Mickey and Jimmy watched as she left and shook their heads. It would be hard to keep her calm throughout the day as they dug their heels a little deeper into the strange happenings of the base, yet at the same time they knew they'd need to keep her safe.

As they sat around the small round table, they both agreed that they should play their encounter with Stephens as if they were there simply there to get some kind of answer, so they could fill out a report and get back to New York City. They didn't want to alarm Stephens that the government was interested in his business, or Mickey knew that he'd close up shop and the tracks would be so dusted over it would take weeks to uncover anything again. Finishing their coffee as Sarah dressed, they donned some casual clothes and Mickey checked his equipment. They all headed for the door and drove to the pancake house a half mile away for a quick breakfast.

"Sarah, we need you to stay with us, but don't talk to anyone. We'll do all the talking." Mickey said firmly as they waited for the check.

"But I could ask him about the..."

Mickey interrupted her. "Just take notes, Sarah. I know this man; I've worked with him before, and we have to play our roles very carefully so he doesn't get suspicious."

Sarah paused, then agreed with a sigh.

As they left, Mickey looked around to make sure no one was following. It was a habit he had picked up years before, and it stayed with him, saving his life more times than he could count. Sarah noticed his fervent glances and wondered what he was so nervous about. She also wondered if these two men knew what they were doing, and sincerely hoped they could keep her safe.

They all climbed into the car; Jimmy drove so Mickey could continue to keep an eye on the people and cars around them. They drove onto the base and parked outside of the Team Operation Center Four, or TOC4, as it was referred to in military jargon. Sarah grabbed a notebook and pencils and followed them inside. Once inside Mickey asked to see Commander Stephens and was told he was busy. The young soldier informed him he should make an appointment.

"Tell him it's Kostmayer." Mickey said firmly.

The soldier looked unsure of the situation, but noting the look on Mickey's face, he excused himself. He came back a few minutes later with Stephens in tow. Stephens extended a hand to Mickey, with an air of reunion that Mickey knew was merely for appearances and noted that he hadn't changed much in the 5 years since they had served together. Stephens ushered them all into his office and closed the door behind them.

"So what brings you back to your old hunting ground Kostmayer?" Stephens said as he moved around behind his desk.

"Well, it ain't fond memories."

Stephens let out a short chuckle then left it suspended in mid-air. He noticed Sarah and greeted her just as warmly, though he seemed a little puzzled. Mickey explained that she was their secretary for a few days, then introduced Jimmy as his partner. Stephens nodded then gestured for them to take a seat around his desk.

"So, what can I do for you?" Stephens asked, intertwining his fingers on the desk.

"We're looking into the disappearance of the munitions and arms from the base. They seem to be mostly from your team and we were wondering if you could shed some light on that," Mickey said as tactfully as possible. He glanced over at Sarah, nodding at her to begin her notes.

"You're mistaken, Kostmayer. It's not just my team. Maybe you should go back to the beginning and quit cutting corners. You know, you always did have the tendency to cut corners to suit your goals."

Mickey breathed in sharply, angered at how Stephens could always sound so pleasant when he was trampling on someone. It angered him then, and as tough as his skin had become since he'd been out, he was surprised to find how easily this man could still get to him. Now he sat forward a little in his chair, and grimaced at the man in front of him.

"Let's cut the crap, Stephens. We both know you have a hand in this, and I'm going to find it if I have to dig all the way to 'Nam. And I'm going to bring you down so hard you won't know what hit you."

Standing up, Mickey leaned across the desk at Stephens. "It's been nice seeing you again, old buddy," Mickey spat at him as they turned and left.

Stephens watched the men leave with uncertainty. He knew Kostmayer would indeed keep digging to get answers. He would have to watch his step and if it came down to it, eliminate Kostmayer from the situation entirely. He sat at this desk as he mulled over his options. The phone interrupted his thoughts.

"Stephens! What's happened to my stuff?"

"Doesn't anyone say 'Good morning" anymore?" Stephens sneered into the phone.

"Cut the crap, Stephens! I'm in no mood to haul your manure. You have 36 hours left of the 48 and I suggest you use them wisely. The stuff better be delivered to my warehouse by 2100 tonight or there'll be hell to pay."

"Okay, Perez, relax. You'll get the weapons; just calm down."

Stephens hung up and yelled for the Sergeant. He needed to see Chief Smalls right away.

 

 

Mickey watched from across the street as Stephens rushed from the building into a waiting jeep. Mickey followed at a discreet distance.

"What are we doing?" Sarah asked from the back seat.

"Following the rat through his maze," Mickey replied with barely a smile.

"What does he mean?" she whispered to Jimmy in the passenger seat.

"Surveillance; now stay down," Jimmy replied.

Turning to Mickey, Jimmy asked if the plant had been taken. Sarah wondered why they would want a plant, but didn't want to tread those waters. These two men were obviously in a world all their own. Mickey nodded and reached below the dash to adjust the receiver he carried in his duffel. Jimmy attached the headphones while Sarah watched, puzzlement getting the better of her as she asked what he was doing.

"Mickey and I are kind of snoopy. We like to listen in on people's conversation. We have a bug in Stephen's office as well as the Chief's."

"Wow! Are you guys spies or what?"

"It just comes with the territory," Jimmy replied, smiling.

They parked down the block from the munitions depot, out of sight of Stephens. Chief Smalls came out and got in the jeep with Stephens where they talked for a few minutes, before the Chief retreated back inside.

Mickey instructed Jimmy to take Sarah back to the townhouse; he would get a jeep later to get back. As soon as he procured a jeep, he followed Chief Smalls into the depot. He barely glanced at Mrs. Dowd as he breezed by. She started to protest, then apparently thought better of it. The Chief was in his office as Mickey brashly let himself in, creating startled looks along the way. He grabbed the phone out of Smalls' hand and smiled at the open-jawed response.

"You can't just walk in here! What the hell do you think you're doing, anyway?"

"I'm here to get some answers, Chief. Sit down," Mickey said, turning to lock the office door.

"I don't have any of the answers you're looking for," the Chief said, trying not to sound intimidated, though he was certainly starting to feel it.

"Oh, I'm sure you can come up with some answers if you try," Mickey coaxed.

"I think you need to talk with the Shore Police. Let me get them for you," Chief Smalls said, reaching for the phone.

Mickey reached down and unplugged the phone. "We won't need them until tonight, so let's not bother them right now," he replied, sitting on the edge of the desk.

Taking out his automatic, he chambered a round with a crack and slowly lowered it upon his knee. The Chief scarcely breathed as Mickey's gun was aimed at his lap.

"Tell me about the weapons that are missing. Who's the buyer?" Mickey asked calmly.

"What buyer? What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about Smalls. You're in with Stephens and he's bad news. When his head is in the gallows, yours will soon follow. So, tell me what's going on and I'll let the Commander know how cooperative you can be," Mickey replied.

"I'm not in with Stephens!" Smalls exclaimed, his voice rising an octave.

"Who's the buyer, Smalls? I'm running out of patience!"

"What makes you think there's a buyer?" Smalls asked, rising from the desk chair.

"Sit down," Mickey said sharply as he shoved him back into the chair.

"Look! There's no buyer! The weapons have probably been stolen by some thugs!" the Chief protested.

"Don't insult my intelligence, Smalls! Stephens must have you running real scared, huh?" Mickey said wickedly.

Chief Smalls paused, then again rose.

"Get out!" he yelled.

Mickey reached into his jacket pocket and slowly took out a silencer. He carefully attached it to the end of the automatic as the Chief followed his every move with panic evident in his blue eyes. Someone heard his yell and started pounding on the door, much to Mickey's annoyance.

"Get on the intercom and tell them everything's okay or I'll blow you away right here," Mickey said as he aimed the gun at Small's head.

Chief Smalls paused, then obeyed; telling his people to hold all calls and visits. He received a confirmation and the pounding stopped.

Mickey lowered the gun. "Very good. Now, where were we?"

 

 

Jimmy and Sarah drove back to the townhouse; each lost in their own thoughts.

"What are we going to do now?" Sarah asked as she unlocked the door.

"I'd suggest you say a little prayer, sweetheart!" a voice proclaimed.

Sarah felt the cool, wet gauze against her mouth and struggled to break free of the two men waiting inside the door. A shot rang out as she lost consciousness.

 

 

An hour later, Mickey had very little to go on. Chief Smalls had obviously been too frightened to shed much light on the situation, except to say that Stephens was actively looking for the weapons and thought Sarah might have them. Mickey pocketed his .45 and left the depot with a threat to Smalls still lingering in the air. If anything happened to Sarah, he had promised there'd be no escape for either Smalls or Stephens.

He drove off base as quickly as possible, arriving at the townhouse within 15 minutes. He breathed a sigh of relief at the car in the parking lot, but felt he better be careful just the same. With the silencer still on, he pulled out his gun and crept up the stairs to the front door. The door was ajar as he quietly pushed it open. The place had been ransacked yet was deathly quiet. Turning around he saw Jimmy lying still on the floor. He quickly checked for a pulse and appraised the bullet wound in his shoulder. Leaving Jimmy's side, he checked the rest of the residence, gun cocked and ready. Sarah was gone, as were the weapons. The intruders had been thorough, taking all paperwork linked to the case.

Mickey crossed the room to attend to Jimmy. He rolled him over but Jimmy was out cold, obviously hitting his head on the end table upon falling. He hoisted him on his shoulder and lay him down on the couch. He had to get the bullet out of Jimmy and bandage the shoulder. He left Jimmy's side to check for the few supplies he would need. When he returned, Jimmy was moaning softly. Placing the alcohol and gauze on the table, he again knelt down by Jimmy.

"Wha, what happened?" Jimmy asked as Mickey's face came slowly into focus.

"You were ambushed and shot. Do you remember anything?" Mickey replied, reaching for Jimmy's jacket and carefully easing it off.

"Sarah and I just walked in and..." Jimmy flinched in pain, then looked around him in a panic. "Where's Sarah? Is she alright?"

"She was gone when I got here. Now lie still and I'm going to get this bullet out of your shoulder," Mickey answered as he freed Jimmy from his shirt.

"Why can't we just go to the hospital?" Jimmy asked, a little alarmed at how casually Mickey was taking his wound.

"Too many questions and not enough time. We need to find Sarah and get things set up before the rendezvous tonight. It's almost noon now, so we don't have a lot of time. Besides, I've done this before and I'll be gentle, I promise!"

Jimmy gave him a not too hopeful look, but let him proceed. Mickey paused as Jimmy flinched in pain as the knife pressed into his skin. Carefully and as gently as possible Mickey worked the bullet out and packed gauze into the wound. He taped it and helped his patient to sit up when it was over.

"Not bad! For a rookie agent, I mean!"

"Thanks. I'll remember you said that," Mickey said, grinning.

"So, where do we start?" Jimmy asked as he got a new shirt from his suitcase.

"We stake out Stephen's office and listen in for awhile, see if he can shed some light on the situation," Mickey replied as he handed Jimmy a beer and opened one of his own.

"Hey, thanks for the beer, but I need some food in my stomach first! How about our first stop can be McDonald's?" Jimmy replied.

"Yeah, okay. You're buying. Just call it my fee for fixing you up."

"Yeah, right! I think you should pay me for letting you do that, but I'll let it pass this time. You're just going to get a 69c hamburger, right?"

"You're so generous, Jimmy," Mickey sighed. "Let's go."

As they were coming out of the McDonald's on base, Jimmy suddenly sat straight up and pointed to a man across the street.

"That's the guy! The one at Dana's place."

Mickey peered at the man, then maneuvered the car to follow the jeep the man climbed into. He slowly eased forward to not arouse any suspicion. The jeep soon pulled up in front of a white supply building, deserted for renovation on this part of the base. As luck would have it, they weren't spotted as they parked down the street and stealthily made their way toward the building. Mickey handed Jimmy his .45 while he carried his Colt Commando with two extra magazines just in case. Mickey knew Jimmy was uncomfortable with guns so he was grateful when he took the .45 without question.

Crawling low under the open windows, Mickey peered in the window, signaling to Jimmy that there were three men inside. Jimmy took up a stand by the door and waited for Mickey's signal. Mickey crawled under another window and looked inside. This time he spotted Sarah sitting propped up in the corner. It looked like she was still knocked out. Mickey peered around the corner and whispered to Jimmy that he was going in through the back window, and to take care of anyone who decided to come out the front door. Jimmy nodded and Mickey moved around to the back window. The men were laughing and eating lunch, which drowned out any sound as the window scraped open. Mickey silently alighted on the other side and made his way to Sarah. He lifted her over his shoulder and eased her out the window as he crawled through himself. The men didn't even stir and Mickey couldn't believe how easy it had been. Jimmy slowly eased away from the front door as he spotted Mickey carrying Sarah at the side of the house.

"Hey! They've got her!" rang through the air and the two men ran to their car. They barely had time to lay Sarah down on the back seat before the men in the jeep had descended upon them. Mickey leaned out the window and fired his rifle, more as a warning than to hit anyone. The men ducked and Jimmy took off down the road in a cloud of dust. They were soon clear and headed for a discreet place where they could watch Stephen's office yet attend to Sarah at the same time. Mickey attached the input from the bug in Stephen's office and they listened and waited.

"Here they come," Mickey said quietly.

Jimmy looked up to see the three men in the jeep enter the office, obviously distraught.

"Fireworks coming up," Mickey joked.

The two listened as Stephens reamed the men at their carelessness, then dismissed them in a huff. Nothing else happened until about 5pm, when the call Mickey had been waiting for arrived. Stephens was given directions to Pier #3 at the far end of the base where an abandoned warehouse stood. Jimmy copied down the information while Mickey notified Commander Mahalik of the location of the meet and the time, which remained at 9pm or 2100 military time. Commander Mahalik gave Mickey the location of his men as they would be stationed on the pier and his radio frequency for them to coordinate their moves.

"Everything's in place and set to go. All we do now is wait."

"So, who's the buyer?" Jimmy asked.

"Some guy named Perez. It seems he wants to better arm his band of guerillas to gain control of a stronghold in Columbia. It looks like it would have been advantageous for Stephens to supply them with weapons in exchange for all the coke he could want. No one would suspect anything when everything was set up. Problem is, it was detected before they'd anticipated and by then it was too late to back down. Stephens may be a hotdog, but he's not stupid enough to back out of a deal with hardened guerillas. So, he's stuck and trying to get his butt out of it somehow."

Around 1930 the two men spotted Stephens coming out with a briefcase in hand. Smalls arrived a few minutes later and the two hopped in a jeep and sped off. Jimmy drove as close as possible without being spotted. The jeep stopped at a small rectangular building on the far end of the base near the pier where the meeting would be. Stephens and Smalls checked the back of the truck where two sailors sat on some crates. Mickey recognized the weapons crates and notified Commander Mahalik that the weapons were in the truck that was now easing closer to the pier. Mickey watched as Stephens parked and got out explosives, rigging them to the bottom of the truck.

"What the hell is he doing?" Jimmy asked.

"Just a little insurance that he gets what he wants. Knowing him, he'll kill Perez and take back the weapons. It would be his style."

Sarah stirred from the back seat. "Where am I?" she said groggily.

Jimmy turned around. "Stay down, Sarah. It's okay; it's just us. This mess will soon be over."

"I thought you'd been shot! Are you okay?" Sarah asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Glad you're okay, too."

"Shhh!" Mickey whispered.

The two fell silent and watched as Mickey pointed out Commander's Mahalik's men getting into position all around them.

 

 

At precisely 2100 Perez drove up and got out slowly. He didn't trust Stephens and was anxious to get this over with. He slowly raised a briefcase to Stephens and watched as Stephens counted the money and tested the cocaine with the tip of his finger. Stephens motioned toward the truck and stepped away from it, ordering the other men to do the same. Just as Perez opened the door to the truck, a shot rang out. Everyone scrambled in chaos as Commander Mahalik's men demanded everyone to lay face down on the ground. Perez aimed his gun at Stephens as Mickey squeezed off a shot. It hit Perez in the chest and spun him around. Stephens returned fire in Mickey's direction as Sarah screamed. Mickey hit the ground and rolled toward the back of the car as the bullet whizzed past him, imbedding itself in the door. Jimmy took aim and shot one of Perez's men as he shot at those around him. Mickey aimed and took fire. The bullet hit Stephens as Stephens fired again at Mickey, causing a hailstorm of bullets. After what seemed like hours, the shooting stopped and Mickey looked around to assess the damage. Stephens lay dead near the truck, as did Perez. Chief Smalls surrendered along with the two sailors and was taken into custody by Mahalik's men. Jimmy and Sarah were unharmed yet shaken. Sarah gasped for breath, then realized it was over. She looked over at Mickey, and crying, gave him a hug of relief. Taken off guard, Mickey gave a quick hug in return, then left Sarah with Jimmy. He returned a few minutes later with the Commander.

"Miss McCoy, I want you in my office at 0800 to give me a full report."

"Yes, sir," Sarah replied.

"Thanks for all your help, gentlemen. I'll be sure to put in a good word with Control."

Mahalik said, shaking their hands. "I'll arrange transportation back to New York City tomorrow morning."

"Hey, no problem! I've wanted to put Stephens away for a long time, Commander," Mickey replied.

The Commander smiled then rounded up his men to complete the mission. Mickey, Jimmy, and Sarah returned to the townhouse to pack up and drop Sarah off at her apartment afterwards. She thanked them profusely for their help as they stood in the doorway of the apartment as they had just days before. So much had happened in just a few days.

"What do you say we head over to the pool hall for a nice cold beer?" Jimmy said as the two men walked back to the car.

"Sounds good!" Mickey replied, smiling.

The next morning found the two men with hangovers from the night before, but they were ready to go home. Commander Mahalik personally picked them up from their guest billet and took them to the airstrip. As they waited for the final safety check, Mickey spotted a pretty girl and turned around to greet Sarah, who had come to see them off. They all hugged, and Sarah again thanked them for everything, promising to look them up if she ever came to New York City. As they turned to leave, Sarah grabbed Mickey and kissed him, throwing him off guard. Mickey blushed and Jimmy laughed.

Embarrassed, Mickey followed Jimmy to the helicopter and climbed aboard.

"I think she likes you," Jimmy said as they buckled themselves in.

"What's not to like?!" Mickey replied, grinning.

The people and vehicles grew smaller as the massive helicopter lifted into the morning sky.

"Mission accomplished, take us home," Jimmy announced to the pilots.

"You got it!" one replied.

Mickey reflected over the mission as he did all missions. He had thought being in Norfolk would be too traumatic for him, but it actually helped to dredge up the ghosts of his past and confront them head on.

"Hey? You okay?" Jimmy yelled over the din of the rotors.

"Yeah," Mickey replied, "I'm fine."

 

 

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