Assassin -8- Final

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Assassin
Part 8 (final)
 
By Arecee

 
Photo image credited from here .
 
 
Chapter 101
 
The day passed swiftly and it was nearly time to join Felicity and Monica for dinner. She had asked me to dress nicely so I did. The LBD and heels made me look like a showgirl. I hoped the girls would be impressed.

I didn’t feel like driving so I called for a taxi. I lived close enough that the fare was less than ten dollars. Exiting the taxi I realized how short my dress was as the early winter wind swirled up my legs under the coat I was wearing, causing me to shiver. I hoped it was the wind as I realized the Mayfair was almost ground zero for Creighton and his lot and the thought made me very uneasy. I hoped Felicity wasn’t part of the conspiracy that seemed to nag at my every thought.

I spotted Felicity and Monica before they saw me. Monica was of course dressed like a fashion model, and Felicity, well Felicity was Felicity. Dressed nicely in a business suit with a knee length skirt and a well-fitted coat covering most of a camisole, she looked sexy without looking trashy. Monica on the other hand was spectacular. They both turned when they heard my heels clicking across the marble floor. Monica had her usual radiant smile, but Felicity’s smile was the look of a predator. I hadn’t thought of the highly sexed times we had in New Mexico for some time, but the memories were returning. I wondered what she had in mind and whether Monica would go along with her thoughts. Felicity gathered me in her arms and held me tight when I approached.

“Ashley, I’ve missed you. We have so much catching up to do,” she gushed.

Then she broke our embrace and took my left hand in her right and my right in her left, stood back and looked at me up and down.

“Girl, you look different. You’ve got curves, not much up above, but look at your ass, my, my. Those pills certainly are working.”

I felt the fool as she appraised the work she had started so many months before.

“Hi Felicity, it’s nice to see you too,” I responded.

“Monica, isn’t she just a tasty morsel?”

“You do look good, Ashley,” Monica said.

“Our table is ready and I want a better look at you. Take of that coat, girl.”

“When we get to the table,” I responded.

I didn’t like the attention Felicity was attracting toward us. I’ve always been a quiet person and don’t like being watched by a lot of people I don’t know. I think it may be from being raised in Nebraska and not have a lot of people around. It also might be that as much as I try, I worry someone will still see a little of Stanley poking his head around a corner somewhere. I look at myself in a mirror and see a very pretty woman, but I can’t seem to escape the insecurities, maybe I never will.

The host led us to our table and I removed my coat. Felicity caught her breath. My dress was short, and when I saw the predatory lust in her eyes I realized it was shorter than I thought.

“Aren’t you a sight, Ashley? My creation turned out much better than I could have ever hoped. You look so much more like a woman and those curves, where did those come from?”

“Good genes I guess. My mom has a very nice figure, only she has much more on top than me,” I laughed.

“There are ways to take care of that if you’d like.”

“Surgery? No, and to be truthful I really don’t think about having big breasts. I guess it’s that part of Stan that lives in me. I’ve adapted to the new me and enjoy being a woman, but Stan is still part of me, and as far as he’s concerned tits just get in the way.”

This caused both Felicity and Monica to burst out laughing.

“Just wait, one day you will. They have grown since the last time I saw you.”

“I think all of me has. My clothes all seem tighter, except around my waist.”

“Well from the look of things you’re blessed.”

We sat and the waiter handed us menus and then ran through the various specials available that night. After he walked away Felicity spoke again.

“So girlfriend, tell us what you’ve been up to?”

“You know I can’t say much, except that was in Angola for a while.”

“Creighton told me about that. He said you really got into trouble over there.”

“Just a little. I met a man while I was there.”

Felicity showed surprise on her face.

“You did, and?” she asked expectantly.

“We, well we saw a lot if each other. We broke up when I left.”

“That’s sad.”

“It is and it’s not. Guess who showed up on my front door step a few weeks ago?”

“No!”

“Yes, Eddy surprised me and told me how sorry he was for what happened in Angola. The he told me how much he loved me. I melted and, well, we were back together again.”

“Why didn’t you bring him with you tonight.”

That’s when the tears started.

“Because he’s dead. He saved my life from someone trying to kill me and shot him instead.”

“Oh you poor dear,” Felicity said, and took my hands in hers.

“ Oh Felicity, I miss him so much.”

“Who did this?” she asked.

“A thug hired by someone I pissed off in Angola. Apparently he doesn’t like to lose to anyone, especially to a woman. He investigated the person I was in Angola and figured out the person was nothing more than a cover for a CIA operative. He put a hit on me and I think the only way for it to stop is to kill him.”

“You must be living in fear everyday?”

“I try not to think about it.”

The waiter returned and we ordered dinner, Felicity a small steak, Monica her usual salad, and I ordered the seared Ahi Tuna.

“How’s everything else going for you?” Felicity asked.

“As well as can be expected. You know how Creighton is?”

“Creighton? You finally figured out who Dave was?”

“I had help.”

“You know part of the reason I asked you to dinner is that Creighton has some concerns about you and asked me to talk to you.”

I felt anger begin to rise when she said that. I had hoped Felicity of all people wouldn’t be involved with the undercover of the events leading to where we were today.

“You’re not involved with him are you?” I asked.

“Of course not. I’m just doing this as a friend and Creighton was hoping you would listen to me.”

“About what?” I asked, defensively.

“He told me you’re becoming reluctant about carrying out certain assignments.”

“Some assignments, Felicity included killing an American on American soil for no other reason than to make money for Creighton and his friends.”

“You can’t be serious, Ashley.”

“I am serious, and I would have had to do it too, except he was moved to a location where he was safe and because of that, Creighton tried to have me killed.”

“Do you have proof of that?”

“No, but I’m not stupid. A man tried to poison me and he said I was an assignment for him. I should have killed him, but my heart wasn’t in it and Creighton would have known I did it if I had followed through.”

“I can’t believe Creighton would do something like that.”

“You should. I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him. Did you know he was sending me all over the world to kill people just to make oil profits?”

“No, but I wouldn’t put it past him. I did things like that for him too when I was much younger, except I didn’t have to kill anyone.”

“And what about now, did he send you to take care of me?”

“God no, Ashley! How could you think such a thing? You’re like a daughter to me. I’m the one that made you who you are today. I could never hurt you.”

“I’m sorry Felicity, I had to ask.”

It was a question that had needed to be asked, and the worse part was that I didn’t accept the answer one hundred percent. The trust I had in various agencies had made me leery of everyone I came into contact with. Felicity had worked with Creighton before, and not on CIA business. How deep did her friendship go? As long as Monica was with us, I felt safe. Monica wasn’t part of the government as far as I knew, but that might be a mistake too. My mind had wandered and was brought back to the present when I felt a foot caressing my leg. I looked at Felicity and saw a wicked smile on her face. God, doesn’t that woman ever stop?

“Tell me about your boyfriend?” Felicity asked.

“Eddy? He was wonderful. He was kind, sweet, and had a devilish streak in him. There were times I laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes. I loved him dearly.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

The blush on my cheeks answered the question.

“My goodness, my little girl is growing up,” Felicity laughed. “Did you like it?”

My blush continued.

“Honey, leave the poor girl alone,” Monica said.

“I want to know. Was he better than me?”

“Felicity, enough,” Monica ordered.

“But she’s my little girl, and that’s what mothers ask,” Felicity responded.

“Felicity, there are things mothers don’t ask and this is one of them. My mother never asked me a question like that, she just knew. Ashley has other issues, and your prying does no good at all. I think she deserves her privacy.”

“Thank you Monica,” I said.

Our dinners were served and the waiter walked away after flashing me a smile.

“Someone has a boyfriend,” Felicity giggled.

“Please,” I said. “May I ask you something Felicity?”

“You know you can. I have no secrets from you.”

“Do you know that Fred Koontz person Creighton had watching me?”

“The name doesn’t ring a bell. What did he look like?”

“Nothing special. He looked to be around sixty years old and had short grey hair. The one thing I noticed though was his eyebrows. I think I could have braided them,” I laughed.

Both girls giggled at that.

“He didn’t look healthy.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“He had a yellow pallor. He looked like he had something wrong with him.”

“Why do you ask?” Felicity asked, with a worried look on her face.

“He tried to poison me.”

“Are you sure?”

“He had a small container of cyanide. He made trout almandine for dinner. Does that answer your question?”

“Who could have sent him?” she asked.

“Felicity, don’t play with me. He works for Creighton, and Creighton himself told me he had sent Fred to watch me. Creighton said he went rogue, but I don’t believe him. Felicity, Creighton tried to have me killed.”

Felicity sat quietly, looking at me and then at Monica. She was close to Creighton and her demeanor was speaking volumes as to where her loyalties were. It took a moment before Felicity regained her composure. Her smile returned and her foot continued the assault on my leg, not that I minded.

“My sweet girl, your idea about Creighton is way off base. I’ve known the man for almost twenty years and he’d never involve himself in something so despicable as killing someone he helped to create. No, Ashley, your Fred, or what ever his name is must have gone over the edge, or misinterpreted what Creighton wanted him to do.”

I thought about what Felicity said. Was she an angel of death, or maybe she was right in trusting Creighton. Why would she lie to me, or for that matter, why wouldn’t she try to make me comfortable before she killed me? That thought made me feel sick. I’d have to play along with her, but never turn my back on her. I jumped when her foot touched me at a place I didn’t expect it to be. More disturbing is that she didn’t remove it, but softly rubbed me to distraction. Luckily the tablecloth hid what she was doing to me, but if one were to look at my face and the redness of it, it would be obvious what was going on.

“You’re right Felicity, I must be wrong about Creighton,” I answered in a husky voice I didn’t recognize. Felicity was having the effect she wanted and she was returning memories of better days in New Mexico. I wanted her and knew I would follow her to her room when dinner was finished.

The waiter returned and asked, “Would you ladies like dessert?”

“No thank you, we’ll be taking it in our room,” she said, with a lewd smile on her lips. I blushed furiously.

The waiter returned with the bill and Felicity produced a credit card.

“On the company,” she laughed.

I thought credit card use was limited to assignments, and not for personal use. Felicity’s foot had left my panties and I was able to think clearly. If Felicity was going to kill me, then this was a business expense. On the other hand, maybe Felicity was just cheating a little with the card. I hoped that was the case.

“I have to go the bathroom,” I said.

“We’ll wait here,” Felicity said.

I grabbed my clutch and walked through the dinning area to the restrooms. There were several empty stalls and I entered one. Opening my clutch I removed the twenty-two Beretta pistol I had used to kill Bernard. Removing the clip, I checked to make sure it was loaded. Before I left home I’d done the same thing, but no need to be careless. Pushing it back in place I returned it to my purse and went to join Felicity after checking my makeup. A little lipstick, and everything was good.

Felicity and Monica were waiting to leave when I returned to the table.

“Grab your coat, girlfriend. We have some serious love making to take care of.”

Felicity was less than discrete, as was evidenced by the expression on the faces of the nearby patrons.

I followed Felicity, and Monica walked beside me. She was less that pleased with the way Felicity had been acting in the restaurant.

“I’m sorry, Ashley. Felicity is just happy to see you. You know how she is? Sometimes control is a foreign word to her.”

“It’s okay. I’m just not used to anyone being so forward about their wants.”

“She loves you very much ,you know?”

“I love her too. She’s like a mother to me.”

“Think of her as a close personal friend or what she’s going to do with you will seem perverted.”

I laughed at that.

Felicity pressed the up button at the elevators and the polished brass door opened as if on cue. We stepped inside. Felicity pushed the button for seven and the doors closed. She turned toward me smiled and then looked at Monica. Monica nodded her approval and Felicity took me in her arms and pressed her lips to mine. They were soft and sensual. I had forgotten how good Felicity felt when she kissed me. I felt her tongue probe my lips and I opened them to allow her to enter my mouth. Her caressing tongue brought back memories of days gone by. There was no way this woman meant me harm. Her love for me was almost as strong as her love for Monica, and I was falling for the oldest trick in the book, seduction.

Our lips parted when the doors opened into the hallway lobby of the seventh floor. Felicity took my hand and dragged me toward their room. There was no question as to what Felicity had in mind, nor was there any doubt that Monica would be a party to the threesome Felicity had started. I was like a lamb being led to slaughter.

Monica opened the door to their room and Felicity attacked me as soon as it closed. I think she set a world record for disrobing a human being, as I stood naked thirty seconds later.

Felicity stood back and looked intently at my body.

“Yes,” she said, “You have been rounding out quite nicely. I was right, your breasts have been growing.”

“They’re still small,” I responded, and covered them with my arms. For some reason I felt inadequate, and wished they were just a little bigger at moments like this.

“They’re beautiful,” Felicity said and moved her hand under my arms, taking a breast into her educated hand. Her movement sent a shock through my body from head to toe.

Monica had gone to the bedroom and removed her clothes. She walked behind me and wrapped her arms around me, gathering my breasts in her hands as Felicity left to become naked. Monica’s hands were soft, and she had a way of caressing me that put Felicity to shame. Felicity was aggressive, where as Monica was feminine and loving, and what she was doing to me was a sin. God, she turned me on.

Felicity returned and took my hand in hers. “Come,” she said as she guided me into the bedroom.

It was three in the morning when I was awoken by the sound of feet walking from the room. The door opened and I saw Felicity’s shadow enter the living room. She returned a moment and I saw the shadow of a pistol in her hand. The light from the street shining through the window reflected on tears running from her eyes. The moment I had dreaded had finally come. She was supposed to kill me.

She didn’t know I was awake, or she would have hidden the pistol more carefully. Monica was making soft snoring sounds next to me. What I would have to do to live was attack Felicity before she had a chance to use the gun. I watched as she approached the bed and as she raised the pistol to take the shot, I struck out with a vicious blow from my hand. I used every bit of training Greg had given me and felt a crushing sound come from Felicity’s nose. She fell like a wet sheet in a rainstorm. The pistol had gone flying across the bedroom. Jumping from the bed I went to retrieve it. Felicity hadn’t moved and I wondered if I had killed her or she was unconscious.

The pistol had slid under a desk on the wall next to the bathroom. I heard Monica stirring from her sleep. Felicity still hadn’t moved and I could see a pool of blood running from her nose onto the carpet.

“Wha, what happened?” Monica asked, as she tried to wake from her deep sleep.

“Felicity tried to kill me,” I said, flicking the switch on to light the room.

“You’re mad. Felicity would never do anything to harm you.”

“She did, Monica, and I hope you’re not involved.”

“I’m not,” she said.

I looked at her and watched as she squirmed under my gauze.

“Are you sure?”

She didn’t answer.

“You knew what Felicity was going to do, didn’t you?”

She didn’t answer.

“Monica, tell me you aren’t involved in this thing.”

She didn’t answer.

“You bitch, I trusted you. I had concerns about Felicity, but you. Why?”

She didn’t answer.

Felicity still hadn’t moved and I worried that I might have killed her.

“See what you can do for Felicity,” I said to Monica.

Monica walked to Felicity’s limp body.

“My God, what did you do to her?” Monica asked.

“I saved my life, that’s what.”

Monica lifted her head and placed it on her lap. Felicity moaned and seemed to be coming around.

“It’s okay baby, I have you,” Monica said.

God, I wanted to shoot both of them. Felicity for betraying me, and Monica for being such a lying bitch.

“What happened?” Felicity asked, not quite coherent.

“She hit you,” Monica said.

Felicity looked at me and then asked, “Why?”

“Because you were going to kill me.”

“No I wasn’t,” she argued.

“Felicity. Don’t bullshit me. I saw the gun and I watched as you approached the bed. I’d be dead right now if I hadn’t attacked you.”

“But I love you, Ashley.”

“God, you’re such a hypocrite. Monica, stop her bleeding, I have something to do.”

I thought of what I could do with what had taken place. Felicity was obviously working for Creighton and now I had a chance to use that in my favor.

“Felicity, I want you to call Creighton. I’m sure he’s waiting for your call to tell him that everything went as planned.”

“He’s not waiting,” she replied.

“Indulge me. Call him.”

“And say what?”

“Tell him you took care of the problem, but also say that you need to see him now. Tell him there was a problem with Ashley, and he has to come here now.”

“He’ll never believe that,” Felicity said.

“Make him believe it, because if you don’t, Monica will be the first to die.”

Felicity paled when I said what I had. Now wasn’t time to play games. I had trusted Felicity and she betrayed that trust. Even worse I found that Monica was involved, and to what extent I had no idea. Was she part of the company? Maybe she was, and maybe she deserved to die.

“Monica, get the phone for Felicity.”

I wasn’t about to get close to Felicity because I knew she was very well trained and maybe Monica was also. Keeping them away from me was the most sensible thing to do. Monica walked to the nightstand and brought the phone to Felicity. She took it from her girlfriend and dialed a number.

“Creighton, it’s me,” she said into the receiver. “We have a problem.”

“I thought you eliminated the problem?”

“There’s more to it than just taking Ashley out. She said something I can’t repeat on the phone. I need you here now. It concerns you more than me, and I’d be worried if I were you.”

“I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”

Felicity looked at me and said, “He’s on his way.”

Felicity’s nose and face were starting to swell. The bleeding had stopped and it was obvious that I had broken her nose.

“Felicity, would you tell me why you were going to kill me?” I asked.

“Creighton asked me to.”

“It’s always Creighton, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I owe my life to him, and when he asks me to do something I don’t want to do, he reminds me of that fact.”

“Will you tell me how you got so involved with him?”

“I wasn’t much older than you and on my first assignment in Italy. I was much like you, naive and trusting. I did as I was told, but I thought I knew better than my handlers. I varied from my assignment and was captured by the bad guys. They were going to execute me, but Creighton came in time to rescue me. If he had been ten seconds later I would have been killed. Creighton was a very good field agent at that time and a very different person. He was nothing like he is today. They say power corrupts and he’s a very good example of that.”

“Aren’t you aware that what he’s doing isn’t for the CIA?”

“No. He told me you had turned and become an operative for Hamas.”

“Felicity, you know me better than anyone in the world. How could you think such a thing?”

“I believed Creighton. Why wouldn’t I? He is the number three person at the CIA and I still owe him. What I said to was true, I do love you, Ashley, but what I owe to Creighton is my life and if killing you makes him happy then, I’m sorry.”

I had been such a fool. Loyalties ran deep in places like the CIA and gaining the trust of a person like Creighton could do nothing to hurt your career. I had his trust too, until I refused to kill Mathis. After that the invisible bond had been broken.

“What are you going to do to us?” Felicity asked.

“I don’t know. I should kill you, but you are still like a sister to me. I wonder what you would be like without Creighton around?”

Felicity looked tired and sagged against Monica.

“What’s your part in all of this, Monica?” I asked.

“I work for the agency too, but at a much lower level than Felicity. I use my assets to gain access to important men, investigate them and then disappear. Felicity and I are lovers and if she needs me to help her I will. I’m sorry about tonight, but I had nothing to do with it, other than distracting you from what Felicity was ordered to do.”

Creighton was the obvious power behind Felicity, and Felicity was the one behind Monica. I still hadn’t made up my mind as to whether I should kill them both?

“You know this isn’t part of a CIA assignment?” I asked Felicity.

“I didn’t know. I thought it was on the up and up,” Felicity answered.

Her face was a real mess. One eye had swollen shut and the other was beginning to show signs of doing the same.

I continued to hold Felicity’s pistol. My twenty-two was in my purse and I knew it fired, but this pistol wasn’t mine and I had no idea of what kind of maintenance Felicity had given it. She obviously thought it was in good shape or she would have tried to come at me and disarm me. It was a .32 caliber revolver with a suppressor on it, not a big gun, but dangerous enough to do the job asked of it.

There was a knock at the door. Creighton had arrived.

“Don’t move, either of you. I can see you from the front door and I’d hate to kill you if I didn’t need to.”

I walked to the door and opened it while I stepped back to avoid any moves Creighton might try with me. The pistol was pointing at his heart.

“Come in,” I said, stepping farther back.

His face went pale. His narrow set eyes flashed with surprise and then anger, looking like a cornered rat. He knew he couldn’t move fast enough to avoid a bullet if he were to move to one side of the door or the other. He moved through the door and let it shut. He had nowhere to go at that point.

“What are you doing here? I thought …” and then he stopped talking.

“Thought I was dead? I’m afraid not, and your friend is in need of serious medical care. Sit down next to Felicity on the floor,” I ordered.

Creighton sat, all the while keeping his beady eyes staring at me. The three of them were lined up like Radio City Rockettes. I sat on the bed opposite them.

“Are you carrying a weapon?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t think it was necessary.”

“It seems I have a dilemma,” I said.

“You don’t have a dilemma, Ashley,” Creighton said. “The only thing you have is a situation and you’re way in over your head.”

“None of this is over my head Creighton. The only problem I had was taking so long to figure out what you were doing.”

“And what was that?” he asked, in his usual dismissive tone of voice.

“The oil scam.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t play stupid with me, Creighton. I know you sent me off to assassinate those poor fools just so you could make money on oil futures.”

“What’s she talking about Creighton?” Felicity asked.

“She’s talking crazy, don’t listen to her.”

“You don’t know, do you?” I asked Felicity.

“Know what?”

“Why he wanted you to kill me.”

“He said you had gone rogue and were giving secrets to our enemies.”

“What a laugh, and you believed him? You know me better than anyone I know, even my mother. What did he tell you I was doing?”

“Like I said, giving secrets to our enemies and I had to take you out to cure that problem.”

“Tell me Creighton, did you lie about Fred and the poison too?”

“What difference does it make now? Yes, I did. I’m the one that asked him to take you out.”

I looked at Felicity and said, “Does that answer your questions about me?”

Felicity hung her head in shame.

“You know, none of this would have happened if you had just gone ahead and killed Mathis,” Creighton said.

“Why would I kill him? He was a nice man and meant harm to no one.”

“ His testimony could have ruined our group.”

“But did it?”

“No, but if he had been killed, our investment would have grown substantially.”

“Speaking of your group, how did those two men really die? Were they forced off the road by some of your other thugs?”

“I had nothing to do with that.”

“If you didn’t, then some other government agency did and your life isn’t worth shit right now. How long do you think it will take before they track you down and cause you to have an accident?”

“They wouldn’t dare.”

“Wouldn’t they? You promised not to continue your oil trading and even now you want me to fly to Mexico City and assassinate one of their oil ministers.”

“Look, if that’s what’s bothering you then forget about going. Use your head, Ashley and let us go.”

“Let you go? You can’t be serious. You ruined my life, Creighton. You lied to me so I would kill for you. If I had my choice, I would have liked to have lined up the four of your group and shot all of you.”

“Well it looks as though someone beat you to Ryan and Sheldon,” Creighton laughed.

His laugh was like a hyena before tearing apart a fallen gazelle.

“I still have you,” I replied.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” he replied, with that smug certainty I had grown to hate about the man.

“And why shouldn’t I?”

“Because I’m your boss. You work for me and I approved every medical procedure you’ve had. You owe me, Ashley.”

“I don’t owe you anything, you worthless piece of shit. If anything you owe me. Do you have any idea what killing does to a person?”

“Don’t get sanctimonious with me. I know what killing is like, just ask Felicity. If I hadn’t killed to save her life she wouldn’t be here. She owes me just like you owe me, so let’s put this little charade to bed.”

Creighton moved to stand up from the floor.

“Sit back down, Creighton, I’m not finished yet.”

Creighton lowered himself back to the floor.

“Well let me know when you are. I want to go home and get some sleep.”

“You won’t be here to see it.”

“I’ve had enough of this bullshit, Ashley. You aren’t going to shoot me, and if you do you’ll have to kill Felicity and Monica too, and I don’t think you can do that.”

Creighton’s bravado was pissing me off. He wasn’t quivering and begging for his life, but he was doing just the opposite. Maybe he was right, I didn’t have the heart to kill anymore. After all, I had let Mathis live.

I was still holding Felicity’s pistol. It was a .32 revolver with a silencer on the end. I was still pointing it at Creighton.

“You know, Creighton, maybe you’re right. I have changed and maybe I don’t have what it takes anymore, and maybe I won’t kill you.”

Creighton’s mouth turned into that twisted smug smile that wrote volumes about the man. He was nothing more than a disgusting bit of humanity, void of feelings or conscience.

The rest was easy. The pistol was pointing at Creighton’s head and I was less than ten feet away. I pulled the trigger and a red spot appeared in the center of Creighton’s head just to the left of his nose. There was no exit wound. Both Felicity and Monica screamed when they heard the shot. Creighton’s body crumbled like a house of cards in an earthquake. Blood ran from the entry wound onto the carpet. Felicity and Monica turned away from the body.

“Please, Ashley, don’t kill us too,” Felicity begged.

I lowered the pistol. Felicity had almost shot me, but I knew it wasn’t because she wanted to. I recalled the light reflecting on the tears in her eyes when she came back into the bedroom with her pistol. She was acting on Creighton’s orders.

“I don’t want to hurt you anymore than I have, but we have to talk about what we’re going to do. If we can’t agree, then you know what will have to happen.”

“You have the pistol, so there’s little I could do to you.”

“It’s not about the pistol, Felicity, it’s about what happens when we leave here. I can’t be blamed for Creighton’s death, and you two are the only ones that know what really happened here.”

“Ashley, if there is anything I can do to help you, you know I will.”

“You were going to kill me.”

“Only because of my relationship with Creighton. I almost backed out, but I knew he would have sent Fred or someone else like him to take care of me.”

“I imagine he would have. I’ve been thinking and there’s a plan I want to run by you. I noticed there are surveillance cameras in the hallway. They will pose a problem for what I want to do.”

“They’re not working. Creighton had them disabled because he didn’t want them watching our floor when I eliminated you. Funny thing is, his plan can work in our favor.”

“When would the last pictures of us be recorded?”

“In the lobby.”

“What about the cameras in the elevators?”

“He took care of those, too.”

“Perfect. Here’s what I have in mind. I’ll leave and you call the local police to report a murder. Explain that I left sometime before Creighton was killed. Tell them someone knocked on your door and you thought I was returning because I forgot something. When you opened the door, the man struck you in the nose, entered and shot Creighton. You two weren’t part of the contract, and since he was wearing a mask you couldn’t identify him. I’ll be long gone and by the time the police start to investigate the crime, the FBI will take it away from them. I’ll dump the pistol where it won’t be found, and their investigation will go nowhere. The only thing that could change that would be for you to give me up. Creighton can’t hurt you any more, so there’s no reason for you to not help me. What do you think?”

“I think it will work. Creighton is finally off my back and I have a wonderful friend that I created. What about you Monica, will you help Ashley?”

“Of course I will. I love her almost as much as you do.”

“Okay, we’re agreed. I only hope the FBI doesn’t push this too hard.”

“They won’t. They might have the jealousy thing going with the CIA, but even they hated Creighton as much as us. He was using his power to intimidate more than one person in power over there. I’d almost guarantee they will drop the investigation.”

“Then I’ll leave and let you get on with the plan. I’m sorry about your nose, Felicity, but I had no choice.”

“I know you didn’t, and if you hadn’t done what you did, I would have killed one of my best friends.”

“Call the police in five minutes. That will give me time to leave the hotel.”

“Done, and Ashley, please call me when this all blows over. I really do love you.”

I gathered my things, put the pistol in my purse and left the suite. I hoped I wasn’t misreading Felicity. I had done so with David in Angola, and he’d thanked me by helping Sonny find me. I just couldn’t kill Felicity or Monica. My feelings were changing the way I conducted business, and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea.

I drove to the Potomac River, found a place where the water looked deep and threw the pistol into the river. It would never be found.
 
 
Chapter 102
 
Returning to my apartment I noticed a black SUV parked across the street. The rear windows were tinted a very dark shade of grey so I drove past and could see the shadow of someone sitting in the driver’s seat. The SUV didn’t have government plates so I knew the FBI hadn’t come for me, yet. I almost blew it off, but a little feeling said to keep driving. I did and thanked God I did. Parking the car several blocks away, I changed my heels for something more practical. I always have a pair of running shoes with me and even though I knew how silly it would look for me in my less than innocent looking dress, movement and comfort would save my life, not the need to impress.

Removing the twenty-two from my purse and loading a bullet into the firing chamber I walked slowly back to the SUV. Thankfully the streetlights were able to cast enough shadows to keep me and my black dress hidden. I skulked past the SUV and worked my way back to the side of it. I knew the doors wouldn’t be locked, in case the occupants wanted to make a quick exit when they had spotted me, if that’s what they were here for. My only hope was that they were tired and their reactions were slow from sitting for who knows how long ,waiting for me. Luck was on my side as I threw open the rear door of the car. The rear seat was empty but there were two men in front.

“Don’t even think of moving,” I ordered, pointing my pistol at the driver. The passenger was closer, but I had a better angle at the man in the driver’s seat.

“No move,” the passenger said.

“Put your hands on the ceiling of the car.”

They both did.

“Are you carrying any weapons?” I asked.

They both nodded.

“Okay, then let’s make this quick. First I want the driver to remove his weapon with his left hand and drop it over the seat onto the floor in the rear. After that you’ll do the same, passenger, and don’t get cute, or my pistol will be the last thing you hear. If one gets this wrong both of you will die, and if I’m right, Sonny sent you, so I’m sure he warned you about what I can do.”

The men nodded.

The driver removed his pistol and dropped it over the rear of his seat onto the floor. The safety was on so I didn’t fear a discharge. The passenger did the same.

“You’re doing good. Now are either of you carrying a hidden weapon, a knife or another gun?

They both remained silent thinking whether they should tell the truth or lie and keep the hidden weapons. There silence pretty much told me they didn’t want to give up the rest of their arsenal.

“Alright, let’s stop playing games. I know you have more, and if you behave I’ll let you live, but fuck me around and both of you will die, right here and right now.”

The men looked at each other and nodded. They both had second pistols and a knife each, and they passed them over the seat and waited to see what I was going to do.

Both men were Chinese. One had long hair pulled into a ponytail and the other a normal men’s haircut. The cut was terrible. He had a complete head of hair, but the cut made him look as though he had combed it over to cover baldness. It must have cost him a buck-fifty to have it styled. I’ve always wondered why Chinese men would go to a barber who would do that to them and then charge for the experience. I imagine it must be familiarity with a fellow countryman.

“How long have you worked for Sonny?” I asked.

They both had quizzical looks on their faces.

“Do you know who Sonny is?”

“No,” the driver said.

“How long have you worked for the person that hired you?”

“Two weeks,” he responded.

“What about you?” I asked the passenger.

“One week.”

“Where are you from?”

“New York City.”

“Who hired you?”

“Richard Huang.”

“Who’s he?”

“I don’t know. He gave us money and the guns. That’s all we know.”

“Why are you parked here?”

“He say wait for you.”

“How did you know who to look for?”

“He had picture of you. Say your name Cindy Cowen.”

“So Sonny was getting cheap in his old age. Sending someone who had no idea of what surveillance was, or the training to kill someone, was foolish business.

“I’m going to take your weapons and let you go. You obviously don’t know why you’re here and have no idea of what’s going on. Go back to New York and live a long life.”

I reached across the floor and slid the weapons left by the driver toward the rear passenger door. I wondered how I would be able to carry four pistols and two knives back to my car, but I couldn’t leave these two armed. It was at that moment I saw something that froze my soul. A cold French fry was laying on the seat under where someone had been sitting. There were at least three killers here and one was missing. I had made a mistake assuming these were the only two involved, but where was number three? My carelessness could have cost me my life.

“Where’s your friend?” I asked.

“He inside,” he said, looking at my apartment building.

“What’s his name?”

“Richard.”

“The man who hired you?”

“Yes.”

“Not smart on his part.”

Both men were inept, and trusting his life to them or expecting them to shoot me was a very serious mistake. If they weren’t such pathetic amateurs and blinded to the actions their handler was asking of them, I’d shoot them now and get it over with, but I still had a use for them.

“You can remove your hands from the ceiling. Just move slowly and place them on your laps.”

They both did as instructed as I watched. After they were settled in I removed their weapons from the SUV and placed them on the ground in front of me. I gave them a quick examination as I did. The pistols were loaded but had their safeties on. They were cheap knock offs imported from China and were known to misfire, if they fired at all.

“Did Richard give you these guns?”

“Yes.”

‘Quite a guy,’ I thought. The second pistols were just as bad. They were old and well used and I wouldn’t want to trust my life on their ability to work.

I saw movement from my apartment building and saw the security gate open. A Chinese man exited the building. It had to be Richard. I closed the door and hoped he didn’t see the dome light go out as he moved through the gate. Even from across the street, I recognized the man from Angola. He was one of Sonny’s inner circle security guards. I wasn’t sure if he had seen the light. He obviously had, as he was quite angry when he opened the rear door on the driver’s side of the vehicle. He jumped in without noticing the window on the other side was down.

“You stupid fucks, don’t you know enough not to turn the light on? What if Cindy had seen it? Shit, I don’t know why I even hired you,” he yelled, slamming the door shut.

“Richard, don’t move,” I ordered.

Richard’s head snapped to the right and saw me with my pistol aimed at his head.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“The girl you’ve been looking for. You have my picture.”

“How did you find us? Stupid fucks turned on the light didn’t they?”

“No Richard. You were stupid enough to rent a black Tahoe SUV just like the Feds, except you don’t have government plates on it. Next time don’t park across the street from the place you’re watching. Now, I want you to tell me why you’re here?”

“That’s kind of obvious isn’t it? We’re here to kill you. Sonny wants you dead.”

“What is with that man?”

“You caused him to lose face. In this country it’s no big deal, but where he is, it is.”

Richard was speaking perfect English, just as David had and I wondered why? I saw his hand twitch and knew if he reached his pistol he would shoot right through his jacket and there was a good possibility I’d be dead.

“You speak English without an accent. Were you born here?”

“Born and raised in Oakland, California.”

“Why did you move to Angola?”

“Got in some trouble robbing stores in Chinatown and had to split. I heard about a cushy gig in Angola working for Sonny, and the rest is history. What about you, we know you’re not Cindy Cowen and probably work for the CIA, but the thing that puzzles us is where you learned to kill like you do?”

“The US Army. I was a sniper, but it doesn’t matter now. What does matter is getting Sonny off my back. Put your hands on the back of the driver’s seat, and do it slowly. I’d hate to shoot you be accident,” I said.

Richard moved his hands to where I could see them as he gripped the rear of the seat.

“What can I do to end this nonsense? I don’t like looking over my shoulder everywhere I go.”

“You can let me kill you, then it would be over.”

“Not going to happen. I have you covered and I’m not worried about Frick and Frack here,” nodding at the two in the front seat.

“I could still take you. I was in your apartment and found you are really someone named Ashley Greene. All we have to do now is wait for you to make a mistake and it will be over.”

“Who did you tell about Ashley?” I asked.

“No one yet. I was just going to call home and relay the information.” He said, looking at me.

“That was mistake, Richard. You should have done it from my apartment.”

“Why?”

“Because now you won’t be able to do it,” I said just before I pulled the trigger.

The bullet entered his right eye. He turned toward me in a death roll and fell onto the seat with his head near the door. I opened it and put another slug into his brain above his ear. It was over. He went limp and his waste ran into his trousers and onto the rear seat. The stench was overwhelming. I removed his weapons from him and found his cell phone in his jacket pocket.

“You two, get out of here before I change my mind and shoot you, too. A word of advice, stay away from men like Richard.”

“What are we supposed to do with the body?”

“Whatever you want. It’s no longer my problem.”

The Tahoe started. The driver turned on the headlights and pulled from the curb onto the empty street. The sun was just beginning to light the Eastern sky. That meant it was around noon in Angola. Looking at Richard’s phone I opened his contacts and found Sonny’s number on speed dial. It was the first one listed. No worry about saving face with this one.

I punched in the number. A man answered and I assumed it was Sonny. He was speaking in Chinese.

“Does anyone speak English?” I asked. There was a pause.

“Who’s calling?” a man asked.

“To whom am I speaking?” I asked.

“Clayton Wong, and you are?”

“Cindy Cowen.”

“Ah, the famous Miss Cowen. What can I do to help you?”

“You can ask your boss to stop this madness. He’s lost men, and I lost my boyfriend because of it.”

“How did you get this phone?”

“From another person killed because Sonny won’t leave me alone.”

“You killed Richard?”

“Yes I did, but he would have done the same to me, He was careless, and he paid for it.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done to Sonny’s reputation?”

“No I don’t, and if there was anything I could do to repair it, I would.”

“Gallant words, Miss Cowen, but they can’t repair the lives you’ve taken because of your actions.”

“And what actions are those?”

“Don’t play coy with me, Miss Cowen. Sonny was asked to do a job and he failed. The contract was voided, but he couldn’t let his failure exist, so that’s why he must eliminate the problem.”

“And I’m the problem?”

“Yes you are.”

“How many more must die before he finally succeeds?”

“How ever many it takes.”

“That’s madness. If this doesn’t stop, I’ll come to you and take Sonny out, and believe me, I can do it. I’ll wait, and when he finally makes a mistake, I’ll kill him. You relay that message to him and tell me what he wants to do.”

There was a long pause. I could hear shouting from the room. Bruce returned to the line.

“I told him what you said, and do you want to know what he said? Fuck you, Cindy Cowen, no one threatens Sonny Chan. Come here and try your best. You can count on others coming to see you. Goodbye, Miss Cowen.”

The phone went dead. Sonny was an obvious nut job, and unfortunately he had the power to do what ever he wanted. I would have to find a way to get to Angola and take him out.

I was tired and wanted to get some sleep. I’d had a few hours at Felicity’s hotel, but the excitement of the day had caught up with me. I removed my clothes, took a long shower and fell into bed. I was asleep in seconds. My cell phone woke me from my sleep.

“Hello,” I mumbled.

“Ashley, it’s Manny.”

“Manny, I’m trying to sleep. What do you want?”

“I want to know if you shot Creighton?”

“What, happened to Creighton?”

“He was shot this morning at the Mayflower Hotel. You didn’t know about it?”

“The only thing I knew about was the car crash that killed Ryan and Sheldon. Were you involved with that?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“So you were responsible.”

“Can’t say.”

“While you’re making calls, has anything happened to Leo Sanderson?”

“I just got a bulletin from Afghanistan. It seems Sanderson was killed by friendly fire during a skirmish with Taliban Rebels. Did you know him?”

“No, I was just wondering because he was the last member of the financial group who had me killing for them. I guess whatever I gave you doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Guess not.”

“I have to ask you though, who was behind those men’s deaths? You know, or you wouldn’t have called me about Creighton.”

“I really can’t say, but if you were the one to take Creighton out the group would like to say thank you.”

“If I was the one, then you’re welcome.”

“Is there anything else I might be able to help you with, Ashley?”

“There is something. I have a madman trying to kill me. He’s sent a number of men to try and luckily they’ve failed. They did kill my boyfriend, but I want it to stop. I can’t continually keep looking over my shoulder everywhere I go.”

“Who is this person, and where is he?”

“His name is Sung Chan, but everyone calls him Sonny. He lives in his own personal prison in Angola.”

“Hmm, Angola, that might present a problem. Let me look into it and I’ll get back to you.”

“Thanks, Manny.”

I lowered the phone and tried to return to sleep. It didn’t work, so I was up for the day.

I Emailed Thomas to see if he had any luck with Sonny and his compound and asked how he and Mary were doing. I missed them terribly.

My thoughts wandered to Sakura. I wished she had a computer so we could have kept in touch. I loved that woman more than I could believe. Hopefully I might be sent to take out Sonny with the blessing of the secret group responsible for the deaths of the three men involved in the scam. If that were the case I would be able to see my friend again.

I called Felicity to see how her nose was. I felt bad about breaking it, but it couldn’t be helped.

“Hello,” Monica said, when she answered the phone.

“Hi Monica, it’s Ashley. I called to see how Felicity is?”

“She’s feeling better. They reset her nose and she’s on pain pills, so she’s passed out on the couch.”

“How did it go with the police when they came?”

“As soon as they found out we were CIA, they breathed a sigh of relief. The FBI came and I think they believed our story. They actually seemed relieved that Creighton was dead.”

“That’s the feeling I got when my contact at the FBI called this morning. He asked if I killed Creighton and of course I said no. He thanked me anyway. I haven’t heard a good word about Creighton from anyone. I guess I did the world a favor taking him out.”

“I believe you did. I’ll let Felicity know you called, and thank you for all you’ve done.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You did, Ashley. You got Felicity from under that bastard’s thumb. You have no idea how many favors he asked for. Fortunately none of them involved killing. You were going to be her first. You could have easily killed her, and me too, but you didn’t, why?”

“Because I love both of you and what good would it do? Creighton was the source of all this and he was gone. If you identified me, them I would just disappear. People like me know how to do that.”

“Thank you Ashley,” she said before she disconnected the phone.

I spent Sunday cleaning my apartment, expecting the FBI to pay me a visit. They didn’t. I guess Manny had taken care of my problem.

Monday morning came and it was off the work again. I was the first to arrive with the exception of Ron. He called me into his office. I was wearing a nice business suit, the skirt several inches above my knee.

“Busy weekend, Ashley?”

“Why do you ask?” I asked innocently.

“Well, let’s see, Creighton was killed in a hotel room where you had spent some time and a Chinese man’s body was found in an abandoned SUV several miles from your apartment, with two twenty-two rounds in his head. I’m not making any accusations, since there’s no way to make a match to one of your weapons because the rounds were destroyed beyond recognition. Oh, and one other thing, he was part of the group that’s been hunting you. Other than that, how was it?”

“The Chinese guy was going to kill me. I had no choice.”

“I believe you’re right, however that doesn’t explain Creighton.”

“He was alive when I left.”

“That’s what Felicity said. She claims a man came and shot Creighton. The only thing I can think of is that she might be telling the truth. What’s your take?”

“I believe her. I have something to tell you, and it can’t leave this room. After you know the facts you might be less accepting of the person in question.”

“You can trust me. Go ahead, make my day. Nice suit by the way.”

“Thanks.”

I started at the beginning, with the first kill in San Francisco, and ended with Santos. I explained that he was investigated by the FBI and was told to stop what he was doing. There was going to be a cover-up, and because he had such a high admiration for himself he went ahead and kept trading. He told me that I was to go to Mexico City and take out another oil minister. Before I could say no, that man assassinated him. In addition, there have been three other deaths involved with the group. It no longer exists. Two men were killed under suspicious circumstances and the other by friendly fire in Afghanistan. When I finished, Ron looked drained.

“That’s quite a story. Do you have any proof?”

“I gave it all to the FBI.”

“Why didn’t you bring it to me?”

“I couldn’t trust anyone in the agency, Creighton was our boss.”

“Point well taken. I have other news. I’m being advanced to another position and Karen is taking my place.”

“She’s a good person,” I said.

“Yes she is, and we’re putting your trip to Costa Rica on hold for a month or two. Creighton has to be replaced, and until he is, most operations are holding except ones already in place. Thanks for the trust Ashley.”

“You’re welcome Ron, and congratulations on your new job.”

I returned to my desk and pulled up the file on Costa Rica. It was the only thing I had to work on.

I finished the day and drove home to my apartment. I was drained. The Costa Rica assignment was on hold and reading about it only made me wish I were going somewhere. My answering machine was blinking when I opened the door. It was a message from Manny.

“Hi Ashley, spoke to some people and they are going to try to help. They might want to use your special talents, and will let me know.”

The message ended and I felt better about the whole Sonny fiasco. Things might finally be turning around. After I listened to the message I logged onto my computer. I had a message from Thomas.

“Hi Ashley, good to hear from you. Mary came down with the flu, but feels better now. She said to say ‘hi’. We’ve been looking into what we can do with Sonny. From what we’ve heard from the inside, he’s plenty pissed at you. You’ve become something he can’t let go of. He rarely leaves the compound, and when he does he’s well guarded. Will let you know if we find anything else, love, Thomas.”

It was nice to hear from Thomas, but his message left a little to be desired. The investigation sounded like a generic note. I interpreted it to mean nothing had been found other than he was well guarded when he left the compound. Oh well, maybe Manny will have better news.

Manny phoned me at work the following day. “Hey Ashley, good news. Our group has found something we think will help. There’s a low spot on an exterior wall where if you can get on the roof of a building half a block away, you would have a clear line to Sonny’s bedroom.”

“Wow, thanks so much for the good news. Do you have anyone capable of taking a shot like that?”

“We do, but the group has been ordered not to get involved. They’re Navy Seals, and because of that we can’t be sending our military onto other governments soil if we aren’t at war, or there’s interest in the person because he or she attacked our country. That’s why we were able to go after Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Angola isn’t like that. They are a socialist country with no love lost toward the US, but if our troops were caught on their soil, Hell would pay.”

“What can I do?”

“I mentioned your talent to the Seal commander and said he would help you into and out of the country if needed. Are you capable of a five hundred yard shot?”

“More than capable. I’m good to over a thousand yards, so five shouldn’t be too hard. When can we make this happen?”

“It’ll take a few days to make arrangements. I’m sure you’ll have to get permission from your bosses to take a few days off.”

“That should be easy. My next assignment has been pushed out a month, and I’m looking for something to do.”

“I’ll call the team and tell them you’re in.”

“Thanks, Manny.”

I lowered the phone to its cradle and went to see Ron. He was in transition to his new job and had been working closely with Karen. I knocked on his doorjamb, as the door wasn’t shut.

“May I interrupt?”

“Come in Ashley. What can we do for you?” he asked.

Ron and Karen were huddled behind his desk looking at a computer monitor and he had been explaining what she was to look at and delegate to her workers.

“What I have to say is very private, and we should close the door.”

After closing the door I continued. “I have the opportunity to take care of a problem I’ve been having with a person in Angola. Ron, you know whom I’m talking about and can tell Karen as much as you feel free to say. I don’t want to let this opportunity to slip by. I’m not sure how many days it might take, but I doubt more than a week. The thing is, I will have to assassinate a very evil man when I’m there, but when I do, my problems will be over. I would like your permission to go. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll go anyway, and hope I don’t lose my job.”

“If we were to tell you your job wouldn’t be here if you go, will that change your mind?” Ron asked.

“No, and you know why. If I lose my job here, I’ve been told the FBI would like me to come to work for them.”

“Already covering your bases?”

“Not really. I was offered it when I brought the evidence to them against Creighton.”

Karen was looking more and more confused.

“Don’t worry, Karen, I’ll tell you all about it. We don’t want to lose you Ashley, especially to the FBI. Go with our blessings, but be careful. You’re an asset I don’t want to lose.”

“Thank you Ron.”

I called Manny back and said I was good to go anytime he wanted.
 
 
Chapter 103
 
The next day I went to the range. It had been a while since I fired my sniper rifle and I wanted to be in top form when I left. I spent half a day playing with all my firearms and when I was finished I was as good as I had ever been.

Manny called back on Wednesday.

“Good news Ashley, we’re on for this Friday.”

“How am I going to get there?”

“On a troop transport to Germany and then we’ll have a smaller plane get you to Angola. We might have someone escort you in Angola. A couple of guys have expressed interest in an adventure like this, off the books so to speak. If you guys get captured, you’re on your own. Do you have a passport?”

“I have my old one from when I was on assignment several months ago. It has a fictitious name, which works for me.”

“Good, I’ll get back to you with the specifics.”

“Thanks Manny.”

I packed my clothes and set it next to the door to my apartment. I like being ready early rather than late. Next to it I placed my weapons case.

Manny called me at home Wednesday evening with details of the flight.

“Hi Ashley, got a pen and paper?”

“Just a second,” I said and went to my desk and found a pen and took a yellow legal tablet from a drawer. “Okay.”

“You’re going to fly out of Joint Base Andrews in Prince Georges County, Maryland. Your flight leaves at six in the morning, so don’t be late.”

“I’ll be able to bring my weapons, won’t I?”

“That’s why you’re not flying on a commercial airline. By the way, you’ll be flying to Germany with a bunch of SEALS. The two who want to go with you will fly with you from Germany to Luanda on a small private jet.”

“Will you be there?”

“No, but just find the Navy office and they’ll show you where to go, and Ashley, be careful.”

“Thanks Manny, I owe you one.”

I set the alarm for three-thirty Friday morning. I wanted to shower before I left for Andrews.

Sleep was difficult. The excitement of the coming operation kept me awake until after midnight. It seemed as though the alarm went off as soon as I had finally drifted into the world of sleep.

After showering I dressed in black jeans, a black T and black ankle boots with three-inch heels. ‘God,’ I thought, ‘I’m turning into such a girl,’ and laughed to myself. I grabbed my black leather jacket from the closet, took my suitcases outside and locked the apartment. The drive was uneventful and I arrived at four-forty-five. I found the navy main office building for the base and locked the car after removing my luggage.

The doors were locked, so I pushed the button on the intercom next to the door and announced myself. I was buzzed in immediately.

The building was painted white inside and out. The entrance was aluminum and glass, the walls were poured in place concrete, and the windows were steel framed with clear glass and mullions breaking the glass into many pieces. The design was early fifties and hadn’t changed. A young man in a working uniform greeted me. His name, Paulson, was printed on the left side of his chest. The uniform was much the same as the ones I’d worn in Afghanistan with the exception of the color, which was mainly blue, whereas mine had been green.

“Miss Greene?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Come with me, please.”

“What about my luggage?”

“You can get it after we give you an ID tag. It won’t take long.”

I followed the young man to a room with a camera where I was photographed and fingerprinted. Five minutes later I had an ID card on a cord hanging from my neck.

“We can get your luggage now, Miss Greene. I’ll give you a hand.”

We walked to my car and I opened the trunk. He reached inside and pulled the suitcases out and waited while I closed the trunk lid.

“This one is pretty heavy,” he said indicating my weapons case.

I imagine it was, since I had all of my weapons with me, plus ammunition. I wondered what I would need my nine millimeter, my .357, my twenty-two and sniper rifle for? Who was I kidding? I was going into the lion’s den and I wanted every bit of protection I owned to be on me.

“You know how it is, a girl and her shoes,” I laughed.

Paulson laughed too.

“I keep telling my girlfriend she has too many shoes and she says she never has enough. I guess it comes with the territory.”

I followed Seaman Paulson up a flight of stairs to a conference room on the second floor. He placed my bags in a room with ten men wearing the same working uniform as Paulson. These had to be the Seals I was flying to Germany with.

“Good Morning Miss Greene, I’m Lieutenant Commander Jack Stanley, and these are my men.”

Introductions were made and I noticed a definite interest in me. These men weren’t used to a woman being part of an operation, even though my part was just the flight to Germany. The distraction was nice for them.

“Hi guys, nice to meet you.”

“Miss Greene, these two men will accompany you to Angola and stay with you until you complete your mission.”

The first was Johnny Washington, a black man about six feet one, very fit with a bit of merriment in his eye. The other, Lindale Mason, also black was an inch shorter than Johnny. His look was serious.

“I picked them because I think they’ll fit in better in Angola.”

He was right. Most of the population was black, but you could tell right away these men were Americans. They might pass a quick glance, but if someone were looking they would stand out as easily as I do. The briefing took another fifteen minutes and after that we went to board the plane.

The plane was a military transport. It wasn’t a passenger plane, which meant no soft reclining seats for the passengers. I had forgotten how stark the military could be.

I carried my luggage to the plane and loaded it myself. Not that it was any big thing, but it was nice being pampered earlier. We made ourselves comfortable, at least as comfortable as possible with the accommodations provided, and waited to take off. At six exactly the plane taxied to the runway to take off. Moments later we were in the air. Johnny was seated on my left and Lindale on my right.

‘I know I shouldn’t ask, Ashley, but how did a pretty girl like you pull this assignment?” Johnny asked.

“I requested it,” I responded.

“Why?”

“Because the person we’re going to take out wants to kill me.”

“Do you think you will be able to take him out at such a long distance?” Lindale asked, the concern showing on his face.

“We’ll see. Five hundred yards isn’t all the far.”

“It is when you’re shooting a human. Killing someone isn’t as easy as they show in the movies.”

“This guy deserves to die, and I’m more than happy to make it happen.”

“Have you ever fired at anything over that distance?” Lindale asked.

Lindale seemed to be the one worried that I wasn’t capable.

“Why would you ask that? Is it because I’m a girl?”

Lindale’s face grew grim. He was black and I was accusing him of discrimination. Girls aren’t capable as far as he was concerned.

“No, no, I just want to be sure you can do this. I don’t want to go on assignment and have you freeze up.”

“You don’t have to worry about me freezing up. I would worry more about you.”

“We’re Seals, Ashley, we don’t freeze. You’re not and that’s why I’m worried. I’m worried you’ll blow the shot and I’m worried you won’t want to kill the man. Killing isn’t easy and I’m not sure if you know that?”

I reached my hand to his thigh and patted it.

“Let me tell you a story about Sonny Chan. I was in Angola a few months ago on assignment for the CIA. I found things about their health system that certain people didn’t like, so they decided I had to go. Sonny sent two men after me to eliminate the problem. They were careless and both of them died. He sent a third and I ended up taking him out into the country. I was sick of killing so I let him go, except he was bound at his wrists and was two miles from the closest highway. When I came home I realized I should have killed him too, but that was my mistake. Sonny was pissed that I had made him look bad, so he sent more people to find me here. He thought I was the person on my passport and lived in Chicago, but when he couldn’t find me he knew I was a government agent and sent people to Washington DC to find me. All they had was a false name, but they did have a picture of me. They saw me walking from work and eventually made a play against me. I shot one man in his knees to get information on who was after me.”

Both men winced when they heard that.

“One night several weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were accosted after we had dinner. The assassin tried to shoot me, and my boyfriend moved in front of me just as the man fired his pistol. My boyfriend lay dead on the sidewalk. I shot the son of a bitch but not before he got off a shot and hit me in the arm. It wasn’t serious, but if I hadn’t moved I’d be dead. Last week Sonny sent three men, and as luck would have it two didn’t have a clue as to why they were there. The third I remembered from Angola, and much to his dismay I shot him, too. Does that answer your question as to whether I can handle this thing?”

“Damn girl, I’d sure hate to have you pissed off at me,” Johnny laughed.

I smiled and looked around the plane. More than ten sets of eyes were staring at me. The faces had nothing but admiration on them. I guess I had passed some kind of test.

“Can I see your weapons?” Lindale asked.

“Sure, they’re not loaded.”

I reached under my seat and pulled the weapons case from under it. Unlocking the top, I opened it exposing the handguns.

“May I?” Lindale asked, as he reached for the nine millimeter.

“Sure,”

He took it in his hands examining it with an eye that knew firearms. He cocked the pistol and felt the balance.

“This is a beautiful weapon,” he said. The balance is almost perfect.”

“It is when a loaded mag is installed,” I replied.

He put the pistol back into the case and removed the other two pistols.

“What do you do with the twenty-two?” he asked.

“You don’t want to know,” I replied.

“Standard .357?”

“Yes, my good one disappeared in Angola.”

“May I see your rifle?”

“Okay.”

I assembled the rifle and handed it to him. He looked at it carefully, aimed through the telescopic sight, cocked the bolt and pulled the trigger.

“This is a beautiful weapon. Custom isn’t it?”

“Yes. I’m accurate with it at twelve hundred yards.”

That got his attention.

“Twelve hundred? Even I’m not that good, and I’m the best in this unit.”

“He is,” Johnny said.

“A little practice and you could be as good.”

“Maybe you could show me how to shoot,” he laughed.

“Are you hitting on me?”

“You bet.”

“You always have to watch the quiet ones,” Johnny laughed.

“I think you’re right. Where are you guys from?” I asked.

“Chicago, and Johnny’s from Philadelphia. What about you?”

“Nebraska. You’ve never heard of the town. Most people in Nebraska haven’t either, unless you’re from there.”

“Where did you learn to shoot?”

“My father taught me. He was rated third best in the nation.”

“That explains it. I learned everything here.”

“We’ll have to go practice, sometime. I’d like to see what you could do?”

Johnny laughed, “Don’t give him an opening like that, Ashley. Knowing the horn dog, he might take you up on it.”

“I’m talking about guns,” I replied with a red face.

“He’ is too, but not the ones you’re talking about,” Johnny laughed, as did the other men who could hear the conversation.

I was definitely the odd person out in this testosterone parlor and teasing the girl was part of being here. Seeing as how I had been on the other side of the line at one time, I knew they weren’t being cruel to me, but making me welcome as part of a very special fraternity.

Conversation turned generic after that. I placed my weapons case under my seat and soon fell asleep. Johnny woke me ten minutes before we were to land.

“Hey sleeping beauty, we’re almost there,” he said.

I was still half asleep when I answered, “Where?”

“Germany, we’re landing in ten minutes. Make sure your belt is on.”

My seat belt was on. I never fly without it being attached so I just sat straight and waited for touchdown.

The plane landed and taxied to a hanger building with a small jet moored next to it.

“That’s our plane,” Johnny said. “They’re sending us first class.”

“First class?” I asked

“That’s a Gulfstream, and hopefully they didn’t modify the inside for troop movement.”

We grabbed our luggage and departed the transport. The walk to the other plane was short and the crew seemed to be waiting for us. We stowed our luggage below and entered the plane. This obviously wasn’t for moving troops.

The inside was paneled with bird’s eye maple and had luxurious chairs instead of the semi-bench seats we just left. The only difference between the chairs in the plane and ones you were to find in a home was the seatbelts. I could get used to flying like this.

One of the crew entered the cabin and asked, “Are we all here?”

“Yep, all accounted for,” Johnny answered.

“Get in your seats then and we’ll be on our way. If you’re hungry, there are sandwiches in the galley. Sorry we don’t have a stewardess to take care of your every needs,” he laughed.

I heard my stomach growl. It had been hours since I ate, and any kind of sandwich sounded good.

The plane taxied to the runway and accelerated. We were in the air in minutes. The plane climbed quickly and finally leveled off, which indicated we could remove our seatbelts and move about the cabin.

The galley was located in the rear of the plane. It wasn’t large by any means, but it did have food. After locating the refrigerator I unhooked the safety clasp and opened the door. I was greeted by a selection of drinks and prepackaged food. There were the standard selection of sandwiches, but they also had several different choices that could be micro waved. I picked one of those, lasagna. After warming the dish I returned to my seat and pulled the clear plastic cover from the top. It didn’t smell too bad, so I put a bite in my mouth. It didn’t taste bad, either but then again I was hungry enough to think cardboard would taste good so my culinary review was pretty much useless.

“How’s the food?” Johnny asked.

“The best I’ve had since DC,” I laughed.

“It’s the only thing you’ve had since DC,” Lindale quipped.

“Point well taken. It’s food and it’s warm so I’m not complaining.”

“I think I’ll stick with the sandwiches. You don’t have to heat them to kill the vermin,” Johnny laughed.

“Hey, it’s airline food. Everyone knows they zap it, and nothing can grow on it for a hundred years,” I chuckled.

“Yuk, and I thought being a Seal was dangerous. Eating this food makes any mission pale in comparison.”

“It’s not that bad. When we get to Luanda we’ll eat real food, and I don’t want to hear any complaints. My friends will see that you have something worth eating.”

“Do your friends know what you do?” Lindale asked.

“No, they think I’m a reporter for a newspaper. We can use that cover and I’ll tell them you’re here to protect me.”

“I hope that works. I really don’t like spending too much time with civilians. They’re usually the fly in the ointment, and can screw things up pretty quickly.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they’re the unknowns. They blunder into a mission and have no idea they have. We can’t just shoot them, and we can’t ask them to leave without blowing our own identities. You’d be surprised at how many operations they fuck up.”

“My friends won’t be around. All we’ll do is eat and be on our way.”

“I don’t like it,” Lindale said.

“Dude, you don’t like anything. I’m up for it.”

“Good, you’ll like Sakura.”

“Sakura? Who’s that?”

“My girl friend. The best part is she speaks a little English.”

“Count me in, I speak a little English too,” Johnny said, with a chuckle.

“I’m getting a sandwich, you want one while I’m back there?” Lindale asked.

“I’ll take a turkey,” Johnny said.

Lindale walked to the galley leaving Johnny alone with me.

“Why’s Lindale so angry?” I asked.

“We almost lost one of our guys on the last mission we were on and he blames himself. Normally he’s more fun than this, but he can’t get over what happened.”

“What did he do?”

“He didn’t do anything wrong. It was luck on the bad guys part that we were jumped. One of our guys was wounded, and Lindale blames himself.”

“Was it his fault?”

“No, the enemy had dug a tunnel we didn’t know about and they surprised us when we attacked their camp. If anyone were to blame it would be the recon team, not Lindale. Fortunately for us they were inept as soldiers, because they jumped out of the lair shooting in all directions. We took time to aim, but the damage had been done. Ricky Newsom was severely wounded and had to be carried out before he could get medical attention. Lindale blames himself because the bad guys came from his direction and he didn’t see them until the shooting started.”

“That’s silly. No one was to blame. Shit happens.”

“Not when you’re a Seal. Shit only happens if you let it happen.”

“Then you’re blaming Lindale too?”

“That’s not what I’m saying. Lindale was on top of things, but we all should have seen what was coming, it’s just that Lindale is the kind of guy who takes the world on his shoulders and feels he’s responsible for anything that happens to our squad.”

Lindale returned with the sandwiches and handed one to Johnny.

“Here you go, turkey for a turkey,” he laughed without mirth.

“Thanks. Ashley was asking why you’re so angry,” he said.

“I’m not angry,” Lindale snapped.

“Fraid you are, bro.”

“You would be too if you were responsible for getting one of the guys wounded.”

“You weren’t responsible.”

“No one died because of anything you did,” I said.

“He almost did.”

“But he didn’t.”

“I can’t keep my mind off of it. I feel as though I failed one of our own.”

“You didn’t. You did your best and that’s all that’s asked of you.”

“It wasn’t good enough to keep Ricky from almost dying,” he said sullenly.

“You can’t go on blaming yourself for something you had no control of. Ricky wouldn’t want you to feel this way, and if you don’t get over it, it could effect your performance,” I said.

“How would you know? You’re not like us,” Lindale snapped at me.

Not like them? That did it. I felt my face flush with anger and I spoke before I thought.

“Not like you? How would you know what I’m like or who I am? You think because I’m a woman I don’t carry baggage? Well I do, and if you think you have something to be guilty about, you’re wrong. My spotter and friend was beheaded because of me, so don’t tell me you’re the only one to screw up. I have plenty to feel guilty about, but I’m not going to throw a pity party because of it. I’ve gotten over it. I still think of Rubin, but what happened, happened. If that stonewall hadn’t been there I would have killed the other man too, but it was, and Rubin lost his life because of it. Yes I do carry anger and guilt, but I don’t let it consume me. Let it go Lindale, you’ll be much better for it.”

Both men sat quietly staring at me. I said my piece and hoped Lindale would quit feeling sorry for himself. Johnny was fun to be around, but Lindale was a pain in the ass.

“Your spotter was beheaded? I didn’t think there were women snipers in the service?” Johnny asked.

I had blown my cover. Women weren’t allowed to be in combat situations like men were. I sat quietly and decide to tell them about the real me.

“Before I say anything, what I do say stays in this plane. No one is to ever know what I say to you. If you can’t promise me that then this conversation is over.”

“You can trust me,” Johnny said.

“Me too,” Lindale replied.

“My spotter and I were on assignment to kill a pair of brothers in Afghanistan. Getting to the target site was a bitch. We had to hike on a trail that was exposed to the target’s camp, but we were able to conceal ourselves in the brush as we walked. Rubin led and I followed. After a half of an hour we found a spot that was perfect. It was well hidden in the brush but had a flat spot for us to lie in.”

“I set up my rifle and then we waited for the targets. Rubin had taken readings and my rifle was set. The brothers came out of the stone thing they called a hut and were walking together along a wall. It was a long shot, but well within my limits. I took out the first brother, but before I was able to take the second one out he threw himself over the wall. His shouting and the sound from the rifle alerted the rest of the camp to our presence. His soldiers began firing wildly in our direction. None of the shots were even close to where we were. The problem was, that we couldn’t move without giving our location away.’

“We stayed in our location for hours, until the bad guys circled around behind us and captured us. We were brought to the stone hut and the surviving brother and leader decide to make an example of us. He beat us very severely, and then made me watch as he sawed Rubin’s head from his body. I’ll never forget Rubin’s screams for as long as I live. Next he came for me. I was naked, as was Rubin when he died. He came close to my face and looked in my eyes before he took my dick and balls in his hand and said, ‘This is for my brother,’ cut them off and threw them away.”

Tears were running from my eyes as the horrible memories came flooding back of a time I had tried so hard to forget.

“I started to bleed out, but the brother wanted me to be alive when he removed my head. It was then that our troops stormed the encampment and saved me before I was to die. I passed out from loss of blood and didn’t wake up until I was in a hospital in Germany. So if you think you should feel responsible for your man, then I think you’re wrong. The rest of your unit is just as much to blame as you.”

I took the napkin I was using when I ate and wiped my eyes. I felt weak with my display of emotion, but it couldn’t be helped. Even the two Seals sitting with me had tears in their eyes, so it wasn’t a girl thing. It was being a human.

“You mean your were a dude once?” Lindale asked.

“That’s what I’m saying. I didn’t become a woman because I always felt like one growing up, but for me to live any kind of normal life, this was the best choice.”

“Damn, you’re so fucking pretty,” Johnny, said.

“Thanks, I guess.”

“What’s it like, I mean being a woman?” Lindale asked.

“It’s different than being a man. Not a lot, just different. Men assume I’m weak, but after I kick their ass they change their mind.”

“What about sex?”

“What about it? I’m not going to go there. It would be like me asking you if you got laid yesterday. It’s none of your business.”

The conversation had gone about as far as it could. Both men didn’t seem put off by the fact that I had once been a man, and for the good part, Lindale seemed to set the cloud he was carrying away in the corner. Maybe we could finally move on.

The hours slid by and the pilot announced we were about to land in Luanda. We sat back in our chairs, fastened the seatbelts and waited to land.

The landing was very smooth. The pilot had obvious skills.

“The pilot works for the Navy. He flies this plane almost everyday. You know how it is, some Admiral wants to fly in style, and this it,” Johnny said.

“How long is the plane going to be here?”

“Long enough for us to unload our things. The plane has to be back in Germany by tomorrow. The pilot is going to get a few hours of sleep before he takes off. When we’re done with the mission, he’ll return to fly us home.”

“I guess we’d better get going then.” I grabbed my weapons case and my suitcase. I didn’t bring many clothes, but enough to warrant the luggage. “I know this is a little late, but what are we going to do about transportation?”

“They assumed we would walk,” Johnny said.

“Yep, got to keep in shape,” Lindale laughed.

“Seriously guys, do we have a car or not?”

“This is a Seal’s operation and everything is taken care of. There should be a vehicle waiting near the terminal building. It won’t be nice, but it runs.”

Lindale was right, the car was a heap. It was a nineteen ninety-three Toyota Corolla and looked as though it had been used in a demolition derby. It had the original white paint, what was left of it. The fenders were dented and the bumper was wired on to keep it from dragging on the ground. The lock was missing on the trunk lid and was held shut by more wire.

“Don’t worry, it runs,” Johnny laughed.

“But will the wheels stay on?” I was serious.

“We’ll be fine,” Johnny said as he twisted the wire on the trunk until it was loose.

We loaded our things into the trunk and Johnny wired it shut.

“You want to drive?” Lindale asked me.

“I guess, but you’ll have to let me know where we’re going.”

“We have two rooms rented in some dive hotel in Luanda. Here’s the address.”

“That’s not a dive hotel. You wouldn’t want to be in a dive around here.”

I started the motor and the guys were right, looks can be deceiving. It ran beautifully. Putting it in gear I drove off. Being familiar with the road through the slums I looked at the view like it was a five-cent movie. I’d seen it plenty of times before and nothing had changed. The same couldn’t be said for Johnny and Lindale. The shock was evident on their faces.

“Is all of Luanda like this?” Johnny asked.

“Just the ring around the city. Luanda proper isn’t too bad, you’ll see.” The slums lasted for a little over a mile before they changed into the city and the more prosperous looking buildings. I drove to the address Lindale gave me. It wasn’t far from Sakura’s home, and I was familiar with this part of the city.

The room was ready when we registered. We all had to show our passports, and I worried someone might alert Sonny that Cindy was back in town. On the other hand the only way information like that would become know was if I was on a person of interest list and I knew I wasn’t.

Night had fallen and I was hungry. The food on the plane might have been adequate at the moment, but I needed more.

“Let’s get something to eat,” I said.

“Any suggestions?”

“I know a place that’s good. I’ll drive.”

It took five minutes to get to the restaurant. Luckily it was still open. After parking the car in the first open spot we walked the two blocks to the restaurant. It hadn’t changed since I was here; in fact I doubt it had changed in twenty years.

Walking through he front door we were assaulted by the aroma of the food served here. It smelled wonderful, as usual.

“The waitress looked up at us. It was almost closing time and she looked irritated. Most waitpersons don’t like customers coming in five minutes before closing. But just as quickly as her frown had formed, her ready smile lit the room.

“Cindy, where have you been?” Geisa screamed, rushing to me, wrapping her arms around me in a hug.

“I had to go back home. I’m only here for a few days and I had to eat at my favorite restaurant.”

“We’ve missed you, Does Sakura know you’re here?”

“I haven’t had a chance to call her. We just arrived not even an hour ago.”

Geisa looked at Johnny and Lindale.

“Who are your friends?” she asked with more than a little interest.

“Geisa, these are my fellow employees at the Tribune. I had a little trouble last time I was here and the paper thought it would be best if they came along with me. Johnny and Lindale, this is my best friend’s sister, Geisa.”

“Nice to meet you, Geisa,” Johnny said, extending his hand.

“Me too,” Lindale said.

Both guys had a goofy smile on their lips. Where Geisa was nice looking, I wondered how they would react when they met Sakura? Sakura was drop dead gorgeous.

“Come, sit!” She led us to a table near the center of the room, produced menus and left us to decide what to eat. Unfortunately, the menu was written in Portuguese.

“I can’t read this,” Johnny said.”

“Neither can I,” Lindale replied,

“Don’t worry, Geisa will bring us the best food in the house. She knows I can’t read the menu either.”

Geisa returned with a smile on her mouth.

“Ready?” she asked. “Uncle Alberto will be out in a moment. He’s still angry at you for not saying goodbye when you left.”

“I’m sorry, but there were things that happened and I had to leave before I could say anything to anybody.”

“I know, Cindy, but you’re like family, and my uncle doesn’t understand why you didn’t say goodbye.”

“I would have if I could have. Sakura’s my best friend and you’re family to me, too.”

“Have you decided?” she said, pointing at the menu.

“You decide,” I said. “I trust your judgment”

“Oh Cindy, you’re so lost without my sister around,” she laughed.

Geisa walked to the kitchen to place our order. Johnny and Lindale had questions.

“Who are these people, Ashley?” Johnny asked.

“They’re my girlfriend’s family, and don’t call me Ashley. They don’t know about her. I’m Cindy for as long as we’re here.”

“Who’s this Sakura girl Geisa keeps talking about?”

“My best friend in Luanda. You’ll meet her soon, I imagine. I’m sure Geisa called her the minute she saw me, and when you do, behave yourselves.”

At that moment the front door opened and Sakura walked in. Walking with one foot in front of the other as though she was on a runway she looked both ways, hoping to spot me. She was as lovely as ever. Both men stared at her beauty, unable to conceal their lust. Her smile brightened the whole room. She approached our table, removed the smile from her face as she did and then spoke.

“Cindy, why didn’t you let me know you were coming?” she asked, as she threw her arms around me and pulled me into the nicest hug I had in weeks.

“I didn’t know until two days ago. There was just enough time to pack my bags.”

“How long are you going to stay?”

“Only for a few days. There are three of us and the paper can’t afford for us to be gone too long. Sakura, these are my fellow employees, Johnny Washington and Lindale Mason, Guys this is my best friend in the whole world, Sakura Cazenga.”

“It’s nice to meet you Sakura.” Johnny’s eyes were flickering on her body.

“And you’re much prettier than Cindy told us you’d be,” Lindale said.

‘The lying prick’, I thought. If I had described Sakura, both men would have been running from the airport to meet her, but I had to give Lindale points for trying. I would have too, if things hadn’t changed my life.

Sakura lowered her head, embarrassed by the compliment.

“I told you to behave yourselves,” I laughed. “Will you join us?”

“I will for a little while. I have an early job in the morning so I can’t stay late.”

“What do you do?” Lindale asked, clearly interested in the beautiful woman joining us at the table.

“I’m an interpreter.”

“You speak English very well.”

“I went to school in California, and that’s where I learned to speak English.”

“Which school?”

“UC Davis.”

“I went to Chico State for a year.”

“That’s nice,” Sakura said, obviously not interested in Lindale’s flirtations.

“So, what’s been happening since I left?” I asked Sakura.

“The usual. My Uncle hates the Chinese, and everyone in government is corrupt.”

“Same as usual? It can’t be that bad?” I laughed.

“Nothing ever changes. I keep hoping, but …” Sakura sighed, “ I guess that’s the way this country is.”

“It will get better.”

Sakura stayed for an hour and left when we were almost finished with our food. The guys were sad to see her go, but she pretty much shot them down when she told me she was still seeing the man she’d met when I was here the first time.

Sakura’s uncle came out and chastised me for not saying goodbye to my extended family when I left. It was all in good humor, but he was happy to see Sakura before she left. He wouldn’t accept payment for our dinners, with the promise we would be by again, and I’d say goodbye the next time I left.

We returned to the hotel and went to the guy’s room to plan our strategy for the next morning.

“What time do you want to start?” Johnny asked.

“Let’s meet at seven. I’d like to see the building where I’m going to take the shot,” I replied. I knew where it was, but I hadn’t remembered the details, and details were the name of the game. Forget about them and you might as well forget about your life, because the tiny things were the ones that got you killed.

“Seven it is. I have these sheets detailing the building. They’re a little old and generic, but they’ll give us an idea of what we’re working with,” Lindale spread several pages of a report on the table.

“How old are they?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, maybe a couple of years.”

“A couple of years? Don’t we have anything newer?”

“I’m afraid this is all we have.”

“Where did you get them?”

“From your group, the CIA. And Google Earth.”

“I don’t believe it. I hope the buildings are still there,” I grumbled. Relying on Google Earth as a surveillance source seem like madness to me.

I scanned the photos. Most were grainy and out of focus. So much for the great investigative qualities of the CIA. If I had known about this mission when I was here last, I would have taken photos worth looking at.

“I’m going to bed. These are almost useless. Is the building occupied or empty?”

“It’s supposed to be empty. Something to do with structural damage.”

“We’ll see tomorrow, good night, guys.”

I left the room and walked to mine at the other end of the corridor. Working with two-year-old information was giving me a headache.

I showered and hit the bed. Setting the alarm on my cell phone, I was asleep in minutes. I must have been more tired than I thought.

The annoying sound came from the nightstand next to the bed. Opening one eye I saw the source was my phone. God I hated differences in time from one country to the next.

I took a quick shower, applied minimal makeup, and dressed. It was five to seven when I knocked on the guy’s door. Johnny opened the door and I stepped inside. Both men were dressed and ready to go.

“How do you want to handle this?” I asked.

“Let’s check out the building and then get some breakfast,” Johnny said.

“Sounds good to me.”

“How far is it from here to the building?”

“A couple of miles. We might as well drive.”

“Did you bring any weapons?”

“Yes, my .357. I never go anywhere without it,” I said thinking of the advertisement for that credit card.

“Okay, let us get our pistols and then we’ll go.

The men armed themselves and then we left the hotel. It was just getting busy so we didn’t stand out from the crowd.

Johnny drove and I instructed him where to go. We parked the car ten minutes later.

We walked two blocks back to the building we were going to use as a place to make the hit. It was obvious that two years had passed since the photos were taken. The dump I had expected had been transformed. The broken windows had been replaced and the building had a new coat of paint. People were exiting rooms on their way to work and children were running here and they’re much to their parent’s dismay.

“Shit, we can’t use this place,” I said.

“No shit, Sherlock,” Lindale groused.

“What are we going to do now?”

“We’ll have to find another building. Let’s look at the photo from Google and see what might be available.”

Lindale opened the envelope and pulled the overhead shot from the contents. I looked at the photo and pointed at the picture.

“This is where we are. It looks like there’s a building on the next block that looks run down enough to be useful,” I said, pointing at the overhead shot of the building.

“It might work, but it will add another two hundred yards to the shot. Will you be able to hit something that far away?”

“I’m good to a thousand yards. Anything farther than that becomes iffy. Let’s not worry about the shot. Let’s worry about the building first.”

We started walking and I couldn’t help thinking this whole thing might blow up in our faces. The good feelings were becoming ones of concern. If the other building wasn’t available, the whole plan would have to change, and to what, I had no idea?

Several children skipped by us chattering and laughing as they went. They were obviously on their way to school and all five were in uniforms. They were all girls and from what I remembered of my limited Portuguese, the subject was boys. I couldn’t help smiling at their comments. Johnny and Lindale stared at me with questioning looks on their faces.

“They’re talking about boys,” I laughed.

“How do you know?”

“I speak a little Portuguese.”

“I guess kids are kids no matter where they live,” Johnny said. “My sister was the same way when she was their age.”

It took a little over a minute to find the other building. From the look of it they had lifted this building from where the new looking building was. It looked deserted, and the entrance was boarded up with plywood. Gaining entry wouldn’t be a problem other than being caught breaking and entering. We walked around the building and found one of the windows open just a crack.

“Perfect,” Johnny said.

He slid the slider open and jumped up on the windowsill, turning and lowering himself inside the building. Lindale did the same.

“Do you need a hand?” Johnny asked.

I wasn’t going to play the helpless girl card, not in front of these well-trained men, so I jumped up and did the same as the guys had. We were in. The apartment building looked as though an out of control teen lived there. Holes were punched in the white painted walls and I was expecting to see graffiti everywhere. I guess that kind of destruction was an American thing. We walked through the abandoned apartment and exited into a hallway with stairs at each end leading to the next floor up. The hallway had been papered with yellow and white striped paper. It was ugly in the dim light shining through the apartment doorway.

The guys drew their weapons from their pant waists.

“Just in case,” Johnny said.

My hand found the grip of my pistol and it too came from my purse. We walked the floor checking each apartment for occupants. We didn’t want any surprises and if some poor homeless person was unlucky to look out a door into the hallway, his life would end without warning. There was nothing to indicate any occupation for quite some time. Dust covered the floors and they were free of footprints. Our tension level lowered to a manageable level.

The next floor was the same as the first. We checked the floor and went up to the third floor, which had just one stairway leading to the roof. We climbed the stairs and exited into the bright sunshine. The roof was tar and gravel and appeared to have been replaced less than three years ago. A parapet ringed the entire roof and would give me a place to rest my bipod support during the operation.

We found Sonny’s house easily. His was one story taller than this and the rest of the buildings in the area. His bedroom faced this building and I was still surprised by the floor to ceiling glass walls. As careful as he was about his security, the glass didn’t make sense. The windows were about three feet wide and a horizontal bar split the height. There was no movement that we could see.

“Well, what do you think, Ashley?” Lindale asked.

“It’s perfect. It’s almost as though he’s asking to get assassinated. Something doesn’t feel right. It’s too easy.” I said.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I say we do this tonight and get the Hell out of Dodge,” Johnny said.

“Can you take a picture, Lindale? Your phone does that.”

“Sure.”

Lindale took three shots of the target and stored them in his phone’s memory.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“No, that should do it. Let’s get some breakfast.”

We walked down the stairs carefully listening for any unwanted sounds.

The building was empty with the exception of us. We exited the window and slid the slider shut enough to allow us to enter when we returned. It was time to introduce the guys to JenJen.

We drove to JenJen’s restaurant and entered. JenJen spotted me right off.

“Cindy, where have you been? I thought you found some place else to eat,” she gushed, speaking in her native language.

The guys were looking on with confused expressions on their faces.

“She’s a good friend and doesn’t speak much English,” I explained. “No, JenJen, I had to go home for a while and I’m only here for a few days. I wouldn’t miss eating the best stew in Angola. We would like three orders.”

It was busy this time of day and we had to order so as not to let the line back up more than it was. I paid the bill and we found an empty table near the rear of the restaurant.

“What did you order?” Johnny asked.

“The stew. You’ll like it and it’s the best thing on the menu,” I answered.

“Cindy,” JenJen called after placing our meals on the counter in front of her.

The guys went to pick them up while I saved the table. Chivalry wasn’t lost after all.

I looked around the restaurant and recognized many of the customers that were regulars during my last visit. Some nodded a friendly hello to one of their own. I felt as though I had returned home. The open friendliness was the one thing I missed back in Washington DC. It seemed just the opposite held course, as back home, direct eye contact was avoided at any cost. There were things we could learn from these people.

The guys placed our orders on the table and dug in like there was no tomorrow. It was obvious they enjoyed what they were eating.

“Like it?” I asked, with a happy smile on my lips.

“She could make a fortune back home serving food like this,” Lindale said.

“She’d never move. She likes it here too much.”

“Shame.”

I dug my spoon into the tasty liquid and started as I usually did. The first spoonful was like a thick soup, and then I followed it with the tasty local meat and vegetables. JenJen had a way with spices, and it showed through like a five star restaurant. I had missed this highlight of starting a day and found that I finished almost a quickly as the guys.

Looking around the restaurant again, there were no glances lingering too long on us even though we were obviously new here. The best news was that there were no Chinese faces in the mix.

“What do you think about the location?” I asked.

“I like it. It’s far enough from the compound that we won’t be noticed unless they are looking for us,” Johnny said.

“The shot looks good, as long as you can pull it off,” Lindale said.

“The shot is the least of my worries,” I responded. “Something doesn’t feel right and I can’t place my finger on it.”

“What’s not to like?” Johnny said. “It’s out of the way and doubt a gunshot in that neighborhood will be noticed, and even if it is, no one will know where it came from.”

“I know I’m being overly cautious but little things bother me. Why was that window left unlocked? If it had been unlocked for long, there would have been squatters living there. That doesn’t explain the dust though, and no foot prints. Maybe the building owner is just lucky. Everything just seems so easy. I know how Sonny works, and he watches his ass like it was a crown jewel. He has people everywhere, and they’re not all Chinese. I killed two of them and one was white and the other Angolan. I know this will be our only chance, but I think we should do something else to be able to exit the building, or we’ll be sitting ducks coming out that window.”

“We have some tools with us, and I think it might be a good idea to remove all but a couple of screws from the plywood covering the front door, that way we’ll have an alternative exit,” Johnny said.

“I agree, and I think maybe we should check out of the hotel this morning. We’ll ask the clerk where a nice tourist site is out of the city. We’ll ask for directions, and hopefully he’ll think we’re nothing more than Americans touring his country.“

“I think we would be better to ask for directions to Parqe Nacional do Quicama. That way we have a location to drive to.”

“What’s that?”

“A national park. It will make sense that were taking our luggage.”

“Is there anything else? Johnny and I want to do surveillance on the building from now on until you do the hit. We’ll move the car so it’s close by. We don’t want to run a quarter of a mile to get to it.”

Lindale picked up his phone and entered a number. “It’s Lindale. Were going to do it tonight, but we don’t know when it will take place. It will be dark by six, but I’m sure the target won’t be going to bed until much later. We’ll need the plane when were finished.”

Lindale listened intently as a frown grew on his face.

“Just a minute. We have a problem. They can’t leave the plane waiting for us. They need a time.”

“I can’t give them that. I have no idea what time Sonny goes to bed.”

Lindale conveyed the information to the person on the other end of the call. He disconnected.

“After the hit we’ll have to lie low and hope we aren’t found. They said they can get a plane here the next day, but until then we’re on our own.”

“I have an idea,” I said. “There is a place we can go and we’ll be safe. The only thing though is that we’ll have to drive there and we’ll need a full tank of gas.”

“Where’s that?”

“ Waku Kungo airport. A friend runs the place and he can be trusted.”

“How do you know?”

“He could have killed me the last time I was there. It’s a long story and I’ll tell you sometime.”

“I guess we don’t have much a choice. Let’s get packed and out of here. We have work to do.”

We packed our things and went to check out of the hotel. I handled the transaction since I was the only one who could speak any Portuguese.

“We’ll be leaving,” I said.

“You didn’t enjoy your stay?” the clerk asked.

“Oh no, we enjoyed it very much. We’re going to a park south from here,” I replied.

“Oh, Parqe Nacional do Quicama?”

“Yes, can you show us on the map how to get there?”

“Of course I can,” he said. A man showing a woman how to get somewhere was an ingrained part of life no matter where you were.

He took my map from me and drew a line from the hotel to the park with a highlight pen.

“There you go. Just follow the line,” he said proudly.

“Thank you, and when we return we’ll be sure to come back here,” I flirted.

The guys just frowned with disapproval, even though they had no idea of what I had said.

We loaded the car and drove back to the building. Johnny found a place to park on the same street but a half of a block away.

We searched the street for anyone who looked like they didn’t belong there. No one was stirring other than a few mothers with children walking to the nearby open air market. We waited for thirty minutes before Lindale went to remove the screws from the plywood.

Luckily the front door was in an alcove, so he was protected from view. The women were returning from market and he would have been seen for sure and the authorities would have been called, something we didn’t need. Returning to the car he placed the cordless drill back in its case and moved into the back seat of the car.

“What now?” he asked.

“I think we should watch Sonny’s compound. Ashley, you and Lindale could walk there and pick a site that’s not too obvious you’re watching Sonny’s building. I’ll stay here and watch this building. We can’t be too careful because this area might be watched.” Johnny said.

“Don’t you think Ashley would be better suited for this detail?”

“No, she knows the players from the other side, and I’d like her to stay loose for later. Sitting in a car all day isn’t the most relaxing entertainment I can think of.”

“Okay, ready to go Ashley?”

“Might as well get on with it,” I replied.

Lindale and I walked the three blocks to Sonny’s. By the time we circled around the buildings on the other side of the street it was more like eleven. I showed Lindale a place where I had watched his compound before. It was a secluded area in a circular park across the street from his property. There was a planter approximately three feet high circling the park with walls constructed of red brick and white mortar. They were six feet apart and planted with bamboo, which was probably a concession to Sonny and his political weight. That fact helped us considerably in hiding us as we took up positions on the wall.

“What are we looking at?” Lindale asked.

“The front gate of the fortress. His thugs come and go through the passage door in the left gate. I’ve only seen the wood gates opened a few times, and that was only to allow cars to pass through.”

“He must really be afraid of dying to have this much security.”

“He has lots of enemies. The Chinese aren’t well liked here, and he’s the enforcer for many of their unpopular projects. If you want muscle, you call Sonny. Fortunately most of his men aren’t trained very well. They have big bodies but small brains, which makes it much easier to defeat them. I captured one of his men and was stupid enough to release him in the country. I think he told Sonny more about me than I wanted known. Next time I won’t be so generous.”

“What else could you have done?”

“Shot the bastard. He was an American citizen at one time, and ended up working for Sonny. He killed his girlfriend in a rage and ran off to avoid prosecution. I should have killed him when I had the chance.”

“You’re a hard woman, Ashley.”

“You have no idea.”

We found a spot where we could watch the compound without being readily noticed from the front gates. We were somewhat exposed to view from the upper floor of Sonny’s home, but I doubted he would be spending the day in his bedroom. Now came the boring part of a stakeout, waiting for something, anything to happen. It didn’t take long before the entry door opened and two of Sonny’s thugs exited the building. I recognized one to be David, the guy I had let go.

“Do you know who they are?” Lindale asked.

“The one on the left is the guy I left in the country. I don’t know who the other one is,” I responded.

The two men turned to their left and walked in the direction of the building we were going to use. Lindale spoke into the radio on his wrist he and Johnny wore to have contact with each other.

“You have two bad guys coming your way. See what they want, but don’t let them see you.”

“Got it,” Johnny responded.

We watched as they walked down the street until they turned onto the street where the hit would take place. It was obvious that they had learned of our plan. The only thing they didn’t know was when we would do it.

More men passed in and out of the door. It was obvious that they were making their rounds to collect protection money and taking care of whatever the Chinese embassy had asked them to do.

The day passed much faster than I thought it would. Johnny called an end to our surveillance just before dusk and we walked back to the car.

Lindale entered the rear and I slid into the front seat.

“We had visitors,” Johnny said.

“The two Chinese guys we saw earlier?”

“I guess that was them.”

“What did they do?”

“They walked around the building, checking to see if anything had changed since we had entered it yesterday. They were laughing when they returned and walked in the opposite direction they arrived.”

“Where did they go after that?”

“They walked to the next block and then I lost sight of them.”

“This doesn’t sound good,” I said.

“It doesn’t, but this will be the only chance at getting your target. If we don’t do it tonight we’ll pull the plug on it. Things are unraveling, and I don’t like the feel of it,” Johnny said.

“How do you want to handle it?” Lindale asked.

“You and Ashley will go into the building. I want you to hide in one of the rooms on the first floor. Ashley, you go to the roof wait until Sonny goes to bed, take your shot and get the Hell out of there. I’m sure the bad guys will be waiting for you to exit the window, but I’ll take care of anyone outside. Lindale, you take the inside. Ashley, be ready to fight your way out of the building. We have no idea how many guys Sonny will send, but I’m sure it will be more than two. Check your weapons, and bring extra ammunition. Ashley, here’s a radio for you to use. This goes in your ear and the mic goes on your wrist. It’s already on, so all you have to do is talk.”

I placed the earpiece in my left ear and the other part on my wrist.

“Hello,” I said into the microphone.

“Hello to you too,” both men responded.

“Everything seems to be working as it should. We might as well get the show on the road. Hopefully Sonny will want some down time alone on his room.”

It was dark, so carrying my rifle across the street wouldn’t draw any unnecessary attention. I removed the rifle and my 9 mm from the case and loaded both. Adding two more full clips to the mix, I was ready to go. My pistol went into my holster as I exited the car.

Lindale and I walked across the street and around the building to the unlocked window. It hadn’t been disturbed, which begged why not? David and his friend had obviously examined the back of the building and left the window undisturbed. An ambush was coming, and we could do nothing about it other than fight our way out. The one good thing that would come of the mission was that Sonny would be dead.

We opened the window and crawled inside. Lindale pointed to the room where he would be hiding.

“I’ll be in there. Be careful not to shoot me on the way out,” He said.

“We will have radio contact, won’t we?”

“Yes, but that still won’t identify a figure in the hallway.”

“I’ll be careful.”

I turned to go up the stairs to the roof.

“Good luck, Ashley. We’ll have a cup of coffee when this is all over.”

“It’s a date.”

I walked up the three stairways to the roof. It didn’t take long to set up the rifle. I had my spotting scope with me and I took readings for the shot. There was no wind, so the shot would be easy. It was what was going to happen after the shot that worried me. Now it was time to wait.

Time seemed to drag. Watching a window for hours on end can grate on anyone’s nerves. I felt as though I was drifting into the world between sleep and being awake. Not a good place to be when you’re here to assassinate someone. My radio receiver shook me awake.

“We have visitors,” Johnny announced.

“How many?” Lindale asked.

“Seven so far.”

“What are they doing?”

“They’re walking around the building. I’ll give them a few minutes and then I’ll see how many went inside.”

The radio went silent for several minutes.

“We have two more baddies,” Johnny said.

“That makes nine. Have you had a chance to look in back of the building?”

“Not yet. Give me five.”

When your life depends on it, five minutes seems like an hour. Our radios finally crackled to life.

“We’ve got six inside and three out watching the window.”

“I can hear them walking through the building, but they’re not checking anything. I think they want to kill us as we try to leave. They probably think it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

“See if you can get some kind of location on them, so you won’t be surprised when they make their presence known.”

“Will do. Did you get that Ashley?”

“Yes.”

“Be aware when you come down the stairs from the roof. You’ll be a sitting duck, so have your pistol ready and fire at the first movement. It won’t be me. I’ll be on the first level. After I take care of business here, I’ll work my way up and I’ll let you know where I am. Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

The men stopped moving around. The noise they made climbing the stairs was loud enough to alert the whole neighborhood to their presence. It was obvious that they didn’t care that we knew they were there. They assumed superior numbers would prevail.

Two minutes after the men settled in, the lights went on in Sonny’s bedroom. He walked to the window wall without a care in the world. It was now or never.

I aimed the rifle directly at the center of his forehead. It was an easy shot. I squeezed the trigger and felt the rifle recoil against my shoulder. The shot was on its way and would be in Sonny’s head in half of a second, or so I thought. The bullet was on target, a perfect shot. Sonny didn’t move as the bullet crashed into the bullet resistant glass protecting him.

“Shit,” I swore. No wonder he could have cared less about us. Sonny wasn’t stupid enough to not be protected at all times, glass included.

“The glass is bullet resistant. Let’s get out of here,” I said into the radio.

“Be careful at the stairs, they’ll be waiting for you,” Lindale said, and then all Hell broke loose.

I heard gunfire from the lower floors and then from outside the building. Folding the bipod, I carried the rifle to the stairs. I pulled the nine from its holster and walked to the door to the stairs. The rifle was great for long shots, but in a tight space like the stairs it would be useless. I approached the door and stepped away from the doorway, flinging the door open. The stairway erupted with gunfire. Being dark, the shooters didn’t know if they had hit me or not, and assuming that as a girl I wouldn’t have a clue as to what I should do, they entered the stairway. Bad move on their part. Enough light from the moon illuminated the stairs for me to have a target I pulled off two rounds and the first man went down like a rag, falling into the other man behind him. It was enough to throw his balance off and give me an open shot. His head exploded as the round passed through his skull, spraying the wall with blood and brain matter.

“You okay?” Lindale asked in my earpiece.

“I’m good. I have two down.”

“There are two with automatic weapons guarding the window, and Johnny can’t get to them. He took out the three outside, so we have two wandering the building somewhere, and the two by the window.”

“How do you want to handle it?” I asked.

“Work your way down and I’ll start up the stairs. I’m on one and I’ll be using the stairs farthest from the window, so don’t shoot me,” Lindale said.

“I’ll work my way down the stairs on the opposite end and work toward your location. You do the same only in the opposite direction. That way we can pinch them between us.”

“I’ll meet you on two.”

Thank God the building was empty of trash, or walking would have been impossible. The darkness enveloped every inch of the building and the moon was causing an eerie glow on the blood-splattered wall at the base of the stairs.

I crept slowly down the hallway, ducking into each room as I reached it. The running shoes I wore made no sound as I progressed. I heard a sound and ducked into the nearest room and froze waiting for more sound. I heard it again, a soft tap as the leather soles of a man’s shoes touched the floor. Whoever it was passed by the room and continued down the hallway, not bothering to check the rooms. I leaned out of the room to see if I could catch a glimpse of the man. In one careless moment I revealed my location. My sniper rifle touched the doorjamb, sending a message that the man wasn’t alone. He panicked, turning and firing his pistol. The bullets hit the wood jamb, splitting of shards of wood and throwing them every which way. Luckily they missed my eyes, but my face wasn’t so lucky. I felt splinters digging into my flesh. God they hurt.

I changed hands with my pistol and rifle. I shoot well with either hand so I wasn’t at a disadvantage. I didn’t want to use my right hand, because I would have to step into the hallway, exposing my body to the shooter. I felt blood trickle down my face and waited for the shooter to move again. I wanted him to think he had shot me and would reveal himself. I heard him step into the hallway and made my move. I fired a round in his general direction. The muzzle flash lit the hallway and my attacker too. It was someone I recognized.

“David?” I shouted.

“You should have killed me when you had your chance, bitch!”

He squeezed off two more rounds in my direction, just missing me. So much for being kind to an asshole like David. Remembering where he was standing in the hallway I pulled the trigger. I heard David make a sound, or rather a gasp. I had hit him. His gun clattered across the floor so I knew he was disarmed.

Stepping out into the hallway I heard his labored breaths.

“You shot me, Cindy. God it hurts,” he moaned.

“I wouldn’t have if you weren’t such a prick. You brought this on yourself, David. I should finish you off now, but I want you to remember this day, if you live.”

I felt the floor for his pistol and found it with my foot. I wasn’t going to leave it with him to use when I turned my back.

“You can’t leave me like this,” he said.

“I can and I will, unless you want me to kill you right now. Medical help will be here soon, you’ll live. Goodbye David.”

I crept down the hall to the stairs. Lindale was working toward me and the remaining thug was being squeezed up the stairs toward me. A skylight above the stairs allowed moonlight to filter down and give me a small amount of light to see.

The remaining man was larger than David. David weighed about one hundred sixty pounds, whereas this man was well over two hundred. He moved with the agility of a cat.

“Stop,” I ordered.

He turned toward me and raised his pistol. I had already aimed my pistol at him and shot him before he had a chance to pull off a shot. He was dead before he hit the ground, and rolled to the bottom of the stairs.

“Ashley, are you okay?” Lindale asked.

“I’m fine. I took out the two other shooters. Let’s get out of here.”

I found Lindale waiting near the stairs we would use to go to the first floor.

“Those two assholes are waiting in the room with the exit. We’ll go out the front door and run to the car. I’ll let Johnny know what we’re going to do.”

Lindale got on the radio and said, “Johnny, we’re going out the front. We’ll meet you at the car. Make sure it’s running. I want to leave before the cops get here.”

“I’m on the way.”

Lindale and I crept silently toward the front door he had modified earlier in the day. We could hear nervous conversation coming from the room at the end of the hallway. The men were speaking in Chinese, and I had no idea what they were saying. Small strips of light were shining from the streetlights through the cracks between the joints where the plywood butted together. It helped form a target for Lindale to kick open. There was still a front door between the plywood and freedom.

“Will the door create a problem?” I asked.

“No, It might even help.”

Lindale opened the door until it touched the plywood. He pushed slightly and felt the plywood move easily.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Follow me.”

Lindale ran and slammed his shoulder against the door. The plywood sheet went flying and the door slammed open against the remaining plywood next to the door. We ran to the car and were almost there before we heard automatic gunfire coming from the building. We were almost a hundred yards away and the accuracy of their weapons left much to be desired. Any hit would be from luck, and not from skill.

We jumped into the car and Johnny sped off into the night. Other than the wood splinters in my face, we’d escaped without injury.

I directed Johnny to the highway toward Waku Kungo, hoping the police would be going to the building and not chasing after us. We passed the Luanda Airport and noticed several police cars parked near the terminal. Someone had informed them of our intended departure. If we had stuck to our original plan we would be spending time in prison. The Chinese wield tremendous power in this country, and capturing Americans involved in assassination and other acts against protected citizens would lead to a life in prison, not to mention the destruction of diplomacy. It was an hour before we were able to relax.

The highway was as torn up as I remembered.

“Be careful, Johnny. This road has holes that will swallow up this car.”

“Hey, I’m fine. I took a defensive driving course back home.”

“My boyfriend and I got stuck in a four wheel drive Land Rover, so I’m not joking about this road.”

A bump in the road emphasized the point by driving our heads against the roof of the car.

“See what I mean?”

“Yeah, I’ll slow down.”

The drive took the usual amount of time to Alto Dondo. We stopped for gas. The owner came out to serve us.

“Lady, you came back,” he said in Portuguese.

“Of course I did. I missed you,” I replied.

You could almost see a blush under his very black skin.

“You come back again,” he said.

“I will.”

We filled the car and continued to Waku Kungo Airport. By the time we got there we had been on the road for almost ten hours. Thomas was working when we arrived. The look of surprise was priceless when I exited the car.

“Ashley? What are you doing here?” he asked, as he scooped me into his arms and gave me a fatherly hug.

“We came to visit, and we need your airport.”

“You have a plane?”

“Not here, but it will be here as soon as we call for it.”

“Who are these blokes?” he asked skeptically.

“Johnny and Lindale, They’re Navy Seals. Guys, come over here and meet my step dad.”

Johnny and Lindale approached Thomas warily, not knowing what to make of the step dad remark.

I made introductions and the men shook hands.

“I’ll tell you more later,” I said. “Thomas can be trusted, and we do need his airfield.”

“I’m going to call for the plane. It will take a while before it gets here,” Lindale said.

“How’s Mary?” I asked.

“Not so good. We’ll be flying to Johannesburg for her treatments day after tomorrow.”

“Treatments?”

“Yes, Mary has cancer.”

“When did you find out?”

“She had gone for tests before we met you and they were positive, so we started treatment right away. They think they caught it in time, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Thomas looked at my face and shook his head. The splinters were beginning to fester and the redness drew attention to them. Thomas took us inside the terminal. “Let’s see what I can do about your pretty face.”

He opened the desk drawer and removed a pair of tweezers.

“Come over here and sit down. Dr. Thomas has surgery to take care of.”

I sat behind his desk and watched as he adjusted the neck on the light to shine more light so he could see what he was doing.

“This might hurt,” he said as he grasped the first of many splinters and pulled it from my skin.

“You didn’t tell me what you’re doing here, Ashley?”

Johnny and Lindale shook their heads indicating that they didn’t want Thomas to know what we were doing.

I looked their way as much as I could without moving away from Thomas and said, “It’s okay, Thomas is a friend, and knows about Sonny. I have to tell him why we’re here.”

“As long as it doesn’t compromise the mission,” Johnny said.

“The mission was compromised before we even started. Sonny knew exactly what we were doing in Luanda. He has eyes everywhere, and I’m surprised he even let us get as far as we did before making his move.”

“What are you talking about,, Ashley?” Thomas asked.

“We tried to take out Sonny. We walked right into an ambush. The only thing Sonny didn’t count on was losing as many men as he did.”

“Tell me what you did.”

“We found a building we could use that had a view of his bedroom and we decided to take Sonny out. I would take the shot and the guys would watch my back. We should have known something wasn’t right. Everything went too easy. It’s funny how easily you can lose site of the obvious when you want retribution as badly as your enemy.”

“Didn’t you have recon on the sight?” Thomas asked.

“We did, but it was out of date. The building we were going to use had been remodeled and was occupied. The building we used was two hundred yards farther away. It was perfect. A clear shot to Sonny’s bedroom and someone had left a window unlocked in the rear of the building. It was too perfect. We fell right into Sonny’s trap.”

“We went to the building and ended up shooting our way out. I took the shot at Sonny, and he knew I was doing it. He had bullet resistant glass in his windows and all the shot did was break the outside pieces of glass. After the shot, all Hell broke loose. Fortunately his men aren’t well trained and we escaped unscathed, other than the splinters in my face.”

“You know, you’ve created a problem for me. I told you we were looking into taking Sonny out ourselves, but obviously you weren’t listening. Hopefully this won’t ruin our chances,” Thomas scolded.

“Thomas, Sonny was sending people after me back home. I had to do something, and I was lucky enough to have had these men help me out.”

“It still doesn’t alter the fact that Sonny will be that much more alert to the danger he’s in. I just wish you had informed me that you were going to take on a mission like this.”

“Why would you care?” Johnny asked.

“I’m MI6, young man, and what you’ve done could compromise the identity I’ve taken years to construct. As far as the locals are concerned, I’m just an old man living a sedate life watching planes land. I don’t need attention drawn to myself.”

“We’re sorry, we didn’t know.”

“Ashley did, but I can forgive her. She’s still learning, and you know how young people are, impatient, and that impatience can get them killed.” Thomas looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “How long before your plane arrives?”

“It should be here in six hours,” Lindale said.

“Good. It’ll be dark and less noticeable when it lands. Ashley, why don’t you take the guys to the house and I’ll let Mary know you’re coming. She’ll be glad to see you.”

“Will she be up for it?”

“It will take her mind off the cancer. She’ll love cooking for you again. That should do it, pretty as usual,” he said, after removing the last of the splinters.

“Thanks Thomas,” I said, when he put the tweezers back into the drawer.

“Tell Mary I’ll be late. I have to take care of your plane when it lands.”

“I will. Come on guys,” I said.

The guys rose from their chairs and went to shake hands with Thomas.

“Thank you for all you’re doing for us,” Johnny said.

“Thank Ashley. Without her you wouldn’t even know we were here. She’s a special young lady, and you take care of her,” he admonished.

“Yes she is, and we’ll protect her like a crown jewel,” Lindale said.

“I’ll call Mary and let her know you’re on the way.”

We got back into the car. It had started the trip looking like wreck and after the drive it looked even more so. The dents in the doors seemed to have multiplied at an alarming rate. I wasn’t sure of what we would do with the vehicle when we were done, but selling it wouldn’t be an option. Paying to have it towed away was.

It took fifteen minutes to drive the distance to Thomas and Mary’s home. Mary was waiting on the front porch smiling ear to ear. She ran to the car when we pulled to a stop in the driveway. Pulling me from the car she gave me a hug I thought would keep me from breathing. “Ashley, God I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too,” I responded. I’m sure a lot of it was having another woman to talk to. I wasn’t sure exactly how much contact Mary had with people living around her, but the nearest neighbor lived at least a quarter of a mile away. The fact that she was part of MI6 didn’t help with interaction and someone who might want you dead.

“When Thomas called, I thought he was joking with me. He knows how much I miss you.”

I felt guilty when she said that. I really hadn’t conversed with her as much as I should have with emails. I promised myself I would change that when I returned home.

Mary broke our embrace and dragged us inside the house after introductions. Johnny and Lindale decided to sit outside on the front porch, so it was just her and I.

“What are you doing here, Ashley,” Mary asked.

“I was trying to take care of a problem and failed.”

“Sonny?”

“Yes. I wouldn’t have bothered, but he’s had several men try to take me out back home. If he’s gone my problem will go away.”

“It won’t Ashley. Sonny is just a tool for others with much more power than he has.”

“The Chinese government?”

“That’s a good guess.”

“But why would they want me dead so badly?”

“You found things about them that could embarrass them. They have a good thing going for them here and they don’t want things to change. They’re getting free oil and making a profit from their medical care. If what you found went public everything would change for them.”

“But it was an accident that I found those things. I’m not even a reporter, for God’s sake.”

“They don’t know that,” Mary said.

“I think they do. I’m pretty sure they know I work for the CIA, but as Cindy Cowen. They haven’t figured out who I really am.”

“That makes you a bigger threat than being a reporter. If your government gets involved in the mess, who knows what might happen?”

“My government could care less. They want to send me off to Costa Rica to investigate drug gangs. What the Chinese do here doesn’t affect them at all. Even if they changed everything, the Angolan government isn’t going to cozy up to the American capitalists.”

“They seem happy enough with your oil companies.”

“Because our oil companies make the profits, but most of the workers are Angolan. More than half the profits go to the Angolan government, too.”

“Enough of this political talk. I worry about you. Trouble seems to find you and if you don’t stay alert, bad things will happen.”

“I’ll be fine,” I said, hoping to chase the doubt I really felt inside.

“I was just going to start dinner. Would you like to help?”

“I’d love to.”

Mary and I worked together and we had dinner ready in an hour. The guys were surprised to have grilled steaks with all the fixings. I didn’t tell them Thomas had a pipeline to Europe that brought him groceries when ever he wanted.

Dinner was nice. Mary spent the time interrogating the guys to make sure they would take good care of me. They both laughed and said I would probably be the person taking care of all of them.

Time passed quicker than I hoped it would. It had been five hours since we arrived and Johnny’s cell phone rang.

“Hello.”

There was a pause.

“Okay, we’ll head back. See you in an hour. That was the pilot. He’s an hour out and would like us to be ready when he lands. We have to go.”

The expression on Mary’s face changed from happy to sad in one second. We had talked about her battle with cancer while we prepared dinner, but I think she would have liked to have me around during the treatments. I wish I could have been.

“Come with me,” She said to me. “I want you to have something.”

She took my hand in hers and led me to her bedroom. She opened a jewelry box and removed a small silver cross. She placed it around my neck and closed the clasp behind my neck.

“I bought this years ago when Thomas and I first married. I had hoped I would have a child at some point, but it never happened. You’re as close as I’ve come to having a daughter and would like you to have it. It will keep you safe.”

A tear fell from my eye. No one had ever done anything as nice as this to me. It was a gift given with love. Mary was special.

“I love you Mary, and I promise to check on you every week to see how you’re doing.”

“I know you will, now run along, or you’ll miss your plane.” She laughed, lightening the mood as we left.

Mary bid the guys goodbye, gave me a hug and shooed us off. We took dinner for Thomas when we left.

“Grilled steak,” he said. “What a shame to nuke it to warm it up.”

Thomas took the plate and placed it in the microwave. He kept it in there just long enough to take the chill off. Hopefully some of the smoky taste would still be there.

The plane entered the airspace at the field and asked for landing instructions. Thomas conveyed them and the plane landed without a hitch. The plane rolled to the tank containing fuel and Thomas filled the tanks.

“One call does it all,” he laughed.

We unloaded the car and placed our bags in the plane. When the tanks were full we were ready to go.

I went to Thomas and gave him a hug.

“Thank you so much. I love you both,” I said.

“And we love you, but don’t ever do anything as stupid again. If you had asked, I would have had up to date information for you, and maybe you wouldn’t have put your life in danger. Next time, keep me in the loop.”

“Next time?”

“With you I wouldn’t doubt it, now run along and keep in touch.”

“Goodbye, Thomas.”

We climbed up into the plane and the pilot raised the stairs. We were in the air ten minutes later.

Our flight took us back to Germany and the transport we would ride home in. The luxury of the Gulfstream would be missed in deference to the spartan travel arrangements on the plane flying us home. We landed at Andrew’s Air force base hours later. The three of us were taken to interrogation for debriefing on landing.

We ran through what had happened and from the expressions on the faces of the men asking questions, we weren’t winning any popularity contests. The questions were straightforward and asked by several different officers. The debriefing took around three hours. When everyone seemed pleased with his or her input, the meeting broke up, with the exception of one officer.

“You three wait here, the rest can go,” he said.

“Yes sir,” the group said in unison and saluted the officer.

I wasn’t familiar with Navy ranks, or rates, as I was corrected later, but this man seemed to pull a lot of weight. He was of Spanish heritage, had a few grey hairs above his ears and piercing eyes that told you he meant business when he spoke.

“I’m Commander Gomez, and I want to know what the hell happened back there? This will be between you and me, but I want to know how an operation as simple as this could get so fucked up?” he growled.

“We don’t know sir,” Johnny answered for us.

“You don’t know? Didn’t you have any information about your target before you went in?”

“Only the information was provided by the CIA,” Lindale said.

“It was several years old,” Johnny countered.

“And you didn’t know that?”

“No Sir. Even Ashley thought it was up to date.”

“Ah yes, Miss Greene. Do you have any explanation as to how the CIA could screw up something like this?”

“No Sir, I don’t.”

Commander Gomez’s stare ate right through me. It was a good thing I was sitting, or my legs would have given out. As it was my hands were shaking and perspiration formed on my brow.

“I don’t think you know what kind of mess you started over there. You left five men dead and four others wounded. The Chinese government isn’t pleased. You, Miss Greene, have apparently been a thorn in their side for some time and if what you did was suppose to be a secret, we’d be shipping you off to China right now. It’s your good luck that what you did never happened, but because of your gaff our government will be making some small concessions to keep the whole thing under wraps. After this debacle, Sonny Chan is off the table, do I make myself clear?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Oh by the way, nice shooting, Miss Greene,” the Commander winked at me.

We rose and left the room. The guys led the way to a vending machine and Johnny bought coffee for the three of us.

“What now?” I asked.

“We go back to our outfit and you go back to work. I will say though, that it was a pleasure meeting you, Ashley and I agree with the Commander, you’re a hell of a shot,” Lindale said.

I blushed a little and said, “Thank you.”

We shook hands goodbye and I went outside and walked to my car. I wasn’t happy with the results of our trip. Sonny had made fools of us and I wondered what nasty retaliation he would come up with?

It had been a long day, several days actually. I was tired and couldn’t wait to shower and get to bed. I checked my mailbox and found it to be stuffed with several days worth of paper, none of it pressing. It was mostly advertisements for tires and such.

Opening my front door, I saw the message light flashing on my answering machine. I pressed the replay button and it was my mother.

“Hi, honey, just calling to say hello. You haven’t called and we do worry about you. Your father has an appointment with his doctor later this week. I’ll let you know how it went, and please call. We love you.”

I had a wistful smile on my lips when the message finished. I loved hearing from my parents, but I wonder what they would have thought if they were to find out their daughter was a cold blooded killer. I had been trying to kill a man when she called; totally unaware as to why I wasn’t answering my phone. I realized what my life had become and dissolved in tears. Falling on my bed, I cried myself to sleep and didn’t wake until the next day.

It was dark when I woke as the pressure of my bladder reminded me I didn’t go to the bathroom when I came home. I rolled off my bed and walked to the bathroom and turned on the lights. The bag lady in the mirror reminded me to remove my makeup before I had a good cry. The clock read four AM. Too early to go to work, and too late to go back to bed. I opted to take the time to clean my weapons. We had been in such a rush leaving Angola I had forgotten to take care of the tools of my trade.

Tools of the trade? I was thinking of the weapons almost like a carpenter would think of his saw and hammer. The only difference was one built something of use and the other destroyed it. Had I become a tradesperson with a special talent, or had I become someone I wouldn’t like to admit being? As I disassembled the weapons and lovingly cleaned and lubricated them I wondered why I had slipped so easily into the abyss of evil and if I would ever crawl out again?

There was never a moment’s hesitation as I pulled the trigger ending a life, nor was there any guilt afterward. And yet I had spared David’s life twice. He was a bastard, and yet I let him live. There was nothing redeeming about him, in fact he deserved to die more than the people I had assassinated, why him? His pathetic behavior when confronted by death had turned my stomach, such a coward and such false bravado at the same time. Maybe there wasn’t much difference between him and me. He was an uncaring prick, and was contracted to kill me. What made him any different than me? I wasn’t contracted to kill him, but given the chance again, I might. Maybe the reason I hadn’t killed him was that he was me, a person with no soul.

I finished with my weapons and placed them back in their case. Returning the case to its hiding place I showered and dressed for work.

Ron was in as usual. I wondered if he had any kind of life other than the agency?

“Good morning Ron,” I said leaning my head into the office.

“Welcome back Ashley. Ready to buckle down with your Costa Rica assignment?”

“Is it on?”

“Yes, but you won’t be going for several more weeks. We have some new Intel you need to study and more keeps coming each day. You have a lot of work to do before you’re up to speed.”

“Okay, and thanks Ron.”

“For what?”

“Being a friend.”

I returned to my dreary grey desk and entered my password on the computer. The drudgery of everyday work returned.

Several days passed when I was delivered a letter addressed to Miss Cindy Cowen. No one knew of Cindy other than the agency and Sonny Chan.

I nervously ripped the envelope open and found a hand written note.

“Miss Cowen, please call the number listed below. We have things to talk about, Sonny”

I stared at the letter in disbelief. Sonny wanted to talk? About what? We were sworn enemies and nothing would change until one of us lay dead. I held the letter for several minutes until I gathered the nerve to make the call.

“Ron, I’ll be right back. I have something to do,” I said, when I walked by his office.

“Don’t be too long, and when you come back would you mind bringing me a coffee?”

“It would be my pleasure your highness.”

I walked from the building and checked the surrounding area for faces that looked as though they didn’t belong there. The plaza was empty with the exception of one woman I recognized from HRD. Pulling my cell phone from my purse, I entered the number. I heard several clicks before a voice came on line.

“Hello, Miss Cowen,” it said.

“Sonny?”

“Yes.”

“How did you know it was me?”

“I bought this phone specifically for this call. After we’re done talking I’ll destroy it. I do like to keep my whereabouts somewhat secret.”

“Why did you want me to call?”

“For the simple reason our little game isn’t getting either of us very far. I lost five very good men during our last adventure and I can’t afford to lose any more. I’ll be straightforward with you. This all started because you were embarrassing a certain foreign government and they asked me to take care of the problem. I was lulled into thinking you were really a reporter for the Tribune and sent the wrong people to take care of the problem. They failed, but you had made me look bad to my employers. That’s when it became personal. I couldn’t let you, a woman, make a fool of me, but you did, time and time again. After the last go around I realized the futility of my actions. That’s why I asked you to call.”

“What do you propose?”

“A truce, Miss Cowen. We stop this nonsense and go our separate ways. I don’t bother you, and you don’t bother me.”

“If I agree, how do I know you can be trusted?”

“You have my word, Miss Cowen.”

“And I’m to believe you won’t send someone after me when this call is ended?”

“If anyone comes for you it won’t be from me.”

“What about your employers?”

“I’ve spoken with them and they agree to stop the harassment.”

“Is that what they call it, harassment? I’d call it more of an attempted homicide.”

“Just a mincing of words, Miss Cowen. I do have a question for you, why did you let David live?”

“He wasn’t a threat. Luck was on his side again.”

“You know, he feels that he lost face that you didn’t think him worthy enough to die with his comrades.”

“And there’s a reason you’re telling me this?”

“Yes, he hates you, and if he ever has the chance, he’ll kill you. He’s recovering from the damage you caused him, but if he decides to leave my employment, you could be in danger, and I want you to know that the danger didn’t come from me.”

“Thank you for the warning, Sonny.”

“You’re welcome Miss Cowen. As nice as it is to talk to you, I must go and hopefully we never cross paths again.”

“Goodbye, Sonny.”

So, that was that. Sonny had enough of our sick game. I felt as though the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. Was he telling the truth about our truce, I hoped so?

Without the thought of Sonny occupying my every moment I felt light on my feet. The sun seemed brighter and the air clearer. My life was finally mine.

The next days fell into a rhythm of work and contacting my friends again. The specter of Sonny had put a gloom on my life and not wanting to put them in jeopardy I had avoided them completely. Now I could live again.

Costa Rica was in the future and the thought was exciting. I would be going on assignment without the expectation of taking more lives, and it would give me time to find out who I really was. Was I still Stan, only in another body, or had I become Ashley? Even I didn’t know and maybe Costa Rica would help me find those answers. I had come a long way since that day in Afghanistan and realized I had a much longer road to travel before I would find those answers. My hope was to live long enough to find them.
 


 
The End



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amazing story

Thanks for all the work which must have gone into making this story. In my opinion this one is easily one of the best on this site, and it is complete! :-)

Too tidy to let David live.

I've faced a lot of menacing, anxiety and danger in my life. I'd have killed David both times, so he'd be doubly dead, I guess.

Your writing is wonderful. Thank you. I suppose that her not retiring and starting a family is perhaps the most logical choice for her. In the past, t folk have seldom if ever found true peace.

Look at the poor woman from Texas whose firefighter husband died and his family made sure she lost everything. It can happen to any of us at any time.

Much peace

Gwendolyn

Warrior_woman.jpg

Brilliant.

I'm not sure if I've commented before because sometimes I like to wait until a story is finished but this has been a thrilling ride right from the start. I congratulate and thank you so much for the huge amount of time you must have spent creating interesting characters set in a strange, exciting and convincing world.

Ultimately this became a thriller with a protagonist who happened to be transgendered. However the TG element was necessary to provide the force that drove Ashley to do what she did and eventually to regret it as she came to terms with her new life.

Thank you again for an exciting ride.

Robi

Assassin

A wonderful story!

Undoubtedly lot of research and hard work went into the writing.

I wish there were more stories in the thriller genre here at Big Closet.

Laurie S.

The English Teacher's picture

A good ending

Wonderful story

So much to read, so little time and only one of me :)

The English Teacher

So much to read, so little time and only one of me :)

The English Teacher

Thank You!

For such an exciting well thought out and researched story! I was drawn in from the first posting and have thoroughly enjoyed each chapter as you weaved this wonderful story to it's conclusion. Very, very well done. Hope to see more of your work in the future.

Hrdnight

I really enjoyed reading

I really enjoyed reading this. I was sad to see the end of it.

Fluffy

PEACE

Well there is a AUTHOR that has my respect THANK YOU .

Maggie_Finson's picture

Well done.

This story has had my attention since it was started. I've been remiss with the comments, I know, but I would have been speculating with those and that would have been unnecessary and distracting. Ashley either eliminated her enemies or made then decide trying to kill her wasn't worth what it cost and that was no surprise given how the story and character progressed through each chapter.

Her only real mistake was David, but given the way Ashley thinks, and her origins, that's actually understandable. Her other mistakes were because of her lack of experience and real information.

Great story.

Maggie

Strong to the Finish

Hey. You wrapped this up fairly quickly time-wise. I was pleasantly surprised to see this last, long part. Yay!

I'd say everything ended about as well as it good. It certainly read well. I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it.

Thanks and kudos.

- Terry

Hours of great reading...

Thank you for bringing this story to a conclusion! I went back and reread all the chapters and it made for hours of great reading. There were many things I liked about this story. It will probably remain one of my favorites for a long time.

Thank you for sharing it with us!

Tiff Q

Tiff Q

Renee M's picture

Dear Arecee,

Excellent! Really Well Done! Thank you for all your effort writing and especially finishing your novel. I think others have already said most of what I'd like to.

Just one little thing; I thought that toward the end of the novel, you would fill in the details surrounding the first scene. Ashley is obviously taking out the Talibani who beheaded her friend and cut off her genitals. Having her revenge is probably good for her psyche; she can now, hopefully, put that horror in her life behind her. I was just curious; what lead up to this hit? Where was it in her career? Was she on FBI or CIA or even DHS orders or was she on her own? Is she OK with killing again and working as an assassin or has she stopped her assassinations except for this one off for the sake of revenge?

Thanks again.

Hugs and Bright Blessings,
Renee

Ready for work, 1992. Renee_3.jpg

Hugs and Bright Blessings,
Renee

Your answer

You should find your answer in part four second half and the beginning of part five. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Arecee

Assassin..

Great story Arecee!! Riveting! I'm already in hopes of a sequel at some future date. lol

Bravo

When this posted the other day, I was both excited and sad to see that this was the final installment.

I just completed re-reading the whole serries from beginning to this exciting end - about the only advantage of being home sick is being able to curl up with a good book.

What a beautifully crafted story. This was obviously a labor of love, and it shows.

Thank you for one of the best stories posted on this site. And I hope,as others have said, that there will be a sequel.

Hugs,

Kathy

The English Teacher's picture

ooopps!

There's a knock on the door Felicity answers thinking it is Ashley and has forgot something; there's a man in a mask and wham right in the nose blood spilling out as she is knocked off her feet. [Except there is no blood in the entry, it's all in the bed room where she had fallen after being hit by Ashley, along with la director, where he was told to sit next the Felicity, with the hole in his head not facing the entry or for that matter the "living room" but in a manor of having been facing the bed that Ashley was sitting on]

Don't ya just hate details, they always seem to get in the way?? :)

So much to read, so little time and only one of me :)

The English Teacher

So much to read, so little time and only one of me :)

The English Teacher

Hello! First post. I enjoyed

Hello!

First post. I enjoyed this story so much that I joined the website finally after reading for years. Keep the stories coming please!

Thanks

Truly riveting!

A well written series of stories that leads into a sequel as well. Do tell us readers that there is a sequel coming!

way cool finish

cool finish to an awesome story. Of course, there's room for more ...

DogSig.png

Amazing writing talents

An excellent author doesn't need to have an English Major writing background. The editors always clean up the majority of gaffs. Those like Mark Twain refused the clean up and actually had to self publish. He was panned in the US while Europe went wild over his novels. Finally the snobs in the US accepted him as a writer. When one posts on these sites they usually have no editor to work over their prose.

In my opinion the writing skills of Arecee are second to none. The emotional roller coaster never stopped as Ashley was challenged and met every threat as what someone with a high IQ and an unfamiliar life might. Not too sure about Langley layout as not my thing. The oil, money, nations, power brokers playing against one another with their manipulated pawns, IE Ashley, was spot on.

I'd be surprised if Arecee doesn't get a visit from the FBI wanting to know where he's getting his info on that one if this story goes viral on the web or in print. Yes, they do that.

Like Maggie, I didn't comment before. I don't comment on unfinished stories or stories that leave such a wide open ending they feel like the author got tired and quit without finishing.

IMHO, I would put this story up in the top ten in the New York Book Review. Tom Clancy move over. However before Arecee gets too excited let me clue you in. That is an exclusive good ol boys club. Each author is anointed by those inside that club. One never gets recognized unless they have paid their dues smoozing and sometimes sleeping with the right people.

When the story comes to an end and we sigh inside feeling warm and fuzzy all over. It's a home run. When we are happy it ended and wish it hadn't because we were transported away from life and joined the heroes and heroines for that time. Yep, it's a winner.

Some of the blessings in life is to read stories from authors with unbelievable writing skills who are not yet published by the Good ol Boys Club. This kind of talent can't be taught. It's inside them like any great artist. Yes writers are artists. And sadly many are never recognized in their life time.

Wonderful story, excellent writing skills.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

WOW

Thank you for the wonderful words. I loved writing this story and who knows, I did leave a door open at the end, Arecee

Arecee dear.......

You have masterfully told Stanley's/Ashley's story sweetie, but its far from "The End" ! You still have many loose ends that can be stories in their own right. I did enjoy it though immensely hon. Thank you so much for reposting it here. Loving Hugs Talia

Riveting Tale

I purchased this off Amazon. There were a few "flat spots" but overall an enthralling story.I hope to see a sequel sometime and see how life is going for Ashley

Joanna.

Assassin

Great story, Arecee. I really enjoyed it. I have read many of your posts and look forward to more. Again, Great story!

Assassin

Great story. I have read many of your posts and look forward to more. Again, Great story!

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