Maria DeMarco never thought that she would find trouble amongst her many businesses. After all they were the public face of where her money came from. She was after all a retired Prima Ballerina and like most such women she invested her money wisely. But trouble she did find and in the one place she would never have thought to look. One of the schools she loves and sponsors. Can the Black Badge Deputies ferret out the people behind the troubles before Gemini has to deal with Gym Class?
by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.
Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.
Edited by my husband Paul, and AJC Snowfall.
Akin County Courthouse: 0730 Tuesday morning
Roberta Ironsides could not believe the offer Henry Pierson had come to her with. Sylvia Van Horn was willing to rollover on the Henleys and Gilroys just so that the children of those two families got a better deal. The fact that Sylvia was willing to testify against her OWN family, on behalf of the children, spoke volumes. So much so that Robbie had a conundrum. She had orders that there was to be no deals for ANY member of the two families.
As Robbie sat back in her chair and waited for the DSS Agent to show up. It would be up to DSS Agent Sara Denton on how this would finally play out. “Damn it! Why did they have to go after a pair of Diplomatic Dependents? This would be so much easier without the fucking State Department being involved.”
As if summoned by her words of disgust, Shawna walked through Robbie’s office door. “Did I just hear my Agency’s name taken in vain?”
Robbie looked up at Shawna with less than welcoming pleasantness. “Right now, my job would be a FUCK LOAD easier, if I didn’t have to deal with your damned agency. I have one of the main suspects offering a deal and YOUR boss is screaming no deals for anyone. I can put all the adults behind bars for good. All I have to do is make sure that the kids get sent to Correctional Schools out of State.”
“That's not a big thing. It's acceptable. Go ahead and do the deal.” The smirk on Shawna’s face let Robbie know that she was not kidding. “If you can get one of the adults to roll on the others; fine. I don’t care if the kids get sent to a CBS in another State. So long as none of them are in the same school, I don’t care. They’ll still have records, have to graduate, keep their noses clean and on probation until they’re in their thirties. Sure, I would love for them to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, but some liberal shit-stick lawyer will scream unjust punishment. I’ll take whatever we can get.”
Robbie got up and grabbed her briefcase. “Then follow me Agent Denton. We have an appointment with a former State Senator. I do want to thank you for letting me work a deal for the kids. As it is, none of them are going anywhere near a detention center anytime soon.”
“Just how bad are their injuries?” Shawna wanted to smirk or laugh, but kept her composure. She knew exactly how well trained Kasey and Kristine were. In fact, she had a hand in some of their training. The report that the Major had sent her, said Gemini restrained themselves. “I hope that their injuries won’t stop you from prosecuting their happy little asses?”
“No, they will be prosecuted. They’ll just be doing their depositions from a hospital bed. Not that it will matter. As I said before; none of them are going anywhere near a detention center, anytime soon. As it stands, all of them will be needing long term medical care and rehabilitation.” As the two walked down the hallway towards the exit Robbie sighed. “The three boys and Adaline; all suffered broken ribs. The one Henley boy and Gilroy probably will not be fathering children. As for the other Henley boy and Adaline will be spending the next five months with their jaws wired shut. The four other girls will all be spending the longest time in the hospital and in recovery. From what the doctors have reported they will ALL be needing canes or walkers for the rest of their lives. None of those four will have the use of their arms for a while either. What I want to know is; where in the hell did those two girls learn to fight like that?”
Shawna stopped Robbie in the hallway. “Robbie, you need to drop that line of questioning. You go digging into those two girls background, you’ll be getting a visit from ME. Or someone less polite. In an UNfriendly manner. They’re Diplomatic Dependents who know how to fight, that is all you need to know.”
“Got ya’. The Carmen girls are off-limits. How do we deal with the defense on this?” Robbie really needed this info.
“Leave THAT to me and the Vienna Convention.” Shawna gave Robbie a feral grin that sent a chill down her spine. "By the way. I hear congratulations will be in order after this is all done. I heard you're getting promoted and going to Seattle, if this goes down the way the bigwigs want."
Robbie nodded. "You hear a lot. It’s true though. I just hope it’s more than just a change of scenery."
There was something about Shawna that reminded Robbie of that man Dannigan. Something cold, shadowy and deadly. Things she wanted to stay very far away from.
AEGS, Headmistress Office: 0800
Scarlet Boatwright was having about the same type of morning as Robbie was. In the conference room, across from her office, were nineteen students and their parents. Thankfully she was only dealing with half the parents. Most of the fathers were either out of the country or working. Leaving only five fathers and nineteen mothers. Scarlet had found over the years when dealing with young girls, it was often better to deal with their mothers. Reason being, little girls would and usually did twist their fathers around their pinkies. All too often the dreaded ‘daddy card’ got played.
She wasn’t alone in her waiting. Maria, had shown up with Mrs. Everbrite, and Mrs. Taugh. This was the only bright point in her morning so far. When Scarlet saw Maria and the two younger women next to each other she now knew EXACTLY who they were. “Maria, why didn’t you tell me, Annette Taugh was your daughter? And this lovely young lady must be a niece? Please, does she dance as well?”
Maria chuckled and hugged her old friend. “Yes Scarlet, Annette Taugh is my daughter. The very same one you had the chance to direct, all those years ago. As for Samantha; yes she is my niece, but more than that, she is my adopted daughter. And yes, they both still dance in their spare time. Now, that is all I can tell you about my daughters. As for their husbands, they are currently over at your husband’s school right now. At this moment though, we have a very ugly problem that has to be dealt with.”
All four of the women were pissed off. When the Varsity Dressage team started naming names, the total number of bullies jumped. The more names Scarlet read; the madder she became. Nineteen of HER students have actively been participating in the harassment and abuse of other students. The fact that Alice Farley had been covering for these girls really angered Scarlet.
“Maria, I am so embarrassed by all of this. I still cannot believe all these girls are bullies in my school. I never thought it would come to this, but I will not have such behavior in my school.” Scarlet was barely in control of her anger, as evident by the throbbing vein in her forehead.
“Scarlet, how many students are currently enrolled here?” Maria, asked kindly.
“Not counting the upcoming late enrollments for next semester, three hundred and forty-three. Next semester, we’ll have another twenty-eight students.” Scarlet was wondering where Maria was going with this.
“Scarlet, this school has grown by leaps and bounds under your care and guidance. The young ladies that you have graduated are all fine examples of what we set out to do. That fact that we have nineteen bad apples out of how many we’ve graduated and are still enrolled, is nothing short of amazing. No, we have a problem with but a handful of students.” Maria, smiled at her old friend.
“I swear Maria, you could sale ice to polar bears after you stole their iceberg.” Standing up Scarlet walked around the desk. “Shall we beard the lions in their den ladies?”
Scarlet led them across the hall to the conference room. As they entered they were greeted by nineteen sullen young girls and their very pissed off parents. One of the few fathers stepped forward in a confrontational manner. Scarlet could already tell by his manner that this was not going to be fun.
“I want to know right now, which one of those juvenile rejects made the false accusation that my daughter is a bully?” The man demanded.
In her life time, Scarlet Boatwright had dealt with Producers, Choreographers, Principal Dancers, Military men and women of all ranks. People with far LARGER egos than this man’s. She had never been cowed by those people, so there was no way in Dante's Nine Circles of Hell, was she going to start now. Not with this man or any of the other parents.
“Mister Gains, I suggest that you sit down and shut up. Not only do I have enough evidence that YOUR daughter is a bully, but so are her friends. More than enough to have all these girls arrested for a full menagerie of charges. So, the choice is yours. Sit down and hear me out or you are free to take your daughter home as she will be expelled. Choose.” Scarlet waited for Gains to sit down. “Anyone else?” when no one moved Scarlet concealed a sigh of relief.
“Maria, the show is all yours.” Scarlet turned the meeting over to Maria.
“Ladies and gentlemen, first allow me to introduce myself. My name is Maria DeMarco, Mrs. Scarlet’s silent partner. I currently own sixty percent of this school and her husband’s. For those of you who failed advanced mathematics; that means I own the MAJORITY of these schools. So, if you wish to go to a board of directors, there are only two. Scarlet Boatwright and myself.” When Maria finished, it was like a bomb had gone off in the room.
The first to speak was one of the mothers. “Excuse me, I thought that this school was run by a committee?”
“It is run by a committee. Myself, Scarlet and Charles. A committee of three.” Maria answered the woman’s question.
Another mother stepped forward. “What will happen to our daughters?”
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is entirely up to you.” Scarlet answered the woman.
Jacob Gains stood up and looked at Scarlet in confusion. “What does that mean?”
“The answer is simple, Mr. Gains. Your daughter will be suspended for the rest of this semester. I will allow them to take their classes on-line. However, for this consideration they will complete one hundred community service hours before returning. That community service will be done in one of four approved venues. Nursing homes, homeless shelters, food banks, and community centers in poor neighborhoods. Those are their only options. Next; if or when they return, they will be banned from ALL extra after-school activities until they have been able to prove they have mended their ways. During that time, they shall continue their community service work. Only instead of having a choice, they will be working for the local homeless shelter. Now, if they or you don’t want this choice, you are free take your daughters and enroll them in another school as they will be expelled from this one.” As Scarlet laid out the options for the girls she could see that only the ones with their fathers were looking up.
Maria, scanned the faces of the mothers and had to hide her smile. Almost as one the mothers took charge. Each grabbing an ear or wrist of their daughters. There would be no discussion in the matter as far as these women were concerned. Their daughters would be mending their ways and taking the first option. Maria, Scarlet, Samantha and Annette stepped aside as the mothers led their daughters from the room to collect their belongings from their dorm rooms.
Once they were alone with just the few fathers, Maria stepped forward. “Gentlemen, I know how hard these next few months shall be on you all. However, do not let your daughters twist or turn your hearts. They have all broken the rules of this establishment. I suggest that you allow your wives handle your daughters and dispense their punishment. I would hate to see such fine young ladies expelled, as I believe that Mrs. Scarlet can still influence them. Influence them to become examples of true ladies, not a pack of ruffians.”
Jacob Gains was the first to shake Maria’s hand. “I shall leave the care of my daughter to her mother and Mrs. Scarlet as you suggest. I would like to know HOW this situation got to this point.”
“I’ll answer that Mr. Gains.” Scarlet said stepping over. “I had placed a good deal of trust in one teacher, that was actively working to undermine mine and my staff’s authority. I can assure you; that will never happen again. That teacher is currently facing a very long prison term.”
“I must say, Mrs. Scarlet. You do not pull your punches. May we know what that former teacher is being charged with?” asked one of the other men.
“I am sorry Mr. Curry, but that is an ongoing investigation and I am not allowed to comment on that. What I can tell you all is the woman in question committed an act of domestic terrorism against a foreign nation. Now, shall we adjourn to the main office, while your wives collect your daughters and their personal things?”
While the fathers joined Scarlet and the others in her office for coffee or tea, the topic of teachers came up. Maria smiled and handed out a list of substitute teachers in the area. “Gentlemen, I have already looked into the matter. All of these teachers are willing to sign five year contracts with AEGS. They will be joining the staff over the next two weeks. I hope that eases your minds?”
All the men nodded their heads yes. “I know that some of these women will be needing housing arrangements. That has also been taken care of. I have arranged for apartments to be available for them until they can find their own homes or they can take over the lease on the apartment they are staying in.”
“I must say Mrs. DeMarco. You are very organized on this matter.” Steve Hall said with a smile.
“Mister Hall, I want these schools to do more than just survive. I want them to succeed. The only thing that I will not allow to happen again is the fostering of bullies by teachers. Both myself and Scarlet are of one accord on this matter. You daughters, gentlemen, are being given a second chance here. If they cannot turn themselves around, then they will be expelled, with letters placed in their records explaining why. I can assure you that the only boarding school that will take them after that will be Saint Alexander’s Military Academy in GreenLand.”
Maria smiled when she named that school. It was so feared that even here, among these men, they had heard of the school. “I see that I have your attention then. This is not a threat gentlemen, but a promise. We no longer have the options of being gentle. It is time for harsh measures.”
“How can we, as concerned parents, help?” asked one of the father. “By that, I mean financially.”
“I would like to setup a few more scholarships for the less fortunate. The gym needs a new roof. To be honest gentlemen, if it was not for Mrs. DeMarco’s support, a great many things would not be getting done. Both myself and my husband run our schools on some of the tightest budgets there are. The tuitions that we charge are some of the lowest in the nation, but we have the highest scholastic ratings there are.” Maria just stood back as Scarlet began to twist the truth and pry more funding out of these pillars of the community.
SRMA at the same time…
Colonel Boatwright, Gunnery Sergeant Hightower, along with Bobby and Hunter; walked into the conference room of the Savanah River Military Academy. Charles Boatwright had earned a reputation as being a hard charging, lead from the front, ass kicking officer in his younger years. He had earned the respect of not only his NCO’s, but his commanding officers for his take charge attitude. As the four men entered the conference room, they too, were greeted by a hostile force of parents and students. Only this time, there were more fathers than mothers. For the Colonel, this was just fine.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in today.” Charles began only to be interrupted by one of the fathers.
“It is not like we had a choice, Colonel. Right now, I want to know who the so-called victims are to these charges of bullying. Where is this gutter-rat, that is spreading these lies about my son?” As the father rattled off questions Charles just stood there. “Well? What are you waiting for? Bring that student in here, right fucking now.”
“Mister Andrews, I suggest you sit down and remain quiet.” Charles ordered. When the man didn’t sit down Charles sighed. “Andrews, that was not a request. If you don’t want to hear me and my staff out, then you are free to take your son and leave. As your son is now expelled and will not be allowed to return to this school. The same goes for ALL of you. Understand, that if you choose this route, you forfeit your child’s tuition. I will also be turning them over to the local authorities to face charges of hazing, assault, conspiracy to commit assault, conspiracy to conceal criminal activities, concealment of criminal activity, conspiracy of kidnapping, kidnapping, and those are just the FUCKING TIP OF THE ICEBERG!” By the time Charles finished his opening marks he was bellowing. "Now PLANT your ASS!"
The fact that Marine Corps Colonel Charles Boatwright had lost control of his temper, brought about a silence that was deafening. All the parents had heard that Colonel Boatwright had a reputation for cool, calm, level headedness. Andrews stood up and walked over to Charles holding out his right hand. Charles took the hand and shook it as Andrews looked him in the eye.
“Colonel, if I may, I would like to apologize. It seems that I and my wife have been the ones lied to. I take it that you have more THAN enough evidence to back the charges that can be leveled against my son?” Andrews asked.
Bobby stepped forward and dropped the folders he was carrying on to the table. “Sir, you want proof, just look in that file. By the way, before you go questioning that file, understand it was delivered yesterday by Sheriff’s Deputy in a sealed evidence cover. Not only are there witness statements, but photos and recordings of your son’s participation in the aforementioned activities.”
Hunter was right behind Bobby as he dropped the folders in his hands. “These cover the rest of them here. As for how we came by this evidence, once again, it was provided by the local PD.”
Gunnery Sergeant Hightower now stepped forward. “Ladies and gentlemen, the only reason we haven’t already called for the police is simple. The Colonel and I feel we can turn the situation around. To do that though, we need your help.”
One of the mothers looked down at her son then smacked him on the back of the head. “What do you need Colonel? Jerod’s father has already told me that no matter the cost, we’ll pay. He also said something about this being his last chance, before he gets sent to Saint Alexander’s Military Academy in GreenLand.”
All of the adults and students had heard of the school Jerod was just threatened with. Saint Alexander’s was the last stop for the troubled sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful. The motto for the school was ‘We make men and women of boys and girls. Or they don’t come home.’ Saint Alexander’s was more of a prison than a boarding school. Even its placement was on purpose. The nearest civilization was the Thule Air Base, fifty miles away across frozen tundra. The school was truly cut-off from ALL modern conveniences.
“Mrs. Hickman I don’t think that will be necessary. We haven’t reached that point. YET!” Charles’ use of 'yet' grabbed the attention of all the students. Once Charles was sure he had all the students’ attention, he gave them all a feral grin. “I see that I have your undivided attention cadets. Oh, and that title is STILL up for DEBATE. Your actions over the next few weeks will decide that fate.”
“Excuse me, Colonel.” One of the fathers said as he stepped around the table. “Just what does that mean?” the man was non-confrontational in his approach.
“For starters, they will all be suspended for the rest of the semester. The students that do return, will be placed in a new punishment platoon. The platoon will be DIRECTLY under the sole DIRECTION of myself and Gunnery Sergeant Hightower. During their suspensions, each cadet will complete a minimum of one hundred community service hours. Seeing as how they believe that they are ABOVE the rest of the students that attend my school. They can perform their community service with Habitat for Humanity, Hunters for the Hungry or any that my wife has approved. So, that they will not have to repeat the year, I will allow them to take their courses on-line. This is another consideration that is contingent upon THEIR grades. Anything less than a two point five, they will be removed from the on-line program. As for their participation in any extra school activities; there will be none. Their time will be spent performing community service here in Akin County. Their cellphone and computer use will be limited to school use only. When they leave the school grounds, they’ll be accompanied by a staff member or parent. Also, each student will be fitted with a tracking bracelet. Now, if there are no more questions, I’ll let you take your children home. Good day.”
Colonel Boatwright, Gunnery Sergeant Hightower, Hunter and Bobby stood off to one side as the parents exited the conference room with their children. The solemn and grim faces of the procession let them know, the Colonel had gotten his message through. They were all going to be having a very harsh holiday season. Not that Bobby or Hunter gave a shit. They were of the mind to just toss their happy little asses out the door and be done with it.
Once they were alone, Bobby turned to Colonel Boatwright. “Sir, I know that this is your school, but why are you even giving those brats a second chance?”
Charles sighed and looked down at the table. “Sergeant First Class Everbrite, Robert. Special Forces; Fifth Group, Black Angels Team. Do I need to say more?”
Hunter and Hightower both had heard of this A-team, and what had happened to them. Even after all their time together on the island Bobby never talked about his old A-team, and now Hunter knew why. Almost an entire A-team wiped out in an ambush, thanks to a leak in the CIA. When Bobby didn’t answer right away, Charles gave him a sideways look.
“Yes, Sergeant I know who you are. I also know who your partner is. Sergeant First Class Hunter Taugh, 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Operation Battalion. Both of you have long and distinguished military carriers. You both know what is means to have a second chance and make good on them. That is all I am doing here. Giving those cadets a second chance. The rest, will be in their hands. Just as I have done with the kids from the juvenile detention centers. Let’s head back to my office people. I need a fucking drink.”
As the four men entered the Office of the Commandant they were met by a man in his mid-fifties. Bobby and Hunter both stopped and saluted the man before calling out. “Morning Colonel Carmen.” Hearing this Gunny Hightower also saluted.
“Sergeants,” Paul returned the salutes then turned to Charles holding out his hand. “Colonel Boatwright. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“The pleasure is mine Colonel Carmen. I wish that it were under better circumstances. If you'd care join us in my office?” Charles waved towards his office door.
“It shall be my pleasure, Colonel Boatwright.” The six men walked into Charles’ office.
Once the door was closed Charles went to his office bookshelf and pulled on one side. As the unit swung outward, it revealed a full bar. “You’ll have to forgive me, Colonel Carmen, but after this morning’s unpleasantness I am in need of a drink.”
“I take it that you were not in favor of suspending the cadets involved in my granddaughters’ kidnapping?” Paul let the anger over such a thought fill his voice.
“No Colonel, I have no problem suspending those cadets. They broke the rules of this academy and the law.” There was a note of sadness in Charles’s voice.
Dannigan asked. “Then what has you so upset? Surely it is not doing your duty.”
“My problem is that I failed those cadets somehow, Colonel Carmen. I failed my mission in educating those cadets.” Once Charles had explained what was bothering him, Paul understood.
“Colonel Boatwright, let us speak as men of experience. We both know that there will always be those few young minds that we cannot reach as commanders. We try to train the younger officers to be our replacements, both on the battlefield and when we retire. Sometimes we succeed, other times fail, but most of the time we just don’t know. I do have a question for you sir. How many of these young men and women have you and the Gunny helped?” Paul figured he needed to remind Charles of his successes right now.
Charles Boatwright looked at the Spanish Army Colonel and chuckled. “You, Sir, are a fine politician.” Charles poured Paul a glass of Johnny Walker Black and handed it to him. “Sorry, but you’ll have to settle for Scotch Colonel. I am all out of Sherry.”
"In my travels, I've learned to find something to enjoy about many of the refreshments of the world. Though I admit to being hard pressed when it came to Saki with my Opposite Number at the Japanese Embassy." Paul took the rocks glass and smiled. “Normally I do not imbibe before twelve hundred, but as your Jimmy Buffett is so fond of saying. ‘It’s five o’clock, somewhere.’”
All the men laughed at one of the standing jokes among all military men and women when drinking. After they had their drinks, Charles got down to business. “So, Colonel Carmen, how can I and my school be of service?”
Sitting down in one of the office chairs, Paul smiled at Charles. “This time Colonel, I am the one who is here to help you. As you know, Madam Maria DeMarco is a close friend. The other day she informed me of you and your wife’s schools are still in need of qualified Instructors. I am willing to use my contacts in Washington D.C. to get you both those Instructors.”
“Thank you for the offer Sir, but that won’t be needed. Thanks to a so far unknown element, the thugs that have been terrorizing our teachers have been arrested. They are currently in the local hospital undergoing treatment for a litany of injuries. Whomever took down the thugs did so in a manner of a trained assassin or had a military background the equivalent of Sergeants Everbrite and Taugh. As they were here at the school during the time of the take down, along with most of my Instructors, that takes them out of the equation. To be honest, I could care less if those people are ever found. They did me and my wife a service.”
“Oh, I agree with you Colonel. We have such individuals within Spain as well. All too often, they are released because of mistakes or overcrowding in our prisons. Thankfully, those same people run afoul of the wrong persons and end up dead.” Paul stood up and reached across Charles’ desk to shake his hand. “Seeing as how you have things well in hand here sir, I’ll bid you good-day. If you should need anything, please feel free to call this number and leave a message.”
Charles looked down at the card he was handed. It was blank except for a phone number. No name, identifying shield, address. Nothing, but that phone number. Charles had seen cards like this before. He also knew that the number would only be good for one time, and then disappear. That was all Charles needed to know that Colonel Carmen was some type of spook.
He sat there watching as Carmen left his office. There was something about the man that screamed Intelligence Operative. Charles Boatwright didn’t need a building to drop on top of him to know that he should only use that number as a last resort.
Turning to Bobby and Hunter. “So tell me something Sergeants. How much longer will I have the use of your services?”
Both Bobby and Hunter knew that it was a loaded question. So Bobby answered for them both. “We’re not at liberty to say sir.”
“I see.” Charles reached over and picked up his phone. After dialing a number from memory, he waited. It wasn’t a long wait. “Bill, I need two of your Green Berets for Instructor duty. Yes, I know it is highly unusual, but I have Instructors here who are going back to active duty that started a pilot program training some of my cadets.” Charles was interrupted by the person on the other end. After a few moments, Charles answered back. “You heard me correctly. As for why I need Berets, my Instructors are former Green Berets. They have been actively instructing my cadets in those types of tactics.”
After a few more minutes Charles sat back in his chair as he listened to the other person. “Yes, next week will be fine for their arrival. Oh, you’re sending me how many? Well, yes eight would be more than enough. In fact, that many will bring me up to a full complement. I would prefer for them to be married, if that can be arranged.”
Bobby and Hunter knew who Charles was talking to. General William ‘Bill’ Cutter, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The man could pull from every branch of the military to fulfill Boatwright’s needs. The JCS could also insure that it would be married personnel that would fill the slots.
“That will be even better Bill. Members from all the branches will give my cadets more exposure to them.” Charles went silent for a few moments. “There are apartments that are available for short or long term rent. That should take care of housing. Once they get here I’ll work out the rest of the details. Thanks again Bill, I really appreciate this. Say hello to Martha and the kids for me.” Charles hung the phone up.
“I thought you would pull this Sir. Here are the contracts for the apartments. They just need your signature.” Hightower placed a stack of rental contracts on the Colonel’s desk.
“Thank you, Gunny.” Looking over at Bobby and Hunter. “Well Sergeants, it looks like your time with us is just about done. Wherever you go after here, I wish you both the best of luck.”
“Thank you, Sir. Now, if you'll excuse us. We still classes to take care of, and cadets to train until our replacements get here.” Hunter told him as he and Bobby saluted and left.
Once they were alone Gunny Hightower looked over at the Colonel. “Skipper, did that whole fucking meeting feel like a set-up to you? It felt like that Colonel Carmen wanted to give you the sun, moon and the stars. And then when you called Top Gun, he was waiting for your call.”
Charles sighed and then handed Hightower the card. Hightower took one look at the card and handed back. He knew what that type of card meant. “Read you loud and clear sir. I’ll make sure there is no mention of the man in OUR records of his visit.”
“Thank you, Gunny. I highly doubt that you’ll need to check our security footage. It has, in all likely-hood, been scrubbed clean already, but follow protocol anyway.”
“Aye, Sir.” Hightower saluted and turned to leave. He had no sooner opened the door than Charles stopped him one last time.
“And Gunny, you were not the only one to get that feeling off the Colonel. That man is no more a Colonel in the Spanish Military, than I’m a runway bikini model.” Hightower just laughed at the Colonel’s joke and closed the door behind him.
AEGS later that afternoon…
Maria had secured the dance studio that Kasey and Kristine had used the Saturday before, for the afternoon. Paul stood off to one side as Annette, Samantha, Kasey, and Kristine glided across the floor to the sounds of Dracula. Maria had setup a tripod with a video camera. Maria had joined the girls as the music called to her soul.
Scarlet and Cathy Boatwright stood in silence and stunned disbelief alongside of Paul. Scarlet had seen Maria dance as a child, she even had the opportunity to be tutored by Maria in her younger years. This however, was beyond anything she had ever seen form Maria. The fact that Samantha and Annette had joined her and the Carmen girls was truly unexpected.
For Cathy, it was eye opening to the extreme. She had heard that Madam Maria 'the Dove' DeMarco was graceful as her name, but like all young ballerinas, didn’t believe. Here though, in front of her very eyes, was the truth of those tales. Maria DeMarco truly was one of the greatest Primas alive.
As Maria let her soul be filled with the passion of the music, her granddaughters were doing everything in their power to not let her down. Kasey and Kristine could not believe their grandmother was dancing the very first role their grandfather had seen her dance. They were doing their best to make her proud. As for Sam and Annette, it was as if Maria had stepped out of time with the world and transported them back in time.
As they danced, Scarlet looked long and hard at the three women and especially the two teens. She saw the signs. She knew without a doubt who had trained these four young dancers before her. Scarlet also knew that it would be one more secret that she would have to take to her grave. “Your granddaughters are truly beautiful dancers Colonel. I have a feeling that their Mistress and Prima are just as proud of them as you are. May I know why you asked to record this practice with Madam Maria?”
Paul gave the woman a stern look then softened. “Yes, Madam Maria was one of their Instructors. As for why we are recording a practice, the reason is simple. It is for their great grandfather. I am trusting you to keep this to yourself, Senora.”
“Of course, Colonel. I just know what to look for, when it comes to a dancer’s schooling and training. I could tell that both of your granddaughters had been trained by a former Prima of the Bolshoi. As there are only so few living Primas of the Bolshoi and I know of them all it was only a matter of elimination.” Scarlet gave Paul a small smile. “I look forward to the day your granddaughters set foot on their first stage. They will grab the world by the heart and never let it go. Just as Madam Maria did, and Prima Lyssa. I see Maria's passion and Lyssa's relentless dedication in both of them.”
Paul chuckled at the subtle jab at placing the teens second Instructor. Paul knew that it was only Scarlet’s own training that had allowed her to pinpoint the Instructors for Kasey and Kristine. He just bowed to show her that she had been correct.
As they returned to watching the dancers, Paul’s mind drifted back to the meeting that Maria had the night before. He had always known that Maria was an assassin, then Donna of the DeMarco Crime Family, and had dealt with other assassins in a professional basis. What he hadn’t known was the amount of respect these other hired killers had for the woman he loved or Anna. She made one phone call after leaving the school last night with their granddaughters.
After returning the teens to the school, Maria had drove them back to SCT. As they pulled into the parking lot, they were greeted by ten people. Maria greeted them all by name then showed them inside. Once inside, Maria showed them to the conference room, where she sat at the head of the table.
Paul stood behind her as she addressed the assembled group of killers. “My friends, I have a problem that needs to be taken care of. Due to a promise, I cannot take care of that problem myself. That promise doesn’t say I cannot use my contacts. That is where you come in.”
One man at the far end of the table stood up. “Where is the Nightingale, Donna DeMarco?”
“She is currently in the hospital Richard, and the reason for this contract.” There was a universal gasp of shock from the gathered Hitters. “Yes, my friends, you heard correctly. Anna 'the Nightingale' Fonticello was attacked and severely injured while handling a personal contract. She was attacked by an untried boy sent to do a man’s job. I have the name of the boy’s contract holder and they shall be dealt with in time.”
“Then why have you called us in Donna? You have never held a sit-down of nothing but Hitters before. Who do you want dead? As for payment, you can forget it. All of us here owe you more than one favor or debt of honor. The others may not feel this way but I do. I will uphold my honor and repay that debt.” The man who said this was as unassuming nondescript as they come.
“Thank you, James. You are not the only one who feels that way.” This was from a red-haired woman in her mid-forties. Paul looked around the table as the other eight Hitters all nodded their heads. He had heard of the Code of Honor among professional killers like all Intelligence Operatives, but had never really believed in it. The actions of these gathered men and women put the truth to that little tide of folk lore.
Maria held out her hand to Paul. He knew what she wanted and gave in. Paul pulled out the gold coins and placed them in her hand. Leaning down he whispered in her ear. “Are you sure, Ria?”
Maria just nodded her head. “This is one time Paulo, that we must step outside of the law to handle a problem. The family behind that boy is known to us, and my associates here. The family in question lacks honor, and refuses to follow the Code. I am only using outside assets to handle the problem. I do this, not as a Marshal, but as a Donna. To do otherwise, would be a mistake. Besides this is nothing more than returning to the origins of this Organization. Long ago the Mafia was the only law enforcement in certain parts of the country.”
Paul heard the cold iron of Maria’s will behind her words. He had to fight to keep the smile off his face. This was Force Manipulation in its truest form. “Of course, Donna Maria. I was merely acting as your Consiglieri in this matter.”
“I will never doubt you, Paulo.” Maria reached up and caressed Paul’s cheek. There was a clearing of throats and a few coughs at this show of affection between the couple. Maria blushed as she looked back the gathered Hitters. There were more than a few smiles on the faces of the Hitters. “Excuse us, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
“So, the stories ARE true. The Dove has returned to her FIRST love.” One of the few women said from the far end of the table.
Maria, just smiled. “Yes and no Susana; the rumors are true, I have returned to a love. My first love has always been the dance, he is my second love."
Paul cast a side-glance then smirked. "If you say so."
All the others chuckled at the banter.
"Now, shall we return to business?” they all nodded yes at Maria’s request. “I have held a golden coin from each of you for longer than most Dons or Donnas. Today I am returning those coins. All that I want in return is justice, not revenge, justice. You can either turn the Freeman family over to the local authorities, or use your own methods of justice. I leave that choice to you. Personally, I don’t care how, just get me results. Do any of you have a problem with this?”
Only one hand was raised and Maria had excepted this. Thomas Rudcurs had family ties to the Freemans. “I will not hunt family, Donna Maria. You know this.”
The double cough of Maria’s silenced Glock forty-five automatic was only part of Maria’s answer. “I know this Thomas, and was expecting you to object.”
Thomas Rudcurs fell face down on the table. None of the others cared that Maria had killed the man. In fact, they weren’t even surprised that Maria had killed Rudcurs. The moment she had named the Freeman family, they all knew that Maria was going to either kill Rudcurs or he was going to kill her. Now, they only waited for her explanation. Maria pulled her left hand from under the table showing the pistol, before setting it down.
“I know that I have broken the code here ladies and gentlemen, but that man was part of the problem. In his stupidity, he opened an account in his nephew’s name. This is, by OUR own accords, a violation of the utmost severity. We ALL know that if you open an account, you become responsible for that person’s training. Thomas did nothing for the boy, but open the account. He left the boy’s training for him to find where he could. Filling his head with tales of super soldier units within the military. Telling him to enlist and join one of these units. In short Thomas Rudcurs broke more than seven of OUR accords. As for why you are here, that is simple. I asked you here to act as witnesses. I will not violate our accords, but I will dispense justice as the only Donna among us. Are there any here, who would find fault with my actions?”
Paul didn’t realize what Maria was doing at first, but now he understood. He also realized that Maria may have retired, but she was still Donna Maria DeMarco. Boss of the DeMarco and Capizeo Crime Families. This was something that will always be a part of their lives. When none of the gathered assassins raised any objections, Maria stood up and showed them out. As they passed her, Maria handed each one of the gold coins, and thanked them.
Paul was brought back to the present when the music ended and Maria lay on the floor. The final position for her role in this ballet. The three observers joined in a round of applause.
Scarlett turned to speak and saw the unexpected. Love and pride filled the man's eyes and the slight smile looked just like the one she had seen on Annette's face. Again, more secrets to carry with her. Beside her, stood the true father of Maria DeMarco's daughter. The rumored Powerful Man in Washington. She wanted to both laugh and kick herself for not seeing it sooner. He was how Maria had been able to bring in help so quickly.
Paul said to her quietly. "Thank you for indulging this."
"No Colonel Carmen. It was my pleasure." Scarlett replied.
Cathy finally stopped clapping. "I can't help feeling a bit inadequate after seeing them dance. It was like the time I watched Lyssa dance Giselle in New York."
"Well. Why don't we let them all freshen up and then go to lunch?" Scarlett suggested then nodded in thanks as the door was held for her.
----- to be continued -----
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