After two years of heavy hard hitting make or break cases and a little arm twisting Maria as take her family to Sicily on vacation. Unknown to them or the OICA a deadly ghost from the past would rear its ugly bringing with it death and destruction.
by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.
Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.
Edited by my husband Paul, and AJC Snowfall.
The border between Germany and Austria 1730 local time…
As the Black Badge convoy rolled to a stop at the border crossing, they were all reaching for their passports and credentials. Back in the Earth Roamer, Anna smiled as the teens quickly hid their sidearms and shutdown their work stations. Looking over at Angelic in the front passenger seat Anna smiled as the young nun sat there in stunned disbelief. Angelic was still more than a little surprised that her Aunt Maria had suggested that she ride in the powerful mobile command center.
Angelic asked the one question that was burning in her mind. “How are we going to explain the computers in back?”
“Oh, that won’t be a problem, dear. Just watch your aunt.” Anna answered as she pointed out the windshield of the truck. There in front of her was Maria and her father, Rinaldo, talking to the crossing guards. A short handshake later they returned to the Gray Ghost and waved through the border crossing. They and the rest of the team were soon on their way towards Switzerland.
“Please, oh please, tell me that my aunt didn’t just bribe that border guard?” Angelic asked, knowing full well that her aunt Maria most likely had.
Anna, Kasey and Kristine just chuckled before Maria’s voice came over the speakers. “I will have you know, that I did no such thing, young lady. I had no need of bribery to insure our crossing unmolested. I merely showed them my badge and told them of the international arrest warrant for Robert Hines.”
“But Aunt Maria, there is no international arrest warrant for Hines.” Angelic said in pure confusion.
“Be a good niece, and not tell them that.” The smirk in Maria’s voice was enough to set the whole contingent off in full blown belly laughs.
The uncontrollable giggling from behind Angelic let her know that she had just been the butt of Maria’s joke. Even though it stung her professional pride, Angelic just chuckled and let the matter drop. She should have known that her aunt would have used the guards’ ignorance of the situation against them. The fact that she and the rest of the team were all U.S. Marshals hunting a fugitive in the company of Interpol Officers; the border guards wouldn’t think twice or question them.
It was a well-known fact among Interpol that most border guards never looked twice at their badges. Even those of different national police were more often just given a cursory examination at best. This was proven by the simple act at the last border crossing. As the two teams drove through the German and Austrian countryside Maria had the Interpol side of the team ride with the different trucks.
This served two purposes. The first was, of course, the teams getting to know each other in a friendly manner. The second was in case of them running into problems with the Austrian National Police; there would be at least one Interpol agent present to help smooth things over. Not that Maria expected problems at this point in the operation, but in the words of someone she loved. ‘Murphy loves to fuck with the best laid plans of mice and men.’ With the amount of firepower that the four trucks were carrying, Maria didn’t want to take any chances.
Once they were rolling again, Angelic turned and watched as the two teenagers just plugged the headphones back in and continued to work. “Miss Anna, may I ask a question about my younger cousins?”
“You want to know why they are wearing the headphones?” Angelic just nodded her head as Anna chuckled. “They play music in the background to keep out the distractions of the real world. This is how they have been taught.”
“Isn’t that a little dangerous? They could be attacked if they are that distracted.” Angelic pointed out the obvious.
“Not really dear. You see, if they are by themselves; they would set the alarms on the truck or whatever room they are using. Not that they are ever alone when they do this type of work. In truth, it is usually far more dangerous for them to be distracted by the outside world when they work like this. Also, if you have not noticed, I make them take breaks with the rest of the team.”
“Si, I have noticed this Miss Anna. What I would love to know is; what are they trying to find? We know all we need to know about Hines and his operations already.” Angelic offered up as Anna just chuckled.
“I have no idea what they search for, Angelic.” Anna chuckled. Then just pointed over her shoulder. “What I do know is, that whatever it is they seek, they will find it. I also know that it will be used to help us take down Hines and his organization. Not only that, but I am pretty sure it will help in the actual assault on Hines’ estate. That is all I can tell you dear.”
Angelic listened to Anna as she talked about her second cousins, and their work. There was something in Anna’s voice that made the young nun and Interpol officer look on the teenagers in a new light. Along with the cybercrimes investigators of her own agency. Sure, she had used the evidence provided by those individuals to arrest nineteen world class black-marketers of stolen or pilfered priceless art and antiquities. Angelic had never put much thought into how much that evidence and information the cybercrimes unit helped in her investigations.
While Angelic sat watching the teens, Kasey and Kristine were rampaging across the net. Unlike most mobile command units, their ALOC was outfitted with a continuous satellite uplink back to Ram’s Rock Island and Onyssius. The two teenage girls may not be able to go head to head with the bad guys just yet, like their parents. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t find every way they could to increase their parents’ chances of not only surviving, but come home alive and unharmed.
Deep in the world of cyberspace the two girls were dancing with the pulsing flow of electrons. For Kristine, it was a natural state of bliss that had been with her for as long as she could remember. To Kasey though it was a new feeling. Over the past couple of years, under first Kimberly then Krystel’s instruction, Kasey had reached the same level as her younger sister. The more they learned, the more they became like their mentor. They wanted to go beyond their Goddess classification. They wanted to be like Krystel, who no longer had a classification, and their parents.
Even now, they were showing their ability to think outside of the box. They knew that Hines had a very large security force at his estate. One that needed to be fed, and paid, to keep them loyal. The problem was; how to do that logistically and still remain off the radar of the local police. They jumped from bakeries, to meat markets, to produce suppliers, to whole foods distributors. Everywhere they went in the cyberspace, they found at least one supplier for Hines estate. From each supplier they were able to garner delivery dates, and who was making the delivery.
This search led them to another. One that would be far more illuminating. It was a listing of dry goods, ammunitions and fuel suppliers. The amounts of supplies going to the estate didn’t match what was being ordered from the suppliers. The amounts not going to the estate raised red flags for the girls. There was enough to supply a security force three to four times the size of the estate’s. Not liking where this was going, the teens began to hunt down where those supplies went. It didn’t take them long to find the second location for deliveries. With this in hand they began to do a satellite sweep of the delivery site.
Once they found the site, both girls almost stopped dead. It was listed as a private health facility owned by Forest Green Medical Research Industries. There was something about the name that made Kasey push further into who owned FGMI. There she found a tie to Canterbury Medical Industries, and Robert Hines. Kristine hadn’t been inactive as her sister found the connection to Canterbury Medical. She found what FGM was researching. FGMR did one type of research only, genetics.
The problem was, the facility also had a full hospital on site. One that could handle everything from a broken arm to cosmetic or emergency surgery. Then there was the obscenely large Security Force and General Medical Staff. It was the Medical Staff that grabbed Kristine’s attention the most. There were two surgeons, two head shrinks, and four nurses for every possible patient. The hospital was listed as having only forty beds. This gave the hospital a total of eighty surgeons and psychiatrists, with one hundred and twenty nurses. That didn’t even take into account the security staff of a hundred and thirty.
Kasey and Kristine both came up from their dive at the same time. Kasey looked over what Kristine had found while Kristine did the same to what Kasey had found. Between the two teens they quickly understood what they had found. The total connection between Hines and his illegal slave operations. Kristine looked over at her sister.
“Kasey, I think that you need to give the briefing on what we’ve just found.” Kristine said with an honesty that fell short of what she felt.
“Okay sis, I got this. I’ll handle the 'rents. First though I think we need to get a little more input from Home plate. Know what I’m getting at?” Kristine nodded her head and opened the link to Ram’s Rock Island while Kasey keyed her mike to transmit to all the adults in the Black Badges. “Gemini to all Bravo team elements. We need a face to face briefing. I repeat face to face. Over.”
It took a few seconds for Kasey’s all-hands call to be answered, but every member of the Black Badge Deputies acknowledged her call. It took another twenty minutes before they reached a service area so the two teams could congregate at the ALOC. Kasey and Kristine hadn’t been idle during that time. The two teens knew that they would be required to present the new Intel in a clear and concise manner. So, they set about compiling their new data for the briefing.
Command Center, Ram’s Rock Island
Kimberly and Krystel had spent the better part of their day monitoring the ground team’s progress. When Krystel noticed the searches of the teens, she became curious. At first, she couldn’t see where they were going or what they were looking for. Then she spotted the pattern and had to smile in satisfaction.
“Well, I’ll be. Kim, get a load of this!” Krystel said out loud.
“Okay, Krys. What have those two done this time?” Kimberly sighed. “How much damage control do we have on our hands this time?”
Krystel chuckled as she answered the Operations Officer and friend. “Nada. I don’t know how they thought of this, but when those two get home we need to throw them a party. Not only have they been able to find Hines’ safe houses, but they have also found where the sack of shit has been turning out his slaves. At least that’s the way it's looking.”
“Has Gemini sent in an update?” Kimberly asked.
“Not yet, but they might be more concerned with briefing the ground team first and foremost.” At Kim’s look of confusion Krystel explained. “After all, that is the way WE have trained them.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” Kimberly sighed. “I’m just not used to those two being out in the field like this yet. Normally they’re right here, with us overseeing just about everything they do. I guess we’ve done a better job in their training than I realized.”
“Kim, those two teenagers are worlds away from where any normal teen would be. We have to keep that in mind when dealing with them.” Krystel sighed as she looked over at her friend. “They’re not ready to take on their own assignments just yet, but I have a feeling that it won’t be long in coming.”
“I just hope they don’t grow up too fast on us. As it is Mindy already looks up to those two like older sisters.” Kimberly confided.
“Trust me I know. Lyssa will put her foot down though. Those two will be trained to handle more than Maria and her bunch expect, and be able to come back.” Krystel’s attention was returned to her monitor by the sound of an incoming email. “Now, what fresh hell do we have here?”
Opening the email Krystel almost laughed. If it had not been for the content she would have. “Looks like our little Goddesses need us after all.”
“What do you have Krystle? What did they send you?” Kimberly looked at the screen.
“Those two went through the records for every type of bakery, meat market, produce supplier, and whole foods distributers in the area surrounding Hines’ estate. That lead them to another set of suppliers for someplace called Forest Green Medical Research Industries. The scary part is the ammunition, fuel and dry stores. Kim, there’s enough supplies here to take care of a platoon sized Marine security force. I’m willing to bet you a La Pearla bra and panty set; that this FGMI is the slave factory for Hines.” There was a beeping tone that signaled the teens wanting to talk to Command directly. Krystel opened the link and put it on the main screen.
Kimberly looked up at the girls and smiled. “Hey Kiddos. You two definitely have a flair for the dramatic Gemini. We just got your update. Well done on the search by the way.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Kasey answered before she or Kristine could start blushing. “We have a problem though, and need your guidance.”
“Talk to us girls.” Krystel said from her post.
Up front Anna was smiling with pride, the girls were double-checking everything with their mentors.
"Miss Anna. Who are the girls talking to?" Angelic asked.
Anna chuckled. "As I said, the girls are never really alone. They are talking with their mentors, confirming what they think they know and getting advice on how to get what they don't know. As Madam said earlier, we are not their only teachers."
“Ma’am, we’ve tried to find what we could about the secondary, but outside of what we sent you, we've hit a dead end. Is there a route or search that we can run to find out more on the buildings at the FGMI facility?” Kasey asked for them.
This caught both Kimberly and Krystel by surprise. “We thought that you would have found those blueprints on record at the building commission?”
“That’s just it Mrs. Kimberly. There’s no record of those buildings ever being built. It’s like someone went in and scrubbed the digital footprint for the Center.” Kristine pointed out to their mentor.
When Krystel heard this, she became worried. “That would take a Code-Slinger or better level operator to pull off. Even then, it would be hard to get rid of the hard copies. If that is the case girls, then you’re going to have to check for the physical records. Thankfully most old-world countries require that there be a hard copy of the blueprints for any building. It doesn’t matter whether it is a public or private-owned building and there is only one place you’re going to find those. The Hall of Records in Lausanne, Switzerland or wherever that center is built.”
“That would be Fribourg, ma’am.” Kasey said. Then pulled up the need information from the files on the deliveries. “All of the red flagged deliveries end up there.”
“Keep in mind, money talks. One asshole that likes cash might have the access to go in and pull those blueprints. That aside, what led you girls to go this route in your search?” Kimberly asked.
“It was the odd-ball amounts of supplies that Hines was ordering and only one third of them going to the estate. To be honest ma’am, we just kind of followed a hunch.” Kasey told the senior operators.
Both Kimberly and Krystel chuckled at Kasey’s honesty. Kimberly summed up their thoughts on the matter. “So, you went and jumped outside the box again. As usual girls, you have shown that you truly earned your classification.”
“What can you tell us about that Medical center, Gemini?” Krystel asked.
“Outside of what is in those files we sent, not much ma’am. Sorry.” Kasey answered for the two teens as if taken responsibility for their failure.
“Whoa there kiddo. Put the brakes on the apologies.” Kimberly said quickly sensing the young woman’s discomfort. “You two did a fantastic job in gathering this Intel. This is just another case where your training has not yet reached the point needed for the situation. You two have done a great job so far.”
“I agree girls. You have been doing a fantastic job. Just keep following your instincts like you have.” Krystel encouraged her protégées’. "Remember, many times the information you need most will be on a Stand-alone. You won't know what you're up against until you start running eyes-on recon and site penetration. Even Lyssa has told you that."
Kasey searched the screen. "Where is she? Is she teaching a class?"
Kimberly and Krystel looked at her confused as Kimberly asked. "You don't know?"
"Know what?" Kristine asked.
Krystel went over to join Kim in front of the main monitor. "They've been deployed."
That got Kasey's attention. "THEY? OH-MY-GOD! Where? Who?"
"Lyssa, Rodrick and Tiffany. They're in Switzerland now. They arrived shortly before you did. They're in position and on stand-by. LoneStar told Maria himself before you all left Andrews." Kimberly stated. "You are NOT alone, girls."
"Three is a lot, Ma'am." Kasey remarked.
Kristine agreed. "Wouldn't that be overkill?"
Krystel laughed. "Overkill is under-rated. Just know that you aren't swinging in the breeze with your asses hanging out. You have us on electronic over-watch and they are there for physical over-watch. I'm updating your E&E protocols. There are a couple of NATO bases in the area that you can extract to if needed. You have cover, so you can do your jobs. Do it well!"
“Yes ma’am, we will!” Kristine answered with a smile.
“Alright Gemini, are you set to give your updated report to your team?” Kimberly asked them with a smile.
“Yes Ma’am. We just wanted to insure that we didn’t miss something in our data.” Kasey answered truthfully. “It was my call to contact you before briefing our team.”
“No problem in doing that Kasey. In fact, it showed that you’re mature enough to be in the field like you are now.” Kimberly said smiling in approval. “You hit a problem that you couldn’t figure out and asked for help. Remember the old Army saying ‘When in doubt, call in artillery or an air strike.’”
The teens giggled at this. They had heard their fathers use similar says in their training. The two they loved the most were ‘I shall fear no evil, for I am the baddest motherfucker in the valley, and my battalion is well entrenched’, and ‘Murphy was a motherfucking optimist.’ Every one of the Instructors had their own favorite says that they would use around the girls. Even Prima Lyssa was known to use a colorful phrase every now and then when instructing the girls. The ones that she used most often were ‘If you feel it; then it is and already too late’ and 'Start with impossible, work your way down to might be feasible and go from there.'
Kasey had looked over in the screen towards the front of the ALOC. “Command, we need to sign off. We’re coming to our rally point.”
“No problem Gemini. Stay frosty kids. You got this and we've got your six.” Krystel told them and then disconnected. Turning to Kimberly, Krystel smiled. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I pity whoever those two take as their first solo assignment. There won’t be a place on the face of the earth their target will be able to hide. I almost feel sorry for that unfortunate soul. Whoever they may be.”
“Only almost Krys?” Kimberly joked. “Personally, I won’t shed a tear for whoever they go after. Because by the time they’re fully ready, they’ll be something never seen before on the face of the earth. They’ll be unlike any Operator, law officer or assassin there has ever been or will be. Those two, truly, will either be the Right hand of Lady Justice or the Devil’s Bounty hunter.”
“Which way do you think they’ll go Kim?” Krystel asked her friend.
The Intelligence office sighed. “Truthfully? I have no fucking idea. And that’s what worries me most.”
Service station on the boarder of Switzerland and Austria:
Maria didn’t know what her granddaughters had found, but knew that it was important. So when Rinaldo questioned the need to stop, Maria just gave him a sly knowing smile. The one that grandmothers give to their grandchildren when they are being petulant.
“Rinaldo, if you weren’t my brother, there are times I would swear that you were a total dumbass.” Maria sighed. “I have faith, that my little ballerinas have something important. They wouldn’t have called for an emergency stop for no reason.”
“Um, how can you be so sure Maria? All Kasey said was they needed a face to face meeting. It’s not like they couldn’t give out the information over the radio.”
“Those two wouldn’t give out their shoe sizes over an unsecured or open communication network, Rinaldo.” Maria chuckled. “My young dancers have learned more about Network Security, and Operations Security than any Officer of the Law will ever learn. As for following the Code of Silence, let’s just say they could give lessons to the Mafia at Home.”
Rinaldo had never heard his sister talk in this manner. Then again it had been thirty years since she had left home for the ballet stage, and the world of assassination. He had not really talked with her in all that time. Oh, he had heard from his mother about how grand her life was; traveling the world preforming for Heads of State, powerful rich men and common people alike. All while carrying out contracts on some of the vilest criminals to ever live.
Of all the DeMarcos; Rinaldo knew, absolutely knew, that Maria was the true Mistress of their family’s secrets. If anyone knew the Creed of the Assassin, it was Maria DeMarco. And that was the most unforgiving Creed of them all. If his grand-nieces were learning from more than his sister, then he feared the day those two teenagers left the nest. Because whatever they became, would be truly terrifying.
Taking a deep breath Rinaldo asked the one question he had been avoiding since they had landed in Germany. “You’re not planning on using them in your raid sister?”
“No, Rinaldo.” Maria’s angry retort left no doubt in Rinaldo’s mind on that score. “The problem will be keeping them out of the fight if things go south, as my sons-in-law would say. If that happens, I doubt that even the Four Horsemen would be able to stop those two little hellions.”
“Surely you jest Maria? They are what fourteen and sixteen years old? Half trained children at best. What could they do?”
“I do not jest, brother.” There was ice in Maria’s voice. “AS for them being only half-trained I suggest you put that from your mind. Yes, they may have been under my tutelage for only two years now, but I am not their only teacher. Nor is Anna their only teacher. In truth they study under nine of the most highly trained and educated people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Only four of those are here with us now. Even now my granddaughters are more than a match for most men and women. They also have no problems or compulsions when using their training. Oh, and their ages are fifteen and seventeen.”
This simple statement of facts sent a chill down Rinaldo’s spine. The thought that his grand-nieces could be so ruthless already at such tender ages was more terrorizing than their abilities with computers. Yes, he and his siblings had been trained the same as Maria, but even so, if Maria said that her granddaughters were even better trained was not something he wanted to hear. What she said next almost made him piss his pants.
“Thankfully they have not followed in their mothers’ footsteps and claimed their first true kills earning their bones, yet.” Maria finished their talk as she pulled into a parking space. “Rinaldo, do not mention what we have just discussed with my daughters, I doubt they will understand.”
The warning went without being said, but it was there. And as always, when it came to family, it was not Prima Maria DeMarco or Marshal DeMarco who gave it. It was the Donna Maria DeMarco, head of the DeMarco and Capizeo Assassination Families. Rinaldo just bowed his head before replying. “Understood, Donna Maria. My nieces shall never learn of your concerns from my lips.”
As they climbed out of the truck and closed the doors, Maria looked over at her brother and chuckled. “You know something Rin, if you weren’t such a damned good cop, you would make one hell of a Consigliere.”
“Why, sister dear. Did I just hear a compliment? You must be getting soft in your old age.” Rinaldo returned with a smile. Looking over at the picnic area, Rinaldo noticed that the rest of the teams were gathering at one table. “I think that our children have decided where to hold this meeting, Maria.”
“I have no doubt that it was either Hunter or Robert that suggested the picnic table. It would be less conspicuous for us all to gather there. Those two’s minds work in a way that bewilders me at times.” Pointing at where the ALOC was parked, along with Black Beauty, Rinaldo noticed that the area was blocked from view. “Even now they have arranged their truck along with the ALOC to provide maximum coverage.”
“Damn. I wish that half of my men back home could think, and act, like that.” Rinaldo was amazed at how fast the two men of the Deputies had scanned and evaluated the situation within the service area.
“Rinaldo that is their training coming into play. Like I said the other day. My sons-in-law are not your ordinary deputies. They bring a touch of military precision and distrust to our operations that few can match. Now, let us not keep the children waiting any longer. It seems that WE are now holding up my granddaughters' briefing.” Maria giggled at the look Rinaldo gave her.
As they approached the table, Rinaldo let the thunderclouds that crossed his face go. He still had problems with his grandnieces being active duty deputies. He could see a large stack of papers and several maps laid out on the table. “Buon signore sopra che cosa hanno hanno trovato?”
Kasey looked up at their great uncle. “What we found uncle Rinaldo; was Hines’ safe houses and most likely his slave factory.”
The surprise and shock was evident among the adults, but the Black Badge deputies kept their cool. The five Inspectors from Interpol were just too outside of their comfort zones to grasp what the two teens had done. The idea of finding a safe house was one thing, but the thought of finding more than one was unbelievable. The younger Inspectors just let their shock show, all save for Rinaldo. It had taken him a great deal of control though to keep his feelings from showing.
Of the other four Interpol officers Marco Julian DeMarco was the first to speak. “Bullshit! There is no way a pair of little girls could find all the safe houses for Hines, let alone just one. Why are we even listening to them anyway, papa?”
“I agree with Marco, papa. We know where Hines is now. We shouldn’t be indulging the fantasies of little girls.” Rinaldo jr. backed up his brother as he looked over at Sam and Annette. “Especially, ones that know nothing of our family’s traditions. Teach them that first, Aunt Maria, then come back and try telling us what to do.”
The two knives that imbedded themselves between Rinaldo Jr.’s hands came out of nowhere. Maria just smirked as Sam, and Annette chuckled. Hunter and Bobby just face-palmed, accompanied with groans. Kasey and Kristine reached over and slowly pried their family knives out of the table.
Kasey leaned in close and hissed in Rinaldo Jr. face. “The next time, won’t be a warning. We’ll pin your nuts to the fucking seat, cousin dick-weed.”
Standing up straight, Kasey cleared her throat. “If there are no more interruptions we’ll get back to the briefing.”
“A moment, Kasey.” Anna said quietly. Kasey just smiled and waved for the old woman to go ahead. “I will say this once for you three boys, and once only. Never again disrespect my students again. The next time they will not hold back.” Both Kasey and Kristine just smirked as they heard Anna give them permission to hand out life-altering ass-beatings. “Just be glad they didn’t use their sidearms to drive the point home, Rinaldo. Those have a tendency to leave big holes behind.”
The three young men from Interpol gulped as Kasey and Kristine coat-flashed their weapons and badges. To say the point had been driven home, would be an understatement. Kasey and Kristine may be teenagers, and the team’s cyber-operations specialists, but they were still U.S. Deputy Marshals. They were also members of the DeMarco family. Therefore, not someone to trifle with.
“Thank you, Miss Anna.” Kasey said with a smile of politeness. “Now, as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted. We have been able to locate, at present, nine of Robert Hines’ European safe houses. As it stands right now; the ones in Poland, Czech Republic, France and Germany along with the escape routes through those countries have been closed off for some reason by the local Organizations.”
“Excuse me, Kasey, is it?” Angelic asked then continued when the teen nodded her head. “Kasey, did you say that the local criminal organizations have shut-down Hines’ safe houses and escape routes?”
“Yes, Inspector. That is exactly what we have found.” Kasey smiled. “For whatever their reasons, the local mob families are pulling their backing of Hines. The funny part is Hines’ escape routes to the south are all along the old Nazi ratlines. All of these routes are now fully documented. Why he would use them is something we’re still working on.”
“Deputy DeMarco, the reason behind that is simple.” Everyone at the table looked over at Marco. “Those old ratlines may be known, but they are not as heavily patrolled as the main autobahns.”
“That would explain why the escape routes to the south are still open.” Kristine told them all. “Only that doesn’t explain why the safe houses in Greece, Italy, Albania and Sardinia are still mostly in operation.”
“Oh, that’s simple, Kristine. Those four counties are less than likely to put a wealthy and powerful man like Hines under surveillance.” Angelic explained. “One of the greatest problems that we in the Gendarmerie Art Theft division face, is the influence these people have. Most of our division heads are very reluctant to go after men and women like this because of political fallout. I know for a fact that there are at least nineteen known dealers in stolen artwork and antiquities.”
“Question Inspector, just how much influence would someone like Hines have in those countries?” Kasey asked quickly.
“More than enough to find them attractive as safe havens.” Rinaldo Sr. answered for his daughter. “Kasey, Kristine, this is one time I wish that we had the type of legal system that the United States have. One, where the right Judge can be made to see reason. Here in the old world, too much stock is placed on the ‘good works’ of criminals like Hines.”
“Looks like you girls did some good work so far.” Hunter told them, then smiled. “Now, how about the really good stuff.”
The teens just giggled at the looks their second cousins gave Hunter. “Yes, sir. The really good stuff is coming up. We believe that the Forest Green Medical Research facility is a cover for Hines slave factory. The reasons for this are as follows. One: the medical and security staff are way out of proportion for what is reported to be there. Almost three times the needed size. Two: the amount of fuel, dry foods and ammunition that is being delivered is large enough for a full Marine security platoon. And thirdly: the blueprints have been wiped from all servers. To be blunt, papa. Somebody went in and wiped the digital footprints of the construction for the Center. Somebody Code-Slinger class or better.”
Sam put the feelings for all the adults into words. “Well, shit. Just dry-fuck me with a stainless-steel dildo.”
Maria gave Sam a look that did not go unnoticed, nor did her next words. “Samantha, that will be forty minutes at the bar when we get home.”
Annette snickered when she heard her sister-wife get reprimanded like this. Unfortunately, Maria heard the snicker. “For that Annette, you will join her.”
Bobby and Hunter had learned the hard way to keep their mouths shut over the last two years. They wisely sat there silently. Kasey and Kristine knew better than to say or do anything as far as their grandmother when came to her handing out punishment. Angelic and her brothers didn’t know how close they came to being on Maria’s shit list when they started to chuckle.
“And you four will, shut it. Now.” Maria ordered. “Or you can face me on the sands.”
The threat was there and it was one none of them wanted to think twice about. The DeMarco family was not known for sparing the rod. Especially when it came to disrespecting their elders’ wishes.
Samantha just bowed her head. “Sorry, momma. I’ll watch my language from now on.”
“You’re forgiven Samantha, but the punishment still stands.” Maria looked back to Kasey and Kristine. “Tell me girls. Did you confirm your findings with Schoolhouse?”
“Yes ma’am.” Kasey answered for the teens. She had picked up on her grandmother’s reference faster than Kristine. “Both of our Head Mistresses have backed our deductions. Miss Krystle says that this would take a Code-Slinger or higher classification to pull this off. Our suspicions about Hines having a slave as his personal pet hacker might as well be confirmed. Marshal, I really don’t want to say this, but we may have an INDIGO-9 situation on our hands. Another Blank.”
For the members of the Black Badges this was something they didn’t want to hear. To the Interpol Inspectors the teens might as well have been speaking Chinese. Rinaldo Sr. cleared his throat. “Just what does that mean, Deputies?”
“Inspector DeMarco that means there is a person out there somewhere working for Hines to cover his digital tracks, and most likely targeting his victims. I hate to say this, but the Internet is the pedophiles' richest playground. Hines is just the newest piece of rat filth in the sewer.” Kristine told Rinaldo Sr. sadly. “He is just catering to the obscenely rich and severely twisted.”
“Kasey, can you tell us anything about the facility at this Forest Green place?” Asked Samuel from where he sat.
“Again, sir, the answer is no. Before you ask, we do believe there is a way to find out more, but it will have to be done by one of the Interpol Inspectors.” Kasey answered quickly.
“What do we need to do deputies?” Asked Marco.
“We need someone to go to the Hall of Records, in Fribourg, to look for the actual physical blueprints that are on record. That is the only way we’re going to be able to find out more about the facility.” Kristine said pointedly looking at Marco. "That is, unless someone has been bribed there to remove and destroy them."
“Why do I have the feeling that I just got my marching orders?” He asked in a joking manner of everyone else.
Hunter looked over at him with the look of a battle-hardened cop. “Because you just did, Inspector. Before you argue remember, WE invited YOU in. That means you play by our rules, and when our Command Staff says jump. You just ask how fucking high.”
When Marco went to argue anyway, Rinaldo Sr. shut him down. “Take Samuel with you. Stop at the Interpol office in Bren and get a task force setup for a strike on that damned medical center. I want no less than a fifty-man team. Full tactical anti-terrorist loadout. No restrictions on targets.”
“FATHER!” All four of Rinaldo’s children were shocked at hearing this. Never before had they ever heard him give those orders. Yes, as a Chief Inspector for a taskforce he could give such orders, but Rinaldo DeMarco Senior had earned his reputation for using less lethal means.
“I gave you, your orders Marco. You too Samuel. Now, carry them out.” Rinaldo Sr. said bluntly. “Kristine, Kasey, what else do you have for my team?”
“We’ve been able to track down the main supplier for the medical center. They do more than just make deliveries. They also make pick-ups. I suggest that two of your team head to their main offices and lead a raiding team.” Kasey told him.
“No suggestions Kasey. Orders only please. You’re the ones that are making the tactical decisions here.” Rinaldo said with a smile.
Kasey looked over at her parents. All four of whom just nodded their heads. Maria gave her a sly smile.
Anna put all their thoughts into words. “Do your duty, Command. What would your teachers say?”
Kasey looked over at Kristine who grasped her hand and whispered. “I got your back sis. You can do this. Mrs. Kimberly trained you for this, more than me.”
Taking a deep breath Kasey looked over at her great uncle. “Chief Inspector; we need a small strike team to hit the delivery company for the research center. One that specializes in hostage and terrorist situations. This is a live-fire situation. All personnel are to be considered hostile. They will fight to the death to maintain their status. If they cannot, they will destroy all evidence and escape to resume operations elsewhere.”
“When do you want them there, Command?” Was all Rinaldo asked. Much to the shock of his children. Looking over at them Rinaldo sighed. “We are the ones playing in their game. We do not have the luxury of questioning their orders. Now, do as your cousins have ordered. I will not repeat myself again.”
The oldest and youngest son of Rinaldo DeMarco stood up. “Yes, sir. We’ll take care of the medical center, Deputies.”
Rinaldo and Rinaldo Jr. stood up next. “We’ll take care of the courier. Angelic stay here with the Marshals. I have a feeling they’ll need your help far more than we will. After all, your expertise is in stolen art acquisition.”
All the old-world DeMarco’s laughed at this comment. As did Samantha, Annette, Maria, and Anna. Hunter, Bobby, and the girls looked at them like they were missing something.
Kasey turned to Kristine. “Sis, do you know what they’re laughing at?”
“Nope. Not a clue sis.” Kristine answered truthfully.
Annette smiled over at her daughters. “The good sister from the Order of Saint Nicolas is what we in the family have always referred to as a thief.”
Samantha giggled before putting in her two cents. “More like a Security Expert. And the faults of security systems around the world. Both private and public.”
The teens looked over at the nun with questioning eyes. Angelic just smirked and reached into her habit. Pulling out a small leather wallet, she unfolded it to revel a set of custom lock picks. “Unless it’s a Glen Reader two-thousand or higher, I can break just about any lock out there with these.”
Bobby and Hunter were both impressed by this. Bobby smiled at the nun. “Damn Sister. I’m glad you weren’t at my high school. I have a feeling that no locker would be safe from your inspection.”
Maria stood up and looking around the table. “Well, it looks like we all have our assignments. I suggest we be about our business, ladies and gentlemen.”
"One other thing, Nonnina." Kasey said. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Maria kept a straight face. "Tell you what, Kasey?"
"That we're not alone, Nonnina." Kasey said.
Annette and Sam looked over. "What does she mean, Mama?"
Bobby looked over to his daughter. "More like, Who?"
Kristine looked nervous as she answered. "Apex Predators, Papa. The good, the wet and the scary."
All four deputies understood immediately. "OH, shit."
When eyes turned to Maria she simply nodded. "Yes, I knew. I said nothing because we have not failed. They are in place only in the remote event of that happening. We are not going to let that happen though."
"Sister. Is there something we should be told as well? This news puts your team on edge. Why?" Rinaldo Sr. asked.
Kasey answered for her grandmother. "There is back-up in place. We are to end all this. If we cannot. It will be ended anyway. Miss Anna, our E&E protocols have been updated. There are NATO bases nearby that we can run to if needed for extraction, but this mission no longer has the ability to not be completed. Our way, or the other."
"I still don't understand. What are Apex Predators?" Angelic asked.
Samuel answered his sister. "It is a Nature term. It means an animal so dangerous, that it is preyed upon only by its own kind. Polar Bears, Great White sharks, the giant Anaconda snake. If people are described as such a thing, that makes them extremely dangerous, Si?"
"Yeah. That's a polite way to say it." Hunter replied.
Marco asked. "What kind of people would make you all so on edge?"
"The kind that kicks the Devil himself off his throne, dares him to take it back and laughing at his failures." Annette shivered, remembering watching Lyssa work.
Samantha nodded. "Just to fill a dull weekend."
Maria broke the spell. "ENOUGH. Yes, they are in place. No, they will not be needed. We will not fail. We have assignments. Let us be about them."
Quickly they loaded into vehicles and resumed their course.
The estate of Robert Hines just before midnight…
Hines and his private security team had already left the compound as the panel van pulled in at the front of the main house. As the driver climbed out he spotted the three crates he was there to pick up. Walking over to them, the driver noticed the arrows that pointed up and handle with care signs first. The next thing he noticed was the team left warning signs. Sighing the driver walked up to the front door and rang the bell. He stood there for five minutes before ringing the bell again.
After twenty minutes of standing outside the front door, the driver returned to his truck. Retrieving his cellphone, the driver dialed the number for his dispatcher. After the second ring the line was answered. “EGC transport.”
“Hiddie, this Deidrick, I need a second man out here at Herr Hines Estate, Schätzchen.”
“What do mean, Deidrick? They said that someone would be there to help load the cargo. And don’t call me Schätzchen!” the dispatcher snarled.
“Schätzie! Schätzie, please don’t be that way? You know that I love you.” The driver knew he was pushing the dispatcher’s buttons, but he just couldn’t help himself. Still though, he knew that he needed help now. “Look all kidding aside Hiddie. There is no one here. I mean I drove through the gates without having to stop and open them. They were standing wide open. Now, how long before you can get me some help out here? I have three heavy crates that are way over the one kilo limit.”
It took the dispatcher a few minutes before she could answer him. “Deidrick, I got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”
Deidrick sighed. “Dealer's choice as the Americans would say.”
“Okay good news first then. I can get you Earnest and Ferdie out there tomorrow morning at zero-six-hundred.”
“Okay what’s so bad about that? I’ll just come back to the lot and come back out in the morning early.” Deidrick knew that the other shoe was about to drop.
“The bad news is you can’t leave those crates. Sorry, Schätzie, I hope you have a blanket in the truck. The weather is supposed to get cold tonight.” The dispatcher had to fight to keep the giggle out of her voice.
“Do what?” Deidrick was pissed. “You have to be joking. The boss can’t expect me to spend the night out here?”
The next voice over the phone left no doubt as to where Deidrick was going to spend the night. “If you want to keep your damned job Deidrick, you damned well better.”
“Yes, sir.” Deidrick looked around the massive estate. “Sir, I know that it is none of our business, but the few times that I have made deliveries out here there has always been a whole security detachment.”
“Herr Hines, is moving to his estate in Venice, Italy for the season. He informed me that he was taking his security with him. That is why you need to stay with those three crates. Don’t worry, Deidrick I talked the man into paying extra for your time as a security guard. You get a five hundred Franc bonus for spending the night in the cold, plus twice the usual transport free.”
When Deidrick heard this, he changed his mind about just leaving the crates and going home for the night. If his boss went by his home and saw the truck he would not only lose his job, but the much-needed money. “No problem. I’ll see the twins in the morning. Make sure they know that I need to be on the road no later than zero-seven-hundred if I’m going to keep my delivery time.”
“They’ll be there Deidrick. Try and get some sleep.” The phone went dead in Deidrick’s ear as the dispatch office disconnected.
Deidrick put the phone back in the cab of the truck then walked back over to the crates. Now with time on his hands, Deidrick walked around all three crates. He found a few oddities about the crates that peaked his interest. There were what could only be air holes at head height. The lids were held down not by nails as was usual but star-drive security screws. Around back he found what looked like heavy-duty security straps passing through the back of the crates.
“Whatever is in these crates must be either very fragile or highly expensive.” Deidrick’s voice carried across the empty compound. “Oh, well none of my business.”
Deidrick put his thoughts about what could be inside of the crates aside and curled up in the cab of his truck. Within an hour he was fast asleep. If he had stayed awake or been more observant he might have noticed the soft sounds of small electric motors buzzing in the cool night mountain air. Also, if he went to look around back, over the edge of the mountain, he might have seen three dark forms getting into position after climbing up the sheer cliffsides.
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