The Desert Nexus
by Morlock
Book 4

The foyer of my home

The gubernatorial hopeful and his three aides were heading for the door. The head man was speaking, but I knew he was lying since his lips were moving. "I can assure you, Mr. Harris, that friends will not be forgotten once we are in office." I made an appropriate comment as I inserted the key to open the elevator door. The check I had given them had disappeared into the pocket of a flunky, and since that was the sole purpose of this visit, no time was wasted in their moving on to the next hopeful donor. I shook their hands, smiled and waved as the door closed and then let my shoulders drop with relief that they were gone.

I knew that in this state, there was very little chance of their party winning the election for dog catcher, let alone governor, but my donation would be remembered. Of course, I had given far more to the other party the week before. Call it priming the pump, or spreading fertilizer for future planting.

Back in the western lounge, I saw that Rita's crew had everything all set up for the meeting. Not that I was worried about it. I knew that my redheaded doll would have everything perfect, or she would have one or more of her girls' skins showing red stripes. We had a few minutes, so I sat back in Rita's fuzzy black beanbag chair and said, "Bring me a Margarita. Two of them." My redhead knew what that meant, and immediately turned around and signed to Sugar, who was standing in the inside doorway. Or maybe it was Spice - from any distance at all, the twins were totally alike. Rita signed to me and I replied, "No. Leave it on." Her green lounging gown was so thin and sheer that it really wouldn't have made any difference if she had taken it off. It wasn't transparent, but still it was obvious that there was a beautiful female body underneath. She sat back beside me, wiggling to settle her body into a comfortable position.

Shortly, Sugar - or Spice - hurried up with a steaming cold glass of green liquid. I took it, tasted it, then relaxed back in the yielding bag chair. I put my other arm around my girl and held the glass up to her lips. She took a drink, then lay back against me. This was the life - a cold Margarita in one hand and a hot Margarita in the other. I had come a long way since I had walked out of the Iraqi desert as a no-name sergeant. The luck of the draw, or the roll of the dice - whatever you call it, now had me as a rich exporter and importer of various products, and a custom business on the side. Actually, it was more underneath than a sideline, but whatever, I was satisfied with my current lot in life.

The icing on the cake was my beautiful redheaded beauty - my willing and mute slave whose tale of possession was still talked about in certain parts of the world. We sat there enjoying each other as we finished the drink. One hand held the glass and the other explored the various hills and valleys of my girl. For her part, she just snuggled up and enjoyed it. Of course, Rita knew to have the drink made of mostly lime juice and very little alcohol, since I needed my wits for the upcoming strategy session.

The last few months had been busy. The NAFTA trucking issue with Mexico had been settled and trade was really beginning to flow over the bridges. I opened a small subsidiary office in Brownsville next to the border to handle incoming and outgoing cargo to that area.

I needed a pilot I could trust, so I queried Chip as to which of the team would be best to send to flight training. Dunkelberry got the nod and now had a low time commercial license. I bought a small plane and told him to fly as often as possible and to continue instruction, all the way up to instrument, multi-engine and so forth.

Sally, under my instruction, had looked for an out of the way... well, storage facility, shall we call it. She came up with an abandoned WWII Army Air Force training field way out in the desert. The single runway was long since unusable without major work, but it had a couple of cinderblock buildings still standing, although without roofs. These were refurbished and made usable.

She set up a small company - legitimate - that repackaged solar arrays for installation in homes and businesses. This deserted and almost always cloudless stretch of the state was perfect for running tests on various panels and several dozen were usually set up at any given time. And at the gate was the sign, "Luxon Solar, Inc" - a perfectly normal tax paying entity. Occasionally, a few times a month, there were usually a couple of engineers from Luxon running tests. She also set up an arrangement for a state university to use the land for some kind of radio telescope array, and on occasion a van or truck from the college would be on site also. Perfect camouflage for a single hidden room.

The runway was repaired so as to allow smaller aircraft to land, but not so well as to stand out as a usable airstrip.

Before the solar company took possession, Chip oversaw a crew of illegals building a small underground basement beside one of the buildings. When finished, the excavated dirt was bulldozed flat, then sand was pushed back over the structure and it effectively disappeared from existence. The only entrance was through the floor of a closet in one of the buildings - one that was filled with parts and pieces of solar panels and holders for the same.

All in all, it was a minor and remote business operation that looked - and was - legitimate.

The Western lounge of my home

My current inside crew was all here - Chip, who was now my Chief of Staff, and Telly and Bummer - my two action team leaders. Sally, my computer wizard and finder-outer girl was now a trusted partner. I had tested her over the months as I wondered what she would think about my underground business of capturing and selling women all over the world. As it turned out, her attitude was like the ex-soldiers - that is, don't get involved with politics and issues. Just do the job at hand. Actually, her gratitude to me for considering her abilities, rather than her handicap, in giving her a real career was a major consideration for her. Anything I wanted to do was fine with her.

The fifth member was Zee. Zafirah was Sheik Hassan's youngest daughter, sent to America, well, because she wanted to come, but mainly to get her out of her home country where her woman's lib attitudes were just going to cause trouble for both her and her father. Female slavery was a natural thing to her - she had been her father's Chief of Staff for several years, before coming over here.

Our first operation was just days away, hopefully, and this was a final meeting to try to poke holes in it. I wished that my good friend Jean could have come over from France. He was an expert in planning this kind of op - anything he came up with had every i dotted and every t crossed, in spades. Unfortunately, he had his own operation in progress at the moment.

Chip was talking. "...We know she still lives at her estate but will probably move to his, if she gets married. Since his job is in New York, they only get together on the weekends." He laid a map on the table. "Since this is an upscale community, every house is going to be alarmed, but only against the usual threats. Instead of our current plan of having Brinker break in and disable any system, how about this..."


Once the meeting broke up, Sally hung around to give me an update. Zee headed out to the night life of the town, which she couldn't get enough of after growing up in the strict fundamentalist culture of her country. Telly and Bummer went down to the guest rooms on the floor under mine with one girl each - which ones I didn't know. Rita handled that part of my household. Chip went to his apartment on the same floor. I knew he would be waiting for Sally - those two had hit it off big time.

"Before I start," she began, "The operation on Rita's ex is complete. All you have to is give the word."

Ah. Good. I nodded my satisfaction.

Sally opened her laptop. "I've found a possible surgeon candidate. At least he has all the qualifications, but I have no idea of what his attitude will be."

I sat back down as Butterball and Spice cleaned up the now disordered snack table in front of us. "Lay it out."

She began to read. "Doctor William Bennett, MD, Surgeon. Graduated from UNCF. Started his own clinic about 6 years ago. Wife is named Bonnie and was his head nurse. Apparently he did excellent work, but he was indicted eighteen months ago for proscribed drugs and underaged clients. Convicted, but with no jail time and three years probation. His license to practice was pulled." She looked up at me. "As near as I can tell they're broke. Lost their house and clinic. She works as a school nurse - he's a clerk in a hardware store." She handed me her report. On paper - nothing stayed on a computer any longer than it took to get it printed off and then securely erased.

After reading through it, I nodded to her. "Ok, follow up on it. Put out some feelers to see what his attitude would be toward our needs."


Brinker was almost an nth generation Mafia hooligan. He grew up in the worst part of the Bronx and probably had committed every crime available to a young man before, like me, being hauled up in front of the judge. He hadn't ever been caught in any... activities severe enough to prevent his joining the Army and, again like me, was given the choice of a bedroom at the state's expense or taking his chances in the Middle East as a grunt. Like many young men in the same situation, he turned out to be an outstanding soldier. He was also an excellent team member for me - he knew every fence, bookie and shady operation in the city, or, if in a strange city, how to find them. Even though he wasn't on my inside staff, the beginning part of this operation was his. Chip had asked his opinion on the best way to crack an upscale house, and with a few moment's thought, pointed out a far simpler and less risky plan than my crew had come up with.

But, however canny he might be about a stealth operation, he was always thinking in third world mode. Had I let him, he would have dressed for the operation in cammies and face paint. I pointed out to him that he would stand out on the streets of a high class American neighborhood like a teenage debutante on the streets of Baghdad. So, this afternoon, dressed in normal garb for a young man - i.e. jeans and a tee shirt and an MP3 player on his belt - he hopped the fence of the exclusive compound, and, carrying small barbell weights in either hand, jogged along the sidewalks, just another yuppie trying to stay in shape. And just like he had business there, he turned into the long driveway of our target's house and disappeared among the foliage. A half mile away, relaxing in a parking lot, Zee and I were monitoring the radio. Jonesie was standing by in a hot sports car. Brinker had reported that he was in position A. That meant concealed in the bushes just beside the right side of the garage door. If our target kept to her normal schedule we had a couple of hours to wait.

Sure enough, about ninety minutes later, Jonesie reported her car entering the guarded entrance of the neighborhood and that it contained a single person. We waited. If it went according to plan, she would drive up to the garage, trigger the garage door opener, and drive in. As soon as the car entered, Brinker would slide under the closing door and crawl over to the front right tire to wait for the woman to exit. She was expected to walk around the front of the car toward the door to the house, but Brinker would be looking under the car to watch her feet to see which way she was going. She would probably just walk past him, but even if she saw him crouching there, a single untrained female would have little chance against a young ex-soldier.

"Trigger is good. Repeat, trigger is good." Zee and I looked at each other as the code for success came through. One way or another, she had gotten a pressurized syringe stuck in the side of her neck, then was deposited upright into the passenger seat. Her car would soon be on its way out of the neighborhood gate. All cars had to pass the guards' inspection on entry, but anybody could leave without interference.

"Action is good, repeat, action is good." He was outside of the gate and heading for the little rural airport about fifteen miles away. Our radios were encrypted, but even if someone could listen, the one way talk would just be gibberish. Jonesie would be following him at a few hundred meters distance. If Brinker was pulled over for some random reason by the cops, the trail car would zoom up, stomp on the brakes, then peel out down the road, hopefully with the cops in hot pursuit. My reasoning was that it would be a whole lot easier to get Jonesie out of jail for reckless driving than Brinker for kidnapping.

Zee and I casually followed - but only so we could stay in radio contact. A half hour later or so came what we were waiting for. "Birdie is good." The small plane, with Dunkelberry at the controls, was in the air and headed southwest.

Thursday Night - Luxor Test Facility

By now any Luxor engineers had long since gone home for the day, leaving only Chip waiting for the plane. It wasn't a frivolous decision to choose to start up a company whose products only worked in the daytime. Shortly before midnight he got the call from Brinker, flipped on the sparse runway lighting and watched the small twin engine craft land, turn and taxi up to the cinderblock building. It took only a few minutes to transfer the captive to the underground vault, chain her legs to the wall, add a couple of wrist bracelets - unattached at this time - and leave. Both got in the plane and flew back to eventually meet me in the city.

Friday Night - Luxor Test Facility

Doctor Langston was still fully clothed - later she would learn the proper attire of a slave girl. Chip and Brinker had left her with plenty of food and water, a mat, and a portapotty for her use - in fact, enough food and water for her to stay there for several days unattended if necessary. It wasn't.

She looked up in fear as I opened the door at the bottom of the stairs. Of course, she knew nothing of me - yet - so I just appeared as an unknown stranger to her. She stood up with an apprehensive expression on her face, then slowly backed up to put her back to the wall. I kept my expression neutral as I stopped just inside the door, just looking at her.

Finally, she blurted, "Who are you?" Not very original, but she couldn't have a clue as to her future life.

There was a box, stepladder and some folding chairs against the same wall as the door - too far away for her to reach. I picked up a pair of chairs and walked toward her. In front of the woman, I opened one, then backed up and opened the other and sat down. I motioned for her to sit also. Very cautiously, she pulled it back toward the wall as far as it would go then sat down.

"Why am I here? What do you want?" A pause. "If it's ransom, I can pay it."

I finally spoke. "I don't capture women for ransom. In this case, it is for payback." She opened her mouth to reply, but I continued. "No. Be silent and listen." I pulled an envelope out of my pocket, opened it, then handed her a photograph - years old, cropped from an old newspaper article about some meeting of female swells in Rita's city. "Recognize this woman?"

It took a second or two, but I saw the puzzlement change to sudden surprised recognition, then back to fear. She shook her head, violently.

I just stared grimly at her till she finally dropped her eyes and murmured, "It's my sister-in-law."

I nodded. "Good. Now you are going to tell me the whole story about her, from start to finish."

She desperately began to feed me a line about the horrible illness that Rita had contracted, then the decision to send her to a clinic in Switzerland, and how the unfortunate woman had passed away not long after. I could tell that she was frantically trying to figure out who I was and how I was related to the Rita incident. I continued to ask questions, and she filled in the story. Of course, it was all lies, but she didn't know that I knew - yet.

Finally, she wound down and I said, "Well, that's a pretty good story. But..." A pause as I looked at her over steepled fingers. "I heard it somewhat differently from another person. In fact, the stories are so different that someone is lying." She just sat there, staring at me, still frantically trying to determine what the hell this interrogation was for. "Are you sure that your version is correct?"

She nodded vigorously.

"Think about it. Make sure that you aren't leaving anything out." I got up and started for the door. "I'll be back."

Saturday Morning - my home.

Sally, Zee, Chip and I were meeting in one of my lounges. We had just given orders for Telly's team to fly to meet a ship needing protection though pirate waters. And discussed some other minor items.

Sally handed me a paper. "The Governor and the Mayor want to meet with you this week. No doubt for some more money." She hesitated, then continued, "I'm not sure just how supporting those vultures is going to help us in any way. You've never shown any interest in running for public office."

I just smiled. "Just spreading a little manure here and there - you never know what will grow." I picked up a folder. "I need you to start building a dossier on this person." She took the folder, opened it, and thumbed through the few pages. Suddenly, she froze with her eyes open to the max. She looked over at Chip, then tilted the folder so he could see the picture on top. His expression mirrored hers.

He looked at me, then blurted out, "Holy Fucking Shit, Sarge! Aren't you getting a little ambitious?" Sally said nothing, but Zee looked at both, not understanding what the ruckus was about.

"What is the matter? Who is the woman?" she asked.

Sally looked at her for a moment, then at me as I nodded, then explained. "This is Penelope Elsenburg. She's heir to the biggest oil fortune in Texas, or maybe the U.S., for that matter. Platforms, pipelines, refineries - you name it and her family owns it. Add to that her mother, who is... hmmmm..." A quick tap on her laptop. "... eighty four years old and you are looking at the soon to be richest little girl around." More reading. "Father long dead and no siblings. She's making noise like she wants to enter politics."

Zee looked at me. "You want to kidnap her and take her fortune?"

"Hell, no." I shook my head. "For one thing, she is probably guarded as well as the president, and in this country, you don't just forge a few documents and lay your hands on wealth of that magnitude." I shook my head again. "I have other - and very tentative - plans involving her. At this point, it is just a wild idea far in the future." I pointed at Sally. "Don't put her at the top of your to-do list - just begin collecting data when you have time."


That afternoon I was back at the desert compound. On weekends it was usually deserted, but I saw a van load of graduate students in the distance - obviously either modifying or doing maintenance on their radio telescope array. Nothing to concern me. They waved and I did also - to them, I was just another employee going about his business.

My captive was starting to lose her upper class appearance. I doubt that she had ever gone so long without a grooming session, or a bath, or the other things that women feel to be essential.

She was still wary, and rose as I entered again. I walked to the box and pulled out a couple of short chains. Pulling the step ladder over to the center of the room, I climbed up and attached one chain to each of two eyebolts in the concrete ceiling. After replacing the stepladder, I walked over to the woman and stooped down to unlock the chains on her ankle bracelets, making sure she had no opportunity to kick me in the face or nuts. I seriously doubted that she would try something like that, but I was still alive today because I never took chances that I could avoid.

"What are you doing?" was her only response.

"We need to continue our discussion," I replied, "but in a way that makes you more, shall we say, willing to tell the truth." I began to pull her to the center of the room, but she wasn't a stupid girl - it was obvious what the ceiling chains were for.

"NOO! You aren't going to chain me to those." Since she was a typical American female, good looking, but totally um muscled, the statement had no effect on my actions. Her struggling made no difference as I towed her to the center of the room, raised an already braceleted arm and connected it with the snap hook to the end of the chain. In a few seconds the other was attached. Now she was standing, both arms widely spread and raised over her head. Her feet I connected together by putting another double ended snap hook through the anklet eyes. I stood up in front of her, looking her in the eyes.

"Now, let's start your tale about Ms. Langston again. According to my source, everything you told me last night was a lie. Would you like to start over?"

"Please, let me down," she pleaded. "Who are you? What do you want me to say? All I can tell you is what happened."

I just nodded, then reached up and took her blouse by both lapels. With a swift pull, buttons flew like popcorn, revealing a nice set of bra covered tits. Looks-wise, she was an attractive woman but nothing spectacular and certainly not a Rita. Nonetheless, I knew that an educated upper class woman like her would bring a goodly sum on the auction block.

She reacted instantly, pulling her body back as far as possible and screaming, "STOP! You can't do that!" and so on. Once again, she was wrong as I took my K-Bar and cut the blouse off, then her slacks, leaving her standing in bra and panties. Up between her tits went the blade and her boobs popped out as the bra fell away. The thin panties gave even less resistance. I stood back and looked, as she wept and cringed in her futile attempts to pull loose from the chains. Usually, by this time I would be rutting at the sight, but before I left my home I had one of Rita's girls empty me fully so I could concentrate on the job. So, now I just enjoyed the view without my cojones demanding attention.

So far I hadn't touched her, but now I gripped her jaw with one hand and made her look at me. I said. "Stop the whining. It isn't going to help you and I can give you something to whine about." I let go. "Now, let's go back to Ms. Langston's adventure. I don't think you told the exact truth the first time. In fact, according to my information the entire story was a lie from start to finish."

She wouldn't look at me - apparently embarrassed to be in her naked situation, but she replied, "What do you want me to say? Rita was sick and couldn't be cured." Finally, she looked up. "I'm sorry she died, but I'm an ordinary doctor - not a miracle worker. Why are you doing this to me? What are you after?"

"Are you sure the sickness wasn't something that you and your brother thought up to get rid of a troublesome wife?" I could tell that her mind was racing - who the hell was I, and how did I know anything about Rita? One thing I didn't know was if they had sent her to be killed, or committed for life or what. I doubted that they knew about a world-wide slave industry, so I assumed that Rita got to where she went by happenstance.

"Last chance. What really happened."

Still looking down, she shook her head. "Just what I told you. What are you trying to find out?"

I walked over to the box and pulled out a riding crop. She didn't seem to notice, or maybe she just had no idea what it was. Without any more preliminaries, I walked behind her, lined up and laid a stroke across her back - and not a light one either. Her head came back as her body began to realize what had just happened, then screamed at the top of her lungs.

I let twenty seconds go by, then gave her another. Then a few more. She was thrashing to the limit of her bonds, babbling, and screaming all together, but I ignored the ruckus and waited as I watched five or so welts on her back turn to a cherry red. Despite my earlier session with Rita, my johnson was definitely showing interest in a helpless woman, bobbling her titties and writhing under the lash. But I controlled myself. In a few minutes, as she wound down to just pleading for the punishment to stop, I stepped around in front of her and said, "Ready to talk now?"

She nodded violently and sobbed, "Yes. Yes. Please don't hit me again."

For the next two hours, she went through the story. In the main, it followed Rita's tale, but of course it had far more details. Sure enough, her husband was the instigator, and in fact, had a new housemate installed in his bed before Rita's plane had even landed. Finally, I let her down, chained her legs to the wall and left.

When I got back to the office, I told Sally to instigate Operation Payback.

A lounge in my home.

"I don't understand why you are doing this, Mr. Harris." The Ex-Doctor Bennett had accepted my, or rather, Sally's, invitation for a meeting on his future. "In particular, why someone of your position would want to hire a disgraced surgeon." This came out with a certain amount of bitterness. I just looked back at him over my drink. He continued, "Obviously, the purpose might be for something not quite kosher?"

I set my drink down on the side table, and leaned toward him. "Doctor..."

He raised his hand in protest. "Mister is the proper title. I believe the state decided that MD was one that I was no longer entitled to."

"Horseshit," I retorted. "I respect most things in this country, but not the decrees of little tin Caesar bureaucrats who think their opinions are equivalent to stone tablets brought down from the mountain." I lay back in my lounger and picked up my drink again. "Yes, I'm very wealthy, and by all measurements, a successful businessman. But, I got my start because a judge gave me a choice between jail and the Army. Most of my employees have been rejected by society and left to sink or swim on their own. Any that I hire not only choose to swim, but to use other people for flotation if necessary.

"I know most everything about your case and trial. You operated on a minor without the parent's permission. But, didn't that little girl show you a drivers license and birth certificate indicating that she was eighteen?"

He nodded. "Yes, but..."

"And the drug you used, BioRetineSulph... whatever the hell it was - the drug company sold that to you as a legal skin tightener, correct." Another nod. "So the reason that you got hammered, and not the corporation that made the misrepresentation, is that they give lots of money to politicians and you don't."

He just sat there, expressionless. "Your mistake is accepting their accusations. I don't mean at the trial. It would have taken far more power and money than you had to stop that freight train. What I mean is, your acceptance now. Your attitude should be, "Fuck all of you."

"What do you want?"

I leaned forward again. "I know what plastic surgeons can do. My girl had to have major surgery on her face because of... well, injury. It got me to thinking. I may or may not have need of a plastic surgeon, someday. As you say, the reason might or might not be kosher, but if it isn't, I guarantee that it won't be for some mobster-type crime."

"And you want me to be that surgeon." It was a statement, not a question. "An unlicensed surgeon breaking the law? How would I even order supplies?"

I shook my head. "You misunderstand. I will get you your license back and set you up in a clinic - totally legit. It will be yours, entirely, but if I ever need a... job done, you will be available. You can pay me back as your business gets back on its feet."

He just looked at me for a minute. "If you can undo a decision by the medical board of this state, then you must have far more power than even this building shows."

Actually, I wasn't that powerful at all, but I knew who was and how to pull their strings.

A phone call informed me that the delivery service would be coming by the desert compound to pick up my package. I met the driver - a different one from last time - and shortly Rita's sister-in-law was crated and off to begin her new life.

A lounge in my home

Just Sally and myself were meeting. I could tell that her mind was furiously churning and trying to figure out just what the hell I was planning. She was looking at her notes. "Ok. A female candidate has to be between thirty and thirty five years of age, five foot four, brunette, Nordic features, and come from a life of - well, a disadvantaged past. In other words, she has to be agreeable to performing a service that may not be quite... ah, mainstream? Wouldn't it be easier if you just told me what you are trying to do?"

I smiled. "Not quite yet. I don't want you thinking that your boss has gone 'round the bend."


I asked, "How about Operation Payback?"

"It's triggered. Just a matter of waiting for the appropriate tax authorities to notice."

The Sheik's compound.

I had come over for a status meeting with Hassan - nothing major, just checking in. But I had a partner on this trip - Rita. The Sheik was quite impressed with her beauty and wondered where in the world Tarkan had gotten someone like her. Winking to me, he offered - in English - to buy her on the spot - an offer that made the redhead grab my arm and try to hide behind me. Hiding a grin, I replied that I didn't want to sell her, but I might make a trade for a younger girl with a tighter cunt and higher titties. Now she looked at me in wide eyed panic. Her hands had just about cut off all circulation in my upper arm when both Hassan and I burst out in laughter. As realization dawned that she was being spoofed, she furiously pushed my arm away and assumed a pouting expression, which just made her look all the cuter.

I turned her around and popped her on the butt. "Go sit down by that window," I ordered. "This is man talk."

After an hour, I had given the Sheik an outline of a future plan I was considering. I enjoyed his growing incredulity as I went along. Finally, he just sat back in thought. Then, "Rodger, when you walked out of the desert and I decided to test you as an agent, I had no idea that I was engaging the reincarnation of Machiavelli." He waved to his flunky - valet, servant, whatever you want to call him - and the man left the room, closing the door. The Sheik rose, unlocked his forbidden cabinet and poured both of us a drink - a toast to success in the future and pretty girls for all.

Later that afternoon.

By now Rita was her normal bubbling self again. This was the first time in a year that she had left the building that was my home for any significant distance and was seeing sights that most people would have denied even existed in this day and age. But I knew that the real shock was still in front of her.

I led her though the training quarters to the punishment room. There in the room, chained from the ceiling in a big female X, was a naked, blindfolded and gagged woman. Rita wasn't shocked - after all, she and her girls had experienced the exact same bondage many times. Rita loved it, especially if I touched her up with a whip to some extent. Standing in front of the new slave, I asked Rita, "Does she remind you of anybody?

Rita looked at me in confused puzzlement. That was about the last question she would have expected from me. But she looked closer and shook her head. I expected no other answer. The woman wouldn't have been recognized by her lover, let alone a casual in-law relative who hadn't seen her in a couple of years.

"No?" I walked over and pulled the blindfold off. "Does that help any?" Rita's recognition system still didn't trigger. For one thing, the facial distortion of the ball gag was almost as good a disguise as the blindfold. For another, what the mind doesn't expect to see, it doesn't, and the last woman that my girl expected to run across halfway around the world was her sister-in-law.

I reached up and pulled the ball out of her mouth and let it hang around her throat. "How about now." Rita managed about one negative shake of her head, then her eyes few open so wide that she almost resembled a cartoon character. Her jaw dropped and she brought her hand up to her mouth in a look of utter disbelief.

The chained woman was doing a close emulation of her sister-in-law. I could see the utter shock of seeing the girl whom she knew was either dead or committed for life in some institution somewhere. The only difference between the two was that the ex-doctor could scream and Rita couldn't. As soon as they both collected their wits, I said to the captive, "You remember your sister-in-law, don't you? Remember, the one you sold into slavery because your younger brother didn't want to keep his pants zipped around young cunts?" She just made a low moan. Rita, on the other hand, just stood there staring. I had planned this meeting, but had no idea how my redhead would react. She had no weapons, so I didn't have to worry about her lunging forward to stab her relative in the heart. On the other hand, there was always the possibility of her being grateful for being removed from a meaningless life and into one that she could never have dreamed about and apparently enjoyed.

I picked up a leather whip from a shelf, and offered it to Rita. "This is your chance to get even, if you want. You would still be an upper class woman in America if it wasn't for her plotting." She hesitantly took the handle. Rita well knew what it was for and how to use it. Many times one was used on her, and on occasion she used one on her domestic girls in my home. She held the whip, all the while staring into the terrified eyes of the bound woman. Then, finally, she shook her head and handed it back. In her eyes, I could see the hatred for her ex-relative, but something inside of her didn't want to physically harm the woman.

I just nodded and turned to the slave. "This is your new life. Forget the money, prestige, fancy clubs. They are gone forever for you. You will be trained here to be a slave. A sex slave," I added. "The whip will be your instructor, and that crack between your open legs will be the property of a man. You will fuck him when he says, how he says, and as often as he wants. If he so desires, you will service anyone he wishes to give you to. I suggest that you do your best to keep him happy so that the day when you are replaced by a younger cunt will be put off as long as possible. Your life can only get worse when you are discarded."

Back home. R&R offices

It had been an interesting trip. Rita certainly enjoyed it, the shock of seeing her ex-relative notwithstanding. But I had a ton of things to do, and every one that was completed just lined up even more. I had another long and to-the-point conversation with my ex-surgeon in which I laid out what I expected from his end of the bargain if he accepted, emphasizing the commitment to loyalty in particular. He accepted and I started the ball rolling to get his conviction reversed.

The business was doing very well - the legit R&R side of it, I mean. It could have become far bigger if I had cared to let it. But I had discovered an interesting thing about myself. I loved to have lots of money, like anyone, but once I had enough for my needs, just stacking it up in an endless exercise of wealth building wasn't my thing. I was happy to just let the business prosper without massive growth.

I was doing paperwork in my downstairs office when my R&R secretary, Shirley, slung open the door. Looking up at her expression, I knew something had gone south, badly. "The Brownsville office is on line two for you! Mr. Brugada has been killed!"

What the fuck!!? Brugada was the manager for my border office - a good man as far as I knew. At least, so far, he had been a good manager. I picked up the phone and talked for a few minutes, then hung up and immediately called Sally, several floors up. "Find Dunkelberry, ASAP. I need to get to Brownsville, chop, chop."

"I don't have to look. I know where he is. Out in the plane working on his next license."

"Call him, now. I'll meet him at the airport as soon as he can get there."

A police station, Brownsville.

Dunkelberry and I were looking at the remains of my deceased manager's car. I've seen technicals in Iraq hit by fifty cal Ma Duces that were in better shape.

Dunk looked at me, then said quietly - and unnecessarily, "This was hit, Sarge. No doubt about it."

I nodded. The car had more bullet holes than could be counted, and that didn't even take into account those that had gone through the now non-existent windows. But a hit for what? Nothing having to do with the company, surely - our cargo was always totally legal manufacturing supplies or big-box-store items. The assumption had to be made that my man was doing something on the side, and considering the location, it had to be drugs.

A police lieutenant was standing there beside us. I looked at him and he said, "Had to be a deal gone wrong."

I nodded. "Looks like it. All our info on him is that he was on the up and up. I've had my people looking into it all afternoon, and if he was dirty, he hid it well."

After ID-ing what was left of the body, we headed over to the office. It was like a hive of bees that had been stirred up, but settled down when they saw the big boss come in. The three women had obviously spent the day crying, and the men were just looking grim. The second in command had made sure that everybody stayed busy, and orders were still flowing in and out. A good man - possibly a replacement that I now needed. I waved him into the now vacant office.

Closing the door, I waved him to a seat. I walked around the desk and sat down also. Dunkelberry just leaned against the wall. "I appreciate your taking command when the news came in." He - Miguel Durazo was his name - just nodded. "I want you to take over Mr. Brugada's job for now. I may make it permanent, but right now I just need someone to keep things going."

"Si, Senor," he replied. "No problemo."

I sat back. "Do you have any idea why someone would have gunned him down."

He looked back at the door before answering. Uh-oh, I thought. Something has been going down here. "No, Senor. But for the last three or four weeks, he has been... been..."

"Hablo Espanol. Continue."

In that language, he continued. "He has been very nervous and jumpy since about a month ago. He would get a phone call, then leave suddenly for hours. And he bought a gun. It is in there." He pointed to the side of the desk. I opened it, looked under a folder and found an automatic .32, loaded and ready to go. Shit, I thought. A ladies gun. About as good as a paintball gun in a firefight like he was on one side of. What the fuck was going on with him?

I tore his office apart looking for anything that would shed some light on the situation, and finally gave up. Nothing more was doable for the moment, at least by us, and by the next afternoon we were back home. I assumed that it was a personal issue, not a company problem, and the police would either discover what, or write it off. Boy, was I wrong.


Both of my teams had been on vacation - and still were. Apparently there was nothing to haul around the Horn of Africa at the moment. I also had told Sally and Chip to take a couple of weeks off and go somewhere and enjoy each other. Other than a few hours a day down on the R&R floor, I took it easy, also. I relaxed with a girl or two in a lounge and read over a list of targets that I had Sally compile.

One was a particularly obnoxious lawyer, but a little too old, I had decided. Another was a pro football cheerleader - a nicely stacked dish, but Sally still couldn't prove that she was a blackmailing bitch, although we had good info that she was. The going prices were far higher for educated women, although I wasn't sure why, since a twat was ineligible for a diploma. A educated woman who was famous brought the best prices of all, but of course, were the hardest to obtain. Obviously their value was as trophies, rather than tail. Any pretty woman in her twenties was easily sold, but usually wound up as bed warmers till their looks started wearing off, then they just became female domestics.

What the heck. I decided that what was good for the help, was good for the boss. Rita and I booked a flight to France, and laid up at Jean's - in both senses of the word. To keep an eye on things, I had Dunkelberry stay in my home while we were gone. Since he now had free access to several beautiful sets of pussy, in the form of Rita's girls, I doubt that he did much flying during that time.

Time passes

The elections came and went, and I continued to play the part of loyal supporter. Because I was free with my donations, and very seldom asked for any of my chits to be cashed, I was very well regarded in the local political circles. I had put in a very large ballroom in the unused end of my top floor, which was used for political insider get togethers. It became a favorite hangout for political greats and wannabes. Many times I rubbed elbows with the great and powerful as they and their wives looked out over the vista of the nighttime city. But to me politics was a means to an end, and was otherwise boring. Even money was just another tool in the box. What drove me was adventure and women, new sights and places. Political power and wealth just for its own sake were drumbeats that I just couldn't hear. And in fact, I was beginning to fear that I was becoming a little too civilized, or domesticated, maybe. Possibly, I should go along as a team leader on an African pirate cruise just to hone the edges a little.

That's an idea. The next time... My phone bebopped the indication that Shirley was calling.

"What's up, Shirl?" I had just left my downstairs office a half hour ago.

"Mr. Durazo want to talk to you. He says it's very important."

What the heck? My new Brownsville manager? "Ok, put him on."

"No. He said he is driving up to see you in person."

I sat forward in my chair. What the fuck? "When?"

"He's on the way."

I hung up. What was going down here? This was coming too close on the heels of the shooting episode, only about two months ago. I assumed that he had discovered something about his ex-boss, but what would be so important that he just couldn't tell me over the phone? I hoped that he didn't have news that we had been importing narcotic baby food or something like that. Anyway, he was almost seven hundred and fifty clicks away, so he couldn't possibly be here before early morning.


Apparently, whatever my southern manager wanted to talk about wasn't that critical. He must have stopped for the night before he fell asleep on the road. First thing in the morning, after checking in with Shirley, I left for an early meeting with a local freight company executive. I had made it almost to the revolving doors when the lobby guard ran up to me. "Mr. Harris! They need you back up in your office. She said it was very important."

Shit, now what? Upstairs, Shirley met me at the elevator and motioned me to her desk. On her computer was a news web site article. A car had exploded last evening in the parking lot of an import company in Brownsville. So far it was unknown who was in the car, but further updates will be posted as facts come in. I sprinted to the elevator, cursed as it took its time, locked it when it stopped, then shouted in the door of Sally's office. "Call Dunk to meet me at the airport with the plane. Get Chip and find Telly and Bummer. Put everybody else on standby. Emergency meeting as soon as I get back!" She was an excellent employee - while she was startled at my sudden appearance and shouting, she didn't waste time in stupid questions. She was already dialing as I headed back to the elevator.

I sent off a message to the Sheik to tell him what was happening, and what I knew so far, which was essentially nothing. Shortly I was off to the airport.

Brownsville office

The three women employees were still on the job, as well as one man. The other two men had hauled ass for parts unknown - couldn't really blame them. I had given Dunk the short version of what was going on - and in fact, it was the only version I had. But he was prepared for trouble, as was I.

I called the four employees into the office. They were still in a state of shock, mostly. "First of all, let me express my gratitude for your remaining on the job. As of the first of this month, all of you have a ten percent increase in salary, and there will be a substantial bonus in your next paycheck." I sat down in the managers chair of death, as I was beginning to think of it. "Now," I started again, "Does anybody have any idea what is going on?" They did. All of them looked at each other and the girl called Maria spoke.

"Senor," she began hesitantly, "Yesterday two men came into the office to see Senor Durazo. When they left, he was very excited."

"He said he had to go to Dallas." This from the oldest woman. All three women nodded. I didn't bother to ask what the two men wanted. Obviously, none of the four would be a party to the conversation. Since it resulted in a bomb, I could assume that it wasn't a benign talk.

"Did he say why?" Four negative shakes of the head.

"What did they look like?"

This time the man spoke up. "Miembros de la cuadrillam, Senor." Gang members.

It couldn't be extortion - nobody at this location had any funds available beyond buying paper and pencils. I had heard of gangs shaking workers down for part of their salary every month, but as far as I knew, that was only over the border. And besides, an office with six or seven people wouldn't be worth it.

It had to be drugs. But what had that to do with my office managers? We didn't own any trucks, only the merchandise on them. If someone wanted to hide a stash in one, he wouldn't need a low level manager to do it.

More questioning got me nothing, except for what they had told the police, which was very little and excluded mentioning the two men since the police didn't ask. I told them to keep working as usual. They should be safe since the parties in question only concerned themselves with managers.

Late that night. My southern lounge.

I had just laid out everything I knew and turned it over to my brain trust for ideas. Rita and the girls were acting as hostesses, of course, but my redhead could tell that this was something deadly serious and made sure that her girls knew this wasn't the night to play coy.

Sally agreed with me. "It has to be drugs. We are importers - We have large quantities of stuff coming in over the bridges. It has to be."

Chip added his two cents. "The managers have to be in on it. Maybe they got greedy or tried to cheat."

Sally shook her head. "Brugada might have been. There's no way of telling. But Durazo was trying to warn us of something so he probably wouldn't have been in on it - whatever it is.

Telly spoke up. "How about we get another manager, and when those two SOB's come back, Bummer and me will ask them?"

I shook my head. "No. Any that come back like those two will just be low level grunts. We want to find out who and what is behind this. But you have a good idea." I looked at both of my team leaders. "Who speaks Spanish besides me and Sanchez? Dolby?"

Bummer replied, "Yes, but pigin only. Jonesie does. He grew up in Arizona."

"Zee speaks it like a native," inserted Sally.

I shook my head emphatically. "No. Katja has taught her how to handle herself, but this could be some serious shit. I don't want her in the line of fire." And I damned sure didn't want to tell the Sheik that his daughter was killed for something that I hadn't even figured out.

I sat back and thought for a while, as the crew hashed out theories. I knew that as good as they were, they wouldn't come up with anything. There was too much intel that we didn't have.

Finally, I said to Telly. "See if Jonesie and Sanchez want to volunteer for a mission that will probably be both boring and deadly."

Back at the Brownsville office

"This is Mr. Jones. He will be the new interim manager for now." I had Jonesie dressed in the manner of a lower end office manager. He didn't like the fact that the attire didn't allow for him to carry any major concealed heat, but he had brought with him an under-desk holster that would hold a hogleg big enough to stop a truck. I didn't think he would have any problems, but I didn't want to lose a man. I warned him to keep a low profile when out of the office and always take the bus or a cab - any car he drove himself might wind up as scrap metal with him inside.

I didn't want payback - I wanted intelligence.

Two days later. My home

"When do we kick ass and take names?"

I looked up in surprise. "Katja! Jean!" I jumped up and hugged him in the French fashion, then her in the best American style. She gave back with a massive kiss.

Holding her at arms length, I asked, "Where did you learn that expression?"

"While we were waiting to hit the compound that held Rita. It seems to be a favorite expression of the American fighting man."

I waved them both to a lounger. "Sit down. RITA!! Some drinks!"

My girl came running in to the sudden summons, saw Katja and Jean, then ran over and embraced both in massive hugs. She knew that the Czech woman and the Frenchman had been instrumental in freeing her from her captor in the compound my team had raided. Then, crying and smiling at the same time, ran off to bring refreshments to us.

We filled each other in on what had happened since we last saw each other, then I began to tell the grim story of my satellite office - what little I knew of it, anyway. I knew they weren't here for a visit - violence and danger drew Katja like a bee to sugar water and Jean would go anywhere to be able to plan an operation. Besides, I knew that the Sheik had sent them.


A lower floor was being turned into a new clinic for my soon-to-be restored surgeon. Both he and his nurse wife had apparently gotten over their depression at being ripped loose from careers that they has spent much of their lives to develop. A very high end attorney and a couple of political connections of mine were at work on their legal problem.

I had Telly and Bummer take their teams out to our desert compound over a couple of weekends for some target practice and just general fire and maneuver drill. I wasn't sure what might happen down south, but I wanted everybody to have freshly honed skills.

A while back, I had asked Sally to find me some female candidates that fit a certain physical description. She brought a couple me to look at - their dossiers, that is, not the actual women. I shook my head. "Not close enough."

She gave a short shake of her head. "Boss, I can't do my job if you don't tell me what you want." Her tone of voice was the closest she would come to a reprimand of me.

I pulled a picture out of my desk drawer, laid it down and said. "The girl you are looking for needs to have the physical characteristics of her - not the face, obviously, just height, weigh, complexion and so forth.

Sally just sat there in her motorized chair, thinking furiously. In her face, I could see the processes of her logical mind churning through if-then-else and for-next statements. Because I only hire very good people, in just a few seconds the data sorted into an answer, her eyes few wide open and she quoted her lover with one of his favorite expressions.

"Holy Fucking Shit, Boss!" She just stared at me.

"Keep it quiet, for now. And that means no pillow talk with Chip, either." Still wide-eyed, she just nodded, and rolled back to her office.


The skull session broke up. Most of it was just bringing our guests up to speed. We had no additional data to make any kind of judgement with. Jean and Katja were starting to feel jet lag and needed to get some z's. As everyone left, Jean hung back. I knew he still wanted to talk.

I signed to Butterball for one more round of drinks - more to just have something to hold than any need for alcohol.

I sat down and said, "Ok, my French Mentor. I know you have something to say. Spill it."

He sat down also, looked through his glass, then began, "Mon Ami, you have a... what is the term? ... ah, oui, a blind spot." Pause "You and I are different. With you, it is the offensive that is important. As the saying goes, 'The best defense is a good offense' and you believe it. And that is true most of the time. I, of course, am diametrically opposite. With myself, it is the defense that is important. Protection is everything. Another battle can always be fought."

I was used to his roundabout ways of coming to a point, so I just continued to listen.

"You exude loyalty and attract it like... like... a magnet. You would trust your life to any of your men, and they would do the same with you. The Sheik has taken you into his deepest confidences far faster than any agent I have known. In his line of business, that depth of trust is unheard of. He sent you his favorite daughter for you to... monitor? Oui, to keep an eye on. Knowing his level of affection for her, that itself is an unbelievable confidence.

"Your beautiful redhead was an educated affluent woman, whom, through no fault of her own, was tossed into a stream of kidnapping, slavery and torture. She is still a slave. She can be sexually used any way and any time you choose. She has no will of her own. But, at any given time, she has ample opportunity to 'escape' from her life of slavery by walking out the door. I also know that she would stab anybody in the heart who tried to take her away from here.

"Your remarkable Mademoiselle Sally. If someone had told her years ago that she would be doing for you what she does now, she would have laughed in their face. And yet, in return for your trust in her when she was down, she willing does for you everyday, things that would have horrified her just to read about years ago.

"In short, you give loyalty and you get it."

In a sudden insight, I didn't like the way his train of words was going. "What are you saying, Jean? That I have a traitor in my circle of friends? Don't even think..."

He held up his hand and shook his head emphatically. "NO. NO. Mon Ami. I trust your compatriots as much as you do. What I am saying is that trust doesn't flow by osmosis." I shook my head in confusion. "D'accord," he went on. "Your office down south. Two murders. Two employees immediately leave. They are probably innocent - just afraid of violent happenings that they have no understanding of."

"But..." He wagged his finger. "Four employees stay. Why? For one thing, you are a kind employer and pay good wages. They probably enjoy the work. In today's market, there aren't that many jobs available. But there are other reasons for staying... like..."

" or more of them is in on the scheme, whatever it is," I finished for him. Goddammit. He was right. I had a blind spot big enough to drive a Bradley through. They were my employees and I automatically left them out of any suspicion. Hell, I didn't even know their names.

I got up, and slapped him on the shoulder. "Good work, my friend. I can always count on you to bring me back down to earth. Now, go get some rest. Rita will get you anything you need." Including any of the three pretty girls on my domestic staff, or even Butterball if that is who he wanted. For that matter, he could have Rita if that was his desire. She would love that. I had availed myself of his girls more times that I could count, and none were ever held back.

I had some heavy cogitation to do, but first a bath. Deep in thought, I had just dropped my clothes on the floor when I suddenly realized that my hot tub had more than just water in it.

"It's about time. I'm about to turn into a prune." I couldn't see any of the Czech assassin's body from the neck down through the soap suds, but already my body was anticipating renewing my acquaintance with it.

A few days later

Chip and Zee had returned from the southern office where they and Jonesie had worked all weekend installing some special electronics. I was preparing Sanchez to show up as another clerk in the office as soon as Sally could teach him enough to get started. Like many young men today, his public school education left something to be desired.

Sally and Jean got on together like lifelong friends. Both had razor sharp and logical minds, and together they had several optional plans to try, depending on where our first data led us.

That afternoon we were in Sally's office as she and Chip made the final connections. Then, blink...blink. Up on five computer screens were pictures - live video feeds from hidden cameras in the Brownsville office. One each in the parking lot, street view, Jonesie's office and two in the outer office.

"These are compressed mpegs," said Chip. "If we need high def, we can download and view them here."

Jean spoke up, "Could you translate that, Monsieur Chip?"

"Sorry. The cameras are very high resolution and we can't get that kind of picture to transmit over the Internet connection that is available in that office - especially five videos at once. It's too slow. But the video server on site is storing the full pictures and if we need to view one, we can download it from there and see it here." He tapped on the keyboard for a few seconds then went on. "I would have loved to put full pan and zoom cameras there so we could zero in on anything we want, but it would have been impossible to hide them - at least over one weekend's work."

That was good work. "Ok, people, until something happens, go back to what you need to do."

Time passes

After enough days had gone by, I sent Sanchez to Brownsville to 'apply' for a job. Of course, Jonesie didn't 'know' him when he applied. As a happenstance, Sanchez was given a desk that faced the managers office and was positioned in a way that the other employees weren't in any line of fire, should it come to that.

We were relaxing in the western lounge. Chip and Zee were going over every manifest from Mexico in the last six months, trying to find anything that was out of order. Even the times between border crossing and delivery were scrutinized to try to determine if any of the trucks had made an unauthorized detour. Very few of the trucks had the satellite tracking system so all we had were some hazy route estimations.

Katja and Jean were kibitzing, not familiar enough with our work to help in this kind of data chase.

Chip printed out a sheet. "Here are fourteen that possibly took longer than normal on a given leg. But that's just a guess. Heck, there could be any number of reasons for the delays. Besides, if one or more had contraband, it would only have taken a few minutes to transfer it to a pickup truck or something on the normal route."

They had been hammering on the data for a couple of hours. "Whatcha think," I asked.

Chip shook his head. "Not enough data. Statistically, I can prove that all of them took longer than they should in their routes... or that they all ran them faster than normal. There's nothing in the actual routes or end destinations comparison results except random statistical noise. What we need is..." He looked up as Sally came through the door, It was obvious that it wasn't to see if it was happy hour. She had been heads down in her office working on something all afternoon.

"Move over, Hon," she said as she pushed Chip away from the laptop. "Boss, I need someone who reads Spanish to look at this." Katja, Zee and I all gathered behind her. "Here is an example that I ran though an Internet translator but I want someone to verify what I think is going on." To Chip she said, "Get the videos of camera 3 for today, starting about 14:00."

In a few seconds, Zee made some exclamation that I didn't recognize. Actually, I didn't even hear it over my emphatic, "Son of a fucking bitch!" We were looking at an Instant Messaging stream between Maria in the Brownsville office and someone giving orders to her from somewhere else. Besides a list of truck schedules that was sent by her, she received orders for various drivers to stop for so many minutes at various places on the other side of the border, then to make corresponding stops on this side.

Chip stuck his head in the door with a "Boss," and a nod to follow him. I followed him down the hall to another computer on which he had been accessing whatever Sally had asked for. There was only one in the western lounge at the moment, and he had had to find another. Sally didn't allow wireless access from my network since there is nothing easier to crack. All hardware besides phones were hardwired to only go through her series of firewalls and other security appliances.

The camera feed that Sally had asked for was positioned behind the office employees and made it easy to see whatever came and went on their monitors. The hi-res video made it easy to watch a visual version of what the crew in the other room was reading about.

"How many days worth of video do you have?"

He spread his hands in an encompassing gesture. "...ahhhh. Twelve days or so. Ever since we installed the cameras."

I nodded. "Go back through all of that angle and see how often she does this. And if anyone else is in on it."

In the lounge, the crew was now all business. Jean was taking notes from the girls as Zee and Katja read through the stream of text while Sally hooked up another computer. I didn't bother them and turned around to find one of my domestic crew. Cinnamon was the first one I ran across, and signed to her to find Rita, chop, chop. She came running up and I told her to prepare for a long night - sandwiches, finger food and drinks. No alcohol. Off she went at a jog.

For the next several hours, Mister Sergeant, that fearsome reincarnation of Conan the Barbarian, was reduced to a gofer. I hauled equipment, hunted for cables, brought more printer paper up from the offices downstairs and acted as a Maitre d' to Rita and her staff - calling for more coffee, snacks and food whenever supplies ran low. The western lounge now looked like a surplus computer store with cables all over the floor and a half dozen computers setup all around the room.

Late that night

Sally was acting as the mistress of ceremonies and was wrapping up her spiel. " we definitely have two employees and at least 7 drivers in on the deal. We still don't know what they are 'importing' but I doubt that anyone here can't make an educated guess. I have the IP of the sender, but it will take a while before I can get it traced to a physical address."

Chip spoke up. "It's going to lead to a drug lord - has to. The only question is which side of the border it's on."

Sally shook her head. "No. The real question here is what are we going to do about the situation." She looked at me, offering a chance to take over, but I just stared back. "A few things come to mind," she continued. "We can back out of the problem by shutting down the operation and restarting anew. Or just fire the employees and replace them. Drivers are a bigger problem. Any replacements that cross the border can be and probably will be either offered a deal or threatened with one."

"Shutting down their operation is probably not an option. If two governments haven't been able to put a dent in drug smuggling, I doubt that we can."

Jean spoke up. "A thought comes to mind. Someone has a nice... des affaires... operation? Oui. ...operation set up here. I doubt they will be overjoyed to see it brought down. And, if you change out the miscreants working for them, it will be a dead... giveaway? ...giveaway that we are on to them."

Zee asked. "Why is it so important for them to use your company for smuggling? I was under the impression that there were many avenues that were used for illegal importation."

Sally shook her head. "There are lots of other routes for smuggling, but almost all of them are really tough. The remote border is being patrolled more heavily as time goes on. Since 9/11 it is almost impossible to fly a plane into the country without having a fighter jet show up beside you. And the Coast Guard of most countries, and ours, is really cracking down." She picked up a finger sandwich - the first food I had seen her reach for all night. "Right now, all the legal garbage that has been holding up non-US truckers under the NAFTA treaty is just about over and rubber wheeled cross-border trade is really picking up. And because of the touchiness of the legal ruckus, trucks crossing the border are really getting a pass. Nobody wants to be accused of using customs searches to hinder competition - for now, anyway. And R&R has a very good reputation with the authorities - we always inform them when contraband is found in our loads. So... We're made to order for their smuggling use."

I had been furiously musing over the facts as they were presented, and had a major question that I had to answer before we did anything rash. I stood up and looked over my crew. Did I want to start a war, or just try to back out of the situation? But, that question was not for tonight.

"Ok, it's late and the day has not been without excitement. Everybody go to bed. Tomorrow is another day and we'll start planning what's going to happen." As everyone began to rise, I said to Sally, "Excellent work, lady. Remind me to give you a raise."

She smiled, and replied, "Can I ask a question?"

"Of course," I replied.

"How about a raise, Boss?"

I looked at her with a frown. "I dunno. I'll have to look at the budget." I thought of something. "Bye the bye, before you turn in, send a message to Telly and Bummer that I need to see them in the next couple of days.

Rita was disappointed that night. I lay there with my mind racing until the wee early hours and my blood supply just wasn't sufficient to run both my brain and my pecker. I told her to either do herself, or go bed down with Jean or one of her girls - I needed to think.


After breakfast, I gave a short summation of my plans, and then started giving orders. Katja's mission was to see how she would crack my home and building, if someone had sent her on an assassination mission against it. Then plug the holes and try again.

Chip was to keep digging through the server logs and the video files from the Brownsville office and see if he could wring out any more data.

Sally's job was to find who was on the other end.

Zee, Jean and I started a skull session as to some possible avenues of action.

As he stood up, Chip reminded me. "Boss, we were about to start the cheerleader op." That was a capture operation of a really beautiful ex-pro football cheerleader. And a really evil one. Sally had incontestable proof that she was a family destroying, career ending, blackmailing bitch.

"Hmmm, Yes..." I replied. "We can hold off a few days on that one."

Jean and Zee and I just talked in generalities and laid out a few what-ifs and if-thens. Without any intel about what we were up against, there was no way to even begin any real planning.

Later that morning, both Telly and Bummer showed up in response to the message from Sally last night. I briefed them on what was happening - or at least what we thought was happening and told them to have the rest of the crew tuned up and standing by, just in case. Shortly, several new bulges in their clothes indicated that they took my warning seriously.

I knew that we didn't just have the option that we used to payback Yilmaz for the kidnapping of Rita. Storming down to some druggies compound and shooting it up would just start a war in which we would be way outnumbered. Finesse was called for.

Days pass

In a few days, an alteration was made to some of the trailers that we sent south. Before they were picked up by the driver, Telly had a team member connect a hidden recording GPS logger, following instructions by Chip. Right now we had them on four trailers, and within a few weeks, several more would be carrying them. Some trailers were provided already loaded by the customer, so those weren't tagged, but even so, we should be able to discern the locations of any unauthorized stops. Another team member would be on hand when the trailer was delivered to the customer on our end. He would pull the device and send the data to Sally.

Meanwhile, business had to go on as usual. Both sides of it. In an exclusive California hotel, a complimentary drink and exquisite snack tray was delivered to the suite of a newly affluent swell. As the woman turned away to find her purse for a tip, she jumped and cursed as the injection tube was stabbed into the side of her neck. Sander only had to restrain the struggling woman for a minute or so until the la-la juice took effect. Quickly, he stripped off his hotel worker's uniform, stepped to the mirror to straighten out his suit, then draped an evening wrap over the stupefied woman. Shortly, he and his obviously too-early drinking date casually, if unsteadily, walked out a side entrance to a waiting cab.

In an hour or so, Dunkelberry was flying the three of them across country.

My Home

Katja had made major changes to the security of my building. She pointed out that if someone hired her to hit us, she would just drop a team from a helicopter onto the roof, then just walk down the service stairs. A good point. Helicopters were all over the city, and one more wouldn't even be noticed. That hole was patched - any flying machine that came within 100 meters of my building would set off alarms.

The elevator was now modified to sound a musical tone upstairs if the button to my floor was pressed and/or the key was turned. Naturally, the elevator service company refused to make such modifications for legal reasons, so Chip did the work one night. A new procedure was put in place for anyone who was coming up to call before entering the lift. And the call had to have one of three keywords embedded in the conversation. Another sensor was put in the shaft just below my floor. It it tripped and nobody was expecting visitors, then whomever was framed in the elevator doors was going to be staring into some serious hardware.

On the top four levels, the door leading to each of the two fire stairs were replaced with massive steel portals and openable only from the inside. The top two floor doors were also alarmed.

More days pass

Another meeting in the western lounge, which was now permanently wired with a dozen computer network outlets. Everybody was there, including all of the external team members - even Jonesie and Sanchez - who had all been brought up to speed on current events. Sally was drawing on a whiteboard. "...On the average of about every two or three days, a truck will detour to this location." She pointed to a map on a laptop in front of us. "It's a large mansion - not rural, but not in the middle of town, either. On the other end, we can't tell where the truck stops for the drop off. None of the GPS tracks show a common point on this side of the border. I suspect that a pickup or SUV pulls up to the rig at a rest stop and the crate, or package or whatever, is transferred."

I nodded and pointed to Sanchez. He stood up, somewhat uncomfortably. Giving talks in front of an audience wasn't his bailiwick. "Uhhh... I roamed around across the border for a couple of days pretending to be a gulf oil field worker in off the drilling rig. It wasn't any problem getting info on that compound - hell... I mean, heck, everybody in town knew what it was and who owned it." He looked at a piece of paper. "His name is Jorge Francos and tipsters say he came from the Almerez gang, down south. Actually, he might be a subsidiary of it - that isn't an organization that usually allows people to resign. Anyway, he's a petty thug, big ego, likes to use violence to prove that he's the Rey Grande of that area. The bas... dude isn't above wasting a family's kids to prove it. Or anybody else. He has about thirty hired guns around the place. From what I could tell, no professionals - just punks who know how to pull a trigger."

Sally spoke up again. "Jonesie. We don't have a monopoly on covert surveillance. That office could have a half dozen bugs besides ours. Including the phone. You and Sanchez need to operate like everything you say and do is recorded." She handed both of the men a box. "These are go phones. If you need to call up her to discuss the operation, use them and for god's sake, get out of the office before you do."

The briefing went on for a couple of hours. I finally stood up and began the closing spiel. "Ok. I think everybody has the picture of what has happened and is apparently happening. Here's the deal. We're not going to get involved in a war if we can help it. No profit in that and certainly not in getting one or some of us killed by some wannabe drug lord. But, neither are we going to be a set of mules to help bring this poison into the country." I looked around, but nobody wanted to interrupt. "First thing, is that we are going to alter the game a little and see how the other side reacts. Who knows? He or they might just find another trucking company or they may go berserk, or anything in between. We'll find out."

"Now, Jean. I would like for you to take Sally and Zee home with you for a vacation. Out of the line of fire, so to speak. Just in case."

He nodded and started to reply, but Sally cut him off. "No way Boss!" She smiled at the Frenchman, then looked back at me. "I would love to see Jean's home someday, but this is my operation too. Besides, who is going to run the intel operation? Chip?" She slapped him on the arm. "He can barely send emails correctly." She was joking, of course. Chip didn't have the professional computer skills of Sally, but he was an all around techie.

From the looks that Zee was giving me, she wasn't leaving either. Jean just shrugged. I knew that he considered the female of the species to be totally unfathomable.

"Ok," I said. "On your heads be it." And mine too, if Zee got killed by some punk hired gun. "Ok, Jonesie. You and Sanchez can head back when you want. Stay frosty and remember that I want intel more than a body count. But I also want you back alive."

The desert. Luxor Test Facility

I cracked open the door and looked across at our latest captive. She was awake, but just sitting on her mat staring off in the distance. She was a real dish - not a teenager, but still a well built young woman. Of course, that was a given considering that just last year she was on the cheerleading section of a pro football team. Big hips, narrow waist and huge tits that were still high. Made to be a man's cushion, if not much else. She was chained by both ankles to the walls, and her wrists had bracelets already encircling them, even though nothing was connected - yet.

Apparently she had gotten a taste of the high life of pro sports, and wanted it to continue after being cut by the team. She had drifted, probably by happenstance, into dating men with rich wives and then blackmailing them with the obvious. She had come to my attention when a political aide to the governor came to me in frantic confidence, looking for a favor and asking if there was a way out of his predicament. It was a no brainer. Not only was she a good catch, but I had another chit that I could cash someday. Plus, I was doing her a favor. That kind of game eventually came to a final end when the blackmailer picked on the wrong mark.

A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she was instantly on her feet. She wasn't a wallflower - her sudden rage might have been feigned, but it looked real enough for me to warn myself to make sure that her fingers didn't get near my eyes - or her foot to get near my cojones. As I walked over to her corner, I ignored the expected threats, pleas, and predictions of my doom in the near term. I had heard the same from many women before her. Finally, as I stood there looking, her wrath, phony or not, collapsed and she simply asked, "What do you want?"

"For now, you mean?" I played along. "Well... First, I want to cut off all your clothes and examine your body." As expected, that set her off again, so, as to save time for both of us, I stepped up to her and put my fist into her solar plexus. Not hard, just enough to knock the breath out of a female. As she doubled over, I pushed her to the floor on her stomach, pulled her arms behind her, and clipped the bracelets together. Then I released her ankles from the wall chains and pulled her to the center of the room.

Once again, her ankles were connected, only this time widely spread. I pulled her to her feet and connected each of the ceiling chains to the corresponding wrist, then removed the clip holding her wrists together. By the time I walked over to the winch on the wall, she was recovering and beginning to straighten up. Shortly, she was stretched vertically for my inspection.

My KBar made short work of her silk blouse, then her evening dress. She had really dressed up for the aborted date that night. The pile of cloth at her feet used to be fairly expensive attire. Next, her G-string easily pulled off with a single cut, then it was time for the icing. By now, she was starting to babble again and thrash in her fetters as what was happening to her finally reached her consciousness. I wasn't listening as I put the knife blade between her tits, cutting edge out. A short stroke later, and the pair of luscious boobs jumped out of the cloth. Wow! What a set. High, firm and, for a woman of her size, just at the line between being awesome or being grotesque.

Her thrashing and volume increased even more as I weighed them with both hands, wondering if they were real. I couldn't feel any implants, but in actual fact, I really didn't know what artificial boobs would feel like. Big nipples, too. And they were real - as I pinched down on both, she suddenly stopped her babbling pleas and threw her head back with a loud "AAAUUUUUUUGGGGGG!" That kept her attention off the fact that I had now stooped down in front of her and pulled her pussy open by both outer lips. Hmmmm. A standard twat, but I hadn't expected anything else.

From the back, I spread her cheeks and examined an ordinary little ass star. Back around front, a little more fingering and titty bobbling was all that I could take. As she watched with ever-widening eyes, I began to strip off my clothes...

Time passes

Jonesie got a "call" from the home office that turned the Brownsville office on end. He announced that a truck had been found with our imports but that also had a stash of illegal drugs. As a result, we would be doing no more importing by truck until the investigation was over. And the news was real, even if the call wasn't. We selected a truck that had made the detour to the compound over the border, searched it and found two hundred pounds of pot. Then, in all innocence, like a good corporate citizen, we called in the DEA. They assumed that it was a one time event, since we had never had the problem before. But it gave us a reason to stop importing via truck to see what the scumbags might do.

During lunch that day we saw the instant message go out that gave the details of the news. One thing I knew for sure was that, whatever happened, both of those traitorous females were destined for one of Tarkan's cells.

I wanted to send some more of my grunts down there to beef up the defense, but there was absolutely no place to conceal them in that office. Besides, I couldn't make several guys sit in a hidden room for maybe weeks on end for something that probably would never happen. Jonesie and his partner would just have to stay on high alert.

We certainly were alert on our end, but what was bothering me was that as far as anybody on the outside knew, the R&R business was run out of the real offices four floors below. And my people down there were total legitimate and had no idea about any drug import problems.

So, due to technical problems, I had access restricted to the R&R floor to one elevator with no stops between the lobby and the office. That would be much easier to watch. A temporary sign indicated to visitors of R&R of which one they would have to take. A new bank of high res cameras was installed watching the entire hallway leading to that elevator with the monitors in the lounge. Telly's and Bummer's crews took two hour watches on the monitors, looking especially for multiple males that seemed out of place.

Time passes

Sally came to me with a news article where a certain wealthy dude up in the northeast had been caught with multiple overseas money laundering accounts. I debated for a while, but decided not to burden Rita with the news that her ex was destined for bankruptcy and probably Federal prison. The end of another successful op.

Meanwhile, my surgeon opened his doors after the successful restoration of his credentials and license.

Time passes

By now, the operation center was moved from the western lounge to an empty office across from Sally's, one floor below. I needed the lounge back because I was still entertaining politicians and political hopefuls and that room was always a favorite of my guests. It not only looked toward the setting sun, but over most of the city. I now had given enough money, and had often supplied a very flavorful location for confidential meetings, that I now had the ear of most state politicians. And not a few national ones. I always got an invitation to any events that were happening, and free use of sky boxes at sports bowls. Most of the time, the guys on my teams used the tickets for the football games, but I had to at least attend some of the political events - even though I usually hated the evening. My usual escort was Rita, of course, and she loved the events.

I still had no use for political connections at the moment. - but I had some plans in formulation in which they might come in handy, someday. But, by happenstance, an invitation to a weekend on a yacht opened up an interesting possible sideline. By 'yacht', I actually mean a boat that was practically a miniature Queen Mary, although I doubt that the original ship was even close to the same elegance. The owner, a massively rich oil man, was hosting the governor and certain important advisors. I was invited because of my support of the machine in my part of the state. And, because it was an outing for couples, I took Rita along. She had to communicate with her smartphone screen, but despite the fact that new acquaintances always assumed that she was a big boobed kept woman - a dumb broad, so to speak - Rita's past was that of an intelligent upper class educated woman and she had no problem holding her own in high society.

The first evening, during a break in the alcohol and the plotting, I took Rita up to an observation deck and we both looked out over the vast distance to the barely visible port. It was at this point that a young crony of the governor came up and nodded to me. Bob - that name will do as well as any other - was an acquaintance, no more. Seemed a normal enough guy, but I knew nothing about him. After a few pleasantries, and his greeting to my girl, he said, "Can I ask you a personal question, Rodger?" Hmmmm. What was this about? As it turned out, at least at first, it was just a friendly interchange between two young men not far enough up the political ladder to be meeting in the owner's stateroom.

"Where did you get such a... a... desirable woman?" As I opened my mouth to answer, he continued. "And I'm not talking about her appearance." He looked admiringly at Rita. "You, my dear, are stunning. But, I mean, her character... demeanor... whatever you want to call attitude toward life."

I looked around to make sure we were alone. "What's wrong, Bob? The significant other getting you down?"

He hesitated for a moment, then said, "Jerry," - another good name for the person that I helped get away from the blackmailing cheerleader - said female who was, by the way, now at Hassan's establishment learning how to be nice. "Jerry said you helped him with a serious woman problem a while back." I just looked blankly at him, then he continued. "He didn't say what, or anything about it, but I didn't need a degree in psychology to notice that he had about a ton of worry lifted off him." 'Jerry' couldn't have said what happened - he had no clue. All he knew was that the woman got out of his life and that is all he cared about.

"And you have a woman problem?" I asked, blandly.

"That goddammed bitch... Sorry, Rita... wife is wonderful in the sack, or vacation, or while doing anything else she likes to do. It's the rest of the time that makes her the spawn of hell."

"And I assume that divorce isn't an option?" I knew it wasn't. His straight-laced boss would can his ass in a second before he would allow one half of a freshly broken marriage on his team. He shook his head as Rita typed on her phone. Shortly, she showed the message to me, and after I nodded, allowed Bob to read it.

Incredulity took over his face as he read, "I was taught the proper way to treat men in a slave trader's bazaar." I saw the twinkle in her eye as she watched her message being read.

Still with his mouth open, he looked at me but the words couldn't quite come out. I filled in the silence. "Don't look at me. I didn't put her there. I just rescued her from the place." Not entirely true, but not completely false, either. "But, they do accept applicants." I was joking, but those five words were like the match that lights the fuse.

For the rest of the evening, I could see Bob surreptitiously looking at Rita, trying to believe what he had been told.

Time passes

Myself and the five of my inside staff were having a relaxing status meeting in the western lounge. Nothing had happened on the Brownsville front, and nothing imminent was planned as far as appropriating new applicants for Tarken's hotel. Sally was expounding with her usual whiteboard when suddenly, her eyes almost bugged out of her head as she looked past me toward the door. I spun around and then stood stock still.

The three men were here on business, and the business ends of all three automatics were pointed at us. It obvious that two were just gun toting thugs, but the other was a boss. With an almost unnoticeable accent, he said, "Everybody will please sit down, very slowly, no sudden movements." I slowly settled back in my chair, furiously wondering if this was related to the Brownsville operation, or had some connection with the my business as the Sheik's agent.

"Good. Good. Continue to cooperate and there is a slight possibility that you will still be alive tonight to enjoy the marvelous view." One of the thugs moved to the right to get a good crossfire position, should it be needed. "I have come to give you a set of orders. Please believe me when I say that I am not here to negotiate. You WILL do what you are told, or action will be taken." Since we were all seated, it would have been suicide to attempt any heroics against any one of the deadly machine pistols, let alone three. I hoped that the fighters in my crew knew that. He continued. "The action will be the extermination of all of you and everybody close to you - family, friends, acquaintances. Believe me, my Patron does not allow for any disobayment of his instructions."

From that made up word, I now knew that, even as well as he spoke, English was a second language with him. "You have the floor, it seems. Spill it."

"You have an efficient and well regarded freight business. As you probably know, it has become very difficult to move any of our products over the border without expensive and time consuming operations. You will arrange for certain of your trucks to pick up a barrel, or crate, whenever ordered. Then it will be delivered to the appropriate... ah, location.

"So, you want us to help you in the illegal drug business. Do you..."

He waved me to silence. In a deliberately phony, almost Hollywood cliche manner, he said, "No. No. You misunderstand. You ARE going to assist us. Or whoever takes over your business will do so." He had grown tired of holding his weapon up, and it was now dangling at his side as he went through his spiel, but still, he could have it up and half the magazine shot off before I even began to get out of the chair. "You seem to be uninterested in cooperating. Let me demonstrate that we are serious." He pointed at Zee. "Stand up." He turned to the flunky next to him and said in Spanish. "One round in each knee."

Shit! "Wait a minute. I haven't said we weren't going to help." He just smiled as the man moved over and brought the gun up. I prepared to launch myself at both. Hopefully dead or alive, I would be able to knock both aside. Maybe the others could...

"BOOOM!!!" It sounded like a cannon had gone off as I saw the chest of the flunky explode outward. Before I could get my bearings, out of the corner of my eye I saw Katja's arm move in a blur, and suddenly a knife appeared in the shoulder of the boss man. The reflex pain caused him to drop his Uzi. The other thug, naturally and automatically turned toward the sound of the first shot and couldn't quite recover and turn back before Chip cannoned into him. The man pulled the trigger and a stream of nine millimeter slugs ripped into the carpet, just inches from both Jean and Zee. By now, both Katija and I had our weapons out, but Chip was in the way of any shot. Chip managed to keep the Uzi pushed away, then landed a chop to the man's throat with the other. The gun stopped, either from an empty mag, or because of the pain. Katja had the boss's forehead lined up in her sights and I was staring down the barrel at the other assailant. Chip began twisting the thug's head off. Fortunately, that's an operation that takes two good limbs and his injured flipper didn't have the strength to complete the operation.

"NOOO, CHIP. STOP!" He did. "We need to ask him some questions first." He nodded, then, with his good arm, balled his fist and cold cocked the goon, who just slid to the floor.

Looking down the barrel of my pistol, I jerked back in the direction of the door to see which of my crew had just luckily, for us, happened to show up to intervene in the unwelcome meeting. My jaw dropped. Rita was standing there, wide eyed, holding the .357 magnum from my bed headboard.


We hauled the unconscious bastard into one of my unused rooms, stripped him naked as a precaution against hidden weapons, and chained him by the neck to one wall and an ankle to another. The boss dude was patched up and chained in another room. I didn't want them to try to bump themselves off in any way until I had a talk with both. Some serious talks.

Katja and I checked the only three entrances to the top floor - the two emergency stairwells and the elevator. Shortly, the entry point was obvious. The hinges on one stairwell door had been thermited.

Back in the lounge, the stiff had been wrapped in a piece of plastic and also hauled to a back room. The carpet was going to have to have some major work. Chip had taken the gun from Rita's shaking hands so she didn't blow a hole in someone or something else by accident. I'm not mocking my redhead for her reaction - by the time things had settled down, I was shaking so hard I almost had to lean against the wall to keep my legs from collapsing under me.

Sally said what we were all thinking, "I could use a drink." Then with emphasis, "Bad!"

Rita nodded, then turned and began to move toward the door. Jean stopped her with a hand on her upper arm. "No, no, Mademoiselle," he said to her. "You are the guest of honor. Please sit down over there." She looked at him, confused, then at me and I nodded. Jean escorted her to the couch as I went in search of the other girls, no doubt hiding under a bed somewhere, wondering what the firefight was about. Eventually, I found Butterball and told her to locate the other girls, then get her ass in the lounge and start taking orders.

Eventually, we were all seated with our designated beverage, mostly in silence. I knew that in a little while, we would all be jabbering to each other as we commented on the past hour or so. Rita was sitting in the center of the couch, holding a large margarita in shaking hands. I wanted to sit next to her, but Zee was on one side and Jean on the other and neither had any intention of moving. They were having trouble because both wanted to put their arm around her shoulders.

I wondered just how the hell I was going to reward her for not only saving our asses, but for the totally correct response that she took. Taking out the man who was going to shoot, instead of the boss who was talking was the absolutely correct action, and almost assuredly saved Zee's life at the minimum.

I made everybody stay in my home, overnight, and we took turns standing sentry in the hallway. I had no idea how big this was and until I got some more intel, we were staying on full alert.


It was balls-to-the-wall the next day, as we started our search for answers. The members from my two action teams were on site now, and armed to the teeth. They patrolled both floors while the rest of us were meeting. I was about to begin the interview of our captive goons when Katja came up to me. "Roger." she started, quietly. "I was trained in the art of interrogation - intensively."

Hmmmm. I thought about it for a moment. My art of asking questions of some SOB who didn't want to answer was crude - I just beat the shit out of him and shouted. Having a professional on the job might garner much better results. I nodded and gestured to the room. I had plenty of other stuff to do, anyway.

We had taken the fingerprints of the stiff and the live goons and dispatched them downtown by courier after a call to a political acquaintance. Meanwhile, Sally and Chip were going through the building security video frame by frame. They had answered one question - it didn't appear that the guard or guards were in on it. We saw the uniformed man sitting at the desk, then look up suddenly, jump to his feet and hurry down the hall. Obviously in response to some staged emergency. In a few seconds, the three appeared, entered the stairwell and disappeared. Now the only question was where did they get the key? Of course, for a professional, I assume that it would be easy.

Another question was how they connected my house as the point of control for R&R. Why didn't they hit the real office downstairs and accost me there?

We were still short of information. The goons that Katja was playing patty cake with were our only link so far.

I stood up and called for everybody's attention. "Ok, people. We are in the war we didn't want, and things have to happen fast if we are to get this mess calmed down. We need to buy some time while we figure out just what the hell is really going down here. So start thinking - everybody!"


Katja came into the room and everybody looked up. She walked up to me and said quietly, "They wouldn't say much more than we already know. And I'm not sure that they actually knew any more." She looked around, then continued, "They were from the Jorges organization and they deal in drugs. We were to be their unwilling... mules?" I nodded. "...mules. No new information except that the underling said something that makes me think that they have been trying to get information about your company from employees downstairs."

"Shit," I exclaimed. "More traitors on my payroll?"

She shook her head. "No. No. I don't think so. I believe they just befriended one of the clerks who likes to... to... drink in taprooms. I doubt that he was in on it."

I stood there thinking about her info. That would explain how they knew that I lived above the business. Hmmmm.

Chip spoke up. "The question now is, what do we do with them?"

Katja shook her head. "Alas, the... goon that you took down tried to strangle me from behind and I was forced to defend myself. And when I got back to his honcho, that person had ripped off his bandages and bled to death. They are more afraid of their Patron than death, it appears." She looked me in the eye as she spoke, and I barely nodded in return.

I turned around toward the others. "Ok, one problem solved, but we still have to figure out what to do from... Sally?" I could tell that she needed to speak.

She just stood there for a moment then began. "Ok, you want to quiet this down for a while so we can do some serious planning, right?" I nodded. "Ok..." Pause. "The Man's goon's did their job. They terrified you into compliance and proof of that will be first thing tomorrow when the office gets an urgent order to immediately start the trucks again." Pause. So far so good. "Unfortunately, his team must have crossed paths with a competing gang when they got back over the border, since they were found dead just outside of town." Yesss... I thought. As good a plan as any. And a hell of a lot better than anything I had come up with. Son of a bitch! Maybe I should just turn the business over to Sally and lay around screwing Rita and her girls. She was turning into a first class conniver. Amazing what giving a person a single chance in life will do. I made a note to transfer a considerable sum of money to her offshore account.

"Ok. That is the plan we will go with. Rita, ask Dunk to come in here. Sally, you and Chip figure out how we are going to get those stiffs across the border - and fast. They're going to be getting ripe. I'll tell the office downstairs that we are starting the border importing again and Dunkelberry will fly me to Brownsville to brief Jonesie. Questions? Ok. Go."

One finally thing needed to be done before bedtime. I sent the Sheik a message about what was going on and a suggestion about his daughter. She could take care of herself, but she was a long way from being a combat person. I didn't want an amateur underfoot in a firefight - especially one that we had to look out for. We were going to have our hands full looking out for ourselves. Fortunately, he took the hint, and called Zee back home on some pretense.

Time passes

Every day, we met to plan how to get out of the hole we were in, and preferably make a profit on the operation at the same time. Jean prepared to fly back home to oversee his organization, but promised to come back when anything was planned to happen. Then...

'Bob', the aide to the governor, asked to see me. I had a suspicion of what he wanted, but now just wasn't the time. Unfortunately, in politics a request denied is a slight to be remembered so I told him to stop by.

I invited him to the usual lounge and Rita stood by to serve us with refreshments. Finally, after amenities were traded back and forth, I said, "Ok, Bob. This is about your wife. Spill it."

Looking around, he said quietly, "Crap, is it that obvious?"

"You don't have to whisper up here. My place is more secure than the Pentagon." Unfortunately, recent events had proved otherwise, but it was a good line to settle him down.

He nodded, took a deep breath, and started, "Ok. I have to do something about Arlene. Something. Anything." He paused. "You said you knew of a place that could... adjust a woman's attitude. My question is, were you joking?"

Holy shit. Now what do I do? Furiously thinking as I slowly spoke, I began, "No, I wasn't joking. I don't know anything about it, but I know that such a place exists." I ran though options in my mind like a grunt trying to find a foxhole in an artillery barrage. "The problem is, she isn't going to go to that place voluntarily, and if you force her into it, all it will do is get you arrested when she 'graduates'." I thought of another factor. "Not only that, but if she just disappears, the cops are going to put you to the third degree as the obvious suspect."

He nodded, "Yeah, it's just a dumb daydream. It was stupid to even ask you about it. But, I'm going to have to..."

He stopped as I held up my hand. "Give me your card. I have an acquaintance who, I think, is knowledgeable about certain aspects of... of... female education. If you want, I'll see if he will talk to you."

Bob gulped and then nodded.

I held up a finger. "One thing more. I don't want to know what happens and this conversation never took place. You will never speak to me on the subject again. Agreed?"

I showed him out, then relaxed in Rita's chair with a nice stiff green liquid, then, seeing her standing in the doorway, waved her to come over and join me. She immediately ran over, her silk dress flowing out behind her, then snuggled up to me and waited to be offered a sip. For the next hour or so, I outlined a possible scenario and asked her opinion on various aspects of it.

Before Jean left for France, I discussed the plan with him. He laughed at the idea, but thought it was a great experiment and agreed to set it up while I was working on our much more serious problem. He also informed me of another facet of the Sheik's operation that I had heard nothing about. Jeez, how far did his tentacles spread?

End of Book 4

Copyright© 2012 by Morlock. All rights reserved.