DISCLAIMER: This is an Uber story, which means that the two main characters bear a striking resemblance to a certain Warrior Princess and her Bard <g>. Xena and Gabrielle are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

LOVE/SEX WARNING DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it.

Please send comments and/or constructive criticism to tkocialski@catskill.net



Trish Kocialski


Friday, 0530 Hours… The Day After Thanksgiving

Morning came quickly for the young woman. Sunlight was barely creeping into the small cramped bedroom, waking the pride of cats sprawled out on the bed covers. Mewing and stretching served as the alarm clock for the other occupant of the bed. "OK guys, I get the hint" mumbled the strawberry blonde as she started to get out of the bed. With her eyes still shut, she crawled out, quickly grabbing her tattered but favorite flannel robe to guard against the chill of the early morning air.

"Guess I forgot to close the windows again last night." she advised the cats who were now running back and forth in anticipation of their morning meal. "One of these nights, I'll remember to close that darn window before I wake up in the morning!" she admonished herself out loud. I just like leaving it open so the kids can get some fresh air while I'm out, she thought. Her companions are cooped up for such long periods without any company while she's at work, thus her open window theory of "cat entertainment."

Katie worked three jobs to keep herself, and her felines, afloat in the current economic condition of the county. Living in a "tourist" paradise was not all fun and games, at least not for the non-tourist. The locals, who had to eke out their livings in a variety of ways, had to pay the same inflated prices for groceries, gas, fast food, pharmacy items, etc. that the tourists did, only they didn't have the bottomless wallets that the tourists seemed to own. Since most of the area employers would not hire "full time" so they wouldn't have to pay benefits, Katie worked three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Juggling the schedule for three jobs really took some master planning on her part, but she felt it was definitely worth the effort to keep herself employed in the town of her choosing.

"Let's see. Do you guys want Captains Choice or Gourmet Grub? she asked her attentive felines. "Greouw" answered the chubby tortoise shell cat named Butter, followed by two more meows. "Oh, grub eh? Well, that works for me." She reached over to the top of the counter and grabbed the can opener, a spoon, and three saucers to divvy up the cans contents. Butter, Sugar, and Spice all chowed down and then finished with their morning ablutions. Katie watched them until she decided it was time to attend to her own ablutions. She gathered herself up and went to the bathroom to grab a quick shower before putting on her waitress outfit for the early morning shift at Burp & Freddies Diner, a local favorite with the tourist crowd. Emerging from the shower, Katie wiped down the mirror and took a good look at herself. Not bad. Not bad at all kiddo. Guess my little homemade exercise regimen is doing the trick. After all, I can't be spending time at the gym on my work schedule! Katie always took pride in the way she looked, but wanted to be extra cautious that her hidden strength remained just that... hidden. No one should suspect that this 5'6" blonde was anything but a struggling young woman.

* * * * * *

On her way to Burp & Freddies, Katie reflected on the current influx of tourists. It was the end of November and the height of hunting season for deer. The "tourists" at this time of year were not like their summer counter parts, who were a lot more refined and at least knew what proper behavior meant. This lot however, was from a different cut of cloth, or perhaps, it was the season that brought out different mannerisms. They were also not necessarily the best tippers but just wait hunting season was just starting… it'll get worse! Sighing, Katie pulled her pristine, turquoise blue, 1957 Chevy into the back of the parking lot that was used by the hired help. "Another day, another dollar" she quipped to herself.

Katie had been trying all sorts of ways to avoid the verbal onslaughts that were typical of this year's batch of hunters. Unfortunately for Katie, she was the most attractive waitress at the diner and had to put up with the brunt of crude remarks therefore making her job harder than for most of her fellow workers. She tried her best not to offend the customers since her tips were greatly affected by her actions, but at times, the crudeness just got to her and sometimes she'd just have to do what she deemed necessary to maintain her dignity but not lose her job. She just felt in her bones that today was going to be one of those days that tested her to the limit.

"Hey blondie!" shouted the crass young man from across the diner. "Bring me another cup of Joe and put your lips to my cup so's I won't have to use any sugar." He sneered and winked at her. Katie assessed the lot at table six and by the looks of their rough beards and grubby attire, hunter number one and his table mates were obviously up for hunting season, but deer, at least the four footed kind, were not their target. No, they looked like they were after the two footed 'dear' instead. In addition to that assessment, Katie believed they smelled like they had spent the entire week so far in every bar room from here to Cairo and back.

Katie pulled herself back from her assessment and thought, yeah right, like she hadn't heard that line before. Some men can't even come up with an original line, she mused. It's not that she didn't like men exactly, she just didn't like rude, dirty, grungy men, who thought they were God's gift to anything in a skirt! "Well, she thought, I know a few guys that occasionally like to wear skirts that would just love it if you'd talk dirty to them!" Smiling at this thought, she walked over to the table and began to pour the requested coffee into the cup.

"Hey, sweet thing, now how about putting them pretty lips on my cup?" the man asked.

"Opps, guess I should have wiped that smile off first before grabbing the coffee pot" she thought. "Now, why would I want to do that? the green eyed beauty replied. "If I did that for you then I'd have to do it for every customer, and it's just too busy today, and I do have a job to do."

"Well, sweet thing, if you want to make some extra cash, I know a few guys that would love to have you serve them some coffee back at camp." he winked at her while his buddies chuckled in agreement.

Cringing at that thought Katie answered, "No thanks, that's not the way I like to earn my money." She turned to leave the table thinking this guy was starting to get on her nerves, and he didn't fail to meet that expectation.

Not wanting to be ignored, the overbearing hunter thought he could convince her otherwise, so he reached out and grabbed her arm as she turned to leave. "Now, I know I can make it worth your while" he drawled. "A pretty thing like you could make some good money working extra for some fine fellas like us" he commented as he searched his buddies faces for confirmation. "Yeah, Brad. We could use some domestic help back at camp." replied one of his table buddies, while the rest of the group nodded in the affirmative.

Katie was thoroughly ticked off now. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?" she cried out. "You can let go of my arm now!" she said as she began to jerk away from the man. In the process of jerking away, her other arm sloshed hot coffee over the rest of the hunting party, with the majority of it landing on hunter number one: Brad. Matters quickly turned ugly as Brad jumped up and yelled at her. "Bitch!" he screamed as he began wiping at the area where the coffee made contact. Katie, mentally sighed anticipating his next move and readied herself to fend off the expected reaction but as he reached out to slap Katie, his hand was stopped in its forward motion by another strong hand clasped around his.

"Now, now, that wouldn't be a wise thing to do would it?" said a low rumbling voice next to his ear. Brad turned to confront the mysterious voice only to stop short and look into the piercing sapphire blue eyes of a six foot plus beauty who just curled her lip, raised an eye brow in question, and gave him her best feral smile. Recovering a little, Brad stuttered out, "And just who's gonna stop me? You?"

"Yep" came the very confident reply. "With one hand tied behind my back if you think that'll help." She made a show of moving one had behind her back while at the same time exerting pressure against the palm of Brad's hand bending it back towards his wrist, thus causing him to bend his knees to stave off some of the pain he was beginning to feel.

Wanting to save face with his buddies and noticing that the entire diner was now watching, Brad glared back at the newcomer, and spat out "Come on boys, the bitch isn't worth it. Let's get out of here." As his hand was released, he stared at Katie and under his breath said, "Until next time, bitch!" Then they all hurriedly left the diner, of course without paying for their breakfast or leaving a tip.

Katie just stood there staring, at the tall, dark, and very beautiful woman who intercepted her intended response to another batch of jerks that deer season in the Catskills seems to produce on a regular basis. Then she realized that she had been staring for what seemed like an eternity, until the mystery woman stepped up and asked her in a low, gentle voice if she was okay and broke the spell. Regaining her composure, Katie nodded and simply said "Thank you."

As Katie moved to clean up the now vacant table, her thoughts went to the tall dark hair woman. Wow! That was pretty amazing! Here I thought I'm gonna have to come out of my shell to fend off that jerk, and I'm saved by a stranger. And what a stranger! I've never seen such gorgeous eyes in my entire life. I probably would have melted myself if her gaze fell on me! Shaking her head, she went back to the task at hand, then noticed they hadn't left any money for their bill. "Damn! " Katie mumbled.

"Pardon me?" the tall woman asked.

"Oh, sorry. I wasn't... it's just that those creeps took off without paying their bill... or leaving me a tip for that matter! My boss is going be really mad for that little show and I'll have to take the money for their bill out of my tips." she explained.

"Yeah, they were creeps alright. But it's not your fault they skipped out on their bill or for the rukus they caused." the tall beauty offered. "Why would you be held responsible?"

"It's just the rules here. If your table doesn't pay up, you have to cover the bill. It's the waitress’ responsibility to make sure the bill is paid. And, Carl is a real stickler about being nice to the tourists so they'll come back often. He wants us to just smile and put up with all their macho crap. Carl says they don't mean anything by it... they're just here for a good time, so be a 'good girl and go along.' Katie told the woman. She looked up into those mesmerizing eyes and took a deep breath letting it out slowly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be going on like this to you. I don't even know you, but I do want to thank you for stepping in. I can usually handle them with words and put up with the pawing, but it's never gotten this close to being physical before."

"It's okay," the dark hair woman replied. "Name's Deanna, Dean for short. Glad I could help you Katie."

"How did you... oh, my name badge" she mumbled as she began to turn a very lovely shade of pink. Come on kiddo, get your head back into the game. Don't let a pretty face take you off your mark. Yeah, she replied to her thoughts, but what a drop dead gorgeous face!

At this time, Carl came up and interrupted the silence between the two women forcing Katie to go back to the table and continue cleaning it up. He looked at Katie and the coffee mess, then began a loud tirade directed at Katie. "Just what were you thinking… spilling coffee all over them like that? You know they could come back here and slap me with a law suit over your stupidity!" he shouted, then continued with "Lord knows, there's enough lawyers in this town that would be more than happy to represent them! And I suppose they took off without leaving the money for their bill?" he inquired.

Katie turned and began to answer when Dean offered Carl two twenties. "They musta dropped these on their way out the door." she said smiling at Katie, all the while trying to control her temper long enough to keep from taking care of Carl too. Stay cool Dean, she told herself. You've brought enough attention to yourself for one day. Yeah, but it was worth the look you got from the blonde wasn't it? she answered herself chuckling internally.

Katie picked up the bill that was still lying on the table and handed it over to Carl. "Looks like they left enough to cover the bill and your tip. Too bad that tip will have to pay for all the coffee you wasted!" Carl said to Katie as he took the money and the bill and walked to the register.

Katie just sighed, then looked toward Dean. Sapphires and emeralds met as Carl walked away and held just a moment longer before Katie broke the spell and asked Dean if she needed a table or wanted to sit at the counter.

"Counter's fine." Dean replied. "Just as long as you're the one waiting on me." Now where in the world did that come from? thought Dean. I thought my pick up days were long over!

Katie smiled and a soft chuckle escaped as she led Dean over to her section of the counter. "Thanks for covering the bill." She said in all sincerity as she handed Dean a menu.

"Who me?" Dean said, arching a brow and pointing a finger to her chest.

"Well, who else would have slipped two twenties from her jeans when she thought I wasn't looking?" her green eyes twinkled in response.

"Caught me eh? Must be getting old." the tall beauty said. "Well, I'll start with a cup of tea, herbal if you've got it"

"Coming right up" Katie said as she went to the beverage area to select the box of herbal tea bags, cup, saucer, and hot water. On her return, she swung by the pastry display and grabbed a couple of fresh honey buns. "Here's the tea selection we have, I hope you'll find something you like in there. And here's a little something to say 'thanks' for what you did." she smiled sweetly at Dean.

Dean took a look at the honey buns and quickly wondered if there was more to it than just 'thanks.' Raising an eyebrow, she looked at Katie and gave her a nod of appreciation. "You must be more experienced as a waitress than I thought" she drawled. "Either that, or you can read minds." And if that's the case, she pondered, I better be really careful here!

"No, on both counts" answered Katie. "You just look like the 'honey bun' type."

Dean frowned, then let a small smile start in the corners of her mouth and said, "I hope you're not saying I look fat?"

Katie gasped and quickly answered, "Oh, no, no, no.. you're absolutely gorg... I mean... you look fantas... umm... no, not at all... it's just....ah!" Katie threw her hands up and began to blush, then gave up trying to explain as Dean broke out into a hearty chuckle.

"So, can I get you anything else?" Katie inquired while looking around the diner and catching Carl's stern eyes watching her.

"No, not right now" Dean replied, "but maybe more hot water in a little bit. Thanks."

Katie left to take care of her other customers all the while sneaking glances at Dean every chance she could. The mysterious woman was at least six feet tall, dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, and a black and gold Army sweatshirt. I think this Dean woman is very interesting. I may need to do a little more digging to see what I can find. Katie mused to herself. You just never know what kind of information you can gather from the most unlikely sources.

Dean settled down to her honey buns and tea while opening the local paper to scan the news and finish with the real estate section. Not much in this rag, she thought. But I guess an area like this can't support a really good daily anyway. Guess I'll have to do my digging the old fashioned way. Maybe I'll start with that cute waitress. She seems to be the talkative type and you just never know what kind of information you can gather from the most unlikely sources.

Dean kept a very watchful eye on the diner and it's occupants assessing each as to age, career, local or tourist, socio-economic indicators, etc. She had a very keen mind and was able to categorize each occupant into his own little box for future reference. Some might be possibilities, others definitely not, but she never discarded anyone. She was very thorough. At the same time, she kept an eye on Katie and was very impressed with the young woman's ability to remember orders without writing them down and her ability to put customers at ease and draw them into conversations. A very useful talent that! Definitely worth putting some extra time into that one, she mulled that thought over and decided it might even turn out to be fun.

On Katie's next round past Dean, she asked if she was ready for that water. Dean nodded and when Katie returned, they both began to speak at the same time.

"So, how long..." (Dean) "Do you live..." (Katie) "You first..." (Both) After the chuckling stopped, Dean waved the waitress on.

"So... do you live around here or are you a tourist?" Katie asked.

"Just moving up to this area. I've just been assigned to the local community college." Dean responded between sips of her second cup of mint medley tea.

"Assigned?" Katie looked at her curiously and noted the Army sweatshirt.

"Yeah, I'm the new Commander for the ROTC Unit at the college." Dean responded.

"So you're in the army?" Katie asked pointing to Dean's sweatshirt.

"Yep. Guess I'm being rewarded for doing such a good job on my last assignment." Dean said sarcastically. "My last CO didn't expect me to out-shine his good old boys. So I guess this is his way of keeping face with them!" Now why on earth am I telling her this? Dean thought. You'd think we were long lost buddies or something! Just stick to the program.

"Wow! I never met a commander before. What are you? A general or something?" Katie asked with wide eyes.

At this, Dean almost choked on her tea as she tried to keep it from covering a majority of the diners' counter. "Not exactly!" Dean coughed out. "I'm just a lowly Lt. Colonel. Just got the promotion as a matter of fact. Part of the 'reason' I got this cushy posting." Dean sighed, obviously expressing displeasure with her new assignment.

"So how long have you been in town?" Katie inquired.

Dean looked at her watch and said with a twinkle in her eye. "About forty-five minutes now. The current commander will be finishing out this semester and I’ll be taking over after the winter break."

Oh great! Not in town for even an hour and she finds me, and trouble. Great impression here! Katie thought to herself. "So do you have a place to stay yet?"

"Just the local Days Inn until I can get situated." Dean offered.

Ah, an opportunity to redeem myself. "Well, it just so happens, that my next job... after I get off this shift that is... is a real estate agent for Catskills Properties." Katie bubbled with this information. "And, I happen to know of several very nice apartments and houses for rent. Unless of course you're looking to buy?" Bright green eyes questioned the deep blues opposite her.

"Mmmm, no on the buying, but yes on the renting." Dean drawled. "I'm not looking to settle down here, just get this assignment done."

Carl was walking over toward the two women now. Clearly upset with the length of time Katie was taking to serve Dean. "Oh, oh. Better get going to my other tables." Katie whispered. "I get off at 1:00 from here and will be at the agency by 1:30 if you want to meet me there." She quickly pulled out her agency business card and slid it over to Dean as she walked away.

Carl met her halfway down the counter and stopped her. "I thought I told you not to try and do real estate business on my time!" He growled out. "It's bad enough you've been ignoring your customers for the last five minutes. Now either get to work, or get out!" He huffed at her.

At this, Dean slowly got up and approached Carl who was now standing alone. "Excuse me, but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your employees here." She smiled sweetly at him. "I'm new in town and it's not often that a new person in town is greeted with such warmth and sincerity. It's a credit to you as an employer that you encourage this attitude in your staff." She said, batting her blues at him.

Completely taken aback, Carl puffed his chest out a bit then stuttered out a "why… thank you" as Dean turned and went to the register to pay her bill. Guess that'll put his knickers in a knot for a while, she thought, chuckling to herself as she pocketed the business card and smiled thinking about 1:30 and the beautiful blonde.





Same day, 0930 Hours…

Dean left the diner and got into her brand new black Dodge Durango 4x4 SUV. Just as she was exiting the parking lot, Dean's cell phone chirped. Sliding the phone out of her belt holder, Dean answered. "Yeah?" The voice at the other end talked on for a few minutes before Dean replied, "Sunday, 0230, affirmative" and returned the cell to its holder. Well, let's see how much time a tour of this town will take, she thought as she pulled up to one of the few traffic signals in town.

Main Street looked like many other main streets across the country. There were lots of empty storefronts and several people, mostly young men, standing around in the doorways smoking cigarettes. This main street like many others was being swallowed whole into the depths of oblivion thanks to the mega mall concept sweeping the country. Makes it tough for little towns like this to survive. With few businesses to tax, it leaves the homeowner carrying the brunt of the load. Dean just shook her head as she drove through what once would have been a thriving business section. She wondered what these folks do for a living. She remembered Carl’s words about an abundant supply of lawyers in town and noticed that he was absolutely correct. Practically every building in town housed a law office. Hmm, wonder what keeps them all going. Dean wondered as she continued her drive out into the country.

It was a glorious November day, with crystalline blue skies above. Considering she was in the Catskills, it was also a very mild November day with a temperature in the low sixties. All in all, Dean was starting to perk up. The countryside was lifting the subdued mood Dean had slipped into during her drive through town. She reached down and turned on the radio looking for something to sing along with. She hit upon an oldies station playing a marathon of Elvis songs that brought a smile to her face. Soon she was cruising through the country singing along to Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, and Love Me Tender. That last one brought her mind back to the diner and the green eyed beauty she was going to meet in another couple of hours.

Now, now, Dean. You've got dirty work to do here and you don't need to get involved with a civilian and have her get caught in the middle, said her conscience. "Yeah, but I need to get some basic info on this town and a peek into its citizens too." she said out loud. "And what better source than a talkative waitress who must know everyone in town and a real estate agent to boot!" she concluded. OK, but try to keep to the K.I.S.S. principle. You wouldn't want to see those pretty green eyes in pain now would you? Her conscience finished. "Oh, yeah! Exactly what I had in mind... the 'KISS' principle!" She chuckled at her own joke as she started to wind her way back to town.

* * * * *


Katie worked extra hard the next few hours. Concentrating on her customers, and trying to sooth Carl's ruffled feathers too. But her mind kept wandering back to the enigmatic Dean. I wonder what it would have been like if I had decided to go that route in college instead of the route I chose? Who knows, maybe I could have been a colonel too? She chuckled inwardly at that thought. Who ever heard of a twenty-eight year old colonel! Still, she always had a soft spot for a military uniform. Mmmm… bet she looks great in her dress uniform! OK Katie, snap out of it! You've chosen your path in life and it's not been that bad of a view either, she admonished herself. If it hadn't been for the last three months of last year, things would be really peachy! Ok, it wasn't my fault, but we lost a lot of groundwork and now I've got to start all over. I can do this without Gerry. She thought as her eyes started to tear. Don't go there kiddo. It wasn't your fault. There's nothing you could have done. Then her thoughts returned to the tall army colonel. Hmmm, too bad I don't know Dean better. She could turn out to be an asset if played right. Katie continue with her inner conversation all the while she was taking orders and cleaning up the tables.

Table number five was just getting up to leave. As she watched them pull out the money for the check, she caught a glimpse of a gun under the leather jacket one the Asian men. Intrigued, she nonchalantly moved closer to see if she could catch a piece of their conversation. ".... meeting with ..... 2:30 .... Hollow Road." were all the pieces she could snatch before they stopped their conversation and motioned her over to pay for their lunch.

"Can I get you anything else? Katie asked with a sweet smile.

"No thank you." came the answer in a decidedly English accent.

Katie hesitated and said, "I guess you're not from around here by the sounds of your accent." "Are you passing through, or need directions anywhere? She offered.

"No, we know the area quite well. Thank you." The man politely answered.

"OK then!" "Thanks for coming in and maybe we'll see you again! I'll be back with your change in just a minute." she offered as she accepted their money and the check.

"Keep the change" the oldest man said as he and his two partners turned to leave the diner.

Katie nodded her thanks and began to clean up their table all the while charging their looks to her memory. Three Asian males, two approximately 5' 8", 150 lbs., dark brush cut hair, very neatly attired, business suits, late twenties to early thirties. Third male, the one with the gun under his black leather jacket, 5' 10', 300 lbs., shaved head, scar over left eye, mid twenties. She looked up to see what kind of car they drove and saw them get into a black four door Lexus with a New York plate. She couldn't read the plate number from this distance, but noticed the Lexus was trimmed in gold rather than silver. Hhmm. Now that was interesting. She thought to herself. Could be some businessmen up from the city. But with a body guard? Definitely have to keep my eyes open for these guys.

Katie finished up table five, then went to the back room to time out since it was now 1:10PM. Better get changed kiddo so you can meet your mystery woman! Her thoughts now focused on Dean and found herself smiling at the thought of being able to spend some time with her, even if it was business. For some reason, she mused, she just felt very comfortable and safe around her. That recognition brought her to an abrupt stop. No time for fun and games kiddo, you've got work to do! Must be just that 'stepping in to help thing' she did this morning. You're just not used to that. Yeah, that's it!

* * * * *


It was now 12:00 noon and Dean had some time yet to burn. She decided to stop at the local Wendy's for a quick bite of fast food instead of going back to the diner and watch Katie some more. This was her conscience winning out and losing at the same time. After all, thought Dean, my conscience should reward me for being good... so a nice cheeseburger, fries, and a Frosty should be just the thing! Dean placed her order and was walking over to a table in the corner when she heard a voice shout, "D! Is that really you?" She turned to see an old army friend sitting at a booth in the middle of the room. Smiling, Dean gave a big nod, then headed over to the table to join her. "Well, T! What in the name of Athena are you doing here?" Dean asked.

"I work here." Tracy replied. Noting the questioning eyebrow on Dean's face she quickly added, "No, not here! I'm the Park & Rec Director in this town. Got out of the army a few years back. Couldn't stomach the hassles anymore. Finished up as a Major though, just before I left!" Tracy offered. "How about you. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"

"I've been assigned as the Commander of the ROTC program at the college," Dean supplied. "Guess I finally out rank you! I've just been made a Lt. Colonel." She winked and chuckled.

"Well, I'll be damned! How on earth did you do that? You're awful young to be a Lt. Colonel." Tracy commented. "Counting on my fingers, you should be a Captain at most."

"Just in the right place at the right time. Got put on the fast track for promotion. If you remember, I was just a wet behind the ears First Lieutenant last I saw you. Been quite a ride since." Dean stated.

"So, you gave up Intelligence to run rough shod on kids, eh?" Tracey shook her head. "Doesn't sound like you, old friend."

"Well, you know what it's like to follow orders, Major." Dean looked into Tracy's eyes and the knowledge passed unspoken between the two ex-comrades.

"Well, guess I'll have to take you out to my pride and joy sometime." Tracy offered breaking the short silence that arose. "Got a park on the top of one of the mountains here. You can see forever in all directions. Really quite something!" Dean nodded, storing that information for later retrieval.

As the two friends finished their meals, they caught up on the lost time as well as reminisced on some fun old times. Curious about the large number of lawyers in town Dean decided to ask Tracy what the scoop was. "Well," Tracy replied, "it seems that our summer visitors don’t know how to drive too well and we have a rash of auto crashes that result in lots of litigation that keep these guys employed." Tracy said chuckling. "You really do need to be very observant on the road in the summer time. We get an awful lot of folks up from the city who are used to driving wildly or not driving at all. Add to that all the immigrants that work the resorts and you have quite an eclectic society here in our quaint little town. In fact, I was told that there are approximately fifty-seven different dialects spoken in this county!"

Too soon, it was time for Dean to leave for her 1:30 appointment. Almost as an after thought, Dean asked Tracy, "Do you know a waitress by the name of Katie that works at Burp & Freddies Diner?"

"Sure." Tracy said with a little twinkle in her eyes. "Nice gal, came here just about eight months ago. Lives over in the trailer court off the main highway going east. Has a great work ethic. Think she's working two or three different jobs." Tracy continued. "A really nice looking gal too. Has eyes that can look right through you... kinda like yours Dean." Tracy added.

"How'd you get to know so much about her?" Dean inquired returning the twinkle.

Tracy smiled back, "She came in looking for a job when she first got to town. Didn't have anything to offer her at the time. She occasionally takes a class from us, or comes to the women's open gym when she's not working. Pretty good athlete too. Not what you'd expect after seeing her in the waitress get up." Tracy commented. "There's something about her though that just doesn't add up. Haven't been able to put my finger on it yet, but I will." She said. "Why the interest?"

"I'm going to meet her now. I ran into her at the diner this morning and she offered to show me some places to rent. I got the same feeling about things not adding up, but that could just be habit. Well, thanks for the insight and the reunion! It's good to know there's a friendly face in town." Dean said, giving Tracy a pat on the back. After getting directions to Catskill Properties, Dean and Tracy parted, agreeing to meet again in the near future.

* * * * *


An agent named Tim was at the reception desk in the office when Dean came in. "Hi" Tim said with a brilliant smile. "How can I help you?"

"I'm here to meet one of your agents," Dean said with a serious look on her face.

"Who's the agent?" he inquired.

Dean pulled out Katie's card, realizing that she never bothered to read it and only knew Katie's first name. "Umm, Katie Miller" Dean answered.

"She's not here right now, but I'd be glad to help you." Tim offered eagerly just as Katie came rushing in the front door. "Oh, here she is." Tim said with obvious disappointment in his voice.

"Hi." Katie said as she slowed and approached Dean. "Sorry I'm late."

"No problem." Dean answered, "I just got here myself."

"Come this way over to my desk and we can get started," the beautiful blonde said as she led the way back to a corner desk. Dean followed, taking in the small cramped quarters loaded with notebooks and bulletin boards filled with a wide range of houses, businesses, and property descriptions and pictures. Maps of various parts of the town and county filled the rest of the walls. Stacks of flyers telling prospective homeowners all sorts of information on shopping, churches, insurance agencies, and even the local parks and recreation flyer, topped the desks scattered about the room. Katie eyed the tall woman taking in the organized mess real estate offices tended to be. "Sorry about the clutter," she offered, "but that's the name of the game in this business. Have a seat, and we'll get some basic information before we make a list of possibilities to view. But first, I need you to fill in some personal information on this sheet." Katie asked politely.

Dean took the sheet and began filling out the necessary information in her neat print handwriting. While Dean was occupied with this task, Katie pulled out the rental notebook and began familiarizing herself with the current offerings while covertly watching Dean work on the sheet. Mmm, nice woman, she thought, mentally taking in Dean's assets and filing them for later review. Probably 6'1'', about 165 -170 lbs., nice athletic build, no distinguish marks or tattoos, about 32 to 34 years old, strong hands, expressive eyebrows, long silky black hair, fantastic blue eyes, inviting lips.... whoa! Stick to the basics kiddo! Feeling a little heat starting to creep up her neck, Katie decided to keep her eyes in the rental book until Dean was finished.

Dean straightened and handed Katie her sheet wondering where the slight blush came from on Katie's face. Putting that thought out of her mind, Dean asked when they would be able to check out some possibilities.

"Just as soon as I see what you listed for price range and location. Ah, here we go, Miss Peterson, or should I say Colonel Peterson?" Katie asked with a question in her voice.

"Just Dean will do. I prefer to leave the Colonel part for the job."

"Looks like you prefer a house over a condo or apartment and something in the $800 - $1,200 range. Being close to the college is not as important as your privacy I see. Same goes for me," Katie commented. "I've got a small trailer out on the eastside of town. It's in a really nice park, especially this time of year. Not a lot of neighbors since most of them are senior citizens that fly south for the winter. Not a lot of kids either, but that's okay too I guess, but I do miss hearing the pure laughter of children at play," she said cocking her head to one side.

"I think I know just the place for you. It's located on one of the back roads that leads to the college. There's a nice stream that runs behind it that I'm told has a good reputation as a trout fisherman's paradise... if you like to fish that is." She inquired with a smile on her pretty face.

"Yeah, I do as a matter of fact. I have a rather unorthodox method though, but it puts the fish on the table." Dean answered fondly remembering her last fishing trip with her brother Thad.

"Well, that's not all, it's set on twenty acres of land, has two bedrooms, one bath, a fieldstone fireplace, eat in kitchen that has recently been remodeled, a small den/living room combination, loft, and a fully screened porch. There are also two outbuildings. A two car garage that's semi attached to the house by a covered car port type of set up, and a small work shed. It's all stone exterior, so there's little maintenance." Katie continued. "It's has a private road that's only a half mile off the main road. If I remember correctly, it shouldn't be a bad road in the winter either. I can set you up with a plow guy who'll come in after a snowfall and clean it out for you if you like. It even has an auxiliary power system in case of ice storms. Best thing yet, it's available immediately." Katie finished with a flourish.

"Sounds good," the tall beauty responded. "Can we take a look at it now? I'd like to get out of the Days Inn as soon as possible."

"Sure thing. I'll get the key and be right back," the blonde said as she got up and went into the back room to retrieve a set of keys.

Hmm, sounds perfect, right down to the auxiliary power supply. Dean thought as she watched the green eyed woman return with keys in hand and a smile on her face. "My car is right out front," Katie supplied as she reached for her backpack. The two women exited the office and walked over to Katie's car.

"Wow!" Dean whistled. "Nice car you've got here Ms. Miller. Where’s you find a ’57 Chevy in such a cherry condition? Did you buy it this way?"

"No, actually, I inherited it from my great aunt. I did give it a new paint job almost a year ago, but the inside is as clean as the day it left the showroom. The mileage is accurate too. Only 28,535 miles! Carl keeps trying to get me to sell it to him but, no way, it's my baby!" Katie purred. "With a solid V8, this baby can really haul as... tires!" She corrected quickly.

"Ass is more like it!" Dean drawled. "It's definitely a beauty. How is it in snow?

"Haven't really had a chance to check it out that way yet. We had a fairly mild spring this year, and I just got it right before I moved up from Virginia." Katie said, mentally kicking herself for giving away more information about herself than anyone else in town knew or found out in eight months. How does she do that? The blonde asked herself. I'm babbling on like a nervous beau on a first date.

"So what did you do in Virginia?" Dean nonchalantly posed the questioned.

"Uuhh, nothing really. I had just been living there with my great aunt before she passed away." Katie said as she unlocked the door and slid behind the driver's seat. Dean got in on the passenger side and enjoyed the room she had for her long legs. "Let's go shall we?" Katie suggested to Dean and put the car in gear.

The ride out to the house was fairly short since the agency was on the eastside of town already. It took only twelve minutes before they were pulling into the overhead covered space between the house and the garage. Katie jumped out of the car and pulled the house keys from her pants pocket. Unlocking the door and turning on the lights so Dean would have a good visual of the inside. The place was really a bargain at $1,150 a month plus utilities. Sure wish I could live out here, she thought wistfully. The cats would love the big windows and I'm sure there would be plenty of wildlife to entertain them while I'm gone. But, that would raise too many eyebrows and blow a few holes in my story to boot! No way I'm supposed to be able to afford a place like this.

As Dean entered, she looked around checking out the place fully as she roamed from room to room. Security on the windows was pretty tight, entrance and back exit of solid construction, and views of the approaching road were very good. The place even had a security system and some basic furniture, not that she required much. And the fireplace was awesome. I'm looking forward to a nice fire already. Not bad, she thought, not bad at all. She went outside and walked the perimeter of the house, approving the inability of a rear approach due to the sheer cliff that rose up on the other side of the stream. The outbuildings checked out too. The shed would come in handy for some of the stuff that would be coming in next week and it was as secure as the house and garage. Even had a small wood stove for heat. The sheltered area the house was in might play havoc with her cell phone, but once she got the satellite in place, her communications system would operate fine.

"Well, I don't think we have to look further. I'll take it." She smiled warmly at Katie. "Does the furniture stay?" Dean asked hopefully.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Yes, it does, unless you don't need it, then, we would put it in storage for our client. The kitchen is stocked with plates, cooking utensils, and all the necessary gizmos that you need in a kitchen." She answered brightly.

"Great, I really don't have much." Who are you trying to kid? All you've got is what's packed in your SUV she chided herself. "Let's go sign the papers or whatever we need to do. You said it's available immediately. Does that mean today?"

"Yep. All I need is the lease signed, six months at a time, and first and last months rent. The security deposit is $1000.00. Hope that's not too much at once." She asked carefully. "The utilities are all on, and we can change them over to you on Monday."

"Great." Dean said. "Uncle Sam is pretty good about moving us around. I can cover the security and two months rent without a problem."

They locked up and got back into the Chevy to head back to town. Katie was feeling a little disappointed that her time with Dean was coming to an end so quickly. Damn! I should have hauled her around to a few other places before coming here. Bad Katie! Her mental conversation was interrupted when Dean asked her rather loudly if she was okay. "Huh? Oh, sorry. Guess I was just getting all the paperwork together in my head before we get to the office," she stammered. "What were you saying?"

"I was asking you if you could recommend a good Chinese take-out." Dean said trying to interpret the solemn face that had taken over the blonde's normally happy disposition. For some reason, Dean was very drawn to this young woman and didn't want to see her time with her end. This brought on a solemn attitude within her and she began to wonder if the young blonde was having the same reaction.

"Well, there's actually quite a few really good one's in town. But my favorite is next to the grocery store across from the office." she stated, then had a brainstorm. "If you'd like, after we get the paperwork taken care of, you could go back to the Days Inn and check out. Then pick up any odds and ends you might need to stock the fridge, linen cabinet, etc. After I get off work I'll stop by my place to feed my cats, then bring some Chinese food over to celebrate your new home." Getting a little forward aren't you kiddo? Oh, what the heck, all she can do is say no.

"That sounds good to me." Dean answered with a bright smile that almost made Katie shiver visibly. "But, under one condition, I buy! It's the least I can do to show my appreciation for helping me find a place so quickly. I was really dreading house hunting, but you made it quick and painless. Thanks." She smiled again, and they locked eyes for a brief moment that made the world slow down around them. A horn blaring, brought them both back to the world and, back to their own side of the road.

"Opps, sorry about that!" the blonde said nervously, aware that something had just passed between them and it gave her a feeling of anticipation that all would be right with the world. The rest of the ride and subsequent paperwork took place with no further incident. They parted, each with her own separate tasks before they would meet again later that night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *






Same day, 1930 Hours…

Katie's concentration was not what it should have been the rest of the afternoon. At five

o'clock, she left the real estate office and headed home to change and feed the cats. As she opened the door to her trailer she was met by three felines that took turns wrapping themselves around her legs. "Okay gals, this is what's going to happen. I'm going to feed you, change, then leave again, and I don't want to find any hairballs in my bed as your way of showing your disgust with me. Okay?" Her response came in three mews of different octaves and qualities. Butters came as a normal mew, Sugar's was a quiet chirp, but Spices' was a demanding MEOW! "Okay, okay. I get the picture. Feed you first, talk later!" After feeding her crew, Katie went to her bedroom to change into something more comfortable. She was looking for something that would be comfy but also alluring, and fantasized that the evening would become more than just dinner. Yeah, like that's a possibility! Still, there's something about her. Something about the way we fall into each other's eyes. It's gotta be more that just a passing feeling. It's like we've been there before or something. A connection of some kind… Come on Katie, snap to!

Katie settled on her favorite pair of black jeans and added a deep green silk blouse and her favorite loafers. Not one to wear much jewelry, she added a pair of black pearl studs, fluffed her short hair, and added just touch of Bill Blass. Satisfied with her reflection in the mirror, Katie went out to the kitchen to rummage for the vanilla candle she just bought last week. Hhmm, I'll just take this along as a housewarming gift. Who knows, it may come in handy during an ice storm or something… hopefully 'or something!' Especially since there's that back-up power supply!

After final instructions to her cats and turning on the living room light, Katie left the trailer to pick up the Chinese dinners. Hoping beyond hope that this evening would become a night to remember.

* * * * *


Dean managed to get checked out of the Days Inn in record time. Her bags were still packed since she had just checked in that morning. Stopping to pick up some bare essentials like bed sheets and towels didn’t take long. Going through the grocery store however did. She hated grocery shopping. Especially in a new store where she didn't even know the set up of the aisles. It took her several trips around the store before she finally had the items she wanted. On her way out to the SUV she noticed the liquor store and thought that she'd add a few more things to her list. Once that was completed, she headed out to her new place happy that she would not have to spend tonight in a lonely hotel room. Nor would she have to spend the evening alone.

Its' been a long time since you entertained any thoughts of companionship, Dean smiled to herself. Not that you haven't had any offers. Come on Dean, be honest, there just hasn't been anyone you cared about enough to want companionship. She found herself hoping that the young blonde would turn out to be good company and if truth be told, she even hoped for more. She couldn't understand it, but there was a definite attraction there. Hmm, never been drawn to someone so quickly before… and it's almost feels like déjà vu or something. "She's so young though. What could she see in an old war horse like me?" Dean asked herself out loud. "Guess we'll find out!"

It didn't take long for Dean to get settled in her new place. The few items she purchased found their way to linen shelves, bath, and kitchen with ease. She had just enough time to take a quick shower, change, and set up her compact Bose stereo before her company would arrive. With some vintage Stan Getz playing in the background, Dean assessed her appearance and gave a nod of approval. She had picked out a pair of black chinos, a sapphire blue blouse, black vest, socks and favorite cowboy boots. The result was stunning! Her long silky black hair and sapphire eyes complimented the outfit to the max.

She left her bedroom to check on the wine she had opened and set aside to 'breathe'. On her way back to the living room, she caught a glimpse of headlights coming down the road. By the time she walked to the entrance door and released the deadbolts, Katie was getting out of her car with a couple of bags. "Need any help?" She called.

"No thanks, I think I've got it all." Katie replied as she shut her car door and headed up the slate walkway. As she entered and set the bags down, she pulled out the candle she brought for a housewarming. "Here's a small housewarming present for you. I thought it might come in handy sometime. It's nice to be prepared." Katie said as Dean accepted the small gift.

"Thanks for the nice thought," Dean said. "Of course with that back up power system, I probably won't need it for light. So how about we light it now and add a little ambiance to the dinner table?" The dark beauty offered with a smile. "Mmm, this stuff smells good. Are you as hungry as I am?" Dean asked the young woman as she led her to the kitchen.

"I could eat a horse!" Katie replied. "You don't know how much willpower it took for me to keep from ripping into those bags on the way here."

"Guess we better get you fed then," the tall beauty suggested as they opened up the bags and spread out the feast. Dean asked if Katie would like some wine with dinner to which the green eyed blonde eagerly agreed.

"I’ve got merlot, zinfandel, cabernet, and chardonney" Dean stated. "Name your poison" she stated to the blonde.

"Wow! What’d ya do? Buy out the whole liquor store?" Katie said in awe.

"Not really, I just didn’t know what your tastes would be. I also have some beer just in case you didn’t want wine, and soda too in case you prefer something non-alcoholic." Dean said with a twinkle and a smile.

They settled on the cabernet since it had already been allowed to breathe, and then attacked the food. Dinner passed quietly as they both concentrated on the food as well as sneaking glances at each other in the candlelight. Both women secretly appraised each other during the meal and if they were to compare results, they would have been identical as to their attraction to each other. It didn't take them long though to devour everything in sight and mentally each conclude that they wouldn't mind pursuing this fledgling friendship a bit more.

"Phew!" Dean said as she pushed away from the table. "I didn’t realize how hungry I was. That moo shoo veggie dish was great, and the kung pao too!"

"Yeah, I enjoyed those too, but the hot and sour soup was a real tummy warmer and this wine is great!" Katie commented as she took a sip of her third glass. She started to clean up the empty little paper boxes and put them back into the larger bag. "Guess we can have the fortune cookies later huh?" She said as she plucked them out of the paper sack.

"Sounds good to me" Dean agreed. "I don’t have a TV, just my compact stereo system and books right now. Would you mind putting in a few more CD’s while I take the trash out?" She asked Katie who nodded in response.

Katie walked into the living room and over to the bookshelf that held the stereo. Looking through the CD’s she saw quite an eclectic variety. Dean seemed to enjoy all sorts of music. She had CD’s from artists like Enya and Ronstadt to Natalie Cole and Yanni. There was even some Nana Mouskuri and Stan Getz. Just about every type of music was available, from musicals, to classical, to country and rock & roll. So, I guess it’s up to me to set the mood, eh? Pretty sneaky Dean, she thought to herself. As Dean came back inside Katie remarked on her collection and asked what kind of music she didn’t like.

"I’m not real fond of rap and hard rock, but music that moves my soul is what I like best." Dean answered.

Katie thought to herself that her selections of Cole’s Unforgettable and Stardust, and Ronstadts ‘round Midnight, followed by Chip Davis’ Romance should be met with approval. She knew she was right when she saw Dean smile when The Very Thought

Of You started to play.

Nice selection, Dean mused, and very appropriate too. "Say Katie, I brought some maps in with me. Mind helping me get acquainted with the area?" Dean asked innocently as she brought in the maps and refilled glasses of wine.

"Sure," Katie replied. "Let’s spread them out on the floor in front of the fireplace." She suggested. She took her wine glass and the maps from Dean and knelt down on the floor spreading them out in front of her. Dean joined her on the floor and they both began to look them over as Katie pointed out places of interest, historical sites, and the like.

"This area right here is a recreation area on top of this mountain. There’s a heck of a view of almost the entire county from here." She said enthusiastically.

"Really?" Dean asked enjoying the fire, the wine, and the closeness of the beautiful blonde next to her. She really is beautiful, thought Dean. The way the firelight reflects off her golden hair and makes her emerald eyes sparkle like jewels in a treasure chest. I do think I could get lost in those eyes forever and never want to be found! "Have you ever been up there?" she asked as she brought herself back to reality.

"Yeah, lots of times. I go hiking up there whenever I can. The park is officially closed now, but you can park outside and hike up. Except at night. They frown on people up there at night, but I hear they do make exceptions… if it’s a good reason." She offered.

"Hhmm, I’ll have to remember that. It may be a good site for some night maneuvers for the ROTC class." Dean stated matter-of-factly.

"Ooo, that would be cool!" The blonde agreed. "This plateau here," she said pointing to a spot on the map, "gives you about a 300 degree view, and if you walk over to here," again pointing to another spot, "you can catch a 180 degree view that includes the part you missed. I was up there a few weekends ago, and the fall colors were awsome!" Katie continued enthusiastically. "You should check it out sometime."

"So… would you be interested in giving me a guided tour?" Dean asked raising an eyebrow and curling her mouth into a smile.

"You bet!" the blonde eagerly responded. "I’m off tomorrow. Would that be too soon?"

"Nope, just right." Dean said while mentally calculating the view from the mountain towards her objective at 0230 Sunday morning.

Katie went back to the maps and continued her tour of the county for Dean as well as finishing her fourth glass of wine for the evening. "Well, that’s about it," Katie finished, wondering why a Lt. Colonel in the army would need anyone to read a map to her. Not that I’m complaining, she thought. In fact, I’m really enjoying this. It’s been so long since I’ve felt this comfortable with anyone… maybe it’s the wine talking. You have had a bit more than you’re used to, kiddo. Katie rolled over on her back and found herself staring into beautiful sapphire blue eyes and found them much more intoxicating than the wine. Their eyes held for a very long time. Each lost in the depths of the other, both wanting more, both hesitating.

Trying to pull herself out of the emerald sea Dean managed to say, "Well, I guess it’s time to see what the fortune cookies have in store for us." She stood up to retrieve them, then offered Katie her pick first. Katie blushed upon reading hers which brought a raised eyebrow and smile to Dean’s face. "So… what’s it say?" Dean asked with a disarming smile.

"Uhh… nothing… just the usual" responded a very nervous, blushing, Katie. "What’d your’s say," she quickly asked to divert the attention away from her.

"Not so fast young lady," Dean countered. "I’ll tell you mine after you tell me yours."

Katie blushed again then said, "I’m going on a long trip." then attempted to toss the paper into the fire but didn’t count on the quick reflexes of the tall woman.

"Hhmm… let’s see." Dean said as she began to unwrap the small fortune all the while fending off a slightly inebriated blonde. "You are going to fall in love with a tall dark stranger." Dean read, then stopped, realizing the two women were now in a rather intimate position due to the mock fight over the piece of paper. She coughed and then began to flush a bit herself from the implication of the fortune and the intimate position.

In an attempt to recover, Katie protested, "No fair!" then reached out to grab Deans fortune. She opened it up and read: "You will soon come to a crossroad in life. Take care to follow the right path." "Yikes," the blonde exclaimed, "I think I like mine better!"

"Well," whispered Dean, "I’ve never had much faith in fortune telling."

"Yeah, me either" said a now quiet Katie. She glanced at her watch and was surprised to see it was already past midnight. "Umm, guess it’s time for me to be going home" she said as she stood to rise, only to quickly come back to the floor as a wave of dizziness hit her. "Whew! Guess I had more wine than I’m used to." The young woman said as she put her hand out in an attempt to make the room stop spinning.

"Don’t think you’ll be driving anywhere." A very concerned Dean said as she moved over to support the young blonde. "Why don’t you just stay in the guest room for tonight?"

"I really can’t, protested the blonde as she slowly stood. "Sugar has seizures and I gotta give her her medicine."

‘’Well, you’re definitely not driving home. I’ve only had two glasses tonight, so I’ll take you home." Dean said as she went to steady the young woman.

"No need Dean, I can drive home. It’s only eight minutes down the road and I'm not that drunk!" Katie protested felling a bit embarrassed about her lightheadedness.

"You’re right," Dean answered. "It is only eight minutes down the road so it’s no problem for me to take you home… and that’s an order young lady."

"Yes ma’am!" Katie said with a mock salute, that almost put her back on the floor, save for the quick reflexes of Dean. Dean’s arms caught Katie in a quick smooth action that brought them together in a very close embrace. An embrace that found them unwilling to let go of each other. That found both of them longing to hold on forever, never letting the moment end. Dean wasn’t ready for the sensual shock wave that rolled through her body as she felt the lithe body just below the soft silkiness of Katie’s blouse. As emeralds and sapphires met this time, Katie gave in to her desire and tilted her head up softly placing a tender kiss on Dean’s lips.

Dean was taken by surprise by this action even though all night long, she had want to do just what the blonde had accomplished. The feeling that went through her body with that simple kiss ignited a fire that she knew would rage out of control if she allowed herself to submit. Softly, gently, Dean released the emerald eyed blonde and whispered, "As much as I enjoyed that, I don’t think it would be a wise choice for us to continue… especially in your current condition. It wouldn’t be right for either of us." She stated gently brushing the blondes’ cheek with her thumb. "You understand that don’t you?"

"Yes… no… yes, I suppose, " came the confused answer from Katie. "I hope I didn’t… I mean… I don’t know why I did that." She continued to stammer. "I just couldn’t stop myself. I’m sorry." Katie said as tears began to fill her eyes.

"Shhhh," said Dean, still stroking Katies’ cheek while pulling her into a tender embrace. "It’s okay, really. But I think it’s best we get you home for now." The sooner, the better, or I’m not going to be able to let you go, she told herself mentally. Hell, I must be nuts for sending you home, but there’s just something about you Katie. Something I'm feeling that I’ve never felt before. And I don’t want to ruin any chance of keeping your friendship because I took advantage of you. No, no, my beautiful new friend. If we do become lovers I want it to be on a mutual and sober basis.

"Okay." Katie replied. "You’re sure you don’t mind taking me home?" Noooo, she mentally protested. I really don't want to go, or leave the comfort of your arms, ever!

Dean just shook her head and smiled, then led Katie to her car to begin the short trip to her home.

* * * * *



Saturday, 0130 Hours…

Six minutes later, Dean was pulling up to the last trailer on the cul-de-sac that was Katie’s modest residence. When she put the car in park, Katie suddenly reached over and put her hand on Dean’s arm.

"What’s wrong?" Dean asked quietly.

"I know I left a light on in the living room, and I just saw the curtains close as we came down the road." Katie said in a very low tone. "I think there’s someone in my trailer."

"Could it have been one of the cats?" Dean inquired while carefully looking around the exterior of the trailer and at her neighbor’s trailers. She noted a beat up pick up truck at the trailer to the left, but no vehicle at the trailer on the right, and no lights on in either. "Can you go to the neighbor’s while I check it out?" She asked the now very alert blonde.

"No, it wasn’t the cats, and I’m the only one here this time of year. At least in this part of the park. Everyone else has already left for Florida." She commented while noting the pick up next door. "I don’t recognize that truck. There shouldn’t be a vehicle there at all." She said in a whisper as she pointed to the truck.

"Okay, give me your keys. You stay here while I check it out." Dead instructed.

"No, way!" the young woman protested. "I’m going with you!"

"No, stay here!" Commanded the tall beauty. "You’re in no shape to be of help, besides, I’m the one with the military training." Then Dean exited her SUV and stealthy made her way towards the trailer.

All of Dean’s instincts and training were now at full alert. She carefully surveyed the trailer, making a quick circuit around it and checking the back door. Then she returned to the front and walked up on the small porch. She placed the key in the door, noticing the scratches on the frame that indicated a very sloppy forced entry. As the door opened, she heard a sound to her right that could not have been made by one of the cats. She quickly slammed the door into the head of the man behind it, knocking him to the floor. Then she turned to her left to block a blow coming from a second intruder, did a quick turning kick connecting with his head and sent him to the floor to join his buddy. Then a third man caught her from behind in a chokehold, while a fourth began to land a series of blows to her abdomen. Dean tightened her abdominals to absorb the blows while she grabbed for the arms holding her from behind. Using this hold as leverage, she lifted her torso and caught the front attacker in a vise grip between her strong legs. A split second later, her rear attacker released his grip, falling to the floor behind her and providing a cushion for Dean as she fell backward flipping the man in front over her head and onto the floor. She quickly stood, waiting for the next attack. As she heard the sound behind her, she turned to release another blow, but pulled it at the last moment upon recognizing the blonde standing behind her.

"Whoa! It’s me!" Called the blonde.

"I thought I told you to stay in the SUV!" Dean said a bit too harshly.

"Yeah, well, when I heard all the crashing, I thought you needed some help," she explained, "so, I came in and saw that jerk choking you from behind while the other was pummeling you so I smacked the guy over the head with my frying pan."

"No wonder he dropped his grip." Dean said as she raised an eyebrow. "But next time, do what I say. I’m trained to do hand-to-hand and you’re not. Besides, I was in total control of the situation." She softened her voice as she took in the mess she created in the cramped quarters.

"Okay, but you didn't look like you were in control what with the guy in back and the other guy in front." The blonde agreed verbally but mentally smiled at the thought of Dean finding out she was a black belt in several martial arts and finished first in her class at Quantico in hand-to-hand combat.

"I just needed two more seconds and I would have had them right where I wanted them." Dean protested.

Katie reached over to pick up her table lamp and clicked it back on to survey the faces of the downed perps. "Well, what'd ya know." She said, pointing to the first fallen victim. "Isn’t that the creep you stopped from hitting me at the diner this morning?"

"Yep." Dean replied making a tsk tsk sound. "These boys need to learn to play nice."

"Do you want to call the police while I truss them up?" She asked the green eyed blonde with a smile.

"Uhh, I think I’d rather just dump them into their truck if it’s okay with you. I really don’t want to get the police involved." Katie asked tentatively. That’s all I need, she thought. The police might ask a few too many questions and find out more than they need to know.

"It’s okay with me, but are you sure?" Dean lifted an eyebrow in question. "They may come back", she cautioned.

"Oh, I don’t think they’ll come back here after the whooping they just got." The blonde chuckled.

"Yeah, you’re probably right." Dean agreed joining in the laughter.

Together, they physically drug the men outside and dumped them into the truck bed. It was beginning to rain and the men started to come to as the last of them was unceremoniously tossed in.

Dean looked at Brad, grabbed his shirt collar, gave him her most feral smile, and spoke in her most menacing voice possible. "I don’t want to see your sorry butts around here again. If I do, you’ll get twice the beating you took tonight. Ya got that!"

At that, Brad tumbled out of the truck bed and got behind the wheel. He quickly backed out of the driveway then burned rubber out of the trailer park. Dean and Katie watched and laughed at the sight of the other three bodies hanging on for their lives as Brad swerved back and forth up the road.

"Well, lets get inside before we get soaked." Katie said as she reached for the tall woman’s hand and tentatively intertwined her fingers with Deans. Mmmm, that was quite some show you put on colonel, Katie thought as she noted the sheer smile of pleasure on Dean’s face. And what a lousy way to sober up quickly! She added.

"Now, that was fun!" Dean said still chuckling and enjoying the warmth that was travelling up her arm from Katie’s touch. "Guess I haven’t lost my touch."

As they entered the trailer, Katie sighed as she looked at what was left of her living room. "Ugh! What a mess!" Katie exclaimed. Then she went in search of her small charges. "Butter… Sugar… Spice," she called. "You can come out now, it’s safe." First, Butter appeared mewing softly, then out came Spice meowing verry loudly, and finally Sugar with her trade mark chirp. "Come here guys." Katie said as she sat on the floor and reached out, stroking them gently. They all immediately tried to fit into her petite lap but finally were satisfied just being near their owner. "Tough night huh?" she asked them. "Did those mean old boys try to hurt you?" MEOW! cried Spice, followed by a chirp and a mew. "Well, you all look okay. How about a treat?" No sooner did she finish the word treat, and they all jumped up and ran to the kitchen.

"I’ll start putting your place back in order." Dean said as she watched them leave.

"Thanks." The blonde answered over her shoulder.

By the time Katie returned all the furniture was back to where Dean thought it was supposed to go. "Sorry about the vase", Dean said. "When I flipped that last guy over my head, I couldn’t exactly pick out his landing spot. I hope it wasn’t a valuable piece."

"No, just a sentimental vase I’ve had for a while," she said sadly. "It was one of my great aunts. She got it in Ireland. It was her favorite" Katie said as tears began to well up in her emerald eyes as she touched the pieces of vase on the coffee table.

"I’m sorry Katie... I’ll try to get it fixed for you." Dean said as she slowly stroked Katie’s

shoulders from behind, very aware of the trembling she felt beneath the shear silk blouse. She turned the young woman around and pulled Katie into a hug and held her stroking her short blonde hair as the young woman quietly cried. "Shhh", she said for the second time tonight. "I’ve got you."

"I don't have many things from my aunt, just the car, a few knick knacks, and this vase." the blonde said between sobs. "I guess it could have been worse. At least the cats are okay."

"Yeah, and you are too." Dean interjected still holding the young woman and not wanting to let go. "I'm glad I was with you." She whispered into the blondes ear. "Do you have any idea how those guys found out where you live? The tall woman asked while still stroking the young woman's hair.

"I don't know. Maybe Carl told them." She said thoughtfully.

"Well, I can tell you one thing," the dark beauty added, "this trailer is about as secure as a tin can." She gently released the blonde and walked over to the front door inspecting the lock. "Looks like the frame and lock system are sprung for good. The whole door will have to be replaced before you'll be able to lock it again." Dean added as she opened and closed the door.

"Couldn't be because you used it as a battering ram could it?" The blonde replied with a twinkle and a smirk as she started to come up from her blues.

"Naw," replied Dean. "If anything, the head butting put it somewhat back in shape." She chuckled back. "Actually, it was that way when I put the key in… it just opened right up without any pressure. That's what alerted me to the creep behind the door. I heard him shuffle to get out of the way as it popped open."

"I guess I can put something in front of the door to hold it closed for the night." Katie said as she surveyed the room looking for something appropriate.

"Think again." Came the response from Dean. "You'll not be staying here until the door is fixed. You can just pack up some stuff and come back to my place." Dean insisted.

"But… what about the cats? I can't leave them here." Katie began to protest but was silenced by two fingers on her lips.

"They can just come too. I really don't mind… I kinda like the little fur balls anyway." Dean said as she looked down at her feet where a very frisky Spice was winding herself between her legs leaving a streak of cat hair on her black slacks.

"Oh, I'm sure you like cat hair on your ankles." Katie said as she bent down to pick up Spice. "I've got a lint remover here somewhere," she said as she walked through the living room looking for it. "Ah, here it is," she exclaimed as she handed it over to Dean.

"Guess you'd better pack that too then." Dean commented as she retrieved it from Katie's hand and began cleaning off her slacks.

It took Katie nearly fifteen minutes to pack up some things for the night and morning as well as some cat food and medicine for Sugar, litter box, and three cats in two carriers. While she was busy with that, Dean worked on trying to semi-secure the front door, at least for appearance sake. In the process, she noticed a small hidden door in the wall behind the front entrance that must have come ajar during the short fight. As she reached down to inspect it, Katie caught sight of her and quickly ran up and closed the door before Dean could reach it.

"Oh, that's just the service door for the water shut off." She said rather quickly as Dean looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Can't have you poking around in there now, can I? Katie quipped to herself. I wouldn't want to explain night vision scopes, a 9mm Glock, ammo, and my night camouflage gear. "I'm all set now. Can you grab the cats for me?" Katie asked with a smile quickly trying to change the subject and take Dean's mind off the little curious door.

Dean did as she was asked, taking the cat carriers out to the SUV with Katie following right behind her making it the fastest exit she's ever witnessed. Hmm, I do believe you're right Tracy… she's definitely more than what appears to the eye. We'll see… Dean was thinking as she was quickly led from the trailer.

"I really do appreciate this." Katie said with a sincere smile. "I wouldn't have gotten much sleep if I had to stand guard at my front door all night."

"Not a problem." Dean responded considering the strange change in Katie in the last two minutes. "Is there someone in town or at the trailer park that can fix the damaged door?" she asked attempting to act nonchalant over the quick exit.

"Yeah, I can call Paul, the trailer park manager in the morning. I'm sure either he can fix it or knows someone who can." Katie answered as they pulled into the private road that led to Dean's place.

As they unloaded the cats and Katie's things the rain began to let up. "I hope that's it for the rain. I'd hate to put off the trip to the park tomorrow." Katie said as she waited for Dean to open the door.

"Yeah, me too." Dean answered.

It didn't take long for the cats to prowl the new home and check out the litter box situation. Katie began to yawn in earnest now so she was glad when Dean suggested they all try to get some rest for the night. She led Katie to the guest bedroom and said good night, then went to her room to plan her reconnaissance mission for tomorrow night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Saturday, 0800 Hours…

Saturday morning was another beautiful fall day. Bright sunshine was burning off the left over fog from the night before and drying out the grass from the brief rainfall. Dean awoke earlier and had gone out for her daily run leaving the blonde to sleep in. By the time she returned it was nearly 0800 and the blonde was still sound asleep.

Well, Dean thought, she had a pretty rough day and a traumatic night. She's probably exhausted. So Dean left her to her dreams while she took her shower.

As soon as Katie heard Dean return, she rolled over away from the door so Dean wouldn't see her awake. At the sound of the shower turning on, Katie got out of bed and went to her duffel bag pulling out her cell phone. She dialed and waited for a response at the other end. Once contact was made, she explained her escapade from the night before and informed her contact where she was and her plans for the day. She also fed her contact the bits of conversation she picked up from the Asians in the diner. After setting a time to call later that evening, she hung up and replaced her cell in the interior zipper compartment of the duffel. Then she went out to the kitchen just as Dean immerged from the bathroom.

"Hi" Katie said ruffling her hair a bit as she caught sight of Dean coming out of the bathroom dressed in just her short bathrobe. Mmmm, that sure is a tempting sight kiddo. Certainly hope you didn't complicate things last night with that kiss. Katie reflected.

"Hey" Dean replied then inquired if the young woman slept well.

"Oh yeah, I was really beat." Katie replied. "Can I put on some water for tea?" She asked politely.

"Mmm, good idea." Dean said then asked "Are you hungry? I picked up some cereal yesterday and some muffins. They're in the cupboard to the right of the sink," she instructed as she walked toward her bedroom.

"Great!" The blonde answered. "I'll set the table while you finish getting dressed."

By the time Dean came out, Katie had the table set, hot water boiling, and a fire started in the fireplace to take the chill out of the air. Nice, Dean thought admiring the beautiful young woman. Then shook off the thought of what it would be like to have the young blonde there every morning for tea and breakfast.

"So, what time would you like to go up to the park?" Dean asked as she put a little honey on her muffin. She had dressed for the trip already. Black watch flannel lined jeans, a cranberry chamois cloth shirt, and hiking boots.

"Looks like you're ready to go right now, but I guess it depends on how the door repair is going. If it looks good, maybe we can go around noon." Katie responded. "I really should try calling Paul now. May I use your phone?" she asked Dean as she finished her cup of tea.

"Sure thing." Dean said as she got up to retrieve the phone from her bedroom and handed it over to Katie.

After the call was made, Katie took a quick shower, gave Sugar her medicine, scooped the litter box, and then joined Dean in the living room.

"Umm, about last night," Katie began. "I… I'm a little embarrassed about the way I acted or should I say reacted."

"About what?" Dean asked. "You really know how to show a girl a good time." She said with a chuckle. "I haven't had that much fun in a long time. It's nice to know my skills aren't rusty." She continued.

"No, not that." Katie stammered. "I… I meant the kiss."

"Oh, so you didn't mean it then?" Dean lifted an eyebrow as she looked at the young woman, a little disappointment showing in her blue eyes.

Katie registered the disappointment in Dean's eyes and decided to come clean. "No." She stated quietly and moved over to the couch by Dean. "I meant that kiss. I'm just not the kind of person to act on my emotions so quickly. I'm usually arguing with myself so long that any chance of a relationship with someone disappears. Or to put it more accurately, they disappear." Katie finished and lowered her eyes to her lap. Raising her eyes again to meet Deans blue ones, Katie sighed and continued. "I just knew I didn't want that to happen with you, so I took the chance. I just… I…" she wrung her hands as she struggled with her words.

Dean shifted closer to Katie, coming so close they could almost feel each other's hearts beat. Dean brought her hands up to each side of Katie's face and peered intently into the emerald eyes, then softly whispered, "You're much more courageous than I, Katie Miller. You accomplished what I just thought about last night. You followed through on your desire, and I just fantasized about mine. I meant what I said last night. I did enjoy the kiss. Very much so." Dean added, as she came forward the last few inches and softly placed her lips on Katie's. The wave of emotion that went through her with that simple kiss was enough to nearly drown her. Their lips lingered together softly then became more passionate as each pair began to explore further, then they parted as tongues continued the exploration deeper. Their bodies also succumbed to each other as their kisses intensified. Hands gently explored backs, arms, and thighs. It was several minutes before the two women parted, each panting from the release of their emotions that had been held in check. Placing their foreheads together, they both released a sigh in concert.

"Mmmm, definitely better than my fantasy." Dean commented as she lifted her head and looked into Katie's eyes once more.

"Ohh, yesss!" Katie agreed. "I'm glad we've got that 'I'm really attracted to you' conversation out of the way." She added with a chuckle.

"Yeah, that's always the toughest part." Dean agreed, chuckling with Katie in earnest.

The two women looked at each other totally enjoying the tenderness of the moment. Katie leaned in towards Dean and placed another soft kiss on her lips relishing the sensation of her smooth lips on Deans. Soon that kiss led to another and Dean gently guided Katie down on the couch allowing them full contact with their bodies. Then Dean's lips moved to Katie's neck, stopping to nibble on an ear lobe along the way. "Ungh" Katie moaned as the heat from Dean's lips started to ignite her very soul. Then another moan escaped as Dean's right hand brushed her breast as she began a more earnest exploration of the young woman. "Umm," Katie mumbled, "if we keep this up, we're never going to make it to the mountain."

"Well, that sorta wasn’t on my mind, but I guess you're right." Dean whispered into Katie's ear, once again soliciting a moan of pleasure from the young woman. "Okay, what's say, we take it slow. I guess we really should get to know each other before we... umm, ah…" She was silenced by Katie's lips on hers one more time.

"Sounds like a good plan to me colonel," Katie answered. "I really should check on my trailer first, then we can take that hike I promised you."

They both agreed on their course of action for the rest of the morning. Stopping by the trailer and checking on the repair progress, then over to the deli to get sandwiches and water to take on the hike. Dean also packed along a compass, a pair of field glasses to 'bird watch' with, a digital camera to take 'scenic pictures', and her telescoping hiking poles. She placed all these and an extra sweatshirt into a compact backpack. They took Dean’s SUV rather than the classic antique and headed out to Walnut Mountain Park.

* * * * *

"Well here's the gate." Katie exclaimed as they came to the end of the park road. "We can park over there," she pointed to a small parking area next to the walk-through in the fence, "then walk up to the face for the 'big view'." She added as they pulled up next to a mini-van that was loading up a bunch of kids and a dog that had obviously been there for a while already. The kids were really dragging, and the dog's tongue was hanging out from the effort of its exercise activities.

"Great day for a hike." commented the man.

"The view from the top is awesome today!" exclaimed a young girl around twelve years old. "You can see forever!" she added gleefully.

"Yeah, we're looking forward to it." Replied the blonde as the family finished loading up.

"C'mon!" Katie called to Dean as she passed through the walk-through gate.

Katie took off towards the hiking trail at a brisk pace while Dean locked the SUV and grabbed the backpack. It didn’t take the tall woman long to catch up to the blonde, then they settled into an easy hiking pace.

They passed the new soccer fields and watched a family of deer grazing on the grass then continued up the path towards the west meadow. The climb was not difficult at this level but soon it moved into the woods and began a more upward trek. The fire road had been recently worked on which made the climb easier than expected. Just before they came out into the meadow, the path steepend then turned to the right and allowed the women into a breathtaking view. A few more paces and they were fully into the meadow with a generous three hundred degree view of the surrounding countryside. The clear day made the view all the more spectacular.

"So... what do you think?" The blonde asked eagerly.

"It’s everything Tracy said it was." Dean answered truthfully.

"Tracy?" Katie inquired. "You mean park and rec Tracy?"

"The one in the same." Dean replied. "We’ve been friends for a very long time. Served together in the army. I was surprised to run into her at Wendy’s yesterday. She told me about her ‘pride and joy’ then." Dean said with a smile on her face.

"Well it certainly is beautiful up here," the blonde commented. "Let’s go up to the face and the mountain overlook. It’s just up this path." Katie said leading the way up.

They were back in the woods now following the 'Low Road' to the overlook and the path became a bit narrower and much steeper. As they emerged from the woods, Katie turned left and hurried over to the edge. "Wow! What a sight!" She exclaimed. "You really can see forever today."

Dean caught up with her and the two women just stood and gazed out over the view, completely intoxicated by the sight. Dean reached out and held the younger woman around her shoulder and Katie responded with her arm around Dean’s waist. "It really is nice up here." Dean said. "I’m glad you were able to share this with me." She continued as she pulled Katie into a hug and a promising kiss.

"No problem." Katie replied emphatically. "I’ll bring you up here every day if you’ll pay me in kisses like that."

"Mmm, like this?" Dean demonstrated only lingering longer in the contact.

"Umm... zactly." The blonde mumbled between their lips.

"Mmm, guess we better be heading along the trail now." Dean suggested, not really wanting to part from her embrace with the younger woman.

Katie nodded and they turned around and retraced their steps to where the path came to a "Y" intersection. "The way to the left goes around the other side of the mountain and eventually comes back down through the north meadow and the area the civil war re-enacters use for the Union camp." Katie explained. "The way we’re going takes you past an old foundation from a turn of the century resort and has an exit on the upper meadow above the water tower. That’s the other view I told you about." Katie continued as she led Dean into the woods on the chosen path.

Just before the path started to incline again, Katie stopped and pointed to a rock formation through the trees. "See that formation? It’s called ‘witches rock’ because it looks like a witch’s profile." Dean followed her direction and smiled as she recognized a crooked nose and pointed chin with a rock slab overhead that made up the hat.

"Pretty neat," Dean commented "but if you have any American Indian heritage, you could call it ‘Indian Rock’." With a little imagination and some descriptive pointers Dean detailed the 'Indian.'

"Yeah, you’re right." Katie considered the profile. "Wonder if anyone calls it that?"

Dean just shrugged and then they continued their hike. It took another 20 minutes of lazy strolling before they came to the exit for the upper meadow. They would have missed it if Katie had not been here before since it was between two heavily limbed trees. As they passed through and walked out onto the meadow, they were greeted by another awesome picture created by Mother Nature’s palate.

Katie pointed out to the distance saying, "That’s Double Top Mountain over there. It’s over in the next county and is about seventy-five miles away."

Dean reached into her backpack and pulled out her binoculars and made quite a show of viewing the scenery before she locked in on her intended target. "Nice" she commented. Then charged the coordinates to her memory before handing the binoculars over to Katie. She then took out her digital camera and went through the same charade before taking several shots of her target.

"How about lunch?" She inquired of the blonde woman. "I’ve worked up an appetite with all this crisp air and walking."

"Great." Responded Katie. "There’s some rocks over there that we can use to put our stuff on." She led the way over to the rocks and the two women spent a leisurely lunch enjoying the view and the sandwiches and each other's company. Dean noted the lay of the land, taking in the terrain with a skilled eye, picked out her observation spot and committed it to memory for her trek later tonight.

"Guess we better start down." Dean suggested as she packed up the small amount of paper and wrappers that were left from their lunch.

"We can take this track down." Katie pointed to a thin trail behind her.. "It’s a single track bike trail, but it’s used for hiking too. It comes out right by the water tower near the entrance."

Dean nodded and they soon found themselves at the entrance where they loaded up the SUV and headed back out to the main road.

Once they got back down and into the truck, Katie turned to Dean and said "I have to work tonight." She paused, then continued, "I help a caterer friend out sometimes when she needs it. Tonight is one of those nights. But I really wanted to thank you again for last night and allowing me to show you the mountain."

"Oh." Dean replied knowing that she had to 'work' tonight too. "That actually works out well. I need to meet someone tonight anyway regarding work." Well, technically that’s not a lie, Dean mused, but it is a good thing Katie’s busy tonight. At least now, I won’t have to come up with an excuse why I can’t see her. Although I’d much rather be snuggling with her than that stand of trees up there. She completed that thought with a smile on her face. "And you're welcome for last night and thanks for sharing the mountain with me."

The ride back to Dean's was progressing in silence with Dean lost in thought and a smile on her face until the young woman spoke. "Penny for your thoughts."

"Hhmm?" Dean turned to catch the emerald eyes studying her.

"Well, something put that smile on your face." The green eyes twinkled in question.

"I was just recalling how nice today has turned out." Dean covered. "How about some hot chocolate at my place before you head back?"

"You must be reading my mind," the young woman chuckled.

It took them another five minutes before they turned down the private road leading to Dean’s. As Dean opened the door, they were greeted by three, very loud, meowing cats. "Guess I better feed them first or I’ll never get them into the carriers." Katie said as she headed toward the kitchen.

Dean took her backpack into the bedroom then went to the kitchen where she stopped at the doorway and just watched the beautiful young woman with her charges. You certainly are a beautiful surprise in my life, she commented to herself as she continued to watch Katie. Then she walked up behind Katie and placed her arms around her whispering in her ear, "You are really beautiful."

Katie shivered as she felt Dean's breath warm her ear. Turning in Dean's arms, she faced the tall woman locking ice blues and emerald greens in intimate communication. Dean lowered her head and pulled Katie into a long sensual kiss that ignited their souls and fanned the flames of passion once more. As they parted from the kiss, Dean reached for Katie's hand and quietly led her to her bedroom.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Saturday, 2100 Hours…

Dean and Tracy had just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes when Tracy's partner came back from walking their German shepherd. "Bbrrrr! It's really getting cold out there!" Colleen said as she took her coat and gloves off. "The stars are really something tonight. They're so brilliant when there's no moon." She continued.

"Guess I better pull out my thermals," Dean commented to Tracy, "or you're gonna find a frozen body up there in the morning."

"Nah," protested Tracy, "I've gotten soft in my old age, I don't go hiking in the cold anymore so it would be at least a week or two before we found you!" She chuckled and gave Dean a smirk. "That is, unless you've changed your mind about needing some back-up, then I'll make sure we find your body before you freeze?" She asked hopefully.

"Just get that idea out of your head Tracy!" Dean admonished. "This is just an observation tonight, no need for back-up so you and Col here just stay warm and snuggled in your bed tonight! Ya got me!" She snarled.

"Yeah, yeah… you forget who you're talking to Dean. I don't get intimidated by you, remember?" Tracy winked at her and chuckled with Colleen as Dean joined in.

"Well, I better get going. Gotta get my stuff together and get up there soon." The tall woman said as she gave Tracy and Colleen a hug. "Thanks for dinner. It was super!" She added as she grabbed her coat and headed to the door. "You're sure Byron won't mind if I park my SUV in his driveway?" She asked for the third time.

Tracy shook her head and said, "I already called him to let him know you have permission to be there tonight. Told him you're checking it out for ROTC night maneuvers. He's the one who suggested the driveway." She reminded her.

"Okay." Just wanted to make sure. "Thanks again." Dean said as she opened the door.

"Hey!" Tracy called softly to Dean. "Just remember it's a carry in, carry out park. Don't leave any bodies behind."

Dean nodded her head then said, "I promise" as she started up the SUV and headed back home.

Once home, Dean went to the bedroom and changed into her gear for the task that faced her. She pulled out her thermals and put them on, glad that she remembered to pack them, then added her black turtleneck sweater, black jeans, and black rough suede boots. Without the moon, I shouldn't have to worry about reflections off regular issue boots, but why take a chance? She thought to herself. She added a black field jacket and black gloves. She'd use the black balaclava tonight instead of face camouflage. No sense scaring anyone at a stoplight, she mused. Then she grabbed her backpack that already held the night vision goggles and her 20x80 binoculars that gave her a field of vision of 1,000 yards. From her gun safe, she chose her 9mm Glock, checked the clip, put the safety back on, then returned it to it's holster and added it to the pack with two more clips. Better to be prepared than not, she thought, not that I'm expecting trouble. She added a flashlight, then checked her Traser Night Diver watch and decided it was time to go.

At this time of night, it took her only a few minutes to get to the park. She pulled into the park supervisor's driveway, picked up her backpack and headed up to the observation point she selected in the afternoon. The total trip from home to observation point took less than thirty minutes. Now comes the fun part, she groaned, hurry up and wait! God, how I hate surveillance. It was now only 0130 and if her information was correct, she had to wait another sixty minutes before she could expect any action, so she took her time getting set up. She attached the mini tripod to the binoculars then settled in for the wait.

She was in that position for at least fifteen minutes when she heard a noise coming up the trail. Could be some deer moving to keep warm, she thought. Just to be on the safe side, she stood quietly and moved in closer to her tree cover and slipped on her night vision goggles. There was the noise again, so she concentrated on the area it came from. Then she caught the motion of a person slowly moving towards her. The guy was decked out similar to her and if it hadn't been for her exceptional hearing, she probably never would have heard the approach. She pulled back behind the tree further, took off the goggles, and waited for him to get nearer. Just as the figure was passing her protected area, she reached out and grabbed the guy from behind. No sooner than she engaged the stranger, she found herself on her back, with the darkly clad figure straddling her, her arms pinned under knees, and a forearm across her throat. What the hell! She thought. Who the hell is this guy! As she began to run through her release options, she met her attacker's eyes and found the most gorgeous and familiar emerald green eyes peering at her. "You!" They gasped together. "What are you doing here?" Again, demanded in unison. Katie then released her captive upon recognizing the ice blue eyes that met hers.

"Looks like we both had to work tonite." Katie said with a twinkle. "So, colonel, or is it colonel? What are we watchin' tonight?" She asked narrowing her eyes in suspicion.

"It is colonel, but I'll let you go first Katie, if it is Katie?" Dean returned with a smile and her own version of a suspicious look.

"Allow me to introduce myself, DEA Special Agent Katie O'Malley." Katie answered truthfully, fairly certain that the woman across from her was not part of the evil she was on assignment to watch. "Now you." She countered.

"Lt. Colonel Deanna Peterson, U. S. Army Intelligence." Dean also replied truthfully. "What's the DEA doing here?" The tall woman queried.

"Probably the same thing you're here for, but why is the army involved?" Katie asked inquisitively then added. "You wouldn’t happen to have any ID on you would you?"

"Now, if I did, I wouldn’t be a very smart agent would I?" Dean asked with a bit of sarcasm in her voice before she continued. "I'm here on loan to the NSA, they needed my 'special' skills." Dean replied, then looked at her watch and noticed it was almost 0200. "We can sort this out later, but I suggest we get to work now." She commanded. Then both women settled in for the wait. The lodge they were observing was a huge old resort that had been very famous in it’s day. Now unfortunately, it was often devoid of guests, but was still a beauty of a piece of property on nearly fifty acres of land. The main lodge was situated in a meadow across the valley from their lookout post. It was three stories high, made of local bluestone, and resembled a castle with round turret-like sections at each corner of the building. The entire place was enclosed by an eight foot stone wall with two gated entrances on Hollow Road that provided a semicircular driveway at the main entrance. Another entrance off Bluestone Road led to the back entrance by the kitchen and to the out buildings behind the lodge. Their advantage point allowed them to see over the tall walls as well as see both entrances to the estate.

About 0215 the first car arrived. It was the black Lexus that Katie had seen at the diner. "I waited on those guys yesterday." Katie whispered to Dean. "There were three of them. All Asians, one looked a lot like 'Top Job' from that old James Bond movie." She described the men and told of her observation of one of them having a holster under his jacket. "He was the one carrying." She informed Dean.

"Yeah, his name is Chung. Heavy duty body guard and so-so hit man," Dean said waggling her hand. "The other two are brothers: Sammi and Jimmi Lu." Dean said. They're part of the Chi-Chong gang out of Bangkok.

"Hey, how come you know all this and the DEA doesn't?" Katie asked a bit miffed.

"'Cause, that's part of my 'special' skills… remember, I'm Intelligence." Dean said with a crooked smile and a wink.

About ten minutes later a Lincoln Town car pulled in and three more men exited. These appeared to be American or at least Caucasian. "Those guys are from the city, Katie said. I recognize the tall one. He's Johnnie Papp, number two man from the New York mob family. Don't know the other two for sure but, they look familiar." She said as she zoomed in her scope for a better view.

"They should be, they're from the Vegas and Chicago branches of the mob. Tony Cabini and Gary Stiller." Dean filled in Katie. "Gary is the short bald one. He's from Chicago."

The next car was a Ford Expedition with three more "guests." These guys were from the Columbian Cartel. "Carlos Sanchez, Julio Romero, and Tequez Ruiz," said Katie as she identified the three men. "These guys are really nasty fellas." Katie commented. "I've seen their files, and they're slippery as eels."

The final car had three members of the Yakuza from Toyko. Hiro Kamoto, Ito Sukazi, and Lin Yamakura . "Well, well," commented Dean. "Guess she's moved up and over in the world."

"You must be talking about the female." Katie correctly surmised since there was only one female in the group. "Who's she?" She asked.

"A few years ago, she was one of the best police officers the Japanese had. Then her brother was killed in a drug bust. It really did a number on her reputation. She tried to clear Kao's name, but it didn't work out the way she wanted. Turned out her brother was in up to his eyeballs in the Yakuza. Even though her record was spotless, her fellow officers turned their backs on her, she became very bitter and promised vengeance for the law turning it’s back on her. I heard she was made an offer from the Yakuza. Guess she took it."

As they continued to watch, several more cars dropped off groups of three people, all from different drug cartels across the world. Most were male, but there were also a few more females that arrived in the later groups. All in all, there were thirty representatives at this meeting leaving the total breakdown at twenty-five males, and five females. They noted that the driver's for each of the groups unloaded luggage and took it in the lodge.

They waited for another hour after the last vehicle unloaded just to be sure they didn't miss anyone.

"Looks like that's it. Quite a gathering of evil, wouldn't ya say?" Dean said as she looked over at Katie. Katie nodded her head in agreement then added. "We might as well head down. I've got to call this in."

"Did you get the plate number of the last car?" Katie asked as she pulled out her note pad.

"Yep. The caddy looks like an Avis rental, Vermont plate 235 HHD." Dean answered the young agent. "C'mon. We'll get back to our vehicles and meet back at my place." Dean said. "I think it's a bit more private and secure than yours what with 'Billy Bob and the Boys' out looking for you and a good time." The tall beauty chuckled.

Katie just shrugged and shook her head. "Guess I just attract that kind." She chuckled.

"Are you putting me in the same category as 'Billy Bob?" Dean asked feinting hurt.

"Nooo." Katie said quickly then saw the smirk on Deans face and gave her a punch on the arm. The two women then made the short hike back down to the main entrance.

"Where did you leave your car?" Dean asked when she didn't see it near the entrance.

"I came in from the other entrance." Katie said pointing to a service road to the left of the walk-through. "I'll just hike down there and meet you back at your place."

"Nah! Hop in I'll give you a lift." Dean said as she opened the back of the SUV to put her backpack away in the secret compartment next to the wheel well. By 0330 the two women were back at Dean's dressed in sweats and sipping mint medley tea.

"Did you know the DEA would be on your case?" Katie asked inquisitively.

"Nope. Did you know the NSA would be here?" Dean asked back.

"Nope." Katie said with a disgusted shake. "Why can't the agencies learn to work together. We could get so much more accomplished instead of duplicating our efforts. And why is the National Security Agency interested in druggies? I didn't know they were considered a national security risk?"

"Turf issues and it's never simple." Was all the answer Dean could provide at the time. "So, you don't mind if I check you out then?" Dean asked in all sincerity.

Katie was briefly taken aback with that question, but the longer she thought about it the more sense it made. "Not as long as you don't mind if I check you out." Was her honest reply.

With that both women pulled out their secure communications equipment and did exactly that. In a span of about ten minutes, they were both satisfied each one was the real McCoy.

"Now that the 'cats out of the bag' so to speak, my agency wants to cooperate fully with yours." Dean announced. "Not that I wouldn't anyway." She added. Katie nodded indicating that hers did too but it was going to take some time to process all the approvals by both agencies. "By the way… just how did you… I mean… no one has ever been able to get me down that fast before. Where did you learn how to do that?"

Katie smiled and then chuckled a bit. "Well, I guess I have 'special' skills too!" She chuckled some more as emerald eyes twinkled brightly. "Actually, I got my first black belt at the age of eight. I learned several styles of martial arts and mastered them all before I went to college. They just seemed to come easily. So when I went through my training at Quantico… well, let's just say they were quite surprised! I finished first in hand-to-hand for my class. They even wanted me to stay and teach there, but I couldn't wait to get out in the field." Katie said as her eyes misted over. "Maybe I should have, who knows… " Then she shook herself out of her memories and asked, "So, what's your take on tonight?"

Dean noticed the subtle mood shift but decided not to explore it at this time so she shelved the information for later retrieval. Instead she kept to the problem at hand. "Not sure yet. We need to get more information but that won't be easy. That place is a fortress. We were lucky that the meadow in the park offered us such a good view. Got any ideas?" Dean inquired of the blonde.

"Well, I imagine one of us needs to infiltrate somehow. Maybe get hired on the house staff or something then plant a few bugs." Katie said thoughtfully

"No bugs. I'm sure they'll sweep the place on a regular basis. I've got some long distance listening equipment coming in tomorrow. That should work better. It wouldn't hurt to get inside though and check out the place and security arrangements." Dean offered. "But you'll have to be the one to go in. I'm sure Lin would recognize me."

"How well does she know you?" Katie asked.

"Uh… mmm… too well, I'm afraid." Dean answered with a slight tint of color coming to her cheeks.

"Oh?" Said the blonde a bit testily. Now why is the green eyed monster showing up now? Katie thought. You just met Dean two days ago. Surely she's had other lovers before you. Get over it! "Sorry." She said apologetically.

'S'okay." Dean said locking eyes with the blonde then deciding to take the plunge and drop her guard a bit. "Believe me, it was over a long time ago." She moved closer to Katie and put her hand on her cheek, gently caressing it with her thumb. "It's been a very long time since I've made love with anyone, but today… it was very familiar, like we were old lovers and not new ones. I can't explain it. I've never had an experience like this before." Dean said apprehensively knowing that this was not the way a professional in the field should be reacting. Knowing but not heeding the warning bells going off in her head.

"Yes, I know what you mean, I felt it too." Katie answered honestly. She reached up and held Dean's hand and kissed the palm. Damn, here I go breaking one of the biggest rules in the agency: Never get personally involved with your partner. But then, she’s not really my partner now is she? Before she knew it, she heard herself replying to Dean. "I knew I was attracted to you when I first saw you in the diner, and that I wanted to get to know you better." The blonde said cautiously. "Does that make sense to you?"

"Absolute sense." Dean said with a smile. "I'd had a similar feeling myself." Then she bent forward and kissed Katie longingly, passionately, and very thoroughly. As lips met lips and tongues dueled, hands explored zippers and buttons, and articles of clothing soon left a trail leading to the bedroom. Three sets of eyes watched the duo leave the living room then squeezed their eyes shut and began to purr softly.


Wednesday… 2000 Hours…


It had been three very busy days since the arrival of the drug cartel representatives. Dean's listening equipment arrived on schedule along with some more advanced surveillance equipment and with a little help from Tracy everything was safely and secretly ensconced on the mountain. Dean was thankful for the good luck of having found Tracy in such a useful position to help out. She knew that she could trust her completely and it helped to make her job that much easier. Dean was now officially a volunteer for the park department on 'park patrol' which presumed to keep unwanted ATV's and hunters off the mountain. One look at the intimidating Amazonian and most would-be trespassers quickly changed their minds. In two days the word spread and Dean no longer had to watch over her shoulder for unwanted guests. Hikers still came up occasionally, but Dean usually fed them a line about studying the flora and fauna of the mountain and capturing the sounds of nature for an educational video. Soon even the hikers did not want to interrupt a 'work-in-progress.' It also made her coming and going acceptable to the neighbors since she wore official park attire.

Coordinating the stake-out with the DEA agent was also working out quite well. She found the young agent extremely capable and very creative at problem solving. The first problem she attacked was the growing lack of natural cover for the surveillance equipment with the trees and shrubs losing their foliage. It was Katie's idea to use the nature study/video idea as a cover, thus allowing a camouflage structure to be established as a 'blind.' She also managed to get herself hired as a part-time maid at the lodge used by the drug cartels. She would be starting that duty tomorrow so she quit her jobs at Burp & Freddies and the real estate office. These covers had outlived their usefulness since her targets and location were now identified. She was now free to do more research on the lodge guests as well as relieve Dean at the 'blind' after dark. Actual surveillance work would soon be moved indoors once the high-tech equipment was installed.

Today, Dean was spending the morning installing the high-tech equipment that would allow them to observe via remote control. Tracy suggested they use an empty office at the parks & recreation building for their control room. Although Dean did not want to get any civilians involved, it seemed the best location since they were 'volunteers' for the department. It legitimized their coming and going on the mountain even more. Tracy had insisted that it would be best for the operation's cover, and at this time of year, things were so slow at the office that no one would know they were there anyway. Now all that remained was to settle in and hope that they could figure out what the gathering was all about.

"That's the last of it." Dean signaled to Tracy as she put the last box of equipment into the office. "I'll get started on hooking everything up so Katie can come down off the mountain by lunch time."

"You really like the kid don't you?" Tracy asked with a sly grin on her face.

"Yeah, I do. She's really quite intelligent and has strengths where I have weaknesses. We seem to be making a good team."

"Excuse me. Did I hear you say you have weaknesses?" Tracy asked with wide eyes.

"Oh come on Tracy, you of all people know I do!" Dean laughed.

"Yeah, like shoot first and ask questions later?" Tracy offered then immediately regretted using that particular euphemism.

Dean just nodded her head and flashed back to her last assignment. It was a typical assignment for her and her 'special' skills. It seemed her superiors never minded her ruthless tactics because she always produced the desired results. She had been sent to Bosnia to 'rescue' the daughter of a NATO official. The young girl was kidnapped from her home in England and was being held hostage in Bosnia as leverage to keep her father’s the troops under his command out of certain areas. This endangered the lives of many NATO forces, among them many American troops. Dean accomplished the job quickly, but the body count left behind was staggering. She had to assume that some of the victims were probably innocent bystanders that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths could have been avoided if she had taken a bit more time to ask questions first and shoot later, but it was a war zone, and many lives were at stake. Innocent people often died in a war, it was to be expected. She did her job quickly and effectively. In and out, mission accomplished. It earned her the promotion to Lt. Colonel. But the ruthlessness was starting to affect her and the faces of the dead haunted her dreams.

Tracy looked at the sadness on her friend's face wondering which particular nightmare she was reliving at that moment. "Sorry, Dean, I used a rather poor choice of words." Tracy said as she reached out and touched her friend's shoulder.

Dean just shook her head and shrugged. "It's not your fault Tracy, I'm the one who made the choice to become what I am. And I'm the one who has to live with that choice. It's just getting harder to live with is all."

"You know Dean, anytime you want to talk, I'm here to listen. I’m not in the Army anymore so my security clearance may be subject to scrutiny, but if you remember, I have very tight lips." Tracy offered softly as she gave her friend a gentle hug. Tracy remembered the first time she met Dean. She was Chief of Patient Administration for a five hundred bed army hospital in the mid-west and was reviewing the medical records of the current influx of new patients. Dean had just successfully completed her second 'special' assignment and was lucky to get out of it alive. She arrived at the medical facility hanging on by a thread and sporting several new openings in her torso that were not supposed to be there. Just the loss of blood alone would have doomed an ordinary person. Thank the gods, she was extraordinary. Tracy had made a point of visiting this patient on a regular basis to track her progress. Tracking soon led to interest, which soon developed into friendship. They had been friends ever since and their military paths often crossed. Tracy reflected that it was great to see her old friend again and hoped this assignment would not become a repeat of their original meeting.

"Yeah, and I appreciate it. Maybe someday I'll be able to talk about it but right now I've got work to do." The tall woman smiled at her friend then went into the small office to begin the final installation of her remote surveillance control room and to look back on her life and it's secrets. It occurred to Dean that since meeting the young blonde she had changed. She now had a purpose in life worth living for. That is, if Katie wants me in her life. Dean knew that her 'special' skills were largely due to a lack of fear and a deep burning rage that at times was difficult to control. She could accomplish more than her peers because she never feared death. On the contrary, she dealt it out so often it almost felt like and old friend. She knew that some day, her time would come, but she never worried about when or where. Now, however, she was finding herself falling helplessly in love. And falling in love was something she had never really expected to happen in her life. Sure, she had many lovers over the years, but the young agent was different. She was finding herself looking forward to the future. Looking forward to seeing those emerald eyes, hearing her laughter, and feeling her touch. And she was beginning to understand fear. In the past Dean had lost partners on assignments and could accept the loss as part of the job. Now though, that was totally unacceptable. This realization was adding another dimension to her job and another set of priorities. She feared for Katie's safety and that was becoming her first priority. She knew the assignment always had to come first, but her heart was telling her otherwise. She just hoped she would never have to choose between the two.

By 1230, the installation was complete and Katie was signaled to come to the office. Five minutes later, Katie walked in to the control room and surveyed Dean's handiwork. "Not bad Colonel. You army folk sure have the toys!" She said as she checked out the room with a low whistle. "This stuff will certainly make the surveillance a lot more comfortable. I'm sure glad we ran into each other. I'll certainly be a lot warmer than I had counted on."

"Well, at least you know some of that appropriations money went to good use." Dean chuckled as she began to run the young agent through the various pieces of equipment and how to use them.

"Wow! That's cool!" The blonde exclaimed as Dean demonstrated the range of the visual scanning camera. It was so powerful that Dean was able to focus on a clock located on the fireplace mantle in the lodge. It read 12:45.

"Hmm," Dean murmured, "they need to re-set the clock. It's off by two minutes."

"Of course, it's only good when the curtains are open or for outside views." Katie continued.

"Yep, but wait till you see this." Dean said as she punched up another set of controls that showed the occupants walking through the lodge as though they were being x-rayed. "This is a TDSC unit, or thermo-dynamic scanning converter." She said proudly. "If it's a warm body, I can find it! It’s similar to the satellite version, only on a smaller scale."

"Now that’s really cool!" The young agent was very impressed. "How about audio? Can you enhance that?"

"Not as much as I would like. Unfortunately enhancing that also enhances all the other sounds between here and there." The tall woman explained. "I can fine tune on one person, two if they're standing close together, it’s not too bad. Listen." She gave the blonde a set of headphones and made some adjustments highlighting the kitchen area and focusing on one of the warm bodies on the screen. The person selected had a small green dot now showing on the viewing screen indicating the fine tuning to that individual's location. As they watched and listened, a very distant elderly female voice could be heard.

"They said they wanted to change the menu to eggplant parm for the guests from Chicago, and the one’s from Japan want fresh sushi." The voice said. "You’d think I’m running a damn restaurant here! Why the hell can’t they all eat the same thing!"

"Ya, right!" Said another voice only it was much fainter. "I sure don't like running back and forth to the grocery store all day! Where the hell am I going to get fresh fish for sushi at this time of day? It’s not like I can run down to the Fulton Fish market just like that!" The voice ended with a snap of the fingers.

"Mmm, sounds like dissention in the hired help?" Dean commented with a smile.

"Yeah," Replied the blonde, "but if you ask me, the vocal reception is awesome!"

"Ahh, it’s okay for fine spectrum, but it can get pretty garbled on broad spectrum. Are you up for some lunch?" A set of blue eyes peered over to where the blonde was sitting.

"Are you kidding? I’m always up for food!" And with that the young agent stood, set down her headphones and opened the door to the outer offices. "Anybody out here interested in food?" She called out.

"Yeah!" Came the simultaneous answer from Tracy and her secretary Linna. Dean in the meantime set the second VCR and tape recorder up to capture the events at the lodge while they would be at lunch. She always had one set taping, but when it was unattended, she’d turn on the second set. The two agents weren’t worried about missing anything at this point in the surveillance so they decided to both could go for lunch.

Linna wasn’t exactly sure what the two women were doing in the next office, but she trusted Tracy even though her instincts told her they didn’t look like scientists. Besides, she really enjoyed the enthusiasm of the younger woman. The tall dark haired woman on the other hand, was more of an enigma to her, but she was beginning to warm up to her too. "How about Italian?" Linna suggested. "Gino makes the best bruschetta and calzones in town! One thing this town has lots of besides lawyers is restaurants!" Linna gaily offered as they took off for the short ride to Gino’s. "Guess it’s a good thing we get a lot of city folk wanting to either start or end their careers here in the Catskills!"

Forty-five minutes later they were back at the office still enjoying the lingering taste of garlic and Italian sauce. Tracy and Linna went into their respective areas while Dean and Katie went into theirs. "Let’s see what went on while we were gone shall we?" Dean reached over and rewound the equipment and the two women sat down to watch.

"Hey, Johnnie. What time is this new guy coming in?" Voice #1

"Tonight, around midnight is what I was told." Replied Johnnie.

"So. Ya figure we’ll find out just what this is all about then?" Voice #1

"Yeah, probably. All I know is that I’m getting really creeped out by some of these dudes here. Of, course some of the broads aren’t bad for the eyes if ya know what I mean!" Johnnie said with a lecherous laugh.

"Ya can forget that Johnnie. Them broads is colder than an icebergs! If I can’t get one of ‘em to heat up, nobody can!" Voice #3

Laughter filled the room as the men continued to make crude remarks about the five women in attendance.

Voice #3 spoke again. "Man, you see the size of that one guy! He must go 270 or more. I’d hate to have to tangle with him!"

"Nah! Voice #2 said. "This little piece here is a great equalizer. Especially with them armor piercing rounds in it!" More laughter.

"Hmm," Dean said, "Guess we can forget about wearing any vests for protection. Never liked them anyway. Too bulky."

"They’re just not made for the female body." Katie added with a twinkle of her emerald eyes. "I feel like I’m in a vise when I wear mine and it takes forever for my breasts to get back to normal."

Dean looked at the blonde with a wicked twinkle of her own then scanned the mentioned breasts as her mouth curled up in a smile. "We can’t be having any of that now, can we?" She said in a low seductive growl.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was uneventful although they did pick up a few snatches of conversation that could prove to be useful. Katie went home for a quick nap and to feed the cats and medicate Sugar. She returned to the office around 2100. "Dean?" Katie asked softly.

"Hmm?" Dean answered without looking up.

"Don’t you want to catch a nap or something? We still have about three hours before that guy is supposed to show up." She offered.

"Nah, I’m fine. I don’t want to take the time to go back to the cabin right now. But maybe I’ll stretch out on Tracy’s couch for a bit." She said getting up and stretching.

"Let me know if anything develops."

Katie nodded as she accepted the headphones from Dean then settled in for her turn at the console. At about 2330 she walked into Tracy’s office and nudged Dean awake. "Hey gorgeous. Time to get up."

Blue eyes slowly opened and focused on Katie. "Mmm, I must have died and gone to heaven. There’s this beautiful angel watching over me." Dean said with a big dazzling smile that took Katie’s breath away.

"Close, but no cigar." The young woman answered as she gently stroked Dean’s hair. "It’s almost midnight. We better tune in on the new arrival."

"Spoil sport!" Dean joked.

The two women went back to the surveillance room and donned their headphones in anticipation of the new arrival. At precisely midnight, they saw the black limo pull into the lodge compound. Dean decided it wasn't necessary to use the TDSC unit until Katie infiltrated the lodge tomorrow. It was too dark to make out the face of the arrival, but once he was inside Dean had no problem identifying him by his voice alone. It was General Andre Kasimov, former director of the KGB and now national security director for the new Russian regime.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen." The Russian began in a heavy accent. "I’m glad you were all able to make it here for this gathering. And… I’m sure you’re all wondering why I have called together such a diverse group." He added smiling as he waved his arms slowly around the room indicating the people gathered in the living room. "But, I’m afraid, I will have to ask for your patience just a bit longer. Once my aide Dimitri confirms the security of this estate, I will gladly bring you all into my plans at dinner tomorrow. Until then, I suggest you all get a good night’s sleep." With that, Andre exited the living room and went directly to his quarter’s. These were reserved for him on the first floor, next to the den. There were immediate mumbles from the other participants after the Russian left. These ran the gamut from curiosity to distrust but all agreed that the Russian’s arrogance was unacceptable. Slowly, each of the representatives left for their own rooms. The last to leave were Lin and Ito.

"So Ito, what do you know of this Russian?" Lin asked her companion.

"He once was KGB, now he’s with their National Security. I wonder what he wants from us?" Ito said thoughtfully.

"Maybe he wants part of the action? Wants to eliminate the current drug czars and put himself in their place?" She offered.

"No, no." Ito said emphasizing with a shake of his head. "He could do that without our help. In fact, I have sources that say he IS the drug czar for Russia, only he keeps his identity a secret."

"Hmm. I wonder what he’s up to then…. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow." Then they both left arm in arm for their rooms.

Kasimov! Dean's conscience whispered. You old devil. So… we finally meet again.

With a sigh Dean said. "I was really hoping we’d get what we needed tonight so you wouldn’t have to go in under cover tomorrow. I just don’t trust that much evil gathered in one place. Especially with Kasimov in the picture now. Dean thought to herself. "That’s one very evil man who doesn’t know how to play nice. This can’t be good." Dean said as she shook her head. "Just what’s the old general up to?"

"Well we'll have to wait till tomorrow like everyone else. And, you’ll be here watching over me, so I’ll be safe." Katie said as she placed her hand on Dean’s shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze.

"That’s true, but I don’t have an army of reinforcements sitting outside that gate to bail you out if necessary." Dean said as she peered intently into the young agents emerald eyes. "I wish I could go in, not you. But, just in case, I want you to wear this necklace tomorrow." Dean pulled out a beautiful silver chain with an emerald green stone on it. "This won’t show up on any security sweeps, but it will allow me to locate you anywhere in the house. It'll show up as a blue dot on the screen. That way I can pick you out from the rest and keep track of your movements." She added with a grin. "If you notice anything that may be a security issue for us, just cough, and I’ll mark the location on the layout map."

"Got it, and don’t worry," Katie said as she gave Dean a soft kiss on her forehead, "I have no intention of getting caught. Besides, I can handle myself pretty well remember?"

"You just got lucky that night. Don’t forget there’s a hell of a lot more of them!" The dark woman said standing and stretching. "When do you have to be there?"

"I report at 6:30 AM. I’m the downstairs maid." Katie said with a smile and a curtsy.

"Okay. Just BE careful. Do your maid thing, and don’t try to do anything that would be suspicious. Get a feel for the layout and keep your eyes peeled for anything that might be useful." Dean instructed. "I don’t want anything to happen to you." She added as she pulled the young agent into a hug and a light kiss.

"Mmm, I’ll be fine." Katie answered her around Dean’s lips. "I don’t want anything to happen to me either."

"Looks like we can put the taping machines on until morning. I'll be coming in around 0530. I'll meet you here before you report in. We can calibrate the necklace then." The tall woman released Katie reluctantly then they checked the equipment once more before they locked up the office and left for their respective homes. Tomorrow would be a very long day and both needed to get a good night's rest.

* * * * * *

Thursday… 0500 Hours

Dean had finished her morning run and was coming out of the shower feeling fairly invigorated considering she had less than four hours of sleep. She was dressed and on her way by 0515. By the time she pulled into the parking lot and unlocked the doors, Katie was right behind her.

"Morning." Dean said. "Nice outfit." She added in a mocking tone noting the very short skirt of the uniform and the lacy apron.

"Hey!" Katie replied smacking Dean's arm lightly. "I'm not quite awake yet so I won't take offense for that remark! How're you feeling this morning?"

"Not bad considering." The tall woman responded. "Too bad Tracy doesn't have a shower in this place or I'd have stayed here all night."

"Well, hopefully we'll get to the bottom of this soon." Katie offered. "You could have stayed with me last night. My place is closer." She added with a smile and a wink.

"Yeah, then neither one of us would have gotten any sleep!" Dean chuckled.

Dean calibrated the necklace while Katie made some coffee for herself and some tea for Dean. They quickly reviewed the tapes from the past four hours noting that no one stirred during the night, but activity was beginning in the kitchen.

"Probably the cook getting breakfast ready." Dean commented. "Who are you supposed to report to?"

"Actually, the cook is in charge of the hired help. A Mrs. Ellen Schlott." Katie answered. "I checked her out and she's clean. A local woman. Been in this area all her life. Only thing on her record is a speeding ticket back in '69."

"Good." Dean said nodding her head. "Try to keep track of the innocent bystanders. We wouldn't want them to get in the way or get hurt." Getting a conscience now, eh? Her little voice said sarcastically. Yes! She answered. Guess it's about time I

start asking questions first and shooting later. And I certainly don't want Katie to have to live with any regrets.

"Well, I better be off. Don't want to be late on my first day." Katie said more enthusiastically after two cups of very strong coffee.

The young agent slipped the necklace on, then winked at Dean before she walked out the door. Dean concentrated on the lodge and scanned all the rooms. The only action so far, was in the kitchen. Guess they're sleeping in today. Dean mused. Wish I was sleeping in… with my arms wrapped around a beautiful blonde… instead of being here. "Whoa!" Dean said out loud to no one. "Stick to the program Dean!" She admonished herself then went back to the task at hand. She watched as Katie reported to the cook in the kitchen area and listened as she got her duties for the morning. Vacuum the living room first, then the rest of the downstairs except for the living quarters by the den. Then dust and straighten up the rooms. At 9:00 she was to return and set the dining room buffet table with the breakfast items. Katie was given a quick tour of the downstairs, then shown to the pantry that held the cleaning tools and items were located and left to do her job.

* * * * * *

Around 0900 hours, there was a knock on the door. "Come in." Dean said as she switched to the camera for the wildlife on the mountain and played the nature sounds tape over the speakers in the room while she continued to listen to conversations at the lodge on her headphones.

"It’s just me." Came Linna’s voice. "Just thought I’d see if you need anything."

"Yeah, thanks. I could do with a cup of tea." Dean said displaying a pleasant smile.

"Any particular kind? We’ve got all sorts."

"Any mint medley?" Dean asked hopefully.

"You bet. Be right back." Then Linna turned and went to the kitchen area for the cup of tea. Within minutes she was back at the door offering Dean the steaming cup.

"Thanks." Said Dean as she accepted the cup.

"So… how long have you been studying nature?" Linna asked in an effort to be friendly as well as try to find out more about the two mysterious ‘scientists.’

"Oh, just a few years now." Dean answered without offering too much else.

"Has Katie been with you for that long?" Linna continued the inquisition.

"Umm, no. She just joined me recently." The tall woman answered starting to get a bit uncomfortable.

"Really? You two just seem like you’ve been working together for a long time." The secretary commented.

"Well, it’s just that we have common interests. You know. Shop talk and all." The blue eyes were now flitting back towards the TV screen. "I really need to get back to work." She said to Linna. "Thanks again for the tea."

"Oh. Yeah. Okay. You’re welcome." Came the volley of answers as Linna moved to leave the office and closed the door behind her. As she walked back to her office, Linna couldn’t help but wonder what was really up with the women. She couldn’t imagine watching and listening to birds chirping and squirrels chattering and deer munching to be so interesting, and yet, the blue eyes were definitely wanting to focus on the screen. Two and two just weren’t adding up to four in this case. She also knew that Dean was an old army friend of Tracy’s and she was dead sure that Tracy’s military career did not include ornithology! Well, she vowed, I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery one way or another.

Phew! Dean thought as she flicked the screen back on to the lodge view. I thought she’d never leave. Now, where in the world was Katie when she coughed those two times? At present Dean located Katie back in the kitchen where she was chatting away with the cook.

"So Mrs. Schlott. How long have you worked here at the lodge?" Katie asked sweetly.

"Just call me El sweetie." Said the seventy-ish cook. "I’ve been here workin’ for Mr. G for almost fifty years." She said with a sigh. "Through the good times and the bad. We thought we were going to have to find new jobs when the lodge closed this season. Mr. G wanted to sell it, but then this Mr. Smirnoff rented, with an option to buy the lodge, for the next six months at three times the going rate! Well, you know Mr. G wasn’t going to pass that up, so he took it. The economy isn't what it used to be in the resort world around these parts. Don't know what we'd do if the tourist trade went completely down the toilet!"

"Wow!" Katie said encouragingly. "Why do you suppose he offered three times the money?"

"Who knows. Rich people don’t have to have reasons. Maybe he just liked the place. Then he asked Mr. G if he could make special upgrades to the place. Without cost to Mr. G of course!" El said approvingly.

"What kind of upgrades?" The young blonde asked.

"Oh, I don’t know." The cook replied. "Something to do with the wiring and security alarms or something. We weren’t here when the work was done. Mr. Smirnoff gave us a five week paid vacation during the renovations plus a $2,000 dollar bonus!" She said proudly. "Me and Ezra went to Disneyland with our grand kids!" El nodded in obvious delight. "Had a hoot of a time too!"

"Cool." Replied the blonde. "That was really generous of Mr. Smirnoff. He must be a really nice man."

"I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met the man. Today will be the first time I meet him face to face." El said with a thoughtful expression. "Did all the set up over the phone with Mr. G."

"Well, I better get back to work. I want to make a good impression on such a nice man. Thanks for the coffee El." Katie said as she put her dusting supplies away and started to help Ezra with the breakfast trays for the buffet.

"Sure thing sweetie, anytime." The cook responded as she went back to the oven to check on the biscuits.

Wiring and security alarms, thought Katie as she busied herself with the breakfast items. Nothing stands out as obvious. I’ll just take another trip around and see if I can detect anything. As she finished putting up the buffet, the ‘guests’ started to come down the stairs. She smiled as she served coffee and tea to the varied group of men and women. Noting that they all seemed a bit on edge. She tried to be as pleasant as possible and even tried to start conversations with some of them, but to no avail. They obviously considered themselves above her station in life and ignored her. The only one who spoke back to her was Lin. At least she wasn’t afraid to comment on the service or the fine weather, Katie noted. And she is indeed beautiful and seemed to be just as curious about her colleagues as Katie was. Katie was just about to ask her another question when Ito came up to Lin and led her away to the far side of the room speaking to her softly in Japanese. Lin listened intently to his comments then spared a quick glance at Katie and flushed when she saw Katie watching her before returning her attention to Ito.

Now what was that all about, Katie thought. Maybe he’s hitting on her. She continued the thought. Or maybe she’s hitting on me? Hmm, interesting. Then she pulled her attention back to her duties as General Kasimov entered the room.

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen." He bellowed like a benevolent patriarch. "I hope you have been finding your stay here satisfactory. My associate, Natasha, and I will be out for most of the day, however we will return in time for our dinner meeting. Dimitri will remain here today to conduct the business I informed you about last night. Please extend him every courtesy so he may complete his duties by this evening. For those of you that may be interested, I have obtained one day non-resident hunting permits, secured proper equipment, and have scheduled transportation to a hunting camp near by. See Natasha directly if you are interested." With that, the general proceeded to the buffet for his breakfast as Natasha handled the eager hunters. Most of the men and three of the women signed up for the hunting party. They all quickly vacated the dining area and headed to their rooms to get ready for the transportation pick-up.

Katie took this all in with a mute expression but was very glad there would be so many less bodies around if she had the opportunity to explore. She came out of her thoughts just in time to see the general approach her with his laden plate.

"Bring coffee to my table." He said in a command tone.

"Yes sir." Katie responded quickly.

When she brought the requested coffee over and placed it on his table she was startled by his sudden reach for her hand. "You are the new maid I’m told." He said as he released her hand.

"Yes sir." Katie said quietly, trying not to show displeasure at his uninvited touch.

"How old are you?" He asked curiously.

"Twenty, sir." She said softly knowing that she could easily pass for that age.

"Why aren’t you at university?" He continued.

"My parents are out of work and I need to help support them and my sister until they can find work again." Katie said convincingly. It was the story they had concocted for the job interview.

"You are much too beautiful to be waiting tables and cleaning houses." He said with a smug attitude and returned his hand to hers as he began to stroke it. "You should be at university learning to be an actress or a model. Perhaps I could help you." He added with a lecherous sneer.

"Thank you sir. That’s very kind of you, but I have my family to think about." She answered as her neck started to shade pink. Not with the affection he assumed, but with controlled anger at his arrogance and touch. He was a very handsome man in his late fifties, but his pompous attitude would have turned anyone off. She slid her hand out from under his and returned to her station. Bastard, she said to herself. He is not a nice man at all. Wonder if El knows about this. Probably not. Just stay cool kiddo, don’t blow the cover, play nice with the creeps..

* * * * *

Dean listened intently to the conversation between Katie and Kasimov, anger growing with each word out of the general’s mouth. He hasn’t changed a bit the old bastard! Dean considered. I should have warned Katie last night. Well, her reaction is more realistic this way. I probably would have punched him out! This thought amused Dean as she visualized her scenario with the promiscuous general. Her visualization was stopped however by another knock on the door. "Just a minute." She called as she got up to see who was at the door. This time it was Tracy.

"Hey." She said as she opened the door for Tracy to enter.

"Dean." Tracy said as she closed the door behind her. "I just wanted to apologize about Linna. She can be a tenacious individual when she sets her mind to something. I don’t think she’s buying the story about the nature video and I’m sure she suspects our ‘scientists’ of evil doing. She’s been pumping me all morning." Tracy said with a smile. "I’ve tried to throw her off course and spin some yarns about you being in the animal research division, but I don’t think she went for it." A sigh, "I just wanted to forewarn you." Tracy added.

"She was already in here this morning." Dean said with a smirk as Tracy’s eyes widened in shock. "Don’t worry, she didn’t see anything. I switched cameras before she came in." Dean motioned Tracy over to a chair by the console as she returned the headphones to her head.

"So, how’s it going?" Tracy asked tentatively.

"Not bad, but still no big news. It involves Kasimov though so it’s got to be a real ball buster." Dean commented.

"Kasimov! No kidding!" Tracy said then added, "Isn’t he the one responsible for all those holes in you when we first met?"

"One in the same." Dean nodded. "Evil bastard. I just can’t figure what game he’s playing this time. And with the cartel's involvement, I’m really at a loss. Any ideas?"

"No, but I’ll mull it over." Tracy offered. "Anything I can do to help out in the meantime?"

"Yeah, keep a lid on Linna if you can."

"Tough assignment!" Tracy muttered. "But I’ll work on her."

"It’s bad enough I’ve gotten you involved. I just don’t want anyone else to get in the way and get hurt. I don’t think I can live with anymore ghosts." Dean said as she leveled a gaze at Tracy.

"Roger. I’ll do my best." Tracy nodded understanding her friends comment completely.

The two women sat in the control room for a while longer as Dean explained the new technology to Tracy. She really was impressed with the quality of the surveillance equipment and asked several questions regarding the range, quality, and penetration abilities. The TDSC unit was the highlight as they both tracked the blue dot representing Katie through the lodge.

* * * * *

After cleaning up the dining area from breakfast, Katie was instructed to help the upstairs maid, Darla, clean the sleeping rooms. The handful of 'guests' that remained were in the game room either reading, watching TV, or playing some billiards. The only one's that remained were Lin and Ito, Tony Cabrini, Julio Romero, Rafael Lonzo and Trina Carbona from the Sicilian group, and of course Dimitri. As she went up the stairs she noticed a small circle just under the first step below the first landing. Katie quickly looked around then dropped some of her cleaning supplies on the stairs so she could get a closer look. Hmm. Definitely a security device of some kind, she thought. Probably a laser beam by the looks of it. She quickly picked up her things and checked the rest of the steps as she went up. There were eight more of them on the way, all in slightly different locations and seemingly different angles. She coughed as she stepped on the last stair at the top. She'd have to remember to check the bottom stairs for any she may have missed.

She met Darla in the first room and helped the young girl with that room. Once finished, Katie suggested that they split up so they could get done faster and Darla eagerly agreed. Katie opted to take the rooms on the left side of the hallway, and Darla the right side. She figured that tomorrow they could switch sides and she'd have access to all the rooms. At each room she systematically searched as she cleaned and changed the sheets. Well it looks as though these guys didn't bring a whole lot of anything but clothes. Katie thought as she continued her search. Maybe they were instructed not to bring anything or else they were carrying anything important with them. She knew they had weapons because of the conversation about the armor piercing bullets the night before. Maybe each room has a personal safe? She thought, as she still found no evidence of anything out of the ordinary, not even any sign of security devices. She decided to pump El at lunch and see what she could find out.

Once the rooms were done, the two maids had only the hall to clean before lunch would be served at 1:00 pm. Katie was just about done when she noticed a series of circles similar to the ones on the stairs. These were cleverly hidden in knot holes in the pine wainscot of the hallway. She coughed again. She also noticed strategically placed pillars with statues of Greek gods and goddesses in the corners. Taking her duster, she decided to give them the once over. Eureka! She shouted in her mind. Each of the statues had miniscule camera lenses inserted in the hollows of the eyes. Figuring she may be watched, she continued her cleaning with added vigor and coughed at the fictitious dust she stirred up. Maybe the old bastard will give me a raise for the extra effort, she thought as she began to whistle softly as she worked.

Lunch was served precisely at 1:00 pm., and during that time, Katie tried to strike up a conversation with the remaining guests. She noticed Lin watching her so she made an effort to go to her table to see if anything else was required.

"Can I get you anything else?" She inquired of the two occupants at the table.

"Yes," replied Lin. "I would like some more tea please." She added as she focused her gaze directly into the emerald eyes of the young agent and smiled.

It took a second before Katie responded and as she turned to get the requested tea she noticed Lin smiling broadly now. Ito noticed it too and shook his head in admiration then commented to his table mate in Japanese.

Katie returned with the tea and asked if there would be anything else. Lin said no, but she would be sure to let her know if she needed anything then smiled a very gracious smile at the young agent. Phew! That was intense. Katie thought to herself. I wonder if she's on to me? That look felt like she could see clear through me. But then, if she had, I may not be standing here wondering about it. Wonder what she's up to…

After lunch, Katie and Darla helped clean the dining area and the kitchen with Ezra and El. As she completed her tasks, she tried to pump El for any information that may be useful noting that some of the women had some very nice looking jewelry on and wondered if the renovations included personal safes or if there was a general safe for that sort of thing.

"Why no, sweetie. That wouldn't be necessary since they're already in each of the rooms." The cook smiled at the concern the young maid was showing for her 'guests.'

"Really?" Katie said playing the wide eyed role. "I sure didn't see any when I was helping Darla."

"Well, Mr. G was a stickler for that kind of thing after one of his guests was 'liberated' of her diamond necklace back in the '50's. Isn't that right Ezra?" She turned to ask her husband.

"Yep. Mr. G had them installed in each bathroom behind the mirrors. I think some of them still work." He added thoughtfully.

"Wow!" Katie said. "I bet this place has lots of little nooks and crannys for hiding things. Just like in the old gangster movie's on TV."

"Oh, my yes." Replied the cook again. "Mr. G's father was thought to have been in the Dutch Shultz mob during the '20's. But it was never proved. He did have a 'speak easy' in the lodge though. All the big wigs in the county came here. My mother was a cook here then. She used to tell us some pretty wild stories of goings on in that speak easy. My older sister and I grew up in this lodge in the thirties and forties." El said wistfully then got up and started to get things ready for dinner. "Well, sweetie, your shift is done for today. I'll see you tomorrow." She added with a smile.

* * * * *

It was nearly 1500 and time for Katie to go off duty. Dean and Tracy made arrangements to grab a quick early dinner with Katie as soon as she came in, then Tracy went back to her office. Katie had changed out of her maid uniform before arriving at the office. She bounced in and waved to Linna and Tracy before entering the office where Dean had been keeping track of her.

"Nice move interrogating the cook." Dean said smiling appreciatively.

"She's a sweet old thing and should be a good source as long as I can keep her from getting suspicious." Katie said smiling back.

"Yeah, but don't try to ask too many questions. It may look suspicious. Let's grab Tracy and have some dinner before the show starts this evening." Dean suggested.

"Gods, that sounds good. I'm starving." Katie said quickly then added. "El may be a good cook, but the hired help doesn't get to taste much of it!"

Dean reset the tapes and then they left the room locking the office door behind them. In the outer office they caught up with Tracy and then left for dinner. They selected a lone table in the corner of Mac's Bar, placed their order and then went over the day. Katie told them about the laser beams, the secret cameras, and filled them in on the inhabitants. As she related her meeting with Kasimov , her anger returned and it took Dean and Tracy to get her to cool down again. Then she recounted the incidents with Lin.

"So, what's that all about?" She asked Dean. "Any ideas?"

"Well, we did hear her comment to Ito." Dean said as she eyed Tracy.

"Yeah, but that was in Japanese." Katie said looking at Dean then Tracy as they both tried to look elsewhere. "Let me guess, you two understand Japanese."

"Uhh, yeah." Tracy muttered as she looked at Dean for help.

"Don't look at me Tracy, you're the one spilling the beans about understanding Japanese!" Dean said with a grin.

"So, spit it out!" Katie said as she locked her emerald eyes on Tracy.

"Well... uh… I mean… we didn't get it all. They were talking real quiet." Tracy hedged.

"Seems Lin is attracted to you... and Ito thought it might be fun to have a three way." Dean informed the blonde nonchalantly. "Not that I blame her. You are very attractive."

"Yeah," chimed in Tracy hoping to redeem herself. "You can't blame her for that."

"Oh, great!" The blonde said now thoroughly embarrassed. "Now I won't be able to look her in the eye without blushing."

"Well, if it's any consolation, your blush is rather sexy." Dean concluded with a sly grin and a wink at the blonde. This got the intended result as Katie proceeded to blush profusely.

After a round of laughter, Katie turned the conversation back to the security at the lodge. She related that she had not found a security control room, but that she didn't really have much time to look. Tomorrow, she would try to explore other areas of the house if at all possible. Then the three of them, discussed possible scenarios if they ever had to enter the lodge.

"I don't know Dean," Katie interjected. "I sure hope we won't have to go in there. There seems to be an awful lot of laser beam and security cameras around that place. It'd be a tough one to crack if we can't locate the control room."

"I gotta agree with Katie on that one." Tracy added. "I'm sure there's even more stuff too that she hasn't seen yet."

"Well, hopefully we'll get what we need tonight and not have to go in there at all." Dean said as their food arrived.

The rest of dinner was spent in pleasant conversation, and a bit of an update on Linna by Tracy. "I had a talk with her about your office. I told her that there was a lot of very expensive equipment in there that was very delicate given the difficulty of the subject matter. I suggested that she not bother you two when you're in there because the sound setting's were so sensitive, yadda yadda." Tracy said punctuating her speech with her hands. "She's pretty darn smart and I'm sure she didn't buy it, but I warned her to not bother you two and she agreed."

"Good enough for me." Dean said.

"Me too." Katie nodded.

"Well, I'm gonna run by my trailer and feed the cats and get Sugar's medicine down her. Are you going back to the office now?" Katie asked Dean.

"No, I'm going to go by my place first. I need to pick up some things. I'll meet you back there at 1730 okay?" Tracy nodded in agreement as Dean paid the bill. The three women left Mac's Bar and walked the three blocks back to the office. When they got there, Tracy asked if they'd mind if she came back in the evening to listen in with them. Both agents agreed, then Tracy went in the office and the two women left to carry out their errands.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Thursday… 1900 hours…

The three women were listening and watching intently as the activity level in the lodge began to increase. They were in TDSC mode since it was too dark for the regular camera and this made it more difficult to place voices with images. As Dean scanned the house, she noted that an area next to the den could not be penetrated and showed up black on the screen.

"Any idea what's in that space?" Dean inquired of Katie.

"I think that's the area that Kasimov uses for his quarters." The blonde said as she studied the screen. "Why can't we get penetration?"

"There's a few substances that will block the scan. Most are way too expensive, like titanium shielding, but the most likely culprit is concrete. It has to be at least two feet thick. Dean explained. "Didn't El mention that there used to be a speakeasy in the lodge?" She inquired of the young agent.

"Yeah. She did, but she didn't say where." Katie answered. "You think it's next to the den?"

"Could be, but my guess would be that the room next to the den is empty but leads to the cellar. See the layout… it doesn't even look big enough to be a bedroom, more like a false front if you ask me. My instincts say it leads to the speakeasy.

"But what about the penetration? Wouldn't it be too expensive to line that room with titanium?" Tracy asked as she reviewed the layout of the lodge.

"It wouldn't cost too much to put titanium shielding in a staircase and on a door." Dean said as she continued her scanning. "It would make sense for a speakeasy to be in the cellar. More room for guests and there's probably a hidden walk out for emergency egress. It probably only took a few more inches of concrete all around the room to make it impenetrable. That's what I would have done." Dean concluded with a nod.

"Makes sense," Tracy commented. "That way he's sure to have a secure area that would house the control room and whatever else he has up his sleeve." As an afterthought Tracy added, "Did you ever run across Dimitri during the day?"

"As a matter of fact, no." Replied the blonde. "I thought that was a bit weird to since he was supposed to be doing a security check."

"He did it all from the control room. New scanning equipment similar to the TDSC to scan the rooms through the fiber optics in the camera lenses." Dean advised. "Probably has a lens in every room."

"I wonder if he caught me interrogating El and Ezra?" The blonde considered out loud.

"He very well could have." Dean turned, and her eyes gave away the concern she felt. "You better stick to just visual examination and not try to pump El and Ezra tomorrow. Just be the hired maid and talk about weather, cleaning, that kind of stuff, nothing more."

Dean was about to give Katie a hug, but the voices in the lodge suddenly became quiet. Dean noticed that two images spontaneously appeared outside the den. "That about cinches it." She said to her comrades. "Andre and Natasha just 'appeared' on the screen."

The women watched as the two images entered the dining area which was located across from Kasimov's room.

"Good evening my friends. I hope everyone had a successful day?" He asked in his heavily accented English.

Murmurs came from the assembled guests on how many deer the hunters had returned with, followed by thanks for planning that event. It obviously had the desired effect, since most comments the women picked up were more gracious about their host.

"Yep, he's a smooth one all right." Tracy commented.

"Thank you my friends!" Kasimov said. "Now let us finish our cocktails, then have a good meal, before we get to the reason why you have been asked here."


The general made his rounds of the group, stopping and chatting with people as he made his way to his table. Sounds of chairs sliding on the floor as guests seated themselves could be heard, as well as utensils and plates making contact. The sounds of dinner being served and consumed, plus laughter and numerous conversations made it almost impossible to distinguish any pertinent information. The two agents and park director just sat and waited for dinner to be over.

They were brought out of their temporary daydreaming by the tinkling of a utensil on a glass. "Okay, here we go." Dean said as she flipped the recorders on.

"Ladies and gentlemen." General Kasimov bellowed over the group. "The time you have been waiting for is now upon us." He said with a broad smile. "Tonight I am going to present you with an opportunity of a lifetime. There has been a major push by each of your governments to crack down on drug trafficking. A global 'war on drugs' if you will. Although many of you are still competing successfully, many more of you are not. And soon, all governments will begin to win this war through their cooperative efforts. The tide is turning against you."

"Tonight, I am prepared to offer you a new drug for your arsenal that is so potent, so dependable, and so easy to produce and distribute that you may not believe it's potential. Scientists at our national security research division stumbled upon it and discarded it as potentially unstable and destructive. I, however, have rescued this substance and with the help of my personal dedicated staff, have restructured its make-up to make it the most powerful mind control substance this planet has ever or will ever see."

"Think of it my friends. The ability to control anyone's mind, their actions or reactions. The possibilities are limitless. YOU could control your governments! YOU could take over all legitimate or illegitimate businesses in your countries! YOU could become the elite in your country! YOU could become the leaders of your countries! YOU have the potential to become the wealthiest people on this planet!" Kasimov paused for effect as mumbled conversation arose among his guests.

"General!" Called out Johnnie Papp. "Why are you offering this to us. Why don't you take over the planet yourself?" Numerous voices confirmed Johnnie’s question.

"Because, I do not have an army at my command." The general answered. "We are no longer the super power we once were. We have become complacent and soft!" He said with disgust. "Those of you that agree to my terms will become my army. And yes, I intend to 'take over the planet' as you say. But I need your help." He said with a smile and widened his arms to gather in his flock.

Julio Romero stood and asked, "What's it gonna cost us senior?"

"Excellent question Mr. Romero!" The general smiled then continued. "My friends, I am not a greedy man. My cost to you would be the production costs of the drug and a pitiful twenty-five percent of your profits." He said putting all his charm into the offer. "Oh, and I forgot to mention, the cost of production is less than the cost of a pack of American cigarettes, for an amount that would control twenty individuals for one month!" The general beamed.

Lin raised her hand and got the general's attention. "General, you say this is a mind control drug. Just how is it administered and will you be giving a demonstration of it's potential."

"Of course my beautiful lady. You would not marry a man without trying him out first now would you?" He smiled lecherously.

"General, I would not 'try out' a man for any reason." Came the tart response. "Please answer my question."

A bit taken aback, the general continued. "Administration can be accomplished by almost any means. Inhalation, ingestion, injection, or topically, whatever the situation may call for in expediency." He smiled at the oriental woman, then continued. "And yes, I will be providing a demonstration."

"What are your 'terms' other than payment?" Came another question from the back of the room.

"Another excellent question. My terms are that I will select your first targets. After that, you are free to select your own. Your cartel's people will all pledge their alliance to me and will follow my commands without question, and then the matter of payment that we already discussed."

"What's to stop you from using the drug on us?" Shouted another cartel member, this time from Canada.

"Nothing, really. I could have used it on all of you already but I would rather have your voluntary cooperation than a contrived one. It's much cleaner that way you see." Again, he smiled and poured on the charm. "Any other questions?"

There were a few more questions. Concerns about time frames for target selection, delivery of the drug. And of course the 'demonstration.'

"Ah yes, the demonstration." The general became serious as he looked through the group. "There was only one expedient way to prove the effects of this drug." He continued scanning the group intently. "I had requested your superiors to send three of the most trusted individuals in their organization. Three people beyond reproach who could not be swayed by money or power, but were totally dedicated to the cartel."

The group all nodded in agreement. The general looked around the room again then waved a hand across the group.

"You are all dedicated to your organization. No one in this group would consider doing anything that would jeopardize the lives of anyone in their company. Correct?"

Heads nodded in agreement then they started to see where the general was going with this.

"One person in each of your small groups was given this drug. Please understand this is not hypnosis or subliminal transference. I merely need to suggest an action and these individuals will carry out the action. They follow my voice because I had arranged it thusly for this demonstration."

Now the group was becoming a lot more nervous at the implications the general was making.

"In order to manipulate each of the selected individuals, I personally talked to them after they ingested the drug so they would in this situation, respond to only my voice." The general paused for effect. "Mr. Cabini and Mr. Sanchez, please come forward."

The two men immediately stood and came to the generals table. "Gentlemen, please remove your revolvers from your holsters and attach your silencers." The two men did so. "Now place the barrel of your revolver to your temple." They complied once more. "Now… pull the trigger." Immediately two muffled 'pffts' were heard followed by two thuds as the men dropped to the floor, very dead.

Johnnie Papp was the first one to his feet followed closely by Romero.

"Just what the hell are you doing general?" shouted Papp.

"Yeah!" Shouted Romero. "You just blew away two of our own, you bastard!"

"Your own? I think not." The general said calmly as he held up his hands. "Dimitri discovered that these two members of your group were very well placed agents! What better way to demonstrate the power of this drug than on undercover agents, don't you agree?" The general smiled at the two men.

"You're nuts!" cried out Papp. "I've known Tony for five years! What proof have you got?

The general pulled out two miniature communication devices and other items that were immediately recognized as standard FBI issue. "I take it you recognize these?" The general said referring to the devices. "I had Dimitri trace their last communication to the Bureau Headquarters. Luckily he was able to jam the transmission so it could not be received. I would be happy to share a tape of their foiled communication if you wish."

"Holy shit!" Whispered Tracy. "Did you guys know there were FBI agents there?"

The two agents looked at each other shaking their heads.

"We didn’t know we were on the same case, so it doesn't surprise me that the FBI was there too." Dean commented.

"Here's another reason why the agencies should talk to one another. Maybe we could have done something to protect them." Katie said obviously affected by the deaths.

"Don't go there Katie." Dean turned to the young agent and reached out to pull her into a hug. "There's nothing we would have been able to do to stop this. We had no idea what the general was doing with the cartels in the first place."

"I... I know, I just have a difficult time understanding the evil man can do to man. I know it’s there, seen it happen, but still…" Katie said with a sigh.

The women returned their attention back to the lodge as Kasimov began speaking again.

"Now my friends, I suggest you go back to your rooms and consider my offer. Tomorrow, you will contact your superiors with my offer and tomorrow evening I will expect their responses." Kasimov told his guests. "In the meantime, Dimitri will take care of this unpleasantness." He gestured toward the two bodies on the floor.

The next sounds they heard were the sounds of the assembled guests leaving the dining area and ascending the stairs followed by Kasimov's instructions to dump the bodies in the woods at the hunting camp. Then silence.

"Do you suppose we could find their bodies?" Katie asked hopefully. "I If they have families, I’d like them to be able to have their loved one's back and not have them wondering what went wrong, or where they are."

"I suppose we can try to follow Dimitri. I just don't want to jeopardize our assignment."

Dean said hesitantly. "We'll give it a try, but I won't take a chance on being recognized."

"Fair enough, and thank you." The blonde said giving Dean a hug.

"Take the park truck." Tracy offered. "I've been known to wander around the countryside in it checking the parks and such, so if the vehicle is spotted, it won't arouse suspicion."

"Are you sure?" Blue eyes settled on Tracy.

"Yeah, no problem. I'll lock up, you two get going so you don't miss him." Tracy answered as she handed Dean the keys.

"Okay, thanks." Dean quickly put new tapes into the machines then the two agents left to follow Dimitri. Tracy stayed at the office long enough to make sure the building was secure and locked, then headed home herself.

* * * * *

Dean and Katie quickly got into the truck and to the intersection where they hoped to pick up Dimiti's van. They only had to wait a couple of minutes when they spotted the van turning onto Route 17 going east. They followed him discretely as he exited on Route 55 towards the reservoirs. He kept going past the Neversink reservoir then turned off on a county road leading up towards Slide Mountain. There wasn't a lot of traffic to hide in so the agents were forced to hang back quite a distance. They almost missed the dirt road Dimitri took. They were lucky that it hadn't rained since Saturday, so they saw the dust cloud from the vehicle and tail lights in the distance and immediately turned off their headlights. They were about to turn in when they saw the brake lights go on, then the lights went out. Dean drove down the road a ways further before she pulled into a turn off. They quickly exited the truck and covered the distance back to the dirt road in seconds.

"We better stay close to the woods for cover." Dean whispered as she led the way.

Soon they were opposite the van and Dimitri was just returning from the path that led off to the right. He went back into the van and hoisted the other body over his shoulder then headed down the path again.

"He couldn't have gone too far down that path, so let's just wait here until he leaves then we'll go retrieve the bodies. The tall woman whispered.

In a few minutes, Dimitri returned, entered the van, turned it around and headed back down the dirt road. At the end he quickly turned left to return to the lodge.

"The truck is far enough out of sight isn't it?" The blonde was still whispering.

"Yeah, and it was pulled over far enough around the curve there's no way he would have seen it." Dean responded. "I'll go get the truck, you wait here."


In less than five minutes, Dean was back with the truck, backing it up the dirt road to where Katie was waiting. She grabbed a flashlight from the glove box, then met Katie to look for the bodies. It took them nearly twenty minutes to find them. Dimitri had done a good job of hiding them behind several boughs of evergreens. It took them another twenty minutes to get them back to the truck. They covered the bodies in a tarp they found behind the seat.

"What now?" Katie asked.

"We'll take them to my place. I'll put them in the shed then call it in. I'm sure they'll have someone out here before daybreak. Once I get the call in, we'll go back to the office, run through the recordings just in case, then go back to my place and wait for the feds." Dean looked at the young blonde, then added, "If you'd rather go back to your trailer, I'd understand."

"No, I'd rather be with you. After all, retrieving their bodies was my idea." The blonde said sadly. "I wonder if they had families… lovers…" her voice trailed off as the tragedy took its toll. "Oh, Dean," she said between heaves, "I'll never get used to needless, violent death, maybe I should have stayed at Ouantico as an instructor and not have to face these tragedies."

"Mmm," the dark haired woman said as she gathered the blonde into her arms. "I've got you and I'll do my best to protect you. Nothing like this will ever happen to you, I promise. Besides, if you had stayed at Quantico, I never would have met you." Dean knew that with every fiber of her being, she would do her utmost to keep that promise or die trying.

They got back in the truck and headed to Dean's. It didn't take as long to unload the bodies and lock them in the shed. They completed the rest of the tasks and were back in Dean's cabin before midnight.

"I don't think you should be going back to the lodge in the morning." The blue eyes pierced the blonde's emerald ones with determination. "We have what we need, there's no need for you to risk your presence there."

"I don't agree Dean. We still don't know where he keeps the drug and it would be very helpful if we could get our hands on a sample so we could try to come up with something to counteract it." The blonde persisted. "Besides, won't it look suspicious if all of a sudden I quit? It might make him bolt if he thought there were more agents around that Dimitri couldn't find."

"Well, they may be able to tell something from the autopsies." The tall woman offered. "Besides, I think it's too dangerous now."

"No Dean, it's too dangerous if I don't show up. You said he's a sly bastard. He'll figure it out, you know it!" Katie said a bit agitated feeling that the colonel did not think she could handle it. "I can do this! I'm a highly trained professional. Just because I get upset at needless deaths doesn't mean I can't do my job!"

"Hold on," Dean said quickly, "I never said I didn't think you couldn't do your job. I… I just don't want to see anything happen to you." The blue eyes closed and Dean took a deep breath before she continued. "I've seen more than my share of death, Katie. I was the cause of much of it. I have demons of my own to deal with and I don't know what I would do if it were your body I had to drag out of that ravine." She sighed heavily and moved closer to the young woman. "I just can't lose you, not now, not ever."

"Ohh Dean." Katie said softly placing her hands on Dean's cheeks. "I can't lose you either. I'll be careful, and you'll be watching over me the whole time. I promise I'll hightail it right out of there if I get any inkling they may be suspicious." The emerald eyes fell into the pools of blue as both women leaned into each other.

They stood that way for several minutes, just holding each other and enjoying each other's warmth. Finally Dean led the young woman over to the sofa in front of the fireplace. She lit the kindling in the prepared fireplace and watched as it spread to the logs. She stood and walked over to the sofa then quietly sat down next to Katie to wait for the FBI to come claim their own. Katie turned and softly kissed Dean before she stretched out on the sofa putting her head in Dean's lap. The older agent softly stroked the blonde hair until Katie gave in and finally fell asleep.

They were both wakened by a knock on the door at 0230. Three men in a black van were at the door, each holding out their FBI badges. Dean recognized the oldest one. "Hey, Sid." She said with a sad smile. "Sorry to have to run into you like this." She held open the door to allow them in. Sid introduced the other two men then asked where the bodies were. Dean gave them the key to the shed and the two men left to take care of the bodies.

"We really appreciate you recovering them for us." Sid said looking at her with brown sad eyes.

"Yeah, well, I wish we could have gotten them out of there alive." Dean said. "But there was no way to tell what was coming down until it was too late."

Dean introduced the sleepy DEA agent and the two women filled in the lead FBI agent. It took about an hour to update him. "Here, my boss said to give these to you. They’ll give you the blow by blow of what the bastard is doing. At least up till tonight." She said as she gave him a copy of the audio and visual events of the night. "I don't know what he's planning to do yet. We'll keep you informed."

"Thanks." Sid said as he shook her hand, then Katie's. "Their families will appreciate what you did for them." The two women nodded, then Sid went to the van and it slowly left in the dark.

"It's too late to go back to the trailer." Katie said as she was led back into the house. "Mind if I stay the night?"

"No, I was just going to suggest that." Dean said leading the blonde to her room.

* * * * *


Friday, 1100 hours…

The morning had been fairly uneventful. Katie had been assigned similar duties to the day before. Today, she was even more discrete in her visual inspection of the lodge. She did not see Kasimov at all since she got there. Heeding Dean and Tracy's suggestions from the night before, she refrained from pumping El or Ezra. The only communication she had with them was what they offered. Her lack of communication was not noticed since she was kept busy the entire morning so far.

Breakfast was minus a few guests including the two agents from the night before. Katie assumed they were all still contacting their superiors about Kasimov's offer. With fewer people at breakfast, she was already on her rounds with Darla upstairs. As per her plan yesterday, she took the other side of the hall today. Things were going quite well until she got to the last room. It was Lin's room and she was still in it.

Katie knocked on the door and heard Lin say "Come." As soon as she heard Lin's voice she knew she was in trouble. I should have taken this side yesterday, she thought to herself. Now I've got to face this woman! Well, better get this over with!

"Hi!" Katie said as she entered. "I didn't know anyone was here, I'll come back later." She said quickly and turned to leave.

"No. Please, I won't be in your way. I'm just finishing up some Haiku's. Just pretend I'm not here and go about your business." Lin said with a sweet smile.

"Oh… okay, if you don't mind." Katie said a bit hesitantly, then she immediately started cleaning the room.

"Would you mind starting with the bath? Then when you're done in there I can go in and shower and leave you alone."

"Uhh, no problem." Katie went into the bath and started cleaning quickly and vigorously. It took her half the time she normally would have taken. As she exited the bath she was stopped cold in her tracks as she came face to face with a very beautiful and very naked Lin.

"Opps, sorry." Katie said quickly as she blushed in embarrassment. Shit! Her mind screamed. What the hell is this all about! "I'll just… umm… excuse me." Katie stammered as she tried to get past the ex-cop and pull her eyes off the woman's breasts.

"Oh, no need to rush off on my account." Lin said seductively. "Haven't you ever seen a naked woman before?"

Back at the office, Dean nearly started an electrical fire as the tea she had just taken a

large sip of came exploding out of her mouth and all over the console. What the hell? What on earth is she up to this time?

"Well… yeah… it's just that you're a guest, I… uh… I need to get back to work." Katie said once more trying to get around the woman.

Lin continued to block her way. "What's a beautiful young woman like you doing here working for minimum wage? You should be doing something exotic, something adventurous, like being a spy!" Lin said as she began to laugh.

Katie didn't know what to say but she was suddenly glad she was still blushing to cover her astonishment at the suggestion of being a spy.

"No 'ma'am." Katie said quickly. "I just can't wait to marry Billy and have lots of babies. That'll be plenty of excitement for me!" Where the hell did that come from? I sound like some backwoods boob from the Ozarks for gods sake! Then she quickly took advantage of Lin's laughing state and brushed past her. "I'll be back later to clean your room." She said as she picked up her things to leave. Shit, shit shit! Katie said to herself as she contemplated what just expired. Oh Dean! I bet you got an earful on that one, too bad you couldn't see the view! She mused. As she started to clean the tables and statues in the hall, Katie stuck her hand in her apron pocket to get out a tissue but came out with a piece of folded paper instead. That wasn't there before I went in Lin's room, she thought, then quickly put it back in her pocket and pulled out the tissue aware that she may be watched. I'll read it later, much later.

The rest of the afternoon went by without anymore incidents. She was able to go back and finish cleaning Lin's room after the young oriental came out pausing to wink at Katie before heading down the stairs. At 1500 she left the lodge with very little information to add from the day before. By the time she reached the office it was nearly 1530. As she opened the office door, Dean turned around and gave her one of those raised eyebrow 'what in the hell was that all about' looks.

"Sooo…." Dean said trying desperately to keep the blank expression on her face.

"Well," Katie shut the door and took the seat next to Dean. "I had a very uneventful day!" Smiling her own 'cat that ate the canary' look back at Dean. She also noticed the wet spots on the carpet and wondered what had happened.

"Uneventful eh?'" Dean inquired. "So, you run into naked women, excuse me, gorgeous naked women every day huh?" She lifted her eyebrow even higher.

"Oh, it's a regular happening for me." Her emerald eyes twinkled mischieviously. "Guess I just attract that type."

"Yeah, that type and the Billy Bob type!" Dean chuckled. "…marry Billy and have lots of babies…." Dean said in a Katie-ish voice.

"Stop that!" Katie said as she slapped Dean's arm. "It was all I could come up with at the time!" Then added, "she is really beautiful you know."

"Oh… I know alright! That's why I lost my tea all over the console!" Dean confessed.

"So… that's why the carpet is wet." It was Katie's turn to chuckle. "Anyway, it just took me by surprise. I have no clue as to what's in that woman's mind." Then Katie related finding the note in her apron pocket.

"So what's it say?"

"I haven't read it yet. I was afraid I would be caught on camera." Katie explained.

She pulled out the note and began to read it.

I don't know who you are or whom you're working for, but I recognized your necklace at breakfast yesterday. I'm hoping you're working with Major Peterson and you will be able to get this message to her.

"Damn!" Dean smacked her head. "I completely forgot that we used the same necklace on a case in the Philippines. Oh, Katie, I'm sorry, I really put you in jeopardy here."

"Don't be, obviously I'm still alive." Katie said reaching out to touch Dean's arm then she continued reading.

Kasimov is planning on taking over the world with a new mind control drug he has developed. Drug cartel's to become his private army. I'm acting as a representative for the Yakusa… Katie continued reading the note that told pretty much the same story they already knew except that Lin was working as an independent trying to reclaim her family honor by destroying the Yakusa. It ended with Lin asking Katie to contact Major Peterson and to meet her in her room again tomorrow.

"Well, well." Dean said reflecting on this new development. "I’m glad she didn’t turn. I always felt she was good to the core. I just hope they don’t catch on to her and she goes the way of the two FBI agents. "Guess you’ll have to meet her again tomorrow."

"Well, I hope it won’t be under the same circumstances." Katie said starting to blush again.

"Guess you’ll just have to take your chances." Dean said with a broad smile. "Don’t worry, she’s a pro. Just go with whatever she presents you, okay?"

"Yeah, easy for you to say!" Katie said as she stuck her tongue out.

The two women reviewed the new information on camera locations that Katie found today. After that, they reset the tape machines and locked up the office. It was almost 1630 so they decided to get some dinner before they came back for the evenings report to Kasimov from the cartel superiors.

At 1900 hours they were back in the office waiting for the action to begin. Kasimov appeared at 1930 and dinner progressed without any announcements. After dinner drinks were served in the den. That was where he made his initial announcement that he would be taking the group to his quarters to discuss the vote of the cartels, assign initial targets, and discuss the distribution of the drug.

"General," came Lin’s voice over the headphones, "Don’t you think it will be a bit crowded in your quarters? Why not discuss it out here?"

"My dear woman, things are not always what they appear." The General said cryptically. "There will be more than enough room for all of us, and in light of last nights departure of two of our guests, I believe it is the most secure place in this lodge." He concluded as he led the way to his quarters.

"Shit!" The two women said in unison as they watched the ethereal bodies on the screen disappear into the blackness that was Kasimov’s quarters.

"Now what?" Katie said in desperation. "We can’t penetrate that area!"

"Good thing Lin made contact. We’ll have to rely on your meeting with her tomorrow to fill us in." The tall agent replied. "We may as well call it a night. I’m sure he’ll enforce a code of silence on them once they exit his quarters."

"Looks like we have the night off colonel." Katie smiled affectionately at the tall woman.

""You’re place or mine?" Dean asked with a smile.

"Yours." Katie determined. "But after I stop at the trailer for some of my things and take care of the brood."

* * * * *

The evening found the two women curled up on the sofa together in front of a cozy fire. Soft music playing in the background, a bottle of cabernet opened and half consumed sat on the side table. Dean was lightly stroking and playing with Katie’s hair humming along to the tune.

"You really have a great voice." Katie said looking up into Dean’s blue eyes. "I couldn’t carry a tune if it was in a bucket." She chuckled.

"Well, I did say I have ‘special’ skills didn’t I?" The ice blues twinkled back at the emeralds.

"Why do you suppose Lin wanted me to contact you specifically?" The question came out before Katie could call it back. Don’t go there Katie. Let the green eyed monster just go back in his cave! The young blonde thought to herself. I’m sure it’s just for professional reasons…. I hope!

"Don’t know love. Probably because she trusts me." The tall woman answered seemingly unaware of Katie’s concern. "We got into a very tight situation in the Philippine’s and we came to trust each other explicitly."

"How long were you and she…" Katie let the word trail off.

"Lovers?" Dean finished for her. "I was assigned out there for about eighteen months. We were lovers for six of them."

"Why did it end?" Katie asked again then added, "if you want to talk about it that is."

"It’s okay, I don’t mind." Dean admitted. "Actually, I thought about that a lot when I got back to the states. It was her decision, not mine." She continued. "I tried to get her to come back to the States with me, but she had refused, citing her family as her reason. Her family was very traditional in custom. She broke that tradition by joining the police force and felt that she owed it to them to remain there. That was just before all hell broke lose with her brother." The blue eyes became distant as she began again. "Lin really loved her brother. It broke her heart to uncover the truth. Her father was so dishonored he took his own life. Her mother followed shortly after that, more from a broken heart than anything else. Lin’s the last of her line and I can understand her drive to want to redeem her family honor."

"Wow," Katie said softly. "That’s a really tragic story." She paused a long time before she asked the next question. "Are you still in love with her?" Green eyes focused intently on the blues above her.

"No." Came the quiet response. "I was younger then, and Lin was very young too. We were new to the world of women loving women and we rode the waves of passion as though there were no tomorrow." She sighed heavily. "I realize now that it was lust, not love driving our desires for each other, so no, I’m not in love with her."

A wave of relief swamped over Katie’s heart at that moment. She had been wondering about Lin since Dean had first mentioned her. Now she decided to proceed with her next question.

"Do you think you might be in falling in love with me?" The blonde timidly asked as she searched the blue eyes for confirmation.

It was almost an eternity before Dean answered. Then she slowly spoke. "I've been asking myself that same question since I met you." She paused. "I don't know if I have been truly in love with anyone at any time in my life." Again, another pause. "All I know is that when I look at you, my heart smiles. When I touch you, my body sings. And when I make love with you, my spirit soars." Dean's smile broadened as Katie found her confirmation in the blue eyes.

"That's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard." Katie whispered as tears welled up in her eyes. "And I love you too." She concluded emphasizing each word as she pulled Dean down into a kiss that lingered softly as the young woman surrendered herself to her lover and allowed both their spirits to soar.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Saturday, 0600 hours…

This was Katie's third day of work at the lodge. She and Dean rose early so they could get in a morning run before she had to report to work. Dean had just gotten out of the shower and was drying her long black hair as Katie fixed a quick breakfast of toasted bagels with cream cheese and hot tea.

"Now remember," Dean called from the bathroom. "Let Lin make the contact. Don't try to force the meeting. Let it come naturally."

"Got it!" The young agent called back. "Are you almost ready? I like to get there…"

Her words were lost as she was held from behind in a loving embrace. She turned, and placed a kiss on the waiting lips. "You can move as quiet as a cat, you know that?" The young woman said.

"Yep. It's another of my 'special' skills." The tall agent responded as she snatched a bagel and travel mug of tea. "What are you waiting for, you're gonna be late!" She mock scolded the blonde.

Katie just smiled, then grabbed her bagel and mug of tea as the two women left the house and got into their separate cars. By the time Katie arrived at the lodge Dean was already sitting at the console reviewing the tapes from the evening and night before. "Just as I thought." She spoke to herself. "Nothing here of importance. It was a good night to take off." Then she focused her attention on the sounds from the lodge. It was a foggy morning, so she was using the TDSC unit for video input. Katie’s blue dot appeared to be in the kitchen. This was verified by the voice of El welcoming her.

"Good morning El, Ezra." Katie said as she announced herself.

"Good morning sweetie." Said El returning the salutation. "Coffee’s ready, would you like some? And I’ve got some raisin bran muffins coming out of the oven in about two minutes."

"Boy! That sounds good to me." Katie answered as she put her coat up in the mud room. "I think the weather’s changing. It’s pretty foggy out today."

"Supposed to turn cold and maybe even get snow in the higher elevations tonight." Came the contribution from Ezra. "Winter’ll be here soon." He stood to leave. "Better get more firewood chopped and stacked."

"What’s on my duty list today?" Katie asked El as she poured herself some coffee, then helped her put the muffins on the cooling racks.

"Same as usual sweetie. That Oriental lady asked to have some ginger tea brought to her room. She’s not feeling too well today." El commented, then asked. "Would you mind taking it up to her? Darla’s not here yet."

"No problem." Katie replied. Then she walked over to the counter where El had taken the tray out and placed a small teapot that smelled of ginger tea. She added a teacup and saucer. "Do you use sugar with ginger tea?" She asked El.

"Some do, some don’t. Better take it with you." El answered. "Here, put this nice hot muffin on a plate for her. Maybe the aroma will make her feel like having a bite to eat."

Katie finished fixing the tray then went up the back stairs to the second floor and Lin’s room. Well, that was pretty quick. Katie thought to herself as she ascended the stairs. Okay, just go with the flow. Let her make the first move, like Dean said. She got to Lin's room and knocked twice.

"Maid." She said softly so as not to wake any of the other guests in rooms near Lin's.

"Come." Came the muffled voice from inside the room.

Katie entered and found Lin still in bed. When Lin saw her, she motioned Katie to put the tray on the table by the bed. As Katie did what was requested she noticed that Lin was watching her intently. She's probably wondering if I got and read the note. Katie thought how to let her know, then she came upon an idea.

"Ma'am, are you feeling any better?" She inquired of the Oriental woman, then sat on the bed next to her and gave her a smile and a wink. "I don't have a thermometer, but my Mom would put her cheek on mine to tell if I had a temperature or not. She said using your hands to feel for a temperature didn't work since some people always have hot hands, and other always cold. May I check?" Katie asked quietly.

"Why not, it can't hurt. The ginger tea usually helps though." Replied the ex-cop.

Katie leaned over and placed her cheek on Lin's then whispered ever so softly in her ear. "I got your message and talked with Colonel Peterson. What do you want me to do?" Then added, "Are you really ill?"

Lin whispered back, "Good, come back later with soup or something, not ill."

"Well it doesn't feel like you have a temperature." Katie said out loud. "Is there anything else I can get you?"

"Not right now, thank you. Perhaps a bit later I could have some broth or soup?" Lin also answered in normal tone. "I'm glad to see I didn't scare you off yesterday." Lin continued with a bit more verve to her voice.

"No ma'am." Katie replied. "Just took me by surprise is all. I'll be back at lunch time with some soup."

The rest of the morning followed the same schedule as the past two days. Katie helped serve breakfast and clean up the dining area, then helped Darla with the room cleaning before lunch. In the kitchen, El prepared the soup and had a tray ready for Katie to take up to the Oriental woman at lunchtime.

* * * * *

Dean spent her morning monitoring the blue dot on the screen and the conversations over the headphones. Whatever happened last night in Kasimov's quarters was not discussed at all. He probably issued a gag order due to the discovery of the two FBI agents. Around 1000 hours there was a soft knock on the door.

"Yes?" Dean said as she switched the camera view to the park. Now who would be here on a Saturday?

"It's just me Dean," replied Linna. "I just thought you might like some tea or coffee or something?"

"Come on in." Dean called to the secretary.

"Thanks." Linna said on entering. "Tracy told me not to disturb you, but I just wanted to say I was sorry for the interruption the other day."

"No problem Linna," the agent responded. "It's just that some times, I need to really focus on the screen so I can re-direct the camera angle. Don't want to miss any opportunities to capture my prey on film." The tall woman concluded in a chuckle.

"Yeah, that's what Tracy said. So, you need anything?" Linna asked hopefully.

"Actually, I need to get up and stretch. Sitting here all day gets really boring." Dean added with a smile. "How about I come out there for some tea?" After a pause she added, "so, what brings you into the office on a Saturday?"

Um… well… I wanted to apologize, but didn't want Tracy to know I bothered you again!" The secretary said smiling. "I brought in some great goodies from the bakery this morning, kind of a peace offering I guess. And thanks for not being upset with me."

The two women left the office and went into the small kitchen area for their morning snack. Linna all the while was sizing up the tall agent in her mind and continued coming up with the same conclusion, this woman was more than she appeared and she was going to get to the truth one way or another. She'd just have to use a different tact to find out.

By 1300, Dean was focusing again on the upcoming meeting with Katie and Lin. Just what is she going to do to pass on the information? Dean kept thinking. What would I do? She continued that thought until she came up with a plausible scenario. Well, lets see if I'm right.

* * * * *

Katie walked into the kitchen and asked El if the tray was ready for the oriental 'lady.'

El had just finished pouring the soup in the bowl and nodded to Katie indicating the tray.

"Now, if she's feeling better, I can make up a sandwich or something real easy." El offered. "That one is too small to miss too many meals. She'll just fade away in no time."

"I'll ask her when I drop this off." Katie said. "I'm going to tidy up her room while I'm there so, I may be a while." She cautioned the elderly cook.

"That'll be fine sweetie. Just take your time. That poor thing probably would like some company after being shut in all morning." The cook offered with a compassionate smile.

"Will do." Katie said over her shoulder as she headed up the back stairs. Yeah, company coming! The young agent thought to herself. Now how are we going to communicate with cameras and listening devices in each room? She arrived at the door and knocked twice.

"It's me Miss. I've brought your soup." Katie said to the door as she waited for a response. Not hearing one, she knocked again and repeated the salutation. Again, there was no response. She then tried the door handle and it was unlocked, so she went in. She could hear the radio playing in the bath and the shower turn on. She went to the bathroom door and knocked loudly.

"It's me… Katie. I've brought your soup. Would you like me to put it on the table or by the bed side?" Over the sounds of the shower and the radio, Lin asked Katie to come into the bathroom. Katie put the tray down on the dresser then went in.

"Yes, ma'am." Katie responded. "Do you need a bath towel?" She asked as she entered the bathroom.

It was beginning to get very steamy from the shower and the radio was even much louder in here. Hmm, Katie thought, good idea, steam up the camera lens and cover our voices with the music! I like it. As she entered, she found Lin, wrapped in a towel.

Lin grabbed another towel from the towel bar and tossed it over her shoulder. Then she approached Katie quickly as the steam continued to build. She leaned in close and whispered to Katie, "Just follow my lead," the oriental whispered, "we don't have much time." With that, she started to unbutton Katie's blouse and unzip her skirt. This action caused Katie to back up until Lin cautioned her again about the camera lens clouding. "Just trust me." The ex-cop whispered.

"Okay." Came the soft response from the young agent. By the time the steam started to reach the camera lens, both women were naked and wrapped in each other's arms.

"Sorry for this approach," whispered Lin "but it's the only way can get close enough to talk to you without being overheard or arousing suspicion. These jerks are well aware of my supposed 'attraction' to you." She continued. "I've made specific remarks and bets regarding you and what I wanted to do with you, after I saw that necklace. I didn't want to take a chance on another note in case they got suspicious and stopped you before you left. Believe me, this way, they won't think anything other than a little tryst is going on."

"Bets? Great, they're taking bets on bedding me? Okay, now what?" Katie whispered back very aware of the naked body next to hers and the lips pressing against her neck.

"We're going to go into the shower." She instructed the young agent. Then we will appear to be 'making love' as I fill you in on last night. You okay with this?" She asked concerned about the stiffness of the body next to her.

"Yeah, I'll survive." She smiled at Lin.

After a brief interlude of 'mild intimacy' in the bathroom, Lin led Katie into the shower. "The steam will keep the lens fogged and the music and shower noise will help cover our conversation, but they will be able to pick up some visual, albeit foggy, so we may have to 'appear' to be a bit more intimate." Lin said in Katie's ear as she pressed Katie against the glass shower door for effect. "Just try to imagine me as your lover, and he's the one doing this. Okay?"

Hmm, Katie mused, wait till she finds out he's a her, and her ex-her to boot! Okay Dean, you're the one who said to go with what she presents me! Then to Lin, she nodded her head and said, "Yeah, got it."

All the while they appeared to be 'new lovers,' Lin filled in Katie on the revelations in Kasimov's quarters. When the exchange of information was complete, Lin and Katie exited the shower and toweled each other off as new lovers would do. They verbalized at that time in regular voice a prearranged script regarding their 'attraction' to each other and promises to meet again. Katie dressed then exited the bathroom. Lin still wrapped in a towel led Katie to the door and gave her a very convincing and seductive kiss as she left the room. All in all, it was quite an afternoon for the young agent. This bizarre way of passing information was nothing compared to the information she acquired. It was going to be difficult for her to finish her shift in her eagerness to get back to Dean. This of course, made the encounter even more realistic for the watchers as Katie's nervous actions were interpreted as the excitement of their encounter.

* * * * *

Dean recognized Katie's ethereal body from the blue dot. She watched it merge off and on with another ethereal body as the scenario played for real in her mind. "Bingo!" Dean exclaimed out loud as she finally was able to decipher the verbal repartee that Katie and Lin scripted for the watchers. "Exactly the tact I would have used! Bravo my old friend." Then she wondered, in more ways than one, how her partner reacted to the ruse. In her career, she had often had to use her body as a means to an end, and hoped the young woman would be okay with what had just happened. No time to worry about that. She chided herself. You've got to learn to trust. Katie will be fine. Right? Right!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Saturday… 1630 hours…


Once Katie arrived at the office, the two agents decided to put the surveillance on tape mode and return to Dean's to discuss the information in more privacy. As they arrived at the cabin, Katie noticed that Dean had company. Inside the cabin stood Sugar, Spice, and Butter. All were meowing vigorously. She tilted her head towards Dean for an explanation.

"Well," the tall agent started, "it just makes sense for you to stay here during the rest of this assignment." She began to blush slightly. "It saves time, and we won't have to worry about Sugar getting her medicine, and… " Her words were stopped by two fingers gently placed on her lips. "It's fine, really. It just surprised me is all." Katie removed the fingers and replaced them with her lips. "Just how did you get them here today?"

"I had Tracy and Colleen move them over while I was at the office watching you... and Lin." Dean said as she raised an eyebrow. "They like cats too and would know better what had to come with them. I asked them to make sure they brought over Sugar's medicine." Dean finished with a slight blush.

"Thank you for thinking of them. They really mean a lot to me. And you're right, things are going to start getting pretty hectic around here." The young blonde bent over to stroke the meowing cats that were now winding in and out of two sets of legs.

"So, what's the story?" Dean asked as she pulled the blonde into the living room and onto the sofa.

"You are not going to believe the evil this bastard has come up with." Then Katie took a deep breath and began to reiterate the information Lin had passed on.

"The General is going to target some group right after the holidays. He didn't tell who his targets were, but promised that it would be a 'grand beginning to level the playing field.' Whatever that's supposed to mean! Then he went on to tell that the drugs are in place and ready for dispersement at the appointed times. He showed the group the canisters that would be used to deploy the drugs." Katie reached over to the coffee table and picked up a pad and pencil then began to sketch. "From what Lin told me they probably look something like this." She showed Dean the pad.

As Dean looked at the pad her eyebrows furrowed. "Are you certain?" She inquired of Katie. "They look like air tanks of some sort with slots in the canister."

"Yeah," Katie said, "that's exactly how she described them. She even drew one on the wall of the shower. Stumped her too."

"The shower wall, huh?" Dean said as she lifted an eyebrow. "Are you okay with what happened?"

"Umm, it was okay. I was a bit nervous at first, but when she started telling me about the meeting, I completely forgot about where we were." The young agent began to blush a bit.

"Umhm?" Came the question from Dean.

"Well, it was a bit embarrassing. I'm not exactly used to strange hands roaming over my body, no matter what the reason." The blonde looked up into affectionate blue eyes.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that." The dark haired agent said as she reached for the young woman. "If I could have…"

"No, you couldn't have, and it's really okay. Just another part of the job." Guess it's just one more thing I'll have to get used to if I want to be really successful at this business, the blonde thought silently.

"So, go on… what else happened." The blue eyes encouraged. "Where were the drugs manufactured? Did he say? What did he want from the cartels?" The questions started coming fast and furious.

"Whoa! One question at a time…" the blonde said holding up her hands. "First, the drugs were manufactured right at the lodge. He showed them the lab where they were made. She said there's a veritable maze of rooms down there, kitchens, sleeping rooms, etc. He must have done some heavy duty renovations in those five weeks. She didn't see any scientists around. When she asked, he just smiled and said their work was done for now. Kasimov said the drugs are in a highly concentrated liquid form. One drop could affect hundreds." She shook her head in anger. "Lin said that he claims to have five hundred of those canisters already in place. She figures that each canister holds at least four or five gallons of liquid. That means he plans on drugging millions of people!" Emerald eyes closed as the young body shook in anger. "I don't understand Dean! How could someone be that evil that he would drug millions of people… and why? Who? Where?"

"Now it's you're turn to slow down." The blue eyes gentled. "Did he say what he wanted from the cartels?"

"Yes, in a way." The young agent proceeded. "After he found out who was in. And incidentally, they were all in. He asked them to have each cartel send at least twenty-five of their best men to arrive here between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He cautioned them to make sure they were men that were not known to the authorities. He gave each cartel representative a set of instructions. The one he gave to Ito said to have their men filter through Canada. Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec, Montreal, etc., then cross over the boarder into the U.S. at various ports of entry to avoid suspicion. His people are to stay in various hotels in the Catskills until it's time to meet for final instructions. The selection of port of entry and hotels is totally up to the cartel."

"Great, that doesn't help us one bit. Did the instructions say where or when to meet?" Dean asked hopefully.

"No, just to have everyone in place by December 24th and they would be contacted through their cartel representative here."

"There's so much travel during the holidays… customs will be swamped. Chances are it will be impossible to try to identify them all. We're going to need help." Dean said as she mentally ran through a list of her contacts. "Was there anything else?"

"Not really. Lin said some of the men in the group were tired of being cooped up at the lodge and asked if they could leave for some 'entertainment,' or another hunting trip. She said the General was going to have Natasha make arrangements for another hunting trip in a couple of days, but as far as other 'entertainment' they would have to turn to their own devices. It would be too risky for them to leave and even worse to bring in anyone. He also said he would open the indoor shooting range, gym and pool, if they were interested." Katie added with a sly grin. "Guess it's a good thing I'm already 'spoken' for. I just hope they leave Darla alone. She's very young and very naïve."

"Guess so." Dean smiled as she ruffled Katie's blonde hair. "But you and Lin just be careful. Someone else may want to get a piece of your action."

"Like maybe a tall, dark haired, blue eyed, gorgeous, sexy, Lieutenant Colonel?" Katie said as she slid closer to Dean and began placing tender kisses on the aforementioned colonel's neck, ears, and lips with each descriptive word.

"Mmm, maybe." Was about all Dean got out before she took the blonde in her arms and repositioned her on the couch while she held herself over the beautiful blonde, smiling wickedly.

"Why Colonel… If Ah didn't know better, Ah would think you're trying to take advantage of poor little old me." Katie said in a mock Southern voice then she reached up and took advantage of her position by pulling the tall agent forcefully down on top of her. Lips met lips, and soon the only conversation heard was the voice of ecstasy that ended in gasps of pleasure.

* * * * *

At 1900, Tracy and Colleen arrived at Dean's bearing dinner. Two large supreme pizza's and two six packs of ice cold Molsen's.

"Brrr." Exclaimed Tracy as she and Colleen entered the cabin. "I think it's going to snow tonight. Hope you've got plenty of firewood for the fireplace."

"Yep." Answered Dean as she took their jackets. "Thanks for coming over and bringing dinner."

"Well, just thought it would be a good thing to do, knowing your cooking skills." Tracy quipped back as she and Col chuckled.

"Hey! I've gotten better, really! Just ask Katie!" Dean laughed as she pointed at Katie who was trying to look like she didn't hear a word of the conversation even though she was standing right behind Dean.

They all laughed and went into the kitchen to attack the pizza. Katie had made a spectacular salad to go along with the pizza and by the time they were finished, not a speck of food remained.

"Wow!" Katie said as she held her stomach. "I didn't realize I was that hungry."

"Geez," added Col, "just what have you two been doing that you haven't had time to eat?"

The two agents, looked at each other then quickly looked away and inspected various parts of the ceiling as they both began to blush.

"Never mind! Guess you don't need to answer that question." Colleen said as Tracy joined her in hearty laughter.

Colleen and Katie stayed behind in the kitchen to clean up as Tracy and Dean went into the living room. Dean started a fire, then sat in the love seat next to where Tracy was sitting on the sofa. They both sat there for a bit, neither speaking, just staring into the fireplace as small flames from the kindling licked the larger logs. Soon the fire was progressing nicely and Tracy turned to Dean to ask how the surveillance was going.

"Well, we're at the point now where we're going to have to call in the troops. We're going to need some extra help here to figure out just what that bastard has in mind." Dean informed her old friend. "At least we have a bit of time to work on it. Looks like the timeline is set for Christmas day or later." Dean continued to inform Tracy of the events of the last twenty-four hours, filling her in on Katie's experience with Lin and the status thus far.

"Are you sure you can trust that woman?" Tracy asked in all sincerity. "I mean, she's been with the cartel now for how long?"

"About six years if I figured it right." Stated Dean quietly.

"I don't know, Dean. That's a long time to get exposed to the temptations of a life of crime. Lots of money and unlimited power can sure change people." Her old friend added cautiously. "I don't know if I would be able to put Colleen in that kind of a dangerous situation, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I've thought of that too. But I gotta let her. It's important to her to be recognized as a capable professional. And you know something, deep down in my heart, I know she's better than I am." Dean confided.

"No way Dean!" Tracy protested. "I've seen you do things that I never thought could be done by anyone, and you'd pull them off without even breathing hard!"

"Well, that was then, and this is now. And I'm telling you Trace, she's damn good."

"Anyway, back to the problems at hand." The dark haired agent sighed. "We're going to need someplace to convene and the office isn't big enough, nor, with Linna sulking around, secure enough. Got any ideas?"

Tracy thought quietly for a while as Katie and Colleen came into the room. Colleen sat down next to Tracy then asked if there was something she could help with.

"Were trying to come up with a good place for Dean and Katie to call in the troops." Tracy said as Colleen put her arm around her. "Got any ideas?"

Colleen mulled it over for a while then said, "How about the tennis courts up at Hollinger's? It would be perfect! They could come in dressed as contractors. You know, painters, electricians, etc. Everyone knows the department has been given exclusive rights to the old indoor courts…. and, since the resort is closed down, there's no one up there anyway!"

Tracy looked at Colleen, then gave her a big hug and a kiss. "Perfect!" She said and kissed Col one more time for good measure. "Col's right, that place would be perfect. It's up in the old Hollinger's Resort. It's been closed down since before I came here. The department just negotiated the rights to use the indoor tennis courts, but we need to do some renovations to the place before we can use them. I'll take you up there tomorrow and you can check it out. I'm sure you'll like it." Then she paused and added. "We may have to do something about the heat though. I'm not sure if the old ceiling heaters still work. I understand they were fairly new just before the closure, but who know's now."

"Great!" Dean and Katie said simultaneously. "Katie's off tomorrow so we can both go. What time do you want us to meet you?"

"How about 10:00 AM? That way most folks will be at church services so we'll be less likely to be seen by anyone from the town board or commission members."

"Sounds good Tracy. I don't know what we would have done without you. It was pure luck running into you here, but definitely good luck. Now, how about some poker?"

* * * * *

By the time Tracy and Colleen left, it was nearly midnight. The two women were so exhausted from the stress of the past week that by the time they laid back in bed they found themselves too tired to do anything but talk.

"Dean?" Katie whispered lightly.

"Hmm?" Came the soft reply.

"Have you and Tracy ever…. "

"No, we haven't. We're really just great friends."

"Oh. She just seems to think you walk on water or something." Came the unexpected remark.

"Mmmm, that's because I can!" Came the quick retort. "Ufff! What was that for?" Dean said as she rubber her rib cage.

"Being a smart-ass!" Katie said as she broke into a chuckle. "Seriously, she does think a lot of you."

"And I think the same of her." Dean rolled over onto her side and rested her head in her propped up hand. "She's seen me overcome odds that even I didn't think I could overcome. She's seen me so full of holes that I looked like a sieve. And she's helped me cope with the death and destruction that I have had to face in my job."

"Just what exactly is your job?" Katie asked tentatively. "I know you said you're in army intelligence, but most intelligence officers of your rank aren't in the field, they're back where it's safe and warm, at operations. What's your story?"

Dean closed her eyes and rolled over to her back and her conscience spoke up. Well, it's now or never… and she has a right to know the truth about you. Katie just about gave up on Dean answering her question and was about to speak when Dean began her story.

"I grew up in the mid-west as the daughter of a Baptist minister. My Dad, she began with a disgusted tone, was a very devout man, at least in front of the congregation. They loved him. He'd give them all the fire and brimstone from the pulpit that they craved. Had the congregation just falling all over themselves to repent for their sins. He really had them eating out of the palm of his hand. He was so kind, and caring. So willing to help them and willing to forgive them. I thought he was the best… but I was wrong." Dean said with a bitter smile.

"Why? What happened?" Katie said softly.

"One night he found my brother in the back seat of our Chrysler… with the deacon's daughter. They were just teenagers… you know, hormones raging and all." She said as tears began to well up in her eyes. "I really loved my brother Thad, he was seventeen, I was eighteen. Thought Dad loved us too." She paused before she went on. "I thought he would start doing the scripture thing, you know… the fire and brimstone… then the save the sinner routine… then the forgiveness. But it didn't turn out that way." Dean sniffed then continued. "He told the young girl to go home and confess her sin and weakness to her father… so she did. After she left, he told Thad to get out of the car and go into the barn. Dad was screaming and hitting him over and over. Thad was crying something terrible. He didn't see me at first, not until Mom came out to see what the commotion was. As soon as he saw us he yelled at us to go back in the house. Mom immediately turned and went back, but I stayed outside the barn and listened. Dad was furious. I'd never heard him so angry. By the time it was over and Dad went into the house, I crept into the barn to see if I could comfort Thad." As Dean continued, tears flowed from hr eyes. "When I saw him lying in the hay… all bloody… I lost it! I did what I could for him, but it was too late, Thad died in my arms."

"Oh, my god, Dean. What happened next… what did you do?" Katie reached out and pulled the tall woman into her arms. Dean gratefully slid into Katie's embrace glad for the comfort she felt in the young woman's arms.

"I went into the house, full of rage and covered in Thad's blood, and confronted him. I told him that Thad was dead and it was all his fault. Mom screamed when I went to hit him and that stopped me. I went over to Mom and told her to call the police. She refused, so I went to the phone myself. Before I got the number dialed, he came up behind me and hit me. Next thing I knew I was tied to my bed. I could see the red flashing lights of the police cars outside and could hear muffled voices. After they left, Mom came up and untied me, but asked me not to talk to Dad. The next day I tried to explain to the sheriff what really happened, but Dad spun a yarn about my walking in on the guys that beat up Thad, and that I wasn't 'right' since. Of course, they agreed with him, him being the upstanding minister and all."

"Where's your Mom and Dad now?" The green eyes somehow softening the hurt Dean felt inside.

"Mom's dead. She passed away while I was on one of my missions. Dad, well, he's still out there somewhere for all I know. He left the ministry a few years after Thad's death. Turned to drink and became one of the souls he used to save. Mom stayed with him till she died." Another tear slowly carved a path down Dean's cheek.

"What did you do after Thad's death?" Katie asked as she caught the tear with her thumb and wiped it away.

"I left. The same day I talked to the sheriff. I couldn't stay there and put up with his sanctimonious crap, so I joined the army, and found a release for my rage. I was so good that they put me in a 'special' program, put me through college and officer's training. I became a 'problem solver' for Uncle Sam… and boy, am I good at it!

Dean stopped and turned her head up to face the young agent, hesitating before she continued. "I go in and solve problems that normal political and military channels can't. I'm their 'special' weapon. They wind me up and point me towards the problem and I make it go away. I do whatever is necessary, take out whoever stands in my way, the blood of the innocent and the guilty is on my hands. I'm a very efficient machine." She snarled sarcastically. "My rage at my father started me on this road. I am the fire and brimstone he preached about. I have been judgement day for many souls, evil and innocent. I don’t grieve for the evil… but for the innocents that were felled by my hands. I’ll never know how many there were so now, I live with their ghosts." Dean turned her head away from Katie and paused. "Lately, I've felt them pull at me, begging me to stop, but I don't know if I can. I'm not strong enough to stop, to change my life." She turned back to face Katie and intense blue eyes searched the emerald green ones above her, then she added, "Katie, you deserved to know what I am, and what I've done, and I won't blame you if you decide to get up and leave. I owed you the truth. I'm ruthless and…"

Katie looked down into Dean's sad blue eyes and gently wiped the new tears from her cheeks. "Shhh… you don't owe me anything, Dean. And I seriously doubt if anything you say would cause me to leave you. I don't care what you've done in the past, it's over and can't be changed. You had no way of identifying innocent victim from evil doer, you just did your job the best you could. Millions of people, myself included, are depending on you to keep them safe, keep them from the evil living in the likes of people like Kasimov."

"But, I have my own demons to deal with… I've killed innocent people…" Dean interrupted.

"Did you know they were innocent at the time?" Katie asked her tortured friend. "And we all have our personal demons to live with."

"No… but they couldn't have all been bad, I just go in guns blazing…." She shut her eyes, …and see my father's face, …see Thad's bloody body." She began to cry in earnest this time.

"It's okay love, I've got you. Go ahead, get it out of your system. It's time you grieved for Thad, and… forgiven your father." Katie finished with a whisper. Then she held her friend through her tears and sobs, until they both finally fell asleep. A sleep that for the first time in a very long time held no ghosts for Dean.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Sunday… 0800 hours

Dean slowly opened first one blue eye then the other. She was amazed to see the sun streaming in the window of her bedroom realizing that it must be fairly late already. She was more amazed to recognize that she had slept nearly seven hours. Seven hours of solid, blissful sleep… a sleep without any nightmares. Dean surveyed the room without moving as she comprehended the second set of heartbeats and breathing that belonged to the beautiful young agent sharing her bed. Well, they say that confession is good for the soul… Dean thought to herself, and Katie… you are definitely the best thing that's happened to me in a long time. I hope last night didn't change how you feel about me. As she concluded that thought, she looked over at the sleeping woman on whom her head was nestled. She extended her senses to memorize the young woman's scent, the sounds of her breathing, and the rhythm of her heart. She found the last two totally in sync with her own breaths and pulse. If only we could stay like this forever… that thought was broken as Katie opened her eyes and turned her head to look into the most awesome blue eyes she had ever seen.

"Hi." Katie said as she lifted her free arm to brush away an errant lock of Dean's hair.

"Hi." Came the response from the dark haired woman.

"Have you been awake long?" Katie inquired.

"Nope. Just been enjoying the sights and sounds." Came the reply followed by a dazzling smile.

"Mmm, sights and sounds huh? Must be that flora and fauna watching is rubbing off on you." The blonde said with her own version of a dazzling smile.

Dean spoke softly. "Thank you."

"For what?" The green eyes widened in wonder.

"For last night." Dean admitted. "For listening, understanding, and especially for being here with me this morning." She shuddered slightly before she continued. "I was afraid that I was going to wake up alone after my life story last night. I've never told anyone about what happened with my brother before or about all the horrible things I've done in my life. Not even Tracy knows the full truth, although I think she may have her suspicions."

"Oh Dean… I love you. There's nothing you could say or do that would keep me from loving you. Your past is your past. It's over. I'm not one to judge you or anyone." The blonde said as she pulled Dean into a gentle hug. "In my heart I know that you're a good person. That the things you have done have been for the good of our country and our allies." She smiled down at her blue eyed lover then continued. "And as far as your hate for your father… it's time you let that go… time to forgive him."

"As I drifted off last night, I think I did forgive him. I remember hearing a soft whisper telling me it was time to forgive him… and I did." She closed her eyes then looked back up into the emerald green ones. "I had my first night of solid sleep in a long time. I met no ghosts from my past, relived no horrors, and experienced no nightmares. Just blessed peaceful sleep."

Katie just smiled at her lover as she realized that it was her whisper that sent the message of forgiveness to Dean. The two women remained in bed in that same position for what seemed to be a long time but actually was only a scant five minutes. It was a five-minute break in their hectic week that they both needed to take advantage of.

Dean was the first to stir. "C'mon love, let's get our run in and a shower before we have breakfast. Then we'll meet Tracy at her place at 1000 hours."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Came the response from Katie. "Gotta run… gotta eat… gotta go. I'll be glad when this is all over so I can sleep in for a change!"

"Sleep in!" Dean sighed. "What do you call this morning…. it's already 0830!" She finished with a chuckle as she pulled the blonde up and into her arms. "Tell ya what, if you beat me back to the cabin… we'll take a long shower… together!" Dean finished the comment with a wink, a smile, and kiss.

"You're on!" Katie said jumping out of bed calling over her shoulder as she very quickly slipped on her sweats, socks and shoes and beat the tall woman out of the house.

Well, we know what gets you up and going don't we? Dean said to herself as she got herself out of bed and hurried to dress and catch up.

* * * * *

Dean was the first one back to the cabin followed by the blonde just seconds behind her.

"No fair!" Called Katie as she entered the cabin on Dean's heels. "You've got longer legs than I have!"

"And the three minute head start was… what?" Dean answered with a snicker. "Ok, I'll give in… see ya in the shower!" Then she headed toward the bathroom, slipping off her sweats as she went and followed by a smiling young blonde who was also stripping as she went.

The shower took a good bit of time, and they would probably have still been in it except for the fact that the hot water heater was only a twenty gallon model. As it was, they had to skip breakfast in order to be at Tracy's in time. As they pulled in her drive, Tracy and Colleen came out and jumped into the SUV.

"Morning!" Tracy and Col said at the same time and were answered in a like response from Dean and Katie.

"Just go back out this street and onto the main drag." Tracy pointed as Dean pulled out of the driveway. "Turn right at the stop sign and go out towards Burp & Freddies."

Dean did as she was instructed and when they arrived at the intersection where the diner was, Tracy told Dean to turn left and go up the hill. As they reached the top of the hill, the road curved to the right and wound around the hill to the back side. A quarter of a mile from the entrance, Tracy indicated the tennis court building and the adjacent parking lot.

"That's it." She said as they pulled in to park. "I'll unlock the main entrance. It's on this side of the building." Tracy indicated the left side as she stepped out.

The rest of the passengers exited the SUV and followed Tracy into the building. The power was on, so Tracy flipped the switches to illuminate the interior of the building. Then she flipped the master switch for the electric heaters and to her amazement they began to click. "Guess we'll see if they produce any heat or not." She said with crossed fingers.

The four women walked through the building noting that there were no windows in the court area but the small office and locker rooms did have glass block windows around to top section of the walls. Inserted at intervals in the glass blocks were narrow ventilation blocks. There was no way anyone would be able to enter through the windows. That left the only security points as the double fire door at the center of the main court building, the fire door in each locker room, the main entrance at the side of the building and an outside door in the office.

Dean stood in the middle of the tennis courts and surveyed the building one more time. There were additional ventilation panels in the ceiling, but they would normally only be open in fair weather. They would be easy enough to lock down for their purposes.

"Looks great Tracy." Dean commented as she turned around one more time, mentally ticking off the five doors and the ceiling vents. "This will work well. That double fire door will allow us to pull in some vehicles too. Keep them out of sight until needed."

Tracy sniffed the air and noted that the smell of long unused heaters was in the air. A definite aroma of hot dust could be perceived. "Looks like the heaters are working." She commented with a smile. "Of course, if Uncle Sam wants to contribute towards the cost of heating and the like while you guys are in here, I certainly wouldn't object." She winked at Dean.

"Yeah, we'll get the Enigma Foundation check processed ASAP. In fact, I think I'll requisition some improvements for you too. Just make a list of what needs to be done and I'll take care of it." Dean said as she winked back at Tracy.

"Cool!" Tracy commented. "That'll make my day!"

Then Dean and Katie made one more tour through the building, noting where things could be set up, where electric outlets were, and what other supplies they would need such as tables and chairs. When they were done the electricity was turned off including the heaters and the building was locked.

"Thanks for coming up with this idea Col." Katie said as she entered the SUV. "It's going to work out great."

"No problem." She answered then said, "Anybody hungry?" Which led to three raised hands. "Great, me too! We didn't have time to eat breakfast today." Two sets of eyes, one emerald, the other sapphire look quizzically at Colleen. "And why were you so busy this morning?" Katie asked with a mischievous tone.

"Uhhh… well… umm… How about the diner up by the reservoir?" Tracy stammered as she and Col started to blush. And with that, there was a round of laughter while the SUV wound it's way back down to the main highway and turned left for the ride out to the Overview Diner.

* * * * *

"This is Agent Shelton." The voice at the other end of the line spoke.

"Hey Sid." Dean said into the secure phone hook-up. "This is Colonel Peterson."

"Hello Dean. What can I do for you?" He said with a slight hesitation in his voice.

"Don't worry Sid, no more bodies, at least not yet." The Colonel replied sensing the apprehension in Sid's voice. "I just called to update you on the latest information and to see if we can get an interagency task force up here to work on this case. I also need to know the status of the autopsies and if the drug has been isolated."

"Sure," he replied with obvious relief in his voice. "What do you have?"

Dean proceeded to update him on the information Katie was able to get regarding the canisters and the potential of millions of people targeted. She also informed him of the men the cartels would be sending between the holidays and the possibility of a deployment date after the holidays. Then she asked him if he could put together an interagency task force of agents, scientists, chemists, anyone the agencies could spare that could help decipher the clues they had so far.

"I'll put in a call to the director right after we hang up. I'm sure he'll be willing to put together a team and contact the other agencies as well. This is one nasty situation isn't it?" He inquired of the Colonel.

"Yeah, it is." Dean replied. "I'll contact the Pentagon and NSA myself, so don't bother with those. Now what do you have on isolating the drug?"

"Well, it took a bit of sleuthing, but they finally found it. It never would have shown up on normal scans, but since you clued us in on its presence they persisted until they found it." The FBI agent informed her. "The doc's say it's a simple compound but a very tricky one. So far, they've been able to determine that its lifecycle after ingestion, is only 96 hours before it dissipates. They don't have an antidote for it yet."

"Well, if it dissipates in 96 hours that shouldn't be a major problem. We really need to know what sets it off and the changes that occur in the mind to allow such control and how to stop the reaction." Dean added. "How are they doing in that area?"

"Zippo!" Sid replied. "They just found it last night, so they haven't had much time to analyze it. They were lucky to find it at all. It was nearly the 96 hour limit when they did. It's a damn good thing you went after the bodies and got them to us so quickly or we'd be batting zero."

"Well, you can thank Katie for that one." Dean told the agent.

"Yeah, do that for me." He said, and she could feel the smile through the phone line.

They finished their conversation and set a time to return calls for an okay on the task force. She told him about the building she arranged for the troops and left him her secure phone number. After she hung up, she called her superior, General John James and updated him. Then she proceeded with her task force request.

"What do you mean a task force!" The general rumbled. "There's no need to involve the other agencies. The army and NSA can handle this."

"General, the other agencies are already involved and they have two dead bodies to prove it." She offered holding her temper, then she softened her tone and added, "besides Jack, when have you ever doubted my judgement?"

"Well, I haven't yet, but there's always a first time." He said as he calmed down some.

Oh… all right! What do you need from us?"

Dean gave him a list of items then broached the 'to do' list for the tennis building. At that the General started to really balk. "C'mon Jack it's not gonna cost that much and it's the least we can do for Tracy helping out like she has." Dean urged the general sweetly.

"Damn, this has been a very one sided phone call, ya know!" He feigned


"Yeah, but it's for Tracy... " The Colonel persisted. "Remember when she pulled your butt out of the can at Leonard Wood? If your wife had seen you with that nurse you'd still be picking buckshot out of your rump!"

"Okay, okay." The general said resignedly then added, "Just get me my results!" He quipped.

"I always do." Dean said solemnly, then hung up.

Dean put her phone down then went into the second bedroom where Katie was making her phone calls. As she stepped in the room as Katie concluded hers then flopped back on the bed.

"Phew!" The young agent spat out. "You'd think interagency cooperation was the damn plague the way they hem and haw."

"Oh?" Dean teased raising an eyebrow and smiling brightly. "Why I had no problem at all!"

"Ya, right!" The blonde said as she threw a pillow at the tall woman. She suddenly realized that this was probably not the wisest move on her part as it was immediately returned followed by a tall body landing on top of her. The next thing she knew she was being tickled ferociously.

"Eeiiiieee! Uncle! Uncle!" The blonde cried out. Dean stopped and rolled off her partner as Katie brought her breathing back to normal. "You are really quick!" She commented after she regained control.

Dean just smiled and nodded. "Yeah, but you still got the best of me up on the mountain. That was really quite a surprise." She said as she shook her head. "No one, and I mean no one, has ever done that to me before. I must be getting old." She chuckled.

"Oh, sure. Blame it on getting old and not my skills!" The blonde pouted then relented. "You really mean that? About no one?"

Dean rolled over onto her right side facing the blonde and pegged her with her steel blue eyes. "Yes, I do. You're very good. In fact, you're better than me." She reached out and stroked the blonde's cheek. "And I promise never to sneak up on you like that again." She added with a brilliant smile.

* * * * *

By 1700, all the confirmations were made and the task force would be arriving before 0500 in the morning. The requested equipment would all be in place by 1200 and operations would be fully active at that time too. Dean and Katie were named the lead agents on the case and all operations would be run through them.


"I'm glad Tracey and Colleen offered to take care of the cats for the duration. I hope Beau gets along with them. Spice can be a real pistol when she wants to." Katie paused before asking the next question. "Are you going to shut down the surveillance from the P&R office?"

"No, I think I'll leave it up as a back-up." Dean answered as she watched Katie sort the task sheets. "I know Tracy isn't active military anymore, but I value her input. If I take down that console, I'll be cutting her out of the project and I don't want to do that, at least not yet. If it gets too hot, I may have to reconsider."

"I thought you didn't want to involve civilians?" The young agent queried.

"I don't, but Tracy is different. She's been such a help so far… and she is ex-military and all." Dean was beginning to wonder why Katie was asking this. "Why?"

"Don't get me wrong Dean. I like Tracy and value her input too. In fact I want her help. I just don't want anything to blow up in her face so to speak that she'd lose her job over it." Katie smiled at Dean. "You know?"

"Yeah, I thought of that too. I know she'd understand if we had to shut her out, but it would be such a slap in the face to do it now. I'd like to keep this between you and me though. The rest of the team doesn't need to know." Both women nodded their heads in affirmation.

"Well, I guess we'll just have to make sure nothing blows up then!" Katie resolved as she turned and gave Dean a hug. "Okay, what's next on the list?"

"Now…" Dean said as she returned the hug, "we get some rest because from here on out we'll be working on adrenaline. It's a good thing you have off Monday too. It's going to be a busy day. We'll need to meet the team at the courts by 0500 so that means we have a little less than twelve hours to ourselves."

"Mmm, and I know just how I'd like to fill some of that time." The blonde agent remarked as she tugged on the older agent's hand and led her to the bedroom.

* * * * * *

Katie was snuggled into the crook of Dean's shoulder resting her head on the older woman's chest. They were enjoying the quiet and solitude that they knew would be broken in just a few short hours. Dean was gently stroking Katie's hair and admiring the shimmer of each strand as it reflected the light of the moon coming through the bedroom window. "You really are beautiful." Dean whispered into Katie's hair as she pressed her lips to the blonde's forehead.

"Uh huh, and I bet you say that to all the women in your life." Came the adroit response from the beautiful blonde.

"Nah, only the women I happen to be holding at the time." The older woman said with a chuckle before she got serious. "Katie, please be careful the next few days. Kasimov will be on super alert with the holidays only a few days off. He'll be looking for anything out of the ordinary."

"I will Dean, I promise." Katie answered as she lifted her head to look into Deans blue eyes. "We've got to find out what's going down though, before it's too late. I don't ever want to be too late again."

"Why do you say that?" Dean caught the intensity of the emerald eyes peering into hers.

Katie shut her eyes and took a long deep breath, exhaling before she began to talk again. "Remember last night when I said we all have our own demons to deal with?"

"Mmmhmm." Dean replied softly.

"Well about twelve months ago, I was working on this case from another angle." She paused before continuing. "Jerry and I. He was my partner at the time, and I was the senior member. We were working the drug group out of the Chicago area during an undercover op. Jerry was under and I was his contact. He had been under for several months and things were looking pretty good." She shook her head as she began to relive the anguish of a job gone sour. "I kept warning him to be careful, to watch which informants he dealt with, but he was adamant that he knew what he was doing. He did have a great record of busts, but that probably led to his downfall in the end." Katie sighed, then continued. "Anyway, I was working as a waitress in a coffee shop the drug ring used exclusively on the eastside. He'd come in and put the moves on me to pass on information. Everyone thought I was his 'girl' so they pretty much ignored me. During the last three months, we were so close to getting in. We knew there was going to be a huge meeting of all the drug cartels and that each one was sending their three best people. He really thought he'd be one of the chosen to come to this meeting. Everything was pointing in that direction… until he talked to the wrong snitch." She shivered thinking about the last night. "I never liked Emilio… he was a real creep if you know what I mean. I told Jerry not to trust him but I had no reason… no proof. Turned out I was right. The creep was a worm for the cartel working in the land of snitches. His job was to look for troublemakers and people asking too many questions. By the time I got enough proof, I was too late. I found Jerry in his apartment with a knife in his chest and his mouth full of earthworms. He had a note pinned to his chest addressed to the DEA. It said for them to find a better 'worm' next time." Katie was near tears by the time she finished her story. "I was his superior… I was supposed to keep him safe… and I didn't! I was too late! I should have done something sooner." The young agent was very upset now and Dean held her tightly. "I should have stopped him… I…"

"Katie… it's not you fault. You told him not to talk to Emilio and being his superior, he should have followed your command." Dean said as she tried to comfort the young woman. "You can't blame yourself for his blunder… it's over. You just have to live with it and learn from it." Dean cupped Katies chin and turned her face towards her. "It's like the whisper you sent to me last night… it's time to let go… time to stop beating yourself up over it."

"I know that now. I found out later that he wouldn't have listened to me anyway. He was trying to prove that women didn't belong in the agency and especially as lead agent on a case. That's why I vowed I'd never be late with proof again." Katie held onto Dean as though her life depended on it. "I won't let you down Dean. I promise I won't be late!" She said softly as she captured Dean's face with her hands staring purposely into Dean's eyes. Then slowly, gently, she let them slide away from Dean's face.

"I know love." Dean answered her quietly, "I promise I won't be late either."

* * * * * * *




Monday… 0430 hours…

By 0430 the two women where up, showered and on their way to the courts. They dressed in their park uniforms just in case anyone saw them enter or leave the courts building. As they pulled up and parked, Katie asked, "So how are these guys going to show up?"

"They're going to come in a variety of construction and maintenance vehicles. I faxed a list that Tracy gave me of local contractors so they could duplicate their truck styles. To the casual observer, they'll look legitimate enough." The tall agent smiled. "But of course to those particular contractors… they may be doing double takes if they see them. Just a slight chance that would happen at that hour of the morning and you saw how far the court building is from the main road. No one will see the trucks once they’re parked by the building."

"Why not use fictitious company names?" The blonde queried.

"The whole town knows that Tracy uses local contractors whenever possible. It's good for the contractors and good for the department. Stimulates excellent cooperation when she needs it most." Dean answered.

"Pretty smart on Tracy's part. Got to hand it to her Dean, she's a keeper."

"Yeah, and that's just why I want to keep her on board for as long as possible. You never know when one of her connections will turn out to be valuable. In fact, as much as I'd hate to do it, her secretary may prove to be even more valuable." Dean sighed.

"How's that?" Inquisitive emerald eyes captured ice blue ones in a questioning attitude.

"Well… her husband is the mayor of this little burg and also the police commish! Two people you definitely need on your side when push comes to shove." Dean finished.

Katie let out a low whistle. "Well, hopefully we won't get to pushing and shoving!"

They went into the building and turned on the lights and the heaters, then sat back in the small office waiting for the troops to arrive. They didn't have to wait long. At precisely 0500, the first trucks started to arrive. Katie pulled open the double fire door at the back of the building and directed the trucks in. A few were left outside to provide an impression of work in progress on the old building.

On the inside, work was steadily progressing. A second console similar to the one at the P & R office only bigger was set up next to the court office windows that looked out on the courts. Within an hour it was up and operational. The TV screens were 36 inch screens instead of the 19 inch ones back at the P & R building. That really made a big difference in viewing ease. Several long tables were set up and maps of the entire east coast were taped up on the walls around the large room. In addition, there were detail maps of every large city within a two hundred mile range. Every kind of machine to enhance audio or visual input was there along with quite an impressive display of ordnance and the weapons to go with it.

Katie just finished instructing the staff on where the final trucks contents should be set up when she tapped Dean on the shoulder and asked her where she wanted the kitchen sink.

"Very funny!" replied Dean. "Hey, ya never know what you might need. Weren't you ever a scout?" She said as she surveyed the room.

"Umm, claymores?" Katie said raising her arms then shrugging. "I thought those went bye-bye a long time ago."

"Surplus… Jim's just trying to be funny." Dean stated, then shook her head and smiled at the young blonde. "But you will like these little beauties…" She directed Katie over to a table by the office and lifted the lid on a fairly small box the size of a shoe box. "Take a look at this." Dean said as she handed the item over to Katie.

"A pen?" Katie said in disbelief. "You want me to write a letter or something?"

"No, no. Not just a pen," Dean stated as she retrieve it from Katie's hand, "although it does write quite well. Sits in your hand real nice, has a nice smooth writing ba…. Ouch! What was that for?" Dean looked at Katie as she rubbed her shoulder.

"Okay 'Q'… just what else does it do?" Katie said as she put her hands on her hips.

Dean just looked at her in puzzlement for a nano second before she got the reference… "Q… yeah, I like that." The she proceeded. "Well, this black one works like this… if you press the clip down here… " Dean demonstrated the correct placement of her fingers. "it becomes a stun gun with enough voltage to put your attacker down for at least five minutes before they get any feeling back, especially in the muscles you hit. It has a range of eight feet too!" Dean was really getting into this now. "And, it can be used up to five times before it has to be recharged. Cool huh?" Katie just shook her head in amazement as Dean picked up the red pen. "Now this one works the same way, but it contains one dose of knock out gas. Anyone breathing in this stuff will be in la la land for at least and hour. It has a spread three feet wide and a range six feet forward, so make sure your target is within those parameters. At arms length, it shouldn't effect you, but hold your breath anyway, just to be sure."

"Geez Dean, if I was an undercover nerd I could have a whole pocket protector full of these and no one would be the wiser." Katie said chuckling as Dean just shook her head and started to laugh too. "Guess I'll just have to settle for two clipped to my uniform huh?"

"Yeah, guess so." Dean said as she replaced the pens, then pulled the young blonde over to the next box. She pulled out a small jewelry box and opened it to show Katie. "Now these look like a normal pair of black pearl earrings, but if you crush the ball between your fingers like so, and put the crushed material, say… in this lock here, add some moisture, like spit for example…" She did so then moved Katie back from the demonstration. "In about two more seconds…" There was a quiet 'pffft' sound and the lock fell apart and landed smoldering on the floor. Katie reached down to pick up the busted lock but was stopped by Dean's hand. "No, don't touch it. It gets really hot and the residue is very acidic and can cause some nasty burns." She went on to caution Katie not to try crushing the earrings with wet hands.

"Duh!" Katie said smacking her forehead with the palm of her hand after Dean finished the caution remark which earned her a finger wagging by the older woman. "What happens if you're wearing them in the rain… or shower?" Katie asked with raised eyebrows.

"Nothing. They have a coating that protects them until they're crushed." The older agent said with a smile. "Intelligent question though. You've got exemplary insight into potential problems." Dean said obviously proud of her partner's grasp of the possibilities.

"Okay, so what's next?" Katie said beaming at the compliment.

"Next, is the best friend a maid can have!" Dean opened the next box and pulled out a can of furniture polish. It looked just like the cans of Lemon Pledge Katie had been using at the lodge.

"I get to clean the place up eh?" Katie said with a twisted smile on her face.

"Sorta, only don't use this can by accident. See how the top swivels and there's a red dot here and a blue dot on the other side of the neck." Dean pointed these out to Katie.

"Yeah, only the regular cans only have the red dot. You're supposed to make sure the nozzle is pointed in that direction when you use it. Right?"

"Right, only the red dot indicates a knock out gas, so make sure you're holding your breath for at least twenty seconds after you stop pressing the nozzle, if you need to use it. Anyone breathing in the gas will be sleeping for an hour just like the pen gas, so be careful if you use this. The blue dot emits a fine powder spray so you can see laser beams in the dark."

"Not bad," Katie said admiring the little 'toys' in Dean's play box. "Got anything else for me?"

"Yeah, but they haven't arrived yet. Should be here by tonight. Let's go see what's up on the screens. They should be just about ready for breakfast by now." The two women went over to the console and slipped on headphones then toggled them on. The only action so far was in the kitchen between El and Ezra.

"So Ezra, what do you think of all these guests?" Came the cook’s voice.

"Kinda strange to me El, but I really don't care as long as Mr. G gets to keep the place and we get to keep our jobs." Replied her husband.

"Yeah hon, I know what you mean. It'd be tough for us to start over again someplace else and we sure can't afford to retire. I just hope nothing goes wrong for Mr. G and we wind up losing our jobs." El said with a heavy voice before she continued. "Not only that dear, but what about them two kids we got working here too. They need the money too. Darla is expecting a baby in June and that Katie is supporting her family and all."

"Yep, would be tough on all of us. But I'll tell ya somethin'… I just don't like the looks of that Smirnoff fella. And those assistants of his are spooky! That one guy never comes out of the cellar. Why, when that water pipe broke week 'fore last, I thought he was gonna have my hide for goin' down there. I’d tried to go down the main stairs but they was locked so I'd used that old back way from when the cellar was reinforced for a bomb shelter back in the ‘50s. Didn't mean ta scare him or nothin’. He was just watchin' TV and listen' ta headphones. Damn good thing that woman showed up and was able to talk to him in his language. She calmed him down long enough for me to fix the pipe. Don't know why the hell anyone would want to live in the cellar when there's all these nice rooms up here!" Ezra finished his triade with a final "spooky son's a guns if ya ask me!"

"Well, let's get this breakfast out there, they'll be comin' down soon." Came El's soft reply.

Sapphire and emerald eyes locked then Dean spoke. "Well, well, well. We may have a way in after all. And the mystery of penetration is cleared up. Mr. G must be the one responsible for the extra layer of concrete when he reinforced it for a bomb shelter." A wicked gleam came to her eyes as she smiled at Katie. "Wonder if they did anything to block the 'back way' or if Dimitri even knew he came down a back way?"

"Hmmm, I'll see if I can find out some way, if the opportunity ever presents itself." Katie said as she mulled over a few ideas. "Good to know there is one though. May be useful some day."

The two agents went back to their surveillance a bit longer while the rest of the troops finished putting the equipment and gear together. Dean had called for a staff meeting at 1300 so they would have some time to review the previous nights tapes that they picked up from the P & R office before they got to the courts this morning. Breakfast was going per normal, so they set the recorders going and decided to review the tapes from last night. It didn't take them long since the occupants were all asleep. They did note two ethereal bodies moving through the lodge at regular intervals. Perhaps Kasimov brought in some extra help to 'patrol' the lodge. A review of the outside tapes also saw two bodies covering the grounds of the lodge.

"Well, that's a new twist." Commented Katie. "We've never picked up human guards before have we?"

"Nope, first time for everything." Dean replied as she rewound the tapes. "Bet the old general doesn't feel as secure as he'd like so he brought in the extra help."

"Wonder where they're staying and just how many of them are there? Didn't pick up any comments about them from El or Ezra." The young blonde said as she tapped the table top.

"Probably in the cellar with Dimitri so they wouldn't arouse any suspicion. That's what I'd have done in his place. And there's probably only the four. Anymore than that would be hard to keep secret." Guessed Dean as she labeled the tapes. "Well at least we're forewarned about the additional security."

"Might put a crimp in our style though." Thought Katie out loud. "In case we have to go in."

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Right now let's go over the agenda for the staff meeting." Then the two women went into the small office to get ready for the staff meeting.

* * * * *

Linna just finished doing the deposit of registration fees for the department when Tracy came into her office. "Is the deposit ready?" Tracy asked as she sat down in the chair next to Linna's desk.

"All ready for ya boss." She looked up at Tracy then added nonchalantly. "So, where's our scientists today? Taking the day off?"

"Oh, they're probably up on the mountain getting a closer look. They'll probably be here sometime today." The director said as she took the deposit envelope from her secretary. "Don't forget I've got that lunch meeting over at the college today. I'll probably just go straight over there from the bank. Do you want me to stop and bring you back some lunch?"

"Nah, I'm going to run out for lunch myself. Got a few errands to run." Linna said setting up her ploy. "Mind if I take a few extra minutes? I've got a lot of running to do."

"Nope, just make sure you lock up and set the alarm. And don't forget to lock the door to the senior center. Can't have them wandering down here when there's no one around." Tracy instructed as she got up to leave.

"Okay boss. Have a fun meeting!"

"Yeah, right! I love listening to politicians blow their horns." Tracy said as she left the office.

Linna waited a good fifteen minutes just to be sure Tracy didn't come back unexpected. Then she went outside and moved her car around back and out of sight. When she came back in she put the 'out to lunch' sign up indicating the time of return for one hour from now. She then set the alarm, locked the doors and turned the lights off. The last thing she did was unlock the small office that the two women were using. Linna took a final look around, then entered the small office turning on only the lamp on the desk.

"Okay, now what?" She said out loud. "Now try not to disturb anything." She reminded herself. Then she went over to the console and sat down scanning all the equipment and dials. She noted the tape machines were running and the sound indicator was making jumping movements as it recorded. "Okay, everything is recording so don't screw anything up." She told herself. Then she reached up and turned on the TV screen and put the headphones on her head. What the hell is this? It certainly isn't a view of the birds and bees! Linna immediately recognized the view on the first TV screen as the exterior of the Gersch Lodge. Hmmm, I wonder why it's focused there? Maybe the wind storm last night put it off target and they went up to fix it. Then she paid attention to the sound coming from the headphones. Hey, that's El and Ezra's voices. Just what the hell's going on here? As Linna continued to listen she found that she could change the direction of the sound device easily so she began searching out other conversations. The last one she picked up really set her mind whirling.

"Geez Johnnie, I still can’t believe Tony was FBI!"

"Believe it man! That freaken’ general knows his stuff Gary, so just drop it will ya!"

"Ya think anyone will find the bodies?"

"Nah, no way. That spook of his was sure to put them somewhere where they won't turn up until they gotta put the bones in a sack to haul them out. Bears or somethin' will get to 'em first."

"No way… bears around here are herbivores not carnivores." Gary corrected. "I learned that on the Discovery Channel." He said proudly.

"Who the fuck cares, Gary. Point is there won’t be much left of them by the time someone finds them!"

Man, that was really somethin' the way they blew themselves away! Freaken crazy if ya ask me!"

"Well, I'm tellin' ya Gary, ya better stop flappin' 'bout it … or they're liable to make you blow yourself away too. I wouldn't be surprised if this whole place was bugged!"

"OH… MY… GOD…!" Linna exclaimed loudy. Just what on earth are those two women and Tracy into? Scientists? Horse pucky! Man, oh man. Now what do I do? Linna’s mind was racing now as she realized the implications of what she just overheard. Just stay cool Linna. You know that Tracy wouldn't be involved in anything illegal. These women must be undercover agents of some sort. OH… MY… GOD…! This is so bizarre. Wait till I tell Kelly, he'll freak that this stuff is happening in his quiet little town. No, no… on second thought I can't tell him. Can't let him know I know if he knows… huh? Oh Linna, you just had to know didn't you! Shit, shit, shit! Linna looked down at her watch and realized that she had been in the room for nearly fifty minutes. Okay, put everything back to the way it was… huh? Now how was it? Okay, turn off the TV, reset the dial… to where? OH… MY… GOD…! Now what? She did the best she could to put things back then turned off the light and left the room, locking it as she closed the door. She just disarmed the alarm, put the lights back on and took down the 'out to lunch' sign when Tracy opened the outer door and came whistling down the hall to the main office. Oooo, that was too close! Linna said to herself as she greeted Tracy at the door.

"You're back early." Linna said with a big nervous smile.

"Yeah, well, I showed up and let everyone see my face, then I slipped out the back door. I hate listening to politicians." She said shaking her head and walking off to her office. "I didn't even want to stay for the free food after, that's how bad I wanted to leave."

"Umm, if you're hungry we still have some burritos in the freezer." Linna offered while silently trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. "I didn't get a chance to eat either."

"Sure, sounds good to me." Tracy said as she came back out of her office and joined Linna in the small kitchen area.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday… 0130 hours…

"Okay, listen up!" Dean called the group together around the tables. She turned on the slide projector and put the first slide up of the local map and began with the location of the lodge. "We know that the lodge is brimming with audio and visual surveillance throughout. General Kasimov has also recently added four armed guards to supplement his laser beam security. He is also using an old ‘speakeasy/bomb shelter’ in the basement of the lodge for his control center. It can’t be penetrated by any of our technology." She produced slides of the lodge layout indicating where this area is located. "We also know that there are at least twenty eight cartel representatives from across the globe currently residing at the lodge. Dean flashed pictures of each and gave their name and cartel representation for each one. She went on to give an overview of General Kasimov’s, Natasha’s, and Dimitri’s role’s, displaying their pictures too. "I’m now going to play the audio tape from the night agent’s Cabini and Sanchez were murdered. Please pay close attention and see if you note anything unusual in the tape." She played the tape then asked for comments. No one noticed anything unusual. "This is Gus Silver. He’s heading up the technology end for us. He’s from NSA and he’ll be working with a team comprised from each of the agencies. Okay Gus, it’s up to you and your boys to tear this tape apart for any abnormalities." She nodded at Gus as she handed him a copy of the tape from the night of the incident. Then Dean discussed the subsequent recovery of the agent’s bodies and the initial autopsy results. After that, she introduced Dr. Beth Berg, from the DEA, who took over the discussion on the current findings regarding the mind control substance.

"What we have to date is very little." Dr. Berg informed the group as she pulled out a drawing of the chemical makeup of the substance. "We know from what General Kasimov inferred that this substance can be ingested, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. We also know that once it is in the system it has a life span of 96 hours. After that it dissipates and becomes innate." She went over to the blackboard and put ‘four methods of administration’ and ‘96 hours’ below it on the board. "We also know that the substance alone will not cause a person to do anything out of their ordinary routine. There has to be a verbal command." She added ‘verbal command’ under the ‘96 hours’ on the blackboard. "Finally, we know that there is something else that triggers the drug to accept the verbal command." She then placed a question mark on the blackboard under the other items. "We need to find out what that question mark represents." She emphasized this statement by circling the question mark. "Perhaps if we can find out what this is," she tapped the chalk on the question mark "we can break the chain of action." She looked over at Dean and then returned to her seat

"Thanks Beth." Katie said as she stood to address the group. "According to our information, this drug of General Kasimov’s has already been placed. We estimate that there is enough of this drug ‘out there’ ready to be released with a potential to affect millions of people." Katie paused for effect then continued. "We just don’t know where it is or the mode of transmission that will be used although it is in liquid form rather than gas." Katie went over to a flip chart and produced a drawing of what the canisters supposedly looked like. "This is an approximate drawing of what the 500 canisters containing the drug looks like."

"Looks like an air tank to me." Commented a middle aged agent named Bruce. "But what are those slots for?"

"The nearest we can figure is that the drug will somehow be released through those slots." Katie said before continuing. "Our informant mentioned that there is some sort of device attached to the top of each tank. It’s not certain if that device is necessary for release of the drug or for filling the canisters or both."

"It may be for both, but my guess is it’s gotta be for the release." Bruce observed. "I was a Navy Seal before I joined the FBI, and have used a lot of air tanks for diving and have seen a lot of chemical warfare canisters. I can’t imagine the General sending out his troops to turn on 500 tanks to disperse the drug. My bet would be it’s either a remote control device or a timed device." He stated. "If it’s a remote, we might have a chance at stopping the relay before it releases the drug. If it’s a timed device we may be in real trouble trying to find all 500 canisters to stop the timers before they open up."

"Thanks Bruce." Katie said as she smiled at him. "I’m sure you’re right and my gut tells me that they’re probably timers then. I can’t imagine the General taking a chance of the signal getting interrupted." The group nodded in agreement. "Now we need to find out where he put 500 canisters as well as who his targets are. If anyone has any theories on this, I’m all ears." She said as she looked around the group. Not getting any response Katie added. "Well, keep this information in mind as you work. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated."

"Okay folks. Time to get to work." Dean said as she stood again. "Dr. Berg, your group will be set up near the locker rooms. The sooner we find out what that question mark represents the better." Dr. Berg nodded. "Bruce, you and your team will work on the maps and possible targets. Also work on possible locations for 500 canisters of drugs." Bruce also nodded in affirmation. "Gus, you and your boys will be set up here by the consoles. Get me what you can from those tapes okay?"

"You bet Colonel." Gus replied.

"All right then… we’ve got just about a month to crack this before we have a massive event that we won’t be able to control. Let’s get to work." With that the task force broke up into their smaller groups and went to work on their respective enigmas.

"Well, that went fairly well." Katie said as she walked over to Dean. "Lets just hope we can get to the bottom of this soon." She looked up into the intense blue eyes of her partner then said. "I don’t want to be late!"

"Me either." Came the soft far off response from Dean. "Me either."

* * * * * *

At 1500 the two women left the court building and headed down to the P & R office to fill in Tracy. They decided that it would be better for them to go there than to have Tracy show up at the courts. As they walked into the office, Linna greeted them with big and somewhat nervous smile. "So how’s the mountain?" Linna added as the two agents entered.

"The mountain?" They answered in unison.

"Yeah, Tracy said you were probably up there today since you didn’t come in to the office." Linna offered.

"Oh… that mountain!" Katie answered as she recovered from the momentary confusion. "It’s fine, just fine. Did a little fine tuning of our equipment then took a nice walk around."

"Um… yeah." Offered Dean. "Just wanted to make sure that wind storm last night didn’t knock anything out of whack."

"Is Tracy in?" The young blonde interjected quickly before Linna could quiz them anymore.

"Yep, but she has the Commission chairperson in with her right now. She’ll only be a bit." Linna said as she got ready to ask another question but was stopped by a ringing telephone.

The two agents took the opportunity to go into their small office to avoid any further conversation. "Did she seem nervous to you?" Katie asked as they sat down in front of the console.

"Nah, I think I just intimidate her." Dean said with a chuckle.

"You have a tendency to do that to a lot of people." Katie replied as she put her set of headphones on. She sat there for a while then looked over at Dean. "Did you reset the voice direction on these this morning? I could have sworn we left it on the dining area and it’s set for the kitchen."

Dean gave her a quizzical look then donned her headphones and listened for a bit. "Nope, I don’t think so, but maybe we’re just confused with the two set ups now. We were listening to El and Ezra this morning at the courts."

"Yeah, you’re probably right." The young agent acknowledged then refocused her attention on the audio device and scanned the lodge for conversations. Most of them were just normal banter then her head exploded with the sound of gunfire. "Shit!" She called out as she ripped off the headphones. "That really hurt!"

"What happened?" Dean asked, her blue eyes showing intense concern.

"I think I just found the shooting range. Either that or the place is under siege with automatic weapon fire!" Katie said as she held her head and tried to shake out the remaining echoes.

Dean unconsciously looked up at the TV monitor then back at Katie. "Guess we need to mark that on the layout map so we don’t stumble on it again without turning the volume down."

"Good idea." Remarked Katie as she lowered the volume, put the headphones back on, and returned to her scanning.

Dean had just started to review the tapes from earlier today when there was a knock on the door. She got up and opened the door to find Tracy grinning back at her. "Hey." Dean said as she opened the door fully to allow the director in.

"How’s it going at the courts?" Tracy inquired as she stepped in closing the door before she spoke.

"Not bad. We’re all set up and the task force is working on their specific angles." She paused then shook her head and added. "I just hope we have enough time to crack this one."

"So aren’t you going to ask me why I’m grinning?" Tracy looked at the two women with the biggest Cheshire cat grin she could muster.

"Okay… we bite… why are you grinning?" Katie said as she took her headphones off.

"I just got a special delivery letter." The director said as she waved it in front their faces. "Want to know what’s in it?" The two women just nodded grinning back at her. "It’s a check for $50,000.00 from the Enigma Foundation!"

"Wow." Dean said with wide eyes. "I didn’t expect Jack to act that fast. Is that why the commissioner was here?"

"Yep. It came addressed to him with a nice little letter informing him that an anonymous donor was impressed with my work here and wanted to help us reach some of our improvement goals so he sent this ‘little’ donation our way…. Cool huh?"

"Definitely cool." Chimed in Katie. "Good cover letter too."

"Yeah, I thought so too. So what’s new?"

They proceeded to update Tracy on the staff briefing including the latest on the autopsy and the canisters. "I hear that Dr. Berg is one of the best in her field. You’re lucky they sent her down." Tracy said when Dean finished her update.

"I asked for her specifically." Katie offered. "We went through training together at Quantico and have been friends ever since. And you’re right, she is the best!"

"That so?" Blue eyes shifted to peer into the emeralds across from her. "Friends, huh?"

The emeralds across from her twinkled as Katie replied, "Yes… just friends."

"So…. " Tracy decided to interrupt the staring match, "do you really think the canisters are on a timer? ‘Cause if they are you’d better concentrate on counter-acting the drug. I can’t imagine having any success in locating and disengaging a timer on 500 canisters!"

"That’s what we thought too." Dean said as she broke off her eye contact with Katie winking as she did so. "Katie thinks that Kasimov wouldn’t leave the release of the drug left to any chance of a signal interruption and I believe she’s right."

"So what are the chances of stopping or counteracting the drug?" Tracy asked while mentally considering the needle in the haystack they were going to have to find.

"Well, I just hope Beth can come up with something… and in time. Then we’ve got to figure out who and where his intended drug victims are and what they’ll be told to do." Katie got up and walked over to Dean and put her hand on Dean’s shoulder. "Then we have to figure out how to stop it all." She said giving a squeeze to Dean’s shoulder.

"Piece of cake!" Dean replied as she reached up and placed her hand over Katie’s.

"Well, ya know if there’s anything I can do, just whistle." Tracy said as she stood to leave.

"You’ve already done more than you should have, but we’ll definitely keep you in mind." Dean sighed, then added. "If you can put up with it, I’d like to keep this surveillance console active as a back up."

"No problemo." Tracy smiled. "I was hoping you would. I know it’s kinda selfish of me, but I’d like to stay in the loop." The two agents smiled and nodded their affirmation as Tracy left the office.

"What say we pack up today’s tapes and take them to Gus’s boys to review?" Dean suggested as she took the tapes out of the machines and replaced them with fresh ones. "Then we can go grab a bite to eat before we check in for the evening briefing?"

"Sounds like a plan." Replied the young blonde as she gave Dean a big hug, then added, "You’re not really upset about Beth are you?"

"Naw… just pulling your leg." Dean said as she bent down to give Katie a very sensual kiss as a simple but effective declaration of her affection for the young woman.

By 1600, they had locked and left the office, thankful that Linna was in Tracy’s office and out of ear shot, thus safe from having to make up any more lies to appease the secretary’s inquisitive nature. Both women really liked Linna, but both agreed that it was best to keep her in the dark. Little did they know that Linna was just as actively trying to avoid the two agents in fear of having been found out.

* * * * * * * * * *

After a quick trip home, a hastily prepared pasta dinner, and a long relaxing and highly sensual pause in the two person Jacuzzi, the two agents were on their way back to the tennis court building for the evening briefing. There were light flurries in the air and they were starting to stick to the ground. The weather forecast was predicting a light ‘dusting’ of snow by morning.

"Let’s hope they’ve got this solved and it’ll be over by the time we get there." Katie said in her most positive voice.

"You are a dreamer aren’t you?" Dean casually held her partners hand then lifted it to her lips as she caressed each of the knuckles with her soft lips.

"Mmmm. Just thinking of better things to be doing right now than meeting with a bunch of stodgy old scientists and super techno twits."

"Techno twits? I don’t think they would appreciate you labeling them techno twits!" Dean mumbled around the knuckles that were still being caressed. "But, I have to agree with you about thinking of better things we could be doing!"

"Well, hopefully they will have gotten a bit closer to solving this mystery." Katie sighed as Dean released her hand to make the turn onto the road leading into the old resort. By the time the SUV had warmed up it was time for them to get out and brave the cold again.

An anxiously pacing Gus met them at the door. "I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news." Gus reported as the two women entered the building.

"Okay," Dean said as she shut the door. "Give me the bad news first."

"The wiring in this place isn’t meant for the juice we’re drawing. We’re gonna to have to shut down the surveillance equipment until we can add more circuits."

Dean shrugged, knowing that the back up system was still on, then asked for the good news.

"Well, just before we lost power to the surveillance unit, your man Kasimov made an announcement, and…" Green and blue eyes pinned the techno wizard and held their breath. "seems he’s leaving in the morning for the Russian Embassy in Washington until the middle of December."

The two women released their held breaths at the same time and looked at each other. "And that’s good news because… ?" Came the question from Katie.

"Well, Bruce was talking it over with his team and they thought they would be able to do a night insertion and examine the control room while Kasimov’s gone." He said not understanding the cool reception to that idea.

"He’ll do no such thing." Came the quick response from Dean. "Kasimov may be leaving, but I’m sure he won’t be taking Dimitri with him." She looked over at Katie and they young agent could see a definite change in coloring in the blue eyes looking back at her. It was as though Dean’s eyes turned to steel blue and her neck and face began getting flushed, she could almost palpate the anger rising in her partner.

"Well. It makes sense that he’s heading for D.C." The blonde murmured. "Especially if he already has the drug canisters in place. And after all, he is the Russian’s Security Director, so why not go to the Embassy? Probably has to put in an appearance so the Russian’s don’t get suspicious."

"Yeah, but don’t believe for a minute that I’ll give a damn about diplomatic immunity if I can catch his sorry butt in the middle of this. We’ll just have to make sure he’s in the thick of it and not hiding at the Embassy. I don’t want to lose him again." Dean’s voice had turned to a very low menacing tone when she spoke, and it alarmed Katie some to see the absolute hatred and anger that emerged whenever Dean discussed the general. She made a mental note to find out why Kasimov pushed Dean’s button’s so easily.

About this time, Bruce came over to the trio and soon found himself the target of Dean’s growing anger as she swiveled her attention towards him. "What make’s you think you can decide to do a night insertion?" She said as she pulled herself up to her full 6’1’ height and bore down on him with her steely blue stare.

"Uh... I thought…" He started to stammer while backing up a bit, unsure as to the cause of this reaction by his superior.

"I’m the one who does the thinking around here!" The dark haired woman growled. "Nobody does anything without my permission, ya got that!"

Bruce began looking back and forth between Katie and Gus, then back to Dean not knowing what brought this mood change about. He was trying desperately to figure out how to get out of this situation with all his parts in working order when Katie stepped up, obviously trying to diffuse the situation before Dean and Bruce came to blows.

"Umm… Dean?" She said softly as she gently placed her hand on a very tense Dean. "I’m sure Bruce wouldn’t have done anything without your permission…" she began as Bruce emphatically nodded his head in agreement.

"No, no… Colonel, of course not." Bruce said as he held up his hands partly in an effort to explain and partly in self-defense. "My team and I were just talking about the possibility… not planning anything… really…"

Steely blue eyes shifted from Bruce to Katie’s entreating emerald eyes, back to Bruce. "Yeah… well, just make sure you pass things through me before you do anything." Came a somewhat less hostile response from Dean before she turned and strode off towards the small office that was her private domain. Katie stayed a moment with Bruce and Gus ensuring them that everything would be all right before she followed Dean to the office.

Katie entered and closed the door quietly behind her, she saw Dean sitting at her desk with her feet propped up and her back to the door, and her arms crossed in front of her chest. As she came around the desk to Dean, she saw Dean’s eyes closed and monitored the contractions of the jaw muscles as the clenched and released, then tightened again. She carefully approached, gently placing her hand on the right shoulder, feeling the tension release some at her touch.

"Dean… are you all right?" Katie spoke softly as she began to gently massage the older agents shoulders.

Dean didn’t answer at first, only inhaling and exhaling deeply a few times before she spoke. "I’m sorry… I just…"

"It’s okay." Katie said as she continued the gently massage noting the relaxation of Dean’s muscles as she did so. "I’m sure you have your reasons… "

"No. It’s not ‘okay.’ I shouldn’t lose control like that." Dean said as she swiveled around to face the young woman.

"Then what happened? What set you off?"

"Kasimov sets me off!" She said as her steely eyes returned to a warmer blue. "I should have taken him out the first time I saw him… the bastard!"

Katie just waited and let Dean settle down. She wanted to know the story behind the anger, but also wanted to give Dean the space and time to tell her story. She only had to wait a few minutes before Dean was composed enough to begin.

"It was just after I made First Lieutenant, about ten years ago, I had an assignment that took me undercover into Russia. I was to meet my Russian contact and swap some stolen U. S. military computer chips for identical, but altered computer chips. The chips that were stolen would compromise our missile guidance capabilities severely. The one’s I had to replace them with were identical except for one small thing… a virus that was implanted in the chip that would destroy their computer guidance systems once they used it. And it worked. They’re still trying to recover from that damage. I got in, made the switch and was home free except for one thing… Kasimov." Dean sighed and closed her eyes once more as a tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.

"What happened?" The young blonde asked as she gently stroked Dean’s cheek and wiped the tear away.

"Somehow, my contact was compromised. I had only met with her twice on the operation, but she was a very likable person. She was full of life, energy and had a terrific sense of humor. And she was very brave. I did my best to try to save her, but it wasn’t enough." Another tear fell. "She led them to believe that the op hadn’t even begun… that it was scheduled for the following week. Kasimov ordered the chips to be moved and installed in their computer systems immediately. As soon as I found out, I went back and tried to get her out. I found her in the interrogation room." Dean’s voice had become raw with emotion as she continued the story. "She was still alive when I found her. Her face was beaten almost beyond recognition. She had been tortured, repeatedly raped by the General himself, and left on the floor to die. I held her in my arms as she told me what the General had done and that the op was safe. She begged me to leave her there, but I couldn’t. I picked her up and was almost in the clear when Kasimov and his men spotted us and opened fire." Katie sucked in a breath as she saw the pain in Dean’s eyes. "I don’t know how I managed to make it to the pick up vehicle. I had been hit seventeen times and passed out as the door to the van closed. Next thing I knew I woke up at General Leonard Wood Army Hospital. That’s where I first met Tracy." Dean blinked away the tears then looked at Katie. "So you see, I too know what it’s like to be too late. Through all the beatings, the torture and the rapes, she didn’t give in and saved the operation. I swore if I ever crossed paths with Kasimov again, I’d even the score for Katarina"

"I understand now why he sets you off so easily." Katie said quietly. "We’ll get him this time."

"Yes we will… if it’s the last thing I do." Then Dean got up and walked to the door.

"Where are you going?" The young agent asked.

"To apologize to Bruce." Came the quiet reply as she left the office to find Bruce and mend some fences.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Thursday… 0900 Hours

Dean was back at the Parks & Recreation office doing the audio and visual surveillance until the new circuits were installed in the court building. Oh yeah… Tracy was getting a top notch wiring job on the old building. She’ll have more juice than she’ll ever know what to do with. Dean mused as she idly scanned the rooms for pertinent conversation. They also decided to upgrade the heating system and put in a small kitchen while they were at it. She’s going to be primping her feathers for quite a while after this job is over. Couldn’t have happened to a better person. The tall agent thought to herself. Now all we have to do is get this job over without anyone getting hurt in the process. Dean mentally reviewed the progress of the past two days.

The teams working at the court building weren’t getting very far yet. Dr. Berg had managed to reproduce the drug successfully but has not been able to isolate the one factor that makes it effective. Several of the staff acted as guinea pigs for the process but so far no one jumped when commanded. She went over and over the tape from the night the two agents were killed and tried to put in every possible scenario from the kind of food served, the drinks the two men had before dinner, whether they smoked or not, even down to the after dinner mints on the tables. Still there was no progress in finding the elusive trigger.

Gus on the other hand was tied up with the electrical installation so his job was temporarily on hold. The ETA for completion of the new circuitry was Thursday night at the best so he gave the tape back to Dean to review while at the P & R office.

Bruce and his team were actively working on their project. They were coming up with lists and lists of possible targets and drug deployment tactics but the numbers were starting to stack up against them. They were too numerous for the team to check out and eliminate before another stack of possibilities turned up.

What they all needed was a break. Just a little clue… anything to help them turn onto the right path. Dean and Katie were trying their best to find that clue. But so far they were all batting zero. Katie had been back to the lodge now since Tuesday morning. She managed to have a quick rendezvous with Lin, but even Lin was unable to shed any light. The cartel members were occupying their time with the various amenities provided by the General. The indoor shooting range was constantly in use as were the game room, gym, sauna, TV lounge, and the pool. Several of the ‘guests’ took advantage of the acreage surrounding the lodge and spent time outdoors as well as in. All in all the general attitude of the cartel was that they were on ‘vacation’ until further orders came in so they may as well enjoy themselves even though many of them were getting a bit antsy from all the sitting around. Natasha had scheduled several more hunting trips that would carry them through deer season. And after the time spent in the indoor range, the deer had better head for the hills.

At 1100 Tracy knocked on the door to the surveillance office and stepped in when Dean opened the door. "Hey… how’s it going?" The director asked as she walked over to take a seat at the console.

"All’s quiet on the lodge front." Dean answered as she handed a set of headphones over to Tracy. "They’re still working on the wiring at the courts, Dr. Berg’s still at ground zero, and Bruce is seeing possible scenarios everywhere."


"Sounds like a plan coming together!" Tracy said with a chuckle. "So how’s Katie doing at the lodge?"

"’Bout as good as the rest of us. Still nothing concrete." Then Dean located the room Katie was in and set the audio to match.

"… you and your sister had fun growing up in this lodge." Katie’s voice came over the headphones.

"Yep. Me and Lilly had a lot of fun in this place." El’s voice replied.

"What kinds of games did you have to play as kids? Our family plays a lot of board games now and even when we were kids. Monopoly, Clue, Chinese checkers, that sort of thing. How about you?"

"Oh, we didn’t have a lot of money for store bought games. We just played a lot with our imaginations making up games. We did play card games a lot though… and oh my… we’d have lots of fun playing hide and seek in the lodge and out on the grounds."

"Really? You mean the grown ups didn’t mind you playing in the lodge?"

"Oh no. Mr. G’s parents didn’t mind at all. See, we were almost the same age as their kids so we played a lot with them. As long as we didn’t get under foot or disturb the guests, we pretty much had free reign of the lodge." El said then added, "This was quite the family place to vacation back then."

"Hide and seek huh? Bet that was fun in a big place like this."

That’s my woman… Dean thought to herself…see what you can find out about this lodge… see if there’s any secrets still to be had in the old place. Dean was mentally urging Katie on with this round of conversation. She looked over at Tracy who was smiling back and giving her a thumbs up signal.

"Oh, it certainly was. Why there’s so many places to hide in from the attic to the cellar we could play all day and not get bored." El was chuckling at the memories of good times past. "Why… my favorite trick was to use the dumb waiter to get past my sister and the boys." She snickered some more. "They never could figure out how I could get from the attic to the cellar without being seen on the stairs!"

"What fun!" Katie said trying to keep the mood going. "Sometimes I wish I could use a dumb waiter to sneak away from some of these guests. Especially some of the men… if you know what I mean." Katie said in a low conspiratorial voice. "It’s a good thing Darla is pregnant or they’d be after her too!"

"Oh sweetie, I know just what you mean. I’m glad I’m an old hag or I’d be puttin’ a few of them in their place mighty fast." She said in a whisper.

"Well, I would too, except I really need this job and can’t afford to offend anyone… but a few tricks might come in handy."

Dean could almost see the emerald eyes doing their poor puppy dog routine on El and she chuckled inwardly. Atta way Katie… go for it!

"Well, I really shouldn’t be tellin’ ya this but that old dumb waiter is still intact and operational. In fact, when no one’s here I often use it to cart stuff up and down these floors so’s I don’t have to carry ‘em." El chuckled lightly. "Of course, I’m too old and too big now to fit in it like I used to, but you could fit!"

"Wow! That would be really cool El. Can you tell me where it is?"

Dean could hear the hopefulness in Katie’s voice as she and Tracy listened in and watched Katie’s blue dot on the screen.

"Sure thing sweetie. But it’s got to be our little secret. Come with me."

The ethereal body with the blue dot and another reddish orange body signifying El started to move. The two bodies went into the pantry area where they stopped.

"It’s right here behind this door. Mr. G’s Dad didn’t want to get rid of it ‘cause it was a nice old fashioned feature of the lodge but he didn’t want to use it either so he built this broom closet in front of it. If I hadn’t grown up in this place I never woulda’ known it was there! See, this panel just slides over like this…." The women listening in could hear a creaking, sliding noise. "And there it is!" El finished with a flourish. The space was about five foot square and five foot high. "You’d hafta scrunch down, but it’s sturdy enough to carry over three hundred pounds. Built with steel cables and not ropes. They used it to carry fireplace wood, small pieces of furniture and the like and of course the boot legged booze!"

"Whoa! That’s so cool! So where does it let out?" Katie’s voice could hardly contain her excitement. She noted that it was electric by the red and green buttons and the up and down indicators. She also noted a hand crank that was probably used prior to it being electrified.

"Well," began El. "It goes clear up to the attic following the length of the chimney that’s here to the right. In the attic it lets out behind the chimney. Then on the third floor, which we haven’t used for years, it lets out in the bathroom on this end of the lodge behind the towel rack. You just pull on the rack and the door pops open. It’s set up pretty clever, you’d never know there was a door behind the towel rack." El paused for a breath before continuing. "Let’s see now… on the second floor it lets out in the back of the hall linen closet next to that oriental ladies room, then here on the main floor… then behind the chimney again in the basement. You just push the button for up or down, green for go and red for stop. Each entrance has a call button to bring the dumb waiter up or down when it’s needed."

Bingo! Thought all three women. "I wonder if Kasimov knows about this?" Tracy asked as she looked over at Dean.

"Probably not from the sounds of the conversation with El." Dean answered back. It almost seemed as though Katie was tuned into the conversation the two women just had because in her next sentence she asked if Ezra knew about the dumb waiter.

"Nope!" El said with a proud voice. "I never told Ezra about it. Had to make him wonder how I’d get my linen’s and things moved up and down so quickly, but it was always my little secret. I’ll even bet a week’s wages that old Mr. G forgot all about it too. Now… it’s our little secret!" You could hear the giggle of both women as the creaking and sliding noise indicated the closure of the dumb waiter.

"Gee thanks El." Katie’s voice came across the headphones. "I promise never to tell anyone." Except maybe my partner, and the task force… and maybe I should tell Lin too, just in case. Katie mused as she and El stepped out of the pantry.

"Well, it looks like there’s another way into that cellar that no one knows about except El and now Katie." Dean said as she slipped off her headphones.

"Yeah, that sure is good to know." Tracy said as she took her headphones off too. "Now all you need is an opportunity to get in and out without anyone being the wiser."

"It sure would help if we could find something… anything… that would clue us in on the target’s and the location of the drug canisters. I’m not holding my breath though, what with the four added guards and Dimitri." Dean studied the lodge lay out and located the approximate position of the dumb waiter. "Wish we knew more about the layout of the cellar."

"Hmm, that would be helpful. Maybe Katie can get that info from Lin at their next get-together?"

Dean nodded her head then sighed. "I wish there was a better way for those two to pass information. I know it makes Katie uncomfortable but at least no one’s tumbled to them yet."

"How about you…" Tracy asked with a serious look at her friend. "Does it make you uncomfortable too?"

Dean thought a minute before she answered her friend. "Yeah… I guess it does. I know it’s just a means of passing information, but I can’t help feeling a bit…"

"Jealous?" Came the answer from Tracy. Dean just lowered her head and nodded. "Well, if it’s any consolation, I would be jealous too if was my Col in that situation."

"Speaking of Colleen," Dean raised her head and lifted an eyebrow. "She’s really into technology. Computers and audio/visual stuff right?"

"Right… so…"

"Do you think she’d mind going over the tapes from the night the two FBI agents were killed? I know it’s a lot to ask. It is pretty gruesome." Dean shook her head then added, "I guess I’m grabbing at straws for answers. And I’ll try to get them any way I can."

"It’s okay Dean. I’m sure she won’t mind. What are you looking for?"

"That mind control drug needs some kind of an external stimulus to activate it. We just can’t put our finger on it yet. Maybe a fresh point of view will help." Dean shrugged and went to the tape storage area to pull the audio and video tapes from that night. "Here’s the originals… we’ve got plenty of copies out at the courts. And tell Col thanks."

"Sure thing Dean. I’ll give them to her this afternoon. I’ve got to run by her office anyway so I’ll drop them off after lunch. And speaking of lunch… you interested?"

The two friends left the surveillance room after putting new tapes in the machine. On their way out, Linna asked Tracy if she’d mind stopping at Gino’s to pick up an order for her. Linna said she’d call it in so it would be ready for them on the way back to the office. Then she went back to her typing until she was sure they were gone.

Okay, I’ve got maybe forty-five minutes to do some snooping. Linna thought to herself as she locked the door to the office, put the ‘time return’ sign on the door, then unlocked the surveillance room. She slipped on the headphones and began to listen.

"Hey El, do you need help putting this grocery order away?"

Linna recognized the voice as Katie’s but wasn’t surprised at all. Not after her last peek into this room when she figured out the two women must be undercover cops.

"Sure would appreciate the help. Most of the canned goods go into the cupboards in the pantry. I’ll get the rest put onto the refrigerator."

The secretary recognized that voice as belonging to El Schlott, housekeeper and long time employee at ‘The Lodge.’ I certainly hope that El and Ezra aren’t involved in anything illegal. Naahh! Linna thought as she continued to listen.

"Boy this sure has been a weird winter so far."

Hmmm, Katie’s making with the small talk… Wonder how long she’s been working there?

"That’s just fine by me." Came El’s response. "I certainly have learned to appreciate warmer weather and I’m in no hurry to have winter to return."

"I like warmer weather too, but I guess winter will arrive one of these days."

"Ezra says were gonna have some bad weather soon."

"Oh? What makes him say that?"

"His knees. They always act up when the weather gets bad. He says were liable to have a nasty storm in the next week or so."

"Well, if he’s right, he’s a better forecaster than the weather channel!"

Linna could hear both women giggling. Well, it doesn’t sound like much going on right now. I really don’t want to change any of these dials. I almost got caught the last time. Guess I’ll just have to try again another time. Then Linna took the headphones off and was careful to replace them exactly where she found them, then left the room locking it behind her.

* * * * * * * * *

Thursday… 2000 Hours…

Dean and Katie were at the court building going through a briefing of the days work from the task force. So far no good news was reported.

"That special breaker box won’t be in until morning." Gus commented, as it was his turn to report. "I’m glad you still had the console at your other location still operating. We should be back on line by noon tomorrow, then we can take down that other console."

"No need. I’ll take care of it myself." Dean cut in.

"Okay, sure. Whatever you think is best." Gus said.

"I just want you to put your full attention into solving the mystery on those tapes. The other console is of no significance now." Dean explained as she smiled at Gus. "Now for a little good news." She turned to Katie for her turn to report.

"Today I was having a conversation with El, the housekeeper, and found out about a secret dumb waiter…. " She went on to inform the group about it’s location, size, and operation before she completed her report.

"That may come in handy if we ever have the opportunity to get in." This came from Bruce as he looked up at Dean for confirmation.

"Yeah, but only if we have the opportunity. I don’t want to scare off Kasimov before we know more." Dean returned the look to Bruce who nodded in agreement. "Until then, we won’t be using it. Anybody have anything else they want to say?"

No one ventured to add anything else so Dean called the briefing to a close then she and Katie went into the small office.

"Something’s gotta give soon. We don’t have much time left." Dean said with a sigh as she sat in her chair. "Did you get anything from Lin today?"

"No, we just kept up our daily ‘contact’ to keep up appearances but she hasn’t heard anything either. She did think that Natasha will be going to join Kasimov for the weekend. That would leave Dimitri and the four guards behind to keep an eye on things."

"She’s not thinking of doing anything rash is she?" Dean lifted an eyebrow as she looked over at Katie.

"I don’t think so, but I’ll warn her off if you want me to."

"Just tell her to wait a bit. We don’t want to do anything prematurely and scare Kasimov off." Dean said as she stood. "Let’s go home and get some rest. We can’t do anymore here."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Part IV



Sunday… 1200 Hours… Six Days Before Christmas

It had been a long week and the teams were starting to get on each other’s nerves. The tension was so thick, Dean had opted to meet Tracy at the office rather than do her surveillance at the court building. Together they kept an eye on the young agent as she performed her routine at the lodge. She figured this would give the teams time to work together without having to feel stressed by her presence. The physical complex at the court building was actually looking a bit better since the new circuits, heaters, and kitchen were installed. At least everyone seemed to be in a better mood now that they didn’t have to put up with the intermittent lack of heat and power, but the pressures of the case were taking their toll. Especially since they had not been able to make much progress in their respective areas. Bruce and his team were still whittling away at the myriad of possible scenarios and they were actually making progress. Gus unfortunately was still coming up empty on locating any possible stimulus from the tapes, but his team had been preoccupied with the circuitry installation that had taken longer than expected. Now that it was complete, they could focus on their task without interruption.

Dr. Berg and her team had relocated to the local hospital where they could avail themselves of the necessary medical equipment in the hospital laboratory and pathology departments. General James had pulled some strings with the hospital CEO who just happened to be an old West Point colleague and got them in without questions being asked. Dr. Berg was eliminating as many false leads as she could on her trail to finding the stimulus for the mind control drug. The team did find that the drug could remain dormant in the body until activated for an undetermined length of time, perhaps weeks. She assumed that once the stimulus activated it, the ninety-six hour life span would then start ticking away. Unfortunately, they still had not discovered the enigmatic stimulus to test this assumption. This new information came through a new team member that had been flown in from California. A forensic pathologist whose specialty was on the cellular level, Dr. Leigh Randall discovered that the drug had an affinity for brain tissue. She explained that it was similar to oxygen attaching itself to the red blood cells until it was needed when it would then be released to the cells requiring it. Only in this case, the elusive stimulus was the cause for detachment of the drug, which would then enable the nervous system to provide the actions indicated by the verbal cues given. Dr. Randall also found that the drug would ‘pool’ mostly in central nervous system tissue, specifically the gray matter, although, it was found in miniscule amounts in other tissues of the body. The ability of the drug to lay dormant in the body for two weeks was not good news. If Kasimov’s plan was going to take place sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, that meant they had to find out where the drugs were this week. That prospect was looking pretty dim right now.

"How’s Col doing with the tape project?" Dean asked during a lull in the surveillance conversations.

"She’s really been trying to get you something concrete, but so far no go. She’s not about to give up though." Tracy added hastily. "She knows how much this assignment means to you."

"Yeah, I’d like to really nail that bastard." Dean said with a feral smile.

Following a pause, Tracy decided to while away the time on mundane conversation. "We’re really enjoying Katie’s cats. Brutus loves playing with them. How did you adjust to them when they were at your place?"

"Actually, I was becoming pretty fond of them. They all have pretty distinct personalities. We’ll both be glad to get them back." Dean said with a smile then continued. "When I was a kid, we always had animals around. We had cats, dogs, cows, horses, and even an old goat." This brought out one of those dazzling smiles that could just take your breath away. "I used to hate going out into the pasture when the goat was around. It used to sneak up on me when I would feed the cows or brush the horses. Wham! She’d butt you right in the old derriere every time!" She shook head chuckling at the memory. "I finally learned to recognize when she was coming. I guess that goat had a lot to do with my ability to perceive would-be attacks from the rear!"

"Col and I really love Brutus. He’s a great German Shepard… really loyal and smart as a whip too! The other day I taught him how to open the back door using his mouth!" Tracy said in excitement. "He’s been bugging me a lot lately to let him out in the backyard and I just got tired of getting up to let him out."

"What? No doggie door?" Dean said a little sarcastically. "I’ll bet it was hard for you to get your mouth open wide enough to grab the handle." She finished with a soft pat on Tracy’s shoulder.

"Verrry funny Dean and no, no doggie door… too drafty in the winter." Tracy’s eyes just twinkled mischievously back at Dean. "Actually, I just sat in my chair and verbally told him what to do. Next thing I knew, he walked over to the door, opened it, and let himself out! Cool eh?"

"Not bad, Tracy. Any chance I can get him on my team?"

"I bet he’d love that! Though he has been acting a bit weird lately… must be a change in the weather is coming. In fact the cats have been a little on edge in the evenings too."

"Hmmm, could be. We’ve gotten away with really mild weather so far. Can you believe it was almost sixty the other day? I thought the Catskills would be buried in snow by now." Dean said as she switched tacks on the audio surveillance.

"Been that way for two, no, three winters now. Haven’t been able to get my cross-country skiing programs going at all. Well, maybe after Christmas." Tracy said as the two women stopped their conversation to listen in on an interesting one at the lodge.

They didn’t recognize the voices as any of the ‘guests’ or the staff, especially since they

were speaking with a very heavy Russian accent.

"Hey Mika, I hear the General is coming back tonight with that bitch, Natasha."

"That’s what I heard too. Maybe we’ll get to go home soon. This place gives me the creeps."

"Me too. I hate being in the dungeon all the time. Do you suppose Dimitri will find out we came outside in the daylight?

"I hope not. He would probably kill us on the spot! We better get back in."

"Hmmm, interesting. Must have been two of the guards. At least we know that Kasimov is coming back. Maybe we’ll get some new information." Dean was saying as she continued to rotate the scanning dial. "I wish there was some way we could alert Lin that he’s coming back. Guess we’ll have to play it by ear."

Tracy nodded then the two women continued their surveillance in relative quiet. At 1500 Tracy left the office to return home and Dean continued her watch as she waited for Katie to arrive after her shift at the lodge was over. At 1530 Katie pulled into the parking lot and entered the office. She passed Linna pulling out of the drive just as she turned the corner to pull in.

"Hey love, how’s it going here?" Katie said in a chipper voice as she entered the surveillance office and walked over to give Dean a big hug.

"Same old, same old. But it looks like the lodge is getting company tonight." Dean replied as she stood and took the young woman in her arms. "Tracy and I overheard two of the guards talking. Kasimov and Natasha are coming back tonight." The tall agent leaned her head down and placed a very long, very tender, and very loving kiss on the smaller woman’s lips. They lingered that way for a while enjoying the comfort of each others touch, totally caught up in each others eyes, before Katie was finally able to speak.

"Mmm, now that’s the way I like coming home from work!" She looked up into the gorgeous blue eyes across from her and winked, before she got serious again. "Yeah, Lin already knew about Kasimov and Natasha. Dimitri told them all there would be a meeting tomorrow after lunch." She paused then asked as an after thought, "Was Linna here earlier?"

"Linna? No, just Tracy. Why?" The blues looked back into the emeralds questioningly.

"Hmm, well she was pulling out of the parking lot driveway as I came around the corner. I tried to wave, but she didn’t see me."

"Well, maybe she was just cutting through from the back lot." Dean said as the two women sat down to discuss the day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Darn! Thought Linna as she pulled out of the driveway from the parking lot. I thought for sure I was going to be able to sneak in for another listen. Sure wish I knew what kind of a schedule they’re following. It would definitely make my snooping easier. Guess I’ll just have to come back another time. Then Linna turned out of the drive and headed home not seeing the young agent turn the corner and wave.

* * * * * * * * *


"So… there’s going to be another meeting of the reps, eh? Hope he lets a little more out of the bag. We’re not doing to well on our end so anything he can throw us will be a bonus."

"Lin said it’s got something to do with their assignments." Katie said as she pulled her chair closer to Dean.

"Assignments… good. Maybe that’ll be the break we need." Dean considered as she pulled Katie out of her chair and into her lap.

"It’s a good thing Dimitri told them. Lin was ready to do some serious snooping tonight. She’d figured she could run the shower with the bath door open, fogging both surveillance lenses, then put a ‘fake’ body in the bed using extra blankets I’d been dropping off. That way if Dimitri looked in on her room she’d appear to be sleeping." The blonde informed Dean. "I was not looking forward to trying to talk her out of that. She’s a very determined woman, ya know."

A shake of the long black tresses as Dean replied. "All this sitting around and waiting has got to be tough on her. Believe me, if I were in her place, I would have been snooping a long time ago."

"We must be getting close to Kasimov’s target date. Does Bruce have any solid scenarios yet?" Katie asked she rested her head on Dean’s shoulder enjoying the scent of White Diamonds on her lover while she began nibbling on her ear lobe.

"Mmmmm… what?" Came the sultry reply.

"I said… has Bruce… come up… with any… scenarios?" The blonde repeated pausing between words to lick, then kiss, and finally… gently… exhale each word into her lover’s ear.

The gentle teasing became too much for the older agent to ignore so she slowly got up carrying the young agent in her arms, who incidentally did not protest this move, and walked over to the lone couch in the room. As she sat down on the couch, still holding Katie in her arms, she replied, "I guess we’ll just have to wait until later to find out." Then she reached over and pulled the young woman into a kiss that drove all thought of anything other than each other totally and completely out of their minds.

* * * * * * *

By 2000 hours, after a quick trip home for a bite to eat, shower, and change of clothes the two agents made their way back to the court building at the old resort complex. They informed the teams of the coming return of Kasimov and Natasha and the meeting scheduled for tomorrow after breakfast. Then each team leader went through a summary of their day’s accomplishments. This didn’t take long. Bruce was the only one with a fairly lengthy report as he reviewed the latest scenarios and explained why some were eliminated.

"In conclusion, I’d have to take an educated guess that whatever’s coming down will be in either Albany, Boston, New York City, or Washington, D.C. Otherwise Kasimov would not be based here in the Catskills." Bruce concluded. " By car, Albany and New York City are just an hour and a half away. Boston and D.C. are more like five to six hours out, but still not a bad hike from here. All are a stone’s throw if they use air transportation."

"I doubt that." Dean interjected. "Too many bodies to move to use air. They’ll probably move them by car, van or truck."

"Or possibly the train. There are several Metro stations throughout the area." Suggested Gus. They all nodded in agreement at Gus’s comment.

"Well, at least we’ve got it narrowed down to four probable target areas. Good work Bruce, but keep on it, we’re running out of time." Katie said. "If the good doctors over here are on track with their drug dormancy theory, our possible victims may already be ingesting, inhaling, or absorbing it."

"Yeah," the ex-Seal replied. "That’s just what we were thinking too."

"Okay then. It should be a quiet evening at the lodge tonight, so you might want to let your teams get some needed rest. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get lucky." Dean suggested at the conclusion of the briefing

* * * * * * * *


Monday… 0530 hours…

Dean rolled over and turned the alarm off as Katie turned over and stared at the ceiling. The two women had spent most of the evening going over all the facts of the case and had come to the same conclusion. They needed a break and they needed one soon. They both agreed that the most logical target areas were Albany or New York City, and the latter was the most probable, only they couldn’t rule out D.C. entirely. They also had to assume that the target population was already exposed to the drug, but how was another question and who and why were even bigger ones. If the drug was already out in the target population, then they had to concentrate on finding the elusive stimulus that makes it work.

"Gods, Dean. I hope we can get to the bottom of this soon." Katie sighed as she turned her gaze toward her partner. "There’s enough of that drug out there to affect millions of people."

Dean rolled to face her lover and reached over to gently caress Katie’s cheek with her strong hand. "I hope so too love." Then she swallowed hard before she began to speak again. "I want you to be extra cautious from here on out. Don’t take any chances and make sure your ‘toys’ are on you at all times." She peered intently into the emerald eyes across from her. "We’ll be watching every move at the lodge so if you need help all you have to do is ask for it."

"I know." Came the soft reply as she reached up and held the hand to her cheek. "But we can’t be storming the place until we find out what’s going down. Otherwise we’ve wasted all this time and Kasimov wins again."

No way love, Kasimov will not win this time… I guarantee it!" Dean said with such conviction that Katie truly believed in her partner’s words.

"All right Dean." Katie spoke quietly. "Let’s get him together!"

* * * * * * * * *

Monday… 1400 Hours…

Dean and Gus were intently listening to the voices coming from the dining room at the lodge as the meal concluded and Kasimov began to speak.

"Ladies… and gentlemen. Thank you for humoring me and keeping to my request not to leave the premises. I know that this may have been a very difficult task. Some of you, I’m sure you have enjoyed the time to relax…."

Come on, come on…. Get to the point…. Thought a very inwardly anxious but outwardly cool Lin as she sat in silence with Ito and Hiro. Let’s get to this new information… I want to end this now!

The house staff was ordered to remain in the kitchen while Kasimov talked to his ‘guests’ and they were all availing themselves to a needed rest and a wonderful lunch. All except for Katie who appeared to be enjoying with the rest of the staff, while in actuality she wanted to be a fly on the wall. Guess I’ll have to wait to get the scoop from Lin… or the team later. I just hope this will be the proverbial straw that we’ve been clutching for.

"…while others of you are eager to know more about the plans I have in mind." Kasimov paused for effect knowing the tension in the room was thick and he was enjoying every minute of it. "Natasha… please pass out the information to our esteemed partners."

"Damn it!" Dean and Gus cursed along with a silent one from Lin at the lodge. "Now we’ll only get a piece of the picture. I hope Katie has an opportunity to meet with Lin this afternoon." The tall agent commented as Gus nodded in affirmation. "Their meetings have not been as consistent as I had hoped thanks to a meddling Ito. According to Katie he wants in on their ‘action.’ They’ve been putting him off by not meeting as often." Dean explained as they both continued to listen.

"Once you have had time to read over your instructions, you will be needing to make arrangements to meet with your people at the prescribed locations. Natasha and I will be leaving in the morning so if you have any questions I suggest you contact me before we leave. Dimitri will remain here until you have all left per your instructions. If anyone needs to reach me, please contact Dimitri."

The General finished his short speech and Dean and Gus watched Kasimov’s and Natasha’s ghostly signatures disappear into the impenetrable labyrinth of the cellar.

"Well, I guess I could try to contact Katie at the lodge." Dean suggested as Gus thought about that for a moment.

"Are you sure that’s wise Colonel?" He asked as Dean just shrugged.

"It’s either that or wait till tomorrow to find out what the Japanese groups instructions are." She replied as she picked up the phone and dialed the number for the lodge.

"The line is probably not secure." Gus reminded the tall agent who nodded in comprehension as the phone was answered at the other end.

"Lodge. How can I help you?" Came El’s very familiar voice.

"Hi. This is Mrs. Miller. My daughter Katie is working thar today. May Ah please speak with her?" Dean did a fairly good impression of a woman in her fifties from the south.

"Sure thing Mrs. Miller." El put her hand over the receiver and called to Katie. "Katie, it’s your Mom." Then extended the phone out to a somewhat startled Katie.

"Um, thanks." Katie managed to get out as she placed the receiver to her ear. "Mom?"

"Hi sweet pea. I’m sorry ta hafta bother ya’ll at work, but Ah need ya ta stop and pick up some of that ol’ Japanese shark oil from the health food store on your way home. Your little sister didn’t get the message at school today, and your pappa really needs that oil."

"Oh, um, sure Mom. I’ll do my best to remember." Katie answered still somewhat thrown.

"Thank ya sweet pea… love ya!" Then Dean put the receiver down smiling to herself.

"Love you too Mom." Katie replied into the receiver as she handed it back to the waiting El.

"Everything okay at home sweetie?" El asked, concerned at the confusion on Katie’s face.

"Um… ah… actually yeah. The blonde said snapping out of her thoughts. "Mom just needs me to bring something home from the store tonight. I was just surprised to hear from her." Katie then returned to the table to gather her composure. Guess that means they didn’t get enough information on their end and they want me to meet with Lin. Okay, I can do that. I just hope that Ito doesn’t get in the way today.

The staff was just finishing up their lunch when Natasha came into the kitchen and gave orders to clear the dining room. When she left, El and Ezra just looked at each other and you could see them biting their lips to keep from making any comments. Hmm, guess they don’t like her either. Katie considered as she picked up her dishes and rinsed them before putting them in the large commercial dishwasher.

"I’ll go start clearing the tables." Katie offered.

"Thank you sweetie." El said as she slowly got up. "Darla will give you a hand just as soon as we finish up in here."

Katie nodded and took a large serving tray with her into the dining room. When she walked in she saw Lin, Ito and Hiro putting papers back in a manila envelope and rise to leave the table. Their table was fairly close to Katie, so she picked the one next to it to start cleaning. Lin watched Katie out of the corner of her eye then motioned towards the upstairs when she saw Katie look over. Ito too noticed the motion, but did not say anything to his beautiful partner. Instead, he decided that maybe today would be his lucky day and he walked out of the dining room smiling.

Katie glanced at her watch as she and Darla brought in the last of the lunch dishes from the dining room. It was 1430 and she had only a half hour left on her shift. She needed to get upstairs and meet with Lin quickly. She grabbed her cleaning supplies and headed up the back stairs.

"I’m going to finish my rooms now." She called over her shoulder to El. "I’ve just got a couple left to do and I promised Ms. Yamakura I would do her room before I left."

"Ok sweetie, but we can’t pay overtime you know." El said as she watched Katie run up the back stairs. That gal sure takes her job seriously. And she’s been especially attentive to that nice Japanese woman ever since she was sick. Maybe I can talk Mr. G into keeping her on when Ezra and I retire. She’d sure make a good replacement. El pondered as she busied herself with putting the dishes in the washer. I might just have to mention that to Mr. G next time he stops in.

Katie did a quick clean of Trina Carbon’s room then went over to Lin’s room and knocked. "Maid." She said in her usual tone as she waited for Lin to respond.

"Come." Lin quickly replied as she opened the door for Katie. The two women went into the bathroom where Lin already had the shower going. It was effectively fogging the spy lens and they were able to cover their conversation with the running water only by their close contact and whispered conversation.

"I got a message to try to meet you today and bring back the information." Katie whispered in Lin’s ear as they embraced.

"Kasimov threw a curve and gave each group their assignments in separate folders. I can only give you our assignment." Lin informed Katie. "Our group is to meet at an abandoned warehouse 121 Lamont Road outside of Newark, NJ on December 27th. Our job is to familiarize ourselves with the equipment we will need for our part of the project."

"Do you know what the target is yet?"

"No, just that we will be handling the broadcast part of the project." Lin said then quickly put her fingers to her lips as a sign of silence. She no sooner gave the signal than the bathroom door opened and Ito came in grinning at finally finding the two women in their ‘embrace.’ He was dressed only in his robe and was disappointed to see the two women still fully clothed.

"Ito!" Lin exclaimed. "It is not proper for you to enter my room without my invitation."

"I have been waiting for an invitation to join the two of you for two weeks now, and all I get from you is ‘later.’ I decided that today would be my lucky day." Ito said with a sneer as he closed the bathroom door behind him and boldly walked over to the two women groping at their clothes.

Katie looked at Lin and searched her eyes for a sign of what to do. Not seeing an answer, she decided to take matters in her own hands and reached into her pocket for the red pen. She motioned for Lin to hold her breath then held the pen in front of Ito as she released a short burst of the knock out gas sending Ito immediately to the floor and ready for a long nap.

The women waited a safe period before they chanced taking a breath. "Wow, that stuff works fast!" Katie whispered as they checked Ito out for any injuries. "He’s got a bit of a bump on the back of his head. We’ll have to get him into your bed while he sleeps it off. Hopefully, when he wakes, you’ll be able to convince him that he slipped on the tile and knocked himself out. That would explain the bump." She smiled up at Lin. "The hard part will be getting him into bed with those surveillance cameras watching… but first, what else was in the assignment papers?"

"That’s pretty much it. We’re supposed to be in place by the 27th, familiarize ourselves with the equipment we find, then we’ll be contacted later with our broadcast materials and time schedule."

"Okay, we can work it out as it unfolds." The young agent whispered. "Now, let’s make a good show of getting him into your bed…."

* * * * * * * * *

"So the three of you…" Dean’s sentence was cut off quickly by Katie’s reply.

"Yeah… the three of us, in Lin’s bed, naked as jaybirds, and Lin and I trying to act like he’s making love to us! I hope Dimitri enjoyed the show. Do you suppose the DEA would give me hazardous duty pay?" Katie said with a snicker that soon was joined by hearty laughs from the team leaders.

"Well, at least we know the pen works! Now let’s get down to business." Dean said as she wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes. "Gus, get that warehouse pin pointed and see what we can do to get it wired or something, but be careful, Kasimov may have it under surveillance. Gus nodded in understanding. Bruce, what’s the latest on finding those drug cylinders?"

Bruce pulled out a huge map of the tri-state region and spread it out on the table. "Well, it looks like the target area is going to be somewhere around New York City. That’s a lot of area and a lot of people to consider."

"It certainly falls in sync with the hundreds of canisters that are out there somewhere. Kasimov is really targeting millions of people if the location is right." Katie cut in. "It sure does make things more difficult though… there must be hundreds of targets in that area alone."

"Ya got that right! We’re gonna need more information to scale this down a bit." Bruce concluded.

"Do you suppose he’s going to do something involving Newark Airport?" The young blonde asked in amazement. "If he wanted to threaten our government for some kind of ransom money that would be one hell of a hostage situation with all the holiday travelers and all."

"Could be, but I kinda doubt that. It’d be too easy to reroute traffic around it." The ex-Seal commented. "But who knows with a tricky bastard like Kasimov. We’ll explore all the possibilities, but it’s gonna take time."

"We haven’t got that luxury Bruce… do the best you can as quick as you can." Dean instructed.

"You got it Colonel. We’ll get right on it." The Bruce rolled up his map and headed over to his team.

Dean looked over at Katie and asked her if she was really okay with the events of the afternoon. "Yeah, I just kept hoping that ‘toy’ of yours worked like it was supposed to or I would have been doing some really fast talking about whipping out a pen at him! And I’m really glad you guys couldn’t get that on film…" Dean put an arm around her partner’s shoulder and led her over to the office. "I’m glad too." Dean added as she gave Katie a gentle pat on the back. "Do you think Lin will be able to get any information from the other guests?"

"I don’t know, but I’ll see what she can do." Katie offered. "My god, Dean… New York City! How? Exactly where? And why?" She shook her head in disbelief. "Too many possibilities and not enough time."

"I know what you mean. I hope Lin will be able to shed more light on this or we’ll be in deep trouble here." The tall agent acknowledged.

The two agents retreated into their office and spent the rest of the evening pouring over the facts, maps, and team reports. They needed more information to put the pieces together and time was not on their side. Nothing seemed to fit right. By 2300 hours they called it quits for the night and headed back to Dean’s cabin.

* * * * * * * * * *

Wednesday… 1800 Hours…

"That’s all the information she was able to get out of the other cartel members. She was just lucky that Trina Carbon was a bit inebriated last night or she might not have gotten that much." Katie finished her report to the task force members.

"Transformers! Are you sure she said transformers?" Katie nodded. "What on earth is he going to use those for?" Dean thought out loud. "Anyone have any ideas?"

No one volunteered any ideas so Dean added them to the blackboard along with the original information Dr. Berg had put up. Then she directed her attention to Bruce and the warehouse recon. Bruce informed the team leaders that the warehouse was located in a corporate park that had a pretty tight security set-up. He wasn’t concerned about that, but was concerned that it may be difficult to ‘wire’ the place for sound before the weekend. He was hoping that the number of security guards would be on the slim side since it was Christmas weekend and there wouldn’t be much business going on. Unfortunately, not much business would make it difficult for his men to ‘blend’ in. Dean warned him to be extremely cautious so as not to tip our hand.

Doctor’s Berg and Randal confirmed that the drug had a higher life expectancy than originally thought. Their tests indicated that it would remain in the system for several weeks before losing its hold on the gray matter of the nervous system and then get flushed from the body. They also found that the initial samples recreated by Dr. Berg were still highly potent. Hopefully they still had time to stop the flow of the drug to its intended targets before the canisters released it. Work on the antidote was not looking very good right now, but they were pursing that end too.

Gus and his team were still monitoring the lodge and it’s occupants. He informed the group that he was not able to glean much out of the conversations recorded to date. The elusive stimulus that put the drug in motion was still that… elusive. He also contacted his colleagues in Washington to see if they were able to tap into the Russian Embassy to track Kasimov’s moves there, but they weren’t successful.

Katie suggested that with Kasimov and Natasha out of town, she and Lin could do a little recon at the lodge utilizing the ‘dumb waiter’ entrance into the cellar. She and Lin figured that the best time to do it would be at night when the guards would be patrolling the grounds, leaving only Dimitri in the cellar. The group discussed the pro’s and con’s for such a move and had decided that it would be used as a ‘last ditch’ effort prior to this weekend’s departure of the cartel representatives.

Dean concluded the briefing with a reminder that once the representatives leave, they’d have to split their efforts by sending surveillance teams to follow each group. Any information that they would be able to come up with before then might mean the difference between success and failure. They all agreed to double their efforts.

In their private office, Dean looked at Katie with intense blue eyes. "I’m not sure I like the idea of you and Lin doing any recon while Dimitri and the guards are still around."

"We’ll, I’m sure when they leave, all information regarding Kasimov’s plans will depart with them." Emerald eyes returned the intensity. "Desperate times call for desperate measures." Katie softened her tone and her look. "I’ll be fine. You’ve given me just about every ‘toy’ imaginable to keep me safe. And that last one is definitely a good insurance policy against discovery."

"Yeah, but will you be able to use it?" Glacier blues peered back at the emeralds across from her.

"If I have to, I will." Katie said with certainty. With that, she crossed the short distance to her partner and put her arms around Dean’s neck then looked up into the blues once more before she pulled her down into a passionate kiss. "We’ll be careful love, I promise."

Dean held the young woman tightly for what seemed like hours, then slowly released her hold and put her forehead on Katie’s forehead, noses touching gently. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before opening them and replying. "You better be careful, or so help me… the rivers will run red with my revenge from here to New York City!"

In an effort to lighten the mood a bit, Katie looked up at Dean and winked then said, "Well, you’re lucky that it’s been a mild winter or the rivers around here wouldn’t be running anywhere!" She paused then pulled away abruptly smacking herself in the forehead as she did so. "I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before!" She said excitedly.

Dean in the meantime was totally confused over the unexpected change in her lover. "C’mon!" Katie said as she grabbed Dean’s hand and drug her out of the office and over to where Bruce was working with his team.

"Bruce!" She hollered over as they approached. "Pull out your maps again!"

Bruce looked up as his name was called to see the two women rushing over to his area. "Yeah, sure." Then he reached up for the maps and spread them out on the table. Dean and Bruce stood by as Katie reviewed the maps.

"Oh, yeah… yeah…!" Katie muttered as she poured over the maps. "I think I know how Kasimov is administering his drug."

Dean, Bruce and now Gus were watching the young agent as she finally turned to face them. "Look at this map and tell me what you see." Katie said as she moved over to give them all adequate space to view the map she selected. They looked down at the map, then up at her, then back down at the map. Dean was the first one to get it.

"I think you’ve got it." Dean said to Katie "It makes perfect sense now."

Bruce and Gus were still looking at the map then they finally said in unison "got what?"

"Look." Katie said as she pointed to the map. "Here, here, here, and finally, here… they’re all part of the Catskills Watershed. The watershed is owned by New York City… it’s their water supply!" Heads started nodding in understanding. "These three reservoirs," she pointed them out on the map, "the Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink send their water into the Roundout where it then travels 85 miles through the Delaware Aqueduct to New York City!" The four of them studied the map a bit longer then Katie continued. "What if Kasimov placed those five hundred plus canisters in these reservoirs with a timer to release the drug on a prescribed date… this water is used by millions of people daily in the city. We already know the drugs in the canisters were highly concentrated; we just didn’t factor in the diluting of them before they reach the intended targets." Katie finished speaking, then searched their eyes for comprehension, smiling when she found it.

Dean was the first to comment. "Good work Katie. This may be the break we’ve been waiting for." She reached over and gave the blonde a hug.

Bruce then spoke. "But why wouldn’t he have just contaminated the water supply with his drugs closer to the city instead of all the way up here?"

"My guess is that it would be easier to do here since there is less security around these reservoirs." The tall agent commented. "Just look at the size of them… there’s no way they could be patrolled. It would have been a piece of cake for Kasimov!"

"Yeah, and people are still allowed to use them for fishing. Rowboats are on them all the time." Katie supplied. "No one would have taken notice of him. And he could have gained access just about anywhere. And he probably placed them right after the scientists filled them in the lab. That way he didn’t have to store them or chance having them discovered before placement."

"Well," said Bruce, "there’s only one way to find out if you’re right. I’ll take a dive team down to the Neversink Reservoir in the morning and check it out. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find them still full."

"Better wear full dry suits Bruce. We don’t want any of your team absorbing any of that stuff if it’s already in the water." Dean added. "And start closest to the intakes."

"Right you are Colonel!" Bruce said as he departed to prepare his team and get on the phone to have the needed diving equipment sent up from Quantico immediately.

"Chances are, they’ve already released their loads." Gus said as he looked down at the map again. "But at least we know who will be affected." The enormity of the situation finally hit them. "Millions of people! How on earth are we going to stop millions of people? And when?" Gus said in a muted whisper as he raised his head from the map and looked into intense blue eyes.

"We’ll just have to figure that out too my friend." Dean answered as she reached out and patted his shoulder. "Before it’s too late."

* * * * * * * * * *


Thursday… 0700 Hours…

The dive equipment arrived at 0500 hours and Bruce and his team checked it all out to insure it was working properly. By 0700 hours, the team along with Dean and Gus were on their way to the Neversink Reservoir in two vans. One held the team and their gear, the other had the communications set-up.

"You know Bruce," Dean said as the men unloaded their tanks. "We should be thankful that you don’t have to chop through a few feet of ice to get in. I guess the mild weather does have its benefits."

"It’s still gonna be damn cold! But these suits will help, they’re a closed system suit, no water can get in." He said smiling as he donned his gear. "All right guys, let’s do it!" Then the five-man team entered the water and began their search. The team could communicate to each other with the gear he selected, which made the search a bit easier since they could spread out, and cover more area and still stay in contact.

Dean and Gus entered the communications van and waited for the team to report in. While waiting they discussed the perplexity of the problem they were facing. Kasimov was subjecting millions of people to his mind control drug. Once the drug was stimulated to act on the nervous system, he literally had an army of people at his command. The shear thought of the havoc he could wield was frightening, and perhaps, that was his intention all along. To show the world his power by bringing one of the mega centers of the world to its knees. They were running out of time. They had only four days before the cartels would be in place ready for their instructions. Whatever Kasimov was planning would be happening shortly thereafter. At least Lin was on the inside. That should give them a tiny window of opportunity… provided they knew what to do with it. They had to find out what caused the drug to activate and they needed a way to neutralize it. Without those two items, they would be hard pressed to come up with a ‘happy’ ending.

"Colonel." It was Bruce’s voice over the speaker.

"I’m here Bruce. What have you found?"

"I think your partner is right on the money. So far I’ve found at least a hundred of the canisters." Dean could hear the rest of the team reporting in on numbers of canisters in their quadrants. "My bet is there must be thousands, not hundreds of these things."

"Have they released the drug yet?" Gus asked quickly.

"Looks like mine are all empty." Came Bruce’s reply. The same response was coming in from the rest of his team.

"Okay Bruce, bring your team in. At least we know the ‘who’ part of the question now." She said then added as an after thought, "And bring one of those canisters up with you."

"Yes, ma’am." Bruce responded then gave the order for his team to surface and return to the vehicles.

"Well Gus, that cinches it!" Dean said as she shook her head in dismay.

* * * * * * * * * *

"We’ll do the best we can Colonel, but you better start praying for miracles." Was Dr. Randall’s reply to Dean’s request to find a means to neutralize the drug. "It certainly would be a lot easier if we knew what activated it."

"Then call in for reinforcements!" Dean shouted. "Just get me something I can work with!"

"Colonel… Dean…" Came the soft voice of Dr. Berg. "We’ll do the best we can, you can count on that. And now that we have an actual specimen of the drug maybe that will help. Maybe the one we replicated isn’t exactly the same… we’ll get the answers you need."

"I know… I’m sorry. It’s just..." Dean just stopped and shook her head.

"It’s okay Colonel… we’re all feeling that way right now." Dr. Berg gave Dean’s arm a gentle squeeze then turned to leave the court building with Dr. Randall.

Dean inhaled slowly to calm her nerves. This was probably the most complex case she had ever worked in her life. She had nothing but a string of successes all her military career, and now she was facing failure. She couldn’t fail now… too much was riding on her ability to do the right thing… but what if she failed? How could she ever face her superiors… how could she ever face Katie? Well, damn it all to hell! I just won’t fail. Not now… not ever! I can’t let Kasimov win. Not this time… Her mind made up, Dean turned and went over to the surveillance section where Gus and his crew were working feverishly to find the drug’s stimulus.

"Anything happening at the lodge?" She inquired as she approach.

"Same old, same old." Gus replied. "Doesn’t seem to be much interaction between the participants. They must all be getting ready to head out on Saturday morning and to meet up with their counterparts."

"Knowing Kasimov, he probably put on a ‘gag’ order to keep the flow of information between groups at a minimum." Dean told the technology leader.

"As much as I hate to, I’m going to give Katie permission to do some sleuthing with Lin tomorrow night. Maybe then we’ll get some answers."

"It’s the only thing you can do at this point Colonel." Gus answered. "That’s one sharp young agent… and with the insider, well… all we can do is hope."

* * * * * * * * *

"So… their granddaughter had the emergency surgery this afternoon. She came through with flying colors, but they want to go to Rochester and see her." Katie was filling in Dean on the chain of events for the lodge caretakers. "I offered to stay at the lodge until they come back from Rochester on Monday morning, and Mr. G approved."

Dean just looked at her skeptically. This was just too much of a coincidence in her book. "Okay… so you get to stay for a couple of nights. That’s good cover for a little snooping, but it just seems too convenient if you ask me."

"Oh, come on Dean… how could Kasimov possibly ‘set-up’ an emergency appendectomy?" Katie’s emerald eyes pinned Dean’s ice blues with a very valid argument.

"You’re right, you’re right. But I’ve asked Beth to contact the hospital in Rochester to check it out… just in case." Dean gave in raising her arms and shaking her long dark hair, but added, "Just the two of you be careful. Don’t take any chances okay?"

"Yes, ma’am!" Came the retort form Katie as she whipped out a salute causing Dean to grimace a bit, but then smile at her young partner. "I’ve pretty much got the laser security beams all located, and that can of stuff you gave me will help us out in case I missed some. The dumb waiter will be our main means of getting up and down the lodge floors. There are definitely no surveillance cameras or bugs of any kind in it."

"If at all possible, stay away from Dimitri. Don’t let him even catch a whiff of you down there. And pay attention to the breaks the guards take. They’ve been pretty regular so far, but be ready for any change in their routine." The tall agent was all business now as she and Katie went over the plans for the sleuthing deciding on protocols in case they got into trouble. "We’ll keep watching from here, but remember, we can’t penetrate the cellar. If you get into trouble, one of you will have to somehow get topside to warn us."

"Is there any kind of a wire I can wear that won’t be detected by Dimitri?"

"Can’t chance it." The tall agent said as she shook her head. "I don’t know how sophisticated his equipment is, but I’d bet it’s the best." Dean replied. "At least there won’t be too many of the cartel groups left at the lodge tomorrow or Saturday. That’s in our favor. Less folks to trip over."

"Well, they’ll all be gone by Sunday, so it’s now or never." Katie supplied. "I’m sure Dimitri will be closing up shop to meet up with Kasimov and Natasha as soon as the last one is gone."

"Okay… let’s go over this all one more time, but with the rest of the task force." Dean rose and called the teams over to the briefing area. They went over the plan several times before they were all satisfied and the two Doctor’s reviewed the latest weapon in Katie’s arsenal with her until she fully understood the ramifications of using it.

"The results are very realistic and the pain accompanied by its use is too." Beth told her old friend. "Believe me a bullet is much kinder but unfortunately too obvious."

"Last resort only." Katie murmured as she placed the lethal weapon in her backpack. "Too bad I won’t have my trusty old Glock with me. I hate using these other things. Just not as comfortable with them I guess." She said as she raised her head and looked into her old friends eyes.

"The best thing for you to remember Katie… is to keep a healthy respect for all weapons." Beth said as she took Katie’s hands in hers and gently squeezed them. "Good luck and be safe!" Then the doctor rose and exited the area as Dean approached having returned from a phone call with General James.

"Well," Dean said as she sat down in a chair next to Katie. "That was General James. He’s not too happy with our progress."

"Neither am I," Commented the blonde, "but its all we’ve got for now."

"Oh, he’s dealing…" Dean informed her. "He just hates it when things go to the wire."

The two women sat there a bit longer going over the past few weeks in their minds and trying to find that one piece of information that would put them on top. By 2230 hours, they gave up and decided to head for home and for what may be their last bit of piece and quiet for a while.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Friday… 1000 Hours… Christmas Eve Day

"Okay sweetie, I think Ezra has everything in the car and is ready to go." El looked out the back door window to see Ezra motioning for her to come out. "The caterer will be bringing in all the meals about thirty minutes before they’re supposed to be served. Just throw them in the ovens and keep them warm till serving time."

"I really can cook." Katie said for the fifth time.

"I know sweetie, this will just make things a little easier on you and Darla. That’s all." El said as she gave Katie a hug. "Now if you need anything else, just call Mr. G., okay?"

Katie nodded and walked El out to the car. The weather was fairly mild so far, but they were predicting rain, possibly sleet by early this evening. Katie opened the door for El and handed her the thermos of coffee she had put together for them. "Just a little something to keep you warm." She said as El took the offering and smiled. "Now you drive careful Ezra… the weather is supposed to be turning nasty here, but from the looks of it, you should be ahead of it most of the way."

"Yup, its coming up the coast line… just like a ‘Nor’easter. You better hope it stays as rain… it doesn’t take much to shut this town down." Ezra said as he started up the old Buick. "Remember where the emergency back-up switch is!" Then he put the car in gear and they drove off towards the Quickway. Katie waived and watched them go before she headed back indoors. Just our luck the weather is deciding to turn now. She muttered to herself as she walked back into the kitchen. Well, at least I won’t have to drive home in it.

The caterer arrived precisely thirty minutes before lunch was to be served. It turned out it was the same caterer that she worked for in her spare time so the exchange went pleasantly. Darla and Katie served the lunch and then Darla cleaned up the lunch dishes while Katie went upstairs to tackle the rooms that were vacated that morning. Well, instead of the whole group for dinner, we’ll be down to only twelve. By tomorrow, we’ll be down to only six, Ito’s group and the Chi Chong group from China. I think I can handle this. She was in the middle of finishing Trina’s room when she felt a presence behind her. She picked up her clipboard and selected the red pen and nonchalantly started checking off items on her task sheet before she turned around.

"Oh… hi!" She feigned surprise as she bumped into Ito. "Is there anything I can do for you Mr. Sukazi?"

"Oh no. Not now. But later perhaps we could…?" He let the sentence trail off leaving the innuendo hanging for Katie to pick up.

Inwardly Katie cringed as she picked up his intention while outwardly, she was all charm. "Gee Mr. Sukazi… I’d love to, but El and Ezra had a family emergency to attend to and they left me in charge. I couldn’t disappoint them by ignoring my duties. It wouldn’t be the honorable thing to do." It seemed that appealing to ‘honor’ was the right cue to use. He said he understood, then bowed and turned to leave. As he left, he turned over his shoulder and said smiling, "I guess that means Lin will be alone tonight." Damn! Thought Katie, now we’ve got to deal with Ito all over again! Maybe Lin can slip him a mickey or something. Well, her room is next, so maybe we can come up with a solution.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Back at the courts, Dean and Gus were keeping a close eye on the lodge and Katie. They were impressed that Katie had things going so smoothly. She certainly is a jack of all trades, thought the tall agent, definitely good talents for an undercover agent. Bruce and the two Doc’s were computing the odds that the drugs released in the water system would be too diluted to be effective, while Bruce had his team check out the Roundout reservoir for canisters too. They were expected back shortly, but knowing Kasimov, they knew that the odds were in his favor and not theirs but they kept hoping anyway. They all looked up as Bruce’s team leader came in. The dive leader immediately headed over to Dean after he spotted her.

"Colonel." Dave saluted. "I’m afraid the news isn’t good." By this time Bruce, Gus, and the Doc’s were there to hear Dave’s report. "There must be at least another five to six hundred of those things in the Roundout too. And if I were a betting man, I’d say they’re in all the reservoirs up here. That bastard wasn’t taking any chances."

Dean just nodded at the report. She looked at the Doc’s but before she had a chance to say anything Beth said that they’d double the efforts on finding the stimulus… and Leigh said she’d work on a way to block the drugs reaction on the nervous system.

Dave spoke up again, "There’s something else Colonel. The weather’s going to be a factor real soon. Forget the rain and possible sleet that was predicted… we’ve got a hum dinger of a blizzard developing out there."

Now this piece of information took them all by surprise. Since there were no windows in the building to speak of, they didn’t even think of the weather. All eyes immediately turned to the entrance door as the last of the dive team came in. When the door swung open, all they could see was a wall of white behind an ambulatory snowman. Four voices all on cue proclaimed a resounding, "Oh Shit!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Tracy… it’s Dell on line one."

"Thanks Linna, we’ve been expecting this one." Tracy picked up the phone and began talking with her boss. The weather was not a big surprise for Tracy and her staff. They had been getting ready since 7:30 in the morning. Linna had an uncanny ability to predict weather better than the weathermen so they had already began the conversion of the senior center into an emergency shelter. Byron was busy getting the big park truck loaded with sand and had already attached the plow. His last job for now was to bring in the frozen food supply from the park concessions building. By the time Tracy finished her conversation with the Town Supervisor, Linna finished bringing in the last of the blankets.

"Bet he was surprised that we’re already ready!" Linna said as she piled the blankets she was carrying on the first available cot.

"Yep! Very impressed to say the least." Tracy gave Linna a big smile. "I don’t know how you do it, but you sure make me look good!"

"You just be glad I like you or you wouldn’t be looking so good!" The two women chuckled as they finished making up the last batch of cots.

"Well, if the power stays up, we won’t have too many guests, but if it goes out, we’re one of the few buildings in town with a back-up power supply. Speaking of supply, how’s the food supply?"

"Byron should be back any minute with the stuff from the concessions stand and with what we have from the nutrition site we should be okay." Linna replied as they went down the back stairs to the office. "In fact, I think that’s him pulling in now."

Just then, Byron came into the hallway carrying several containers of burritos. "We’ll get our coats on and give you a hand." Tracy shouted as she and Linna went to get their gear.

"Man! It’s coming down like crazy! It’s a good thing I put the chains on." Byron said as the three of them made a short assembly line passing the boxes of food through the recreation room door. "This one’s going to be a real bear! I brought over the ATV too."

"Good thinking Byron. Hope you weren’t planning on going home tonight." Tracy said over her shoulder. "I’m afraid we’re all going to be here for the duration."

"Nah! You’ve got all my favorite foods here, why should I go home?" They all laughed then transferred the boxes once more into the storage room that was thankfully unheated and would keep everything good and cold.

* * * * * * * * * *

Having finished Trina’s room, Katie went next to Lin’s room. After knocking and entering, she found Lin working at her desk. She exchanged pleasantries as she cleaned the room then went into the bath to clean there. Lin followed her in and asked if she could have some new towels then handed her the dirty ones. As Katie took them from Lin she felt a paper thrust into her hand under the towels. She closed her fist on it and took the dirty towels out to her cart in the hall but managed to transfer the note to her pocket in the process. When she went back in with the clean towels, Lin was back at her desk working on her daily haiku. Katie watched the graceful penmanship as Lin wrote in traditional Japanese style.

"The Japanese symbols are very artistic." Katie said as she stepped closer behind Lin.

"Yes, they are. Each stroke if not done correctly can completely change the meaning. I find it very relaxing to work on them." Lin answered as she looked up at Katie.

"I would find that very stressful." Katie commented. "Speaking of stress, I will be staying here tonight for the Schlotts while they are away." Katie leaned down to hide her head from the camera angle and whispered to Lin as she made it appear she was examining the symbols more closely. "Ito has plans for you tonight, got anything to get rid of him?" Then out loud she said, "I think your hiku’s are beautiful!" As she raised her head she got a barely perceptible nod from Lin who responded with a simple ‘thank you.’

"Well, I guess I better get back to work. If you need anything, just let me know." Katie said as she gathered her cleaning supplies and turned to leave. Lin just continued her graceful strokes on the parchment as the door closed behind her.

As Katie put her cart back in the linen room, she transferred the note to the pages under her clipboard, and began sending the dirty laundry down the shoot to the laundry room next to the pantry in the kitchen. On her way down the back stairs, she lifted the sheets of her clipboard and studied the note as though she was reviewing her checklist of duties. The note simply said ‘must go tonight.’ Katie was hoping they could put it off until Saturday, but Lin must have a good reason for going tonight. Well, let’s hope she can take of Ito before midnight when we agreed to meet.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly, especially since there were only the twelve ‘guests’ left. Unfortunately, the weather was not going as smoothly as everything else. Instead of the expected rain and possible sleet, the precipitation came down in the form of snow... heavy, wet snow. And it was quickly piling up. The caterer showed up early with the dinner meal. It was a good thing she had a four wheel drive vehicle since there was at least six inches of the stuff on the ground and not let up in sight. Carrie, the caterer, agreed to contact a friend that did plowing on the side to come and plow the circular drive by morning so the guests that were leaving would be able to do so. Having taken care of that situation, Katie sent Darla home with Carrie so she wouldn’t get ‘stuck’ at the lodge tonight. No sense having any innocent bystanders around… Katie thought to herself… just in case. She took her time cleaning up after dinner so she wouldn’t have to wait long before her meeting with Lin. After that, she served espresso and after dinner drinks to the few guests that were still in the lounge. She was about to return to the kitchen when Ito came up to her.

"Excuse me." Ito said with a grimmace as he was obviously plagued with an abdominal spasm. "Would you have anything that I might take for an upset stomach?"

"Oh, Mr. Sukazi…" Katie answered in a concerned voice. "Are you coming down with something?"

"No, no. I’m sure its just indigestion. Perhaps the meal was a little too rich for me." He explained as another spasm took him.

"I’ll go see what I can find right away." The young woman said as she headed for the kitchen. "Why don’t you go up to your room. I’ll bring it to you."

Just then, Lin came up behind Ito. "Ito, are you not well? Perhaps we should postpone our plans for tonight." Concern and caring just filled her voice as she looked up at Katie and winked.

"Yes, yes!" He said quickly. "Lin, please go with her and bring the medicine to me."

"Yes, Ito." Lin said as she gently pushed Katie towards the kitchen.

"Will he be okay?" Katie whispered as they entered the kitchen.

Lin just smiled and shrugged whispering back, "I’m sure it will pass by morning."

Katie went through the cupboards and found some Pepto Bismol and asked Lin if that would do. She merely smiled, then said it probably wouldn’t help, nothing would until it ran its course. Lin took the Pepto and a large spoon then left to deliver it to Ito. Guess we won’t have to worry about Ito tonight! Katie thought as she went back into the lounge to see if anyone needed anything else before she ‘called it a night.’ Most of the guests were concerned about the accumulating snow, but she calmed their concerns assuring them that the plow would be here at daybreak or sooner and they would all make their travel ‘connections.’ This may just work in our favor, she thought, if they can’t get out of here, then Kasimov may have to cancel his plans… well, it’s a nice thought anyway.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Katie spent the rest of the evening in her room, actually the Schlotts apartment, going over her ‘toys’ and making sure the guards did indeed go out for their nocturnal patrol. At precisely five minutes before midnight Katie left the Schlott’s modest apartment, passed through the kitchen, and entered the pantry. She stopped to pick up a small flashlight to add to her ‘equipment’ for the night’s sleuthing. Previous surveillance on the lodge showed the guards patrolling from 2300 to 0500. Of course, they didn’t have to put up with a blizzard before. Katie hoped that they would be holed up in the shed outside rather than trying to brave the elements on their normal patrol route. As she slid back the secret panel, she fervently hoped that the dumb waiter was also a mute. It wouldn’t do to make a noisy entrance at the second floor linen closet. Katie switched on the flashlight to look for a light in the small space. There was none so she kept the flashlight on. She entered the dumb waiter, slid the hidden panel closed, crossed her fingers, turned the directional lever to up, and hit the green start button. To her relief, there was a mild hum and a slight jerk before the apparatus started its slow climb to the next floor. Great! How do I know when I’m there? Wonder if it will stop automatically or just keep going? "Now’s a fine time to be thinking of that." She muttered to herself. "Guess we’ll just find out when it stops." A few seconds passed and then it finally stopped. Slowly Katie looked at the wall in front of her for any sign of where she was. On the wall, about eye level she could barely see the number ‘2’. Aha! Must be on the 2nd floor! Now how do I get out? She gently felt the wall in front for some kind of a latch or locking system, than remembered that the pantry entrance was a sliding panel. She pushed to her left first without any success, than tried again to her right. This time the panel slid open and she found herself at the back of the linen closet. The tricky part coming up would be to exit the closet and hug the wall to where the statue with the surveillance lens was located. Once there, Gus had designed a holder for a picture she had taken of the hall from that angle. The miracle of digital cameras and computers turned that daytime shot into a nighttime one. She could only hope that Dimitri wasn’t looking at that particular camera shot when she made the switch. It took her about five more minutes to complete the set-up and wait long enough for a response before she decided it was safe to go to Lin’s room. She had already given Lin holders and pictures for the two lenses in her room and only hoped they were in place before she entered the room. Those were fabricated at the temporary headquarters by Gus and his technology wizards and were very believable.

Lin was waiting by the door when Katie slowly entered. She almost made a sound when she felt Lin’s hand on her shoulder as she stepped in, but managed to swallow it. Using hand signals, Katie led Lin to the linen closet and into the dumb waiter before she spoke.

Katie was finally able to ask Lin why there was a change of plans. After Lin explained Katie asked how long ago she made the switch on the lens.

"About 45 minutes ago. If Dimitri saw it, he didn’t react to it." Lin replied in a soft voice.

"Good. This thing doesn’t make too much noise, but in the dead of night, he may hear something. We’d better be prepared when we get to the cellar for a confrontation." With that Katie handed Lin and extra set of pens, one black and one red, and went through their operation. When they were comfortable with the set up, she moved the lever to down, and hit the green button. Again there was a slight hum, a subtle jerk and the descent. The dumb waiter stopped at the 1st floor, then Katie hit the button once more to descend into the cellar.

"El said this will let out behind the chimney. Do you remember where that is in respect to the control room?"

Lin nodded. "The chimney is in the room they used for a lab. The control room is on the other side of the building. We should be in the clear… at least for a little while."

* * * * * * * * * *

The task force was pretty much snowed in at the court building. They didn’t have the equipment for snow removal, so they were waiting it out until morning when Tracy would send Byron over with the plow truck. She had called Tracy earlier to make the arrangements then she watched the monitor most of the evening. When it appeared Katie was going to call it a night she headed to the office. Tomorrow night was slated for the venture into the cellar so she decided to catch a few minutes of shut eye while things were calm. The calm however didn’t last. She had been asleep for about 45 minutes when Sarah, one of Gus’s team members, came knocking on the office door.

"Colonel. You’d better get out here. There’s movement in the lodge and one of them’s Katie." Sarah’s voice was subdued so as not to disturb the other agents that were trying to get some sleep.

Dean thought she was dreaming at first then became fully alert when the knock turned into a loud bang. She flew off the cot and ran to the door just about pulling the young female agent off her feet as Sarah had decided to open the door at the same time Dean had.

"What did you say?" Dean looked at the startled agent through bloodshot eyes. Sarah caught her breath and repeated her message. "Go get Gus and Bruce." The Colonel ordered as she ran to the surveillance sets. A few minutes later, Dean, Burce and Gus were glued to the monitor watching the blue dot move from the Schlott’s apartment and to various stops until there were two ethereal bodies now moving on the screen.

"What the hell is going on? I thought the recon was set for tomorrow night?" muttered a sleepy Gus.

‘Yeah, well, things have a way of changing. Something must have come up, or they would be waiting till tomorrow."

They were glad to hear the whispered comments were coming from Lin and Katie. They overheard Lin telling Katie that the change was necessary because Ito had decided to leave in the morning for Newark. Seems he was anxious to get moving and doing something productive for a change.

"Guess that explains it!" Bruce commented. "Now let’s hope they can get us some good information and get out without Dimitri or the guards walking in on them."

* * * * * * * * *

The senior center only had three customers by early evening. A young couple and their child had come in for shelter when they ran out of fuel oil in their small trailer. Linna got them settled down in the back and she and Tracy were about ready to crash for the night when Tracy’s cell phone chirped. She looked at her watch and noted that it was only 9:00 PM. Maybe it’s Col. Tracy thought as she flipped open the phone.

"Yeah?" Tracy said into the phone.

"It’s Dean. Can you have Byron come up and plow us out first thing in the morning?"

"Sure thing. When do you want it done?" Tracy asked.

"As soon as possible, but at least by daybreak."

"Are you expecting any trouble tonight? I can have Byron run up now and do a quick plow."

"No, nothing on the agenda till tomorrow night, but I’ll feel better if we can mobilize if necessary." Dean thanked Tracy then hung up.

"Problems?" Linna inquired.

"Nope." At least not yet, Tracy thought. "Time to hit the sack… better get some rest while we can." Then she got up and headed to an empty cot. Byron was already snoozing away and it didn’t take long for Tracy to follow. Linna on the other hand, was not tired yet so she decided to watch some TV downstairs. As she entered the office, she had a second thought and decided to watch a different kind of TV…

* * * * * * * * * * *

The dumb waiter stopped descending after another few seconds. Lin and Katie waited for an additional thirty seconds before Katie slid open the partition as quietly as possible. The lab was dark so Katie hooded the flashlight she carried with her hands to narrow the beam of light. "Are there any windows in this room that could be seen by Dimitri in the control room?"

Lin stopped to think then shook her head in the negative. She whispered back to Katie that the room was solid concrete, had a row of tables along the back wall and another in the center of the room then a third row against the next wall. The area to the right was where Kasimov had set up desks and filing cabinets. The two women cautiously entered the lab spilling only what light was necessary for them to keep from bumping into things. They silently made their way over to the desks and began going through them one at a time searching for any information that could possibly be useful. When they got to the third desk, they hit a minor vein of information. Most of it was already known by the Doctor’s working on the drug, but the amount of the drug produced in this lab was enormous. "My God!" Katie whispered. "He made enough of this stuff to drug half the people on the east coast!" They waded through some more papers and Lin found the maps Kasimov used to deploy the canisters. They showed the location of each one of the reservoirs and the sites where the canisters were dumped. They also listed the release times for each reservoir. "Too bad the guys already went diving this morning Katie told Lin, "We could have saved them the trouble. Looks like Kasimov wants to get the entire city on this stuff." Lin nodded as they moved over to the filing cabinets. The first one was unlocked and had a lot of miscellaneous stuff in it like receipts for chemical deliveries, the canisters and timers, etc. It also had a file on each of the ‘guests’ at the lodge. Katie was amused to see a file on the staff too. She opened hers and found only the information that she and Dean had planted for her cover story. Guess he didn’t have time to do an indepth study on me. Too, bad, he may have found me interesting reading.

The second file cabinet was locked. Katie was not expecting to ‘pick’ any locks so she didn’t bring her picks with her. Lin on the other hand came prepared. She pulled out her set of picks and in fifteen seconds had the cabinet unlocked and started going through the top drawer. "This looks like it might be the mother lode." Katie whispered over her shoulder noting that the files were records of experiments on the mind control drug, most stamped with the word ‘FAILURE" in red ink. Now all they had to do was find the one that was the winner. It took them less than five minutes to find it. It was in the third drawer of the four-drawer stack. They took the file over to the closest desk and flipped through it quickly. Katie broke in and suggested that they take it up to the kitchen and away from Dimitri, just in case he decided to check the rooms. They quickly moved back to the dumb waiter, slid the door shut and started to ascend. Once the got back to the kitchen, they sat at the kitchen table and started reading… they did not notice the door open or Dimitri and one of the guards walk in.

"So that’s how it’s activated!" Katie whispered. "We may have never figured it out in time."

"Yes." Lin said turning the pages to read on.

"Yes… It is rather unique isn’t it?" Said Dimitri in what seemed like a loud voice.

The two women immediately jumped up at the sound of his voice. Assessing the situation, Lin and Katie stepped away from the table and each other making their opponents split their efforts too.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dean looked up at Gus when she heard Katie’s voice mention the activation of the mind control drug. "Thank God!" Dean said and before they could turn back to the conversation, the entire building went black, then a few red emergency lights went on throwing an eerie glow over the large room.

"What…" Bruce stammered.

"Oh, shit! Not now!" Dean shouted. "Somebody hit the back-up switch!"

"Damn it!" Was the exclamation from Gus followed by, "There is no back-up switch!"

"What the fuck do you mean?" Dean looked incredulously at him. "You didn’t put in an emergency back-up system?"

"Uh… no… actually they didn’t have one to send up… uumm… it was supposed to come in today." Gus stuttered and started backing up as Dean approached him. "Colonel… it was out of my control… the storm…"

Dean stopped in front of him and pinned him with her ice blue eyes before speaking. "You should have told me. I could have found temporary generators for the essential equipment. Now it’s too late."

"Maybe the power will be back up shortly." Bruce offered.

"We better hope it is." Dean said as she stalked off to her office to check if the land phones were still working.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Linna was in the surveillance room thoroughly engrossed in watching the two ghostly bodies move on the screen. She had realized that the second voice was not Dean’s but assumed it was another undercover agent. When the agents went in the cellar she lost them and started to panic, adjusting the dials every which way she could think of. After about ten minutes, she reset the dials back to where they were when she lost them and found them again. The two women were talking about activating something when she heard another voice over the headphones. The power went off at that instance then the back-up generator kicked on. She continued to listen to the strangers voice. He had a very distinguished accent, foreign, but not one that could be easily placed… and he didn’t sound friendly. This point was made perfectly clear when she heard him order the women to come with him. She now saw four of the wraithlike bodies on the screen, one with a blue dot on it. Two of them made some quick moves and she could hear scraping and sounds like blows being struck along with several grunts. One of the larger bodies suddenly became motionless and the smaller one with the blue dot went towards the other two. Then she heard voices again.

"Stop right there or I’ll put a bullet in her!" Came the unknown man’s voice. The blue dot stopped. "You have some nice moves for a maid!" He said.

"I take karate lessons." Katie shot back then started to slowly walk forward.

"Don’t Katie… this isn’t your fight. I shouldn’t have talked you into this." Lin cried out then turned to address Dimitri. "Leave her out of this, she’s just a little diversion of mine!"

"Really? Now why should I believe that?" The man’s voice interrupted. Linna could hear the other woman’s voice scream then heard Katie shout for him to stop. As Linna watched the screen, she noticed another body image appear behind the blue dot body. Then heard a voice start to shout and get muffled. Next thing she heard was a ‘thunk’ and the blue dot body was motionless with the new image next to it.

"Good work Natasha. Now let’s get them back to the cellar." Linna watched in horror as the bodies all disappeared from the screen along with their voices.

Oh shit! Now what… do I go get Tracy and tell her? Damn! I can’t let this go… gotta get Tracy. Linna jumped up and ran upstairs to wake Tracy. When she got Tracy awake she whispered for her to follow her. After she got her downstairs she quickly told her boss what she had done and the gist of the situation she overheard.

"Damn!" Tracy reached for her phone and dialed Dean’s cell phone. It was answered almost immediately.

"Dean, it’s Tracy. Have you been watching?"

"Until we lost power. We don’t have a back-up in place yet. It was supposed to get here today. What’s happening?" Dean asked with a noticeable edge to her voice.

"You need to get here fast. They’ve been compromised. I’ll get Byron over to pick you up ASAP"

"Right. I’ll be ready." Dean hung up and ran out to the court. "Bruce! Over here on the double."

Bruce was there in a heartbeat and Dean filled him in. They decided to both go to the Parks & Rec office when Byron got there. Bruce went to his second in command, and filled him in and gave him instructions for the team to assemble as soon as Byron could get back to plow them out. He grabbed his weapons duffle and went to Dean’s office.

"They’ll be ready when Byron gets them plowed out Colonel. We shouldn’t need reinforcements. There’s only a few of the cartel people left and five of Kasimov’s. We can handle it."

"Okay. But tell them to make it quick." Bruce left to give additional information to his second, and returned to the office. Dean got out her Glock, checked the clip, took extra shells, clips, and her silencer. They were already waiting outside when Byron arrived. The snowfall had stopped, but the wind was beginning to pick up blowing waist high drifts in the open areas. The trip back only took ten minutes but to Dean it seemed like an eternity. The roads were thick with snow and drifts were developing rapidly. This doubled the normal five-minute ride, but the big 4X4 truck made it without too much trouble. As soon as Dean and Bruce got out, Byron turned the truck around and went back to plow out the others.

Dean led Bruce to the surveillance room and found Tracy and Linna waiting there. Quick intros, then Dean went straight to the tape and rewound the last hour of tape. They all sat there in silence listening and watching. When it finished, Dean turned to Linna.

"I’m sorry." Linna started. "I just couldn’t control my curiosity. I knew things weren’t right so I started poking around in here."

"How long have you been ‘poking" around?" Dean asked starring at Linna.

"About two weeks, maybe a bit more." She answered honestly.

Tracy asked the next question. "Who else knows?"

"No one, honest, just me." Linna went on. "I didn’t even tell Kelly… or Byron."

"Good." Dean cut in. "Linna I can’t approve what you’ve been doing. If you had suspicions you should have just come out with it and trusted Tracy. Your ‘poking’ could have cost lives." She paused, then added. "But it looks like this time… you may have saved some... if we can get there in time… thank you." Then she smiled at Linna. "You’ve got great instincts… too bad you’re stuck here with Tracy!"

Linna breathed a sigh of relief then asked if she could be filled in on what the hell was going on. Tracy and Bruce looked at Dean, who shrugged and said she might as well know the full story. Tracy filled her in while Dean and Bruce waiting for the rest of the team to get there, continued the surveillance.

* * * * * * * * * *

When Katie came to, she found herself lying on a cot with her head in Lin’s lap. They were currently locked up in one of the old storage rooms that Kasimov must have converted to very Spartan sleeping quarters, probably for the scientists then the guards.

"Ooww. That hurts." The young blonde said softly. "How long have I been out?"

"About five minutes." Lin informed her.

"Who hit me? And where did he come from?"

"She hit you… Natasha. And she came down the back staircase."

"What… how did she get here? It’s been snowing like a banshee in heat all day!" Katie tried to sit up but the pain sent her back into Lin’s lap.

"Sorry, I tried to warn you but he stopped me." Lin informed Katie. "Looks like you’ll just be suffering from a rather nasty bump on your head. You really shouldn’t move around too much, just in case you have a concussion, but you do need to stay awake."

"Umm, thanks." Katie said as she stretched and found everything else working okay. "What did she hit me with… a lead pipe?"

"Close… looked like and old fashioned meat tenderizer mallet if you ask me. I wonder what she’s doing back here?" The oriental woman shifted on the cot. "I overheard her talking to Dimitri about destroying the files."

"Yeah, well, at least we got a look at one of the ones that count first." Katie said with a pained chuckle. "Of course, we have to get out of here in order to make any use of it. Too bad Dean can’t penetrate the cellar with all that technology I could just tell her what we found."

"Better yet, Katie, I would rather tell her face to face." Lin said with an amused smile.

"Hey…" Katie said smiling back at Lin. "Careful there… that’s my face you’re drooling over!"

"Really? You and Dean?" Lin shook her head in surprise. "So…how is the old war horse?"

"Well, the ‘old war horse’ is terrific! In fact, she’s better than terrific…. She’s…"

"Okay, I get the picture." Lin stopped abruptly putting her fingers to her lips. "Shhh, someone’s coming."

Katie became very still as she heard the door unlock and watched Natasha and one guard, pistol at the ready, come into the room.

Natasha strolled in and walked around the room eyeing the two women with contempt. "Well, well. Isn’t this a cozy picture?" She stopped in front of Lin, and then bent low locking her with eye contact. Lin returned the stare with a raised eyebrow and smiled. This defiant gesture enraged Natasha to the point she lashed out at Lin with the back of her right hand, sending a violent blow to the ex-cop’s cheek causing her head to snap back and contact the concrete wall. The action caused Katie to try to sit up and charge at Natasha only to be stopped by the butt of the guard’s pistol as it made contact with her head. The blow wasn’t enough to cause unconsciousness, but left her dazed and unable to respond further.

"Dimitri tells me you got the maid to help you. My, my, you must have hidden talents I’m not aware of." Natasha looked at Lin with a seductive smile. "You must tell me your secrets to wooing young blonde’s." The Russian said with a venomous hiss. "Too bad she’s going to have to die for you… but, Dimitri might make her last few minutes fun!"

"Why don’t you just leave her alone… she’s just a kid!" The ex-cop said trying to sound convincing. "She just offered to help me get in the cellar, she doesn’t deserve to die for that."

"Oh, how touching… you should have thought of that before you got her to help you!" Natasha spat out. "Now it’s too late for your little tart. We’re leaving now so don’t try anything stupid. Andre would prefer you arrive in one piece, however he has left me much latitude in this regard should you resist." Natasha turned to the guard and instructed him to cuff Lin and escort her to the waiting helicopter. A second guard entered the room and helped him, roughly dragging her up the stairs to the main entrance. Natasha stopped and looked at Katie then said. "Your mother should have taught you to beware of strangers." Then she laughed and exited the room. She stopped to give final instructions to Dimitri regarding the destruction of all the files and to insure the rest of the cartel member’s pack and leave for their destinations now rather than in the morning. She also told him to dispose of the blonde before he left. Then she grabbed her parka and headed to the main entrance. As she opened the door to the frigid air she turned and smiled at Lin. "Sorry, no time to get your coat." Then she and the guards took Lin through the blowing snow towards the helicopter. When the two women were on board, Natasha added another set of cuffs to Lin locking her to her seat. When the guards were clear, the helicopter rose and headed into the night.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Damn it! Where the hell are they!" Dean said as she paced the office.

"Easy Colonel… it’s only been twenty minutes. It takes ten to get there and ten to get back plus he’s gotta plow them out." Bruce said as he continued the surveillance, switching to the outside camera since it had stopped snowing. "Hey, Colonel… look at this." They looked at the outdoor surveillance camera and watched as he spotted a helicopter in the front of the lodge. As they watched, a figure exited the lodge followed by two guards dragging another woman.

"That looks like Natasha. What’s she doing here?" Tracy asked as they continued to watch. "And who’s that they’re dragging?"

Dean intensified the camera power and could barely make out long dark hair through the blowing snow caused by the helicopter’s props. "It’s Lin." She said in a whisper so low she could barely be heard. "But where’s Katie…"

Dean backed away from the TV, pain and anger showing in the lines of her face. Tracy looked up and carefully approached her friend. "Dean… she’s probably all right…" her words fading as Dean focused her energy again.

"I’ve got to get over there now!" She said pacing the room. "Tracy, have you got another plow truck I can use?"

"Only have the one Dean. Byron will be here soon."

"I can’t wait for Byron… I need to get there now!" Dean’s voice was strengthening with the level of her anxiety.

"Okay…" Tracy said trying to come up with an alternative. "Wait... Byron brought over the ATV. That’ll get you there." Tracy offered. "Linna, get the keys for the ATV!"

Linna ran to Tracy’s office to get the keys and Dean grabbed her parka. Bruce wanted to go with her but Dean said no. She wasn’t sure the ATV would be able to get them both there without getting stuck. She gave Bruce instructions to follow as soon as Byron got back with the rest of the team and to call in the helicopter to General James for tracking. Byron and Tracy would lead the team there with the plow truck going first to break through any drifts along the way. When Linna came back with the keys, Dean and Tracy went to the storage room to get the ATV out the side doors. It took three tries to get the cold machine running, then Dean roared off toward the lodge.

* * * * * * * * *

As soon as Natasha and the guards left with Lin, Katie slowly got up and surveyed her surroundings. The rap to her head was making her very nauseous and her balance wasn’t the best, but her mental capacities weren’t affected. She admired the quick thinking on Lin’s part to throw suspicion off of her. Now maybe she’d have a chance to finish the job and hopefully still have time to save Lin too. She checked her pockets and found that she still had both pens and the dose pack. Katie walked over to the door and studied the lock. It was an old-fashioned skeleton key type lock. If she had her picks she would have been out in no time flat. Okay, time to try out one of Dean’s toys, she thought, then reached up and took off one of the black earrings. She looked around the room and found a piece of paper on the small dresser in the room. Katie carefully crushed the earring over the paper then carried it over to the door. She slowly poured some of the powder into the keyhole then put some on the bolt by folding the paper and sliding it into the crack between the door and the frame. She turned around and spotted a half full water bottle on the dresser. Grabbing the bottle she then folded the paper into a funnel shape and carefully poured a few drops on the two spots where the powder was. In a few seconds she heard a ‘pfft’ and slowly pulled on the door handle.

The door opened easily but she was cautious and opened it only an inch or two until she could see if there was a guard outside the door. There was but he was sitting in a chair at the end of the hall. She could hear Dimitir talking to someone in the distance but couldn’t see anyone else. She pulled out her red pen and quietly crept out of the room hugging the wall to stay out of the guard’s peripheral vision. When she was close enough, she reached out, held her breath and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned, he received a face full of knock out gas and immediately hit the floor. Cool! Wish I had some of these in high school for all those back seat gropers! She propped the guard back up in the chair and leaned his head on the wall so he appeared to be sleeping at his post. She also relieved him of his pistol and a couple of extra clips of ammo before she headed down the hall toward the sound of Dimitri’s voice.

As Katie crept toward the voices, she began picking up more of the conversation. It appeared that Dimitri had assembled the rest of the cartel members in the cellar to inform them of Lin’s betrayal and the need to pack and evacuate the lodge immediately.

The only questions seemed to be coming from Ito regarding the disposition of Lin. He was insisting on questioning Katie about her involvement, but Dimitri emphasized the need for him to be leaving with the rest of the ‘guests.’

"You will not have to worry about the maid… her body will eventually be found in the ashes of the lodge." Then he ordered them to their rooms to pack only their necessities and leave the rest. They were to assemble in the lounge and be ready to leave in five minutes. They could use the two SUV’s owned by the lodge to get out of town.

Sorry Dimitri, I’m afraid there’s going to be a slight change of plans. Hmmm. One down, sixteen to go… guess I better wait for the odds to be in my favor. Let’s see, after the rest of the cartel leaves I’ll have one guard asleep and three left with Dimitri. Okay, four to one… sounds better! Katie slowly backtracked down the hall to where the guard was still sitting propped up. She scanned the hall and began checking out the rooms on both sides finding more of the Spartan living quarters. Her head was still pounding and her balance was way off so she had to rely on the walls for support as she did her search. When she came to the lab, she noticed a room directly across the hall. Katie cautiously crossed, turned the handle then entered, closing the door behind her. She leaned back against the door as a wave of nausea almost put her on her knees. When she recovered, she explored the wall by the door, located the light switch and then turned it on. To her surprise, this room was anything but Spartan. Carpeted in a thick plush, it was easily the size of the lab and contained a couch, king size bed, dresser, a workstation complete with a computer, printer, and scanner, phone/fax, TV/VCR and… a safe! It even had it’s own bathroom. Okay, let’s see if you’ve left anything on your computer. Katie sat down at the workstation, located the power switch and turned it on. It would take a bit to completely boot up, so she decided to look through the room in the meantime. The dresser contained a few pieces of clothing and she found nothing taped to the backs or bottoms of the drawers. The workstation was very organized with a place for everything, pens, CD’s, paper for the printer, even a few odd books, all in Russian. There was nothing in the trash can by the workstation and nothing left in the bathroom. Looks like you aren’t planning on coming back here General, so there’s probably nothing in the safe either. Well, we’ll let Bruce and his boys take a look in there later. Katie walked over to the TV and started to check out the videos that were left behind. Figures… nothing but x-rated flicks. Oooo, and what do we have here? A documentary on the United Nations… interesting. The young agent returned to the computer and sat down starring at the screen. Well, I should have figured… it’s in Russian! Okay, looks like Gus will have to tackle this one! She shut down the computer and checked her watch. It had been seven minutes since she left Dimitri. If he’s on schedule, he should be chasing off his charges into the night by now. Guess it’s time for me to check out the control room. When she reached the door, she shut the light off, allowed her eyes to adjust to the dark, pulled out the retrieved pistol and switched off the safety. As she slowly opened the door and peeked out, she was surprised to see two guards coming down the hall, checking all the rooms as they went. Oh, oh. Guess they found sleeping beauty. Katie silently closed the door and headed towards the bathroom.

* * * * * * * * *

The distance to the lodge from the park and rec office was only seven miles, but on an ATV going as fast as Dean dared on roads filled with snow drifts it was beginning to seem like seventy miles. Being fully exposed to the bitter cold elements was not a wise choice either, but Dean put her discomfort out of her mind as she plowed through another drift. At least it hadn’t started snowing again and the wind seemed to be dying down. That surely was a good sign. It didn’t look as though a plow had been through the roads at all, but Tracy had told her they had been out since the snow first started to fall. As she turned the last corner toward the lodge, she almost ran head-on into an SUV coming down the road. It didn’t have its lights on and she barely had time to swerve out of the way. When she regained control of the ATV, she noticed a second SUV leaving the lodge driveway. Abandoning ship are you? Well, we’ll see about that. Dean had noticed that the second SUV had the lodge logo on the door. She pulled into the first driveway and pulled out her cell phone and called Tracy’s number. Linna picked up on the first ring.

"Linna, it’s Dean. Call the police and have them stop the two SUV’s owned by the lodge. They’re just pulling onto Hollow Road now. Warn them that they may be armed and dangerous. Get the State Police called for back-up."

"What do I tell them the reason is for the stop?" Linna asked. "They may not do it on my word."

"Okay… your husband is the mayor and the police commissioner. Call him and have him call the police." Dean suggested. "Only do it fast! Tell your husband whatever you have to for now… but get them stopped before they leave town!"

"You got it!" Linna answered as she hung up.

Dean pulled back out onto the road and headed toward the lodge. About fifty yards from the driveway, she pulled over and turned off the engine. Going as quickly as she could wading through waist high drifts, Dean noticed that the lodge was completely dark and that she could not see any of the guards patrolling outside. She assumed that they either all left, or were inside getting ready to leave. Considering her options, Dean decided to use the kitchen entrance to get in. It was farther from the door to the cellar than the front entrance so if she had to break a little glass to get in her chances were better that she wouldn’t be heard. Also it was closer to the dumb waiter, which she hoped to use to get into the cellar. When she got to the kitchen door, she was surprised to find it unlocked. So much for security! The tall woman thought as she carefully entered, silenced gun drawn.

* * * * * * * * * *

The quick motion to turn towards the bathroom had made Katie’s head spin and brought on another wave of nausea. Not, now kiddo, gotta get to cover first. She muttered to herself as she slowed her pace. Unfortunately, she crashed into the chair at the computer station on her way and hit the floor face first, causing her to lose her grasp on the pistol. The guards hearing the noise, ran to the room, kicked open the door and opened fire into the darkened room sending shards of wood, plastic and glass flying everywhere. Katie rolled to her left and found herself next to the king size bed, sliding under it for protection not paying attention to the stinging pain in her back. In the light of the gun flashes she could see her pistol just out of reach on the floor at the foot of the bed. Once the deafening barrage stopped the guards cautiously turned on the light. Their automatic weapon fire had demolished the plush room and as they entered Katie could hear their steps as they crunched on the debris. She carefully reached into her pocket for one of her pens, but found none. As she was reaching into the other pocket, a pair of hands appeared under the bed and pulled her out feet first then roughly grabbed her right arm and a handful of her hair pulling her to her feet causing her to scream with pain. The guard then shifted his hand from her hair to her left arm and held both her arms behind her back. Katie struggled to get free, but the previous two blows to her head had left her too nauseous and weak to effectively defend herself. The guard holding her spoke to his partner in Russian then they both laughed and the one in front came up to Katie and smiled then said in broken English, "Maybe you like Russian man more than Japanese woman? Eh?" As he reached up to try to kiss her, Katie raised her knee into his crotch with such an explosive force he reeled backward in pain. Anger showing on his face, he came at her again but this time he punched her in her abdomen forcing her to bend forward with the pain. His partner holding her from behind laughed and pulled her up again allowing the man in front to raise her head and beat her face with several punches before he quit. Blood was trickling from cuts to her lips and cheek and she groaned in agony, but Katie’s spirit was not daunted. As he drew near for the third time, Katie raised her head and spat in his face.

* * * * * * * * *

Dean was in the kitchen, making her way to the pantry when she heard the burst of gunfire. Throwing stealth to the wind, she ran into the pantry and searched for the dumb waiter. Finding it still on the cellar level, she pressed the call button. "C’mon, c’mon" Dean shouted at the slow moving elevator. When it stopped she quickly entered, changed the direction to down and hit the start button. As it arrived in the basement, she found herself in the lab. The lights were on, and she could see the door was left ajar. She ran to the door and did a quick look up and down the hall, seeing no one she stepped out. She was about to move off to the right when she heard muffled groans coming from the room across the hall. As Dean peeked around the open door, she saw Katie spit on a guard in front of her. Dean threw herself into the room and rolled as she hit the floor, now aiming at the chest of the guard standing in front of Katie. He was bringing the butt of his rifle forward and had just made contact with Katie’s left temple as the bullets ripped through him sending him backward toward the door. The second guard released Katie who fell limply to the floor from the third crushing blow to her head this night. Before he could reach for his weapon, Dean had placed five bullets neatly in his chest and directly into his heart. Dropping her pistol, Dean reached over and pulled Katie into her lap wiping the blood from her lips and cheek and checking her breathing and pulse. "Katie… Katie… love, I’m here. I’m so sorry I’m late…" her words falling on unhearing ears as she began to sob clutching the unconscious blonde to her chest.

* * * * * * * * *

Part V

Saturday… 1200 Hours… Christmas Day

Bruce and his team had arrived at the lodge shortly after Dean, and captured Dimitri and the last two guards quickly. The two SUV’s were also stopped and all the passengers were safely locked behind bars at the State Trooper barracks. A news release had been planted describing a terrible traffic accident involving several foreigners that had lost control of their SUV’s and plunged off a bridge on the Quickway. A second press release described a ‘fire’ that had leveled an old resort, killing five men thought to be guests, and one female staff member. Footage of an old resort fire was shown and Mr. G, after sufficient encouragement from Gus, Linna, and her husband Kelly, was interviewed lamenting the loss of his family resort. The resort was at the end of a long road, so the police had the area cordoned off so no one would be able to tell the story was a hoax.

When the ambulance arrived Katie still had not regained consciousness. The paramedics checked her vitals, started an IV drip of 5% saline and prepared her for the ambulance. Dean asked Tracy to go the hospital with her and she’d catch up once she secured the lodge. After the ambulance left, Dean and Bruce’s team completed a top to bottom search of the lodge. Dimitri had done a very good job destroying records and there was little left to give any solid clues as to the event Kasimov had planned. The few items that survived were a few samples of the drug, a documentary tape on the United Nations, a calendar with December 27th and 30th highlighted, a safe, and a bullet riddled CPU. Gus was currently trying to get anything he could off the CPU but he didn’t have high hopes. Bruce had cracked open the safe earlier and found it empty save for the calendar, and the documentary was a complete mystery.

It was now 1200 hours and Dean was pacing the floor in the surgery waiting room at Catskill General Hospital. Tracy and Colleen were also there waiting. When Dean arrived at the hospital she found that Katie had been taken to surgery to repair a severely dislocated left shoulder and to remove several shards of glass that were deeply embedded in her back. One large piece was dangerously close to her spinal cord.

"Dean," Tracy spoke to her friend. "Why don’t you come and sit down. You’ve got to be exhausted." Dean looked over at her then finally shrugged and sat down heavily next to Tracy resting her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. Tracy reached over and started giving her a back rub to try and relax her a bit. "You know, Col and I can stay here and you could go back and get some rest."

"No. Not until I know what’s happening." Came the curt reply.

They sat there a while longer just staring out the window at the white landscape... waiting. Dr. Berg, dressed in scrubs, was the first one through the door followed the orthopedic surgeon that was flown up from Bethesda. Beth introduced Dr. Jack Stein to the three waiting women.

"The surgery went well. All the shards were removed successfully including the one close to her spine. The shoulder will take some time to heal completely, but with diligent therapy it should heal better than new." Dr. Stein finished.

"Had she regained consciousness?" Dean asked hopefully.

"She did just before surgery. Right now, she’s still under from the anesthesia." Dr Stein said.

"When can I see her?" Dean asked again.

This time Dr. Berg answered. "She’s in the recovery room right now and will be there for at least another couple of hours. Then we’ll transfer up to her room. You’ll be able to see her then. But Dean, she’ll be in and out of it for a while and she was very disoriented when she regained consciousness." Beth took Dean’s hand a led her over to the couch before she continued. "She doesn’t remember anything. There’s evidence that she took three severe blows to her head. It’s a miracle she woke up at all."

Dean paled at Dr. Berg’s words. "She’ll… she’ll be all right… won’t she?" The blue eyes began to tear as a cloak of guilt settled itself around her.

"Only time will tell, Dean." Beth sighed and continued. "Physically she’ll be able to recover fully, but psychologically… well, we’ll have to wait and see. Head injuries are extremely difficult to predict. But Katie is young and strong. If anyone can overcome the damage she received, Katie can." Beth hugged Dean then stood to leave. "Why don’t you go get some rest. You can lie down in her room until she comes up from the recovery room. C’mon, I’ll take you all up."

Dr. Stein shook their hands then left to check on Katie in the recovery room. Beth led the three women up to the surgical wing on the third floor. She had secured a private room for Katie that had a sleeper couch and recliner. The room was a corner unit with two large windows meeting in the corner. It was big, bright and cheery. Before she left, Dr. Berg asked the nurse in charge to have some lunch brought up to the three women. Dean took the recliner and Tracy and Col settled on the couch. They sat there in silence for nearly an hour and three quarters when the quiet was finally interrupted by the chirp of Dean’s cell phone.

"Yeah?" Dean spoke into the receiver.

"Dean, it’s Gus. How’s Katie?"

Dean filled in the technology wizard then asked what he needed.

"Besides checking on Katie, I just wanted to tell you the CPU was a bust. It just had too much damage to retrieve anything. One of the bullets bounced off the power supply and sliced through the hard drive. We tried to go through the shredded stuff, but he had a cross cut shredder… it’s proving impossible to reconstruct anything."

"I figured that would be the outcome. Are any of our jailbirds singing?"

"Nah. Tightest bunch of lips I’ve ever seen." Gus replied. "And that Dimitri character… all of a sudden all he can speak is Russian! He’ll be the toughest nut to crack."

"Yeah, you’re right on that one." Dean paused then added. "Look, as soon as Katie comes up from the recovery room, I’ll be in."

"Dean, there’s nothing you can do here right now. Bruce and I are working our butts off to crack this thing so you just stay there and get some rest yourself, okay? You won’t be any good to us dead on your feet. I’ll let you know if anything breaks."

"Yeah, I know you’re right… but I’ll be in as soon as I can." Dean answered then said, "thanks" before she hung up the line.

Another hour passed before the women heard the wheels of a gurney squeak as it rolled down the hall. The door opened and a recovery room nurse dressed in scrubs and Dr. Berg now in her regular clothes came in wheeling Katie’s gurney. They expertly transferred Katie to the bed then the nurse wheeled the gurney out.

"She’s in and out, so don’t expect too much for a few hours. It’ll be best if we let her just sleep it off." Beth said as she checked Katie’s vitals one more time.

"Did she remember anything when she woke up?" Tracy asked softly.

"Just her name and she has no idea what happened or where she is… but she did remember me, so that’s a mark on the plus side." Beth said with a smile. "I’m sure she’ll be fine. It’s just going to take some time."

The four women sat in silence watching the young blonde lying in the bed. Finally, Dr. Berg stood to leave. She explained that she and Dr. Randall were going to be running some tests on the drug samples they were able to secure from the lodge. She promised to stop back later to see how Katie was coming along.

* * * * * * * * *

"Andre, I’m afraid there’s some bad news." Natasha said as she entered the General’s office at the embassy. "It looks like Dimitri and the others will not be coming. I’ve just heard a report on CNN about a tragic resort fire in the Catskills that claimed the lives of five men and one woman. Dimitri must have had a problem with the accelerant."

"That is too bad, he was a dependable man." He said simply as he continued to read the papers on his desk. "What about the others?" This he asked with more interest.

"In an unrelated story on CNN, they described an incident with two SUV’s losing control and going over a bridge. All eleven of the foreigner visitors were killed at the site. The State Police are recording it as a weather related accident." Natasha said with concern. "How bad will this affect our plans?"

"We will have to supplement the Japanese contingent. Their job is crucial to the success of the plan. I’ll contact the New York members to help replace the others." He finally looked up from his paperwork. "Not to worry Natasha, everything will still go as planned. Now what have you learned from that little bitch Lin?"

"She is not talking. She is very tough for that small frame, but I will break her yet. I’ve administered the mind control drug, it will be a few more hours before I can interrogate her again." Natasha said with a wicked sneer.

"Just do not ‘break’ her before she talks! You should have administered the drug immediately instead of using your archaic methods." Kasimov warned. "If there is anyone else out there that knows anything, we must find out soon so we can be prepared and… I have plans for her. At least that smug little maid is out of the picture."

"Yes, and don’t worry Andre, I’ll take care of everything." Then Natasha left to go back to the interrogation room and her semi-conscious victim thinking that she preferred her ‘archaic’ techniques over modern medicine… it gave her so much more pleasure.

* * * * * * * * *

At 1900 hours, Katie opened her eyes for the third time, but this time they stayed open. Dean was first to her bedside and glad to see the emerald eyes starting to look a little more brilliant.

"Hey." Dean said softly as she place her hand tenderly on the young woman’s cheek. "How’re you doing?"

"Umm. I kinda hurt all over, but my head is killing me." She answered truthfully in a raspy voice. "Are you a doctor?"

"Ahh… no. I’m… a friend." The tall woman was in obvious pain over Katie’s lack of recognition but she swallowed hard and continued. "Do you recognize these two?" She asked smiling down at the confused emerald eyes as they scanned Tracy and Colleen.

"No… but I’m guessing they must be friends too right?" Came the apologetic response.

"Right! This is Tracy and this is Colleen." Dean offered with a smile. "Would you like some ice chips to suck on? It sounds like your throat is really sore."

"Yes, that would be nice. Thank you." Came the tired scratchy reply.

Colleen went over to the bedside table and scooped some ice chips into a cup then went back to the bed to help Katie. Tracy and Dean said they’d be right back and left the room. They walked across the hall to the visitor’s lounge and sat on the hard institutional couch by the window.

"Damn it Tracy… she doesn’t remember us!" Dean said in a quiet but forceful tone. "This is all my fault! If I had been one… two minutes sooner, she wouldn’t be here like this!"

"You don’t know that for sure… Dr. Berg said she received three blows to the head last night. Anyone of them could have been responsible for this damage." Tracy offered in hopes of lifting some of her friend’s guilt.

"No… I saw her before that last blow. She was still fighting… she spat on the creep! I should have moved faster!" Tears started spilling from the ice blue eyes as though the ice in them were melting. "I never should have allowed them to investigate."

"Dean you can’t take blame for that. They’re both grown women and trained agents too. They knew the risks involved. She was doing her job, that’s all." Tracy said a bit more emphatically. "You, of all people, should know how things can sometimes go wrong without it being anyone’s fault."

Dean put her elbows on her knees and held her head in her hands while sobbing uncontrollably. Tracy lifted Dean’s torso and tucked Dean’s head onto her shoulder. She put her arms around her friend holding her tightly as the tall woman let her grief roll out of her body with every tear. When it seemed she could cry no more, Dean pulled back wiping her face with the sleeves of her sweatshirt and said a simple "thank you."

"No problem, that’s what friends are for." Tracy offered with a smile.

"Trace… what if she never regains her memory…" Words failing, Dean just looked into Tracy’s hazel eyes continuing the question.

"Dean, she fell in love with you once… she’ll fall all over again… trust me on this, okay?"

Dean nodded, "I hope you’re right." Then the two women got up and went back into the room. Katie was sleeping again and Col was sitting at the bedside holding a hand that was tightly grasping hers. They watched as a series of grimaces appeared on the blonde’s face before she finally relaxed into a deep REM sleep. At 2100 hours, Beth, Leigh and Dr. Stein stopped in to check on Katie. Her vitals were good and color was returning to her cheeks. All three of the doctor’s reinforced the opinion that Katie would be fine and that it was just going to take time to see what, if any, of her recent memory returned. By 2130, they sent Tracy, Col, and a reluctant Dean, home for the night.

* * * * * *

Sunday… 0800 Hours…

Dean spent the night with Tracy and Col. The three cats decided to make their bed on top of Dean snuggling with her familiar scent. Dean didn’t mind their company. It was much preferred to an empty bed at the cabin. By 0800 she was up, showered and ready to tackle the assignment once more. Since it was Sunday, Tracy and Colleen proposed staying at the hospital and Dean was thankful that Katie wouldn’t have to be alone on her first day of recuperation. Dean hoped to be there by noon provided things were going okay at the court building. It was a beautiful sunny day and the roads were clear now so travel was improving around town. It was hard to believe that a snowstorm had literally shut down the area only thirty-six hours earlier. Dean pulled her SUV into the neatly plowed parking area that Byron had worked on yesterday. I’ve got to remember to thank Tracy’s staff for all their help. Dean mused as she walked into the building. "Morning." She said to the sergeant that was on duty at the door.

"Morning Colonel. How’s agent Miller?" The young soldier asked earnestly.

"About the same. Thanks for asking Sarge." Dean smiled at the young man then continued to her office. On her way she called over to Bruce and Gus to join her. When they entered the office the three of them sat down and began to outline any progress made the day before.

"We know that the 27th is the date all the participants are to be in place. That day was highlighted on the calendar, so we are assuming that the 30th is the target date." Gus proposed.

"Makes sense. What else have you theorized?"

"Well, the only thing out of place in his quarters was the video on the United Nations. Why would he have only that mixed in with a bunch of porno stuff?" Bruce continued.

"Our guess is that the target area is the United Nations building in New York City."

Gus jumped in with a continuation of their theory. "We know the city water supply has been compromised so we’re looking for the action to take place there, then this video shows up, and then the highlighted calendar."

"If that’s true, then why drug the entire city?" Dean questioned. "And the 30th won’t see much action at the UN building will it?"

"We’re checking on that now, but they’re not telling us much." Bruce commented. "I’ve got a call in to General James, but his aide said he’s on leave for the holiday and won’t be back in the office till tomorrow. When I told him of the importance, he said the General was skiing with his family in Montana and they’d do their best to get him to phone us."

Then it was Gus’s turn again. "We’re trying to reach the Secretary of State too, but she’s out for the holiday too. They’ll keep trying to get her on the horn with us too."

"What about the helicopter… did it get tracked?" Dean asked beginning to feel anger and irritation at the inability to get to the higher ups.

"No. The copter must have flown below radar range. But our sources in Washington saw Natasha there yesterday, so we’re assuming that she took Lin there to the Embassy." The ex-seal explained.

"Okay… Not much we can do there for now. Have your sources keep tabs on the movements of Kasimov and Natasha. Make sure they keep an eye on their copter pad too. I want to know about anything that moves in or out of that Embassy." Dean stood and began to pace the office. "Have either of you gone to the Trooper’s barracks today?" Both heads shook in the negative. "Fine. Let’s go see if we can give them a singing lesson."

The three of them left for the barracks at 1000 hours. When they arrived, they were immediately escorted to the waiting lounge, then finally into the Commander’s office. Major Vance introduced himself and then asked to see everyone’s ID, which he then had the desk sergeant run for authentication. When he was satisfied they were truly government agents he asked to be briefed on the assignment. He was none too happy about having a surveillance operation going on in his district without prior knowledge, so he was not too eager to cooperate now. Dean did her best song and dance and finally won him over when she found out he was ex-army and had served with General James during Desert Storm. After that, they were treated with due respect and allowed access to the prisoners. They spent nearly three hours interrogating them using a variety of tactics. Good agent/bad agents didn’t seem to work on the first batch, but they switched tactics and felt with a little more effort, good agent, bad agent and psycho agent might see results with the second batch, but not today. Dimitri was unfazed by any of it and refused to speak even in Russian. He did give away his surprise at seeing Dean again, but then became even more closed mouthed.

"Well, that didn’t accomplish much." Bruce said on the way back to their temporary headquarters.

"Yeah. I sure wish we could use that mind control drug on them… then maybe…" Gus’s comment must have struck a note because Dean brightened at his words.

"That may be our only chance." Dean said as she pulled into the parking lot. "You guys call me if you find out anything from the General or the Secretary. I’m going to check in at the hospital and see if the Doc’s are making any progress." Then she backed out and headed out the Quickway to the hospital.

It was nearly 1400 hours by the time Dean parked in the visitors’ lot at the hospital. Her first stop was the pathology lab where the Docs were found with heads bent over microscopes. So far, the substance that was found at the lodge was identical to the one they had reproduced from the autopsy samples so there would be no quick fix to the stimulus search. Now that they knew it was identical, they would continue to barrage the substance with as many different variables as they could imagine were in existence on the night of the murders. Before Dean left, she asked Dr. Berg if she had seen Katie yet today and how she was doing. Beth told Dean that she had indeed seen Katie first thing this morning. She was nearly back to normal, as far as the effects of the anesthesia wearing off, but she was still having difficulty with her short-term memory. As far as they could calculate, the last complete memory she has was from early November when she had to take Sugar in for a seizure episode on a Friday morning. Tracy, Colleen and Beth filled her in on the progress of the assignment up till her arrival at the hospital but left out the personal details between she and Dean figuring that was best left in Dean’s hands.

After the lab stop, Dean detoured to the gift shop and picked up a vase of flowers and chocolates, knowing how the young woman loved those. When she walked into the room, she found Tracy and Col, snoozing on the couch while a very awake Katie was staring out the window. Dean knocked softly on the open door then smiled as she saw recognition on the young blonde’s face. "Hi" Katie whispered then gestured Dean to enter.

"Hi yourself!" Dean retorted. "You sure look a lot better today. How are you feeling?"

"Still a bit fuzzy but the headache is starting to subside. Of course I have this to put up with too." Katie said as she pointed to her right shoulder with her uninjured hand. She looked at Dean’s armload then smiled. "Oooo. Are those all for me? Or are you visiting half the surgical wing?" She chuckled at the amount of flowers Dean was carrying. It looked like she wiped out the florist shop. "Did you leave any for anyone else?"

"Ummm… ah… no, I mean, yes… they’re for you and I did leave a few wilted ones behind!" Dean chuckled at her sophomoric display. "I guess I went a little overboard, huh?" Visibly blushing now, she placed the flowers on the small table in the corner then turned and handed Katie the chocolates. "I didn’t ask if you could have these or not, but I can’t see them being bad for you."

"Oh… oh, yeah… these will be bad for me… unless you can figure a way to keep me from eating them all in one sitting." She paused as she opened the box and popped one in her mouth. "Mmmm. I wuf twuffles." She said around a mouthful of chocolate.

"Wunt wun?"

"No, you go ahead and enjoy!" Dean said chuckling as the emerald eyes sparkled back at her. Their laughter woke Tracy and Colleen and they were surprised to see Dean and even more surprised to see Katie munching and smiling.

"Now that’s what I call a recovery!" Colleen said as she looked at Katie then back at Dean. "How’d you get her to perk up like that?"

Dean just shrugged and said "Magic! Just produce a box of truffles and voila!" They all got a good chuckle then settled down to more serious talk. Dean asked Katie if she was able to remember any more since she talked to Beth earlier. Katie shook her head and told her she was trying to concentrate on the case and see if it would start to shake anything loose, but nothing happened. Tracy and Col had helped her try to remember the past few weeks, but still nothing seemed familiar. Nothing that is, until now. Somehow she felt something stir in her when she saw Dean at the door and when she watched her blush… something familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on it but she promised to keep trying.

"Well, don’t give yourself another headache. Hopefully this will pass and you’ll be able to remember what you had for breakfast for the last fifteen days!" Dean said cheerily, but inside she was hoping the young blonde’s progress wouldn’t take long. She missed her friend, partner and lover and wanted her back… now!

Talk turned to the case at hand and Dean filled in the trio on the visit to the Trooper’s barracks and the interrogation of the prisoners. She continued with her chat with the Doc’s and the still elusive stimulus.

"You know Dean, I just have this feeling that there’s something there on the tape that we’re missing." Colleen commented. "I know we’ve looked at it from every angle possible… but I just have this feeling… I can’t explain it… it’s there."

"I hope you’re right Col." Dean answered her. "It’s going to be the only thing that will turn this mess into a success for us. We’ve got to know what that stimulus is and before Thursday."

"Well I’m off this whole week, so I’ll work on it round the clock if I have to." Colleen offered. "I just know it’s got to be something simple…"

"Trust me Dean… once Col get’s a bug about something… she doesn’t quit till she figures it out." Tracy interjected.

The rest of the afternoon went quickly while the four women talked shop. By 1700 hours the activity was obviously wearing on Katie and she was beginning to fade out of the conversations. Tracy and Colleen decided to leave, especially since Col was bound and determined to end the mystery of the tapes. Dean made herself comfortable on the couch and just watched as Katie slipped off into dreamland. Soon, she joined her, only her dreams were not of a benign nature. She kept reliving the moment she entered Kasimov’s quarters and saw Katie spit on the guard, then everything went into slow motion: the dive into the room, the shots ripping through the guard, the blow hitting Katie’s temple, her falling, the death of the other guard… until she was cradling Katie in her arms. The dream kept repeating itself, with the same ending over and over… she was late again… just too late!

* * * * * * *

Katie awoke to the cries coming from the figure on the couch. It only took her a moment to realize that the cries she heard were the result of a bad dream. She carefully climbed out of the bed and crossed to the restlessly sleeping figure. What’s tormenting you so?

Thought the young woman as she gently reached down to wake the sleeping woman. It was not the smartest thing she could have done, for as soon as she touched Dean, she quickly found herself in a precarious position neatly bonding with the wall behind her. The movement was so quick and fluid that she wasn’t hurt by the action, however she was disturbed by the ice-cold look of the otherwise warm blue eyes she remembered from earlier in the day. "Umm, sorry. I was just trying to wake you from a nightmare you were having." She said as she smiled apologetically to the now embarrassed Dean.

"Oh my God… I’m… I’m sorry… did I hurt you?" Sputtered Dean as she gently released the young agent and checked her over carefully.

"No, I’m fine really." Katie replied as she took a seat on the couch. "I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I really should have known better than to try to wake someone having a bad dream." Dean sat down next to her beginning to shake visibly. Katie reached over and gently placed a hand on Deans arm. "Are you okay? Is there anything you want to talk about?"

"I could have really hurt you." Came the soft reply from Dean. "I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be here." As she got up to leave she felt a strong left hand hold on to her keeping her in place.

"Nonsense!" Came the simple reply. "I happen to enjoy having you here, so just don’t think about going anywhere, okay? Besides, who’s gonna help me eat all those truffles?" She bent her head to peer into the pained expression on the tall woman then winked as she made eye contact.

A surprised Dean nodded and winked back smiling at the ease with which Katie was able to control her. Anyone else would have found themselves sitting in an empty room by now as the somber Colonel would have quickly left for fear of doing damage or letting her guard down. With Katie however, it just seemed so natural to let her take over and calm the beast within. She silently wondered if Katie felt anything for her other than a budding ‘renewed’ friendship. "Okay… I guess I wouldn’t want you to eat them all and get sick enough to have to stay here."

"Well, I guess that’s settled then." Katie said as she reached for the box of chocolates and offered Dean some. "How about we start at the beginning and you tell me how we came to be working on the same case."

Dean felt a little apprehensive at first, but decided that the telling may jog some of Katie’s memory so she began the tale as the Mad Hatter suggested to Alice… from the beginning. She did edit the ‘personal’ side of the telling, not sure if she should be including their feelings for each other. They both relaxed into the telling and the listening, and Katie found Dean to be a very detail oriented person. She decided that she liked her… very much, and wondered if they were just partners in the work sense or more. Certainly something for me to think about in the lonely hours of the night, thought the blonde as Dean continued the tale. It took nearly three hours of telling, interrupted at times by dinner, vital signs, medication, and several questions by the blonde. By the end of the evening, Katie felt she had a better understanding of her role in the case and also a better understanding of the Colonel in charge. But unfortunately, none of it was familiar to her. At 2100 hours, the charge nurse came in and threatened to physically kick Dean out of the room so her patient could get some rest. Dean tried her most intimidating stare but found she had met her match. She acquiesced to the demand, fully knowing that it was best for Katie in the long run, and promised to return the next day.

* * * * * * * * *

Monday… 0330 Hours…

The insistent sound of Dean’s cell phone finally raised the army officer out of a deep sleep. Picking up the phone, she found Bruce’s voice on the other end filling her in on his conversation with General James. It seemed that the General had just returned from his holiday ski vacation and was disturbed at the turn of events. He wanted Dean to fly to Washington immediately to update him on the situation. "Great!" muttered Dean. "Any idea when the next flight is available?"

"As a matter of fact, if you leave in fifteen minutes, you can catch a flight out of Stewart Airport and arrive in D.C. by 0600." Bruce offered to pick her up and take her to the airport, but Dean refused, preferring to drive her SUV herself. Bruce had made a reservation for her and gave her the flight number and time. After a very quick shower and a change into her military uniform, Dean left her cabin with three minutes to spare.

The trip to Stewart Airport wasn’t bad considering that the area had suffered a major snowstorm only two days earlier. There was something to be said for those massive plows in this part of the country. They could really push the snow out of the way! The flight left precisely on time and actually arrived five minutes early. At this time of the morning, she didn’t have trouble catching a cab and was at the Pentagon by 0645. Her appointment with the General was at 0730 so she went to the café and waited for it to open at 0700. Just what I need… thought the Colonel as she sipped her tea… a day with the bureaucrats! Well, they better make this quick… time may be running out on us.

At 0725, Dean entered the General’s office ready to answer his questions and try to get a few answers herself. The General was already in and she was immediately directed into his office. After the formal military salute and report, General James requested Colonel Peterson to be seated, then dropped the formality all together.

"Just what the hell happened Dean?" He asked in earnest.

"Jack, I can’t tell you exactly, because we don’t know ‘exactly.’ The cartel reps were moving out slowly but the last group was scheduled to leave on Sunday. Our undercover op was going to do a little search and seizure on Saturday night with one of the cartel moles but somehow the schedule changed and they went on Friday. We weren’t prepared for it. Next thing we knew they were compromised. We activated our insertion team immediately, but there was one hell of a snowstorm blowing and we couldn’t get out. By the time we got there, Natasha had flown off with the cartel mole and left orders to kill our op and destroy the records. We believe Lin Yamakura was taken to the Russian Embassy here in Washington. I barely got there in time to stop them from killing Katie, but the records were gone.

"Katie?" The General asked inquisitively.

"Yes, sir." Dean could feel a little heat start to rise and managed to control it. "She’s the DEA agent that I told you about."

"Oh… yes, I remember. Go ahead."

"Well unfortunately our op, Agent O’Malley, was injured during the process. She received three blows to her head and now she’s having trouble remembering anything for the past two months." Dean continued. "We did have some luck though. We’ve narrowed down Kasimov’s target date to December 30th and we’re pretty certain it will involve the United Nations building."

"The UN huh? Are you sure? Have you contacted them about any events on the 30th?"

"We’re about 99% certain, and yes, we’ve contacted them. But they’re not being very forthcoming. The UN security force is extremely efficient sir, and I’m sure they want to check things out themselves." She stopped and looked out the window. "We tried to contact the Secretary of State to see if she knew of any event at the UN on the 30th, but she’s been out of town too. I’m hoping you’ll be able to get us that information Jack."

The General sat there thinking for a bit before he spoke. "I’ll do better than that Dean. I have a meeting with the Secretary and the Attorney General at eleven. I want you there to fill them in. We should be able to get some answers then."

* * * * * * * * *

Dean walked down to the small office she used between assignments figuring she’d use the time to touch base with her team. The office was just as she left it. Plain and simple, the only personal adornment was a certificate of completion from her Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. Except for her nameplate on the door, anyone entering this office would have thought that it was an unassigned space. Dean put her coat and hat on the rack by the door then sat behind her desk gently rocking in her oversized leather chair. It was her only concession in an otherwise sterile room. An old but well cared for leather chair that she had purchased at an estate sale. She would often sit in that chair and gently rock until she came up with the answers that were eluding her. After a half hour of rocking and thinking, she decided that it just wasn’t working today so she picked up the phone and called her team. Thirty minutes of conversation later, she found that they were still on square three having progressed from square one by two leaps with the date and assumed site. What they needed now was a good role of the dice to come up with double sixes. She began listing the known elements on the left side of a sheet of paper, the assumed elements in the center of the paper, and left the right side for the unknown. Right now it came down to who were the targets, why pick the UN, why drug an entire city the size of New York, and finally, what caused the drug to become active.

At 1045 hours she straightened the papers on her desk and left to meet with General James and the two bureaucrats. When she arrived at the General’s office she was greeted by his aide and led directly into the meeting room adjoining his office. Already seated in the room were the General, the Secretary of State and the United States Attorney General.

"Ladies, this is Lieutenant Colonel Deanna Peterson who is in charge of the operation we were discussing. I asked the Colonel to come to this meeting so she could inform you of the progress and request the assistance she needs." The General said as he motioned Dean to sit in the empty chair at the round table. "Colonel, the ball’s in your court."

Dean thanked the General and reviewed the operation up to the present. Dean gave a very succinct overview of the operation without missing any pertinent details. Then she informed the women of the possible target site of the UN on the 30th of December and the lack of information of regarding any event scheduled at the UN on that date by the UN Security Force. She concluded with a request for their intercession with the UN for information. General James stood after Dean was finished and thanked her for her concise report and escorted Dean to the door requesting that she return in one hour.

Then he returned to the table to discuss with the women the options they had.

"I don’t know…" The Secretary began… "if the President would even consider canceling his speech before the UN General Assembly on a ‘guess’ that something is going to happen on the 30th. There’s absolutely no solid evidence to support her beliefs."

"And for security purposes this speech is one of the best kept secrets in the world. Even the media will not be notified until the last minute." Commented the Attorney General. "Every head of every nation that belongs to the UN will be in attendance. The entire General Assembly Hall, all 1,800 seats are expected to be filled. There will be sufficient security in attendance supplied not only by the UN but by the Secret Service as well as the personal protection services of all the member nations." She stated. "Every possible safe guard has been considered to protect these heads of state. If we cry foul now without solid evidence, our country will look quite foolish."

"Ladies, I understand your point of view and know that you must consider the political ramifications of this request, but I also know Lt. Colonel Peterson and if she ‘believes’ that something is going to happen on the 30th at the UN, then… it’s going to happen and we better be prepared to act!" The General said almost too forcefully. "I highly recommend that you take her suspicions seriously and consider giving her information on the Millennium Presentation."

The two women looked at each other and nodded. Then the Secretary of State spoke. "General, we will take your concerns and your recommendation under advisement and let you know what actions the President will take. Please be advised that you are not to discuss any of the events for the 30th with Lt. Colonel Peterson until you hear from us. However, if any hard evidence should surface, please inform our offices immediately." With that the two women rose and left.

"Gods be damned bureaucrats!" Mumbled the General as the door closed behind the women. "Damned politicians get this country into trouble, then call on the military to pull their asses out of the fire!" The General stomped into his office and pulled out a cigar lighting it and ignoring the no smoking ban in the building.

When Dean returned to the General’s office she found him puffing away in his chair, facing the window that looked out on the Washington Monument. "Sit" he said as he turned to face Dean. "Well, they’re going to take your warning into advisement and let you know what the higher ups decide." The General said rather sarcastically.

"You mean they’re not going to intercede?" Dean asked totally shocked as she sat in the nearest chair.

"As I said, they are taking your request into advisement and will let you know." The General repeated.

"Jack, what’s going on? Don’t they believe what we’ve told them?" She asked sincerely.

"Until you have ‘hard evidence’ that something is going to happen at the UN on the 30th…" He let the sentence trail off.

"Jack, there is something going on at the UN on the 30th isn’t there?" Dean persisted.

"I didn’t say that!" Jack responded.

"You’ve got to help me…" Dean continued, "Kasimov is a madman. He’s got to be stopped!"

"I… I can’t. Not right now." Jack said as he rose and crushed out his cigar in the ashtray he kept on his desk. "I’m sorry Dean, but I can’t give you any information. Not until I’m given permission or you get that hard evidence. I have to follow orders too."

Dean lowered her eyes and shook her head. "Damn politicians!" She said then looked up at the General. "Thank you Jack, I know you tried. I’ll work on getting that ‘hard evidence’ for you." Then she stood, saluted, executed a crisp military turn, and left.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Dean took the 3 o’clock flight back to Stewart Airport where she picked up her vehicle and headed back up to the Catskills. She called in to her temporary headquarters to let them know she’d be back that evening after she made a stop at the hospital to see how Katie was doing. Right now she was pulling into the visitors lot at the hospital. She saw Tracy walking toward the entrance and ran to catch up with her.

"Whoa, you look pretty spiffy Colonel, almost had me saluting!" Chuckled Tracy as Dean caught up to her. "Where have you been off to in your official duds?"

"General James called me down to the Pentagon this morning. Took the 5:00 AM flight out of Stewart and just got back." Catching her reflection in the revolving door she grimaced then added. "Guess I should have changed before I stopped in but I didn’t want to waste time going up to the cabin and then driving all the way back here. Hope Katie doesn’t mind."

"Ummm, if she’s anything like me…. Always been a sucker for a woman in uniform!" Tracy was still chuckling as the elevator door opened on the third floor.

The two friends walked into Katie’s room where Colleen had been telling her a story about a call she once went on to fix a computer that had a very funny outcome. They were still laughing and didn’t see Tracy and Dean enter. When they did notice you could have knocked them over with a feather the way their jaws dropped at Dean’s appearance in full uniform. Tracy just stood back and enjoyed the look on their faces and the confusion on Dean’s. She has absolutely no idea how damn gorgeous she looks in her uniform… she really cuts a superb figure. Tracy smiled inwardly. Now that’s a recruitment poster if I ever saw one!

"What?" Dean said as she starred back at the dropped jaw women. "You never saw a woman in uniform before?"

Colleen was the first to recover. "Well, let’s just say that Tracy never looked that good in her uniform." And with that, Tracy took the gloves she was still holding and flung them at Colleen, which led to an outbreak of laughter all around.

"Yeah, well… I’m just not tall enough!" Came Tracy’s retort, which led to another round of laughter.

"So why the uniform?" Katie finally asked still chuckling.

Dean related the early morning phone call and her trip to Washington. She filled them in on her meetings with General James and the one with the Secretary of State and Attorney General.

"You mean they wouldn’t tell you anything?" Katie asked in amazement.

"They’re taking it under advisement." Dean answered. "In the meantime if we want to see anything happen, we’re going to have to make it happen. If we can get some hard evidence, I know Jack will go to the President himself if he has to."

"Well, short of a signed confession… " Tracy said shrugging her shoulders," …what else will they accept as hard evidence?"

"Looks like that’s going to be our only way out." Dean concluded. "The lodge came up empty, Lin’s in Kasimov’s hands, we’ve got empty canisters of a drug we can’t get to work… our only hope is to get one of those jailbirds to talk, preferably Dimitri."

"Okay… time to lean on him a little?" Tracy suggested. "Can I help?"

Dean raised an eyebrow and stared at her friend. "No, you can’t help… and I don’t think he’s the type that will turn by just leaning on him. I need to be able to use that drug on him. We’ve got to find out how to activate it!"

"I haven’t given up yet." Colleen interrupted. "I was up half the night going over and over that tape. Just about the time I’d think I was getting somewhere, Brutus would interrupt me by banging the door open to go out, or whining to come in, as soon as I’d get started again, bang… and he’s outside again. I swear, he has been a real pistol for the past few weeks!"

"Well, I appreciate your efforts Colleen but I’m going downstairs to lean on the Docs a bit." As she turned to leave, her stomach rumbled very loudly. "Umm, anyone care for dinner in the cafeteria? I haven’t eaten since yesterday and I think my stomach is protesting."

She had three volunteers to join her in the cafeteria. As soon as Dean got permission to take Katie down, she snagged a wheelchair and the foursome was on their way. Since it was on the same floor as the pathology lab, they made a brief stop in the lab. Finally they were seated in the cafeteria actually enjoying the food since this hospital happened to have a decent culinary staff. When they returned to the room, they spent the rest of the evening working with Katie by trying to stimulate her recall. Unfortunately she still did not remember anything between the beginning of November and Christmas night. The good news was, that she was hopefully going to be discharged Wednesday. Dean’s mood picked up visibly at this piece of news and she wasted no time in insisting that the young woman stay with her until she was able to fully recover. Katie was surprised by the offer and was actually relieved that she wouldn’t have to stay in her trailer alone with just her cats. At 2100, visiting hours were over, so they said their goodbyes to Katie and headed out. Tracy and Colleen went home and Dean headed to the court building.

* * * * * * * * * *

When Dean entered the building she immediately called the task force together to go over her day’s meetings. Emphasis was placed on finding the ‘hard evidence’ that would be needed before they would be able to plan any offensive or defensive strategies since they were still in the dark regarding any special events at the UN. They reviewed several scenarios that could possibly happen in New York City since they were 100% sure that the city was the general target location. Scenarios encompassing the World Trade Center, Wall Street, the Universities, etc. were all discussed.

"What if he’s just going to hold the entire city hostage for some reason?" Supplied Quentin from Bruce’s team. "How do we deal with that? There’s not enough of us to handle a block party gone bad, let alone the whole friggin’ city. I mean, granted, not everyone drinks the water that comes out of the tap… but in a city the size of New York, even if it’s only 50%, were talking one hell of a lot of people!"

"Good point Quent… we certainly don’t want to have the National Guard called in to help us… especially if the members come from the city." Bruce said thoughtfully, "But we could call in the military from bases outside the city… those that don’t rely on the cities water system."

"I’ll call General James in the morning and see if he could coordinate a multi-service force for back-up. Have him set up a ‘training’ exercise that we could activate quickly." Dean said as she made a note to herself. "There’s only two days to get on top of this folks… I want your teams to brainstorm worst case scenarios and then come up with possible actions to counter act them. We’ll meet again at 0800 hours and see what you’ve got!" The teams immediately broke up and went to their areas to begin work on their tasks. Dean walked over to Gus and asked how the work was proceeding on finding the stimulus to which he just shrugged and wiggled his hand from side to side. Tired, agitated, and frustrated, Dean asked him keep on it, and then went into her office.

The answer has got to be out here somewhere. We’ve been over the same territory over and over, we’re just not seeing it. It’s got to be something so simple that we just can’t see it. Dean kept going over the lists she drew up in her office at the Pentagon as she rocked in her chair. At 0200 the ringing phone startled her out of a deep sleep. She reached for the offending phone and heard an excited voice on the other end.

"Dean, it’s Col… I’ve found it!"

Groggily Dean asked, "Found what?"

"The stimulus Dean… I know how he does it! We’ll be right there!" Then all Dean heard was a click and a dial tone.

* * * * * * * * * *

It took all of three seconds for Dean to register what Colleen had said, then she stood and walked out to the cot where Gus was getting a short rest. After waking him gently, they returned to her office to wait for Colleen and Tracy. By three o’clock the four of them were sitting around a table just outside Dean’s office.

"Okay… let me start from the beginning." Colleen told the group eagerly waiting for her commentary. "Remember how I was complaining about Brutus pestering me?"

"Yeah, and me too Dean, remember how I was telling you he kept wanting out of the house?" Tracy added.

"Well…" Colleen picked up the conversation again. "Tracy and I got to talking about it tonight as I was listening to the tape for the umpteenth time… and Brutus was going through his antics… again! Then it finally hit me… what if the stimulus is a sound above the hearing range of humans, but still in the range for animals like dogs?" Colleen smiled then continued. "So, we did a little experiment with Brutus. We took off the tape, and played with him. Then I would go to the tape player and put on the tape and Brutus would get antsy and go out the back door while Tracy was still trying to entice him to play. We’d take off the tape, bring Brutus in, and start all over again with the same results… off Brutus would go out the back door! We repeated this several more times and got the same results."

Gus smacked his forehead at the simplicity of the stimulus. "We need to get an oscilloscope to measure the frequency he’s using. Human hearing peaks out at 20,000Hz, so it’s got to be over that but still within a dogs range. I’ll get one here by morning… sooner if possible." Then he stood to get to the phone banks by the silent surveillance equipment.

"We should probably have the Docs prepare a dose of the drug and test it." Dean said as she picked up the conversation. "We’ll also need to know if only one voice can give orders or if several voices can give orders. If this works… we could use it on Dimitri to get the hard evidence we need and find out what Kasimov has up his sleeve. We’ve got our work cut out for us."

"Yeah. We figured the sooner you could get on this the better your chance of making the deadline… whatever that may be." Tracy commented.

Tracy and Colleen stood to leave when Dean stopped them. "Hey… I don’t know what to say other than thanks. You both, really came through for me." She stood and walked over to the two women and embraced each one before she continued. "Would you want to come back in the morning to see how it’s going?" Dean finished with a raised eyebrow.

Tracy and Col looked at each other than nodded in agreement. "Yeah! Of course we would!" Said Tracy. "But, are you sure it’s okay for us to be around… I wouldn’t want you to get in any trouble for involving civilians."

"You leave that to me… I’ll make sure you two have clearance!" Dean said enthusiastically as she embraced each woman once more, then walked them to the door. "Better get some rest now… and thanks again!"

After Tracy and Colleen left, Dean went over to Gus’ area to discuss the testing that would need to be carried out before they could use the drug on Dimitri. Gus had already contacted the two sleepy Doctors who said they would be in with the drug sample by 0700. Gus suggested that Dean get some rest in the interim since there wasn’t much she could do right now. She concurred and they both returned to their former status… napping.


Tuesday… 0700 Hours…

At precisely 0700, Doctor’s Berg and Randall arrived at the court building. Gus was already hooking up the oscilloscope so they could determine the frequency of the sound waves that Dimitri used. Dean was up and showered and on her second cup of tea when she met the Doctors entering through the door.

"Looks like we’ve got a break." Commented Dr. Randall.

"Of course, we’ll have to do some testing first to determine the length of time the subject needs to be exposed to the ultrasonic frequency and determine how the vocal commands are controlled." Added Dr. Berg. "I realize we don’t have much time, so the sooner we get started the better. Do you have any test subjects in mind?"

"I’ve asked for volunteers, people who would not be involved in the mission once we move it to New York City. We have about fifteen people ready to act as guinea pigs for you." Dean replied. "I’d like to have a task force briefing at 0730 in front of my office so we can determine our game plan for the next two days."

The two Doctors nodded, and took their supplies over to an empty area in the center of the courts where several tables and cots were set up for them. They were using a liquid form of the drug because it is more controllable than a gaseous version. It wouldn’t be good to accidentally drug Dean or any of Bruce’s team. At 0730 the Doctors met with the rest of the task force by Dean’s office.

Dean stood and began the briefing. "As you know by now, thanks to a couple of friends, we’ve discovered that the stimulus that activates the mind control drug is an ultra sonic frequency of 24,000 hertz." Dean introduced Colleen and Tracy and explained how they made their discovery. "We could have been searching for years and never have found the stimulus without a dog in the lab." Someone in the back of the area shouted that there was something to be said for pets in the workplace, which led to a round of laughter. "All right… all right!" Dean said as she held up her hand smiling. "Let’s get on with it shall we? Doctors Berg and Randall will explain how they are going to do the testing… Doctors?"

Beth stood and explained that they would be using a small liquid amount of the drug on the individuals that agreed to be used for testing. Then they would be exposed, one at a time, to the ultrasonic sound waves and commanded to do some task such as climb a ladder to the ceiling for someone who was afraid of heights. Questions came from the assembled group on how the sound waves worked and would it hurt them.

"Not at all," Replied Dr. Randall. "A sound wave is just a transmission of energy by a series of vibrations. Normally, a human’s hearing is receiving sound waves on the eardrum causing the drum to vibrate. This vibration of the ear drum in turn affects the hammer, anvil and stirrup located within the inner ear and eventually the auditory nerve which carries the impulses to the brain for interpretation. It’s not necessary to get into the physiology of that process." They all heard someone mumble ‘thank you’ to which she responded ‘you’re welcome.’ "Ultrasound waves are waves that are emitted at a higher frequency than the human ear can register. Ultrasound technology has been used for NDT for years... that stands for Non-Destructive Testing. Sonograms are the most recognized use, but they are also used to test for structural integrity of aircraft, railroad rails, and even nuclear reactors. Basically what happens is that ultrasonic waves cause an oscillation of atoms. In this case, that oscillation releases the drug, the drug in turn affects the central nervous system, which in turn causes a response to the voice commands given. Does everybody follow so far?" As Leigh continued she explained that transducers are used to emit the ultrasonic waves. It then dawned on Dean that the assignment Trina Carbon’s cartel team received was to place and operate transducers not transformers. The Doctors finished the background on the testing procedure and the stimulus. What they needed to find out was three fold. First, did the person only respond to the first voice they heard after the ultrasound treatment? Second, did the ultrasound emission have to continue throughout the command process in order to be effective? And, third, how much of a dose was necessary before a reaction would occur. After answering a few questions the Doctors turned the briefing over to Dean.

"Okay… here’s what we need to do. Testing group: report to the Doctors immediately after we dismiss. Bruce’s team: I’ll be over to review your worst case scenarios shortly. The rest of Gus’ team: finish assembling the transducers for testing. Any questions? Dismissed!"

* * * * * * * * * *

After several hours working with Bruce’s team, they settled on the most probable scenario. It would involve as many New Yorkers as Kasimov could expose to the sound waves via the transducer emissions. These individuals could then be used to cause a human ‘gridlock’ in, around, or near the UN buildings. While police, who could also be affected by the ultrasound waves, would be sent to control the crowds tried to contain the chaos. Every time someone would enter the ultrasound stream, more chaos would result. With that going on outside the UN building, Kasimov would be free to carry out his plan inside the UN. He may even try to penetrate that body with ultrasound waves causing more chaos… or… destruction... and she needed to know what exactly was scheduled for the UN on the 30th.

Tracy and Colleen had left to drop in on Katie and inform her of the developments as well as to confirm that she would be released from the hospital the next day. With the situation going to the wire, they had offered to pick her up and bring her to the court building or to Dean’s cabin. Whichever she was up to doing. Dean had stayed behind at the court building in case the Docs made a break through on the dosage and timing.

* * * * * * * * *


Wednesday… 0500 Hours…

"Damn it Bruce! We’re going to slow… I’ve got to get to Dimitri and find out what Kasimov is planning!" Dean began to pace back and forth waiting for the results of the Doctor’s testing. It was nearly 0500 hours and they were still trying to determine the amount of dosage and time in the system needed for the correct results. Then there was still the question of the command voice. Dr. Randall was noting changes on the cellular levels of the subjects, but the full effect was not happening yet.

"Maybe we got this all wrong." Dean said beginning to doubt her ability to get the results needed. "Maybe we missed something…" She was sitting, thoroughly exhausted, on a bench by the Doctor’s partitions when she overheard the Doctors giving another round of commands to the last set of their charges, only this time, they did what they were told! They repeated another command, and they followed through. Then they were given the ultimate command. They were each told to pick up a pistol (unloaded of course) and fire point blank at their partner. They did it! Then Beth gave the commands, and they did not respond. Dean was so excited she could have kissed the Doctors and everyone in the building, instead she calmly walked over to the Doctors for the results.

"Eighteen hours! It has to be in the system for eighteen hours!" Bellowed Dean. "That doesn’t give us much leeway Beth. By the time I get it into Dimitri, then get the info to General James, he gets it to the bureaucrats, then we get permission to respond… hell, we’ll be lucky if we have time to breathe. If the plan is for Thursday night… well, maybe…. but we’re screwed if it’s for the morning!" She took the proffered dose and she and Bruce headed out to the Trooper’s barracks.

"How we gonna get him to take this?" Bruce asked during the short ride.

"We’ll think of something." Was all she responded.

When they entered the barracks, they asked for Major Vance and were told he wasn’t due in until 8:00 o’clock. Then they asked to see the prisoners and were refused admittance. "Damn it man… this is a case of national security! Get me the Major on the phone!" Dean insisted. After five minutes of refusal, Dean about had it and was ready to bull her way into the prisoner’s quarters. Finally the desk sergeant that was on duty the last time they were in walked into the barracks. They approached him and finally got in to see Dimitri at 6:00 AM. When Dimitri entered the interrogation room he sensed that this was not going to be a friendly chat and began speaking English for the first time, demanding his rights as an Embassy official. Nonplussed, Dean motioned for the corporal to leave the prisoner with them. As the Trooper closed the door, Bruce stepped up behind Dimitri and held him still. Dean carried over the dose of the drug and calmly asked Dimitri to open his mouth. When he refused, she reached up and held his nose until he finally had to gasp for a breath. At that moment, Dean shoved the drug into his mouth and then held his mouth closed until the drug had enough time to be swallowed and absorbed into his system. She and Bruce both had surgical gloves on and Teflon coverings over their clothes, just in case. As it turned out Dimitri was a good boy and didn’t spill or spit any of it out.

"Well Dimitri… I’ll bet you know what you just swallowed, don’t you? So I guess we’ll be back a little later to have a chat." Dean said with a feral smile. Then she called for the Trooper to take him away. She cautioned the Trooper that Dimitri was a potential suicide possibility and to put him on a suicide watch and remove anything that could be dangerous out of his reach. The Trooper nodded and took a seething Dimitri away to a private and empty cell. On their way out, they ran into Major Vance and updated him regarding Dimitri and the drug they just administered. Major Vance was not too happy to hear they had drugged one of his prisoners, but then Dean gave him General James personal phone number to call if he should get nervous. Then they left.

On the ride back, Dean let Bruce drive. The case was taking its toll on her and she decided that she had better make the best of the next few hours and get a little rest. Once back at the court building, she went directly to her office and crashed on her couch until she was wakened at 1330 by the sounds of voices greeting Katie as she slowly walked into the building.

* * * * * * * *

Tracy and Colleen led a wobbly Katie into Dean’s office. "Hey." Dean said smiling as she greeted them.

"Wow, this is really strange." Katie muttered. "All these people know me and the only person I know is Beth… and of course you guys now. I certainly hope my memory comes back!"

Dean carefully led Katie over to the couch where she helped her get comfortable. "So how are you feeling today?" Dean asked.

"Not too bad really. A lot better than I look." The bruise on Katie’s temple was just turning that ugly yellow-green-purplish color. "The cuts on my back must be healing okay ‘cause the stitches are itching like crazy and the fuzziness is finally gone from my head. Only thing I’ve got to concentrate on now is this shoulder but I won’t be able to start any real therapy till the surgery is healed." The blonde looked up into Dean’s sapphire blue eyes and got lost for a long minute before she recovered. "So… umm, what’s been going on here? I understand Col found out how to stimulate the drug."

"Yeah." Dean said smiling up at Colleen, then she went through their progress up to this point. "We’ve got to go back and interrogate Dimitri, but we have to wait for the drug to take root first." She looked at her watch then added, "That will be in about eleven more hours."

"Eleven hours!" Came the response from the three women. "That’s the soonest?"

"Yeah, it’s definitely going to cramp my style." Dean replied, "but there’s not much else we can do. It’s our best shot at finding out Kasimov’s plans."

"What can we do in the meantime?" Katie asked earnestly.

"We… are doing all we can to get ready…" She moved her hand around to indicate herself, Tracy, Colleen, and the rest of the task force outside the office. "You," She pointed at Katie, "are going to do nothing but rest and heal."

"Hey, no fair, I can do something… can’t I?" She asked batting her emerald eyes seductively. Dean had been a sucker for those eyes since she first met her in the diner so she stopped, smiled, and told the young agent she could answer the phones. "The phones!" Katie protested, but Dean just shook her head and told her that was just as important a job right now as anything else going on.

* * * * * * * * *

Wednesday… 2300 Hours

By 2300, Dean and Bruce had been over their worst case scenario several times and the last time was on a conference call to General James. The general had agreed earlier to put a multi-service response team on emergency training drills. One division of Navy Seals was tasked with the job of seeking out and destroying any transducers or public address systems they could detect. Another division of Army Delta Force soldiers would stand by to enter the UN buildings and disarm without injury anyone with a weapon. The third division of Marine ReCon soldiers would infiltrate the warehouse in New Jersey to terminate any media broadcasts, and three divisions of Military Police would be assigned to control the chaos outside the UN Headquarters. The Air Force was on standby to airlift Dean’s team to the UN Headquarters and the other divisions as close to the designated areas in the city as possible. The trick was getting them there quickly. Moving that many troops in a few hours was a monumental task that normally would take months of execution practice and planning. They had barely forty eight hours to gather the teams and develop the plan. Timing was going to be everything and it all came down to whether the politicians would give the green light to the military or would try to talk their way out of it. Dean was not a talker… she preferred action.

At 2400, Dean, Bruce and Katie made the trip to the Trooper’s barracks to interrogate Dimitri. Katie talked her way into going along, but she was going to have to stay in the observation room next door. When the Trooper brought in Dimitri, he had obviously been trying to commit suicide because they had him confined in an old fashioned straight jacket and he had a motorcycle helmet on his head.

"Well, Dimitri, looks like you’ve been trying to hurt yourself." Dean said as he was forced to sit in a chair. She opened a box that Gus had prepared for them and flicked on a switch to the transducer. Dimitri’s eyes were wild with apprehension, but as soon as Dean spoke and began giving him commands, he turned as docile as a newborn lamb. "So, Dimitri, what is Kasimov planning with the cartel?" She asked as she turned on the tape player.

"Andre is going to take over the world with their help."

"And how is he going to do that?"

"With his mind control drugs."

"Be more specific Dimitri… what is he planning to do on the 30th of December?"

"He is going to have everyone in the General Assembly Hall at the UN terminated."


"He has contaminated the entire city water supply with the mind control drug. At a set time, he will introduce the ultrasonic sound waves to activate the drugs. There will be a media black out and then his voice will be the only one broadcast telling the people of New York to go outside their buildings and into the streets to demand an end to the United States interfering with the politics and decisions of other countries. This will make it virtually impossible for any help to reach the UN complex."

"Looks like we called the chaos thing right Colonel." Bruce whispered to Dean.

She nodded then continued. "Yeah, then what?"

"He also has transducers planted in the General Assembly Hall and throughout the UN Headquarters that are set to emit their ultrasonic waves during the Millennium Conference when the President of the United States addresses the assembly. Anyone in the complex who has drunk from the city water supply will be affected."

"When does the conference start and how will he terminate the assembly?"

"9:00 AM on the 30th. There will be many guards in the room because of all the heads of state present. They will be carrying a variety of weapons. They will be instructed to open fire on the assembly and the dignitaries on the dais. The assembly will be told to kill the people around them any way they can. The UN security force will also be commanded to enter the Assembly Hall and open fire on the crowd."

Mentally, Dean was calculating they only had eight hours to stop the slaughter. "How can we stop him?"

"You can’t, everything is already in motion."

"That’s what you think buster… I won’t be late this time!" Dean said as she turned off the tape and nodded to the wide-eyed Trooper to take Dimitri back to his cell.

"You can take the jacket and helmet off… let him do whatever he wants now!" Bruce told the Trooper as he led the docile Dimitri out of the room.

As soon as Dean turned off the tape recorder, Katie flew out of the observation room and was waiting in the hall for Dean and Bruce. When they exited the room, Dean’s face was a picture of pure determination. "Lets go." Dean said as they hurried out to the SUV to return to their headquarters. In the vehicle, she placed a call to General James and played the tape for him. "Jack, we gotta go with this ASAP or we’re screwed." Dean said into the phone after the tape finished. "Yes, I know that!…" she muttered into the phone. "They what? Tell me this is some kind of a joke! Jack… don’t let me down on this one!" She hung up and immediately let out a series of curses that made Bruce blush as she remembered Kasimov’s speech to the cartel representatives at the lodge when he said he was going to ‘level the playing field.’

"What’s the plan Colonel?" Bruce asked after she finished.

"The General is under orders to report to the White House first before he orders any troops to converge on the UN." Dean was obviously very pissed off now. "Seems he was reprimanded for coming up with the ‘training exercises.’ Some member nation let it out that the US military was performing training exercises on an aircraft carrier just outside the New York harbor. It made some of the UN member nations uncomfortable to know there were military exercises in progress so close to the city and he was told to put them on hold." She slammed the dashboard with her fist. "None of the teams are ready for anything… let alone deployment!"

"Fuckin’ assholes! Just how do they think they’ll stop Kasimov now?" Bruce was now getting into the very pissed range of emotion. "Don’t they know you can’t move troops that size without planning?"

"Dean, that Assembly Hall holds 1,800 people!" Katie said as she looked into Dean’s eyes.

"Let’s get back to the task force… we’ll have to come up with our own plan." Dean said with a growl.

* * * * * * * * *

Wednesday… 0130 Hours…

"That’s where we stand right now." Dean concluded her briefing on the interrogation and the call to General James. "Any ideas?"

"There’s no way we’ll be able to locate and destroy all the transducers in time." Commented Gus. "Besides I don’t think the UN security will give us access to the building with all those heads of state arriving shortly. I sure as hell wouldn’t!"

Bruce pulled out the blue prints for the UN complex. "Gus is right on that one. They’ll be on high alert with the dignitaries coming so they won’t be too cooperative. This is the security force headquarters." He pointed out the location on the plans. "They have additional stations here, here and there in the Assembly Building alone. Our best bet is to try and get into the Assembly Building and then work to keep everyone else out."

"Okay, but how do we keep from getting killed by the 1,800 people in the Hall?" This question came from Katie. "If we can’t stop the transducers or the broadcast that is."

"Good point Katie." Dr. Randall said before she stood to continue. "Dr. Berg and I have been discussing possibilities to counteract the drug all evening. We believe, and we have tested this on our human subjects, that if we can anesthetize them… put them to sleep… they won’t be able to respond to the commands. The problem now is how do we do that to 1,800 people all at once?"

"Damn Leigh, that’s a great idea!" Dean said as she grabbed the building plans and looked for the maintenance schematics. "Bruce can we get to the HVAC system?"

Bruce looked over the blueprints and nodded in the affirmative. "It’s right inside the roof entrance, we can do it."

"Gus, how much gas would we need to knock ‘em all out?"

"Depends on what gas we use… if we use the KO237 series, we’d need probably twenty-five of the big tanks. Any other gas and we’d have to double it and it’ll take time to get it all in there, that’s a lot of space! KO237 is a heavier gas too, it’ll float right down to the floor as soon as it comes out of the vents." Gus calculated a bit more than told the group it would take at least thirty-minutes before the participants would be on their way to dreamland.

"Colonel why don’t we just keep them out of the Assembly Hall instead?" This came from Quentin.

"Too risky Quent. If we leave them out on the street, we can’t control the situation. There’s no telling how many innocent lives may be lost with the chaos going on out there." Dean told the young agent. "It’s better to let them in and keep the rest out. We’re in control that way and can keep them safe." She looked around the room. "Any other questions?" When none came she responded. "Okay, that’s what we’ll do."

Dean grabbed the phone and dialed General James. "Jack… have you heard anything yet?" She shook her head and sighed. "Well we’ve got a plan but I need your help… No… we won’t use your troops unless they consent… Yes… it could cost you your stars." Dean outlined the idea they had and requested thirty tanks of KO237 to be airlifted to West Point. She’d also need at least three choppers to then transport the tanks and her crew to the city and enough gas masks for them. "We’ll be waiting for them at the Point. You’ve got my cell number… and Jack… thanks." When she hung up everyone in the task force was watching her. "Now, how do we keep everyone else out?" Dean said with a smile as they looked over the blueprints one more time.

It took them nearly an hour more before they had the plan worked out and the assignments made. Katie talked Dean into letting her go as far as West Point where she’d wait until she got the all clear signal to come in to the city with Tracy and Colleen.

They needed to get to the Point as soon as possible and that might prove to be the toughest part. The roads were clear of snow and there was little traffic at this time of night… but a little help from the Troopers would go a long way. Dean called Major Vance and explained the need to get to the Point. He offered two Trooper escort vehicles and guaranteed they would get there in two hours, possibly less. By 0330 they were dressed in their black camos with their various agency initials on their backs. The Trooper cars were waiting for them on the Quickway. As promised, they were at the Point in one hour and fifty minutes, unfortunately, the choppers weren’t there yet.

"Jack, it’s Dean. Are the choppers on their way?" Dean was pacing the small tarmac as she talked. "That’s going to be cutting it close Jack." She nodded as the general spoke then hung up the phone.

"What’s the delay Colonel?"

"Took him longer than he thought to round up thirty tanks of KO237. The ETA on the choppers is 0600, fifteen minutes to refuel, then the flight to Manhattan… we’ll have maybe thirty minutes to get in and secure the building and start pumping the gas." She frowned then added. "The heads of state are due to arrive at 0800. General James told me that at 0830, they’re all supposed to be in and seated for a pre-conference concert by a consolidated choir of two hundred children from throughout the city."

"Damn, sure hate to expose those kids to that knock out gas." Bruce said shaking his head. "They’ll have one hell of a headache when they wake up."

"Nothing we can do about it now. We can’t wait to pump the gas. The President is scheduled to speak as soon as they’re done." Dean told the group. "I just hope they don’t fall asleep before the rest of the group because if Kasimov is watching, he’s liable to get suspicious and move up his starting time." The group fell silent and checked over their equipment as Dean paced until they heard the far off sound of helicopters.

* * * * * * * * * *

At 0630 the choppers lifted off for their trek to Manhattan. Dean had looked for Katie on the tarmac as they lifted off but only saw Tracy. She must be inside with Colleen. Dean thought as she felt the pain of her absence. Poor kid must be totally beat. I shouldn’t have let her come down here with us.

It was almost 0715 when they began sliding down the ropes from the choppers onto the roof of the Assembly Building. The pilots had muted the props and the sky was just starting to lighten. Thank God for long winter nights. Muttered Dean as she descended the rope. Any later and we’d be spotted for sure. It took them only three minutes to totally disembark the choppers, tanks and all. So far so good, now let’s get in and get on with it.

The HVAC area was on the floor directly below the roof so at least they didn’t have to carry the tanks far. They weighed in at nearly two hundred pounds each so it would take them a while to get them all inside. Bruce had disabled the security system as soon as he touched down on the roof. He blew the lock on the roof door with some of Dean’s magic powder. After that he scouted the HVAC room with another team member. As soon as he gave the all clear, the rest of the team moved the tanks in. They helped set up the relays on each tank before the team assembled for final departure to their targets.

Every member of the team was wearing a communication unit so they could all be in touch and report in once their objectives were taken. "Okay," Dean whispered into her com unit, "Remember, we’re not here to hurt anyone. Use your stun guns and knock out sprays first, and only disable with your live ammo if you have to use force. Bruce, give the commands." Bruce gave the signals to each two-man unit to begin towards their targets. A team of three stayed behind and began connecting the relays with the pumping system they brought with them to tap into the HVAC unit. They had thirty minutes to get everything set and start the gas into the building.

* * * * * * * * *

The two-man teams deployed silently toward their targets cognizant of the security cameras on their routes. Each person carried a small set of diagrams of the Assembly Building, each marked with their primary route and a back-up route. The hard part was to get to the four security offices and disable the guards in each one before an alarm could be sounded as the UN guards started to succumb to the gas. They had to time the security camera sweeps at each intersection before they could proceed. This alone slowed the progress of the teams. At 0829 Dean gave the signal to don their masks.

"Oh ho… Natasha! Look what I see." Kasimov and Natasha were in the communications booth where the speeches were translated into several languages for relay via headphones to the participants in the hall. It also contained a full set of security cameras including one backstage behind the dais. "It looks like little Lin was right… Lt. Colonel Peterson did figure it out! Too bad she won’t live long enough to see the tragedy the United States government brought to all these unsuspecting heads of state!" He chuckled as Natasha finished dragging the last UN guard into the booth. The translators were all dead, shot with silenced weapons. "Go see where she’s going, eh Natasha?" Natasha looked up at her mentor and smiled with glee at the opportunity to meet her nemesis face-to-face.

The first team to report was Bruce’s. Dean heard his code over her com unit. "tango – 1" Then she heard ‘bravo–-1,’ charlie – 1,’ and finally ‘zulu – 1,’ report in. All the security stations were secure. Now they had to secure the entrances and exits. She looked at her watch. They had 15 minutes to get this done. There were two exits or entrances to secure per team. It was going to be damn close. Dean headed toward the hall behind the main dais. She was not worried about the security cameras now that the four security offices were neutralized. She was in a hurry to make sure the President and Secretary General were safe. The next series of reports came in. tango-2, bravo-2, Charlie-2, and zulu-2. Okay, half the entrances are covered… just a little bit more to go. Dean thought as she continued down her corridor toward her objective. Then tango-3, Charlie-3, and zulu-3, came over her com unit. C’mon, bravo… c’mon. "Bruce, go see what the hold up is with bravo… the rest of you get to your posts."

Dean had just entered the back stage area behind the dais. It was now 0858. The people in the hall should be groggy or at least asleep by now but she didn’t dare look out to check. Not yet. As she looked down to check her watch, she caught a glimpse of movement behind her in the watch face. She turned and saw a gas masked person coming at her fast. At first she thought one of her team was trying to reach her regarding bravo the she suddenly realized it was Natasha. She moved quick enough to avoid the blow but not quick enough to avoid the knife blade that followed. It sliced across her right bicep causing her to wince with the pain. She reached up automatically and held her left hand over her bicep to control the bleeding. Natasha recovered from the near miss and turned towards Dean once more, only this time Dean was ready. Releasing her hold on her bicep, Dean smiled at Natasha and waved her on. This incensed the Russian and she leapt toward Dean and received a roundhouse kick to her head for her effort. It sent her sprawling, nearly knocking off her mask and causing her to drop her blade. Natasha stood quickly and shook off the blow to her head then began a dance with Dean, each looking for the next opportunity to strike a blow. Natasha’s came first. Natasha feinted right then swiftly changed direction and landed a kick to Dean’s injured arm. Pain shot through Dean as the kick landed causing her to stumble backwards and trip on a spool of electrical cables. Natasha jumped on top of Dean and reached for her mask breaking the seal a bit to where Dean inhaled a slight amount of the gas still lingering near the floor. Dean grabbed at Natasha’s hands in time and reseated the mask, then the two struggled for dominance. Using her larger size and leverage to advantage, Dean flipped Natasha over her head and got to her feet. The younger Natasha rolled with the flip and immediately came at Dean once more. A series of kicks and punches landed on each combatant as they struggled to subdue each other. Natasha focused her attacks on the already injured arm taking away Dean’s ability to counter punch with each blow. Dean backed off beginning to feel the effects of the gas but still managed to land a solid kick to Natasha’s side, which sent her sprawling once more. As Natasha began to rise she noticed the knife by her foot. She carefully picked it up and hid it behind her back then raised her hands in defeat.

"Giving up so soon Natasha? What’s the matter, can’t take what you give out?" Dean growled as she reached for her pistol.

With lightening speed, Natasha reached behind her back grabbing the knife to throw at Dean when a silenced round cut through the air piercing her hand as her movement started forward. The knife clattered to the ground as Natasha reached up to hold her injured hand. Dean looked up startled by the sudden movement then looked toward the doorway at her rescuer who was slowly approaching the two women, gun still trained on the fallen Russian.

"Thanks." Dean said as her rescuer approached.

"You’re welcome." Said the rescuer as Dean came closer only then realizing that the eyes that looked through her mask into hers were the most beautiful emerald green ones that belonged only to Katie.

"What… how?" Dean asked a bit hazily.

The sound of running feet caught their attention as Bruce and three team members came in followed by General James and several Delta Force soldiers. "It’s safe to take your masks off now." Bruce said to the two women who immediately took theirs off.

"Looks like you got a bit of that stuff in your system or she never would have got the best of you." Katie chuckled. "Here let’s take a look at that arm of yours." They sat on some chairs by the back wall where Katie called over Bruce. "Take care of that okay… I don’t quite have two hands to use yet."

"What do you mean… I was in full control of the situation!" Dean shot back.

"Oh… you can catch thrown knives?" Katie asked raising an eyebrow.

"Well, we’ll never know now, will we?" The taller woman replied chuckling. "Say, that was some pretty good shooting. Where’d you learn to do that?"

"Gunnery Sergeant at Quantico… ‘Objectify your target then squeeze between breaths.’ I finally got to test his lesson to see if he was right." The young woman smiled. "Guess he is!"

The Delta Force troops had finished handcuffing Natasha and brought her over to where Dean, Katie, Bruce and now General James were. "Take her out with that other Russian bastard!" The general ordered. Natasha swore a blue streak when she realized the blonde sitting next to Dean was the ‘maid.’ After tolerating her threats for a heartbeat, Katie just stood up and got in her face then said, "I wasn’t finished cleaning up yet… now I am!" Then sat down to a room full of laughter as they led her out.

"Jack, how’s the President and the rest of the assembly?" Dean inquired.

"Sleeping like little lambs… unfortunately, he may not be too happy about the hangover!" Then he laughed some more. "We were lucky to get here when we did. Thank God I kept my Delta Forces training!" General James commented. "There’s a real mess outside. We’re still flying in MP Units to control the chaos. It’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal out there!"

"So they finally approved the plan?" Gus asked.

"Nope… did it on my own!" General James replied. "Guess I’ll lose a star or two for disobeying orders."

"What about Kasimov?" Katie chimed in. "Did you get him?"

"Oh, yeah! Found him six paces from the communications room door. Guess he didn’t realize we gassed the place!" Bruce informed them. "Can’t wait to hear his complaints when he wakes up."

"Jack, what if he claims innocence and Embassy immunity? Will they let him go?" Dean was obviously upset that he might get away with it.

"Once the new Russian President hears Dimitri’s tape, and we get Natasha here to turn over on him, he won’t stand a chance!" Jack replied as he stood to walk towards the door. "Oh, look who else we found." Jack said as he turned back to the women. "She was locked in the communications room with the translators. Unfortunately, the translators are all dead. We’ll be able to nail that on Natasha and Andre too."

Lin walked over toward Katie and Dean smiling. Dean realized that Katie had no memory of Lin so she walked over to meet Lin and advise her that Katie probably wouldn’t remember her due to the blows to her head. As she walked over, General James had stopped to talk to Lin as the Delta Force team was taking the President out on a stretcher. Lin stiffened, then stopped talking to the General, grabbed his gun and pointed it at the President. Jack, although surprised by the action, was able to step in front of the pistol as she pulled the trigger. The loud report of the gun brought swift action by the rest of the Delta Force in the room. They quickly subdued Lin and cuffed her. Dean and Katie ran to where the general was lying on the floor.

"Jack, hang on, we’ll get you to a hospital… just hang on!" Dean said with tears in her eyes as she held his head in her lap. Jack looked up at Dean the light fading quickly from his eyes. He coughed; looking up with unfocused eyes and said, "Guess they won’t be able to take my stars away now…" then he closed his eyes and exhaled his last breath.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lieutenant General John R. James was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery three days later. His wife and three children, The President of the United States, and representatives from every member country of the United Nations, attended his funeral. Dean, in full dress uniform and her arm in a sling, sat next to his wife and children. Katie, Tracy, Colleen, and the entire task force were also present. The President presented the Medal of Honor to his wife and Dean presented her with the American Flag from his coffin. His Delta Force Team concluded the internment with a twenty-one-gun salute.

The End


During the first six months of the new millennium several of the cartel members that took part in the UN plot were captured and were awaiting trial. Under the influence of Kasimov’s mind control drug, Natasha gave damaging testimony regarding Kasimov’s plan and the new Russian regime dealt out justice swiftly. Kasimov was executed in mid April and Natasha and Dimitri were permanent residents in a Siberian prison. It had take nearly two weeks to restore order in New York City but it was going to take much longer to repair the economic damage that resulted from the fiasco. Wall Street had to remain closed for two weeks to insure no adverse reactions from the drug would invade the financial centers. All the transducers were finally located and destroyed. Doctor’s Berg and Randal were able to declare the water system free of drugs four weeks after the event. New Yorkers were told that the water supply had been contaminated and the government recommended that residents drink bottled water. The government supplied bottled water for the four week period to those citizen’s who requested it.

* * * * * * * *

It was July 4th weekend and the country was celebrating its first millennium celebration of this holiday. Parties and parades were the name of the game everywhere in the country. Dean and Katie were at the quiet little cabin having a barbeque for a few friends before they closed up the cabin and put it back on the rental market. Dean was reporting back to duty at the Pentagon in two weeks and Katie was coming off her rehabilitation leave to return to the DEA. Tracy and Colleen had arrived a few minutes before Beth and Leigh. Kelly and Byron were in charge of BBQ duty and Linna was sitting with her boss and the rest of the women on the porch as they watched Colleen and Katie play with Brutus.

"Whatever became of Lin?" Linna asked Dean.

"She was held until Leigh here tested her and found her under the influence of Kasimov’s mind control drug. He used her as a sleeper in case anything went wrong." Dean said. "We all testified to her assistance in breaking the case. Last I heard she was back in Japan at her old job."

Laughter came from the back yard as Colleen and Katie played pickle in the middle with a Frisbee and Brutus, the dog was doing his best as the ‘pickle.’ A miffed toss by Colleen allowed Brutus to leap into the air running away with the Frisbee.

"She looks great." Commented Beth. "Her physical therapy sessions have done wonders for her shoulder. You’d never know she had surgery except for that thin scar."

"Yeah…" Dean sighed. "We were able to go through therapy together for a while. She really made me work hard to get my bicep back up to strength. I think the therapy was good for both of us." She paused as she took a sip of her beer. "Helped me work through my grief over Jack too."

"Has she ever regained her lost memory?" Leigh asked as she watched Brutus pull on a length of rope now playing tug of war with the two humans on the other end.

"No… nothing!" Dean sighed again.

"I keep telling her she ought to let Katie know how the two of them felt for each other, but no… this one’s so damn stubborn sometimes!" Tracy said miserably. "I mean, it’s obvious the way Katie looks at her that she’s got feelings for her… she’s probably just afraid to act on them."

"Tracy… how many times do I have to say this… if I tell her and she stays with me, I’ll never know if it’s because she really loves me, or if she thinks she’s supposed to!" Dean replied a bit testily. "Enough already!" Then she stood and reached for another beer out

of the cooler, handing each woman a fresh beer in the process.

"Dean… have you ever seen the Little Mermaid?" Linna asked in all seriousness.

"Of course, what about it?"

"Sometimes you have to ‘Kiss the Girl’! Linna said as the three other women broke out singing the song.

* * * * * * * *

"So… Katie, have you told Dean how you feel about her?" Colleen asked as the large playful German Shepard pulled the two women around.

"No… I can’t. Every time I get up the nerve, something happens and the moment slips away." Katie said sadly.

"You do realize she loves you don’t you?" Colleen told the blonde.

"Then why doesn’t she say something to me? She’s so hard to understand sometimes." Katie sighed as Brutus pulled the rope away and started to run with it.

"You two are the most stubborn and obstinate women on this planet! Just do it will ya! You’re running out of time!" Colleen almost shouted, then took her friend by the shoulders. "You love her, she loves you… what don’t you understand?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey you two… time to eat!" Byron called as Kelly finished taking the steaks off the grill.

"Be right there!" Colleen called back. "Guess it’s time to devour those humongus steaks Tracy brought over… It’s a good thing too, I’m starved!"

"Me too!" Came the cheery response from the blonde.

As they walked back up toward the cabin, Brutus spotted a bunny coming out from under the brush on the other side of the stream. He turned toward the rabbit barking then splashed into the stream hot on its tail. Katie saw what his target was and took off after the large dog trying to get him before he could get his prey. Colleen tried to stop her shouting that all he did was chase them and not harm them, but she must not have heard. As Katie made it half way across the stream, her foot slipped on a moss covered stone and she fell backward smacking her head on a rock as she fell. At the cabin, the rest of the women watched as Katie fell in the stream. "Damn!" Shouted Dean as she rushed off the porch and got to the stream before anyone else.

"Be careful how you lift her!" Shouted Beth as she caught up to Dean. Byron, Dean, Kelly and Beth carefully carried the unconscious blonde up to the cabin. By the time they laid her down on the couch, Linna had already called for an ambulance. The two Doctors examined Katie and found no other injuries other than a large bump on the back of the head. Three minutes later and they could hear the siren as it approached the turnoff to Dean’s cabin. "She’ll be all right." Stated Beth as she put her pen light away.

"That’s what you said last time!" Dean spat out quickly, then regretted the words immediately. "I’m sorry… I…"

"It’s okay Dean… I understand." Beth said quietly as Leigh came up and put her arm around Beth.

As Katie was loaded in the ambulance Dean looked around the cabin. "Just go… go!" Linna said as she shooed Dean out. "We’ll take care of everything and lock up for you. Now go!"

Tracy, Colleen and the Docs followed the ambulance to the hospital in Dean’s SUV. Dean bulled her way into the ambulance much to the dismay of the EMT’s. When they got to the hospital it seemed like forever before Beth and Leigh came out to the waiting room area. "X-rays are normal. No fractures. She’s starting to come around and is asking for you."

Dean brightened and quickly went to the examination room where Katie was lying in the bed, eyes closed. She tiptoed in and stood by the bed hesitating a bit before she reached over and held Katie’s hand. Katie’s eyes opened and looked up into the concerned sapphires looking back at her.

"Hey… you really gave us a scare." Dean said softly. "Glad there’s no broken bones."

"Yeah, me too, only there is something…"

"What? Beth didn’t say anything was wrong… what is it?" Dean’s eyes widened, fear showing on her face.

Katie motioned Dean to lean down so she could whisper in her ear. "Do you remember the first time we made love?"

Dean raised up in astonishment, eyes even wider than before. "Yes…" She answered cautiously.

"Do you suppose we could do that again?" Green eyes twinkled back at her.

Out in the waiting room, Tracy and Colleen waited for the Doctors to give them an update. Beth sat down next to Tracy then looked at Colleen. "Do you suppose there’s someplace in town we can get dinner? I’m starved!" Beth said in her most serious tone.

"Umm, sure. She’s going to be here a while huh?" Tracy asked.

"Oh, I’m sure she’ll be out in a flash." Leigh winked at them. "She’s got her memory back!


The End (Continued in “Blue Holes to Terror”!)



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