Chapter 1

US Trip

In early January 2013 Lord Robert visits the US on a diplomatic trip to last a few weeks. He's accompanied by some university students as interns - many are studying political science or public relations, and some businessmen to help develop closer economic and political ties between the two countries. The trip is triggered by difficulties between Berant Ambassador Shumra and the US Secretary of State on a major bi-national trade agreement. They've reached an impasse in the talks and the US Senate is making ugly sounds about Berant's attitude. This visit is to repair the political fences and try to reach a mutual understanding on the more contentious issues. No blame is attached to the ambassador because the problem areas are ones where his instructions give him no leeway for negotiation and the US Secretary of State has an extremely hard line approach on the same issues, but the other way.

Gerry Mannheim is included in the party as an intern under his legal name, and that's how he'll be introduced to people on this trip. He'll be making the actual policy decisions Lord Robert will be implementing and presenting. Only a select few know Gerry's real role, and even the ambassador has been excluded from the very small group. Gerry is also there to recruit some very special people for his personal attack on U MAMA. People with very special technical skills, people who don't want to be identified and hired. It's taken a few years, but his local investigators have finally identified and confirmed the several people he wishes to hire. Now he's visiting the US to personally meet them and hire them; if he finds them acceptable to hire.

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday January 7th a big private jet arrives at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport. A group of forty-seven people disembark with some small hand carried luggage. While they head towards the customs area pallets with the rest of their luggage are unloaded, and accompanied by five passengers, to the main luggage inspection area. Instead of spreading out amongst the line of customs inspectors they form a large group at one end. At both customs points the people refuse to allow officials to inspect their baggage. Showing their passports the leader of each group asks to speak with the senior customs officer on duty.

The senior customs officer responds to the larger group first, since it's also just outside her office. She introduces herself to the leader of the group. Lord Robert says, "Good morning. I'm Lord Robert of Berant, the personal representative of His Majesty, King Harold. I, and my entourage, are here for a series of meeting with your government. My entourage consists of my assistants, businessmen, and my security personnel. Yes, they're well-armed and will stay armed. We all have diplomatic passports. I was expecting to be met by our ambassador and a representative from your State Department. However, we had a good tailwind and are two hours ahead of schedule. You should've been warned of our arrival." In fact they're right on their schedule, but ahead of the published one - for security reasons.

She replies, "Yes, I was warned. But, as you say, you're well ahead of schedule. You're so early none of the media have arrived yet. If you can all show me your passports I can clear you and your luggage." After examining and registering all the passports she rings the luggage area and authorises its unexamined release, because it's under diplomatic seal. She asks, "Excuse me, but why so much luggage?"

Lord Robert smiles, saying, "The bulk is equipment for the security guards, mostly surveillance gear; but does include extra body armour, weapons, and ammunition. Just in case it's needed. We've learned, the hard way, to provide for our own security and since our weapons all use specialised ammunition not available here we had to bring it with us." The customs officer is a little bit shocked. Although all the foreign governments bring in their own armed security people and weapons they're usually not so straight forward about explaining the weapons in the diplomatic luggage. He says, "We haven't finalised our schedule yet, but I'd really appreciate it if your people can finish their inspection of our aircraft as soon as possible. I'd like to shift it to La Guardia Airport soon so it'll be available for travel to Washington on Thursday." She nods while she picks up a phone and speaks to the officer in charge of aircraft inspections, it'll be ready very quickly.

The group moves away from the customs station and waits nearby. Ten minutes later a group of people hurry up to them. Ambassador Shumra introduces Lord Robert to the US State Department person with him. The representative from State is quick to touch base with the customs people, to ensure all went well.

When the party upstairs starts to walk away towards the entrance a van from the embassy is being loaded with the pallets of luggage from the plane. And the plane is being moved to another part of the airport to be inspected. Although why it's being inspected is beyond everyone involved. If they'd been smuggling anything in it would've been in the diplomatic luggage that can't be inspected, anyway; but the rules say check the plane, so they check the plane. Some think the checks may be to ensure the crew aren't up to anything on their own behalf.

While they drive to the embassy one of Shumra's staff is contacting the media organisations to inform them of the early arrival and a media interview at the embassy for 9:00 a.m. At the interview Lord Robert explains the purpose of the trip is to see if the problems with the trade agreement can be resolved or not, to foster closer economic cooperation, and to open up opportunities for Berant businesses to export more to the US. The media ask all the expected questions, and other questions about Berant's stance with the CIA and U MAMA.

Lord Robert replies, "We've spent over sixty years burying people, family and friends, who died during attacks by mercenaries hired by U MAMA. We're out to ensure no more of our people die because of their greed. Since the CIA are very active in their use of agents to help them plan and deliver the attacks they're also part of the problem. The people within the CIA who've been helping or are assisting U MAMA will pay the price for helping people murder our children."

Reaching into his pocket he removes a large cut diamond. He holds it up, saying, "Over the years I've heard many people speculate on why U MAMA want to take control of Berant. Both sides have kept that secret so as not to encourage others to enter the field and confuse the situation further. Now I can tell you. Well over a thousand years ago the Amir Clan found a diamond mine in the mountains that are the middle of their lands. They didn't use gems much and so very little was done to mine them. The gems were only very lightly mined by hand. During World War Two people from U MAMA found out about the mine and sought to take control of it. For many decades the diamonds were slowly and carefully mined by hand, then cut by clan members who were trained in the work. However, following the attacks on what we call the Day of Blood, since so much innocent blood was spilled, the Clan Father of the Amir, that's the person who controls the Amir Clan common property and leads the clan, ordered production to be modernised and techniques developed to remove all the diamonds without making it public. The last of the diamonds were removed late last year. They were mined using new and expensive methods that kept the operation hidden from all aerial observers. Those diamonds have been placed in storage around the world and will be slowly trickled onto the market. Most people call the gems AGM diamonds. The supply will increase, but it will be a slow increase because the Clan Father insists they still be cut by the trained clan members."

Most of the media people gasp, because AGM diamonds are the highest quality you can get; none knew where they came from and supplies are always small. Lord Robert continues, "AGM stands for Amir Gem Mine. The diamonds stored in hundreds of safe facilities around the world are currently valued at four hundred trillion dollars. Is it any wonder they wanted control of that wealth. Now the secret is out and public, so are the diamonds, there's no point in their launching any more attacks. But we still need to make them pay, and pay personally, for the harm they've done. We will make them pay. Part of the old mine is currently being rebuilt as an interesting museum and luxury hotel. When it opens later this year you can inspect and sleep where the diamonds once resided." The media are surprised by this revelation and ask a lot of questions. The information is provided and hand-outs with full details are also provided. This revelation of the diamonds is one of the major reasons of this trip. It serves a number of purposes, because it removes the value of further attacks by U MAMA while informing the government and businesses the Berant economy isn't as poor as they thought it was and Berant can withstand economic pressure. It also puts Berant back before the public as a very highly acceptable tourist destination.

After the press meeting finishes Lord Robert, Ambassador Shumra, and their various assistants sit down to discuss the many political issues to be dealt with in meetings with the US government officials. The main meetings are in Washington the week after next, with a few preliminary ones over the week before then. This week is to talk to US business people about improving trade relations. Gerry will also be doing some private recruiting.

The discussions start at 10:30 a.m. and finish at 3:00 p.m. They have lunch brought in and eat at the discussion table. The ambassador is very curious about the close attention given by one of the interns and the number of notes he hands Lord Robert. However, he says nothing because he knows many of the assistants are the real advisers to the King and Lord Robert is just their spokesperson. Many of the matters that concerned the ambassador are resolved, but none of the ones causing the trouble with the Secretary of State are resolved. After the meeting everyone goes to their rooms for a rest before dinner.


Unlike most embassies the Berant Embassy is located in New York, because the main point of its existence is to encourage commercial activities, both to and from Berant. The ambassador does also spend a lot of time at the Berant Consulate in Washington, DC.

All Tuesday is spent hosting an exhibition of Berant's exports in the Commercial Hall on the embassy grounds. About seven hundred US and Canadian businessmen are there, by invitation, to review the wares on display before it's opened for general public access. Everything on display is of a civilian commercial nature and not previously promoted outside of Berant. For the first time, Nolar is being actively promoted outside the country and the displays show evidence of its flexibility, strength, and versatility of use. Photos and films of the Birdman light, small, and medium planes are on hand with specification sheets. Some aircraft are at La Guardia Airport and appointments are made for interested people to examine them in the coming weeks; representatives from Birdman will deal with those meetings. The same is true of the boats from Dream Boats. Printed displays with appointments to view actual craft in Long Island Sound over the coming weeks. Fishing boats, small and medium pleasure craft, and luxury pleasure craft are on display at the marina; the fact they sailed almost halfway around the world to be there shows they're true ocean going vessels. Some military use craft are already under trial at a naval establishment in Maryland.


The whole day is spent by Lord Robert and various advisers visiting numerous businesses with offices in New York, these are previously arranged meetings. All the meetings are cordial and about numerous opportunities for the companies to profit by being the US importers of Berant products, or exporting to Berant, or expanding into Berant. In all these meetings the businessmen are wary of making firm commitments, because they're very concerned about the outcomes of the current trade talks. Some of the aspects the Secretary of State is insisting on will nullify a lot of the deals being discussed today. Even those with existing arrangements are concerned about the trade discussions. Much of the discussion time is spent reassuring them the things Madam Secretary is insisting on won't be approved by King Harold. Those with existing trading arrangements will have those arrangements protected. They're all relieved at having this personally confirmed by the King's Special Representative, but are still wary of a solid commitment until they're settled and signed in a treaty or other official documentation recognised by both governments.


With the bulk of the commercial activities out of the way Gerry takes time to visit a young man living in an apartment in New Jersey. One of the embassy local security staff drives him to the address in an embassy van. A squad of his security staff go with them.

Arriving at the address at 9:30 a.m. Gerry gets out of the van and walks to the entrance with a briefcase in his hand. Pushing the button for the apartment he wants he asks to speak with Albert Jones. Mr Jones hits the remote for the door. He walks up the stairs and knocks on the target's apartment door. It's opened. Holding out his hand, Gerry says, "Good morning, Mister Jones, I'd like to offer you a job." He's invited in. When they sit down Gerry opens the briefcase to get an employment contract to hand to the man. Mr Jones reads it with great care.

Looking up, Albert asks, "These are generous terms, but why me?"

A smiling Gerry pulls a folder out of his briefcase and hands it over, saying, "Because I need the services of the best damn computer hackers in the world, Mister Jones. Or should I call you, Machete."

Jones looks up, he's very worried because Machete is the on-line name he uses in the hacker world and no one knows he's Machete, yet Gerry does. Jones is worried about this because the FBI and many other law enforcement people are very actively seeking Machete, and they'd love to know where to find him. He opens the second folder and finds a detailed account of how Gerry's people have been able to trace him. He gulps, because the contents of this folder can put him in a federal prison for a few decades.

A grinning Gerry takes the folder back, saying, "Don't worry, I'll let the FBI do their own research. I want you to work for me in my country to hack into a very select list of businesses. You have a week to decide if you want the job or not." Standing up, Gerry says his goodbyes, and leaves Mr Albert Jones contemplating the possibility of a new job in another country for very good pay. Leaving New Jersey they head for the Bronx.

They stop for lunch just before they get there. Arriving at the address Gerry gets out and walks up the stairs to knock on apartment 2C. The door is opened by a woman in her early forties. She walks with difficulty, because she's missing her left leg below the knee.

Smiling at her, Gerry says, "Excuse me, Missus Waters, I'd like to talk to you and your daughter, Brenda, about job offers in the computer industry." Giving him a suspicious look, she opens the door and invites him in while she calls her daughter into the room. Her twenty-two year old daughter enters the room. Opening his briefcase he removes two employment contracts and hands them to the women. He also hands them a folder to look at, saying, "Good afternoon, Mister Slash, I'm hiring some top notch computer people and would like both of you on the team." They both visibly jump at being named by their joint hacker name. They examine the folder and hand it back. He continues, "You have a week to consider my job offers. You'll need to move to my country to work. Don't worry, because I've no intention of ever telling anyone how I managed to trace you, regardless of your answers. Have a good day." He lets himself out while the two worried women look at each other.

Leaving the Bronx they head for La Guardia Airport where they meet Lord Robert and the rest of the party. They board their plane for the trip to Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia. The next round of meetings are in Washington, DC. The plane trip is short, but quicker than by car. The US has a significant ground traffic problem.

Arriving in Virginia they disembark and climb aboard some buses from the consulate for the drive to the consulate. They spend the rest of the day settling in.


At 9:30 a.m. Lord Robert, Gerry, and some bodyguards are at the Head Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington. They're at the office of the Director. Robert and Gerry enter while their guards wait outside. This meeting had been arranged weeks ago through the US Embassy in Berant and by the Royal Intelligence Service liaison officer to the FBI. But part of today's purpose recently got changed due to external factors and some new intelligence information.

Meeting them at the door the director shakes their hands, while asking, "Good morning, gentlemen, how may I help you?" Both Robert and Gerry shake his hand before moving to the indicated seats around a low table in the corner of his office. Gerry smiles when he notices the director has two cups of hot chocolate for his guests and a hot cup of coffee for himself. He's done his background research well.

Gerry says, "All right, Bob, I think he knows I'll be handling this one." Both Robert and the director smile. Yes, he's done his research very well. He's made the link between an intern G. Mannheim and a RIS analyst of the same name. "I'm here to poach one of your people. But first, I can do something for you." Opening up his briefcase he withdraws some RIS folders and a clipboard. He opens the clipboard, "Can you please have your secretary send for Mister Thomas Jeffries?" The director nods, stands, and opens the door to stick his head out to speak to his secretary.

Returning to his seat, he says, "Well, Mister Mannheim, will you explain everything at the start, or go through your usual playing it out process?"

A grinning Gerry, replies, "I'd rather not say anything until after I've spoken to Mister Jeffries." They sit and drink for a few minutes while discussing the problems of law enforcement. A knock on the door. The secretary opens it and shows in a man in his early thirties. He looks like he's had a bad night. Standing, Gerry asks, "What did you decide?"

A bit surprised by the question, he gives a weak smile and reaches into his coat to withdraw two pieces of paper and a blank mini CD disc. He hands them to Gerry, who reads the papers. He invites Mr Jeffries to wait by the door, but behind it. Turning to the director, he says, "Please send for Mister Chris Simpson, and also ask for two people from your Internal Affairs unit to join us a few minutes after Simpson arrives."

Cleaning Up

Giving Gerry an odd look the director speaks to his secretary again. Removing a pair of handcuffs and a card from his briefcase Gerry hands them to Jeffries, saying, "I think you'd like to do this bit, please." The rest sit and wait in silence for a few minutes. A knock on the door and it opens. A man enters. When the secretary closes the door behind the man Jeffries steps up to grasp the man's right wrist while he places the handcuffs on it and twists the arm up his back. He says, "Chris Simpson, you're under arrest for conspiracy to kidnap a child and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice." After he adds the left hand to the cuffs he reads the man his rights. A moment later another knock and two FBI Internal Affairs officers are shown in.

Smiling, Gerry says, "Will you two gentlemen please take Simpson into the attached office and keep him quiet until we ask for his return." They look at the director, get a nod, and move off with Simpson while Gerry hands Jeffries another pair of handcuffs, saying, "One more. Director, we now need Mister Barry Winton." The director again passes instructions to his secretary. A few minutes later Barry Winton is shown into the room and is arrested by Mr Jeffries. The other agents are asked back in with Simpson.

Picking up three RIS folders Gerry hands them to the director, saying, "This is the evidence on how these two men have been bribed and are acting in a corrupt manner." Picking up a fourth folder he hands it to Jeffries, saying, "What do you wish to do with this?"

Jeffries opens it to examine it, and hands it to the director. He examines it and his eyebrows lift. He hands them all to the two agents from Internal Affairs. When the two corrupt agents are about to be led from the room, Simpson says, "If you don't let us go and allow us to report in she's dead. All you'll get at noon is a corpse. And they'll get you later, too."

Jeffries had guessed his daughter's life was already forfeited, but had hoped they might be able to save her. Now Simpson is telling him they have to report before the scheduled noon meeting. Gerry pats Jeffries on the back while he glares at Simpson, saying, "You're wrong there, Simpson, very wrong. Unlike you, I'm not a child killer and I'd never risk a child's life. I've some people out bringing her safely in as we speak." Simpson glares at him.

They're interrupted by another knock on the door. The secretary opens it to allow a large man in combat fatigues into the room. He's almost knocked over by a young girl pushing by him while yelling, "Daddy," when she runs to Jeffries, her father.

Gerry smiles at the new entrants, saying, "Any trouble, Sergeant?"

The man smiles, and replies, "Nothing we couldn't handle, Sir. I've got another three prisoners downstairs in our van, if you can arrange for someone to take them off our hands. I figure this is the best place since the girl was kidnapped in Maryland and held captive in Virginia, so it's a federal crime and they belong to the FBI."

A smiling director picks up his phone and orders more people to his office. Gerry hands him the papers he'd been given by Jeffries. Examining them the, director says, "I'm sorry, Jeffries. Although you broke no laws you did breach procedures and failed to report this situation. If you weren't resigning I'd have to ask for it. I accept it as of noon today. Please assist the investigators with getting your daughter's statement, and then clean out your desk." Jeffries grimaces, and nods. Leaving the FBI under a cloud will make other employment in the law enforcement industry difficult, and it's all he knows and likes doing.

Pulling another packet of papers from his briefcase Gerry hands them to Jeffries, saying, "When you've done all that you may wish to sit down and read the contents of this. I'm always on the lookout for good analysts to work at RIS." Jeffries looks up at Gerry with a new hope in his eyes. He looks at the director.

The director says, "Yes, that'd be a very good idea. A whole new start for you. Take it if it looks good."

Jeffries leaves, smiling while he holds his daughter's hand. Since his wife died she's all the family he has because they were both orphans.

People Poaching

Turning to Gerry, the director says, "Thank you for saving the girl's life. And for cleaning up my dirty linen."

Gerry smiles at him, saying, "No need to thank us, because that's part of what being in law enforcement is about: saving the innocents. The smile on her face makes all the effort worthwhile. Now comes the part you won't like. I'm going to try very hard to poach one of your top computer technicians, and I think I'll succeed."

The director says, "Well, I don't mind as long as it's not Wendy the Web Witch."

Gerry responds, "Wendy Paul is exactly whom I'm after."

The director says, "You really do know how to hurt a guy! But I know she's happy here and I doubt she'll agree to go." He stands and again speaks to his secretary. Returning, he sits down. A few minutes later another knock on the door. His office is very busy this morning.

The secretary opens the door and shows in an athletic woman in her late twenties. Standing up, Gerry introduces himself while he hands her a RIS folder and an employment contract, saying, "I'm putting together a team of top notch computer experts for several years work and would like you on the team. Probably as the team leader. The team will have between four and ten people. I'm still waiting for some people to accept offers of employment. As a signing on bonus I think I can offer you the information you've been seeking about your sister's death."

Wendy is shaking her head no when she suddenly looks up at him, saying, "How do you think you can succeed where the entire resources of the FBI can't? The main reason I work here, and want to stay, is the FBI has the best chance of getting that information for me, and for getting the people responsible."

"I've access to resources the FBI can only dream of, and some they'd give the next ten years' budget to have access to. Take me for a drive and I'll get you the information. After you have it you can decide if you wish to join me or stay here. I promise you'll have a much better chance of seeing the people really responsible brought to justice if you work with me, than if you have to rely on the FBI only."

She studies him for a moment, and replies, "If you can get me the information on who's responsible, and in a manner I'm convinced it's true, then you've got yourself a computer nerd."

Smiling, Gerry says, "Good, I couldn't ask for anyone better than you, not even the great hacker Peter Perfect."

The director says, "I wish I can find out who Peter Perfect is, that one is on the top of our computer hit parade." Wendy finally opens the folder and looks at the information in it.

Keeping a smile on her face is very hard while she reads the folder. She also wonders how Gerry found out she's a hacker and Peter Perfect is her hacker name. Having access to the latest stuff by the good guys from the FBI makes her the best there is at hacking. She gets into all sorts of systems, but does no harm. Even so, it's against the law. She hands the file to Gerry, asking, "Right, where do we go?"

He smiles, "That's easy and hard. I know who, but not where. I need a car and a driver who knows where Don Mario lives locally." Both Wendy and the director stare at him, because he wants to visit the local Mafia Don. "The misused materials were disposed of through the local DC underworld. Don Mario, or one of his people, will know who did it. Don Mario will know, or can get, the names very quickly. He'll tell us when I ask him for them."

Wendy slowly shakes her head, "If nothing else happens I've just got to see how you speak to our local Don." The director makes a couple of phone calls and arranges for a local agent to meet them at the building's main entrance in an FBI car. He'll take them to Don Mario's Washington residence.

The director is shaking his head when they leave, because this has been a morning full of surprises and he thought he was past surprising. One of the minibuses of Gerry's bodyguards follows them while the other goes back to the consulate with Lord Robert.

Date with the Don

They arrive outside the Don's residence just on noon. Wendy and Gerry exit the vehicle and he asks the agent to park opposite the gate. The minibus parks behind him. While they walk up to the gate one of the security guards leaves the gatehouse to talk to them at the gate.

Gerry says, "My friend here is an FBI agent, I'm not. We're here on unofficial business. I'm armed and not surrendering it to anyone. We need to speak to Don Mario, but I realise you won't disturb him. So please call The Mark and tell him you've two important visitors to speak to him." The guard stares at them for a moment, nods, and returns to the gatehouse. He makes a phone call while his partners watch them and Wendy gives Gerry an odd look.

They stand there for a few minutes. Gerry is looking across the road at the house opposite when he hears a car pull up on the other side of the gate, and a man says, "OK, I'm here, who are you?" Gerry turns around, and the man smiles. Waving at the guards, he calls out, "Open the gate, let them in." Grinning at Gerry, he says, "What the hell are you doing here? Why didn't you call? The old man will be so pleased to see you." Wendy is staring at Gerry with a wide open mouth.

While they walk towards the open car, Gerry tells her, "I have reason to believe Don Mario will help me because we know each other well. And no, I don't do any unlawful business with him. I met him in New York a few years ago while dealing with another matter."

They drive up to the house and around the back, while the driver says, "He's around the back at the pool." Alighting from the vehicle at the back of the house they walk into an attached pool-house.

A man in his late forties is lounging in a chair wearing swimmers and reading a newspaper. A woman in her early twenties is lying on a lounge, face down. When they walk towards the man they have to pass the woman. Gerry leans over and gives her backside a good slap. The man looks up at the sound, seeing Gerry, he smiles. The young woman he hit leaps up and starts to attack him. He grabs her arms, pulls her to him, and kisses her before he throws her into the pool. Wendy is speechless. She looks up at the sound of running feet.

A mid-teens girl races alongside the pool. When she nears them she throws herself at Gerry, screaming, "Gerry, you're here in time for my birthday party." He neatly catches the girl, spins on the spot, and tosses her into the pool as well. Wendy wonders about the name because he was introduced to her as Gordon, not Gerry.

Approaching the man he holds his hand out. The man stands, shakes hands, and pulls Gerry into a hug. Slapping him on the back, he says, "You look well, Gerry, you look very well. How's everyone, doing well, I hope?"

When they pull apart, Gerry says, "We have some things to discuss, Mario. But first, this is Wendy Paul of the FBI." Don Mario gives Gerry an odd look, and he adds, "She's here unofficially and wishes to find out who was behind the quality materials being taken from a building site in Watts eight years ago. The building collapsed and killed her sister; she wants to get those who caused it to happen."

Don Mario studies her for a moment, and says, "Eight years ago, building site, Watts. Hmm. Georgie would know who was involved. I'll send for him." He picks up a phone and calls someone, asking for Georgie to pay him a visit right now.

Turning to the pool edge Gerry helps both girls out of the pool and slaps their rumps when he tells them to get dried and changed. The girls head off to the showers and change rooms nearby. Turning to Don Mario, he says, "We need to talk in a secure room. Can you please show Wendy to one while I have a talk with Marcus."

Don Mario smiles, saying "Yes, we'll be in my den. You have a talk to Marcus, he needs a talking to." This comment causes the guard who brought them from the gate to lose his smile while Wendy and the Don walk off.

Gerry turns to the guard, "Francesca is a good looking woman, isn't she?" Marcus nods, "You want to marry her, don't you?" Marcus turns and stares at Gerry, and slowly nods yes. Gerry nods too, very slowly.

They stand there looking at each other for a moment. Gerry says, "Come with me." Walking to the showers and change rooms they enter. Both girls are naked under the showers. Gerry grabs the teenager and wraps a towel around her, saying, "Get dried and get yourself upstairs, changed, and to your father's den. You've got ten minutes to get there." He pushes her out the door, lightly slapping her rump when he does so. Turning to the other, he says, "Francesca, lower your arms." Gulping hard, she slowly lowers her arms and displays her charms to them. He continues, "Marcus, you love Francesca, she loves you. Both of you are too damn silly to say anything to each other about it. I'm reliably told she's a virgin, isn't on the pill, has no protection at all, and this is her fertile period. I'll expect you both in the Don's den in about thirty to forty minutes. With you both ready to tell him you and Francesca are getting married because you've just done your very best to get her pregnant." Both stare at him during this speech. When he turns to walk out they both turn to look at each other, smile, and step towards each other. He locks the door on his way out.

A few minutes later one of the house staff shows Gerry into the den. At the look from Don Mario, he says, "I've given them thirty minutes or so to present themselves, after he does his best to get her pregnant."

A smiling Don Mario says, "Good. If I'd spoken to either of them they'd have taken it the wrong way. What can you do about Gina, she's worse than the other two together."

Gerry smiles, "I've something in mind for her." Don Mario grins and nods. They sit there chatting for several minutes. When Gina arrives Don Mario sends her out to get some cool drinks and light snacks. She returns the same time as Marcus, Francesca, and Georgie walk in the room. Business first - always, business first.

Looking at Georgie, the Don says, "Building site, Watts, eight years ago. Materials replacement caused the building to collapse. A woman named Paul was killed in the collapse. Who got the money for the materials taken from the site."

Georgie thinks for a moment. "Apartment building, collapsed on the bank inspector during the evaluation for mortgage." Wendy nods. "Councillors Manning, Stevens, Benson. Inspectors Harris, Green, and James. Site foremen Bell and Packer. They're the ones who skimmed the materials and changed the records. They approached us about disposal. The major contractors had no idea about the deals."

Don Mario says, "Thanks, Georgie. How's the family doing?"

Georgie replies, "Not so well, Boss. You know Donna got her leg caught in that machine and it's badly broken." The Don nods, and he continues, "The doctor says he'll have to cut it off. You know how active she is, that'll kill her." Everyone in the room has a sad face.

Gerry asks, "Have they started operating yet?"

Georgie shakes his head no, "No, it's down for Monday morning."

Gerry grins, "Well, let's get a second opinion." He turns to Marcus, "Get in that car of yours and drive to the gate. The minibus opposite has some of my people, ask for Angie. Tell her about Donna's leg, and say 'Be the Falcon's eye.' Georgie, you'll need to take her to the hospital and bring her back to where I am afterwards." They both leave to do as told. Georgie with a sliver of hope for his daughter.

Wendy says, "Well, now I know who, but there's damn little I can do about them."

Gerry says, "You've seen the quality of the work my people do. Just wait until they've done similar folders on those people, then speak." Wendy looks up, and slowly smiles, a very evil smile, when she nods while thinking what his people can dig up on these people.

A few minutes later Marcus is back. Entering the room he walks to stand in front of Don Mario and asks for Francesca's hand in marriage.

The Don looks at him for a moment, very sternly. He stands up, and says, "Before I answer, tell me this. What took you so long to ask?" They all smile because they realise he approves. They hug each other and Francesca hugs them both. He says, "I think we save on party snacks and announce this at Gina's birthday party tomorrow."

With a grin, Gerry says, "Her first party. On Sunday afternoon she's having another party in New York." They all look at him, and he adds, "Saturday evening should see Sea Dream docking at Long Island Sound and I want you all there for a party. Maria and the children are aboard. I'll be tied up in meetings most of next week, but if any of you are free you can spend time on-board with them. Even go for day or night cruises." Don Mario smiles because his daughter and grandchildren are arriving for a visit. "Gina, be prepared to leave in a few weeks" time. You're travelling to Berant with us to finish your education there."

Don Mario says, "Good, then you can worry about the future school complaints."

Gerry smiles at them both, "No worries. In Berant we're allowed to spank naughty girls and the schools can cane them, too. Also, I enjoy spanking naughty girls' bare bottoms - it's great fun." Gina's wide grin shrinks in a little.

About fifteen minutes later, while Marcus drives them to the gate, Wendy says, "So you have an in with our local Don. Married his daughter, one way to get along with him. The director will be running around in circles when I tell him."

Gerry says, "Tell him, I don't mind. But that wasn't what created the in, that followed along later. What created the in was saving the lives of his older two daughters when I saved the lives of three of my citizens. The five girls had been kidnapped from college by Don Franco. I got the girls back and dealt with Franco. That's how I first met Mario. Maria and Francesca were two of the kidnap victims. Maria insisted I take her virginity. I said I'd do it if she stayed with me to have several children." Wendy looks at him with a shocked expression. The whole of the organised crime division is still trying to find out what happened to Don Franco, and this man killed him. Sensing her concern, he says, "I didn't kill Franco. He was still alive when I left him. He should've lived, despite my having removed all his skin first." Wendy is further shocked and stunned by this.

Marcus chimes in with, "The Council of Dons had his own boys finish him off after you left the meeting. They also disposed of him. You sure made an impression on them. Waltz in, drop him off, tell them off, and leave. They didn't know what to make of you and wondered how you found their secret meeting place. Later, when you returned the girls to Don Mario without any conditions they decided you were a good guy, but an ultra-tough good guy. They stopped worrying you'd take their turfs, and decided they didn't want you after them."

Surprising the Boss

Arriving back at the FBI HQ Wendy and Gerry go to the director's office. They have to wait several minutes for him to finish a meeting. When they enter the room she holds out her resignation. The director is surprised, and she says, "He suckered us, Boss. Don Mario is his father-in-law and was very happy to help me." The director looks up and laughs, long and hard. She continues, "Also, you can tell the Organised Crime boys that Franco is definitely dead. He was buried on the orders of the Council of Dons, a few years back."

The director is very surprised. He says, "Don Mario told you that?"

She shakes her heads, saying, "No, Marcus did after Gerry admitted to skinning him alive for kidnapping five college students, three of whom were his nationals."

The director gulps, "Sheet, you do get around. Why do that?"

Gerry says, "I needed to make a strong statement to the Dons about leaving my people alone. They haven't hurt one of my people since that incident. They knew how paranoid Franco was about his personal security. They were very worried to learn I easily beat his security and captured him. Then skinning him told them I can play harder ball than they can. They're not dumb. They got the message and acted on it. My people are safe from them."

Gerry leaves the FBI building and returns to the Consulate in time for a mid-afternoon meeting with Lord Robert and some businessmen. Convincing them to delay their decisions for another week.

Angie joins them when the meeting finishes. She tells Gerry she's arranged to have the girl operated on by staff of the Carmel Clinic for Re-constructive Surgery. She's sure they can save the leg. A surgical team will fly over with the required materials next week. They'll create the replacements from the cat scans before leaving Carmel.

They all head off for a rest before getting ready for the formal dinner Lord Robert is hosting that night. All the senior US politicians and many foreign ambassadors will be there.

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