Good Things Do Not Last
Chapter 1

“Molly, you don’t have to leave. We will hire someone until you get back, I will slow down, travel without you for a bit, anything to make it easier. What do you say?”

“It’s your own fault. I was perfectly content with our arrangement until Bob swept me off my feet. Actually putting this ‘Bun in the Oven’ did that too. It is your own fault, it was your party that did it, and now all I can think about is that wonderful man and raising a family. We are getting married next Friday you know and staying in New Jersey. So Mr. ‘soon to be my former Boss’ you coming to the wedding?”

“Molly, don’t do this to me, millions of women have babies and go right back to work, you can too, Bob won’t mind; besides, I need you.”

“Ha, I’ll bet you said that same thing to the last girl before me. If you are nice, I mean really nice I will find my replacement, or should I say, ‘try to find my replacement’. Bob say’s I’m unique and to tell you it’s your entire fault for having the party.”

“Right, my fault you’re having a baby. I don’t even remember having any fun either.”

“Yep, your entire fault. Do not worry I already called several agencies to start a search. Unless you have changed, I think the qualifications you have are the same, let me guess: Cute, young, trust worthy, willing to travel, work all day and some nights too and loyal to a fault. When I called one place they thought I called in error, it sounded like I wanted a dog. You know with those attributes you are going to have trouble keeping her around too, especially if you keep having those parties.”

“If I double what I pay you, is staying on an option Molly?”

“If I was 18, barefoot and pregnant, I’d swoon at your feet. As if we would need the money, Bob already told me you would try that line. Give it up old man, if we both did not love you so much I’d just quit.”

As if what she was saying was something I could refute. Bob Randolph the man she was to marry ran my businesses in America. He was good and knew it, as did I.

“OK, triple the salary, this penthouse and a new car, what do you say?”

“Told me that too. Your friends know you too well I am afraid. You have no idea how difficult this job is. You might as well get yourself a wife or mistress or several to do it for all the time and effort they will need to put into this.”

“If, and I say ‘if’ I do find you someone, you better be nice to her, real nice. It was a bit of a challenge not to fall for you. Maybe you should add a little romance to this assignment and marry them instead of having to attend their weddings.”

“Molly, if I marry you instead of Bob, will you stay?”

“Nice last try, Bob told me you’d say that too. You friends know you too well and you are predictable. That offer is a bit too late though.”

“Molly, you hurt me to the quick!”

“Nice line Shakespeare, but ‘alas, poor Boss Man’ it isn’t going to work. Try it on the new girl.”


“Here is my checklist.

First, we need to find someone just for London or wherever you would want the main office to be now.

Travel every three or four months to Tokyo, Bonn, Paris, Moscow, Hong Kong and Rome, back to London then a week or two off from travel.

Language skills should include English, French, German, Russian, Italian and Spanish; Kanji and Mandarin would not hurt either.

In her spare time look new offices in Madrid, Rio and Buenos Aires.

“About right?”

“Well, maybe a few other places, nothing for certain yet.”

“For this undying devotion, sacrificing some of the best years of her life, working her body to the bone and having to put up with you, you’ll do what for her?”

“For her? What about me? I will not keep going through this shit Molly, only to have them leave me. Whoever we get, I want her to be with me for at least ten, no twenty years, and then she can quit, but not before then.”

“Ahh. Oh, Master? You moving to Morocco or the Middle East soon? Because I think having a ‘slave’ is frowned upon in most other places. I have to tell you too that I love you but you are not the easiest person to work for!”

“Oh, so now I get the ‘woman scorned act’ from you?”

“Listen ‘buddy boy’, when I was a ‘sweet young thing’ that did not know any better, you could have ask me to follow you around like a puppy dog. Now, it is too late. You have shown me there is such a thing as a life; you might try it yourself with the next girl or two.”

“You make it sound that I run some kind of ‘sweat shop’? What, I don’t pay enough?”

“Money has never been the issue. Frankly, you pay too much for anyone to leave. Nevertheless, you think money is going to make her care for you, look out for you, and even love you? It is not though!”

Here begins Molly crying.

She keeps crying, man, pregnant women sure do cry easily.

“Go, just go. Do whatever you do. I will at least hire someone for the London office. I will try to find you another ‘Girl Friday’ according to your ‘specified qualifications’. Like it’s so easy, so don’t hold your breathe. Hah!”

So it went. All the other offices had been using a ‘rent a suite’ type facility. Local phone number, live answer and an email message sent to Molly. Occasionally, a phone call was forwarded. Now things were changing. I was growing some, not just in weight mind you, in business too. Molly was correct in her assessment that we need another person, maybe more, for sure if I had told her everything that was about to happen. Now I was losing her and would have my problems compounded even more. That thought about how things were changing shot to the front. Molly did not know what the changes were coming up. If things were as simple now that adding one person could solve things, it would have been easy. After the meetings yesterday things were going to change a lot. He would have to rethink what would be necessary.

Today Molly just arranged for any small deal herself, the larger ones were sent by her to my email and/or a sat phone call made. Things were changing now. I really did not want to lose her. She was correct though; there just was no chemistry between us. The closest I could call her was a friend, good friend, maybe my best friend.

I left her alone and flew back to my home in the Med. It was a long trip and provided me time to think. It was not just Molly leaving me; it also was what I knew was happening to my little operation. It was very soon to become a rather substantial sized organis/zation and I had never considered what might happen if I or any of my key people were gone. Up until now, Molly was the only important person to leave. ‘What if it were more?’ I thought to myself.

It was a lovely spring day when I returned to my villa. The sky was blue, soft looking clouds billowed by and the scent of fresh growth was in the air. From time to time, a splash could be heard coming from outside. The only constant sound that could be heard was that of the wind coming from the West or from the mountains through the valley.

I crashed but could not get that thought of what was to happen out of my mind. There was so much to do yet one may have difficulty even selecting the first project. Idyllic might best describe my home. The easy way to solve that dilemma was to quit doing what I was doing. I had grown tired of this existence anyhow. I turned on the machine and would glance repeatedly at the screen, looking for somewhere I knew deep inside did not exist.

The first up was in the American West. Off some distance, you could see Pikes Peak. It looked so close that you could touch it, yet I knew it was miles away from where the camera was, things just appeared nearer than they really were. This was a trip of exploration for me. My recent acquisition still being processed by the State of Colorado. I was lucky, Mal was not though and now some 1.7 million acres he formerly had were mine. I did not feel sorry for him though, this was just the tip of the iceberg of what land he owned there.

Getting even this far was a challenge. Yes, the air this high was thin; trees, brush and scrub showed that such a thing as a trail had never been a thought. A 4-WD only got me past the foothills. The horse got me a bit further up, like right to this spot. They had told me to take a mule. Next time perhaps I would listen to that advice.

Even this high the view towards the valley was magnificent. Nature unspoiled, un-tamed and victor of any challenges man had cast at it. I had come across some sort of town. If two or three buildings, 100 foot of crinkled wood sidewalk and what looked like a boarded up mine entrance qualified as a town? Horses, yep saw them from time to time, mustangs roaming through the hills and slopes just as they had hundreds of years ago.

I waved the fingers in a curved and upright direction. The image was gone. ‘Nice but no cigar’ I thought to myself. ‘If I had wanted to be a hermit or a recluse that vision might have been fine’. However, that was not entirely my wish.

I ran many more videos that day, but none a second time. They seemed to all lack the escape I was looking for. When the last was shown, I pulled open the drapes to the terrace. The view from the terrace matched that of the last video. I sat down, tears moistening my eyes and continued to look out towards the sea.

I had been here a very long time and things seemed to have reached the point that I thought it time to change. Life here was as close to normal one as possible. The place was secure. The entire village supported and kept outsiders away. I in-turn made certain that each family was taken care of, very well taken care of.

I remembered why I had chosen this place for my home. I considered the old saying; ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’ Even though, I knew I needed at least two or three other facilities both for my people as well as staging equipment I decided to just do what had to be done, full speed ahead and all that rot.

At that realis/zation, a phone call ensued.

On a phone call:

“Lady Grey, I find myself in need of a companion, no, perhaps I should say an assistant. For the foreseeable future I am not certain where, when or what she must do but I often do need the help.”

“Mister Black we are not some employee agency. Our young ladies enhance whatever you want and otherwise provide our clients the companionship they desire. Our fees are substantial and I am not certain you could afford them nor that you are calling the correct place for our services.”

“I see! Well, can you provide me such a person or not?”

A pause.

“You still did not answer me if you could provide me someone. She must be intelligent, witty, outgoing, and beautiful, plus know several languages, and always be an excellent companion.”

“Mr. Black, it would be easier if you started a harem for no one girl could be all that anytime and anywhere, we do have moods you see.”

“Fine Lady Grey, then find me however many it requires. I have told you I do not know what I need or when, I just know your service comes highly recommended and I want the finest young ladies money can buy for anywhere, anytime and am willing to pay for it. In the end, it will be less costly than a wife or girlfriends for one and more acceptable to me for many other reasons. I will not have any emotional attachment to her though.”

Three weeks later, the first candidate confirmed the arrangements, and a car was sent to pick up the ‘companion’ candidate; this time in London. The best Molly could do before she left me was to turn the London office into another rent-a suite.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, or in this case my new HQ; It was an effort to remotely ready my once small group using my new centre. It was a small compound near London. It had been a secluded military base. When SAS and SBS merged into SIS my new client made it available as well as a few (Few Dozen) guards and dogs, good training they said. Personally, I think they hoped I would want to stay there so they might keep an eye on me. It was at London, where one of my bodyguards accompanied the driver and who knows how many Brits were trailing them. When the two men arrived at the aerodrome, there was a bit of confusion by what awaited.

She was six foot tall (182.88 cm) with long blonde hair wearing a dark blue suit and high heels making her look well over 200 cm. She looked more like an attorney than a companion. She also was a very healthy girl, as the reactions of those passing her could attest.

Gino exited the front car door and opening the back door, slightly bowed to the vision before him and motioned her into the car.

“I am Gino and your driver’s name is Peter. I will place your luggage in the boot (trunk). Do you have any more luggage we need to claim?”

“No, I am to interview and may not be staying long. Thank you though, although unusual, it is appreciated to be treated as a person and not some ‘plaything’.”

As he closed the door after her, he thought he should call the ‘Boss’. Nah! This was too good. Even he would be surprised.’ Gino did call back to the house to have a nice room prepared and added count for the meals. There was no way in Hell she was not staying.

The London facility had been selected as an interim HQ (Difficult to just rent a military base you know). It was more a compound of several houses and buildings located high on a plateau overlooking the ocean. By car, it was more than two hours from the city centre. There were two roads leading up, both well guarded and each required identification and access codes for entrance at the bottom. Deliveries were limited to a single firm who called ahead and were escorted in after a thorough search and scan of those entering. Even when Gino and Peter returned, all had to exit, and bags searched. Those needing to would be taken up to the guesthouse in a different car after more scrutiny checks. Was it overkill? Perhaps! There is an old saying, ‘Better safe than sorry’ though.

Entering the guesthouse the girl was met by Carla from the firm ‘Security Inc’. It was a firm created by Mr. Black to provide a higher-level background check before awarding direct access to more of the facility and was required ultimately for access to his main house in the Med.

Carla motioned the Amazon to sit down. “I want to welcome you to what, by many is called ‘Eden’. A misnomer for certain but those staying here call it that because almost anything you desire will be provided. Like the Eden in mythology, there are a few inviolate rules. Background investigations, reference checks and personal document verifications have already been done by your respective agencies, Miss White’s firm and the provider of your service here, before you were selected to even be considered.”

“What I do, if you continue, is to further enhance your level of access allowing you into additional areas, such as recreational and subsequently more strenuous security for entrance to work areas within the compound and Mr. Black’s house. You hopefully will pass muster and soon be allowed to remain with us or to go on and qualify for the assignment originally intended for you. That decision is made by others and is under the control of a different organiz/sations and not my responsibility.”

“I realize you have many questions, perhaps feel such an inquisition is beneath you or have never been told by any ‘client’ before that you need to ‘earn’ your position. Let me be frank with you. I do not care if you proceed or not. You may choose to return from where you came from or even go anywhere else. It would make my job much easier to do. Your fees for a month and any expenses to fly home will be paid for. All you need do is say so now.”

Now there was a young woman with an open an mouth staring at Carla.

“How could they even check anything on me, they don’t even know my real name?”

“Brie, is it? Have a look Hon” as she turned the computer monitor towards the girl.

“Jesus H Christ! How?”

“FM! All Magic little girl, they call it experience and professionalism. I have most of everything about you since you were five. Next will be the last three years since you went to work for Langley after college! Should you decide to stay, that will take me a few more days to verify.”

Brie sat back down, more like slumping into her chair. All the careful planning, documentation even her change in appearance was for naught.

At the end of 30 days, you either will go back, be offered a different position with Mr. Black or go on for further testing and security checks to become his Assistant. In any event you will be paid the agreed upon amount.”

“Should I just leave now?” asked Brie.

“Not at all unless you so desire to. We have a place for good spies and accurate intelligence, just not the ‘Dick Tracy’ (Comic Detective in the USA) things your ‘Company’ panders. Really girl, ours is a ‘professional’ organis/zation, your previous employers have already done much of the preliminary screening for us. I will tell you some general details of why you are here then if I can, will answer a few of your questions.”

“Okay, here is the ‘canned’ speech. You are here because someone thought you were attractive, intelligent, witty and capable of reacting in un-rehearsed situations. Furthermore, you have work for an Agency and in a country, which we do some business with.

“Now, let me come to the point. You will never be ‘forced’ to perform any illegal activity. You, however, may choose to do things that some may frown upon. What you do, see, hear, read or otherwise gain knowledge of remains a secret with you until your death, natural or otherwise. As I said, anything and most everything you desire will be provided for you. Many of the ‘clients’ we serve are governments, military or covert agencies of various countries. This is both good and bad. It means they need our services but they have the assets and resources to interfere with other clients’ use of our services.”

“Break time. Refresh, you will be taken to your room, rest, shower, change into comfortable clothes then you will join some of us for food and more information. Schnell!” Clara clapped her hands and attendants entered and stood behind Brie. The room she was taken to was neat, orderly and well appointed.

From his Villa, Mr. Black watched the proceedings by a video link; he was as much in awe as Gino had been. The way Carla had been today left no doubt she had been a good addition to the organiz/sation. Creating Security Inc would be an important part of the future also.

After conferring with both Gino and Peter Mr. Black called Carla and told her no further screening of Brie was necessary at this time. He had viewed enough to think she was well qualified for the initial run. He thought she and Brie should both travel to see the next candidate, after-all, how better ‘to test the water’ so to speak.

After several anxious hours n her room, Carla knocked on Brie’s door and told her they would be dining this evening but cook would be serving a light meal before then if she were hungry. “Oh! You are acceptable both as a candidate or many other opportunities with us including things I do for Mr. Black.” Carla smiled and thought, ‘Yes indeed very acceptable for Mr. Black I would think’.

Dinner was pretty much whatever was chosen from six entrees cook had prepared for that day. Carla and Brie were joined by Gino, Peter and a half-dozen other people Brie was introduced to. She was starting to feel more relaxed.

Before bed, there was a knock on her door. When she opened it, a man and a woman with eight large dogs were there. “Miss, if you would please reach out your hand and let the dogs have your scent. We will need to do this again if you stay aboard. These are house level guard dogs and will know you belong here but please do not venture outside this house at night, there are other security measures there.”

‘All right!’ She thought. ‘If there were eight just inside, I wonder what surprises they have outside?’

There was one more knock on her door last night. Carla reassured her that she was hired and that tomorrow she would be joining Carla to meet and greet another candidate, this time in Germany.

They flew in a private IL 96-400, one of two Mr. Black kept.

In Hanover (Germany), Molly and Brie both got a surprise and no, it was not anything Gino or Peter had done to them in jest. Instead of the candidate, two very tall, like over 200 cm, goddesses, ‘Valkyrie’ might be a better description. They were wearing long, skin-tight white dresses and waiting in the hotel lobby.

If the ‘Pixie Twins’ was a name, it would have been an apt description of what stood before them. They had long, no very long hair, even longer than the blonde’s (Brie). It ran past their hips and was pure white more platinum then even the gowns they wore. If they had been meaning to stop all around them to stare, they had been successful.

Carla’s initial comment was, “In your case I think the boss will want to call you both ‘Eve’, but don’t call him a snake though and Heaven forbid; do not offer him any apples. Something just tells me that the analogy of ‘Forbidden Fruit’ may cross his mind when he sees you, both of you.”

Brie meanwhile could just stare at the Eves with her mouth open looking like a fish gasping for breath. She fit right in with the other onlookers there.

Carla welcomed Eve 1 and Eve 2 wanting to know if that meant they would be paid double or we just get twice the work out of them.

“My sister and I team.” She said with a Slavic accent.

Carla already knew about these Sorenson girls. No matter what she had prepared for, meeting them in person was an adventure in itself. They came with a dossier that read more like a ‘James Bond’ novel than what they had actually done. Carla got right to the point. Mr. Black, with Carla’s recommendation had already agreed that they were fine and no further checks were needed. Carla had to agree, they were very fine.

“Both Russia and Ukraine provide items to us. Nordic countries are providers also, the Czech Republic only wants current information on our organization from you, they have other ‘sources’ for more specific details. We will try to restrict or keep all of you away from places like Benelux, the Middle East or where you three might not be safe. You are just too damn cute for a slaver to pass up. As it is Mr. Black has already increased security for all of you.”

Eve 1 and 2 came to Mr. Black because no other would or could afford to employ both of them in anything meaningful, besides, their fee was not exactly low. They also had decided that they wanted a change, something better for both in the longer term.

They, Carla included, were soon whisked off to their first assignment. When they boarded the IL-96, several things happened. There were now forty or fifty new occupants. On the men, it was fairly easy to see bulges; some left, most both sides stuck out. The dozen or so ladies with them raised some questions though, such as where exactly any weapons were hidden.

Perhaps more of a surprise was the envelope each received, too early for a dismissal they thought. They were led to some very large and comfortable seats; told some space and beds were available should they care to rest and meal service would be in 20 minutes.

They were seated; facing each other with a table between them. The look and raised eyebrows. The aircraft would normally carry over 300 people. On this one, spaces for no more than 100 were visible. After they were airborne, their FA handed them menus and suggested they open the envelopes, eat; then retire to their cabins; it would be a long trip, about 4 - 5 hours.

The first thing each saw in their envelopes was a letter written in several languages. Packed inside were also a dozen new passports, two of which indicated they had ‘Diplomat’ status. Banded together with credit/debit cards and a banking statement from the Credit Suisse Bank was an assortment of currency.

Upon reading the perfunctory welcome and a standard greeting, what followed looked like the details of the first assignment. It read:

Item Main Battle Tank Our cost for 1, 10, 100, 1,000 and FOB Site

What followed the same order was a wide selection of arms and munitions. The girls knew all the items listed but the quantities were daunting their minds to absorb. After a light meal, they elected that suggested rest.

The gentle knock on each cabin door was a reminder to get ready; they would be landing at Moscow in twenty minutes. Shortly before landing the FA entered each cabin, handed a robe that was in the closet and indicated seats nearby were for landing. There would be no rush on the ground, to shower, fresh clothing was in the closet and a snack would be brought in for them. It was the grin on the FA’s face that left each of the girls a bit concerned.

It was bad enough that the shower was small. The instruction to ‘wet (10 seconds), soap up, and then rinse (20 seconds) made everything worse. It was not to be; the worst was yet to come. Upon opening the closet, the only items found were military issue work clothes and boots. Each opening her cabin door found four faces looking and a FA who shrugged her shoulders and said, “Welcome to Rostov-on-Don Aerodome!” (one damn big military airbase just SW of Moscow Centre)

It may have been amusing to watch if these girls had not fallen into step immediately on exiting the plane. Four sets of combat boots matched their guide with the precision only achieved with years of practice. It would be no wonder to anyone watching why these four were chosen for these type assignments.

Two people were looking. Soon to be General Viktor Pachinko and another man wearing no rank. Both nodded to each other.

While this went on, far away Mickel Fedoravich was shaking his head.

This weather was hot, hot and humid; not at all like what he had near Odessa and in Kabul there were the mountains and many caves in which to get cool. It was not dry like Bagdad either but he wished it would be more enjoyable here. Where was here you ask, a place with a beach on the Atlantic Ocean north of Miami Florida. It was great if one asked his charges. After nearly five years away from Russia, anywhere there was no snow and ice was the kind of place a person could enjoy. Oh, he did not miss the incoming mortar rounds, RPG fire or intermittent ‘crack’ of sniper fire either.

Our home in Florida was a 63 meter long cruiser docked at a marina called the Bahia Mar. To me Mar meant a sea, or was that Mere; but when in Rome, if they wanted to think of this water as a sea, so be it. Alexis, Tasha, and Nikki were all with me. A boat from Cuba where we flew into on leased A350, had met the ship offshore and that we had already been registered members at a country club in Florida made our entry to the USA quite easy.

The free ‘safety inspection’ by the Coast Guard on our way in almost took too long. Perhaps Tasha should have worn more, a suit bottom at least, these Americans were so predictable. We had no drugs or contraband the dogs could find a scent of and I did not need to know wherever Tasha hid those cigars she got in Cuba. Some weapons and explosives though were well hidden, tightly wrapped in waterproof containers dragging under the ship. There was our mini-sub trailing us, it held some things no one need know about too.

It helped everyone relax that we had no clandestine mission or nefarious purpose in being here. Our Commander just wanted some information on our operation and allies here. He stated that we would be mixing ‘business with pleasure’, mostly pleasure he re-iterated to me.

“Treat this as a Holiday. You may never live long enough for another.”

It really was a ‘holiday’ my first in almost ten years with Viktor. This was very special, not only was he entrusting me with his ship, his power, prestige here in Miami but also, Nikki was his daughter. I thought of her as my sister. She was eight when I met her, now she was nearly eighteen but had never fallen into that trap of, ‘My father allows this or that’ syndrome, at least with me.

All these girls were special, most were family or very close friends of the other, all daughters of the Brigade members. Never had I needed to admonish them or put the fear of god in them. They all knew whatever I said needed to be done by them. To an outsider they may appear more like slaves than teens yet within the ‘Brigade’ (Bratva is organized by Brigade) and amongst our allies these girls were like princesses, all would show respect or die and all knew it.

They were here on Holiday too. One wish each had said to us in Moscow was to see ‘The Mouse’ and I did not think it was the hamburger Mickey.

Girls, you have got to love them!

“Yes, we will go see ‘Mouse’, if you all behave yourself.”

Little did I realize teen girls at that age could be quite devious about things they want. I think Viktor knew this and is why he sent me. I had been with Viktor through, what do you say, ‘thick and small’ or something like that. In prison, I earned two marks (Small tattoos on the neck) in the Bratva saving his life when KGB went out of power for a while. I guess if there was a measure in how much trust one man had in another that was one way to judge. That he would send his only daughter with me was perhaps an even greater measure. I never wanted anything that Viktor had and he knew that.

The Bratva, also known as the ‘Brotherhood’ and more commonly referred to as the ‘Russian Mafia’ has been around since the late 1980’s. It normally operates in Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, United States, Israel, United Kingdom, France, Benelux, Spain, South Africa, Canada, other parts of Europe, Africa and Australia. Its associates in China, Columbia, and Japan also find a growing relationship more than comfortable and that makes every group more powerful.

Bratva operates like a military organization in such things as racketeering, extortion, gambling, bookmaking, gun running, cybercrime, human trafficking, prostitution, drug trafficking, robbery, arson, bribery, money laundering, fraud, murder, theft, smuggling, fencing and human organ procurement.

In other ways Bratva operates like a business. In Moscow KGB carried over their roles as our ‘protectors’ even when FSB replaced them. It has friends, allies and associates, each with varying degrees of support. Bratva, based upon region generally find other Bratva or Russian groups as ‘the enemy’ if they operate in the same area.

That first night at the club must have set us up to a higher level of scrutiny than I wanted. I still am not certain if it was the girls, what they were almost wearing, our bodyguards or rumors concerning the way we had arrived. Nah, it had to be the girls. You try to escort teen vixens that only have a desire to show that they are woman, ha, this is not so easy.

The next day we were able to get through a morning meal without incident. I wanted to watch a tennis match that morning before it got hot. My girls were not used to American custom, like wearing clothes for sun. That caused enough of a stir that the guards had to bring me back to the ship to speak with them. Tasha being Tasha, when I started to scold them dropped her robe and what might pass for a thong bottom in Rio was all she wore. She twirled around and asked “is this what one wears here?” She was not a ‘small’ girl either.

My left hand grasped my forehead, squeezed over my eyes while I started to fume a bit. Alexis also dropped her robe then and had both a top and bottom on, neither meant for water or in public. “Or is this more what you meant?”

I shook my head and took a very deep breath, catching a smile on Nikki. “I thought you all wanted to see Mouse?”

“We’ will be good darling!” as they walked by with a kiss for me. I dare anyone to be angry with them.

I called the house we had here and got more bodyguards for them. There was no excuse I might offer should anything befall them. Remembering what the reaction to them was last night, I called the house again and ordered more guards, female this time. We were going shopping this afternoon and to a club later this evening. I wanted to make certain they were never left alone.

I went back to watch the tennis again. A girl from Russia and another from Ukraine were scheduled to play. Both were blond, both beautiful and very easy on the eyes as they say. Before the match was over, Gregor came up and whispered in my ear I had a call from Viktor on Nikki’s phone then the girls wanted to eat before shopping.

We walked over to the pool. Nikki handed me her SAT phone. Viktor kiddingly I think, asked if I was ready to go back to work yet.

“You mean watching these miscreants is not work Boss? Besides we have not seen Mouse yet!” He laughed. A rare thing these days.

“Is everything OK?” he asked.”

“I have added more guards from the locals here. These girls seem to attract more attention than I would like. Perhaps Gregor and Katya who has joined us today could take over if you want me elsewhere Boss.”

“What, you would leave my Nikki, Tasha and her friend with strangers. If I did not think of you already as a... , as family I should have you killed. You can control hundreds of men in Kabul but a few children are beyond your ability to watch over?”

“No my commander, but you forget these girls are not children any longer.”

“Yes, I know, you think they listen to me any better?”

“Actually Viktor, they all listen and that is not the problem, well Tasha seems to enjoy her little jokes at times, but they all are well-behaved but require constant watching, not them, those around them will be the problem.”

“Da, she had told me she wants to show you everything this trip. I think she means the clothes they buy; but my Nikki has said many times that she ... Oh, never mind. Be nice to her Mikel, make her happy.”

“Da, Viktor!”

I am not certain how long we talked but Viktor left me a bit confused. I felt a light tap in my shoulder, turned to the right and received a kiss on the cheek from Katya. Gathered around me were Gregor. Ivan, Boris, Stephan, Katya and ten others I did not recognize three male and three female. These were some of he added guards I had requested.

“Your girls are hungry and anxious Mikel, so we go now. Feed us.”

To quote that well used American expression I replied, “Yes Dear” and gave a light kiss back. Katya and I had been friend and friend with benefit over many years. Our way of life did not allow that to move up any further; our last parting was not on friendly terms either.

I should at this point that Tasha was the daughter of a member of my strike team in Kabul. She was one of two sniper/spotter combinations with us. Neither team made it out, alive that is. All four were killed covering our retreat from a section of the city which lead to the mountains. There was no way in Hell that I would or could leave her alone now.

When Nikki and Tasha met it was like bringing home a lost puppy. I think she was still eight, about the same age as Tasha. Nikki had long black hair, the kind some model would pay much to have. Tasha’s hair was just as long but pure white, like one might imagine seeing an angel. Since that first day the girls were inseparable, so much so, Tasha lived with us almost like a sister to Nikki.

Our midday meal was at the house. Instead of three, we used four cars. Gregor and a driver, Sven I think was his name were up front in ours. The back, meant for four had me, Katya and the girls squeezing in. Tasha, being Tasha climbed on my lap as she had the habit of doing since she was nine. She was no longer a little girl if you know what I mean. I did not notice the look Nikki gave her when she turned and put her arms around my neck and hugged me to her, Katya did though.

I had said earlier that Viktor had given me his power and prestige. That had both a good and bad aspect to it.

I would soon discover there was more that Viktor would give me, things I was not certain I even wanted.

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