The pulley came in. The little blonde looked at the sheet. "Damn! one right only!"
She put up another target, sent it downrange and began to reload.
"Try all of them like you did on the ten, Hon!"
"I'll never get it right! I keep trying, I'm not complaining but I don't know what's even wrong! No one will help me because I'm a girl!"
"Ummmph! Wait a second!" I went in to my locker, got some things and returned.
"OK squirt, let me see what your shooting!" When she showed me the 1911.45 ACP I knew right away what why she was having a problem. It was a piece of crap. The pistol might have been great at onetime, but that was long ago.
"OK, put that away. Ahhh. un-load it first!"
"It was my fathers'. It, it ... He was killed last month. He ... he was..." Then she broke down crying.
I held her in my arms. She seemed like my sister would be, if she was still alive.
"Let's go inside, eat and talk some. I want to know why you need to learn how to shoot."
Our fabulous meal consisted of peanut butter and cheese things, two colas and a year-old cinnamon bun from the machine. Sugar and BHT, it is a wonderful pick-me-up. She was looking alive again. There had been many meals like this where we lived on sugar for days. Yep, it brought back memories. Not all good ones though.
She was 17, her name was Heather, and her father had been mugged and died in hospital. All this just a few months before her 18th birthday. She decided that she would find and kill the people that had murdered her dad. It was like my memory from the past.
"First I need to ask you if you are serious? Then, will you listen and do everything I tell you to do? No complaints, no questions, and no more crying? If the answer is yes to all those things I will teach you to do what you want to do!"
She looked up at me, her red eyes bore right into her very being, and right into my very soul. "Yes," she whispered and wrapped her arms around me. I wish I knew then what I was getting myself into.
"Get your gear, follow me and put everything into my locker."
We went inside and started shopping. "Pete, my partner here needs the full set-up! We 'be go'in Hun ten' soon! The good stuff Pete."
He looked at me like I was crazy, then took us into the back room. He hit a concealed switch and a door opened. We went in. Her eyes told it all. When the lights came on, she stood in awe. Her little mouth was open like a baby bird being feed by it's mother.
"Hold the box Pete is giving you," I said. I proceeded to put in an assortment of things we would need. Gloves, glasses, earplugs, a .22 magnum Colt revolver, a 9mm Kurtz cal PP Walther, a .40 cal Sig-Sauer with a lot of accessories for it, a lot. "Pete, we will need a locker for her, and a few thousand rounds of .22 cal long rifle, .22 cal magnums, 9mm Kurtz cal HP, five thousand .40 cal solid point and one thousand Teflon-coated AP rounds. All Palma Match please, none of that cheap shit. I assume these three little guys are 'ready to go'? I want another graphite Sig, Accurized with all the goodies for her, in about four months. Anything else she needs put it on my tab along with this stuff. Got It?"
"Hon, the first thing you need to do is easy. Eat, rest, exercise and start running everyday until your doing seven miles and you feel like doing more. Swim, use weights, start some kind of martial arts and we will start shooting in about two to three months."
Now, I am used to guys, you can kick the shit out of them, drown 'em, roll them in mud and abuse them until they drop. Why is it that a girl always starts to cry?
All I heard was..."I ... I can't. I can't even pay the rent, everything I have went to ... I've been trying to learn how to shoot."
Pete chimed in. "She's been in here everyday for a month. I've been giving her the ammo at cost."
"A month! And did it ever occur to your "Squid' pea-brain to mention to her that a beat up .45 ACP is not something to learn how to shoot on. Besides, she needs to learn how to 'kill'.
"Yes Sir! he said, then closed the door. He took her back to get a key and locker, next to mine. I made a phone call. It was answered, it seemed like 2-3 minutes, like it used to, before the routing ended, it was just a few seconds now, technology at work.
"XXXXX, YYYYY, ZZZZZ" I gave something to the voice who answered. "Well, I got into another fine mess! I need to get a new partner ready. The whole way, no more than 12 months, and, it's a she." There was a laugh on the other end.
"Hey, we're not that bad, are we?"
In all this time I never knew the voice was a she.
"Can't live with them, but sure in Hell don't want to live without them!"
"Hoorah", said the voice.
"Semper Fi." "I need quick and easy for a while, Ma'am. She is sort of a 'Special Assignment' so this is only between us. If she ever calls, her name will be 'Natasha', and it will mean you need to help her, I will not be able too. I need a one-time for her."
"Where will she be?"
"As much as it will be real hard on me, I guess, where I am she will be. At least until this is over. Yes, she is cute, but I think of her like, like..." I really hated when I did this. "Bye "M", Bond's the name, James Bond!" I hung up. Damn, she was getting to me now.
I went to find her. She was helping put away the stuff.
"I don't need all this stuff! I can't afford all this stuff! I don't even know what to do?"
"Ten Hut, soldier! You don't need to think, you don't need anything, you will get everything you will need. What you do need to do is obey everything I will tell you, do everything I show you. and then learn to do it with your eyes closed. Do you understand me?"
"Yes Sir" as she was now at attention.
"And you don't ever listen to that 'Squid', Pete. God, he doesn't know left from right unless somebody tells him. I think his mama dropped him on his head a few times."
"Listen "Grunt' you're the one she dropped. I keep telling you, you were her mistake."
Pete and I had been through Hell and back. Even so, I did not want to think that far back.
"Miss, from now on your name is 'Natasha', if, and I say if, you earn it, you will be given a last name. I take it from all your sniffling that you have fallen on hard times. When we will make a man out of you, God willing?"
"Gee, I hope not!" as she batted those eyes at me. I melted.
"Girl I don't know what it is, but I am willing to give you a chance!" Nope, I knew what it was, I knew from the minute I heard her story. She was like the sister I had lost. I found who had killed her, raped her, and made our mother kill herself. Yes Sir, I knew exactly what she wanted to do, and I was going to help her do it.
"Now, we need to set the rules. There are no rules! I will make the rules and you will obey, you got it?"
"Yes Sir!" as she stuck her chest high and out. I guess her papa had raised here right.
"Who was your Dad, worm?"
"Sgt. Major Evans Sir! Ft. Bragg."
"Worm, I am hungry. This 'Squid' may get some things I leave, and you, my dear may even get to then clean his plate, if we can teach him how to use one. At that time, you will tell me everything. Do you hear me worm?"
"Yes Sir!" Then she wrapped her arms around me and started crying again. I looked at Pete who was handing her a door key and closed up shop.
We had dinner at the 45th Bomber Squadron in downtown San Diego. 'Natasha' decided that she really was hungry, once she stopped crying. Steak, shrimp, salad, two ice teas, two waters and a double desert later we had heard a little more about her.
She was alone, her dad and her had lived on base until he was retired with a disability. They had moved to California, were shocked at the prices here, even with the depressed markets. They rented and when her dad was mugged, the bills, funeral, and having to wait on VA and AFES had used up whatever money she had.
It was near 20:00 Hours. "Worm! I told you as long as you are 'in our little unit' everything you will need will be provided, as long as you OBEY ME!"
"Yes Sir! Master"
Now she had me worried. Why had she called me Master. Was I being to hard on her. Up until now she was fitting right in for her 'Boot Camp' training. This was not some harem, at least I thought it wasn't. Was she really just shy of 18 years old?
Pete dropped me off at my car. I had a nice car, well maybe a really nice car. 550 SLC Mercedes' were pretty common in California. The car got me a look from her. When we got to the 'house', more a hunting lodge, she started to squirm and look around as we drove through a series of gates into the compound area. "This is where you and I will train! The first time you say NO to me, you're ass is gone. You hear me Worm?"
There she goes again.
She looked over a nice size exercise yard. We got back in and drove up to the house. We went in. Yep, up three levels, until we got to her new suite, all 1,500 sq ft of it. I introduced her to the staff and the maid began to show her around her area. Yoshi, the cook asked what she may want for breakfast the next day and if she wanted a snack, before then, to merely use the call pull and someone would see to it.
My dear sweet Miko then took her to the patio/deck where a pool, hot tub, sauna, and huge shower area joined her bathroom. Some clothes, robes(Silk) and personal items were all in-place. In the distance, you could see where two helicopters were parked.
When Miko bowed and left, I bid Natasha goodnight and told her at 05:30 we start and began to leave. I felt a hand on my arm. She shed her clothes, then assumed the position of a 'slave', legs spread wide, head and back leaning, her arms behind her. She then said, "Master, collar your Worm, I'm never leaving here!"
I don't know why, or what spell she used on me but I reached my arms out, picked her up and took her into my arms. As I kissed her head, I heard myself say, "You never have to leave, little one." I could think of a lot of reasons right then why I would leave this world before she would. I also then wished for those 'Dog Tags' we were not allowed to wear. "Damn"
It was not a fun night. Miko came in several times and asked if I needed anything. Yeah, my head examined.
05:00, was by habit my "Three S' time. Miko came in to tease me in the shower. She said the 'young girl' was outside. She stressed the young and girl. I went outside with a bad feeling, or was it a feeling that I would be 'bad'?
"We warm up, run, then eat Worm!"
Damn, when had I lost control?
Breakfast was served on the terrace. Yoshi had prepared a variety of things. Miso soup, fresh fruit, warm oat cereal, hamburgers, milk shakes, plural (Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla), eggs, potatoes, hash, 3 kinds of fresh juice(Orange, Papaya, Grapefruit), milk and coffee. I wondered why 'The Worm' had not ordered anything, as I dug in. "Not eating?" I asked.
I got the look, I mean 'The Look', the one that all females seem to learn at puberty.
"Who are you? and Why are you doing this?"
I could only give her one answer, the truth. "What" I offered.
Nope it was not going to work.
"Would you believe I do this all the time for fun?"
Another one of 'The Look'.
It was time for me to assert control. She was, after-all just a girl. "I'll ask the questions Worm!"
I had a very stern glare on my face, almost a threatening stare. She started to cry and I broke. I put my arms out to her then Miko came in with a package. For you. 'Master'.
Now she was starting it. This was my home, why were these, these, ... females doing this to me? After-all I was in-charge here, wasn't I?
She was now Natasha Hennessey. Irish father, Russian mother, both deceased. ID, passport, licenses, mail, bills from her prior address, bank and cheque account, permits, and an large envelope of pictures and receipts. The passport and birth certificate showed little Natasha as 15. I had my 'voice on the phone' to thank for that reminder. On a small piece of tissue thin rice paper was a number and code.
"Worm, read these, memorize them then eat it." There was also several pills and gelatin capsules with lancets. I took those and the two small metal cylinders. "Worm, you need to get checked by a doctor, of sorts" I mumbled.
"OK! Who are you? What is your name? and Why are you doing this?"
"OK, My name is Bond, James Bond, and 'M' wants your 'Lecter' machine!" There, I was very smug now.
She looked really upset now. "Ughhhh!" she said, "Men." I handed her the rest of the package.
"We need to go shopping for clothes for you and get your exam over with." She started to say something. I did a Mr. Spock with my ears and eyebrows. I heard. "Yes Master."
Well now, she was learning. She swayed back into her room. Miko came and told me 'Natasha' had a question. I went into her suite and stopped. She was on the floor, naked in the 'slave' position. "What would Master like ... for me to wear ... or ... DO?"
Now, I was not a saint, there had been more than one woman in my sordid career, but this 'minx' was making all that seem to be 'boy scout' training. I did the only thing I could do. "I ran out of the area and yelled, "M I K O OOOO".
Things might have gone smother if I had used the same car. Nope, not me, the sleek, black Porsche RSR was my baby, at least before 'The Worm' came along. It had been less than 24 hours and I felt like she was running my life. When she put her arms around me, rested her head on my arm and I whiffed her scent, I really did not care anymore. Score Me 0, Natasha 200. I really did forget about going anywhere.
'The Worm' reminded me we needed to go. "Master, we also need a collar, and could you get me a nice long leash? Maybe a surprise for tonight too, Huh?"
Maybe there was a nice long 'assignment' far away for me. Far, far, away.
In the words that a famous, someone had once said, "Why me Lord?"
The medical team was already at the airport. They had flown in from La Jolla and were doing my 'voice' a favour, by meeting us. I hesitated to have both the implants placed into her. Finally I decided the tracking chip would be enough, there would be no need for the 'final solution'.
The med team thought both were needed. She got a full spectrum of shots, tests and both preventative and morning after birth control. If any STDs or other infections were seen I would be notified.
We went to a decent shopping mall. I told her she would need two dozen thick socks, 6 pair shorts, tops, sports bras, running shoes and any personal items. I had her charge a few other things, then went to a some specialty shops where we got a half-dozen outfits. I gave her the option of lunch out or back at the lodge. She choose to go out for lunch. So we drove a bit to a small cafe in the hills near the ocean. Seafood was the house special. We both had it. She had never said anything on the way but with a full tummy on the return trip, she talked almost all the way back.
If I closed my eyes, it was like listening to my sister. There were several constant questions which kept coming up. When was her training on shooting going to start? How would she find whoever killed her father? What was she going to do after? Why was I doing this? Did I really mean it when I said she did not ever have to leave? How would she ever repay me? What did I expect from her? Did I want to keep her as a slave?
I told her they were all good questions. I suggested we stop, stretch our legs, and I would try to give her what I was planning. We were on a scenic route so finding a spot along the water was easy to do. I had a blanket in the boot and spread it on the grass near the sand. Then I told her a few things.
Shooting was not the issue. Killing someone, in cold blood, was the reason we were doing this. She was young, in-experienced and did not know the first thing about these things. I told her that this was all good. She would learn how to do things in a proper way. The bad was it would take a long time. My initial estimate was 10 - 12 months of training. Then it was just for this one job.
Random muggings might never be found out. If we were lucky, someone would start bragging or tell much more than they should. I was going to call in a few favours from people who would find out all they could, even then, we may never know. We did not know the enemy so we must start to cover all the bases. This meant, like a real job, she would start a boot camp, then progress from there.
What would happen after, well, one never knows. The fact that she reminded me so much of my sister, was the only reason why I wanted to help her. I wanted nothing from her. Life has no certainty, we may get lucky, and we may not. She was welcome to stay in one of my homes as long as she followed my rules.
Rule one, there are no rules, other than what I say. In the short-term, that meant she would be free to stay on one of the Estates, no friends, contacts or outside life. Should she tell anyone about me, my helping her or what we were preparing for, it would end. No second chances and I would disappear. When it was over or in 36 months she was free to leave and would be given money and the start of a new life. If she wanted, she could stay with me, but it would not be much of a life for a young girl.
Then I dropped the 'bombshell' on her. If I would not be coming back, she was to call the number I had given her, give the codes, and follow the instructions given her. We would never see each other again. How would she know? Miko would tell her. It was all very simple, in my mind, but not to her. It was the start of a thousand questions. Finally, I told her. Miko would be notified in the event of my death. I would not ever be coming back.
I had not even thought to try to answer her questions. As far as who I was, I guess that person no longer existed. He had died a long time ago. The role I played now had come about quite by accident. An assignment came up in some small, unknown, South American countryside. It seemed a simple enough job. Eliminate one 'bad guy' then exit. What it started was a unforeseen chain of events, that led to a dozen or more 'political' terminations in this country. To do that, a new sub-group was formed. Because my work had started it all, I was the charter member. We were termed, 'ghosts'. Our people did not exist, we had no organization, and took 'orders' only from a few, select, 'bosses'. No questions were ever asked, no reports written and we recruited people, as we needed them, without ever telling anyone any details.
There was an up-side and a down-side to this kind of life. We 'owned' very little, everything was provided for. If we failed, clean-up was very simple, since details of sorts, were always brief. Our only contact was 'the voice' and how the conversations were kept secure, is, in itself, a secure procedure. No expense was spared, success was the goal, failure/death the only excuse, death by natural causes excepted. "Ghosts' don't die, they are already dead.
The surprise on these 'sanctions' was the time, the was no time limit, either do or die trying. Who, What, When, Where and Why were never discussed.
The girl was very attractive. Short, blond, well-built, and carried herself well, from what I could see.
I made a sat-phone call to Pete. We had a few of the 'special' sat-phones that even NSA could not break. I asked him to find someone who could check out 'the street' as to who might have killed Mr. Evans. Just a discreet contact, someone who would keep quiet about it.
Our training started. If Heather/Natasha thought she was going to see me humping those hills out back, wrong. Miko was the athlete, she had been in the Olympics, and even now, would run a marathon or two each year. Yoshi, was not just a chef, he taught trainees martial arts. Life was good sometimes. I would not have a lot to do until she was beat into shape.
Life, often has a surprise. Miko and her charge were out and about running their shapely asses off. I was called from the gate. Two cars were requesting to enter. They were described as not the usual Mercedes, too heavy and seemed armoured. Hell, if they were polite enough to ask, why not. I had them escorted to the barn. I met the cars there. A sort of burly man got out and addressed me.
"Mr. Bond, Mr. Palermo would like to meet with you at his home, to discuss the tragic death of Mr. Evans. We have arranged transportation there and back for you, or if you prefer, you may follow us, and drive yourself part-way. We understand any need for security and your safety. Two of my people will remain behind until you return. Here is the sat-phone id and address where we will be going, you may call and confirm the arrangements."
Whoever these people were, they had my attention. This was very professional and seemed 'safe'.
"How long will it take, Mr.????"
"My name is Frank sir. I work for Mr. Palermo, have for a very long time. We can get you there and back in three hours. I believe you will be asked to dine with us this evening. If so, we will get you back no later than 09:30."
I made a call from the barn, several in-fact. Our guests were to be taken to the house and entertained. "What about dress?"
"We are 'family' sir, you may come as you are or change, as you see fit."
"Let's go Frank, what's for dinner?"
"Veal and Pasta, I think tonight Mr. Bond."
I got into the lead car, on the opposite side of Frank. In this business, you had to make an instant call when meeting people. I liked this big guy. Everything I heard from him seemed reasonable. He asked, did not push, and seemed to think our meeting this evening not as some business or arranged meet, as it was an invitation for family.
Our first stop was a golf/club in the Hills. Frank handed me a key-card and decal, saying to display it for access and I had a private room there for my use. Membership was courtesy of Mr. Palermo.
We drove past the club to a private runway/hanger complex. We exited and boarded a sleek Cessna III. Frank explained the runway size limited the planes they could use there. We were off.
"Where to Frank?"
"Las Vegas, or just outside, Mr. Palermo has an Estate there and he and his family will be there too. He has a son, Alex who is 18 and a daughter Gina who is 15. As I said, I have been with Mr. Palermo quite a long time, and this is the first time an 'outsider' has been invited to dinner there."
"Frank, you seem to think of him as more a father than an employer?"
"I guess he is like a father. He has always treated me as family and I would do anything for him, anything, the kids too."
"Tell me about them Frank, I know this is not the usual kind of thing. He seems to know a lot about me. This, is very unusual, since even this name, Bond, was a recent joke."
"All I can tell you is that the word came back that you were an honourable man, and kept your word. When Mr. Palermo was informed that you needed some information, it seemed he too was interested in these same people. So here you are. We will land in 45 minutes. There is a runway on the Estate so it may be a little short but we'll be ok."
Things went as Frank said, with the exception of the reversers sounding like we were going to explode. Several cars met us at the plane and we were taken to the mansion. It was a complex of three identical wings with pools, hot tubs, tennis and greens in the centre.
"Mr. Palermo wants the same for us as he has for himself. We all live here."
At no time was I made to feel un-comfortable. I was not told to remove weapons nor was I searched. We got out of the car and walked up a flight of stairs to the terrace and pool areas. There I saw Mr. Palermo, Alex and Gina waiting.
He stuck out his hand and said, "Mark, my son Alex, daughter Gina and I'm Tony."
No one in 10 years had ever called me Mark! How the Hell did this man know my real name.
"I invited you here for several reasons, the first was your interest in information of a certain street crime. The second because I would ask a favour of you. The third, I need your help with things that means more to me than anything on this earth."
"Tony, you got my attention. Not only by the gracious way that Frank got me here, but how much information you were able to get in such a short time."
"I would like to combine our discussions with dinner, if this meets with your approval. Alex, Gina and Frank will be joining us. I have nothing to hide from them, and much of what concerns me involves them too. Let me say, up-front that I am dying. These three are my heirs. It is my sincere hope that Alex and Gina will never follow the business I am in. Frank will, I'm afraid he is so much like me that he would not leave it if he could. Frank!"
Frank started. "Could we offer you some wine or a drink before dinner?"
"I'll have whatever the rest are having."
"Ice teas all around Maria," he said to the young lady.
"Like Tony said, Mr. Bond, for that is as good a name for me as we need, Alex and Gina need to leave this business. We have discussed what this means and we all think the transition should happen when Tony passes. Alex is, involved in other ways with what we will discuss. Gina, Gina, she is 15 going on 30. To her, the thought of this business seems all glitz and glamour. I have told her, Tony has told her, that it is not. This is not what it was when we started."
Gina spoke up. "My father has never pretended to be a saint. He has said that I have not seen what this business is really like. He told me and Frank has told me that you would 'open my eyes', so to speak, about the differences between 'good and bad'. Is this so Mr. Bond?"
Alex interrupted. "Gin, you are putting the cart ahead of the horse. There is another part, my part, that comes into this story first. My father has selected you to be the judge, jury, and, if needed, the executioner, of my cousin Vincent. We think he is responsible for the future death of our father. The doctors have tried to rid his body of the poisons given to him, but at best, they can only delay the inevitable. We think Vincent is responsible. We also feel that his people were responsible for the murder of poor Mr. Evans."
I looked at Tony, saw the gleam in his face at how well his children had explained so much in so few words.
"I see how my inquiry into the Evans murder fits, but not what this may have to do with Gina and her understanding of our business. Yes, I said our business, because you know what I do. The only difference is which side these things are done for. Even now, I'm not sure that there is a difference."
"That is the third part. In exchange for helping you do the things you need to concerning the Evan's thing, I want you to take Alex and Gina away. Train them, show them what the real world is like and prepare them to live a life when I am gone. Money is not a concern. Frank will take over this business. You will need to prepare my son and daughter for life. Frank will provide you with whatever you want."
"Yes, Mr. Bond, I love these two like my brother and sister. Tony has provided them with money for their future, but neither he or I know anything but this business. Neither of us want that life for them."
From Tony, "A trade my friend, I give you everything you will ever want, in exchange for you giving me what I want."
If the story about being offered everything in exchange for one's soul is correct, I think Tony just did it. Dinner was excellent. This was not like going out, it was as close to being with family that I had experienced in almost 10 years.
Frank flew me back, when we were getting into the cars at the San Diego club, he said, "the club, plane and a couple other things are yours, Mr. Bond. A corporation will pay all the expense. A small token of our appreciation."
He or Frank had never asked me if I would agree, they just did what they do best, make the rules up as they go. The next surprise was when we got to my place and Frank mentioned that the kids would be down at my place next month. Gina still has 1 more year in high school, she was going here in San Diego so living at my place would not be a problem. Alex had graduated and would train full time with me. Frank handed me a set of keys.
"We heard you like cars, Mr. Palermo wanted you to have a memento."
He showed me a picture of the powder blue, 1957 'gull wing' Mercedes. Then smiled as he drove our two guests back.
Miko, Yoshi and Natasha were like taking turns asking 20 questions. A large crate had been delivered. What was inside? Who sent it? Why? When I informed Miko to have two more suites readied the questions began again.