It had been almost a failure by my standards, complete, by the terms of the contract though.
I was not very cold but my body was dripping every once of water I could drink. I had made it back to the US, through customs, with no baggage and now could barely stand let alone walk any further. I sat in one of the many small plastic covered sheets and closed my eyes. From previous experience I thought if I could just make it to a taxi, get home John would let me in and get me up to my apartment. Right, if, a betting man those were a set of odds I would not bet on. Bloods had soaked through an inch of gauze tape and bandages. It was only through the front of my shoulder but felt like the knife wound was ridding a freight train through my body. I closed my eyes and began such a wonderful dream that I did not want it to ever end.
I found myself being pushed and shoved. Not very pleasant when your trying to sleep. Then I heard her voice. "Are you Okay?"
'Damn!' I thought, 'they got me!' Then the voice sounded again.
"Should I get help or call anyone?"
I opened my eyes and saw the source of the voice. She had been another 'Business Class' passenger on the Lufthansa flight from Frankfort. Under normal circumstances I would have struck up a conversation or two with her. It was hard to even guess at her race. She was dark skinned, a dark olive more Asian than Arab or Greek. Her hair was long, black and glistened as though she had just exited some runway. It was her eyes though. They were a colour that one could not describe. They kept changing from green, to grey and a shade more like that of a cat's. She was short and if she even was 100 pounds it would be a surprise. We really must have looked the pair.
Here this 200 pound, 6' 3'' Anglo and some midget Cherub was holding up his head. The pain started now. I mumbled out, "Taxi, Cab, Home!"
She nodded and lifted me up as if I weighed no more than a sack of groceries from a market. One step at a time, one foot in front of another; push, push, push Marine!"
'Whoa!' Did I know her? As far as I could remember I had never told anyone, let alone her I used to, had been in the Marines. That was not a pleasant memory. Orders were not something I was used to taking and it was not in the cards for a loner like me to think 'Team' when lead started flying. They had given me a fair shot, several in fact before sending me on my way with less than a satisfactory recommendation.
She answered my question before I had a chance to ask it. "I've seen enough of you to know the only safe time around you for a girl is when your dying or dead on your feet. I think your pretty close to one of those REMF!"
No response from me. "Umpf, not too sensitive about that are we Yank?"
Her smile was like magic. "No Ma'am, long time ago!" as I put one foot in front of another. She stopped a cart and we speed to the exit. I rested my head on her chest, a mighty soft chest and started dreaming again.
We got a cab. I remember her fumbling through my pants pockets. Oh Hell I thought. Not another whore. I knew she would probably find some money, a lot of it, but not much else.
When I woke up, I was flat on my back, pillows propping up my head and she was cleaning out my wound.
"A bit of a tussle, Love?"
I had to laugh. "A bit but you should have seen the other guy? By the way, who are you and where are we?"
"We dear boy, are in a prime suite at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, thanks to a pocketful of cash you had tucked around. My name is Josephine and you have no identification or address on you."
"Chance." I moaned as she went a might deep.
"Yes, You were very lucky you and I met. I have always it seems, met the wrong kind of man, and you Sir do not give me the impression that this was the first time you have been hurt."
"No Joey, my name is Chance!"
"Phone!" I said!
She quickly slapped a wireless into my outstretched hand. I dialed a number, after a series of clicks, rings then redialing an answering voice could be heard.
"It's Chance, I need Doc. Right now I'm at this number, 202.555.1234, room(604 she mouthed) room 604, My guardian Angel here is torturing me and tell Doc to bring his bag of tricks. Ouch!" I yelled out as blood started to flow more freely from the wound.
"Here, drink these all down." Several tall glasses were lined up on the table.
The first tasted like warm salt water. After a grimace I drank it then sat it back down.
"Salt water, Stud, closest I could make to a Saline IV. Try number two."
Number two was about the same as the first one but sweeter."
"Sugar, Sugar, just drink it all down."
"I'll float way with all this doctor!"
Just then the door swung open. I knew who it was. "C'mon in Viv, I won't shoot you, this time!"
A tall blond slowly entered. From the wet head and coat partially closed around her waist it indicated her being here was not planned, 'Doc' had called her. The 'Glock 40' in her hand also was a hint she was no fool. She saw me, the bleeding wound and started shouting orders.
Get him on the floor, get water, salt, sugar and get his clothes off. I'll get a blanket.
Joey just raised her eyebrows, pointed to the two covers on the couch and handed me the another glass. Now this was my kind of a drink. Orange juice laced with Grand Marnier.
"I hope you don't get too excited Stud, I'm just following orders now." as she undid my belt and stated pulling down my pants. Vivian came back into the room and started to giggle.
"Hell chance, there are easier ways to get a girl than bleeding all over them. Honey, I hope you aren't to disappointed with him?"
"Well, it's not a Christmas present that I can't exchange, is it?"
"Chance, I like your new sidekick! You working or sleeping together, or both?"
Now Joey started to blush.
"Viv, let me introduce Natasha Romanov, my new No 2 agent, Miss Moneypenny retired."
I felt the blankets cover me, then all went black.
I woke up to a actual chewing out. "Why the Hell did you even bother to call me. Between these two I'll be out of a job if they decide to patch up everybody. I gave you some meds and an IV but, your personal medico's seem to have everything in hand, well almost everything. You lost a lot of blood dear boy and as usual I don't know or want to know any details. I called in and the message was, 'Thanks again!' I will assume they are happy with the results? You need to rest, take holiday or just consider the possibilities with these two lovely caregivers. I think one may be willing to try again!"
I looked up and saw the two sitting next to each other, staring like they were stalking some wounded prey.
"I'm not dead yet you two! Vultures!" Then softly. "Thanks!"
I guess the smiles on their faces was response enough.
"Vivian could you call John to send a car and some guys to get me home. I really want to thank you both later when I'm half alive!"
"I'll take you home, you two timing rat bastard!"
"Why Vivian, I didn't know you still cared? If I remember I was the one who came home to find you otherwise indisposed."
I got a grin from her and a blank look on Joey's face.
"My ex wife!" I said.
They looked at each other, Vivian now raised an eyebrow and smiling said, "long story!"
I put my head back down and fell asleep.
When I woke, the air now filled my lungs with the smell of seafood. Room service had brought up shrimp. lobster and sea bass all steamed or poached and arranged on the floor next to me. Two nymphs were now taking turns placing small morsels in my mouth. I did notice their hair colours were both natural.
"In order to hurry your recovery we decided to stay here a bit longer. We had no clothes so, we did the best we could for bed. We hope you don't mind. Oh, your cash on hand went down too, for extending this lovely room and the shopping your playmate and I will be doing tomorrow."
Right then I could care less. The food was exquisite and so were my servers. Joey and Vivian got me back home, eventually.
The next morning, with a smile on their faces and breakfast set out on the floor besides me, they left to go shopping. The two fingers, holding their noses gave me an indication that I needed to shave and shower, not to mention a few more personal things. I prioritized and tore into the food like a starving animal.
I thought again why Vivian and I had divorced. No real answer was forthcoming except her cheating on me ... Vivian and I had seemed to always be together. Marriage ended up to be almost the same. Joining up with the Marines separated us for the first time. That separation was filled in by someone else for her. Both of us just forgot about the other. On one surprise trip home I met my replacement. Viv acted more like a cat in heat with him, as I watched her slithering all over him.
I quietly closed the bedroom door. On the kitchen table I left something for her. My ring and a note bearing the words, 'Forever ended I guess?'
That was a while ago. A few things had changed since then. One biggie was that my replacement stuck around. I can't say we became friends but I ended up being invited to their wedding. Sorry but I did not go, sent a nice gift and live in the other penthouse in the building they owned. She got that in her divorce a year later. Funny maybe.
About a year after the divorce, we started talking to each other. When I came back one day, there was nobody else to call. Vivian took care of me. Arranged for me to get the Penthouse in her building and for John to see to it when I was away.
Being away was one reason for the split but not the main one. Over time we both found that one thing that we had lost, was trust, it never would sneak its way back in. Soon we were friends at least. Not lovers, that was far beyond either of us to forget. We began to understand how it happened though.
Joey had to leave and soon Vivian left too. John said he would check in each day and get me food and meds just to call him if I could not wait.
My life had re-started when I met Doc. Nope it was not on a professional basis. After the USMC kicked me to the curb, rightly so, I discovered the wonderful world of Online Gaming. That's where I met Doc, or 'Doctor Death' as he was known in the game.
I thought of myself as a super slick rogue. I had just reached level 40, could now fly and had just enough gold to buy new weapons, man I was bad. I went marked for death and I now knew why people had all told me I was no way high enough. The nice thing about constantly dying in a game is it does not hurt. After 8 or 9 times my opponents, all 5 of them, were able to ensure that within 3 or 4 seconds of reviving I was dead again. That changed when 'Doc' jumped in.
He stood over my corpse. I healed up and stayed at his back. He was a level 60, with plate armour and weapons that were unique, legendary grade. It was not just that, he played the game as though it was real life. Those opponents all soon lay at his feet. When they returned to life. He pointed them away and whispered to me to hearth home. He would see me there.
That began a relationship that would change my life. He had a group in the game, they were called 'The Hounds From Hell'. There was something about them that brought out respect and fear from every other group that saw them. Even friendly forces seemed to shy away and left them alone, rare in a game where so many were subjected to vile comments and ridicule by various cretins.
I would eventually learn that they were a lot scarier in real life than they ever could be in a game. Not only was my avatar invited to join them, but later in real life they became not only my lifeline to sanity but my reason for being.
They must like taking in stray dogs. Starting with 'Doc' then rotating around I found I was now living with and meeting each of my game friends in real life. My comment about no longer having a home brought me the comment that 'home was where your lay down to sleep' and they could take care of that.
For about a year I travelled to a dozen different places, from living like a king to the harsh life of a cabin in the mountains. I never knew you could use the internet from a satellite, even there.
At one place I met Mia and her sister April. Her death filled my heart with a sadness I never thought possible. I was to find out that the friendship and camaraderie in the game extended beyond that, way beyond that. When 'Doc' indicated that they all were going away for a bit, I gave the only answer I knew. "Where are we going?" I did not have to ask Why? I knew, we all wanted revenge, not just for April but because Mia had been one of us.
I began to realize now, too late, what the 'Semper Fi' had meant, and how 'Once a Marine, Always a Marine' was more than a mantra. Real tears came. It must have meant something for all of us to avenge Mia because we all came back to April, told a few stories, drank a few toasts and 'Doc' handed me an envelope, saying to stay with April a while in Denver. Make certain she would be all right and we would have some work soon.
That was years ago it seemed and I never looked back.
Faces on assignments came and went. We each, it seemed, had responsibility for various countries or parts of the world. When offered Greenland or Eastern Europe it did not take many seconds for me to blurt out, "Kiev, Prague or Berlin?" I hated snow though but it was the lesser of two evils.
I saw less and less of Vivian during those years. Like I said, when I came back she now owned the building and arranged another penthouse for me. Looking back I wondered if she ever was sorry we had split. Maybe not since she seemed to have an almost constant stream of male visitors. John one day told me, in confidence, he had seen her crying several mornings on the terrace.
The French have an appropriate saying or two that deal with that. Try as I might though, I could no longer even remember why we had gotten married, and certainly had no feelings beyond some friendship for her now.
My last 'contract' had turned pretty ugly. I knew leaving the Agency 'alive' was not much of an option. They too knew though that something had to be done for me or to me maybe.
I asked to take a vacation. Back when I was growing up there had been some land I had gone to, often just to think. It, in my mind, was a peaceful valley. That was something I needed now.
I drove up near that same area and just started walking.
When I saw Carrie and Lu Ann together, for me, I could not help to think back to when I was at their age. I found out later, Carrie was going on near 18 and Lu Ann was 18 months younger. They had a younger sister who was 14; she was home with Grandpa. Their parents had just up and left. First their mother, then their father. They were not even sure if they had legally been married. That was just the way things were in the hills.
It was heart-wrenching then to watch Carrie and Lu Ann comfort each other. It might be easy to think they were too close or went beyond what most people would consider a 'normal' relationship, but you have to remember this was so remote a place that it seemed each other was all they had.(Our Organization just loved being remote) To me, seeing them caress, hug, and kiss each other was beautiful and just a natural act of love
Here were two teens now holding, groping, fondling and kissing each other. I swear, if it became any more 'physical' and somebody was watching they would have thought they were having an orgy or something perverse. That was not really what was happening. This was a release that some families just share with each other.
I guess the fact that their clothes sort of got opened, blouses, shorts, whatever, seemed to have someone's, hands or mouth fondling and kissing anything that got exposed.
Nothing happened but I found they were all laying back, hands stroking, holding, or gently rubbing each other, more like lovers rather than family. What was surprising was that there was no guilt or panic on anyone's face. In fact, huge smiles then the starts of laughing came out. Carrie was the first, she shed all her clothes, Lu Ann followed suit. The hugging and kissing began again.
I saw the smoldering look in Carrie's eyes as she came up to me; her fingers started tracing down my chest. She started removing my clothes.
"I ain't never seen a man except my Grandpa. Can I hold and touch you all over, Please?"
What do you say to a naked woman at a time like that.
The girls must have felt something since both of them ended up in my arms, just wanting to be held. It was late, getting near evening and I wanted to see the girls home then talk about what almost happened. We did not quite make it to their cabin before a 'ball of fire' rushed out crying and hurled herself at the girls.
"I thought you left me too. I was so scared. Please don't leave me, please." then she started sobbing. Neither of the girls were fully dressed, blouses un buttoned. Little hands automatically found breasts and nipples to hold and comfort, much like a child suckling from a mother. She calmly said, "I'm Sue Ann", all the time holding on to her sisters.
That would have gotten my response until the door opened again and a old man hobbled out. "What in tarnation is going on. You girls get inside and fix some tea or coffee, where are your manners, we got a guest. From the looks of you I don't guess you need to worry about clothes. Best all get inside while I talk to this man. From the looks on your faces I need to find out if I need my shotgun or not or if I'm 'a goin' to be a great grandpa soon. Zeke, Zeke Miller, and you be?" as he held out his hand in greeting.
"Chance, Sir!" I sort of just took Carrie and Lu Ann over as part of my life. I am sorry.
"Ha, I been waiting for the day somebody got attached to them, their sister too. Three Hellions getting ready to be women need a family, a man even. A 'grandpa' don't count and around here they all have long been ready for kids. Trouble is, there 'aint' nobody around here much, and at 78, I'm not about to go sparking my own grand daughters, if I get your drift about taking these two."
"No Sir, I just meant they, the valley over there, and something I seemed to be missing just clicked. I took no advantage of your grand daughters, but, truly, it might have come to that, I fell in-love with them."
"Easy enough to do, they have a lot to give but won't leave an old man alone to get on with their own lives."
Sue Ann came out and called us all in. They did not have much, but what they had, was put out for us. Nobody got dressed more. When I sat down we found Carrie, and Lu Ann climbing or in Carrie's case, just jumping into my lap. Soon Sue Ann joined in. Soft hands took mine and placed them inside their open blouses and at their protruding nipples. I think these girls had never been loved, then I remembered what they said about being abandoned by their parents. As they curled up even more in my lap, all the time purring like kittens with their breasts being stroked, I started talking to Zeke. We found out a lot of things. He also seemed to learn what he wanted to about me. If he was a machine, I think he would have been more successful than any lie detector ever invented. Talking to him was like opening up to some shrink.
All the time my little lap ornaments seemed to be falling asleep.
"Now you done it. You 'aint' ever getting rid of them now. I don't know your intentions but if you plan to up and leave them, just 'shoot em' they will just pine away without you now."
I finally said something. "Two horses, three cows, six goats and a handful of cash, no more you hear, no more for all three."
My lap girls pretended not to hear but put arms around me and cuddled closer. Sue Ann was now naked and started to want me undressed the same as her.
"Zeke! Who owns the valley, I want to buy it."
"It 'aint' for sale, but for the right folk and my grand daughters future, I'd give it to em!"
I asked Zeke if $2,000 a month would be enough for him to live on. He laughed and said $2,000 a year might be hard to spend. In no un-certain terms he then wanted to make certain about one thing, his grand daughters. I looked at Zeke and nodding informed him that everything should be put in their names in a trust for those under 18.
We would want to build another cabin by the valley and there would be an open account for him and cash for the girls as long as I were alive.
I took that time to tell him a little about my life, the relationship I had with my Masters and the prospect that I might not be around if my Masters got too concerned with things. One look at the girls in my lap brought tears to my eyes. Family had been a missing part of my life, these girls were the missing part of the family I had wanted.
My Masters had assigned people to watch me and the report they gave brought out a smile in even them.
Some sort of a new start and healing had begun for all of us it seemed.
When the new cabin was built, the minxes decided the bed was large enough for all of us and that they wanted to do some more 'exploring'. I'm not sure who it was, and I really did not want to know but my morning wake up now was sitting up just staring at me and giggling at my reactions. The prospect of a new assignment seemed no longer very important either.
Zeke passed away soon after the new cabin was complete. Sue Ann had stayed to care for him, never leaving his side at the end and now she was joining her sisters and moving in with us. I'm not sure who was happier, from the start we had bonded and now were almost inseparable, the little minx, Sue Ann always managed to find me when she had no clothes on.
Now that she wanted to be like her sisters and was 15, it was like I had three wives, although they said we had a little slave girl with Sue Ann and her cuddles.
The cabin became a retreat to us. My 'vacation' was too soon over and it was 'back to work'.
I made the cabin home and the girls my only companions. I came home as often as I could. Later into this new living style I was informed we needed to add more space to the cabin, a nursery would be nice too. It seemed Carrie and Lu Ann were expecting. Sue Ann was miffed she was not, but sweetly told me that next year she would have a little surprise for me too, so might as well build extra rooms now.
I am not sure if I had changed or it was a kinder, or more understanding Agency, but my Masters seemed to treat me better, trust me more and never seemed to balk at my need for frequent trips home.
I seemed that now having someone and something to care about made my Masters more at ease with my work. That new 'family' feeling seemed to now extend to the teams I would be working with as well.
Getting a nurse, then help for Carrie and Lu Ann was a first. In the Hills, this had never, ever been done before. My Masters(remember I said they liked remote places), bought the rest of the land surrounding me and built a series of cabins One was a small Medical lodge where injured agents could R & R. Those nurses would deliver babies too.
I called John, not Vivian to ask him to let some people empty the Penthouse, I would no longer need it. The Agency did me another favour. They tracked down Joey and told her to call a number if she ever needed anything, that, unfortunately I could usually not be reached.