Faith, Family, Country...
|CAPITAL PUNISHMENT xXx JAMES DRACON |
"Howdy, what can I get y'all tonight?"
"Scotch on the rocks and a double of whiskey for the girl."
"Alright, any specific brand? We have Jack, Jim and SoCo." The man looked to his lady friend.
"Jack Daniel's, please," she replied.
"Comin' right up." Caroline Jackson walked to the bar where her younger sister Dakota was waiting for her. It was unusually quiet for a Saturday. The Broken Skull Saloon in Amarillo, Texas was never this empty on a weekend evening.
"I need a scotch rocks and a Jack double, 'Kota."
"Ya got two more, just walked in, sis," Dakota said, pointing over near the door.
"Okay, then I'll be right back," Caroline said with a sigh as she sat the drinks down. She walked over to the two men, and she could already see them trying not to stare. Caroline's uniform did nothing to inhibit her natural curves. The boys couldn't have been older than twenty-two.
"You boys have ID?"
"Uh, yes, ma'am." They slid their ID cards across the table and Caroline checked them.
"Alright, just had to be sure. What can I get y'all tonight?"
"Uh, two Cuba Librés, please."
"Comin' right up." She walked back to the bar and picked up the first table's drinks.
"Two Cuba Librés for the gentlemen," she said with a nod, passing the second order to Dakota as she went to deliver the other. She sat the glasses down in front of their respective consumers.
"Enjoy, and if y'all need anything else, just holler."
"Rick, hold your horses." Jason Roberts and Rick Hartley stood in the shadows, just inside the door of the Broken Skull Saloon. "Keep an eye on that table," Jason said, pointing to a table where two young men sat, glancing none to subtly toward the bar and awaiting their drinks.
"Jason, they're kids, what d'you expect?" Jason's scowl remained as Caroline walked toward them. Before she got within earshot, the one facing Jason and Rick leaned in and whispered something, grinning. Caroline arrived at their table and handed them their drinks.
"Enjoy, and if y'all need anything else, just holler." And as she turned to walk away, the kid facing away from Jason and Rick reached out his hand, lightly tapping Caroline's hip.
Jason was on him in an instant, bending the kid's wrist backward.
"If you wanna keep yer hand, I wouldn't do that again."
"J.R., let him go. He's just having some fun," Rick intervened.
"Yeah, man, relax!" The kid said, eyes wide with fear, "Grow a sense of humor!" Jason kept the hold a moment longer, the cold anger in his icy blue eyes telling the young man that this sort of fun wouldn't be tolerated. He bent down to look the kid square in the eye.
"Army rangers aren't issued a sense of humor. Touch my girlfriend like that again, and you won't be walking when you leave tonight." Jason let the kid's wrist go and walked with Rick to their usual table.
When Caroline got back to the bar, Dakota could see she was irritated.
"Good thing Jason was here, I'da killed 'im. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Caroline sighed. "Sometimes, I wish Jason wasn't so overprotective."
"Oh, I'm sorry, did you want him to smack your ass?! Jason wasn't wrong. Sumbitch had no right touchin' you like that."
"'Kota, let it go. It's done." She checked her pocket watch, a gift from her late grandfather, David Jackson. "It's almost two, you wanna holler, or should I?"
"I got it tonight." Dakota got up on the bar so everyone could hear her clearly. "LAST CALL, Y'ALL!! GET WHAT YER GETTIN' AND GET OUT, WE'RE CLOSIN' UP!!" The man from the first table flagged Caroline down.
"What can I get for y'all?" This time, the lady spoke up.
"Can I get three doubles of Jack?" Caroline looked back at Dakota, who had remembered the lady's chosen poison and had the bottle waiting.
"Sure thing, I'll be right back." As Caroline walked back to the bar, she thought she heard the lady murmur,
"Goodbye is never easy."
"How long have we been friends, J.R.?" Rick asked, shifting uncomfortably.
"How much do you need?" Jason replied.
"I.... Just enough to cover the mortgage. They cut my benefits, J.R. Every cent I get goes to keeping the kids in school."
"I'll cover it. I can't have you and Miss Dworaczyk knocking down my door for a place to stay. House ain't big enough as it is." Both men grinned, then turned as they heard Dakota's call. Jason watched as Caroline delivered three double shots to the table near the bar. The lady sitting there downed all three of them in quick succession, then buried her head in her hands.
"Wonder what her problem is..."
"Don't matter, it ain't ours. Let's go, the girls are done for the night." Jason and Rick walked to the door to wait. The kid Jason had threatened passed them, casting a fearful glance back at them as they walked away. Dakota and Caroline followed soon after.
"Hey, Jase, Rick. Good to see y'all," Dakota greeted with a smile.
"Hi, 'Kota," Rick said.
"We need to talk," Caroline said sternly to Jason. Rick started to follow after his friends. "Alone. Sorry, Rick."
"Aw, it's okay, C.J. I gotta talk to 'Kota anyhow." Caroline let the nickname go. She hated being called 'C.J.' but she had other things on her mind right now. She walked around the corner with Jason.
"What's wrong?" He asked. She crossed her arms.
"You know damn well what's wrong, Jason. I can handle my own problems with customers. I don't need you gettin' all bent outta shape."
"I was just stickin' up for you."
"Well don't! At least not while I'm at work. Okay?"
"Okay. I love you, Jason." She wrapped her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her waist and they shared a kiss.
"I love you too, C.J." She mock-pouted and smacked his chest.
"Jason! You know I hate that!"
"I'm sorry," he said, grinning, showing he wasn't in all actuality. "Can we go now?"
"Yes," she said, returning the smile.
Sunday night found Rick back at the saloon, sitting at a table away from the door and trying to look inconspicuous. He was getting impatient. An old contact from the Army was supposed to be meeting him, but they were nearly twenty minutes late already. He'd had enough. Rick stood up to leave, and just as he did, his contact walked in. She scanned the place, found Rick and sat opposite him at his table.
"Good evening, Mister Hartley."
"Cut the small talk, Maria. What's the job and how much?"
"Ooh, feisty," Maria purred, "I like that." She leaned in slightly, letting the light hit her chest. Rick held up his hand.
"Married. Can we get down to business?"
"I suppose," she sighed as she sat back. She placed a picture between them on the table. "This is Marc Campbell, former Foreign Ambassador to Scotland for the United States. As you know, Scotland is in the midst of attempting to free itself of the United Kingdom."
"I assume there's a point to this."
"So impatient," Maria smiled. "The United Kingdom, and more specifically, England, is trying to prevent this. As the UK is currently our ally, we are obligated to assist in foiling the rebellion. We have reason to believe that Campbell is passing information to the Scots from inside the walls."
"What's the payoff?"
"One hundred thousand. And I'll put in a good word to get your benefits reinstated."
"Done," Rick said without hesitation. "All I need is what info you have on this guy."
"We'll meet again in two days, Rick."
"Jason, get the phone, please!" Caroline called from the kitchen. It was Monday, her one day off and she was cooking dinner. Jason turned the football game off (a merciless pounding of the Cowboys by the Bears) and left Monday Night RAW on to go answer the incessant ringing.
"Yeah, this is Jason Roberts. Can I help you?"
"Mr. Roberts, good, I'm glad I caught you. I would like to know--"
"If yer tryin' to sell me somethin', move on, I'm not buyin'."
"Not at all, Mr. Roberts, I--"
"Stop that. My name is Jason."
"Right, Jason. In fact, I called for exactly the opposite reason. I was hoping to hire you."
"Maybe you ain't heard, I work on my granddaddy's ranch just south of Amarillo. Ain't much else I ever considered doing."
"Ah, that's not the way I hear it... Lieutenant." Alarms went off in Jason's head, telling him the caller was linked to his military history and making him more skeptical than he had been before.
"Who are you? And how d'you know my service rank?"
"My apologies, the man said with a chuckle, "My name is Marc Campbell"
"Former Foreign Ambassador to Scotland."
"The same. As I was saying, I was calling to gauge your interest in joining my staff as.... Well, I'm not sure how to describe it, really. You see, recently, I've gotten the feeling that I'm being... hunted, I suppose. But anytime I look, no one's to be found."
"So you want me to be your shadow."
"General Shaw didn't call you 'Ghost' for nothing." Jason scowled as he recalled the nickname. He'd particularly hated it and didn't much care for General Shaw either.
"I need details."
"That's the spirit. How about we meet at the Broken Skull Saloon tomorrow, say, around 8?"
"I'll be there."
"Excellent, see you then."
"Thanks, Caroline." Rick sipped his Rum & Coke slowly, sitting across from Maria DeAngelo.
"Anytime. Enjoy, and if y'all need anything else, just holler." Caroline walked away, leaving Rick alone with Maria. She slid a file folder across the table.
"Everything you need to know about Marc Campbell is in there."
"Good. And I'm assuming you don't want him arrested, you want him--"
"Dead," Maria cut him off, "He's too dangerous to be left alive."
Across the room, Jason sat opposite the former foreign ambassador, albeit heavily disguised.
"Let's get down to brass tacks, ambassador."
"Not so loud!" The man hissed. "And that's unnecessary, call me Marc."
"Fine, Marc, details."
"Right. I need you to keep a close eye on my surroundings when I'm out, and my house when I'm not. I may not see these people in the shadows, but I know they're there. I can hear them clumsily trying to hide."
"So you basically want a security guard." Campbell smiled.
"Not quite. Security guards are trained to observe and report. I want this threat eliminated. By any means necessary."
Caroline watched Jason's table from the bar, trying to relax on her break with Dakota.
"What you suppose they're talkin' bout?" Dakota asked, wiping out a shot glass.
"I'm not sure... But I don't like it."
"What's wrong?" Caroline looked over at her sister.
"This is the same guy that called the other night," she whispered, "He can hide all he wants, but that's the former Foreign Ambassador to Scotland, 'Kota."
"So why all the sudden is he interested in Jason?" Dakota shrugged.
"I'd be more worried bout that chica yakkin' Mr. Hartley's ear off," she said, nodding toward the table where Maria sat with Rick, hunched over and talking very quietly. Caroline shook her head.
"That's none of my business."
"Mm, I dunno, sis. Could become yer business."
"If it does, I'll worry bout it then. I'm more concerned about my boyfriend than his best friend right now." Caroline watched Jason's table surreptitiously, flicking her gaze back to Maria and Rick occasionally. She hadn't been wary of Rick's situation until Dakota had brought it up. The rest of Caroline and Dakota's shift passed by and they closed up as the hangers-on stumbled out.
"I'll meet ya in the parkin' lot," Dakota said, handing the key to Caroline.
"Okay, I'll just be a second." Dakota walked out the door, then quickly retreated into the shadows as she saw Rick standing with his table guest.
"So why'd you really hire me for this?" She heard Rick ask.
"Drop the act, Maria. This ain't as cut and dried as you make it out to be. There's something besides treason going on here." For a moment, she just stared at him.
"Alright, alright," she sighed, "Marc... Is my ex-husband..."
"You DO know that hirin' a hitman is illegal and we could both get arrested for this, right?" Dakota gasped, a small sound, but enough to alert the two paranoid conspirators that someone was watching. Rick was gone before Dakota could blink but Maria was frozen.
"Wh-Who's there?" She called into the darkness. Slowly, unsure of herself, Dakota stepped out of the shadows. Maria's fearful visage turned slowly to confusion, then derision.
"You," she said, angrily stalking forward, "Well, we can't have you running to the cops, now can we?" And with no wasted motion, Maria restrained Dakota, leading her to her car.
"Just do as I say and you won't be hurt, girlie." Dakota struggled and managed to get her throat free of Maria's grasp for a moment.
"CAROLINE!!!!" She yelled as she was shoved into the car.
Inside, Caroline dropped the bills and ran out, just as Maria's car sped away.
"DAKOTA!!!!" Jason, just parting ways with his new boss, came running from the other side of the building.
"Caroline, what's wrong?! Where's Dakota?!"
"I don't know, she was waitin' for me and that's when she screamed. Til I got here, she was gone." Jason was torn. He had a job to do, but he couldn't just sit by as his future sister-in-law remained missing. Fortunately, Caroline took the decision out of his hands.
"Don't worry bout 'Kota. I'll take care of findin' her," Caroline's voice was almost a snarl. "What'd the ambassador want?"
"He offered me a job. Basically security with a license to kill.
"Are you gonna do it?"
"Don't have much choice, do I? Campbell's buddies with General Shaw. I turn this down, I'll never hear the end of the coward insults." Jason's eyes grew hard as he recalled distant memories.
"And because it's the right thing to do?"
"That too," Jason said with a smile as he returned to the present. Caroline was distracted though. Her mind was on overload, trying to figure out exactly what had happened to Dakota and how to find her.
"Come on, hun. We ain't solvin' nothin' standin' 'round here." Jason drove them home while Caroline continued to think.
Jason watched silently, glaring at the perimeter of Ambassador Campbell's property. It wasn't extravagant, but it wasn't a hovel either. All was silent in the dark Texas night.
"Paranoid old coot," he whispered to himself. And just when he did, he caught a sliver of movement near the eastern border of the premises.
"Hm. Maybe I spoke too soon." He raised his sniper scope to get a closer look. Whoever it was knew what they were doing. Jason had a hard time keeping up with the shadow flitting quickly toward the house. Jason finally got the sight lined up and fired a shot. To his utter amazement, the assailant dodged the bullet and it sailed harmlessly past. The commotion startled the man inside the house and he moved to investigate. Opportunity lost, the wraith fled, not allowing another shot. Jason sat back in his sniper's nest, mind whirling with questions. Who was this ninja-like infiltrator? Who had trained them? And who on Earth had the reflexes to dodge a sniper bullet?! Jason decided to climb down and talk it over with Campbell.
Rick watched from a safe distance. That was too close. His danger sense had prickled just in time to let him avoid the sniper round, preventing his death. Rick watched the sniper from the deepest of shadows as he walked toward the house, handgun drawn. He crept a little closer, hiding in a spot that afforded him a clear view of Campbell's living room. Rick leveled his own rifle as the sniper walked in to stand next to the ambassador. He lined up the shot and fired.
"Ambassador, get down!" Jason yelled, darting into the path of the red dot that had appeared on his chest. The bullet knocked Jason off of his feet and into Campbell's bookcase. The ambassador hurriedly dragged the man from view of the window through which the shot had come crashing.
"Roberts! Are you alive?!" Jason coughed, then sat up, removing the main piece of his ghillie suit, revealing the Kevlar vest beneath. He took that off as well, reaching to his chest, where he held an old Bible with a bullet imbedded clear up to the end of John in it. He looked at Campbell as it fell open to reveal the highlighted words of John 3:16.
"Jesus saves. Literally." Campbell smiled and hauled the Ranger to his feet.
"That was a close call, my friend! Let's get you a safe ride home, I'm about ready to turn in."
"With all due respect, sir, wouldn't that be when yer most vulnerable?"
"Never fear," Campbell chuckled, "I have overnight security." He stepped to the bookcase on the opposite side of the foyer and removed a leather bound copy of the King James Bible. From behind it, he withdrew a large handgun.
"'Katie' will keep me company tonight," Campbell said, patting the gun.
"If you say so. I can walk back to the ranch, sir." Campbell looked at him intently for a moment.
"Alright. But be careful. I shouldn't like to have to replace you." Jason just smirked as he walked out the door.
Rick pocketed the spent bullet casing and reloaded his rifle, aiming toward the door, in the direction Campbell had staggered. He waited, keeping the gun trained until he saw movement. He tensed on the trigger as the door opened, but released his grip as the figure stepped out. Jason Roberts walked right by his hiding spot and kept going. Rick breathed a sigh of relief, but couldn't put his mind to rest. Why was J.R. here? Were there more members of Golden Eagle One hidden nearby? What if they found him? Would they call him out as a traitor? A million other questions plagued his mind, but he shook his head and dismantled his gun, packing it up and walking back toward his own home.
Caroline sat at home that evening, her hair down and looking frazzled. Jason had just left for Ambassador Campbell's house, leaving her to her thoughts. Dakota was out there somewhere. Alone. Caroline wracked her brain, trying to think of something she could do. An hour passed with nothing coming to mind, and as she put her head in her hands she felt her hope slipping away. But as the tears fell onto the coffee table, a flicker of an idea ignited in her desperate mind. She hurriedly got dressed and drove to the Skull. Climbing up on the ledge, she retrieved the tape from the security camera and rushed home. She skimmed through the playback to closing time, when she saw Rick standing with his friend. There was a person hiding in the shadow of the door, but Caroline couldn't make out who it was. She suspected it was Dakota though. She was soon proven correct as her sister stepped into the lit space just below the camera. There was a short exchange, then the woman grabbed Dakota and led her out of view of the camera. Caroline had seen her at the Skull before, but she couldn't place her. And what did Dakota have to do with this? Maybe Rick could help. She dialed his number and listened to it ring three times before he picked up.
"Rick, hi, look, last night at the Skull, Dakota was kidnapped."
"Just listen!" Caroline said, fighting tears again, "The woman you were talkin' to, what's her name?"
"What does Maria have to do with this?!"
"Rick, please, 'Kota's life may depend on this!!"
"Okay, okay... Her name is Maria DeAngelo, ex-Army, career soldier. Now will you please tell me why she's involved in this?"
"Rick, she... She has 'Kota."
"Are you sure?" Rick couldn't believe it. He'd never known Maria to do something so drastic for no apparent reason.
"I'm positive. You split just before 'Kota stepped into the light." A memory clicked in his mind, the small gasp they'd heard.
"Let me talk to her, I'll get this straightened out."
"Thank you. Call me as soon as you can."
"You got it." Rick hung up and sighed.
"Maria, what did you do...?"
Jason kept thinking he was seeing an out-of-place shadow darting back and forth in front of him, but he couldn't pin it down. Then he saw it clearly, shifting off the road. Jason went into instant 'Ghost' mode, tailing the shadow.
"WHAT?!" Jason heard a voice exclaim. The picture that came to Jason's mind didn't make sense so he dismissed it. That couldn't be right. He got a little closer, just in time to hear the call end. The shadow-- the same one from the ambassador's house, Jason was certain-- sighed.
"Maria, what did you do...?" This time, there was no mistaking it.
"Rick!" Jason hissed. The shadow spun in his direction, squinting.
"Rick, it's Jason." The shadow relaxed but tensed again when he realized where they both just were.
"J.R., what are you doing here?!" Rick whispered into the darkness.
"I could ask you the same. Let's get to the Skull, we'll talk there."
Jason and Rick sat away from the door, in the darker part of the saloon.
"Now why were you following me?!" Jason squinted at him.
"Yer wearin' all black in the middle of the night, Rick."
"Yeah, well.... I..." Rick looked nervously around, waiting for an eavesdropper to overhear. He leaned across the table. "You can't tell this to ANYONE."
"Rick, you know me better than that."
"Okay," Rick sighed, "It's a long story. You know I need the money..."
"Cut the crap, Rick, get to the point."
"An old Army contact hired me to... For a job." Jason started to feel uneasy.
"...To execute a traitor."
"Ambassador Campbell." Rick let out a breath.
"Yes. My contact provided evidence that he's been passin' info to the Scots."
"Rick, Ambassador Campbell hired me to protect him. From you." Rick looked down at the table, then back at Jason.
"One of us is bein' lied to, J.R."
"I have no reason to mistrust Campbell," Jason said as his phone vibrated on the table. "It's Caroline, one second." Jason got up and walked away to answer the call.
"Caroline, what did you find out?"
"I talked to Rick after watching the security tapes. He's got a solid lead to check out."
"I'm talkin' to Rick now at the Skull, lemme see if I can get somethin' out of him."
"Okay, hun, I'll see you at home, I love you."
"I love you too." Jason hung up and walked back to the table.
"Caroline said you had a lead on 'Kota, what d'you know?" Rick put up his hands defensively.
"I only have a name, I still have to check it out."
"This would be the 'Maria' you mentioned earlier." Rick nodded and Jason was silent a moment. Pieces were starting to come together a bit too well.
"Maria's the one that hired you, ain't she?" Rick swallowed and nodded again. Jason gave Rick a hard look. "There's somethin' you ain't tellin' me." Rick looked around, still afraid someone was listening.
"I... I'm havin' second thoughts bout my assignment."
"You are an Army Ranger, don't tell me yer gettin' squeamish."
"It's not that, Maria... Is Ambassador Campbell's ex-wife." Like a lightbulb igniting in the darkness, the complete puzzle was illuminated before Jason's eyes.
"This ain't got nothin' to do with Scotland bein' free. This is completely personal."
"I'm startin' to think that, yes." Jason shook his head.
"Open your eyes, Rick! Campbell can barely get through a night without someone watchin' him! He jumps at the shadows in his own house! If he was passin' info to the Scots, we'd have known it by now!"
"But Maria's evidence..."
"She musta drew it up to hook you." Rick hung his head.
"And I fell for it." The sadness in his eyes hardened to anger. "I gotta fix this. If she does have 'Kota, I gotta go get her."
"Not alone." Jason put his hand on Rick's shoulder.
"It's my fault, this whole mess is. Rule 45."
"But you don't have to clean the mess alone. It's my family in danger out there."
"Okay," Rick smiled, "It'll be just like old times, Ghost and Grim, on the hunt."
"You know I hate that," Jason said with a scowl.
"You can thank General Shaw for that. Let's go, the sooner we get this taken care of, the sooner I can rest peacefully." They got up to leave the Skull, heading for Jason's house.
Now, what to do with you, my little spy." Dakota was tied to a chair in a dimly lit room. It had been a long two days with no sleep or food. But her resolve remained strong.
"You won't get away with this. Jason--"
"'Victim tells the Villain they won't get away with it' cliché. Jason Roberts is on a fool's errand, protecting a man from his best friend," Maria laughed.
"How d'you know that?" Dakota asked, feigning ignorance and confusion.
"Oh, come now. I thought you were smarter. You think I don't know what my ex-husband is doing at all times?" Maria smirked at the taken aback look on Dakota's face. She bent down close to her captive, so as to look her in the eye.
"For a college senior, you're not too bright, missy."
"I'm not just a college senior," Dakota said, her confused look changing to a sneer of pride. She whipped her head forward, headbutting Maria. "I'm a Longhorn." The captor collapsed to the floor as Dakota wriggled out of her wrist restraints. Maria groaned and rose to her feet.
"You'll regret that."
"I grew up with Lieutenant General David Jackson, you don't scare me." A look of fear flickered across Maria's face. David Jackson was a famous war-hero. Maria hesitated, questioning her willingness to attack a descendant of the legendary General. Shaking the thoughts away, her facial expression hardened as she charged Dakota. The Texas senior let her close the distance. When she passed the point of no return, Dakota dropped to her back and kicked her feet out, lifting Maria and flinging her into the wall. She slid to the floor with a thud.
"Did I forget to mention I also studied Muay Thai with grandpa?" Maria stood shakily and wiped the blood from her mouth.
"Then let's just see how much like the great David Jackson you really are."
"It's a short drive to Nazareth. That's the last place I knew Maria lived."
"Then that's where we're going." They jumped in Jason's old Charger and sped away, while Caroline stayed behind to keep an eye on the Skull. Half an hour into her shift though, she felt like she should be with the boys, helping them search.
"Misty, cover me," she said, heading for the door, "I'll be back as soon as I can." Caroline ran to her car and followed Rick and Jason's trail.
"Door's locked," Rick said. Jason wasn't so easily deterred. He shattered the wooden frame with a forceful kick.
"Door's open," Jason said, motioning for his comrade to lead the way. Rick started through the living room, gun drawn.
"Maria? It's Rick..." No answer. A scream drew the two Army Rangers' attentions into the next room. They stalked nearer, but the sound was lost behind a large bookcase.
"Really? This is the oldest trick in the book." Rick began pulling novels off the shelves.
"Rick." He wasn't paying Jason any attention as he tossed 'Pride & Prejudice' aside.
"Rick." 'Great Expectations' hit the floor.
"Rick." The stubborn Ranger kept on looking, throwing 'A Tale of Two Cities', 'David Copperfield', and 'City of Eden' down.
"What?!" He looked at Jason, who was standing next to the wall, pointing to a light switch clearly marked 'bookcase'.
"Yeah, or that could work." Jason flipped the switch and the bookcase rose, giving way to a large doorway. The scream came again and this time it was much clearer.
"Let's go." Rick and Jason took off down the hidden corridor.
Caroline pulled in hastily and rushed into the house. Jason's trail was far from subtle; there were chips from the door and books laying all over the place. She followed his wake down a dark corridor to a dimly lit room that could have once been an interrogation room, but had long since ceased functioning as such. Standing in the center of the room, Dakota had scrapes and small cuts all over her, but was otherwise no worse for wear. Jason and Rick stood in front of her, shielding her from Maria. Presently, the conniving captor was spilling her guts about the plot pitting Jason and Rick against each other.
"Please, it was just a job!"
"Why'd you kidnap my little sister?!" Jason pressed as he cocked his .357 Colt Python.
"She knew too much, she overheard everything!"
"Generally, witnesses're put to death in this situation. You kept her alive, which means you needed her for something."
"She was insurance, so you'd do as you were told!"
"What are you--"
"Stop talking, Maria." A pair of booted feet came echoing down the hall behind Caroline. A tall figure joined the occupants of the room, and Jason had to squint to recognize Ambassador Campbell.
"Marc? I don't understand..." Campbell stepped around behind Maria, on her knees, but looking relieved. Campbell stroked her hair.
"I suppose this is where you expect me to do the typical bad guy rant that reveals the entire plan. Sorry." A quick gunshot put an end to Maria as he stood staring at Jason. "General Shaw doesn't pay me to talk." He brought his gun to bear on Rick. "We'll start with you, 'Grim.'" His finger tensed on the trigger, but the bullet remained in the chamber as a red flower began to blossom over his heart. He looked at it in shock, then looked back up to see Caroline holding Jason's smoking service pistol. Campbell dropped, dead as a doornail. Jason looked at Caroline, stunned, but smiling despite himself.
"Nice shot, Ace." Rick put his arm around Dakota and smiled at Jason.
"Now that's what I call a plain common sense solution!" Dakota glanced at Caroline.
"Can we go home now? I do hafta be in Austin tomorrow morning."
"We better get going then," Caroline said. They walked out of the house and toward the cars as Caroline called Misty to check in. When she hung up, Rick looked at Jason.
You ARE still gonna pay my mortgage, right?"