The new dive shop was off to a good start. As in the past, Robin had things moving like a well-oiled machine! Marc and Eyan were just now recovering from the incumbent jet lag. They were going through the books in the office, when an e-mail notification popped up, confirming the second payment from the mission contract. They were happy, to say the least. They jointly decided to take an impromptu vacation. Marc said, “Eyan, ya know, I’ve always wanted to go back to Hawaii and see the place Dad and I lived in. I was so young, but the memories of those days are amazing. It would be interesting to revisit my past.” Eyan was a bit taken back; he had never seen this side of Marc. Eyan said, “Well, I’ve never been there as a tourist; it’s got to be a different point of view.” Marc turned to him and said with total conviction, “Eyan, I can tell you, it was like being a kid in a candy shop. You can’t really understand what it was like, day after day, the endless time spent on the beach. Every day was a new adventure. The ocean was different, the girls were infinite, and every day or two they both changed; it was positively dynamic. The girls all wanted to spend time with the “Islanders.” We were all more than happy to be what they wanted us to be. Anyway, it was a hell of a way to grow up.” Eyan was just sitting there, amazed at the mental pictures Marc’s reminiscences were painting. Eyan had experienced such a different childhood, living in a Mormon community in southern Utah. But he could relate. When Marc spoke of girls from other places, they were so different than the girls that he had as neighbors. In his case, it was the opposite sex that was the intriguing force. How strange it seemed in retrospect.
It didn’t take long for them to get online and book first-class tickets to Oahu. They went through the process and got to the part about the return flight. They looked at each other, both knowing the answer was when they were tired of it. A few days later, they were getting ready for the trip, making sure that all was in order. Marc checking his e-mails once more noted one from McBride. As Marc opened the e-mail, he realized that he had nearly forgotten the last part of the agreement of the mission, when he read the message:
Thank you for your professionalism and expertise, but most of all, the return of the unexpected package. Malcolm sends his warmest regards and a sincere thank you McBride and the people of S.A.
The next e-mail was from the off-shore bank, indicating a new deposit of $100,000 in U.S. currency. Marc printed both messages and handed them to Eyan when he walked into the office. Eyan collapsed into a chair, shaking his head, muttering something unintelligible, as a wide smile broke out on both of their faces. Instead of a $50,000 bonus, it was a $100,000. In a period of only fifteen days they had earned and divided $300,000. They had netted $125,000 U.S. each, after expenses.
Two days later, they were checking in to the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa about 5:00 in the afternoon. The weather was clear and cool in the early evening and the woman at the reception desk said the daytime temps were seasonally warm in the mid-day sun, perfect for the beach bums they were intending to portray for a while. The two had rented adjoining suites near the top of the resort’s main building. The view of the private bay was awe-inspiring; if not, the view of bikini-clad ladies was.
After they had settled in their rooms and showered, it was nearing eight in the evening. Marc called for room service to send up a bottle of Oban scotch. The sun had gone for its nightly dip in the Western Pacific. Eyan had asked the bellman to unlock the door between the suites. He knocked twice as he entered Marc’s room, even though the doors were both standing wide open. Marc was standing on his balcony when he heard Eyan enter the suite. He called to him saying, “Out here, bring a glass.” A moment later, Eyan emerged on to the balcony, with glass in hand. Marc pointed to the bottle on the table, and said, “Boy, I wish I could afford to drink this stuff all the time.” Eyan poured a couple fingers neat, and tasted the scotch. He turned to Marc and said, “I never tasted anything like this in Utah, that’s for sure.”
They both downed a second drink while watching the cloudless western sky fade from bright orange to nearly black, peppered with bright white stars. Marc said, “Let’s go down and get something to eat, while we can still find the right elevator button.” Eyan laughed, and they headed out the door for the hotel’s Azul restaurant. After dinner, they moved to the Hokule′a bar for some entertainment. As they entered the room, it was near capacity–they were three deep at the bar. Eyan found a small table at the edge of the outer terrace and laid claim, while Marc caught the attention of a waitress. When she brought their drinks, Marc showed her his guest card, so that she could bill them to the room. She said her name was, “Kai.” Marc, smiling said, “A pure soul.” Kai looked back at Marc with a surprised expression, as she was walking away from the table. There were lots of tourists doing the vacation thing, but nothing seemed to catch Marc or Eyan’s attention. It was nearing 1:00 am. The people in the bar were beginning to wander out in twos and fours, as things began to quiet down. Kai began bussing the tables. As she finished cleaning a table next to theirs, she asked Marc if he wanted another round, explaining that guests of the hotel were given special consideration, and no one would mind if they wanted to take their drinks up to their room. Marc said, “I don’t really think I need another, but thanks for the heads up.” Kai said, “You’re welcome.” She really had a beautiful smile, bright white teeth and long brown hair but the thing that really stood out was her bright blue eyes. Marc said, “No, you’re the welcome one, Miss Purity.” She turned to him and asked, “What’s up with the purity thing?” Marc’s reply was, “Kai, that’s Hawaiian for pure one.” She said, “Yes, but how would you know that?” Marc said, “I may be a Haole now, but I grew up an island boy.” The first thing she said was, “Where?” Marc was a bit surprised at her question. He said, “Ewa Beach, down at the end of Popoi Place, next to Ewa Beach Park. Ever been there?” She grinned and said, “Only about half of my teen years. It was the best party beach on the south side. I lost my, well, that’s a different story. It’s a bit beaten up these days, but the beach is still the same.” Marc, trying not to laugh, said, “You’re not the only one to give it up to that beach. We have more in common than one might think.” Marc was thinking of his own first encounter with the mysteries of the opposite sex. Kai had a smile on her face and said, “We have to be off property fifteen minutes after shift, but I could be in the guest parking lot at 9:00 in the morning if you would like to see the old haunt?” Marc replied, “Works for me.” Kai said, “Red jeep,” as she walked around a table, toward the bar.
Marc and Eyan rolled out of the sack about 7:00 in the morning. Eyan was ready for some sun time at the crescent beach downstairs. Marc was through the shower and down to the restaurant for a quick breakfast before meeting Kai in the parking lot at 9:00. In the light of day, most of the night time beauties encountered are not as striking as one remembers from the night before. But in this case, Marc was pleasantly surprised. Kai was even more striking in the light of day. She was obviously a cultural island beauty, a blend that was easy on the eyes.
The morning was just what you would expect – warm breezes and plenty of sun over your shoulder. As Kai turned onto Fort Weaver Road, Marc began to see a few things that seemed familiar, but so much had changed over the years. As they came to the dead end at the entrance to the old Puuloa Rifle Range, Marc pointed to the sign reading “Popoi Place.” Kai turned to the right and drove to the end of the cul-de-sac and stopped, looking over at Marc. Marc was staring at an older, small wood-framed house on the east side of the street. He said, “It’s true you know – everything looks so much smaller than you remember.” Kai said, “Hey, do you want to go next door to the beach for a while?” Marc, with a smile said, “Yeah, that’ll dredge up some memories, for sure.” They spent the next few hours setting under a palm watching the surf and talking about time spent by both on this small beach the size of a football field. The place was indelible in Marc’s mind. As they sat there, so many of the experiences of his youth came flooding back into his memory. He was thinking that he had been unbelievably lucky as a young man to be privy to such experiences. Until this point in time, he had never realized it. He had always thought it was just the way life was. He now was beginning to see things in a different light. The longer they sat there, the more his thoughts began to coalesce. The sea had always had a calming effect on Marc, but being at this beach, had culminated in a catharsis for him. He now knew that the dive shop was not the future he had been seeking. The mission in Lesotho had been the most gratifying experience in his life and, overtly, he and Eyan had been running from it. It was now obvious to him he had been running in the wrong direction.
After Kai had dropped him back at the hotel before her shift, Marc made his way back up to his room and showered off. Eyan had made some new friends on the beach and was back up refreshing his own persona, when Marc stuck his head through the door to the adjoining suite and said, “Anybody home?” Eyan spoke out from the bathroom saying, “Yo, in the head, be right out.” As Eyan emerged from the hallway, Marc was pouring himself a drink from the mini bar. Eyan said, “Make yourself at home.” Marc, said, “Don’t I always?” Eyan replied, “Always.” They both started laughing out loud, as Eyan joined him in a drink. Eyan said, “I met these two girls on the beach today and we’re going to meet at the bar at about 10:00. Are you interested?” Marc said, “I think I’ll pass tonight, but thanks anyway.” Eyan looked over at him and said, “Kai?” Marc said, “No, it’s been a long week and I just want some down time.”
Later that evening, Marc was on the balcony sipping on a scotch, when the e-mail reminder tone on his smartphone chimed for about the fourth time. He walked over and picked up the phone and began to go through the messages. The first few were the normal bullshit, meaningless ads and people or information that he had no use for. Then he came across one of interest, a Martin Colby had left a message, asking for a call back. He had mentioned that Harridan Baker had referred him and had supplied him with Marc’s e-mail address. Nothing else was in the message, with the exception of Colby’s contact information.
Marc jotted down the information and noted that the email had come through only 40 minutes prior. He closed out of his e-mail and then opened his browser and began a search for the country code of Colby’s contact number. First was 91 – it was Spain. And then came 34 – a number in Madrid. Marc then checked the time it was there. It was near 10:00 p.m. in Hawaii; the time shift was 12 hours ahead, making it almost 10:00 a.m. in Madrid. Marc spent all of about two seconds debating if he was going to return the call. He could feel the anticipation as to the nature of the call. He was thinking to himself, “I’m a frickin’ junkie,” as he heard the line click and a voice say, “Martin Colby speaking.” Marc said, “Mr. Colby, Marc Bracken, returning your call.” “Mr. Bracken, thank you for your timely response. Mr. Baker said you were a dependable sort; that is a character trait that I admire. Marc replied, “Mr. Colby, how can the Serenity Group be of service to you?” Marc had no idea where that came from, but it sounded good – so he just went with it. “Mr. Bracken, I have a unique security problem that I am told you may have the answer to.” Marc said, “Mr. Colby, when it comes to personal security, there are few things that Serenity, as a group, has not encountered. We pride ourselves in the fact that our services are unique, based on our experience.” Colby said, “Mr. Bracken, my need is immediate. When can you arrive at my location?” Marc said, “My associate and I are currently in Hawaii. As soon as we can secure a commercial booking or, if your need is at all costs, we can charter a jet service. Which would you prefer?” Colby said, “Cost is not an object of concern, Mr. Bracken, but time is.” “Mr. Colby, if you have a pen available, please write these numbers down.” Marc proceeded to give Colby their off-shore banking information and asked that a deposit of $25,000 US, be made as soon as possible to the account to ensure their instant response to the situation at hand. After exchanging mobile contact information, Marc ended the call.
He placed a back-door call to Harridan and checked out what information he had. Harridan said that Colby was a man of considerable influence throughout the Mediterranean, and was extremely wealthy. He had done business with the man twice before and said, “He pays like clockwork, mate.” As Marc was changing his clothes to go down to find Eyan, another e-mail showed-up. It was an automatic notification from his bank, listing a deposit made to their account; the man and his cause were real. Marc was more than a little curious about what they would need to accomplish to earn the fee.
Fifteen minutes later, Marc was waving at Eyan across from the entrance to the bar for him to come over. He quickly briefed him to the situation and asked him to meet him upstairs in ten minutes. He then went straight to the registry desk and requested information on emergency charter aircraft. As Marc was exiting the elevator, his cell phone began to buzz. When he looked at the caller ID, it read “Silver-Crest Flight Services.” He answered, and then arranged the charter flight to Madrid via LAX. They needed to pick up some supplies back at Redondo Beach – like passports and such. Marc, at this point, had no idea what was going to be needed for the assignment.
Six-and-one-half hours later, the mid-sized corporate jet, was on approach to LAX International Airport. Both Marc and Eyan had tried to get some sleep on the flight, but neither had been successful. The dive shop was little more than 10 miles from the airport. Marc had called ahead and had Robin round up the items they thought might be helpful when they hit the ground in Madrid. He was waiting at the private terminal when they taxied in to be refueled. Forty minutes later, they were wheels-up en route to Madrid via Montreal with a pit stop in the Azores. Sixteen hours later, they were on final into Barajas Aeropuerto in Madrid proper. As they walked into the private executive terminal, there was a man in a dark suit wearing a chauffer’s hat with a sign reading, “Señor Bracken.”
No Time To Spare
As Marc and Eyan arrived at Villa De Martini, the driver used a two-way radio to talk to the security personnel at the gate. They turned into the drive just as the rather large wrought iron gate began to slide into a pocketed twenty-foot high wall that surrounded the Villa. The car twisted and turned up the drive about one hundred yards, before entering a large courtyard. Off to one side of the large area, was an eight-car garage. Three of the doors were open and the autos were being washed and detailed. Mr. Colby obviously liked red cars; all were a variation of the color – the Lexus LFA being the most striking alongside the Maserati. As their Bentley pulled up to the main entrance to the Villa, the front doors opened and three men walked out. They all shook hands and two of the men dressed in less expensive suits walked toward a black Fiat, parked near the side of the circular drive. The third man stood on the sculptured granite entrance, directing his attention toward the Bentley, as the chauffer opened the door. The man walked over to them and said, “Welcome, gentlemen.” Marc said, “Mr. Colby, I assume.” The man with a slight grin said, “No, I would be Mr. Stiles, Mr. Colby’s assistant. Miguel will take care of your baggage. If you would, gentlemen, please follow me.”
As they walked through the entryway into the estate, both were taken by the sheer opulence. Eyan glanced over at Marc who acknowledged with a slight nod of his head. They proceeded into a foyer with several double doors on both sides. At the end of the room was a set of immense double doors, each about six-feet wide, which were closed. Mr. Stiles, arriving at the doors said, “If you would have a seat, gentlemen, I’ll inform Mr. Colby of your arrival.” A moment later, the door opened wide and a booming voice filled the room as Colby came through the door saying, “Come on in, gentlemen. We have lots of territory to cover and not much time to do so,” as he disappeared back through the door. Marc shot to his feet and began to follow with Eyan on his six. As they walked into the room, Marc was taken by the disorganization. Nearly every available inch of table top, was covered with maps and large photographs of many different people. At the side of a large desk was an eight-foot wide by four-foot tall, freestanding white board, adjacent to a similar-sized cork board. Both boards were covered with multi-colored writing and pinned photos, respectively.
Colby said, “I don’t exactly know where to start but, in short, my granddaughter has been abducted and is being held for a ransom that I can’t meet! Let me explain, the demand is not money. If it were just that, it would be simple. I own several companies; the parent company that started it all is Die-Hex/Simi. One of its R&D branches has developed a Nano-bio-organic chemical called Nano-Cypher Code Five. NCC-5, as it is known, can sense at the molecular level instantly any variation to the human body DNA that does not happen naturally, once a person is coded.” He paused, then saying, “For example – almost any type of device used for controlling access to restricted areas or files, or virtually anything needing security, can be defeated in some way. By utilizing this screening method, it’s absolute proof of the entity’s identification. It scans the entire chemical make-up of the body. This system has now been in place around the globe for the last eighteen months in places like the Louvre in France, and treasuries in over twenty countries. If this code was synthesized, the world’s secrets would be laid bare for the taking. This coding NCC-5 is what they are demanding. I have managed to keep the true demands a secret. The abductors, during their first communication, instructed us that no agency be apprised of the real demand.”
Marc could now see the dilemma Colby faced. In his world, money was not always the answer, but it was always the cause. Marc said, “OK, I see the paradox. Now, how can we effectively change what’s in play?” Colby went on to say, “I have been unable to keep Europol out of the loop’ due to the fact that she was abducted in full daylight on a busy street. They actually knew about it before me. What you see around you is the concerted efforts of both law enforcement and my own security team, combined. We have managed to control some of the information and keep it from the masses. Hopefully, it will give us an edge in dealing with these people. That’s where you two come into play – you’re my insurance. I need most of all to get my granddaughter, Laurel, safely returned. And the second thing is – no one can ever know who these people are. But the third, and equally important thing, is no one can know that they were after NCC-5 code. Are we absolutely clear on this?” Marc looked over at Eyan. He needed only to peer in his eyes for a second to know that he was onboard. He turned to Colby and said, “I think we understand what is requested, but understand this, we will not murder people for the sake of their silence.” Colby said, “They have said that she will not be returned alive without the code.” Marc was hoping it would not come to that, but he also knew things at this level often got very messy before they were resolved.
“Mr. Colby,” Marc said, “We will need to contact our support group and bring in special supplies for any perceivable contingent. We will need an operational deposit of $100,000 US to our account. If we are called upon to successfully complete this mission, we will require additional funds of $400,000.” Colby, without hesitation, agreed to the sum. Eyan standing off to the side of Colby looked at Marc with some surprise. Marc was turning out to be a shrewd business partner.
Colby said, “Gentlemen, let’s dispense with the formality, shall we? Please call me Martin.” Now on a first-name basis, Martin said, “Stiles, would you show these two to their rooms and, in an hour or so, we can have some dinner and then get down to some serious work.” Stiles directed them to their second level rooms that, like the hotel, had a connecting door. After they showered and changed before going back downstairs, Marc knocked on the adjoining door. Eyan twisted the handle and opened the door. As Marc walked in, Eyan said jokingly, “I think we should call our support group and find out who the hell they are.” Marc had to grin, as he sat down in a large tufted chair that most likely cost more than he made in a year in the Navy. Marc said, “Eyan, I don’t know exactly where this is headed but, in all honesty, we’ve each made more money in the last six weeks than both of us combined in our lifetimes.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were on their way back downstairs to meet Martin. After dinner, they retired to the control room the same room that they were in earlier. Martin had come to referring to it as such soon after his granddaughter was abducted. Behind the white board, in a corner, was a small bed. Martin sometimes chose to catch naps there, rather than go up to the third level to the private section of the estate. Martin Colby was a man of many talents but most of those lie within the intellectual side of life, not the physical.
After a full briefing on the facts of the situation, Marc and Eyan were beginning to realize that there was nothing straight-forward about this mission. Martin had arranged for them to use a smaller room directly off the control room. They began their preparation for whatever was to come. The room was fully set-up with computers and phones and such. Martin told them to simply ask Stiles for anything else they might need.
As soon as they sat down, Eyan began his usual quest of putting together a list of potential items of need. They were traveling barefoot, as it were, considering their flight was straight from their Hawaiian vacation. As they began to run scenarios, a list of items slowly began to emerge. Eyan began to look for potential local suppliers in the Madrid area. The rural area had over six and a half million people within it. This, translated, meant that nearly anything that was needed was available for the right price. Marc and Eyan had decided that if they were going to pursue this line of work, it was time to begin collecting the tools of the trade. Within a few hours they had collected enough information about both the items of need and the addresses of potential suppliers. They were now both suffering from extreme jetlag and decided to retire and get an early start in the morning.
After taking care of the basics the next morning, they set out to find the equipment. First stop was at Madrid SkySat. They picked up what the store manager referred to as a “corporate-bundle-pack.” It was comprised of 4 Iridium 9505-a satellite phones with accessories and extra batteries. Next they were off to a personal security store that catered to the rich and famous. As they entered the store, the first thing that both Marc and Eyan noticed was at least six different rather large men placed around the store, wearing cheap dark suits and dark sun glasses indoors. Each of the men sported a telltale bulge in their jackets. Marc was a bit confused at first, as he began to look over the items in the store. He saw nothing of quality, just cheap hand guns and spy gadgets mainly for want-to-be private eyes. As they turned to exit the shop, one of the suits approached them and began to speak in Spanish. Eyan started to speak back to him in broken Spanish, when the man reverted to English saying, “Are you gentlemen looking for something special?” in nearly-perfect English. Eyan said, “We saw your web page and we were led to believe that you may have some item we’re in search of.” The man said, “Do you represent an estate?” Marc spoke up, not understanding the question saying, “No, we own a global security firm and are under contract temporarily in Madrid. We are in need of some rather sophisticated equipment and we’re searching for suppliers.” The man looked over at Marc and said, “Could you be a bit more specific as to the equipment, sir?” Marc stepped closer to the man and said, “For starters, we need a couple specialized sniper rifles, like a Timberwolf .338 LM with match grade ammo and voice-activated communications equipment. Shall I go on, or are we wasting time here? The man said, “Weapons such as these are very expensive to buy and the paperwork is also costly.” Marc said, “If you can supply the items we need, I am certain that money will not be a problem and, if you can deliver quickly, a bonus is possible.” A smile came over the man’s face as he asked Marc, “How are you intending to pay for the services and equipment?” Marc said, “Would wire transfer work for you?” The man motioned with his hand, guiding them both to the rear of the retail area. He looked up at a video camera next to a door that had no handles. He put out his right hand, thumb up. Marc couldn’t escape the mental vision. The man looked like a hitchhiker going to a funeral. The door buzzed, and then clicked open. Once inside the room, it was like walking into another world. There were racks upon racks of nearly any type of firearm. One hour later, after finding nearly everything on their list, they were ready to finish up the business at hand. A man, who had yet to introduce himself, asked, “Where shall we deliver these items?” Marc wrote down the address of the Colby estate. When he read the address, he looked up noticeably surprised and said, “Please excuse me, I’ll return in just a moment.” Less than a moment later, he returned with a second man.
As the two walked up to them, the new man sent the other man away. He said, “My name is Ruiz, Ricardo Ruiz; I own this establishment. Would you please convey my sentiments to Mr. Colby? I have often been in his service; we supply his security detail with many of their needs.” He then reached out and offered his hand to Eyan first, and then Marc who introduced themselves. The man had a firm and powerful handshake. He continued, “Mr. Colby is a very influential business associate. In the future, if you desire anything which I might provide please call the private number on these cards.” He wrote a five-digit code on them before handing one first to Marc, and then one to Eyan. He then said, “The number is your private pin-code, it will tell us who you are and it is linked to your information we now have on file. It will simplify any transactions in the future.”
As they were moving toward the exit, Marc stopped, feigning a cell phone call, just long enough to snap a picture of Mr. Ruiz, with his phone camera. Then they proceeded back to the estate. On the way, Eyan asked Marc why he had taken a picture of the man. Marc said, “Was I that obvious?” Eyan replied, “No not really, but then, I have a phone just like it that doesn’t work on this cell system. How did you get it to ring?” Marc looked over and said, “The ringer volume. Just touch it once quickly, then act quickly and nobody seems to know the difference. I wanted the photo for our files. The ones you’re going to start keeping on all of our contacts. This Ruiz fellow could be very useful for future jobs in Europe, just like Harridan was in Africa. The picture was so that we could positively check him out and know exactly who we’re dealing with.”
As they pulled into Villa De Martini, there was a bustle of activity. The unmistakable drab Interpol vehicle had returned but now there was a second, slightly different one. There was also a sleek black BMW SUV with markings on it that indicated it belonged to Die-Hex/Corp. Marc and Eyan entered the control room a few minutes later and interrupted what was obviously a very intense verbal confrontation between Martin and an Interpol agent, judging from his dress. As the two approached the group, Martin turned away and broke-off the discussion, looking over at both Marc and Eyan. Stiles assumed the conversation and began to introduce the group, notching down the caustic atmosphere a bit. Stiles said, “Jok, this is Marc Bracken and Eyan Hester. They are part of our new in-house security team. Gentlemen, this is Jok Blake and his associates, Mike Mann and Kirk Mangen. They are with the local Interpol detachment, working with the Cuerpo Nacional De Policia. And this is Senior Agent Dara Petersen with Europol. We have just been informed that agent Petersen will be assuming lead position in the investigation.” Marc had really not noticed her standing there. He had been absorbed by the interaction between Martin and Jok. After the introductions had been made, Martin rejoined the conversation saying, “Please excuse my intolerance. I think that stress and fatigue are playing a role here and we need to get back on track.” Marc spoke up quickly saying, “Has there been anything new or changes in what we know?” For the first time Petersen dialed into the conversation, saying, “I understand Mr. Colby has been contacted for the third time warning us that the clock is running and time is short. The reality is – will Mr. Colby release the bearer bonds, or not?”
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