* the music accompanying the page was written and performed by CL Hart - "I Can Dream" © /™1993
Now this is just a teaser ...
The world is no longer considered to be a big place, more like a global community. International incidences become household discussions due to the powers of the Internet and the ever prying eyes of the glossed over news media reporting twenty-four hours a day. However, not all of the world’s problems are reported to the public at large. Sometimes, the powers that be twist events to tip the scales of truth and justice in their favor, other times there is a mere whisper in the shadows and the problem ceases to exist. These people migrate to each other, creating a core of influential authority, pockets of power spread throughout the world in such cities as London, Paris, Toronto, New York and Washington. They live and work within the fabric of government, the military and large corporations, and they are identified only as ‘Global Engineers’.
you a pawn or are you a knight,
you move forward, or do you move right?
say it’s a game, but it maybe your life,
can’t walk forever on the edge of a knife.
best beware of all that’s around,
can sneak up without making a sound.
you trust in a shadow, that is not your own?
has your back if you are standing alone?
truth that you find may not set you free.
From a distance, the future is not what you see.
Her weathered soul was as worn down as the stones leading to the south entrance of Paris’s Luxembourg Park. The City of Love was all around her, but she was not here as a tourist, she was here to do a job. Trained eyes looked over the lay of the land, taking in locations, distances, exits, and the patterns of the Luxembourg Palace security. The observations were not necessary as all of it was etched into her mind. The famous palace and park constructed in 1615 for Marie de Medici. She knew every inch of it before even arriving in France having pored over maps and pictures. Once she landed, she walked the grounds until she knew her best position and her best escape.
Casually, she walked along with her leather bag slung over her shoulder. There were already a few people gathered in the chairs lining the walkways of the park. Not one of them gave her a second glance. She was of average height and stature, with an exotic look hidden behind dark sunglasses. Part of her trade was to blend in to those around her, and she was good at what she did. Moving without sound, she stalked her targets with unwavering determination, never showing emotion, nor care, or concern for anything around her. She was silent and lethally dangerous.
Cautiously, she slipped unseen into the thick foliage. Once she assured herself she was alone, she opened her bag and quickly assembled her rifle. With the utmost precision, she could easily assemble and disassemble the rifle for easy storage. Once the rifle was in its intended form, she climbed into one of the trees lining the park. Years of practice and training became apparent as she made herself invisible, but comfortable. When her shot was lined up she closed her eyes and relaxed, then opened them again, checking to make sure her natural point of aim was still on the empty chair next to the chess table. Confident that everything was ready, she waited with determined patience for her target to appear.
her rifle again, she was confident it would do the job. Though the gun was
not the caliber she trained with, it shot straight and true, nothing
special, nothing unique, nothing traceable.
Just then, she saw him coming down the sidewalk toward his chair. Once he sat down, she relaxed her body. Breathing in and out rhythmically, she took one last deep cleansing breath and waited. At one minute to nine, she squeezed the slack out of the trigger, and focused on her target. She felt more than heard the clock hand move onto the hour, and she fired on the second bong of the clock tower. She did not wait, because she did not need to — the job was done. She was out of the tree and on the way out of the park before anyone realized the man was even dead.
She left the park and headed for the Charles de Gaulle airport. Traveling northeast through the narrow streets of Paris on a motorcycle, she felt her plane ticket secure in the inside pocket of her jacket. Taking a back alley, she slowed down when she came to the Seine River. Parking the bike, she descended the stone steps until she was on the wide walkway next to the river. Without a second thought, she dropped the rifle, minus its scope, into the unrelenting murky waters. Quickly, though not hurried, she climbed back up the steps and sped away. Her assignment was finished, and now she could crawl back into the darkness that was her only comfort from what she had become.
Even though the plane was only half filled to capacity, she still felt crowded as she leaned back into her seat and settled in for her long flight home.
Home, what a concept, she sighed deeply as she closed her eyes. Home, it was just a place to wait for her next job.
Kenzie had never known a real home as a child, just different places with different faces. Her mother, born of Egyptian decent, had died when she was young, leaving behind distant memories and the looks of an exotic princess. Her father had left to go fight in Vietnam and never returned. Kenzie then went to live with her elderly grandmother Helen. She was well intentioned, but she had no idea how to raise a rambunctious, rebellious teenager. The total lack of parenting only added to Kenzie’s moral decline and frequent troubles. She trusted and respected no one.
With no adult guidance, her sharp mind and bad attitude landed her in juvenile hall many times. Just when she was about to fall through the cracks of the system, she found herself in front of Judge Benjamin Woodward, a hard-nosed judge with little tolerance for disrespectful teenagers. He had lost his only child more than twenty years ago, and the pain and separation had never left him. However, occasionally, behind his mask of stone, he found himself wanting to reach out to ones that needed a little extra help. He was tough, but fair, firmly demanding respect from those who respected few.
Judge Woodward watched with interest, as the latest rebellious young woman in front of him surveyed her surroundings in cocky arrogance. Her looks were as intriguing as her body language with her full lips, dark skin and almond shaped gold-colored eyes. It was easy to tell that she thought her present predicament was wasting her time and she wanted everyone around her to know that. As the two opposing councils shuffled papers, the defendant split her attention between the clock on the wall and the hole in her jean jacket as she ran her fingers through her curly, long, dark hair.
To Judge Woodward, it was not hard to see why Kenzie had been in trouble with the law several times. She had stood rebelliously in front of him, reached into her pocket and fished out a cigarette and lighter. Placing the cigarette between her lips, she glanced down at the lighter in her hand. With ease of practice, she flipped open its lid and was about to light her cigarette when her eyes caught the stone face of the judge.
“Don’t — you — dare,” he said slowly
and clearly, leaving no doubt in Kenzie’s mind he was in charge of this
courtroom. Judge Woodward watched and waited, and finally the Zippo clinked
shut without its flame ever touching the end of the teen’s cigarette.
Judge Woodward saw something in Kenzie’s eyes, and as he looked over her lengthy juvenile record, he continued to glance up at her. Checking her birth date, he realized she was almost an adult, almost — but not quite. He leaned back in his chair and pulled his glasses off. He studied her strong features and her obstinate attitude.
“What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?”
Kenzie stared back at him, defiant and uncaring. “Is this going to take long? I’ve a previous engagement.”
“I think you’re going to miss it.” He put his glasses back on. “Would you care to explain yourself young lady?”
She crossed her arms and looked suspiciously at the judge.
“About the stolen car?” he reminded her.
The teen shrugged her shoulders. “I needed a ride.”
“There and back.”
“And the assault?”
“He wouldn’t give me his car. I wanted, I needed — I took it.”
“I told you, I needed a ride.”
The judge sat quietly on the bench, studying her as she ran her fingers through her unmanageably curly dark hair. Years later, he would look back to this time, trying to figure out what made him do what he did. Kenzie appeared no different from the thousands of other young offenders that were marched before him, but something told him she was.
Judge Woodward adjourned the court for lunch and went back to his chambers to see if he could pull a few strings with an old Army buddy. The Colonel and he had remained friends long after the judge had exchanged his uniform for a black robe, and he was more than willing to listen to the judge’s idea.
After lunch, Judge Woodward called the young offender, along with her lawyer, into his chambers.
“You are almost an adult and you have been in and out of this system like it’s a revolving door. Well, the revolutions are about to stop. Tell me young lady, have you had any thoughts about your future?”
Kenzie crossed her arms, but remained silent.
The judge flipped through some papers on his desk. “You are no longer a juvenile, and it’s time you started to take some responsibility for yourself as an adult. Two counts of grand theft auto, one count of aggravated assault. You have two options: two years at WCCW or —”
Kenzie’s public defender jumped up. “Your Honor, Washington Correctional —”
The judge cut her off, “Let me finish counselor.”
“Your honor that is a center for women, it’s an adult prison, you can’t send her —”
“I can and I will. She is old enough to do the crime and old enough to do the time. So it is time for her to make some of her own decisions.” He leaned over his desk and stared straight into Kenzie’s eyes. “Your choice?”
“What’s my other option?” Her steady gaze never faltered.
“Four years serving Uncle Sam.” This little maneuver was going to cost him a couple of bottles of forty-year-old scotch, but something told him the young woman in front of him was worth the strings he had pulled.
Kenzie sat up straight as her court appointed lawyer pleaded with the judge. “Your Honor, this is highly irregular. You can’t just force her —”
“Counselor, I would advise you to sit down and shut up. No one is forcing anyone. I am simply giving her options. She is old enough to understand the law and to know the consequences of breaking it. What I’m doing is offering her a choice to turn her life around or to continue on the road she is currently on.”
Judge Woodward stared at the young girl, but she showed him no outward appearance of where her mind was going. “If you are thinking of just leaving once you’re in training, the two years at WCCW will be waiting until you have served your entire obligation to the military.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Kenzie raised one eyebrow, “A few years playing soldier, not a problem.”
Forty-eight hours later, Katherine Mackenzie LeGault stepped off a bus at Fort Lewis and into the care of Sergeant ‘I eat recruits for breakfast’ Carter. He knew who she was and why she was here, and he wanted to make damn certain she knew that there was no playing soldier under his command.
Kenzie thrived in the military. It taught her discipline and responsibility, two things her life had been seriously lacking. She got three meals a day, a place to hang her hat and a chance to make something more of her life. Academically it had been challenging at first, having never applied herself at school. However, she was kicking ass in all the physical training even though she was smaller than most of her troop mates. Soon everyone knew her name, and the direction her military career was heading.
Half way through Kenzie’s training two monumental things happened. First, her grandmother Helen passed away, leaving her with no family and making her feel a little guilty for all of the trouble she had caused her; second, she sent a letter of thanks to the man who had changed her life. A few weeks later, she was surprised to receive her first piece of civilian mail. The return address surprised her even further: Judge B. W. Woodward, Seattle, Washington.
The letters between them started out short, but soon their length grew, as did their friendship. Kenzie liked having someone around in her life, and Judge Woodward liked the spirited fire he had seen beneath all of the young woman’s anger. Excelling in all levels of her training, Kenzie graduated first in her class.
With no family left to invite to her graduation due to the passing of her Grandmother, she sent an invitation to Judge Woodward. She could not hide her smile when she saw him sitting in the second row.
Marine was where she belonged and somehow Judge Woodward had known that. He
was there when she received her first promotion, clapping proudly, shoulder
to shoulder with the others who were there to see their family members
promoted. On her twenty-first birthday, the judge was there to watch her
open an envelope that had come from the legal firm of Broughton, Greene and
Hanson. Unbeknownst to Kenzie, her grandmother, before she had died, had set
up a trust fund for her. It had not been a lot of money, but it was enough
for Kenzie to purchase her first off-base residence: a twenty-eight-foot,
Catalina Mark II sailboat. No one knew about it but the judge. It was the
first thing she had really owned, and it was a home without roots, just like
her. In honor of her grandmother, she named it Helen’s
judge was there for Kenzie, cooking her dinner before she left to begin
training at Quantico. Soon after, her duties were taking her
all over the globe, opening her eyes to many of the misfortunes that the
rest of the world endured. More than once, she recalled her own childhood
with shame. Kenzie wrote the judge often, but she talked less and less about
what she was doing and where she was doing it.
first time he saw her after she returned from Europe, Judge Woodward was
surprised at the maturity in Kenzie’s features. He saw her in a new light.
The short-cropped dark hair he was accustomed to was starting to lengthen,
showing off her natural wild curls. She had always been a beautiful and
intelligent young woman, but now there was a different side to her, an inner
awareness of just who she was and a new attentiveness to her eyes that told
him some of what she had seen. It was also the first time he saw how quickly
she could change her outward appearance, slipping into another language,
almost changing her personality. The next time he saw her, Kenzie was
sporting a new set of stripes on her uniform.
Judge Woodward knew then the army was grooming
her for something more than your average soldier.
Kenzie phoned him one night and said she would be gone for a while and would not be in touch until she returned. He was not surprised. He had foreseen the potential in her a long time ago.
It was over a year before he saw her again. Her hair was a little longer, her demeanor a little quieter. This time he noticed her uniform was decorated with more ribbons of action, and her eyes bore the darkness of someone who had seen death — close up.
Europe changed her life. Only those in the high ranks of the military knew they had been training her as a sniper, one of the few female snipers in the world. Kenzie loved it even though it was long hours of lonely work. Friends were never a part of her life, and you never miss what you never had. Girlfriends were a rarity and those that were, were discrete and disposable. It was the military after all – don’t ask, don’t tell.
For most of her career, she answered to Colonel Daniel Manuck, a man of color, who wore his rank proudly on his uniform. Much like his charge, Manuck had risen swiftly through the ranks, too swiftly some thought. He was a man of little words who had seen action on several continents. With a massive chest and huge hands, he had been a physical force to reckon with for anyone who had opposed him. Those close to him hardly knew him, which made him perfect for the position he held. A handful of soldiers reported to him and him alone.
Kenzie was one of his favorites as she spoke less than he did, but was far more accurate at five hundred meters. When he met with her, their meetings were short and to the point. Kenzie knew he had to answer to someone higher up, but she did not ask to whom. It was irrelevant to her job. He gave her orders and she followed them. Killing became easy. It was her job, and it was what she did.
As a sniper, she trained with another soldier as a team, a young man from South Dakota, Corporal John Mifflin. He was her spotter. His eyes were her eyes when her aim looking through a scope. Mifflin was only the second person in her life she had called friend. Sergeant Carter had been a mentor, but she would never have called him friend. Only a few years younger than her, Mifflin’s job was to overlook the target area while she lined up the kill shot. They were a great team and with time had learned to work as an efficient unit. Two people who worked together toward one goal, bringing down the enemy target. They took pride in what they did knowing it took a special person to crawl around in some of the worst conditions the world had to offer. Then to lie in wait for one clear shot at an unsuspecting target took more than nerves of steel and the patients of saint.
Within no time, they were rising to the top of their field. If the military wanted a target out of the picture, Kenzie LeGault and John Mifflin’s names were high on the list to get the job done. Then something went wrong, very wrong, during an assignment. They were waiting in the mud through the driving rain, watching for their target. They did not move and they did not speak. Suddenly, two shots rang out, echoing in the night. Kenzie survived with a wound to her shoulder, but Corporal J. Mifflin died instantly. A high caliber bullet hit him in the eye, splattering his partner with brain matter. Kenzie barely made it out of the jungle with her life. All she could bring back of her friend was his dog tags.
There had been a brief investigation, but so much of it was confidential the only answer the army gave was that Mifflin died in the line of duty. His family received a medal and a crisply folded flag for his bravery. Kenzie had a hard time after his death and took a leave of absence. She had many long phone conversations with the judge. However, she could not speak about what was really bothering her due to the sensitive issue of security. He tried to console her, but survivor guilt was a hard thing to get over. He understood that having served in Vietnam.
When Kenzie was finally able to see him, he knew by the look in her eyes the damage was done. He could not change what she felt inside, but it did not stop him from trying. When her leave of absence was over, she returned to the only life she knew. Within no time, the army had her back in action as one of the very few soldiers who worked alone. The solitude of how she lived, and the way she did her job, made Kenzie even more dangerous than before.
Her time with the judge became shorter and shorter, with longer and longer intervals between. Sadly, he understood and said nothing to her, but it felt at times like he was losing another child.
One afternoon she received a message to report to the Colonel, off base. The address was an office building and when she entered the room, she was surprised to see another man there. He was tall and athletic looking, with a military haircut and he was dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie — Fed? Possible, she answered herself. He was an Elliot Ness look-alike, no, more like Kevin Costner, I will call you Kevin, she thought when no introductions were given.
They offered her a seat, which she took, and then listened quietly as they made her an offer. Manuck did most of the talking, and now and then Kevin would add something. In addition, when Kevin was quiet, she felt his eyes on her every move and every word. She would wonder many years later what would have happened if she had declined their offer.
FBI, CIA, SSA — the initials did not matter to her, she would be doing the same thing, but the proposition came with strings attached, and she weighed them carefully. More responsibility, less military operations, and it all came with a fat pay raise and a security clearance of the highest level. Kenzie was ready to jump at it until Kevin made one final statement. He cleared his throat dramatically and then informed her that it came at a very high cost. “Your life in the civilian world will cease.”
“Cease?” She looked to Manuck for clarification.
The Colonel hesitated for a moment, weighing his words as he studied her face. “Your existence will be eradicated — permanently.”
Glancing from one man to another, Kenzie was not sure what to ask, but somehow she knew there would not be an answer.
That night she reluctantly called the judge and arranged for them to have dinner together. When she arrived, he could not help but notice there were more changes, some were obvious, and some were subtle. Her dark hair was once again a wild tousle of curls, but it did not hide the concern creased into her brow. He was surprised when Kenzie brought up the subject of her financial estate. Money was not something she discussed often. He listened carefully to her words and wishes, and though she had not mentioned anything, he suddenly had his suspicions. When they had signed all the papers, she had brought, the subject was over and they ate dinner without mentioning it again. The mood became happy and light, but when Kenzie pulled on her black leather jacket, the judge could see something painful in her features. They hugged tightly to one another in the driveway. It was hard for her to leave, but she tried not to show emotions as she climbed on to her motorbike. With a simple nod, she was gone and the elderly judge stood and watched as Kenzie rode out of sight. Somehow, he knew it was the last time he would see her.
When Kenzie reported to Colonel Manuck the next morning, she handed him all her signed papers, her dog tags and Identification. He in turn gave her a new security clearance ID card – with no name and no picture, just a laser scan of her thumbprint, and that was it. What there was of Katherine Mackenzie LeGault was no more.
Two days later, Judge Woodward was reading his morning paper when a small article caught his eye.
United States Army Military press release – Fort Lewis, Washington. Officials at the Fort released few details regarding the death of a local Marine. Sergeant-Major Katherine Mackenzie LeGault, a highly decorated member of Special Forces, was killed in the line of duty. The circumstances of her death were not revealed due to national security. She leaves behind no immediate family members.
He laid the paper down, unsure of what he had just read. He may have felt sorrow, but some how he knew she was still out there somewhere, doing what she was trained to do.
Weeks after the judge had read her obituary in the paper, a package arrived for him at the courthouse. Without a postmark, he was a little hesitant in opening it, but something told him to. Inside he found a small jewelry box, and when he pried the lid open, a smile instantly spread across his face. Inside was a Zippo lighter embossed with a black and white yin-yang, the same lighter his Katherine had held in her hand as she stood before him in his courtroom some many years before.
Months later, another package arrived, another Zippo lighter — no note or return address, but he knew it was from her. He smiled broadly. Katherine was alive and that was all he needed to know.
With her new assignment, Kenzie only met Colonel Manuck in non-descript buildings or underground parking lots. At times, she found the whole cloak and dagger thing almost amusing, but considering what she was doing there was little humor to her work. She followed her orders to the letter. The first few jobs she did were a lot harder than she expected. In some ways she felt very vulnerable without her army dog tags and military backup, but she soon realized the job was not much different than it had been before. If anything, it was better because she had more freedom to move and she answered only to Colonel Manuck. Moreover, she was not always there to eliminate a problem, sometimes she would spend months just gathering information, but either way Kenzie considered herself a specialist in her field of global security. When a problem arose and all other avenues had failed, they would bring her in to handle it, in whatever means necessary. It was a different life and she was learning to enjoy it.
It was a world of solitude, and she soon realized the cost was anonymity. She followed all protocol as per her orders. She had the luxury of money and two residences, but she did not really have a home. One was a house in the Pacific Northwest and the other was her sailboat, of which she changed the mooring of often. Her only outside existence was the polite conversations she had with the strangers in her life; the overly-happy oriental lady who would giggle and bow every time Kenzie came into her small produce store; Jack, the young skateboarding mechanic who looked after her bike when she was out of town. However, nobody knew her real name, where she lived or what she did. She was alone, living her life as a ghost. No one ever noticed that even though Kenzie had quit smoking years ago she still purchased Zippo lighters on a regular basis.
Kenzie’s cell phone warbled a text message. She flipped it open and read the words – ACTIVATION; PREP MODE/ARMED AND READY FOR TRANSPORT; WHIDBEY ISLAND NAVAL BASE ASAP. PASSPORT AND IDENTIFICATION; NONE. She read the message again before she punched in her confirmation code. She then closed her phone, and absorbed the information.
It was her first return to the base since her new position. Arriving at the heavily fortified front gates, she flashed them her high-level clearance ID, they waved her through without even a salute. No one saw her face as she cruised towards hanger 11. Several armed Marines stood around the entrance, and they were not your usual pomp and circumstance, rifle of the shoulder for show, Marines. Theses were soldiers, ready and willing for whatever came to them. Kenzie parked her bike but kept her helmet on as she was directed towards a waiting plane. The sound of the powerful engines increased as Kenzie climbed the stairs. The flight crew said nothing and did not need to as they closed the doors, muffling the sounds as she took her seat.
Once her flight leveled off, one of the pilots came back and handed her an envelope. He said nothing, just turned around, and went back to the cockpit. Alone, Kenzie turned the envelope around; Omega 3 was written in bold letters. The Omega Squad was the silent little brother of the Delta Force; whose military actions have been granted complete immunity from the law; they were the few, the proud and the non-existent. Delta Force soldiers are hand picked from within the military’s elite, they are trained killers with extensive expertise in hand-to-hand combat, small arms and sniper training, SWAT and hostage techniques, and anything else needed to eliminate the enemy. Omega soldiers followed their orders and then never spoke of their assignments again. According to the government, the only different between Delta Force and the Omega squad, was the Omega Squad did not exist.
She traced the two images on the envelope with her finger. “If I’m three, who the hell are one and two?” she whispered as she ripped open the envelope. Scanning the document quickly, all she learned was that they were heading for the military base in the Middle East, and her orders would be explained in detail upon her arrival. Then her eyes fell on the bold type at the end of the sentence, and it sent an eerie feeling into the pit of her stomach.
Rendezvous with personnel and co-ordinate mission.
Kenzie did not like the idea of working with someone again. It was something
she definitely was not comfortable with, but she knew there was nothing she
could do about it. Looking back down at her lap, her eyes fell again on the
stamped black cat.
Kenzie did not like the idea of working with someone again. It was something she definitely was not comfortable with, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Looking back down at her lap, her eyes fell again on the stamped black cat.
“I wonder what animal they gave him,” she muttered sarcastically as she peered out the plane’s window into the darkness.
When Kenzie landed, she was hustle out and taken into what she assumed was the commander’s office. There were several people there, and even without introductions, Kenzie knew which ones were other non-named ‘personal’. One stood about 6’3”, with a football player’s neck and shoulders, the other was a little shorter and a little thinner build but with the same intense stare, that and the lack of emotions on their faces told her who they were.
There were no introductions and none was needed. The commander explained there was soldiers pinned down in a place there were not suppose to be. He walked over to the wall and pointed out their position and the route they had taken to get there.
“If our soldiers were to be found there — it would be an international incident, one of embarrassing ramifications. Those are my men in there and — my orders were to get you people down here, and you would handle it.”
“Yes sir, which is what we do.” Kenzie thought is was strange that they had been brought to deal with a military operation their own men could have handled, but she said nothing as she studied the map on the wall.
“What exactly are they doing that far in country anyhow?” The shorter of the two agents asked as Kenzie looked from him to the man in charge. The commander did not appear to want to answer his question.
“That information is of high classifca —”
“I can guarantee sir, our classification is of the highest level,” he offered.
“It is irrelevant to our job,” the agent with the thick neck said impassively. “We will be ready in 10 minutes sir. I expect a helicopter to be ready for our departure and our extraction.” The commander nodded and left, finally leaving her and the other operatives alone.
“Does this seem strange to anyone besides me?” She waited for someone to answer, but all she got was silence.
Kenzie looked to the quiet second agent, “Are you going to tell me your names or can I just make one up?”
“I know what to call you, split-tail, so it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “But I did think you would be taller.”
“You don’t have to be tall to pull a trigger, Einstein.”
He glared at her, “Yeah well, you don’t have to be Einstein either.”
She raised an eyebrow in surprise and then looked to his partner, “It would appear, not.” Her sassy sarcasm got a small smile but that was it as they both changed into their black unidentifiable uniforms. Kenzie slipped into her shoulder harness that held her twin 9mm, and then pulled out a small backpack from her bag.
Kenzie looked over at the taller of the two men and sneered at him. “Are you going to give me a name to call you by?”
Thick neck stood up after fastening his backpack, his eyes passed over her on the way to a mirror on the wall.
“My call sign is Omega one, code name Cobra,” he said as he began to darken his face in front of the mirror. “His is Viper, Omega two.”
“I’m working with a couple of snakes - nice.” She reached down and retrieved her black knit hat from her bag. “Kind of a cocky son-of-a-bitch aren’t ya, Viper?”
When she straightened back up, she was not surprised to see he had turned around to face her. A foot and a half apart, they stood eyeing up the other. Suddenly, Viper’s right hand shot out, reaching for one of Kenzie’s sidearm, but before his fingers could touch the butt of her handgun, she turned to her left as she struck out with her right hand driving her fingers up into his armpit. Stepping out with her right foot, she lifted him over her hip and Viper landed soundly on his back.
“Try that again, asshole and I’ll break your arm.”
“Hey – hey, knock it off you two.” Cobra rushed to break them up but it was already over. Kenzie stepped over Viper and brushed passed Cobra to stand in front of the mirror. With her black smudge in her hand, she glanced to see Cobra offer Viper his hand.
“I’m not here to be your boys’ secretary.”
“And we aren’t not here as your enemy,” Cobra said as he brushed himself off.
“Well, I don’t call anyone, friend.”
Kenzie plucked her hat off the floor and pulled it on to her head. “So we
can forget having a beer when this is all done.” In angry silence the three
left, and boarded their plane. A short but dangerous flight took them over a
border they should not have been crossing. Moments later, three black figures
repelled silently to the ground.
A phone rang, interrupting the thoughts of the lone occupant of the large office. The man sitting at the desk reached for the ringing phone. It was too early to be good news. “Yes,” he questioned.
“We have a problem, and it needs to be dealt with immediately.”
“Explain,” his voice was low,
and void of emotion.
“Explain,” his voice was low, and void of emotion.
The voice on the other end of the phone spoke in a gravelly whisper.
He did not like what he was hearing, as he glanced down at the paperwork on
his desk. “Is it a threat?”
He did not like what he was hearing, as he glanced down at the paperwork on his desk. “Is it a threat?”
The voice paused, and he could almost see the frustration on their face. “I’m not sure.”
“That to me sounds like we have a problem.”
“I just think …”
“No! I’m not willing to put my ass out on the line …” his voice trailed off as his finger traced the Federal Government seal embossed on the letterhead, of the letter he was holding. “The little problem we talked about before …” He ran his hand over the stubble of his chin, while his mind spun off into a different direction. “Eliminate one to eliminate the other, and that problem ceases to exist. Get it done, clean and fast. Can you do that?”
“Consider it done,” he responded and the line went dead.
What seemed like a lifetime later, Kenzie landed back at Whidbey Island. The silence on the plane ride home was almost unbearable. There was no one there to talk to, and for the first time in her life, she realized there never had been. Looking out at the lights of Seattle, she figured the fresh sutures on her cheek. She could see the swelling and the discolorations on her chin and cheek even in the distorted reflection of the plane’s window. She wished it hurt more. She wanted the physical pain, hoping it would keep her mind occupied.
She was alone and it was more than her conscience could bear as she tried to forget the images burning in her mind. She needed someone to tell her it was going to be okay, someone to tell her she did what needed to be done. What she did not need was to face the men who had put her into that position. Forgoing policy and procedures, Kenzie debarked from the plane and left.
Running from the memories and the shadows in her
mind, she sped through the empty streets on her bike. She had no idea where
she was going, she just needed to drive, to get away but she could not run
from herself and from what she had done. Hours later she pulled in front of a
convenience store just as the stack of papers were delivered. She waited
impatiently for the elderly man to pull one from the pile. Walking back to her
bike, she paused as the small print caught her eye.
Looking up from her paper, she folded it in half and tucked it inside her leather jacket. Sitting on her bike, she struggled with a decision playing on her conscience. A moment later, she fired up her bike and roared down the deserted roadway.
Kenzie parked her bike and walked a short distance through the urban neighborhood. Silently, she slipped into the shadows and made her way along side a house. Within seconds, she disappeared through a ground level window and into the basement. Making her way through the house without a noise, she moved down the hall. A picture on the wall caught her attention; it was of a man, with a child sitting on his knee. He had never discussion with her what had happened, but she had heard rumors. Moving on she took a chair in the kitchen and waited.
A long patient wait later, she heard an all too familiar creak of the carpeted stairs leading to the second floor. The swinging door into the kitchen opened and a hand reached for the light switch.
“Leave them off, Judge.” He froze at the sound of her voice, and she saw him flatten himself against the opposite wall.
“What? Whose there?”
His startled voice tugged at her and she realized just how long it had been so long since they had spoken. “A ghost.”
The Judge paused, but even in the dark he knew who it was, “Katherine — is that you?”
“Yeah,” Her voice sounded tired.
“My God girl, it’s been so long. Let me take a look at you?” he said reaching again for the light switch.
“Leave ’em off.” Regretfully she heard the demand in her voice. “Please.”
Judge Woodward abided and crossed the dimly lit room, taking a chair opposite of her. “Katherine, you’re sounding awful good for a dead person.” Squinting in the low light, he did not like what he saw in the shadows. “Rough work you’re in?” He nodded towards her cheek and the skin closures covering her wound. He watched in painful interest as her eyes went down to a scratch on the table she was picking at with her nail. “What’s wrong?”
She took a deep breath, but said nothing as she glanced out the back window. There was a long moment of profound silence before her low whispered words crept from the shadows. “I should’ve come here.”
“Well, you are here and you can’t change that now.” He watched her with knowing eyes, waiting, probing. “Something happened that was strong enough for you to risk coming out in the open.” She turned back and looked at him, and he understood. “I have a military background my dear — I have a pretty good idea what you are doing.”
“I wish I did.” There was a long silence and in it penetrated deep into her subconscious.
“Katherine,” the concern was evident in his voice, but she did not know what to say or how to say it.
He watched her in the shadows and he waited long enough to know, she was not going to answer him. “I know you can’t tell me what has happened, but maybe I could help if you gave me something to go on.”
Her eyes darted around the room, telling him just how uncomfortable she was, but he wondered if her nerves came from what had happened or from who she had become. He waited and finally she spoke. “Who am I?”
The Judge leaned closer, knowing there was more to the question than the obvious answer. “I’m not sure how to answer that Katherine – who do you think you are?”
There was a long silence, a palpable pause to an innocent question. “I don’t think I know anymore… I don’t think I ever really did. I’ve just followed orders,” she paused and the only sound in the room was the steady tick of the kitchen clock. “Because that is what a good soldier does… but at some point I stopped thinking for myself… I stopped caring.” It was the most she had spoken in a long time.
“That is your job.”
“What,” she exasperated as she stood up quickly from the table. “Not to care?”
“No,” he wanted to reach out to her, but he had no idea how to. “Katherine,” her name sounded so unusual, she had almost forgotten that it was hers. “Your job is to follow orders because if you don’t follow those orders, people would die.”
Kenzie slowly unzipped her jacket and then threw the newspaper onto the table. “People are dying anyhow — see if you recognize anyone’s handy work.”
Picking it up, Judge Woodward’s eyes quickly scanned the paper, knowing it was her way of communicating without giving him information. The moment he spotted the military press release, he knew he had found what he was looking for.
“That was no accident.”
He read the article quickly. “Are you sure?” He put the paper down and looked across the table at her.
“I was there.”
“At the base?”
Kenzie stared into nothing, recalling the sights and sounds of where she had just been. The flames, the heat and the sound of gunfire, as the stench of death rose into the night sky. Kenzie looked at the Judge, “those men did not die on any base.” She reached for the paper and zipped it back into her jacket.
Kenzie had noticed the growing gray of twilight and she knew her time was up. “I gotta go.”
“But you just got here.”
“I know,” she rose from the table, uncertain of what she was going to do. She knew now that she should not have come, it put her only friend at risk. “I ah, I’m sorry — but I gotta go.”
“What can I do?” The Judge said.
She walked over to the door at the edge of the hallway, which would take her back to the basement. “I don’t know — nothing. I have to deal with this.”
“It was good to see you, Katherine. I’ve missed you — and our chess games.”
She tried to smile, but could not manage one. She did not know if it was because of wound on her cheek, or the confusion in her conscience.
“Can you come back?”
“It might be better for us if I didn’t.”
“I’m here if you need me. Be careful.”
“Always.” He watched as the door closed silently, and just like that, she was gone. Standing alone in his kitchen, Judge Woodward made his own decision and reached for the phone. Dialing a number, he listened for the rings before a sleepy voice answered.
Kenzie still had no idea what possessed her to go and see the Judge, and even though she should not have, it made her feel a little bit better. She kept her mind busy on the long drive back, and when she pulled into her driveway, she was certain she had made a decision.
With confidence strides, she made her way up the stairs and stopped to unlock the door, but it was already unlocked. She reached for her weapon when she realized there was someone was in her house. Crouching down, she pushed the door open from the bottom as a large figure filled the doorway in her kitchen.
“Where the hell have you been, LeGault?” Colonel Manuck growled out his command. “Have you any goddamn idea what goes on when someone like you doesn’t show up for a debriefing? Especially after a mission that was almost a disaster.”
“Almost a disaster? It was a disaster!” She paused just long enough to collect herself. “Did you know?”
“You have a responsibility LeGault, as do I.”
“Did you know?” She demanded but he ignored the question.
“We did what we had to do. We do what we are asked. People live and people die, For God, for Country -”
“They didn’t die for their country, they were murdered!” Kenzie glared at her commander, “And I think you knew.”
“Sit down and shut up, soldier. No one is interested in what you think. We do what we are told to do, and that is the end of it. You are not here to think, you are here to do, because we have trained you to do it — period!”
“I didn’t sign up for this.”
“No one ever does, but someone has to do the dirty work and that is what we do. We clean up other people’s mess — when they can’t afford to get their hands dirty, we eliminate the problem, without being seen or heard.”
Kenzie could not help but look down at her hands, knowing now just how dirty they had become. She picked at her bitten fingernails, digging at the rough skin around the edges. “Did you know what I was sent there to do?”
“You do what you are told to do — period! What we do here is highly sensitive and classified. We can not afford the actions of one to destroy the delicate nature of our nation’s protective unit.”
Kenzie crossed the room and looked out the window, her eyes scanned over the busy streets below. She crossed her arms, but it felt uncomfortable, unnatural, without realizing it, she brought her thumbnail up to her mouth, and bit down. “So what happens now?” she asked.
“That depends on you.” Manuck said as he sat down at her desk, ignoring the thin layer of dusk covering the unused work area.
Pulling herself from the view out her window, she turned to watch him, and he felt her stare. Wiping his hands off, he focused his attentions back on her.
“I need to know — Are you an asset or a liability?”
Manuck reached down beside him and picked up a briefcase and placed it on the table. Keeping his attention on Kenzie, he opened it and pulled from it a thin manila envelope. “Your next assignment,” He stated firmly without taking his eyes off her
Kenzie knew it was a test as she studied the lines in his face. “What if I don’t take it?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if that was my last assignment? And I wanted to . . . let’s say, take an extended leave, without a return date?”
“Extended leave? You mean resign?”
“What ever you want to call it — leave, quit, holiday . . . what if I want to resign! What if I’ve had enough? What if I want out? What happens?”
Manuck studied the grain on her table, and was silent for too long of a time, before he finally answered. “There are proper procedures, steps to be taken, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. We have spent a lot of time and money on training you. We’re not just going to let you leave.”
“But I can?”
“If that is what you want, but in the meantime there are jobs that need to be done,” he said as he pushed the envelope towards her. “We need confirmation within forty-eight hours.”
Reaching for the job, her hand stopped and she pulled it back liked she had been burned. “Forty-eight hours?”
“We need to — eliminate a problem — quickly,” Manuck bore his eyes into hers, “And we need the best.”
Kenzie reached for the envelope and broke the seal. He commander watched her with interest as she pulled the documents out. “It’s a woman,” she stated flatly, as she looked at the picture of a young woman sitting on what appeared to be a park bench. The photo obviously had been taken with a telephoto lens, but she could see with clarity the features of her face.
“Is it a problem,” Manuck asked. “I need to know. Can I count on you?”
Flipping through the pages, Kenzie was absorbing information without even knowing it, though the thought of killing a woman weighed heavy on her mind. Nevertheless, she reminded herself that she was a soldier. “Where?”
“Guadalajara, Mexico. There is a plane standing by.”
Kenzie did not answer him. Walking over to her bags, she looked around her bare living room. There was nothing personal in the room, nothing she really cared about, how could she – she did not exist. She had no one in her life besides the Judge, and she never had. This was not a home; it was a place to change clothes while she waited for her next assignment.
“I need an answer,” he asked impatiently. “Can you do this?”
Walking over to the fireplace mantle, she picked up the only photograph in the place. Staring into Judge Woodward’s face, she spoke in a distance voice. “Have you ever heard the fable about the frog and the scorpion?” She did not wait for an answer. “You see this scorpion, wants to cross this river but he can’t so he asks the frog for a ride. The frog says, no — if I give you a ride on my back, you will sting me. The scorpion says, why would I do that – we would both drown. The frog thinks about this and then decides it seemed safe enough so he lets the scorpion on to his back. Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog and as the frog starts to sink to his death, he says to the scorpion – why did you do that, now we are both going to die. The scorpion says I couldn’t help it – it’s what I do.” Kenzie replaced the photo, picked up her bag and walked up to the Colonel. “Of coarse I will eliminate your problem — it’s what I do.”