05-03 College Capers

by Ernest Bywater

Tags: Crime, Politics, Violence, Military, Extra Sensory Perception,

Desc: Action/Adventure Story: Five college girls are kidnapped, including some Berant citizens. Gerry must go to the USA to recover them all before the kidnappers harm the ones that weren't their intended targets. And no one knows which of the girls they were after at the time.

Friday 3 July, 2009

At 8:00 a.m. all the girls in the sorority house have almost finished their breakfasts and the maids are cleaning up when Maria Franks turns to her two best friends, Toni Amaral and Mel Chesway, saying, "You're sure it's OK to help us with our shopping at Victoria's Secret today?"

Toni, short for Antoinette, says, "Yes, we've only the one class today. It's a straight lecture which is being recorded and we can get it off the net later. The other two classes have been cancelled due to the holiday weekend. Lou is joining us as well. We'll have a fun time, but I have to be back by four p.m. to get ready to go out later."

Maria is happy because Toni has such better dress sense than she and her younger sister, Francesca (who arrived late last night), have; so they're all going shopping together this morning. They're going to get some nice outfits and underwear at Victoria's Secret.

At 9:00 a.m. the five girls walk out the front door, all eager to do a nice day's shopping. All are well off financially and can afford to shop well. But all except Toni are still learning about how to choose well.

One of the maids, Rosa Sanchez, watches Antoinette Amaral, Maria Franks, Francesca Franks, Louisa Bowman, and Melinda Chesway walk down the path. She goes to the kitchen and picks up the phone to call her boyfriend. His brother wants to meet Maria at the mall because he's interested in her, but has trouble organising to meet her. Rosa is helping by telling her boyfriend which mall they're going to so they can meet 'accidentally.' There's only the one mall in the area with a Victoria's Secret shop, so they must be going there. She's happy to be playing cupid for her boyfriend's brother. No one's worried when the girls don't show up for lunch.

At 10:30 a.m. in a warehouse across town a large man is talking to seven others, he's not happy. Angrily, he says, "What the hell's wrong with you idiots? Two girls, you were told to get two girls, and you turn up with five. And you bring back four dead as well. Twelve men to get two girls and four get killed with two others badly hurt. What sort of useless idiots can't follow simple orders or snatch a couple of school girls. Shit, we'll have to keep them all until the boss tells us what to do about them. Put them all in the big truck and get ready to move to the next place. Leave the bodies here." They're quick to move the girls to another vehicle and leave.

First Domino

At 5:00 p.m. Sandy Roberts is very worried. Her room-mate, Toni Amaral, isn't back, and she promised to be back by 4:00 p.m. so they can get ready for a double date. Their dates will be here at 5:30 p.m.

Their dates turn up and still no word from Toni. Sandy asks the young men to take a seat and starts asking if anyone had seen Toni since breakfast. No news since she left to go shopping and no one has seen any of the five girls since they left that morning. She's extremely worried now. Apologising to the boys she goes up to her room and gets out her personal phone book. Looking inside the front cover she sees the number and notes Toni gave her when they first became friends two years earlier. It's all she can do not to panic when she picks up the phone; she's a very nervous type of person and very easy to upset.

She dials an 1800 number and it's answered straight away, by a woman saying, "Berant Embassy, New York, may I help you?"

An embassy, this isn't what Sandy expected. She's already near panic and this flusters her a lot more. Looking at her notes, she says, "I'm not sure, I'm ringing for my friend. I have to speak to Risnac."

The operator replies, "Please wait." She can hear a keyboard rattle, the operator says, "I'm sorry, I can't find a Risnac in the telephone directory. Are you sure of the name?"

Sandy is really panicking now, because Toni impressed upon her how very important it was to tell this Risnac if she ever went missing. Crying into the phone, she says, "I don't know, she's gone, I was told I had to call this number and tell Risnac, urgently."

The operator realises this isn't a normal call and signals for her supervisor, while she says, "Look, I'm very new here. Please hold while I put my supervisor on the line, she may be able to help you."

There's a click, and another voice says, "Good evening, this is Amy Pirot, switch supervisor, how may I help you?"

Crying, Sandy says, "My room-mate's gone missing, she told me if that ever happened I was to call this number and ask for Risnac."

Amy replies, "Please calm down. I take it you're reading from a note you took at the time. If that's so, please tell me, is that one word with a single capital or is it in block letters as if it maybe initials?"

Sandy takes a deep breath, "I made these notes two years ago and the name's spelled out in single letters. Does that make a difference?"

In a calm voice with a smile in it, Amy says, "Yes, it does. That can be an acronym of a position, it's initials. Please hold a moment while I check." Again she hears a keyboard clatter. Suddenly she hears, "Hell." Amy comes back, "I think I now have who you wish to speak with, please hold while I transfer you. I'll stay on the line until I'm sure."

The phone rings, and a man answers, "Royal Intelligence Service, North American Commander." Sandy catches her breath at this.

Amy says, "Amy Pirot, switch supervisor. Sorry to bother you, Colonel, I've a girl who's very concerned as her room-mate's missing and she's following instructions the room-mate left for her. She's called on the eighteen hundred number asking for Risnac. Is that you, Sir?"

Sitting up in his chair, he replies, "Very likely. Please stay on the line until I say otherwise. Please go ahead, Miss, I'm listening."

Gulping, Sandy says, "My room-mate, Toni Amaral, was supposed to be home at four p.m., it's now five forty-five p.m. She told me when we first became roomies if she ever went missing to call this number and speak to Risnac. I'm to say something else, but I can't remember what it is. I know it's something to do with birds and lockets because I've drawn reminder pictures here of a bird's nest, a locket, a bird, and the number twenty-one." She's crying again.

Colonel Harrison is now sitting straight up in his chair and waving urgently at his assistant, Captain Morris, while saying, "Please calm down. Now let's see if I can help. You said the first image is a nest, so it's probably something like nest or the nest. Correct." Captain Morris is now very wide eyed, because The Nest is the Guards' code and slang for the Royal Palace.

Hopefully, Sandy says, "Yes, that's it. I'm to say the nest is broken, no not broken, breached, no broached. That's it, the nest is broached. It's a broach not a locket."

With a sinking feeling in his heart, the colonel says, "The nest is broached? You're sure?" Morris' face goes white. He picks up a phone and calls for a high priority encrypted link to Highcliff, priority Omega minus. The radio operator almost dies when he hears the priority, that's the highest there is and only used in extreme emergencies. It means do what you have to do and make it happen right now.

Sandy is a bit less flustered because the man is helping her to remember. She says, "Next is a bird like an eagle, and the number twenty-one. But eagle twenty-one doesn't sound right."

Resignedly, Harrison says, "I think it's Falcon twenty-one, Miss. Can I please have the full name of your room-mate and anyone else who may have gone missing with her? I also need to know your exact address."

While Sandy gives him the names and the address of the sorority the colonel is putting the names into his computer, and points the citizen matches out to the captain. He also reaches over and hits the emergency alert button for all his staff to report for duty immediately.

Captain Morris is talking to Highcliff. He says, "RIS North America, I have an Omega minus message for the Palace Duty Officer." He's soon transferred through to Colonel Rochester, head of Highcliff security. He says, "Colonel, we've a civilian passing on a possible Falcon Down for Falcon 21, Antoinette Amaral, with Louisa Bowman and Melinda Chesway as possibly missing too. Missing from California, Ma'am."

Taking a deep breath, she replies, "Alert all staff and agents in North America. Get investigators on site. I'll tell the Protector, he'll probably come out himself. Tell the ambassador to arrange customs clearance for Prince Edward and his security attachment at L.A. International, since they'll be armed. Diplomatic immunity is needed."

Captain Morris simply replies, "Yes, Ma'am. I'll get right on it." He looks up from his phone, to see all the RIS duty staff are on hand; they live on-site. He starts issuing orders and gets things moving. One person gets the address details and calls the nearest contract private investigator to the sorority house to have them get started on the local investigation and gathering background information.

Hanging up, Erica goes to tell Gerry a cousin of theirs is missing.

Meanwhile, a sound proofed truck is driving fast along a major interstate highway with a half load, eight thugs, and five schoolgirls. They're headed for a place just outside of Boston. The man expecting them is already happy with the capture, and is now planning what he intends to do with and to the girls.

More Dominoes

Colonel Rochester crosses over into Far View and seeks out Gerry. She tells him of the alert and the actions already initiated. He says, "Good work, Erica, pass that along to RISNAC. I'll pack right away. Alert Echo Company of the Shields, they'll be best for this type of action. Alert Birdman Field we're coming and get enough choppers here to carry us. Let the US Ambassador know what's happening, please. I'll get Issy and Vicky to go with me." She nods, and leaves while he turns to tell Meara what's up. She agrees, and leaves to pack for him.

Thirty minutes later Gerry, Isobelle, Vicky, and E Company of the Shields are climbing aboard helicopters for a quick trip to Birdman Field. An hour after being told they're boarding a plane for a flight to Los Angeles International Airport. While the plane leaves the ground he's already planning what to do when he gets to the USA. He'll get what sleep he can on the plane, because it'll take several hours to fly to L.A. He may have just enough time to catch up on the hours of time difference between Far View and L.A.

Meanwhile, Erica is talking to the US Ambassador, he's horrified to learn a member of the royal family went missing in California. Erica's staff are organising L.A transport vehicles for Gerry's party. Urgent messages fly from the US Embassy to the US Secretary of State and the US Customs at L.A. International Airport. They'll give the Berant flight priority and diplomatic clearance.

Washington DC

The Secretary of State is surprised at the US Ambassador in Berant contacting the L.A. Customs Office direct about the expected arrival of a significant diplomatic group. She's also surprised to find most of the diplomatic group are armed soldiers and investigators. Checks with the Berant Ambassador in New York explains most of the soldiers are the security detachment to protect the members of the Berant Royal Family in the group. Reluctantly, high level official approval is given for them to carry their military equipment and notices are sent to Customs, FBI, Department of Justice, and the L.A. Police Department.

Elsewhere in Washington a man known as 'The Mark' is worried when he approaches his employer, saying, "Boss, Boots hasn't made his daily report and his mobile phone isn't registering on the network. I've placed an alert with our friends in California."

The man addressed turns and looks at him for a moment, his face shows his concern, because the employee known as 'Boots' is in charge of the security team looking after his eldest daughter. He's very reliable and never missed a check call in his life; this is very disturbing news. He thinks for a moment, and replies, "Thank you, Marcus. Contact all our good friends and put out an alert. Have someone check with the L.A. police and morgues. Have someone we know check out the sorority where Maria is staying, Francesca was to join her last night or today."

Marcus leaves to carry out his instructions. He's now much more worried than when he entered, he hadn't known the younger daughter was going to be with her sister. He spends the next three hours on the phone coordinating the start of a nationwide search. He goes to speak to his boss after an assistant hands him a note about the results of some of his calls. Returning to the office he knocks and enters, saying, "Bad news, Boss. Both girls left the house this morning and haven't been seen since. Nor have the other three girls that went with them. Boots and his crew are in the L.A. morgue, it looks like one of the Dons has all five girls."

Don Mario turns to his senior personal guard, and says, "Let the families of Boots and his boys know they're dead. Offer them all the help we can. Organise extra protection for the New York meet. There's nothing we can do before then and I want the scum who did this. See what you can find out." Marcus nods, and leaves.

Los Angeles

Retired police officer and licensed investigator Harold Harmon has his entire fifteen person staff very busy finding out all they can about the five names and the address provided by the Berant Embassy. The bulk of his business income is from the retainer and investigations he does for the embassy; checking people out and finding missing goods and people. He's very surprised when his people can't find out much about the two US citizens who went missing, two sisters, and even less about their family. The name seems vaguely familiar, but it's an east coast address and he's spent his whole life on the west coast, yet the name rings a faint bell. He decides this is important enough to call in a few favours, so he calls an old friend in the Washington Department of Justice to have them run a more detailed computer check on these names in the federal databases.

He's shocked when his friend runs the check, and says, "OK Harold, are you trying to live up to your nickname of 'Funny man, ' what's the deal? What's your interest in our local Don and his family? Spill it."

A stunned Harold, says, "You better send me as full a download as you can, Sandy. I'm working a missing persons case, suspected snatch of a foreign diplomat's daughter. She went missing earlier today with four others, including your Don's two girls."

Gulping hard, Sandy replies, "I'll give you all I can and notify our organised crime people. I'll see if they can add anything, especially about possible snatchers. This could be extras taken in snatching either the Don's daughters or the diplomat's daughter. What a mess!"

Harold says, "Send me anything you can get. I'm tasked with getting all the background info I can. The foreign diplomat has a special investigation team flying in from halfway around the world. Seems their team can find anyone, anywhere, and they don't take no for an answer." They talk for a while longer while Sandy exchanges electronic messages with various special units within the Department of Justice and receives lots of files to send to Harold. Both know the extras are likely to be killed by the kidnappers at the first opportunity they feel they can safely dump the bodies.

Near Boston

Don Franco is smiling when he talks to some of his closest advisers. He didn't like his team snatching the extra girls, but they sent him pictures and details of the girls. He thinks he can get a good payout to return one of the girls and the other two are good lookers. They'll do him for personal entertainment and may even be used to make a point to the others. The truck is taking a roundabout route to cross the country, because he's sure Don Mario will have people looking at every vehicle headed from L.A. to the upper east coast area. The truck's route has it going in a zigzag route over the lower half of the country to reach New Orleans before turning north-east and heading up towards the coast. He'll make Don Mario dance to his tune before he lets him have one of his daughters back, but which one, which one? Since one must stay with him to make his point and give him some entertainment.

Serious Searchers

Arriving at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, Californian time, Gerry and his people have no trouble in passing through the L.A. airport. The mini-buses and coaches waiting for them are fast to be loaded, Customs doesn't even open any of the boxes or bags they brought. Some of the Customs and airport security people are surprised to see the large number of people in body armour with military hardware, but wisely say nothing because these people have diplomatic passports and they were warned; also, their expressions don't encourage any argument. The group is quick to move to the mini-buses and coaches in the waiting area for the private jet terminal.

Mister Harmon is in the lead mini-bus because he's waiting to brief the investigation team. He has electronic and printed copies of all the files of information from the Department of Justice and the local police. He's got a hell of a lot of information, more than he thought he'd get.

Harold is very surprised to find a high-school student giving the orders, but he hands over the files. Gerry flicks through them while he speed reads the printed files. He uses a multi-colour highlighter to mark items he deems of interest. After reading it all he turns to Harold, and asks, "Is it possible to talk to this Don Mario?"

Harold shakes his head, saying, "I've tried, he's in transit to New York at the moment. Some sort of important meeting of the Dons. No one knows where."

Turning to Isobelle, Gerry says, "Contact RISNAC, I want that address a.s.a.p., and the name of who's likely to be behind a snatch by the Dons. He can use any means he thinks he needs to use, but get that address." Isobelle nods, and uses a portable secure communications unit to make an encrypted call over the mobile phone network.

About 7:00 a.m. they pull up outside the sorority house. A security team surrounds the house while Gerry, Isobelle, Harold, and some RIS investigators go to the front door. The door is answered by the cook who's in the middle of preparing breakfast.

Tough Questions

After entering the sorority and getting permission from the House Mother Gerry addresses the house members as a group. The House Mother has them all gather in the lounge room at 7:30 a.m., students and staff. They're all surprised to see the adults being ordered about by a high-school senior.

Standing in the lounge room Gerry faces the group, "Yesterday a group of five girls went out to shop and promptly vanished. They've been gone just under twenty-four hours. Despite the normal police procedures this case is being treated as an urgent missing persons with a very high probability of a kidnapping." He stops while he looks over his audience, he can feel their emotions, most are shocked and some are stunned. One person is extremely worried and scared. He can't pick out which person this is, but can sense which part of the room they're in, he makes a careful note of the people in that section. "This investigation team is made up of people from another country, we've spent the night flying here. One of the missing girls is from an extremely important family in our country and she knows to keep in touch. She'd not go wandering off without letting us know. We have permission from your government to conduct this investigation in the hopes we can find the girls and avoid a major diplomatic incident. I want anyone who spoke to the girls yesterday to talk to my two senior investigators; I also want anyone who has any idea of where they were going yesterday to talk to Isobelle." He points at the two RIS people and Isobelle as he mentions them. "We're here to find the missing, and we will. We'll do whatever it takes, worrying about the fallout and legal aspects later. I strongly suggest you cooperate with my people, thank you."

The group breaks up into smaller groups and the investigators start asking the girls and women questions.

Turning to Harold, Gerry says, "If one of the other Dons was organising the snatch of Don Mario's daughters, who's the most likely, and how would they organise it here?"

Harold says, "The local boss, Don Giovanni, wouldn't be involved. He's friendly with Don Mario and would've given him assurances about their safety. Also, I've contacted someone I know within his organisation. The Don is in transit to a meeting and the guy he left in charge is beside himself with worry. He could get into major trouble for this happening, so he's doing everything he can to find the girls and those responsible. There are three major candidates for the snatch, none of them nice people, they're the worst of the Dons. They'd have had to use local help, probably one of the several regional street gangs."

Gerry nods, and says, "I'll need you to stay with me, because I need that local knowledge." Turning, he starts wandering about the room, taking time to approach and speak to everyone that was in the corner where the worry and fear originated during his opening talk.

About twenty minutes later he's talking to some of the staff when he notices one of the maids, Rosa Sanchez, is the source of worry and fear. Taking her by the arm he leads her into a corner where they can talk more privately. He says, "Rosa, you're the only person here who's scared, so tell me what you know." She gives him a harried look, and starts to cry.

She replies, "I'm sure it's nothing to do with it, but I'm worried. I know where they went shopping yesterday. At breakfast they spoke of going to shop at Victoria's Secret and there's only one in the area, that must be where they went. My boyfriend, Mario, his brother Jorge is interested in meeting Maria, but hasn't been able to do so in a way they can talk. He wanted to meet her casually while out shopping. I told Mario where they were going shopping so he could arrange a casual meet at the shops, that's all."

Sighing, Gerry asks for Mario's full name. Harold calls a local police contact and runs a check on the name. Mario is clean, but his brother isn't. He's a rising lieutenant in one of the major local street gangs. The number Rosa called is tracked to a gang house.

Gerry glares at Rosa, and calls out, "Isobelle, you and James continue here, I'm following up a lead. Captain Lancer, stay here with half the company; I'll take the other half with me. Harold, you're with me, have a local police expert on this gang meet us in transit to that house." He turns and walks out the door while the Captain details units over the radio.

Outside there's a flurry of activity while troops board buses to go with Gerry. Once in the mini-bus he starts to put on his combat armour while a corporal helps Harold put a spare set on. Harold is worried about this, but is glad of the protection because this gang has a big reputation of shooting first and second then thinking about asking questions. They change while the troop convoy moves out.

Just short of the house they're met by a police car. A plain-clothes officer switches vehicles and he starts to brief them on the gang, and he hands out copies of Jorge's photo. He's concerned when handed combat armour to wear, but puts it on as he knows the gang's reputation too.

Harder Questions

The convoy stops two streets away from the house and the photos are shown to all the troops. Two platoons dismount and move out into the night, their job is to infiltrate and surround the house, making sure no one escapes. The convoy starts up again and moves in on the target building. Pulling up outside the house First Platoon disembarks and charges into the building, while Second Platoon follows them Fifth Platoon spreads out around the vehicles to ensure their safety.

From the police report they know the house is a wood frame one with plasterboard interior walls and vinyl cladding. The windows and doors have strong security grills on them to slow down police entry.

Warrant Officer Amarl is leading the attack and he's well-trained in 'entry' procedures. He's also familiar with housing construction because his father is a builder and he used to work for him as a teen. He knows they don't have time to deal with the security grills so he bypasses them. Picking a spot he expects to be clear of studs and braces he charges at the wall. At the last moment he dives to hit near the bottom of the wall. He stands only 170 cm tall, but is solidly built with lots of muscles, and standing in his combat gear he weighs one hundred and twenty kilograms. He hits the wall at high speed and smashes through the cladding, the plasterboard, and the small table beside the door, turning it into many pieces when it splinters with the impact.

He continues his roll across the room. He rises to his feet and heads down the hall. Two gang members jump up at his entry and point pistols at him. He doesn't even pause when he uses his silenced machine pistol to shoot them both in the chest because neither are Jorge or the girls. His job is to quickly penetrate as deep as possible into the house, taking out any armed opposition and try to locate Jorge or the girls.

The first private behind the Warrant Officer follows him to cover his back, the second private covers the other two people in the room while they start to wake up. The fourth person to enter is a corporal, he turns and unlocks the door. Ten seconds into the attack and they're into the building with more entering each second while troops enter by hole and door then immediately split off on their assigned tasks.

Warrant Officer Amarl moves quickly and quietly down the hall opening each door and checking each room. In the sixth room he finds Jorge. The man is about to shoot when Amarl shoots him in the upper arm. Other troops dart past the door to check the rest of the house.

All resistance is quickly subdued. Twelve gang members are killed in the process and another seven taken prisoner. None manages to leave the building. The whole action takes sixty-eight seconds from when they leave the bus to when the house is secured. The police liaison person is standing beside the bus and is hysterical about the assault, it's against all their procedures and laws. Gerry turns to him, saying, "So is kidnapping school girls. You don't have to worry because this is my operation and I'll explain it to the judge, if it comes to that."

Walking up to Jorge, Gerry asks him, "Where are the girls you kidnapped?"

Jorge replies, "I kidnapped no one!"

Gerry can tell he's telling the truth, and says, "You were told where Maria Franks was going, what did you do with that information?" Jorge isn't impressed by the high-school senior so he just smiles, until Gerry grabs his balls, saying, "I'm not the police. One of the girls is a cousin I'm very fond of and I've diplomatic immunity. So I can do any damn thing I like and the only thing they can do is ask me to leave the country. Talk or I'll slowly crush your balls and then painfully break every bone in your body. After that I'll start on your family members."

By the look in Gerry's eyes Jorge can see he means business, so he gulps, and says, "I did as I was told, I passed the information to Don Franco's people hanging out at the old saw mill." After getting the address of the mill Gerry smiles, and says, "Thank you." Turning from Jorge he points at one of the gang members, and says, "I want you to take a message to your gang leader and the other gangs. Leave my people alone, next time I'll take out the whole gang." Turning, he quickly shoots Jorge and five of the other prisoners in the chest, leaving only the messenger alive. The youth gulps, and nods; he'll deliver the message, and a bit about how tough Gerry is.

Luckily the police liaison fellow is still out at the bus. Harold is wishing he'd stayed there as well. While they walk out Gerry turns to him, saying, "This is another type of war. I must think about protecting all my people. The local gangs won't like the idea of someone being able to take them like this. They'll scream and posture, but they'll back off and stay backed off." Harold nods, because he understands the full situation and the reasoning behind the actions.

Leaving the gang house they go to the old saw mill. All they find there are the dead kidnappers and evidence a large truck had been there. Gerry examines the dead, and smiles. Standing, he says, "They must've got a shock when Toni and Mel started defending themselves. Four dead, and I wonder how many others got hurt before they could subdue them." Turning to the police officer and Harold, he says, "We teach all our people how to look after themselves, we teach them well." Waving at the dead he faces the police officer, and continues, "Nothing here for us. You best call this in and see what you can find out with your forensics people. I've got other fish to fry."

The policeman calls in the find while he removes the borrowed armour, and stays there for the Scene of Crime people to arrive. Gerry and his people leave, heading back to the sorority to tell them of what they'd found and to collect the rest of the team. Time to move on. If they can't follow the trail they can go to the paymaster.

Moving on

While they head back to collect the rest of the team Harold gives Gerry a briefing on Don Franco. They arrive at the sorority house, to find them packing up and ready to leave, because no more can be done here. Gerry leaves Harold to help settle Sandy down and ensure she's not troubled by any backlash. He'll also takes time to speak with Rosa and her boyfriend about their involvement in the affair.

Later Mario is upset to learn his brother's death is due solely to his being actively involved in the kidnapping. Rosa and Mario are let off with a stern talking to, since they didn't know it was for a kidnapping. They're both very upset with the outcomes of the events.

The investigation team arrives back at the airport in time to take off and have lunch in the air. While in flight to Boston they get a major download of information from RISNAC, including significant data on Don Franco's house outside Boston. It's a fortress and he employs a regiment of guards to protect it, all mean criminals. The team arrives in Boston and moves to buses sent by RISNAC. They head to a safe rendezvous with local and federal police officers to discuss how they'll deal with Don Franco. On the way RISNAC, who'd flown down from New York, is giving Gerry the current address of Don Mario, they've located him in upper New York State and have two agents keeping an eye on the hotel.

Meanwhile, just outside Boston, Don Franco is preparing his 'special chamber' for interviewing the girls who're due to arrive late tomorrow. He intends to have a lot of fun with them before heading to the meeting of the Dons the next day.

At a truck stop near New Orleans a truck has a change of drivers and paperwork before it pulls out and heads north. They've made good time for having driven non-stop from Los Angeles.

Meeting of Minds?

In an empty warehouse on the outskirts of Boston Gerry meets up with a dozen officers from the local police, state police, Department of Justice, FBI, and a Special Task Force on Organised Crime. For the first time they pool all their information on a single organised crime figure. The total pool of information is staggering and they all learn a lot more than they'd previously known. All of them are put out by having to brief a high-school senior with so much highly confidential information. Gerry and RISNAC sit there listening closely while they read written reports too. When they've all finished Gerry gives a summary of all he's heard and read about Don Franco. Surprising them with the fullness of detail and of having understood their briefings. They start discussing how to enter the Don's property and take him into custody.

After twenty minutes of talking one of the senior FBI officers, says, "I know you trust your information, but we just don't have enough to get a search warrant approved. There's nothing that can be done, yet."

Reaching into his pocket Gerry pulls out his passport and tosses it to the officer, saying, "Open that up and read it. You'll find I, like the rest of my team, have diplomatic immunity. There may be nothing you can legally do, but there's nothing you can legally do to stop me doing what I have to do. I'm getting my people back and I'll do whatever it takes! Then I'll worry about the clean-up, afterwards!" They all look at him in shock. During the introductions he was simply introduced as the Team Leader of the Berant Investigation, now they see his passport lists him as Prince Edward. "My main responsibility in the Berant government is as Royal Protector of the People and I take all my responsibilities seriously." To Captain Lancer, he says, "Get your platoon commanders in here for a combat briefing and have the company prepare for a night infiltration and assault. I want a quiet entry and quick take over." Smiling, the captain snaps him a salute and starts talking on his radio. Turning back to the police officers, "I've a company of the best special forces troops ever trained, and I'm using them."

Taking a detailed map of Don Franco's estate and a plan of the house he leaves the table they're talking at. At another table across the room two soldiers are clearing off the clutter while a group of twenty junior officers and sergeants gather around it while he walks over to it.

The law enforcement officers start in on RISNAC, because many know him. They're upset by Gerry's attitude and are very concerned about his conducting military actions on US soil. He says, "I don't think you ladies and gentlemen realise he has approval to do what's needed, both from his government and yours. Your Secretary of State and Attorney General were warned he'll probably have to take extreme steps to recover the girls before they're killed. Anyway, you've made it clear you can't do anything to save the girls and that leaves him little choice. Either he leads an attack by the best damn troops you've ever heard of, or he calls Don Mario and tells him what he knows. Which do you want?" Several go very pale at the thought of a major war between the Dons; because it'd quickly escalate when the other Dons take sides, and that can easily flow over to involve members of the public.

Gulping hard, the Department of Justice senior person, says, "Much as I hate the idea of military action by foreign troops, it's the better choice of those two."

Just then they hear one of the officers at the briefing say, "Excuse me, General, but what do we do if the girls aren't there?"

Their eyes go up when they hear Gerry reply, "Our future actions will depend a lot on what we find on site and the intelligence we gather. If the girls are elsewhere or going elsewhere and we can identify that location, we go there. We'll also follow up on locating Don Franco, you can bet wherever the girls are going he intends to meet up with them at some point. Once we have him we have the girls, or can get them."

Turning back to RISNAC, one officer simply says, "General?"

RISNAC replies, "Yes, he's a well-trained and experienced officer in our military with the rank of general, five stars, actually. He has several years' experience, including combat experience. He was one of the main commanders and coordinators who defeated the mercenary invasion last year, he's good, very good." They all stare at him, stunned by this revelation. "We go by ability, not age. Pass the required skills and psychological tests and you can get almost any job." They watch when the other meeting breaks up. The officers go off to brief their troops while Gerry and the Captain start to change into night combat gear. RISNAC says, "One of the reasons the men trust him so much is they know he's been through the hell-fire of combat several times, and he won't send them on a mission he's not prepared to carry out himself. The only times he's sent troops out while on the spot himself are when they've been better qualified (and he's one of our most qualified military people), or he's been under direct orders from the King to stand back. The times he's been ordered back he's argued against it, the troops understand and like his attitude. He also has some personal attributes that help with this sort of task. Your people in L.A. are still trying to find out how anyone knew where the girls were going, he's done that, found the gang responsible, and followed the lead here. All since he landed just before breakfast." The law enforcement people just stare again. "I know it doesn't seem that way, but he's not happy he has to go outside your legal structure. He's responsible for most of our own law enforcement people at home and is a qualified solicitor. He's not happy with extra-legal operations, but he'll do what's required to save lives. At home his own involvement would make the whole matter legal. Here, he's accepting he has to upset you, but feels the lives are more important." Some are nodding in agreement and wish they can operate like this at times. RISNAC reaches out and picks up Gerry's passport from where the others have dropped it on the table after looking at it.

Going Calling

Just after dusk a convoy of buses stops about two kilometres from Don Franco's house. Gerry and one hundred and ninety-two armoured troops disembark to start jogging towards the property while spreading out according to their plan. They're soon lost in the twilight, because the dark combat fatigues blend into the night. The last platoon spreads out through the buses with flankers spread out around the vehicles.

On reaching the four metre stone wall specialist use their equipment to analyse and defeat the simple alarm systems built into and onto the wall and the grounds nearby. The troops swarm over a fifty metre section of wall; the property is just over two kilometres on each side with high walls and lots of alarm systems spread about it. Like dim shadows they move across the grounds with the electronic specialists leading the way to disarm or fool the warning systems. Four platoons split off to sweep the grounds, so they can locate and follow all roving guards. The other five platoons move towards the houses.

In the centre of the grounds are three major buildings, the house, a large garage, and a larger barracks building. One platoon diverts to the garage, two head for the barracks, and Gerry leads two platoons to the house. Upon reaching the buildings the surveillance experts take over to send remote sensors into all three buildings.

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