Scores to Settle
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Special Agent Betsy Ross Bush was in prayer when she had her meditations disturbed by Toby Keith’s “Beer for My Horses” ring tone on her cell phone. She apologized to God for the interruption, got up from the floor and walked into her bedroom to answer it. Her muscles still felt tight with a delightful pump from her work-out. She always prayed after her workouts. The slight soreness, the endorphins coursing through her body all made for a good meditative state.
“Lauren, I’m sorry” a male voice said as soon as she answered. “I can explain. She means nothing to me. I want a second chance.”
“Because I am not Lauren, you dumbass!” Bet (people took their own life in their hands if they called her Betsy) closed up her cell phone, ending the call.
To anyone monitoring her conversations, she had just received a wrong number call. In fact, she had just been contacted about an assignment and had to meet someone. She had no idea who had placed the call to her, just like the person who called her had no idea who he called. Yet a message had been passed.
She glanced at her body before she stepped into the shower. She had the lean, tightly muscled body of a lifelong athlete and she had been. Taekwondo and Aikido from the time she was five years old. Softball and volleyball in school. She also fenced in college. Well enough to be invited to the Olympic Trials, though an injury kept her from making the team.
She had two scars on her body. One from her middle ribs down and across almost to her navel. This was courtesy of an amateur that she had taken lightly. Something she would never do again. The other was high on the left side of her chest. A professional with a silenced .22 had given her that one. The amateur had died immediately, the pro sometime later but like always, payback was a bitch.
After her shower she climbed into her Shelby GT500 Mustang. The car was registered in her name and for all intents and purposes, the car was hers. But in reality, the car had been provided to her by her employer. The VRWC always took care of it’s own. Good pay, expense account, living arrangements and full medical and dental. Great retirement also, if you lived that long.
She drove less than twenty minutes an arrived at her destination, a shop named T-Mart. It was owned by a man named Johnny Song. Born and raised in Korea but now an American citizen. Proud to be one. Song and his wife proudly displayed pictures of their two sons and their daughter. All proudly serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The eldest son was a Blackhawk pilot for the Army. The other son was an Infantry officer. The daughter was an MP in the Marines. Fine American family, the Songs.
“Steve McQueen drove a car just like yours in a movie once.” Song said when Bet walked in the door.
“Saw that one. I liked the Black Charger better.”
Johnny Song nodded toward a door in the back. The door opened as Bet approached it. She did not even have to knock. In the room she saw a smiling Karl Rove, flanked by two body guards. “How ya doin’, Bet?”
Rove embraced her, gave her a kiss on her forehead. “Haven’t seen you in a while, Bet. You healed up okay?”
“100%, Karl. Good as new.”
“You’re looking good, Sweetheart.” Rove shook his head slightly and then extended his hand to an assistant. The assistant handed him a file. Karl opened the file, took in some details then handed the file back. “Wish we could hang out and chat some more, Bet. But there is some urgency.”
She had been surprised that the meeting she had been called to attend had been one with Rove. Now she was even more surprised that Karl was meeting her about an assignment. Only the highest priority assignments were ever handed out by Rove. There could not have been more than half a dozen in the years since the VRWC had come into being.
“Bet, You will receive your intel and assignment through the usual channels. I can’t have any fingerprints on this one. All I can tell you is that there is a protocol on this one. As you know, only I can inform an agent of a protocol.” A look of sadness and regret crossed Karl’s face. “This is a Protocol Q assignment.”
Rove stood up straight, a clear signal that the meeting was over. There was another embrace, less joyous than the first.
“Be careful, Bet.” Karl said as Bet headed to the door. “And Bet?”
Bet paused with her hand on the door.
“Your father says ‘Hello.’”
Senator Hillary Clinton had been right. There was a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. She had sought to expose the VRWC when she made mention of it. But she thought better of it once the ridicule started. Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, who could believe such a thing.
What no one imagined was the scope of it. There were hundreds of people in the VRWC. Covering every walk of life. From field operatives like Bet and her fellows to others who were just peripherally involved but providing great help in what some would consider insignificant efforts but were aiding their country in valuable truly vital ways. Karl had often stated that there was nothing insignificant in the VRWC. People like Johnny Song were providing a great and necessary service by providing a meeting place.
Others would provide agents with a place to sleep or lie low. Others would just step out into the street and give a wave off signal if the time for a pass or contact was not right. Everyone’s job, not matter how small was a key and important part of every mission.
As Bet drove toward her home, she looked to a medium sized three bedroom house. There was a woman outside caring for meticulously kept roses. She wore a straw hat and cotton work gloves. One green glove and one red one.
For months the woman had been there. Working on her lawn or roses. Everyday and every day Bet drove by. The woman was VRWC. With her gloves she signaled an operative. She did not know who the operative was, or what the mission was, but she her assignment was to be out in her yard, everyday except Sunday (the VWRC observed the Sabbath unless it was absolutely not possible) wearing cotton gloves. Both green every day, but when she was told to she would wear a red one or both red, depending on her instructions.
At a Wal-Mart across town, Bet dropped the Shelby off for an oil change. She walked around the store for a while, bought a shirt, a new pair of bag gloves to pound on her heavy bag with and a Gretchen Wilson CD.
She paid for her items and got her car. She pushed the eject button on her CD player and took the disc that had been left for her out and slipped it into her purse.
At home she placed the disk in her computer.
“Greetings Operative. God Bless. We have a problem. As you may have surmised, the VRWC has had a hand in elections since 2002. Always vigilant we have sought to make sure that the proper candidates achieve victory and the ones who are the best choice are the ones in Washington. In 2004 we had to do this on a Presidential level. For the good of our country, it was imperative that John Kerry not win.
We guaranteed the President a victory by stacking the vote in Ohio and Florida. With the help of Diebold our country was not put in grave danger by having the wrong person as President.
All of this information was downloaded onto disks and from those all the data was loaded onto a single disk. All of the other disks and machine hard drives were magnetically erased and then destroyed. A code was written into the single disk to keep it from ever being copied.
This disk was not destroyed because we needed the data. It contained the number of true votes, the number of votes flipped, nonexistent votes and every bit of data we could need to do it even better next time.
We lost the disk, Operative. We had an opsec failure and the disk left our possession and control. We have now found it and this is where you come in.
The disk is in possession of a man named Herman Stokes. If the name is familiar it is because Stokes was assistant chief of staff for Howard Dean. Stokes is a very dirty political player and Mr. Dean has since placed several levels of deniability between himself this man. In reality he is still a Howard Dean operative.
DNC Chairman Dean is currently out of the country. Stokes is to give Mr. Dean this disk once he arrives back in the United States. We cannot allow this.
Stokes has a woman he sees on occasion here in town. Chairman Dean has appointments here the day of his arrival from Europe. Logically, Stokes will be with his lover in the days preceding Dean’s arrival.
There is more detailed intel and other data on this disk. Keep casualties to a minimum. God keep you safe Operative.”
Bet looked through all of the other folders on the disk and got everything she needed. Photos, addresses, dates, itineraries.
Herman Stokes never claimed to be a brave man. In fact he would readily admit that he was a coward. While he had dealt in political dirty tricks all of his adult life, he had often wondered how he would react when it all came back to bite him on the ass. Well it was biting him on the ass now and he knew how he would react. He would piss his pants. That is what he did as he laid face down on the hotel bed with a gorgeous blonde straddling his back and pressing a gun to the back of his head.
“You have a disk, Howard. Where is it?” The blonde’s voice was a bit hoarse and breathy. Probably sexy in other circumstances, but at the moment, the voice was evil and terrifying. Bet pressed the cold ring of the silencer harder into the back of Stoke’s head. She pulled the hammer back with an ominous click.
“Your choice, Sweetheart. Hand over the disk to me, or we fly you to Gitmo and you give it up to them. That would really piss me off, Herman. Bringing in that disk is worth at least a move up in pay grade for me and you really do not want to be the one who is costing me money. “
Bet stepped out of the hotel lobby and into the bright sunlight of a gorgeous day. Her 9mm Sig Sauer and a disk in her purse. She never saw the sap that landed on the side of her head and dropped her like a sack of feed.
“She’s waking up.” The voice sounded far away and had an echo to it. The darkness around her slowly faded and with the light came pain. Her head felt like it was going to explode. She shook her head to clear the cobwebs and immediately regretted it. Her brain felt as if it was rolling around lose in her skull. Pain like this pissed her off. Really pissed her off. She rarely allowed herself to get this pissed because when she did, people had a habit of turning up dead.
“Where is the disk?” A rough hand grabbed her by the hair and raised her head up.
“It was in my purse.” Talking did not help her headache.
The interrogator held up Bet’s Gretchen Wilson CD. The interrogator was young. He did not appear to be even thirty years old. His technique was probably taught. He had been groomed into his job. He was too young have enough experience to work out a technique of his own. “You know what I am talking about.”
The slap was not that hard. She had been slapped harder in catfights in college. Coupled with her headache, though, it did not help matters.
She was in a plastic chair. Her hands were in nylon zip tie handcuffs. Two pairs of them . Each one had a loop on her wrist and the other end looped through the chair. Her feet were free. In the room there were two men other than the interrogator. While the interrogator was thin and slight, the two guards were burly with muscular chests and arms. Both were armed with M1911 .45s. One wore his hair well within military regs. The other had his hair pulled back in a ponytail. Bet named them Soldier and Dude.
Before the interrogator struck her again his cell phone rang. He glanced at the number calling and quickly answered. “Yes, Mr. Carville.” He paused. “No, Mr. Carville. We do not have the disk yet, but we have the girl. We will have the disk soon. I just got started.”
With that, the interrogator closed his phone and turned his attention back to her. “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. You people are nothing but rank amateurs. Mr. Carville and the Clintons did not invent the art of conspiracy. But they elevated it to a new form.
“Do you know what Howard Dean was going to do with the disk? He was going to go to the press. How naïve is that? He was going to order Congressional Hearings. Bring down the Evil Bush Cabal! How noble.”
“What are you going to do with the disk?” Bet asked.
“Use it. We are going to back hack it. Learn it’s secrets. We are going to use your own tactics and technology against you. What are you going to do to stop us? Go to the authorities?”
The interrogator approached her, “Now where is the disk?”
Every pair of jeans that Bet owned had a slight modification that she made to all of them. In the waist, slipped into the seam, all of her jeans had a utility knife blade. It had taken some searching but she had finally found some made of carbon fiber that would easily make past metal detectors. The thick material of the jeans also made the blade hard to detect in a cursory patdown.
She strained a little but was able to reach inside her waist band and pull the blade from it’s hiding place. She drew the blade across the nylon cuff on her right hand and it parted easily. Bet kept her freed hand behind her back and passed the blade to her left hand. The cuff came apart as easily as the first.
She kept her hands back behind her. Waiting for the proper moment. The interrogator kept slapping her, like a girl. He appeared to be enjoying it. He truly was not an experienced pro. A pro would have moved on to other methods by now.
“You don’t like it do you?” He was taunting her now. “Well the guys at Abu Gharib didn’t like it either, did they? The ones in Gitmo don’t like it. How do you like torture on you?”
“Panties on the head is not torture!”
“No. Panties on the head is what I played with my boyfriend in college!”
Bet sprang to her feet, swinging the blade in an arc toward the interrogator’s face. Effortlessly he caught her wrist. He was stronger than Bet had imagined.
“Silly girl!” He grinned menacingly. “You think I did not see this coming? Like I said, rank amateurs.”
He twisted her wrist and she let the blade fall to the floor.
“What do you think now you VRWC bitch?”
Bet looked into his eyes. “I think…I think I will kill you now.”
She drove her head hard into his face. His nose broke with a wet, meaty crunch. He let go of her wrist. Bet pulled his head toward her, threw her arm around his neck , bending him forward. Bet leaned back slightly and leveraged the neck. It gave with a satisfying snap. The interrogator was dead before he hit the floor.
Dude grabbed her from behind, trying to slap a full nelson on her. Bet threw her arms up and dropped to the floor, sliding from his grip. She landed on her back, rolled to her feet, sweeping Dude’s feet out from under him as she rose. He fell forward. Dude carried his .45 in a small of the back holster. Bet pulled it out , placed it on the back of Dude’s head and pulled the trigger.
When they had arrived with an unconscious Bet, the interrogator had placed three guards outside the interrogation room and taken his two personal bodyguards in with him. The first gunshot from inside the interrogation room startled them. It was followed by several more. One of the guards was armed with a Benelli Super 90 Shotgun. He tried the door and it was locked. He motioned his two companions back and fired a round into the deadbolt lock and then into the doorknob.
After she shot Dude in the back of the head, Soldier got off one round at her. It went wide. Bet fired the seven rounds that were left in Dude’s M1911. Five of those rounds hit Soldier in the chest. They could easily be covered by the palm of her hand. The sixth round went into his face. Right below his nose and above his upper lip.
Two shotgun blasts came through the door. Blasting off the locks. Whoever was gaining entry into the room tentatively pushed the door open. Amateurs! Bet launched a powerful spinning back kick at the door. The door cracked the guy in the face, knocking him back into the other two. The Benelli clattered to the floor.
Bet snatched the shotgun off of the floor and turned the first guy’s face into pudding with a squeeze of the trigger. She shot the second one twice as he tried to roll away. Once in the thigh, once in the back. The third man managed to dive down the stairs before she could draw a bead on him. She fired after him anyway.
The Benelli had a sling with five shells looped into the strap. Bet reloaded. She checked the two dead men for weapons. The first one she had killed, carried a 9 mm Taurus. The other had a .50 Desert Eagle. “Poser,” Bet muttered under her breath. She took the Desert Eagle and two magazines off of the body.
“What the hell do we do now?” The question was posed to a man in a dark suit who had never really said much by the one who had survived the carnage upstairs. There was no answer.
“There is nowhere for her go up there. No way out. Let’s go get her.” The one who said that was filled with courage. He had not been up there.
There were four other men in the room with him. All armed. All well trained. James Carville had spent money wisely. One of them had even served as one of Bill Clinton’s Secret Service Bodyguards.
“I would not do that.” The man in the suit finally spoke. “If you go up there, I have absolutely no doubt she will kill everyone of you.”
“Is it? The last time you saw her, she was handcuffed to a chair. And she killed five men. You go up there, all of you are dead. I am sure of it.”
The leader of the men took the man in the suit to one side. “What about the…” he glanced around the room, “the…uh…item.”
“I’ll get it. I knew this was not going to work. I even told James it was not going to work. I’ll get it myself, like I should have months ago. You guys had to keep waving me off until the time was right. Then Howard Dean’s people got a hold of it and then it becomes urgent.” The man in the suit thought for a second. “You guys stand down and go home. I’m not your leader or anything like that, but you really should take my advice.”
From upstairs, Bet saw as several men left the building. She was very disappointed. She had been sure that they would have tried to regroup and come after her. They would have failed completely. She had an uncanny knack for survival.
“That is quite a shiner you have there, Bet.” Bruce Stetson said. Slowly shaking his head and clucking in disbelief.
“You should see the other guy.”
“Did you now?” Bet asked suspiciously. While there were any number of missions going on at any time, no operative ever had any knowledge of what other operatives were doing. The only people who knew of a mission were Karl Rove (who knew everything anyway) and the Operative’s support on a mission. Even then, except when it was absolutely necessary, the support never knew which operative they were in support of.
“Figure of speech, Bet.”
“But of course.”
“Bruce, I am really sore and tired. I am going to soak in the tub for a while. The items are in a duffle bag in the spare bedroom.” Bet took the ponytail band from her hair. “You can let yourself out once you get them.”
The “items” were the two M1911s, the Benelli Shotgun and the .50 Desert Eagle she had confiscated. Bruce worked in a section of the VRWC called “Clean-up.” He was a low level Operative who dealt with discarding vehicles, weapons, computer hard drives and other pieces of evidence that could serve to embarrass the VRWC. There was a “Master Clearance” level in the Clean-up section that dealt with bodies and crime scenes but they were way above Bruce’s security level. In fact, the “Master Clearance” level of Clean-up was more than likely hard at work cleaning up behind Bet as she spoke.
“Bet?” Bruce called from the bedroom.
Bet came to the door. “What?”
Bruce aimed a pistol at her. “The disk, Bet.”
“There is no disk, Bruce?”
“How many people have died already, Bet? One more will not make a difference.”
“All dead for nothing.” Bet laughed out loud. “The is no disk. There never was. Oh, there was a fake one.”
“I don’t believe you. You hand over the disk right now, bitch.”
“Bruce. There is no disk. This was a Protocol Q assignment. I know that you do not know what that is, but I will tell you. Protocol Q is a mole hunt. Stolen elections, my ass! We won in 2000 and 2004 with no help from Diebold or anyone. But the people who turned you refuse to believe that. So we held the Holy Grail out there and it flushed you out.”
“And now you are going to take me in? Is that what you think?”
“No, You are not going to be taken in.” Bet crossed her arms. There was a sharp tinkle of broken glass and Bruce dropped to the floor when the silenced rifle bullet pierced his heart. The Clean-up crew was not going to have Bet on their list of favorite people for sometime.
Bet’s plate was stacked high with barbeque, beans and potatoes. She carried it in one hand, in her other hand she held two beers. She rarely drank and when she did it was always beer and never more than one or two. It had been a year since she had one. Even for August, it was not very hot. Not for Crawford. It really did not seem very hot anywhere anymore. Not since her tour in Iraq with her National Guard Unit.
She took a seat across an outdoor picnic table from Karl Rove and handed him one of the beers. “You seem kinda quiet, today Karl.”
“Just doing some thinking. Some regretting.” Karl took a breath. “Never had to have one of ours done by our own before. Not a pleasant thing.”
“He wasn’t one of ours, Karl. He was one of theirs.”
“He was at that.”
“So, let us never speak of this again.” Bet looked across the grounds of the ranch. At a fence was a man in a cowboy hat, jeans, t-shirt and gloves clearing brush with an axe. Hard to believe that such a man could be President. “I’ll visit with you later, Karl. I’m going to go talk to my dad.”
Dare to dream!