Introduction Tyrell Main Corporate Page Services Paintball
Introduction
Tyrell Main
Corporate Page
Services
Paintball
Tyrell Stories
Duel Club
Tanks
Game Schedule and Info
Team History
Investors
 If you have any feedback on how we can make our new website better please do contact us and we would like to hear from you. 

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
A tale from the Invasion of Normandy 2011

Chapter 1: Two Graves

 

Blue 'Shroom Club, Normandy France.  March 1944.

 

Eldon Tyrell. President and CEO of the Tyrell Corporation, slowly flipped the hilt-less throwing blade over and over in his hand as he studied the still photographs on his desk.  Closing his eyes, he suddenly hurled the blade across the room.  A satisfying "thunk" sounded as the steel buried itself in the target.  He noted where the knife now quivered in the wooden target.  Buried in a warren of caverns beneath his night club, the infamous “Blue ‘Shroom.” Tyrell poured over the photographs looking for clues that would lead him to a thief.  Someone had stolen his greatest treasure and then destroyed it.  They had killed his future and murdered the tiny remnant of compassion left in his stony soul.  The thief would die.  All who had assisted would die.  If he died in the doing, that was fine.  Dying was easy; it was living with the grief that now twisted a cold blade in his belly that was hard. 

 

Tyrell knew he was too close to the edge of control.  Intellectually, he understood he was back in the same place he fell in after the First Great War to End All Wars.  It was a dark tunnel with no way back and only one way forward.  He simply had to endure, to keep moving until he reached the light or died trying.  He almost hadn’t made it out of that tunnel.  Tyrell had come so very close to giving up and making a “death run” on all his enemies.  He had come within a breath of touching the Death Goddess’ lips for a final kiss.  Paris had healed him then.  She had healed him.         

 

Dimly, he was aware of the others in his office: a heavier than normal contingent of his personal bodyguard the "Spooks"; his Chief Troubleshooter (emphasis on "shooter") Col. Phillips; and Pierre LaDouce, the Blue 'Shroom's official Maître D and chief of Tyrell's French intelligence operation.  Pierre had led the largest of the Resistance forces in Northern France until Tyrell made him a better offer.  He spared Pierre a glance and got the classic Gaullic shrug.  He didn't have any better ideas either.  Tyrell resumed studying the photographs. 

 

He had seen a lot of dead people over the years and more than a few autopsies.  They were always unpleasant even if the subject was a total stranger.  The subject laid on the metal table was anything but a stranger.  He turned his back to the room as the images of the last few weeks strobed through his brain and flayed his soul.

 

First had come elation when she accepted his marriage proposal at the reception.  Finally, they would be together and the world would be theirs for the taking.  Then had come the fear when she failed to return from the Ladies room.  The anger rose next as a clumsy ransom note was delivered. He had immediately sent his teams out to find the idiots and retrieve her.  Bitter, bitter anger as they failed to find any sign of her or her kidnappers.  Despair set in as he realized the silly ransom note was to throw him off; they never intended to let her live.  Her body had been dumped at Gestapo headquarters with a copy of the film showing her execution. 

 

Tyrell had questioned the Gestapo chief rather pointedly (he was twisting a letter opener up the man's left nostril during the conversation).  She was an enemy of Germany and the chief would gladly have taken credit for her execution, but the Gestapo hadn't even known she was in France.  The Germans had performed their own autopsy and sent him all the information they had.  They had been instructed by Berlin to offer "full cooperation to Mr. Tyrell"; which translated as "stay out of his way."  "Not even the Gestapo wants this blood feud on its hands," thought Tyrell.  His gut clenched hard as he remembered their last night together.  Laughing and full of hope.  Made young again during a Second World War more bloody than the First.  They were both survivors and understood only fools regret winning.  They were ready to settle down to the rewards of having walked through the flame.  Then someone had snatched his beloved Nyxx and thrown her into the street like a broken piece of meat.

 

Hot tears flowed from his eyes again as remembered her touch, her scent, even the flash of anger in her eyes when they disagreed.  His knee twinged in phantom pain as he remembered one of their severe disagreements that ended with his being shot.  "It was only a small caliber though," he thought to himself, "so she wasn't serious.  Otherwise she would have shot me in the testicles…with a 12 gage." He glanced down at the photographs again and felt the cold rage drop back over him like a familiar coat.  It felt almost comfortable now.  The rage and the empty hole where his heart used to be. 

 

He turned back to the desk and picked up another knife.  This time he carefully picked his spot and the steel blurred across the room.  A choked cry of  pain filled the office as a wet slurping sound followed the blade's impact.  Tyrell's smile was horrible.  He walked around the desk and contemplated the man tied upside down on his office wall.  Tyrell reached down and untied the gag around the man's mouth and said gently, "How's your memory now mon ami?" 

 

"Please!  I didn't know!  They just wanted a farm house. Please! My family was hungry.  They offered too much money.  I didn't know!" the man was shouting and tears were pouring from his eyes.  Blood from several blades stuck in various extremities leaked down his torso and dripped off his face.  The last blade had sunk into his lower abdomen.  Tyrell reached up and moved the end around a bit.  The man screamed and began sobbing over and over again: "I didn't know!  I swear by God I didn't know."  Tyrell stood and walked over to Pierre.  He just looked the Frenchman in the eye. 

 

"He doesn't know," said the former Resistance leader.  "We have a basic description of the man renting the farmhouse, but it could be almost anyone.  This one is useless."  He shrugged again.  "I had hoped my old comrades had better information, but this appears to be a team brought in from outside and very professional."  He hesitated and then said, "I'm sorry, Eldon.  We don't have any other leads yet."

 

Tyrell looked into the corner where Col. Phillips watched the "target practice" dispassionately.  Phillips said, "If you're through playing, we can start hunting the bad guys."

 

"I need to know who did this!" shouted Tyrell.  "I need know if the Germans are playing some kind of sick game pretending not to know about this or if one of our rivals has suddenly become fatally stupid."  His rage was no longer cold.  It was dancing in fierce, fiery joy through his veins.  Begging to close with the enemy.        

 

"There is another possibility," said Phillips quietly.

 

"No."

 

"You can't be sure."

 

"Not even Donovan is that cold."

 

"He wants us to help the Allies with the invasion.  He knows you have extensive business dealings with the Germans.  His offers of cash and favors failed.  Nyxx came here to convince you to help the Allies.  She said so herself.  Maybe he decided…"

 

"Shut up!" screamed Tyrell.  "It wasn't like that!"  He embraced the siren song of rage deafening him as the blood thundered in his skull.   

 

Tyrell turned and jerked a pair of his knives from the groaning French farmer.  Phillips drew his .45 and clicked off the safety.  "Now Eldon, you don't want to do something else stupid…"  Phillips saw a wild light come into Tyrell's eyes as his lips pulled back in a silent snarl.  The knife in his left hand flipped around in an ice pick grip and Phillips prepared to shoot his friend and boss down like the rabid dog he had become.  Tyrell suddenly felt a tiny sting in his left buttock.  It was nothing that was going to slow him down.  The part of his brain not going into berserker mode dimly registered the soft sound of a blowgun from the office doorway as another dart buried itself in his flesh.  He turned and lurched toward the doorway to attack his tormentor when his legs folded and he hit the floor face first.  "That's OK," he thought, "I can't feel my face anyway."  He found himself staring at a drip of blood hanging off the French farmer's nose.  For some reason he thought that was hilarious.  His consciousness faded to the sound of maniacal laughter echoing darkly off the walls. 

 

"Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God!" exclaimed Phillips as he shakily safed and reholstered his pistol.  "What the hell is wrong with him?!"

 

"He just lost the love of his life!" said Janice as she watched her husband Rob checked the unconscious CEO.  The blowgun in her hands was steady and ready for use if Tyrell so much as flinched. 

 

"Not to mention," chimed in her friend Janice (known as Janice II when she wasn't in earshot), "You idiots have been letting him watch that damn movie over and over and stare at her autopsy photos!  Men are such morons.  It's a wonder he held it together this long."  She glared around the room.  Marty, her fiancée, threw up his hands in silent surrender.  When she turned her back he rolled his eyes and moved to grab Tyrell's feet.      

 

Rob said, "We'll put him in his room to sleep it off.  We might want to lock up a few of the weapons just in case."

 

"Maybe we should just leave a Scotch bottle by the bed," said Marty.  He and Rob hauled Tyrell out of the room under the disapproving stares of the two Janices. 

                                        

Phillips walked over to the side board in the office that served as a bar.  He opened an old Egyptian embalming jar and pulled out the thirty-year old Scotch concealed within.  Phillips poured a generous portion into the glass and took a drink.  "Good work, ladies.  That was close."

He stared into the glass and said, "You were right.  This thing is going to get out of hand. I'm open to suggestions."

 

Gesturing toward the wall LaDouce asked, “What do you want to do with the target over there?”

 

“Think he’ll live?”

 

“Probably,” said LaDouce after a careful examination.  “Only the belly wound is likely fatal and we have enough antibiotics and medical staff to fix that.”

 

“Cut him down and patch him up then,” said Phillips waving at two more of the security contingent.  “We’ll hold on to him until we are sure he’s not a part of this, but I think he’s just a stupid, greedy fool.”

 

The last Spook in the room, Tabitha, cleared her throat and said, "Well, it seems to me we should ask a few questions without the Boss along and find out who really did kill Nyxx.  I just can't believe the Germans would be so clumsy about it."

 

"You have a point," said Phillips draining his glass.  "It could still be some game being played by Himmler or Canaris, but it feels more like someone is framing our German landlords.  But why?  Eldon was actually right.  I don't believe Donovan would go this far.  In his own way he is a man of honor.  There are some refined gentlemen in England who might try it and lord knows we have enough enemies capable of it."

 

"We just don't know enough yet," said Janice.

 

"And until we can point the Boss at someone else's jugular," said Janice II, "He is going to be d*mn dangerous to be around."

 

"Maybe," mused Tabitha, "We can send him to the States after the Donovan angle while we run down the leads here."

 

Pierre LaDouche smiled and said, "Why Tabitha, I'm shocked, simply shocked that you would deceive Mr. Tyrell that way."  The others joined Pierre in a quiet chuckle as they plotted to send Tyrell off on a likely wild goose chase.

 

In a dark room not far from the Blue 'Shroom, a dim figure joined in the soft laughter as they removed a set of head phones and leaned back in the hard chair.  The bug was functioning beautifully.  Although Mr. Tyrell's action had been a bit more…sharp… than anticipated, the plan was on track.  Granted, it might get a little rough for a certain head of the OSS very soon, but he was a big boy and knew the job was dangerous when he took it.  Another soft laugh sounded and the killer smiled.          

 

T

 

He ran through grey clouds while the Earth shook.  Vague impressions of broken buildings surrounded him as the quaking ground threatened to send him sprawling.  He had to find cover before the enemy found the range, but every time he ran near a building or tried to dive in a shell crater, it evaporated into the grey mist.  Panic surged through him as he fought to pull air into starved lungs.  He stumbled on through the stinging hail of frozen dirt driven into the air by the shelling.  The giant hand came from behind and hurled him end over end into a shell crater.  This one didn’t evaporate as he slammed into it and out of consciousness.  Suddenly, he was looking up into the grey sky with his vision going in and out of focus.  A searing agony low in his right side and a sharper pain in his left knee brought the panic back as realized he had been hit.  Flashes and debris gouted skyward around his hole in silence. 

 

He saw Obersturmführer Maxwell Von Sherman and a squad of Germans charging his hole and firing.  Von Sherman.  Member of the SS and Thule Society in good standing.  One of Himmler's Knights seeking ancient and forbidden powers.  What had he done to Von Sherman again?  Oh, yeah.  The Ark of the Covenant.  So sorry.  All sales are final, Shermie.  He raised his .45 (when had he drawn that?) and began firing at his attackers.  Several faceless Germans toppled to the ground, but the last one loomed over him and plunged a bayoneted rifle at his chest. The slide of the Colt locked back as his last round took the German center mass.  Then he was buried under a stinking avalanche of dead flesh.  He tried to free his right arm and the pain in his abdomen almost crippled him.  Something serious had torn loose and he could taste the copper of his blood.  Von Sherman stood over him and he could suddenly hear the German gloating.

 

“Still fighting, Eldon?” he purred, “How delightful.  Unfortunately, I do not have time to truly savor this moment.  Your companions still need my attention.”  Von Sherman raised his pistol and pointed it right between Tyrell’s eyes.  “Good bye, mein freud.  We shall not meet…”  Von Sherman paused and a dark spot appeared in his forehead as the sniper round blew his brains out in a dirty mist.  Close.  Very close.  Tyrell began to try and wiggle out from under the dead German carefully when he heard Von Sherman's laugh.

 

"Oh, no, Eldon," said the dead SS man still standing above him, "You don't escape this time."  Hydrostatic shock from the bullet made Von Sherman's eyes bulge horribly.  Gore from his ruined skull dripped onto Sherman's shoulder as he aimed again.  "You killed your guardian angel, remember?" He gestured at the dead German on top of Tyrell.  Time slowed to a slow drip of molasses as he turned his head and looked at…the blue-faced corpse from the autopsy photos. 

 

He screamed as Von Sherman laughed with a roar like black thunder.  The milky eyes of his love turned toward him and slowly blinked.  He pushed frantically at the cold rubbery flesh as a stinking breath wheezed from the dead lungs, "Why?  Why did you kill me?"  Suddenly, she was holding him in a crushing embrace.  "Kiss me, my love!"  A leathery tongue slithered across dry lips as she lowered her head.  Tyrell screamed again as he drowned in the stench of rotting roses…

 

 

The man crouched in a corner with a long knife held reversed against his left forearm.  The sound of his last scream still echoed from the walls of the darkened room.  His heart pounded so hard it threatened to shoot from his heaving chest.  Sweat dripped in a puddle on the floor while chills racked his naked body in response to some unnamable horror.  The man was reduced at that moment to a hunted animal that's come to the end of its run.  The animal waited in the dark with teeth bared for the hounds. 

 

The bedroom door slammed open as two men in black and red charged in, the flashlights on their weapons sweeping the room.  They found Tyrell poised to attack in the corner.  Intense training and years of experience were all that kept their CEO alive in that moment as both men came within eight ounces of trigger pull from blowing their boss all over the wall.  Bob Laidlow shouted, "Mr. Tyrell!  Sir?  Are you all right?"  His partner and brother Brian slid the safety on his weapon and cautiously eased forward to check on Tyrell.

 

Slowly, Tyrell stood up and took a deep breath.  Blowing it out hard, he said, "It's all right, boys, just a bad dream."

 

"Are you sure, Sir?"  asked Brian with concern.  "We heard screaming."

 

"That was probably me," said Tyrell noticing the sudden gravel in his voice.  Apparently he HAD been screaming at the top of his lungs.  His throat certainly felt like it now that he was conscious enough to notice.  "Thanks for checking fellas.  I'm OK."  He unclenched his left hand from the knife and carefully laid it on the chest of drawers next to him.  "Would one of you tell Col. Phillips I'd like to meet him on the back lawn in about an hour, please?"  Tyrell paused as a thought struck him and said, "Make sure he knows I only want to TALK.  I promise not to do anything else monumentally stupid for at least two hours."  He watched them reluctantly leave the room.  From the sound of it, there were more people in the hallway gathering to see what was going on. 

 

"Lovely," he thought, "The boss is losing it and everyone turns out to see the train wreck."  He wiped his face with his hand and remembered one of his grandfather's many lectures on "leadership."  "All right, Old Man," he thought wryly, "Time to look confident while peeing my pants.  If they see me panic, we're all in deep doo-doo.  I'd better find my pants and a diaper and get back in the game."  He reached out and gently stroked the knife, "Dying won't accomplish anything useful and if I keep this up, my own people are going to shoot me.  I can't have that.  Too many people have to die first."    

  

Tyrell walked out of the private exit in the back of the Blue 'Shroom Club.  He placed a full bottle of Scotch on the table and two glasses.  Then he headed for the tool shed.  Selecting a shovel by flashlight, he went to the back corner of the small yard and found an appropriate spot.  The rain helped soften the soil and the solid physical effort began to lighten his mood.  By the time Col. Phillips joined him, he had finished the first hole and started on the second.  Phillips stared at the strange sight of the CEO stripped to the waist in the drizzle flinging dirt and whistling an old Irish ballad.  Something about a black velvet band.

 

"You wanted to talk, Eldon" said Phillips carefully to Tyrell's back.  His hand was behind his own back holding a short baton in case things didn't go well again.  Janice was behind the tool shed with her blowgun in case things went badly.  Marty was just inside the doorway with a carbine if things went very badly. 

 

Phillips waited tensely as Tyrell called over his shoulder cheerfully, "I'll be done in just a bit.  Have a drink."  Phillips walked over to the table and considered the unopened bottle of Scotch.  It was over 30 years old and from Tyrell's favorite little distillery in the Scottish Highlands.  He thought about poison and about how hard it would be to rig a detonator to the bottle.  Finally it came down to a question of trust.  Phillips trusted that Tyrell would never ruin good Scotch.  He opened the bottle and poured a healthy slug in each glass.  Then he sat and waited.

 

After a bit, Tyrell climbed out of the hole and began wiping down with a towel he'd brought.  Pulling his shirt and sweater back on, he walked over to the small table and sat.  He reached without hesitation for the glass and sipped the liquid gold within.  He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair.  "Ah… I may live," he sighed contentedly.  Phillips looked at him and sipped his own drink in silence.  He waited patiently for the man who almost killed him to try again or get to the point.

 

Sitting up, Tyrell looked at his friend and said, "John, I'm sorry.  I screwed up all the way around.  I've been acting like a psychotic idiot and putting everyone here at risk."  He looked at Phillips who just sipped again.  "I d*mn near did something fatally stupid tonight," he concluded softly.  He looked at Phillips again questioningly.

 

"Oh, don't stop, Eldon," said Phillips, "You're doing fine.  You might also want to add that you almost got capped by your own security team over a nightmare."

 

"Yeah," said Tyrell looking down, "I figured that out too."  He looked out at the night and said, "I am going to hunt down these scum, John, but I'm not going to do it like a mindless animal.  I'm going to do it like the ruthless, calculating SOB I am."

 

"Better.  Got any ideas?"

 

"Donovan to start, but I don't think he's the one responsible.  I do think you were right and she was playing me.  At least a little bit.  But he knows what her last assignment really was and what happened after Stalingrad.  She dropped out of sight for a while after that operation.  Then she resurfaced on my door step.  I'm more than a little curious what happened in between.  Maybe Donovan can tell us or tell us who might know.  Was she killed because of me or her or something Donovan had her doing or was she just betrayed by someone?  We don't know enough yet."

 

"OK.  Now that your brain is back in gear, we can get somewhere.  Why don't you go politely ask Donovan what he knows and we'll work from this angle."

 

"What's a matter?  You don't like D.C. in the Spring?"

 

"I don’t like Washington at any time.  Too much security and too many self-important tools."

 

"Very well.  I'll take a couple of shooters who need to get out.  You take the rest and go hunting.  If you get a shot, take them down.  I'd love to be there, but getting these people in the ground takes priority over watching them die at my feet."

 

"You can always dine with their impaled bodies around you later."

 

"Too Romanian," said Tyrell with a laugh.  Vlad Tepes had a fondness for the practice.

 

"All right, are you done with that?" said Phillips gesturing at the holes.

 

"Yeah.  They aren't deep enough to be practical, but it’s the symbolism that's important.  I figured out why they tell you to dig two."

 

"So they can bury you next to your enemy?"

 

"No.  Because by the time you finish the second one, you're too tired to kill anybody.  Gives you a chance to consider if vengeance is worth the effort of the second hole."

 

"You may need more than two."

 

"That's why the good Lord gave us backhoes, John."  Tyrell finished his drink and went inside singing, "I'm a rounder, I'm a bounder, I'm a long way from home…"

 

Phillips stared after Tyrell for a minute and then gave the "all clear" signal.  The rest of the security team drifted in from the perimeter.  "What do you think?" he asked the group.

 

"I think he's off his rocker," said Marty, "But no more so than normal."

 

"I agree," said Janice, "Keep him focused and moving and he should be fine."

 

Phillips thought it over for a minute while he carefully finished his own drink.  Then he said, "All right.  Let's send a couple of ours with him and have another contingent meet them in D.C.. Start digging.  Get LaDouche working his contacts again.  Tell them that Tyrell is on the warpath and it won’t end until the boss has enough scalps to make a quilt.  Scare them.  Bully them.  Bribe them, but find out who is behind this.  I also want to talk to that farmer again.  Maybe he has had a sudden memory improvement now that Eldon isn’t using him for a circus act.”   

 

The Spooks walked off to start the hunt.  Phillips turned to the two graves and stared at them a moment.  “Two won’t be nearly enough, my friend,” he said softly to the empty night, “I want them dead as much as you.  Unlike you, however, I believe in different symbols.”  Phillips walked over to one of the open graves and stood still for a minute.  The sound of his urine hitting the wet dirt was surprisingly loud in the sudden stillness of the French night.


Chapter 2: Memories

 

Eldon Tyrell sat at a beat up wooden desk with an uncomfortable chair and a secure telephone.  A thick manila file was on the desk and he occasionally made notes on a yellow legal pad as he flipped through its contents.  The door of the office opened and a large man with a briefcase in his hand and a coat over his arm came halfway in before slamming to stop.  "What the hell are you doing here?!" the man shouted.

 

"Oh, there you are Billy," said Tyrell with false cheer, "I thought I was going to have send someone around for you.  You Washington types keep bankers hours, I suppose."

 

"It's seven AM.," growled William J. Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services.

 

"Really?  That late.  I've just been catching up on my reading."  Tyrell closed the file with "TOP SECRET EYES ONLY DIRECTOR OSS" on it and casually tossed it onto a pile of similar files in the corner.

 

Donovan closed the door and carefully hung his coat on the tree by the door noting a dark leather trench coat and silk fedora already hung on separate hooks.  He fingered the leather and turned to Tyrell, "Hanging out with the Gestapo's tailor are we?" Belatedly, Donovan noticed the small caliber handgun Tyrell aimed at him.  A quick stab of fear shot through him even as identified the weapon as a .22 Colt Woodsman.  Many of his best operatives favored the weapon since it was quiet and easily concealable.  "He could probably empty the magazine inside this office and the duty sergeant at the main desk wouldn't even hear it," Donovan thought.  His fear was instantly replaced by a fierce surge of adrenaline as old combat reflexes kicked in.  William Donovan had won The Medal in World War I and managed to survive the experience.  He'd felt Death's icy breath on his neck and so far, he was still ahead of her.  "If you were planning on shooting me," he said dismissively as he sat down his briefcase and took a seat in one of the chairs facing the desk, "you would have pulled the trigger.  That means you want to talk.  So?  What do you want?"

 

"Now, Billy," said Tyrell with mock dismay, "You wound me.  I just wanted to stop by and talk about old times with my good friend.  Maybe tell a few war stories and sing the old songs again."  Tyrell's voice dropped and became the sound of a razor scraping along the skin of the throat.   "You remember, Billy?  Come on sing with me."  Tyrell whistled a tune and began to softly sing in a light Irish brogue, "Oh, I'm a rounder, I'm a bounder, I'm a long way from home!  And if you don't love me won't you leave me alone…"

 

"I remember," said Donovan whose own voice now rasped with the memory of a distant night before a disastrous attack.

 

"Yes.  That bunker before we all went over the top the next day.  I had laid my hands on a case of Irish whisky whose maker should have been hanged, the black dog!  Committing a foul crime selling turpentine as the genuine article."  Tyrell's pretend brogue had gotten slightly thicker and more genuine with the memory.

 

Donovan allowed a small smile, "I don't remember you complaining at the time.  We were grateful for anything that night.  We all knew the attack was doomed."

 

"Yep," said Tyrell laying the weapon on the desk and reaching into a bag at his feet.  "I just happen to have found a bottle of that elixir in my travels.  Join me won't you?"  Tyrell poured a healthy shot in two glasses.  He set one of the glasses in front of Donovan and raised his own.

 

Donovan looked at the drink for a minute and contemplated the fact that it was seven in the morning.  Then he looked in Tyrell's eyes and raised his own glass, "Absent companions."

 

"Absent companions," echoed Tyrell and they drank.  The bad liquor burned all the way down and threatened to come back up.  Turpentine would actually have been less painful.  "Lord that is awful," said Tyrell as he shook his head.

 

"We drank this?" asked Donovan incredulously when the power of speech returned.

 

"I think so," Tyrell said peering into his glass carefully, "We may have used it for bore cleaner."

 

"This is all very charming, Eldon, but why are you here?"

 

"Maybe I want to settle a little debt between us."

 

"Look, we had this discussion in 1918 and again in 1941.  I had to turn you in.  You were selling medical supplies to the enemy for God's sake!"

 

"Yes, I was selling excess penicillin and VD kits to the Germans and the French I might add.  Where do you think those new machine guns and boots came from?  Or maybe you wanted to go into battle with the Chauchats the French provided?"  Tyrell poured more whisky into the glasses.

 

Donovan sipped at his glass and shuddered.  Only partially from the taste.  "No.  I would rather have gone into battle with a spear."

 

"Agreed," said Tyrell fiercely as he drank.  "Hmm.  This stuff improves with quantity."

 

"No, your taste buds have dissolved.  Listen, I at least warned you and gave you a chance to run."

 

"Yes, you did.  Which is why I didn’t hunt you down and kill you when I had the chance.  I'd had a bellyful of it by then anyway.  I'd been with the Irish Brigade's 1st Tyneside since 1916.  Then I got transferred to your 42nd bunch as a 'liaison' when they disbanded in 1918.  I think they just wanted to get rid of the Yank 'volunteer'."

 

"No," said Donovan softly, "They wanted you to live through it."  Donovan paused and then asked softly, "How many did you lose at Sausage Valley?"

 

"Too many.  I wondered if there would be enough of us left to bury the dead.  Maybe if we had the walking wounded included in the honor guard…"

 

"Exactly.  And one of the wounded would have been you.  When you were able to return to duty, your grandfather, the 'Old Man' as you called him, called in a favor and had you flagged for liaison duty.  He thought you'd done enough and needed to get off the front line for a bit."

 

"Huh!" Tyrell grunted in surprise.  He never realized the Old Man had "interfered" in such a way.  The old warrior had more scars than Tyrell would ever accumulate and was not known for his mercy.  If he wanted his grandson pulled from the trenches, it was because he figured Tyrell had reached the end of his string.  Based on his shaky memories of that time, the Old Man had probably saved his life.  He mostly remembered the pain from is shrapnel wounds and the rage from the criminal stupidity of generals.  Then the darkness came on him one night and drove him out of the hospital.  He'd gone into No Man's Land with a stolen Gillie suit and a dead man's rifle.  They'd dragged him back to the hospital when he tried to bum more ammo and food off a group of very confused British Tommies.  The memories of those times sent chill a down his spine.  Nyxx's death had thrown back into that familiar darkness.  A place of hunger and vengeance that drove out the pain of memory and the guilt from surviving.  "Yeah, he was probably right.  The Old Man knew better than to tell me not to go.  Unlike my father.  He also knew that your luck only lasts so long.  I wondered why I didn't get stuck in a replacement company after I got off crutches." Tyrell took another long pull from his drink and said, "Thanks for telling me that, Bill.  Things weren't exactly 'safe' with you after that, but it wasn't a blind-sided slaughter in the mud.  It was at least survivable."  Tyrell stared in to his glass for a bit and let the silence stretch.

 

Donovan sipped his own drink and looked at him.  "Nyxx?" he asked quietly.

 

"Yeah.  I need her file and everything you know about her up until you sent her after me."

 

"What makes you think…," Donovan trailed off at Tyrell's skeptical look.  "All right.  Yes, I sent her to persuade you to take a more active role against the Germans.  We needed your contacts and smuggling routes into France.  I didn't force her to go.  She genuinely thought it was time for you to come out of the cold."  He hesitated a moment and then said, "She really did love you."

 

"Yeah.  I'm sure her happiness was your only concern.  You were just filled with Christian charity and mercy when you sent her off to lead me to redemption." Tyrell held up a hand to forestall Donovan's protest.  "It doesn't matter, Bill.  You are fighting a war and you'll use any weapon you can get your hands on.  I understand.  I'm not going to forget it any time soon, but I do understand."  Tyrell took a deep breath and then asked, "Her file?"

 

Donovan picked up his brief case and opened it on his lap.  He pulled out a thin file and closed the lid.  He was starting into the pistol that had again materialized in Tyrell's hand.  "No offense, Bill," said Tyrell with a shrug, "But I wasn't sure what was coming out of that case."  He again laid the pistol on the desk.

 

Donovan forced a chuckle and handed over the file.  "Understood.  We don't know her real name or much about her background.  She first went operational during World War I as part of the British intelligence apparatus, but even they don’t know much.  She was actually working for them when you two met in Paris."  Tyrell nodded and motioned for Donovan to continue.  "She became disenchanted with MI 6 early in the current war when a couple of operations were blown by leaks.  The last one in 1940 nearly got her killed and it took her two months to make it back to England.  She left MI 6 by pinning her resignation letter to the aide of an undersecretary.  He had apparently let slip something about a big hush-hush operation being staged in Norway during a pillow talk session with a German agent."

 

Something in Donovan's voice cued Tyrell, "Pinned?"

 

"With a stiletto through the left ear."

 

"Ah."

 

"Yes.  She then drifted around a bit including some more time with you I understand."  Tyrell nodded but didn't speak.  Donovan did see him swallow hard though.  "So she re-surfaced when I was forming the OSS.  Despite how she left, MI6 gave her a ringing endorsement as a field operative.  Apparently the dead aide was not considered a loss to the war effort."

 

"What happened at Stalingrad?"

 

"Hmmm.  Yes, well Stalingrad didn't end well."

 

"No kidding.  I left a few pints of blood on the ground there.  What happened?"

 

"You know she saved you from your friend Von Sherman?"

 

"Yes."  Tyrell suppressed a shudder as he remembered his nightmare.

 

"Well, in order to get to you, she had to go AWOL from the mission I’d sent her on.  The mission went to h*ll and her team got killed when they tried it without her."

 

"I'm having a hard time feeling guilty.  Von Sherman was a high-priority target for you people."

 

"It didn't justify her running off letting good men get killed," said Donovan hotly.

 

"Spare me.  Your boys should have been smart enough to wait or regroup before trying something beyond their abilities.  You were trying for Von Paulus for pity's sake.  So was every Russian with a slingshot.  His army may have been starving, but they still set a mean security perimeter."

 

Donovan looked at him through narrowed eyes, "How did you know about that?'

 

"Relax.  She didn't tell me.  Admiral Canaris did when I had lunch with him two months later.  He thought it was hilarious.  The only laugh he got out of Stalingrad."

 

"You…you had lunch with the head of German military intelligence?" Donovan said in disbelief.  "I thought the German intel people wanted your head."

 

"Just the SS.  And only those yutzs in the Thule Society within the SS.  Most of the Waffen SS could care less about mythical artifacts from dead civilizations.  They thought the whole 'Ark of the Covenant' fiasco was great.  Some of them don't have any love for Himmler and his pseudo-religious games.  They just know that Uncle Tyrell sends special weapons and occasionally bits of interesting news.  Like which SS officers the Gestapo is interested in."

 

"You're playing a dangerous game telling me all this.  I could have you shot for treason right now."

 

"You and what army?" joked Tyrell with drunken abandon.  "Seriously, Billy Old Bean, what you should be asking is what can I do for you to balance the scales?  What can I give my old friend Bill Donovan, Head of the OSS, spy master and skullduggerer…is that a word?  Anyway, what can I do for you that will convince you that this rat needs to be allowed to scurry around a bit more?  Hmmm?"

 

"I'm waiting," the warmth from bad booze was definitely wearing off for Donovan.

 

"First, I'm going to find the people responsible for killing Nyxx," said Tyrell quietly, his own pretense of drunken good humor gone.  "Then I'm going to provide you secure drop zones for your coming invasion.  Overlord isn't it?"  Donovan suppressed a start as Tyrell casually threw out the operational name of the invasion.  "After that, I'll make sure our friends in the French Resistance hit their targets in Normandy on schedule."

 

"How did you know the name and target of the invasion?" ground out Donovan between his teeth.

 

"Trade secret.  Here's one more.  I know about 'Valkyrie II' and von Stauffenberg's little bomb plan."

 

Donovan leaned back in his chair to collect his thoughts, "So?  You've sunk to blackmail now?  Going to run off to your friend Canaris and tell him all about it?" Donovan finished angrily.

 

"You misunderstand.  I intend to help you.  We'll supply the devices, you'll likely need two, and as much intel as we have about the target."

 

"I thought the Tyrell Corporation was 'the name you can trust'.  You don't do assassinations on heads of state or even major generals.  You've turned down several of my requests and a few German ones according to my sources."

 

"Correct on all counts.  I even got a good offer from the French on getting rid of DeGaul.  That one I seriously considered.  The problem is that potential clients get nervous when they see others in their peer group splattered all over their own palace.  It's ultimately bad for business.  However, supplying unconventional weapons and training ARE part of what we do.  Unless the Germans hired us specifically to stop the assassination, we have no problem helping your folks prepare."

 

"You'd supply the assassin and then kill him to collect from both sides if you thought you could get away with it!"

 

"Who says I haven't?  The point is that without my help, Staffenberg is going to get nailed before he even gets started.  The Gestapo is already sniffing around the edges of this plot.  I'd say you have an operational window of no more than four months to pull this off."

 

"By July, hmm?  That's your 'professional' opinion as a provider of such services?"

 

"Spare me the moral superiority.  You and people like you sit in your offices and hire people like me to do the dirty work.  How many have been killed by your signature on an execution order or by a coded wireless message to your field people?  You don't even have to see their faces…" Tyrell trailed off and took another drink.  Absently, he tucked the small pistol into a shoulder holster while his eyes focused a 1,000 yards away.

 

Donovan thought it over, but didn't object.  He actually agreed with the point.  But Tyrell was also wrong - Donovan did know he was sending young men and women to their death.  He didn't need to see the faces to carry the guilt.  "What is this going to cost me?"

 

"One hundred thousand for the full operation."

 

"To set up the assassination? That's a little steep."

 

"No, that price buys you everything soup to nuts.  We'll help set up the Number One Nazi, secure your drop zones, and make sure the French show up on time and sober."

 

"Now I'm getting a bargain.  Why?"

 

"I'm going to need more than Nyxx's file to find the people responsible.  I'll need access to those who prepped her for the last mission, the control officer, and anybody else I find a need to question along the way.  A nice, official order from the Head of the OSS granting me full access and cooperation from all Allied personnel would make that a lot easier."

 

"I can do that.  What about cooperation from the German side that killed her?"

 

"I'm not certain yet who killed her or we wouldn't be having this conversation.  I would be busy washing off the blood by now.  Actually I think somebody is being too clever by half.  They want me to either self destruct taking on the entire German war machine or they hope to at least sideline me for whatever comes next.  Like…say an invasion.  In fact, Old Buddy, I thought it might even be you."  Tyrell was now staring intently at Donovan and the tension between the two men was almost a visible quiver in the air. 

 

Donovan noted that Tyrell's right hand was now out of sight behind the desk.  He still answered without hesitation, "No.  I'd sacrifice an agent if I had to, there's no denying that, but not Nyxx.  She was sending us good information on you and…ahem…she had gained your confidence."  Donovan held Tyrell's gaze without blinking.

 

Tyrell continued the locked stare for five more seconds.  Then he relaxed slightly and said, "Is that what you call it around the Yacht Club now?  Yes, you could say she 'gained my confidence.'  I pulled a groin muscle when we got to page 50 of the Kama Sutra…"

 

"All right!  I don't need to hear about it."

 

"Probably not.  Might upset a man of your advanced years.  I took the liberty of preparing the letter on your typewriter and stationary.  If you'd be so kind…" Tyrell slid the paper across the desk and laid a fountain pen next to it.  Donovan carefully read the letter checking for blank spaces and small print.  He knew better than to just sign something Tyrell wrote.  Finding nothing amiss, he signed the document and handed everything back to Tyrell.

 

"Are we done?" Donovan asked.

 

"For now.  If I need anything else, I'll call.  Make sure the $100,000 is deposited in our account within 48 hours."

 

"Or else?"

 

"Now, Billy.  That's just rude.  If I didn't think you'd pay up, I'd have dropped you after you'd signed the letter.  Your word's always been good enough for me."   

 

Tyrell stood and Donovan noted the .45 tucked into the front of his belt.  "Probably loaded with hollow points," he thought grumpily.  "He was waiting for me try something stupid when he holstered that .22.  Crap.  I just realized that the main thing he came for today was to see how I answered his not-quite-accusation that I had Nyxx killed.  If he hadn't liked my reaction, I'd be Swiss cheese now."  Despite himself, Donovan swallowed with released tension.

 

Carefully, the two men traded places behind the desk and Tyrell collected his coat and hat.  As he opened the door, Donovan said, "Good hunting, Eldon."

 

Tyrell paused and looked back at the friend he both admired for his honor and hated for his betrayal, "Thanks, Bill.  Keep the bottle.  Maybe we'll finish it after this is over."  Tyrell closed the door behind him.

 

Donovan sat at his desk and stared at the two empty glasses.  He poured another shot and saluted the closed door.  Then he picked up his secure phone and said, "It's Donovan.  Tell the General Tyrell's on his way." He paused and sipped his drink as shouting came from the other end.  "That's not my problem.  The General should have thought about that before he got involved with her."  More shouting.  "No.  My people are not available for securing your headquarters.  In fact, I'm telling our people to stay out of his way and wishing him the best of luck.  I suggest you do the same."  Questions, no longer shouting.  "Tell him?  Tell him the truth.  He'll find out if you lie.  Then he'll kill you.  Plain and simple.  Tell him the truth and point him at our enemies.  At the very least he's going to distract the Germans.  He's also promised us some more material help with a couple of key projects."  A pause, then, "I thought that would get your attention."  Donovan sipped again at his drink.  "Yes, I'll send the details by the usual route.  I suggest you send him to Ireland as a next step.  Odds are he'll then follow the trail to France.  I never was happy about Ireland and how that turned out."  Donovan's hand tightened on the receiver at a comment from the speaker, "No.  I don't suggest you mention what happened in Ireland.  Especially not standing in the same room with him.  Let him find that out on his own.  What?  Yes.  I suppose you should give him that.  Then I suggest you disappear for a while before he has a chance to read it all."  Donovan took another sip and then grunted at a sarcastic comment from over the line.  "Tough.  You came up with this operation, now you get to deal with the train wreck.  Besides, you should be able to just fade away.  Isn't your call sign 'Ninja'?"  Donovan laughed at the irate shouting as he hung up.

 

He thought about Tyrell and the people on the sharp end of the line who were about to receive a very dangerous visit.  He took several deep breaths and let the trembling take him for a moment.  Coming down off the adrenaline and stress of having a gun pointed at him by a border-line sociopath was going to take a bit to run its course.  Donovan held his glass aloft and said, "Good luck, Kow, you're going to need it."  He tossed off the rest of his drink and began sorting through the mess Tyrell had made of his secure files. 

______________________________________________________________________________

Author's Note:

 

William Donovan is one of my personal heroes.  He was a man who understood that war was about doing what was necessary no matter what it cost him personally.  As an example, Donovan received a salary of $1 per year as head of the OSS because he believed it was his duty to defend his country, not his job.  He built a group of dedicated men and women with the same philosophy.  The OSS fought in the shadows with the weapons of their enemies because it was their duty to stop the bad guys.  It was messy and not the subject of polite dinner conversation among the elite.    He and his people understood a simple, basic truth: the only thing worse than fighting a war is losing one.  War is not honorable.  It is not glorious.  It is often necessary because the alternative is worse.  Once it starts, the only "civilized" course is to make the other guy quit as fast as possible.  You do what is necessary to make that happen so the nice people can grow old with a clean conscience.  So raise a glass to Billy Donovan and his unorthodox group of killers who sacrificed their lives, their property, and their sacred honor to do what was necessary.

______________________________________________________________________________


Chapter 3: Clues

 

"Oh and it's a lovely English Spring," muttered the General to himself as he paused in the doorway, "The rain is hardly blowing side-to-side."  It was the fourth day in a row for overcast gray skies and intermittent showers.  "If this keeps up into June, the Invasion is going to be a real slog.  The airborne may have to swim to the ground."  He straightened his uniform and threw on the overcoat and hat.  The staff meeting at SHAEF had gone about as well as could be expected – poorly.  They didn't know the exact jump off date because the weather was a mess; the Navy wasn't sure about crossing the Channel without losing half the transports; the Air Corps was eying the sky and offering prayers; and the men were slowly sinking into the liquid mess of the training areas.  "Yep," he thought wryly, "Situation normal.  The General Staff has no clue, the Plan is going downhill fast, and the men are ready to mutiny over English cooking."  He smiled and thought, "Well, I suppose Caesar heard the same complaints from his generals when the Romans invaded this soggy place." He stepped out into the down pour as his staff car drove up. 

 

The General started to climb into the OD-Green car and noticed that his Chief of Staff was already sitting stiffly erect in the back seat.  Alarm bells flashed in the veterans mind as he started to back up.  The feel of a hard object above his right kidney froze him in place.  A Colt .45 has a distinctive barrel outline when pressed into your back.  A quiet voice said in his ear, "Relax General Kow, Mr. Tyrell just wants a word with you away from Allied HQ.  Please get in the car before I ruin that nice uniform."  General Kow carefully slid into the car and the door slammed behind him.  He looked forward and saw a sergeant he didn't recognize behind the wheel.  The passenger door opened and a grey-haired Master Sergeant got in.  He turned in his seat and said, "Now we're going to take a little drive.  You behave and we'll have you back to playing with your toy soldiers in a few hours."  While the tone was playful, the General watched the absolute emptiness of the eyes.  This man was doing a job and had no more regard for his charges than a farmer taking his cattle to market.  The Master Sergeant turned to the driver and said, “Move it out, T-Man, and try not to hit every damn pothole on the way.”   

 

“What’s going on, Ninja?” he whispered to his Chief of Staff when the Master Sergeant turned back to the front.

 

“I’m not sure,” Ninja said back pitching his voice softly rather than whispering.  Kow never was sure how he did that, but the result was less sibilant than a whisper and harder to detect even a few feet away.  “They grabbed me at the base.  I’m not sure what happened to our actual driver.”

 

“Should we make a break for it?”

 

“That’s going to be a little tricky for me, General.”  Ninja gestured to his feet.  For the first time, Kow noticed an ankle cuff around Ninja and a chain disappearing under the front seat.  “I can probably cause a distraction and you can jump for it, but I don’t think these boys are above shooting first and apologizing to the boss later.”

 

“You’re probably right.”  Kow thought for a minute and then said, “All right.  We’ll play along for now.”  He sat back and tried to watch for clues as to their destination.  Beside him, Ninja leaned his head back and drifted off to sleep.  “Probably a better use of our time,” thought Kow, “What the hell?  At least it will show these Tyrell thugs that we’re not afraid.  It might be the last chance for a while.”  The General closed his eyes and relaxed.  Unbidden, she rose before him; beautiful in the moon light through the open window.  The tiny flat they shared suddenly warm and stuffy.  She had pulled the blackout curtains aside and thrown open the window to stand in the chilly London air.  He remembered the silver glow of sweat from their recent “activities” drying on her goose-bumped skin.  Kow drifted off to the remembered smell of roses.

 

The lurching as the car turned onto a dirt road woke Kow and Ninja.  The General looked around and noticed they were out in the country-side apparently headed for a modest farm house.  The sun must be setting as the grey sogginess of the sky was fading into dark wetness.  “Great,” he thought, “A nice quiet place in the country.  I wonder if they plan to bury us in a shallow grave or just leave us in the woods?”  With these morbid thoughts running through his head, Kow was hardly surprised when they turned toward the large barn and pulled through the open doors.  A pair of shooters in Tyrell black and red closed the doors behind them.  A small lantern in one corner provided a weak illumination.  “Of course.  This will muffle the gunshots nicely.  Then he can burn the whole thing down,” he thought sardonically.  Kow knew that if the Tyrell men had really meant to kill him, they would have done it already.  Pretending to think the worst was a little game to keep his mind off what might really be in play.                              

 

“All right gents,” said the driver called “T-Man”, “We’re here.  Does the Boss want them both or just the General?”  This last was addressed to the Master Sergeant.

 

“Bring them both.  I’m not sure what he’s thinking.  We could have just offed them in front of SHAEF as long as we saluted properly and had the right forms filled out.”

 

“Now, now,” said T-Man, “be nice.  You promised your boy no killing without orders.  This is supposed to be a baby-sitting detail so the Boss doesn’t do something rash.” 

 

“Like kidnap an Allied general and his aide in broad daylight?” asked the Master Sergeant sardonically.  “I told John this was a bad idea.  We just need to keep him drunk until we ID the targets and then we can all go level a few city blocks together.  This running around chasing ghosts is dangerous.”

 

“Well, Senior, lets escort our ‘guests’ to the meeting and then we can get this over with.”  T-Man unlocked the ankle cuff and stepped back for Ninja to exit the car.

 

“All right, but if this little adventure doesn’t wind up soon, I’m going to get cranky.  I’m almost out of ‘mouthwash.’”  The Senior Phillips was famous for having an endless supply of quality ‘white lightin’ smuggled around the world in small mouth wash bottles.  "And if my boy, 'Col. Phillips', doesn't like it," growled Senior, "I'll demonstrate what happens to officers who annoy senior NCOs."  With this the Master Sergeant looked pointedly at the General and his Chief of Staff. 

 

T-Man chuckled and waved his hand in a grand gesture, "Gentlemen, if you'll step this way, the Boss will see you now."  He led the two Allied soldiers deeper into the barn toward the small lantern.

 

Kow noticed the lantern was sitting on a large wooden packing crate with "live animals" stenciled on the side.  A rickety wooden chair faced the crate while on the other side, a figure reclined in the shadows.  "Mr. Tyrell, I presume," said Kow with a mocking tilt to his head.

 

"Please have a seat, General," said Tyrell from the darkness.  "I'd offer you a drink, but I understand you are a Mormon."

 

Kow frowned in puzzlement and then laughed, "No, I just don't drink anymore."

 

"Pity.  I have a bottle of bad Irish whiskey I'd share.  Of course, it wouldn't mean as much to you as it does to me."  There was a rustle of paper and Tyrell flipped an envelope onto the crate/table.  "Orders from On High for your full cooperation, General.  I have a few questions I'd like to ask about an operation you were involved with."

 

Kow opened the envelope and noted the letter from Donovan.  "I'm afraid I don't work for the OSS any longer, sir.  Director Donovan is no longer in my chain of command."  "Take that you SOB," thought Kow.

 

"Read the other one." 

 

Kow noticed a second typed sheet on "Office of the President" stationary signed by…uh, oh.          

 

"I'm pretty sure you're still in HIS chain of command," said Tyrell nastily. 

 

"How did you get this?" asked Kow after a moment's pause to collect himself.

 

"I had lunch with Roosevelt last week while I was in D.C.  We discussed the need for joint cooperation between the various forces fighting this war."  Tyrell chuckled darkly and said, "I may have also dropped a little something in the War Bond kitty.  Or was that the Re-election kitty?  I always get those confused.  The point, my dear General, is that I expect you to answer my questions fully and truthfully with a smile on your face.  Is that clear?"

 

"Yes, sir!" ground Kow out between his teeth. 

 

Tyrell was sure he spelled "sir" as "cur," but that actually made him like the General a bit.  "Let's see what we have here," he thought.  "All right.  You and an operative codenamed 'Nyxx' conducted an operation in the Soviet Union outside Stalingrad last year.  What happened next?"

 

"I'm not at liberty to divulge that information, sir," said Kow flatly.

 

"Hmm.  Is that your final answer after having been presented with orders from both your former Director and your current Commander-in-Chief?"    The cruelty of a large cat playing with its prey was in his voice.     

 

"Sir, I'm sorry, but the President never meant to authorize you access to this information with his letter.  I can't believe Director Donovan…"

 

Tyrell cut him off, "You'd be surprised what the President and old Billy will let me in on.  Especially if they need something or someone removed from its current place of residence."  Tyrell leaned forward and Kow could see the dark light in his eyes.  "Let me be clear, General," Tyrell said softly, "You will tell me everything you know about Russia and what happened afterward.  Then I'll be gone and you can keep planning Overlord."

 

Kow gave a start at Tyrell's use of the codename for the invasion of Normandy.  The word itself was a close-hold secret.  He shook his head, "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not at liberty to discuss anything related to Russia or the…aftermath."

 

Tyrell leaned back into the darkness and then laid a thick folder on the crate with "Top Secret" marked on it in bold, red letters.  "Don't you mean you aren't at liberty to discuss her, General?"  Tyrell gently stroked the folder with his left hand and said, "I've read her file.  Donovan is a bit of a prude, but he has good people who write down EVERYTHING about the operatives they run.  I know all about you two.  Those Russian winters do get cold don't they, General?  Nothing like a little company in the old sleeping bag to pass the long night, eh?"  Tyrell grinned lasciviously.     

 

Kow jumped to his feet and shouted, "Shut up! You B*$+*#@!  I loved her!  I tried to protect her from the War Department.  You want to know what I know about what happened?  Do you?! Fine!  She ran off to save you and got her team killed!  It was your fault!"  Ninja stepped in and tried to restrain the General, but he shook him off.  Kow was fighting the tears now; all control gone as he faced the man he blamed for Nyxx's disgrace and ultimate murder.  He raged at the figure in the darkness, "Poor little Eldon couldn't take care of himself and Momma Nyxx had to save him!  Everyone is so scared of the big, bad Tyrell wolf, but Von Sherman almost punched your ticket didn't he?  He would have too if she hadn't saved your *$$.  Then the War Department tried to cashier her for abandoning her post!  All because of you, you soulless b*$+*#@.  They put her in the Long Keesh doghouse and were going to leave her there to rot.  Then Donovan, that other soulless b*$+*#@, gave her a chance to 'redeem' herself by going after you.  You killed her, Tyrell, just as if you put a gun to her head.  The only way out was to seduce you and once she was in France, all it took was a call to the SS to finish the job."

 

Tyrell's voice was as soft and slippery as a silk rope dragged through blood, "That's better, General.  Now I know what happened and how she ended up in Ireland.  Anything else?"

 

"Go to hell, you b*$+*#@."

 

"In good time, General, I hear they're always hiring.  I'll ask again.  Is there anything else?"

 

For the first time Ninja spoke up, "I think you better give it to him, sir."

 

Both men turned to Ninja in surprise; they had literally forgotten he was standing there.  Kow reacted first, “No.”

 

Tyrell looked at the Chief of Staff and asked, “Is there something you’d like to tell me, Colonel?” 

 

Ninja turned to the General again and said, “General, he can track down the SOBs who killed her!  You know they won’t let us do it.”

 

“Lock it up, Colonel!” ordered Kow sharply. 

 

“Oh, no.  By all means continue, Colonel,” purred Tyrell.

 

Ninja glanced at his general, “Sir, I understand.  But we need to do this.”

 

Kow stood silently for a minute and then reached inside his jacket.  His hand froze as the sound of a pistol hammer being cocked and a pair of safeties being flipped off echoed in the silent barn.  Tyrell had a revolver in his hand.  The two gunmen from the door had Thompson submachine guns socked into their shoulders.  The Master Sergeant and T-Man stood to one side with Colt .45s aimed at them.  Their safeties had been off. A cold chill took Kow as he realized the seemingly random placement of the Tyrell personnel was anything but.  While they had been focused on Tyrell, his people had set up a careful crossfire with Kow and Ninja at the center.  Everyone could put a clean shot into them without hitting their own people.  Slowly the General eased out the object in his coat and laid it on the makeshift table.

 

"Her…diary?" asked Tyrell with a catch in his voice.  Kow simply nodded tightly without speaking.  A revolver de-cocked in the darkness and Tyrell leaned forward to pick up the book with his left hand.  Kow was relieved to hear the other weapons being safed around them. 

 

Tyrell held the diary up to his face and sniffed with closed eyes.  "Roses," he said softly, "Always roses.  The last time we were…together she had switched to a jasmine scent.  Said she wanted to try something different."  Tyrell paused and Kow noted the shiny reflection of unshed tears.  After a moment Tyrell swallowed and said, "But I'll always remember her as roses."  The man seemed to have forgotten the others were in the room.

 

Kow cleared his throat, "Yeah.  Roses were her favorite."  He waited long seconds before saying, "I finally read it two days ago.  She talks about you…a lot."

 

Now it was Tyrell's turn to nod without speaking.  Instead he rose and picked up the file from the crate.  He handed the file to Kow and said, "Here is everything Donovan had.  It features you prominently as well, General.  Use it as you see fit."

 

Ninja spoke into the well of silence between the two men, "Do you think you can find them?  The ones who killed her?"

 

"I already know who killed her, Colonel.  We had those men identified within days of the tape being received.  They were just pawns offered for sacrifice.  I'll deal with them in due course.  What I want to know is who is setting-up the chess board?  Who shopped her to the SS and why?  Somebody is playing a deeper game and I want that SOB's head on a pike."

 

"Are we done here?" asked Kow sharply.

 

"Almost.  I have a gift for you as well, General," said Tyrell with a slight smile.  He lifted the lantern from the crate and stepped back.  T-Man and Senior stepped forward and lifted the lid of the crate.  Inside was a man in his underwear bound, gagged, and blindfolded.  He was unconscious and sported a black eye and a split lip as well as other facial bruises.

 

"That's Sergeant Johnson, our driver," exclaimed Ninja.        

 

"No," said T-Man, "That's Hauptmann Günter Braun; one of the Abwehr's England network." 

 

Ninja said, "I thought the Abwehr and Canaris were out of business?  Didn't Hitler disband it because he didn't trust Canaris?"

 

"Yes," said Tyrell, "But do you honestly think the German's best spymaster just handed the SS his networks?  No.  The Admiral and I go back a bit and he asked me to look after certain 'assets' like Günter here."

 

"The asset looks a little damaged," observed Kow.

 

"Yes.  Well, we had a little trouble convincing him that it was time to come in out of the cold."

 

"What do we do with him?" asked Ninja.

 

"Nothing.  We'll take care of him.  I promised Willy I'd do my best to get his people to safety.  My gift to you is the knowledge that this man was a spy and that he is no longer in play."

 

"What proof do you have that he is a spy?" asked Kow.

 

"What?  My word isn't good enough?" asked Tyrell with mock indignation.  Kow and Ninja just looked at him with equally sour expressions.  "Yeah.  I don't blame you on that one."  Tyrell reached into his own jacket and handed Kow several type-written sheets of paper and a small key.  "Here is a list of frequencies and codes for contact with the Germans.  The key is for a flat at the address listed where you will find the wireless transmitter and whatever Günter left behind.  Good luck."     

 

"What about the other agents?" asked Ninja suspiciously.

 

"What other agents?  I just told you I'm rolling up Canaris' networks.  They aren't your concern.  They are mine."

 

"I don't think the British are going to see it that way and I know Director Donovan won't."

 

"Too bad.  These are my people now, whether they know it or not.  If Donovan is very polite and generous with his discretionary funds, I might even share some of the good stuff with him.  The British can pound sand."

 

"Now listen, pal…" began Kow hotly.

 

Ninja cut him off, "I think it's time we got out of here, sir."

 

"Yeah.  We're done here." Kow turned his back and started walking to the staff car.

 

"Excuse me, General?" said Tyrell his voice rich with amusement.  "I'm afraid that's my car now.  Your transportation is out back.  Gentlemen, would you escort our guests to their chariot?"

 

T-Man and one of the other security men stepped in front of the General.  Kow turned to his Chief of Staff, "Would you mind getting my briefcase, Colonel?"

 

"Yes, sir," replied Ninja and casually walked past the Tyrell shooters.  Kow turned back to Tyrell and asked, "Our transport?"

 

"Right this way, sir," said Senior, opening the rear barn door.  Kow just grunted as he saw the horse and open farm wagon outside.  "Your carriage awaits without."

 

"Without a roof, I see," said Kow.

 

Tyrell laughed and reached into a box by the door.  He tossed a pair of US Navy rain jackets to Kow and said, "With my compliments, General."

 

Ninja walked up with the General's briefcase.  As he shrugged into the coat Kow handed him, he asked, "Are you doing this to be petty or because she loved the General more?"

 

A sudden stillness fell in the barn and the shadows cast by the lantern seemed to close in around the two men.  In the next heartbeat, the barn was alive with movement.  There was a snap from a cotton sleeve moving forward at great speed.  Ninja pulled the briefcase up in front of his face and Kow ducked to his right.  The action ended with a thunk as a hilt-less steel blade buried itself in the leather briefcase on a line with Ninja's throat. 

 

"At ease!' roared Senior the sound of command freezing all the current and former soldiers in the barn, "Everyone stand down!"  He motioned to T-Man and the security detail, "Travis, you and the team secure the boss."  Then he turned to Kow and Ninja.  In a very clear, calm voice he said, "Get in the wagon, gentlemen.  Now."  Kow and Ninja hastened to obey the voice of authority and recognizing the flat look in the Master Sergeant's eyes.  They either scrambled into the wagon or he shot both of them where they stood.  In either case, Senior was going to resolve the situation in the next 60 seconds.  The General and his Chief of Staff were on the wagon and pounding along the rutted farm lane to the main road in 24 seconds flat.

 

Senior made sure they kept going through the heavy drizzle that was now coming down.  Only then did he turn back to make sure Eldon was all right.  "OK, boys," he said wearily, "Let him go."  Tyrell was standing in the middle of a semi-circle of his guards with his arms folded and a full boil of anger building on his face.  "This should be fun," thought Senior.  "Well?" Senior asked looking expectantly at Tyrell.

 

"What?" shot back the CEO sounding remarkably like a petulant child.

 

"What did you think you were doing?"

 

"Trying to kill a snake."

 

"And then what?  We'd have had to off the General too, you know."  Tyrell just glared back and said nothing.  "I give up.  Next time, I'm just shooting the prisoners instead of taking them to you for knife practice."

 

Tyrell physically shook himself and then said in a calmer tone, "OK.  Maybe I overreacted…a little.  Forget about it.  Let's finish this up."  Tyrell leaned down into the crate and said, "All right, Donut, you can get up now."

 

"No, I can't," replied the suddenly conscious and not-very-German-sounding Tyrell security man, "My arms and legs are asleep.  You clowns kept yakking forever."

 

"Oh, for the love of…" Tyrell looked skyward for divine guidance.  Finding no help, he said, "Help him out of there and let's get him cleaned up.  We've got a boat to catch."  

      

Within fifteen minutes Donut was dressed in the Tyrell black and red and busily strapping on his weapons.  The false pads and makeup that had made Donut look so horrible in the lantern's poor illumination had been removed from his face.  He no longer resembled looked like the victim of a bad beating.  Donut looked up at Tyrell after his holster was firmly seated and asked, "Do you think they bought it?"

  

"Yeah," said T-Man, "They didn't strike me as good enough actors to fake surprise and anger like that.  Now they'll think we have a whole German spy ring working for us."  He chuckled at the mental picture of MI-6 chasing its tale - again.

 

"I needed something to distract the Allies while we are nosing around in their backyard," said Tyrell.  "They might've decided to just snatch the whole bunch of us rather than risk us doing something that would throw off their invasion plans.  This way, they're off-balance and they'll hesitate in the hopes I'll give them Canaris' old networks.  By the time they do decide to come after us, we'll be long gone."

 

"You hope," said Senior sourly.  "I think you're making things overly complicated.  Let's get out of here before the General calls in an airstrike on our position."

 

"In this weather?  The RAF couldn't even find us much less…" Tyrell's words were cut off by a violent explosion that threw all of them through the open doors and out into the rainy night.

 

Tyrell landed face first into a mud puddle and lost track of events for a few seconds.  He came up sputtering to find the barn on fire and the air filled with cursing in several languages.  "Anybody hit?" he shouted as he scrambled to his feet and backed away from the flames.

 

"Only Donut," yelled Senior close by gathering everyone up and checking them over.  Donut had a field dressing held to one butt cheek while one of the team cleaned the wound.  "He caught a big splinter from the crate.  He'll live.  It missed the brain," finished Senior dryly.  Donut redoubled his cursing efforts as antiseptic was applied.

 

"All right, I'm guessing this was not an airstrike," said Tyrell trying to ignore the ringing in his ears.  He hoped it wasn't another concussion.  The Stalingrad adventure last year had sloshed his brain around more than he could afford already.

 

"Nope," said Travis, "Smell it?  That was dynamite.  I think the little snake you missed rigged a bomb in the car when he went to get the briefcase."

 

"That's pretty quick work don't you think?"

 

"Not if it was already in the car and all he had to do was arm it."

 

"I must have a concussion.  Run that past me again."

 

"I think the car was rigged before hand.  Maybe as a 'just-in-case' or maybe because Ninja had orders from Donovan to take out Kow if he became a liability.  You saw how torn up he was about Nyxx.  I think Ninja had prepared a back-up plan and just adapted it when we showed up."

 

"That's pretty thin, Sherlock," said Tyrell doubtfully.  "Was he trying to take us out with it?"

 

"Maybe he just wanted us to walk in the rain," said Donut.

 

"Or maybe he just wanted to make a point.  If he got a couple of us that would be a bonus," said Senior.

 

"I don't care," said Tyrell as he held Nyxx's diary inside his jacket.  He was suddenly very anxious to read the little volume.  "But not here," he thought. Aloud he said, "We need to get moving.  Get on the wallkie talkie and have the road security team meet us..." Tyrell trailed off as he noticed the expressions on the faces of T-Man and Senior.  "Let me guess?  The radio was in the car?"  Dual nodding heads.  "Joy.  Well, let's start hoofing it.  Maybe the security team saw the explosion and will meet us before we walk the two miles to their position."  He looked at Donut.  "Can you walk?"

 

"I'll bloody well walk out of here!" Donut said.

 

"Where to next?" asked T-Man.

 

"Ireland, I think," said Tyrell.  "I need to do a little reading and we'll see.  For right now, let's just get out of the rain."  He paused as he realized Senior was mumbling to himself.  "What?" he asked.

 

"I said, sir," replied Senior formally, "That the next time, sir, my boy can send someone else on the babysitting detail.  I'm getting' too old for this $&*%, sir."

 

"Understood, Master Sergeant," said Tyrell with a little laugh.  "Standard formation gentlemen and lets try not to have any more excitement tonight."  With that, the group shook itself out into a modified wedge and moved off down the long, muddy road.

 

In the trees beyond the light from the burning barn crouched a figure covered in a large, dark poncho.  Carefully shielding the operation under the poncho, the bomber placed a bulky remote detonator back into its traveling container.  The container's lid bore a stylized red "T".  The figure stood and blew a kiss at Tyrell's retreating back before turning and moving deeper into the woods.              




Chapter 4: Bloodtrail

 

Royal Air Force Base, Long Kesh, Northern Ireland.

 

The RAF staff car pulled up to a small compound surrounded by barbed wire with a pair of armed guards manning the first of a double gate.  At the second gate waited another set of guards with a dog and a pair of Sten submachine guns.  Overseeing the whole squad was a very nervous Lieutenant. Word had already come from the Base Commander to expect a "special visitor" who was to be "accorded every courtesy".  The driver side window rolled down and identification cards and papers were quickly, but thoroughly examined by the outer gate guards.  The Lieutenant was there to make sure the squad followed procedure to the letter.  This visitor came bearing letters of authorization from the spook agencies and ministries that made problems disappear.  The Lieutenant was from a prominent house of the minor nobility with aspirations to Parliament. So far, he had managed to contribute to the war effort in a hush-hush business that few would be able to question later and which insured he would avoid combat.  He was determined that no snap inspection would catch his men by surprise and risk his safe little billet.  He kept a properly stern expression on his face until the vehicle passed through both sets of guards and then turned the detail over to the senior NCO while he sought a cup of tea in his quarters.  The remaining soldiers sighed with relief when he was gone. 

 

The dog on the other hand decided that it was time for a perimeter walk and started tugging on its lease.  There was the most interesting smell coming from the South it wanted to investigate.  The dog thought the human was all right as far as their species went, but he seemed more concerned with chatting with the other humans than the proper business of checking out the wide world of smells available to dog kind.  For instance, the scent of gun oil coming from the South with a faint overlay of human sweat was much more interesting than the noise he and his companions produced.  The dog finally got his human moving in the right direction and proceeded to run down the elusive odors.             

 

While a man satisfied a dog's curiosity, the staff car had arrived at the commander's office.  Three men got out and headed inside.  Captain Ian Weldon-Smythe met them at the door having watched for their arrival after the Base Commander's warning.  "Good evening, Gentlemen.  What can I do for you?" Captain Smythe asked.

 

"Lawrence Oliver Holmes, MI-6," replied the older of the three men flashing an ID.  The upper class London accent went with the proper Oxford school tie and expensive suit.  The Captain made out the faint bulge of a shoulder holster under the left arm.  "I need to speak to one of the Irish.  Bit of a dust-up from the Home Secretary over some rumor the IRA is planning something dreadful next month."  The man's expression clearly showed what he thought of the Home Secretary's worries.

 

"Yes, sir," replied Smythe readily, "The Colonel is unavailable.  He's in London for a meeting, but I can take you to the cell block."  The Captain paused for a moment and then said, "I apologize, sir, but I'll need to see your authorization."

 

"No apology necessary, Captain," assured the MI-6 man, "I quite understand.  Can't have just anyone waltzing in here now can we?"  He handed the Captain a memo from the Home Secretary and a set of orders detailing his mission in the typical veiled language of the shadow service.  The Captain pretended to read the documents in detail, but the very fact that the MI-6 agent had produced them so readily and confidently reassured the officer more than their actual content.  After all, what were the chances the IRA had access to Home Secretary stationary and order forms?       

 

"These seem in order," said the Captain as he handed the papers back to Agent Holmes.  "If you gentlemen will follow me, the cell block is across the compound."

 

In short order, they arrived at a low concrete building with a steel door.  The Captain stepped up to the barred window and said, "Captain Smythe and three visitors for a prisoner interrogation."  A muffled reply could be heard by the MI-6 team and the rattle of keys and a heavy bolt being thrown echoed in the growing twilight.  The four men crowed into the small guard room forcing the two-man security detail into the corner with a tiny desk.  A second steel door with a sliding window secured the cell block from the guard room.  "So," said Smythe turning to Holmes, "Which one of these scum is of interest to your people?"

 

Holmes glanced significantly at the sergeant and private on guard duty and then asked, "Why don't we step into an interrogation room and you can have the prisoner brought to us?"

 

Smythe was confused a moment and then understood, "Quite right!  Can't be too careful nowadays."  He turned to the sergeant and asked with a sly grin, "Is the 'Play Room' available?"

 

The sergeant stared at a spot six inches above the Captain's head and replied, "Yes, sir.  I can have Corporal MacLeod bring the prisoner to Interrogation at the Captain's convenience, sir." 

 

The MI-6 man opened a small notebook and showed the page to the Sergeant.  "This is the man we are looking for, sergeant.  Is he still here?"

 

The sergeant looked at the MI-6 agent for a moment and then read the name.  "Yes, sir.  The blackguard is still kickin'."  Without acknowledging Captain Smyth, the Sergeant stepped to the inner cell block door and knocked on the panel.  When the window panel slid open, he spoke softly to the man on the other side.  The window closed and the sergeant turned to Captain Smythe and said, "Sir, Corporal MacLeod will move the prisoner presently."  The sergeant then turned to the MI-6 man and said, "Beggin' your pardon, sir, but I'll have to ask you to leave your men here and accompany the Captain alone."

 

"Now see here, sergeant!" objected the Captain.

 

"Regulations, sir," interrupted the Sergeant again staring above the Captain's head.  "The Colonel's standin' orders forbid more than one 'visitor' at a time in the cell block, sir." 

 

"These men are with MI…" began the Captain.

 

"That's quite all right Captain," interjected the Holmes quickly.  "The sergeant is just doing his job.  The regulations apply to us all."

 

Before the Captain could speak again, the Sergeant added in a flat tone, "I'll also be needin' the gentleman's weapons if it please you, sir."  The Captain started to flare up again, but the sergeant simply dropped his gaze and looked him in the eye, "Regulations, sir."

 

The MI-6 man was trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile.  He said, "Of course, sergeant."  Holmes drew the Colt .45 from its shoulder holster, dropped the magazine, and cleared the weapon with the ease of long practice.  He handed it over to the sergeant.

 

The sergeant grunted and asked with amusement, "A Colt, sir?  I thought you folks favored small revolvers?"    

 

"I favor coming home alive, sergeant.  That was a 'gift' from a Yank who thought he understood Cribbage."  The MI-6 man chuckled at the memory.

 

"Yes, sir," smiled the sergeant in understanding.  "I'll also need the one on your ankle, sir."

 

The MI-6 man scowled for a minute and then shrugged, "At least you know your business, Sergeant."  He crouched down and removed the small revolver from its concealed holster.  He gave it to the sergeant.

 

"Yes, sir.  That's more like it.  Anything else, sir?"

 

"Just these," said Holmes holding up his notebook and a Monte Blanc pen.    

 

"I think we can let those pass, sir," said the Sergeant with a bit more genuine smile.  He moved to the steel door and knocked again.  This time he simply nodded when the Corporal appeared.  "All correct, sir," he said to Captain Smythe who was fuming quietly to one side.  He hadn't enjoyed being ignored by the two men.  He brushed past everyone and strode into the cell block.  Holmes and the Sergeant exchanged amused glances and he headed into the block as well.

 

The “Playroom” was about what Holmes expected: a concrete cell with a harsh spot light, a steel chair bolted to the floor and various instruments of “persuasion” around the walls.  A tub of water with a hinged board was against the far wall for a near drowning experience.  The MI-6 man tried not to show his contempt.  He’d done his share of “field interrogations” on enemies when necessary, so he had no moral high ground here.  Oh sure, he regretted doing it, felt like crap afterward.  He also knew that didn’t make any difference to the poor SOB with the knife stuck in his belly.

 

The latest SOB in question was handcuffed to the steel chair.  A true red-headed son of Erin, the man had obviously been worked over a few times already.  Unlike Donut’s make-up job, his swollen eyes and bruises were real.  Holmes glanced over at Captain Smythe and was unsurprised to see barely disguised anticipation on the man’s face.  “He does love his work,” thought Holmes, “But you knew that already.”  Corporal MacLeod stationed himself in the near-side corner and assumed a formal parade rest.  His face was professionally blank and he kept his gaze carefully above their heads.  Holmes couldn’t blame him.

 

The MI-6 man opened his notebook and flipped to the page he wanted.  He looked at the Irishman and asked, “Are you Sean O’Toole?”  The man just looked at Holmes through his swollen eyes. 

 

“He is,” said the Captain. 

 

“Is your son Francis O’Toole?” asked Holmes.  Silence.  “Is he employed by a company known as the Tyrell Corporation?”  No answer.  O’Toole simply stared at the floor.  

 

“Answer the man you Irish pig!” screamed the Captain as he backhanded the prisoner. O’Toole rolled with the blow and then resumed staring at the floor.    

 

The MI-6 man closed his notebook and put his pen away.  He stepped back from the prisoner, and asked, "Do you know the words to 'The Moonshiner'?"  O'Toole looked up in confusion and Holmes smiled.  "You know: I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long way from home…"  Then the MI-6 man spun and drove his notebook with both hands into Corporal MacLeod's throat.

 

Captain Smythe stood frozen as he watched the MI-6 man slam a knee into the choking man's groin and then bring the notebook down on the man's neck like a dull guillotine.  The crack of impact was lost in the motion of Holmes spinning and flinging the notebook at Captain Smythe's face.  The Captain threw up his arm with a wordless cry and stumbled backwards.  Holmes was on him in an instant.  A powerful kick stuck Smythe a smashing blow to his chest, paralyzing his diaphragm and turning his gathering cry of alarm into a breathless "oof".  The impact drove him hard into the cell wall and his head connected with stunning force.  With stars exploding around him, Captain Smythe never saw the elbow strike that crushed his throat and finished spinning him into unconsciousness.  The MI-6 man let the beaten man crumble to the ground and then brought his foot up and down sharply with precise power.  The wet crunch of bone echoed in the concrete cell.

 

Holmes stood breathing heavily for a few moments and listening intently for any hint that the attack had been overheard.  "Bless soundproof torture chambers," Holmes muttered to himself.  He then turned to the Irishman in the steel chair and said in a voice that was decidedly not upper class London nor even English, "Sergeant O'Toole, you're looking a little worse for wear, boyo."

 

The Irishman looked at the MI-6 man in confusion and asked, "Do I know you?"

 

The man removed his glasses and the black hair piece to reveal his own close-cropped graying stubble.  "You bloody ought to you Irish goat," he replied, "You still own me $20."

 

"Lieutenant Tyrell!  Mary Mother of God!" O'Toole exclaimed, "What're you doin' here?"

 

"Looking for answers," said Eldon Tyrell shaking his right hand.  He had snapped the notebook across the room a bit faster than his wrist appreciated.  That and the twinge from his left knee were reminding him that he wasn't the 20-year old officer this man remembered.  The Irish brigade they had served in during WWI was long ago and far away.  "Your boy sends his love.  He finally got his wish last year: he blew up a camel.  Made it fly right over some god-forsaken oasis in Arabia on a raid with Colonel Phillips."

 

"Ah, that's me boy," O'Toole smiled as thought fondly of his son who was one of Tyrell's "troubleshooters."  His obsession with flying camels had made Tyrell spew coffee through his nose when he read the after action report.  It was the hardest he'd laughed in a long time.    

 

"Let's get you out of those cuffs and then I've got some questions I hope you can answer."  Tyrell retrieved the key from the late Corporal MacLeod and freed the Irishman. 

 

O'Toole rubbed his wrists and rolled his shoulders trying to loosen up.  "And what could the likes of me know that you don't, sir?"                   

 

"There was an interrogator here.  A woman.  She mentioned a Sean O'Toole in her diary.  A tough SOB from Cork who served in the same unit I did in WWI.  I asked your son if by chance he knew where his old Da, the IRA cell leader, might be.  We put two and two together and figured you might be here.  I couldn't get him back here in time for this raid, but he told me to let you know he hadn't forgotten about you or the Cause."

 

"Ah, its does me proud to hear you say that, sir.  He was always smart, that boy.  Knew when to get out of town ahead the hangman, he did."  His eyes had gone soft and his expression wistful.  The look was incongruent on his battered face.

 

"Do you remember her?" prompted Tyrell.

 

"Oh, suren I do.  She was an attractive bint, but hard as nails.  The Captain there fancied her, but she mostly wouldn't have anything to do with him at first."

 

"At first?"

 

"Aye.  She even put a knee in him when he got fresh in here one day.  Then, I suppose it was a couple months later, she started letting him take…liberties.  I guess he won her over."

 

"Or she was after something," Tyrell said his eyes narrowing in thought.  He remembered the passage in the diary:

 

I've got to get out of this place!  Damn Donovan and his political masters.  I'm not a torturer.  I'm a hunter.  These idiots are rear-echelon sheep that wouldn't last a day in our game.  And that fool Smythe!  Pretending to sympathize and always finding excuses to touch what he'll never have.  I'd kill him, but I'm in enough trouble already.  Maybe if I got word to Eldon he could 'arrange' something for Captain 'Handsy'.  Or, I could simply escape and ask Eldon to take me in.  I'm sure we could work something out.  He's always such a naughty boy…

 

He shook himself from the memory.  The entry had become quite…descriptive…after that and he needed to concentrate on the here and now for there to be a later.  He glanced over at the dead captain and resisted the urge kick the corpse.  "Enough," he thought, "Focus.  She played up to him for a reason.  But why?  The people she needed to lift her 'exile' were in DC not here.  And they sure weren't in the British chain of command."  There was nothing in the diary about the late captain except contempt and loathing.  It didn't make sense.

 

Tyrell looked at O'Toole and asked, "Is there anything else you can tell me about her time here?  When she left; anything you might have overheard; why she took up with Skippy over there; anything at all."

 

"Are looking to kiss her or kill her, Lieutenant?"

 

"A little late for both, Sean.  She's dead.  I'm trying to figure out why." 

 

"Oh, an' I'm sorry to hear that.  She was a lovely girl, god rest her soul.  Always smelled so nice.  Roses in the spring.  Well, until she started getting a rash."

 

"What?"   

 

"Yes," said O'Toole surprised by Tyrell's sudden interest, "She had to switch to some other perfume the last few weeks she was here.  Something about her old perfume was causing her to break out.  I remember her talking to the captain there when they had me strapped to the chair.  Struck me as funny them talkin' about perfume considerin' my situation at the time."

 

"Sean," said Tyrell softly, "The new perfume.  Was it jasmine?"

 

"I don't know, sir.  I was in no shape to smell it.  Me nose was broken by the captain there.  He was trying to impress her I suppose.  He always liked mixing business and pleasure he did." O'Toole spit on the body.  Tyrell resisted a similar urge.

 

"Did she happen to change her perfume before or after she started letting the captain there 'take liberties'?"

 

"Just a few days after, I suppose.  I'm sorry, sir, it wasn't something I was payin' attention to."  O'Toole looked at Tyrell curiously and asked, "Is it important, sir?"

 

Tyrell sighed and said, "Not now, I suppose.  I was just curious."  He thought about the last few entries in the diary:

 

Nat was such a bore.  I like Nicky much better.  The change has done me so much good.  Speaking of changes, I'm about to head off to France.  I'm so nervous thinking about seeing him.  Will he recognize me?  Part of me dreads the meeting given how much I have to explain, but the rest of me is eager to feel him under my hands...

 

Tyrell had to shake off the memory of the words yet again.  That entry had been even more lurid than the previous one.  "I wonder how cold the water in the tub is?" he thought wryly.  Then his mind turned again to business.

 

"Sean," he said, "We need to get out of here.  With luck, our ride is on its way."

 

"Would you mind if I take a few friends along wit' me, Lieutenant darlin'?"

 

"What do you have in mind?  I like a good jailbreak, but I've got my own problems.  My escape route is for a limited number."

 

"There are only three others in cells here," he laughed bitterly, "This bein' a secret prison, they had to keep the number of prisoners and guard force small, don't you know?  The corporal there was the only other interior guard since the sergeant kept his other man up with your people.  Besides, if you can get me a ride, I'll be stayin wit' me friends."

 

Tyrell looked at him levelly for a moment and said, "Sean, I'm about to make this a very bad place to be around.  My plan is to make it look like you and the Germans were in on the breakout together.  That means the British are going to go a little batty and come down on the IRA like the wrath of god himself."

 

Sean O'Toole, IRA commander and one of the most ruthless men in Ireland smiled, "I figured as much.  Don't worry about me Eldon.  The Brits and the Prots been chasin' me for nearly 30 years.  Whatever you have in mind will just add to the legend." 

 

Tyrell stared at him for a minute and said, "Have it your way you evil SOB.  Go get your people and I'll check the front office."  He handed O'Toole the corporal's keys and then slipped carefully out of the "Playroom".  He padded carefully to the cell block door a listened for noises in the outer guard room.  "Muted conversation, multiple voices, and no gunshots," thought Tyrell, "So far so good."  He flattened to the hinged-side of the door and gave two sharp taps followed by two more.  A series of muffled thumps sounded followed by the heavy impact of a body on the steel door.  Said body breaking several bones upon contact.  After a moment, a different series of nocks sounded from the other side of the door.  Tyrell unbolted the panel and called, "Coming out!"

 

A voice replied, "All clear.  Come on."

 

He found the Sergeant and the other guard being trussed up like Christmas turkeys by Senior and Donut.  A small pile of weapons was on the desk.  "How we doin'?" he asked.

 

"So far so good," said Senior straightening up.  "These two didn't have a chance."  He looked for a moment and then found his favorite lead sap on the desk and put it back in his pocket. 

 

"They alive?"

 

"Yep.  Donut bounced the private off the door and dinged him up a little, but he should be all right."

 

"Good.  We need a witness or two for this to work."

 

"Boss, did you get what you needed?" asked Donut.

 

"I'm not sure," Tyrell replied, "But I did find O'Toole and I know more than I did.  I think."

 

"Where is he?" asked Senior.  Right then Sean O'Toole came limping through the door.  O'Toole ignored the weapons that were suddenly pointing at him.  He was watching two of his fellow prisoners carry a third through the door.

 

"Ah and it's good to see that," said O'Toole when he found the guards on the floor.  "Do you mind if we help ourselves, Lieutenant?" asked Sean gesturing to the piled weapons.

 

Tyrell secured his two pistols and returned them to their respective holsters, "Go ahead."  O'Toole gathered up the revolvers the guards carried and a shotgun in a wall rack.

 

"Now what, Lieutenant?"

 

"Lieutenant?" asked Donut uncertainly.

 

"Sergeant O'Toole and I knew each other way back when I had hair and a misguided sense of honor."

 

"World War I," clarified Senior, "Eldon was in an Irish regiment."

 

"Aye and it was a sad day when they tossed you out, sir," said O'Toole shaking his head.  "Did you ever kill that Colonel?"

 

"Not yet" replied Tyrell, "But I'm thinking of adding it to my 'to do' list.  I think Billy Donovan suckered me again."

 

"What do you mean?" asked Senior in surprise.

 

"Later.  We need to get out of here before the fireworks start."  He gestured to the guards and said, "Drag those idiots outside and let's get everyone in the car."  Donut and Senior bundled the Irishmen into the back seat of the car and then stuck the two guards in the truck as quickly as they could.  It would be tight, but it was a big staff car.  Tyrell pulled a cylinder-shaped object from the glove compartment, carefully turned a dial and then tossed it onto the flat room of the prison.  He piled into the front seat next to Donut as Senior started rolling.

 

Senior switched on the blackout headlights and squinted in the reduced illumination.  They rounded the cell block building and headed for the south fence and the dirt road beyond.  Abruptly he stopped as the headlights revealed a guard face-down by the fence and a guard dog sprawled to one side.  Tyrell jumped out of the vehicle and ran over to the two bodies.  The guard was dead with a small hole above his right ear and larger exit wound on the other side.  The dog oddly enough was alive.  Tyrell plucked a familiar tranquilizer dart from its hip.  He carefully wrapped it in a handkerchief and put it in his suit pocket.  He rose to his feet and looked up at the trees on the far side of the road beyond the wire fence. 

 

Tyrell remembered his grandfather, whom everyone called "The Old Man," telling him that bullets make two distinct sounds when they come near you.  "Boy," he said while puffing on an old meerschaum pipe, "If you hear a 'crack' in the air, it's a good thing because it means a bullet just broke the sound barrier a few feet from you.  Now if you hear a 'zip' like a bee going by that's bad.  It's bad because the bullet just passed within an inch or two of your ear.  You hear that, boy, and you hit the ground fast 'cause sure as the Devil's in Hell the next one is going to kill you."     

 

Tyrell dropped flat before the sound had fully registered.  A muted "bang" from nearly straight ahead barely made it through the blood hammering in his ears.  "$#!+!," he yelled just like every other time he had been shot at.  His hand dove inside his coat for the .45.  "Where is he?!" he shouted frantically and rolled to his left toward the car.  He could hear Donut and Senior cursing as they tried to free their own weapons.  The Irish were equally tangled up in the back seat.  Spot lights came on around the perimeter and there was confused shouting from the gate behind them.  Tyrell jumped in the car and yelled, "GO! GO! GO!"  Senior floored it and the heavy staff car rammed through the wire fence and fish tailed onto the road.

 

Tyrell raised his pistol to try for the nearest spot light but the car was already barreling down the dirt road to the air field.  Belatedly, he realized there were too many bodies on the ground by the fence.  A third figure dressed in an RAF lieutenant's uniform was crumpled behind where he had been standing.  A big Webley revolver was in his hand.  That's when he remembered the other thing his grandfather had said, "Sometimes you'll hear a kind of wet smack.  That means that someone behind you just got unlucky.  That's still good because it ain't you, but it's not really…" The Old Man had trailed off and then drained his glass.  They both had sat silent for awhile. 

 

"Oh, well," thought Tyrell, "If we don't get real lucky, we'll probably join him shortly."  He shouted, "We've got 10 minutes!  Move this heap!"  Senior just growled inarticulately and flipped him the bird.  Tyrell grinned.  "Ah, nothing like the good life," he thought with a smile. 

 

In a few minutes they were at the air field and sliding to a halt on the dirt runway.  Tyrell and his men jumped out the car.  Senior ran around the car to pop the trunk.  Donut and Senior dumped the guards on the ground.  The Sergeant was awake and trying to yell through his gag.  Everyone ignored him.  Senior handed the keys to Tyrell and pulled out a big flashlight with special hood on it.  While Senior began flashing it at the sky, Tyrell turned to O'Toole.  "Can you drive this thing?" he asked.

 

"I can bloody well drive out of here!" said O'Toole taking the keys and climbing behind the wheel.  He turned to Tyrell and said, "Just tell me boy that his Da is proud of him.  Tell him to come home when this little war is over."

 

"I will, Sean," said Tyrell.  Then he leaned in close and said, "Head East along the side of the runway and then cut back toward the base.  There should be plenty of distractions for you to make it North."

 

"I'm in your debt, Eldon," said O'Toole.

 

"In that case, Sean, no kids."

 

"What?" asked O'Toole.

 

"No kids Sean.  Go after the soldiers, the police, and the government officials.  I can stomach those as targets.  But the first busload of kids I hear the IRA blows up and I'm holding you personally responsible.  Briefly."

 

"Aye.  I hear ya'.  No kids.," said Sean O'Toole, IRA commander and one of the most ruthless men in Ireland.  Without another word he drove off with the remaining members of his cell in the back seat of a British staff car.

 

Tyrell turned to the Sergeant and cut off his gag with a knife that seemed to materialize in his hand.  The Sergeant couldn't help but flinch.  He worked his jaw a bit and then asked, "Uh, sir?  What the h*ll is going on?" 

 

"The IRA had a good day today, Sergeant," he said looking the man in the eyes.  "They killed a couple of useless officers and blew up a prison that didn't exist."

 

"They did?"

 

"Yes, they did.  There were 10 of them and they overpowered you and the private there.  They came in through the wire where we busted out.  They freed Sean O'Toole and the others.  An operative for MI-6 and his security team were taken hostage and must be presumed dead."

 

"No one is going to buy that load of horse shite!" the Sergeant exclaimed.

 

"Yes, they will," said Tyrell reaching into his jacket and pulling out a thick envelope.  "Because you are going to tell them just what I told you.  There's enough in here to make life comfortable, Sergeant."  Tyrell's voice dropped to low whisper, "The alternative is that you let someone from MI-6 steal your prisoners and leave you tied up by a runway in the dark with a load of cash on you.  How do you think that plays out?"   He let the Sergeant work it through.  "Besides, the Germans were in on the whole thing.  They are the ones that blew up the prison and helped break out the Irish."

 

"But, sir," said the Sergeant thinking furiously, "The prison hasn't been…"  A series of thunderous explosion rocked the night as Tyrell hit the ground again.  After a moment the bombing ceased.

 

Tyrell leaned up on one elbow and said, "You were saying, Sergeant?"

 

"Sir, I don't understand any of this!" protested the Sergeant.  "Who are you?  Who's side are you on?"

 

"Welcome to the war, kiddo," said Tyrell tucking the envelope into the Sergeant's jacket, "I worry about that myself sometimes.  Then the check clears and I feel all better."  Tyrell stood up and brushed himself off.  He looked up at the sound of plane engines.  "You take care now, Sergeant.  I have to go.  I do suggest you put in for a transfer very soon.  Sean O'Toole is not as forgiving as I am."  With that Tyrell ran off toward the runway as an aircraft touched down, rolled to the end, and then spun neatly around.

 

"That's a bloody Heinkel He 111!" the Sergeant exclaimed.  The German markings were plainly visible in the light from the burning base behind him.  While he watched in disbelief, the MI-6 man and his team jumped into an open door and then the plane began taxiing back down the runway for take off.

 

"What the 'ell, Sergeant?" said the groggy guard beside him.  "Blimey!  That's a Hun plane that is!"

 

"I know," said the Sergeant, "The Germans just bombed the bloody base!  They're in it together with the Irish!" 

 

"Bloody 'ell!  What are we gonna do now, Sergeant?"

 

"Work on these bloody ropes and then find an officer who doesn't have his head up his arse!"  The Sergeant paused as he remembered the envelope in his jacket and the words of warning from the MI-6 man.  "Then I'm bloody well gettin' a transfer out here.  I think you better do the same."  The Sergeant looked up in the sky and muttered to himself, "Bloody spooks!  Bugger this for a game for soldiers!"   

______________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 5: Killzone

 

Saint-Lo, France

 

"What was the name of that Indian again?" muttered Tyrell as he counted in his head.  "Jehoshaphat? Kemosabe?  Oh, I remember! Geroni…oohf" the shock of opening snatched the amusing game from his head as the parachute harness did what it almost always tried to do – unman him by crushing his left testicle.  "Why is it always the left one?" he wondered silently as he fought the belly cramping and nausea.  Something about the way he rigged his harness or twisted at opening was the answer of course, but he preferred another explanation, "Parachutes bloody hate me," he muttered.  He wiped the rain from his face and looked between his feet.  Adrenaline drove everything out of his mind as the ground rushed up with frightening speed.  "And a low opening sounded like such a good idea in the plane," he thought.  "This is gonna hurt," he predicted.  He hit as hard as expected and immediately tucked into an automatic roll.  He came up on his knees with the earth spinning and a riser wrapped around one leg.  "Nothing broken, though," he thought with relief, "I'll settle for that."

 

Tyrell climbed to his feet and tried to ignore the pain of his groin.  There was a lot to get done and very little time to do it before they had company.  He hit the release on his chute harness and began rolling it up.  "At least the rain kept the ground soft," he mused as he looked up in the overcast sky.  They had just enough moon to see vague outlines, but not much else.  "Maybe the Germans all stayed in their beds tonight," he hoped.

 

Shouting and the gleam of blacked-out truck lights put paid to that illusion as Tyrell saw a patrol pulling up on the far side of the pasture he had landed in.  "D*mn!" he said to himself, "I was hoping we were far enough inland that they wouldn't pick us up so quickly.  OK.  Plan B."  He looked around frantically for the others as he moved into the hedgerow on his side of the field.  The Germans were taking their time spreading out so maybe they had a chance.  "They must not have a reliable sighting on us," he thought, "Maybe just some panicked farmer.  They aren't thrilled to be out in the rain and they aren't beating the brush with any enthusiasm."  He turned away from the Germans and risked a pair of blinks from his hooded flashlight.  In a few moments, Senior, Donut, and Travis joined him. 

 

"Let's get out of here," whispered Senior without preamble, "Those idiots are eventually going to get out a spot light."  They crawled through the wet hedgerow and moved off in the direction of Saint-Lo.  They found a nice, thick stand of brush and Donut and Travis buried the parachutes and jump coveralls.  Under the coveralls they all wore nondescript French clothing.  "The French better be there," said Senior as they finished up, "or this is going to get real interesting."

 

"They'll be there," Tyrell replied, "Pierre assured me we could trust this bunch."

 

"Yeah, but do you trust Pierre?"

 

"I wish you hadn't asked that."  Tyrell and his party trotted through the dark, rainy night until they found a farm house on the outskirts of Saint-Lo with a large barn behind it.  They spread out and headed for the barn. 

 

"You move like a soggy elephant," said a quiet voice from the bushes to their left, "A short one."

 

“Bite me, John,” replied Tyrell as Col. Phillips rose to his feet.  “Glad to see you boys.”

 

“Boys?!” huffed a figure from the loft above Tyrell.  Tabitha waved and gave him the finger before settling back behind her sniper rifle.

 

Tyrell sketched a short bow and said, “My apologies.  I never argue with armed women.”  A skeptic grunt was her only reply.

 

“If you two are done,” said Phillips sourly, “The French are waiting.”

 

"By all means," said Tyrell gesturing to the door.

 

Phillips, Tyrell and the team walked into the barn and were momentarily blinded by the dim lantern on a wooden table.  They let paused as a group to let their eyes adjust.  Tyrell saw a man sitting at the table with Pierre LaDouche.  Another half dozen French men were scattered around the barn standing or sitting.  All were trying to project an air of superior indifference.  The causes of their attitude were the four Tyrell Spooks facing outward from the table and forming an inner security ring.  Tyrell almost chuckled out loud.  Instead, he nodded to his security personnel and sat in the open chair with his back to the barn door.  He figured he'd have plenty of warning of trouble and it never hurt to show potential allies your courage.  The creepy feeling of exposure crawling down his spine was not impressed with his reasoning.

 

"Good evening, Gentlemen," said Tyrell without preamble, "Pierre, would you make the introductions?"

 

"Of course, sir," replied Pierre as if they had just sat down to dinner, "This is the Commander of the Northern Sector of Le Resistance, Grazi.  The others are part of his cell and unit commanders in their own right."  He paused and turned to the resistance leader, "This is Mr. Tyrell.  He's the man you have to thank for all the boxes of weapons we brought."

 

The man called Grazi was well short of middle age, but also past being a youth.  There was no innocence left in the eyes at all.  "The Resistance must age a man quickly," thought Tyrell as he noticed the dirt ground into the creases on Grazi's hands and under the finger nails.  "This one's been living hard in the field recently," he thought, "No wonder he wanted to deal."  Tyrell sat and waited patiently for the Resistance leader to speak.

 

Grazi held his gaze for a long moment before sighing and saying, "We are grateful for your assistance, Mr. Tyrell, but we have heard your 'help' always comes with strings attached."

 

Tyrell grunted and reached for the open wine bottle on the table and a semi-clean glass.  He poured a small amount in the glass and tossed it off before replying, "Of course there are strings.  Nothing is free, especially in an occupied country."  He peered at the bottle for a moment and said, "This isn't bad.  Where did you 'liberate' it from?"

 

"Your wine cellar," replied Grazi with a smile.  "We have our connections as well."

 

Tyrell smiled a carnivore grin and said, "Well, enjoy.  I have need of resourceful men and you have need of resources.  I think we can help each other."

 

"What do you propose?"

 

"As you may have heard, I'm in the market for information regarding the death of my…fiancée Nyxx.  Specifically, I want to know who informed the Germans that she was an Allied agent."

 

Grazi looked genuinely confused for a moment.  "She worked for the Allies?  I thought she worked for you and the Germans."

 

Tyrell laughed, "I'm pretty sure I worked for her most of the time without even realizing it.  As for the Germans, no she never worked for them."

 

"Are you sure, Mr. Tyrell," said Grazi carefully with an unconscious glance at the door.

 

Tyrell's brain finally kicked into gear as adrenaline dumped into his system.  Grazi knew something.  Something Tyrell wasn't going to like to hear.  Now he was starting to realize Tyrell's reaction might not be survivable.  "Tell me," said Tyrell in a voice as empty as a grave.

 

"We intercepted a courier several weeks ago headed for Berlin," said Grazi nervously, "He was carrying a message from an operative codenamed 'Angel'."

 

Tyrell was on his feet with a knife dropping into his hand from a wrist sheath before his conscious mind took control. He was dimly aware that all around him weapons were being pointed.  Pierre and Grazi remained very still with their hands flat on the table. "Stand down! Everybody stand down right @#$%^ now!  That means you too Eldon!"  Phillips' voice barely penetrated the narrow tunnel his world had become.  A tunnel filled with the Resistance leader's left eye and the almost irresistible urge to bury the steel in the target.  Instead he sat back down and drew a shaky breath.

 

After a moment he said in a voice held even by a massive effort of control, "Are you absolutely sure of that code name?"

 

Grazi slowly reached into his pocket and removed a battered piece of paper.  The dark, red-brown smudge probably came from its previous owner.  He laid the paper on the table and slid it to Tyrell.  "The message is in code, but we were able to piece together enough to know it came from Angel and is a report of your activities. We questioned the courier, but he knew nothing more than the code name and the priority.  We think the message was picked up from a dead drop by the Abwehr."

 

"How can I verify any of this?  Am I supposed to trust your word?!" Tyrell's voice dripped with hostile sarcasm. 

 

Grazi started to bristle at the insult until Pierre LaDouche cleared his throat and said, "They gave us the courier later.  We verified his identity and were able to fully decode the message."  Pierre handed Tyrell a clean piece of type-written paper.

 

            [Decode and Translation: ID 723]

 

Cover secure.  Subject T is fully under control.  Allied Command still believes I'm their agent in place.  Believe Subject T may propose marriage.  Termination not required at this time.  Have attached photos and document copies of target information.  

 

Angel   

 

[COURIER CONFIRMS SUBJECT ANGEL AUTHOR OF MESSAGE.  RECIPIENT UNKNOWN.  ATTACHED CONTENTS CONFIRMED AS HAVING BEEN COPIED FROM THE PERSONAL FILES OF MR. TYRELL.]

 

Tyrell simply stared at the paper as the room faded from his conscious mind.  He focused on the name - "Angel".  Was it a joke from some long-forgotten Control who found the idea of an Angelic assassin ironic.  Had she always been a German spy working as a double agent?  How long had she been stringing Donovan along?  Was she in the German's pocket all the way back to Paris when they met?  He knew for certain she hadn't been working for the SS.  The reason for that knowledge twisted his guts hard enough to bring a wave of nausea.  "Angel was Nyxx," he whispered to himself, "Nyxx was Angel.  It can't be!  I couldn't have missed that!"  The questions and their guilty answers spun around his brain with increasing velocity until all he could focus on was how bitterly he had been betrayed.

 

"Mr. Tyrell?" asked Pierre hesitantly, "Eldon, are you all right?"

 

"I'm fine," replied Tyrell, "I…" and in that instant a nasty thought struck him.  The French knew Angel was a German spy.  Based on the decrypted contents, they knew Angel was Nyxx.  Had someone done something drastically clever?  Had a Frenchman, say Grazi here, played a little joke on the Germans by having the SS kill a valuable German double agent?  If so, why would he be calmly sitting here within arm's reach?  And who sent the sniper in the woods at the air base?    

 

His thoughts started to pick up speed again, but this time they were racing along possible courses of action.  Calculating the angles and weighing the odds.  Finally, he said with icy calm, "We need to get moving.  Thank you for the information, Grazi.  We'll arrange for an additional weapons drop.  The Allies will be coming to visit soon and they need all the help they can get."  He turned to Pierre, "Are the drop zone teams ready?"  Tyrell felt the ragged edge of his control steadying as a plan began to take shape.

 

"Yes, sir," said Pierre visibly relaxing now that the boss was back in the game.  "Grazi's team has everything in place and we are simply waiting on the word."

 

"Good.  Pierre, you stay with them and serve as liaison.  Make sure your pack radio is working in all this rain.  We'll pull back to the Blue Shroom and get ready for our next step." 

 

"And what will that be mon ami?" asked Grazi.

 

"First, we need Nyxx's body back for a proper funeral.  Then we need some more answers.  Somebody has been manipulating all of us since this thing started.  I'm going to find that person and bury them in my backyard." 

 

The radios suddenly came to life, "We have movement in the village," Tabitha said quietly, "Estimate 20 plus German infantry and a command car with at least two officers.  The infantry is spreading out." The transmission paused and then she said, "Crap, they have a light tank.  Looks like a Panzer II."  Another pause that seemed to stretch forever, "They are definitely looking for something.  Odds are it's us.  Recommend we get outta here ASAP."

 

There was a frozen moment of tension as the Tyrell security people and the French fighters looked hard at each other in suspicion.  Tyrell himself broke the tension by picking up the radio mike and saying, "This is Tyrell Actual.  Understood.  Break.  All Tyrell Units prepare for Evasion Plan Bravo.  Outer perimeter give us an exit lane North.  We will provide distraction. Confirm."  A veritable chorus of acknowledgements sounded over the radio and he looked at Phillips with an unspoken question.

 

"I brought some extra help," explained Col. Phillips with a shrug.  "When you reported all the 'fun' you had in England and Ireland I thought a little more 'robust' security detail was in order."

 

Travis interrupted by asking, "Did you bring my toy?"

 

Phillips looked at him sourly, but replied, "Top crate.  Make sure I'm over the hill before you fire that thing."  Travis all but jumped to the weapons pile and extracted a heavy tube with a sling arrangement and an over-sized bandolier of what appeared to be…

 

"Is that a mortar?  With a stock and trigger?!" asked Tyrell incredulously.

 

"Yep," said Travis with obvious pride, "Professor Chew developed a 60mm version you fire from the hip.  It even has a special two-stage round that can penetrate tank armor since it arcs down on them."  He was beaming in the lamp light and cradling the big weapon like it was his new born son.

 

"Congratulations," said Tyrell trying to suppress a shudder at the idea of another of Chew's prototypes in the same room with him.  Professor Chew was a genius in many areas, but his focus was often to narrow to concern itself with "secondary effects."  Effects such as vaporizing the user, or relocating a small, Siberian village into low Earth orbit for example. , "You are hereby appointed 'Distraction'.  When I give you the word, try and hit the tank with that thing and then run like h*ll for the assembly point."  He paused as he looked around.  The French were loading the last of the weapons and ammo into an old truck and getting ready to run.  The Tyrell shooters were gathering up extra goodies from their own crate.  One of them handed him a Thompson, a satchel of magazines, and some grenades for his pockets.

 

Tyrell walked over to the radio and asked, "What do you see, Tabitha?"

 

"The Germans are still milling around in the village," she replied.  "The tank has parked outside town facing East toward the tree line.  It's side-on to us.  The officers are looking at a map and pointing this way and that.  Some of them are pointing back into the village.  I don't think they quite know where we are."   

 

"All right, stand by for target designation," Tyrell replied.  "Col. Phillips? Suggestions?"

 

"Have Tabitha drop an officer," said Phillips, "then T-Man pulls the trigger on that thing and if it doesn't kill us all, we run for it.  Outer teams lay down fire and mines the escape route as we withdraw per SOP.  We've got transport nearby if we can break contact with the Germans."

 

"Sounds good."  Tyrell turned to Grazi, "Assuming this works, I'll see you in two days at the Blue Shroom.  I'll have more gifts for you then."  He smiled and said loudly, "Don't lose Pierre.  A Good Maitre d is hard to find."  Pierre gave him the finger and climbed into the back of the truck. 

 

Grazi offered his hand and said, "I am sorry about the woman mon ami.  She was special, no?"

 

Tyrell took his hand and replied, "She was special, yes.  I'm just not sure I was special to her.  Now let's get out of here so I can kill people who desperately deserve it."  Grazi ran around the truck to the passenger side and climbed in. 

 

The Tyrell security personnel at the rear of the barn signaled they were ready with a thumbs up.  Another handed him the mike of a radio he was carrying.  Tyrell keyed the mike and said, "Tabitha, on my command, drop the most senior officer of the group you can hit.  Then nail the next target you think best.  Two rounds only and you pull out.  Understood?"

 

"Understood," came the instant reply.

 

"Travis, when I give the word, we are going to swing the door and you're gonna fire that monster.  Please step OUTSIDE before you pull the trigger.  Any questions?  OK."  Tyrell gestured and the lantern was extinguished.  He gave everyone a minute to let their eyes adjust and then keyed the mike again, "Tabitha.  Take the shot.  All Tyrell personnel execute."  Then he stepped to one side of the barn door, covered his ears with both hands and opened his mouth to reduce the overpressure from what was surely a bad idea.

 

Travis stepped through the open barn door as Tabitha's rifle cracked above him.  The French threw open the rear doors of the barn and Travis exploded.  Well, not exactly.  It was simply that the noise and flash so overwhelmed the senses that the mind substituted a logical explanation for the chaos.  There was a bright flash; there was a big "kaboom"; Travis was no longer in the doorway; ergo he exploded.  Tabitha's second rifle shot was barely audible to Tyrell's abused ears as he staggered to edge of the smoking doorway to see what had happened.  The German tank was on fire.  There were several crumpled bodies around it and a lot of yelling in German.  A single boot lay stuck in the mud where Travis had been standing.  Tyrell shook his head and fell back to the rear exit as Tabitha swung down from the hay loft.

 

Phillips shouted something from the rear, but Tyrell's hearing was still nothing but badly tuned bells.  He stepped out into the rainy night and stumbled over something in the mud.  Phillips caught him by the webgear and yelled in his ear, "We found Travis!"

 

"Where?" shouted Tyrell in reply as he stepped back to get his balance and again hit whatever had tripped him up the first time.

 

"Under your d*mn feet!" yelled Phillips, "Quit stepping on your employees and let's get him out of here."  He waved over some of the security detachment to carry their heroic "distraction"

 

"He's alive?" asked Tyrell.

 

"Yep.  Hard to believe, but I think the mud helped break his fall."

 

"Well, on the bright side the tank is burning out front."  Tyrell began to jog in pursuit of the rest of the team while random gunshots sounded to their rear.  The Germans were still mulling in confusion, but it would last more than another minute or two.

 

"Lovely.  That should attract the rest of the German army.  Half a click through those trees is our transport." 

 

They jogged into the woods and past one of the security teams setting up mines and other goodies to slow down the pursuing Germans.  Once they were out of earshot Tyrell said, "When we get back, I've got a job for you."

 

"What?"

 

"Find Ralph Dimlott.  Tell him I've got $15 million in gold if can do a little task for me."

 

"What kind of task?"

 

"I want to know who told the SS that Angel was an Allied spy named Nyxx.  Dimlott still has connections within the SS and the old Abwehr networks."

 

"So, find Dimlott, give him your message so he can find out who betrayed Angel to the SS."

 

"No, I already know who betrayed Angel to the SS."

 

"Who?"

 

"I did."  Tyrell then put his head down and ran.  He was never so grateful for a storm.  The thunder covered his wracking sobs and the rain camouflaged his tears.  He lost himself in the pounding of his boots on the muddy trail, but he knew no matter how fast he ran the nightmare would catch him.

_____________________________________________________________________________                  

 

 


Chapter 6: Butcher's Bill

 

"According to my watch, the sun rose fifteen minutes ago," Eldon Tyrell said to his companion.  There was no reply.  "With all the rain and clouds, you can't even tell," he continued gesturing to the sky.  "At least the rain dropped to a drizzle this morning.  Yep, I'll be glad to get out of this bloody country and somewhere warm.  Hmm.  The Bahamas is looking better and better."  Silence greeted his words.  Tyrell sighed and looked at the man sitting tied to a straight-back chair.  "You're not much of a conversationalist are you?"  SS-Hauptsturmführer Oswin Baader glared with fury at Tyrell and growled something foul behind his gag.  "You too," replied Tyrell.  "Now I need your help with a little problem, mein freud.  You see, I gave you the code name of an old Abwehr agent working in this area.  Somebody told you this agent was actually working as a double for the Allies, and you killed my fiancée."  Tyrell paused a moment to watch the SS man's reaction.  There was genuine puzzlement on his face.  The man said something incomprehensible through his gag.  Tyrell sighed and drew a knife from his sleeve.  The SS man eyed the blade as he brought it up and carefully cut the gag loose.

 

Baader worked his jaws a bit before asking, "What are you talking about?  We eliminated an Allied agent.  Angel was a traitor!  She was working for the Allies.  I have proof!"

 

"Ah," said Tyrell, "That's what I wanted to hear.  Tell me more herr Hauptsturmführer.  What proof do you have?"

 

"We had our own agent-in-place in the Resistance.  He confirmed the identity.  Your information was wrong.  The Abwehr with its usual incompetence never even suspected her."

 

"Who's your agent?" asked Tyrell quietly.

 

"I don't know his real name.  His code name is 'Carlos.'"

 

"Now would be a bad time to stop being useful to me.  You are a professional.  Surely you have your suspicions.  You also had to have a way to confirm the agent's information."

 

The SS man swallowed hard and said, "All I know is that the agent is someone operating in this area.  The information was corroborated by Berlin.  It was said Himmler himself approved the termination!"

 

"I'll just bet he did, the little snot." Tyrell noted wryly that Baader actually forgot his position for a moment and looked offended by the Himmler comment.  "So," continued Tyrell, "You figured out Nyxx was Angel and that Angel had gone over to the Allies.  Then you snatched Nyxx, had the usual 'question and answer session', and then killed her on film for all the world to see?"

 

"Yes!  She deserved what she got!  I told you, she was a traitor!"

 

"Yes.  Well, you'll be happy to know the OSS had the same opinion after our little Russian adventure.  Looks like no one could trust her."  Tyrell looked away for a moment as he fought another wave of bitterness.  Almost…almost he decided to walk away from the whole thing.  "Why the h*ll should I avenge her anyway?" he thought with blazing anger.  "She lied to everyone.  She used my feelings for her to get her hands on our secrets.  She sold all of us out.  I don't her a d*mn thing!"

 

"What about Russia?" asked Baader.

 

"What?" asked Tyrell in confusion.  He was too busy with his own thoughts that he had forgotten Baader for an instant.

 

"What about Russia?" repeated the SS man.  "We don't have a record of her operating for the Communists."

 

Tyrell smiled.  "Got to admire a professional," he thought, "Still trying to gather intel during his own interrogation.  Maybe I ought to recruit this one."  Aloud he said, "She wasn't working for the Russians.  She was on a mission for the OSS.  She abandoned that mission to come save me.  They didn't appreciate it as much as I did."

 

"But Nathalie was never in Rus…" Baader clamped down on the rest of the sentence.

 

Tyrell looked at the SS man with sudden interest.  "Nathalie?  Who's Nathalie, Baader?"  The SS man refused to meet his eyes.  "Oh, my," thought Tyrell, "Something new in the game."  "Let's see," said Tyrell musing aloud for Baader's benefit, "'Angel' was Nyxx's codename.  So why did you think it was 'Nathalie'?  Did you kill the wrong woman by mistake, mein freud?" 

 

It was what Tyrell had finally concluded had happened.  He just had the German snatched to confirm it.  "The Germans killed their own agent thinking Nyxx was an Allied plant," he mused.  "They didn't realize she had actually been selling his secrets to another branch of German intelligence and leading the Allies on.  Somewhere, there's probably an Allied agent still running around deceiving yet another bunch of German intel squirrels.  Whether it's 'Nathalie' or the real 'Angel' really doesn't matter at this point.  I'm too tired to care."  The energy that had animated him for the last few weeks had drained away when he realized the truth.  The only thing left was a bone-deep weariness and a renewed certainty that betrayal was the only real certainty in this business.  "She died because she got too clever," he thought, "The SS killed her for another agent's crimes.  Saves me the trouble."  It was all so simple he was still kicking himself for not figuring it out sooner. 

 

He reached into his jacket and withdrew the small .22 Woodsman.  "Time to end this," he thought.  "This will have to do for vengeance today.  I don't care enough to fill the other grave."  Tyrell brought the pistol up, clicked off the safety, and held it steady on Baader's right eye.

 

"Go ahead and shoot you coward!" shouted the SS man in defiance, "Kill me while I'm tied and helpless!  You aren't man enough to face me!"

 

Tyrell chuckled.  It was hardly the first time someone had tried to shame him into a fair fight.  "Grow up, Baader.  That fair fight crap is for kids.  There are no rules in a fight to the death." Tyrell shook his head and continued, "My grandfather taught me that before I could shave.  You lose, stupid."  He took up the trigger slack and…hesitated…lowered the pistol.  Tyrell stood looking at Baader for a moment and thought about his grandfather.  "What would the Old Man do?" he thought to himself, "Betrayal.  Disloyalty.  Dis…honor."  The thought came rolling slowly from a distant, dusty corner of his mind.  It was tarnished with neglect and dented from being kicked aside.  For a moment he held up the thought and realized he was looking at a memory.  A memory of his soul when it believed in something called "honor".

 

Tyrell clicked the safety back on and turned to his security detail.  "Cut him loose," he said, "And keep an eye on him.  I'll be right back."  With that, he turned and walked into the Blue 'Shroom.  He was back within fifteen minutes carrying an inlaid, wooden box that he sat on the patio table. 

 

"You're about to do something stupid aren't you, Eldon?" asked Phillips Senior.

 

"Yep," said Tyrell opening the wooden case and removing a matched pair of dueling pistols.  Unlike the beautiful case, the weapons themselves were worn and had clearly seen use.  "Please don't try and talk me out of it."

 

"Nope.  I said I was tired of babysitting.  Either way this turns out, one of my problems is solved.  At least this time you already dug the holes."  Senior gestured to the shallow graves Tyrell had dug in what seemed like another life.  "Of course, John will be a little upset, but that's his fault for leaving you alone with me!" Senior's grin was that of the hangman asking if the rope was too tight.  Tyrell was past caring.

 

"Please take this to our guest and make sure he knows how to fire it," said Tyrell extending one of the pistols to Senior.  At Senior's raised eyebrow, he said, "Yes, it's loaded."  Senior simply shook his head and walked over to the SS man who was standing up and working the circulation back into his hands and feet.  Senior handed Baader the pistol with his left hand, said a few quiet words and then stepped away with his own .45 held low along his leg in his right hand.

 

"Let's see.  Where were we?" asked Tyrell playfully, "Oh, yes.  I believe you were commenting on my courage, Baader.  Let's see how yours measures up.  Any time you're ready, SS man."  Tyrell cocked the big hammer on the heavy weapon.  He slid his left foot back and assumed a classic dueling stance with his left hand on his hip and his right side presented to his opponent.

 

For a moment, Tyrell thought Baader's nerve was actually going to fail.  He was visibly shaking.  Then the SS man took a deep breath and assumed a similar dueling stance to Tyrell.  Tyrell reached into the center of his body with his mind and focused on a point below his navel.  His breathing slowed.  Smooth, steady movements of the diaphragm, breathing deep from his belly.  He let his gaze soften so that he watched all of Baader's body rather than focusing on his gun hand or face.  Tyrell then let his concentration narrow down to the target's torso, then to the seam on his uniform jacket, and then finally down to a small water stain the size of a penny about eight inches below Baader's armpit.  Peripheral vision disappeared as his world narrowed to a small tunnel at the end of which was a tiny patch of discolored cloth.  His head filled with silent emptiness as his entire being committed itself to the shot. 

 

Distantly, Tyrell realized that Senior had begun the duel.  From off to one side came, "Ready."  Tyrell sensed Baader lifting the pistol, but he did not alter his gaze.  "Aim."  Tyrell's pistol lifted of its own volition and locked itself into the tunnel of his focus.  Only the tiny, irregular shape floating dimly over the weapon's barrel was important. "Fire!" Tyrell squeezed the trigger with a slow pressure as the universe paused. 

 

An angry bee stung him on his right shoulder as it zipped past; then there was a cloud of smoke and the pistol was bucking upward in his hand.  Hearing returned as he came out of the trance-like state and he almost staggered with the sudden sensory input.  He lowered the pistol and saw Baader crumpled on the ground.  He lay half-curled on his right side, the pistol still clutched in his hand.  Tyrell coughed and cleared his throat.  The drizzle was trying to drive the powder-smoke from the air, but the sulfur stink was still heavy.  He walked slowly over to stare down at the SS man as his security team gathered around. 

 

"I think you got 'em, Sheriff," said Phillips Senior with gallows humor.  He was right.  The fifty caliber ball had punched in a bit higher than Tyrell's point of aim.  The exit wound was a raw hole that steamed slightly in the cool morning.  The puddle of bright red blood now spreading beneath the corpse confirmed that the bullet had caught both lungs and probably the heart as it passed through the chest cavity.  Baader was dead before he hit the ground.

 

Tyrell reached down and took the pistol from Baader's hand.  He looked down on the former SS man and bowed deeply.  He whispered, "You died well."  Then he straightened up and said, "Bury him."   

 

He carried the pistols into the Blue Shroom Club and laid them on one of the tables.  Then he went behind the bar and reached for a bottle on the top shelf.  "D*mn!" he cursed as a sharp stinging pain flared in his right shoulder and across his back.  He almost dropped the bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey in his hand.

 

"Let me get that for you, sir!" said Senior with a chuckle.  "Can't have the great and honorable Mr. Tyrell dropping his booze.  It would ruin your reputation as a stone-cold killer."  All the humor dropped from his voice as he continued, "Which would also have happened if Baadder had been a quarter inch more to the right with his shot."  Senior poured a generous shot in a glass and handed it to Tyrell, "I prescribe a few of these while I clean your little boo-boo and sew you back together.  I'd use a local to deaden the pain, but I know you hero-types enjoy biting on sticks."  He handed Tyrell a frilled toothpick from behind the bar with an olive on it.  Tyrell glared at him, but obediently took the toothpick, ate the olive and turned his back to let Senior work on him.  Now that the adrenaline had worn off, he could feel the track of the bullet across his shoulders.  The burning line was leaking blood, but was just a minor surface wound.  A long one, but not serious.  He took a sip of whiskey and started humming an old Irish ballad to himself as he felt Senior scrubbing at the wound.

 

"When you get some rest, you might want to stop by the infirmary," said Senior.

 

"Yeah.  How many casualties did we take playing tag with the SS to capture Baader?" Tyrell asked.

 

"Oh, none.  I meant you should stop in and see Travis."

 

"He's conscious?"

 

"Yeah, but he keeps muttering something about his 'Médée, his sweet little Médée' and how she saved everyone."

 

"I wasn't aware he had a local girl friend.  Can we find her?"

 

"His 'Médée' isn't a woman.  It's his gun.  He's named it 'Médée Dying' or some such crap and he keeps crying for it."

 

"Oh, boy.  I left it in the mud by the barn where it couldn't try to kill us again.  Think we should try to find it?"

 

"Absolutely not.  The thing is bloody dangerous.  I think, boss, you should go try to talk some sense into him.  Maybe get him a nice flame thrower or a small howitzer.  Something safe."

 

"OK.  I'll try and think of something.  Is he sedated?"

 

"Of course.  He's more fun to listen to loopy."

 

"Right.  We'll keep him that way.  If you think I'm going to live, I'll limp down to the office and rack out."

 

When Senior pronounced him fit enough to stagger on his own, Tyrell took his bottle of pain killer and headed for his office.  Once there, he washed up in the sink with a washcloth and changed into his favorite ratty old robe.  He noticed his French coat on the rack and remembered the little memento from the airfield he'd tucked in the pocket.  Carefully, he reached in and removed the cloth-wrapped tranquilizer dart he had found in the dog.

 

"Let's take a look at you," he said to himself and sat down at his desk.  He turned the dart over and over in his hands while he thought about the events of the last few weeks.  There was a thought there just out of reach.  Something he was missing.  He felt that all the pieces of the puzzle were there, but he couldn't get everything to fit.  Tyrell put the whiskey glass against his head and tried to let the buzzing thoughts settle down.  Belatedly, he realized there was an envelope on the desk marked "Dimlott."  Excited, he opened it and read:

 

Finally, you cheap b*&#%$%!  Thanks for the gold.  You were right.  The SS have a spy named "Carlos" inside the Resistance.  He gave them the name of the Allied spy codenamed "Angel."  Somone else gave him the name.  No idea who.   You may also want to look for another German agent named "Natalie."  Not sure if this is a codename or not.  Local police and Gestapo received an alert from someone high up in Berlin to be on the lookout for a woman named "Natalie" who may come to them for assistance.

 

Ralph   

 

"So, there really is a 'Natalie' running around," Tyrell thought.  "And now I've got a pretty good idea whose been shadowing us."  He sat still for a moment as he realized the answer was now in front of him.  "Natalie set Nyxx up through me by providing the info that 'Angel' was a German agent for the Abwehr.  Then she sent word to the French that 'Angel' was actually an Allied double agent.  Then 'Carlos' told his SS handlers.  Since Nyxx really was working for the Allies, they assumed 'Angel' was a traitor and killed her.  They had no idea they had just killed an Allied traitor rather a German one.  Then she sends the diary to General Kow and leads me on a wild goose chase.  Just to spice things up, she sends an occasional explosion or bullet my way to make me think I'm on the right track."  As bitter a pill to swallow as it was, Tyrell had to admire the twisted mind that came up with the operation.  "The end result leaves the Allies, the Germans and me chasing our tails right before the big invasion.  Natalie slips off to greener pastures with the money the Allies were paying her as their double agent and Nyxx takes the fall.   It's a brilliant piece of work."  He raised his glass in salute to the faceless 'Natalie'.  "Too bad you have to die, kiddo," he said aloud.  He picked up the tranquilizer dart and idly flipped it through his fingers.  Now he had something pleasant to think about.  He was going to enjoy killing 'Natalie' in a slow and spectacular manner.  "After all," he said to the lonely room, "An empty grave is a terrible thing to waste."  His laughter bounced darkly from the stone walls.     

_____________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 7: End Game

 

The man walked along a narrow path in the dark forest.  The trees pressed close on both sides cutting the moonlight down to a dim glow.  Fear rode between his shoulder blades and crushed him down like a heavy load on a pack horse.  It made him clumsy and unsure of his footing.  Each step was placed with exaggerated care to avoid the vaguely-sensed obstacles on the path.  He continued to move despite the weight, pushing on and on with no understanding of where he was bound or why. The only certainty in his dark universe was the need to move forward.  To stop was to be ground into the dirt by the load of fear until nothing remained.  How long he plodded in that dim hell he couldn't say, but suddenly a clearing opened in the front.  Ordinarily, he would have stopped and scanned the clearing before stepping out, but his feet continued to march forward to the very center before coming to a stop of their accord.

 

He felt lush grass under his bare feet and wiggled his toes at the sensation.  The fear lessened.  It still remained heavy on him, but it retreated enough for thought.  A hush lay on the clearing.  There was no noise from the night, no sound at all.  "Where am I?" he asked the silence.  Nothing.  "Why am I here?"  Again, nothing.  Stillness held the clearing in its hand.  He noticed specks of red light growing among the trees.  With a start he realized they were the eyes of creatures who watched him from the shadows with a burning fury.  In a few moments, the entire clearing was surrounded by the eyes.  His feet remained stubbornly rooted to the ground as he desperately twisted his torso trying to see all around him.  Finally, he looked up into the glory of the full moon above and felt the fear fall almost completely away.  He and the moon were old friends and had hunted together many nights.  The man crouched slightly and worked his hands; opening and closing them quickly to limber up the fingers.

 

An air of anticipation seemed to fill the clearing as he waited for whatever was coming for him.     There was still no sound, but a slight pressure intruded on his conscience.  A woman came walking from the trees.  She was nude, but the play of shadows and moonlight clothed her in mystery.  Her dark hair swirled around her like a hood and she kept her head down hiding her face.  She moved with a familiar, determined grace toward him.  The scent of roses filled the air.  Then he knew.  "Nyxx" he breathed into the night.

 

The woman raised her head and smiled the wicked smile he loved so.  "Miss me?" she asked impishly.

 

"Yes," he could barely force the words past the emotion choking him.

 

She reached up and touched his face with a gentle hand.  The overwhelming sensation forced him to close his eyes for a moment.  When he opened them, Nyxx's hair had turned golden blond and a cloying jasmine smell choked in his throat.  Her face transformed with rage as she screamed, "Then why did you betray me, you b*st*rd!"  His head rocked back from the impact of her fist and the next blow exploded pain throughout his stomach.  He collapsed onto the grass as his feet were suddenly free.  He curled into a ball as she continued to pummel him with blows and kicks.  Her cursed accusations ate into his brain like acid etching a plate.  Finally he saw her foot descending at his face and he welcomed oblivion.

 

Eldon Tyrell awoke with a start and sat bolt upright at his desk.  Reality swam for a second or two as he pulled fully out of the dream.  "Holy crap!" he thought, "What the hell was that?"  He shook his head and took several deep breaths as his heart rate began to return to normal.  Tyrell felt a fine sheen of sweat on his brow and there was still a slight trembling in his arms.  He shook himself and felt a numbness in his cheek from his nap on the desk.  He also felt a slight sting in his left index finger.  He looked down at the desk and saw the small tranquilizer dart he had recovered from the dog at the air base.  Tyrell cudgeled his brain back into gear, "What was I doing before I passed out?"  He also noticed a half-empty bottle of Scotch on the desk.  Then he remembered with the awful clarity of the morning after.  "I found the dart in my jacket pocket where I stuffed it.  I took it out and began rolling the dart around in my fingers.  I was trying to figure out what one of our dart was doing in a British watchdog and…I stuck myself.  Crap.  Note to self: Do not play with poison darts while drinking.  Test on expendable interns instead."

 

Sighing with the burden of his own stupidity, Tyrell picked up the dart and carefully examined it under the light of the desk lamp.   He fumbled in the desk drawer until he found the magnifying glass.  "Yep, it's one of ours," he thought, "and I'll bet it's coated with Dr. Chew's patented nighty-nighty sauce."  He worked his tongue in a dry mouth and tasted dirty sweat socks dipped in goat cheese.  "Uh, huh.  Definitely Chew's recipe.  I recognize the after affects from the last time the staff used me for target practice."  He thought for a few moments and then carefully sniffed at the dart.  There was something else beyond the smell of Chew's potion.  Something familiar.  Tyrell froze as he smelled a faint hint of roses.       

 

T

 

"It was a lovely service," thought Eldon Tyrell, "Until she tried to kill me."  OK.  That was a little bit of an exaggeration.  First, she had made a dramatic appearance at was supposed to be her own funeral.  "Late, of course," he thought with a wry smile followed by a wince as his bruised jaw complained.  Then she had belted him in the face and screamed.  Between the blow and the shock that she was still alive, he had been reeling on the verge of unconsciousness.  It had taken a bit for his foggy brain to put the pieces together.  When he did, he wished he hadn't.

 

Tyrell had been wrong.  The clues had been there, but he had gotten them all backwards.  Nyxx wasn't the target, she was the assassin.  Her twin sister Natalie had tried to set her up and Nyxx had turned the tables on her.  Framing Natalie as the Allied agent with the SS and keeping him off balance with careful clues and the occasional near-miss.  He had been the perfect stalking horse for Allied intelligence to discover what had happened to Canaris' network and to find the SS sources within the Resistance.  "Yep," he thought, "I stumbled around Europe blowing up the landscape while Donovan and his people took notes.  Probably has one of his people with the IRA now from the prison break.  And all for free.  That's the part I hate the most."  The last was a lie.  What he really hated was his own stupidity in not figuring out that Natalie wasn't Nyxx.  "I could have saved myself considerable pain," he thought and winced again as his split lip cracked open.  He looked up as a shadow fell across his table.

 

"Mind if I join you?" asked General Kow.

 

"Wipe your feet," replied Tyrell, "While we are now experimenting with an open-air concept here at the Blue 'Shroom, certain proprieties must be maintained."  The club had taken a hit from one of the naval guns during the invasion bombardment and no longer had a roof…or three of its walls.  The table at which he and Kow sat was singed, but still functional.  The chairs were in slightly better shape with only water and dried blood staining the cushions.  "Fortunately, part of the bar survived," continued Tyrell, "so it wasn't a total loss."  He sipped from a chipped glass and tried not flinch from the scotch hitting the cut on his lip.  "Unfortunately, the cow didn't.  So I have no milk to offer you, Quaker."

 

"I'm not a Quaker, either," replied Kow.  He paused and then cleared his throat, "Look, I'm sorry.  I didn't realize how she would react."

 

Tyrell picked up a raw steak from the table at which he sat and put it over his swollen left eye.  "Really, General?" he replied sarcastically, "That is of such comfort.  She was already ticked that I hadn't figured out I was shacked up with her twin sister for the last few months instead of her.  Then you just had to say, 'Does that mean you nailed twins?'"

 

"Well, it just suddenly occurred to me."

 

"Yeah, me too.  Which was why I was dumb enough to turn my back on her.  The next thing I knew I was getting pounded into the floor."

 

"Actually, I think she just hit you with the guest book and then you bounced off the coffin.  Then she jumped on you with her knees and she might have smacked your head into the floor a couple of times before your security team subdued her.  I couldn't see that well with all the people wrestling around."

 

"Yeah.  Well I hope to have everyone out of the hospital in the next few days.  She managed to slip out in the confusion while we were treating the wounded."  Tyrell looked around and asked casually, "Where's your aid?  I thought he'd be along with you."

 

"I left Ninja at the forward command post overseeing this little battle we have going on.  I figured you two didn't need to meet again."

 

"Pity," said Tyrell.  He then clicked the thumb safety on the Colt he held beneath the table and brought it into sight.  He laid it on the table between them.  "I was looking forward to seeing him again."

 

"The bomb wasn't his idea," said Kow defensively.

 

"I know.  It was Nyxx's idea of a joke.  She really thought I'd be able to tell the difference between her and her sister.  It's a wonder she didn't kill me right then and there."  Tyrell paused and sipped again.  "No, your Ninja didn't set the bomb, but he did come up with the operation that sent her to France.  He's the one that talked Donovan and her into it."

 

"Do you know when Natalie made the switch?"  The General was suddenly tense.

 

Tyrell sipped his drink again and hesitated before answering.  He suddenly realized the real question that was being asked, "Relax.  I think it was after you two last met in Ireland.  Right before she was assigned to come after me.  The diary is a little different after that night."

 

"Different?" asked Kow slumping with obvious relief.  He at least hadn't been duped by Nathalie.  Nor would he have to worry about a vengeful Nyxx coming after him for being oblivious.

 

"Yes.  Nathalie had Nyxx's hand writing down pretty well, but the tone and…rhythm for lack of a better word is a little different.  Once I knew what look for it was a lot easier to spot.  As to how Nyxx escaped the snatch team sent for her and wound up running her own operation..."  Tyrell shrugged. 

 

The two men sat staring out through the morning drizzle at the gray ocean beyond the Blue 'Shroom's collapsed back wall.  The vast array of the Allied invasion fleet was smaller now, but the large floating docks were being installed.  It was a fascinating piece of engineering and a lot more comfortable to look at than each other.  "So, what now?" asked the General.

 

Tyrell stared at the General for a long moment before replying, "Between us?  Nothing.  I've had my duel for the year.  Nyxx will either forgive us and come back to one or both of us, or we'll both drop dead in our tracks from a rifle bullet.  For the immediate future, I intend to sit here and get thoroughly soused.  Then my staff will carry me somewhere warm and tropical.  You have fun with the war."  Tyrell waved dismissively and turned back to the ocean view.

 

General Kow stood and said, "Good luck, Eldon.  For what it's worth, thanks.  We appreciate the help with the drop zones and the intel.  You probably saved a lot of good men."

 

"If you're going to be insulting, you can get out.  Don't confuse me with Donovan.  I work for cash.  Not your gratitude."  The General just shrugged and walked back to his waiting jeep, shaking his head.

 

"All clear?" asked a voice from the debris pile near the bar.

 

"Yep," replied Tyrell standing up, "He's gone."

 

"Think he believed you?" asked Col. Phillips when he had climbed through the trap door that led to the ancient catacombs beneath the Blue 'Shroom.  The periscope in Tyrell's subterranean office had survived as well.

 

"I think so.  Obviously, I'm a broken man; grief stricken over the loss, again, of my fiancée."

 

"So what are we really doing?"

 

"Oh, we're going to the Bahamas.  Then we're taking a side trip to South America.  Remember all the gold, jewels, and cash we've been funneling to Brazil as part of Project Ragnarok?"

 

"Yeah, the Nazi's little escape plan for when the thousand year Reich collapses."

 

"Yes.  Well I figure everyone is going to be a tad distracted with this invasion going on.  Now would be an excellent time to relocate those valuables somewhere safer.  Like our Swiss bank accounts.  I think it's time we re-focus on our core values as a corporation."

 

"Greed and evil?  I couldn't agree more.  This good guy crap is h*ll on my stock values.  What about Nyxx?"

 

"She's the one who came up with the plan in the first place.  She slipped me a note with the details while she was beating me about the head and shoulders."  He shook his head ruefully.  "She's always planning the next move.  The loss of that much liquid wealth will really hurt the Nazis as well as close one of their escape routes.  Not to mention her cut is 25%; less our expenses of course."

 

"Feeling generous aren't you?"

 

"Maybe.  Or maybe a little guilty."  Tyrell sighed, "I should have noticed the difference between her and Nathalie.  I so wanted it to be true.  I guess I just put my brain in 'park.'"

 

"Uh, huh.  Or maybe you were thinking with another part of your anatomy."        

 

Tyrell smiled and didn't mind the pain in his face, "You just might be right there." 

 

"Look on the bright side: you did nail twins!"

 

"Yeah," said Tyrell.  He turned and looked out at the ocean again.  The drizzle picked up and fat rain drops splattered on the mounds of the two fresh graves in the back yard.  "I definitely did that."  

 

           

-- The End --

             

Site Map