Dean entered Brigadier General Carlton’s office at 1025, still curious as to how the general found out about the limo incident.  “Morning, Sarge,” she called to the general’s aide as she closed the door behind her.


Looking around from the file cabinet, Sergeant Major Tibbits turned and came to attention.


“As you were,” came the command as she smiled at him, and he relaxed a bit.


“How do you do that?”   Tibbits asked as he resumed filing the folders.


“Do what?” came the innocent reply.


“Come into an office without anyone noticing,” he said, shaking his head.  “I didn’t even catch the change in noise level when you opened the door.”


“Oh, that’s ‘cause there wasn’t anyone near the office when I entered,” she said, smiling at him.  Dean loved playing this little game with the sergeant major.  Whenever she had the chance, she’d go into her stealth mode and try to catch him off guard.  Most of the time she succeeded. 


The sergeant major filed the last folder then returned to his desk, tabbing the intercom button.  “Lieutenant Colonel Peterson is here, Ma’am.”


“Send her in.” 


“She’s all yours,” he said as he opened the door to the general’s office.  Dean walked past him giving him a warm smile, then changed to a more formal expression before she entered.  She liked General Carlton and respected her, but her working relationship was not as comfortable as it had been with General James.  Upon entering, she came to attention in front of the general’s desk.


“Lieutenant Colonel Peterson reporting as ordered.”  She stood at attention until the general finished her task, raised her head, and commanded her to be ‘at ease.’


Brigadier General Mary Carlton was in her early fifties, about 5’ 9” tall, slim, dark hair, coal black eyes that sparkled with intelligence, and a medium complexion for a woman of African American heritage. “Have a seat, Colonel,” General Carlton began, and indicated a chair next to her desk.  “I understand you came to the aid of two elderly motorists on Interstate 95 late Friday night.”


“Yes, Ma’am.  That’s correct.”


“You were with a young woman, a DEA agent, I’m told,” the general continued.  “Is this the same agent you worked with on the UN case?”


“Yes, Ma’am,” Dean replied, tensing a bit, unsure of where this conversation was heading.  She knew the general couldn’t ask any personal questions with the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ directive, but was wondering what was coming next.


“Relax, Colonel,” the general smiled. “I’m not going where you think I am.  In fact, I couldn’t care less as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work here.”  She got up from her chair behind the desk and joined Dean in the other visitor’s chair.  “Care to tell me what happened?”


Dean visibly relaxed, before going into a concise replay of the event, including the information she withheld from the State Police officer, and concluded at the point where the elderly couple was taken away in the ambulance.  “I believe Mr. and Mrs. Lyons are recovering from the incident.  I received a ‘thank you’ from them yesterday,” the colonel concluded.


“Yes, they are,” General Carlton agreed.  “You see, they were on their way to visit me when the incident occurred.  I’ve been friends with Art and Gwen for a long time.  In fact, I was the one that gave them your address, after we found out who the ‘good Samaritan’s’ were from the police report.”


“Well, I’m just glad we were able to help, Ma’am,” Dean offered.


“Colonel, can we drop the formality a little?  I think two months of walking on eggs has been enough for the both of us.  Mind if I call you Deanna when we’re in private conversation?”   The general’s expression softened considerably, erasing at least ten years of age from her face.


“No, Ma’am, I don’t mind a bit, but I’d prefer Dean.”


“Well then, I’d prefer Mary to ma’am,” the general said, smiling.  “Now tell me why you didn’t tell the police about identifying the flags as Algerian and recognizing the passenger as a mercenary.”


“Actually, I didn’t think they would be able to do anything about it even if they knew.  You know how the first words out of the mouths of an embassy official caught in a situation like this are ‘diplomatic immunity.’  So I just kept it to myself, but I have to admit, it has piqued my interest.”  Debating whether or not she should inform General Carlton that she had done a mini-search of her own, she decided that the general would not likely be opposed to her unsolicited inquiries. “I ran Gentry through our computers this morning, and I’m positive that was him in the car.  I’m also very curious as to why he is with the Algerian’s.  Unfortunately, this is his first sighting in three months, but I did hot flag his file.”


“Any reason in particular?” Mary asked, now also very interested.


“Sorry, I can’t put my finger on it.  It just raised the hairs on my neck, if you know what I mean.”  The general nodded in comprehension: intelligence gathering was often a ‘gut feeling’ with seasoned veterans, and Dean was well seasoned.  “It all happened so quickly, but I could almost swear the driver was intentionally trying to run your friend’s car off the road.”


“That’s a very real possibility.  You see Art is retired from the British MI 6 Section.  He and Gwen have been enjoying a majority of their retirement traveling, mostly in the Caribbean.  You said this Gentry fellow was in Nassau three months ago?  Well, my ‘gut’ tells me, that’s too much of a coincidence.”


“If I may… Mary,” Dean said obviously still uncomfortable with the relaxed mode, “has your friend indicated noticing anything amiss in his travels?”


“Oh no.  He hasn’t. Gwen knows he’s bothered about something, but he hasn’t said what yet.  Just said that he needed to make some contacts here in the States, thus their visit with me.”


“Does he know what your current assignment is?” Dean asked, surprised that the former agent hadn’t confided in the Intelligence chief officer. 


“Yes, he does, but he’s still in his formulating stage.  He’ll come out with it when he’s ready.  Always been like that.  Has to have all his ducks in a row before he pitches his theory,” she said shaking her head.  “I’m just afraid that after that near heart attack you and your friend saved him from, he’s going to try to do something stupid to prove he’s still fit enough to do his old job.”


The general stood and walked over to the window, seeming to decide something in her head before she spoke again.  “I would like you to do me a favor,” she began.  “I know you’ve been assigned as my Aide, but I’ve seen your file and I know you’re one hell of an intelligence operative.”  She hesitated.  “I’d like you to investigate this situation further… in addition to your regular duties as my Aide.  I’ll try to lighten the burden so you’ll have more time to work on this.”  She turned and walked back over to Dean, tense lines showing in her face once more.  “This is personal, Dean.  I can’t order you to investigate.  There are no grounds… as yet.  Think about it and let me know.”


Dean read the plea in the tense face staring at her, and immediately made up her mind.  “I’d be happy to follow up on this, Mary.  In fact, I was pretty interested in the case already.”


The general smiled, relieved that she had read Dean correctly.  “Good.  Then the first order of business is for you to meet Art and Gwen again.  I don’t want him to know that you’re on the case, but I thought that perhaps if you were able to sit with him in a relaxed atmosphere, he might let something slip.” She smiled conspiratorially, then added, “How about dinner tomorrow at my house, 2000 Hours?  Bring Agent O’Malley with you too.  I understand from her file that she’s quite adept at putting people at ease and getting them to relax.  Perhaps the two of you can slip past his defenses.”


Dean stood and agreed, thinking to herself, Well Dean, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, but you do love a challenge!  “I’ll have to check with Agent O’Malley, but I’m sure she’ll be available.”  General Carlton handed Dean a set of directions to her house and added that the dinner would be a typical ‘English’ affair and to dress in something appropriate.  Great! Dean thought as she left the general’s office, Guess we’ll have to go shopping for ‘something appropriate’ tonight!  Oh, Katie will love that!


* * * * *


By 1745, Dean was pulling into a parking space at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.  She had called Katie earlier in the afternoon to see if she would be able to go to dinner at the general’s house, and to let her know that they’d have to stop and do some shopping for ‘something appropriate’ to wear, on the way home.  Katie of course, was overjoyed at the prospect of spending some time shopping, though it wasn’t one of Dean’s favorite things to do. 


“C’mon, Dean, lighten up!  I’m sure we’ll find something here that you’ll like,” Katie said as she bounced out of the car, ready to do some serious damage to her credit card. 


“Yeah, yeah.  I’m just not the fashion type.  That’s why I like the military so much.  Not much of a decision to make getting dressed in the morning,” the tall dark woman responded.


“Well, it’s about time we get you something sexy to wear!” Katie said winking.  “Too much green in that closet of yours.  What’s your favorite color anyway?”


“Black,” came the unembellished reply.


“Black, huh?  That figures.  Well, let’s see what we can find in black that will knock their socks off.”  The young woman smiled as they entered the shopping center.


An hour before the shopping center closed, they finally had the outfit completed.  Katie had spied a small boutique called ‘Silks by Sylvia’ that had a dress that Dean actually approved of.  It was very form fitting, cut in a low, but not too low, ‘V’ in the front and back, with a healthy slit up the right side.  It even came with a short silk jacket for cool weather cover.  The black silk was very nice to the touch.  In fact, when Dean put it on, Katie had a hard time keeping her hands off the smooth fabric.  That alone, was reason enough for Dean to purchase the dress.  She also bought shoes and a bag to match.  Although Katie didn’t need to purchase anything new, she decided ‘what the heck’ and bought a dark emerald green silk jumpsuit that had a black silk jacket to go over it. To complete the outfit, she decided on a pair of shoes that would give her an extra inch or two of height.


“See, Dean, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?” Katie asked as they headed back out to the parking lot.


“Took way too long for my liking,” the dark-haired woman responded.


“Yeah, but we got some really sexy outfits for tomorrow,” the blonde countered happily.


“Yeah, tomorrow…” Dean repeated, wondering what the evening would uncover.

* * * * *


Tuesday was pretty much a carbon copy of Monday for Katie, more files to check and enter into the computer.  The stack never seemed to dwindle.  Just about the time she’d get to the last of the files, in would come another batch.  Dean, on the other hand, had spent several hours setting up a surveillance of the Algerian Embassy for a lead on Scott Gentry.  With that accomplished, and the rest of her paperwork tidied up, she left a bit early to go before she picked Katie up and stop at one of the shops she’d noted the previous evening.  By the time they got home, they had a few minutes to relax before they were to leave for dinner.  Dean figured the drive to Falls Church, where General Carlton lived, would take her about thirty minutes if she took I95, then I495.  That gave them thirty minutes of free time that she already had plans for.


Dean was out of the shower first and was standing in her robe drying her hair.  She had to wear it up every day to meet military standards, but tonight she was going to wear it down.  She really liked her hair long, so as soon as she was out of uniform, down it came.  She had just set the hair dryer down when Katie came charging out of the bathroom hurriedly scurrying around to get dressed.


“I can’t believe we lost track of time like that!” the blonde said as she began drying her hair.


“I didn’t lose track of time, love.  I just wasn’t finished with you yet,” Dean said with a twinkle and a half grin, “and I don’t think you would have wanted me to stop in the middle now, would you?”


“Ahhh, no.”  Katie’s reply included a rosy coloration to her cheeks.  “That would not have been a good idea,” she agreed as she softly placed a kiss on the lips closing in on hers.  “But we’d better get a move on if we’re going to get there on time.”


“No problem, love.”  Dean slipped into the dress and put on the matching jacket.  She added a single string of pearls and diamond teardrop earrings to complete her outfit.  Then she went over to her briefcase, pulled out the box she’d bought at the jewelry store, and handed it to Katie.  “How about you wear this tonight?” 


The look of surprise on Katie’s face as she took the box and opened it made Dean smile.

The heart shaped diamond pendant was simple and elegant at the same time.  “I think it will look okay, don’t you?” Dean asked quietly.


Katie was stunned, and her eyes sparkled with her tears of joy when she finally found her voice to answer. “Dean … it’s beautiful!  But when did you get this?”  Katie turned and handed the necklace to Dean to place around her neck.


“This afternoon, before I picked you up.  I saw it last night and thought it would look great on you.”   As she finished clasping the necklace on Katie, she looked into the mirror at their reflections and smiled.  “Not a bad looking pair of women.”


Katie looked into the mirror and smiled back.  “Not bad, love… not bad at all.”

* * * * *


The ride to Falls Church actually took a few minutes less than Dean expected, so they managed to arrive right on time.  She parked the SUV in the driveway of the two-story English Tudor styled home.  It sat on a lot that had to be at least five acres, and was recessed from the road to mask the traffic as well as to lend an air of country.  The house itself was very large and well kept.  The two women exited the SUV and walked up the path to the front door.  Just as Dean reached to push the doorbell, the door opened and the general greeted them with a sincere smile.  Mary was dressed in an elegant maroon pantsuit that contrasted completely with her military persona.


“Good evening, Dean, I saw the lights from your vehicle as you pulled in.”  She looked over at Katie and smiled warmly.  “This must be agent Katherine O’Malley.  It’s good to meet you.”  The general extended her hand to Katie in a welcoming gesture.


Katie smiled taking the general’s proffered hand saying, “Please call me Katie, and thank you for inviting me tonight, General Carlton.”


“You’re welcome, Katie, but you’ll have to call me Mary tonight.  My uniform is off for this evening.”


Katie nodded her acceptance with a smile and Mary stepped back, gesturing them into her home.  As they entered the foyer, Dean and Katie took in the simple grace of the furnishings and layout of the house. To the right, was a formal living room done in soft earth tones, with large comfortable looking furniture placed on each side of a beautiful fieldstone fireplace where the other guests were already ensconced.  To the left was the formal dining room, all set for the evening’s dinner guests with the finest china and crystal Katie had ever set eyes on.  Straight ahead, was the stairway to the second floor, and a hallway that led towards the back of the house.  Behind them, Mary closed the front door, before leading them into the living room to be formally introduced to Arthur and Gwenevier Lyons.


Arthur and Gwen were occupying two of the chairs next to the fireplace when the three women entered the room.  As the general led the way, Arthur stood to meet the two women who had come to his aid four nights before. 


“Arthur, Gwen, I’d like to introduce you to the two women who assisted you last Friday.”  She introduced Dean, who smiled a bit self-consciously, then Katie, who gave them both a dazzling smile.


Arthur became a bit tongue-tied--certainly owing much of that to the beauty of the two women--but soon recovered.  “Ahh..  yes, yes.  I do say… umm... quite good of you to come by!”  Then, turning to his wife said,  “I say, Gwen, they really quite look like guardian angels, don’t they?”


Gwen just tittered at her husband’s obvious discomfort.  “Oh, Art, you always did have a time trying to talk in the presence of beauty.”  This comment caused Dean and Katie to blush, and Mary, Art and Gwen to laugh quietly. 


“Ah, yes.  I dare say, I always have,” Art said apologetically as he and Gwen shook hands with the two beautiful women.


Mary came to Art’s rescue, asking if anyone would care for a cocktail.  Dean and Art requested scotch, neat, while Katie and Gwen asked for white wine.  Once the drinks were served, the fivesome sat down for some friendly conversation before dinner.


“So, Colonel…” Art began, “whom should I thank for putting you in the right place at the right time?”


“Please call me Dean, and you would have this young lady to thank,” Dean said gesturing towards Katie.  “I had just picked her up from the airport, when the incident occurred.  I’m just glad that we were able to help, and that the both of you are okay.”


“Oh, yes, quite all right, thanks to the two of you,” Gwen interjected.  “Art’s just retired, and we’ve been doing a good deal of traveling.  The doctors suggested that it would be a way for him to unwind after all his stressful years with MI 6.”


“MI 6?  Really?” Katie chimed in, looking for an opportunity to get Art talking.  “What did you do, sir?”


“Oh, I say, please don’t call me sir… makes me feel much older than I am,” Art said with a wink and a self-conscious chuckle.  “I work, or should say, worked, in the cipher section. You know--code work and all.  Not quite what it was years ago… before computers and all… but still very challenging work and quite stressful.”


“Have you ever been a field agent?”  Dean proposed the question nonchalantly as she sipped her scotch.


“Arthur?  In the field?  I should think not.  I didn’t want to see him out in the field,” Gwen offered whimsically.  “Not my Arthur.  He’s never been into action that I know of.  Oh, except for that one time at the Embassy party.  But he is the absolute best at cracking codes.  Aren’t you dear?”


“Now, now, Gwennie, I could have gone to field agent training,” Arthur protested, “but we’d just had the twins and all…” His sentence was cut off by Gwen’s next comment.


“Yes, dear, and I thank you every day for making that decision.” Gwen patted Arthur’s arm affectionately in an attempt to smooth his ruffled feathers some.


Katie picked up on the slight tension and cut in smoothly, asking the obvious, “What happened at the Embassy party?”  Which led into a lengthy description of an encounter with a double agent who was passing secret information during the party.  Gwen had uncovered the exchange through her ability to read lips.  Arthur saved the day by managing to capture the spy by shooting him in the eye with a well-aimed champagne cork.  They all had a good laugh at the ending, where the blinded agent stumbled into the arms of the security police.  When the story was finished, Mary’s cook entered the living room to announce that dinner was ready. 


The main meal passed without the two women gaining much more information from Arthur.  He, on the other hand, had learned about the events of the previous winter that had transpired in the Catskills of New York, then terminated in New York City.


“My, my.  That would have been quite the disaster if old Kasimov had pulled it off,” Art offered at the conclusion of the story.  “Imagine the chaos that would have occurred across the globe if all those heads of state had been murdered.”  They all were nodding in agreement when the cook brought out the dessert -- plum pudding!


“Now, Art, I know you love this, so I had Tessie here make it special for you,” Mary said, as the cook put the bowl in front of Arthur.


“Isn’t that nice, dear.  I’ll bet it’s better than Ned’s,” Gwen offered.


“Well, Ned’s not the best cook, but we always manage to talk about something interesting over his plum pudding.  Why, just the other day he was telling me that he’s noticed an awful lot of mercenary soldiers going in and out of Freeport Airport lately.”  As soon as he said it, he realized that he had said too much, and quickly changed the subject.  “Well, what say we see if Tessie receives the Arthur Lyons award for plum pudding, shall we?”


Dean and Katie subtly raised an eyebrow at each other and caught the eye of Mary who was smiling at them.  Yep, Mary, I think he just slipped!  Dean’s thoughts seemed to penetrate the general’s mind as she nodded back at the colonel.


After dinner, the conversation was mostly about Gwen and her job as a speech and hearing specialist.  She had explained how that was where her ability to read lips originated.  Art had become more cautious in his conversation and directed most of it in Gwen’s direction.  By 2300, Dean and Katie were back on the road for home after expressing their thanks for the wonderful dinner.  In the car, the two agents began to plan their course of action.


 “I’ll get together a list of all known mercenaries we have on file,” Dean began, “and start a check on who has been in or out of Freeport in the last six months.” 


“I think that is the most logical place to start,” Katie agreed. “Then, I’ll take the list and check it against any records the Freeport DEA division has, too.”


By the time they arrived home, they had their campaign mapped out and had made plans to meet for lunch the next day at the Pentagon to update General Carlton on their findings.

* * * * *


Chapter 4

1300 Hours, 25 October


Both women spent Wednesday morning compiling their lists of known mercenaries from their respective data banks.  They targeted the entire Caribbean during the previous eight months, and checked all of the customs offices.  The next step was to cross-reference them with each other to see if there were any common denominators.  Then they each checked to see if any of these persons were seen in any of the countries that were known enemies of the U. S.  They also included enemies of Britain, since Arthur was a British citizen and his friend Ned was the chief of the MI 6 section located at the Nassau Embassy.  By the time they were each finished with their lists, it was nearly 1300.


“Hey,” Dean said without preamble as she heard Katie pick up her line at her temporary office, “are you interested in lunch?”


“Just about.  I’m printing the last list now.  Meet me in your lobby in fifteen minutes.” Katie replaced the receiver with one hand while the other hand removed the last sheet from the printer.


At 1315, Dean was waiting outside the main entrance to the Pentagon when she spotted Katie coming up the walk.  “Did you walk over or catch a cab?” Dean asked as Katie drew near.


“Walked of course.  You try catching a cab at lunchtime.  Besides, I need the exercise.  I really hate sitting at a desk all day.” 


“Yeah, I think we should set up the exercise equipment tonight when we get home.  I could certainly use a good workout myself.”  Dean held the door open for Katie to enter the main lobby.  “Here, put this Visitor ID on, or you won’t get past the MP’s up ahead.”  Dressed in her uniform, Dean led the way past the security post, returning a salute as she passed.  “Let’s grab a quick lunch in the cafeteria, and then we can compare notes in my office before we meet with General Carlton.”  Looking at her watch, Dean informed the young agent that they had a 1430 appointment.


“Sounds good to me.”  Katie eagerly followed Dean through the wide corridors as they headed down to the cafeteria.


By 1355, they were in Dean’s office comparing lists.  Dean had a total of thirty-two mercenaries, while Katie had seventeen prospects.  When they compared their two lists, they found fifteen names that appeared on both.


“Okay,” Dean began, “let’s take a look at the ones that weren’t duplicated.”  Of those seventeen names, they deleted six when further investigation revealed their current addresses as various federal prisons.  Another five were eliminated for one reason or another.  The last six were added to the overlapping names--for a final count of twenty-one names to be considered potential threats.  Dean added these to her ‘hot flag’ notices on the computer system.  With this done, the various intelligence communities would contact her with any sightings of these individuals.  When they were finished, they had a few minutes to spare before their meeting with General Carlton.


Katie looked over at Dean who was rocking in her leather chair.  “Any theories at this point?”


“Mmm.  I’m not sure I want to venture any guesses.  We have only three facts at this point in the game.”  She began ticking them off on her hand.  “One, Scott Gentry was in that limo, and he is on both of our lists.  Two, in my opinion, the limo was definitely trying to run the Lyons’ car off the road.  And three, Art’s friend Ned, has noticed more mercenaries than usual, coming and going.”  She sighed before she continued.  “Now, one reason people of all kinds go to the Bahamas, besides the weather and beaches, is for the gambling.  Mercenaries are risk takers and, more likely than not, gamblers.  It could be just as simple as that.  Or, it could be that there’s a lot more to it.  It’s much too early to tell.”


“Maybe General Carlton picked up more information after we left,” Katie offered.


“Maybe.  But I wouldn’t count on it.  You saw how Arthur clammed up after his little slip.” Dean checked her watch and stood.  “Well, we’d better get going.” 


The two women walked the short distance to the general’s office, entered, and were greeted by a waiting Sergeant Major Tibbits.  “Afternoon, Colonel,” he said as he smiled at Dean. 


“Afternoon.  Sergeant Major, this is Special Agent Katherine O’Malley,” the colonel offered as the sergeant major rose to shake the hand that a smiling Katie extended.


“Glad to meet you, ma’am.  The general is waiting for you.”   Tibbits opened the door to the general’s office.  “You can go right in.”


Dean entered with strict military form, standing at attention until the general gave her the ‘at ease’ command.  General Carlton relaxed, smiling at the two women.  “Have a seat, ladies.”  She motioned to the small meeting area to the right of her desk.  Dean and Katie selected the leather couch, and the general sat in a chair opposite them.  “What have you found out so far?” she inquired, getting straight to the point.


Dean took the lists they had worked on all morning and went through the process they used to gather the data, and their reasons for eliminating some of the mercenaries. 


After Dean itemized the facts once more for the general, she concluded her comments with a statement that this was all the information they had at the moment.  “Until we hear from our folks in the field, we won’t know much more.”


Katie’s input included inconclusive information on where many of these individuals were at present.  “It appears that most of them are somewhere here in the U.S.  They could also be in a country that doesn’t require a passport, at least as far as our customs records show.  A few are out of the country, mostly in various parts of Africa.  I’m sure with all of the unrest on that continent, there are plenty of employers.”


“You are undoubtedly right on that one,” Mary agreed.  “What’s your plan from here?”


Dean addressed this portion of the meeting, indicating that she had ‘hot flagged’ the persons on the list.  “If you look at the backgrounds of these individuals, you’ll see that most of them have had dealings with various terrorist groups in the world.  At least, alleged dealings.  None have been brought up on charges, because no one has had enough proof.”


“Yes,” Katie interjected, “and their backgrounds are varied. However, we’ve noticed they’re a bit heavy on the technology side, not that they can’t handle themselves in other areas too; but then, this is the age of computerized conflicts as the Gulf War has shown us.”


“What can I do to help out?” Mary asked the duo.


“Well, if you could have Katie loaned to us from the DEA, that would be a start.  They have her just sorting files right now, and I could certainly use her expertise more than they currently are,” Dean suggested hopefully.  The tall woman noted the mild look of surprise on her partner’s face since they had not talked about this possibility prior to the meeting.


The general smiled at the request and thought a bit before she replied.  “Katie, your director is Keith Evans?”  Katie nodded in the affirmative.  “Well, let me see what I can do.  He owes me a favor or two.  I’ll let you know as soon as possible.  Is there anything else?”


“Not at this time, unless of course you were able to get anything else from Mr. Lyons last night,” Dean inquired.


“Not yet, but I have Gwen subtly working on it.  She’s going to use her lip reading skills the next time they go to the British Embassy.”  Mary stood, an indication that the meeting was over.  “Well, if there’s nothing else…”


“Only, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to dinner last night.  Everything was exquisite,” Katie said as she stood to leave.


“You’re welcome, Katie,” the general replied.  “And I’m glad I had the opportunity to finally meet you.  You and the colonel here made quite a team on that Kasimov assignment.  I’ll do my best to get you assigned to us, temporarily at least.”  The general walked to the door with Katie and Dean.


“Thank you, General Carlton.  It would certainly make things easier,” Katie replied as she exited the office.


“Colonel,” the general called to Dean, “step back into my office for a minute.”


“Yes, Ma’am.”  Dean stepped back into the office, closing the door behind her.


“Did you ask Katie about coming to work on this over here before you asked me?” Mary queried.


“No, Ma’am.  I just thought of it at that moment.  I apologize if I put you on the spot,” she hurriedly offered.


“Yes, you did.  In the future I would like to be apprised of things in advance, but this shouldn’t be a problem as long as you believe that Agent O’Malley will be comfortable in our atmosphere.  We’re not as relaxed as some of the civilian agencies.”


“Yes, Ma’am.  I’ll make sure she’s fully aware of military protocols.” 


“Good.  That’s all then.  I’ll call you after I talk to Evans.  And Dean,” the general said with a smile, “she’s a keeper.”


Dean flashed a brilliant smile and said, “Yes, Ma’am!” before executing a military turn, leaving the office beaming.

* * * * *


Back in Dean’s office, Katie asked, “And what canary did you eat?”  To which Dean just smiled even more broadly. 


“Ah… well… the general thinks you’re a ‘keeper,’ and I have to agree with her,” Dean said proudly.


“A ‘keeper,’ eh?”  Katie smiled back at her lover, slowly walking to within a half inch of Dean, then in a very silky, seductive voice, said, “and what am I being ‘kept’ for?”


“Oh…” Dean replied in her lowest sultry voice, “as an agent, of course!”  Then she bent her head and quickly stole a kiss from the temporarily flustered young agent.  “And that reminds me, we’ll need to go over military protocol if you’re going to be working here.  By the way, what I just did is definitely not military protocol and will be the last one you’ll ever get in this building, or, while working anywhere around here on this case, or, when I’m in uniform.”  She looked into Katie’s emerald eyes and sighed.  “Will you be comfortable with that?”  Katie nodded her agreement.  “Good. I won’t be, but that’s the way it has to be.”


“Dean, I promise I won’t ever jeopardize your career…” Katie started.


“I know, love, but there’s a lot of people around here who would love to see me get kicked out of the military, for any reason.  Some of the ‘good old boys’ are still ticked off about my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, and they wouldn’t mind dragging Mary down with me, either.  So we have to be really careful, especially here.”  Dean walked over to her leather chair and sat down, indicating that Katie should take the visitor’s seat.  The next sixty minutes or so were spent on a discussion of military do’s and don’ts, so Katie wouldn’t get into any difficulties on the job.


“So, I don’t have to salute anyone…”


“No, just make sure you show due respect.  Imagine yourself as, let’s see -- you’d be a first lieutenant now if you were in the Army, so just about anyone you see, except for the enlisted soldiers, would be your superior officer, so treat them accordingly.”  Dean stopped then winked at her lover.  “I’m sure you’ll fit in very well. You just have a way about you that makes people fall all over themselves trying to help you.”


“Yeah, right!” The blonde laughed out loud, but was cut off from further comment by the ringing of the phone.


“Colonel Peterson,” Dean said answering the phone.  “Yes, Ma’am.  Yes.  Fine, I’ll take care if it right now.”  Replacing the phone she said, “General Carlton just got off the phone with your director.  You’ve been temporarily assigned to the Pentagon, effective immediately.  I will be your immediate supervisor, but you ultimately answer to General Carlton.  I need to take you to the processing section to have your photo ID made now, but we need to stop by the general’s office to pick up the paperwork.”  Dean hesitated before adding, “I know I didn’t ask you if you wanted to be on loan here.  You still have time to back out.”


“Not on your life, Colonel!” came the unwavering response. 


The rest of the day was spent processing Katie as a civilian attached to the Pentagon.  Katie never saw so many papers that had to be signed, and so many regulations that had to be covered.  By the time they were finished, it was time for them to go home.  On their way home, Katie just sighed and ruminated over all the paperwork that had to be done for a simple temporary transfer and photo ID.  “Wow,” Katie said jokingly, “I’d hate to see what I’d have to do if I wanted to come over permanently.”


“Well, love,” Dean shrugged, “it’s like I said, the military way is much different than the civilian way.”


Katie turned towards Dean and in a deep, husky voice said, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way!”  Then in her normal voice, “At least that’s what my Uncle Sean used to say whenever I’d ask him why he did something a certain way.” 


“Your Uncle Sean wasn’t far from the truth!” Dean said laughing.  “How about we get some Chinese take-out for dinner, then we can spend the evening putting the exercise room together?”


“Sounds like a good plan, ma’am, but is it a civilian plan or an Army plan?” Katie asked, laughing.


“It’s MY plan!” Dean answered with a growl and her best feral grin.


“Oooo, then it’s got to be the only plan,” Katie answered seriously, then leaned over to give her lover a quick kiss, but stopped short remembering her promise to Dean.  “Umm, do I have to wait until we get home before I can kiss you?


“Yeah, we better wait.”  Dean smiled at her lover.  “Never know who might be in the next vehicle, and I am still in uniform.”


“Oh, I can already see this is going to be difficult.”  Katie moved back over to her side of the SUV and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

* * * * *



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