Saturday, 2100 Hours…

Dean and Tracy had just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes when Tracy's partner came back from walking their German shepherd. "Bbrrrr! It's really getting cold out there!" Colleen said as she took her coat and gloves off. "The stars are really something tonight. They're so brilliant when there's no moon." She continued.

"Guess I better pull out my thermals," Dean commented to Tracy, "or you're gonna find a frozen body up there in the morning."

"Nah," protested Tracy, "I've gotten soft in my old age, I don't go hiking in the cold anymore so it would be at least a week or two before we found you!" She chuckled and gave Dean a smirk. "That is, unless you've changed your mind about needing some back-up, then I'll make sure we find your body before you freeze?" She asked hopefully.

"Just get that idea out of your head Tracy!" Dean admonished. "This is just an observation tonight, no need for back-up so you and Col here just stay warm and snuggled in your bed tonight! Ya got me!" She snarled.

"Yeah, yeah… you forget who you're talking to Dean. I don't get intimidated by you, remember?" Tracy winked at her and chuckled with Colleen as Dean joined in.

"Well, I better get going. Gotta get my stuff together and get up there soon." The tall woman said as she gave Tracy and Colleen a hug. "Thanks for dinner. It was super!" She added as she grabbed her coat and headed to the door. "You're sure Byron won't mind if I park my SUV in his driveway?" She asked for the third time.

Tracy shook her head and said, "I already called him to let him know you have permission to be there tonight. Told him you're checking it out for ROTC night maneuvers. He's the one who suggested the driveway." She reminded her.

"Okay." Just wanted to make sure. "Thanks again." Dean said as she opened the door.

"Hey!" Tracy called softly to Dean. "Just remember it's a carry in, carry out park. Don't leave any bodies behind."

Dean nodded her head then said, "I promise" as she started up the SUV and headed back home.

Once home, Dean went to the bedroom and changed into her gear for the task that faced her. She pulled out her thermals and put them on, glad that she remembered to pack them, then added her black turtleneck sweater, black jeans, and black rough suede boots. Without the moon, I shouldn't have to worry about reflections off regular issue boots, but why take a chance? She thought to herself. She added a black field jacket and black gloves. She'd use the black balaclava tonight instead of face camouflage. No sense scaring anyone at a stoplight, she mused. Then she grabbed her backpack that already held the night vision goggles and her 20x80 binoculars that gave her a field of vision of 1,000 yards. From her gun safe, she chose her 9mm Glock, checked the clip, put the safety back on, then returned it to it's holster and added it to the pack with two more clips. Better to be prepared than not, she thought, not that I'm expecting trouble. She added a flashlight, then checked her Traser Night Diver watch and decided it was time to go.

At this time of night, it took her only a few minutes to get to the park. She pulled into the park supervisor's driveway, picked up her backpack and headed up to the observation point she selected in the afternoon. The total trip from home to observation point took less than thirty minutes. Now comes the fun part, she groaned, hurry up and wait! God, how I hate surveillance. It was now only 0130 and if her information was correct, she had to wait another sixty minutes before she could expect any action, so she took her time getting set up. She attached the mini tripod to the binoculars then settled in for the wait.

She was in that position for at least fifteen minutes when she heard a noise coming up the trail. Could be some deer moving to keep warm, she thought. Just to be on the safe side, she stood quietly and moved in closer to her tree cover and slipped on her night vision goggles. There was the noise again, so she concentrated on the area it came from. Then she caught the motion of a person slowly moving towards her. The guy was decked out similar to her and if it hadn't been for her exceptional hearing, she probably never would have heard the approach. She pulled back behind the tree further, took off the goggles, and waited for him to get nearer. Just as the figure was passing her protected area, she reached out and grabbed the guy from behind. No sooner than she engaged the stranger, she found herself on her back, with the darkly clad figure straddling her, her arms pinned under knees, and a forearm across her throat. What the hell! She thought. Who the hell is this guy! As she began to run through her release options, she met her attacker's eyes and found the most gorgeous and familiar emerald green eyes peering at her. "You!" They gasped together. "What are you doing here?" Again, demanded in unison. Katie then released her captive upon recognizing the ice blue eyes that met hers.

"Looks like we both had to work tonite." Katie said with a twinkle. "So, colonel, or is it colonel? What are we watchin' tonight?" She asked narrowing her eyes in suspicion.

"It is colonel, but I'll let you go first Katie, if it is Katie?" Dean returned with a smile and her own version of a suspicious look.

"Allow me to introduce myself, DEA Special Agent Katie O'Malley." Katie answered truthfully, fairly certain that the woman across from her was not part of the evil she was on assignment to watch. "Now you." She countered.

"Lt. Colonel Deanna Peterson, U. S. Army Intelligence." Dean also replied truthfully. "What's the DEA doing here?" The tall woman queried.

"Probably the same thing you're here for, but why is the army involved?" Katie asked inquisitively then added. "You wouldn’t happen to have any ID on you would you?"

"Now, if I did, I wouldn’t be a very smart agent would I?" Dean asked with a bit of sarcasm in her voice before she continued. "I'm here on loan to the NSA, they needed my 'special' skills." Dean replied, then looked at her watch and noticed it was almost 0200. "We can sort this out later, but I suggest we get to work now." She commanded. Then both women settled in for the wait. The lodge they were observing was a huge old resort that had been very famous in it’s day. Now unfortunately, it was often devoid of guests, but was still a beauty of a piece of property on nearly fifty acres of land. The main lodge was situated in a meadow across the valley from their lookout post. It was three stories high, made of local bluestone, and resembled a castle with round turret-like sections at each corner of the building. The entire place was enclosed by an eight foot stone wall with two gated entrances on Hollow Road that provided a semicircular driveway at the main entrance. Another entrance off Bluestone Road led to the back entrance by the kitchen and to the out buildings behind the lodge. Their advantage point allowed them to see over the tall walls as well as see both entrances to the estate.

About 0215 the first car arrived. It was the black Lexus that Katie had seen at the diner. "I waited on those guys yesterday." Katie whispered to Dean. "There were three of them. All Asians, one looked a lot like 'Top Job' from that old James Bond movie." She described the men and told of her observation of one of them having a holster under his jacket. "He was the one carrying." She informed Dean.

"Yeah, his name is Chung. Heavy duty body guard and so-so hit man," Dean said waggling her hand. "The other two are brothers: Sammi and Jimmi Lu." Dean said. They're part of the Chi-Chong gang out of Bangkok.

"Hey, how come you know all this and the DEA doesn't?" Katie asked a bit miffed.

"'Cause, that's part of my 'special' skills… remember, I'm Intelligence." Dean said with a crooked smile and a wink.

About ten minutes later a Lincoln Town car pulled in and three more men exited. These appeared to be American or at least Caucasian. "Those guys are from the city, Katie said. I recognize the tall one. He's Johnnie Papp, number two man from the New York mob family. Don't know the other two for sure but, they look familiar." She said as she zoomed in her scope for a better view.

"They should be, they're from the Vegas and Chicago branches of the mob. Tony Cabini and Gary Stiller." Dean filled in Katie. "Gary is the short bald one. He's from Chicago."

The next car was a Ford Expedition with three more "guests." These guys were from the Columbian Cartel. "Carlos Sanchez, Julio Romero, and Tequez Ruiz," said Katie as she identified the three men. "These guys are really nasty fellas." Katie commented. "I've seen their files, and they're slippery as eels."

The final car had three members of the Yakuza from Toyko. Hiro Kamoto, Ito Sukazi, and Lin Yamakura . "Well, well," commented Dean. "Guess she's moved up and over in the world."

"You must be talking about the female." Katie correctly surmised since there was only one female in the group. "Who's she?" She asked.

"A few years ago, she was one of the best police officers the Japanese had. Then her brother was killed in a drug bust. It really did a number on her reputation. She tried to clear Kao's name, but it didn't work out the way she wanted. Turned out her brother was in up to his eyeballs in the Yakuza. Even though her record was spotless, her fellow officers turned their backs on her, she became very bitter and promised vengeance for the law turning it’s back on her. I heard she was made an offer from the Yakuza. Guess she took it."

As they continued to watch, several more cars dropped off groups of three people, all from different drug cartels across the world. Most were male, but there were also a few more females that arrived in the later groups. All in all, there were thirty representatives at this meeting leaving the total breakdown at twenty-five males, and five females. They noted that the driver's for each of the groups unloaded luggage and took it in the lodge.

They waited for another hour after the last vehicle unloaded just to be sure they didn't miss anyone.

"Looks like that's it. Quite a gathering of evil, wouldn't ya say?" Dean said as she looked over at Katie. Katie nodded her head in agreement then added. "We might as well head down. I've got to call this in."

"Did you get the plate number of the last car?" Katie asked as she pulled out her note pad.

"Yep. The caddy looks like an Avis rental, Vermont plate 235 HHD." Dean answered the young agent. "C'mon. We'll get back to our vehicles and meet back at my place." Dean said. "I think it's a bit more private and secure than yours what with 'Billy Bob and the Boys' out looking for you and a good time." The tall beauty chuckled.

Katie just shrugged and shook her head. "Guess I just attract that kind." She chuckled.

"Are you putting me in the same category as 'Billy Bob?" Dean asked feinting hurt.

"Nooo." Katie said quickly then saw the smirk on Deans face and gave her a punch on the arm. The two women then made the short hike back down to the main entrance.

"Where did you leave your car?" Dean asked when she didn't see it near the entrance.

"I came in from the other entrance." Katie said pointing to a service road to the left of the walk-through. "I'll just hike down there and meet you back at your place."

"Nah! Hop in I'll give you a lift." Dean said as she opened the back of the SUV to put her backpack away in the secret compartment next to the wheel well. By 0330 the two women were back at Dean's dressed in sweats and sipping mint medley tea.

"Did you know the DEA would be on your case?" Katie asked inquisitively.

"Nope. Did you know the NSA would be here?" Dean asked back.

"Nope." Katie said with a disgusted shake. "Why can't the agencies learn to work together. We could get so much more accomplished instead of duplicating our efforts. And why is the National Security Agency interested in druggies? I didn't know they were considered a national security risk?"

"Turf issues and it's never simple." Was all the answer Dean could provide at the time. "So, you don't mind if I check you out then?" Dean asked in all sincerity.

Katie was briefly taken aback with that question, but the longer she thought about it the more sense it made. "Not as long as you don't mind if I check you out." Was her honest reply.

With that both women pulled out their secure communications equipment and did exactly that. In a span of about ten minutes, they were both satisfied each one was the real McCoy.

"Now that the 'cats out of the bag' so to speak, my agency wants to cooperate fully with yours." Dean announced. "Not that I wouldn't anyway." She added. Katie nodded indicating that hers did too but it was going to take some time to process all the approvals by both agencies. "By the way… just how did you… I mean… no one has ever been able to get me down that fast before. Where did you learn how to do that?"

Katie smiled and then chuckled a bit. "Well, I guess I have 'special' skills too!" She chuckled some more as emerald eyes twinkled brightly. "Actually, I got my first black belt at the age of eight. I learned several styles of martial arts and mastered them all before I went to college. They just seemed to come easily. So when I went through my training at Quantico… well, let's just say they were quite surprised! I finished first in hand-to-hand for my class. They even wanted me to stay and teach there, but I couldn't wait to get out in the field." Katie said as her eyes misted over. "Maybe I should have, who knows… " Then she shook herself out of her memories and asked, "So, what's your take on tonight?"

Dean noticed the subtle mood shift but decided not to explore it at this time so she shelved the information for later retrieval. Instead she kept to the problem at hand. "Not sure yet. We need to get more information but that won't be easy. That place is a fortress. We were lucky that the meadow in the park offered us such a good view. Got any ideas?" Dean inquired of the blonde.

"Well, I imagine one of us needs to infiltrate somehow. Maybe get hired on the house staff or something then plant a few bugs." Katie said thoughtfully

"No bugs. I'm sure they'll sweep the place on a regular basis. I've got some long distance listening equipment coming in tomorrow. That should work better. It wouldn't hurt to get inside though and check out the place and security arrangements." Dean offered. "But you'll have to be the one to go in. I'm sure Lin would recognize me."

"How well does she know you?" Katie asked.

"Uh… mmm… too well, I'm afraid." Dean answered with a slight tint of color coming to her cheeks.

"Oh?" Said the blonde a bit testily. Now why is the green eyed monster showing up now? Katie thought. You just met Dean two days ago. Surely she's had other lovers before you. Get over it! "Sorry." She said apologetically.

'S'okay." Dean said locking eyes with the blonde then deciding to take the plunge and drop her guard a bit. "Believe me, it was over a long time ago." She moved closer to Katie and put her hand on her cheek, gently caressing it with her thumb. "It's been a very long time since I've made love with anyone, but today… it was very familiar, like we were old lovers and not new ones. I can't explain it. I've never had an experience like this before." Dean said apprehensively knowing that this was not the way a professional in the field should be reacting. Knowing but not heeding the warning bells going off in her head.

"Yes, I know what you mean, I felt it too." Katie answered honestly. She reached up and held Dean's hand and kissed the palm. Damn, here I go breaking one of the biggest rules in the agency: Never get personally involved with your partner. But then, she’s not really my partner now is she? Before she knew it, she heard herself replying to Dean. "I knew I was attracted to you when I first saw you in the diner, and that I wanted to get to know you better." The blonde said cautiously. "Does that make sense to you?"

"Absolute sense." Dean said with a smile. "I'd had a similar feeling myself." Then she bent forward and kissed Katie longingly, passionately, and very thoroughly. As lips met lips and tongues dueled, hands explored zippers and buttons, and articles of clothing soon left a trail leading to the bedroom. Three sets of eyes watched the duo leave the living room then squeezed their eyes shut and began to purr softly.


Wednesday… 2000 Hours…


It had been three very busy days since the arrival of the drug cartel representatives. Dean's listening equipment arrived on schedule along with some more advanced surveillance equipment and with a little help from Tracy everything was safely and secretly ensconced on the mountain. Dean was thankful for the good luck of having found Tracy in such a useful position to help out. She knew that she could trust her completely and it helped to make her job that much easier. Dean was now officially a volunteer for the park department on 'park patrol' which presumed to keep unwanted ATV's and hunters off the mountain. One look at the intimidating Amazonian and most would-be trespassers quickly changed their minds. In two days the word spread and Dean no longer had to watch over her shoulder for unwanted guests. Hikers still came up occasionally, but Dean usually fed them a line about studying the flora and fauna of the mountain and capturing the sounds of nature for an educational video. Soon even the hikers did not want to interrupt a 'work-in-progress.' It also made her coming and going acceptable to the neighbors since she wore official park attire.

Coordinating the stake-out with the DEA agent was also working out quite well. She found the young agent extremely capable and very creative at problem solving. The first problem she attacked was the growing lack of natural cover for the surveillance equipment with the trees and shrubs losing their foliage. It was Katie's idea to use the nature study/video idea as a cover, thus allowing a camouflage structure to be established as a 'blind.' She also managed to get herself hired as a part-time maid at the lodge used by the drug cartels. She would be starting that duty tomorrow so she quit her jobs at Burp & Freddies and the real estate office. These covers had outlived their usefulness since her targets and location were now identified. She was now free to do more research on the lodge guests as well as relieve Dean at the 'blind' after dark. Actual surveillance work would soon be moved indoors once the high-tech equipment was installed.

Today, Dean was spending the morning installing the high-tech equipment that would allow them to observe via remote control. Tracy suggested they use an empty office at the parks & recreation building for their control room. Although Dean did not want to get any civilians involved, it seemed the best location since they were 'volunteers' for the department. It legitimized their coming and going on the mountain even more. Tracy had insisted that it would be best for the operation's cover, and at this time of year, things were so slow at the office that no one would know they were there anyway. Now all that remained was to settle in and hope that they could figure out what the gathering was all about.

"That's the last of it." Dean signaled to Tracy as she put the last box of equipment into the office. "I'll get started on hooking everything up so Katie can come down off the mountain by lunch time."

"You really like the kid don't you?" Tracy asked with a sly grin on her face.

"Yeah, I do. She's really quite intelligent and has strengths where I have weaknesses. We seem to be making a good team."

"Excuse me. Did I hear you say you have weaknesses?" Tracy asked with wide eyes.

"Oh come on Tracy, you of all people know I do!" Dean laughed.

"Yeah, like shoot first and ask questions later?" Tracy offered then immediately regretted using that particular euphemism.

Dean just nodded her head and flashed back to her last assignment. It was a typical assignment for her and her 'special' skills. It seemed her superiors never minded her ruthless tactics because she always produced the desired results. She had been sent to Bosnia to 'rescue' the daughter of a NATO official. The young girl was kidnapped from her home in England and was being held hostage in Bosnia as leverage to keep her father’s the troops under his command out of certain areas. This endangered the lives of many NATO forces, among them many American troops. Dean accomplished the job quickly, but the body count left behind was staggering. She had to assume that some of the victims were probably innocent bystanders that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths could have been avoided if she had taken a bit more time to ask questions first and shoot later, but it was a war zone, and many lives were at stake. Innocent people often died in a war, it was to be expected. She did her job quickly and effectively. In and out, mission accomplished. It earned her the promotion to Lt. Colonel. But the ruthlessness was starting to affect her and the faces of the dead haunted her dreams.

Tracy looked at the sadness on her friend's face wondering which particular nightmare she was reliving at that moment. "Sorry, Dean, I used a rather poor choice of words." Tracy said as she reached out and touched her friend's shoulder.

Dean just shook her head and shrugged. "It's not your fault Tracy, I'm the one who made the choice to become what I am. And I'm the one who has to live with that choice. It's just getting harder to live with is all."

"You know Dean, anytime you want to talk, I'm here to listen. I’m not in the Army anymore so my security clearance may be subject to scrutiny, but if you remember, I have very tight lips." Tracy offered softly as she gave her friend a gentle hug. Tracy remembered the first time she met Dean. She was Chief of Patient Administration for a five hundred bed army hospital in the mid-west and was reviewing the medical records of the current influx of new patients. Dean had just successfully completed her second 'special' assignment and was lucky to get out of it alive. She arrived at the medical facility hanging on by a thread and sporting several new openings in her torso that were not supposed to be there. Just the loss of blood alone would have doomed an ordinary person. Thank the gods, she was extraordinary. Tracy had made a point of visiting this patient on a regular basis to track her progress. Tracking soon led to interest, which soon developed into friendship. They had been friends ever since and their military paths often crossed. Tracy reflected that it was great to see her old friend again and hoped this assignment would not become a repeat of their original meeting.

"Yeah, and I appreciate it. Maybe someday I'll be able to talk about it but right now I've got work to do." The tall woman smiled at her friend then went into the small office to begin the final installation of her remote surveillance control room and to look back on her life and it's secrets. It occurred to Dean that since meeting the young blonde she had changed. She now had a purpose in life worth living for. That is, if Katie wants me in her life. Dean knew that her 'special' skills were largely due to a lack of fear and a deep burning rage that at times was difficult to control. She could accomplish more than her peers because she never feared death. On the contrary, she dealt it out so often it almost felt like and old friend. She knew that some day, her time would come, but she never worried about when or where. Now, however, she was finding herself falling helplessly in love. And falling in love was something she had never really expected to happen in her life. Sure, she had many lovers over the years, but the young agent was different. She was finding herself looking forward to the future. Looking forward to seeing those emerald eyes, hearing her laughter, and feeling her touch. And she was beginning to understand fear. In the past Dean had lost partners on assignments and could accept the loss as part of the job. Now though, that was totally unacceptable. This realization was adding another dimension to her job and another set of priorities. She feared for Katie's safety and that was becoming her first priority. She knew the assignment always had to come first, but her heart was telling her otherwise. She just hoped she would never have to choose between the two.

By 1230, the installation was complete and Katie was signaled to come to the office. Five minutes later, Katie walked in to the control room and surveyed Dean's handiwork. "Not bad Colonel. You army folk sure have the toys!" She said as she checked out the room with a low whistle. "This stuff will certainly make the surveillance a lot more comfortable. I'm sure glad we ran into each other. I'll certainly be a lot warmer than I had counted on."

"Well, at least you know some of that appropriations money went to good use." Dean chuckled as she began to run the young agent through the various pieces of equipment and how to use them.

"Wow! That's cool!" The blonde exclaimed as Dean demonstrated the range of the visual scanning camera. It was so powerful that Dean was able to focus on a clock located on the fireplace mantle in the lodge. It read 12:45.

"Hmm," Dean murmured, "they need to re-set the clock. It's off by two minutes."

"Of course, it's only good when the curtains are open or for outside views." Katie continued.

"Yep, but wait till you see this." Dean said as she punched up another set of controls that showed the occupants walking through the lodge as though they were being x-rayed. "This is a TDSC unit, or thermo-dynamic scanning converter." She said proudly. "If it's a warm body, I can find it! It’s similar to the satellite version, only on a smaller scale."

"Now that’s really cool!" The young agent was very impressed. "How about audio? Can you enhance that?"

"Not as much as I would like. Unfortunately enhancing that also enhances all the other sounds between here and there." The tall woman explained. "I can fine tune on one person, two if they're standing close together, it’s not too bad. Listen." She gave the blonde a set of headphones and made some adjustments highlighting the kitchen area and focusing on one of the warm bodies on the screen. The person selected had a small green dot now showing on the viewing screen indicating the fine tuning to that individual's location. As they watched and listened, a very distant elderly female voice could be heard.

"They said they wanted to change the menu to eggplant parm for the guests from Chicago, and the one’s from Japan want fresh sushi." The voice said. "You’d think I’m running a damn restaurant here! Why the hell can’t they all eat the same thing!"

"Ya, right!" Said another voice only it was much fainter. "I sure don't like running back and forth to the grocery store all day! Where the hell am I going to get fresh fish for sushi at this time of day? It’s not like I can run down to the Fulton Fish market just like that!" The voice ended with a snap of the fingers.

"Mmm, sounds like dissention in the hired help?" Dean commented with a smile.

"Yeah," Replied the blonde, "but if you ask me, the vocal reception is awesome!"

"Ahh, it’s okay for fine spectrum, but it can get pretty garbled on broad spectrum. Are you up for some lunch?" A set of blue eyes peered over to where the blonde was sitting.

"Are you kidding? I’m always up for food!" And with that the young agent stood, set down her headphones and opened the door to the outer offices. "Anybody out here interested in food?" She called out.

"Yeah!" Came the simultaneous answer from Tracy and her secretary Linna. Dean in the meantime set the second VCR and tape recorder up to capture the events at the lodge while they would be at lunch. She always had one set taping, but when it was unattended, she’d turn on the second set. The two agents weren’t worried about missing anything at this point in the surveillance so they decided to both could go for lunch.

Linna wasn’t exactly sure what the two women were doing in the next office, but she trusted Tracy even though her instincts told her they didn’t look like scientists. Besides, she really enjoyed the enthusiasm of the younger woman. The tall dark haired woman on the other hand, was more of an enigma to her, but she was beginning to warm up to her too. "How about Italian?" Linna suggested. "Gino makes the best bruschetta and calzones in town! One thing this town has lots of besides lawyers is restaurants!" Linna gaily offered as they took off for the short ride to Gino’s. "Guess it’s a good thing we get a lot of city folk wanting to either start or end their careers here in the Catskills!"

Forty-five minutes later they were back at the office still enjoying the lingering taste of garlic and Italian sauce. Tracy and Linna went into their respective areas while Dean and Katie went into theirs. "Let’s see what went on while we were gone shall we?" Dean reached over and rewound the equipment and the two women sat down to watch.

"Hey, Johnnie. What time is this new guy coming in?" Voice #1

"Tonight, around midnight is what I was told." Replied Johnnie.

"So. Ya figure we’ll find out just what this is all about then?" Voice #1

"Yeah, probably. All I know is that I’m getting really creeped out by some of these dudes here. Of, course some of the broads aren’t bad for the eyes if ya know what I mean!" Johnnie said with a lecherous laugh.

"Ya can forget that Johnnie. Them broads is colder than an icebergs! If I can’t get one of ‘em to heat up, nobody can!" Voice #3

Laughter filled the room as the men continued to make crude remarks about the five women in attendance.

Voice #3 spoke again. "Man, you see the size of that one guy! He must go 270 or more. I’d hate to have to tangle with him!"

"Nah! Voice #2 said. "This little piece here is a great equalizer. Especially with them armor piercing rounds in it!" More laughter.

"Hmm," Dean said, "Guess we can forget about wearing any vests for protection. Never liked them anyway. Too bulky."

"They’re just not made for the female body." Katie added with a twinkle of her emerald eyes. "I feel like I’m in a vise when I wear mine and it takes forever for my breasts to get back to normal."

Dean looked at the blonde with a wicked twinkle of her own then scanned the mentioned breasts as her mouth curled up in a smile. "We can’t be having any of that now, can we?" She said in a low seductive growl.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was uneventful although they did pick up a few snatches of conversation that could prove to be useful. Katie went home for a quick nap and to feed the cats and medicate Sugar. She returned to the office around 2100. "Dean?" Katie asked softly.

"Hmm?" Dean answered without looking up.

"Don’t you want to catch a nap or something? We still have about three hours before that guy is supposed to show up." She offered.

"Nah, I’m fine. I don’t want to take the time to go back to the cabin right now. But maybe I’ll stretch out on Tracy’s couch for a bit." She said getting up and stretching.

"Let me know if anything develops."

Katie nodded as she accepted the headphones from Dean then settled in for her turn at the console. At about 2330 she walked into Tracy’s office and nudged Dean awake. "Hey gorgeous. Time to get up."

Blue eyes slowly opened and focused on Katie. "Mmm, I must have died and gone to heaven. There’s this beautiful angel watching over me." Dean said with a big dazzling smile that took Katie’s breath away.

"Close, but no cigar." The young woman answered as she gently stroked Dean’s hair. "It’s almost midnight. We better tune in on the new arrival."

"Spoil sport!" Dean joked.

The two women went back to the surveillance room and donned their headphones in anticipation of the new arrival. At precisely midnight, they saw the black limo pull into the lodge compound. Dean decided it wasn't necessary to use the TDSC unit until Katie infiltrated the lodge tomorrow. It was too dark to make out the face of the arrival, but once he was inside Dean had no problem identifying him by his voice alone. It was General Andre Kasimov, former director of the KGB and now national security director for the new Russian regime.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen." The Russian began in a heavy accent. "I’m glad you were all able to make it here for this gathering. And… I’m sure you’re all wondering why I have called together such a diverse group." He added smiling as he waved his arms slowly around the room indicating the people gathered in the living room. "But, I’m afraid, I will have to ask for your patience just a bit longer. Once my aide Dimitri confirms the security of this estate, I will gladly bring you all into my plans at dinner tomorrow. Until then, I suggest you all get a good night’s sleep." With that, Andre exited the living room and went directly to his quarter’s. These were reserved for him on the first floor, next to the den. There were immediate mumbles from the other participants after the Russian left. These ran the gamut from curiosity to distrust but all agreed that the Russian’s arrogance was unacceptable. Slowly, each of the representatives left for their own rooms. The last to leave were Lin and Ito.

"So Ito, what do you know of this Russian?" Lin asked her companion.

"He once was KGB, now he’s with their National Security. I wonder what he wants from us?" Ito said thoughtfully.

"Maybe he wants part of the action? Wants to eliminate the current drug czars and put himself in their place?" She offered.

"No, no." Ito said emphasizing with a shake of his head. "He could do that without our help. In fact, I have sources that say he IS the drug czar for Russia, only he keeps his identity a secret."

"Hmm. I wonder what he’s up to then…. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow." Then they both left arm in arm for their rooms.

Kasimov! Dean's conscience whispered. You old devil. So… we finally meet again.

With a sigh Dean said. "I was really hoping we’d get what we needed tonight so you wouldn’t have to go in under cover tomorrow. I just don’t trust that much evil gathered in one place. Especially with Kasimov in the picture now. Dean thought to herself. "That’s one very evil man who doesn’t know how to play nice. This can’t be good." Dean said as she shook her head. "Just what’s the old general up to?"

"Well we'll have to wait till tomorrow like everyone else. And, you’ll be here watching over me, so I’ll be safe." Katie said as she placed her hand on Dean’s shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze.

"That’s true, but I don’t have an army of reinforcements sitting outside that gate to bail you out if necessary." Dean said as she peered intently into the young agents emerald eyes. "I wish I could go in, not you. But, just in case, I want you to wear this necklace tomorrow." Dean pulled out a beautiful silver chain with an emerald green stone on it. "This won’t show up on any security sweeps, but it will allow me to locate you anywhere in the house. It'll show up as a blue dot on the screen. That way I can pick you out from the rest and keep track of your movements." She added with a grin. "If you notice anything that may be a security issue for us, just cough, and I’ll mark the location on the layout map."

"Got it, and don’t worry," Katie said as she gave Dean a soft kiss on her forehead, "I have no intention of getting caught. Besides, I can handle myself pretty well remember?"

"You just got lucky that night. Don’t forget there’s a hell of a lot more of them!" The dark woman said standing and stretching. "When do you have to be there?"

"I report at 6:30 AM. I’m the downstairs maid." Katie said with a smile and a curtsy.

"Okay. Just BE careful. Do your maid thing, and don’t try to do anything that would be suspicious. Get a feel for the layout and keep your eyes peeled for anything that might be useful." Dean instructed. "I don’t want anything to happen to you." She added as she pulled the young agent into a hug and a light kiss.

"Mmm, I’ll be fine." Katie answered her around Dean’s lips. "I don’t want anything to happen to me either."

"Looks like we can put the taping machines on until morning. I'll be coming in around 0530. I'll meet you here before you report in. We can calibrate the necklace then." The tall woman released Katie reluctantly then they checked the equipment once more before they locked up the office and left for their respective homes. Tomorrow would be a very long day and both needed to get a good night's rest.

* * * * * *

Thursday… 0500 Hours

Dean had finished her morning run and was coming out of the shower feeling fairly invigorated considering she had less than four hours of sleep. She was dressed and on her way by 0515. By the time she pulled into the parking lot and unlocked the doors, Katie was right behind her.

"Morning." Dean said. "Nice outfit." She added in a mocking tone noting the very short skirt of the uniform and the lacy apron.

"Hey!" Katie replied smacking Dean's arm lightly. "I'm not quite awake yet so I won't take offense for that remark! How're you feeling this morning?"

"Not bad considering." The tall woman responded. "Too bad Tracy doesn't have a shower in this place or I'd have stayed here all night."

"Well, hopefully we'll get to the bottom of this soon." Katie offered. "You could have stayed with me last night. My place is closer." She added with a smile and a wink.

"Yeah, then neither one of us would have gotten any sleep!" Dean chuckled.

Dean calibrated the necklace while Katie made some coffee for herself and some tea for Dean. They quickly reviewed the tapes from the past four hours noting that no one stirred during the night, but activity was beginning in the kitchen.

"Probably the cook getting breakfast ready." Dean commented. "Who are you supposed to report to?"

"Actually, the cook is in charge of the hired help. A Mrs. Ellen Schlott." Katie answered. "I checked her out and she's clean. A local woman. Been in this area all her life. Only thing on her record is a speeding ticket back in '69."

"Good." Dean said nodding her head. "Try to keep track of the innocent bystanders. We wouldn't want them to get in the way or get hurt." Getting a conscience now, eh? Her little voice said sarcastically. Yes! She answered. Guess it's about time I

start asking questions first and shooting later. And I certainly don't want Katie to have to live with any regrets.

"Well, I better be off. Don't want to be late on my first day." Katie said more enthusiastically after two cups of very strong coffee.

The young agent slipped the necklace on, then winked at Dean before she walked out the door. Dean concentrated on the lodge and scanned all the rooms. The only action so far, was in the kitchen. Guess they're sleeping in today. Dean mused. Wish I was sleeping in… with my arms wrapped around a beautiful blonde… instead of being here. "Whoa!" Dean said out loud to no one. "Stick to the program Dean!" She admonished herself then went back to the task at hand. She watched as Katie reported to the cook in the kitchen area and listened as she got her duties for the morning. Vacuum the living room first, then the rest of the downstairs except for the living quarters by the den. Then dust and straighten up the rooms. At 9:00 she was to return and set the dining room buffet table with the breakfast items. Katie was given a quick tour of the downstairs, then shown to the pantry that held the cleaning tools and items were located and left to do her job.

* * * * * *

Around 0900 hours, there was a knock on the door. "Come in." Dean said as she switched to the camera for the wildlife on the mountain and played the nature sounds tape over the speakers in the room while she continued to listen to conversations at the lodge on her headphones.

"It’s just me." Came Linna’s voice. "Just thought I’d see if you need anything."

"Yeah, thanks. I could do with a cup of tea." Dean said displaying a pleasant smile.

"Any particular kind? We’ve got all sorts."

"Any mint medley?" Dean asked hopefully.

"You bet. Be right back." Then Linna turned and went to the kitchen area for the cup of tea. Within minutes she was back at the door offering Dean the steaming cup.

"Thanks." Said Dean as she accepted the cup.

"So… how long have you been studying nature?" Linna asked in an effort to be friendly as well as try to find out more about the two mysterious ‘scientists.’

"Oh, just a few years now." Dean answered without offering too much else.

"Has Katie been with you for that long?" Linna continued the inquisition.

"Umm, no. She just joined me recently." The tall woman answered starting to get a bit uncomfortable.

"Really? You two just seem like you’ve been working together for a long time." The secretary commented.

"Well, it’s just that we have common interests. You know. Shop talk and all." The blue eyes were now flitting back towards the TV screen. "I really need to get back to work." She said to Linna. "Thanks again for the tea."

"Oh. Yeah. Okay. You’re welcome." Came the volley of answers as Linna moved to leave the office and closed the door behind her. As she walked back to her office, Linna couldn’t help but wonder what was really up with the women. She couldn’t imagine watching and listening to birds chirping and squirrels chattering and deer munching to be so interesting, and yet, the blue eyes were definitely wanting to focus on the screen. Two and two just weren’t adding up to four in this case. She also knew that Dean was an old army friend of Tracy’s and she was dead sure that Tracy’s military career did not include ornithology! Well, she vowed, I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery one way or another.

Phew! Dean thought as she flicked the screen back on to the lodge view. I thought she’d never leave. Now, where in the world was Katie when she coughed those two times? At present Dean located Katie back in the kitchen where she was chatting away with the cook.

"So Mrs. Schlott. How long have you worked here at the lodge?" Katie asked sweetly.

"Just call me El sweetie." Said the seventy-ish cook. "I’ve been here workin’ for Mr. G for almost fifty years." She said with a sigh. "Through the good times and the bad. We thought we were going to have to find new jobs when the lodge closed this season. Mr. G wanted to sell it, but then this Mr. Smirnoff rented, with an option to buy the lodge, for the next six months at three times the going rate! Well, you know Mr. G wasn’t going to pass that up, so he took it. The economy isn't what it used to be in the resort world around these parts. Don't know what we'd do if the tourist trade went completely down the toilet!"

"Wow!" Katie said encouragingly. "Why do you suppose he offered three times the money?"

"Who knows. Rich people don’t have to have reasons. Maybe he just liked the place. Then he asked Mr. G if he could make special upgrades to the place. Without cost to Mr. G of course!" El said approvingly.

"What kind of upgrades?" The young blonde asked.

"Oh, I don’t know." The cook replied. "Something to do with the wiring and security alarms or something. We weren’t here when the work was done. Mr. Smirnoff gave us a five week paid vacation during the renovations plus a $2,000 dollar bonus!" She said proudly. "Me and Ezra went to Disneyland with our grand kids!" El nodded in obvious delight. "Had a hoot of a time too!"

"Cool." Replied the blonde. "That was really generous of Mr. Smirnoff. He must be a really nice man."

"I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met the man. Today will be the first time I meet him face to face." El said with a thoughtful expression. "Did all the set up over the phone with Mr. G."

"Well, I better get back to work. I want to make a good impression on such a nice man. Thanks for the coffee El." Katie said as she put her dusting supplies away and started to help Ezra with the breakfast trays for the buffet.

"Sure thing sweetie, anytime." The cook responded as she went back to the oven to check on the biscuits.

Wiring and security alarms, thought Katie as she busied herself with the breakfast items. Nothing stands out as obvious. I’ll just take another trip around and see if I can detect anything. As she finished putting up the buffet, the ‘guests’ started to come down the stairs. She smiled as she served coffee and tea to the varied group of men and women. Noting that they all seemed a bit on edge. She tried to be as pleasant as possible and even tried to start conversations with some of them, but to no avail. They obviously considered themselves above her station in life and ignored her. The only one who spoke back to her was Lin. At least she wasn’t afraid to comment on the service or the fine weather, Katie noted. And she is indeed beautiful and seemed to be just as curious about her colleagues as Katie was. Katie was just about to ask her another question when Ito came up to Lin and led her away to the far side of the room speaking to her softly in Japanese. Lin listened intently to his comments then spared a quick glance at Katie and flushed when she saw Katie watching her before returning her attention to Ito.

Now what was that all about, Katie thought. Maybe he’s hitting on her. She continued the thought. Or maybe she’s hitting on me? Hmm, interesting. Then she pulled her attention back to her duties as General Kasimov entered the room.

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen." He bellowed like a benevolent patriarch. "I hope you have been finding your stay here satisfactory. My associate, Natasha, and I will be out for most of the day, however we will return in time for our dinner meeting. Dimitri will remain here today to conduct the business I informed you about last night. Please extend him every courtesy so he may complete his duties by this evening. For those of you that may be interested, I have obtained one day non-resident hunting permits, secured proper equipment, and have scheduled transportation to a hunting camp near by. See Natasha directly if you are interested." With that, the general proceeded to the buffet for his breakfast as Natasha handled the eager hunters. Most of the men and three of the women signed up for the hunting party. They all quickly vacated the dining area and headed to their rooms to get ready for the transportation pick-up.

Katie took this all in with a mute expression but was very glad there would be so many less bodies around if she had the opportunity to explore. She came out of her thoughts just in time to see the general approach her with his laden plate.

"Bring coffee to my table." He said in a command tone.

"Yes sir." Katie responded quickly.

When she brought the requested coffee over and placed it on his table she was startled by his sudden reach for her hand. "You are the new maid I’m told." He said as he released her hand.

"Yes sir." Katie said quietly, trying not to show displeasure at his uninvited touch.

"How old are you?" He asked curiously.

"Twenty, sir." She said softly knowing that she could easily pass for that age.

"Why aren’t you at university?" He continued.

"My parents are out of work and I need to help support them and my sister until they can find work again." Katie said convincingly. It was the story they had concocted for the job interview.

"You are much too beautiful to be waiting tables and cleaning houses." He said with a smug attitude and returned his hand to hers as he began to stroke it. "You should be at university learning to be an actress or a model. Perhaps I could help you." He added with a lecherous sneer.

"Thank you sir. That’s very kind of you, but I have my family to think about." She answered as her neck started to shade pink. Not with the affection he assumed, but with controlled anger at his arrogance and touch. He was a very handsome man in his late fifties, but his pompous attitude would have turned anyone off. She slid her hand out from under his and returned to her station. Bastard, she said to herself. He is not a nice man at all. Wonder if El knows about this. Probably not. Just stay cool kiddo, don’t blow the cover, play nice with the creeps..

* * * * *

Dean listened intently to the conversation between Katie and Kasimov, anger growing with each word out of the general’s mouth. He hasn’t changed a bit the old bastard! Dean considered. I should have warned Katie last night. Well, her reaction is more realistic this way. I probably would have punched him out! This thought amused Dean as she visualized her scenario with the promiscuous general. Her visualization was stopped however by another knock on the door. "Just a minute." She called as she got up to see who was at the door. This time it was Tracy.

"Hey." She said as she opened the door for Tracy to enter.

"Dean." Tracy said as she closed the door behind her. "I just wanted to apologize about Linna. She can be a tenacious individual when she sets her mind to something. I don’t think she’s buying the story about the nature video and I’m sure she suspects our ‘scientists’ of evil doing. She’s been pumping me all morning." Tracy said with a smile. "I’ve tried to throw her off course and spin some yarns about you being in the animal research division, but I don’t think she went for it." A sigh, "I just wanted to forewarn you." Tracy added.

"She was already in here this morning." Dean said with a smirk as Tracy’s eyes widened in shock. "Don’t worry, she didn’t see anything. I switched cameras before she came in." Dean motioned Tracy over to a chair by the console as she returned the headphones to her head.

"So, how’s it going?" Tracy asked tentatively.

"Not bad, but still no big news. It involves Kasimov though so it’s got to be a real ball buster." Dean commented.

"Kasimov! No kidding!" Tracy said then added, "Isn’t he the one responsible for all those holes in you when we first met?"

"One in the same." Dean nodded. "Evil bastard. I just can’t figure what game he’s playing this time. And with the cartel's involvement, I’m really at a loss. Any ideas?"

"No, but I’ll mull it over." Tracy offered. "Anything I can do to help out in the meantime?"

"Yeah, keep a lid on Linna if you can."

"Tough assignment!" Tracy muttered. "But I’ll work on her."

"It’s bad enough I’ve gotten you involved. I just don’t want anyone else to get in the way and get hurt. I don’t think I can live with anymore ghosts." Dean said as she leveled a gaze at Tracy.

"Roger. I’ll do my best." Tracy nodded understanding her friends comment completely.

The two women sat in the control room for a while longer as Dean explained the new technology to Tracy. She really was impressed with the quality of the surveillance equipment and asked several questions regarding the range, quality, and penetration abilities. The TDSC unit was the highlight as they both tracked the blue dot representing Katie through the lodge.

* * * * *

After cleaning up the dining area from breakfast, Katie was instructed to help the upstairs maid, Darla, clean the sleeping rooms. The handful of 'guests' that remained were in the game room either reading, watching TV, or playing some billiards. The only one's that remained were Lin and Ito, Tony Cabrini, Julio Romero, Rafael Lonzo and Trina Carbona from the Sicilian group, and of course Dimitri. As she went up the stairs she noticed a small circle just under the first step below the first landing. Katie quickly looked around then dropped some of her cleaning supplies on the stairs so she could get a closer look. Hmm. Definitely a security device of some kind, she thought. Probably a laser beam by the looks of it. She quickly picked up her things and checked the rest of the steps as she went up. There were eight more of them on the way, all in slightly different locations and seemingly different angles. She coughed as she stepped on the last stair at the top. She'd have to remember to check the bottom stairs for any she may have missed.

She met Darla in the first room and helped the young girl with that room. Once finished, Katie suggested that they split up so they could get done faster and Darla eagerly agreed. Katie opted to take the rooms on the left side of the hallway, and Darla the right side. She figured that tomorrow they could switch sides and she'd have access to all the rooms. At each room she systematically searched as she cleaned and changed the sheets. Well it looks as though these guys didn't bring a whole lot of anything but clothes. Katie thought as she continued her search. Maybe they were instructed not to bring anything or else they were carrying anything important with them. She knew they had weapons because of the conversation about the armor piercing bullets the night before. Maybe each room has a personal safe? She thought, as she still found no evidence of anything out of the ordinary, not even any sign of security devices. She decided to pump El at lunch and see what she could find out.

Once the rooms were done, the two maids had only the hall to clean before lunch would be served at 1:00 pm. Katie was just about done when she noticed a series of circles similar to the ones on the stairs. These were cleverly hidden in knot holes in the pine wainscot of the hallway. She coughed again. She also noticed strategically placed pillars with statues of Greek gods and goddesses in the corners. Taking her duster, she decided to give them the once over. Eureka! She shouted in her mind. Each of the statues had miniscule camera lenses inserted in the hollows of the eyes. Figuring she may be watched, she continued her cleaning with added vigor and coughed at the fictitious dust she stirred up. Maybe the old bastard will give me a raise for the extra effort, she thought as she began to whistle softly as she worked.

Lunch was served precisely at 1:00 pm., and during that time, Katie tried to strike up a conversation with the remaining guests. She noticed Lin watching her so she made an effort to go to her table to see if anything else was required.

"Can I get you anything else?" She inquired of the two occupants at the table.

"Yes," replied Lin. "I would like some more tea please." She added as she focused her gaze directly into the emerald eyes of the young agent and smiled.

It took a second before Katie responded and as she turned to get the requested tea she noticed Lin smiling broadly now. Ito noticed it too and shook his head in admiration then commented to his table mate in Japanese.

Katie returned with the tea and asked if there would be anything else. Lin said no, but she would be sure to let her know if she needed anything then smiled a very gracious smile at the young agent. Phew! That was intense. Katie thought to herself. I wonder if she's on to me? That look felt like she could see clear through me. But then, if she had, I may not be standing here wondering about it. Wonder what she's up to…

After lunch, Katie and Darla helped clean the dining area and the kitchen with Ezra and El. As she completed her tasks, she tried to pump El for any information that may be useful noting that some of the women had some very nice looking jewelry on and wondered if the renovations included personal safes or if there was a general safe for that sort of thing.

"Why no, sweetie. That wouldn't be necessary since they're already in each of the rooms." The cook smiled at the concern the young maid was showing for her 'guests.'

"Really?" Katie said playing the wide eyed role. "I sure didn't see any when I was helping Darla."

"Well, Mr. G was a stickler for that kind of thing after one of his guests was 'liberated' of her diamond necklace back in the '50's. Isn't that right Ezra?" She turned to ask her husband.

"Yep. Mr. G had them installed in each bathroom behind the mirrors. I think some of them still work." He added thoughtfully.

"Wow!" Katie said. "I bet this place has lots of little nooks and crannys for hiding things. Just like in the old gangster movie's on TV."

"Oh, my yes." Replied the cook again. "Mr. G's father was thought to have been in the Dutch Shultz mob during the '20's. But it was never proved. He did have a 'speak easy' in the lodge though. All the big wigs in the county came here. My mother was a cook here then. She used to tell us some pretty wild stories of goings on in that speak easy. My older sister and I grew up in this lodge in the thirties and forties." El said wistfully then got up and started to get things ready for dinner. "Well, sweetie, your shift is done for today. I'll see you tomorrow." She added with a smile.

* * * * *

It was nearly 1500 and time for Katie to go off duty. Dean and Tracy made arrangements to grab a quick early dinner with Katie as soon as she came in, then Tracy went back to her office. Katie had changed out of her maid uniform before arriving at the office. She bounced in and waved to Linna and Tracy before entering the office where Dean had been keeping track of her.

"Nice move interrogating the cook." Dean said smiling appreciatively.

"She's a sweet old thing and should be a good source as long as I can keep her from getting suspicious." Katie said smiling back.

"Yeah, but don't try to ask too many questions. It may look suspicious. Let's grab Tracy and have some dinner before the show starts this evening." Dean suggested.

"Gods, that sounds good. I'm starving." Katie said quickly then added. "El may be a good cook, but the hired help doesn't get to taste much of it!"

Dean reset the tapes and then they left the room locking the office door behind them. In the outer office they caught up with Tracy and then left for dinner. They selected a lone table in the corner of Mac's Bar, placed their order and then went over the day. Katie told them about the laser beams, the secret cameras, and filled them in on the inhabitants. As she related her meeting with Kasimov , her anger returned and it took Dean and Tracy to get her to cool down again. Then she recounted the incidents with Lin.

"So, what's that all about?" She asked Dean. "Any ideas?"

"Well, we did hear her comment to Ito." Dean said as she eyed Tracy.

"Yeah, but that was in Japanese." Katie said looking at Dean then Tracy as they both tried to look elsewhere. "Let me guess, you two understand Japanese."

"Uhh, yeah." Tracy muttered as she looked at Dean for help.

"Don't look at me Tracy, you're the one spilling the beans about understanding Japanese!" Dean said with a grin.

"So, spit it out!" Katie said as she locked her emerald eyes on Tracy.

"Well... uh… I mean… we didn't get it all. They were talking real quiet." Tracy hedged.

"Seems Lin is attracted to you... and Ito thought it might be fun to have a three way." Dean informed the blonde nonchalantly. "Not that I blame her. You are very attractive."

"Yeah," chimed in Tracy hoping to redeem herself. "You can't blame her for that."

"Oh, great!" The blonde said now thoroughly embarrassed. "Now I won't be able to look her in the eye without blushing."

"Well, if it's any consolation, your blush is rather sexy." Dean concluded with a sly grin and a wink at the blonde. This got the intended result as Katie proceeded to blush profusely.

After a round of laughter, Katie turned the conversation back to the security at the lodge. She related that she had not found a security control room, but that she didn't really have much time to look. Tomorrow, she would try to explore other areas of the house if at all possible. Then the three of them, discussed possible scenarios if they ever had to enter the lodge.

"I don't know Dean," Katie interjected. "I sure hope we won't have to go in there. There seems to be an awful lot of laser beam and security cameras around that place. It'd be a tough one to crack if we can't locate the control room."

"I gotta agree with Katie on that one." Tracy added. "I'm sure there's even more stuff too that she hasn't seen yet."

"Well, hopefully we'll get what we need tonight and not have to go in there at all." Dean said as their food arrived.

The rest of dinner was spent in pleasant conversation, and a bit of an update on Linna by Tracy. "I had a talk with her about your office. I told her that there was a lot of very expensive equipment in there that was very delicate given the difficulty of the subject matter. I suggested that she not bother you two when you're in there because the sound setting's were so sensitive, yadda yadda." Tracy said punctuating her speech with her hands. "She's pretty darn smart and I'm sure she didn't buy it, but I warned her to not bother you two and she agreed."

"Good enough for me." Dean said.

"Me too." Katie nodded.

"Well, I'm gonna run by my trailer and feed the cats and get Sugar's medicine down her. Are you going back to the office now?" Katie asked Dean.

"No, I'm going to go by my place first. I need to pick up some things. I'll meet you back there at 1730 okay?" Tracy nodded in agreement as Dean paid the bill. The three women left Mac's Bar and walked the three blocks back to the office. When they got there, Tracy asked if they'd mind if she came back in the evening to listen in with them. Both agents agreed, then Tracy went in the office and the two women left to carry out their errands.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Thursday… 1900 hours…

The three women were listening and watching intently as the activity level in the lodge began to increase. They were in TDSC mode since it was too dark for the regular camera and this made it more difficult to place voices with images. As Dean scanned the house, she noted that an area next to the den could not be penetrated and showed up black on the screen.

"Any idea what's in that space?" Dean inquired of Katie.

"I think that's the area that Kasimov uses for his quarters." The blonde said as she studied the screen. "Why can't we get penetration?"

"There's a few substances that will block the scan. Most are way too expensive, like titanium shielding, but the most likely culprit is concrete. It has to be at least two feet thick. Dean explained. "Didn't El mention that there used to be a speakeasy in the lodge?" She inquired of the young agent.

"Yeah. She did, but she didn't say where." Katie answered. "You think it's next to the den?"

"Could be, but my guess would be that the room next to the den is empty but leads to the cellar. See the layout… it doesn't even look big enough to be a bedroom, more like a false front if you ask me. My instincts say it leads to the speakeasy.

"But what about the penetration? Wouldn't it be too expensive to line that room with titanium?" Tracy asked as she reviewed the layout of the lodge.

"It wouldn't cost too much to put titanium shielding in a staircase and on a door." Dean said as she continued her scanning. "It would make sense for a speakeasy to be in the cellar. More room for guests and there's probably a hidden walk out for emergency egress. It probably only took a few more inches of concrete all around the room to make it impenetrable. That's what I would have done." Dean concluded with a nod.

"Makes sense," Tracy commented. "That way he's sure to have a secure area that would house the control room and whatever else he has up his sleeve." As an afterthought Tracy added, "Did you ever run across Dimitri during the day?"

"As a matter of fact, no." Replied the blonde. "I thought that was a bit weird to since he was supposed to be doing a security check."

"He did it all from the control room. New scanning equipment similar to the TDSC to scan the rooms through the fiber optics in the camera lenses." Dean advised. "Probably has a lens in every room."

"I wonder if he caught me interrogating El and Ezra?" The blonde considered out loud.

"He very well could have." Dean turned, and her eyes gave away the concern she felt. "You better stick to just visual examination and not try to pump El and Ezra tomorrow. Just be the hired maid and talk about weather, cleaning, that kind of stuff, nothing more."

Dean was about to give Katie a hug, but the voices in the lodge suddenly became quiet. Dean noticed that two images spontaneously appeared outside the den. "That about cinches it." She said to her comrades. "Andre and Natasha just 'appeared' on the screen."

The women watched as the two images entered the dining area which was located across from Kasimov's room.

"Good evening my friends. I hope everyone had a successful day?" He asked in his heavily accented English.

Murmurs came from the assembled guests on how many deer the hunters had returned with, followed by thanks for planning that event. It obviously had the desired effect, since most comments the women picked up were more gracious about their host.

"Yep, he's a smooth one all right." Tracy commented.

"Thank you my friends!" Kasimov said. "Now let us finish our cocktails, then have a good meal, before we get to the reason why you have been asked here."

Continued - Part 3

Return to The Bard's Corner - TrishK