Fort Story Beach and for a moment, he considered not getting out. Beaches in Virginia during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend were either mild and sunny, or cold and rainy. Today was definitely classified as a cold and rainy day. The wind gusts were near gale force. It was coupled with a light but steady rain that seemed to blanket the whole world, while the temperature hovered around forty degrees.
First Landing State Park of Virginia is the site of the first landing by the Jamestown Colonists on April 27, 1607, before they moved further upriver to the famous Jamestown settlement site. But Steven wasn’t here to enjoy the beach or bask in the history. He was here answering a personal summons.
Looking around the parking lot as he stepped from the safety and the warmth of his limousine, Steven noticed that there was only one other car in the parking area, and it belonged to General Charles (Chip) Clarett. It was his personal car. Steven thought he had to be an idiot, to be here in this kind of weather. Hell, he’d be lucky if he only caught a cold; but Chip’s secretary, Captain Rutland, had asked him to meet Chip here, saying it was urgent. So he cleared his schedule and here he was.
Steven pulled his coat collar as high as he could on his neck, opened his umbrella and tucked his head down. He used the umbrella as a shield against the wind and rain as he strode across the sands towards the solitary figure, standing just off the high tide line. Steven’s security detail fanned out about him and Chip in a defensive perimeter, similar to the type that the secret service used to protect the President.
All of the security men were dressed in rain slickers, ball caps and no-fog rain goggles. They each carried an MP10 in plain sight and Sig-Sauer forty caliber handguns under their slickers. Steven’s chauffeur, who doubled as Steven’s personal body guard, provided additional up close and personal protection and was always less than ten feet behind him. He carried his MP10 under his overcoat. It had a collapsible stock, which allowed it to be pretty much undetectable to the untrained eye, and he was a highly skilled at hand to hand combat.
A quarter mile away, at the entrance to the park, a van with five more men, all former military, sat ready to act at a moment’s notice to intervene on Steven’s behalf.
As he approached Chip, Steven called out, “Hey, buddy, why the cloak and dagger stuff?”
Chip didn’t answer and he didn’t turn around. He just stood there facing into the wind and the rain. Steven, somewhat perplexed by the lack of response, stepped up next to him and stood there looking out to sea, just as Chip was doing. After a few moments of awkward silence, Steven asked, “What are we doing here, Chip?”
Chip shrugged his shoulders, his gaze focused on the sea. Steven, not sure what say, stood silently for a few more minutes, then touched his friend’s arm, while looking at his face and asked, “Care to share my umbrella?” That was when Steven noticed that Chip wasn’t really looking out to sea. He was just staring into space with a look of deep sorrow on his face. When Chip didn’t answer, Steven asked, “What’s wrong, Chip?” as he waved for his personal guard to back away and give them space.
Chip blinked his eyes and sighed before he answered. He then stated quietly, “They killed them!” His eyes continued to look straight ahead as the wind driven rain pelted his face.
“Who killed who?” Steven asked.
“The terrorists killed Elaine and the kids! They killed Ryan and Nichol, they were just babies,” Chip stated through a catch in his voice. Chip’s eyes appeared to be on the verge of tears, or maybe he was already crying. It was hard to tell in the rain.
“Elaine and the kids? Where? How?” Steven inquired.
“They were in San Antonio at the shopping mall that the terrorists attacked Friday morning.”
“Oh God, no! That can’t be. Oh, no Chip, I’m so sorry! Let’s get you on my plane. I’ll fly you there. Come on let’s get you to the airport,” Steven offered as he started to turn away.
“That won’t change anything or help anyone. David has his friends to console him. We were never that kind of close, anyway. I’ll attend the funerals, or rather the funeral, after the medical examiner confirms the IDs and cause of death. I’ll catch a flight on my own for that.”
“I won’t hear of it. Let me fly you there. I know that Mary will want us to be there for you and David. You’re family, as far as we’re concerned.”
“No. David wants a very private ceremony–just a priest, himself and me at the internment. It’s a cremation. All three will be buried together,” Chip replied curtly in a near sob, his pain showing on his face, as well as in his voice.
Steven took no offense. He knew his friend was hurting badly, and he was struggling to vent his pain. They stood together looking out at the sea and after several minutes, Steven placed his hand on Chip’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get out of the rain and find a place to have a drink. I know you can use one.”
“I need to know a few things, Steven,” Chip blurted out, while failing to move at his friend’s touch.
“Like what?” Steven asked, with a puzzled expression on his face as he turned his back to the rain.
“How committed are you?” Chip asked.
“How committed to what?” Steven replied.
“I turned in my retirement papers this morning. And now I need to know if you were serious about your private army, or rather your security force?”
“I’m very serious!”
“I’m not talking about some half-assed operation. It has to be all or nothing,” Chip stated brusquely.
“What would you like me to do to convince you? Write it in blood or something?” Steven teased, trying to lighten the mood a bit.
Chip turned and looked his friend directly in the eye. “That would be a start,” he stated coldly without a hint of humor. After a moment of silence, still staring at his friend, Chip continued in a stern, clear voice. “There’s going to be lots of blood. The people you’re asking me to protect you from don’t care if they live or die, and they certainly want to kill you and me. There is likely to be an ocean of blood, and it’ll get on everyone and everything close to it. There won’t be any positive spin to put on this if the wrong people find out. Everything and everyone you hold dear will be at risk.”
“Like, they aren’t now!” Steven blurted out. “I’m a target and my family is a target, just because I’m successful. The fact that I’m a westerner is icing on the cake! Look around,” Steven loudly uttered as he waved his arms expansively. “You think I like having to travel with this circus? And you know my family has even more people watching them. I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, to protect my family, my company and my country. Yeah, I’m prepared to take the heat. The group will provide everything, and we won’t spare the money to do more, or to get the best of both men and equipment. You have carte blanche. You’re in charge, totally and completely,” Steven stated with an air of finality.
“I’ll walk the minute you try to tell me to ace some politico here in the States or a business suit that you simply don’t like. I’ll also spill everything to anyone who’ll listen. The only rules I’ll accept are the Marquess of Queensbury Rules,” Chip stated flatly.
“What are those?” Steven queried.
“Those I place on myself. It’s a deal breaker,” Chip stated, his voice as cold as the dark side of the moon.
“You have the final say, on everything we do.” Steven assured him once more.
“The first operation will be to go after the cell that killed my family.” Chip’s voice was hard and final. His eyes were locked on his friend in a cold stare.
“I can live with that, as long as you also have teams working on the regular protection details and boosting corporate security, as well,” Steven stated as he looked off in the distance. Not enjoying seeing this side of his friend, he hesitated for a moment and then said, “I know you. You don’t think the government will do anything about the attacks. You feel the only way to get justice is to kill them yourself, right?”
When Chip didn’t answer, Steven laid into him. “Now who’s on the ego and power trip? Huh?” Steven asked,- echoing Chip’s comments from the night they talked about Steven’s reasons for wanting to do this, just eight days ago.
Chip’s expression didn’t change and his words were hard as stone. “I don’t care how you feel about it. It’s another deal breaker. You know damn well, just as I do, the government won’t bother to find them. They won’t take the action needed to ensure that there will never be another attack because someone, somewhere, will be offended if they do. They’ll bend over backwards to keep things politically correct,” Chip snarled.
“If you have half the connections and half the intelligence capabilities you claim, we can find them and we can kill every last son of a bitch. It’s time that we started acting like them and started terrorizing them. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it!” Chip’s voice was sharp as a razor’s edge.
Steven stood staring out to sea for several moments before he spoke again. “So why did we have to meet out here in the rain?”
“Because I didn’t come to this decision lightly, and I didn’t want anyone watching or listening. The rain causes problems for prying eyes and ears. But mostly, I didn’t want to taint my office or yours with talk of treason,” Chip stated.
“I am turning my back on my government and my country which I have spent my whole adult life supporting and defending. That stops today! The assholes in charge do not deserve my loyalty. Their inaction has caused the death of my family and will cause the death of my country if I don’t take a stand.”
“The Declaration of Independence states, or maybe it was just Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘For evil to triumph, it all it takes is for good men to do nothing.’ I’ve stopped being a good man doing nothing! So where’s my post?” Chip curtly asked.
“I think you’ll find it satisfactory. Have you got time for a trip today?” Steven asked as he put his hand on Chip’s shoulder. This time, Chip let him lead him to the car.
Reprisal! is available now!