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Chapter Eighteen

By RimPigFL - - February 21 2005

We woke up early the next morning and headed out on the road as quickly as we could. We hit Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and donuts. We wanted to make Denver before dark. Around noon, we hit McDonald's again. By around four o'clock we'd made the outskirts of Denver. Andy stopped and called his Aunt. He got the directions to her place and headed for it. About an hour later we arrived at the place we'd been directed to. What we found was a huge horse ranch with several large stables, a barn and a huge farm house and several more outbuildings.

We drove up to the house and a woman, who could only be Andy's aunt came out to greet us. At first, to be honest, I wasn't sure it was a woman. She looked more like a man. Tall, with strong features, salt and pepper hair, cut short and swept back in what was called a 'DA' (for Duck's Ass because the back looked like the back end of a duck.). She wore a western shirt, jeans and well-worn cowboy boots. We all got out of the SUV and Andy's aunt unerringly walked right up to him and grabbed him in a hug. She actually lifted him off his feet.

"Well, I'll be blessed. You sure have grown, boy!" Andy's aunt said after putting him back down on the ground and holding him at arms length.

"God! It's so good to see you again!" Andy beamed at her and then turned to the rest of us. "Aunt Murph, I want you to meet BJ, Cole and Mark."

His Aunt Murph shook hands with all of us.

"Welcome to the M-bar-S ranch, boys! Come on it the house where we can talk. My partner, Pat, isn't here right now. Had to go into Denver for some stuff. She'll be back soon." his aunt said as she led us through the house to the large, farm kitchen. "Have a seat." she said, directing us to a large table in front of a bank of windows looking out on the stables. "Now, are you hungry?"

"No." Andy answered. "But I do smell coffee."

His aunt laughed. "There's always coffee brewing. Who wants a cup?"

We all assented and soon we were all sitting at the table with steaming mugs of very good coffee.

"So tell me what kind of trouble you're in, Andy. And when did you join the Marines?" she asked.

"I'm not a Marine, Aunt Murph. I work for an agency of the Justice Department. Mark here is the only 'real' Marine. BJ and Cole are civilians. I don't really know how much of this I should tell you. I don't want to put you in any danger." Andy said.

"Oh, don't worry about that. You remember, I was a nurse in Nam. I've seen my share of danger." his aunt said.

Andy then proceeded to tell her some of the story of what had happened. He told her about the indictments against members of Cole's former law firm and members of the mob, about flying us to Montana to the safe house that turned out to be not so safe and no longer existed. He pointedly left out my article or my place in the investigation.

"So what can I do to help?" his aunt asked after hearing all of it.

"We need someplace to hide out for a few days until the dirtbag in my agency who's on the mob's payroll can be found." Andy said.

"We'll be glad to pay for any inconvenience, ahh...Ms..." I trailed off not really knowing what to call Andy's aunt.

"Oh, that's no problem! And boy, just call me Murph. Everybody does. My mother hung the name Juanita on me. Now do I look like a 'Juanita'? So I just go by my last name which is Murphy. Everybody just calls me Murph. With the exception of my sweet Andy here who's always called me 'Aunt Murph'." she said, smiling at Andy.

"Murph, do you by any chance have a computer connected to the internet?" I asked.

"Sure. Everything in horse raising today is computerized. Birth records, bloodlines, nutrition, the works! All kept on computer records and listed on websites on the internet. We do at least half our sales over the internet." Murph explained.

"I need to use it so that I can contact two people to help us. They work for me and I need to get in contact with them as soon as possible." I told her.

"Well, come on back into the office then and you can send messages to them right how." Murph said.

While the guys drank coffee around the kitchen table I went back to what Murph called the office. It was a large room at the back of the house with file cabinets, a desk with a computer and hundreds of pictures everywhere of horses.

"Are all these yours?" I asked.

"Well, we raised them all. Most of them have been bought over the years. We have stock of about forty at any one time." Murph said.

"They all seem to be the same breed. Appaloosa, unless I miss my guess?" I asked.

"You know your horses, boy! Yep! The true native American horse, the Appaloosa. Been raising them for almost twenty years." Murph said. "Originally had a small farm in Walton-Verona, Kentucky and then Pat and I moved out here." Murph explained.

"They're certainly beautiful. I love horses but living in New York City, I don't see my owning a horse anytime soon." I laughed. "Hell, with the lifestyle I've been leading the last 10 years, I don't even own a cat!"

"Must be tough being a reporter and going to such dangerous places." Murph said, looking me in the eye.

"You know me?" I said, surprised.

"Yes, BJ, or should I say Mr. Bradley. I know your writing quite well. I saw your article today on the mob connection to that Wall Street law firm that Cole worked for. How did you end up involved in all this, anyway. You always were a foreign correspondent. I've read a number of your articles. Always liked them. You always made situations very human and very understandable." Murph said.

"Thank you. As to how I got involved in this, that's quite simple. Cole is my lover. We've known each other since we were 4 years old and have been together, off and on, since we were teenagers." I said.

"I kind of figured that out." Murph said.

"How?" I asked, shocked that she had determined this so quickly.

"Well, actually two things. The first is easy. It's the way you two look at each other. I noticed that you two watch each other a lot, kind of making sure the other is all right. Lot's of love there. And, the other reason, I guess is, it takes one to know one." she smiled.

"I take it that Pat is your partner in more ways than one?" I asked.

"For more than 20 years now. I think that Andy may have figured that out for himself." she said.

"Yes, he has." I said.

"What I can't figure out is him and the young Marine? Have they been together long?" she asked.
"No." I said, "Only a few days, really."

"Well! Then that makes sense. I see them looking at each other and there's such worry and concern for each other in their eyes, but there's a 'hunger', if you get my drift, but also some kind of competition." she said.

I smiled at this. Yes, there was a deep hunger for each other between Andy and Mark, once they got the 'Alpha Male' stuff straightened out, which they haven't yet.

"It's a 'male thing'." I told her. " They each want to protect the other and haven't figured out yet how to handle it. They'll figure it out eventually."

"So Andy did turn out to be Gay. I always figured he would but wondered how he was going to handle it coming from that family." Murph said.

"Well, they kicked him out when he was 17." I told her.

"Oh, yes. His Mom told me all about it. Didn't like my reaction one damned bit. I told her that she was making a terrible mistake and that it would be her who 'roasted in hell' for doing that to her own child, rather than the other way around. We haven't spoken since." Murph said.

"Yes, I know that Andy carries around some scars from that. But he and Mark seemed to have really hit it off. Cole and I are very hopeful that they'll stay together somehow. " I said.

"I do, too. He seems to make Andy very happy." Murph said. "Well, there's the computer. Let me get you on the net and I'll leave you to it."

Murph walked over and ran her fingers quickly over the keyboard and had me on the internet in no time at all. I signed into my Yahoo account and sent e-mails to both Debbie and Diego. I gave them both the phone number to call on Murph's phone.

Within 15 minutes, Debbie called me. I told her to send me $5,000 cash, a laptop that would allow me to access the internet over a wireless connection and two new cell-phones by Fed-Ex. She at first protested putting that much cash through a courier service. I told her that there was less risk than she thought and had her send it to arrive the next morning. I also told her to get started on replacing my credit cards and ID's. And to make sure the new cards were in Cole's name as well.

I went back to the kitchen for more coffee and asked Andy to stay close. I wanted him to talk to Diego so that he could give him names of people within Andy's agency to check out who might have known about the security arrangements for Cole and me.

Diego called about twenty minutes later. I told him what was going on and put Andy on the phone with him to talk about who Diego needed to check out. I told Diego to e-mail me through my Yahoo account with anything he found out. I also told him to call Debbie and get the numbers on the new cell phones she was sending us so that we could keep in direct contact. In the mean time, all we could do was wait.

Andy and I went back to the kitchen where Murph was waiting on us. She told us that she would give us a tour of the stables so we could see the horses and then show us to one of the 'bunk houses' where we could stay. I wondered what this 'bunkhouse' was going to be like. I had scene them in movie Westerns, but I didn't have any idea what a modern would be like.

The stables were clean and well lit. The horses were beautiful. I had never seen such magnificent animals in my life. It was obvious that all of the horses loved Murph as they each stuck their heads out of their stalls and she fed each one a piece of carrot or apple as she scratched their heads. We all got to meet them and I scratched behind a lot of horse ears! Murph then took us to the 'bunkhouse'.

What Murph called a bunkhouse turned out to basically be a two bedroom house with it's own kitchen, livingroom, den and backyard patio. The bathroom was huge with two toilets and a large shower with four showerheads where we could all shower at once if we wanted and, knowing this crew, we wanted! Murph left us to settle in and rest after showing us the phone. She told us that if any calls came in for me she'd transfer them to the bunkhouse. We all thanked her for her help which she said she didn't want but I noticed her bright smile when Andy kissed her.

"So what bedroom do you guys want?" Mark said to Cole and me.

"Either one's fine." I said.

"Okay, fine. We'll take the one on the left." he said grinning at Andy.

"Oh?" asked Andy.

"Let me show you the room." Mark said.

"I don't need to see the room. I'll see it later." Andy said, totally confused.

"Yes, you do need to see the room." I said.

"I do?" Andy said, looking at me like I'd lost my mind.

"Yes. You do." I said nodding toward Mark.

The light dawned finally in Andy's eyes.

"Oh, yes! Please, show me the room!" Andy said to Mark.

The two of them didn't seem to be able to get there fast enough.

"Must be nice to be newly in love." Cole said.

"Oh, would you like to see our room?" I asked.

"Really?" he asked.

"Yes, really." I said.

Cole grinned at me and took my hand in his and led the way to the room.

"This doesn't look like a foxhole." he grinned at me as I closed the door to the room.

"You have to use your imagination, Marine." I said to him as I pressed myself against him and rubbed my hands over his uniformed chest.

" do look hot in that uniform, BJ" Cole grinned.

"I bet you say that to ever horny Marine you meet." I laughed.

"No, just the one I'm married to." he said quietly.

"Mmm...I don't think the Corps would like that." I moaned as he put his arms around me.

"Don't ask, don't tell." he said as his lips came down on mine.

It took almost no time at all for us to get each other naked, though we did have a little trouble with the combat boots. While I would have thought that the tensions of the last 24 hours would have exhausted us, on the contrary, we seemed to be as hungry for each other as we'd been as teenagers.

I pushed him down on the bed and curled up next to him. I looked down at him while I ran my hand across his chest and gently tweaked his nipples.

"Hey, buddy, want me to 'help you out'?" I murmured.

"Fuck, yeah!" he moaned.

I moved down his body and lay my head on his stomach. His cock was hard and dripping cock-honey and I leaned forward and licked some of it off the exposed part of his cockhead.

"Oh, fuck! BJ, man! What are you doing?" he asked.

Cole was not the brightest bulb in the pack sometimes! I turned my head and looked at him.

"I'm gonna give you a blowjob. Just like the first time." I said.
"God! I hope it's not like the first time! Ya aren't gonna choke on it, are ya?" he laughed.

"No, I think I have a little better technique now." I grinned. "And you don't have to explain what 'head' is to me anymore."

"Ahh, fuck! You remember that?" he asked, surprise written all over his face.

"Remember it?! No, I would of course immediately forget the very first blow-job I ever gave a guy or the fact that I was totally in love with they guy I gave it to, asshole!" I said to him, exasperation showing in my voice.

"No, I didn't mean that. I meant you remembered how I talked you into it!" he grinned.

"Yeah, like you had to do all that much talking!" I laughed. "Your motives were totally transparent that night, you know. I knew exactly what you were angling for the minute you mentioned that shit about Matt Taylor and Chris Dobson. What you didn't know was that, from the very first time I heard about what a 'blowjob' was, I wanted to give you one."

"Oh, fuck! And here I always thought I'd manipulated you into it!" he said.

"In your dreams, jockboy! You had no idea how hot I was for you, did you?' I asked.

" It seemed like I was always the one that was doing the 'leading'." he said.

"That's because I was scared of losing you, of you turning on me. It was safer to let you lead. I guess I can see why you thought that I didn't want to do this stuff." I said.

"Yeah. It always made me scared. I wanted you so bad, and I was always scared that you'd say 'no'. 'Course I noticed that you always got real enthusiastic whenever I brought up something new." he smiled. "By the way, I ran into Matt Taylor a couple of years ago. He and Chris are still together."

"Ok, you're lying now!" I laughed.

"The fuck I am! They're lovers, too! Have been since High School. Just like I told you that night." he said.

"Well...fuck! How did you know?" I asked him.

"Saw 'em. One afternoon after practice. Everybody else had gone home, or that's evidently what they thought. I saw 'em in the shower. Chris was on his knees suckin' on Matt's cock. I fuckin' shot a load watching the two of them. Luckily they didn't catch me or they would have probably pounded me into the fuckin' ground!" he smiled.

"Well, I'll be damned. When we finally get back to New York, we gotta look them up!" I said.
"I think there's somethin' else 'up' right now that could use some attention." he smirked.

I laughed and turned back to his cock which had lost none of it's softness and slowly let it slide into my mouth. The taste of Cole's cock never failed to arouse me! I loved it. I loved the taste of his sweat, his pre-cum, his cock-cheese - everything! The feel of the soft-hardness in my mouth was always a turn on for me. From the very first night, Cole's cock has been my idea of the perfect 'snack'. I could literally suck on it all day and all night. Maybe I would have to try that sometime?

I felt Cole reach down and gently stroke my head. I loved when he did this. Just like that first night. I swallowed his cock down my throat - without choking this time! - and heard him groan at the tightness of my throat around his cock. I moved my head so that his cock would move in and out of my throat. I was very determined to get him off but Cole had other ideas.

Cole sat up and held my head with his hands, stopping my up and down motion. Then he gently began to lift my head off his cock. I rolled over and looked at him.

"Why did you stop me?" I asked.

"Because I don't want you to just suck my cock. I want to suck yours, too. Just like we always did." he said.

I remembered that. We almost always 69'd after that first night. Far be it from me to refuse Cole access to my cock if that's what he wanted! I quickly turned around and felt Cole's hand guiding my cock to his mouth. As I again swallowed his, it felt like I was swallowing my own as Cole was sliding down mine just at the same time. The warm, wetness of his mouth and the gentle scraping of his tongue all around my cock had me moaning around his as I did the same. This was not going to be a long, leisurely 69. We both seemed ravenous for each other and, all too soon, I was tasting Cole's hot load as it spurted into my mouth and I was swallowing it down my throat. At the same time, moaning around Cole's jetting cock, I unloaded into his throat as he buried my cock in it.

We soon both became to sensitive to continue having out cocks in each other's mouths, so I turned back around and Cole was waiting with his arms open to hold me. He kissed me and I could taste my cum in his mouth as I'm sure he tasted his own in mine.

"Mmm. I love the taste of my cum when it's in your mouth." he murmured.

"I've always loved the taste of your cum." I smiled at him.

He tried to smile but it was like a cloud passed over his face and I could see he was greatly concerned about something.

"Do you think we'll be able to work this thing out, BJ?" he asked.

"Yes, I do believe we will. Why?" I asked.

"I just feel so fucking guilty. It's all my fault that we're in this mess." he said.

"Oh, really?" I asked. "I thought I was the one who wrote the article and gave all the evidence to Andy?"

"But you wouldn't have done any of it except for wanting to help me." he said, still sounding guilt-ridden.

"Cole, I love you. I've always loved you. Do you really think I could stand by and watch you wallow in disgrace without trying to help?" I asked.

"It's what I deserved." he pronounced. "Not just the fact that it was me who got involved in all this shit to begin with but after what I did to you, I had no right to ever expect you to want to have anything to do with me again."

"Well...I didn't for a long time. Does that assuage your conscience enough?" I looked at him.

"I don't know. Fuck, I'm so confused right now." he said.

"Okay, let me straighten you out here once and for all. I figure that you've put yourself through enough hell that any revenge I might have thought of at the time would be like giving Cher more sequins! Whatever happened in our lives happened. It's done and over with and no matter what we do we can't go back and change it. Let me ask you something. Why did you really call me that night?" I asked him.

"Because I wanted to see you again at least one last time." he said.

"Why did you want to see me?" I pressed.

"Because even after all I'd done to you and to myself, I still loved you." he said quietly.

"And I came and I took you back because, God help me, after all you'd done to me and to yourself, I still loved you. That's enough, Cole. That's all either one of us ever has to know. We're in this together because we love each other and, apparently, nothing is going to change that." I smiled at him.

"BJ, I don't deserve you." he said, his voice low - almost a whisper.

"No, you sure don't!" I said, grinning. "That's not how love's supposed to work. You don't 'deserve' it. You get it anyway."

He leaned over and kissed me passionately and we lay there in each other's arms, neither of us saying a word for a long time. Then we finally drifted off to sleep. When I awoke, it was about four in the afternoon. I kissed Cole gently to wake him up.

"It's about 4:00 p.m. I'm going up to the house and check my e-mail to see if Diego's gotten any of the research done." I said.

"Want me to go with you?" he asked.

"No, that's okay. I'll need Andy since he knows who these people are. You just stay with Mark and keep your hands off him!" I grinned.

"BJ! I'm not a slut!" he protested.

"Yes, you are!" I laughed and Cole blushed. God! After all these years he's still so cute when he does that!

"I'm not going to interfere in their relationship! I may be a slut - but I'm not a 'home wrecker'!" he said defensively.

"I know you're not." I said softly. "The only home you ever seem to wreck is your own. But maybe if you stop hating yourself, you'll stop doing that."

I leaned down and kissed him gently.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe it is time I stopped all that shit. I'm tired of trying to be what everybody else wanted me to be. You're the only one who never did that to me. You never made demands on me. You always loved me, no matter what. Even when you were pissed as hell at me. You're the only one who ever accepted me as I am and you're the one I hurt the most." Cole said.

"No, lover. You're the one you hurt the most. I just hurt watching you do it to yourself." I said.

"Look, maybe we can stop all this. Couldn't we find a deserted island somewhere and just disappear or something?" he asked.

"I wish it was that simple, love, but it's not. First of all, without the proof that we have, those people who deserve to be in jail won't be. Secondly, they would just keep looking for us and I don't much like the idea of being constantly on the run for the rest of our lives." I told him. "And besides, that still leaves Andy in danger because of who ever it is in his agency who's on the mob's payroll."

"Okay! Okay! I just want this over. I told you I'm not that bright." Cole said miserably.

I leaned over and kissed his forehead.

"Cole, it's not that you're not bright. We're all tired! After all, look what we've been through. It would put anybody off." I said.
I got up from the bed and got dressed in the Marine fatigues once again. I actually found them quite comfortable and could see why they were worn so often. I was going to see about keeping them when this was all over. I went into the living room just as the phone started ringing. I picked it up to find Murph on the other end. She wanted to let me know that dinner would be ready at six and for us all to be there. I told her we would. I asked if it would be alright if Andy and I came up to the house to check the e-mail and see if Diego had learned anything. She said that would be fine, that she was just waiting for Pat to get back from Denver and that she expected her at any time now.

I went over to the other bedroom and knocked on the door, calling out for Andy. He came to the door, naked and sleepy-eyed. I could see Mark in the bed beyond him, also evidently naked and just waking up. I apologized for waking them but said that I was going up to the main house to check and see if Diego had any information and thought that Andy should come with me in case he'd dug anything up. Andy told me he agreed he needed to come and quickly pulled on the Marine fatigues and kissed Mark before heading up to the main house with me.

Once we got there I quickly logged on. There was an e-mail from Diego telling me that he had found some very interesting things when he began investigating the names that Andy had given me. He could not, however, yet say for sure that any of the men had connections to the Mob. He was going to dig deeper and would let me know tomorrow. I sent back an e-mail telling him to call Debbie and get the numbers of the new cell phones and call me when he had anything to report.

"Are you sure it's somebody in my agency?" Andy asked me, his voice full of anguish.

"No, I'm not 'sure' but everything points that way. Give me another possible explanation?" I said.

"I can't - not unless it's Mark." he said glumly. "And I don't want it to be him."

"Andy, I don't believe for one minute that it is." I said.

"Then who? These are guys I've worked with for years now. To think of any of them being on the mob's payroll is more than I can fathom!" Andy said, miserably.

"I know, Andy. You've got to hang in there, though. Whoever this dirt-bag is, we'll get him. I promise you that!" I said.

Andy reached out and put his arms around me. I held him, gently stroking his hair. It wasn't sex, it was comfort that Andy needed right now and since Mark wasn't there and Cole wasn't there, I would do. I kept thinking about what I wanted to do for this boy and the Marine he was in love with. Maybe they would let me and just maybe there could be a happy ending to all of this.

About that time, we heard Murph's voice calling us. We walked to the front of the house and there was another very masculine woman with Murph. I figured that this was her lover Pat. This was confirmed almost immediately when Andy's eyes lit up and he rushed to take her in his arms for a big hug.

"Aunt Pat!" he said, hugging the dyke to him.

Something I've never understood about Lesbians - if two very 'butch' ones become lovers, like Pat and Murph, is one the Top? Are they both Tops? It was all too confusing for me and I doubted I would ever get to know one intimately enough to ever ask. I guess it was just my natural curiosity as a journalist that made me wonder. After all, what did it really matter as long as it worked for them. That made me think of Andy and Mark. I hoped that they could come to that understanding - that whatever worked for them was okay. I prayed their male egos wouldn't get in the way of that.

Murph introduced Pat to me. Pat looked at me rather strangely.

"I know you, don't I?" Pat asked. "Not that we've ever met before but I know your face from somewhere."

"You might have seen it in the newspaper." I said.

"That's it!" Pat exclaimed. "You're BJ Bradley aren't you?!"

"Guilty as charged." I smiled.

"Damn! You write the best stuff! This latest exposť of yours is really fantastic! Say! What are you guys doing here anyway?" Pat asked.

" be honest with you, my new story is a bit too successful." I said.

Andy and I quickly explained what had happened to us and how we ended up hiding out on their farm.

"Well, I'll be damned! If that don't beat all! Well...none of them varmints better come around here! I was in the Marine Corps and I know how to handle a weapon." Pat said.

"Hmm. Another Marine!" I smiled.

"What do you mean, 'another' Marine?" Pat asked.

Andy told her then about Mark and Cole who were down at the bunkhouse.

"So this Cole is your lover, BJ?" Pat asked.

"Yes, he is." I said.

"And Andy, this Mark - are you and he...?" Pat left the question open.
Andy stood there blushing.

"Oh, yeah! I see how it is!" Pat laughed.

"We've only known each other a couple of days, Aunt Pat." Andy said.

"So what?! It don't take months to know if you love somebody! Hell, I fell for Murph the first time I talked to her." Pat said grinning.

"I guess I did, too." Andy admitted.

"Well, then, kiddo - you hang on to this grunt! Marines make good lovers - ain't that right, Murph?" Pat asked her lover.

"Yes, Pat." Murph said, smiling. "The best there are!"

"Well...he's not exactly a grunt. He's a lieutenant." Andy said.

"Ohh! An officer! Annapolis?" Pat asked.

"I didn't ask him." Andy said shyly.

"Did he have this big class ring on his hand?" Pat asked.

"Not that I noticed." Andy said.

"You would have noticed - and he damned sure would have found a way to make you notice it. The one's from Anapolis are mighty proud of that. However, you might have yourself a Marine who came up through the ranks and qualified for Officer's Candidate School. Me? I think that's the better way. Give you an officer who's been a grunt so they know what a grunt's life is all about before they start giving them orders." Pat said. "You also know that they earned their way to those bars - they didn't have political pull to get there."

"I'll have to ask him." Andy said.

"I think you might want to let Pat ask him about that." I said.

Andy looked at me funny and Pat laughed.

"Yep! I think so, too, BJ! That way, if he's a might touchy on the subject, he ain't gonna blame you none, Andy!" Pat grinned and Andy nodded.

"Oh, I see..." he said.

"Well, suppers about ready. Why don't you go down to the bunkhouse and get your partners up here." Murph said.

Andy and I went back to the bunkhouse and got Cole and Mark then went back up to the house for dinner. Murph had made a wonderful beef stew and was obviously used to large male appetites from feeding her ranch crew during the time they were there. After dinner we sat around talking for a while and then we decided to turn in early.

Since the bunk house had such a big shower, we all got into it and, to say we had a ball, would be putting it mildly. We started out with a circle jerk where we stood around in a circle, jerking on each other's cocks and that lead to sucking and finally to a round-robin fuck where everybody got their cock up everybody else's ass at one point or another. I got fucked by Andy then Mark and finally by Cole. I blew a load up Mark's butt and blew another when Cole finally fucked me while Mark was fucking Andy. After this we were four very tired boys who went straight to bed. Cole spooned to my back and I could feel his half-hard cock nudging into my butt. I could imagine where that would end up in the morning! But hell! It was my favorite way to wake up! And I was right.

The next morning, after Cole fucked me and got us both off, we took a shower again and headed up to the house. We found Murph and Pat already up and got ourselves a pot of coffee. It wasn't too long before Andy and Mark arrived as well, looking a little worse for wear. We figured that they must have been either playing long after we went to sleep or were hot into it this morning. I later found out that both were true. It seems that Andy and Mark just couldn't seem to get enough of each other - which was as it should be. I also got the feeling that some talking had been done in between all the fucking because they seemed infinitely more comfortable with each other this morning. Nothing I could exactly put my finger on but Murph noticed it, too, and made a comment to me about it as we went back to her office so that I could get on-line again - this time tracking the package that Debbie sent yesterday.

Just as the Fed-Ex website told me, the package arrived about 10:00 a.m. I took it down to the bunkhouse and opened it. Inside was the cash I'd asked Debbie for, a laptop and two Nokia cell phones. I gave one of the phones to Andy and kept the other myself. I immediately put through a call to Debbie's office, intending to leave a message but found her at her desk.

"What are you doing in so early?" I asked.

"Well, I figured out the time difference and figured you'd be calling in about now. I should tell you that there were some federal types here yesterday poking around but since they didn't have a warrant, the paper's attorney wouldn't let them search your office or files. In the mean time, I've removed anything that even hinted at the story and have them in a secure location." Debbie told me.

'A secure location' was our code for a safe deposit box that was in the paper's name at Chase Manhattan Bank.

"Okay. I figured something like that would happen when we disappeared. The person I most want to hear from is Diego. I'm going to give him a call now." I said.

"Anything you want me to do in the mean time?" she asked.

"Yeah, I want you to get hold of a direct phone number for Gen. Michael Hagee, he's the new commandant of the Marine Corps. I need to talk to him. Use my name. I've known him a long time." I told her.

"Okay, boss. Will do." Debbie said.

"Call me as soon as you have it." I said and hit the off button.

I next called Diego on his cell phone. It rang several times and finally Diego's groggy voice came on the line.

"I don't pay you to sleep." I said, jokingly.

"You don't pay me not to, either!" Diego replied.

"So what have you got for me?" I asked.

"Something I think you're going to find very interesting. I checked out all of the names you gave me. They all came up clean as a whistle." he said.

"That figures. Whoever it is has covered his track well." I said.

"What makes you think it's a him?" Diego said tantalizingly.

"It's not a him?" I asked, surprised.

"Don't think so. Not unless you know any guys named Veronica?" Diego said.

"Veronica? Veronica who?" I asked.

"Veronica Webster. That's her name now that's she's married. But that isn't the name she was born with." Diego said.

"Okay, I'll bite. What name was she born with?" I said, exasperation starting to show in my voice.

"Veronica Balducci!" Diego said triumphantly.

"Balducci! As in Big Sal Balducci?!" I almost screamed.

"The one and only! That's her uncle. She's Tony Balducci's daughter." Diego said.

"Well, I'll be fucked!" I said. "Are you sure it her?"

"Without a doubt. I traced back all the e-mails and telephone calls to her office computer and phone and her home computer and phone. Even tracked her cell-phone! Lots of calls to Daddy and Uncle Sal. Especially when your article came out." Diego said.

"And with her inside information! How did the bureau miss this?" I asked.

"Well, you see...she'd Tony's daughter, but not by Tony's wife. It was a girlfriend of Tony's. She married and the new husband adopted Veronica when she was 3 or 4. Birth certificate was changed and everything. When the bureau ran it's background check on her, nothing showed up." Diego explained.

"You want to explain how you found it?" I asked.

"Easy, I checked backwards." he laughed.

"Backwards?" I asked.

"Yeah, I already knew that she was contacting the Balducci's. All I had to do was find out why - what the connection was. The bureau had nothing pointing them in that direction. From all they could see, she was squeaky clean." Diego said.

"How did you get on to her in the first place?" I asked.

"'s like this, see. I kept gettin' nothin' on these bureau guys. Now, at first, this just pissed me off. I figured nobody could be that clean! But then I got to thinking that maybe it was just my own prejudice so I started to look at it another way. My mom was a secretary for years for this criminal lawyer. Now, my mom never went to law school or nothin' but she could quote law and precedence 'til the sun went down! And she knew more about what was goin' on in that lawyers cases than he did! And she didn't need a computer to tell her either. Secretaries always know everything that's goin' on. That's why I started focusing on them. And out popped Veronica!" Diego said.

"Well, this is going to make Andy very, very happy. I know he's been very concerned about someone that he worked so closely with being the mole. Now, we'll be able to handle things. Thanks, Diego. You've earned your pay and a bonus. Can you get the proof ready and I'll call you later with where to send it." I said.

"Already done, boss. Got it all nice and neat on CD. You just tell me when and where."

At that point, I clicked off the call with Diego because another call was coming in from Debbie. She had General Hagee's number for me. I dialed it.

"Mike, it's BJ! How you doing?" I said. "Listen, Mike, I want to talk to you about a Marine..."

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