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My Little Mystery Part 13

My Little Mystery Part 13

The group starts to plan the offensive and finds out some new facts.

Everyone sat at the conference table in Cricket’s private conference room. The group had grown back to its six members, Cricket, Cal, Stefan, Natalia, Natasha and Damon. Monica and Roger were hanging around hovering nearby. Not much happened since the rescue of Natasha in San Antonio. All the perpetrators who attacked Cal’s estate had disappeared without a trace in the limestone lake with the exception of Natalia. This meeting was to examine what clues still seemed relevant to the previous events.

Stefan stood to address the group, “it has been quiet for too long. We need to examine what we have and where we go from here. Based on the data collected by Eric and Erin, we determined there are two plots playing out here. The first plot is against the whole group. The second seems to be targeted at Cricket. Let’s look at the second plot first.”

Cricket asked. “Why look at the second plot first? I have not done anything bad to warrant such an attack. Who would want to hurt me?”

“That is what we need to analyze in depth, Cricket.” Cal replied.

“Someone from your past or a group targeted you for revenge. They have very deep pockets too. Hooligans Ltd is not a cheap organization to hire. It was started by a thug who graduated from the Bard School long before we arrived. He was not the brightest kid there but managed to graduate and take a few of his classmates with him. He has spent time in jail too. He is a ruthless and vigilant person to have as an enemy.” Stefan continued.

There were people in Cricket’s past who could muster the money to hire Hooligans Ltd. A few came to mind, but ruled out as not feasible or viable. Cricket felt uneasy and did not like placing her friends in jeopardy because of her past. She felt the need to search her past to find the culprit and pursue them until they gave up the attack on her. She enlisted Cal’s aid for the search. Natasha and Damon searched where directed by Cricket and Cal. Stefan and Natalia spent time looking at the data collected by Eric and Erin. Eric and Erin and the technicians still examined the debris from the accidental explosion that killed Monica. The group worked on the past events but was split to help solve both plots raised against them.

At Hooligans Ltd in Minnesota, the owner CEO paced back and forth in his office. His recovery team failed to report back or check-in with the home office. That meant only one thing; the team failed in the task. Had the team been compromised and killed? No one knew. The client called daily wanting results. He threatened to pull his funds and sue the company. That never happened before in the history of Hooligans Ltd and would not happen now. The CEO decided to get directly involved in the efforts at hand. He knew that failure was not an option. Cricket had to be brought down and pay for her misdeeds.

The client suggested that the CEO talk with a woman who just got paroled from federal prison. This woman was a classmate of Crickets. She plotted against Cricket but got caught up in the plot and took the fall for failing. She wanted revenge on Cricket and knew her weaknesses. Suggestions made by the client were to use this woman as a consultant to assist in the takedown of Cricket. Her assistance could be the key to making it all happen. Her name was Emily and she walked with a limp thanks to Cricket while they were in school. Emily hired on as a contractor to Hooligans Ltd. for the duration of the contract. She gave insight into Cricket’s behavior and habits. The CEO set Emily up with an office next to his. They consulted daily on the plans to strip Cricket of her power. Emily’s lust for revenge grew day after day. This was not necessarily an asset to the overall goal, but it kept her focused.

The CEO hired and trained a new team to be led by him for the final assault. Unlike Cricket, who took people down from within the organizations they controlled, the CEO preferred to storm the fortress and take no prisoners. Brutal attacks but very final in the results. The targets usually ended up dead and destroyed. Emily liked the idea of killing Cricket and destroying her assets. Over the weeks after the failed recovery a very elaborate but simple plan fell into place. Emily liked the ideas and potential outcomes. Each day the plans evolved. The CEO and Emily became fast friends and spent a lot of time together. They seemed to complement each other. Emily was devious and clever and the CEO was brutal and ruthless. The team trained each day at a facility in the suburbs honing their assault skills. They became familiar with all their equipment and mastered skills of hiding and killing silently. They became a small Special Forces group with stealth and technology on their side as assets. The one factor that the CEO forgot was he never really knew if his team was dead or compromised. If they were dead, it meant that his current work was safe. If they were compromised then the training facility and new team was in jeopardy of discovery.

Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz sat in the newly refurbished jet waiting to leave St. Louis. The information they gained from Natasha and her kidnapping proved to be very valuable. Natasha did not crack under the pressure of the kidnapping nor did she panic when she left them. She carried on with her life as usual. She went shopping for clothes, ate a good meal, cleaned up and only then called Damon to relate her whereabouts. She behaved as a well trained person should. Cricket, Cal, Monica and Stefan performed their tasks as mentors very well. Damon seemed to be doing well too. Giving the group two students to train worked out perfectly. Nothing happened to shake the roots of the group. Losing Monica to a ‘training accident’ rocked the group, but they pulled together and moved on.

As they sat and chatted, it became apparent that there were other external factors at work here. Where were the two assault teams from? Who ran them? This was very unusual. The observed tactics were not unlike those taught at the Bard School. So there was a connection there. Who from the school would mount such an assault? Maybe they should step in and help Cricket find out.

Mr. Wagner says, “Do you think Cricket and her group can discover this external group without our help?”

Mr. Schultz replies, “Why don’t we watch from the sidelines. This might be a good test of their skills. It will also test their ability to get organized and delegate responsibilities. So far we know Natasha is ready. We need to watch Damon and Natalia. Damon seems ready and Natalia dropped out of sight but has surfaced with the recovery team. We really need to talk to her.”

“I wonder if you could make a trip to visit them about my death and talk with Natalia while you are there.”

“That is a good idea. I think we should maybe tell them about you escaping death. The reason you did was because of what we had seen happening. We suspected some foul play would befall you and saw it. As far as the other group knew you are dead. At the same time I can talk to Natalia and find out where she has been and for whom she worked.”

“It is settled then, we can both go to visit the estate and talk with them.”

With that decision made, the pilot set a flight plan and course to the private airport in Southampton Long Island. Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz sat back confident they did the right thing. They still had to find out who this other group was and what impact it would have on the continuing work they were doing. Cricket and her friends still were going to have to weather what Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz had in the works. Their plans must succeed and soon. Once that was done a new life could begin for Cricket and her group. The next step was up to the other antagonists, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz had their own agenda to push.

In Cal’s estate on Long Island, an alarm sounded from a laptop computer. It was a signal to Eric and Erin that the private jet that kidnapped Natasha was on the move. Eric jumped into action typing furiously on the keyboard. After a few moments he sat back satisfied that he knew where the plane was headed, but he had a confused look on his face. The flight plan was for Southampton Long Island. Something was wrong here, he thought. Why was the plane coming back here? The attacks devastated the group; they did not need any more. Things had been so quiet, the investigations progressed slowly. Clues were sparse and data was voluminous.

“Hey Cal, The plane is in the air again! Guess what, it is headed back to the Southampton private airfield. Do you think we should be there when it lands?” Eric yelled.

“Do we know who is on it and their intentions? I want to be there when it lands this time. Maybe we can turn the table on them first. Let’s rally the troops and get moving.” Cal told Eric.

Eric called Erin and the technicians. They moved the SUV’s into position and loaded them with arms and ammunition. They readied themselves for a battle. Cal called Cricket at her office and briefed her with what was happening. Stefan heard the call rushed to grab Damon and Natalia to join Cal at the airport. Cricket and Natasha stayed behind to keep the company going. They still had to make money to keep their lives going. It was important to keep a low profile in the wake of the attacks at the estate, but retaliation was needed now. The opportunity was in their favor too. Whoever was on that plane was not going to surprise them again. Instead of being on the defensive letting the battle come to them, they took the offensive and brought the battle to the occupants of the plane.

Two groups converged on the private airfield from two directions. The groups were ready to fight a pitched battle if need be. The plane made a smooth landing and taxied to the tarmac outside the private aviation hangar at the far end of the airport. It sat idling while the TSA officials went aboard to check the credentials of the occupants. Eric and his group fell in behind Stefan, Damon and Natalia. After the TSA departed, the occupants of the plane descended the stairway deplaning. Stefan walked up to them and was taken back. He saw Mr. Schultz and maybe a ghost in Mr. Wagner.

“Wow, what a reception committee! I hope they are friendly.” Mr. Wagner joked.

“Hello Stefan. It was nice of you to meet us here.” Mr. Schultz quipped.

Stefan stood there shaking his head in wonder. What were these two doing getting off this plane? Had they kidnapped Natasha? This was really strange. These two men had a lot of explaining to do and fast.

Mr. Wagner asked, “can we get a ride back to Cal’s estate please? Damon, can you see to our luggage? Natalia, it is nice to meet you again.”

Damon went aboard the plane and carried the luggage to the waiting SUVs. Stefan escorted the two men to the limousine which brought him to the airport. One of the SUVs took off first followed by the limousine. The second SUV followed the limousine to the estate. It was a strange entourage that drove through the streets of Southampton. Cal was in the lead SUV. He called Cricket and told her who was coming to dinner. She shook her head in wonder at the news. Why were these two men here now? She looked over at Natasha who stood there a little shaken by the news. “Dinner will be interesting tonight,” she thought.

In the last meeting between Emily and the CEO, they discussed the need to gather some intelligence from the estate in Southampton. A highly trained team doesn’t just disappear without a trace. Emily volunteered to go check out what happened. The CEO told Emily that they would go together. He wanted to see this Cricket person for himself. He heard of her but was curious why she was so good. The rumor mill about the Bard School graduates was full of stories about Cricket and her exploits. She became an enigma to the CEO, because of these stories. Emily confirmed to him that the stories were true and she was real. Now he had to see for himself. He summoned his assistant to make arrangements for the trip to Southampton for Emily and himself. The question to be answered, was do they try to mount another attack? His team still trained and was not ready for deployment.

He decided in his mind that a scouting mission was all this would be. Emily wanted to try and penetrate the area. They had to get a feel for the place first. There had to be weaknesses where they were vulnerable. No one had an impenetrable fortress. Everyone had a weakness, all one had to do was find and exploit it. Cricket had one, but it was not evident yet. Maybe this trip will expose it. Emily, for being a friend, knew very little about Cricket’s life. That is what caused her downfall every time. He was not going down that path and if he did he was not going it alone. Emily was the expert so she had a bigger stake in the outcome. The CEO felt Emily hid something from him too. She harbored a grudge against Cricket that was evident. This grudge drove her to extremes. It was reckless and dangerous. He needed to reign in the grudge before it sank the plans and the company. She was a loose cannon and he had her around. She planned well, but left flaws hanging out. So far he found them all, but if they ran afoul of Cricket or any members of her group and had to improvise all bets were off.

Dinner was ready. The house was all lit up for their guests. All the fine china and sterling silver lay on the table waiting for dinner to start. Cricket, Cal, Stefan, Damon, Natasha, and Natalia nervously waited for Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz to enter. Eric and Erin volunteered to be wait staff for the meal. Cal prepared one of his famous gourmet meals. The men entered and everyone sat at their places. Small talk ran the table throughout the meal. After dessert, the dishes cleared and coffee poured, the serious conversation began.

Stefan was first. “Why are you both here?” He asked. Stefan never was subtle when it came to purposes.

“That is a difficult question to answer right now.” Mr. Wagner replied. “Let’s just say there are higher purposes and powers in play here now. We saw the attack on the estate and are as perplexed by it as you. Have Eric and Erin found out what happened here?”

Eric and Erin joined the group and spoke up. “We have not seen anything at all. The groups that attacked were two distinct groups. The first was local, hired by the second to distract us. The second came from a company named Hooligans Ltd, which are thugs for hire. That told us nothing. Natalia came over from them, but she is clueless too. So we have no idea what is in play here.”

“That is interesting Eric. Think about it for a minute. The cost to mount such an attack, with all the surveillance cameras was not cheap. So the client has some very deep pockets. Also the attack was directed at Cricket and no one else. What does that mean? Now do you see where this is going? There is someone or some group of people who have a lot of resources to pay for this all and continue paying.”

“Are you telling us that there are more attacks coming?” Cricket asked.

Everyone gasped at the prospect of more attacks. A feeling of dread ran through the room. Minds began contemplating what needed to be done. Cal got up to leave the room, but Mr. Wagner spoke up.

“Yes, there is potentially one more all out attack to come. This attack plan will be well designed and executed. It will be against the house here. The main objective is to cause the downfall of Cricket, to ruin her. When it will happen is open and how large a force is involved is also unknown. What is important is that it is coming and it will be fierce.”

“Can we prevent it from happening?” Cricket asked.

“Maybe, if you knew who was paying Hooligans Ltd. That is a difficult task too. They have hidden themselves well. They have hired a consultant who knows Cricket very well or at least they think she does. Cricket is there anyone who you have hurt in the past that wants to take you down hard?” Mr. Schultz replied.

“No one I can think of off hand.” Cricket volunteered. She knew one but was not sure if she was alive or out of jail yet. She held back to prevent the group from worrying needlessly. She wanted to find out by herself about Emily.

The dinner party broke up with more questions, but at least now Eric and Erin felt more comfortable about searching for information from Hooligans Ltd. Natalia’s whereabouts and status became a closely guarded secret. Protecting her became the number one priority for the time being.

Mr. Wagner and Mr. Schultz felt good about deflecting the group from asking about their purpose. They were safe for now. It was still a mystery about the other group and it worried both men. If the group succeeded the fate of the Bard School was certain. If they lost then the Bard School lost too. They had to remain for a time to make sure of success. They had to do this in spite of the school’s needs. This put them in a peculiar position, almost, one could say “between a rock and a hard place.”

The CEO and Emily proceeded to Southampton on their mission. Everything fell into place so far. Nothing went wrong yet and Emily beamed at her prospects.

Cricket and the group spent the night restlessly turning over the prospects in their minds. They needed to sit again and look at all the data they had. They missed something and it was there.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

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