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Chapter Twenty-Two

Mike stepped through the door and closed it softly on oiled hinges. The alarm had been tricky but the lock was totally vanilla.

The room he was in was a rather pleasant dining area with the look of a breakfast room. The floor was hardwood with thrown carpets that had the feel, from their depth and softness, of being costly. Clearly no expense had been spared in hosting the exclusive clientele. He had a hard time putting that together with the nature of the establishment, but he supposed that after a hard night torturing the whores the customers were probably ready for a good breakfast before they began their day.

It wasn't, however, useful from his point of view. The single interior door didn't show any light so, after carefully oiling the hinges and checking for alarms, he opened it soundlessly.

The hallway beyond was, indeed, unlit. It was hardwood again, and he stepped carefully but still elicited a squeak. Moving down the edge limited the noise. To the right, near the end, there was a door with light coming from it and the hallway intersected a lit corridor there.

He slid up his vision system and he inched silently down the hallway to the lit doorway. Squatting down and keeping an ear out for approaching guards he slid a fiber-optic camera under the door. Paydirt.

The interior was an office and security room. One of the guards was napping in front of a computer console that was playing back either a scene from in the building or a similar rape video. There were three computers in the room, including the one the guard was napping in front of, along with file cases and paper scattered over a desk.

Mike snapped a couple of pics of the room, then slid the camera out. Stepping to the corner he moved the camera out at ground level and looked around. There was one more guard, as well as the rover, to find. He saw nobody in the cross corridor but there was another lit room. The far end opened out into a large room. From the exterior map they had developed, that would be the main entrance. The doors along that hallway were more or less mapped from exterior observation. The one with the lit doorway was the guard room, then there were two parlors for "meet and greet." The last was always curtained, so its purpose was unknown. There were two external rooms along the hallway, also purpose unknown. The end of this corridor would terminate in the ground floor kitchen. Somewhere, there were going to be stairs to the upper floors and to the basement.

Mike eased back down the unlit corridor, sliding the camera under the unlit doorways. The exterior "gray" rooms were bedrooms. From the accoutrements, they were designed as low-impact bondage rooms. The beds had shackles on them but there was no sign of suspension gear and cleaning them up would be a pain.

The inner rooms, however, were apparently for rougher play. One had a bed in it, but it was covered only with a matress cover, and stains on the side indicated that blood had been spilled. The other was a straight torture room. Getting the camera in that room was tough since the door was solid to the floor. But there was a rubber lintle and Mike pushed it in.

No girls, though. And the rooms still didn't have the look of serious killing rooms.

Mike paused as he heard a door open and close followed by footsteps coming down the lit corridor.

He opened the door to the room adjacent to the office and oozed over to the partitioning wall. Slipping out a contact mike, he placed it on the wall and slid in an earbud.

The door to the room opened and there was a barked exclamation followed by the sound of a chair, along with a body, hitting the floor. The following conversation was in Albanian, which Mike couldn't even begin to make out. But the chewing out was clear enough. The rest, as things settled down, was unclear. Finally, it finished and the supervisor left the room.

Mike waited until the footsteps had died down and the guard in the room started snoring. Then he stepped back out into the corridor.

Mike continued down the corridor to the door at the end and checked that. Kitchen. Okay, that was an exterior, but they hadn't been able to get a full view. There didn't appear to be anyone in it at the moment. He oiled the hinges and opened the door carefully.

The room was big and well scrubbed with a large range, industrial refrigerator and a center prep island. Stepping into the room he could see five doors besides the one to the exterior. One of them, from the look, was a walk-in fridge or freezer. He'd check that last. One checked out as a large pantry, a second opened onto another interior corridor, the third opened onto a small room that appeared to be another office, the fourth, though, led to stairs both up and down. Basement entry and a way to the top floor.

He stepped over to the freezer and took a look inside, then backed away hastily. There were a couple of large sides of meat towards the back but two bodies of young women dangled from hooks towards the front. Both had the marks of having been savagely tortured. One had a cut throat and the other looked as if she had been strangled.

Mike slid out a low-light camera and took pics of both girls, then quietly closed the door. Neither was the target and getting pissed about the find would simply degrade his performance. He put the sight aside and checked the door to the stairs.

The stairs down were simple wood; those going up were covered in carpet. He chose up first, stepping along the side to reduce squeaks.

The landing at the top had another door, this one bolted on the inside. He quietly slipped the fiber-optic camera under the door.

The hallway was brightly lit and it took his eyes a moment to adjust. When they did, the first thing he noticed was a guard sitting in a chair and napping at the far end of the hall to the left. That would be to the north.

He stepped back down the stairs, going all the way to the bottom floor. There was another bolted door and he checked under it.

The basement was a pure torture dungeon. There were a couple of cages along one side, various pieces of furniture including a St. Andrew's Cross and a saddle as well as suspension devices. There were also a couple of metal tables and a bed with rubber sheets on it. The tables had been cleaned, but from the looks of the floor bad things had happened.

He slipped into the room and looked around carefully. He had to step up on one of the tables to find what he was looking for, but he finally found the first one hidden in the suspension rig: the room was wired for full audio and video. He doubted the monitors were live at the moment, but it would be a bad thing if they were.

Okay, the layout was solid. Time to egress.

He moved quietly back up the stairs to the kitchen then down the hallway to the breakfast room. He half-wished he'd brought some poison along. Serve the bastards right. He'd done as much, or worse, to men in the past. The recent past come to think of it. But that was a target and the purpose now was obtaining information. Not just to get his rocks off.

The worst part was that he knew that the whole setup held an attraction for him. Inside he was, face it, the sort of person who patronized this establishment. He had thought more than once about not only rape but torturing a woman just to get his kicks. Killing her even. Brutally and with the greatest possible fear and pain inflicted.

That didn't mean he did it. He had the ... discipline to control that particular demon. Admittedly, he channeled it into things that were damned near as horrible. But this was ... vile.

And he was going to end it.

* * *

"Any trouble getting through customs?" Mike asked.

"Not really," Praz said, shrugging. The retired member of the Army Marksmanship Training Unit was the Keldara sniper instructor. Short and muscular, he had come in second twice in a row on the "long shot" at Camp Perry, being beaten out by the same Marine sniper. Mike had his eye on the Marine as soon as he quit the Corps. "They thought we were crazy, but they didn't give us any hassle."

"What is the mission?" Lasko asked, setting the long cases down on the bed. The former hunter was one of the oldest Keldara in the force, but he'd hardened like teak. Thin and wiry, he looked like nothing so much as the mountain goats he normally hunted. The goats were wary and had very keen vision; in general the only shot even a very good hunter got was at over five hundred meters. Lasko was a firm believer in coming back with as many goats as expended cartridges and he usually did.

"Right up your alley, Las," Mike said, his face hard. "Choosers of the slain."

* * *

"Sniper teams in position," Praz said over the radio.

"Dart team one in position," Sawn whispered. "All targets present."

"Dart two in position," Parak whispered. "Ready."

"Bravo entry, ready," Adams said.

"Alpha entry ..." Mike whispered back, looking around, "ready. Initiate."

* * *

Sawn peeped through the scope and calculated the wind, again. The darts were very low velocity and tended to drift with the slightest wind. And the range was long for the shot. He wished that it was Praz or Lasko doing the shooting, but he would have to do.

There were four of the Fijian guards gathered by the lower gate to the villa. One was the sergeant, which was what they had been waiting for.

Sawn took a deep breath and then paused and looked at Parak.

"Two right," Sawn said, wiggling the dart held between the fingers of his left hand.

"Got it," Parak replied laconically. The team sniper was far more sure of his shots.

"If I miss ..." Sawn said.

"Follow over," Parak said. "Copy. Same for you."

"You won't miss," Sawn said, taking a breath and letting it out.

He took his first shot, followed quickly by Parak's first. The sergeant stopped gesticulating and reached for the dart that had sprung up on his chest, looking at it in a puzzled manner.

By the time he'd started toppling Sawn had rotated the bolt of the air gun and slid in the next dart. He hadn't even lined up his next shot, however, before Parak fired. Sawn took his time, though, making sure of his target and trigger control before firing. That dart sunk in as well and the Fijian guards on the gate were all down.

"Target one down," Sawn whispered, sliding back through the concealing underbrush.

"Target two down."


* * *

Praz looked through the scope and calculated the shot one more time. The east target was easy, the south target harder. And there was no telling when the rover would show up.

He took a slight breath, waited for his heart to pump to diastolic and then gently squeezed the trigger of the customized sniper rifle.

"South target down," Tariel said. "Not moving."

Praz had felt the round was right and was already tracking to the second target. The question was whether he would hear the first fall and, sure enough, he was moving, reaching for a radio. Praz led him a touch and fired.

"Miss," Tariel said as the man paused and looked around wildly, crouching behind the ornamental railing. He had his radio up, now, and was talking into it excitedly.

Praz, rotated the bolt one more time and lined up the target's head. At this range it was not exactly an easy shot, but it was the only portion in view. Wait, wait, squeeze.

"Target," Tariel said. "He's all over the patio."

"I can see that," Praz said, sliding back and wiping at the sweat on his forehead. "Keep looking for targets."

* * *

"Wake up you idiot!" Imer Emini said, running into the computer room. "Kreznik said we were under attack!"

"I heard," Oltion Dzaferi said, sitting up and wiping his eyes. "Where are they?"

"That is what all this is there to tell us!" Imer snarled, waving at the computers. "Turn on the monitors! Kreznik, report!" Imer paused and looked at the radio, shaking it for a moment in frustration. "Gustini? Pejerin? Victor? Anyone?"

"Shkumbin, here," the upstairs guard replied. "What is happening?"

"I don't know," Imer replied, breathing hard. "Go to one of the girls' windows and look out. See if you can see anything. Oltion, get those black-asses on the phone and ask them what is happening!"

"I go," Shkumbin said grouchily.

"Stay on the radio," Imer continued. "Keep talking. Oltion?"

"There is no reply from the black-asses," the technician said, shrugging. "I need to turn on the lights to see with the monitors."

"Not yet," Imer said, cautiously. "Shkumbin?"

"I'm in the girls' room," Shkumbin replied. "I see nothing out the—"

* * *

"Target, upper window three," Tariel said, quietly.

"Got it," Lasko replied, stroking his trigger.

* * *

Imer looked up at a crash from above and then snarled.

"Get on the phone to town! Tell them we're under attack!"

"Phones are out," Oltion said, shaking his head. "And internet."

"Begin dumping," Imer said, shaking and drawing his pistol. "I will go buy you time to dump all the data ..."

The last thing he consciously recognized was the sound of the door blowing in.

* * *

"Computer room secure," Mike said, lifting his balaclava. "Clear. Vanner, get to work."

"On it, boss," the intel specialist said, sitting down at the first computer and waving Greznya to the second.

"I count eight tangoes down," Adams replied. "Preparing to sweep upper floors."

Mike stepped out into the corridor as more Keldara women flooded into the room. Keldara were moving from room to room in a coordinated sweep, searching for additional targets.

"Bravo Six," Adams said. "Sweep complete. One down tango in an upper room, courtesy of Lasko, at a guess. Six girls."

"Grab 'em and get down here," Mike said. "Vanner?"

"We've got the hard drives," Vanner said, standing up. "What about the files?"

"Savo! Packs!"

"Ignition system in place," Adams called. "The place is rigged."

"Five minutes, people," Mike called as the Keldara women started ripping files out of the drawers and filling the bags the militiamen held out to them. "Greznya, start the count."

* * *

Yarok looked at the devastated villa and shook his head.

"They took down the Fijian guards with tranquilizer guns," he said, sighing. "They clearly did not want to anger KFOR excessively. Then they, apparently, took down the villa's defenses, took the girls and probably other information and torched it, rather expertly, on the way out. There was one Fijian guard who said that from the time he heard the first shots to when the vehicles left was no more than five minutes."

"I will kill them all," Boris roared. "This cannot be permitted!"

"Oh, agreed," Yarok replied, sighing again. "But you'll recall that I recommended increasing security at all facilities in this area. There were only the normal eight guards here."

"That should have been enough," Boris snapped. "Especially with the Fijians. These Americans are wizards!"

"Hardly," Yarok said, musingly. "They took down the outer guards with snipers. Good ones, too. I have found one sniper point, I believe, and it was a seven hundred meter shot with a crosswind. That is a world-class sniper. However, with the outer guards down, that left only four. What I'm wondering is how they found the plan to the house."

"What do you mean?"

"To do something like this, this cleanly, you have to know where you are going," Yarok said, rubbing his lips in thought. "You need a layout to the house. Otherwise you're running around trying to find your targets. I would say, from the time that was given by the remaining guard, that they had to have the layout to the house. And given the defenses, I don't see how they could have entered it beforehand. So ..."

"You're saying we have a leak?" Boris asked coldly.

"I'm saying it's a possibility," Yarok admitted.

"I will look into this," the Albanian promised.

"Do," Yarok replied. That will get you off my back while I take care of the real business. "In the meantime, I'm going to try to find where they ran to to hide. I doubt that Rozaje is going to be their last target. It will be interesting to see where their final destination lies."

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