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Chapter Twenty-Four

"None of them have left," Ctibor said, as Yarok walked into the apartment. "They usually stay at least two days in one place, by the look of the previous data."

The Albanian hit team had taken up four apartments in the building. It was owned by the Albanian mob, so getting the apartments had been simple enough, if rough on the previous tenants. But the tenants had left behind some nice furniture. Unfortunately, it was not going to be in very good condition when the team left; the "shooters" Boris had turned up were mostly gutter scum. What was it that British general had said? "The scum of the earth enlisted for drink." That was what Boris had found for him when he asked for professionals. Yarok wondered, briefly, which general it had been. Montgomery, probably.

"I'm not happy with taking them down in the hotel," Yarok said, rubbing his lips with his fingers. "Is the team all here?"

"The ones that are sober," Ctibor said, spitting on the floor. "You'd think the Albanians could round up better men than this."

"It would have been better if we'd caught them in that hotel in Kosovo," Yarok admitted. "But around here all you can get is gutter thugs. Even the veterans of the war mostly have real jobs. Or they work for rival gangs."

"So what do you want to do?" Ctibor asked, shrugging.

"We will hit them tonight," Yarok said, decisively. "Before dawn."

* * *

Mike blinked and opened his eyes at the ring from the cell phone and started to roll over only to find that he was totally tangled in sheets and covers. He managed to untangle without disturbing Daria and snagged the phone.

"Jenkins," he growled.

"Kildar, it is Gurum."

"Gurum?" Mike asked, rubbing his eyes and wondering why the brewery manager would be calling him while he was on an op.

"I am in the city of Las Vegas, Kildar," Gurum said. "The booth for the convention is well prepared and the company is in the process of installing. But you said that you wanted some of the Keldara here for the booth. I had left the choice up to you, Kildar, but when I called home they told me you were ... on business."

"Shit," Mike snapped, sitting up. "I completely and totally forgot."

"I can hire local models, Kildar," Gurum said. "They are not cheap and I will have to hurry to find Keldara dress ..."

"No," Mike said, thinking rapidly. "I've got a better idea."

* * *

"You want what?" Pierson snapped.

"We need to meet," Mike said. "About the other thing. And I need to get some people into the U.S. Now. We have what is called a win-win situation here."

"You're joking," Pierson said, sighing. "You want visas for thirty something complete unknowns?"

"And I'm going to need some passports, too," Mike said. "I can get the photos, but I'm going to need them by the time the plane lands in the U.S. And the visas on file."

"Why don't you just fly back yourself?" Pierson asked exasperatedly.

"Because we're in Indian Country," Mike pointed out. "I'm not going to just drop my team in Indian Country, Bob."

"Shit," Pierson replied tightly. "Okay, okay. But you'll need to go to the embassy. What kind of passports?"

"Georgian, I guess," Mike said. "No, scrap that. I know a better way to get them. But we're going to need somebody in the States to receive us that knows not to ask too many questions. The thing is, we're going to Vegas. That's right next to Nellis, which has some really good secure rooms. Oh, and we're carrying about seven hundred pounds of print intel on the op that's going to need some Albanian translators. Very closedmouth ones. I'll drop the original electronic EEI with you as well. That's in half a dozen languages, including Romanian."

"I'll get you a secure fax number to send the information on the girls to the embassy," Pierson said, relenting. "I need to start making some phone calls, though, right now."

"That's fine," Mike said, sitting up and slapping the still sleeping Daria on the rump and eliciting a yelp. "We're going to have to move like lightning to make the convention."

* * *

"The stakeout just called," Ctibor said. "They're packing up."

"Shit," Yarok muttered over the phone. "Any idea where to?"

"No," Ctibor admitted. "We couldn't get a mike into the rooms. The stakeout has a shotgun mike, but the men who are loading the vans don't seem to know. The stakeout said that one of them said something about a convention."

"That tells us a lot," Yarok snapped. "Find out where they are going."

"Perhaps we can hit them enroute?" Ctibor suggested.

"Maybe. Tell the stakeout to follow them. We'll need more than one car to follow."

"I'm on it."

* * *

"Vanner," Mike said, slipping the intel specialist a note. "Call this number. It's a chartering company I've dealt with before. Tell them I need a large plane as fast as possible. My usual pilot if he can fly it."

"Yes, sir," Vanner replied, grinning. "How are we going to get the girls into the States, sir?"

"I'm on it."

* * *

"This is highly irregular, Kildar."

"I know, Minister," Mike said, rolling his eyes. "And I am sorry to place this burden upon you, knowing that your time is extremely valuable. But it is most urgent and very important. I know that aspects have the attention of the President of the United States. While the situation does not directly affect Georgia, it has very wide-ranging implications. And it is imperative that I take the full team to the United States as soon as possible. Tonight if we can."

"I will call the embassy in Croatia immediately," the Georgian minister for external affairs said with a sigh. "But I will want to know that this is for an important purpose."

"I will convey that to the President, Minister," Mike said, rolling his eyes and wondering how many favors he was going to owe by the time the night was over.

"Mike," Adams growled over the radio.

"Go," Mike said.

"I think we have a problem. I've spotted the same white Lada four times since we got out of town. Either the guy's going to Zagreb just like us or we're being followed."

"Crap," Mike said, shaking his head. "We knew it had to happen sooner or later. Okay, evasion plan Alpha. Sawn, you monitoring?"

"Yes, Kildar."

"Follow the agreed routes and meet at the agreed rally point. Adams, you have pick-up. Everyone go to scrambled cell at this time." Mike pulled out his map and studied the roads. "Yevgenii, take the next left ..." So much for making good time.

* * *

"Yarok," the security specialist growled. He'd had a hard time getting all the vehicles for the assault team, most of whom were half or all the way drunk. While the American had taken less than fifteen minutes to get on the road, it had taken him over an hour.

"Ctibor. They're splitting up. I think the trail car was made."

"I told you to use more than one car!" Yarok fumed.

"I had a hard time getting more," Ctibor complained. "And we never caught up. The stakeout car is still following one group that is on the main highway to Zagreb, but the other vans all have pulled off."

"Follow the group on the main highway," Yarok said. "They have to rendezvous somewhere."

* * *

"Okay, Garold, they're still on us," Adams said over the radio. "Break it down. I'll stay on the highway."

He watched as the other vans pulled off the main road to Zagreb and then shook his head.

"That's right, little lamb," he crooned. "Stay right on my tail."

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