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The Organization Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

 

Val opened the door to reveal her compact quarters and sighed, “Hovel sweet hovel,” before sniffing her clothes and saying, “Ick.” Surveillance work was boring and dirty and she hated doing it. The warehouse she had just been staking out was repulsive, and she wouldn’t be surprised if she caught some disgusting disease.

 

Going straight to her sink and then washing her hands thoroughly, she began singing “Happy Birthday” to herself like she’d been taught as a little girl by her mother, who was a nurse. She turned around and faced her deluxe, stainless-steel refrigerator and opened the door to the freezer.

 

Peering inside, she found one lonely pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Otherwise, the freezer was like a barren desert. She popped the top of the carton and looked inside. One measly spoonful of her treat was left at the bottom. “God damn it, Char.”

 

Val was furious. She was tired, dirty, and hungry—not necessarily in that order. She marched out of her quarters and down the hall, and started banging on the first door to the left. She absolutely did not care one bit if she interrupted Char and Toni in whatever stage of lovemaking they might be in. It was late at night, so she knew that would undoubtedly be occurring.

 

New love, ugh, they’re like rabbits for shit’s sake. They had raided her fridge for the last time. Isn’t anything sacred anymore?

 

Bang, bang, bang

 

“Open the fucking door, Char! You better have at least one full pint of ice cream left, or so help me, I’ll forget we’re on the same side and put a god damn bullet in your hand for stealing my main food source!”

 

Val instantly regretted her words. Char was like a sister to her—Val was just cranky tonight. Maggie—head of The Organization, a covert group of women working toward eliminating the sleazier side of society—had relegated her to watch what those animals were doing to the young girls, and it made her skin crawl. If it were up to her, she would have killed them all, but she had her orders and the last thing The Organization needed was for her to compromise the sting they were setting up.

 

Images of the past returned, and a cold fury washed over her. At least she’d been the one to put the bullet in Viktor Borsky’s head. It almost scared her to think that the one event had given her more joy than anything in her life—past or present.

 

Val was an impatient person, and the fact it took them eighteen months to take down Viktor was unacceptable to her. She wanted to move faster with Leonid, the newly appointed head of the Russian mob. He’d been able to reestablish Viktor’s slave trade business in mere months. Unfortunately, he was twice as cunning and ten times as ruthless as Viktor. Leonid was also a paranoid bastard who vetted his employees carefully, so they hadn’t found a way in to his inner circle yet.

 

Val didn’t generally agree with her fellow agent Ronda’s perspective on how to address the Russian mob, but in this instance, she thought her colleague had the right idea. Ronda’s answer to the problem was to execute every last one of them. Val thought that was the perfect solution and right up her alley. She excelled at executions.

 

As far as Val could tell, his only Achilles heel was his beautiful new wife. He had numerous enemies and didn’t want his wife to get caught in the crossfire. She, however, refused to feel like a prisoner in her own home and insisted on living life as a normal person without a string of bodyguards to protect her. His jealousy was legendary, and he’d already terminated three bodyguards for what he perceived as their inappropriate attention toward his wife.

 

Val was about to break the door down when a disheveled redhead opened it and blinked at her. Behind her, a dark-haired woman peered around her lover with an unrepentant smirk.

 

“Jesus, Val, it’s midnight. I didn’t realize you would be back so soon. What happened? Anything we need to know about?” Char asked.

 

“No, I’m just in a foul mood. Maggie took pity on me tonight and sent Ronda to finish the shift. She probably thinks I’ll go off the deep end and shoot all the fuckers before we have a chance to infiltrate the organization. You know how she is—always wants to wait for an opportunity to cut off the head of the snake. I’d be more worried about Ronda. Now that is one crazy-ass bitch,” Val answered.

 

“Ronda’s calmed down quite a bit now that Cindy is calling the shots. That’s what you need, Val, the love of a good woman. It ought to calm you right down,” Toni, Char’s lover, piped up from behind her.

 

“No thanks. My job here isn’t exactly conducive to a healthy, loving relationship.” Val held up her hand. “Nope, don’t want to get involved with another agent who might be just as bat-shit crazy as I am. I prefer living my life just the way it is right now. I get an itch and I find a beautiful woman to scratch it for one night only. That’s the rule and I’m sticking to it.”

 

Char looked at Toni and smiled before placing a gentle kiss on her lips. “That’s the way I felt before I met Toni. Your day may come. Never say never.”

 

“Can we get to the more important subject of where I can get my fucking ice cream? I want my own untouched pint of perfection, not something you two got cooties all over. I know you incorporate it into your little love games, and I’m not interested in any additional flavor.” Val shuddered.

 

“Try Dani. I think she may have a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough left. She might still be in the lab, though. She was working on some new prototype. She won’t even disclose anything about it to me. I’ll pay you in ice cream if you can manage to get her to spill the beans.” Toni chuckled.

 

“Thanks for the tip, but I’m staying clear of any discussion of your egghead inventions. I’m the muscle part of the operation. I don’t understand what the two of you are talking about most of the time, but I’m happy to try out any new weapon. Ronda and Sophie got to have all the fun with those poison darts, so I’m next in line to try out any new prototype.” Val shook her head. “Next time you decide to raid my fridge, I expect a replacement before the night is over.”

 

“But the whole reason to raid your fridge is because we’re too lazy to go out and get our own,” Char reasoned.

 

“Not my problem. Next time I won’t be so nice,” Val growled.

 

“Who said you were nice this time?” Toni grinned. “Never mind, I’m on to you. Face it, Val, your bark is much bigger than your bite.”

 

Val pulled her Glock from her shoulder holster and pointed it at Toni. “I’ve killed for far less. Don’t push it, Toni. Consider yourself warned.”

 

She secured her gun back in the holster. After she turned and began walking toward the lab, Toni whispered, “She wouldn’t really shoot one of us, would she?”

 

Val chuckled. She enjoyed keeping people guessing. She was a coldhearted killer and that would never change, but of course that wouldn’t extend to one of her sisters in The Organization. However, she didn’t want them to know that deep down inside she’d die before she let any of them come to harm.

 

 

Val stalked down the hallway and entered the lab, vowing not to admit to Maggie that lately she was on the verge of losing it. Flashbacks from her past kept playing in her head late at night when she had nothing better to occupy her active mind. She lamented that they were returning. She thought she’d conquered her fears, but that part of her life just wouldn’t let go of her.

 

Tonight when she watched a man drag a struggling, chained young girl into the cement basement of the industrial complex, it all came flooding back. She felt the cold steel against her wrists and smelled the coppery scent of her own blood. Twelve years was a long time and she should have been able to forget, but tonight she couldn’t. When she’d reached for her phone, her hand was shaking uncontrollably. She called Maggie and asked for a replacement, and Maggie had sent Ronda without asking why. That was how Maggie was. She never pried, so she never knew the horrors that had befallen Val before Maggie caught her in the midst of picking that rich fart’s pocket.

 

Val blinked against the bright lights of the lab as she pushed open the door and saw a familiar head bent over one of the special computers. Val had a soft spot in her heart for Dani, who had her own skeletons and nightmares to overcome. Dani was a sweet kid, but Val wouldn’t think of revealing any of her terrifying nightmares to her. Dani’s physical barriers after being shot still plagued her, and the nightly reminders had not lessened. She simply could not accept that she wasn’t able to move about as well as she could before the undercover mission went terribly wrong.

 

 “Hey, kiddo,” she said, her voice softer than usual, “your big sis told me you might have a few extra pints of Ben and Jerry’s hidden away in your freezer. If you can see your way to liberating them for me, it might save her life.” Val smiled.

 

Dani looked up and chuckled. “Stole your ice cream again, did she?”

 

“I keep threatening to shoot her, but she never listens. Next time I’m making good on my threats. You tell her that,” Val growled. “I don’t understand why she doesn’t steal from you.”

 

Dani shrugged. “I think she likes to rile you up. It’s been quiet for her since they got back from vacation, and I’m fairly certain she’s getting antsy and bored. You are her favorite entertainment at the moment.”

 

“Now I’m definitely going to put a bullet in her.”

 

“Please don’t do that. She’s the only sister I have, and she does have redeeming qualities,” Dani pleaded half-jokingly.

 

“I’m just kidding, but she does piss me off sometimes.”

 

“Yeah, me too, but you know she’d risk her life for either one of us.” Dani struggled to stand and wobbled before Val rushed over and steadied her. “Come on, I’ll get you my secret stash right now.”

 

“Where’s your crutches? You look like you might need a little extra help tonight. You’ve been pushing it lately, haven’t you?” Val frowned.

 

“Geez, suddenly I have six mothers and Maggie to contend with. I don’t need you playing that role as well. I’m just a little stiff from sitting for so long. I’ll let you offer your arm to steady me until I work out my stiffness, but I don’t need the silver sticks tonight.” Dani latched on to Val’s arm and took a few tentative steps as Val walked alongside.

 

“So what were you working on? You had that intense look you get when it’s something really innovative,” Val remarked.

 

The glint in Dani’s eyes told Val everything she needed to know. This was a special project that she imagined Dani was particularly proud of.

 

“I think I’ve developed an algorithm that will predict where Leonid’s wife will go with 85 percent accuracy. This means we can track her movements and eventually track Leonid’s. He accompanies her 38 percent of the time. Sixteen percent of that is at social functions that will provide us with the opportunity to get close enough to use Toni’s biological bug.” Dani’s smile disappeared. “I know that still leaves us without an in to their organization, but it’s a start. He isn’t as easy to infiltrate as Viktor was. So far we haven’t been able to plant tracking devices on his guards in the same manner that we used with Viktor’s cell phones.”

 

“That’s brilliant, Dani. I know you and Toni will figure out a way to get in. I have faith in both of you, but don’t tell Toni that; she’ll just get a bigger head. Fucking brainiac is already such a smartass. We can’t have her becoming too confident, now can we?”

 

Dani laughed. “How come you’re not afraid I’ll get too cocky?”

 

“You? Never. You’re the sweetest person in this cynical organization. Everyone else is arrogant, badass, or a sociopath like me.”

 

Dani smacked Val’s arm. “You’re not a sociopath. I see beneath that badass exterior you try to present to others.”

 

“Shhh, you’re ruining my street cred by saying those words out loud.” Val grinned.

 

 

The echo of Leonid’s confident footsteps reverberated in the dingy warehouse. His shiny Italian loafers contrasted sharply with the dark and foreboding room. A low-wattage bulb hung from the ceiling, barely illuminating the large man sitting in a plain wooden chair. Zip ties securely fastened his feet and hands to the legs and arms of the chair. A dark stain stretched out below the man and formed an even pattern of liquid slowly spreading across the cement. Two men bookended Leonid as he walked farther into the cavernous room.

 

Leonid narrowed his gaze at the man and noted the droplet of sweat that traveled down the side of his face. His wide-eyed stare didn’t mask what Leonid presumed was terror. He counted on his reputation to keep his men in line, and when they stepped out of line, his response was quick and deadly. Leonid took joy in personally carrying out each execution for actual and perceived indiscretions.

 

Sometimes he took his time, torturing the intended victim, and at other times, he was quick and merciful. His mercy, however, was never the result of his desire to end the agony quickly, but rather his limited time to deal with the problem. Tonight he planned to resolve the situation quickly because he had plans with his wife for the evening.

 

 Before sending his intended target to the depths of hell, he always patiently explained his reasoning. Men deserved to know why Leonid decided to execute them. “You did not perform your duties with honor. I warned you not to look at my wife as if she were a piece of meat to devour. Your eyes should have traveled everywhere else but upon my wife to ensure her safety at all times. I thought you Italians knew the importance of family and respect for another man’s property,” Leonid pronounced before turning to one of his bodyguards, who handed him a gun.

 

Without further delay, he lifted the gun, placed it against the condemned man’s forehead, and pulled the trigger. Blood and brain material exploded from the back of his head. Leonid looked at his hand in disgust when he realized a small amount of blood splatter had landed there.

 

Leonid handed the gun to the man who had provided it and in an even tone said, “Please take this trash out for me. Consider him fired. I need you to find a replacement for him, and don’t bring another Italian into my inner circle. From now on, we only hire Russians. I made an exception for Gina’s brother, but those wops think with their dicks, not their heads. Even a woman would be a better choice.” Leonid paused. “Yes, that is a much better idea. I do not trust my Russian comrades. Bring me a woman qualified to keep Gina safe. I don’t care where you get her, fly to Russia if you have to, but I want the best. Put her through a comprehensive screening before bringing her to me for final approval.”

 

Leonid snapped his fingers and the other bodyguard pulled a clean handkerchief and a small container of Purell from his pocket. After Leonid coated his hands with the liquid sanitizer, he wiped them dry and handed the soiled cotton cloth to his employee. “Get me a new shirt and be sure to send his family flowers. I wouldn’t want those uncivilized wops to think we lack respect.”

 

Leonid laughed as he walked away from his poor selection of a bodyguard to protect his most prized possession—his wife.

 

 

Until she’d received the call from Val, Maggie was content to sit and listen to her favorite CD, The Four Seasons. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she reflected on Val’s strained request. Val was slowly unraveling, and Maggie wasn’t sure she would be able to use her much longer unless Val got the help she needed to chase away her demons.

 

So far, they hadn’t managed to figure out a way into Leonid’s inner circle. She sighed, realizing that as much as she didn’t want to call Antonio, his offer of assistance might be their only option. Her most trusted team had listened intently to her explanation of their connection, but Sophie’s training as a former FBI agent made her remain guarded.

 

Connecting with Antonio again was dangerous on so many levels. Their philosophies not only differed, but she was afraid her feelings for him might resurface after she’d learned about his wife’s recent fight with cancer. Sevilla hadn’t survived, and Antonio had been alone now for over two years. The presence of another woman was no longer the barrier in rekindling the old flame.

 

Her private cell rang and she scrunched her face as she looked at the number flashing on the screen. She didn’t recognize it. Only those she trusted most in The Organization had this number, but something was instinctively telling her to answer the phone.

 

“Hello,” she hesitantly spoke into the tiny device.

 

As Antonio’s rich baritone oozed through the speaker, she envisioned his broad smile.

 

“How did you get this number?” She immediately regretted her sharp tone. She listened to his explanation and learned about the recent developments in Leonid’s organization. “Yes, I think I may have someone who would be nearly perfect for the job. My major concern is that lately she’s displaying abnormal amounts of stress and instability, and that is not like her. Unfortunately, she’s the only one who can speak fluent Russian and possesses all the other needed attributes.” Maggie sighed.

 

She continued to listen to Antonio’s information. “I suppose we don’t have much choice at this point, because this opportunity isn’t likely going to present itself again. I understand and appreciate that you have assets that are also at risk, but I don’t like to send someone into the lion’s den without thoroughly evaluating our choices…. I’ll call you tomorrow…. Yes, I know what to do to set the stage…. Dani has been looking for a challenge—I believe this will provide her with a big one if we decide to use my person for this job.”

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