Fiance by Friday(115)

By: Catherine Bybee

Sergeant Piper scowled and stared at the phone in Gwen’s hand.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Gwen smiled and lifted the phone to her ear. “If I don’t call back in thirty minutes, you know what to do.”

“I’ve got your back, Gwen.”

It wasn’t like he had a choice when the military police ordered him into the back of a van and drove him to an interrogation room.

“There was no such thing as Operation Raven.” Colonel Montgomery flew in from the Pentagon as soon as the call went out about Major Blayney’s suicide. The man moved to intimidate. His bulk alone rivaled Neil’s, and that said something for top brass. Most left the bodybuilding to the grunts. This man obviously didn’t want to be outrun by his men. On any other day, Neil would have admired that.

Not one salt or pepper hair was out of place as he stared Neil down.

Neil sat forward against the table and prepared to reveal all the details he’d kept to himself until that point. “You might want to make sure the person recording this is secure, Colonel. I’d hate for a leak this late in the game.”

Montgomery left the room. He heard shouted orders and when Montgomery returned he arrived with another man and a recording device. Once the assistant was ready, Neil began.

“It had been over a year since the war began…after the towers went down. Blayney rounded me up and had me handpick my team. Each of us had worked together on one mission or another. He was readying us for the mission of our career. Sent us on three trials together. Operation Wrecking Ball, Operation Tidal Wave, and Operation Storm. Like all special ops, we went in, did our jobs, and got out.” Neil hoped to hell now that the other operations were legit. There’s no way to know how long Blayney had played them. “When it came to Operation Raven we were ready. We understood it was big. Something Washington would order at any time. We had one objective, remove Raven.” Neil gave Colonel Montgomery the name of their target and went on. “Cause as little collateral damage as possible and get out.”

Montgomery listened.

“Only things didn’t go smoothly. The choppers dropped us on target, and we moved in position. Raven was on his compound but so was his family. When we penetrated, Raven did the unthinkable. He demanded his children run toward us. We didn’t know the kids were wearing bombs. Boomer and Robb died on scene. Linden made it onto the chopper and died shortly after. Their deaths were labeled as ‘training accidents.’ Within six months, we were all removed or left our positions. Signed off by Major Blayney. Except for Mickey…or so we were told. Mickey stayed in.” Neil went on to explain about Billy, about Rick, about how Mickey was played by Blayney to kill them all off to hide the truth about the mission.

Neil talked for hours. Ending with the last night of his life.

Montgomery listened, his face unreadable.

Once he was finished Montgomery asked questions. “Who were the pilots?”

“I’d never seen them before. We flew overseas in a cargo belly, jumped immediately into a chopper, and rappelled to our target. The pilots who picked us up never removed their headgear. I don’t know who they were.”

Montgomery swiveled away from him and dismissed his assistant. Neil witnessed the man pace the room. As much as Neil hated the position he was in at that moment, he pitied the colonel.

“You do realize the position this puts me in, Lieutenant?”

“Retired, sir.”

Montgomery tilted his head. “Not from where I’m standing. Until we have the details you’re officially reinstated.”

Neil sat taller. “And if I refuse?”

Montgomery stared him down. “That wouldn’t be wise.”

Noise from outside the room brought Neil to his feet.

“You were told to take her to a hotel. Not here!”

Neil heard the voice of an angel. “I didn’t give her a choice, soldier. Not why don’t you be a dear and tell me where my husband is.”

Before Neil could prepare the colonel for what walked through the door, Gwen was there. He couldn’t help but smile as she stormed the room. “There you are.” She threw herself into his arms and life fell into balance. “They tried to make me leave without you.”

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