Thursday Morning, the Second of May: 9:00 am, Courtyard Garden, Jackson Hacienda, Meadowlake
It was getting hot already. The sun was streaming into the courtyard like a laser assault on the building. Stones came in from the front door and quickly cut across the garden around the center fountain to intercept her father under the atrium in front of her bedroom as he was headed toward the kitchen.
He looked over at her, snapping out of his deep focus on whatever he was thinking about, “Hi, Stones, you’re looking gorgeous as usual.”
“Hush, you ol’ reprobate! What’s the deal? Mom sure made this sound important. I guess it must be if you’re not at work.”
“You’ll find out in a minute. Come with me.” Jakob turned to his daughter with a big smile and gave her a hug. They headed to the kitchen with his arm around her waist, propelling her up to his speed—and with the length of his legs, that was considerable.
When they entered the kitchen, Rachael handed them each a basket filled with goodies. She gave a huge smile to her favorite daughter, “Hi hon, you’re just in time.” With that she grabbed two insulated jugs and led them out the door of the kitchen.
The three of them headed toward the garage their feet crunching in the gravel. Several of Denzell Lee’s toys were parked next to the mountain, including his favorite—the old beat up under cover Nissan Frontier he called the Wreck.
“I see Denzell’s here.” Stone commented. “I wonder what he’s working on now?”
“You’ll see in a bit,” said her dad.
Now she was really curious. It had been a strange time after the little fight in Belen last winter. Following the attack at the Y and Gerry’s little rescue, Black Sail West had ramped up a little. But recently her parents had seemed really distracted. She really needed to ask them what was going on. Maybe she’d find out today.
The Jackson spread was a good size by any standard—completely walled with what seemed to be the typical adobe walls of the Southwest. There was no indication that the walls were heavily reinforced concrete under the soft molded edges of the adobe look. Denzell had been showing Stones the defensive measures once they heard more about Lupe and the Mexican soldiers.
The five towers at the corners and front plus the gate on the west side looked quaint, but they were strategically placed for defense and heavily armored. She had helped him install the radically upgraded .50 calibre M2s on their custom, hydraulic mounts that could be computer-controlled from back in the garage if necessary. Most impressive was the belt feed from down in the tower that gave the massive machine guns the ability to fire several thousand rounds without reloading—but Denzell had warned her about melting the barrel if you weren’t careful. The sound/flash suppressors made them run a little hot. She knew they were serious when she discovered that the larger front tower held four of the M2s with two facing the mountain slopes behind the complex to stop attacks from that direction.
The folding deck on top of the house had amazed her when she saw it not only covered the top of the house, but also made an excellent landing pad for helicopters. The hacienda was a serious fortress—though she had been completely unaware of that fact until March.
They had their own generator run on propane, but it was rarely used even though Jakob had buried a 12,000-gallon tank in the back yard. He hadn’t had to fill that for over five years now and it was still at 80%. All the flat roofs were covered with solar cells that were coupled with the windmills. The landing pad covered solar on the hacienda roof and cut power a little. But those three wind towers spaced along the southern wall inside of the compound were megawatt units that covered most of their needs.
The entire hacienda was completely off the grid, with all power stored in a state-of-the-art lith-ion storage facility built into the back of the first floor of his workshop—plus a secondary storage of lead-acid batteries were kept continuously trickle-charged. Actually, workshop was a euphemism for a complete metal fabrication and vehicle construction facility covering five thousand square feet of ground built into the rock of the mountain at the southeast corner of the compound next to the mountain.
The adobe walls ran up to nearly twenty feet tall as they blended into the second floor of the shop. The first floor was cut back into the bedrock of the mountainside. No one except Jacob, Rachael, and Denzell knew about the basement, tunnel storage areas, and bunker. The lithium-ion cells worked better if they were kept cool. He was testing the technology for the lab and it worked well. Denzell was working on a new source built on the Organic Radical Batteries (ORB) developed by NEC in the middle of the first decade of the millennium. They provided the power on Deb’s Cruiser.
The entire second floor was a full machine shop with computerized mills, lathes, and boring machines. They could build virtually anything made of metal—and often did. Their primary skill was gunsmithing. The front third of the first floor was a large garage where he kept his mobile toys. Even Stones had never seen the hidden doors in the rock walls at the back of the garage that led deep into the mountain.
Jakob was really deep into thought this morning. The call from Ralph had shook him a little. He had thought it was merely prudence that had made him build a disguised fortress up here on the mountainside. Rachael always teased him about his sense of warrior service to his King. It had been fun, but now he was glad. He’d even set up the walls for easy razor-wire deployment—never thought he’d have to use it though. He wondered what the next few weeks would bring.
Speaking of fun toys, he could see one of his favorites parked next to the Wreck. Denzell had done a marvelous job with that competition yellow Dodge Power Wagon ambulance from WWII. “It looks like Denzell got my message and got my truck back in one piece. I hope Bebe’ll made it.”
“What message is that, Dad?” Debbie perked up a little. She enjoyed Denzell and really liked Bebe. Denzell was unique to this area—a little older than Deb at 33, but looking much younger. He had really blossomed under Jakob’s mentorship. The old hard, cold anger from the racial bigotry suffered while growing up plus the intenseness of his competitive nature had been effectively channeled to constructive purposes.
His appearance helped—as he certainly appeared innocuous. His baby face was a chocolate black and now had a constant smile or grin. Only his fastidious appearance made it easy to believe the degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Blacks are rare in New Mexico. New Mexico is proud of its multi-cultural atmosphere—but those cultures were strictly limited to Anglo, Spanish, and Native American plus a few Vietnamese and Japanese. The Spanish truly dominated—especially since becoming the majority in the early years of the millennium. It was not noticed how rare blacks were.
At 6’3” and 205 pounds Denzell was a carefully crafted, unimpressive man. His boyish face, minimal Afro, and relaxed posture made him look like a teacher or something. It just went to prove that looks can be deceiving though. He had cultivated the look of a disarming businessman to survive. But, he had a mind like a steel trap, a work ethic that was simply amazing, and an accent that sounded vaguely European with a vocabulary to match the educated bloods of the Continent.
By looking at him you’d never guess that he raced cars—or at least he had before he met Jakob. He had several good rides and sponsors in his decade and a half of driving. He’d made it through the Craftsman Truck series and the Nationwide series. He did well enough to get three starts in a Grand National car back when it became the Nextel Cup. But fun was crushed out first when Earnhardt was killed and then later when two of his close friends lost their lives in ARCA and Outlaw races. He started evaluating priorities and discovered that he didn’t really have a life outside racing.
About the same time, he had met Jakob. Jakob regularly visited the teams scouting mechanical talent for the CIA. Plus, Jakob was a real fan. He started talking to Denzell primarily because he wondered about a black driver in NASCAR. Denzell had learned to deal with the nigger taunts, and his genuinely warm and serving personality had smoothed out a lot of bumps. However, Denzell had also just decided that he liked wrenching better than driving. As an engineer he discovered that he liked building machines and repairing them more than he did driving them, but he also knew there must be something better to do with his life.
The two men had really hit it off. Originally, Jakob had hired Denzell to build him the Power wagon. But really, he brought him out to New Mexico to apprentice him and to keep him busy while his background check was completed. After the background check, Jakob let Denzell know what he really did as an armorer and engineer. Denz was sent the Farm for training. But those mind games were too much for him and he dropped out. It wasn’t that he couldn’t play them—it was that he couldn’t stand the lying and manipulation required.
He talked to Jake before he quit the CIA training, and the large Swede easily agreed that he was better off out in New Mexico. Jakob really needed the help and Denzell quickly became an adopted son to him. His mother had raised him in the Holiness movement. He didn’t practice his faith much, but he was well trained. Under Jakob’s mentorship his quiet knowledge of the Lord was slowly flowering and his faith was starting to grow.
When the rest of his background check proved clear and Jakob saw his academic record at Michigan, he offered Denzell permanent employment. Everyone thought that Denzell was merely Jakob’s mechanic—and in truth he had kicked Jakob’s Ram, Rachael’s Hummer, and Debbie’s Cruiser up a few notches. He had also built Jakob the ambulance. His personal ride looked like a reasonably stock Nissan Frontier extended cab pickup truck with expensive tires—but it certainly was not stock. The 600 horsepower hemi crammed into the front was the least of it. All it would take was a racing engine and legal bodywork to enable him to run in the Truck Series.
He just played with the family cars when he was bored, and that was not often. Mainly he was Jakob’s mechanic, tool and die maker, and production machinist. He’d become quite a gunsmith. He actually produced most of the esoteric hand-built weapons Jakob still produced for operatives at Langley. He also built many custom vehicles for various clients of Jakob.
Denzell was really nice and Debbie liked him. She had just learned about the weapons work, but now she knew where her favorite pistol came from. She had even gotten the chance to thank Denzell for the customized Browning BDM 9mm that fit her hand like an extension of her arm. She’d never seen a gun as good as hers. She’d had a blast since March upgrading her weaponry.
But Denzell wasn’t fun like Bebe. Belindo “Bebe” Begay was a party animal. No drugs or alcohol any more, but he loved having fun with his friends. He was an Navajo trickster with many pranks that were often actually funny. He was a bit older than Deb at 36 years and had taken on the role of older brother and protector.
He was full-blooded Navajo Apache and looked like it—he was a true throwback to the earlier warrior clans. He’d missed the rampant diabetes that had attacked most of the Navajo. He was 5’11” with 185 pounds of solid muscle on his wiry frame. His long black hair was normally in a tight smooth braid down his back.
You had to be careful when it was loose, wild and tamed only by a leather band with silverwork around his temples. At thirty-six years old, his years of hunting, fishing, and tracking had made him into a modern variation on the old theme of Native American warrior.
He always had a wide smile of perfect white teeth with a ready laugh. He listened better than he talked. But, when he talked you listened because he didn’t waste much time with idle chatter. Strangely, he had meet Denzell at Michigan before he was graduated with his doctorate in computer science. He had been assigned to mentor Denzell as an incoming freshman and they had become fast friends.
Bebe was a hacker by trade and a silversmith by hobby and vocation. The hacking paid the bills and satisfied much of his warrior mentality. Working on silver, turquoise, and red coral relaxed him with the beauty of natural items taken from the earth. Part of a black team for the CIA, he had specialized in hacking into the computers of other hackers and stealing their little coded nasties—often before they were released.
That is where Jakob had met him, at Langley. Bebe was really feeling hemmed in by the Beltway and the politics of the CIA. He wanted to get back to New Mexico and Jakob had promised to help. Needless to say, Denzell liked that idea a lot.
At present, Bebe was a freelance specialist who Jakob regularly brought in to solve coding problems on his projects for Black Sail. His clearance was as high as it gets—maybe even higher than Jakob’s and that was saying a lot.
Mainly, he lived in his rambling adobe compound south of Window Rock, Arizona—in a beautiful red rock canyon with excellent hunting, a year-round stream, his wife, Chinipa, and their four active, brilliant, and amazing children ranging from three to fifteen. They were twenty-first century children in all ways except they avoided the depression and cynicism of normal American youth because their life had no violence, drugs, or politics.
Denzell came walking out of the garage to meet them and Jakob strode over with his hand out to pull his friend into their normal hug of greeting. “Hi Denz, seen Bebe yet?”
“Hi Jake. Nope, not yet. You’ve got to give the man a little time to get off the reservation.” They laughed.
“Hi Denz, I haven’t seen you for a while. Workin’ on any new rides?”
“Nope. Your Dad has kept me too busy with all his projects for the base. I rarely get out of the shop any more.”
“That’s too bad. I was hoping you had gotten close to finishing my little off-road bug.”
“Matter of fact, that could be done in a week or so. I’ve tweaked the power package you have in your Cruiser a bit. I think you’ll enjoy it—same power but better range. It depends on what Jake has for us today.” He looked back at his boss. “That was a scary email, boss.”
“I was just trying to get your attention with the letter.”
“You’ve got my attention.”
“Let’s go inside and get some lunch while we wait for Bebe.”
Suddenly they heard the roar of a tightly wound motorcycle engine coming up from the south. They all turned toward the arroyo, but it was too late to see anything but the cloud of dust hanging over the road. Around the corner of the wall on a tight two-wheel slide through the open gate came a crazy Apache on a completely restored 1967 Triumph Tiger Daytona—500cc, twin-carbs, very fast, and a deep blue-black.
The chrome shone through the dust and gravel as he slid to a perfect stop and parked next to the ambulance—gravel flying through the air and tinkling to the ground as the deafening quiet of the suddenly dead engine stunned the parking area.
“Kowabunga, dudes!” Bebe shouted with a huge grin as he bounded off his bike to grab Stones in a huge bear hug, pick her up, and swing her around in the air, “How’s my little sister?”
“Deaf, you big dumb injun. You trying to kill me?”
“Naw! Just having a little fun. Can’t we have a little fun?” He flashed his smile at both his friends. “Denz, Jake, what’s up?” He shouted.
“Just going’ in to get somethin’ to eat.” Jake replied with a broad grin. “We still have burritos left from last night. I think they’ll do.”
“You better believe it.” Bebe exclaimed. “That’s why I may have seemed to be in a little hurry. I didn’t want to miss lunch.” He threw his arms around Jake and Denzell’s shoulders and tried dragging them towards the garage. Of course, they just stood tall and let him swing on by between them. With his usual style and grace, he landed four foot ahead of them with a strut. He led the four of them to the garage. He held open the door with a slight bow and a flourish of his hand for Stones. She giggled and pranced in through the door after her father and Denzell. Bebe brought up the rear after grabbing the two jugs from Rachael and giving her a kiss on the cheek.
They all climbed the broad staircase to the conference room on the second floor. Rachael has these boys well trained. They all work together on getting lunch ready—even cleaning up after themselves. After a delicious lunch of leftovers, the five of them sat down at the large table with their glasses of iced tea. Their talk turned serious and Denzell and Bebe were a little surprised that Stones was included. Jakob looked at them both and said, “My daughter’s grown up. Her mother and I have been talking with her a lot recently. I think that it’s time she was let in on the family business.”
Debbie was a little surprised. She thought she knew about her dad’s work. She had been surprised at her parents relationship with Ralph back at Black Sail East, but the daily nuts and bolts of the operation had been keep from her up ’til now, “Wha’d’ya mean, Dad?”
“Well Stones, Denzell, Bebe, your mother, and I work in a very compartmented world. You have always known that your mother and I used to work for the CIA and I imagine you’ve been a little puzzled by our relationship with Ralph.”
“Your mother has pulled out of field operations almost completely. But, she’s the source of our planning and much wise counsel. I’m certain you’ve wondered why I have such a complete machine shop over the garage. It’s obviously much more than is needed for our little custom car hobby.
“You know that I no longer work for Langley full time, and you know that Sandia only supplies a little contract work. However, you now know that Denzell and I still do a lot of weapons modification and design for the field agents. As you have discovered recently, we are actually a small gunsmithing operation and armory. Needless to say we keep it real quiet.” He had Debbie’s attention.
Jakob continued, “Bebe is much more than an old family friend. I’m not sure you know much about Bebe’s computer skills, but he supports himself, his hunting, and his family with hacking and tracking work for me. He used to work for the Company, but he works for me now. I called them in today to make plans…” He had all of their attention now. Denzell and Bebe obviously did not know how far he was going to go or how much he was going to reveal.
“However, it goes much further than that. What no one knows, except for the four of us in this room and less than a half dozen other people around the world, is that we were in on the start of a work with old friends of your mother and me, Ralph Conratty and his wife, Lisa. You need to be very careful, even Senator Aragon and Nancy do not know—though he probably suspects part of it. We know that Nancy and Lisa are close friends, but as far as I know Lisa has not even told Nancy.”
“That explains a lot!” Stones exclaimed, “Working with him through Black Sail, I had no idea. I always liked him, and I was sad when he went to Homeland Security—head of Internal Security there, right?”
“That’s his public title—mentioned that this morning.”
“Public title—so I assume that means your relationship is black?”
He looked at his wife and smiled, “I told you she’d catch on quick, hon.” Looking back at his daughter, “You got it. Most of the people at Black Sail East only know what you knew when you were working for Ralph and assume we are a government agency. But, we are completely black. Completely off the books. In fact, we are not supported by the government. I got you into Black Sail to protect you when that hit in Barcelona went south three years ago. I was afraid your cover had been blown. I’m glad to say that was being a bit over-cautious, but I was much happier when I had some say over your career.”
Stones’ eyes opened a bit wider. She’d wondered where the invite to Black Sail had come from—seemingly out of the blue.
“Technically, I guess you’d have to say we’re mercenaries. Your mother and I head up Black Sail. I know you were surprised to learn that Ralph and Lisa work for us. Unlike you were led to believe, this is headquarters. The East Coast operation is part of our cover. We used to do a lot for the president, but Worley doesn’t think ops like ours are appropriate.”
Denzell rolled his eyes.
Bebe gave a short bark of a laugh, “He’s the inappropriate one…”
Jakob looked at him sternly, “He’s the President. We are to pray for him. I thought we’d just be lying low for four or eight years. We’ve been doing a little work for the Brits and some corporate work around the world, but it’s been real quiet recently. However, I got a call from Ralph about six this morning. He’s come across humint that leads him to believe that Juan Dominguez, “El Patron”, is going to make a major move soon.
“My immediate concern is for Senator Aragon and Nancy. They’re going to Phoenix Saturday. There’s not much we can do for him, but pray. But we need to do that, at least. We better start ramping up a little. I think we’re going to get real busy shortly.”
The five of them grew real quiet. After a long, silent minute or two, Jakob began the important work of covering everything in prayer.