Nico – Dale Mayer

NİCO STRATUS STARED at his phone in disbelief. A message from Miles. Nico had been expecting it but, at the same time, hadn’t really been expecting it. Like one of those things that he knew was coming, yet he just didn’t know when. But days ago he’d expected it, and, when it didn’t come, he’d relaxed. The timing was really crappy right now. He had groceries in his shopping cart in front of him, and he was just halfway through the list in his hand. But then he hadn’t been planning on buying very much. Still it was too much. The message from Miles was clear. Leave now. Swearing softly, Nico walked away from his shopping cart, knowing that’s the last thing he would normally do. He shrugged, not having much choice. When he got outside to his car, he found a 9×13 envelope in the front seat. He snatched it up, read the cover note atop a folder, informing him that he was flying to Australia to a military air base.


Also enclosed was one burner phone. He swore. The flight would be fifteen-and-a-half-hours long. Then the time zone change would add on another seventeen hours. When he landed, the clock would show thirty-two and a half hours later. For him. But, for their kidnap victim, it would be closer to twenty hours later by the time he landed in Sydney. Never a good thing in a kidnapping matter to not find the victim in the first twenty-four hours. Still she could be long gone. Dead already. Shipped out to another country. Sold into sex slavery. He shook his head. The travel-related delays can’t be helped when we work all over the world. He drove home quickly, parked his vehicle in the underground parking, then headed to his apartment and snagged his go-bag.

He checked to make sure everything had been replenished though, before he turned and walked out. He had no idea when he’d be back. He was currently living in San Diego, close to the Coronado military base. That meant a fast military flight out. He was grateful for that. Like having his own private jet at his disposal. As he hopped into the cab awaiting him—thanks to Miles and the Mavericks—and was driven to the airport, Nico studied the files in the folder. His itinerary was there, as well as a dossier. He stared at it and shook his head, whispering, “Seriously, an American activist is in trouble? Isn’t that understood in that line of work? Why the hell am I involved in something like this?” Just then his new burner phone beeped, and a series of texts rolled through. But they were all from Ryker. Parcel waiting for you at the airport. More burner phones. All communication must be dark. He quickly texted back. Does anybody know I’ll be there? Only your partner.

And the Australian government is okay with this? Not likely but they don’t know. And we’re not telling them at this time. If we can keep this op a secret, we need to. Seriously? Yes. There are added layers to this issue that we can’t put down on paper. We need this to be a totally blacked-out version of black ops. You’ll get all the help you need regardless. And why aren’t the Australian police handling this on their own? We prefer to keep this in-house. at his phone in disbelief. A message from Miles. Nico had been expecting it but, been expecting it. Like one of those things that he knew was coming, yet he just didn’t know when. But days ago he’d expected it, and, when it didn’t come, he’d relaxed. The timing was really crappy right now. He had groceries in his shopping cart in front of him, and he was just halfway through the list in his hand.

But then he hadn’t been planning on buying very much. Swearing softly, Nico walked away from his shopping cart, knowing that’s the last thing he would normally do. He shrugged, not having much choice. When he got outside to his car, he found a 9×13 envelope in the front seat. He snatched it up, read the cover note atop a folder, informing him that he The flight would be fifteen-and-a-half-hours long. Then the time zone change would add on another seventeen hours. When he landed, the clock would show thirty-two and a half hours later. For him. But, for their kidnap victim, it would be closer to twenty hours later by the time he landed in Sydney. Never a good thing in a kidnapping matter to not find the victim in the first twenty-four hours. Still she could be long gone. Dead already. Shipped out to another country. Sold into sex slavery. He He drove home quickly, parked his vehicle in the underground parking, then headed to his apartment and snagged his go-bag.

He checked to make sure everything had been replenished though, before he turned and walked out. He had no idea when he’d be back. He was currently living in San Diego, close to the Coronado military base. That meant a fast military flight out. He was grateful for As he hopped into the cab awaiting him—thanks to Miles and the Mavericks—and was driven to the airport, Nico studied the files in the folder. His itinerary was there, as well as a dossier. He stared at it and shook his head, whispering, “Seriously, an American activist is in trouble? Isn’t that Just then his new burner phone beeped, and a series of texts rolled through. But they were all from Not likely but they don’t know. And we’re not telling them at this time. If we can keep this op a secret, Yes. There are added layers to this issue that we can’t put down on paper. We need this to be a totally Can’t we use them without telling them about the layers? We may. Later. But, for now, we are relying on you. And what happened? Start from the beginning.

A prominent activist has gone missing. Great. No lack of suspects then. He shook his head. When and where? She was over there for a big rally in support of the indigenous people and their problems, plus the injustices to all humanity in the face of the climate issues. She was supposed to give a big speech. Only she never showed. She just disappeared? From her hotel room, yes. And she’s been reported as a missing person? Yes. The local police are aware of this, but our government has asked theirs to let us be the primary investigators. He waited because, of course, if the local cops were looking into this, even in a secondary capacity, why was he called in? And? he finally texted in exasperation when there was no answer. He looked around outside the cab’s windows to see that they were maybe ten minutes away from the airport. His phone beeped again, and the text read, She’s the sister of somebody high up in our government who is undercover at the moment. “So then I’m sure the Australian government and their police authorities will be happy to cooperate,” he muttered to himself. But the answer came back.

And it’s top secret. Shit. So I can’t ask for help? Not from the regular channels. The American government has already expressed their concerns with the Australian government, and everybody is open and cooperating … but … But this undercover element is specialized? Very. They have their own black-op operatives working that end. You will be working the kidnapping end. Ransom demand? Not yet. We have very little information on our own. Do we have any clue as to where she’s being kept and why her? Hope to have a better idea about where she’s at when you land. Possibly taken because of her highly public outburst against the treatment of the indigenous people in Australia. Oh, yeah. That could do it. Possibly, but then she’s been fairly outspoken for a long time, Ryker texted. She’s an anthropologist working around the world to promote better treatment for the original people of every country. And she just happens to be in Australia now.

Is she the activist author who’s been in the news a lot? Nico asked. Yes, that’s her. What we’re really concerned about is that our undercover man’s been compromised and that she’s been taken to control him. “Shit,” Nico said as he picked up his bag and the file and exited the cab, and the driver drove away without even allowing him to pay. He headed to the counter. There, he quickly checked in and ended up in the boarding area, where he had only five minutes before moving onto the flight itself. He She was over there for a big rally in support of the indigenous people and their problems, plus the injustices to all humanity in the face of the climate issues. She was supposed to give a big speech. Only she Yes. The local police are aware of this, but our government has asked theirs to let us be the primary He waited because, of course, if the local cops were looking into this, even in a secondary he finally texted in exasperation when there was no answer. He looked around outside the cab’s windows to see that they were maybe ten minutes away from the She’s the sister of somebody high up in our government “So then I’m sure the Australian government and their police authorities will be happy to Not from the regular channels. The American government has already expressed their concerns with Very. They have their own black-op operatives working that end. You will be working the kidnapping Hope to have a better idea about where she’s at when you land. Possibly taken because of her highly She’s an anthropologist working around the world to promote better treatment for the original people of every country.

And she just Yes, that’s her. What we’re really concerned about is that our undercover man’s been compromised and “Shit,” Nico said as he picked up his bag and the file and exited the cab, and the driver drove away without even allowing him to pay. He headed to the counter. There, he quickly checked in and ended up in the boarding area, where he had only five minutes before moving onto the flight itself. He had just enough time to pick up the package awaiting him and to stuff it into his carry-on bag. He pulled out his first burner phone and called Ryker again. “I need more information on her and on him,” he said. “You can have more information on her,” Ryker said, “but you already know what it’s like trying to get any information on him. It’s top secret.” “Top secret, my ass. His sister’s been taken. Is nobody even considering that maybe it’s not so top secret anymore? That the bad guys know more than I do about it right now?” “That’s exactly what they’re considering,” Ryker said. “But they’re not letting out any more information just because of that. She’s also caused quite a stir herself with her books anyway.” “She’s young, isn’t she?” “She’s thirty-three,” Ryker said.

“Old enough to have caused a lot of people to rethink their treatment of the needs of the people in their lands.” “Or to say that they’re rethinking it,” Nico said drily. “Exactly.” “When did she last check into her room via her key card usage?” “Eleven-thirty last night.” “And when did anybody find out she wasn’t there?” “Eight o’clock this morning, her time. One of her coworkers knocked on the door to meet up for breakfast and to go to the rally.” “And her key wasn’t used in the meantime or any master key?” “Apparently not.” “You and I both know how easy it is to make it appear that way, when it wasn’t.” “It’s possible, but we don’t know anything yet for sure, which is why you’re on your way over there.” “By the time I arrive …” “You’re on the fastest flight. We’ll get you there,” Ryker said. “As our Mavericks team grows, we need a man in each of the main continents.” “Working on it.” “We’ve already got Kerrick in France, Beau in NYC on the opposite coast, Asher in Geneva, Miles in London. I presume the rest of the guys and their women are open to moving as long as they are together.

” Ryker laughed. “That’s what I understand too. Miles will be your Mavericks contact once you land in Sydney.” And, at that, Ryker hung up. The military plane took off not long afterward. With his laptop, Nico did as much research as he could on the long flight, finding out more about the missing woman. What really interested him was all the online information which said she was an only child. Yet according to the information he’d gotten from Ryker, this top secret man working undercover was her brother. So, somehow that information had been erased from the records. It always amazed Nico how people thought that would work because, once it was fact, it was somewhere. Still there. Even now. He just had to find it. He kept digging down, going as far back as into her elementary school years. And there, he found a sibling.

But it wasn’t at the regular elementary school. She’d gone to another one for just a few months. A casual mention of her and her brother noted them as new had just enough time to pick up the package awaiting him and to stuff it into his carry-on bag. He pulled out his first burner phone and called Ryker again. “I need more information on her and on “You can have more information on her,” Ryker said, “but you already know what it’s like trying “Top secret, my ass. His sister’s been taken. Is nobody even considering that maybe it’s not so top “That’s exactly what they’re considering,” Ryker said. “But they’re not letting out any more “She’s thirty-three,” Ryker said. “Old enough to have caused a lot of people to rethink their “Eight o’clock this morning, her time. One of her coworkers knocked on the door to meet up for “It’s possible, but we don’t know anything yet for sure, which is why you’re on your way over “We’ve already got Kerrick in France, Beau in NYC on the opposite coast, Asher in Geneva, Miles in London. I presume the rest of the guys and their women are open to moving as long as they Ryker laughed. “That’s what I understand too. Miles will be your Mavericks contact once you land in Sydney.” And, at that, Ryker hung up. The military plane took off not long afterward.

With his laptop, Nico did as much research as he could on the long flight, finding out more about the missing Yet according to the information he’d gotten from Ryker, this top secret man working undercover was her brother. So, somehow that information had been erased from the records. It always amazed Nico how people thought that would work because, once it was fact, it was somewhere. Still there. He just had to find it. He kept digging down, going as far back as into her elementary school years. And there, he found a sibling. But it wasn’t at the regular elementary school. She’d gone to another one for just a few months. A casual mention of her and her brother noted them as new members of a chess club, and Nico sat here and stared at that. Wasn’t Kerrick’s partner, Amanda, the cancer researcher, also a chess player? Something to do with being ultrasmart? He shook his head, not sure if this had anything to do with that. Our missing activist, Charlotte, had been in grade four at that time, for God’s sake. What could genius kids in grade four even do? Apparently they played chess. Nico kept working his way through the rest of the information available online. She’d been married for five years to Rowe Browning fromArizona.

He had been a long-time supporter of Native American rights, and she was halfway through her degree to become an anthropologist. After this marriage, she’d become an ardent protester of the treatment of all the Native people, then her husband had died, six years ago now, and she’d continued the cause afterward and had reverted to her maiden name of Ankerby. He kept reading, looking at the Australian rally she was to attend and how well advertised it was, only to find her announcement as a keynote speaker at this big event was splashed all over the website. So thousands, if not millions, knew that she was coming here. Nico was also registered at the same hotel where she had disappeared. That gave him the best access to look for her. She did not travel with security, according to the notes that he had, so, up until now, her own safety hadn’t been an issue. He was pretty damn sure that, after this though, that would change. On the other hand, maybe it would calm her down, and she wouldn’t be quite so visible. Nothing like the threat of losing your own life—or that of one of your family—in this level of danger for you to rethink your life’s plans. Yet, if this kidnapping was connected to her brother and his secret undercover world, then a whole lot of government rethinking needed to be done here, in Nico’s opinion. Not only had the brother been compromised but he had put his sister in danger too. However, if this was connected to the sister’s activism, then she could have added another level of danger to her brother’s undercover activities. Like her brother needed more reasons why somebody would go after him. If he was black ops and undercover, it meant he was working deep and dealing with other governments.

Somebody somewhere would want him dead no matter who, how, or why. That was just a given, and learning anything more about that wouldn’t necessarily help with finding his sister. The information was sketchy on the rest of her life, like who exactly was her husband. A name was here but nothing about what he was like. Why and how did he die? There were again no details. Nico hated to question his death and life like that but hated even more not having answers. Where had they lived in the US? Just because the husband’s family was from Arizona didn’t mean they had resided there once they married. That was also where she had gone to school though. He kept digging and finding different layers upon layers and taking his time. When he finally ran out of questions, most still unanswered, he closed his eyes and tried his hardest to get some sleep. Because, once he landed, he would be filled with an adrenaline rush. Go, go, go. And that just reminded him of something else. He quickly sent a message on one of the six burner phones he’d brought with him. Am I alone? No.

He’ll meet you at the airport. Nico smiled at that. He had no clue who he was supposedly working with from here on in. He wanted to ask the Mavericks chat window for more details but realized the plane would be landing soon anyway. Nico set his watch to match the current Sydney time zone. It was now Friday, early members of a chess club, and Nico sat here and stared at that. Wasn’t Kerrick’s partner, Amanda, the He shook his head, not sure if this had anything to do with that. Our missing activist, Charlotte, had been in grade four at that time, for God’s sake. What could genius kids in grade four even do? Nico kept working his way through the rest of the information available online. She’d been married for five years to Rowe Browning fromArizona. He had been a long-time supporter of Native American rights, and she was halfway through her degree to become an anthropologist. After this marriage, she’d become an ardent protester of the treatment of all the Native people, then her husband had died, six years ago now, and she’d continued the cause afterward and had reverted to her maiden He kept reading, looking at the Australian rally she was to attend and how well advertised it was, only to find her announcement as a keynote speaker at this big event was splashed all over the Nico was also registered at the same hotel where she had disappeared. That gave him the best access to look for her. She did not travel with security, according to the notes that he had, so, up until now, her own safety hadn’t been an issue. He was pretty damn sure that, after this though, that would change.

On the other hand, maybe it would calm her down, and she wouldn’t be quite so visible. Nothing like the threat of losing your own life—or that of one of your family—in this level of danger Yet, if this kidnapping was connected to her brother and his secret undercover world, then a whole lot of government rethinking needed to be done here, in Nico’s opinion. Not only had the brother been compromised but he had put his sister in danger too. However, if this was connected to the sister’s activism, then she could have added another level of danger to her brother’s undercover activities. Like her brother needed more reasons why somebody would go after him. If he was black Somebody somewhere would want him dead no matter who, how, or why. That was just a given, and learning anything more about that wouldn’t necessarily help with finding his sister. The information was sketchy on the rest of her life, like who exactly was her husband. A name was here Nico hated to question his death and life like that but hated even more not having answers. Where had they lived in the US? Just because the husband’s family was from Arizona didn’t mean they had resided there once they married. That was also where she had gone to school though. He kept digging When he finally ran out of questions, most still unanswered, he closed his eyes and tried his hardest to get some sleep. Because, once he landed, he would be filled with an adrenaline rush. Go, go, go. And that just reminded him of something else.

He quickly sent a message on one of the six Nico smiled at that. He had no clue who he was supposedly working with from here on in. He wanted to ask the Mavericks chat window for more details but realized the plane would be landing soon anyway. Nico set his watch to match the current Sydney time zone. It was now Friday, early evening. Regardless, it still felt like the wee morning hours of Coronado to Nico. By the time Nico got off the flight, he headed straight for the exit and outside. He hadn’t been there ten seconds, looking around to see if he recognized anybody, when a vehicle drove up. It was a sports car, something that he’d have picked up himself. He took one look at Keane in the driver’s seat and hopped inside. “Well, thank God, it’s you.” Nico immediately handed him one of the burner phones. Keane nodded, pocketed the phone, grinned at him, and smacked him hard on the shoulder. “This way you don’t get to hug me.” “I’ll just hug you when we exit the vehicle,” Nico promised.

“Keep your hands to yourself,” Keane said with a laugh, as he pulled away from the airport. “How did they reach you? I haven’t seen you in years.” “Apparently they have feelers everywhere, finding guys who are ready for a change.” “Right.” Nico nodded. “I helped Miles out in the last job. Jesus, that was a nightmare.” “I hear you. This one’s just … I’m not sure what it is though.” “Ryker said it could be worse than Miles’s job finding that serial kidnapper who turned out to be a serial killer. But seems two jobs were pending. So we didn’t get assigned that one and got the other one instead.” “Yeah, I think that’s a different one,” Keane said. “Ryker said a hold was on that job for a few days. So this one was more pressing, time-wise.

” “Good,” Nico said. “You can help me on this one, and then that horrid one can be yours. That serial killer last time was enough to finish me. Luckily the collector killed the serial killer. I’d have gladly taken him out myself with a quick bullet between the eyes and saved the government and all the people the pain of keeping that guy alive.” “Well, he’s dead, so that’s the good thing. But he got an easier and faster and less painful ending than any of those poor women. I heard the details from Miles.” “You know him too?” “Yeah. He was part of my briefing.” “I’m not quite sure how this Mavericks system works, even after this much time,” Nico said. “I was asked to come and help Miles, and, of course, I jumped at the chance.” “They didn’t give me many details either on the Mavericks system,” Keane said. “They were pretty closemouthed about it. But they did tell me something to go on for our op.

Heard we also had some government interference on this job.” Nico snorted. “Isn’t that always the kicker? I don’t get why this woman was taken from her hotel.” “You should,” Keane said. “She’s an activist, and somebody wanted to shut her mouth.” “But you heard about the family connection?”

.

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Updated: 14 March 2021 — 21:58

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