esse walked into the ready room carrying a small satchel.  The Four had adjourned there to talk while Beau got some rest.  Ladasha was there with him being very capable in an emergency.  After Doc Adams and Sung Wu finished with him he was doing quite nicely, but he needed some time to recuperate.

Jesse reached into the bag and pulled out an old German Dueling pistol.  "It's a .22 caliber" he said as he pulled out the box of 'shorts.'  Short .22 was a favorite of assassins in that they are easily concealed, not very loud, and not apt to go through a man putting whatever is behind him in jeopardy.  If one was shot in the head with it, the bullet would just mangle the brain leaving the victim with very little visible mess.

German Dueling Pistol

Jesse laid out a few more items on the table that was surprising for a mercenary to have.  There were some explosives, a timer, and a remote switch.  William had picked up the pistol and was wistfully looking at it.  "You know, this is quite similar to a set of German Dueling Pistols that I've owned for forty years" he mused.

He looked at Sharon and she nodded, quietly leaving.  Within ten minutes she returned only this time fully dressed.  She laid the flat handmade box on the table and slid it over to William.

"What in the world are you doing owning something like that?" the General asked.

"There's quite a story behind this set of pistols.  During my tenure as an FBI agent, I got crossways with a man who became an enemy.  He was working this perp over with his foot when I stopped him.  The perp was shackled, hands and feet so he could barely walk.  He was unable to stand up straight at all with the restraints so tight as they were.

Although I did not include those details in my report, the man was to become a very sore enemy, and he gigged me numerous times.  One day he said "watch your back.  You never know when friendly fire will take you out."

My best friend heard the statement and went to a supervisor and reported what had been said.  But that only seemed to make things worse.  After that, the man considered us both as enemies.  Within another month, a supervisor needed on a murder scene was sickened to see the perp beat up quite badly.  This same man that I had stopped earlier had done the deed and was immediately put on administrative leave."

"He returned after two months, but he was now like a caged animal.  No one would ride with him, no one would work with him.  It seemed as though he considered the entire FBI office as enemies.  Within a week, he killed a guy, same scenario, shackled and unable to defend himself."

This man was named Raul Lyons.  For this incident he was fired and brought up on charges and of course several of the local agents were called to testify.  I was never one to rat someone out, but I went over the whole set of dealings I'd had with him because I thought he had already proven himself as a thug, a killer.  He had to be dealt with."

"He spent less than a year in prison and was paroled by none other than then President, Bill Clinton.  It was less than a month when the guy came knocking on my door.  He said 'I want you know I have nothing against you, but I do have a present for you to prove it.'  He handed it to me, held his hand out, shook my hand and said "I've become one of the Presidents' body guards.'  Turning away he said 'I gotta go.

"This note was on the lid of the case inside an envelope taped to secure it to the wood.  Cold chills went up my spine when I realized this man meant to kill me, and now, with him being a "Presidents' Man," he could kill with impunity.

He pulled the note from the envelope and passed it to his right, sitting quietly while each read the short note and felt the impact of it.  It made its way all the way around back to William.  It read:

William Travis

One day I will advise you of the location and the time, and I expect you to prove yourself a man instead of a coward.

You will bring these along so we can settle our differences once and for all like real men . . .

Raul

When it returned, he slid it back into the envelope and said "To this day I've never heard another peep from him or about him since."

He had quite a surprise when he opened the case.  Inside the case was another note.  When it had been placed there he had no idea.  He'd not had the case open in years.

Cut to the precise measurements of the case was another piece of paper, again, handwritten, very neat, very precise.  It read:

To William Travis:

You are hereby challenged to a duel of death with these pistols.  Your notification will be no later than the first day of the month of May.

You will follow those instructions and come alone.

One false move or one act contrary to the instructions given here will be cause for the immediate death of one of your most trusted.

Your second dishonor of the notification will mean the life of your wife, Sharon.

I look forward to looking down a gun barrel at you before you fall.

Raul

William read the writing on the paper, studied it for a few seconds as he considered this challenge.  The danger was not only to him, but his whole group as well as his wife; it was very real.  He would have to meet this man in a standup one on one duel, or, be hounded and chased by him for the rest of his life.  Worse, he would gain the reputation of being a coward if he didn't show.

"Wow.  I tend to think this Raul guy means what he says.  I have no idea when this could have been placed in there.  But it could have certainly been done when the Hermie was tampered with."

He had harbored no ill-feelings toward Raul up to this point, but this . . . this was more than just ill feelings.  This was life or death.  This was do or die.  This was a situation where options were few; accept the challenge and do his best.

He lifted the paper out on the flat side of the Buck pocket knife he always carried and laid it on the table.  One of the pistols was missing!

German Dueling Pistols

While he wasn't afraid of a stand up toe to toe fight, he did not like the idea of attempting to fight hog-tied similar to what he'd witnessed of Rauls' "incidents."

And that's what he called them.  An unfortunate incident.  But that was hardly the word for it.  It was more like the whipping to death of a mule tied to a tree.

The weight of this whole situation fell around the necks of each man there like a yoke

"I figure that the pistol was taken at the same time as the Hermie was modified.  I'm positive they didn't risk two burglaries.  Risking two chances of getting caught just didn't make sense.

The first of May was sixteen days away.  William felt like he had another death warrant on his head.  And why had the challenge shown up now?

A deadly silence fell over the room as each one thought about what this letter stated.  When had the pistol been removed?  And by whom?  And, how would they know he would receive the invitation?

William picked up the pistol taken from Beaus' room.  Although Talbert and Link were the prime suspect, only one could be questioned.  Talbert had died in his attempt to kill Beau, and Link himself came close to dying when he refused Jesse entry to the room.  Joe saved the day in that incident.

Link would be put on suicide watch.  He would taste death, soon.  His death would not be at his choosing, but for certain, he would answer a few questions before facing execution.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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Chapter VII