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Artistic Differences


Chapter 12

It was nearly five p.m. on Friday. Commuters were clogging the freeway. One white box truck wove from lane to lane, mindless of the cars being cut off behind them. With each wild jerk of the steering wheel, the door on the back inched up slightly. And the cargo within began to slide front and back, as the truck accelerated, or braked suddenly. The Cadillac inched around the Camry. The F250 took the outside lane, hoping to cut the truck off from any exit. The Jeep moved up the other side, an attempt to keep the idiot from causing an accident.

Bringing up the rear of the strange caravan were two patrol cars, lights flashing and sirens wailing.

"Get Hammond! Tell him we’re in the middle of a pursuit," Jack shouted. "Have him contact local law enforcement. Tell him we have a thief in one vehicle, and the computer hacker in another."

Sam nodded, dialed with one finger, her other hand clinging to the handhold just above her head. She had no idea that Janet and Casey were doing the same thing. "Look out! He’s going to try for that exit!"

"Ya think?"


A  A  A  A  A  A


"Aren’t we a bit...close?"

"Not really."

"Can he see us? I read that if you can’t see the side mirrors of a large truck, the driver certainly can’t see you, and that it’s not safe-"

"I don’t think we have to worry about that right now. Relax, honey, I’ve done this a time or two."

"I so don’t want to know about that!" Janet declared solemnly.


A  A  A  A  A  A


In his office, General Hammond tried to slow the flood of words pouring from Walter long enough to make sense of what was going on. "Say it again, son, slowly."

Walter nodded, took a deep breath. "SG-1 is engaged in a pursuit. Doctor Fraiser is also involved. From what I understand there are four or five vehicles chasing a white box truck. They weren’t really clear on that part. The truck has the painting of Casey Jackson in it, the one Lieutenant Taylor won first prize for. It was stolen from the back of Colonel O’Neill’s truck, apparently he and Major Carter and Teal’c bid on the painting. They also caught someone named Harold Maser, Major Carter said he was the hacker. I think Teal’c is with him."

The general dropped into his chair. "You’re making this up," he muttered. Determined to learn who the practical joker was.

"I wish I was, Sir. Major Carter requests that we notify local law enforcement about this high speed chase."

"High speed? Where in God’s name is this happening?"

"Interstate 25. The truck is heading for Colorado Springs, for the moment," Walter added.

"Contact the local highway patrol office. Tell them we have Air Force agents in pursuit of persons of interest, and to render any assistance possible."

"Yes, sir."


A  A  A  A  A  A


Three more patrol cars had joined the chase, all of the cars receiving word from headquarters that the pursuing vehicles were Air Force. Apparently some sort of federal case. The paperwork on this would be a bitch, that was the consensus among the law enforcement officers. So far, the Jeep and the F250 had prevented the box truck from changing lanes, and the Cadillac was directly behind the truck, doing its best to keep other cars from getting to close, swerving from one lane to another if a driver attempted to pass. The Camry was directly behind the Caddy.

Two of the patrol cars eased along side of the Cadillac, effectively blocking the lanes from innocent civilian vehicles. Now, all they had to do was clear the road ahead, and then stop the bastard who was driving the truck.

To that end, the three newly arrived squad cars raced up the shoulders, positioned themselves in front of the truck. When they attempted to slow down, the box truck tapped the rear end of the car directly in front of it. This driver had no intention of slowing down. Certainly didn’t seem interested in stopping.


A  A  A  A  A  A


"Don’t crowd him!"

"I’m not crowding him. He’s the one swinging into this lane."

"Well, don’t let him!"

"And just how, pray tell, am I supposed to stop him? Simple physics says that his much larger, heavier truck can do significant damage to this jeep if-"

"Just pay attention to your driving."

"I am paying attention to my driving."

"Daniel, watch out!"

"Damned fool! What’s he trying to do, kill us?"


A  A  A  A  A  A


"Run his ass over, damn it! Show ‘em we mean business," Jeremy screamed. He was not about to get caught! Not with at stolen painting, and a stolen credit card. And who knew how much pot Buddy had on him at the moment.

"That’s a cop, dude!"

"So what?"

"This is totally screwed up, man," Buddy complained. He'd tried to change lanes, but the vehicles beside him weren’t giving an inch. He didn’t give a damn what Jeremy said, he wasn’t about to wreck his dad’s truck!

"We have got to lose these assholes," Jeremy growled. He pointed to the quickly approaching exit. It was the third exit they’d passed, so far. "Take it!"

"I can’t!"

"Of course you can!" Jeremy leaned over, jerked the steering wheel. The truck veered toward the exit, leaning precariously. The F250 took to the shoulder, braking slightly to avoid being sideswiped by the truck, then lurched forward to keep up.

Buddy struggled to maintain control of the truck, stomping on the brakes in order to slow the momentum down before the sharp curve of the exit ramp. When he did so, the back door came off of the track, stuck ten inches above the floor of the truck bed. The sudden deceleration sent the painting flying out through that opening.


A  A  A  A  A  A


"I believe the painting has been thrown from the truck."

"No shit! Brilliant piece of deduction there, big guy."

The two men in the Camry watched the painting, one with curious interest, the other with fascinated horror.

Caught on a gust of air created by the box of the truck, the painting flew toward the highway...then began to tumble end over end. The frame began to splinter, several pieces tossed into the air as the painting continued its gymnastic-like maneuvers. In the center of the median, as part of a beautifying program, were White Pine saplings. Most of the trees were still under three feet tall, and surrounded by heavy supports that protected the young trees. When the painting landed, the canvas was ripped to shreds by the supports. 

The Camry screeched to a halt, fishtailing wildly. Harold barely kept control as he drove to the shoulder, stopped just a few feet beyond the spot where the painting had landed. He threw the car into reverse, careening back toward the final resting place of the painting.

He jerked at the seatbelt, fumbled with the door handle before throwing the door open. He ran to where the painting lay in ruin. "No," he mumbled. "No. It’s just not fair!"


A  A  A  A  A  A


The speed of the box truck was too high, the grade of the curve too steep. Buddy was riding the brakes, still struggling to keep the truck up right. Three cars waited at the light in front of them. He was going too fast. He was going to hit those cars. In a split second decision, he yanked the wheel to the left, sending the truck into a roll, and into the grassy area between the freeway and the exit ramp.

The pursuing vehicles managed to stop, the F250 and the Jeep rolling into the grass. The lights of the police vehicles brightened the dusk of the late afternoon.

The members of the SGC stood back and allowed the patrolmen to approach and apprehend the young thieves. Jack filled out a report for the ranking officer on the scene, statements were taken, and the two young men cuffed and put into separate squad cars.

Jeremy stared at the woman with the long blonde hair as the car in which he was riding moved slowly past the group, who were still huddled at the side of the road. Venus! She was Venus! She was so damned beautiful...

The young art thief had no doubt that his father would bail him out of jail. And as soon as he was free, he’d locate that beauty, get a photo or two, and recreate the painting. It was a shame that the original had been ruined. He’d heard the officers talking about it. They’d already called a cleanup crew to come remove the remains of the frame and the canvas from the median.

With the painting-nabbers in custody, Jack thought, it was time to deal with the more important person, one Harry Whoever, cyber thief. He grabbed his phone. "Teal’c? Let’s take Mr. Hacker to the base, shall we?"


A  A  A  A  A  A


Harold Maser sat quietly in the room, alone at a table. There was a chair across from him. And a large mirror on the wall. He had no doubt that it was a two-way mirror. He figured the people he'd approached earlier were on the other side. None of them had said a word as they escorted him into the two story brick building. But they had all been there, and had all flashed ID cards at the guards. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that these people worked for NORAD.

He jumped slightly when the door opened. The man who'd recognized his name, although he still had no idea how that could have happened, strode into the room. Dropped a file onto the table. Then sat down.

"We need to talk, Harold."

He’d been in jail before. Granted, it had been a low-security facility, and all of the other inmates had been caught and convicted for the same types of crimes. There weren’t any murderers or drug dealers or child molesters or gang members. There weren’t any of the usual prison gangs. Just a group of men who hadn’t been fast enough, or were covering up for someone else. The facility had been clean, the guards polite, kind even. The rules had been strict, and there had never been any trouble while he had served his sentence. It had still been prison however. And one thing he'd learned, was to keep his mouth shut when being questioned. Give only the shortest of answers, give away as little as possible.

"I have my team sweeping your house now. I rather imagine we’ll find some very...interesting...things. Now, I happen to know that Joey ‘The Hammer’ Ricardo hired you to do a bit of work for him. Including breaking into the computers of this...operation. And that you were in places you shouldn’t have been, seen things you shouldn’t have seen."

Harold remained mute. Although he was starting to worry. Just what did go on in this place? Would the government actually kill him to keep their secrets? That thought had him breaking out into a sweat.

"How much did you give Ricardo?"

Silence. He jumped when Gary’s hands came down on the table.

"How much?"

"Just the names of the files. The first report in the file on the energy weapon," Harold said, shaking visibly.

Gary leaned back in his chair. "My...associates...tell me that you’re good."

He couldn’t help but sit taller. He was good. "I’m the best," he replied smugly.

"Nope. That honor goes to one of my employees. Who, by the way, is the one who rendered your hard drives useless. I hear that took less than three minutes to accomplish."

Whoever this ‘employee’ was, Harold had to admit that the man had been faster than he’d ever seen before in his life.

"Now, you’ve already done some time for this kind of thing. A second offense..." Gary sucked in a breath, blew it out slowly. "See, since this is a military facility, your hacking job just tossed you into the big leagues. I’m thinking that with a recommendation from General Hammond, the Feds might just take your testimony against Ricardo as a sign you want to be cooperative. They might even let you off the hook with just a short sentence in a medium security prison. Six months or so."

"What? Are you out of your mind? I’d wind up dead before the trial even started!"

"Maybe. Maybe not. If the Federal boys want Ricardo badly enough, they’ll make certain you stay nice and safe and alive."

Harold shook his head.

"Boy, you don’t have a lot of choices here. Think about it." Gary stood up. "Just don’t take too long. The Federal agents are on their way."




In the side room, watching through the mirror, the members of SG-1 sipped their coffee. "So what’s the reason that Gary is doing the interrogation?" Daniel asked.

"That wasn’t an interrogation," Jack replied. "Just a little chat. The general said that Franklin Enterprises caught the little bastard, and stopped him, so they should have first shot at him. Sort of keeps us out of it."

"So he’ll have no idea what really goes on here...he won’t even see the NORAD offices," Sam added.

"He’ll assume that the Air Force is experimenting," Daniel said, nodding his understanding.

"We hope," Jack said. He turned to Casey. "Any vibes coming through?"

She smiled. "He’s afraid, but he’s doing his best to control it. He’s also worried about what you’ll find..." She cocked her head sideways. Daniel immediately stepped behind her, wrapped his arms around her.

"Incoming," Jack murmured.



"How should I know? I just saw disks, several of them. In a box with a lock. In a room..." She closed her eyes. "Safety deposit box, it has to be."

"What do you see?" Daniel asked softly, his hands moving up and down her arms.

"A very long, narrow room. Lots of...boxes. Each with a lock."

"Could be mailboxes," Jack said.

Casey shook her head. "Steel door, like a gate. Then another steel door, solid."

"Bank vault," Sam nodded.

"Look around, Casey, can you see where this bank is?" Jack asked quietly.

She closed her eyes, concentrated on what she could see...tried to step out of the vault, only to find that she couldn’t. Stationary, there was stationary on the corner of one of the desks. "Wells Fargo...Denver."

"Which branch? There are a dozen Wells Fargo banks in Denver."

"The tallest one."

Jack rolled his eyes. "That doesn’t help."

"Actually, sir," Sam said, "it does. The Wells Fargo Center in Denver is a tall building."

"Any clue what’s on them?" Jack asked.


Daniel was the first to put the new tidbit of information into place. "Maser is working for a Mafia boss. He must have something on the guy."




Gary stepped into the hallway, nodded at the armed, uniformed guards that stood beside the door. "If he blinks wrong, shoot him. Just wing ‘im, though. We might need to talk to him again."

One of the young guards smiled. "Yes, sir!"

He wasn’t surprised to see the entire SG-1 team in the observation room. "Enjoying the show?"

"Not much of show so far," Casey retorted. "You and Jack should do the ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ thing. Slap him around a bit. Scare him more."

Daniel snorted. "No more Law and Order SVU for you," he said.

She rolled her eyes.

Jack had been studying Casey. "You know, I have a better idea. Radar, how good are you at reading minds?"

She gaped at her friend. "What? Are you kidding? I can’t read minds! I might be able to pick up one or two things, but nothing specific."

"You did well enough in front of the Senate Committee."

"Even if you don’t get anything, what you’ve already seen can work for us," Daniel said, certain he knew what Jack was thinking.

"Do you think he’d be more intimidated if all of us were in the room?" Sam asked. She wanted to be in the room. Needed to be. And she’d keep her hands in her pockets, just to be on the safe side. Unless Maser tried to make a run for it. Then she’d beat the shit out of the little bastard. Hack into her computer system, bypass her firewalls, the shitass!

Jack ducked his head and grinned. Sam was madder than hell about the hacking thing. Casey was upset about the painting. Had declared that if it hadn’t been for Harold Maser, he never would have stopped where he had, and those punks wouldn’t have had the chance to steal the painting. And ultimately destroy it. It was tempting to let the two blondes sit down for a little tête-à-tête with Maser. But he really did need the guy in one piece. There were already Federal agents on their way to question him. He wanted to know everything before the Feds arrived.

Gary grinned, not unaware of why Sam asked. "I think he’d piss his pants."

"Let’s go," Casey said, reaching for the doorknob.

"Whoa, Radar," Jack said, grabbing the back of her shirt, hauling her back to stand beside him. "I want you to follow my lead, okay? Give me whatever you can, when I ask for it."

She frowned, but nodded. She had no clue what Jack was up to. Knowing Jack, it would be interesting! And probably wouldn’t work. She loved Jack, but only about half of his ideas were ever worth listening to. He tended to think in...well...rather weird ways. Too much time in special ops, she supposed. It didn’t dawn on her that often his ideas were tossed out simply to motivate his kids into coming up with the ‘right’ answer.




Harold swallowed hard when Gary returned. Followed by five very angry looking people. Including that black giant. Who glared at him. Which was totally freaking him out. He was terrified that the others would leave, and this behemoth of a man would beat him to a mushy, bloody pulp.

"Radar, take a look," Jack said calmly. Coolly.

Casey nodded. Turned to face the prisoner. Frowned slightly.

"See anything that we could use?"

"Disks?" she said, glancing at Jack. Who nodded. "Um...several disks. They’re...um...they’re in a safety deposit box. Wells Fargo Center...in Denver."

Harold gasped slightly.

"Now I know you can screw his brains up if you dig too much, but is there anything else worth knowing about? Anything right on top?"

She glanced at Sam. Remembered what had been said about Maser’s current employer. "He works for a Mafia boss."

Eyes wide, mouth hanging open, his heart pounding with absolute terror, Harold watched the young woman as she continued to stare at him. When at last he could speak, he stammered one word. "H-h-how?"

Jack grinned. "Radar here is one of our...special...agents. She’s a gifted seer. Been...tweaked...a little. You know how us military types like to keep working creating the perfect weapon."

Harold’s already pale face went completely white.

"Yep, last guy she took a look at, well, damned bastard would probably be better off dead. Just a vegetable now," Jack continued.

"Not my fault!" Casey tossed in, feeling a need to defend herself...even if what Jack was saying was total bullshit.

Jack reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "We know that, Radar. You couldn’t have known you’d do so much damage." He turned back to Maser. "She’s been practicing," he said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Gary cleared his throat. "Before we have...Radar...digging around, shouldn’t we offer Mr. Maser the chance to tell what he knows?"

Jack pretended to consider the idea. "I hate to disappoint Radar. She’s been looking forward to having another subject...er...prisoner to experiment...er...practice on."

Daniel had his hands clenched in his pockets, his head down as he struggled to keep from laughing. He’d never heard a worse line of crap in his life. He expected Maser to call them on it at any moment.

Sam was having just as much trouble keeping a straight face. Teal’c’s cheek was twitching noticeably.

"Maybe if he tells us about his boss?" Casey suggested.

Jack nodded. "Okay. We’ll give him a chance." Once again he turned to Maser. "So, Harold...can I call you Harold?"

Harold nodded numbly.

"Harold, tell me about this Mafia boss of yours."

There wasn’t enough money in the world to prevent him from talking, not if remaining silent meant having that beautiful but apparently dangerous woman messing with his head. He needed his brain intact if he was going to continue to work with computers. "What do you want to know?"

Daniel made an odd noise, tried to pretend he’d sneezed; accepted Sam’s ‘bless you’ with a smile.

"Oh, I don’t know," Jack said, settling in the chair opposite of the prisoner. "Let’s start with something simple. His name. The real one, if you know it."

"Joey ‘The Hammer’ Ricardo," Harold said immediately.

Gary and Sam shared a look. Jesse’s intel had been correct. Jack didn’t miss the exchange. "Care to share?"

"Just confirmation on information already in the system," Gary replied.

"He supplies all of the drugs for the western half of the country," Harold offered. "He’s running a ring out of Peterson Air Force base, moving the merchandise on MAC flights."

Jack’s jaw tightened. It was bad enough when military kids got caught up in the drug scene. It happened far too often for his liking. But to know that this asshole was actively operating on one of bases of the same Air Force in which he proudly served made his blood boil.

"I think that just bought Mr. Maser a bit of leniency," Gary said quietly.

"Names!" Jack barked.

"I-I-I don’t know!" Harold stammered.

Casey put a hand on her CO’s arm, was surprised to have it roughly shaken away. "We’ll know as soon as we get to Denver, Jack," she said softly.

He took a deep breath. Let it out slowly. "Right." He turned to Maser. "I want everything I need to know to get into that safety deposit box."

Harold rattled off the information. Luckily, they would be able to go over the security tape of the room, and the interrogation, and retrieve that information.

General Hammond walked into the room, followed by two men wearing dark suits. "Gentlemen. Ladies," he said nodding at Sam and Casey. "This little discussion is over. Mr. Maser will be taken into custody by Agent Greevey and Agent Tyler."

The team, and Gary, stood to one side of the room while Harold was read his rights, agreed that he understood those rights, and was handcuffed and led away.

"Well," Casey said, watching the men disappear onto the elevator, "this is damned anticlimactic."

"Come on, girlfriend, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee," Sam offered.

"What about dinner?" Casey asked, looking from her father to Jack, to Daniel and back to Jack.

"Why don’t you two grab Janet, head on over to O’Malley’s. We’ll join you in just a bit," Gary said quietly.


"An hour, at the most," Daniel said quietly.

Sam looked at Jack. Understood what he wanted to do. What he needed to do. No doubt the DEA had agents heading for the Mafia Don’s house. "Let’s go, Casey. We’ll make certain we get a good table."

She knew that something was about to happen. Something important to Jack, and to her father. And that Daniel and Teal’c would be right there with them. Whatever it was, there was the potential for danger. "Be careful," she said softly.

"Always," Daniel promised.

Gary grabbed his phone. "Jess will want to ride along."

Jack nodded. "Flack vests and we go in armed."

"Just what are we going to do?" Daniel asked, following his best friend and father-in-law.

"Get the names of the dirtbags on Peterson who work for this ‘Hammer’ character," Jack replied.

"And then?" Daniel wasn’t sure if Jack would try to handle the entire situation himself, or if he’d trust the law, and military justice, to do the right thing.

"We bust their asses...make them confess."

"You aren’t going to beat the confessions out of them, I hope," Daniel replied.

Jack grimaced, shook his head. "Nope."

Gary put a hand on Daniel’s shoulder. He knew that the young man was the moral compass for SG-1...for the SGC. And that what he, Jack, and Jess were about to do wasn’t exactly legal. But it would sure make them feel a hell of a lot better. "You don’t have to go, Daniel. This is Air Force. We’re gonna use what we learned in Special Ops."

"I’ve learned a thing or two fighting the Goa’uld," Daniel replied quietly. "Jack is my best friend. Anything I do tonight, I do for him."

Gary nodded. No doubt the young man would prevent any of them from going too far. And that, he admitted to himself, was a good thing. Jess was in the computer monitoring room with Dennis. A single word had him following his boss to the base armory. He didn’t know who the target was. Or why he...or she...was a target. He knew only that someone was about to have their life turned upside down, at the very least.


A  A  A  A  A  A


The ride was made in Jack’s pickup. Lucky had flown in earlier in the evening, a stop over just to say ‘hello’ before he continued on to San Francisco to meet with a corporate client. He and Jess followed in the younger man’s rented SUV.

The two vehicles stopped long enough for Jess to locate main power to the house. He shimmied up the power pole, pulled on heavy leather gloves. With a small crowbar, he managed to trip the fuse, then smashed it for good measure. The house went completely dark. All of the men donned the night vision goggles ‘borrowed’ from the armory.

When they approached the closed gates to the estate, Jack didn’t hesitate. He dropped a gear, revved the engine, popped the gear back up and surged forward, smashing through the gates as if they weren’t even there. The twisted metal flew apart, and the truck continued up the curved driveway. If he hadn’t already had his lights off, they would have blinked out, the sound of shattering glass alerting him to the fact that the headlights were history. Which was the reason he’d stopped at an auto parts store on the way, picking up extra lights for the front and back of the truck. He’d grabbed a couple of rolls of duct tape as well. Experience was an excellent teacher, memory an apt instructor.

P90’s, which had also been slipped out of the armory, were held tightly. Berettas were snuggled into holsters, extra ammunition boxes in jacket pockets.

By now Joey ‘The Hammer’ Ricardo was aware of his unexpected, and uninvited guests. No doubt his men were moving into place.

Lucky looked around. "No sign of movement," he reported quietly. Which was damned odd, he thought silently.

"Teal’c, take Lucky and Jess. Get around to the back. Take out anyone who gets in your way," Jack said, his voice deadly calm. "Get inside as quickly as possible."

With a single nod, the Jaffa slipped from the truck, and ran back to the SUV. Which continued around to the back of the house, the lights on the dark vehicle turned off.




Jess, Teal’c, and Lucky crawled out of the SUV, remaining as low as possible. Joey had been an Enforcer. Never a boss. He had no idea how to position his men for the best coverage. He hadn’t been a regular visitor at the Gambotti home, what he did required as much anonymity as possible, and for the most part, he'd always worked alone. So he rarely saw how his employer placed his men. When he met with Mr. Gambotti, the old man always had half a dozen body guards nearby. Thus the reason Joey preferred to keep his men close, believing that they would be able to protect him if they were within sight of him.

There had been no one in the kitchen. The voices of two women could be heard, coming from what turned out to be the dining room. One of the women was in her mid-forties. Beautiful, and savvy. The other a young woman, who looked to be of Spanish or Mexican heritage. Jess put his finger to his lips. "Back door. Keep going, and don’t look back," he whispered.

The older woman, obviously Joey’s girlfriend, possibly his wife, nodded, wide-eyed; but wasn’t so frightened she couldn’t respond. She had feared that one day her lover would be caught. She grabbed the maid’s arm, hurried into the kitchen. Nearly screamed when she saw the huge man standing beside the stove. She was unaware that anyone was behind her until a large hand was clamped over her mouth.

"Nice and quiet. Just keep moving," Lucky whispered. He shoved the two women forward. He used the muzzle of his weapon to wave toward Jess. Then nodded toward the back door. Teal’c nodded his understanding, and disappeared into the dining room. Lucky watched for a few minutes, could see the woman getting into a sports car. Grinned when it went zooming down the driveway.

A room off of the laundry room was filled with monitors. The screens were all filled with white, snowy static. There was a small generator in the corner, providing enough power for the computers, although without power to the cameras, there wasn’t anything to see. And the room was empty.

To the rear of the house was a large sunroom, filled with wicker furniture. It was also empty.

"Must not have much staff," Lucky whispered. When they located a back stairway to the second floor, they moved as silently as shadows. There were seven rooms upstairs, not counting bathrooms. Six bedrooms and a huge master suite. Three of the bedrooms faced the front of the house. It was in these rooms that they found the first of Joey Ricardo’s henchmen.

Because of his desire to remain...hidden...Joey hadn’t hired men with previous experience. All that he required was that they be big, able to fire a weapon with some accuracy, and that they had no conscience. Intelligence wasn’t a prerequisite for his guards. Just loyalty and brute strength.

That strength did nothing to protect them from the stun guns that laid them out of the floor, each of them twitching and moaning as Jesse cuffed them, then duct-taped their feet together. Another piece of tape over their mouths, and the three men were ready to finish searching the lower level.

Two men waited in the library with their employer. Lucky signaled that they would take those two out last. If Jack and Gary came in the front door, the old man would want them beside him.

Two other men were waiting in the living room, each standing to the side of two large windows, watching carefully. From the whispered conversation, the goons were baffled by the fact that no one had moved from the pickup.

Again, stun guns rendered the men helpless, Teal’c’s bulk aiding in keeping the jerking bodies from calling attention to the fact that something was wrong.

Pressed into the shadows of the hallway, the three men radioed that the house was secured, the target had two body guards who could be easily dealt with, when the right moment arrived.




Jack gave a cold smile when the all-clear came from the men inside. It had taken less time than he had expected. There had to be an interesting reason for that. And an explanation for the sports car that had whizzed by without the driver giving him a second glance. "Let’s see if ‘The Hammer’ is ready for company," he said.




Joey had hurried from the dining room to the security office when he'd heard the alarm. He'd watched as two vehicles, both dark colored, both moving without lights, approached his home. Only someone very brave, or very stupid, would try such a thing. He had no fear that it was any rival, he knew the whereabouts of his enemies at all times. That was just prudence. Whoever these...visitors...were, they were unknown. The most dangerous kind.  Adjusting his suit jacket, he went back to his den.  It was an impressive room in which to face the interlopers.

When the doorbell rang, he looked up at his body guards with surprise. Why bother knocking after barreling through the locked gates? Holding an Uzi stolen from an arms shipment, the old man led the way to the foyer.

"Open up, damn you!"

He frowned. The voice, muffled as it was, wasn’t familiar. He opened the door carefully, knowing his guards were in position. He looked the man over, took in his companions; a young man with glasses, another older man with closely cropped blond hair. "Haven’t you been taught any manners? You don’t come storming into a man’s home like this!"

Jack pushed against the man. "Yeah, my grandma told me that once. Of course, she said that the rules were different when you were dealing with scum."

Joey waited for the telltale sounds of weapons being cocked. Grinned slightly when he heard them. "You’re a foolish man, Mr..."

"Colonel, actually," Jack said. He shoved the old man back into the foyer. "Any more around?"

"There are not," Teal’c replied, the bodies of the two guards at his feet. For the moment, they were still breathing. Still twitching as well.

Joey’s eyes went wide. How? How had three men totally disabled his entire staff in under fifteen minutes? It hadn’t been but fifteen minutes earlier when the gates at the end of the driveway had been destroyed.

"Yeah, pretty impressive, isn’t it?" Jack said, recognizing the surprise for what it was.

"What do you want?" Even facing six armed men, and alone it seemed; his bravado, his ego, wouldn’t let him be anything other than smug.

"We’re going to have a little conversation," Jack replied.

"I see. About what?"

"About the drug operation you’re running on Peterson Air Force base."

Joey was a master at masking his emotions. Neither his eyes nor his expression changed. But his heart began to pound. He had no illusions...the men he'd hired on that military base would sing like birds if they were caught. He'd been very careful about seeing to it that they weren’t caught.

"Boss, might be able to find what we need on the computer. There’s one in the library," Jess said quietly.

"Go. Strip it, save it, trash what’s left," Gary said.

"Right." He glanced at Lucky, and the two men hurried into the room just off of the entry.

"Well, guess we don’t have to talk after all," Jack said. He turned to Daniel. "In five minutes, I want you to call the local police. Tell them there’s been a disturbance at..." his eyes swung back to Joey. "What’s the address here?"

Joey clamped his mouth shut, pressing his lips together tightly, his chin going up the slightest bit. His jowls trembled slightly, the sagging flesh giving the only hint of his fear.

Or anger. Jack wasn’t certain which it was.

"Fine." He raised his fist, thumped on the wall between him and the study, which Jess and Lucky had disappeared into.

"Yo!" Jess' voice called out.

"Address for this dump?" Jack shouted back.

There was a pause, then the man’s voice replied with the full address.

Daniel nodded, letting Jack know that he had heard, and would remember.

"It really pisses me off that guys like you even breathe the same air as law abiding citizens," Jack hissed. "It makes me downright angry to know that you’re using military equipment, and personnel, to move your poison, to sell it to kids somewhere!"

"My heart bleeds," Joey spat.

When Jack’s fist came up, Daniel’s hand wrapped around his wrist. "He’s not worth it," he said softly, barely stopping himself from using his friend’s name.

Jack glanced over his shoulder into concerned blue eyes. They'd already broken the law...technically. Tampering with a public utility, and then there was destruction of private property, and trespass. But getting physical, that could cause problems. As it was, they'd be leaving, just as soon as they had the information he wanted. And he doubted that Joey would be calling the police. He lowered his hand. "Lucky for you my friend has a more persuasive conscience than I do."

Joey Ricardo had faced a lot of things in his life. There wasn’t much that could frighten him. These men scared the hell out of him. They weren’t just typical goons. There was too much precision in the way they operated. It would take several more hours before he realized that the men he had been threatened by were military special ops. A rather...frightening...realization when it finally sank in.

Jess came back into the foyer, tucking a CD into the pocket of his shirt. "Got it. System is trashed. It wasn’t that great to begin with. You really should think about an upgrade. And a better security system for it."

"Just so there isn’t any misunderstanding...the operation on Peterson is shut down. Permanently. I figure that in the next day or so, any other bases you’re running your shit out of will be down as well," Jack said. "Don’t bother trying to start them back up."

"Aren’t you forgetting something?" Gary asked.

"No, I don’t think so," Jack replied.

"About the other visitors on their way," Gary prompted.

"Oh, yeah! How forgetful of me," Jack said. "DEA boys should be here in a bit. FBI too, if I don’t miss my guess. They were damned interested to learn that Joey ‘The Hammer’ Ricardo was still alive and kicking."

Joey’s eyes went wide. Other than his closest associates, and the computer geek, no one knew his real name. To learn that these men knew who he was, and that the government had been informed of his whereabouts, was downright disheartening.

Jack had no doubt that the man would try to flee. "Any vehicles in that garage out back?"

"Dunno," Lucky replied.

"Why don’t you check. Make certain that Mr. Hammer can’t leave here. At least, not without calling a taxi. Of course, any taxi driver is going to remember coming to a place like this, especially when the gates are all twisted to hell," Jack said.

Lucky glanced at Gary, received a nod. He hurried out the back way, Jess on his heels. One thing that the men of Franklin Enterprises had learned, the hard way, never work in an unknown situation alone.

"It’s been a pleasure putting you out of business, Mr. Hammer," Jack said. He turned to Daniel. "Make that call."

Daniel grabbed his cell phone. "I’d like to report a domestic disturbance," he said quietly. He gave the address, refused to answer any of the dispatcher’s questions. Within a matter of minutes the sound of sirens could be heard in the distance.

"That’s our cue. Gentlemen. Shall we leave Mr. Hammer alone? I think he was getting ready to have dinner," Jack said, the smell of the food still strong in the air.

Without another word the four men left, not even bothering to glance over their shoulders to see if he was about to shoot them. Joey was almost surprised to find that his fingers were still locked around the Uzi. Now wasn’t that the damnedest thing?

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