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The Gray-haired Avengers

 

Chapter 3

"Don’t crowd him," Janelle said. "We want to see what he’s up to."

Emma nodded. "Good idea." Brake lights on the Honda had the elderly woman jerking the steering wheel, trying to put the Charger behind a parked mini-van, sending her passengers lurching sideways. "Think he knows he has a tail?" she whispered.

"I wouldn’t think so," Janelle replied in kind.

"I got the tag number," Muriel said from the backseat. Two white heads turned to look at her. "Got something to write it down? I don’t want to forget it."

Janelle dug in her purse, pulled out a small writing pad and a pen. Wrote carefully as Muriel recited the letters and numbers that had been on the license plate of the Honda.

The sedan had pulled into a driveway near the middle of the street, that of an older two-story farmhouse. It wasn’t as well maintained as the homes on Baldwin and Chapman, and their neighboring streets. Ivy grew along one side of the house, nearly blocking the drive from an old garage near the back of the lot. The driver got out, carrying another package.

"What’s he doing?" Janelle asked, her line of sight cut off by the large pickup in front of them.

"He’s getting ready to make another delivery," Muriel replied. Watched the man disappear down the driveway.

"Just who does he think he is?" Emma muttered. "Skulking around the backyards of houses where no one is home! That man is up to no good, that’s for sure!"

Only a few moments had passed before the man reappeared, and walked back onto the porch. "He’s writing a note," Muriel said, for Janelle’s benefit, since she couldn’t see the action, "think we should check it out?"

"It would probably give us an idea what he’s doing. We’ll wait until he leaves. He’ll have to wait at that stoplight a couple of blocks up," Emma said, knowing the area well.

The three gray-haired ‘detectives’ watched the Honda pull away. Emma didn’t even wait until the car was at the end of the block before roaring into the driveway. "I need to let the general know we’re in pursuit of a suspect." Gnarled fingers wrangled the cellphone from her pocket. She dialed the number she’d memorized. "Yes, I need to speak to General Hammond...Emma Hanks...Oh, he’s not? Oh, dear. Well, I’ll try again later."

While Emma attempted to contact the general, Janelle threw open the heavy car door, grunting slightly. Hurried up the sidewalk toward the back yard. She glanced around, wishing she’d thought to bring a hat. She could have pulled it down over her eyes, making her harder to describe, if any curious neighbors decided to call the police.

The box was sitting beside the back door, just behind a clay pot full of red geraniums. There wasn’t anything written on the outside of the box. Clamping her lips together in disappointment, Janelle contemplated taking the box, just to see what was inside of it. Good sense took over, she thought better of the idea, and returned it to its hiding place.

If she hadn’t been looking toward the porch when she headed back to the car, she would have missed seeing the note tucked between the screen door and the door jamb.

"Hmmph!" She returned the note to the exact spot it had been, then hurried back to the car. Reported what she’d found.

"You don’t think it’s a homemade bomb, do you?" Muriel asked nervously.

"Could be," Emma mused. "If someone was wanting to cause trouble, they might leave a bomb at Daniel and Casey’s house, something that would go off as soon as it’s opened."

"The box back there," Janelle pointed toward the back of the two-story house, "isn’t very big. Maybe it’s a piece for a bomb, and he’s just leaving it for another bomb maker." She glared at the house as if it were responsible for the possible actions of the residents.

"So, he delivered the bomb that he was supposed to, and is dropping off more pieces for more bombs," Emma said, adding her own conjecture to what they’d witnessed so far. "Darned terrorists! Makes it worse that they’re from our own country!"

"Don’t you think we’d better follow him?" Muriel’s voice was a bit timid...her heart pounding with fear. Terrorists? What if it was true? What if that man had left a bomb in her grandson’s house? The fear quickly turned to ire. She’d just found Daniel, she wasn’t about to let some stranger...some...criminal...steal him from her! How dare that no-good creep threaten my grandson! "I want to catch that punk before he gets away!" she declared, a hint of her growing anger quavering in her voice.

Emma nodded, and pulled out of the driveway more sedately than she’d left her own drive, although she still ground every gear she shifted through. Their ‘suspect’ was, as she’d predicted, waiting at the stoplight at Tejone and Second Avenue. There were two other vehicles between the Charger and the Honda.

Janelle put her purse back on the floor at her feet. The top was open, the contents visible. She frowned at her cellphone. "If I call Gary, he could run the tag number. We’d have a better idea who we’re watching."

"Tell him we’re only observing the suspect right now," Muriel quipped, hours of watching television detectives evident in her comment.

Nodding her understanding, Janelle reached for the phone, then searched the list of phone numbers. "Gotta figure out the speed dial on this thing," she muttered as she carefully dialed.

In the office occupied by Dennis Ballard, where a desk was always available for any Franklin Enterprise employee who might be present, Gary reached for his cellphone, still reading the report that Jessie had just faxed him. "Hello?"

"I need you to run a tag number."

Gary’s head came up, his blue eyes went wide. "Janelle?"

"Yes, it’s me! We don’t have time for twenty questions! Take this number down!"

Reacting automatically, Gary was copying down the number before he realized he was doing so. He tossed the pen aside. "Janelle, what the hell are you doing?"

"I need you to run that tag number," she repeated insistently.

"I can't run a tag number without probable cause," Gary retorted. And certainly not for crazy old women like you!

"Well we have plenty of probable cause! He broke into Daniel and Casey’s house. Emma, Muriel, and I are pursuing him."

"He what? You’re what?"

"We think he might be a bomber."

"A what?" He could hear the agitated voices of his aunt’s companions in the background.

"Well, he might be a bomber," Janelle huffed, conceding to Emma’s point that they weren’t certain that’s what the man was...not yet at any rate. "We need that tag number run asap...oh no! Don’t let him get away! He’s turn-"

The line went dead. "Janelle? Janelle? Answer me, damn it!" For whatever reason, the call from his aunt had been terminated. And he had no clue what the hell she was up to. Whatever it was, he was certain it was going to bring him grief. He could feel the beginnings of a headache...

 

A A A A A A

 

As soon as they’d returned from Sonic, a very quick trip as Daniel still had one meeting, and Sam had a meeting of her own to attend, the members of SG-1 returned to their workday. It was just sheer coincidence that Daniel glanced over at Casey just as she shuddered visibly. Concerned that she’d had a download, and he’d been unaware of it, he rose to his feet, was moving toward her before he was aware that his body had reacted. "Casey?"

She looked up. "What?"

"Are you okay?"

"I’m fine, why?"

He smiled. "Saw the shiver."

"Oh." The shudder moved over her frame again. "I’m telling you, these ‘gods’ were twisted puppies."

The smile turned to a grin. He perched on the corner of her desk. "How so?"

"Every freaking myth I’ve located, regardless of the pantheon, is full of incest." Again her body shuddered with disgust.

"Ah, yes. They were attempting to keep the ‘bloodlines’ pure." It was difficult not to laugh out loud at the look of revulsion that crossed his Wife’s delicate features.

"Seems that every ‘royal’ family was eager to follow suit...twisted bastards," she muttered.

"Those royal families were just following the example of the gods, again, to keep the bloodlines pure," Daniel pointed out.

"I understand that part," Casey replied. "I’m just trying to figure out just how a brother and sister could be married."

"Usually it was nothing more than a ceremony to prevent the queen from being able to take anyone else as a husband," Daniel said. "For the most part those situations, from what we’ve been able to find, the unions weren’t for love. There was one purpose only...a royal heir."

"Brother and sister were still doing the deed," Casey grumbled. And shuddered yet again.

"I doubt that it was as...passionate...as those who created the myths tend to believe. In fact, writings that have been discovered in Egypt, mostly written by priests, indicate that women from the king's harem were brought in to...prepare...both the king and the queen for the...um...ultimate moment."

Casey nodded. "I have notes here regarding the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Mayans that state the queen usually lived in seclusion, with a few carefully chosen women for company."

"To prevent the king from being cuckolded, and a child that didn’t have royal blood ascending to the throne," Daniel replied. "The practice of putting the queen into seclusion was carried forward in history...it became common practice in medieval Europe. Not that it actually prevented the queen from taking lovers," he added, a grin on his face.

"I suppose that when there were so few people, way back in the beginning, incest was the only way to increase the population," Casey sighed.

"Not necessarily," Daniel argued. "In fact, of all the evidence that’s been found to date, incest wasn’t even blinked at when it was between gods, but only ‘acceptable’ between a king and queen. The peasants of most of the ancient kingdoms didn’t have a say in the fact that kings and emperors practiced incest, whether they approved or not...and in truth, the majority of them didn’t. And that...disapproval...is nearly as old as mankind itself. There are cave drawings that tell us that ancient tribes of people gathered in common meeting areas for the express purpose of finding mates who weren’t related...or not closely related...to one another."

"So why all of the myths about the passionate love between siblings?" Casey asked.

"I think it’s the only way that most people can deal with the thought of brother and sister being together in the carnal sense," Daniel said. "I also think that the majority of the myths were created by men who were fascinated by incest. Probably raping their own children...and creating a situation in which such acts were ‘permissible’ helped them to justify their actions in their own minds."

"Could just as easily been kids who’d been raped by Daddy who had to create some sort of ‘normality’ for the situation," Casey said softly. "If it’s ‘normal’, then there’s nothing to feel guilty about or ashamed of, right?"

"Right. And those victims are usually so emotionally damaged that only long term, professional help can see them through what they’ve suffered," Daniel responded. "Unfortunately, that type of help wasn’t available when these myths were created."

"What bothers me is the fact that people today are using these ancient myths as an excuse to justify incest. If the gods did it, if ancient kings did it, then it must be okay - or so they insist," Casey said. And shuddered again.

"What those people are refusing to accept, or recognize, is the fact that only royalty, or the ‘gods’, indulged in such behavior," Daniel said, repeating his earlier observation. "And there are myths in which liaisons between mother and son, or father and daughter, or brother and sister, were the cause of punishment, exile, or even death. It was one thing to mate for the sole purpose of creating an heir. It was something else again to hit the sheets just for the fun of it, even for the gods. And, what most people seem to forget, is that these are myths...not necessarily fact. Excusing behavior today on the basis of myths created in antiquity is really irresponsible. Rather stupid, too, in my opinion."

"Still way too much of it going on," Casey complained. "I suppose the idea of surrogates hadn’t been invented yet."

Daniel chuckled. "It all comes down to keeping the bloodline ‘pure’. The thing of it is, the majority of the children born from incestuous relationships didn’t survive."

"So the cradles were being filled with other babies?"

"For the most part. It wasn’t unusual in Egypt for a priest to seduce a queen. His ultimate goal, of course, was to get his own child on the throne."

"Of course," Casey replied drolly. "Of all the pantheons, the Greeks and Romans-"

"Which is actually the same...only the names were changed," Daniel interjected. "And the Greeks actually took their pantheon from the Egyptians."

"Who seemed to have taken their pantheon from the Sumerians, via the Babylonians," Casey added. She tapped a finger on the pile of notes beside her keyboard. "Well, the Greeks and the Romans were the most twisted of all."

"Most scholars today believe that the lead poisoning that was rampant in that time, because of the glazes used on pottery, is the reason for a lot of the rather...bizarre...myths and tales. The behavior of the upper classes, those who could afford the glazed pottery, seems to bear this out," Daniel said. "I doubt that the ‘common folk’ of the day were as...uninhibited."

"Warped. Twisted. Sick. Demented. Just downright out of their freaking minds," Casey muttered.

"No argument from me," Daniel chuckled again.

At that moment, Gary stuck his head into the room. "You two had better come with me," he growled.

"What’s wrong?" Daniel asked immediately.

"Janelle jumped on the express train into insanity, and she’s taking your grandmother and neighbor along for the ride," Gary explained.

"What?"

Casey was as curious as her husband, but was still able to find amusement in her father’s frustrated comment, and in Daniel’s wide-eyed response. She giggled softly.

"Janelle just called me. Wanted me to ‘run a tag number’ for her. Apparently the old bat is in pursuit of some guy-"

"Did you say ‘in pursuit of some guy’?" Daniel asked, his voice rising in pitch.

"That’s what she said," Gary confirmed, running a hand over his face in frustration.

"So did you run the number?" Casey asked.

Gary rolled his eyes. "In spite of what you see on television, only the cops or federal agents can do that."

"Or people with access to certain military computers," Casey grinned. "Sam did it when those goons from the FBI were stalking us. Give me the number, I’ll see if she can find out who it is."

Gary frowned. "I suppose it wouldn’t hurt."

"Where are they? Janelle, Emma, and Grandma," Daniel clarified.

"Damned if I know," was the exasperated reply. "I figured if we head to your house, we might find them somewhere on the way."

"Let’s get the tag number," Casey repeated. "And if Aunt Janelle has her cell phone, which obviously she does, since she called you, we can locate her with it. Sam can do that, too."

Gary rolled his eyes at the smile on Casey’s face, and the light that danced in her eyes. The kid is just too into ‘adventure’, he grumped silently. "This is not amusing. And I do not want to encourage the old battleaxe."

"Dad, for all we know, some jerk might have tried to grab one of their purses, and they’re just after his ass," Casey said calmly.

"That is possible," Daniel said, a frown tugging at his brows. "Although I thought the plan was for them to have lunch at Emma’s."

"Plans change," Casey said casually. She grabbed Gary’s arm. "C’mon. Let’s see what Sam can come up with."

Gary frowned as he replayed the conversation he’d had with his aunt. Details he’d missed the first time were now echoing loudly. "Whoever they’re after, she said he broke into your house," he said, looking directly at Daniel.

"My house?" Daniel croaked, his blue eyes going wide.

"Our house?" Casey murmured, her heart lurching in her chest.

Daniel was frowning now as well. "I can’t imagine the cable company would approve of that."

"Say what? Cable company?" Gary felt as if he’d walked into the middle of a situation with no clue what was happening, or who the players were. Which made him extremely nervous. If you didn’t know who the bad guys were, you didn’t have a clue how to protect yourself.

"Our cable box needs to be replaced, and a repairman was supposed to deliver one this morning."

"Typical of the cable company for ‘this morning’ to turn into ‘this afternoon’," Casey grumped.

The trio had barely started out of Daniel’s office when the elevator doors opened, and General Hammond hurried toward them.

"Doctor Jackson, has your grandmother or Emma Hanks contacted you?" the general asked.

Daniel shook his head. "No, why?"

"About fifteen minutes ago a call came in for me, from Mrs. Hanks. I was on another line...Walter told me that all she would say was that she’d call back ‘later’. When I tried to reach her, there was no answer at her home."

Daniel shook his head again, rubbed his hand on the back of his neck. "Gary just got a call from his aunt. Seems that Emma, Grandma, and Aunt Janelle are after some guy. They say he broke into our house."

"I should have suspected something like this could happen," the general muttered, more to himself than to his companions.

"Why would Emma call you, sir?" Casey asked.

Hammond sighed. Looked slightly embarrassed. "I had a little talk with Mrs. Hanks about two weeks ago. I asked her to keep an eye out for any unusual activity in the neighborhood, any strangers who didn’t ‘belong’. Especially any strangers lurking around your home."

"NID," Daniel said immediately.

"Exactly, Doctor," Hammond nodded. "They’ve been far too quiet lately, and one of my Pentagon sources has indicated that there’s been a bit of...movement...from certain elements within the NID. I’m aware that Mrs. Hanks keeps an eye on things for you while you’re away on missions. I’d hoped that having her being more...alert...might head off any problems."

Casey giggled. "I have the feeling that Emma is taking that role very seriously."

The general sighed. "That’s what I’m afraid of."

"It’s also possible that we’re dealing with a new player," Gary noted worriedly. "It could be someone who knows about Daniel’s abilities as a linguist, or archaeologist."

"Or Casey’s psychic abilities," Daniel’s added, a frown creasing his handsome face. He reached for his wife, tucking her close to his side.

"Or it could be just a random break-in," Casey said softly, trembling slightly. Even that wasn’t pleasant to contemplate. The thought of a stranger in her home...she shivered, her hands wrapping around Daniel’s fingers, clinging tightly. That she was practically encircled in his embrace was lost on her in that moment.

"Let’s see what we can find out," Gary said, taking a deep breath. "Aunt Janelle had the license plate number for the car."

"Sam can do it," Casey said confidently.

"I agree," the general nodded. "We need to know exactly who we’re dealing with. Once we know that, we’ll be able to determine which of the dozens of alphabet organizations might be involved."

The elevator doors opened, and Jack stepped out, hands in his pockets. He hesitated briefly, noting the group who stood in the corridor. "Hey ho, campers. And sir," he added, nodding at the general. "What’s up?"

"Janelle has finally gone over the deep end," Gary muttered.

"It seems that Grandma, Aunt Janelle, and Emma are after some guy. He broke into our house," Casey explained.

General Hammond’s frown deepened. "That break-in is what precipitated this chase?"

"That’s what Janelle said," Gary confirmed.

"Doctor, may I use your phone?" the general asked, already moving toward the doorway.

"Of course, sir."

The general strode into the office, grabbed the phone, and immediately requested a team of Special Forces MPs to be dispatched to the Jackson home. "Mr. Franklin, do you have any idea where your aunt is at the moment?"

"No, sir, but Casey pointed out that she has her cell phone. Apparently Major Carter will be able to locate her using the embedded GPS chip," Gary replied.

"I suggest that we do so, as quickly as possible. I do not want three elderly women confronting an NID agent," Hammond said. "I’ll make a phone call. If there’s been any activity by the NID, my source will be able to tell me," Hammond said.

Gary rolled his eyes. "If he doesn’t kill her, I will," he growled.

"No you won’t," Casey replied airily. "Let’s see what Sam can find out, shall we?"

Jack fell into step beside Daniel. "So the little gray-haired avengers are after this guy, huh?"

"That’s about all we know for sure," Daniel said. "If he hurts Grandma, I’ll kill him."

"If she doesn’t smack the crap out of him first," Jack snorted. He caught Daniel’s surprised reaction. "What? I’m betting your grandma is every bit as tough as Grandma O’Neill was. Nobody in his or her right mind ever messed with Grandma O’Neill!"

It was Daniel’s turn to snort in amusement. "I’m betting that Emma and Aunt Janelle wouldn’t be slouches at taking this guy on."

Gary, who’d been listening, chortled. "Can you imagine having to go back to DC, and admit that three little old ladies beat the crap out of you?"

The group chuckled loudly. In spite of the fears that were gripping each heart.

NID. It had to be.

 

A A A A A A

 

The only way to identify the stately old home as a fertility clinic was the discreet brass plaque beside the front door. He hadn’t even been able to see the plaque until he’d walked up the sidewalk. ‘Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center’. The letters seemed to scream at him.

Sherrie was waiting for him, sitting in the tastefully decorated parlor, her fingers clutched tightly around the strap of her purse. She smiled...he noted that it wavered slightly. They had agreed that this would be the last attempt...if she didn’t get pregnant this time, then they’d discuss adopting. He knew that she desperately wanted a baby of her own. Truth be told, he wanted his blood running through his child’s veins as well. If they could just have one of their own, adopting could ‘fill out’ the family they’d always dreamed of having.

The doctor greeted them jovially, ushered them into his office. After listening to their concerns, all that they’d been through, and the steps they’d taken so far, he assured them that he was certain that the newest techniques for in vitro fertilization would have the couple pregnant in no time.

Bob listened carefully as the procedure was explained, was slightly surprised to learn that nothing more than a blood and urine sample would be needed from him. And apparently the urine sample was to test for any potential ailments that might be related to their inability to conceive ‘naturally’.

Hope flared in their hearts, their hands clasped tightly as they continued to learn what the next few days would entail.

 

 

 

"I know he turned on this street," Janelle muttered.

"He’s here somewhere," Emma agreed. "We just have to find him."

"There certainly are a lot of cars parked along here," Muriel mused. She too, was looking for the now very familiar silver Honda.

Arriving at the end of the block, Emma looked at her companions. "Might be able to find it better on foot. We can wander up the driveway of each house. Enough flowers to give us an excuse," she said, motioning to the well kept gardens of each of the large manor-style homes.

"What if he leaves again?" Muriel asked worriedly.

Janelle and Emma frowned. "I’ll go around the block, and we’ll look again. If we don’t find the car, then we’ll have to get out to look for it," Emma sighed

Their plan agreed upon, the women continued to search for their quarry.

 

A A A A A A

 

Sam looked up in surprise when General Hammond stepped into her lab, followed closely by Jack, Daniel, Casey...and Gary Franklin. "Sir?"

"Major, there’s the possibility that the Jackson’s home was just broken into by an NID agent. I’m waiting confirmation on activity by certain factions of the NID," the general explained. "I’ve dispatched a security team to examine the area."

Gary handed Sam a slip of paper. "In the meantime, my aunt, Daniel’s grandma, and Emma Hanks are in pursuit of the man they saw breaking in. This is the tag number for the vehicle they’re chasing."

Her eyes nearly popping out of her head in surprise, Sam looked from face to face, waiting to be let in on the joke. "You’re serious?"

"Yep," Casey said, hopping onto the worktable.

Jack grinned from ear to ear. "Those little gray-haired ladies are liable to make mincemeat outta this guy."

"Best time, major," Hammond said, his cheek twitching in spite of his misgivings about the situation.

With a nod, still stunned, Sam settled in front of her computer. Connected to the link that had allowed her to access law enforcement databases. Keeping an eye on the NID had included keeping track of any of the persons that group might hire for specific ‘talents’...none of which were of the legal variety.

"Honda Accord. Registered to Robert E. Stillman," Sam said. "No warrants, no criminal record, not even a speeding or parking ticket."

General Hammond frowned. "See what you can find in the national database."

Sam nodded.

"I know this might seem a bit...odd," Daniel said quietly, "but is it possible to find out who employs Mr. Stillman?"

"I can run an employment check," Sam confirmed.

"Daniel?" Casey asked softly.

"We were expecting a cable repairman. If he really works for the cable company, then we check his back accounts, and we’ll be able to tell if he’s being paid off by the NID...or anyone else," Daniel explained.

"Been watching ‘Law and Order’ again?" Jack teased.

Daniel rolled his eyes.

"It’s a darned good idea, and one I’d suggest," Gary said.

Sam looked at General Hammond. Who nodded. She began the search.


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