| Part 1 (Trekkieb):
It was dark and stormy that Friday night. A heavy downpour rat-a-tat-tatted on the apartment's windows. Lightning cracked the sky, and thunder blasted through the heavens. Nary a car was on the road, for half the power in the city was out. The metropolis' citizens were all staying out of the dangerous storm.
Especially Doug Penhall. He was comfy as can be in his favorite pair of sweatpants and an ancient tee-shirt. His residence was one of the few buildings remaining that had power. And he was quite grateful for that.
He sat watching a movie he'd seen hundreds of times before. He didn't know why; there were certainly other things to watch. He could practically say the lines along with the television, and all he did was make fun of the ridiculous characters. Then again, he acknowledged, that was the appeal of it. "Friday the 13th IV" was the title of it, and he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
"No! Don't split up! Ah geez! You idiot, don't go out there alone!" He threw several pieces of popcorn at the screen in frustration, then stuffed a handful in his mouth. And, even though he'd been expecting it, he jumped when Jason popped out of nowhere and claimed another victim in a rather gross way.
Realizing what he'd done, he laughed self-consciously. "Dougie, you wimp."
It was some time later, with the blonde girl screaming, and Jason coming closer, when everything turned black. Doug's apartment became eerily silent as the flow of electricity stopped. The TV screen went abruptly blank, and the incessant, familiar sound of the refrigerator quit its constant hum.
It seemed his building was no longer exempt from the effects of the storm.
Doug heaved a long-suffering sigh. He placed his bowl of popcorn on the coffee table and stood up. "Well," he said to himself. He felt his way to the kitchen, banging his shins on every piece of furniture in the way. "Now where did I put those darn candles?"
He was just about to pull open a drawer when something made freeze, his head tilted to one side. A sound. From the living room.
His heart began to pound. It sounded like a shuffling footstep. But he knew that couldn't be. He'd been alone all evening.
A flash of fear skittered across his heart. A sudden sweat broke out on his upper lip. Silently, he waited. After what had to be five minutes, he still heard nothing. "I can't believe you," he scolded himself. With a shake of his head and a laugh, he resumed his search for candles. "No more late-night horror movies for you. Who'd you think was there? Jason? With a hockey mask? Ha!"
But the thump that suddenly came from the other room was definitely real. And as Doug spun around, automatically reaching for his gun that wasn't there, he realized that he wasn't alone anymore.
*** *** ***
Part 2 (Claire)
He crept to the kitchen door and crouched to peer around the jamb. For a long moment, he could see nothing in the absolute darkness, then a point of moving light appeared. Someone was prowling around his living room, carrying a penlight. Another thunk, and a muffled curse, revealed that the figure with the light wasn't alone, and Prowler Number Two had not come as well prepared as his buddy.
Doug pulled his head back into the kitchen, just as the beam of light swept past him. Dropping to the floor, below the intruder's expected line of sight, he retreated from the door and into a protected corner. Time to think. To come up with a plan for dropping these two bozos, before they thought to look in the kitchen. But he had no weapon, no light, and no clue what they were after. Maybe it was just his neighbor wanting a cup of rat poison. Then again, maybe it was Jason looking to put another notch in his hockey mask.
Either way, Doug's best bet was to get out of the apartment and down to his truck, where he had a gun and a radio. Unfortunately, between him and the door was a room full of obstacles (why, oh why could he never get around to cleaning his house?) and two problems of unknown proportions. But if he stayed in this kitchen, he'd be nailed for sure.
Keeping flat on the floor, where hopefully his intruders wouldn't think to look for him, he crept back to the door. The one with the light was coming out of the bedroom. The other one had just stepped on a pile of empty beer cans in front of the sofa and was swearing under his breath, giving away his progress toward the kitchen. It was now or never.
Doug belly-crawled across the carpet, praying that he wouldn't put an elbow on a stray bag of potato chips. He could see absolutely nothing, and the proportions of the room changed, when you were lying face down on the floor. He'd never realized just how big his living room was! His luck held until he'd gotten around the sofa and safely past the stereo cabinet. Then the unthinkable happened. Prowler Number Two, the clumsy one, tripped over him.
The man let out a yelp of surprise, and his partner immediately swung his light in their direction. With a speed born of sheer terror, Doug kicked his legs free of the fallen man's body and leapt to his feet, just in time to get nailed in the face by the flashlight beam. He gave a gasp of pain, as the tiny light seemed to sear his retinas, and staggered back a step. In that second of disorientation, he lost his edge. The clumsy one jumped up, and he was now in between Doug and the door. The other one came at him like a charging bull, crashing through anything in his path and pinning his target with that maddening light.
Doug spun around to strike out, blindly, at the one blocking his exit, but the guy was quicker to react than his stumbling and bumbling had suggested. He swayed away from Penhall's flying fist, danced out of range for a moment, then lunged forward to deliver a crushing body blow. Doug jumped back, but his escape was checked when he fetched up against the biggest, broadest, hardest chest he had ever encountered.
An arm locked across his throat, cutting off his air supply, while another pair of hands grappled with his wrists. Doug tried to heave his attacker forward, over his head, but the man hung on with amazing strength. Damn, this guy was big! The arm felt like a tree trunk under his chin, and the hand that gripped the back of Doug's head, pushing it agonizingly forward against that arm, was large enough to crush his skull. Doug continued to fight, because self-preservation demanded it, but he knew he was losing. No matter how hard he wrenched his arms or how desperately he tried to butt one of them with his head, they held on. His knees were collapsing...his body going limp...the rushing sound of his own blood filling his ears... He gave one more gargantuan heave, a last ditch attempt to throw off the suffocating arm, then crumpled to the floor, unconscious.
* * *
The slap of cold metal against his cheek jarred Penhall roughly awake. He didn't remember how he'd gotten here, but he was lying face down on the bare, steel floor of a stripped-down van, surrounded by bits of old chain and rusty machinery. His wrists and ankles were trussed with plastic zip-strips and his mouth covered with duct tape. As he twisted around to get a better look at his prison, he saw another body lying beside his on the floor. A very familiar body.
With a silent groan of despair, he looked up to see Judy Hoffs staring at him from over the top of her duct tape gag, her big eyes blazing with anger. Doug just gazed helplessly at her for a moment, then let his head fall back on the floor. What the hell was going on, here?
In the front of the van, a radio crackled to life, and a voice wheezed, "Team One, come in!"
The man seated on the right - the one with arms like Giant Redwoods - picked up the handset. "Team One. That you, Patsy?"
"No, it's my sister, you fucking asshole!"
"Sound kinda funny, man."
"Son-of-a-bitch kicked me in the 'nads!"
The Redwood guffawed. "You get 'im?"
"I got 'im. But when I can breathe again, I'm gonna kill 'im!"
"Just sit on him 'til we get there. Gotta check on Team Two."
Patsy mumbled something nasty that the prisoners in the back could not hear, then the radio went dead.
In the back, Doug lay wondering which of his teammates had turned Patsy into a soprano. Of all the questions that rattled around in his head, this was the least important. But it was the one that gave him some sense of satisfaction, while all the others only scared the crap out of him. He was still trying to decide whether Hanson or Ioki would be more likely to take such direct action against his assailants, when the van pulled to a stop.
The Redwood climbed out of the cab. For a long moment, the prisoners heard nothing but muttered voices, then the rear doors flew open, and another trussed-up body thudded onto the floor between Doug and Judy.
*** *** ***
Part 3 (Trekkieb):
The thump reverberated through the metal floor of the van. A muffled curse made its way through the duct tape that covered the newcomer’s mouth. It was Tom Hanson. And he was pissed.
After glaring at his unpleasant captor for a moment, he struggled against his bonds. He knew it was futile, however, since he had tried before. Hearing a noise, Tom swiveled his head around, and at last he noticed the other two captives. His eyes widened in surprise when he recognized his friends.
He tried to ask them if they were all right, but all that came through his gag were garbled sounds. Doug and Judy seemed to know what he was saying anyway, by the tone of his voice. They shook their heads in confusion.
Hanson looked around. The van was moving; where, he did not know. The hard metal floor was cold, and chains and other such things jangled when corners were turned. Come to think of it, he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.
Tom had been in bed when, through the sounds of the storm, he’d heard a strange sound. It had only taken him a moment to realize it was someone trying to get into his apartment. He’d contemplated calling for backup or just dealing with it himself. After a moment, he’d decided to do both.
He’d made a quick call, requesting that a patrol car swing by. And then he’d taken his gun from the nightstand by his bed, loaded it with a fresh clip, and quietly made his way into the powerless living room. The only light afforded him came through the windows in flashes of lightning.
The sound continued, the scratching of something metal against the doorknob. He’d cautiously made his way around his sofa, gun held in his right hand, pointed up towards the ceiling. When he’d finally reached the front door, he had stood there, arms straight, his left hand supporting his right wrist.
And when the sound had finally stopped, and the doorknob started to turn, and the door began to swing inwards, he tensed, his finger ready on the trigger. But he hadn’t been expecting what happened next.
Somehow, they must have realized he was there; he must have made some sound. A huge mountain of a man came first, rushing in low. Startled, Hanson stood there for half a second. That was all the time the intruders needed. The first man tackled Hanson around the waist, sending them crashing to the ground. Hanson’s gun slid away into the room’s dark shadows. The second man stood several feet inside the door, watching the fight.
It was clear who had the better advantage in the fight. Hanson was outweighed by at least seventy pounds. But while the brute was bigger and stronger, Hanson was smaller, and therefore more agile. He squirmed and twisted, trying to get out from underneath his opponent. The blows he landed on the man’s face seemed not to faze him at all. So, instead, Tom hit him across the throat as hard as he could.
The man gagged, and his hold loosened slightly. Hanson took advantage of the opportunity and slipped free. Grabbing the first thing that his hand reached, he brought it down over the criminal’s head. The ceramic lamp shattered, and the man slumped to the floor, stunned.
Once the smaller intruder realized his accomplice was temporarily down, he joined the fray. He lunged for Tom, catching him across the jaw with the barrel of his gun. A white light burst before his eyes, and he stumbled backwards. When his vision cleared, colorful stars remained behind. Tom shook them away and hit the guy a couple of times, putting all his strength into the blows.
They had more effect this time around than they had on the man’s friend, and his movements slowed in response. This was exactly what Tom had been hoping for. He spun around on his left foot, and kicked with his right, just like he’d seen on TV a million times. The kick hit the unfortunate man directly in the groin. With a scream of pain, he collapsed to the ground, curled up in on himself.
Tom grimaced and hopped slightly on one foot. Damn, that hurt. That would teach him to do that again without shoes on.
Lightning illuminated the room for half a second, long enough for Tom to spot a gun—his, he thought—five feet away. He quickly made his way towards the weapon, knowing if he got hold of it first, he would be in control. He bent down to grab it, and was only a few inches short, when the big guy hurled himself at Tom’s back. They went sliding forward on the wood floor, and Tom’s aggressor knocked the gun out of Tom’s reach. The guy was mad now, and the harder Tom struggled, the tighter his captor held on.
Who the hell ARE these guys? he thought. He didn’t recognize either. And why on earth were they here? It was possible they were there on the behalf of someone he’d busted; Tom didn’t know.
Before his thoughts could continue in that vein, the anvil on his back roughly grabbed a handful of Tom’s brown hair and banged his face into the floor. It hurt. It hurt a lot. And suddenly Tom wished he’d gotten his hair cut last week like he’d planned; at least then the jerk wouldn’t have had such a good grip.
One last hard thump of flesh against wood, and that was it. Blackness crept slowly upon his vision like a high tide, until he could see nothing. The last thing he registered before he gave in to the black pool of unconsciousness was that the tremendous weight had finally been taken off his back.
It couldn’t have been long before he awoke again. He was slung over the big mans shoulder, hands and feet bound. They were heading towards a dark van. From the corner of his eye, Tom could see the other goon. He walked hunched over, spewing obscenities and making sure Tom knew that he was a dead man.
'Yeah, I kinda already figured that, pal.'
He began to struggle, testing the bindings around his wrists. There was no give; in fact, they were so tight the circulation was being cut off in his hands. Tom hurled a few curses right back at them, but with tape over his mouth, they lost their effect.
"Look, you shut up or we’ll kill you now, orders be damned," hissed the one Tom had kicked.
Tom glared at him.
"Yeah," agreed the bigger guy. "And we really know how to hurt a guy."
The smaller one opened the van’s rear doors, and the one who carried Tom carelessly tossed him in. The impact jarred his head, still quite painful from the recent beating it received, and he let loose another curse.
He was definitely going to pay these goons back for their hospitality. Now, looking at his friends, he wondered about their fates. If things followed the pattern that was making itself evident, Harry’s place was there next stop. Tom fervently hoped that he wasn’t home.
He thought about the call he’d placed for backup. It had probably only been about ten minutes since the trouble in his apartment had all started. The police would probably arrive there any minute. They’d see the mess in his apartment. They’d realize Judy and Doug were also missing. Someone would notify Captain Fuller, and the ball would get rolling. He understood the severity of the situation. He understood it perfectly. It was absolutely, incredibly, one hundred percent…bad.
Tom hoped that ball got rolling pretty damn quickly.
*** *** ***
Part 4 (Claire)
Harry crouched in the bushes that decorated the front wall of his apartment building, trying to ignore how cold, miserable and water-logged he was and wondering how to salvage this situation.
He had left the gym right about the time the power went out and driven home through the eerily dark streets. It had taken him longer than usual, partly because of the sheer volume of rain hitting his windshield and partly because all the stoplights were out. When he finally reached home, he was ready for a hot shower, a bad movie and bed. Unfortunately, the power had not come back on, which meant no hot water, no television, and no elevator.
Then, just to prove that no night was so bad that it couldn't get worse, he'd climbed seven flights of stairs to find his front door standing open and two goons stumbling around his apartment in the dark. Luckily, they were too stupid to close the door behind them. And even more luckily, he was wearing tennis shoes and so had made no sound on the carpet as he approached. He ducked quickly out of sight of the door, flattened himself against the wall, and listened.
They had apparently finished searching the apartment and were now discussing their next move. One of them wanted to clear out and call someone named Johnson to report their failure. The other insisted that they stay here, lay low, and wait for their 'target' to return.
When the one in favor of waiting stifled the other's protests by hissing, "We drop on all four! Those were our orders!" Harry decided he'd heard enough. Sooner or later, one of these guys would figure out that they had to shut the door to set a decent trap, and they'd find him standing right outside. Not good. And that reference to "all four" got him thinking some very unpleasant thoughts. It was time to call in the cavalry. Leaving the goons to make themselves at home in his apartment, he headed for the street and the radio in his car.
But someone was out to get him tonight - in a cosmic sense, as well as a practical one. He stepped out the front door to find a white van pulled up next to the Deuce and yet another strange thug - a very, very BIG thug - circling his car and peering through the windows. Only the black-out and his own dark clothing saved him. The man couldn't see beyond the dazzle of the van's headlights, so he never saw Harry slip out the door and into the bushes.
Now, he was relatively safe from discovery - at least until the lights came on again - but he was stuck. He could do nothing but sit here in the mud and the rain, watching this guy case his car and wondering which pair of thugs would give up first - the ones inside or the ones outside.
The man at the car suddenly broke off his search and headed toward the building. He strode up the front walk, peering suspiciously around him as he came, and hesitated at the door. With eyes slitted against the rain, he turned to study the street from this vantage point. Then, he pulled a walkie-talkie from his belt and switched it on.
"No sign of him," he growled. "The car is empty, but the engine is still warm."
"Then where is he?" a voice asked, crackling over the speaker. Harry recognized it as belonging to one of the goons in his apartment.
"Search the building. We'll cruise the block."
"I'm tellin' ya, man, he knows we're here! We gotta clear out before the cops get here!"
"We show up with only three of 'em, and the boss'll barbecue our nuts. Now, do like I say. Leave Ty in the apartment, in case he comes back, and search the damn building!" With that, he turned off his walkie-talkie and headed for the van at a trot.
Ioki waited 'til the man had reached the line of parked cars at the curb, then he slipped between the bushes and followed him. He knew he was about to do something very foolish, but he honestly didn't see any alternative. His friends were in that van, and he was the only one close enough to do anything about it. Even if he got away clean, found a phone and called for back-up, no one could get here in time to save them - not with the storm and the power outage - and once that van drove away, they were dead meat.
The enormous thug walked past the Deuce, shooting one more look into the cab for good measure, then circled around the back of the van. Harry crouched behind another car parked a few yards along the curb, waiting for the slam of the van's door. When he heard it, he sprinted up to the back of the large vehicle and stepped up onto the rear bumper. This was no slick, new, aerodynamic mini-van. This was a relic of the '70s, shaped like a cinderblock on wheels, with no rear or side windows and a solid steel bumper as wide as a park bench. Harry stood on the bumper, his rubber-soled shoes sticking comfortably to the pitted, rusted metal, and held onto the door handles for balance.
The van lumbered down the street, while the thugs inside scanned the terrain for any sign of their quarry. They turned left at the corner, then left again into the alley that ran behind the building. As they drove, Harry sorted out his options and tried to come up with a plan.
At first, he figured he'd open the rear doors, let his teammates out, and pound these goons silly. On more sober reflection, that seemed like a bad idea. The other cops might be tied up, unconscious, or even...no, not that, but it was a safe bet that they weren't just sitting in there drinking sodas and munching potato chips. So, by the time he got them loose, the Walking Mountain would have turned him to pavement pizza.
Maybe he could take the Mountain. Maybe...if he went straight for the guy and didn't stop to help his friends. But that left the driver free to call in the other two goons, pull an Uzi out from under the seat, or decide that one of his teammates would make a good hostage. Bad plan. Very bad.
* * *
'Okay, this is getting interesting,' Hanson thought. 'What are these guys gonna do, if they can't find Iokage?'
The one with the walkie-talkie sounded pissed, the driver sounded scared, and the rocket scientist on the other end of the radio sounded confused, but they all agreed on one thing. They did not want to leave without collecting their fourth cop. The boss would not be happy...oh, no, not happy at all!
Tom glanced over at Penhall and saw his eyes crinkle up with laughter. Leave it to Doug to find the humor in a situation like this! Judy looked scared, but he was willing to bet that it wasn't for herself. She was most likely fretting herself into a fit over Harry catching cold in the rain. Tom himself was getting antsy. He knew Harry had to be up to something, and he wanted to help. But what could he do, when he was trussed up like a turkey and locked in this van? The longer he lay there, stiffening up in the cold, the more frustrated he got.
The walkie-talkie crackled to life again, and Hanson pricked up his ears.
"Johnson? Where the hell are you guys?" a staticky voice demanded.
The Redwood clicked on the handset and answered, "Coming around the corner onto Maple."
"Oh, yeah...I see your lights..." The panic drained out of the voice. "I'm in the stairwell, second floor, right above you. Look, this is stupid. I been all over this building, and if that cop is around, he's gone into another apartment where we can't get 'im. If he isn't, we're just spinning our wheels. Either w...Holy shit!"
"What's the matter?" Johnson snapped.
"He's on the back of the truck!"
"Gimme a break."
"I can see him from here! He's standing on your bumper!!"
Johnson twisted around in his seat to stare in disbelief at the blank rear doors. "Son of a bitch. Get down here, now!" he shouted into the radio, then he tossed it away and began climbing between the seats.
"What're you gonna do?" the driver asked, nervously.
"Catch me a cop."
The three prisoners did their best to slow his progress toward the back of the van, but Johnson lashed out with his enormous feet, kicking them aside and trampling them when he couldn't clear the path. He reached the rear doors and braced his feet wide for balance, straddling both Hanson and Hoffs with his tree-trunk legs. Tom stiffened, his eyes wide with horror, when the man drew an automatic as huge as he was out of his coat.
"On three, hit the gas!" Johnson bellowed at the driver. "One..." He reached out to release the latch on the doors. "Two..." He rocked back with all his weight on his left foot. "THREE!" He slammed the sole of his right foot against the doors, just as the van spurted forward. The doors flew open, and all three cops saw a black-clad body go flying backward to land heavily on the pavement. It rolled a few times, then came to a stop, just as two men wearing ski masks jogged up to it.
Johnson kept his gun trained on the heap of damp overcoat in the street until one of his masked cohorts gave him a thumbs up. Then he tucked his weapon into its holster and turned a satisfied smirk on his prisoners. Hanson could not see around Johnson's bulk, so he did not know what was happening outside, but he didn't have long to wait. Less than a minute after the van came to a stop, the two masked goons tossed a bound, gagged and extremely unconscious Harry Ioki through the open doors.
He lay limply across his teammates' legs, his weight pinning them to the floor and his rain-drenched overcoat soaking their clothing, but none of them minded. The goons had taken the time to truss him as thoroughly as the rest of them, which meant that he was still breathing. Which meant that they could still get out of this in one piece.
* * *
The drive felt endless to the officers piled in the back of the van. Long before they reached their destination, they were all freezing cold, bruised, sore and miserable. Hoffs, who had taken the least abuse during her kidnapping, had on nothing but a cotton nightgown and suffered the most from the cold. Hanson has bruises in places he didn't know existed until tonight, while Penhall felt as though his windpipe had been put through a mangle. Hanson had just about decided that Ioki had the right idea, sleeping through the whole trip, when he glanced at Harry's face and saw that he was awake. He had not moved or shown any signs of life, but his eyes were open.
Tom lifted one knee from the floor, digging Harry in the ribs. Ioki's eyes met his, and Tom grinned at him through the duct tape. Harry smiled back, then raised his eyebrows in a way that said, 'do you believe this crap?' as clear as day. Tom just shook his head and closed his eyes. He had one less thing to worry about, knowing that Harry was okay, but that was only one out of a dozen. The other eleven were giving him ulcers and cold sweats.
Finally, the van pulled into a large building and stopped. Tom knew they had moved inside, both by the change in the sound of the engine and by the artificial light that shone through the windshield. Wherever they had ended up, the power was on.
Johnson climbed out of the vehicle, leaving the door open, and held a muttered conversation with a couple of other male voices. Then the rear doors popped open, and the Giant Redwood was smirking down at them.
"End of the line. Everybody out."
Hanson struggled into a sitting position, but he could not follow Johnson's instructions and climb out of the van, because Ioki was still lying across his legs. He nudged his colleague, expecting him to get up, but Ioki didn't move.
"Out!" Johnson repeated. Harry looked up at him, shrugged, and shook his head. The Redwood growled threateningly, then decided to cut this argument short. He waved forward one of the men lurking in the shadows and snapped, "Get him out of there."
The goon obediently scooped up Ioki and tossed him over one shoulder, bringing a muffled squeak from his prisoner. Other goons then moved in to help Hanson, Hoffs and Penhall clamber down from the high vehicle. They needed all the help they could get. Their legs had gone completely numb from cold and lack of circulation, so that they could barely hobble along, even with a goon or two to lean on.
When he had all his prisoners assembled, Johnson led them across the echoing expanse of the large, dark, empty warehouse, toward a door in the far wall. Another man stood in the lighted doorway, waiting for them, but this one could hardly be called a goon. He was just over average height, of slender build, with distinguished silver hair that had been styled to perfection. His clothing reeked of money, and the gold pinky ring he wore seemed to weigh down his whole hand. As Johnson ushered in his cavalcade of cops, the man graciously held the door for them.
Hanson stepped past him and met his eyes squarely. The man smiled. He had perfect teeth.
"Take a seat, Officer Hanson. All of you, please, sit down."
The cops found four metal chairs arranged in a neat line, all facing the desk that filled one end of the tiny, utilitarian office. They obediently sat down, while their escorts took up positions behind their chairs. Ioki's goon set him down in a chair, earning another inarticulate protest, and stood behind him with a hand on his shoulder to keep him upright. When all four were seated, Johnson moved down the line and ripped off their gags.
"Thank you!" Penhall gasped, as the tape tore free of his skin.
Their host flashed another perfect, charming smile. "You're welcome, Officer Penhall." He settled himself on the corner of the desk, one elegantly shod foot swinging idly, and confronted the strained, angry faces of his captives. "Don't trouble yourselves trying to remember where you've seen my face before," he advised. "You haven't. But you do know me, in an indirect way. The four of you have cost me millions of dollars in lost revenues, court costs and...shall we say, personnel attrition. You didn't realize it. You were not even aware that I exist, except by reputation and rumor, but I make it my business to know my adversaries personally. Very personally. And you four officers have become a special study of mine."
He looked long and closely at each of them, in turn, as if memorizing their faces. "Now, I am preparing to move my operations elsewhere. Yes, my friends, you have forced me to pack up my tents and take my circus on the road. But I couldn't leave without meeting you, face to face, and giving you something to remember me by. Tonight is payback."
*** *** ***
Part 5 (Trekkieb):
"All set, Boss," Patsy said.
Quincy Hane looked at his subordinate and nodded his silver head sharply. "Good," he replied in a clipped voice. "We’ll begin shortly." He then turned his attention back to the papers that lay before him on his massive mahogany desk, effectively dismissing the man.
But Patsy hesitated at the door and turned back to Hane. "Uh, sir…"
Hane glanced back up and locked his gaze on Patsy. "What is it, Patsy?"
"Well, I ain’t exactly sure what you got planned for those cops, but…well…I was hoping I’d get a chance at the one that—I mean that Hanson."
Quincy raised one perfectly arched eyebrow.
"I mean, if it’s all right with you," Patsy hastened to add.
A slow, feral smile crept its way upon Hane’s lips, and a glitter came to his ice blue eyes. For a moment, his gaze turned inward, as if he were watching something, replaying some distant memory.
Patsy shifted nervously at the look on his boss’ face. It made him extremely glad that he wasn’t one of those Jump Street cops.
A moment later, Hane seemed to draw himself back to the present. He looked at his employee. "Don’t worry. You’ll get your chance."
Patsy grinned and left the office, closing the door behind him. Once he was gone, Hane stood and walked to a side table. A cut-glass decanter rested there, and he poured a drink into a glass tumbler. Taking a sip, he wandered around the room until he came to a mirror. He looked at his reflection long and hard, his stare boring into the identical pair of eyes in the glass.
Finally. He had waited so long for this moment. He had waited until things were ready to be moved. Until the business was in no danger of the cops. There had been nights when he couldn’t sleep for thought of the time when revenge would be his. And tonight was the night.
And the fact that one of them happened to be the son of Jack Hanson, the man responsible for nearly ten years of hell, well that was just the icing on the cake.
Looking at the image of himself, Quincy Hane smiled. The smile grew until a pleasant-sounding laugh trickled forth. He didn’t stop himself, and the thoughts of the coming hours only fueled it.
It was a good thing Patsy wasn’t there at that moment. He might have seen something in his boss, a glint in his cold blue eye, a note in his laugh that would have revealed just how dangerously close to the precipice of sanity he actually resided.
* * *
"This sucks big time," Doug Penhall muttered to himself.
It had only been about twenty minutes now since he’d been tossed into the small, dank room he now occupied. It was empty, with not even a stick of furniture. Doug sat on the cold concrete floor against one of the four equally cold concrete walls. The only entrance was windowless, thick, built of solid wood, and completely hopeless. The first thing he had done after being left alone was test the door. There had been absolutely no give. The second thing he’d done was scope out his prison. That, too, had proved futile in the end. There were no windows and nothing out of which he could make a weapon. Even if he could handle a weapon right now.
His ankles had been freed from their bonds prior to the heavy door slamming shut behind his captors. The suggestion that they also remove the ones around his wrists was not taken seriously, and his only response had been a mean laugh. So his wrists remained tightly secured behind his back. No amount of trying to free them seemed to help. He kept telling himself to work harder, that his efforts would pay off.
And while Doug worked on that, his thoughts raced wildly. He contemplated the identity of the fancy-dressed guy. He was the one in charge. He’d said he wanted revenge. For what? What had he or Tom or Judy or Harry done to him? He could feel the answer was right there, right on the front of his brain. It was teasing him; something was ringing a bell, but when he tried to grab hold, it fled like a greased pig.
He sighed and shifted as the cold cement continued to leach the warmth from his body. He wished the goons in his apartment had at least taken a moment to grab his jacket from the back of the armchair. But nooo. They were in too big of a hurry to tie him up and get him to this damn place.
Where was here anyway? The warehouse hadn’t looked familiar from what he’d seen of it. Were they even in the city limits anymore?
Doug grimaced. Too many questions, not enough answers. And the fact that he was tired, cold and sore didn’t seem to be helping his thinking process any. He swallowed tentatively. And his throat hurt, too. Not as bad as before, but it still hurt.
What he thought of most, however, were his friends. He’d been worried when he realized that they were going to be separated. It didn’t bode well for any of them, and Doug wondered just what this bastard had in store for them. He hoped they all lived through the night. Because Doug Penhall didn’t want to die, and he definitely did not want his friends to die.
Echoing footsteps heralded the approach of someone. Oh, goody, Doug thought briefly. More fun. The footsteps stopped outside his room, and the sound of a key being inserted into a lock filled Doug’s ears. A second later, the heavy wooden door swung open. Light spilled into the dark interior, and Penhall could discern two menacing silhouettes standing in the entryway.
Doug swallowed nervously, but tried to keep his voice carefree when he spoke. "Hey, lemme guess. You brought me something to eat?" There was no response. The two men simply moved further into the room. Doug pushed himself to his feet, using the wall behind him for support. "No? Well, uh, if you’re taking orders how about a cheeseburger and, uh, something to drink?" He couldn’t keep a nervous chuckle from escaping when the two men – he recognized the huge one from his apartment – continued to approach him. Doug couldn’t see their faces, for their backs were to the light, but he had the sneaking suspicion they weren’t there for social reasons.
The huge one grabbed him by he front of his shirt, and Doug could see his face now. Way too clearly. Anger and hatred twisted the broad face before him, and Doug gulped.
"Hey, guys, I-I know we got off on the wrong foot and all, but, uh, hey, I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. We can still be friends, you know? What d’ya say?"
A fist to the gut drove the air from his lungs and cut off his nervous rambling.
Apparently, the two didn’t want to be Doug’s friends. They made it perfectly clear how they felt when they began to beat the crap out of him.
Yeah, Doug thought to himself from amidst the pain, I’d say this really sucks.
*** *** ***
Part 6 (Claire):
Fuller looked around at the shambles of Hoffs' apartment, his face grim. This was the third place he'd visited - after Hanson's and Ioki's - and by far the worst. A hurricane had come through here, and apparently carried Judy Hoffs off with it.
Since the ringing of his phone had jerked him out of a sound sleep and started his pulse racing, the captain had not come down off of his adrenaline high. He drove to Tom Hanson's apartment at a reckless pace, oblivious to bad weather conditions, dead stoplights and frightened motorists. There, he found the place trashed and Tom gone. When Penhall, Hoffs and Ioki all failed to answer their phones, Fuller called in the troops and set off on a personal tour of their apartments.
At Ioki's place, he found things in good order but the door standing open and no sign of Harry. Leaving a pair of detectives and a couple of lab boys to figure out what black hole had swallowed his officer, he went on to the next stop on the tour - Judy's place. Here, he had no trouble guessing what had happened. The wreckage of her living room told him more than he wanted to know about her struggles to break free of her captors. Fuller was about to head over to Penhall's, just to complete the circuit, when one of the detectives gave a shout from the bedroom.
"Captain! In here!"
He sprinted into the other room and came to a dead stop in the doorway. There, seated on the bed, was a handsome young man dressed in nothing but a duct tape gag, handcuffs, and a leopard-spotted thong. He stared at Fuller over the top of his gag, his eyes wide with panic and a blush creeping up under the rich brown of his skin. The detective ripped off the tape, and the young man gave a startled gasp of pain.
Fuller crossed the room in two strides to stand, glowering, over the unfortunate man. "Who're you?" he snapped.
"G-gerry..." he stuttered. "Gerald Harper."
"What are you doing here?"
The blush deepened. "Having the worst date of my life."
Fuller eyed him narrowly, wondering if he was trying to be funny, but there was no humor in his face. In fact, he was two seconds away from bursting into tears. The captain took pity on him. He peeled off his overcoat and draped it around Gerry's shoulders to preserve his modesty - what little of it was left - then he fished out his handcuff keys.
Before he unlocked the cuffs, he asked, "Who put those on?"
Gerry blinked at him, baffled by the question, until it occurred to him what this intimidating man was suggesting. If possible, his eyes got even wider. "Some huge guy with a ski mask on!"
Fuller pulled his hands quickly away, not wanting to smudge any remaining prints. "Was he wearing gloves?"
So much for Gerry's value as a witness. "Hang on," Fuller sighed. He pulled on his own gloves, then reached behind Gerry's back and carefully unlocked the cuffs. With an open bracelet looped over one finger, he shouted for the lab boys and an evidence bag.
Finally, the captain had the handcuffs properly stored, the detectives set hopping on other tasks, and Gerry to himself.
"Okay, why don't you tell me what happened, Mr. Harper?" he suggested, in the most pleasant voice he could muster.
"Uhmm..." Gerry bundled the coat more securely around himself and avoided Fuller's piercing gaze. "Well, Judy and I were having a great time. Hitting it off really well."
Fuller refrained from pointing out that this much was obvious, considering how Gerry was dressed. Instead, he nodded encouragingly and waited for more.
"We came in here and...uh, you know...but then we heard someone come in the door. Judy thought it was some guy named Penhall playing a joke on her. She put on a nightgown and got her handcuffs out of the drawer and went out there to get even with him, only..."
"Only it wasn't Penhall?"
"I guess not. I heard crashing and yelling, and then Judy screamed. So I went out to see what was wrong. It was dark. I couldn't really tell what was happening. But I know there were two of them...very big guys, dressed all in black, with ski masks. One of them hit me from behind, before I even knew where they were, and knocked me onto the floor. He must've hit me in the head, because everything kept going out of focus.
"I wasn't out for very long. I remember lying on the bed, wearing Judy's handcuffs, listening to them talking in the living room. I couldn't hear Judy anymore...I...I don't know what they did to her."
Fuller nodded understanding. "What did the two men say to each other?"
"Most of it was mumbles. But one of them called the other 'Johnson' and they mentioned 'the Boss'." He hesitated for a moment, then added, "I heard something about other targets...picking up the others..."
"Any names, besides Johnson?"
Gerry thought long and hard about that. Finally, he said, "They mentioned Judy by name, and that Penhall guy. He was next on their list, I think. And a name that sounded like...Fane. Mr. Fane or Mr. Hane. I can't be sure. I'm sorry, but I can't even be sure it was a name they used."
"It's somewhere to start, anyway. Can you remember anything else?"
He shrugged and shook his head. "They left. I waited 'til I heard the door shut, then I went into the living room. Judy was gone and the place was a mess. I thought about calling the cops, but I couldn't get the tape off my mouth and I couldn't find the phone in the dark."
"And it didn't occur to you to try the neighbors?"
Gerry blushed again. "Would you? Dressed like this, with handcuffs on? I did look out the window, though, and I saw them get into a car."
Fuller stared at the infuriating young man, wondering if he could be prosecuted for clobbering him, under the circumstances. Common sense won out, and he controlled the impulse. "What kind of car was it, Mr. Harper?"
"A white van. An old one. Big and square with no windows on the sides."
"Did you see anything else? The license plates, maybe?"
"From up here?" At Fuller's glare, he squelched his weak attempt at sarcasm and answered, simply, "No, Sir. I just saw one of them shut the back door and go around to the driver's side. He climbed in, and they drove away. Headed west," he added hastily.
"Any idea what time that was?"
"No. All the clocks were dead."
"All right, Mr. Harper." Fuller got to his feet and held out his hand for the overcoat. Gerry surrendered it reluctantly. "I'll have the detectives take you by the hospital, just to be sure you aren't injured, then downtown for a statement. Thank you for your cooperation." With that, he strode out of the room.
What a godawful night! A pack of kidnappers couldn't have picked a better time to spirit away four cops without a trace! Fuller watched the rain pour down Judy's front window and thought of his officers - his friends - in the hands of these masked goons, with a tight pain growing in his chest. They were gone, vanished into the storm, and he had no way to find them. Their lives might depend on how quickly he solved this puzzle. But what clues did he have? An old, white van with no markings? A couple of misheard names? A slightly brain-damaged boy toy in a jungleprint g-string?
He would put the pieces together. He had to. He could only pray that it would be soon enough to help his officers.
Shrugging off his melancholy, Fuller turned away from the view of the rain-soaked street and headed for the phone. Time to get some answers.
*** *** ***
Part 7 (Trekkieb):
The not knowing was the worst. He’d experienced many horrible things in his long career as a keeper of the peace, but not knowing was the one that tore at his soul at the very moment.
Captain Fuller wasn’t afraid to admit it. He cared about what happened to his team. Not just as their superior officer, but as their friend. Each of them was like a part of his family. Each was unique. Judy was like a smart younger sister. And the others… Were they more like sons or brothers? Maybe a little of both, he finally decided.
Fuller pulled his coat tighter around himself as he exited Hoffs’ apartment building and stepped into the rain. There was work to be done, and he knew that every passing minute could mean the death of one or all of his team. His family.
*** *** ***
The waiting was the worst. In any normal situation it was a pain in the butt, and this hardly qualified as a normal situation. Hanson had been waiting for what seemed like forever. Since he had no idea of the passage of time, all he had to keep him occupied was thinking. Except he didn’t like where his thoughts kept taking him. They brought up dark images of the coming night and all the things that could happen before the sun even rose. And they brought fear. But Tom knew he couldn’t dwell on that; it would just drag him down into a well of hopelessness so deep he might never climb back out. So, to keep all that at bay, he whistled. And for some odd reason he found himself whistling Christmas songs.
He could have gotten up. He could have inspected his cell. He could have tried the door. But what for? He was pretty darn sure that, after all the trouble to catch him and the others, they weren’t going to accidentally leave the door unlocked. And they weren’t going to leave anything in the cell with him that he could use as an aid. No. It was incredibly unlikely. Tom would just wait some more. He would wait until something happened. And when that something did happen, he would keep a sharp eye out for any opportunities to get out of this hell hole.
*** *** ***
Hane walked confidently down one of the warehouse’s dimly-lit corridors, his strides slow and measured. Behind him followed Calhoun, the muscles half of Team 2. Hane was definitely looking forward to what was coming next as he stopped in front of a closed door. Calhoun produced a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. He closed it again once Hane was inside and flipped a switch by the door that turned on a single light bulb in the bare room.
Hane looked at the young man sitting on the floor of the cell. He sat against one wall, his legs stretched out before him in a comfortable position even though his hands were restrained behind his back. Tom Hanson raised his head, one eyebrow cocked in query. Hane was impressed by his show of nonchalance. But he was certain that, with a few simple words, he could make that casual air disappear in an instant.
"Officer Hanson," Hane said cordially as he took a few steps forward.
"That’s what they call me. Since you seem to know my name, how about you let me in on who you are?" There was no fear in Hanson’s voice, merely faint curiosity.
Hane stepped even closer. He knew he had nothing to worry about. Calhoun was right outside if Hanson tried anything. So Hane hitched up the pant legs of his designer suit and hunkered down before the police officer. "In time, perhaps," he agreed. "But first, there’s something I’ve been wanting to share with you ever since I learned who you are."
Hanson snorted in contempt. "And what might that be?"
But Hane ignored him. Instead, he stood straight again and looked Hanson squarely in the eye for a brief moment. Then he broke his gaze and turned it to the gray walls of the room they were in. He began to walk the circumference.
"Small, isn’t it? Damp, cold, gray, dismal. Almost enough to make one claustrophobic. I spent almost ten years in a room very similar to this one. Nine years, ten months, and seventeen days, to be precise. It was horrible. I still have nightmares sometimes."
Hane paused as he heard Hanson mutter something that sounded suspiciously like "Poor baby." His eyes narrowed dangerously, and fire flashed behind his ice-cold gaze for half a second. But then he breathed out and the tension left his shoulders. Before long, Thomas Hanson would not be so cocky.
"And do you want to know who put me there? Who was responsible for all those years of misery?" He looked at Hanson. He wanted to see the expression on his face when he told him. "Officer Jack Hanson." He couldn’t help a cold smile as Hanson’s head jerked up, and his eyes widened. He crouched down again before his prisoner, taking glee in the situation. "And do you want to know something else? I…had…him…killed…"
*** *** ***
Time stood still for a few seconds, as did Tom’s heart, as those four little words percolated their way into his mind. Just four words. So harmless when separated, but when strung together in the right order, they were enough to send Tom’s world reeling in confusion.
'No!' his mind cried.
Hesitantly, Tom licked his lips. "I don’t believe you," he whispered hoarsely to the man before him.
But the silver-haired man just smiled and spread his arms out to either side as he rose to his feet. "But it’s true," he crowed. "Let me see, what was the man’s name who shot him? Was it…Booker Wells?"
Booker Wells… Tom knew that name all too well. There wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t think of Booker Wells, didn’t curse his name, didn’t damn him to an eternity in Hell for what he had done. His thoughts were interrupted by more words from his captor.
"Yes, it was raining. A night much like this, wasn’t it? You see, I hired Wells to rob that diner. I knew exactly where your father and his partner would be that night, and I knew they would be the first to arrive at the scene."
Hanson couldn’t take it anymore. He wanted to wipe that smug smile off the bastard’s face. Wanted to rip his throat out. Years of rage, grief, pain, and countless other emotions were struggling to be set free. And the rage was winning.
With a wordless growl, Tom lunged forward and rushed at the guy. Out of the corner of his eye, he was pleased to see a look of surprise tinged with fear on that angled face. Contact was made between Tom’s head and the other man’s chest, and the two went tumbling to the concrete floor.
Tom could hear him call for someone named Calhoun, but he paid no attention. He was too blinded by his anger as he struggled against him. Less than five seconds later, he was pulled to his feet, fighting all the way, by the guy from his apartment.
A huge fist to his chin snapped his head back painfully, and Tom tasted blood in his mouth. One more punch for good measure, and Calhoun tossed him aside. He landed in a heap against one wall. Suppressing a groan, he shook his head to clear the black edges from his vision. Turning his head, he spat blood on the cement floor and glared at the two men.
"You all right, Mr. Hane?" The big jackass asked.
Hane straightened his suit coat and brushed dust from his sleeves. "I’m fine," he said curtly. He then turned his attention to Tom. "That was a very foolish thing to do, Hanson."
Tom shivered at the tone in the smooth, cultured voice. Maybe it had been foolish for him to do that. He pushed against the wall with one shoulder as he struggled to his feet. No way was he going to just sit there before the bastard; if Hane had something planned for him, he wasn’t going to take it on the floor.
But to Tom’s surprise, Hane just turned his back and walked towards the door. Calhoun preceded him out, then Hane paused with his hand on the doorknob, his back to Hanson. "Perhaps you should be taught a lesson." Nodding to Calhoun, he ordered, "Kill one of them."
"No!" Tom yelled, rushing forwards. But it was too late; the door closed with a solid thunk, and the room was plunged into darkness. He banged against the door with his shoulders and kicked it with his feet, paying no heed to the pain it caused. "No! Get back here, you bastard! Don’t you touch them!"
Finally, he stopped. He leaned his cheek against the rough wood, breathing hard. Several torturous minutes later, the sound of a single gun shot filled his ears, filled his head, filled his heart.
"Nooo!" he screamed. The dark room tilted and spun around him, and Tom staggered for several steps before collapsing to his knees. "No," he whispered as he squeezed his eyes shut against the images swirled through his thoughts.
Doug. Judy. Harry. One of them was dead, and it was all his fault.
He didn’t try to stop the sobs that tore their way from his throat. He didn’t stop the tears that streamed down his face. He sank all the way to the hard floor and drew his knees up in front of him. How could he live with the knowledge that he had caused the death of one of his best friends? The knowledge that it was his fault?
*** *** ***
Part 8 (Claire):
Doug lay in a huddle on the floor, his knees pulled up close to his chest and his teeth clenched against the pain of breathing. His jailers had finished pounding on him some time ago, and since their departure, no one had come near his cell, which was just fine by him. Now he lay as still as he possibly could, counting the thuds of his own heart and straining to hear something through the thick walls. He couldn't sleep...couldn't allow his aching brain to slip into unconsciousness...couldn't leave his friends to handle this nightmare alone... No matter how badly it hurt, he had to stay awake and alert. His life and the lives of his friends might depend on it.
*** *** ***
Judy paced the tiny room frantically, in an attempt to ward off the cold. Her flimsy nightgown was gone, torn off her by a laughing goon right before he locked her in this dismal cell. At least they'd left her alone. When that enormous hand had grabbed hold of her clothing, and that ugly face had leered at her, she'd been sure that something much worse was coming. But so far, no one had come near her. So she paced and fretted and wriggled her hands around inside their bindings, trying to keep her circulation going, while her mind spun in a thousand useless directions. She felt exposed, vulnerable, and completely helpless, and for a woman like Judy, there was no worse feeling in the world.
*** *** ***
Harry leaned against the concrete wall and shifted all of his weight onto his right foot. That helped a little, but only a little. With his wrists tied to the latch on the window, he could not sit down or even change positions substantially, and the ache in the left side of his body, where he'd hit the pavement, was getting worse by the minute. These guys were good. They had a knack for picking weak points and exploiting them, and they weren't afraid to take the slow approach. Right about now, Harry would gladly have faced a whole squad of goons with rubber truncheons, if he could only sit down for the beating. With a tired sigh, he propped his forehead on the window sill, closed his eyes, and tried not to picture wolves chewing their legs off to get out of traps.
*** *** ***
Suddenly, the cell door swung open and a flood of light momentarily blinded the prisoner. The deafening report of a single gunshot filled the space and ricocheted off the concrete walls with a violence almost as deadly as the bullet itself. In the other cells, the sound acted like a jolt of electricity through the bodies of the listeners.
Doug was jerked instantly awake, every nerve ending alive with panic. He struggled into a sitting position and turned to stare at the closed door. A gunshot. He had definitely heard a gunshot, but now there was only silence. Then, faintly, horribly, he heard a familiar voice screaming out an agonized denial. Tom... Tom screaming in pain. Doug gave a sob and closed his eyes against a flood of hot tears.
Judy froze, and her heart literally stopped. Then it started again, with a painful lurch, and her muscles unlocked. She ran for the door to press her ear against the rough wood, but she could hear nothing. Fighting for control, she closed her eyes and concentrated. She'd paid fairly close attention when they'd brought her down here, so she knew that her cell was nearly at the end of a long, wide corridor. Directly across from her were two more blank doors, and a fourth opened off the end of the corridor. She held the image in her head and tried to determine where the shot had come from, but all the emptiness and concrete distorted the sound too badly. She could not pinpoint the source, and now she could hear nothing...nothing...
Harry stared into the barrel of the gun and tried to get his brain to function again. From this angle, the muzzle looked wide enough to swallow a golf ball. Having that cannon pointed at his face made it a little difficult to think clearly, and the crater in the wall behind him bore eloquent testimony to what the weapon could do to unsuspecting flesh and bone, if aimed properly. He shook his head sharply, to clear the ringing from his ears, then shifted his gaze from the gun to the man holding it.
The goon grinned foolishly at him and lifted one finger to his lips in a comical gesture for silence. Harry had no desire to laugh, no matter how silly the man looked. Behind the goon, their captor propped one expensively-clad shoulder against the doorjamb and flashed his teeth in a carnivorous smile. Harry frowned. What were these two lunatics up to, now?
Hane waited until he was sure that Ioki wouldn't make any noise and spoil his fun, then he headed back for Hanson's cell. As he went, he signaled two other guards to take up positions in front of Penhall's and Hoffs' cells. When everyone was ready, he nodded for the others to unlock the doors. He wanted all of the officers to hear this. It would teach them a valuable lesson and make the exercise that much more enjoyable.
When Doug's door opened, his head snapped up in alarm. "Tom?" he called, desperately. "Tom, are you okay?!" Then he saw Judy standing, naked, in the open door across the hall. She was blue with cold, filthy, and shaking in reaction to her fear and the adrenaline that burned through her veins, but unhurt. He felt a sickening wave of relief pass through him at the knowledge that at least one of his friends was still alive. Now if he could just find Tom and Harry...
Hane nodded with satisfaction and turned to open Hanson's door. The young officer lay in a fetal position on the floor, convulsed with sobs, lost in the black pit of his own despair. Hane almost hugged himself with delight, so deep was his satisfaction, but now the others needed a stronger taste of it. Hanson had suffered for them; now they needed to suffer for him.
"Tom?!" The shout came from the cell next door, and it had the desired result. Hanson's head jerked up and his eyes snapped open. "Damn it, Tom, answer me!"
"Doug..." Hanson staggered to his feet, but he did not dare move any closer to the door. Not with Hane's evil presence there. A sob tore out of his throat, born half of gratitude that his partner was still alive and half of terror for his other friends. "Doug, it's my fault! I'm sorry...I'm..."
In his own cell, Ioki glanced from the hole in the wall behind his head to the gloating smile on Calhoun's face, and his own face hardened in understanding. The goon made his comical shush-ing gesture again, and Harry bit his lip 'til blood ran down his chin.
"What's going on, Hanson?" Judy called.
Tom gave a shudder at the sound of her voice. Judy was alive. That left only Harry. He fixed his appalled gaze on the smiling, impassive Hane and gasped, "What have you done?" Then, pulling a ragged breath into his lungs, he found his voice again and fairly howled, "What have you done?!!"
Ioki heard his agonized cry and something inside him snapped. The raw pain in Hanson's voice was more than he could take, especially knowing that he could stop this with one word. Ignoring the threat of the gun, he shouted at the top of his lungs, "Nothing, Tom! It's a trick!"
Even as Hanson's gasp of relief carried to his friends' ears, Hane turned to flash a signal at Calhoun. The thug leveled his weapon and thumbed back the hammer.
"That was dumb," he informed his prisoner, pleasantly. Then he pulled the trigger.
Judy screamed, a horrible, tearing sound that never seemed to stop, until her guard caught her with a vicious backhand to the face. The blow flung her across the cell, where she landed in a limp heap, motionless and silent.
"Leave her alone!" Doug croaked, as he tried yet again to gain his feet. He could not make his body obey. The best he could do was crawl toward the door and the guard blocking his exit. "Jude! Judy!" She did not answer him. "Tom! Somebody...somebody talk to me! Oh, God!" He collapsed to the floor and curled up defensively, fighting pain and panic, alternately straining for the sound of his friends' voices and praying that he would not have to listen to any more of this.
Tom stood frozen in shock, his eyes so huge that they seemed to engulf his entire face. He did not hear Doug calling him, because he could hear nothing around the voice in his own head. It was another trick, the voice insisted. It had to be. Hane had proven that he wasn't above lying to inflict mental torture, and he had demonstrated that he didn't really want to kill his prisoners - yet. So it had to be another trick. It had to be. It had to...
"I'm not going to fall for the same trick twice," he finally rasped out, his voice shaking in spite of his certainty.
Hane smiled. "I never play the same trick twice. Calhoun!"
"Cut that down and bring it here. Officer Hanson is a slow learner."
Tom shook his head, denying those words, in the grip of a shock so profound that it would not allow him to move or breathe or think. He felt as though an icy fist were wrapped around his body, from chin to heels, squeezing harder with every second that passed. The gleam of anticipation in Hane's eyes only tightened the fist. Tom's heart missed a beat. He could not make his lungs expand. His vision began to swim out of focus, and a black fog crept around the edges of his awareness. He was suffocating in his own terror.
The man named Calhoun suddenly loomed up behind Hane. He gave an odd shrug, and something heavy hit the floor with a damp thud. Tom forced his head to turn and his eyes to track over to it, to look at what Hane had done...no, what he had done. In the next heartbeat, his muscles unglued and he was stumbling into the back corner of his cell, gasping for air. He ran face-first into the angle of the walls, where he propped his head against the concrete and began to wretch violently.
The heaves did not stop, even when his stomach had nothing left in it to bring up. Hane was chuckling smoothly, as urbane and poised as ever in the face of his prisoner's torment. He stepped back from the door and scanned the room with a smug gaze.
"I believe I've made my point," he purred.
Tom ignored him, but when he heard the creak of the door closing, he spun around to scream, "No! Don't! Please!!"
Hane paused, allowing his eyes to caress Hanson almost lovingly. Then he gave a full-throated laugh and swung the door shut.
"DON'T LEAVE HIM HERE!!"
The bolt slammed into place, and Tom was alone with the corpse of his friend.
*** *** ***
Part 9 (Trekkieb):
Tom squeezed his eyes shut to ward off the light Hane had left on, and the sight before him. He backed away, an overwhelming fear taking hold. He met resistance when he came in contact with one wall, and he leaned against it for strength.
Harry. Dead. Nononono. He shook his head in denial, even though the proof was lying there…motionless…not five feet away from him. Why did they leave Harry with him? Did Hane hope to drive him insane? Because he was pretty sure that was the direction he was headed in.
For long minutes, Tom stood there, head hanging, and listened to the sound of his own irregular breathing. A whirlwind of emotions fluttered around inside. He felt angry. No, anger was much too kind. Hatred was more like it. Hatred for that son of a bitch Hane and his damn lackeys. Despair at the thought of Harry’s life cut short so cruelly. Fear. For his friends, for himself. And self-loathing at his inability to have stopped it all.
"I’m so sorry," he half-choked, half-sobbed. "I’m so sorry, Harry." There was, of course, no response. Opening his eyes, Tom glanced at the pale form and swallowed hard. Almost against his will, his feet began taking him towards Harry. He barely realized he was moving until he was right next to his friend.
He dropped to his knees and forced himself to look at Harry. His stomach turned at all the blood on the still chest. Why? he fumed inwardly. Why Harry? Why not me? Tom knew he would gladly trade places with Harry if given the chance. He wished he could turn back the clock. If not erase the whole damn night, then at least the past five minutes…
But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Unable to look at the pale face before him anymore, he closed his eyes and shook his head mournfully. "Damn it, Iokage, why’d you have to go and do something so dumb? Then you wouldn’t be dead. It’s not fair." A pause. "Hope you can forgive me, buddy. I hope I can forgive myself."
Silence. Not that Tom had expected anything else. Harry was dead, and the dead don’t talk. But he would’ve sold his soul to the devil for the chance to hear the other cop’s voice just one more time.
At that moment, a low groan could be heard. Surprised, Tom yelped out loud and fell back on his rear, his eyes wide open. He stared at Harry, who still lay unmoving. Had he just imagined that? Was it merely a figment of his tortured mind? It had to be. But, just in case, Tom called Harry’s name. He almost jumped again when he heard the groan repeated itself.
"Harry?!" Relief washed over him, and elation filled his whole being. He was overcome by giddiness and had to make a conscious effort to not start laughing, because he knew that once he started, he might never stop.
Harry wasn’t dead.
"O my god. Oh my god. Harry? Can you hear me?"
"Tom?" It was barely a whisper, but Tom latched onto it with hope.
Hanson peered into the face of his friend, a happy smile threatening to break his face in half. "Yeah, buddy, it’s me. C’mon, Harry, open your eyes," he coaxed.
After several tries, Ioki managed to crack his eyelids a slit. When he saw Tom’s face hovering over him, he attempted a smile. But the smile quickly turned into a grimace as the pain hit him full force. "Hurts…" he gasped.
"I know it does. Just hang in there, though, okay? It’s gonna be all right." Biting his bottom lip in frustration, Tom looked around the barren cell. He had to help Harry; he’d lost too much blood already. But what could he use?
First things first, he told himself. He had to get his hands in front of him. Sitting down, Tom tested once more the flexibility of his wrists. The plastic bindings stung as they dug harshly into his flesh, but he ignored it. Gritting his teeth, he proceeded to bring his hands to his front by scooting his rear and his legs through the loop made by his arms. It was hard work, but in less than a minute he had succeeded.
"Yes!" he whispered triumphantly as he hurried back to Harry’s side. "You still awake, Harry?" But Harry’s eyes were closed. His breath caught in his throat, and Tom immediately pressed the fingers of one hand to Harry’s neck. He sighed in strong relief when he felt the faint beat of a heart determined to keep going.
Okay. Harry was alive, but for how much longer? That depended on a lot of things out of Tom’s hands, but there were some things he could do.
Gripping the hem of his tee-shirt, he pulled it up over his head. It caught at his wrists, where they were tied together, but luckily the fabric ripped easily enough. He folded it into a good-sized square and pressed it firmly on top of the bullet wound in the center of Harry’s chest. The flow of blood slowed to a trickle beneath the make-shift bandage. He wanted to put something under Harry’s head for a pillow, but there wasn’t anything else to use.
Harry was still out cold. Tom placed his hand on his friend’s forehead and left it there; the pale skin was slightly clammy. Tom looked at Harry, then the locked door, then Harry again. What would Hane do when he found out he hadn’t actually killed one of them? Would he just shoot Harry again? Tom wished he could get a handle on Hane, figure out his weaknesses. But the man was clearly insane. They just had to think of the best way to use that against him.
The head beneath his hand stirred, and Tom soothingly smoothed the black hair away from Harry’s face.
"Tom?" came the weak voice.
"Yeah, Harry?" he replied.
"We’re in…some deep…trouble here, buddy."
Harry: "Any plans…or bight…ideas?"
"Not at the moment, but I’m working on it."
Harry finally opened his eyes and smiled faintly at Tom. "Hey, I…just…thought you should know…this is the worst night of my…life."
Tom laughed shortly. "Mine, too."
"But," Harry continued, eyelids drooping now, "I’m glad you’re here." The next second, he was out again.
Tom watched him for a moment. "Yeah," he said quietly. He then turned his worried gaze to the door, desperately trying to think of a way out of this mess.
*** *** ***
Part 10 (Claire):
"Adam, take a look at this."
Fuller glanced up from the computer screen at the sound of Briody's voice. "What is it?"
The two men sat at a large table in the Records room, surrounded by file folders, microfilm spools and computer print-outs. Thanks to their combined efforts, they had a considerable list of suspects - three Fanes, two Hanes, a Thane and a couple of dozen Shanes, counting spelling variations - but so far, no strong leads.
Briody slid the file across the table to him. "Ever hear of a man named Quincy Hane?"
"Should I have?"
"Well, he's not from your part of town, but his is one of those names that keeps popping up. If you hang around headquarters long enough, you're bound to hear it."
Fuller scanned the arrest report on the top of the file. "Why's that?"
"Everybody wants a piece of him. He's practically a legend in this town. He's been a favorite target for the boys in Major Crimes as long as I can remember, but no one can ever catch him with his hand in the cookie jar."
"Somebody did." Fuller's eyes touched the name typed in the Arresting Officer box, but for a moment, he didn't register its import. Then, he realized what he was seeing and gave a whistle of amazement. "Hanson! Jack Hanson?"
"Tom's father. Arrested Hane for drug trafficking and testified at his trial. The bastard spent nearly ten years in prison, but as far as anyone can tell, he kept his business going from inside. When he was released a few years ago, he picked up where he'd left off without missing a beat. No one's even come close to him since."
Fuller sprang out of his chair and began pacing furiously. "So this Hane is a big enough problem to have the entire Police Department gunning for him..."
"Not to mention the DEA and FBI."
"...and he's got a long enough reach to control his drug empire from inside the State Pen. A guy like this could snatch four cops without breaking a sweat. And he's got a very old, very bitter grudge against Hanson's father."
"You're thinking this is about revenge?"
Fuller stopped pacing to fix burning eyes on his colleague. "You have a better idea?"
"Not yet, but I know a little about Hane. I remember his trial. He's a businessman, Adam - ruthless, cold, sociopathic, walking on the shaky side of sanity even before he went to prison - but not a man to endanger his business for a pointless act of personal vengeance. I'm not saying he's above revenge, but not like this. For one thing, the main target isn't around to appreciate it."
"You have a point there. Jack Hanson has been dead for years."
"For another, why take all four of them?"
"Leverage against Tom?"
"That's possible, but it's a big risk to take - kidnapping four police officers - when it isn't necessary. There has to be some other connection. Something we're missing."
"Or you don't know Hane as well as you think you do."
Briody fired a grim look at Fuller from beneath his lowered brows. "You better hope I'm right, Adam. You better hope there's another explanation. Because if that bastard is crazy enough to grab all four of your officers, just to settle a ten-year-old score against a dead man, they're in some serious trouble." He turned to pick up the receiver of the nearest phone, adding, "I'll call Gruber in Major Crimes and get the latest on Hane. Then I'll see what the Feds will cough up for us. Why don't you look at some of those other files...just in case we're both wrong, and Hane isn't our man at all."
"He's the one," Fuller murmured, too low for Briody to hear. "He's got them. And God only knows what he's doing to them."
*** *** ***
Judy sat huddled in the back corner of her cell, her body pulled into a tight, protective ball to hold in warmth and to shut out reality. She had no idea how long she had been unconscious, and only the most vague notion of how much time had passed since she woke up, but none of that mattered. The pain in her head, the swelling in her face, the aching cold in her limbs - none of it mattered, because her partner was dead.
Her partner was dead. That phrase kept running through her head, but it had a surrealistic quality to it that gave her hope, even as it turned her insides to stone. Something that weird and impossible couldn't actually be true, could it? No, because then she would never see him again, and that thought started a pain in her chest so terrible that it threatened to pitch her back into unconsciousness. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and told herself that none of this was true. None of it was happening. She was not locked in a freezing, filthy cell, while Doug was being beaten half to death and Tom was being mentally tortured by a madman. It was not happening - could not be happening - because Harry could not be dead.
Behind her lowered eyelids, she watched the scene unfold again, in agonizing slow motion, until the hulking guard at Harry's door lowered his gun and thumbed back the trigger. A small whimper escaped her. She buried her face in her raised knees, fighting to hold in any sound that might betray her torment, but her emotions were stronger than her determination. Her shoulders began to shake with sobs.
Harry was dead. He was. She knew it. She had seen it with her own eyes, felt the bullet in her own body, and not even the certainty that she would shortly be joining him could ease the pain of admitting it. Her partner was dead.
The grate of the lock jerked her out of her black reverie and brought her head up. She watched, through pain-dulled eyes, as Hane and his gunman stepped into her cell. The urbane drug lord fixed her with his most charming smile.
"Officer Hoffs. I'm so glad you're feeling better."
Judy stared blankly at him, trying to decide how best to respond. She had nothing to say to this grinning ghoul, but she wanted him gone as quickly as possible, and silence would only drag this out unbearably. The sooner she followed his lead, the sooner he'd finish with her and take his foul, murderous, psychotic self out of her sight. Forcing the words past the tightness in her throat, she rasped, "Is it my turn, now?"
His exaggerated surprise brought a flicker of response from her - a nearly undetectable spark of anger - that flashed and faded. "Whatever you want to do... I don't care. Just get it over with."
"Now, where would be the fun in that?" He crossed the room in two swift strides and knelt in front of her. "My dear young lady, the whole point is to make you care."
Judy shuddered slightly at the soft menace in his voice. She had the overwhelming urge to draw away from him, but the wall at her back gave her nowhere to go. "You've already done your worst."
He laughed gently. "Far from it."
"You killed my partner," an edge of despair crept into her voice, "and now you have to kill the rest of us. What else is there?"
"All the time between now and then...between this conversation and the moment the bullet enters your brain." He touched the tip of one finger to the center of her forehead, making her flinch. The fear in her eyes brought more laughter from him. "So much can happen in so short a time."
Tears began to slide from her eyes, in spite of her best efforts to control them. "I'm not afraid to die."
"Oh, but you are." His hand moved to cup her bruised, swollen cheek, and his thumb stroked away a tear. "Afraid to live, afraid to die, afraid to look me in the face and see me for what I am. You are so full of fear that you can't even find room for your anger. Where is it, Officer Hoffs? Where's the rage? The hatred? Are you afraid to show it to me? Afraid I'll use it against you and your friends?"
Her eyes widened, and the breath caught in her throat. "That's what you want," she whispered, soundlessly. "To make me let it out, then use it to hurt them. That's what you did to Tom."
"Y-you baited him..." The tears flowed freely down her cheeks, heated by the growing anger in her eyes, but she had not lost her grip on herself yet. "You made him lose control, and you punished him for it. Then you pushed Harry, 'til he couldn't stand to listen anymore, and you... You enjoyed it, didn't you?!"
"You never meant it as a trick! You only wanted to drag it out...make all of us suffer a little longer! You wanted to kill him!"
"You delight me, Officer Hoffs. Such an intelligent woman. I had considered using you as the bait for that little trap, but clearly I made the right choice. You would not have been soft-hearted enough - or stupid enough - to open your mouth and get your head blown off. Something Officer Ioki did admirably." He shot her a swift, measuring glance from under his lashes and purred, "Obviously, you were the brains of that partnership."
"You son of a bitch!" She wrenched her head away from his caressing hand and exploded to her feet, carried on a surge of white-hot fury. "Don't you ever talk about my partner that way!! He may be dead, but at least he died trying to help his friends, and you can't ever take that away from him! From any of us!"
Hane rose slowly to his feet, his eyes never leaving his prisoner. "A fool's errand, and a fool's death," he sneered, softly.
Judy gave an inarticulate howl of rage and flung herself across the cell, away from her tormentor. "You can't make me do it!" she screamed. "You can't make me hurt them!"
"That's what Hanson thought. Now, he's having a lovely conversation with what's left of your partner."
"NO!" She slammed her forehead against the wall in a desperate attempt to counter emotional pain with physical, then she spun around to face Hane. "I hate you! God, I hate you! I would kill you, if I could! That's what you want, isn't it? To watch us squirm and hurt and hate? Well, go on... enjoy it! Because you won! I'll never get the chance to pay you back for what you did to Harry! And I can't stop you from hurting Tom and Doug! All I can do is hate you...and hate you...and hate...Oh, God!"
Sobs rose to choke her, and she sank slowly to the floor. Curling herself into a tight, protective ball, she surrendered to her tears, ignoring the two men still standing in her cell. Hane watched her for a moment, a gleam of pleasure in his eyes, then he turned and signaled for Calhoun to precede him out of the cell.
*** *** ***
Tom shuddered and tried to close his ears to Judy's furious shouts. He recognized the note of hysteria in her voice, born of rage and helplessness. He still had the sour taste of those same emotions in his own mouth. Hane seemed to have a gift for pushing rational people over the edge, and he seemed to feed off of it, like some kind of psychotic parasite. Tom remembered the last look Hane had thrown him, as he closed the door and locked him in with Harry's dead body, and he shuddered again. The man was deeply twisted.
A soft sigh of pain from the man beside him told Tom that Harry was awake. He bent over to whisper, "You okay, pal?"
"I can't...listen to this."
Tom's face hardened in understanding. "Just hang on. Don't let it get to you."
"She'll survive." Tom did his best to keep the uncertainty out of his voice. "We all will, if we keep our heads."
Harry struggled to catch his breath, to frame words around the pain in his chest. "Must be a way...to tell her..."
"Are you nuts?!" His shriek of outrage echoed through the cell, and Tom looked around in alarm, his lips clamped tightly shut against any further outburst. All he needed was to bring Hane in here to find out why he was arguing with himself. Dropping his voice back to a whisper, he added, "How many times do you want to die tonight?"
"One...ought to do it."
"It's not funny, Harry."
"Do I...l-look like I'm...laughing?"
Tom rested a hand on his friend's forehead and fell into silent thought, his face set in grim lines. When another chorus of shouts and pleas from outside the room made it imperative to say something, if only to drown out Judy's voice, he sighed and murmured,
"I'm sorry, Iokage. I don't like listening to this, either, and when he starts in on Doug, I... I don't know what I'll do. But we can't tell them the truth. Hane can't find out that you're alive, not if you want to stay that way. When he comes back here to gloat, you play dead."
"I can do that," Harry whispered, soundlessly.
"I mean it. You play dead and you stay dead! No matter what you hear!" Tom felt his face tighten in pain, and his eyes sting with tears. Anger and determination lent an edge to his low voice. "I'm getting out of this damned hole, one way or another, and I'm taking my friends with me. All of my friends! You have already used up your share of stupid for the night, Harry, so no more dumb heroics and no dying!"
Contrition flooded Tom, damping his flare of anger as quickly as it had fired up. He knew that he was lashing out at the wrong person, but frustration made him reckless - a bad state to be in, when he needed to outthink a madman.
"I didn't mean that," he murmured, one hand automatically smoothing Ioki's hair in a comforting gesture.
"You're right...it was stupid."
"No, you just fell for his trap, same as the rest of us. He's a master at this...knows how to get to each of us in just the right way. I wouldn't have said anything, in your place, but that's why I wasn't in your place. And that's why Doug and Judy have to believe you're dead."
Harry opened his eyes and turned a questioning look on Tom. He was fading quickly, his strength pooling on the floor with his blood, but he did not want to leave Hanson alone in this mess, and he wasn't at all sure that he could wake up again once he drifted off. So he tried to concentrate on Tom's words, even if he couldn't muster the energy to speak himself.
Tom read his look easily enough. "Hane is sick," he explained. "He gets a charge out of watching us suffer. That means the more we suffer, the happier he is, and when we stop hurting he'll... he'll come up with something worse. I gotta tell you, Iokage, I'm scared to death of what that something worse might be! I don't know how much more of this I can take! So I'm...gonna give him what he wants. I'm gonna be as crazy in pain as he wants me to be - the sick bastard - and let him eat it up. It's the only way to keep him from hurting the others, and it just might make him careless."
Harry took a slow breath, an effort that squeezed tears from between his lashes, and whispered, "Tom..."
"No. Shh. Just let me handle it, and no matter what happens, don't make a s..."
A key turned in the lock, and Tom stiffened in panic. On an impulse, he reached over and flipped his bloody t-shirt up to cover Harry's face, hopefully disguising the fact that it had been used as a bandage, and he bent close to hiss a final warning. Then the door swung open and Hane stepped inside.
*** *** ***