art by sparrowshellcat
The two black Dodge Chargers raced down the street, pulling a sharp left around a corner. The large square box, bouncing and sliding after the cars as it was pulled along. It took out several street lamps, a mailbox and a police car, not that the drivers noticed as they were trying to stay ahead of the police cars behind them.
Pooch sat riveted to the computer screen as the footage played out. It was pieced together from traffic cameras, handhelds, bank surveillance cameras--right until the heavy metal box took out the lobby of the third bank it passed--and at least two news helicopters. It was awesome. Precision driving done with complete trust in and for the other driver.
He watched again.
The drug and crime cartel in Rio was out its Number One boss and if Pooch had to guess, was also out all his cash. Not that someone new wouldn't soon step in, but they'd have to start from scratch. The city could give a sigh of relief and enjoy the respite for now.
Pooch restarted the video again as Jake came in carrying his other laptop and chattering non-stop to Cougar.
"Are you watching that again?" Jake asked, plopping down on the couch next to him.
Pooch grinned. "Da Pooch is enjoying the artistry."
Jake snorted. "Artistry reportedly done by an escaped convict and a now former FBI agent." Jake paused. "But, I do agree that stunt would definitely have been right at home in one of those Ocean Number movies.
Cougar moved around the couch to perch on the arm before leaning down and starting the video again. "They're good at improvising, but too much destruction for one of those movies."
"Ya noticed that," Pooch nodded, running his hand over his bald scalp. "I think I know one of the drivers. Guess it would have to be the escaped convict as Dom never struck me as the type to go into law enforcement."
"News feeds say Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Conner reportedly murdered several federal officers, killed a Rio business man, and then stole several million dollars."
Cougar nodded, still watching the video. "Now, what's real?" he asked.
"Brian O'Conner is ex-LAPD and obviously ex-FBI. Supposedly went undercover about seven years ago to take down Toretto. He went native and Toretto got away but it was never proven that O'Conner had anything to do with that. Apparently there had been a car chase or race that involved a train and a truck. FBI took him in and he did several more undercover stints. Very good at his job. No going native again until Toretto reappeared just over a year ago. Looks like he's stayed native this time."
Jake scanned through several more screens before typing in a few commands that would transfer another video to his second laptop. "Looks like the DA and judge didn't hold up their end of a bargain that would see Toretto released and then surprisingly a few days later there was a daylight breakout on a prison transport. No one was hurt and only one person was released. Rest of the baddies on the bus were still there when help arrived."
Pooch relaxed back into the couch and closed his eyes. "Now what's the bad?"
"Reyes worked for Max. The several million? More like one hundred million. And, Toretto and his team--though true focus seems just to be on Torretto and O'Conner--are being hunted by a DSS agent named Hobbs. Not to mention that Max has put out feelers for them. I was hoping to trace the feelers back to Max but the Big Evil is covering his tracks."
Pooch drummed his fingers on the table for a minute. "Can you find them? Warn them?"
Jake raised an eyebrow, of course he could find them.
"I think we have trouble," Brian said, walking into the little lake house they were currently renting. His blond hair had grown out from the almost buzz cut. It gave the slender man more of a younger, surfer look and made him look less and less like his FBI wanted picture. The same could not be said for Dom. He'd seen Dom with hair once and had given the other man a razor after three weeks. Dom looked scarier with hair and Brian was positive that drew more attention to them.
Dom looked up from the table and the car part he was cleaning. "Where's your car?" he asked, having not heard the car pull up outside.
"Hidden," Brian answered, shrugging out of his jacket. "Walked here."
Dom put the part down and stood, his arms crossed in the universal sign that Dom was unhappy with what he was hearing. "O'Conner?"
"Don't O'Conner me, Dom," Brian said, heading towards the refrigerator and sidestepping Dom's outstretched arm. "There was a guy following me. And I mean a professional but definitely not one of Hobbs’ kind of professional. More like someone Braga or Reyes would have hired. Braga should be in solitary and Reyes is dead..."
Dom leaned against the wall behind Brian. "Who else did you manage to piss off while you were a fed?"
Brian twisted the top off the Corona and took a long pull from the bottle. "Besides a good majority of law enforcement people...a couple more drug and gunrunner types. I was good at my job as long as it didn't involve you and then things always went sideways, Dom."
Dom snorted. "You make a better criminal."
"I'm still not sure how to take that," Brian answered, a soft smile playing at his lips before he took another pull from the bottle. "If we have picked up a tail, then I'm really glad we took that extra precaution and sent Mia away. She and the baby are safe. We paid enough money to ensure that. She's better off in a city with neighbors and preschools and going back to school to be a nurse rather than on with run with us, having to watch a toddler and without a place to call home."
Dom took the bottle from Brian's hand. "She would have named you the father."
Brian turned back to the fridge and pulled out a second bottle. "As far as anyone from our little group is concerned, I am the father. They don't need to know I'm not. They don't need to know about us if we don't want them to. As for Mia's new life, her neighbors and new friends think the father is dead and she moved to start over away from the bad memories."
He handed the bottle to Dom and took back his. "It was for the best. Plus, you told me to never lie to you again. And that would have been a lie. I've even tried to stop lying to myself."
Brian shrugged but gripped Dom's shoulder lightly before walking towards the bedroom. "We need to pack. Clear this place out and dump my car. I think Larson was interested in buying it for cash. We could use those funds without having to tap the offshores. Your car is nondescript enough that no one will pay it any attention."
Pack was really a misnomer as they'd never really unpacked. Anything that was out was quickly dumped into a spare duffle to be sorted later. The food was packed into a cooler and the small grill was quickly cleaned and stored in the trunk of Dom's car along with most everything else.
That just left the laptop Gisele had set up for them. Brian opened it and typed in a few things to pull up some locations they could try next. Before Brian could click on any of the links the laptop's screen flashed pink and purple before going back to black where a message was displayed:
Get Out! Reyes was in business with a Bigger Bad. Trust da Pooch. Contact later.
Dom leaned over Brian's shoulder and read the message. Twice. He was quiet for a moment before speaking. His voice sounding a little puzzled. "There was this guy a few years before you that raced every so often. Went by the name of Pooch, but he wasn't into computers. Army, I think. Raced when he was in town. He was in it more for the cars and honing his skills than actually winning."
"You think he knows something?"
"We were running anyway."
Brian clicked on the screen and the warning cleared away but left a new set of destinations in cities all over the world. "It seems he wants us to pick one."
"That one," Dom said, touching the screen. "I know that area and it just happens to be the closest."
Brian clicked the city name and then shutdown the computer.
Jake's computer beeped, buzzed, and then began singing. All but one occupant in the room was startled at the noise. Cougar merely raised one brown eyebrow before going back to his book.
"They got the message," Jake commented, as if everyone would understand. He switched his plate for his laptop and started typing.
"Jensen," Clay growled, mopping up his spilt coffee while glaring at the tech. "Who got what? Explain."
Jensen took a moment to look at his commanding officer, sitting at the old dining room table and looking a little more haggard than usual. He wasn't sure if the man had been out the night before or not but Jake shrugged off thoughts on the matter and answered the question. "Friend of Pooch's apparently tangled with one of Max's minions and is now on the run like us. Though it is possible that they actually stole a hundred million dollars in a daring armored vault get away."
"It's called an armored truck, Jensen." Aisha dismissed the tech.
"No," Jake answered, looking over the lid of the laptop at the thin, pretty woman who scared him somewhat. He also just didn't like her but maybe he was still holding onto the grudge of her shooting him. "I'm pretty sure that in the video the two cars were pulling a very large armored vault behind them."
Pooch ignored them all. "And?"
Jake accessed a few files on his computer and began typing again. "They've picked one of the cities I listed. The trace I put in the message will allow me to track them if they turn on the computer again."
"And if not?"
"Depending on how fast they drive, they could be there in three days," Jake guessed, looking at the map and routes on his screen. "Problem is, people know they're alive and this puts them into a country with extradition to the States."
"Dom will take it slow for this," Pooch said. "Guess maybe five to six days. It would give us time to get there as well."
"Someone start explaining," Clay ordered looking between Pooch and Jensen. "Now."
Jake called not it. Cougar didn't even put his book down. That left Pooch. And, after all, this was a friend of Pooch's.
Pooch laid it out for Clay and Aisha as neither had seen the video which Jake pulled up for them to watch. By the time Pooch was finished laying out the whole issue Clay was nodding his head in the manner The Losers recognized as "we have a go." Aisha, on the other hand, wasn't happy and didn't see the point.
Jake shrugged and picked up his laptop. "I have us a charter plane at the municipal airport. Pooch's current identity is listed as the pilot and we have a departure time of five hours from now."
"I still don't..." Aisha began.
Clay stood from the table. "It's simple. If Max is looking for them, they must have something Max wants or knows where it is."
"Or," Pooch added. "He's after their skills."
Cougar closed his book. "Or both."
Brian drove through the border checkpoint and let out a sigh of relief. He wasn't sure how long their current passports were going to last and they only had one more in reserve. What they needed to do was die a spectacular death that would close their active files.
He hadn't opened the computer since they left the lake house. He knew just enough that the hacker on the other side could have planted something that would signal where they were if the computer was booted back up. He and Dom had agreed to wait to turn it on again when they were in the city. Open the computer and then stay in the smaller town just outside the city that would give them better access and ability to run if needed.
They'd stopped on the second day at a cyber café and looked up what they could on the man Dom had known. A man who was apparently dead and contacting them through the afterlife via a computer hacker who was also supposedly dead. Both killed in an unauthorized mission when a helicopter crashed. Brian had been with the FBI long enough to smell something fishy, and this stunk. The news articles and what he could get from the FBI mainframe by logging in as Stasiak--man had never changed his password--just added to the feel of a cover up.
Dom did not believe the man he recalled would purposely be responsible for the death of children. Accidents happened, but even Dom said it read wrong. They were withholding judgment, especially if Pooch could tell them who was following them.
Brian pulled off at the first exit. They needed gas and he wanted real food. As in sit down at a restaurant and eat; not pick it up through a drive-thru window and then eat on the go.
"Plus a shower," he said more to himself than to the man sitting next to him when he saw the full service truck stop. He was going to smooth talk his way into a pass for the private showers and the laundry facilities. Then they could eat.
Dom stretched in the passenger seat. "I can tell," he said, rolling his head to look at Brian. "You're planning something."
"Thought we were going to leave the planning to me."
Brian laughed and pulled the car into a parking space at the side of the building. "I think you'll like this plan."
Dom had no argument with Brian's plan. A fresh cooked meal and clean clothes were good. The hot shower and sex had been even better.
He hadn't meant to upset Brian the day before about Mia and the baby. He was pissed that his sister had made Brian think the baby was his so that the three of them would stay together while on the run from Hobbs. He'd seen both the worry and happy looks in Brian's eyes as he thought about having a family. But then Brian had done the math on his own and had figured out that there was no way the baby could be his. For weeks Dom had seen these looks that could only be described as sadness cross Brian's face when Brian thought no one was watching. He wouldn't know until weeks later what had caused them.
Brain hadn't brought it up until the Reyes issue was over and they were far away from Rio on a beach in a country without extradition. Mia had confessed. Brian had confessed he was bisexual and that his last relationship had been with a man before the Toretto family had reappeared in his life. They were his weakness, both of them.
Mia had wanted Brian to be the father even though she knew he wasn't. Part of Brian had even wanted the same thing. Dom had had a feeling he knew what the other part of Brian had wanted. It had taken him two weeks to finally get it out of Brian; and another two weeks for either of them to actually act on it.
But it had been Elena who had pointed out the dangers of Mia staying. Of even herself--now that Hobbs knew about her--staying with Dom, with them. That she and Mia would slow them down if Brian and Dom needed to run. When they needed to run. Good money had been paid to work up two complete identities with full backgrounds. By the time the baby was born Mia and Elena had settled into their new lives. Two girls who happened to move to the city at the same time and rent apartments across from each other. It gave them security and to the other neighbors explained the instant bond between the two women.
It was Dom's turn behind the wheel. He'd pulled over several miles after getting back onto the interstate and Brian had jumped out and switched the license plate.
They could be at their destination--the city the computer had said was safe--in less than eight hours if they pushed it, or they could continue on the longer route and take two more days. Dom put the car into gear and made his decision. They'd go with his earlier plan and stay just outside of the city. Sometime the day after they could drive into the city, and turn on the laptop at some public location.
He and Brain could use a good night's sleep in a bed rather than the passenger seat of a moving car. He could use a night wrapped around Brian and Brian deserved being made love to that was not being pushed up against the wall of a shower in a truck stop.
Dom also had the feeling that whatever was coming was going to be big.
At times like these, the one thing Jensen was thankful for was Aisha not liking him. It meant that he got his own hotel room. Well, actually he and Cougar got their own hotel room, and Pooch got a third. Jake trusted Cougar's opinion that Clay was now just using Aisha for her money and sex. That there wasn't anything more to it.
There were bets going between Cougar, Pooch and himself about whether the relationship would end like an Amber or an Emma. Being shot or nearly blown up. Personally Jake believed that Aisha would castrate Clay before stabbing him in the heart. It just seemed like something she would do.
He was still working on hacking the banking system tied to the Goliath courier hard drive which had been damaged by Roque to prevent any of the Losers--had they survived--from finding him. If Jake could get even part of the funds transferred into accounts only he could access then they wouldn't need Aisha anymore. If Clay would just let him hack Wall Street again...or a drug cartel, they could toss Aisha out as they wouldn't need her money. Better yet, if they could find and eliminate Max they wouldn't need her at all. One thing Jake had realized after the whole vibrating Easter egg from Hell thing was that Max was a cockroach.
He plugged in his laptops. The long flight had drained the batteries to nearly zero percent. He popped open Mneme, his favorite laptop, and picked up reading the case files for one FBI Agent Brian O'Conner. The man had worked on some interesting things and spent a great deal of time undercover. It looked like the only times he'd had black marks were when the Toretto family was involved.
Jake dug a little deeper and found Brian's education and training. College graduate and could speak three languages--English, French, and Spanish--before going through the police academy. Then the FBI had invested time and money to training their agent in things Jake didn't think the normal FBI agents got in such intense sessions; especially as some of records were not in O'Conner's general file. The man had been put through survival, explosives and weapons training. He'd also picked up two more languages, Italian and Russian. It wouldn't surprise Jake if O'Conner had also picked up Portuguese from his time in South America.
Toretto, if you ignored the first prison sentence, the speeding tickets, and the recent jailbreak, wasn't really all that bad. Plus, according to Pooch the man knew his cars and how to get the greatest potential out of them as a driver. If he hadn't tried to beat a man to death for killing his father, Toretto could have been a professional race car driver.
Their lives were just as complicated as The Losers' and now Max wanted something from them and they had no idea what that was.
"Shower, Jake. Computer later," Cougar told him, entering the hotel room. "Room service will be here in fifteen."
Jake's stomach growled at the comment and Cougar chuckled at him. "Read the screen," Jake said as he passed Cougar. "Over dinner you can tell me what you think."
Outside of their driving ability, there didn't seem to be anything that would attract Max's unwanted attention. Unless there had been something else in the vault that they didn't know about. Or, they stole something else from Reyes.
Cougar glanced at the door and stood before the room service person had even knocked. He was rolling the cart to the table when Jake came out of the shower with only a towel wrapped around his waist, his lightly tanned skin still showing a slight red hue from a shower that anywhere else probably would have used all the hot water.
"I smell food," Jake said with a grin, while wiping his glasses clean of steam.
Cougar shook his head at the younger man but didn't object to the lack of clothes. It would save him time later.
Jake all but bounced over to the table. "What do you think of the cop and the con?"
Cougar took the lids off the plates and bowls on the table and dipped his spoon into a chocolate cake topped with ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. Everyone thought it was Jensen who had the sweet tooth, but really Jake ate about half as many sweets as Cougar did. Drank twice as much coffee though, so maybe they were even.
"I think there is more to them than even you can find in all your ones and zeros."
Jake cut his steak into pieces before dumping it onto his salad. "That was my thought. I also think there's a reason they're the only two that stayed together."
Cougar raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. He knew Jake was more insightful than he was given credit for. Jake put on a show to hide what he could do. Hell, it had taken Clay nearly three months after the helicopter crash to realize that he and Jake were sleeping together--neither man mentioned that they had been together for nearly a year by then. And while Jake really did suck at poker, he had won every single bet on how Clay's dates would end.
"When's the meet set for?"
"Tomorrow at four."
Cougar nodded. If he was them, he would have been here for a day already. As a matter of fact he'd wanted to come in yesterday but Aisha had slowed them down with some errand. His early morning was going to be spent looking for a clear place to perch, but his evening was going to be spent making Jake's brain shut down.
It had been easy to snap the man's neck when he and Dom had been held captive by Reyes' men. He'd almost slipped up there and was hoping that Dom hadn't noticed. Brian had really hoped to leave it all behind. Now he needed to come clean.
"Dom," he said quietly. "We need to talk."
"After this is over, Bri, we're going to talk about your death wish."
Brian's laugh was stressed. "I don't have a death wish, Dom. Not anymore," he admitted. "Not since we..." Brian didn't finish the statement.
Dom watched as Brian scanned their surroundings and the crowd again. "They're here," he said, obviously sensing something Dom could not. "Neither of us are going to be stupid enough to not be here early. They probably have some type of comms."
"And, they out number us," Dom added.
"Yeah, there's that too," Brian said still scanning the crowd. "They've also got a sniper," Brian reminded him.
Dom leaned against the Nissan Z they'd picked up in a race the night before. "We give them a half hour and then we're out of here. So, if they are listening..."
Aisha snorted and Jake recognized that particular snort as the one that signified loathing and disgust. "They're just guessing," she said, rolling her eyes and turning her back to Jake. "A bad cop and thug thief. What do they know?"
"That we're here," Jensen repeated.
Aisha didn't bother to respond and thankfully Clay finally spoke up. "Cougar what do you see?"
"They're at the rendezvous spot," a nice strip of a semi-busy main street in the mid-afternoon, "and I believe the ex-cop has narrowed down my location to the two choices I picked."
Clay raised an eyebrow. "Have you been spotted?"
"Negative," Cougar answered over the comms. "He's just perceptive and has narrowed it down to the best locations." Locations with clear line of sight and quick escape routes where a person could pass without much notice.
"Copy that," Clay said. "Let's go meet us some more people that have pissed off Max."
He moved his rifle so as to get a better look at the two men through his scope and the trees that lined the boulevard. Cougar was hoping that they might have answers to some of their questions but with the Losers' type of luck might just lead to more questions. What he found was the blond cop, O'Conner, looking up towards his direction again. Cougar found it a little unnerving. He knew his scope was not glinting off anything. The cop just seemed to have good instincts and had finally narrowed down the best spot for a sniper to be perched.
O'Conner turned his back to Cougar's location, if he was speaking to Toretto it was too quietly for Jake's listening equipment to pick up on.
"They are on to us," he confirmed his earlier suspicions and said so softly over the comms.
Toretto moved around the car and reached in through the passenger side door for something. When he stood back up though he had nothing in his hands and Cougar wasn't sure what, if anything, had been done to the car.
By the time Pooch, Clay, and Aisha walked up to Toretto and O'Conner the two men were sitting on the trunk of the car as if they didn't have a care in the world and were waiting for friends to arrive.
"Dom," Pooch greeted, as friendly as he ever was. Cougar got the feeling that Pooch had really liked the other man and was hoping for associates that would be able to help them. "It's nice to see you again man."
"Pooch." Torretto nodded. "The Army lose you?"
The Losers took that single question as an acknowledgment that Toretto knew who they were.
"Yeah, you could say that," Pooch answered.
"Shame," Toretto said and while the man's face betrayed nothing, he did sound like he meant what he was saying. "You always seemed happy with it when you came by for a challenge."
"Can we get on with this," Aisha interrupted. "What do you know about Max?"
O'Conner snorted. "Sure," he replied. "If you want to call the hacker from wherever you have him stashed and the sniper from up there."
And O'Conner pointed right to where Cougar was sitting. Yep, that was unnerving, Cougar thought while waiting for Clay's orders.
"It's just us," Aisha challenged and Cougar could almost feel things sliding downhill.
"I don't know who you are," O'Conner waved his hand. "But let's see what I do know. Franklin Clay was the commanding officer for a black ops army team that was recently declared dead after they reportedly went off mission and blew-up a helicopter full of kids. His team consisted of Carlos Alvarez, Hispanic parentage." O'Conner glanced between the dark-skinned Pooch, Clay, and Aisha before moving on. "Army listed him as a long-range elimination expert. I call a sniper, a sniper. At the time of his death, Cougar, was in the top five in his field. Even beating out some of the best the Marines had to offer."
The fact that O'Conner knew his nickname told Cougar that these two men had obviously stopped somewhere to look them up and hadn't walked into this meeting completely blind.
"Then there's Jacob Jensen," O'Conner continued, "We'll go with the civilian title, hacker, but no doubt your comms and tech guy. How am I doing so far?"
Cougar could hear Jake trying not to laugh over the comms and Cougar smirked. They had both tried to warn Clay about Aisha about treating either of these two men strictly as civilians.
Pooch didn't even glance over at Aisha just, said, "That's Aisha. Our bank roll, ignore her for now."
Aisha started to protest but Clay grabbed her arm and probably would have shushed her had she been a child.
"Did you meet anyone that Reyes might have worked for?" Pooch asked. "Because you've popped up on the radar for a guy named Max."
He was beginning to see it though. This Aisha al-Fadhil wasn't really part of Clay's team. She was there because she had the money the others needed and right now they had the same goal, find Max. After that, it would be each to their own. Brian would also lay heavy odds that Clay and Aisha were sleeping together.
Getting an actual read on the rest of the Losers was a little harder. Except for Pooch. Dom had been right about the man. He might be army and dangerous but his facial expressions gave him away and he was just what he looked to be: a man trying to get back to his family.
It had taken a few minutes but the two missing members of Clay's team finally joined them. He got the impression that Cougar didn't say much and that Jensen rambled to fill the quiet. It reminded Brian of Jesse except Brian supposed it was more of a way to throw people off as well as just a geek thing. He'd seen Tej do the same thing on occasion.
Clay was their leader and he seemed to care about them; but, he also seemed awfully focused on finding this Max character. Brian was sure he could have gone his entirre life without learning about Max; or for that matter that a person like that existed and was roaming free.
What he did know was that neither he nor Dom, or for that matter any of the others that had been involved with the Reyes job, had seen anyone who looked like or sounded like Max.
"Gisele?" Dom questioned.
Brian shrugged. It was worth checking.
Pooch had asked to look under the hood of the Nissan Z and the black man still had his head buried in the car and out of the argument going on between Clay and Aisha. Dom knew there was nothing special to that engine that could hold anyone's attention for that long. He was also of the opinion that he didn't know what to think about Clay and probably never would.
He felt Brian walk up behind and waited.
"She doesn't know him," Brian offered quietly, "but she's quietly checking."
Dom nodded and then stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Everyone but the sniper gave a slight jump. "I'm going for a steak, you guys can stay here and continue to do whatever it is you're doing." Dom knocked on the side of the car. "Pooch that means you've got to give me my car back."
Pooch poked his head out from under the hood and looked around. "I could eat," he said. "Cougs grab Jake."
Dom shrugged. "There's a place on Lake Road about ten miles from here. See you when you get there," he said, opening the driver's side door while Brian slid into the passenger seat.
The car pulled quietly onto the street before quickly accelerating to weave in out of traffic to disappear from sight. "The drive?" he asked.
"The drive or some other chip or component buried within the drive," Brian confirmed after they'd gone about a mile.
"Can you?" Dom lifted a hand from the wheel.
"Clone it?" Brian offered.
Dom took his eyes off the traffic to glare at Brian for a second. A glare that didn't have any impact on the younger man if the smile on Brian's face was anything to go by.
"No," Brian said. "Not the whole thing, if it is something else connected in...or on the drive if someone added additional hardware into the casing; but Gisele and I did make several copies of all the data we could get to." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small black stick about the size of a pack of gum. "I buried one at our first safe house and when we passed by Tej's place I left one taped to the inside of the rafters of the far bay. This is the last one besides the copy on our computer and pieces I've compressed and stored in the FBI mainframe."
Dom snorted, hiding things in plain sight seemed to be popular with Brian and had yet to fail the other man. He pulled into the parking lot of Jack's Steak House and cut the engine. From the outside the building looked like it was ready to fall down but the parking lot and smell coming from the grill clearly said appearances were deceiving. "What do you think?" Dom asked.
Brian opened the door and climbed out of the car before answering. "That I'm hungry and maybe we can exchange some information."
He had done a little more digging and knew that Mia Toretto had been traveling with her brother and then a very pregnant Mia had disappeared. All traces of her seemed to be gone--well, they were now. Jake had spent part of last night cleaning up any traces the other hacker had left. Mia and her baby would be as safe as she could be outside of what every day life would bring her. Like his own sister and Pooch's wife, files that could have produced identifying images had been corrupted. Hard copies, of course, still existed but he'd noticed that most law enforcement agencies were getting a little lazy and relied on what was given to them on the screen. Which always worked in his favor.
"Pooch," he called from the backseat, "when you used to race Toretto, who won?"
Pooch laughed. "Toretto, hands down."
"So that car?"
Pooch glanced into the review mirror. "Not his style. My guess they won it off someone."
Jake hummed. "So they have at least another car somewhere in the city?" he asked.
Cougar turned in the front passenger seat slightly so he could see both Jake and Pooch. "Makes sense. We run several vehicles when we need to. You think whatever Max is after is in the other car."
"No," Jake said, typing into his laptop and flipping the comms off. He didn't want Aisha to overhear and right now he was considering Clay compromised. "I think they might have it with them."
Pooch slammed on the breaks and pulled off the road. "Want to run that by me again?"
Jake shrugged even as Cougar joined in on the staring at him.
Jake blew out a breath. "Yeah, not with Aisha around."
Pooch put the car into park and dropped his head to the steering wheel. "You think its computer related? Easily transported, like the courier drive?"
Cougar watched Jake carefully, looking for one of his lover's few tells. Jake scratched at his eyebrow with his thumb. That was a clear sign that Jake thought Clay was compromised. Now Cougar just needed to know if it was because of Aisha or because Clay had been pushing them all again to find Max.
Clay had been pissed when Pooch had wanted to take a week and sneak back home several months back. Clay having completely forgotten that it was Pooch's son's birthday had raised a fuss that even a two year old couldn't have matched. But that hadn't been the first such temper tantrum and they all doubted it would be the last.
Cougar was under the impression that Clay was going to snap if they couldn't get him away from Aisha. Getting his answer without Jake having to say a word he turned back around in his seat. "Let's meet them for dinner and see how it goes," he said softly.
He was waiting for Brian to verbalize whatever it was that was on his mind. Half a beer and several bites later Brian seemed ready.
"I don't want to have to be on the run from more people than Hobbs," Brian said, dipping one of the onion rings in the bowl of sauce that had come with the basket. "We might not see a man like Max coming after us."
"You mean," Dom said. "I might not see him coming."
"Dom," Brian started.
He wasn't angry with the assessment even if his lover never actually said it out loud or for that matter thought it. He wouldn't have been able to tell where a sniper would have set up. He definitely wouldn't have been able to pinpoint him either. "I know you worry about that," Dom said, "I'm not angry. You get to be lead on this one and I'll do the driving."
Brian snorted but didn't say anything else, choosing instead to pop several fries into his mouth.
Dom rolled the half-filled bottle of beer in his hands. "What do you think of the girl?"
Dom nodded. That's what he had thought as well. The Losers were currently divided. "Clay?"
Brian looked into his beer bottle before answering. "In the end, I think he'll side with his men even if it means handling Aisha on his own for a while."
Dom agreed and then his stomach growled. "But if they don't get here soon, we're eating something more than fries and onion rings."
A few minutes later he caught sight of the restaurant's door opening and tilted his head toward it, signaling Dom. There were only three of them. Clay and Aisha seemed to be nowhere in sight and Brian was actually relieved. Maybe they would get something done over dinner.
The sniper, the hacker and the driver. Brian was sure there was a joke in there somewhere, but the same could be said for him and Dom--the cop and the con.
By the time the steaks arrived it seemed everyone had relaxed. The talk at the table was of non-important things until Pooch finally asked. "Did you really pull a vault around Rio?"
Dom shrugged and lifted his beer bottle to his mouth. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
When the waitress asked about dessert, Brian gave in and ordered the fried, chocolate cheesecake and was surprised when Cougar ordered the same.
Jake pointed at Cougar and said, "He has a sweet tooth that has better aim than he does."
Brian watched Cougar lift an eyebrow and turn towards the man that looked like he lived and breathed geek, but Brian could clearly see the training the other man hid under the baggy clothes and funny t-shirts.
"Oh, don't give me that look," Jake said. "I saw you eat that chocolate ice cream cone earlier today."
Cougar sort of shrugged as if conceding and Pooch snorted.
"Don't mind those two. They have more conversations where only one of them speaks than any two people I know."
Brian pushed his bowl between he and Dom as he knew Dom wanted to at least try the sweet chocolaty goodness. He watched Dom take a bite, then another, and smiled to himself.
"So," Brian finally said, "What can you do for us?"
When Brian nodded Jake told them about covering the tracks of whomever they had paid to set up identities for Elena and Mia and her son. "Before you say anything, I have a sister and a niece and Pooch is married with a two year old son."
"Thanks," Dom told him anyway. "Thank you."
"I'm good at what I do," Jake said with all honesty. He wasn't even bragging. He'd been labeled a nerd but it had never bothered him even when he was in advanced classes with students two or more years older than him. The army recruited him out of college and from there had taught him even more. "Twenty times better than the person you hired."
He knew one of them would ask. "Then why are you still on the run when you could hide yourself?" Dom asked, softly.
Jake glanced at Cougar for a split second. "Part of my family is here."
Dom nodded as if that was the answer he'd been expecting.
"Do you have a computer?" Brian asked him.
Cougar chuckled. "It's attached to him."
Jake ignored Cougar and the grin on Pooch's face and pulled the mini-laptop from the small backpack at his feet and placed it on the table. He watched as Brian put a small black flash drive beside it.
"We simply want Max and anyone associated with him off our backs," Brian said. "Hobbs is enough of an issue."
Jake flipped open his computer and plugged in the drive. He scanned through the file structure and then started typing, clicking, and talking to himself.
"We've lost him now," Pooch said and Cougar lifted his beer in a silent salute.
Jake ignored them both and kept watching the data that scrolled across his screen. Bank accounts--foreign, domestic, in the cloud, shipping information for products of all kinds--weapons, drugs, and more.
He stood up from his chair and moved to stand between Jake and Brian. "You two shift down."
Jake looked up from his computer. "What? Why?"
"Because you and Brian are making noises at the computer and I'd rather sit with the grown-ups," Cougar answered. "You two shift down."
Cougar chuckled as he watched Jake and Brian share a look before they both shrugged and Jake moved into Cougar's now empty chair and Brian followed the game of musical chairs. Cougar turned his new chair backwards and straddled it.
The conversation between Cougar, Pooch and Dom turned to cars, racing, and cities with the best roads while they finished their last round of beer before all ordering coffee and an order of the little powdery sugar donut bites.
"That's it baby! Come to your papa!"
Brian laughed. "That's...actually quite impressive."
"Dude hacks satellites for fun," Pooch commented offhandedly.
Jake didn't even glance up. "Tell me you don't like seeing images of Jolene and little Peter?" Pooch said nothing and Jake added, "Didn't think so."
"What's in this folder?" Brian asked Jake, pointing to one of the folders on the screen.
Mad clicking--and Cougar wasn't sure if it was good or bad that he knew the rhythm of Jake's typing to recognize the differences between happy, mad, and hacking typing--followed by a couple of curses had Cougar glancing at Jake. "Problem?" he asked.
"Damn thing is in Cyrillic."
Brian pulled the laptop towards him. "Which ones are you interested in?" he asked.
"I didn't always play the California surfer kid, Dom."
Jake chuckled. "I've had that gig too."
Brian grinned and kept translating the file names until Jake pointed back up to one of the directories.
"That one," Jake said. "It should have the decrypt key in it."
Brian clicked on the directory and read off the file names he found inside. Jake pointed to the third one and Brian clicked the button. When it started decrypting the documents he pushed the laptop back in front of Jake.
"Damn," Jake grimaced. "Reyes was the middleman for one of Max's weapons exchange programs. He was moving all sorts of weapons between Asia, South America and the African continent. You guys stopped one of his money makers."
"What a shame," Dom grunted.
Brian leaned over and pointed to another directory. "What's in that one? It's named banks?"
"Holy shit!" Jake was almost ready to vibrate out of his chair before he reached back into his backpack and pulled out another drive and plugged it into the computer.
"Jake?" Cougar asked softly, but was ignored.
Brian looked around the table and everyone was now focused on Jake and Jake wasn't noticing. He shrugged and leaned over and pushed two keys on the keyboard and everything on the screen was back in Cyrillic."
"How? What?" Jake said. "How'd you know how to do that?"
Brian grinned. "It was in the file name," he stated. "But more importantly the others would like to know what's so exciting."
"Oh!" Jake grinned. "It's a partial key to reset the home location on a courier drive."
Pooch and Cougar both sat up straight. "As in we're almost rid of Aisha?" Cougar asked.
"Sure," Jake nodded. "We need the other half of the key. There are pointers here to other files but I can't find the files on this flash drive." Jake looked over at Brian. "You said you copied the files, do you still have the actual device?"
Brian shared a look with Dom and then nodded. "But not with us," he said and watched the other three men digest that piece of information.
"Can you get it?"
This time Dom spoke up. "It's not in this country and it's not like we can hop on a plane."
Jake snorted. "That's not a problem. Pooch is a pilot and we have access to a plane."
Brian shared another look with Dom. He'd give them the drive but whatever leverage it had that could help them with Max would be lost if these guys couldn't or wouldn't hold up their side of the bargain. Though if Jake was as good as Brian thought he was then maybe Elena, Mia, and the baby's insured safety was a fair trade.
He shared another look with Dom. "It's in LA," he admitted, having not even told Dom where he'd hidden the device.
Pooch glanced about and sighed. "I have this feeling that it would be best if Aisha wasn't about for this little excursion."
"How far out?" Brian asked.
"You got an idea."
Brian shrugged. "How about sending her after Blacksword? Would that do?"
Jake actually looked up from his computer. "You know where Blacksword is?"
Brian shrugged. That would have been Brian James' assignment; hitter for the person only known as Blacksword.
He saw Brian shift his shoulders and straighten in his chair. It was slightly defensive and he only recognized it as such because he'd seen his lover do it before--when he talked about the Verone, or mentioned Letty.
"He, or she for all we know," Brian said, not really looking at anyone while he spoke. "Is Verone, Braga, Reyes, and maybe even Tran all rolled into one but without the government contacts to be another Max."
"Don't know who Verone or Tran might be, but the others...yeah, that's a good way to sum up Blacksword," Cougar said quietly. "Rumor has it he's behind some of the backing for Chryon Security Solutions."
Dom had joked earlier about Brian having a death wish and Brian had partially admitted that at one time he might have had one. Maybe it was time that he and Brian really talked; especially after all the things Brian had told him just that morning.
"We'll need to store the car in case we come back this way," he said just to have something to say while he still digested what he'd just heard. "And you probably need to talk it over with the rest of your team."
Jake looked like he wanted to deny that but Pooch was already nodding his head. He understood that Pooch and Jake were trying to protect their families and he was pretty sure that Cougar was there because of Jake. Clay and Aisha were harder for Dom to understand. He could understand the need for vengeance--it was the one thing that had always gotten him into trouble.
"There's a Donut Shoppe about fifteen miles north of here," Jake said, looking at his computer.
He saw Brian lean over to peer at the computer screen. "Open twenty-four hours too."
"Cougar likes donuts," Jake grinned and then corrected himself at the glare he received from the other man. "All right, I like them too. And the coffee."
"Tomorrow at this time?" Pooch suggested. "Gives us time to get things rolling?"
Dom nodded. That would give him time to talk with Brian and make arrangements at the storage place they'd passed when they came into town. They'd have to worry about the Nissan Z tomorrow after everything else was ready to go. Wiping it down and leaving it at the airport was probably the only option.
"Yes." Jake wasn't going to deny it. He had turned off Clay and Aisha's comms and if it came down to it, he would do it again. The dinner had gone very well without them having to listen to Aisha complaining in his ear.
Jake was so happy that Cougar was actually in the room with him while Clay ranted or it was quite possible that he would have pushed Clay out of the window, and that wouldn't be good for any of them. Once Clay ran out of steam, and didn't that expression just add to the scene running in the back of his head, Cougar quietly explained everything.
"Yeah," Clay finally admitted. "That could work. I should probably go with Aisha. There might actually be something there we can use and I don’t need her creating an unnecessary body count."
Jake hadn't expected that but whatever floated Clay's boat at the moment was good with him. "And keep me in the loop, Jensen," Clay ordered before slamming out of his and Cougar's hotel room.
"Better than expected," Jake admitted.
The sound Cougar made while he locked the hotel room door was an amused snort that didn't really tell Jake anything of how the other man was feeling. He watched as Cougar came back into the room and tossed his shirt on the bed before coming over to the table and straddled Jake's thighs and sat down.
"The information Brian gave you on Blacksword was good then?" Cougar asked, taking Jake's glasses off.
Jake squinted, the desire to rub at his eyes strong but it passed within a second. "Yeah," he said, draping his arms around Cougar. "Makes me wonder what Brian's next assignment would have been and what the odds were of him making it out alive. I didn't find anything when I accessed the FBI database and I don't want to risk going in again so soon or compromising anything that Brian might have in reserve."
Cougar leaned in and gently kissed him. "I do not believe Brian's next assignment is an issue any longer."
"You saw it too then?" he asked, before agreeing with Cougar's assessment. "Yeah, got that too," he said. "Dom seemed a little possessive even if he didn't show it."
"Let's go bed," Cougar whispered into his ear. "Tomorrow will be busy."
At that moment Jake didn't care about tomorrow.
"They're probably in one of the hotels nearby," Brian told him.
Dom let out a breath. "I think you need to tell me the rest of it Brian, and you can skip the need to protect my feelings."
Dom snorted. "Don't you Dom me," Dom said, recalling the line Brian had said days earlier. "I'll even start. I love you," he admitted. "Probably have since before you let me go the first time. I think Letty knew."
Brian didn't turn to look at him but it was clear from the other man's reflection in the glass of the window that Brian was listening to him.
"I'm honestly not sure if it bothered her or not. I think you being a cop bothered her more."
He heard Brian sigh.
"I would never have let her go to Braga if I thought he was killing his drivers," Brian said, slouching back into his seat and closing his eyes. "You have to know that. She asked to have me as her handler. Said she wouldn't work with anyone else. I got pulled from an assignment and I never asked her why. If she hadn't asked I would have been hundreds of miles away when she died instead of forty. I don't know what's worse?"
Dom wasn't sure if Brian had meant for the last part to be a question or not. Or even if Brian had meant to say it out loud. "Finish it," Dom said.
"After you," Brian whispered. "I couldn't stay in LA and they moved me North. Then I got laid off, you could say. Moved to Miami. Broke a few laws and then helped the FBI capture Verone. FBI came calling again a few weeks after that, but I've told you all that...haven't I?"
"Drive us back to the hotel Dom, and I'll tell you the rest."
Dom spun the car through the parking lot of the Donut Shoppe and headed to their hotel.
That's part of what irked him the most. He was supposed to be there for her and he had failed. He should have given her another phone. He should have become Brian James and faded away but he couldn't. Letty had meant something to Dom and vice versa; and she had been his only connection to Dom. He had been so close to going down one path before having the brakes slammed on.
"Whatever's going on in that head of yours Bri, knock it off."
Brian let out a breath. He sometimes wondered if Dom...it was like the other man could see through the persona he presented to everyone else. Dom might not always know what he was seeing but he still saw it. He told Dom everything. Everything he'd glossed over earlier. Everything. "I'm in love with you too," he said when he got to the end.
"Why'd you play dumb around Gisele?"
"Because people only see what they want to see and I didn't want to have to deal with a Mossad agent," Brian shrugged slightly at that comment. It was true, and said just how much he thought Gisele had been hiding as she tried to disguise her experiences with guns with rapper-style side grips. "Not surprising," he continued. "She knows part of what I just told you. I do wonder about her contacts sometimes."
"And Brian James?"
"He's me. I'm him. He's probably more me than Spilner ever was," he admitted and honestly that felt good to say because it was one of the things that had scared him the most about the persona he had been building. It had felt just a little too comfortable.
Brian looked up to find Dom standing in front of him and had to recline back in his chair as Dom leaned down and over him. "I'm not letting you go Brian," Dom said before moving in to kiss him.
Brian moved forward and captured Dom's lips for a second kiss. "Thank you," he whispered. He kept the for saving me to himself.
Brian wasn't sure how Dom felt about being back in Los Angeles but he didn't like it. This city was cursed for the two of them. Mia might have thought it was the Charger but Brian was positive it was Los Angeles.
From the moment they set down in the city they were on a clock. Pooch hadn't been kidding when he said Jake hacked satellites for fun. It would buy them some time. He'd also talked with Jake about a couple of things he hadn't yet talked over with Dom. His last resort, if everything went to hell or maybe even if it didn't and now might just be that time.
Just before dawn two cars pulled into New Brook Cemetery and cut their engines.
"We need to walk from here," Brian said and led the way through the headstones.
About two minutes later he stopped in front of a knee high granite headstone with the outline of a car carved into the front of the marker along with the words Still Driving underneath. Then Jesse Miller, 1976 - 2001.
"Mia said you handled everything."
Brian said nothing as he knelt down at the left corner of Jesse's grave. He pulled out a canvas cloth, a small handheld pitchfork and a trowel from his satchel. Using the pitchfork he eased back the sod until he could remove a nearly two foot square patch that could easily be replaced when he was done. Then he started to dig, placing almost a foot worth of the soil onto the cloth until he could pull out a small, hard plastic case.
"Good choice in boxes," Jake said. "Wouldn't have popped on GPR and both water and weather proof."
Brian nodded. It was also nearly indestructible and if anyone did try to blow it open it would probably destroy everything inside. He twisted the number lock until the lid clicked open .The box was full. Brian pulled out several black drawstring bags and handed the one with the device they'd pulled out of Reyes' 1966 Ford GT40 to Jake. Brian knew one of the other bags held his LAPD badge and identification which had gone missing after he'd been let go. A second held his FBI credentials which he also ignored. He pulled out a flat black zipper pouch. Opening the pouch he quickly flipped through the contents before taking out two passport bundles and handing them to Jake as well.
He left the cash and the old badge in the top tray and just lifted out the entire tray to reveal a Glock 17, two SIG-Sauer P226 and a Jericho 941, plus a dozen clips, and a suppressor.
"Is that Gisele's gun?" Dom asked.
Brian shook his head. "No," he said. "It'll pop on an international ballistics search as the gun used in a shooting in north Canada." Brian didn't say anything else and knew Dom would put it together.
He took one of the SIGs and the Jericho plus several of the clips and the suppressor before putting the tray back into place. He left the Glock as it was officially registered to Brian O'Conner, FBI agent. He tossed the pouch with the money and the copied flash drive that Jake had given back to him into the tray.
Jake was already busy with the device. It was in several pieces on top of Jake's bag where the other man sat opposite Brian.
"If you give me a moment or three, I'll copy the other hidden drives onto a flash drive for you," Jake said, still typing and not looking up from his computer.
Brian twisted from his kneeling position to sit on the ground. He had learned that the computer really was connected to Jake and that Jake was as good as he appeared to be--the man could have been an evil computer crime lord if he didn't have a conscience, and Cougar.
It took nearly twenty minutes but Brian slipped the device back into the lock box and handed the flash drive to Dom. "We'll put that with the other one," he said, knowing Dom would understand he meant the one in Tej's garage. He turned back to the black box, locking it before carefully placing it back in the ground and replacing the sod. When he stood the ground looked undisturbed.
"Now what?" Dom asked.
"Now," Jake said, "we go to the lovely hotel where I booked the Grand Executive Suite and you guys order food and I find out what we just got from Max's little device."
In total there had been three hidden caches of information on the device Max had given to Reyes who, in turn, had only used the onboard computer to keep track of his drugs, guns, and money shipping schedules, just as Max had intended. At some point Reyes would have passed the device back to Max where a copy of all of Reyes' transactions had been backed up to a second location on the device.
It was all very clever. Let another person start a business and then come in and take it right out from under him. Jake figured that was just one of the things Max wanted off the device. Besides Reyes there looked to be four other similar individuals. He was thinking perhaps they all needed to have little accidents with their money and product, but that would have to come later.
The first set of directories he looked in gave him a list of CIA and NSA ops that Max had spearheaded, and access to a couple of off the books bank accounts. Unfortunately, the whole Bolivia incident was not on the device. Jake should have known it wasn't going to be that easy. Granted what was there would bury Max, but it just wouldn't help clear them of the charges against them. Checking a few more of the files made it apparent that the device had been given to Reyes before the Losers even went to Bolivia.
In the second batch was the rest of the code for resetting the courier drive's home location and more routing numbers for various offshore accounts. Mneme, his favorite, most awesome of awesome laptops was already processing the code for the courier drive and still had about twenty percent to finish. There had also been files on a few higher ups in the military and the senate who were either willingly, or being blackmailed into, working with Max. That was for Clay to deal with. Jake didn't think he wanted back into the Army if they ever got cleared. He was definitely having trust issues with government sorts.
The last of the hidden files were all things that Jake didn't really understand their purpose on the drive. Different secret programs--science and military. Some of the files had been interesting reads, from what he could grasp of the bare outlines that were there. Honestly, he thought most of them sounded like plots for movie and television shows. He'd leak those over the internet unless Clay wanted to do something else with those files.
Jake stood up and stretched. He headed for the small kitchen in the suite and what he hoped would be another Red Bull. What he got instead was Cougar, a glass of water, two aspirin, and a massage that had him falling into a restful sleep. There was a reason he loved Cougar and it wasn't just the hat.
Then they and Pooch had snuck into the federal impound yard, while snuck wasn't really the word for it since Jake had used Stasiak's credentials to have four cars waiting to be released to a Jo Linwood. The man at the gate of the impound yard had checked the paperwork, his computer and then turned over the keys to the four cars which they had then loaded onto two tow trucks.
While Jake hacked his way through the computer files and Cougar kept an eye on him the other three men had used an abandoned garage to fix and paint the four newly acquired cars.
"What did Jake do to the passports you gave him?" Dom asked, crawling into bed next to Brian and wrapping his arm around Brian's waist.
Brain rolled over slightly so he was still in Dom's embrace but was now looking Dom in the eye. "I had him activate the IDs and credit cards in each bundle," Brian said. "Brian James is now real according to every database Jake could get into. He's not wanted by anybody but he's not exactly a nice guy."
"Because I have this feeling we're going to need the ID. That now's the time for something drastic."
Dom gently stroked a finger down Brian's face. "And the other bundle?" he asked, now understanding that there had been other documents inside each passport.
"It's for you," Brian said. "Dominic Rossi."
Rossi. That had been his grandmother's maiden name. "And who is this Rossi?"
Brian smiled up at him. "Born in Italy, raised in the states. Briefly worked as a driver for Ravenwood, a private military company, where he met Brian James. Since then they've worked together here and there. There's a paper trail and everything now. I'd been building that identity incase I ever ran into you."
Dom brought Brian fully into his arms. "We'll get through this," he said.
"One way or another," Brian added.
"We didn't know what you might want," Pooch said from where he was sitting reading the paper. "I might have gone overboard while placing the order." He smiled, widely. "Aisha's paying anyway. Eat up."
Jake was already up, sans glasses. Brian knew the other man had finally been to bed but obviously hadn't been back at a computer today.
"Join us," Jake said, in between bites without looking up from his plate. "Cougs will be back. He's updating Clay."
"Lost at rock, paper, scissors did he?" Brian joked.
Jake lifted his head, a surprised look clearly showing on his face "How'd you know?" he asked, the half piece of toast in his hand forgotten.
Brian laughed and took a seat at the table. "Lucky guess."
Dom loaded up two plates and brought a carafe of juice and one of coffee and placed them between him and Brian. Brian glanced up at his lover and smiled before digging into the food on his plate.
"What's on the agenda for today?" Dom asked. "Are we staying in the states?"
Jake glanced into his empty coffee cup before answering. "Meant to tell you," Jake said. "The facial rec programs the DSS and others are using, they're not going to lock onto you."
This time it was Brian's turn to look up from his plate. "When did you do that?" he asked.
"Umm," Jake looked at his watch and then over to where Brian saw Jake's computers sitting under the hat Cougar normally wore. "Sometime between the fourth Red Bull and Cougs taking my computers away."
Brian heard Dom chuckle lightly. Dom liked these guys and so did he.
"Didn't go well, huh?" Pooch asked, the grin on his face indicating he already knew the answer.
He shrugged while reaching for his coffee cup only to find it empty. Cougar quirked an eyebrow at Jake who was drinking from a nearly full cup and leaned over Jake's chair and sniffed. That was definitely his cup of coffee. "It was getting cold," Jake told him, looking up but pulling the cup closer.
Cougar shook his head slightly before filling Jake's old cup and adding just the right amount of sugar and cream. "Clay and Aisha are having an argument," Cougar told the room. "I did not understand all he was shouting. Not even sure he remembered he was on the phone for half of it."
Pooch laughed. "That's a venting call," the other man said. "I think he's finally getting tired of her and its beginning to show."
"Why do you have Aisha if none of you like her?" Dom asked
"So you're all a little afraid of her, she has the money and you're hoping that she'll tire of Clay and call it quits?" Brian asked, looking up from the newspaper he had borrowed from Pooch.
Cougar snorted. He had never really looked at it like that, but it was true. "Yes," he answered.
"Clay want us to do anything?" Pooch asked after he stopping chuckling.
Cougar put his cup down. "Go to the desert and find the building that was in the files Jensen sent. Take whatever we can."
Brian laughed. "He does know we're in the southwest United States and you can throw a rock and hit desert, right?"
"Welcome to our world."
"Are we taking the man down?" Dom asked.
Brain started laughing and Jake thought maybe they were going to have to eventually give Brian mouth-to-mouth if the other man continued to laugh. Brian stopped when Dom put his hand on Brian's. It seemed to shock Brian out of his internal comedic breakdown.
"Mind sharing with the rest of us?" Dom asked.
Jake could tell that Brian wanted to say no but gave in. "Mia once told me that maybe I wasn't the good guy pretending to be the bad guy, but the bad guy pretending to be the good guy. I'm just wondering what she would have said if she'd heard you ask that question...it was so cop-ish?" Brian was grinning brightly at Dom.
The only word Jake could use to describe the look on Dom's face was affronted and he couldn't help himself, he laughed. Then slapped his hand over his mouth at the look Dom gave him.
"We won't be telling her," Dom said pointedly. "None of you will. But if we can hit at Max maybe he'll make an appearance."
"Or one of his stooges," Pooch commented, there was a hint of a laugh to his voice that then turned serious. "The man seems to have some type of factory that puts out thugs and middlemen."
"How do we get close to this guy's little fortress out in the middle of nowhere?" Jake asked, showing them a satellite image. An image that showed a long strip of two lane highway.
He saw Pooch share a look with Dom and Brian.
"The cars?" Pooch asked.
"No," Brian said, grinning and Jake didn't think he liked that particular grin. It reminded him of Cougar's I got the crazy shot from the crazy location grin. "A race. We spread the word and use it as cover."
But one thing Dom knew, you tell a bunch of people with hopped up cars, money, and arrogance that there's a race and you can get a crowd going just about anywhere.
Set up a couple of cheap event tents, supply the loud music and drinks, add spectators who just wanted to show off their cars but weren't willing to lose pinks. Suddenly a deserted desert road, on a clear night, out in the middle of nowhere became racing central.
"Damn," Pooch said. "What did you do? Tell someone that you were going to be here?"
"Yes," Dom answered, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a 1966 Ford GT40 they'd spent the last few days rebuilding, painting, and installing a fake version of the hard drive to look like the one Reyes had lost. "Bait only works if it's visible."
Dom was going to race against Jake first. Jake had mentioned about a dozen times since that decision had been made that his driving was for shit unless they were in a military Humvee being shot at or a tank because other than that he left it to the professionals. Dom had laughed, as the first couple of races were supposed to be for show so that was perfect. They were hoping that phones with cameras would take stills and video, and word would spread.
"That DSS agent on your trail will get that you are here," Pooch had told him during the planning stages for this little break in. Dom had nodded; that was also part of the plan.
Jake had been right, he could not race, but just as Dom had hoped, it had done the trick. Pooch was up next and knowing the other man could actually drive it had been close. After that others started racing and within an hour, and with no cops, the site had basically turned into a mini version of race wars and was spreading further and further down the desert road as more race space was needed.
Brian had made an appearance, raced and won, which hadn't been a shock to Dom. The jackass had wanted a rematch and Brian gave it to him and then kept the pink slip to the man's Dodge Challenger when he won again. Pooch and Brian took the car and hid it further down the road. It might come in handy later. If not, then the cops would haul it to the impound after they got there.
After that Dom was the only one at the races as everyone else scattered to do their jobs for the next phase of the plan.
Ivers' security was lax to say the least. Brian ducked below the ledge of the kitchen counters as a person walked into the kitchen from the opposite direction. Brian didn't even pause as he quickly made his way through the hallway. He could hear several people in the first room he passed. It had sounded like they were playing pool and watching the football game. He quietly entered the office and closed the door behind him before keying the mic to let Jake know he was in.
"I've plugged the USB stick into the computer," he said quietly.
Jake came back almost instantly. "I'm in the safe. Pooch, what's the computer say?"
"Downloading. Ten percent and increasing rather quickly."
"The safe has some nice guns--looks to be samples of something similar to the cornershot. There's some cash, or there was, and a couple of hard drives. Grabbing all I can fit into the bag. Then I think I might torch the place."
"Timer please," Brian reminded Jake. "I do want to survive this."
The soft chuckles from at least two donors was the only answer.
Brian started looking through the rest of the office and found a smaller office safe. Now it was time to see if that month spent with the safe cracker was going to pay off. Five minutes later he was in and knew he needed to send Daniels a dozen roses or something. "Found another safe. Handful of passports, Euros, cellphones, and a couple of flash drives. Taking it all," Brian reported, zipping closed the small sling backpack he had.
"Exiting," Jake said. "Timer is set to twenty minutes."
"We're at ninety percent here and I'm moving into position and making the call."
It meant he had five minutes and then he needed to trigger the intruder alarm. He hadn't originally planned on popping tires on the other cars in the garage but they didn't want all of Ivers' security chasing him and that would definitely strand the rest of them at the compound. After all, they needed people at the compound to be arrested with the drugs and other items that Jake had left upstairs so they could make a deal with the DA to flip on Ivers.
"You are going to love the gun I just liberated for you, Cougs," Jake said jogging through the yard to where Pooch would be waiting on the other side of the wall. "And this man, for working for Max, his security sucks! I mean we just waltzed right in...won't he just be surprised in a few."
Cougar shook his head slightly at Jake's comment while he followed the other man's sprint across the yard. As soon as Jake was over the wall Cougar refocused his rifle to where Brian was approaching the side door of the garage. He took out the guard that was about to round the same corner as Brian. They didn't need Brian getting shot or the guard alerting anyone quite yet.
Brian gave him a thumbs up sign and moved into the garage. The next thing Cougar knew Brian came shooting out of the garage in Ivers' Ferrari 430 Scuderia before the garage door had fully opened. The alarms all over the compound began sounding almost instantly.
"That man does not deserve a car like this!" Brian shouted over the comms.
Cougar jumped down from his perch and took off to the motor bike stashed down the road. He pulled out his cellphone and dialed Dom as the other man wasn't able to be on comms around the other racers.
"Dom," he said. "The calls have been made. The explosion should be any moment now."
"We're two minutes out," Pooch said.
"Excellent," Brian said, almost giddy sounding. "Because security is chasing me."
"Dom," Jake called, knowing the other man had to now be in his car which had been wired into their comm network. "Chatter has Hobbs notified, and as we thought he won't arrive until tomorrow. Oh, and the locals are on the way to the races and Ivers' place."
As soon as Pooch pulled to a stop Jake jumped out and Pooch pulled away and headed back to the racers. Jake hopped up onto the roof of the H2 they'd taken from the impound yard. He pulled his laptop out and started the next phase of the plan.
He tapped into Ivers' phone just in time to record the call Ivers was making to Max and Max did not sound pleased. Not pleased at all and that warmed Jake's heart because he could also hear Max ranting about something happening in France. Two more of Max's stooges down for the count.
Jake dialed the police and ran his phone call through a digital voice changer. "Help!" he shouted into the phone, the line would trace back to Ivers' place. "People are shooting and there's smoke everywhere." He let the call hang for a second then pushed a button that made it sound like the operator was hearing gunfire then disconnected the call.
Now he just had to wait for everyone else to get into place.
Pooch popped up onto the highway from the dirt service road several yards behind him, narrowly missing one of Ivers' security personnel. Together he and Pooch led them on a merry chase directly into the first set of street racers. They split off in different directions around the group of racers and continued. Brian took off across the hard packed earth of the desert while Pooch cut off one of the cars pursuing them.The pursuing Humvee veered right into path of the racers and the Mazda Roadster didn't stand a chance against the larger, heavier vehicle. The Humvee though didn't last much longer when the Roadster's NOS tank blew.
The second car, a BMW, stayed behind Brian and followed him as he headed straight for the line of squad cars that were chasing a blue and white Ford GT40. In the distance Brian could see another black Humvee crest over a ridge, driving straight toward the GT40.
The gunfire didn't stop the other police cars, but it did slow them down.
The Scuderia flipped up and over the other two cars, but all three cars seemed to explode at once. The BMW that had been chasing the Scuderia was too slow on applying the brakes and slid right into the explosion.
The police cars following the Scuderia slammed on their brakes, causing their own little pileup but stopping far enough back to stay out of the way should there be another explosion. However, the police were just close enough to see another Humvee shoot out of the darkness where it seemed to barely roll to a stop to pick up at least one person near the accident before a second explosion ripped through the cars.
The Humvee stopped again, picking up a another person who didn't seem to want to go willingly. Several officers would later report possibly seeing a gun but definitely hearing a single shot being fired before the individual was dragged into the Humvee.
The Humvee circled the burning wrecks once and then fled in the direction from which it had come.
"You said there were bodies?" he asked the detective standing next to the unmarked police car.
"Two. First was a male. Mid to late 30s. Pulled from the remains of the GT40. Identified through blood type and dental records as one Dominic Toretto," the detective said. "Guess your man hunt for him is over." The detective handed over several photographs including one that showed a melted silver cross hanging around the neck of the charred body that had been pulled from the car. The detective also handed him a folder that had the coroner's and crime scene reports for all three locations. He flipped through them as the detective spoke.
"I've emailed a copy of the file as well. The Second DB was also male. 40s. Identified as David Ross. Worked for Randall Ivers. Thug, bodyguard. Also identified from dental records as at least two of the cars in that wreck had NOS injection systems or something." The detective waved his hand toward the mess of metal and plastic.
Hobbs looked out at the wreckage and across the desert to where he could just make out the compound where Ivers had lived. The man had been arrested for drug and arms dealing. He knew there had been another accident up on the road that had involved a street racer and a vehicle that had come from the direction of Ivers' place.
"You said there was shooting?" Hobbs questioned, turning back to the disaster in front of him.
"Yeah. Couple of the squad cars took weapons fire and so did the Ferrari. Officers also reported a man being shot before being forcibly dragged into a Humvee. There were signs of a struggle. Blood splatter in the dirt about twenty feet from the accident. Looks like the driver had jumped from his car, trying to escape. Blood type matches your other man, Brian O'Conner."
"Damn," Hobbs said. "And all the racers?"
"Open road, normally no cops. We wouldn't even have known they were out here if someone from Ivers’ place hadn't reported them. Apparently they were getting too close to his house as the racers broke into smaller groups and spread out down the road. Someone in dispatch found a link on VideoNet of your guy racing and we sent it on to you. Then all hell broke loose at Ivers' place. Looks like a gun for drugs exchange went south. Probably spooked by the racers. Ivers was found dead in his cell this morning so he's no help."
Hobbs glanced around. It looked like Toretto and O'Conner had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and their luck had just run out. He wasn't putting money on O'Conner living very long. It didn't look like whomever Ivers was dealing with liked loose ends.
"Damn," he repeated, climbing into his car. Though it did leave him two less people to hunt for.
"Probably a little of both."
When Hobbs' Durango was finally just a speck in the distance, Brian put the binoculars down and rolled over onto his back, letting his head rest in the sand. "Holy shit, it worked," he said quietly.
"Of course it did," Jake said from beside him. "I love it when a plan comes together."
"No more Red Bull for you."
"Ah, but Brian."
Brian grinned over at Jake. He would buy the hacker an entire case if he didn't think Cougar would shoot him for doing so. Now they just needed Hobbs to file his report and that man was anal retentive enough to pull over at the diner twenty miles down the road and do just that.
"They're not going to be able to find the electronics in the Humvee, right?"
The look Jake gave clearly said he was not feeling appreciated.
"Of course not," the hacker said. "Mini explosive device along with all the NOS and gasoline. All that's left is melted plastic and wires. Never thought I'd use a Mario Kart steering wheel to drive a real car. It was kind of fun. But driving against Dom, even with remote cars is...does anyone win against that man?"
Brian laughed. Who would have thought that having seen The Whole Nine Yards would come in handy one day. One unclaimed body, one set of dental x-rays, a hacker and poof, Dom was now officially dead.
A brief phone call with Mia had ensured the female Toretto didn't do anything rash if and when Dom's death made it her way. The quick phone call had also verified for both Dom and himself that Mia was quite happy in her new life. That Elena was doing well and Dom's nephew was a precocious little boy.
"Now what?" Jake asked as they walked back to the second Humvee.
"Let's just make sure Hobbs files his report before we start celebrating."
Jake nodded, but Brian knew the Losers were happy with the information they'd gotten from Ivers’ computers and all the external drives. The passports were also proving useful. The guns had definitely been helpful, especially as Cougar had used one of them to shoot at the BMW. It helped seal the belief of a double cross at Ivers’ place.
By dinner they had confirmation that Hobbs had filed his report. Dominic Toretto was dead and Brian O'Conner was believed to also be a victim though no body had been recovered. Ivers' assassin had not been found either--Cougar had mentioned it was possible one of Ivers' security personnel really worked for Chryon or Max and was tying up loose ends.
Brian knew the others had wanted Ivers to flip on Max, but Ivers' untimely and suspicious death had worked in his and Dom's favor.
"Where's Aisha?" Pooch asked, looking back to where the plane had just lifted off the ground.
"Told her we needed a break," Clay answered, which meant he hadn't told Aisha that Jake had successfully reset the home location on the courier drive and the Losers no longer needed her for her money.
"How'd that go?" Cougar asked.
Clay sucked in a breath and then sighed. "The bitch tried to castrate me. That will definitely put a damper on my sex life for a while."
Jake laughed and held out his hand to Pooch and Cougar. "Pay up," he said, grinning.
"Son of a bitch," Max growled over the speaker. "Clay and his Unit. You people are really starting to piss me off."
Clay laughed. "We're just getting started," Clay said and hung up.
"Way to piss off a mad man," Jake commented softly.
Cougar snorted but couldn't disagree.
"Letty Ortiz is alive," he said very quickly once he was standing in front of the two men. "At least according to paperwork that a Customs Agent named Monica Fuentes gave to Hobbs. I think Hobbs was going to use it to bring you out of hiding."
Jake watched the two men closely. He wasn't sure what the news would mean to the two men, but he hoped it wouldn't ruin whatever was between them.
Dom truly meant that, it was one of the reasons his silver cross was left around the neck of the body that had burned in the GT40. He wasn't living in the past anymore and Brian was his present and future.
He felt Brian wrap an arm around his back and looked over at the other man. Brian nodded at him before turning back to Jake.
"If you guys need help with Max," Brian said. "Call. It's the least we owe you."
Jake grinned at the both of them. "Oh, we'll be in touch if we need you," Jake said turning to walk towards the plane, then paused and turned around again to face them and began walking backwards. "After all, us dead guys all need to stick together."
Dom laughed. They were all crazy, but they were also too fast to lose against anyone.
art by tarlanx