“Sam, you’re pacing.” Fiona frowned, lounging across the loft’s bed as Sam walked from the edge of the bed to the counter and back again with his radio clutched guardedly in one fist and a beer in the other.
“Yeah, well I’m getting a little antsy here. It’s not like him to not check in.”
Fiona rolled her eyes; “It’s exactly like him to not check in.”
“Alright, fine… I’ll give you that one. But it feels wrong.”
“He’s only been gone for an hour. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Michael put the accelerator to the floor, taking the Toyota well over the speedometer’s red line until he could hear the transmission whine into overdrive despite the flat road - but it still wasn’t fast enough to lose the Ferrari that was hot on his tail. Whoever these guys were, they knew how to pull off a high speed pursuit in midday traffic.
It hadn’t been Plan-A, Plan-A was to get the building schematic out of the safe house without being noticed and then have the cops conveniently arrive just as a large shipment of unregistered and stolen automatic weapons was being shown to an undercover operative just in time to slip away unnoticed. Unfortunately, that plan went out the window when the undercover operative happened to be stealing the same exact blueprint and wasn’t really shy about sounding the intruder alarm.
Plan-B was knocking out the undercover operative and getting away in the Charger, and then doubling back after the cops arrived to pick up the schematics that he left behind. And somewhere around Plan-F was stealing the neighbor’s piece of crap small pickup and getting chased through three neighborhoods by really angry men in a Ferrari loaded with guns.
Fiona frowned and sat up, glowering at Sam. “Okay, maybe we should worry…”
“What happened to ‘He’s only been gone for an hour’, Fi?” Sam only half-smiled as he took a long draw off his beer.
“You worried,” she sighed. “We should just drive by and make sure everything’s going all right.”
The radio crackled to life in Sam’s hand, picking up the police band as they both snapped to attention to listen in.
Sam said quietly; “That’s a stolen vehicle right next door to the house Michael’s at…”
“You don’t think he…”
“We should make sure everything’s okay.”
Fiona was quick on her feet despite the severe heels she was wearing when the second call came – police had the target residence surrounded and there was a man pinned down inside claiming to have a government agent hostage. “I think we should go now,” she revised, grabbing her gun and pulling back the slide to load the chamber round. “We’ll take my car.”
Sam chugged what little remained of his beer as they headed to the door. “You do have a mobile arsenal…”
Determined to get away, Michael cut down an alley as a delivery truck was preparing to back in behind him and took the few seconds forced between him and the Ferrari to bail out of the truck as it kept rolling into afternoon traffic. Sure, it’d cause an accident – he was counting on it to draw attention to the area – but for the moment, taking the chase on foot would result in a lowered chance of someone getting killed… especially him.
He ducked into an open door and found himself in the back of a drycleaners that didn’t seem to be open. Working only with the light thrown in from the open door, he stripped off the jacket and slacks of his tan Armani in favor of a blue Brooks Brothers before slipping out the same door.
Unfortunately, he came face to face with the barrel of a large chrome plated Magnum. “Hey there, I was just on my way out for a smoke break… if you want to go around to the front, I’m sure my boss’ll be able to help you out with those, uh… bloody t-shirts ya’ll got.”
The character didn’t fool them, they’d gotten too good of a look over the course of their chase and when Michael heard the hammer pull back, he closed his eyes and let his muscles relax – ready to strike. His palm shot out first, snapping back the guy’s wrist and swinging the gun toward him until he felt the grinding crack of small bones. Then his elbow, out and up against the guy’s head followed quickly by his fist to the bridge of his nose.
When Michael opened his eyes, the second guy came into focus but the third wasn’t far behind. Snap decision said he was better off dropping the second gun before he worried about the knife the third was waving his direction. Fluidly, he swung wide and shifted his body away from the knife, twisting back the second man’s arm – the sickening crunch of his shoulder coming out of joint the sign to swing him around and push him into the knife, which unfortunately happened to be pointed at his other shoulder. Taking advantage of their distraction, he turned the other way and bolted.
“I don’t like this, Sam…” Fiona muttered under her breath as they drove up to the police tape without much notice. The officers had rolled out a small SWAT unit and were clearly in a holding pattern until a negotiator showed up. Whoever was inside had to have given them something really good to move personnel so fast; “They’ve already got team on site…”
“I know we both saw the Charger a mile back, and there was a stolen vehicle involved in an accident a few miles from here – the driver is MIA.”
She nodded; “You think it’s Michael?”
“Whatever shape he’s in can’t be any worse than being in that house.” Sam licked his lips and considered their next move; “He could still be in the house.”
“Get out of the car,” Fiona glared at him.
“Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just saying…”
“You sit on the house and see if you can’t get more information, I’m going to check out the accident.”
Sam shook his head, putting his hand on the steering wheel. “Fi, you know you can get more out of them than I can… let me borrow your car…”
“You are not borrowing my car, Sam.” She raised an eyebrow at him, jaw set; “You know how I feel about your relationship with cars.”
“I swear I won’t break it! I’m just gonna go and check out the accident while you schmooze it up with some cop-types. You’ll be fine, cops love you.”
“Why don’t you just borrow one? There was a nice Civic a few blocks down with the window rolled down even.”
He frowned, digging his fingers tighter around the wheel; “I’m not stealing a car, Fi. Come on, tell them you’re a neighbor and you left your stove on or something.”
“Yeah right, the little woman barefoot and pregnant went for a walk and left her stove on because women are stupid like that…”
“Never said you had to be pregnant…”
Just how many guys can you fit into a Ferrari? Apparently at least four, Michael found as he rounded the corner in time to catch who he guessed was the guy with the keys getting out of the car with an assault rifle slung at his side. An assault rifle that was very quickly trained on Michael.
“Stop right there,” the man demanded in a thick baritone. “Or I will kill you where you stand.”
Michael did as he was told and raised both hands above his head; “I’m unarmed, I don’t know why you guys are chasing me, but whatever you think I did – I didn’t do it.”
“Then why did you run?”
“Call it a hunch, but I’m pretty sure that when you’re being chased by guys with weapons the smart move is to run away.” Michael stiffened under the man’s gaze when he stepped even closer, letting the gun drop back down to his hip. It was a good sign, if he could get close enough…
The guy with the knife could come up from behind him. He heard the shuffling quick steps and then; “He busted up the other two, they’re hurt pretty bad.”
“Now, that is why we had weapons when we chased you.” The leader withdrew a knife of his own, a brutal looking hunting knife that clearly had seen its fair share of use. Hopefully for hunting. “Who are you?”
“I’m nobody,” he laughed, forcing it up into a nervous register. “I just happened to be in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time. I didn’t see anything, I don’t know anything.”
“Is that so?” The leader raised a well-groomed eyebrow and then nodded to the man that had come up close behind Michael. “We’ll see just how much you know.”
He was about to respond when he felt the hard crack of a blunt object, probably the butt of a gun, being brought down against the back of his head and then everything went a bit dark.
Sam grinned as he gunned the engine on Hyundai, taking it past the cops that were busy with the accident blocking off side streets. Normally, he wouldn’t have looked twice – but it’s not every day you see a Ferrari loaded down with passengers – especially not to the point where one passenger has his head shoved up against the front window.
The sinking sensation when passed by was enough to tell him that the face next to the smear of blood on the window was just a little too familiar. He flipped a U-turn and crept up beside them – lifting his cellphone up to his ear and pretending to have an animated conversation as they waited side by side at a light. When he dared to glance over, his instinct was confirmed – Michael was out cold, pressed face first against the glass.
When the light changed, he followed the Ferrari – letting it get a good ways ahead of him in the process. That many guys and there’s no way they didn’t see the little blue car. Hopefully, they didn’t register it as anything more than another commuter.
“Fi, Michael’s not in the house. He’s in a Ferrari headed south.”
“What’s going on?”
“Don’t know yet, he’s out cold in the passenger seat – I’m gonna follow them home.”
Michael awoke to the sting of a palm flat and hard against his cheek, rocking him in the chair he appeared to be tied to. It’d been a while since he’d been strapped down and slapped – he didn’t miss it.
“Wake up!” The leader’s voice shouted near his face and Michael grimaced, smelling the heavy garlic and spice on his breath.
“Up…” he croaked, tugging experimentally at his wrists to feel the thin plastic of zip ties digging into his skin.
“Good, you finally decided to join us.” The palm struck out against Michael’s other cheek hard enough to leave a hot welt behind. “Now, let’s start simple, eh? Who are you, and who do you work for?”
Michael groaned and rolled his shoulders, assessing the overall state of his body. So far, not bad. These guys were either sadists that wanted him to suffer a long time or amateurs that didn’t know how the game was played. He was willing to put money on the latter. “I told you, I’m nobody,” he replied casually. “I was stealing the pickup when the cops started showing up and thought it might be a good idea to get the hell out of there when you guys started chasing me.”
His answer earned him a fist against his temple and once the flash of stars cleared he could feel the split skin dripping blood down his cheek. Definitely amateurs. “Try again, smartmouth – only this time with a real answer.”
“Or what? You’ll hit me again? Because that works so well getting people to talk.”
“What, you think you’re some kind of wise guy?” The leader hit him again with a thick, meaty fist to his chest – knocking the wind out of him. “Open your eyes and look at me.”
Spluttering for breath, Michael forced himself to comply. His vision was still blurry from the blow to the head, but when he could focus he looked up at an unremarkable looking guy – European but long enough on American soil he’d mostly faded the accent. He wasn’t impressed.
“You think I give a fuck if you live or die?” the leader withdrew his knife again from the sheath on his belt and held it up in front of Michael’s face. “The only reason I haven’t gutted you is because I know that you know more than you’re telling me.”
Not far away, the Ferrari pulled up to a nondescript house in the suburbs – taking it all the way into the garage. After looping around the block, Sam parked the Hyundai and hoofed it the two blocks back – cutting around the side of the house. A quick look around made it obvious the place wasn’t heavily guarded and the men that had been in the car with Michael weren’t doing so good. He didn’t exactly feel bad for them.
On the front porch two of them tended their wounds, one was stabbed and looked hurt badly enough he probably needed a trip to the ER, and a third guy paced the perimeter with an AK-47. The driver, Sam assumed he’d be in charge of this merry band of idiots, had to be inside with Mike. Getting into the yard was the easy part, as soon as the armed guard did his round of the back and was headed toward the front, Sam climbed up and over the short chain-link fence and used what little time he had left before the guy started another circuit to slip into the unlocked backdoor.
Of course, things are never easy… in fact, they’re usually a whole lot harder than they initially seem like they’re going to be. Like that unlocked door that’s got a loose piece of tile in front of it that clicks when you step on it. Really, who blows up their own damn house?
“Oh shit,” Sam barely had time to mutter as he sprung forward; hearing the click of the mechanism engaging fully as he knocked over the dining room table for the tiny bit of cover it afforded and really, really hoped it was just a little boom.
Michael focused on the slow trickle of blood down his temple – matting in his eyebrow as the man punched him in the face again, replacing his worry with the uneasy snap of his nose meeting the ridge of his eye socket. “I told you,” he spat a bloody wad on the floor, holding back a startled cough but no tears. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was hired to extract the guy that your boss is holding at gunpoint. How long do you think the SWAT team is going to wait before they just gas the place and go in?”
His captor paced the floor again and attempted to dial his boss’ number only to once more get no response. “That’s not possible. There’s no way he was a government agent – he did things.” The man paused, snarling at Michael as though disgusted by his very presence; “he killed a man for us – even brought back the special antique ring he always wore…”
“Did you acutually see the body?” Michael groaned only to have his question cut off.
“…attached to his goddam arm – complete with the tattoo he got in prison from my own brother.”
Michael tried to take a full breath, but the painful tug in his ribs wouldn’t allow it. “These guys are trained to make things look real, man… please… please don’t kill me – I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” He was making it up as best he could, trying hard to keep it simple because every time he tried to think his head hurt a little more. Concussion, cracked ribs, broken nose, split scalp… he kept a running list of the injuries to report back to his own sort-of boss once he made it out.
As the man holding him reared back to punch him again, a loud concussive blast rattled the floor above him – the kitchen he assumed given his position in the cellar.
“Anton, what the hell was that?” The leader picked up his walkie-talkie, shouting at the men outside. “I told you the kitchen was rigged already! There’s over a million dollars still in that room!”
Before Michael could suggest letting him go or that he could help – the walkie-talkie came down on the top of his head and everything went black again.
Sam felt the flash of flames behind the concussive force as he looked through the living room just in time to see the front door kicked open by the guys that had been out on the porch – followed very closely by the guy with the AK-47. For a second they seemed a lot more preoccupied with the fire than the guy in front of it, and it was just enough time for Sam to draw his gun and take two quick shots at the one that was armed.
The wounded dove for cover, watching in silence as their buddy dropped – clutching his bloody arm. “You fucking shot me in the arm! Who the hell are you?”
“I’m just here to pick up my friend,” Sam sighed and pushed up off the floor, picking up the assault rifle. “If you’re gonna grab that big stack of money before it’s crispy critters I’d get on that.”
Assuming there’d be more trouble coming, Sam jammed his pistol in the front of his belt and pulled back the bolt on the assault rifle; knocking off the safety; “You had the safety on? Really? You guys must be new.” With a deep frown, he shook his head and headed toward upstairs – two steps up when he saw the leader come up out of the basement with bloody hands. Not good.
Swearing under his breath, Sam aimed the gun at the leaders head and took a shot just past his left ear. “Don’t move or the next one’s in your skull.”
“Who the fuck are you people?” The leader shouted, turning to face him as he held up his hands; “Are you with the ‘extraction agent’ or just another idiot that happened on my safe house?”
“Little bit of column A – increasingly feeling like column B.” Sam’s finger caressed the trigger and he held his sights on the center of the man’s forehead. “Is he still alive?” He couldn’t let man see him flinch, couldn’t let an ounce of uncertainty that he could actually kill him seep through. If Michael wasn’t gonna be okay… well, he didn’t want think that was even possible. The man had more lives than a sack of cats and he sure as hell wouldn’t let some two-bit thugs take him down for good.
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“Look, asshole – this place is gonna be crawling with firefighters and police in a couple minutes and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be seen with the damning evidence. Now, I don’t want to let you go… frankly, I’m ready to drop you where you stand but I’m willing to let you save your precious money and get the hell out of here if he can walk out without me putting a bullet in your brain.”
The man paused and seemed to consider his options. Slowly, nodded; “He’s not walking, but he’ll live. Get the hell out of my house.”
“If he’s not breathing I swear to God I’ll kill every last one of you and piss on your corpse.” He didn’t bother waiting for a response that would surely be some witty villain retort; he was far more worried about taking the cellar stairs two at a time and jumping to the bottom to find Michael on the floor on one side, zip tied to a dining room chair in a small smear of his own blood.
“Jesus, brother…” he muttered under his breath as he cut Michael free - checking his pulse to find it weak but present. “I’m not supposed to be the one saving your ass when you get mixed up with a shady element that ends up screwing you over. Come on… you waking up, Sleeping Beauty? Now would be a real good time to tell me I’m not gonna have to carry your ass out of here.”
Michael didn’t move, didn’t even groan – he barely breathed as Sam took the hint and hefted him over his shoulder. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to carry a guy – but up a flight of stairs into a spreading fire and then out the front door was definitely a his first time feeling like a big damn hero to the Mighty Michael Westen. It’d be easy enough to let the EMTs show up and do their thing, but Sam knew all too well that Michael wouldn’t want it that way. Instead, he dragged his unconscious friend back to Fiona’s car – probably just a little too okay with him bleeding on her fancy seats – and took him home.
Michael groaned and attempted to open his eyes, only to be greeted with blinding light in the one he managed half open. “Enough… ‘m alright…”
Fiona’s grip on his head tightened and he was acutely aware of the needle stitching his brow. “These guys did a number on you, Michael…” she said casually; “I don’t think I’ve seen your face this mangled since Belfast.”
“What, some kind of bar fight?” Sam chuckled uneasily; his hand resting on Michael’s hip as he held him steady on the unmade bed.
He tried to smile, but Michael’s lips pulled and split – spilling the coppery taste of his own blood. “I don’t really remember that – was it… three guys and a goat?”
Fiona frowned and shook her head, knowing full and well he did remember and just liked to hear her say it. “McBride thought it’d be a good idea to get fresh with me after a couple drinks.”
Sam smirked; “What’d your crazy brothers jump him?”
Finally managing a weak half-smile as she stroked her thumb over the fresh stitches; “Who do you think pulled me off him?”
Sam laughed and Michael would have managed another smile if not for the cold washcloth Sam pressed to his mouth to stifle the blood. After a long, drawn out silence, Fiona set aside the first aid and nodded to herself; “All done, Fi?” Sam asked.
“Can’t really do much more, you’re gonna look like hamburger for a little while.” Fiona shook her head and pressed a kiss to his battered forehead.
“Damn it, Mike… and you didn’t even get the plans.”
Michael let them roll him onto his back, propped to let the weight rest away from his ribcage. “Never said I didn’t get the plans.”
“Michael, we checked you out thoroughly –“
“And she means thoroughly, brother… I watched her…”
“Sam.” Fiona chided; “You didn’t have them, Michael. They must have gotten ahold of them.”
The corners of his mouth twitched and he pulled the bloody rag away long enough to answer. “The memory stick is in my suit – I left it at the cleaners.”