The night was proving unusually stubborn in its slow march towards dawn. Not that the hours hadn’t been crawling along for months now.
That anxiety ridden thought spiral was for a different day though.
Tonight was for planning and contemplation and would determine if all his life choices to this point had been the right ones or just a folly; ignorance of youth. Some dreams, he was learning, were too large to carry on his own and the separation was going to be the death of him.
On the outside, the premise of the job was simple: snag the kid, hold them until the family (or whoever) pays, release the kid on some random street corner. Rinse, repeat.
This job, however, was dirty from the start.
The kid, they would be informed after she had been picked up and securely locked away, was the eight-teen year old daughter of the lead family for a rival gang which had been trying to encroach into well established territory that was owned and maintained by an old money family who had been in power for generations.
The incidents leading up to the dramatic decision to kidnap a young member of the family had been a growing list of minor inconveniences for the most part; petty theft and burglaries, graffiti and criminal mischief. The punishments were appropriate and doled out swiftly and definitively. The lines of dominance easy to discern. Until they weren’t.
Two weeks prior the upstarts had gotten brazen; made a direct move on a drug shipment. Millions in product snagged mid-shipment; the couriers gunned down and left to bleed out in a back alley. Although the circumstances pointed to an insider, everyone responsible would be taught a lesson.
The rival family would be dealt with first, a violent push back to the outskirts of beyond in hopes of persuading them to stay in their own little corner of the world. Or run the risk of being pushed out and taken over.
The traitors always come second. They are pulled to the side, invited in, shown the world as seen from the top. Spend a few nights in the lap of luxury. Breakfast always a beautiful affair. Lunch with the boss. An early grave by dinner some short time later. There is no room for traitors. Organizations crumbled when traitors walked amongst the chosen. Examples needed to be made. Reputation is very important and must be maintained.
The detailed directions after the abduction had lead them to a small house in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Far enough into the unincorporated developments that they were beyond the immediate reach of the local police. The cookie cutter appearance afforded them the anonymity of a child friendly environment and a garage to stash the cars in. As long as they could keep their heads down the neighbors would never suspect a thing.
From his place slouched, low in his chair, at the table Shin can see both the front and back door as well as the hall that leads to the bedrooms. Anxiety simmers under his skin. They are running out of time. With a sigh he watches the two thugs across from him bicker with each other.
“I’m telling you we need to make another demand!” Markus argues crossing from the kitchen.
“All I’m saying is if we press for more money it’ll give them more time to involve outsiders.” James counters messily around a bite of food, his greasy brown hair falling into his dull eyes.
“But if we don't ask for enough they won't take us seriously.” Marcus shakes his head, his dirty blond hair catching the light, chair scraping the floor as he pulls it from under the table. “I'm not chancing jail time for kidnapping the brat unless there's a payout!”
“Hell all the boss wants is enough to cover what the family stole and that ain't nothin but pocket change for him.” James smirks. “Tell ‘im Shin, she ain’t worth nothing more than pocket change. Right?”
Shin looks between the two, his messy dark hair falling into his face, partially covering his eyes. “Neither of your arguments are worth the breath you're wasting on them.” He pauses to ensure he has their full attention. “We have the kid. The demands have already been made and our direct orders leave no room for discussion. They have until midnight.” He ticks off the list staring them both down. “The family knows what’ll happen if they don't comply, so sit down and enjoy supper before it gets cold and messy.”
Marcus throws himself back into his chair mumbling under his breath.
“Do you have something to add?” Shin asks, his voice taking on a sharp icy edge as he turns his glare directly on the thug.
“I said, that doesn’t make any sense. No one pays for dead hostages.”
“We should call them on our own, tell them they can buy her life with and extra few zeros.” James adds with a smirk.
“The both of you are insufferable. I'm gonna check on the kid.” Without a backwards glance Shin leaves the table, taking his untouched plate of food and an unopened bottle of water with him.
The moderately sized house is not large enough to afford total isolation; he can hear the quiet cries long before he reaches the opened door.
The abduction had been quick. Executed in the shadows of a parking garage in broad daylight, her car brought with them to limit loose ends or possible leads. Her phone had been powered down in the garage, the sim card slipped into a burner phone without GPS. The girl had been in their custody for over five hours before her family missed her enough to try and reach her.
In her exhausted, terrified state, she was still defiant; her fire still raging at times. Her pleas for release had been heartfelt and tearful from the start though. If one looked hard enough as time progressed the watcher would have witnessed the fear as it crept over her. Slowly hunching her shoulders and firmly settling on her brow.
Shin tried not to look too hard.
When he did he could see himself in her and the impending execution was already a hard enough pill to swallow without imagining his head on the block.
The upstarts needed to be reminded, drugs were replaceable. Human lives weren't.
A week into this ordeal and Shin is beyond disgusted and more than a little sad with how little her family seems to care for her. As far as he has been informed there hasn’t been a peep from them or any of their associates. If he lets himself think about it too hard he can see the irony of the situation; the sacrifice of family for power. Isn’t that always the case? If it isn’t power it's a career.
Family, life, love, they all seem to get pushed to the back burner and forgotten. In all honesty he just wants the whole thing over and done with. Maybe then he will have a chance to return to his life, his love. He hates himself for thinking like that. It’s a vicious cycle.
“I brought you something for dinner.” He says quietly stepping into the room, startling her from her sobbing in the process.
From the doorway the bed is diagonal from him, pushed against the single window to open the room and limit hiding places. The closet to his immediate right shields just a touch of the room from the doorway creating one of the only blind spots in the room and has been cleared with it’s doors removed, a sheet tacked over half of the newly exposed closest, is the other blind spot. It serves as a permanent observation point to keep an eye on the girl and as an ambush location if the need should ever arise.
“What difference does it make?” She asks dashing the tears from her cheeks. “We both know how all of this is going to end.” There is fire in her eyes as she glares at him; forest green locked onto him so soundly he can feel the weight of it in his soul.
He chuckles setting the offerings on the dresser top a few steps from the door. “Who knows,” he starts, running fingers through his dark hair pushing it back from his face, “maybe the cops will show up to save the day. Knights in shining armor and all that romanticized nonsense.” He twists his wrist a few times as if to minimize the whole idea.
“I wish they would, maybe then I'd get the honor of seeing you gunned down.” She spits.
With a low growl Shin spins towards her. “You better remember who's been taking care of you and keeping the real monsters at bay. You think I like babysitting some spoilt rich kid who thinks she's better than everyone else?”
Jumping to her feet she crosses the small room to stand toe to toe with him, her head just clearing his shoulders, finally finding the fight burning in her bones; that’s the reaction he wanted, the resolve she is going to need to survive the night. “You are no better than they are.” The words are hissed, dripping with venom as she jabs her finger in his chest. “You are nothing but a filthy lap dog. Taking orders and grovelling to your damn Master with your tail between your legs.”
Snatching her wrist Shin forces her back a few steps to the center of the room; out of the line of sight of the door.
Glancing at her new proximity to the bed with large eyes she turns on him again gaze narrowing in a glare. “Nothing but a filthy dog.” She repeats trying to twist her hand free from his grip.
Movement through a thin gap in the curtains catches his attention and with a curse he yanks her against his body, twisting away from the window and throwing them both to the floor; covering her as best he can as an explosion rips through the window sending glass and debris raining into the room. Similar explosions echo from down the hall but it's the light reflecting off a small metal can as it falls to the floor across from them, spewing white smoke at an alarming rate that holds his attention.
Over the ringing in his ears he can hear the yelling of orders and instructions before a series of gunshots ring out from down the hall. A thousand things run through Shin’s brain at once. They are a sitting duck in the middle of the room. They need to move, it'll only be moments before the room is swarmed by SWAT.
Jumping to his feet he snatches her up by the back of the shirt and drags her to the far wall next to the closet. Spinning her to face him he forces her face against his shoulder in an attempt to protect her nose and mouth as he pulls his shirt up with his free hand to do the same for him.
Shin holds her locked against his right side, tucked partially under his shoulder so most of her body is beside or behind him, hidden from the closet. Once he is sure she will not move he retrieves his weapon, the gun gripped in his right hand, aimed just to the side of the door. He can hear them as they make their way through the house ensuring every room is cleared. The smoke has just begun to settle when the fully covered black clad figures file into the room. The two front officers hold their assault rifles level at him. An obvious killing shot if either fire.
“Drop your weapon.” The taller one demands, as he enters, his voice calm despite the situation, “This is over.”
Shin glances quickly towards his left and with a knowing smirk and turns his hand palm-side to the officers, a pseudo-offering of surrender, before dropping it to chest level, arm wrapped around the girls shoulders protectively and firing a single shot towards the closet.
His body is already falling, forcing the girl to the floor and the safety the bed can provide, as the bullet leaves the chamber. Gunshots erupt from the shattered window before the first officer can call them off. His demands of ‘hold your fire’ are quickly heeded and the silence that follows is heavy.
The second officer slings his rifle over his shoulder as he dives for Shin and the hostage. Wrenching Shin up from the floor by his arm the officer uses the momentum to force him to the bed. His expert hands checking for any wounds and finding the one on the upper left side of his chest.
Shin’s screams of pain are choked and gurgly as he thrashes against the pressure before his senses and exhaustion over take him.
“Send the med unit in! He’s still alive!” The officer demands. “Open your eyes damnit!”
Struggling through a fit of wet coughs, Shin complies. His rich mahogany eyes unable at first to find focus but finally locking onto ocean blue.
On to Home.
“Stay with me.” The officer orders, voice more of a plea than a demand, his black gloved hands still pressed against the wound trying to stop the bleeding and preventing any additional air from getting into the chest cavity.
When the medics enter the officer releases Shin to the team. Ever vigilant even from a distance, refusing to let the injured man out of his sight as he is being prepped for transport.
With Shin's expressive eyes locked on him, he couldn't look away if he wanted.
“I'm in the bus. Giacometti, you're following. Grab Chulanont on the way.”
The first officer nods and quickly hands the girl to another member of the team before following the stretcher out of the house.
The body of a second male remains slumped in the corner of the closet; a single gunshot to the head, a small cluster of wounds in his torso. His gun abandoned on the floor where it had fallen from his cold hand. The sheet, torn from its holdings in the chaos of his death, tangled around him in the mockery of a shroud.