So They Dug Your Grave
And The Masquerade
Will Come Calling Out
At The Mess You Made
Roughly about 4:15 AM Boston Time
Katharine turned the big ambulance onto the well worn path she knew by heart. It was pitch black outside even with her high beams on, but she knew how to find this cabin, especially in the dark. She'd done it a number of times over the years. Too many times, she thought; but she'd never made the trip in an ambulance before.
She heaved a huge sigh of relief when she saw Sam and Bella's SUV parked out front and the light coming through the only front window of the cabin. Her friends were standing on the front porch waiting for her. Thank God, because she would need their help getting the equipment and Eliot unloaded.
She waved to the couple as she pulled to a stop right in front and cut the engine. She sighed again, this time with apprehension as she turned to look over her right shoulder in the back of the bus to the man who was her patient. If she'd thought he'd been pissed before, she knew he was gonna full on blow a gasket when he woke up this time and realized she'd done it to him again. She'd dropped the pills in his water bottle when she'd moved behind him to adjust his bed to ease his breathing; right after he'd stopped her from giving him the pain medication via his IV.
She couldn't help grinning though at the fact that his color was looking much better and his being back on the machine that was draining the blood from his lung was doing it's job perfectly. His breathing sounded much better and his heart rate was staying steady. If she could just keep the damn man calm and off his feet for at least two more days, he might just live through this.
Katharine thanked God again that the trip via the ambulance had been smooth and that Eliot had slept the entire time. She moved from her seat to crawl back to him and work on disconnecting the machines just until she could get him settled inside. The air was a bit on the chilly side this early in the morning so she pulled another blanket from an overhead bin and draped it over the one already covering him.
The cabin had belonged to one of the women she'd helped in the past and was now only used as a way station for the soul purpose of ferrying abused women through her own private underground railroad system. She never let them stay more than a day or two; just until she could get them settled under new identities in new towns. Sam and Bella lived thirty miles north of the cabin and they made sure it was always stocked for her. She never knew when she might be called on to move someone quickly, so it was always prepared.
The cabin had electricity, but she always instructed her guests to not use it too much just in case. Electricity bills left a paper trail and spikes in usage could give them away. If someone was able to follow the spikes, then they'd find the cabin and whoever was staying there at the time; she needed it be a safe place for them to hide, to know they were going to be okay.
But with Eliot, she knew she'd have to use the electricity to run the pleurovac machine as well as all the other devices she'd need for his care. The generator wouldn't be able to keep the equipment running continuously. Hopefully she wouldn't have to use it for more than two or three days and she'd have to avoid using anything other than the machines.
Sam opened the back of the bus and took in Katharine and her patient. Bella walked up behind him with a large flashlight to help them see. The two looked at Eliot then they looked at each other.
"Ummm, Kat this isn't your typical stray this time." Sam said as he stepped up into the ambulance to help her move the machine she was pushing towards him.
"I need this machine out first. It needs set up and ready to go as soon as we get him inside." She instructed him as she moved to help him lift the machine down out of the ambulance. "And yeah, I know he's not the normal stray, but trust me. He needed help and I'm a sucker for all strays, especially such a good looking one." She smiled while she reached over to hug first Sam then Bella after they'd set the machine inside the only bedroom in the cabin.
"Well, I gotta say, he is a good looking stray." Bella said from behind Sam as they headed back to the ambulance. When her husband turned to look at her, she asked innocently, "what? He's good looking. Just cause I'm married to you don't mean I can't appreciate a fine looking man." She smiled at him as he just continued to stare at her. "Oh don't be a grouch. I may look, just like you do, but I only look. I'm not going to let a good thing like you go, honey."
She patted him on his butt as he reached down and gave her a kiss on her lips. Katharine smiled at the two of them. Almost 15 years and the two were still like love sick teens. She loved seeing them so happy.
"Glad to hear that, now let's get a move on. I don't want Eliot off that machine too much longer." She said climbing back inside the ambulance to unlock the gurney and pack Eliot's IVs under his shoulders. She handed two go bags out the door to Sam then she reached for an empty bag and began scooping up everything that was stocked in the many drawers and cabinets.
When Eliot made a sudden jerking motion with his hands, Bella watched as Katharine instantly dropped the bag and was quickly at his side using her hand to touch him on his chest and muttering words of comfort that she couldn't quite make out. She watched in amazement as the man instantly seemed to calm down and she thought he even looked like he was glad Kat was there.
She watched as Katharine bent down and gently kissed him on the forehead then she brushed some of the long strands of his hair from his face. Damn, she thought totally taken aback at the picture playing out in front of her eyes. I wouldn't have believed it if I wasn't seeing it, she thought. She turned to shush Sam as he returned from stowing the bags inside the cabin. She quietly pointed to him to just keep quiet and watch.
And Sam did watch. He took in the scene of the woman he'd known for the last fifteen years. He'd watched her struggle through a bad marriage while she helped to get Bella out of her bad marriage. He'd watched her put her own pain aside to help others and he watched now as she calmed this man.
He'd helped her when she'd finally gotten the strength to leave her husband and he and Bella had watched over her when she'd lost her baby girl because of that man. They'd watched this woman who was as important to them as any family member could ever be and in that whole time they'd never seen her like she was right now with this man.
He turned to his wife. "Damn..." he whispered.
Bella just nodded in agreement. "Looks like our girl might actually have found someone. I am blown away."
"Yeah. I just hope he's a good man." He looked at the man a little more closely while he took in the way Katharine was fussing over him. "He looks like he's seen a lot in the way of life." Sam didn't know if that was good or bad, but something about the man made him wonder if he really was a good man. Something was there that gave him pause.
Bella watched Sam and knew what he was thinking. "He's a good man, Sam."
Sam turned to look down at her again. "How can you know that?"
Bella looked at the man laying on the gurney. "Because Katharine wants to help him and she knows good from bad. When a woman's been through what we've been through, you learn to read men and I can tell you that no matter what, that man is a good man because Katharine likes him."
"I hope you're right... I really hope you're right."
Bella Thompson never took her eyes off the couple in the back of the ambulance. She smiled as she felt the tears building up behind her eyes. She loved seeing Kat like this. "I'm right." She said taking her husband's hand in hers. "Just like I was right about you."
Emma was sitting in the back of the black van that Harison called Lucille. Nate had driven the van with Vance riding shotgun while she and Sophie rode in the back watching over Hardison's equipment and they were now parked down the block from the dockyard not far from the warehouse Hardison had narrowed down to where the earbud signal was coming from.
Hardison had leapt for joy when he found out that Emma actually know how to handle a computer and had caught on quickly to most of his programs. She didn't care much for the earbud, but she had to admit it was easy to wear. She didn't like hearing voices in her head anymore than she figured Eliot did, but if he could get used to it, then so could she.
She'd changed from her slacks and silk top to dark jeans and a soft black baby tee she'd packed. She also wore dark boots that Sophie had loved the minute Emma had pulled them from her carry on bag. She'd discovered that Sophie loved shoes too, and they made plans to go shopping when this was over.
Nate and Matthew had stood back in awe at how Sophie had taken Emma in hand and drawn her over to the dining table after her arrival; she'd explained everything to her. She left nothing out and for that Emma had thanked her while at the same time giving Matthew and Nate as well as Vance the look; the one all mothers perfected as communication that somone was in big trouble.
While she was afraid for her brother after hearing the story, at least now she knew exactly what was going on and she was going to help find him. Then she was going to get him, Matthew and Vance in one place and get to the bottom of all this dark shit. She was tired of it and it stopped now.
"Hardison? How you holding up?" Nate asked keeping an eye on the security camera's image of the white panel van they'd borrowed as it passed by the guard station without any trouble. Hardison had only had time to secure two of the cameras before he, Matthew and Parker had gone in, but Emma had managed to hack into three more around the warehouse and they had a pretty good view of the entire area outside the building.
"Oh, I'm just peachy. I'm just loving this... not." Came Hardison's sarcastic reply. "Aren't we there yet? We passed through the main gate like an hour ago, man."
Nate smiled at the young man's words. "It just feels like an hour ago. It's only been three minutes, but you should be pulling up to the warehouse soon. Emma's got the cameras working for us all around the building, but we won't know what's going on inside until you get in and we can see through your button cam."
Sophie watched as Emma worked on the keyboard with almost the same speed Hardison used. "I am impressed Emma. Where did you learn to do this?"
Emma replied without thinking. " From Ellie."
Vance moved from the side of the van where he was quietly opening the door and getting out to prepare to be in position to help the others if he was needed. He was going to have to hurry to get through to the back side of the dock behind the building, but he had to know what Emma meant. "Ellie?" He asked taking in both Nate and Sophie's blank looks. "Who's Ellie?"
Emma paused as she realized what she'd just said. Eliot would kill her if he found out, but she slowly smiled as she remembered that he was due a little payback for this entire escapade they were on. She turned to face the man standing outside the van pulling a dark cap over his head.
"Eliot is Ellie. Childhood nickname I gave him and he will kill me if he knows I've given up that little tidbit to any of you." She replied with a small laugh. "But he'll have to live through this to do it, so I look forward to a little payback war." She watched as Vance smiled at that.
"Ellie, huh? Sounds like something to hang onto for the right time." He reached back inside the van for the gun and holster he'd brought. He already had his best knife stapped to his ankle and another inside his boot, but he didn't know what he'd face going in there so he strapped the gun to his belt and closed the velcro catches around his leg. "Okay, Matt Im heading around the backside now. You'll see me when you need me." And with a wave he turned and moved to blend in with the dark shadows while he made his way across the road and around the fence line towards the back side of the warehouse.
Sophie turned to Emma. "You said Eliot taught you to use a computer?" She urged, guiding the conversation back to the topic that interested her the most right now. The man had never let on he knew a keyboard from a mouse.
Emma smiled again as she thought about her answer. "Hardison, what you are about to hear does not get repeated to Eliot you understand?" She waited for the young hacker to reply.
"Why? Are you saying my bro knows how to use a computer?" He thought back to the letter he'd read and how Eliot had messed up one of his favorite episodes of Doctor Who and he realized the man had to know something cause Hardison's files were all password protected. "That man knows and he's been acting like he don't? If I live through this I'm gonna kill him!"
Nate tried hard not to laugh at that as he listened to the conversation. It was actually nice to see Emma taking Hardison's mind off being in the body bag in the back of a van in the dark of night dressed like a zombie.
"Well, he knows enough. How do you guys think he's survived as long as he has?" She looked at the two sitting next to her. "You think he just reads a book to find out about the things he's sent to retrieve? How would he get in and out of places without knowing every little detail?"
"Sparky has a hidden talent!" Parker said. "Cool!"
"It ain't cool, mamma!" Hardison thought about the fact that whenever he was giving the team the rundown on their jobs via his video presentations; he realized that Eliot was usually the only one who didn't ask too many questions. He always looked bored, or pissed, but now Hardison knew he wasn't. He was taking it all in. His bro was actually paying attention. He couldn't help the slow smile that come over his face at that instant of realization. "Damn, my bro is cool!"
"Hey Em, tell them what else Eliot is good at." Matthew's voice came in loud and clear now as he joined in the conversation.
Emma laughed. Oh Eliot was so gonna kill her, but he'd have to catch her first. "Well, you know he can cook right?"
"Oh God, yes!" Sophie said delighted at the mention of food. "Eliot's food is divine!"
"Yeah, he makes the best chocolate chip pancakes even though he tells me that too much sugar is bad for me. But he still makes them when he knows I want them!" Parker added with glee. "What else can Sparky do?"
Emma had learned quickly that Parker's favorite nickname for her brother was Sparky and she kind of liked that. And she liked Parker. She knew why Eliot felt he needed to protect her. She knew now why Eliot felt he had to protect all of them. They had all become his family too. He cared too much sometimes she thought to herself.
"Well, he can sing and play the guitar..."
"Got that. He was our fiddle once!" Parker smiled at the memory. "He was a really good fiddle too."
Emma looked at Nate. "Fiddle?" She mouthed.
Nate laughed and said, "I'll tell you about it later."
Emma nodded and went back to the keyboard. "Well, Eliot likes to write. Or he did while growing up." She added, moving her monitor so she could pull the main camera back into view as the white van pulled up in front of the warehouse they wanted.
"What do mean by writing?" Sophie asked the other woman.
"You know, write. He's very smart. His IQ is off the charts and he sometimes writes about his passions."
"Like what?" Nate asked this time. He had a hard time picturing Eliot sitting and writing. But then he remembered the letters Eliot had written for them. "You mean like letters?"
Emma looked up at Nate. She remembered the two letters Matthew had slipped into her hands when she was changing. One for herself and one for her father. She'd opened hers and scanned it but she hadn't had time to read all of it. She nodded at Nate's question. "Yeah, sometimes. But mostly he writes just for himself; like a journal. He loves architecture. He writes so he writes about them. He sees buildings and things as works of art. He loves finely crafted furniture and things, so he researches some of the greats. And it's not just buildings; he loves bridges and monuments and things of that nature. He loves that stuff because he says they're not just art, they're also useful. He always says a painting is great, but a bridge has a real purpose and yet it can still be made beautifully." She hesitated talking about Eliot's passions suddenly, but she loved her brother and she wanted these people, his second family, to see the man he was deep down hidden under that rough facade of his. "Ellie never got to go to college. He sent me, but he never got that kind of life." She added softly.
Sophi looked at Nate over the top of Emma's head. "He's a good man for doing that." Nate replied. "Why did he feel he had to do that? Skip college I mean?" He asked carefully.
Emma looked up from the monitors to Nate. "I can't tell you the reasons for that Nate. That's Eliot's business and it's much more personal than knowing a nickname or his talents." She paused as she looked for the right way to say this. "Let's just say Eliot had a harder life than I did when our mother passed away. His was different than mine; him being the only son. He's made the choices he has made for his own reaons. I may not agree with them, but that's part of life, his life; and well, those things I just can't talk about."
Nate slowly nodded. "Understood." He tuned to look at the monitor as two men met Matthew and Parker when they exited the van. "Almost showtime Hardison so wait for my signal. Parker, keep the men facing away from the van." He watched as both Parker and Whitmore moved towards the building causing the two men to have no choice but to follow them. "Okay Hardison, you're clear. Keep talking so I know where you are until we get picture inside."
"And Hardison, remember what I told you. It's all about projecton. You're not playing the part of a zombie; you are a zombie, so live it, be a zombie." Sophie added while watching as Hardison exited the back of the van almost invisible in the eaarly morning darkness with his dark naval uniform, but she could just make out the glow of his pale face in an overhead lamp. "That's it Hardison, shuffle along..." She stopped when she noticed Nate and Emma were looking at her. "What? If he's going to be a zombie then he needs to be a zombie. It's not as easy as you think it would be to act like a zombie."
Emma opened her mouth to say something, but for the life of her she didn't know what to say to that. Nate cleared his throat and Emma could hear both Vance and Whitmore chuckling in her ear.
"Sophie, we so need to talk when this is all over. Something tells me I've been missing out on a lot of things with this team." Emma replied taking in the whole atmosphere the woman had about her suddenly.
"Oh Emma, sweetie, you have no idea what we've stepped into here." Matthew whispered through the earbud as he and Parker walked to the office just outside the main warehouse. "Eliot has a distinctive team here. Very distinctive."
And Emma could only stare as Nate full on broke out in laughter. Slowly followed by Sophie herself. Then came Hardison's laughter through the earbud. Emma didn't know if she was supposed to laugh or not about this whole thing.
"Hey, Emma - how did Eliot learn to be a fiddle anyway? I wish I could be a fiddle. Nate maybe when we get Sparky back, he'll teach us to all be fiddles. Yeah, cause that'd be fun. Like jumping of the Golden Gate bridge was fun!"
"Mamma you're scaring El's sister." Hardison replied.
"Umm, no they're not scaring her." Vance said as he ducked under the fence where he'd just carefully pulled the chainlink away from the ground. "She's like Eliot only deadlier. She's probably planning on having your whole team committed."
Emma laughed at Vance while she worked with the picture quality of Hardison's button cam. "You're right, Colonel. I'm not scared. Just trying to figure out just how crazy they all really are." She looked up at Sophie then at Nate with a smile. "But right now, crazy is all we got and I'm okay with that. If teaching Parker to be a...a fiddle is something she wants Eliot to do, then more power to him. Whatever works. As long as being a fiddle isn't a bad thing."
"It's not, Em. It's not." Matthew whispered while moving through the office to give the two men standing just outside the room the impression that he and Parker were real patrol officers and needed access to the building's records. "It's a good thing, trust me."
"Trust is something I got lots of right now." She answered. As she watched Hardison moving through the warehouse heading to another office at the back of the building just under a set of stairs, she noticed something odd on the outer edge of his camera's field of vision. "Hey, Hardison. Turn just a bit to your right. There's something there."
Nate moved closer as he noticed too what had caught Emma's eyes. As Hardison moved from behind several tall boxes and looked to his right, the three in the van along with Hardison gasped at what they saw.
"What?" Vance whispered as he worked on the door at the top of the outside stairs to the warehouse. He'd made it across the yard to the building in record time and was just waiting for the signal if he needed to bust in. He didn't have to bypass the camera here, as it was one that Emma had already captured for their use. "What is it?"
Both Whitmore and Parker stopped searching file cabinets and the desk in the office as they waiting to be told what was inside the building. Something was wrong.
"What is it Em?" Matthew asked when no one spoke for several moments. "What do you see?"
Parker moved out of the office and brushed past the two men headed for the main building. The two men followed quickly behind her trying to stop her. Matthew came up behind the two and raised his stun gun that had been strapped to his left leg and placed the business end against the back of first one then quickly the other one. As the men fell he stepped around them to hurry up and catch Parker.
"Emma? Nate? What the hell do you see?" Vance asked again as he finally got the door opened and rushed inside to stop dead in his tracks at the sight below him.
Parker and Whitmore quickly pulled open the main entrance door and hurried inside. They both came up short as they too finally saw what all of the others had seen.
There on the right side of the building stood what could only be described as a something out of a horror movie. Strapped to what looked like a large metal X was the body of a man. At least they thought it was a man. There was so much blood and it was obvious that the man was dead by the way his head hung.
Standing in front of the dead man taking pictures was a small man in a black suit. The man didn't seem to notice the intruders as he worked on documenting the dead man from every angle.
"Is... is that Eliot?" Parker's voice rang out causing the man in the suit to turn quickly towards her voice. "Did you kill Sparky?!"
Parker saw red as she looked from the dead man to the other man. Then she did something no one expected from Parker. She walked up to the man and snatched his camera from him and used it to smack the man across the face. When the man went down she threw the camera at him and reached for the tazer attached to her belt.
"No, Parker!" Hardison yelled as he came running over to her. "Don't!"
The man on the ground looked between Parker and Hardison and he looked terrified. "What...what the hell are you?" He pointed at Hardison. "Who the hell... what... the... hell?"
Matthew reached Parker before she could stun the man. He grabbed her hand holding the tazer but he wasn't able to control the kick she launched at the man as her booted foot connected with the man's groin. The man howled in pain and curled up on the floor.
"Get... away from me! You bitch!" The man screamed at them.
That was when Hardison lost his composure and he bent down to grab the man by his suit front. "Nobody calls mamma a bitch, you ass! No one." And Hardison hit the man square in the face with a punch that would have made Eliot proud. The man fell back unconscious and Whitmore slowly released his hold on Parker at seeing Hardison in all his zombie glory move like lightning.
"Well, that was... something..." Emma quietly whispered while Nate and Sophie just stared at the screen. "Really... wait a minute." She moved in closer to the screen. "Hardison focus in on the dead man."
Hardison slowly stood up and turned to look at the man strapped to the X. "Do I have to look? He's... not exactly pretty to look at."
Whitmore moved away from Parker and walked over to the man. "No he's not pretty, but you guys might want to grab some pictures of your own. I know this guy and while he's not Eliot, he was a very good friend." He reached out and lifted the man's bloody face to show the others what he'd seen. "From a distance and bloodied like he is, one might think he was Eliot. He's the same height and build."