Really, he should have waited for daylight. He’d arranged for the building to be empty and he could take his time looking, but the way he was too antsy to sit, his skin itching at the idea of sitting on his hands for twelve hours just wasn’t appealing. Something inside him wanted in that building as soon as it got dark and by now Jack knew better than to deny what his instincts were telling him. That was another thing he’d learned about himself – what he felt was usually better than what he thought. So, he let his gut talk him out of another night of TV at another cheap motel.
Having been in the building, Jack knew what to look for. He remembered where the latch to the gate was, and could recall the code the foreman used to get the elevator to move. He could remember where the security cameras were, and for some reason he knew that they had a twelve second blind spot once they rotated fully to the right. He knew which floor boards squeaked, and he knew that the security guard was sixty-five and had seemed more interested in watching The Price Is Right than dealing with the foreman. These were all things he hadn’t thought he was paying attention to at the time, but he could call them to the forefront of his mind with startling clarity. It was actually impressive. He knew all that but he didn’t even know his real name. At least it was going to be put to good use.
As soon as it was dark enough, Jack made his way back to the site, leaning his bicycle against the darkest part of the building across the street, hoping no one would take it. No one would suspect it was Jack’s best means of transportation, not when cars were so much more common and so much more coveted. Knowing that he might need to make a getaway, he’d stolen a bicycle. It made sense in his mind. The streets were congested with cars, far too many for him to make a quick escape. However, there were many narrow alleys that would force anyone chasing him to follow on foot, rather than in an automobile. He’d noted all that once he’d left the site earlier that day, already planning his exit strategy.
Watching the site from across the street, Jack noted that the only real difference was that there was a spot light out front, probably to help the elderly security guard, should he get off his massive rump and go to look around the area. It would have to be dealt with or he wasn’t going to get past the gate. He’d come prepared for that, too. Digging into his pocket, Jack pulled out a sling, or rather a sling shot. It was a simple thing he’d made with the motel sheets he’d ripped apart earlier. It wasn’t much – just a length of torn sheet that looked pretty unassuming. Folding it over, he reached for a rock off the sidewalk and dropped it into the fold of the cloth. He tested the weight for a moment, moving the ends of the sheet a bit to make sure he had it as balanced as it was going to get. Swinging the rock in the cloth, he got a momentum going, finally letting go of one end and watching as the rock soared at the light. It made a breaking noise, electricity hissing into the night, but it did go out. And low and behold – no pudgy security guard. Who would have guessed?
“Showtime,” he muttered, jogging across the street and flattening himself along the fence as he made his way to where the latch was.
It was ridiculously simple to cross the yard. He even took a small detour to where the mobile office was, making sure that the guard was firmly enraptured with some prime time drama. He was sure he’d be fine, until a commercial break. Wanting to take advantage of the distraction, Jack scurried across the yard and entered the building. The doors were all covered in tarps, so it was easy enough to slip in without making a noise, which was something Jack was grateful for. He didn’t like thinking about how much noise the elevator was going to make, but the stairs were in dire need of repair and he wasn’t looking forward to his leg going through one of them. If he got trapped, no one would find him until at least the next day, and he wouldn’t know how to explain himself then. So despite the noise it would make, he was resigned to taking the elevator up to the third floor. It was a simple construction lift elevator, seeing as how the old building was never equipped with one, but was getting a full elevator system installed in the renovations. The gate rattled as it was pried open and it clanked shut behind him rather loudly for Jack’s tastes. Still, the code worked and the thing ran smoothly as it took a solid thirty seconds to move him three stories. Once he was up there, Jack stood still on the lift, listening to hear if the guard was coming to investigate now. When he didn’t hear anything after two minutes, he let himself off the lift and made his way to the studio once again. The beam from his flashlight lit up the painted dancers on the walls, shining as he moved the beam until it rested on the out of place dancer.
Setting the flashlight and the bag he’d brought with him on the floor, Jack ran his hands over the painted figure, feeling for anything out of place. The wall felt normal, so he widened his search, palms running along the wall in a greater area. Finally, his fingernails caught on an edge. It was well patched, clearly no one would notice if they were just there to pull the wall down, but Jack felt it all the same. He ran his fingers along the edging, discovering that a square about the size of a laptop screen had been cut out of the wall at some point and then fixed again. Jack reached into his bag with one hand, the other keeping a hold of the seam. He drew out an exact-o-knife, having come prepared for this. Running it along the seam, Jack watched as the patched mortar parted easily, sending white dust down his arm. He hoped to all that was holy that he’d made up the asbestos shit.
Finally, he pulled the section free from the wall and picked up the flashlight again, shining it into the hole. It didn’t look like there was anything in there, but he’d learned that nothing ever was what it seemed. Reaching his arm in, Jack felt around blindly for a minute before his hands brushed something with fabric. He reached in and grasped the container, hearing the Velcro come loose from where it was attached to something in the wall. Once it was in his hands, he knew exactly what it was.
Rand had said he took all the research, and that included viable samples. These were the viable samples, armed and ready to have the final bit of DNA added to hit the target. Opening the padded case, he let his fingers trace over the four vials. They were still cold, which made him frown. He zipped it back up, reaching into the hole again, feeling the cold pipe the packaging had been attached with Velcro to. Low budget refrigeration for a deadly weapon. They could have been found, destroyed, allowed to warm and become useless. Anything could have happened and he’d gambled with it.
Suddenly the lights switched on, blinding Jack for a moment. When his vision cleared, he was blinking at where the guard was standing in the doorway. Only, he wasn’t looking confident or even surprised to see Jack crouched by the wall. No, he looked terrified. This wasn’t the terror people showed when they came across an intruder at a job site. No, this was something else.
Jack frowned at the feminine voice, watching as the guard stumbled into the room only to be followed by a woman holding a gun. Of all the things Jack had expected, that was probably the very last one. She was mid-height with dark hair and dark eyes. Seeing as how she was all dressed in black, she appeared to have very pale skin and dark red lips. She was followed by a hulking man who was carrying a crowbar instead of a gun, but he didn’t look any less intimidating because of it. In fact, Jack was more wary of him than her. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that getting hit by the crowbar would hurt a whole lot more than getting shot.
“Please,” the guard rasped, clutching at his chest.
“Shut up,” the woman ordered, eyes scanning the room and landing right on Jack. She smiled a bit, looking far too pleased. “Well. It looks as if rumors of your demise were a bit too premature.”
Jack felt his eyebrow twitch at the comment. It was one thing to be amnesic, another completely to be dead. He would know – he spent a great deal of time contemplating the difference when he’d been in the bathtub of ice. He could deal with losing his memory, but he resented the idea of everyone thinking he was dead. Unless this was one person who should have thought he was out of the way. She didn’t look like the kind of person who he wanted to know that he was alive and well. In fact, he was sure that if she thought he was dead, there was a good reason for it. It was probably why he’d been able to move around as freely as he had. Well, minus Rand and the rest of the crazy he’d been lugging around.
“Your copy of the obituary is lost in the mail, I’m sure,” Jack replied, catching the snort of amusement from the other man. Clearly she caught it, too, glaring at her partner until he coughed a bit.
These two were clearly a bit amateurish when it came to this kind of thing, he could tell. They weren’t the kind of people he would assume to be on the wrong side of the law. After all, if they were here looking for him, looking for the thing he’d hidden, then they were probably part of the cell he was trying to bring down. He’d have time to contemplate it all later. Right then, she had a gun, he had a crowbar...there were more pressing matters, clearly.
“Now, Dean, you’ve been a naughty scientist. Hand over the package and the book,” she directed.
“Actually, I was thinking about holding onto them,” Jack replied, adding the name Dean to his list of possible aliases, as well as the fact that he was supposed to have a book along with the vials. There was no book. He was sure he would have felt it when he was armpit deep into the wall. But as long as they thought he had the book, he’d hold all the cards, so he wasn’t about to tell these two that he didn’t have it.
“Let me rephrase that, Deanie,” she spoke, moving so that she was standing behind the cowering guard again, muzzle of her gun flush with the back of his head now. “Either you give me what I want or the old man’s grey matter is going to redecorate the place.”
The man cowered and whimpered again, clearly rethinking his part-time post retirement gig as a security guard. Jack really couldn’t blame him. She really did seem a little gun happy. Sighing, Jack slowly stood from where he was crouched, watching as the man with the crow bar’s muscles bunched in anticipation. Jack wasn’t too worried just yet. There were several feet between the mammoth and himself. A bullet would make that distance in less than a second, though, and he was happy to find she hadn’t moved the gun an inch. Well, happy for himself. The guard looked about ready to piss himself. Jack, though, he didn’t even feel his heart rate going up or the room getting hotter. He wasn’t panicked in the slightest by the presence of a fire arm or two goons holding a gun to the back of an innocent man’s head. Yeah, there was definitely something wrong with his moral compass.
“Alright,” Jack replied, setting the container on the floor and nudging it forward with his toe.
“Where’s the book, Dean?” she asked.
“Let’s start with the vials. You let the guy go, and we’ll talk about the book.”
Something in him was screaming that he needed to clear the room of civilians. It was important that no one got hurt because of him. Well, not because of him, but because they were in the middle of whatever this was. He couldn’t see himself washing this man’s blood off his hands and whistling about it. Yeah, being a good person sucked.
The woman considered it for a long moment before pulling the gun away from the old man’s head and shoving him with her booted foot.
“Get lost, pal,” she ordered. “And remember – I have your wallet.”
The guard paled, nodding. Jack knew the tactic. She had his home address, so if he called the cops, she could come for him. Even if they moved, she could still find him with his name, and probably his social, in her hands. She was a cold hard bitch. It was kind of sexy in a scary way.
Once the guard was gone, Jack watched as the big guy lumbered over to pick up the case. It looked dwarfed in his large hands. Jack couldn’t imagine him doing anything else, aside from hitting people. He just had the build for it. He really hoped he wouldn’t be making the acquaintance of those fists any time soon. He was far too pretty to be sporting a black eye.
“How’d you find me?” Jack asked, hoping to throw her off with a little misdirection.
“One of our guys spotted ya,” the big guy supplied. “Followed ya here earlier. We thought we’d come in and see what ya were looking for, but we found ya instead.”
“There, there, Deanie. You’re no secret agent. An elephant could have followed you,” she added, coming closer so that she could look over the once more open case. “That looks like what’s missing from the cooler.”
“I think it is,” the man agreed. “Where’s the book, Dean?”
“It’s somewhere you just won’t get it,” Jack replied, doing some quick thinking.
He couldn’t help but think it would have been good to know what this book was all about. If he knew what it was, he could have either kept it or had some way to bull shit his way through all this. It was really starting to drive him nuts not knowing what was coming next and he was done being a step behind. Well, at least he could remember pop culture tidbits. Not four feet from him, he had the real life version of Natasha and Boris, minus the Russian accents. She had a gun, he had a crowbar, and unless he wanted to reach for the gun in his waistband, Jack was unarmed. He wasn’t too worried – his super spy ninja moves had been coming out more and more. Sudden movements had him reacting with cat-like reflexes that would have put Jackie Chan to shame. He’d accidently judo-chopped the alarm clock that very morning. It was beyond repair, so hopefully he could hold his own.
Only, he didn’t really have to. They thought he was Dean something or other – a scientist. He was supposed to be an academic. He recalled Rand bringing that up before he’d ditched out of the car. He’d have that to his advantage.
“Wanna try that again?” Natasha asked, aiming the gun right at him.
“I’m serious. It’s wedged so far down the wall that I can’t reach it,” Jack explained, hoping that there was enough earnestness in his expression.
Natasha looked like she was considering it before nodding Boris forward. Boris lumbered over and Jack felt himself tensing for a fight. Only, Boris seemed more interested in going for the hole he’d made in the wall.
“Outta the way, Doc,” he ordered, pushing Jack aside so he could get right where he needed to be.
Jack stepped back a couple feet, noting the gun followed him, but her eyes were trained on Boris’ back as he shoved an arm down the wall and started groping around. He’d also set down the crowbar in order to do so. Jack’s brain was quickly looking between them, judging distances. Yeah, the crowbar looked like the more likely target, but when he grabbed it, she’d shoot him. If he lunged at her, she’d either fire on him and kill him, or he’d have a window of opportunity to knock her down and take it. Either way, he was pretty sure he wasn’t getting out of the building without getting shot. But what did he have to lose. Once they figured out that there wasn’t any book down there, they’d shoot him anyways.
Well, he might as well pick door number two.
Lunging at Natasha, he was happy to find that he had been right. By the time she thought to look at him and fire, he was twisting the gun one way, elbowing her in the ribs at the same time. She gasped in pain, hand slackening on the gun. Jack managed to rip it from her grasp and whip it around to graze the side of her head with the metal weapon. She stumbled away and Jack leveled the gun at them. Boris was trying to pull his arm free, but from the way he was tugging on his jacket, it was apparent that he was stuck. Natasha squinted at him, looking enraged.
“Bad move, egg head,” she hissed.
“Really? That’s like something out of a bad movie,” Jack chided.
“You have five seconds to give me the book,” she ordered.
“And if I don’t?” he challenged. “I have the gun, and the big guy seems like he’s pretty well stuck for the time being. I’m holding all the cards this time.”
“Only, I know you. You can’t shoot anyone,” she replied, walking towards him. “You threw up when the entire case of blood hit the floor in the lab. Remember? It was shiny red, glistening on the ground.”
Jack was pretty sure there was a lot she didn’t know about him, including the fact he’d probably pretended to throw up for her benefit and to establish his cover. But one thing was for sure; if anyone reported gun fire, he’d have half the city coming down on him before he could make it over the bridge. No, he needed to do this the same way he walked into it – quietly.
“You’re right. I really don’t need to shoot you to stop you,” he replied, popping the clip and tossing both away separately. Even if she did go for the gun, she’d have a heck of a time getting both together before she could use it.
“Alright. Let’s see what you got, science boy,” she taunted, shrugging off her jacket to reveal a tight tank top.
“Hayley,” Boris grunted.
“I got this,” Natasha replied, lowering into a fighting stance.
Jack felt himself sinking down into a better footed-stance, too. He was ready and willing to fight. She thought he was just his cover? Well, nerds had to know how to defend themselves, too.
She moved first, coming at him with a punch. He barely dodged it, landing a kick of his own to the side of her arm as she moved to block him. Every punch was countered, every kick met resistance and for several long moments they were evenly matched. Jack was impressed, knowing that she had to have some skill of her own, and that the only reason why he’d landed the hits he had earlier were because he’d surprised her. He had the feeling he was still surprising her as she backed away, panting a little. Her ribs had to still be smarting.
“Well, looks like you have some hidden talents,” she offered.
“Many,” Jack replied, arms still up in case she used the lull of conversation to strike.
And she did just that, aiming a kick at his middle. Jack caught her boot, twisting so that she had to follow the momentum or break her leg. She hit the floor hard, body smacking against the wood. Jack knew it was cheap, but he didn’t give her a chance to get back up. Still holding her foot, he aimed a kick to her leg, hearing her scream. Even he knew that if he hadn’t broken her leg, he’d definitely put her down for the count.
“No!” Boris growled, pushing against the groaning wall. How Jack had managed to get through it with an exact-o-knife and Boris couldn’t even pull free was a marvel for modern science. “I’ll kill you for that, Doc!”
“If you ever get your arm out of there, you’re welcome to try,” Jack offered, dropping her foot and wincing a bit at the second scream. Yeah, she wasn’t helping his stealth plan.
Kicking away the crowbar, Jack bent and picked up the case from where it had been dropped. It looked so unassuming, like a case people used for their insulin injections. But Jack knew better. This was something big. He’d have to keep a hold of it so that they didn’t hurt themselves.
“I’m warning you, Doc,” Boris reiterated.
“And I’m warning you,” Jack replied, feeling irritated. “Stop using my research to kill people. It’s a simple request.”
Natasha managed a bark of laughter, still clutching her leg. “You always think you’re so smart. That was always your downfall, Dean. You don’t seem to realise that you’re not the only one out there who can make the weapon. Once it’s back in our hands, we’ll figure out the chemistry again, and then...well, you can watch what happens.”
Jack knew she was telling the truth. It was just a matter of time before they figured it out again. He wouldn’t let them use it, but right then, all he could do was pocket the case, straighten his jacket and head for the door.
“Oh, and Dean?”
He turned when he was in the doorway, wondering what she wanted then. The sound of the gunshot was loud in the room and all Jack could think was that he was well and truly screwed now.