Chapter TWENTY FIVE
You tread lightly, emitting not a single sound as you creep through the house, making your way to the second level.. You move quickly down the hallway towards the guarded room where you suspect Mikki is being held..
Peering around the corner, you spy a stern faced, broad shoulded guard, stationed outside the door.. You can't take any chances with this one.. He's much bigger than the guard from the garden, and too much noise will draw unwanted attention.. If you're caught inside the house you'll be trapped and that's the last thing you need.. Part of your job is doing whatever it takes.. And sometimes that doesn't nessicarily mean doing what's right..
You've killed before, and probably will many times more, but you never enjoy it.
Taking the nano-wire back out of your pocket you wind it around your left hand until its secure.. Next you remove a clear glass, pea-sized marble from your pocket.. You take a meditative, calming breath before you flick the tiny marble, lobbing it back down the hallway behind you.. It bounces once with a click, several feet away from you before it rolls, rattling along the ground..
Immediately yoy hear movement around the corner as the guard leaves his post to check the source of the sound.. You grip the wire tighter as his heavy footsteps approach..
He passes by you with his back into the wall you lean against, his eyes fixed on where the marble had originally landed.. In a split second you lunge, wrapping the wire around the mobsters neck..
You pull hard while raising a bent knee, lifting the sole of your boot to press into in back between his shoulder blades.. There is a muffled gargle in his throat before a sickening snap.. Its all over in a matter of seconds..
You struggle to bare the dead weight from the upper half of his body, lowing him softly to the floor with trembling arms .. Now, its only a matter of time before somebody figures out you were here..
You have to hurry..
You move to the door the mobster had been guarding, pushing it open and slipping inside.. The room is shrowded in darkness, straining to see more than a foot in front of you, you whisper, whipping out a bio-luminescent tactical light that casts an eerie yellow glow..
"Mikki?" In the middle of the room you see a bloodied heap, bound to what appears to be an ornate timber dining chair.. But it isn't Mikki De'lucca.. You reach up to your collar disabling the mic on your com-device so that the Specter guys outside can't listen in.. "C-Charlie?"
It's like seeing a ghost.. No, you are seeing a ghost.. Your heart stops.. Charles Everett.. His black hair matted to his forehead, blood trickles from his mouth and stains his torn shirt..
He looks like hell..
He looks up at you, though you're not sure he can even see through his bruised and bloodshot eyes.. "You.. You fucking bitch.. Have you come to finish me off?.."
Your mind races, scrambling to come up with your next move now that the whole operation has taken such an unexpected turn..
You need to make a call fast.. It seems kind of obvious that you can't leave him here.. "Finish you off? Charlie.. What the hell happened here? Where is Mikki?"
You move towards him, pulling a switch blade and cutting away the tape that ties his wrists and ankles.. He rubs the liberated raw flesh and winces as he rises to his feet.. "She's not here.. Ellerie.. He's fucking crazy.. You gotta get me out of here.." He staggers and you dip beneath his arm to support him..
He looks to to you, his eyes filled with doubt, before shaking his head.. "Just get me out of here, Elly... Please.."
Jackson calls time through your earpiece.. You reach up flicking your mic back on.. "Athena, you need to get out now, three minutes to evac point.."
You glance at Charles, who is looking more than a little worse for ware, whispering your response to Ford..
"Moving out, asset in company.."
You allow Charles to lean on you as you make your way to the door, giving him an assessing once over..
He's tough, you know that, but you're not sure he's going to make it out in his condition.. "You got this?"
He nods, and straightens up, pushing through his injuries with a look of pure determination on his face..
You pull the door open making your way out, pausing at the downed guard in the hallway while Charles bends to pat down the corpse, retriving a black pistol from the dead man's holster before he follows as you lead the way out along the same route you used to get yourself inside..
Once you're back outside in the cool night air, sneaking your way across the front gardens of the estate, Paxton's voice buzzes in your earpiece.. Clearly your back in his sights.. "Uhh, Athena, who the hell is that?"
"Not the time.." You grumble before you make the same leap up the rocky wall except this time you balance at the top, with your legs dangling over one side..
Reaching down you offer Charles your hands.. He clasps you in a firm grip and as he begins to climb the wall you let your body fall, using gravity and your entire body weight to hoist him to the top..
The rough stone scrapes agasint your cheek on the way down and you feel the biting pain of your skin grating..
You both hit the ground, falling on the damp grass outside the estate walls, you land on your hip with a gasp, him on his back with a groan..
Jasckon gives you the all clear, letting you know you managed to escape the estate without being sighted.. "Clear.."
Relieved, you push up to your hands and knees, out of breath from the little acrobatics act you just performed..
"So where are they?" You lift your head to look at Charlie as he pushes up to a crouching position..
"Who?" You ask, confused by his question..
He extands a hand to help you up and you take it.. "Your team.." Instead of helping you to your feet smoothly, he yanks you upward, twisting your arm behind you back as he slips behind you, pressing the barrel of his stolen pistol to your temple..
You have to believe he doesn't really want to kill you, if he did he's had years to get the job done..
So you don't resist..
You don't struggle as he begins to walk you backwards towards the embankment that falls away from the slope of the street..
"I'm not letting you take me in.. You and that prick.. You ruined my fucking life.. I trusted you, I gave you everything.. But you were just his little fucking lap dog!" He growls in your ear and you know both Ford and Paxton are listening in..
Probably freaking out..
"What are you talking about? I came here for Mikki.. You--you're supposed to be dead.." You stammer..
"Athena, advise?" Jackson makes an attempt to get a read on the situation..
"Stand down, Ares.." You call them off.. There's no need, Charles is not going to shoot you.. He's confused, that makes two of you, but you had been friends as well as partners, you'd had eachothers back once..that doesn't just go away..
Charlie's grip on you tightens anxiously.. Instinctually he continues pulling you towards the cover of the slope.. "Ares, I have the shot.."
You repeat your command to Paxton, this time with more urgency.. "Repeat, Apollo, stand down.." You turn your head a little to peer over your shoulder at Charles.. He looks like a man possessed..
You have no idea what happened to him all those years of living in the shadow of his apparently fake death.. But this isn't the same man you remember.. He's broken..
You need to understand what he means.. How did you ruin his life?
"Apollo, stand down. Athena, advise?" Jackson awaits your next call..
"Charlie.. You don't want to do this.. I'm trying to help Mikki.. You remember Mikki right, your wife.."
He twitches.. "They have her! Angelo thinks I took her but I didn't! They did! And you work for them! You destroyed the evidence, you must have! No! Shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up!" His tone rises and you can tell he's getting more agitated by the second..
"Who has her? Elijah? You're not making any sense, Charlie.. Please.."
"No.. I can't trust you.. I can't trust anyone.. You did this! I gave you everything! YOU DID THIS!" Charlie presses the pistol harder into your temple and you wince.. He half mumbles and half shouts, speaking half to you and half to himself, twitching and trembling..
A low impatient growl rumbles in your ear.. Paxton.. "Fuck this.." A whizzing projectile streaks by..
You barely have time to register the sound of the soft thud and spray of warm blood across your cheek before you realise Charles has been hit in the shoulder..
He stumbles backward as you spin around.. "No.. Charlie.." You reach out to grab him as he looks down, shocked.. His eyes wide.. His coat slips through your fingers as he staggers back and his footing falters..
His body slumps and he falls, tumbling down the steep embankment... You hear the commotion kicking off from the estate across the way, guards shouting.. The mobsters having started their search after discovering that Charles has escaped..
Rapid footsteps approach behind you while you stand stunned, frozen, staring down into the steep dark drop-off where your resurrected former partner - and once friend - had just dissappeared.. "Ellerie?.. Ellerie we gotta go.." You spin around, Jackson reaches out placing a hand on your shoulder.. His features are pinched with concern, but he is calm as speaks low and steady.. You nod dazed... "C'mon baby, we gotta go.." With a shake he snaps you out of your trance..
He's right, you can't just stand here out in the open.. You take off together running in the direction of the SUV.. Ford directing Paxton to forget the rally point and instead, recover Charlie's body.. "Apollo, recover your target.. On our way.."
You reach the car, slipping into the cool leather of the passenger seat.. the reality of what just transpired setting in.. "Holy.. Shit.."
Jackson turns to you as he starts the engine, winding the huge vehicle down and around the steep narrow lane to where Charlie would have landed, where Paxton waits.. "What the fuck just happened, Sunshine.."
You look over at him.. His jaw is set firm and his hands grip the steering wheel.. Several things are off about the whole operation so he's pissed, and rightfully so.. But you can see he's trying to keep his cool.. "That's exactly what I'd like to know, Soilder.."
He pulls over and Paxton jumps into the backseat.. "He's gone.."
You blow out a breath as you tip your head back into the soft leather, trying not to let your anger show.. Paxton had completely ignored you out there.. "You mean, he's dead.."
You hear the click of his rifle as he begins to disassemble it.. "No. I mean he's gone. I didn't shoot to kill.. He must have taken off.. What the fuck, Ford? You were seriously going to let him take hero.."
Ford swipes a hand over his face and grumbles something that sounds like 'arrogant fucking asshole' under his breath as he pulls the SUV back out onto the road, heading back toward the city..
You spin around to meet Paxton's angry glare with a furious expression of your own.. "Are you fucking kidding me Paxton?"