Few understood why the abduction of this child in particular was so important to Father, but of course no one questioned him. He sat in the study of his penthouse holding his prize, smiling down at her. Outwardly he looked like any proud father; inwardly he relished the moment, the power, once more he proved he could do whatever he desired. But this time there were complications, no matter what the unforeseen factor was; now there was a mess that needed to be cleaned. He smiled, things were actually playing into his hands, it was not as he planned but this was far better. This way the prodigal son would feel even more pain. He hurt Father when he divorced himself from the family, now he would rejoin them. The alternative was death, to everything he now held sacred. He would suffer a fate worst than death and they would ensure that he lived with the pain, that would be his legacy.
FBI Safe house, Long Island;
Natalie sat looking out the window, at every turn there were reminders that she wasn’t free, that her daughter was missing, that there were still no answers. Nicole sat holding her sister; it was the only source of comfort she could give her right now. There were no words of comfort.
A short distance away, at the door, Special Agent John Decker spoke quietly into a cellular phone. As he turned the phone off, he turned to them and managed a genuine looking smile.
“I have some news that should cheer you up a bit.”
“What is it?” Nicole asked.
“William has been up a couple days now, and he’s doing fine.”
“That is good news.” Nicole said, squeezing her sister’s hand smiling. William saved their lives and Nicole now seemed prepared to give him a fair chance.
“That’s not all. I can’t get into specifics right now, but he has provided us with some very useful information.”
Natalie looked at John for the first time.
“All I can say is that we’re working a lead.” he paused, “I don’t want to give you any false hope, but I assure you that we’re doing everything in our power to get her home to you safely.”
“I don’t understand,” Natalie added shaking her head in frustration, “what do they want. We don’t have any money, what do they want from us?”
Decker looked at her dispassionately, volunteering no answer to her questions. As he opened the door, he turned back to them smiling.
“Oh, I almost forgot the best news. We leave first thing in the morning. I’m taking you to see William.”
William was aware that he couldn’t work his body to hard so soon after his ordeal, but he pushed himself as far as he possibly could under the circumstances. Simon ran with him the pass two mornings. William was safest with Simon, not that the other agents were incompetent, he was just the best. Simon worked ten years with S.W.A.T. in LA and had trained since the age of nine in the martial arts. He had all but mastered Shotokan, Judo and Aikido. He was not by any means special because of his training, but the combination of his tactical, weapons and hand to hand knowledge made him unique and deadly.
They climbed the small ridge, quarter mile from the house, side by side. As the house came into view Simon spotted the black sedan making its way down the dusty dirt road towards the house; a road that didn’t exist on any map. He stopped William, pushing him to the temporary sanctuary provided by a large pine tree.
William was surprised at the speed at which Simon removed his revolver. Simon gave him a little smile and handed him the gun.
“Hopefully there will be no need.” and with that he made his way towards the house. William’s heart pounded as sweat ran freely down his face. Fear prevented him from peering out from behind the tree. Seconds turned into minutes and four minutes seemed like an eternity, so finally he took the chance. And there she stood, he recognized her instantly and before he knew it he was standing in the open acknowledging Simon’s signal that it was O.K.
It had to be O.K. he thought as he jogged down the incline, she was here, despite the unfortunate circumstances she was here and she was safe. He stopped in front of her and for a moment everything and everyone seemed to fade. She moved towards him, he raised his hands slightly.
“I’m all wet and ----------” but she hugged him anyway.
“I’m sorry you had to find out about Michelle like this, but we both needed some space.”
“It’s O.K.,” he heard himself say as his tears ran down his cheek and merged with hers “I don’t blame you for anything. I love you don’t ever forget that. We’ll get her back sweetheart, we’ll get her back.”
Simon respectfully allowed them a few uninterrupted moments. Their embrace was as warm and intimate as anything he had ever seen and for a short time he envied them and the way they felt for each other. He placed a hand on William’s shoulder.
“I think we’ll all be a bit safer inside.” William nodded his understanding, turning and seeing Nicole and the three other agents for the first time. Then William and Nicole shared something they had never shared before, a smile.
As they made their way into the safe house Natalie wiped the tears from William’s face and smiled through her own. Simon decided to check in with the guys on his detail. Both William and John recognized the growing look of concern on Simon’s face. John approached him and spoke quietly.
“What is it man?”
“It’s probably nothing.”
“But I checked in with the guys, and you know how specific we are with what we say.”
“Well our guys on the access road always reply with all clear blue leader, always.”
“And this time they didn’t?”
“No. This time they just said clear, and there was something strange about the voice.”
“Simon?” William began, getting to his feet.
“It’s nothing William, I’m just going to check on our guys. I’ll be back.” As he sat back down he made eye contact with agent Decker, and was unnerved by his icy stare.
“I really need you to stay here, right now.” As Simon turned he was steered into the barrel of .45 automatic pistol held by his long time friend. Without taking his eyes off Simon he removed an identical gun from the small of his back and trained it in the direction of the slowly rising William.
“Sit, or you die right now. Makes no difference to me.” his tone was even and his voice clear. William sat right next to Doctor Taylor who could do little to hide her fear.
“What are you doing John?” Simon asked the question fearing that he already knew.
“Take a seat, slowly, I know you Simon.”
“You sonofabitch, you know you can’t get away with this.”
“I think we both know I can, and I will. Sit!” Simon sat next to William. With one gun leveled on them, John spoke returning the other to its holster.
“You know it’s funny. A minute ago I’m sure you would have given your life for mine, and now....” he paused.
“Now you actually want me dead don’t you?” Simon locked eyes with John and didn’t say a word.
“Yeah, I’m sure of it. You would like to do it yourself, wouldn’t you?”
“You sick fuck, what are you waiting on.”
“Don’t misunderstand me, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to kill you all myself. But without order there is chaos, this has to look right because it is not yet time for chaos.”
“What do you want from us?” William interjected.
“Knowing will be of no use to you. Let me remove all doubt, you’re going to die, all of you. That’s all you need to know.” he smiled as though he was absolutely pleased with himself.
John smiled at Simon, he knew how good he was and he actually regretted that he had to kill him.
“Four. All your guys are dead by now,” he said glancing at his watch “I’m sorry you have to go to, but you would never join us. Not the Simon I know.”
“You sick Fuck, you’re not even giving us half a chance.”
“That’s the point Simon.”
“I’ve never known you to walk away from a fight. Come on, you and me. Let us die with some dignity. You can’t lose John, you know the odds favor you.” he said glancing at William.
John’s smile broadened as he removed his jacket and pushed up the sleeves of his sweater. He picked up his walkie-talkie.
“Yeah this is Decker, give me exactly five minutes then clean the place. Yes I’m sure.”
Simon was already on his feet, his sweater discarded exposing a sweat soaked armless that matched his track pants. Then Decker did something that surprised them all, he removed a small six-inch cylinder from his pocket attached it to the gun and without hesitation put a bullet in Nicole’s chest and leg. The third and final bullet found Doctor Taylor’s head making a hole the size of a quarter between her eyes and a significantly larger one at the back of her head. Decker accomplished just what he wanted, panic. Blood streaked across William’s face but it wasn’t his own. Nicole seemed on the verge of passing out and Natalie’s mouth was agape but no sound came from it. Simon assessed the situation quickly, knowing that they had even less time now.
“William!” he shouted in attempt to snap him out of the shock.
“Apply some pressure to Nicole’s wounds. For God sake do it!”
He turned, pulling his head back, feeling the displacement of air caused by a blow that was intended for his head. His right hand shot downward blocking Decker’s foot. He moved, countering with a kick of his own catching John first in his stomach and then his face. As John stumbled backwards Simon stepped into him punching him with a closed fist to his face. He fell to the ground and immediately swept Simon’s feet out from under him. As he hit the floor John’s foot was quickly descending on Simon’s chest, he caught it and twisted it violently until he heard the sickening sound of cartilage snapping and bone cracking. John winced, but hardly made a sound. Simon was on his feet again, looking down at him as he struggled to his feet.
“Stay down John, don’t make me kill you.”
John smiled putting pressure on his broken ankle, painstakingly making his way towards Simon. Then Simon’s eyes focused on the gun on the table about a foot from John. He wasn’t coming towards him he was going for the gun! Simon moved just as his fingers found the handle, he snapped John’s wrist between his left and right hand but he still held onto the gun. Then, a loud explosion… John’s head snapped back as a large part of his head, blood and brains plastered the wall and floor. Simon turned as Natalie continued to squeeze the trigger, most of the shots missing their intended target. He rushed to her side taking the empty, smoking gun from her.
“He’s dead,” he said squeezing her shoulders firmly “now I need you here with me if we are going to make it out of this.” She shook her head but her eyes were vacant.
“William, how’s Nicole doing?”
“I don’t know, I can’t find a pulse, she’s lost consciousness.”
“Fuck!” Simon muttered under his breath.
“O.K. think Simon how do we get out of this!”
John’s walkie-talkie came crackling to life, and they all focused on it.
“Simon?” William muttered his voice shaky from shock and fear.
Simon looked at them, without saying a word and then he looked at the guns and took mental stock of the ammunition that remained.
“We’re going to make it,” he said finally, removing a clip from a .45 and checking it before locking it back in place “trust me.” His heartbeat was strong, visibly shaking his chest. He knew the odds were against them but he didn’t need their panic adding to his. Then, glass shattered all around them as canisters hit the floor and gas quickly filled the room. Tear gas!
“Hit the floor,” he barked “and keep your eyes shut!” knowing fully well what lay ahead. He swept the room one last time, taking a mental picture of everything, and then shut his eyes. He had to trust all his training now, he had to trust his ears. He held both of John’s .45 automatics as he crouched against a wall adjacent to the front door. It wasn’t long before the door smashed open and shots were being fired from either direction, suppression fire. He knew these men were professionals, therefore they wouldn’t be standing in the doorway, and only their guns were exposed. He returned their fire with two short bursts of his own directed to either side of the doorway, for a moment there was silence.
“Stay down!” His order broke the silence just as automatic fire engulfed the room. Wooden chips filled the air as they all laid as flat as possible and waited. The tear gas was clearing and Simon could see William covering both Nicole and Natalie as best as he could with his own body. He expected that sooner or later they would enter, hopefully there were only two left. He slid one of the guns over to William. It stopped just short of his hand.
“William!, it’s cocked and ready. Just point and squeeze.” He attempted to smile as William lifted the gun in his direction and squeezed off five shots. He turned his head in time to see a figure collapsing in the doorway. One more.
He moved lifting John’s limp body and throwing it through the front window. The lifeless body quickly became riddled with bullets. Then quietly, cautiously, the final member of the hit team approached. As he neared the body he heard the click of Simon’s gun.
“Drop it easy, and kick it away.” He didn’t raise his head, but he complied.
“Now remove that berretta from your holster, easy, fore finger and thumb. You know the drill.” He bit into his lower lip as he followed Simon’s instructions. He held the gun, by the butt, between the fore finger and thumb of his right hand.
“Okay, drop it right there!” Simon exclaimed suddenly. For the first time their eyes met.
“Do it! No one else has to die.” The, would be, assassin paused for a moment looking into Simon’s eyes. Then, he shut his eyes took a deep breath and in one fluid move brought the gun up to his own temple. Before Simon could scream No! He squeezed the trigger once and took what seemed like a full minute to hit the floor. Simon climbed through the window, studying the grounds carefully. Satisfied that at least for now they were safe, he fell to his knees with his eyes shut unable to reconcile the last violent moments of his life. Who wanted them dead, why was it so important? Did someone amongst them know too much, or were they too close to whatever the truth was? His head swarmed with questions, for now he had no answers. Death was the only thing that was certain.