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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chapter 23

  It was night when they came back for her. She didn’t have a watch or a window but her internal body clock told her that she should be sleeping when they dragged her out of the cage. She felt Vero’s grasp slip away, heard her calling softly after her as she went limp in their hands and made them drag her across the floor. She pulled free of their grasp at the foot of the stairs and they were forced to carry her. That, however, meant that they dropped her very unceremoniously in the small room instead of propping her up in the chair. Her breath was pressed out of her lungs and she gasped like a guppy out of water, right up to the moment that she was kicked in the ribs and suddenly she couldn’t breathe and curled around herself biting through her lip to try and hold back the pain.

“Where is she?” Cody smirked and shook her head. He could break all of her ribs, she wasn’t telling him shit. “You’ve got a real fuckin’ death wish, don’t you?” He poked at her tender ribs with the toe of his shoe. Cody grimaced but swallowed the whimper of pain she wanted to release. “Just tell me where the girl is and you and your friend can go free.” Cody rolled her eyes, or at least she thought she did. It was hard to tell when it hurt just to open them.

“Fuuuck you,” she croaked and then tensed, preparing for another kick that didn’t come. She listened to the sound of his footsteps as he paced slowly around her. She heard him stop, waited for the next source of pain, for him to kick her or pull her hair but he just stood behind her, so still she could hear him breathing.

This is it’, she told herself, taking a deep breath as she heard the sound of the safety being taken off of a gun. She had a moment, just a second of surprise that he would be the one to do it, to spill her brains all over his fancy shoes. She hadn’t heard his henchman come in and as she strained to, she still couldn’t hear anything but his breathing, and now her own, sharp, shallow breaths while she waited for the slow motion movie, for her life to flash before her eyes. It didn’t happen. ‘Damn’, she thought with disappointment, ‘I was looking forward to that’. Becky’s big blue eyes flashed in her imagination, her dimples, her slightly gap toothed grin. Cody tried to hold that image in her mind but it quickly morphed into a scene that made her smile.

Sid and Becky on the beach and that crazy big castle they’d built. It was okay, she decided, if she didn’t remember anything else, if this was her last thought on earth. That had been almost a perfect day.

“I love you both”, she whispered, sending out as powerful a mental hug to each of them as she could as she felt the cold steel of the muzzle of the gun being pressed to her temple.

“Both who?” he growled, his voice close behind her, the smooth taste of expensive scotch on his breath,

“Fuck and you,” she hissed back with a grin on her face. She didn’t even flinch when he cracked the back of her skull.

“Pretty smart mouthed for someone who’s about to die,” he reminded her, pressing the muzzle of the gun to the side of her head. She should be terrified, she thought with a certain amount of detachment. She should be shaking and crying and pleading, if not with her captor then with God, making some kind of promise that if he’d just get her the hell out of here she’d go to church every Sunday or something. ‘But we both know that’s bullshit right?’ she mused silently. It felt strange to feel this calm when she knew she was about to die. “Last chance,” he growled, pressing the muzzle of the gun harder against her skull. “Tell me where she is.”



“That’s not how you do it.”

Sid looked down at the pancake in the pan in front of him. It looked fine to him and he’d followed the directions on the box. He was actually pretty proud of himself.

“Whaddyamean?” he asked as he watched Becky tug her bright blue plastic step stool up to the stove beside him.

“You have to give it toes,” she explained, reaching for the measuring cup he’d used to ladle the batter into the pan. “It’s a monster foot. It has to have toes,” she repeated very seriously as she carefully ladled five small dots of batter along the top of the pancake he’d poured. “There, better,” she handed him the cup and then climbed down and went back and climbed up onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar.

Sid stared down at the pancake and smiled. Cody must have done it like this for her. His smile dissolved as he thought about that, about her standing right where he was standing now in nothing but one of his old ratty t-shirts, her hair pulled back into a simple pony tail, fresh faced making them all breakfast. If he closed his eyes he could still smell her, the vanilla cupcake scent of her warm skin and the ripe scent of June strawberries in her hair. It made his chest ache.

“You should probably turn that over now,” Nathalie appeared at his side and held her hand out for the flipper thing. Sid shook his head. Until he was told otherwise, Becky was his responsibility.  He flipped over the pancake on his own but took the plate that his boss’s wife offered. He’d taken their offer of help but not of their home. If Cody got free, if she came back, she would come home...come here and he’, they’d be waiting.

“How’s that squirt?” he asked as he slid the plate in front of her. She looked down at the pancake and then up at him, clearly unimpressed.

“Where’s the strawberries and the whip cream?” He opened his mouth to argue but quickly closed it. Her mother was dead, murdered right in front of her, then she’d been kidnapped and now the only family she had in the entire world was missing and she was living with strangers, well, relative strangers. If he spoiled her a little bit he didn’t think it was a bad thing.

“Coming right up,” he grinned and shrugged when Nathalie rolled her eyes and shook her head.

He was shaking the can of aerosol whip when one of the guards, the man he recognized as the one who’d driven them here from the airport, rounded the corner still talking into his phone. He paused, watching the man as he signed off.

Something was clearly up.

“You asked me to keep you informed,” the man’s deep, gravelly voice filled the sudden silence as Sidney nodded, mute. “I don’t want to get your hopes up,” the man added with a furtive glance over Sid’s shoulder towards Becky, “but the FBI has been tracking a suspect, a high ranking member of the HA and he took a trip last night out of the city...,” the man’s voice dipped to nearly a whisper as he leaned towards Sidney. “He went to an abandoned factory and didn’t return to his hotel last night. They’re going in to investigate. I just thought you should know.”

“I want to go.” It was out of his mouth before the thought actually formed in his mind but even the small flicker of panic from the part of him that knew that it was a stupid idea couldn’t overcome the overwhelming urge to be there.

“You’d just be in the way,” Nathalie said quietly, putting her hand on his arm as if that gentle touch could stop him from bolting from the house this instant. “They’d have to worry about you too. Just let the men do their job and I’m sure they’ll let us know the instant they know anything.”

“Mrs. Lemieux is right,” the guard nodded and gave Mario’s wife a grateful smile. “We don’t even know that they’ll find anything there but if they do, they’ll let us know right away.” Sidney shook his head. How could he just sit here, eating pancakes when they might be freeing Cody right now?

“Even if they do find her there,” the guard added in a firm tone, putting his hand on Sid’s shoulder and pressing down, as if that could hold him in place, “they wouldn’t let you see her. She would have to be checked out by medics and then they’ll want to ask her some the time they do all of that, we’ll have you wherever they tell us to be.” He didn’t like it, and it went against every competitive cell in his body, but he nodded and turned back to the stove, staring down at the empty pan in front of him.

“Ummm where’s the whipcream?”

“Right,” Sid looked down at the aerosol can that he was still holding in his hand. She needed him here. If she was out there, if she was still alive, she would be banking on him looking after things at home. He would not let her down. “Coming right up,” he put on his best smile and tipped the can over her pancake and sprayed a mountain of the stuff onto it until she giggled and told him to stop. Nathalie was right behind him with some out of the can strawberry pie filling. Where she’d found it or how it had gotten into his house, he had no idea but the wide eyed grin on Becky’s face was all he needed to square his shoulders, take his protein shake and watch her dive in as he tried his best not to run down the stairs and dive into his car.

He’d have to settle for calling Flower. At least then they could pace the house together.

“Uh boss, we’ve got company.”

Cody cringed as she heard the shot go astray, as she listened to the sound of it pinging off of the concrete floor beside her head as her captor turned towards the intrusive sound of one of his lackeys opening the door with a scraping sound that could have easily been included on an creepy Hallowe’en special effects album.

“Can’t you see I’m busy here?” the mob boss growled at the voice behind them and Cody wondered, just for a minute, if the guy peering in the door was more frightened of him than she was. The thought made her smile for one, brief moment. “Take care of it you fucking idiot!” She heard the door slam behind them and that, more than the sound of the gunshot right beside her head, made her jump.

“Just do it,” she demanded, hating that a tear had leaked out onto her cheek. She wanted to be brave and defiant. She didn’t want to bargain and plead with this asshole but most of all, she really didn’t want to give in to the fear that had her heart hammering against her chest. “Fucking do it already,” she snapped, reaching blindly behind her and grabbing a hold of his wrist, pulling the gun muzzle back towards her, this time turning to face it and pushing it against the centre of her forehead. “Do it!” she repeated and knew that tears were now streaming down her cheeks.  It wasn’t that she wanted to die, far from it, but she didn’t want to tell him where Becky was either and if this went on much longer....

The sound of muffled gunshots somewhere in the near distance made them both freeze. She could feel his hesitation all the way down the barrel of the gun. She could feel his body turn back towards the door. Part of her brain told her that she was saved, if only she could hang on another minute or two. The other half of her brain was sure that white knights only rode to the rescue in fairy tales and in Hallmark TV movies. She was going to die, here in this small, concrete room and no one was going to save her.

“Fuck.” His voice was strained and low and as she looked up the barrel of the gun, peering out of her swollen eyelids, Cody watched him watching the door and even as she tried to hang onto the gun, he pulled it from her hand as easily as taking candy from a baby. She wanted to cry, wanted to scream at him to get it over with but she also couldn’t help looking at the door, hoping it would crash open and men in Kevlar vests with assault rifles would burst through. “Stay here,” he growled and she opened her mouth to ask where he thought she was going to go just as the butt of the gun came down on her temple and the whole world went black.

“Becks,” Sid reached forward with his good arm to gently draw her hand away from Cody’s bruised and battered face. He remembered her doing the same thing to him when he’d lain in a hospital bed just like this one but he hadn’t looked like that.

“But she has to wake up,” Becky turned and gave him a pleading look, her bottom lip jutting out and trembling.

“She will baby girl,” he promised, running his fingers through her golden curls, partly as reassurance to her and partly because he very much wanted to run them through Cody’s long dark hair to reassure himself that she was real, except that he was afraid to touch her. She looked so broken and small with her dark livid bruises a stark contrast to the bleached white hospital sheets. He was afraid if he touched her he’d hurt her even more and he wouldn’t do that, not for all the tea in China.

Becky turned back and stared at her Aunt and he could see, in her solemn expression, that she was willing Cody to open her eyes. He felt the same way, except for the part of him that could clearly see that her body badly needed rest.

“Come on squirt let’s go get something to eat. We’ll come back in a little bit. Maybe she’ll be awake by then.” He didn’t actually believe it in the same way that he could hardly believe that she was actually alive, in that bed, close enough for him to touch.

“No! Want to stay here.” Becky curled into Cody’s body and laid her cheek on her Aunt’s stomach and stared up at her face. She’d been afraid to look at her at first with her swollen, split lip and the cuts carved into her cheeks and her darkly, grotesquely swollen black eyes. She looked like something out of a horror movie, Sid supposed. She looked beautiful to him. He knew about black eyes, that in a few days the swelling would go down and her lip would heal and maybe she’d have a couple of scars that would lighten over time. The most important thing to him was the gentle rise and fall of her chest that said she was alive and breathing. The rest was cosmetic.

“Do you want me to get you something?” He looked back to see Flower standing in the doorway. He had dark circles under his eyes but that unsinkable smile of his lit his face. Vero was in the next room, a little dehydrated, a little thinner than normal but otherwise she was fine.

“No, I’m good,” Sid smiled as he watched his friend nod. Flower opened his mouth to say something else, but Sid shook his head. Gratitude should be saved for the swat team that had saved them both and maybe for Cody, who obviously had taken the worst of it. Flower nodded and headed back into the hall, probably back to Vero’s room. Sidney watched him go, wondering if, as the Captain of the team he should go over, pay his respects, check on her. He knew that part of the reason he wanted to was to hear how bad it had been, to know something about what they’d been through so he’d know what he was dealing with.

He glanced at Becky, but she’d shut her eyes and he could tell by the slow rise and fall of her small back that she’d fallen asleep. It had been hours. He didn’t blame her. She wasn’t going anywhere and he could just go next door, check on Vero and....

“Tell him he’d better marry that girl.” His heart leaped in his chest and he turned slowly, almost thinking he hadn’t really just heard that rasp, that he’d turn around and she’d still be inert. He saw her hand first, the one with the tube attached to it, gently stroking through Becky’s hair. He followed it up to her face and saw her bruised, split and bloody lips almost curl into a smile. “She’s stronger than he thinks.”

Sid was frozen for a moment watching her lips move, almost sure he was dreaming it and that his imagination was playing tricks on him. But then her hand moved again and this time she reached out towards him. It seemed to take forever to make his own hand move, to reach out towards her, but then he felt her hand slide between his own and his heart leaped in his chest.

“I love you,” she whispered and he saw her trying to open her eyes to look at him and his heart broke a little.

“I fucking love you so fucking much,” he whispered hoarsely, barely able to make a sound past the huge lump that had formed in his throat as he moved to her side, bringing her hand up to his mouth and kissing each scraped knuckle, each tiny abrasion on her hand.

“You’d better,” she tried to smile again and it looked like it hurt, “because I almost died for you. For both of you,” she added with the hint of a smile tugging at her mouth. Sidney felt the hot sting of tears. He wanted to tell her that he’d have taken her place, would have gladly taken every single blow for her but he couldn’t make the words come out. Tears streamed down his face. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried. “I’d do it again,” she whispered, giving his hand a weak squeeze, “for this.” He nodded and put his hand over hers’ on top of Becky’s head and then leaned in and gently brushed his lips over hers’.

“Don’t though, okay?” he whispered, kissing a spot just above her right eye that wasn’t bruised or cut. “Don’t leave me again, ever, promise?” She nodded, and winced just a little at the movement. He knew what that was like.

“Can you...come in here, with us?” she asked in a whisper, glancing at the safety bar. As if anything or anyone could stop him, Sidney lowered the bar and climbed in beside her and put his arms around both of his girls and held them tight.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chapter 22

“Is this really necessary?” Sid could hear the buzz of the press scrum in the next room. Dealing with them was the last thing he wanted to do right now. Not that there was much he could do besides wait for updates from the FBI, which had been the same all day; nothing to report.

“You were about to rejoin the team,” Coach Dan reminded him quietly but firmly, “now you’re not even practicing. We have to tell them something.” Sid hung his head. Coach was right but that didn’t make the doing of the chore any easier. “Two minutes. I know you’re head isn’t in it but if you can just do this for the rest of the guys....” The Coach didn’t need to finish his speech; Sid was already unhooking his sling. As far as the press were concerned the only change to his status had to do with his concussion and nothing else.

Wincing a little as his right arm had to support its own weight for the first time since he’d gotten out of bed, Sid took a deep breath. ‘At least I won’t have to smile’ he thought to himself. Anyone who knew anything about hockey knew how much Sid loved and wanted to play. The fact that it was the first round of the playoffs only made it worse. No one would be surprised if he couldn’t force a smile, even a fake one.

A couple of the guys looked up and greeted him with wary smiles as he walked into the room. The guys on the team knew but he could trust them with his life. There was a chance he was going to have to.

As soon as he sat down at his assigned locker, every single camera in the room swung in his direction. That was something he was used to but at that moment he wished it had only been one or two. At that moment he wished he wasn’t SidneyfuckingCrosby and that no one cared why he wasn’t going to play tomorrow night.

“So no practice today Sid?” Normally it didn’t bother him when the local sportscasters behaved like they were on a first name basis, like they were friends. Today he had to fight the urge to ask them to call him Mr. Crosby or at the very least use his whole name. ‘Jeez where did that come from?’ he wondered as he nodded at the guy asking the question.

“No the truth is I’ve had a setback.” It wasn’t a lie; it just wasn’t the truth...exactly. “It’s disappointing, obviously, but it’s something that I was told to expect, uh, that could happen.”

“So does that mean you’re out for this round?” another reporter asked. He hated to do it, to lie to the fans but he shrugged, which was stupid because it hurt like hell to do.

“This is something that could last a few days or longer. Obviously I’m hoping to be back sooner but the guys are doing a really great job and I’m obviously excited for them. I’m going to do everything I can to support them in any way I can.” It was an answer full of clichés but then that was something he was known for so it was unlikely any of the reporters would notice if he was even less forthcoming than usual.

“Is there any truth to the rumors that you’re out for the season?” Sid glanced up sideways from beneath the brim of his baseball cap and did his best to look shocked.

“Well if there is, it’s news to me,” Sid replied, doing his best to smile despite the nagging pain in his shoulder and the fact that he was outright lying and the way a few of the local reporters shifted around and wouldn’t look him directly in the eye told him they knew it too. “Obviously I’d play if I could,” he added, looking from one reporter to the next and hoping that they believed him.

“Okay gentleman, that’s it for today.” Sidney gave Jason, the communication coordinator a grateful look as he redirected the group’s attention to an exhausted looking Max who immediately started fielding questions about Flower’s absence from practice. While they were suitably distracted, Sid slipped out of the room and immediately pulled out his phone.

He wasn’t even hoping that the cops or the FBI would call. He was praying that Cody would, that she’d call and say she was fine, but there were no messages and no missed calls. Sidney stared at the blank screen on his phone and ground his teeth together.

“Wherever you are,” he whispered under his breath, closing his eyes and mentally sending strength and hope to the other end of the invisible but what felt to him like a very real string from his heart to Cody’s. 

She was drowsing when they came for her. She couldn’t really sleep, not on a cold concrete floor and besides, she was afraid to and she was still hoping that they’d bring Vero back and she wanted to be awake when they did. That’s what she was hoping for when she heard their footsteps, as she pushed herself back up to a sitting position. She was still hoping for it right up to the point where a large hand with the letter H-A-T-E tattooed across the knuckles reached in and pulled her out of the makeshift cage.

Cody stumbled and fell, scraping her knee. Tears sprang to her eyes but she willed them back as she got to her feet and followed him up the crumbling stairs to a smaller room with no windows and a bare light bulb hanging in the middle of the room over a metal chair.

“Sit.” Cody started to turn to see who had spoken, knowing it wasn’t the burly biker type whose meaty hand was currently digging painfully into her shoulder, but before she could she almost landed on her face as she was pushed towards the chair.

“Jesus fuck,” she coughed as she put her hands on the seat of the chair and pulled herself up. “Who the fuck do you people think you....” She was suddenly on her side, on the floor, her cheek stinging from a back handed slap. “Shit,” she whispered to herself, raising her hand to her cheek and reminding herself not to cry. These assholes could kill her, she decided, but they were not going to make her cry.

“What do you know about Tony Rosa?” Now Cody did look over her shoulder at the deep, resonant voice barking the orders. She’d expected a big man with a handlebar moustache in a wife beater and sleeves of tattoos running up his arms. Instead there was a man with slicked back hair in a sharp, well tailored suit, shiny wing tipped shoes and a Rolex. 

“Who’s Tony Rosa?” she asked as she struggled to her feet, brushed off her knees and got back on the chair. The man in the suit pulled a face and raised his hand. She didn’t want to flinch but she did. “I don’t know okay? I don’t know who that is,” she snapped. Maybe if she was angry she wouldn’t cry.

“She was your sister, right?” he asked, tilting his head to one side and looking at her with this mocking expression on his face. “The bitch who tried to kill him, that was your sister, right?” he asked in the kind of acerbic tone that said he knew the answer but just wanted another excuse to hit her. ‘Okay’, she thought, bracing herself, ‘as long as it’s me and not Becks and not Vero, then okay.’

“Was this Tony Rosa guy that killed her? My sister?” she asked, letting herself feel the pain for her sister, letting that pain straighten her spine and lift her chin.

“She owed us money,” he continued as if she hadn’t asked a question at all, circling her slowly, like a predator, like a shark circling a boat full of blood. “Her and that loser fuckwad  boyfriend of hers’ owed us money. Do you have that money?” Cody watched his shiny shoes. It was easier, somehow to believe that someone wearing expensive shoes like that wouldn’t want to spill her blood all over them.  

“I don’t have a job anymore, thanks to you and your henchmen,” she replied as sarcastically as she could muster, “so no, I probably don’t. Unless it’s like fifty bucks which I can probably muster. I think I have that much in my change jar at....” Her head snapped back so hard she was almost facing the other direction. She saw stars. She almost expected to see tweety birds flying in circles around her head. There was a ringing in her ears. There was blood in her mouth.

“You think I’m fucking around here?” he hissed in her ear, grabbing a handful of her hair and pulling her head back painfully so that she had no choice but to look him in the face. “Do I look like a funny guy to you?” Cody shook her head as much as she could with most of her hair in his fist. “Your sister and her jerkoff boyfriend owed me ten large. You’d better have that kind of cash or your little niece is gonna buy it. Do I make myself clear?” Cody blinked at him in disbelief.

“What, do they make dime bags of pot out of solid fucking gold now?” she asked, mostly under her breath but his bellow of laughter let her know that he’d heard it. Cody wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and it came away red. She ran her tongue along her teeth, looking for a loose one.

“Dime bags, that’s rich,” he snickered and then his fingers were digging into her shoulders as he shook her. “Your whore of a sister and her boyfriend robbed me,” he snarled, his nose pressed against hers’. “I don’t take kindly to being robbed.” The first response that sprang to her lips was caustic and it took every last ounce of will she had left not to let it escape her lips. Instead, she took a shallow breath and looked him right in the eye.

“Well she’s dead, so, I’m pretty sure she got that message.” A slow, dangerous grin crept across his broad, fish like lips and then he let go of her hair, tipped his head back and laughed. Cody watched him nervously. This was exactly what the crazy guy did in the TV shows right before he went postal and killed everyone. Her stomach flipped and then tried to force its way up into her throat. She swallowed and willed herself to be calm. ‘Better me than Becky’ she reminded herself silently. 


“Where’s mommy?”

Sid glanced in the rear view mirror and then looked down at his hands clenching the steering wheel. Not once in all of the time he’d known them had he ever once heard Becky mention her mother. Of course it would happen now, when Cody wasn’t here to help field this particular question. He knew that the little girl had been told, but what did death mean to a child?

“She’s in heaven, watching over you.” He was fairly certain that Cody didn’t much care for religion of any kind but he’d been to church a few times in his life and he had his own beliefs and that was one of them. He hoped that she wouldn’t mind him saying something like that to her niece.

“Nooo,” Becky drummed her feet and stared out the window. “Where’s Cody mommy?”

Oh hell’ he thought to himself as he hit the accelerator pedal and turned the SUV onto the highway. It made a certain amount of sense that she’d confused at some point but now he really didn’t know what to say.

“I’m not sure pumpkin’,” he replied honestly, “but there’s lots of people looking for her.” That was something he kept telling himself, over and over again. It still didn’t make him feel any better but he hoped it might help her.

For a few minutes they drove in silence and Sid started to relax. Well, as relaxed as he’d been able to get over the last couple of days, which only meant that he was breathing and not holding his breath and grinding his teeth. He pulled into the driveway and up towards the big empty house. He’d only just gotten used to having someone here, having dinner cooked for him and someone to hold hands with in front of the TV and now the house looked like it wasn’t even lived in, as empty and dark as it had when he’d just bought it.

“Is she dead like my mommy?”

Sid’s heart froze in his chest as he pulled the emergency break and watched, in the rear view mirror as the garage door closed behind them, leaving them in darkness. He dropped his forehead down onto the back of his hands and stayed that way while he tried to catch his breath.

“Fuck I hope not baby girl. I really fucking hope not.” 


She couldn’t see and not only because it was dark. Both of her eyes were swollen shut and even though she held her hands out in front of her, Cody knew it was unlikely they’d break her fall. She skinned her other knee and this time she let out a cry of pain and anguish as she fell. He wasn’t there to hear it and she was too tired and now far too scared to care if the goon tossing her into the cage went back and reported it.

“Tout va bien.” A pair of hands grabbed her and gathered her from the floor. She let out a second cry but this time the sound that came from her mouth was one of surprise and happiness, no, joy.

“Veronique?” she reached for the woman’s face and felt it’s sharp angles and ran her fingers through the woman’s long, silken hair. There were mats, tangles in it now but it was definitely her. “Are you alright?” she asked, running her fingertips over the woman’s smile, remembering the innocent cupid’s bow and finding it intact, not split or swollen like she knew her own was now.

“Oui,” the woman whispered, running her own fingers over Cody’s ruined complexion. “Better than you by the look of it,” she added, tipping a cool water bottle to Cody’s lips. She told herself not to but she couldn’t help gulping the cool liquid greedily. Her throat was burning. Her mouth tasted of nickel.

“It doesn’t matter,” she told her friend when she finally produced the courage and fortitude to push the bottle away. “They don’t have Becky. That’s all that matters. The fuckers kept asking me where she is,” she told Vero and smiled, even though it hurt like hell. “I won’t tell them,” she added. “I don’t care if they do kill me.” 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chapter 21

She couldn’t sit up, not all the way, and her back ached from being hunched over but the make shift cage with the chicken wire and wooden pallets didn’t allow for room to move around or get comfortable. Not that there was much chance of that. They’d taken her shoes so her feet were cold and they’d only given them one small bottle of water and most of that Veronique had already drunk. Not that Cody blamed her in the least. First of all, she didn’t belong in all of this mess, she’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and secondly, she’d been crying pretty much the entire time since they'd been taken, so she needed to replenish her fluids. Cody's mouth was dry though and her lips felt chapped but she ran her tongue along her bottom lip instead of taking another drink. Who knew how long it would be before she saw more water.

“It’s gonna be alright.” Cody ran her fingers through Vero’s long, soft black hair, trying to be comforting. She wasn’t at all convinced that was going to be the case. These guys had guns and were sure as hell a lot more proficient with their weapons than that meathead biker they’d sent after her a few months ago. They also had balls. They’d been taken in broad daylight, with security cameras everywhere from a spot surrounded by security. These guys meant business and something in the pit of her stomach told Cody that it was probably pretty unlikely she was getting out of here alive.

Cody looked around the small, dark, rancid smelling basement. At least she thought it was a basement. She remembered stumbling down some stairs to get here and it was cement or stone maybe, no windows, no light source. Maybe a cellar or a bomb shelter, she thought as went back to breathing through her mouth, though that only took the edge off of the smell of mold, decay and something worse that she didn’t want to try and put a name too. She was afraid it was days’ old dead meat and she was even more afraid that it was human.

“They’re going to look for us, right?” Vero sniffed and Cody immediately nodded.

“They already are,” she tried to smile down at the pale, fragile woman whose head was in her lap. She hoped it was convincing because she knew that they, the FBI, cops, someone was definitely going to be looking for them. The only hitch was these people didn’t seem to be the types to worry much about being sought or found and at that moment she doubted that either of them was going to live long enough to be here even if they did.

“I’m cold,” Vero snuggled closer, pulling her knees up to her chest and Cody was momentarily glad of the heavy fisherman’s sweater she was wearing. Her thin cotton leggings were doing nothing to keep her ass warm but that had already gone numb so she wasn’t thinking too much about it. Veronique, on the other hand, had only been wearing some kind of light sheath dress that Cody was willing to bet cost an arm and a leg and was probably silk and was obviously doing nothing to keep her cell mate warm.

Cody ran her hands down Vero’s bare arm rapidly until she got the smallest hint of a smile from her new friend. She was collateral damage, Cody thought to herself as she smiled back at her, it was the least she could do.

“Someone will come soon, you’ll see. They’ll bust through the door just like on Criminal Minds and save us. We’ll be on TV, and Marc will realize that he’s made you wait too long to get married and have a big fucking ring in his hand when you see him.” Vero’s smile got broader, which was the intention of Cody’s little speech. She didn’t really believe any of it, but it sort of made her feel a little warmer to think about a swat team breaking in here and saving them. She just hoped that wherever Becky was that whoever was coming would save her first.

“Sidwhee?”  He felt one of his eyelids being manually pulled open and then he saw her angelic little face above his. He tried to lift his arm, to reach up and touch her face but it felt too heavy, like it weighed about a thousand pounds, and it hurt, it hurt like hell. “Sidwhee, wake up,” she insisted, poking him in the middle of his chest, her little finger stabbing him like a knife, making him suck in a sharp breath. That hurt too.

“Rebecca! Get off of him! I told you that he’s hurt.” Sid recognized the babysitter, Mel’s voice and tried to shake his head, tried to tell her that it was okay, that Becky could climb all over him if she wanted. He was just glad to see her.

“No! It’s time him to wake up, now!” the little girl added and Sid thought he detected more than just a note of alarm in her voice. He heard panic. He heard fear. Even when she’d been taken before, in the Bahamas, she hadn’t seemed scared. He raised his other hand and touched her golden girls. It took some effort and it hurt a bit, but he managed it and the momentary look of relief on the little girl’s face was entirely worth the pain.

“Hey, squirt. Boy am I glad to see you,” he told her honestly. He tried to sit up but a sharp pain, like a lightning bolt going through his chest made him stop moving. He gasped and shut his eyes again. He’d hurt before, the high ankle sprain, his front teeth getting broken, the two cracks his head had taken but nothing had ever hurt like this. “Fuuuuck!” he hissed and tried to breathe through the pain. “Jesus Christ what the hell happened?”

“You’ve been shot mon ami.” Sid turned towards the familiar voice to watch Max pick Becky up off of the bed and put her gently down in a chair beside the bed. He remembered the muzzle flash and vaguely remembered waking up in an ambulance so the fact that he was in a hospital bed or that he’d been shot wasn’t much of a surprise. “I think you’ve got some explaining to do, tu ne penses pas?” Sid nodded but winced as he did that and little white lights shone in front of his eyes. Another one of his headaches was coming on. “Use the button,” Max put something in his hand and pressed his thumb over it and less than three seconds later something warm was coursing through his arm and the next thing he knew everything hurt a little less and he almost felt like he was floating.

“Where’s Cody?” he asked, blinking his eyes open and scanning the room. Becky had made her way back to his bedside and was climbing back up onto the pristine white sheets.

“We don’t know mon ami, that’s the truth,” Max said quietly, reaching for the little blonde bundle that was trying to curl her way into his side.

“She’s fine,” he whispered, running his fingers through her soft golden curls. “Is...someone is looking for her, right?” he asked looking at Max and then at then at the babysitter. They seemed pretty inseparable but that was a question for another time. Right now there were far more pressing matters on his mind.

“Like I said, mon capitaine, you have a lot of explaining to do. There have been cops, FBI, CI fucking A.... I knew that woman of yours was in some kind of trouble but now you’ve been fucking shot do you mind telling me what the fucking hell is going on?” Sid covered Becky’s ears as best he could, despite the immediate and blinding pain it caused him and narrowed his eyes at Max who rolled his and shrugged by way of an apology.

“Tell you what squirt, I’m kind of hungry, why don’t you take Mel and go find me a chocolate bar or something, okay?” Nodding, Becky looked very serious as she climbed down off of the bed and then offered her hand to Melany who took it and lead her out of the room. Sid waited until the door closed behind them and then he turned to Max. “You better sit down. This is going to take a while.”

“No, no!” Vero’s eyes were wide and pleading as the man in the ski mask tried to tug her out of the cage. Cody held fast to one of her arms but she knew that this was one battle of tug of war she wasn’t going to win; especially not if the man behind him with the gun decided to point that thing at her. “I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t anything, s’il vous plaît!” Tears were streaming down the other woman’s face and Cody felt the hot sting of tears filling her own eyes. She was sure it was in some kind of kidnap survival handbook somewhere that you should not let them separate you and so she clung to Vero’s hand, even as it began to slip from her grasp.

“Leave her alone. She doesn’t even know me. Please,” she begged on the other woman’s behalf. If she got killed in all of this, well, it was to be expected. If Veronique was tortured or died because she had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, Cody knew she’d never forgive herself.

The man merely grunted and tugged harder, yanking Veronique’s hand from hers’ and out of the cage, kicking the cage door shut behind him. The man with the gun drove the lock back into the hole in the ground and then waved the gun at her which she supposed was some kind of threat. Cody didn’t look at the gun. She watched Vero being dragging her across the cold concrete floor and then pushed, staggering, up the stairs towards a golden glow of light. She could hear her begging and pleading until she heard a door slam followed by the metallic scrape of a lock being put in place.

Cody pulled her knees up to her chin and tried to muffle her own sobs. Her pulse was racing and her heart was hammering hard against her ribs. When she’d shot the intruder into their house, she’d been afraid but adrenalin had gone a long way to subduing her fear. That and having Sidney there, having him take charge of the situation, of getting them out of the house had helped. Now she was just terrified.

She shut her eyes and tried not to imagine a medieval torture chamber complete with a rack, pillory, iron maiden and foot screws. Instead she did her best to imagine warm sand beneath her, the smell of salt water and the feel of Sidney’s mouth on hers’, his body pressing her down, claiming her.

“Will I ever see you again?” she asked in a whisper as hot tears slid down her cheeks and she began to tremble.

“It was a straight through and through,” the doctor in his mint coloured surgical scrubs with his bright shiny stethoscope hung around his neck explained as a nurse carefully changed the dressing on his shoulder. “Which is good for you,” he added with a measured smile that Sidney knew was supposed to be encouraging. “That means no structural damage, which would take months to get over. However, there was some tearing of the muscle and obviously a lot of tissue damage and loss, which will take a good deal of rehab to correct but in your condition, I’m guessing that isn’t something that will be new to you.” Sid shook his head and then winced as the last layer of padding was peeled painfully from the wound.

“It looks worse than it is,” the nurse whispered as she dropped the blood covered gauze onto the table beside her. The surgeon took her place and pressed at the clean unmolested skin around the wound. Sid sucked in a sharp breath.

“The trick is to keep an eye out for infection. With g.s.w.’s there can be a lot of debris in the wound. Obviously we’ve done our best to cleanse the entire area but we’ll keep an eye on you for another night and then you should probably visit your personal physician every few days for a week or so but I’m confident that you’re not looking at anything long term.” Sid nodded again and did his best not to wince when the nurse began to tape up the wound again. “You’ll want to keep that arm stable for a few days, make sure he gets a sling,” the doctor added and then turned and left without another word. Sid watched him go and then let out a sigh of relief that was echoed by one from both Max and Mario, who had followed the surgeon in.

“That’s a relief eh boss?” Max grinned like he’d just scored a goal or made a big hit and Mario nodded.

“Still, I think this is something we should keep out of the press. I’ve spoken with the surgical team and we’ll get you out of here through the laundry exit and you’ll be back staying with us for the foreseeable future,” Mario added very seriously. “You gave us a hell of a scare there son.”

“What about Cody? Is there any news?” Sid asked, looking from his friend’s face to his boss’s serious expression. The two men exchanged a look that made Sid’s heart sink. “Tell me...whatever it is...I need to know.”

“There’s no news,” Max began and then Mario put his big hand on the smaller winger’s shoulder and Max, for once in his life, fell silent.

“Vero is also missing,” Mario told him and Sid felt his heart stop beating in his chest. “The police, the FBI...they’re turning the entire city upside down Sidney. They’re doing everything they can’s been two days and they say....”

“After forty-eight hours the chances of finding them alive are slim,” Sidney completed Mario’s thought and then shut his eyes and for the first time in his life, began to truly pray.