Sunday, May 29, 2011
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’d...no, 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 questions...by 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?”
“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.
“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.