Disclaimer: I do not own Without A Trace. Jerry Bruckheimer Television and CBS Productions have that privilege. I'm just borrowing it for fun. No money was made, and only respect was intended.
Notes: This is something of a horror story. Please do not expect a logical plot or reasonable explanations. You can, however, expect monstrous attacks, blood and (hopefully) a scary moment or two. Thanks go to Silvia for the Spanish translations, and Julie for her work as beta.
Warnings: PG-13 due to violence, harsh language and adult situations.
Martin Fitzgerald first saved and then printed the document on his computer. As the printer started to sputter out its newest report, he leaned back letting the lids close over his bloodshot, blue eyes with a sigh. The chair wasn't tall enough to support the head and neck of his six-foot frame, but he was too tired to care.
"Don't fall asleep yet," warned Vivian Johnson. "You still have to drive home." The older, more experienced agent knew all too well the dangers of pushing yourself beyond your body's capabilities. Her small stature sometimes led others to underestimate her, but she was a fierce investigator who loved her job. That she balanced her demanding profession with a stable family life earned her the respect of her coworkers, even when she started turning those maternal instincts on the younger members of their unit.
Martin glanced at his watch and groaned. By the time he drove home and crawled into bed he'd get, at most, four and a half hours of rest. "Do you think anyone would notice if I just slept here?"
"You'll notice in the morning when your neck is stiff and your back aches," Vivian predicted.
"What about you?" asked Martin. "What are you still doing here?"
"Reggie and his dad are at the game tonight, so it's not like I'm missing anything," explained Vivian. "Now that I'm finally caught up on my paperwork, I'm going home." Vivian swept up her purse and jacket. "It's about time for you to leave too, Martin."
Martin nodded in acknowledgement. Most of the office was empty. Samantha and Elena had left a couple of hours ago, chatting about where to go first on their 'girls night' shopping spree. Danny had also left, his story of an old college buddy visiting town, being enough to convince Martin to do some of Danny's paperwork. Jack was still in his office talking on the phone, but there was a grin on his face, so the call probably wasn't about a new case.
The printer finally quieted and Martin gathered up the sheets so he could leave them on Jack's desk on his way out. He'd just reached the hallway when his cell phone started to ring. He was tempted to ignore the call and let it go to voice mail, but his responsible side insisted he answer it. "Fitzgerald," he greeted. A breathy moan coupled with some incoherent mumbles was the reply. "Who is this?" Martin wasn't sure whether to be irritated or concerned. The change in his tone was enough to halt Vivian's exodus. She looked back at Martin inquiringly, but he could only shrug in confusion as he waited for an understandable reply.
"Martin, help por favor," murmured a barely recognizable voice, "I can't run anymore. No puedo seguir mas."
"Danny?" Martin rushed right passed concerned to alarm.
"Demasiados, too many to fight," Danny continued. "Everything hurts."
"Danny, I need you to tell me where you are," Martin instructed urgently.
"Callejon, estoy en el callejon," Danny slurred.
Martin searched his memory for the right translation. "Do you mean you're in an alley?" There was a mumbled reply that Martin took for agreement. "I need more, Danny. Can you give me the name of a street or business?"
"Tired." Danny's voice had fallen to a weak whisper. He couldn't even respond to Martin's questions anymore.
"No! Danny, do not fall asleep!" Martin ordered urgently. Then he covered the mouthpiece of his cell. "Get Jack," he instructed Vivian. Martin turned and ran down the hall to the tech room. Everything he needed to trace Danny's cell call was there. Mack, like so many others, had left for the day, but Martin knew how to set up a trace, even if he wasn't quite as quick as Mack. "Danny are you still with me?" Martin struggled to keep the conversation going while the equipment began isolating Danny's cell phone signal. "Danny, I need you to keep talking to me."
"Martin?" Danny's voice sounded confused, as though he couldn't understand why he was hearing Martin's voice.
A map of the city filled the computer screen, but the trace still hadn't localized his location beyond southern Manhattan. "I need you to focus, Danny. Look around. Do you see any street signs or business names that could help me find you?"
"Espera un minuto," Danny mumbled. Martin could hear the sounds of movement and hoped Danny was just repositioning to get a better look.
Jack and Vivian surged into the room on a wave of tension. Martin again covered the mouthpiece so he could explain what he knew. "Danny's been attacked somewhere around . . ." Martin threw a quick glance at the monitor. "TriBeCa. He may have a concussion. He seems confused with slurred speech, and he keeps dropping into Spanish on me."
"Danny said he was going to meet his friend at a pizza parlor near the New York Law School campus," remembered Vivian. Jack was already placing a call to the local precinct. They'd have the best chance of reaching Danny first, so they needed to know there was an agent in trouble nearby.
"Joe's Negocio de Empeno," Danny spoke once more.
"Say again, Danny. I didn't hear that," Martin instructed. The trace on Danny's cell finally pinpointed his location. Jack immediately relayed the new information to the locals, letting Martin focus on keeping their friend going until help arrived.
"Joe's Pawn Shop, en la vereda de enfrente," Danny repeated.
"You can see Joe's Pawn Shop across the street," confirmed Martin. "That's great Danny. Help is on the way." On the other end of the signal, Danny groaned and then fell ominously quiet. Afraid that Danny might lapse into unconsciousness Martin tried to keep the conversation going. "Can you tell me where you're hurt?" Silence answered his question. "Danny! Danny, I know you've been through a lot, but don't give up on me now."
"I'm here," assured a weak voice.
Willing to take what crumbs he could get, Martin asked, "Are you bleeding?"
"Yeah, bleeding everywhere," replied Danny in a detached manner. Martin fought back his panic at the answer. The tone of the reply had Martin wondering if shock was already affecting Danny.
"NYPD's almost to him," Jack informed.
"Okay Danny, back up is almost there. Can you hear the sirens, yet?" Martin asked. He needed to hear that someone was there to help Danny.
"Si, I . . . No . . . no, no, no, no, no." Panic suddenly strengthened Danny's voice. "Ellos me encontraron, Martin . . ."
"Who found you, the ones that hurt you?" This couldn't be happening now. The police were just moments away. "Danny?" A clatter announced the cell phone hitting something hard. Martin pressed his phone against his ear to hear the muffled sounds of struggle. Danny cried out in pain. "Where the hell is the back up?" cursed Martin. "Danny is fighting for his life out there!" As useless as it was to cling to the tiny phone, Martin needed to keep listening, needed to hear that Danny was still fighting to survive.
"They should be arriving on the scene, right now," Jack responded tightly.
Martin recognized the sirens, but couldn't understand the shouting in the background. For the first time he noticed that a couple of other agents had gathered, and were in a hushed conversation with Vivian. At Vivian's instruction one of the agents dashed off towards the team's desks. Over the cell, Martin thought he heard someone talking to Danny, but was it friend or foe? Then he heard Danny's voice urgently saying his name, and someone replying in a calm reassuring tone.
"Hello, am I speaking to Martin?" asked a strange voice on Danny's cell phone.
"Yes," Martin replied shortly. "What's happened to Danny?"
"This is Officer Draker. Your friend is safe. Our arrival scared off two perps who were trying to drag him further down the alley. We've called to have an ambulance take him to the hospital."
"This is Special Agent Fitzgerald. Danny is also an agent with the FBI's Missing Persons unit. What can you tell me about the perps?" asked Martin.
"Two good looking, well dressed guys in their late twenties. This didn't look like an ordinary mugging. Was your agent working undercover?" asked the officer.
"No, just supposed to be meeting with an old college buddy," admitted Martin. "How badly is he hurt?"
"Ligature marks on his wrists, blood loss from more than a dozen wounds. Are you sure this isn't related to some case? Because honest to God, he looks like he's been tortured," informed Officer Draker. With a queasy stomach, Martin passed on the information to Jack.
Jack's jaw clinched tight for several seconds before he forced it apart to speak. "Vivian, I want you to go down and check out the crime scene. We also need to track down the friend that Danny was supposed to be meeting. Martin, make sure a couple of officers escort the ambulance to the hospital. We'll meet them there."
Martin repeated the instructions to Draker who replied, "The ambulance is pulling up now. It shouldn't take us more than twenty minutes to reach the New York Downtown Hospital. We'll stay with your agent until you arrive."
Martin ended the call. The next few seconds found him staring at his cell, replaying Danny's call in his head. "You handled it just right, Martin." Martin was a little surprised to find Jack standing at his shoulder. "You kept Danny talking long enough to get a trace. You got help to him as quickly as possible, while extracting the information needed to start an investigation. Your fast action probably saved his life."
As sincere as Jack's words seemed, they did little to convince Martin. "Somebody tortured Danny, and they almost had him a second time." Not even in the midst of the Teno assassination, when their car had been spinning out of control and Martin had realized he'd been hit, had he felt so utterly helpless.
"We're going to find out who they are, and make sure they never touch Danny again," promised Jack. "Now go grab your coat. We need to get to the hospital."
+ + + + + + + + +
Fate seemed to be laughing at them right now. Jack would swear, under oath, that every traffic light had turned red just for them; that every moronic driver in New York City was competing to get in his way. He was giving serious consideration to ramming as a viable option, when the hospital came into view. That Martin had not once mentioned Jack's increasingly aggressive driving, showed how shaken he was by Danny's attack. Not that he and Vivian weren't affected, something like this was bound to send shockwaves through the whole team. Shit! He hadn't called Samantha or Elena. Sam would be especially pissed when she learned he'd waited so long to call her. He'd deal with that just as soon as he'd confirmed Danny would be all right. Parking in what he was fairly certain was an off-limits parking spot; Jack cut the ignition and headed for the Emergency Room doors. Martin followed close, like a too pale shadow.
Inside, it was easy to find where Danny was being taken care of. A uniformed police officer guarded a door at the far end of the hall. A second uniform could be seen through the room's window standing beside a gurney while a nurse attended the patient. Jack pulled out his credentials as he approached the policeman.
The officer pulled out a roll of papers and offered them to Jack. "The perps managed to elude our foot pursuit, but I did get a look at them."
Unrolling the papers revealed the sketched likenesses of two men. One showed both face and profile, while the other left part of the criminal's visage shadowed. "Did you draw these?" asked Jack, noting Verna on the officer's nametag.
"Yeah, I help out our sketch artist sometimes. Draker is in with your agent. The doctor said he'd be back with the results of some blood tests." Officer Verna wasn't finished when Martin signaled Jack, and then entered Danny's room, replacing Draker at the unconscious man's side. Jack could understand why Martin needed to see Danny, especially after handling the phone call. On the other hand, someone needed to get details from the first responders and talk with Danny's doctor. Times like this, it really sucked being the boss. Jack looked back at the young policeman who continued to speak, "I'm sorry we weren't able to get either of these guys. They just seemed to melt into the darkness." He shrugged apologetically then motioned down the hall. "This is Doctor Hyde. He's been working on Danny. Doctor Hyde, this is your patient's coworker, Agent Malone."
Jack shook hands with the doctor, asking, "What can you tell me?"
"Your friend was brought in suffering from shock due to blood loss. Once we raised his blood volume he stabilized enough for us to suture his wounds. We counted fourteen cuts on various parts of his body; including his arms, legs, torso and abdomen, each requiring 8-13 stitches," detailed the doctor.
"What about his concussion?" inquired Jack.
"There was no concussion," insisted Doctor Hyde. "His altered mental state was due to the drug in his system."
"What?" demanded Jack.
"At some point in the last six hours your agent ingested flunitrazepam more commonly known as Rohypnol . . ."
"Some one slipped him a Ruffie?" Jack interrupted using the drug's street name.
"Yes, though I don't think he received a full dose, thus his ability to fight his attackers," explained the doctor. Hyde pulled a plastic bag from one of his coat pockets. "While I was treating his wrists, I pulled these fibers from the wounds. I hope they can help you." Once Jack had accepted the bag the doctor continued. "I'm not sure if it's related, but I did hear of another similar attack last week. A twenty-five year old woman was drugged with Ruffies, ritually cut and bled, raped and then dumped near St. Vincent's Emergency Room."
"I heard about that case," volunteered Verna. "It got bumped up to the Special Victims Unit. But would a rapist go from attacking a girl to a guy? I thought they tended towards a certain 'type' of victim."
"That depends on whether the attacker is getting his rush off the rape or the torture. If it's about him controlling another's pain and suffering, he might have targeted Danny as a challenge," theorized Jack. "I'll look into the case and see if they're connected." Jack hated going through the motions of an investigation, but at this moment it was the only thing he could do to help Danny. It was time to place some calls to Samantha and Elena, and find out what Vivian had discovered at the crime scene.
+ + + + + + + + +
There was something he needed to be doing. Danny tried to focus his thoughts, but everything was a confusing muddle. There were blurry images of people he didn't know; a woman's laughter that sent fear coursing through his system. The more he tried to identify the fragmented memories, the worse his head ached. There were other pains too, sharp cuts and stabs that he couldn't escape. Shadowy shapes closing in on him, holding him down. He tried to fight, but they ignored his blows and pinned him tighter. There were so many screams of pain, and not just his own. He had to get away, had to . . .
"Easy, Danny. You're safe now," assured the lone thread of sanity in the tapestry of his nightmares: Martin.
Danny forced his eyes to open, revealing the hazy image of his coworker and friend. This wasn't the first time he had awakened, though he couldn't remember if he'd woken three times before or four. Danny knew he was in a hospital, though the room seemed different than the first time he'd come around. Hadn't he seen Jack here too? Martin offered him a cup of water with a straw to help him drink. It was amazing how good that cool liquid felt slipping passed his mouth and down his throat. It even seemed to make his headache recede a bit and calm his turning stomach. Wait a minute. He knew this feeling. It might have been ten years, but he still remembered that dry mouth, headache and nausea equaled a hangover. Just what the hell had he gotten into last night?
"Nothing you need to feel guilty about," replied Martin to the question Danny hadn't even realized he'd spoken out loud. "I want you to listen to me closely, so maybe this time you'll remember what I'm telling you. The doctor found no trace of alcohol in your bloodstream, none at all, Danny. We think someone slipped you a Ruffie to incapacitate you."
For the first time Danny noticed the bandages on his arms. He could also feel aches and pains scattered across his body in an echo of his nightmare. The white gauze circling his wrists was a light reminder of the rough twine that had bound him before. 'Struggle all you want, Hero. It won't help you in the end.' Danny's whole body jerked at the murmured threat. "She's not gonna give up." Certain dread told Danny that his ordeal was just beginning.
"She? There was a woman involved in the attack?" Martin jumped on the tiny scrap of information before he could stop himself. The other times Danny had awoken, he'd barely been able to figure out what day it was. Doctor Hyde had warned that the drugs would likely impair much of his memory of the attack. Rohypnol was popular amongst rapists because it so often left victims unable to identify their attackers. Victim: it was just so wrong to have that word associated with Danny in any way. He was a survivor. If Danny had retained some memory of what had happened last night, they would use it to track down the ones who'd done this and force them to answer for their crimes. Martin was willing to do everything in his power to see that Danny got justice.
"Yeah, there was a woman. A lot of other things are mixed up, but I remember her voice." Danny's raw throat hissed out the words in a mixture of loathing and fear.
Martin reached behind himself to his coat hanging on the chair. Pulling out a tape recorder he showed it to Danny. "We can do this now, or wait until later to take your statement."
Eyes locked on the small device, Danny had to ask, "Are they going to let our team handle the investigation?"
"We'll be sharing our information with SVU since they have a similar case, but for right now we're primary on the investigation of your attack." Martin didn't add that Jack had been forced to argue fiercely to win that privilege. It was entirely possible that Danny's case could still be taken from them, especially if the higher ups thought the team was too emotionally involved.
"Let's do it now. I want to get this over with." If only speaking about what happened could somehow purge the nightmares from his mind.
Giving Danny a minute to gather his composure, Martin pulled out a pen and paper for notes and then set the recorder on the rolling tray between them. Pushing one of its buttons he began to speak, "This is Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald interviewing Special Agent Danny Taylor about the incident of October 27th. It is currently 7:43 am, October 28th. The interview is taking place at the New York Downtown Hospital." Meeting Danny's eyes he waited for a nod before proceeding. "Do you remember leaving the office last night?"
For a second, a hint of a smirk ghosted across Danny's lips. "I remember conning you into doing my paper work so that I could cut out early." Now he was wishing he'd never left the office.
"Did you meet your friend after you left work?" Martin prodded.
"Yeah, wait, no," corrected Danny. "I went home first to change into casual cloths. Then I met Ryan at Paulo's Pizza Pies."
"You met with Ryan Saluke," Martin clarified.
"Yes. Ryan picked the restaurant. He always liked their pepperoni and pineapple pizza." Danny hesitated as the memories became fuzzier and less pleasant. "We were there for at least an hour; long enough to get our food. Long enough for Ryan to tell me about the crazy woman he'd made the mistake of dating. He kept referring to her as 'The Queen Hell Bitch'. I think it was supposed to be a joke, but every time he said it he sounded scared."
"Maybe the same woman involved in the attack?" offered Martin.
Danny took a moment to consider Martin's theory, but the more he thought the more lost and confused his expression became. "I'm not sure. I don't remember seeing her. Just a voice." 'Are you going to save your friend, Hero? You can't even save yourself.' Danny felt his very soul weighed down by failure.
"Where did you go after the restaurant?" asked Martin trying to pull Danny from whatever dark thoughts trapped him.
Danny's brow creased in concentration. "I don't remember leaving. Maybe that's where I was slipped the Ruffies," Danny offered.
"What do you remember next?" Martin hoped to keep the memories flowing without putting too much pressure on Danny.
Danny could barely navigate the dark flow of nightmare images. "My wrists were tied, above my head. I think . . . I think it was the smell that brought me around." When he closed his eyes the stink swamped him again.
"Blood. It was overwhelming, like the back of a butcher shop, only worse." Danny took another sip of water. "I remember figures coming at me with knives. Cutting me. I tried to kick them, but I couldn't seem to get my legs to work."
"Lack of coordination is a side effect of the drug," reminded Martin. "Can you describe any of your attackers?"
Danny tried to focus his memories, but couldn't pull what he needed from them. "I can't. They're just shadows, blurry shapes. Damn it, why can't I remember?" Danny's fist pounded the bed uselessly.
"You had Rohypnol in your system. We're lucky you can remember anything. You've already given us more information than we had any reason to expect," Martin soothed.
"It's not enough," insisted Danny in frustration.
"Okay, let's try to go at it from a different angle," suggested Martin. "You told me what you smelled and saw. You also mentioned a woman's voice earlier. Is there anything else you remember hearing?"
Suddenly a memory that Danny's subconscious had diligently suppressed rose to the surface. 'Oh God, help me. Please stop. I'm begging you, please make it stop.' Nausea swirled in his gut as Danny remembered. "Ryan, begging me to help him," Danny's tone was thick with self-loathing. "He needed me and I ran."
"We don't know everything that happened, yet," cautioned Martin. He was certain that Danny wouldn't have left another behind if he'd had any choice.
"What's to know?" demanded Danny raging more against himself than Martin. "I'm here, and Ryan's not!"
"Danny . . ."
"Where's Ryan?" Danny's voice got even louder.
"We're looking for him right now," admitted Martin. "Which is more than we would be doing if you hadn't called for help. No one else has reported Ryan missing." Martin grabbed an uninjured spot on Danny's arm to try to get him to listen. "You were drugged. You were tortured. You were suffering from shock. Yet, despite all that you still escaped and managed to call for help. Danny, you did everything humanly possible to help your friend."
"But what if it wasn't enough? What if I left him to die?" whispered Danny.
Martin wasn't sure how to battle the desolation in Danny's voice. "What ifs aren't going to help Ryan," Martin pointed out, perhaps a bit too harshly. "You did the best you could under the circumstances. You need to accept that and move on." The words sounded reasonable, but Danny didn't look anywhere near acceptance. Realizing they'd hit a roadblock, Martin shifted their path with another question. "Danny, do you remember firing your gun last night?"
"My gun?" Danny had forgotten that he'd been carrying his gun with him.
"Vivian found it in the alley where we found you," explained Martin. "It had been recently fired and your ammo was spent. She couldn't find any shell casings, so we think you may have used it before you got to the alley. Maybe during your escape." The last statement was a half question that Martin hoped might prompt Danny's memory.
Danny felt more confused than ever. He didn't remember slipping free of his bonds or escaping his capturers, but surely he couldn't have forgotten firing his gun, especially in a life or death situation. When he tried to concentrate on his gun, his mind went blank. Then a terrifying thought presented. If Danny had been so high on Ruffies that he didn't remember firing his gun, how did he know he hadn't shot some innocent who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time? "I'm sorry, Martin, I don't remember anything about the gun," Danny finally answered roughly.
Realizing that Danny didn't have anything left to give, Martin stopped the tape recorder. "That's alright, Danny. You did really good. You gave us a lot to work with. Why don't you try to rest again?"
Danny looked away and swiped at the side of his face, trying to erase his tears before they could fall. "There's nothing restful about those nightmares," he admitted shakily.
"Then I guess it's a good thing you've got a brother like me to wake you up if they start again," declared Martin.
Danny looked back at Martin. Swirling emotions choked his words, but Martin could see the thankfulness in his eyes. Danny took one more sip of water and settled back into his pillow. He'd just started to doze when he jerked awake, the panicked confusion returning.
Martin set his hand on Danny's shoulder. "You're safe. Jack's right outside. I'm right here. Just rest." Martin's words anchored Danny against the turmoil of his own mind. Seconds later he was asleep.
+ + + + + + + + +
Vivian walked down the hospital hallway towards Jack, trailed by two other agents. Reaching his side she joined him in looking through the window to Danny's room. Martin was in a chair beside Danny's bed, one hand resting on Danny's arm, his head pillowed on the edge of the bed. "How long have they been like that?" she wondered.
"Martin finally dozed off about fifteen minutes back," said Jack. "He took Danny's statement about an hour ago. It wasn't easy for either of them, but Martin won't leave Danny's side." Jack shook his head ruefully. "He'll probably get more sleep here than he would at home."
"That chair looks even more uncomfortable than the one at work," murmured Vivian. Before Jack could ask what she meant by that, she was speaking again. "Agents Fairfax and O'Malley came down to relieve you and Martin of guard duty." Agent Fairfax nodded to Jack, while O'Malley offered his hand.
"Doctor Hyde and Nurse Brockmeyer are the only staff cleared to enter the room. Let Martin sleep until lunch if possible. I want him rested before he tries to start working the case," instructed Jack.
"Speaking of the case," started Vivian. "Samantha and Elena came up with something at the pizza joint. One of the waitresses confessed to serving Danny and his friend, Ryan, the drinks with drugs in them. She claimed that a redheaded woman of maybe thirty told her that if she didn't do it, she'd be dead before the sun rose. About fifteen minutes after the waitress gave them their drinks, the redhead entered the front of the restaurant with another woman and two other men, and gathered up Danny and Ryan like they were picking up a couple of friends that had overindulged."
"Sounds well planned and executed," commented Jack. "Something tells me this isn't the first time they've snatched someone."
"The good news is the waitress did hear Ryan refer to the redhead as Elizabeth. Elena said the waitress was so scared that she's begging to be put into protective custody. Apparently she afraid the redhead might find out she talked to us," added Vivian.
Jack snorted. "She drugged an FBI agent and now she wants us to protect her? Yeah, right, that's going to happen," was his sarcastic reply.
"She sounded pretty desperate to me." Vivian shrugged. "Anyway, we showed her the sketches that Officer Verna did, and she recognized the second perp form the alley."
"But not the first?" asked Jack.
"No," insisted Vivian.
"Well, that seems to gel with what Danny could give us," commented Jack. "Ryan was apparently worried about some ex-girlfriend, and Danny remembered hearing a woman's voice during the attack. It's starting to look like this was about Ryan, not Danny."
"Kidnapping, torture, that's pretty extreme just to get back at your ex," pointed out Vivian. "And why go after Danny? She could have just as easily grabbed Ryan when he was alone."
"Extreme is the word for it," agreed Jack. Then he lowered his voice. "Dr. Hyde said he found light bruising around four of Danny's wounds. Bruising consistent with skin that's been sucked on. Two of the swabs he cleaned Danny's wounds with came back positive for saliva."
Vivian was shocked to hear that. "So what? Ryan's ex is a woman with a vampire complex, that decided Danny looked tasty?"
"Or she's a sexual sadist," suggested Jack. "Either way we need to learn more about her. I'm going to dig into Ryan's recent past and see if I can find out who 'Elizabeth' is. I also want to know if the others she's been seen with are getting paid or if they're her followers. I want you to liaison with SVU. Let them know what we've got so far, and find out how closely their case matches up. I'll have Sam and Elena focus on the canvas between the pizza parlor and the alley we found Danny in. They're almost twelve blocks apart. Hopefully someone saw something."
"Sounds like a plan," agreed Vivian. She nodded to Agents Fairfax and O'Malley, and headed off to meet with the NYPD's Special Victims Unit.
Jack hovered by Danny's window another minute, watching his two agents sleep. The fact that Danny's skin was almost a shade lighter than Martin's drove home how much blood he'd lost during the night. "No one gets into that room," instructed Jack. Though it now seemed the attack hadn't been related to Danny's job, Jack still felt that his agent was in danger. The guards would stay until he was convinced otherwise. Once he'd received two firm 'yes sirs', Jack left for the office.
+ + + + + + + + +
On the fourth ring the phone was finally answered. "This had better be important," warned a gravelly voice.
"Bathory is in New York and she's already attacked three innocents," reported the caller.
"Any deaths?" came the quick demand.
"Not yet, but she and her group are apparently holding some guy so they can play their 'games' with him. Another managed to escape, but that could create new problems. Not only is he compatible, but he's also a federal agent," warned the caller.
The caller understood the implied question. "It wasn't easy, but I was able to get a look at his blood tests. There's no sign of infection."
There was a heavy sign. "I thought Montreal was going to take care of her."
"They're claiming that she disappeared just hours before their Reckoning. She may have been tipped off. Are you returning to deal with her?" the caller asked hopefully.
"I made a blood oath to help eliminate Gains. I won't be able to return to New York for several more days. There haven't been any deaths yet, so just keep an eye on her and contact me if the situation escalates." There was a hesitation, and then the voice continued. "If you should happen to be questioned by investigators; try to be helpful. The more time she spends trying to avoid them, the less she'll have to prepare for us."
"That's risky," pointed out the caller.
"She's the one that started attacking people in my city. She can damn well deal with the consequences!"
"What about the law enforcement agents she may slaughter along the way?"
"Bathory might be insane, but she's not stupid. She'll move on to greener pastures rather than be hunted like a criminal," was the prediction. "I can't talk any longer. Call me when you have something new to report."
The dial tone buzzed for several seconds before the caller put the phone back in its stand. "I hope she doesn't kill too many people proving you wrong."
+ + + + + + + + +
There was just something incredibly wrong about being tired out by an elevator ride. Damning his pride, Danny leaned back against the elevator wall and bit his lip to suppress a yawn. So much for his plans to jump into the investigation of Ryan's disappearance, at this rate he'd be lucky to make it down the hall to his apartment without passing out. Beside him, Martin was trying to look like he wasn't watching Danny, even though he obviously was. The exhausting trip home from the hospital hadn't ended Jack's insistence that Danny needed to be protected, at least until his attackers had been identified. An hour ago, he'd found Jack's assumption that he couldn't protect himself, a stinging insult. Now he was more than ready to swallow the hurt feelings if it meant getting to lay his head down somewhere. Dr. Hyde's warning that the blood loss would continue to make him tired was starting to look like the biggest underestimation ever made. When they reach the right floor, it took all of Danny's energy just to set one foot in front of the other. He didn't realize Martin had stopped until he stumbled into his back.
Suddenly Martin was grabbing his arm and pushing him protectively back against the wall. Martin pulled his gun; aiming at Danny's door with one hand while retrieving his cell phone with the other. Even with all those clues it still took Danny's muddled mind precious seconds to realize what was wrong. His apartment door was open. Not all of the way, just enough to make it obvious that someone had accessed it since last night.
"Jack, where are you?" demanded Martin. "Someone's been in Danny's apartment. They left the door open." There was a momentary pause. "Understood." Martin quietly folded the cell and slipped it into his pocket.
"Waiting for back-up?" guessed Danny, now that the adrenalin rush had woken him up. He knew that Jack probably wasn't too far away, since he'd promised to pick up Danny's abandoned car and bring it over. That Danny had lost his keys along with his memory didn't seem alter Jack's decision. Martin nodded to Danny's question, never shifting his aim from Danny's door. Several tense seconds passed. "It doesn't sound like anyone is in there," Danny whispered.
"They had plenty of time to come and go last night or this morning," agreed Martin, not relaxing in the least. "Still, Jack will be here in five minutes."
Just under four minutes later, the elevator chimed and Jack stepped out, his gun at the ready. Moving up along side Danny, he nailed his subordinate with a sharp look. "Stay behind us!" Danny wasn't even inclined to argue. The adrenalin pulse of a few moments before was already fading.
Jack and Martin moved forward together, Jack opening the door while Martin stepped in to clear the room. It took them just moments to search the modest apartment for intruders. Finding none they walked back to the living room where Danny waited.
He barely noticed their return, his gaze locked on a round end table and the things it held. Danny's missing gun holster with his badge still clipped on. His keys anchored a piece of paper beside it.
"Let me," insisted Martin when Danny moved to pick up the note. Martin slipped on a pair of white gloves used to gather evidence. Picking up the paper he shot a hesitant look towards Danny as he started to read. "Daniel, You left these behind during your hasty exit last night. I've returned them to show that I harbor no ill will regarding your inappropriate behavior. In truth, I found your heroics to be delightfully entertaining. Rest assured, we'll be coming to reclaim you just as soon as Ryan has learned his place. I hope you're looking forward to our reunion as much as I. Eternal regards, Elizabeth."
"Okay, Danny you need to pack a bag so we can get out of here. You'll want enough for several days," ordered Jack.
"What?" Danny was still trying to absorb the letter and is ramifications.
"You can't stay here," Jack spelled it out. "She knows where you live and she had plenty of time to make duplicates of those keys. We need to move you to a safe house, right now." Jack grabbed Danny's arm and directed him to the bedroom. Over his shoulder he ordered Martin, "Get our lab people over here, they need to check everything."
+ + + + + + + + +
Samantha tossed the printout back on her desk. Frustration had become a familiar companion to the FBI's Missing Persons Unit. In the three days since Danny's attack, their team had vigorously pursued every viable, as well as a few not so viable, leads. Yet they were no closer to finding Ryan Saluke or his kidnappers. That the Special Victims Unit seemed to be hitting the same dead ends on their related case was no consolation. Most of their potential witnesses were too afraid to speak about 'Elizabeth', though few could articulate why the mysterious redhead terrified them so. They wouldn't even know her last name if not for Harold Pembroke, the lone witness willing to volunteer information on their suspect. Martin had taken an unusual dislike to the man, but even he couldn't deny that everything Pembroke stated had panned out."So you saw two men and two women helping these men," Samantha slid photos of Danny and Ryan across the interrogation room table, "into a van?"
"Yeah, that was them. Though helping probably isn't the right word. Neither of these boys looked like they could stand on their own, they were practically being carried. I should have realized something was up when I saw Elizabeth was with them."
"And how do you know Elizabeth," demanded Martin sharply.
"I've known her for years. Back when she used to go by the name of Hastate, before she changed it to Bathory." Harold didn't seem offended by Martin's manor.
"She changed her name to Elizabeth Bathory, as in the Hungarian Countess who was walled up in her own chambers for torturing and killing as many as 600 girls, so she could drink and bathe in their blood?" asked Martin incredulously.
"So you've heard of her too. Even when she was still Lizzie Hastate she was never quite right in the head. Then a couple of years ago she decided that she was really Bathory reincarnated, and it was time to pick up where she had left off. I guess she's given up on girls and moved on to larger prey." Harold shook his head in distaste. "She's one nut job I'd definitely prefer to steer clear of."
"You do that, Mr. Pembroke. It will be better for everyone if you stay out of our way." Martin ignored the look Samantha shot him. Something about Pembroke set every one of his nerves on edge.
Samantha pulled copies of the two sketches Officer Verna had drawn of Danny's attackers. "Were these the men you saw with Ms. Bathory?"
Harold studied the drawings for a few seconds. "I don't recognize this guy," he said of the full sketch, then he tapped the partial image, "But this fellow is a Romanian that goes by the name of Petru. The woman that was with them is Lateesha Abyad. She's been following Elizabeth around for years."
"Do you know where we could find Ms. Bathory and her friends?" asked Samantha.
"Hell, I didn't even know she'd returned from Montreal until I saw her the other night. I suppose you could look at her father's old properties. I'd heard she inherited them when he died," offered Harold. "Not to be rude, but is this going to take much longer? I've got a business to run."
"I think we're finished for now. Thank you for coming in Mr. Pembroke. You've been very helpful," Samantha shook his hand.
When the same hand was offered to Martin he pointedly ignored it. "I'll have an agent escort you out of the building." Then he signaled to the agent waiting outside the door.
Once Pembroke was gone Samantha had to ask, "What were you doing antagonizing our only helpful witness."
"Pembroke wasn't giving us that information just to be a good citizen. He was playing us somehow, I know it," insisted Martin. Samantha just shook her head at Martin's sudden paranoia and left the room.
Verifying Harold's information told them that 'Elizabeth Bathory' had been born Elizabeth Hastate right here in New York, forty seven years ago. Sam was wondering what kind of surgery she'd undergone since she looked at least fifteen years younger than that. About sixteen years ago she'd taken up residence in Hungary and changed her name. She became something of a nomad, never staying in any one country for more than year. Speaking to the various law enforcement agencies of the countries she'd visited brought a familiar litany of suspicion. She was known to practice some heavy duty S&M, and was suspected to be involved in drugs. She was also the common denominator in dozens of missing persons cases spanning fourteen different countries. Samantha wasn't sure what had prompted Bathory to return to New York, she just wished the woman had left Danny out of her sick games.
Danny had returned to work the second day after his attack. On the surface he seemed to be bouncing back quickly. Jack had vetoed any fieldwork, so Danny had thrown himself into research, learning everything he could about the seventy-odd properties that Bathory had inherited from her father. Each hour that passed with no word on Ryan Saluke seemed to wear on Danny. He was also chafing at the protective custody Jack had set up. It was easy enough to ignore at work, but Danny hadn't liked staying at the safe house, which was really an apartment in China Town, or the forced quality time with his coworkers.
Elena was with him at the apartment right now. The two had left work about three hours ago, after Danny had knocked a chair over in frustration at yet another dead end. Fearing one of the computers might be next, Jack had ordered Danny to leave, get some food and try to relax. Martin had called in a little while ago to report that the search of yet another of Bathory's properties had turn up no new leads. Hearing about Danny's mini-meltdown, he'd decided to head straight to the apartment to relieve Elena, so she could have at least a little time with her daughter before putting her to bed.
"Hey, Samantha," called Vivian from her own desk. "Are you having any luck with the phone records?"
"No, I can't find a phone, not a land line or cell, listed in her name. I've been trying to check phones connected to her properties, but with so many it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," admitted Sam.
"Well, I finally got her financials for the last couple of days. There aren't any store purchases that we can track her with, but she has been withdrawing sizable amounts of cash from several ATMs in the TriBeCa area," shared Vivian.
"The alley where Danny was found was in TriBeCa," remembered Samantha.
"Do we know how many of Bathory's properties are in the same area?" asked Vivian.
Samantha walked over to Martin's desk. A map of Manhattan was cluttered with colorful stickpins, but Sam was only interested in the ones stuck in TriBeCa. "There are eleven properties that Bathory either owns or has a financial interest in. The two closest to the alley were checked by Martin today, which leaves nine strong possibilities." A small wave of relief lifted Samantha's spirits a bit. Finally, they seemed to be on to something.
"Let's start focusing on those nine," suggested Vivian. "I'll update Jack."
+ + + + + + + + +
Martin parked his car along the curb, waiting for traffic to clear before trying to exit. Moving up the stairs to the apartment building, he passed two police officers. Getting an idea, he made an about face and approached the officers. "Hang on guys. Have you got a minute?"
The officers stopped. The veteran female looked inquiringly at Martin, while the younger black male regarded him with mild suspicion.
Martin pulled out his credentials. "If you've got the time, I was hoping you could help me out with something?" When there were no immediate objections Martin pressed on in a quieter done. "I've got a partner upstairs, who's on his third day of being in protective custody. He's going stir crazy, and I wanted to smuggle him out to the gym for an hour or two. The problem is if the other agent upstairs shadows us there, she's going to miss tucking her daughter into bed for the third night in a row. If there's anyway you could just follow us there?" Martin entreated.
The younger man's suspicion had eased as Martin spoke. The veteran asked, "Are you planning to take him to Shamansky's?" It was a favorite gym with many in law enforcement.
"Yeah, I thought giving him a little time on a bag might prevent him from putting his fist through a wall," explained Martin. "He's just up on the fourth floor. I can be back down here with him in maybe five minutes."
"You've got your escort then," agreed the veteran. "Assuming we don't get other orders before you get back down here."
A grin lit Martin's face. "Thanks. I'll be back before you know it." He was jogging up the stairs before he'd finished speaking. The younger officer leaned back against the patrol car to wait. Three minutes had passed when gunfire erupted from within the building, one bullet breaking through a window.
"Shots fired at Remington Apartments, fourth floor. Requesting immediate backup. FBI agents may be involved," radioed the veteran as she and her partner raced to help.
+ + + + + + + + +
"So what's that song you keep humming?" asked Danny. Once he'd settled down a bit Danny had to admit, if only to himself, that he'd been acting like a jerk today. Ryan's case was looking more and more hopeless. On top of that Danny could barely think through the guilt of having left Ryan behind, which is what had to have happened even if Martin didn't think so. Still, none of that was the team's fault. Well, Jack could be blamed for insisting upon the smothering protection. But it wasn't fair to make the rest of the team suffer for Jack's decision.
"Humming?" Elena hadn't even realized that she'd been doing it.
"Yeah, something like . . ." Danny did his best imitation of the tune Elena seemed to have stuck in her head.
Elena looked a tad embarrassed when she recognized the song. "My daughter has a small part in the school play. She's so excited she keeps singing her solo over and over again. 'I'm the littlest pumpkin in the patch, but I'm proud of what I am.'"
Danny chuckled, "I suppose there are worse things to get stuck in your head. When is the play?"
"A week from Friday," replied Elena. "My mother was supposed to finish her costume today, so I'll likely get a preview of the performance when I get home."
"Sounds cute. At least you'll be getting some entertainment tonight." Danny winced at the bitter undertone in his own words.
"I don't think I'll be the only one," countered Elena. "Martin said he had something planned for tonight, when he called earlier."
"Probably greasy cheese burgers and cold fries," discounted Danny. "Martin has no concept of good food."
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. "Speak of the Devil. Maybe you can start his culinary lessons," she teased.
"Right," dismissed Danny, looking back at the files he'd insisted on bringing from the office. He didn't notice Elena check the door's peephole, or see her try to step back and pull her gun.
Elena barely got out a warning, "Danny!" before the apartment door slammed into her knocking her into the wall.
Danny was on his feet and diving for the gun he'd left on the counter even before he identified the men he'd struggled with in the alley. A flying tackle knocked him to the floor before he could reach his weapon. Danny struggled against the weight pinning him to the floor. His whole body bucked, knocking the attacker off him. The respite was short lived as a booted foot kicked him in the side repeatedly until he collapsed in agony. Feeling someone grasp his arms and pull them behind him, Danny tried to flip over and dislodge his assailant. His adversary was unfazed by this, twisting Danny's arms until the pain screamed through him, forcing him to stop his struggles. Danny sucked in deep breaths of air to replace the oxygen already spent in the fight. Even that was used against him as a gag was shoved into his open mouth. He shook his head to little effect. Just like everything else of late, his efforts fell short. A thin band around his wrists and a familiar zip told him that he'd just been bound with plastic ties.
One of the men from the alley roughly pulled Danny to his feet, turning him about to face the rest of his captors. Three of them were men, including the one still holding his arm, hadn't Sam said his name was Petru? One of the other two was the other man from the alley but the third man Danny didn't recognize. There were also two women. A beautiful and coolly sophisticated redhead that Danny just knew was Ryan's 'Queen Hell Bitch' Elizabeth; and a tall, dusky skinned woman that hovered at her Elizabeth's elbow. Danny's eyes continued to search the room until they landed on Elena's form slumped on the floor near the now closed front door.
"Surprised to see me? Surely you didn't think I'd forget about you. After all, it's not everyday a girl like me gets to meet a genuine hero." Elizabeth let her fingers trail possessively across Danny's chest, and then they darted to his forehead, her touch bringing a sting. "Looks like you have a bit of a scratch." Elizabeth showed Danny the small smudge of blood on her fingertips. Seconds later the fingertips entered her mouth where she sucked the blood away like it was melted chocolate.
"My lady," spoke up the man Danny didn't recognize. "What do you want to do with this one?" he asked as he knelt down next to Elena. "Kill her, leave her or bring her along?" The man lifted Elena's head by her hair revealing a bruised temple and a split lip. "You have to admit she looks like she'd make a tasty morsel," encouraged the man, one hand snaking down to grope Elena's breasts.
Danny reflexively jerked against his restraints, cursing though his gag. Not that it helped Elena any. Looking at Danny, Elizabeth smiled again. "Buckingham, you are such a predictable hedonist, but in this case I think you're right. I do believe our new friend would be quite upset if we left the girl behind. Make sure she doesn't wake up and move her down to our van."
Buckingham pulled a syringe out of his pocket, injecting Elena with its contents. Danny's hopes dwindled. Elena likely already had a concussion; God only knew how the poison they were injecting her with would complicate things. She might never wake up. Buckingham then slung Elena's limp body over his shoulder and carried her out the door.
Elizabeth placed her hand on Danny's chin, forcing him to turn away from the door Elena had disappeared through with a surprisingly strong grip. "How much she suffers depends entirely upon you. Give me what I want, Daniel, and I'll let her go," she promised.
The gag prevented him from calling her the liar he knew she was, but the rage in his eyes easily telegraphed his distrust.
The low hum of a vibrating cell interrupted Elizabeth's lies. "Yes? Really? Allow him up." Closing the cell Elizabeth smiled at Danny again. "If you won't cooperate for Elena's sake, perhaps you will for Martin's."
She may have well have punched Danny in the gut. He barely noticed being forced to his knees, but he couldn't ignore the blade Elizabeth placed at his neck, as Petru and the other man from the alley moved close to the door to ambush Martin. Danny sought frantically for some way to give a warning. Elena was already captured because of him; he couldn't let it happen to Martin too. The blade at his throat cut the skin, as Elizabeth seemed to read his intentions. Not that it mattered. Even without the blade he couldn't shout a warning, bound and gagged as he was. The utter silence in the room made it easy to hear the distant ping of the elevator, and the steady footfalls coming ever closer. In desperation Danny threw his whole body to the side. The painful sting in his neck was worth it when he heard the satisfying shatter of the two glasses that fell off the end table.
Elizabeth yanked Danny back under control. Her hands threading through his hair to pull his head back so he was forced to look up at her. The blade was once again at his neck, this time sitting on his jugular. "Sooner or later you will stop fighting me, hero," she vowed.
For the second time the front door crashed in. "FBI! Drop your weapons and surrender!" Hearing Martin's voice brought a mixture of hope and fear. The noise had been enough to let Martin know there was trouble, but Martin's quick response told him that Martin hadn't called for back up.
The man from the alley rushed at Martin and promptly received two bullets for his trouble. Petru came at Martin from his other side before he could adjust his aim. As the two struggled for control of the gun it went off again shooting through the ceiling into the apartment above. Martin fought with everything he had, but Petru was slowly gaining the edge in their battle. Slammed into the wall, Martin lost his footing. It was enough for Petru to swing Martin into the counter, hammering his wrists into the edge with numbing impact. The third such blow was followed by the clatter of a falling gun. Martin was quick enough to kick the gun out of Petru's reach, but Petru was more interested in immobilizing Martin. Within seconds the FBI agent was on his stomach being secured by his own handcuffs.
Pulled up to his knees, Martin quickly locked eyes with Danny. Danny was bound and gagged, the blood on his face and neck telling of the struggle he'd given. Danny's eyes seemed to be apologizing to Martin for their circumstances, but Martin couldn't afford the time it would take to reassure Danny, especially when he didn't know how this would end. Elena was conspicuously missing, but even concerns for her had to wait. The only option left to Martin was to stall for time. "Your friend's going to bleed to death if you don't get him to a hospital soon." Martin nodded at the attacker he'd shot.
"An excellent point, Martin," replied Elizabeth agreeably. "Lateesha, would you help Carl down to the van?" The silent, slender woman that had melded into the shadows stepped forward, picking up Carl like he was nothing more than a jug of milk. "Do you have any other helpful suggestions?"
"Yeah, I suggest you surrender. The police are already on the premises," Martin warned. Elizabeth chuckled and hoisted Danny to his feet before shoving him carelessly into Petru's waiting arms. Petru turned the battered agent around and forced him down next to Martin. Martin offered what support he could as Danny listed against him. "Are you alright, man?" Danny nodded weakly, his eyes swimming with guilt. Martin knew that Danny felt responsible for not finding Ryan yet. It looked as though he now felt responsible for Martin and probably whatever had happened to Elena, too. "This isn't your fault," Martin tried to convince his friend. "The only one responsible for what's happening is the 'Hell Bitch'," swore Martin.
"Such defiance, you're just like Daniel." Elizabeth strolled calmly across the floor to bend over Martin. "Even if the police are in the building right now, there is no way for them to reach us," she declared. Elizabeth crouched down to examine Martin more closely. She reached out to caress Martin's cheek and gasped in surprise. "More alike than I realized," she murmured to herself, taking Martin's jaw in an iron grip, she stared into his eyes.
"Elizabeth? What's wrong, my Lady?" The silent muscleman, Petru spoke for the first time, his Romanian accent clear to Martin.
"Can't you feel it?" demanded Elizabeth. "Martin is Chosen just like Daniel. They both are! This is no coincidence; this is destiny. I see what I'm meant to do now." Elizabeth's eyes took on a fervent glow. "Fate has gifted me with their transformation. And transform them I will; into the most glorious creatures this world has ever seen."
Martin had no idea what Elizabeth meant by transform, but he was starting to understand why this woman had been haunting Danny's nightmares since the night he was first taken. He was absolutely certain that he and Danny didn't want to be 'transformed' into anything that Elizabeth would consider glorious. "You're insane."
"Perhaps," conceded Elizabeth, "But soon enough you'll be begging to join me in my insanity." Elizabeth took Martin's mouth in a brutal kiss. When he refused to part his lips beneath her assault she bit, tearing his lower lip. Pulling back she licked his blood off her lips with a seductive smile. "Until you're ready, I think it's best if you slept."
Danny began to struggle beside him. Martin realized why when he saw the syringes. The jab in his arm was followed almost immediately by fuzzy vision and a weakness invading his limbs, seconds later the world drifted away.