Main Characters: Martin Fitzgerald, Danny Taylor, Jack Malone, OC
A fictional work based on the TV series 'Without a Trace'
Rating: PG-17 (Language, violence)
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the show or characters. This story is for entertainment purposes only, without profit or gain of any kind.
Note: This is not really a fanfic, it doesn't have all the necessary ingredients (but one of those is in the works). However, I love Halloween so I couldn't resists a ficlet of what happens when our two favorite F.B.I agents are coming home on a dark road during a storm on Halloween night — screeching brakes, a little blood, a steep hill, and refuge during a wicked storm in an old house- that just happens to be haunted.
"I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today."-John Fogerty, CCR, 'Bad Moon Rising' Green River Album 1969
Manhattan Federal Building Oct 31 5:45 p.m.
Jack Malone eyed the empty office outside of his window and frowned. Normally, the place was a hub of activity. Vivian had the day off; she and Marcus had been to wedding in North Carolina over the weekend. Sam left early to prepare for her Halloween party and Taylor and Fitzgerald were in New England testifying at a trial. Several months earlier while interviewing a witness, they'd witnessed a bank robbery and held the felons until the police arrived.
He went back to his work, ignoring the hands on the clock. Since his kids moved away, Halloween had lost its appeal. When they were little, he'd always come home early to help them dress up and take them trick-or-treating. He didn't want to be in the empty apartment handing out candy to someone else's kids, especially well intentioned neighbors who offered that sympathetic nod and pat on the arm. No, he was better here, buried in his work. He looked up when he heard someone opening the cabinet under the coffee mess. Craning his neck, he was still unable to see who was outside, so he left his desk and walked into the outer office. A familiar blond head was peering inside the cabinet.
"Boy, you are hard up, stealing plastic spoons and Coffeemate."
"French Vanilla," Chris Boone corrected, standing with two containers of the sweet creamer.
"French Vanilla," Jack repeated, wrinkled his nose in distaste and shook his head. "What no bon-bons to go with that?"
"For my thermal mug, one for the road. I got two ballistic reports to drop off and evidence at the D.A's office before I pick my costume up. Speaking of which, where's your costume?" Chris moved past the scowling figure and into his office.
"Walk right in, Chris, never mind my privacy," Jack groused, watching the handsome blond man peeking inside the closet. "It's a secret."
"You're full of shit, Malone, you forgot, didn't you?" Boone teased, his pale green eyes lit up in mirth. "Sam's gonna be pissed."
"It's none of your business," Malone shut the door and shoved the grinning body away. "And I happen to have a very good costume," he chased back.
"Bullshit," Chris laughed as the strong hand propelled him into the outer office. "Okay, I'm going." He paused and saw Jack appraising him and wondering. "Cassanova." He thumped his chest and winked.
Jack chuffed, shook his head and grimaced. "It figures, tight-assed black pants and a faggoty shirt with the buttons undone."
"I got a reputation to maintain," Chris defended, heading for the hallway.
Jack was still grinning when he turned back to eye the empty office. It wasn't that he'd forgotten about getting a costume, he'd just kept putting it off. He thought of digging out his old army uniform but it wouldn't fit anymore. He could put on his FBI sweat suit and go as a jogger, but he didn't have a clean one. Chris was right in that Sam wouldn't be happy, the party was to raise money for a colleague whose child had cancer and the treatments were expensive and not covered by his insurance. So everyone was coming. Sighing, he headed for the coffee mess to lock it up when he got an idea and smiled.
"Problem solved," he noted happily.
Curly's Diner Connecticut Seven p.m.
While his partner was devouring a thick steak with sauteed onions, Martin Fitzgerald eyed the new night sky with apprehension. The storm clouds above coupled with the wind kicking up and the temperature dropping spelled trouble. Although the local forecast didn't contain any mention of a storm, something he was grateful for. With any luck, they'd be back in New York in a few hours. He turned back to the table as Taylor's voice broke the silence.
"Man, I can't believe I'm gonna miss Sam's party," Danny moaned of the masquerade party Sam was hosting at a midtown hotel. "Me and Lola had it all worked out, a theme thing."
"Lola?" Martin chuckled, dipping a hunk of crusty bread into the thick, rich, beef stew. "She new? What happened to Amoroso?"
"Amour-Rose," Danny corrected, tossing a wadded up napkin at his partner. "Amoroso is a roll. Anyway, she's history. I met Lola at the library and..."
"The library?" Martin choked, reaching for his water.
"Yeah, what's so funny about that?" Taylor's brows furrowed in annoyance. "I happen to enjoy the printed word."
"I didn't realize they had a section for R-rated comic books there," Fitzgerald tossed back. "So what were you really doing in a library?"
"My wheels died and it was cold as hell, I called for a tow but they were going to be late. So I ducked inside the place to catch some heat." Danny grinned and winked. "And there she was, like Fate stepped in and guided me up those stairs."
"Here comes my dinner back up." Martin predicted, "So what's this idea you came up with?"
"Catwoman and Batman." Danny forked the last remaining piece of meat and picked up the steak sauce, dosing the tender bit, "She found this hot, leather outfit, a micro mini skirt and slick boots, I mean it looks like it was painted on."
"You in a cape? Sorry, I don't see that at all," Martin answered, reaching for his coffee.
"Cape? Who said anything about a cape?" Danny grinned and wagged his eyebrows. "Leather pants, a spiked collar and cuffs with little chains... you know he's her prisoner."
"Leather and handcuffs." Martin shook his head as the waitress headed their way. "Things sure have gone to hell in Gotham City."
"Anything I can get for you, handsome?" the waitress purred, leaning on the table facing him.
"No, thanks, just the check," Martin answered with a heart-melting smile.
"Hey, what about me?" Danny called back after the peroxide-haired, slightly chubby waitress.
"What about you?" Fitzgerald deadpanned, pulling out his wallet.
"Well, maybe I'd like some dessert." Taylor frowned and leaned over, "Besides, she can't be that blind, I mean that Huckleberry Finn shit you got only goes so far. Me, I'm the real deal."
"Hey now, don't get your batskivvies in a bunch." Martin dropped some bills on the table. "I gotta hit the head. I'll meet you at the car."
"Blind as a bat," Danny soured as both waitresses halted his blue-eyed partner on the way to the men's room to say something to him. "Women, I'll never figure them out."
Manhattan Eight p.m
The atmosphere of the colorful crowd matched the bright decor in the crowded room. Costumed partygoers of every size and shape were wining, dining and dancing. Sam had to smile at Chris Boone, who looked as dashing in his form-fitting costume as the original. Any female within range was looking at him or moving in for the kill. Her smile widened when she saw the handsome blond dancing with a very attractive brunette in a Catwoman costume. Somewhere on the interstate, Danny Taylor would be eating his heart out. The music changed and Chris led the young lady to a table and flagged down a waitress, scooping a glass of red wine from the tray. Handing it to her, he whispered to her and then stood up, then headed Sam's way.
"True to form," Sam toasted and chuckled as 'Casanova' kissed her cheek.
"Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets," Chris toasted of the well-known expression. "You look great, Cleopatra." He leaned in and winked, 'How 'bout you and me taking a long ride up the Nile?"
"What about Lola?" she asked.
"And Gabrielle," Chris noted of his date, a stunning redhead dressed as a courtesan. "Foursome?" he posed and she laughed and rolled her eyes. "Oh, well, can't blame a guy for trying. Shame Martin and Danny had to miss this; you throw a helluva party, Sunshine."
"Thanks," she replied and saw a worn looking man with a wrinkled suit and a very tired face approaching. "Another country heard from."
"Original, Jack," Boone noted of the body in the same suit he'd left him in earlier. "A gravedigger, nice."
"I got a costume!" Jack defended, stealing the beer from the amused blond team leader's hand. He frowned at the snug pants tucked into black boots.
"An overworked, rumpled FBI agent doesn't count, Jack," Sam corrected. "I can't believe you forgot."
"I got a costume," Malone repeated, taking a swig of the cold beer. "It's not my fault if either of you stellar investigators can't figure it out. Talk about my tax dollars being wasted on federal bums like you." He saw both perplexed faces and stole a handful of peanuts from the tray on the bar. "Lord Tetley," he proclaimed and Boone began to laugh.
"Huh?" Sam narrowed her eyes suspiciously as Jack tapped his breast pocket. There hanging over the edge was the blue tag from a Tetley tea bag. "Oh my God, Jack, that's lame."
"Clever," Jack corrected and tried to hide his grin from Boone, who'd kept laughing, "You and the Love God are just jealous."
"The Love God," the handsome blond repeated, nodding. "I like that, speaking of which," he paused to kiss Sam's hand, "my fair queen, I have to leave your beauty behind, my ladies await me."
"Ladies?" Jack quizzed and watched the tall lean body move through the room. The right hand shot up with two fingers raised in triumph. Jack grinned and held up his beer in tribute. "And the night is still young."
"Shame the boys had to miss this," Sam noted, "I know Martin was really looking forward to it. Have they checked in?"
"Yeah," Jack said, moving with the Queen of the Nile towards the buffet. He got some roast beef, meatballs and pasta and sat down at an empty table. "Danny called a little while ago from a diner, they were leaving for home."
"He might have well stayed there," Sam chuckled, pointing to Chris who was dancing with Catwoman.
"Who's that? I thought his date was the red head... a treasury agent?"
"Gabrielle," Sam filled in nodding to the pretty redhead on the other side of the room, "She is, that's Lola. She was supposed to meet Danny here." She grinned and elbowed Jack. "You know how chivalrous Chris is..."
"Yeah, that's him, a real knight," Malone laughed. "The guy's got talent; I'll give him that."
"And looks, charm and personality..." Sam added and picked up the Tetley tag. "But he doesn't have a title and a castle."
"Damn straight," Jack saluted with his beer.
Connecticut Ten p.m.
With every passing mile on the dark road, Danny got more worried. What had started a couple hours ago as a fierce rain storm had progressed into a dangerous icy mix. The roads were freezing up, the wind was wicked and he was struggling to navigate the winding road. The heat blasting from the vents made him glad they weren't outside in this surprise storm. Driving was slower, they'd covered only about half the ground they normally would have. Martin had dozed off about an hour ago. He should wake him up to take over, but he knew Fitzgerald had been up late working on a pending file.
The D.A. in New York needed the information by eight a.m. and the cold had gotten the best of him. His partner had decided to do the report himself; allowing him to chug-a-lug cold medicine and hit the hay early. He'd woken briefly at 3 a.m. in a coughing fit and Fitzgerald was still working. So he wasn't surprised that the weary man had dozed off, between the swish of the wipers and the heat coming out of the vent, it was easy.
Martin's slumber was interrupted when the car suddenly began to spin, causing his head to hit the side window He blinked and his eyes went wide with fear when the car spun completely around before stopping. He was still braced with both hands against the dashboard, when they finally stopped. Once his heart resumed, he allowed himself to breathe again and turned to the stricken driver.
"Hey man, you okay?" he asked and noted the white-knuckled fingers gripping the wheel.
The anxious dark eyes were fixed and the lack of breathing was alarming. "Take a breath, Danny, we're okay. Danny? You with me?" Martin snapped his fingers.
"Sorry," Danny gasped and blinked, watching as if in slow motion as Martin tried to pry his wrist loose. He elbowed the intrusive hand away and put the car in park. He looked out the side window and his heart nearly stopped, there were only a few feet until the road dropped off severely. He dropped his hands and laid his head back on the headrest, covering his face with his hands.
"Danny?" Martin questioned and saw the headlights on the road, now slick with ice. Then he saw the digital numbers on the clock, over an hour had passed. "Why didn't you wake me? When did this start?" He didn't miss the fact that his partner looked awful; the scratchy voice had gotten worse and the eyes were red-rimmed from the cold.
"I dunno, a half-hour ago maybe. I couldn't stop, I got no traction," Taylor mumbled, taking a shaky breath. "Jesus, Martin, I almost put us over the edge..."
"Okay, get out, I'll take over, you should have woken me up." Fitzgerald unbuckled his belt. He didn't miss the trembling hands just under the steering wheel.
"It wasn't bad until the last ten miles or so, it's really dicey," Danny called out as he headed out the door and cautiously proceeded around the other side.
"Where are we?" Martin peered ahead as he slowly started the car and crept along the icy road.
"Off course in the mountains somewhere, the interstate closed, a Semi jackknifed and three cars hit it, it's a mess, closed indefinitely. I got off at the first exit."
"Okay, we'll try to find a hotel or something; there's gotta be something on this road." Martin hoped.
Martin tried to keep a positive attitude as he slowly made his way down the very narrow road. It was black as pitch and the ice was getting worse. He wasn't sure how much longer he could control the car. The rear wheels had fishtailed several times already. He sighed in frustration when he realized the pain slamming into his head was one of his migraines. He felt sick and was having trouble keeping his eyes open. The dim light seemed to hurt them and he gagged a couple times. He hated to wake Danny up but he had to pull over, he was going to vomit or pass out, if not both. Suddenly, the darkness ahead was pierced by a blinding white light. Actually it was a pair of large headlights of a truck and it was heading right for them. "Shit! Shit!"
"What?" Danny's shoulders jerked as his eyes opened, widening in terror. "Martin look out!" he screamed as the car left the road in a echo of squealing brakes, horns and metal hitting metal.
"Shit, aw shit," Fitzgerald hissed, his heart hammering so hard in his chest that he felt sure it would spike on a rib. "Brace yourself, Danny!" He grit his teeth as the car continued down a rocky hill until it rested against a tree. The only sound was the howling wind and a flash of lighting which sent a blue light through the cracked windshield giving the unmoving occupants an unearthly gray pallor.
Litchfield County, CT
Stumbling and supporting each other, the wet and battered agents navigated the icy terrain with great difficulty. Fate had truly been kind; they'd escaped the wreck with minor cuts and bruises, save Martin's back. Although he'd not admitted to it, Danny knew by the way he found Martin twisted in the seat that his back was injured in the accident. The air bags saved them, of that he was sure. But the car was totaled and neither cell phone was working. It was freezing and the sooner they found help and shelter, the better.
"Sit," Danny ordered, lowering Martin onto a large rock in the road.
The death grip which held onto his arm as the lean man settled down told him how bad the pain was. The right side of Martin's face was swelling up from where it impacted with part of the tree through a broken window. Martin had been unconscious for almost ten minutes and Danny suspected a slight concussion. He'd thrown up as soon as he regained consciousness and once a few moments ago. Danny's own lip was split and what he'd assumed was a cold, had turned into a bad sore throat as well. How could it get any worse?
"Let's go," Martin announced and gingerly rose. They couldn't afford to stop. He was getting stiffer by the minute and his face was throbbing. He'd thrown up twice already and wished like hell they'd stayed over in the motel. He slipped on the icy road and grabbed onto Danny, but the pain that shot through his back caused him to yelp.
"Lean on me," Danny ordered, taking Martin's arm over his shoulder. "You're a mess, Harvard. What am I gonna do with you? Puking all over, face lookin' like a hamburger, bad back..."
"Trade me... in... for... a ... newer model..." Fitzgerald suggested with a half-grin.
"Nah," Danny denied and held on tighter. "Besides, it couldn't 'blush and Ma'am' me into the good tables at overbooked restaurants." He teased of the blue-eyed man's ability to create 'openings' where none existed. The laugh that he got in return gave him a lift.
Martin peered into the fierce wind and turned his face to protect it from the icy rain that was just beginning to pelt him, stinging his face like tiny needles. Then the whole sky lit up when a jagged and almost unnatural bolt of lightning turned the darkness into a momentary noonday light.
"Look!" he yelled, pointing to the huge Gothic house ahead of them on the path. Illuminated by the lightning, it seemed to appear as if out of the mists of time. "I guess that's the old Heatherstone mansion."
He brushed past Taylor and moved through the gate and up the curving drive. He paused several yards from the massive, cathedral-like stone structure. The four-story house had a steeply pitched roof, arched, pointed windows and decorative tracery. Grouped chimneys and pinnacles scored the edifice; battlements and parapets gave it the appearance of a medieval castle. Leaded, stain glass cathedral style windows and smaller clover shaped windows met his eye. Spires rose up to the sky from the peaked roof. A hideous pair of gargoyles squatted on the corners of the roof over the verandah. They rose on their haunches and roared, baring their teeth and talons, when the startled agent looked at them.
"No fuckin' way!" Danny denied, blessing himself and turning back towards where the car had run off the road.
They'd gone down, skirting their way to the bottom of the hill rather than navigate up a very steep, very high and very icy hill to where they'd left the road. The path led through a wooded area and then opened up into a large driveway of sorts. He knew about the house, he'd not only read about in the local papers that morning but he'd seen it featured on the television news the night before. They were featuring all the 'haunted' houses in the area. The house was over a hundred and fifty years old and rumored to have been the sight of human sacrifice and other blood taking rituals at the turn of the century.
"What?" Martin turned and grinned, seeing the fear displayed in the otherwise brave eyes. "You're scared!"
"And you're out of what little's left of your mind!" Danny shot back, shaking his head." A haunted house on Halloween? I look crazy to you?" His arm was gripped and he was forced unwillingly back up the uneven cobblestone path.
"It's not haunted," Martin argued and dragged a very unwilling, dark-haired man up the path, each needing the other for balance as the strong wind nearly bowed them down. They stumbled onto the porch and Martin peered into the window. "That's just gossip and rumors. It's old and full of creaks and groans, all old houses are."
"And the undead," Danny shouted over the wind and backed up, heading down the path from which they'd came. "No thanks."
"Come on Danny, it's just a deserted, old house," Martin insisted and jumped a bit when a huge roar of thunder shook the ground under their feet. "Look, this storm is getting worse, in a few moments all hell's gonna break loose. We got no wheels and this is the only shelter for about thirty or forty miles." He waited but Taylor wouldn't budge, he remained a few feet away seemingly not noticing that the freezing rain was now coming down in torrents.
Martin was annoyed. He was cold, his headache was brutal and his back hurt. To top it all off, now he was getting soaked. "Okay, Einstein, what's your idea?" he quizzed and then peered closer. He stifled a chuckle then as he saw the dark-eyed man's lips moving. "Are you praying?"
"Damn straight," Taylor announced and pulled out his cross, hanging on a thin gold chain on his neck. Tia Isabella gave me this," he noted of his aunt. "It was blessed by the Pope. You're lucky I'm not so pissed off at you that I'm not praying for your ungrateful soul too."
"Danny, we have no choice," Martin yelled over the wind, flinching as the icy needles of rain hit his eyes and stung them. He grabbed at Taylor's arm and tried to pull him onto the porch. But his partner shoved back, sending him to the ground.
"Get offa me!" Danny hollered over the wind and turned away, he'd take his chances in the car. He heard a loud crack and turned too late.
"Danny!" Martin screamed, rose quickly and dove towards Taylor.
A huge tree limb sent them both to the ground. For a few moments neither man moved. Then Martin rolled away, wincing as the pain in his injured back flared. Gasping and numb from the cold, he drew in several ragged breaths and tried to move. For a few seconds, he panicked, fearing that he couldn't move at all. Then he turned and saw that Danny was lying motionless a few feet away.
Martin moved then, ignoring the pain in his lower back. He wiggled free and crawled over to where the dark-haired man remained trapped and unmoving. A jagged burst of lightning scored above them which showed a crimson flow covering the handsome agent's features. His wet fingers slid below the tangled branch and hit Taylor's neck. He sighed in relief at the strong pulse that met his touch. It took him several moments, groans of pain and a few choice curses to get the large limb off the unmoving agent.
"Sorry, partner, you lose." He knelt, secured his unconscious friend in a fireman's hold over his shoulders and staggered back towards the house, his back screaming in a fiery protest.
Martin was surprised when the door opened as soon as he leaned against it and tugged on the gargoyle knocker. He stumbled inside and staggered badly, rain dripping from every inch of him. He blinked and tried to adjust his eyes to the darkness, desperate to find someplace to lay his injured partner down before his legs gave out. His eyes shifted around the large foyer to several doors. The closest one was to his left and he proceeded slowly, careful of his cargo. He turned the knob and the door opened, revealing a large library of sorts. Sheets covered the furniture and Martin wasted no time in stumbling towards what appeared to be a large divan. He backed up and eased his burden down, turning and laying his unmoving friend out flat.
"Danny?" he rasped, gripping the edge of a table to brace himself against the pain in his back. "Hey, man, you okay?" He tapped the wet, bloody face and got no reply.
He pulled a wad of napkins from his inner pocket and wiped the side of Taylor's face. At the hairline, a jagged cut appeared and he applied pressure until it stopped bleeding. Shivering badly, he eyed the fireplace and the switch by the mantle. Flames sprung to life when he flipped it on. He recalled reading about a Ghost Hunter's group that had held a gathering of sorts in the place last weekend. The Gas Company must not have turned the gas back off. Warmth flooded the immediate area, although the large room was very drafty. He cast his eyes around and spotted a light switch on the far wall. Gingerly, he walked over and flicked it on, illuminating the room. He took his sodden jacket off and rolled his sleeves up, warming his face and arms. He then moved Danny closer, shoving the whole divan to the edge of the hearth. "...shit... aw... shit..." he dropped down, clutching the area over his right kidney.
He'd pushed his injured back too far and the pain caused his legs to buckle. The migraine was in overdrive, creating a wall of throbbing agony in his skull. The room seemed to spin and his stomach lurched. He was blinking hard trying to fight off the dizziness when something caught his eye in the large mirror over the fireplace. Had something moved in the foyer reflected there? What he saw made him wonder about the severity of his head injury. He closed his eyes for a moment and then glanced again. Had he imagined it? He turned to see but was halted by what felt like a hot knife lancing his lower back. He cried out once before his eyes rolled up and he fell forward, landing next to his injured partner.
Neither man saw the twisted creatures that were watching and waiting, nor did they hear the macabre laughter that filled the room.
The party was over and only a handful of guests remained in the small bar in the lobby. Sam had departed already, heading with friends to their Long Island home. Twice, Chris Boone eyed the doorway to the outer area, where the bathrooms and coat room were located. The fact that Jack Malone hadn't returned didn't have him worried as much as curious. Then when Malone finally did return, the look on his face caused the blond man's stomach to drop. His gut instincts had him alerted. Something was wrong, of that he was sure.
"Jack?" Chris asked, spotting the phone still in Malone's hand. Fearful of the accidents that occur at times on Halloween from sick bastards who poison candy and worse, the thought of Hannah and Kate struck him. "Your kids okay?"
"Huh?" Jack looked up, very distracted. "Oh, fine."
"Problem?" Chris pressed.
"I hope not." Jack sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I called the office to check my messages. Kate and Hannah left one, they had a great Halloween."
"Danny and Martin?" Chris asked and saw a strange pall appear on his friend's face.
"I thought maybe they'd checked in, when I talked to Danny, I was still working. I thought maybe he'd called there. But there was two messages waiting, both from the Connecticut State Troopers."
"Shit," Chris hissed, knowing that Fitzgerald and Taylor were late checking in. They were supposed to call midway on the journey and gain when they arrived in New York. "Danny and Martin haven't checked in?"
"No and they won't be," Malone replied, sliding the phone in his pocket, "seems like some freak ice storm hit the area, accidents all over, roads closed."
"And?" Boone was worried and didn't hide his concern.
"The first message said they found the car empty a couple hours ago."
"Empty?" he asked and saw the dark head nodding.
"At the bottom of a hill, twisted around a tree..."
"Jesus! Empty? That's good, they got out."
"The cops found a truck in the middle of a road with front end damage. The driver was drunk, couldn't tell them anything. But they traced his path and saw Martin's car. Stupid jerk was driving the wrong way, forced them off."
"But they got out, Jack, they're okay."
"Are they?" Jack worried. "It's near freezing up there; they're on foot and might even be hurt. The troopers didn't find any tracks or the snow covered them. They didn't get far, a large tree came down, a lot of the roads up there are closed. The wind is too strong, no choppers until morning. But they got an alert out, they'll keep trying."
"The storm's moving in the other direction, our roads should be clear," Chris offered. "Where'd they break down?"
"Near as I can tell about three hours north, near Torrington, in the mountains. "
"Let's go, my Land Cruiser can get through anything."
"Chris, you don't have to do this..."
"What, and let you have all the fun?" the blond agent teased lightly. "Just let me update the girls and get them a cab." He spoke of Lola and Gabrielle, who were both waiting for him in the bar.
"You're going dressed like that?" Jack's voice rose a full pitch as his eyes skimmed over the tight black pants with a white shirt tucked into a scarlet, sash waistband. The full sleeves and deep v-neck on the shirt transformed the handsome agent into a dashing figure of another century. The mask and cape had been left in the bar.
"Unless you want me to drive commando," Chris replied with a hint of a challenge.
"You better hope to hell we don't get pulled over," Malone warned, "I'm not explaining why I'm driving around with you in that candy-assed outfit."
"It's not due back until Monday," Boone retorted with a bold wink and clapped his friend's back. "Might as well get my money's worth, eh Jack?"
"Money?" Jack frowned. "Why keep it all weekend?" he asked and saw a naughty grin appear on his friend's face. "Oh, why did I ask."
"Did you call Sam?" he asked.
"No, not yet. No sense worrying her until I know more. Besides, she's over an hour away by now and too far to come back in time. I'll update her when we get closer and we know more."
"Here." Chris tossed Jack his keys. "I'll meet you out front." He heard the deep sigh and turned back, seeing a worried face. He rested his hand lightly on the slumped shoulders. "Hey, no news is good news, Jack. They're not dead, we'll find them."
"I got a bad feeling..." Jack replied and headed for the parking area. He hoped his instincts were wrong this time, that he'd get a call from Danny saying they were safe. But the dark clouds that covered the moon seemed to be an ominous sign of what was to come.
The ice storm was making driving more difficult by the hour. The troopers patrolling the road wondered how much longer they could manage without turning into another statistic. Ed Davis was just about to tell his partner to take the next turn, he thought it best to get back to base, but what the headlights caught in the road ahead gave both men a chill.
"Shit..." Buck Thomson swore at the sight of the state vehicle turned on its side. As he pulled closer and carefully brought the car to a stop, a severed hand and boot was seen in the road.
"Christ... what the hell happened?" Davis asked, getting out of the car. He peered in the back of the wagon, while his partner radioed the vehicle identification and plate to the base. He moved to the other side and found the first body, both hands were missing. The dead man's throat was slit and his eyes were missing. "Shit! Buck get over here!"
"What?" Thomson paused, standing next to the driver's seat. The sight of his veteran partner throwing up caused him to move. There wasn't much that would cause Davis to lose it. His own stomach nearly turned over when he saw the body. "Eddie, you okay?"
"Yeah...." he replied, swallowing a mouthful of wet snow and then spitting it out. He swiped his chin and walked gingerly around the bodies, peering into the front seat. "Look at the trip sheet," he handed over the clipboard, "he was transporting the fuckin' maniac from the psycho ward."
"Deaver?" Thomson paused, adding up the clues on the ground around them and the news he'd heard only a few days ago. "Cleaver Deaver?" he noted of the mad killer whose trademark had been his weapon of choice, used to cut off body parts.
"Freddie Kruger come to life." Davis replied.
"He died a few days ago; I heard it on the news."
"Looks like his kin came up from West Virginia." Davis flashed a light onto the plate on the car that was a few yards ahead.
"I heard about them, freaks that lived in the hills, a real bunch of lunatics. They intermarried or something. I read somewhere that they suspect half of the missing people over the years in the area might be buried on Deaver's ground."
"Old Clyde and Carl were the exception," Davis recalled of the man from his younger days. "Hell, it's more than forty years ago, but I remember seeing the trial coverage on television when I was a kid. The others were deformed, long haired freaks, some couldn't talk, just made guttural sounds, some kind of genetic thing. Lived like a pack of animals in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, totally cut off. Twins, they were, real normal looking, they were the ones who came down from the hills to town to get supplies and stuff. Locals thought they were born from one of the missing women."
"Ran off with some girls, right?" Thomson remembered reading about him.
"Yeah, they were from this area, a bunch of hippies. They moved into that old mansion, the Heatherstone place. Shacked up for awhile but something happened over the winter. Come spring some body parts showed up in the river, they tracked it back to that old place. Turns out those animals tortured them girls in the cellar, cut 'em up and ate parts of 'em. Carl got away somehow, they never did find him. But Clyde got caught on the scene and held for trial. He's been locked up in the nut house since '65. He died last week and they were taking his body to the crematory. I guess some of the clan got word somehow. Shit... this is fuckin' mess. We don't know how many of them sick bastards were in that truck." Davis flashed a light into the back of a beat-up, very old white pickup truck. "Tires shot out, looks like he got a couple rounds off before he was killed. Whoever it is, they're on foot. Hell they can't be far, not in this mess. Let's call it in. I want help up here and in those woods. "
"I hope to hell those Feds from New York aren't in the woods," Thomson said, heading back to his car to call the base. "Them Deavers hate the law, no telling what they'll do if they run into them."
"I hear that," Davis replied, picking up his radio. "I don't want to have to be the one to tell that Malone guy that his missing men are strewn in parts all over the woods."
"Don't go around tonight
Well it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise."
Heatherstone Mansion Midnight
For a few moments he remained very still, his weary brain was not able to put all the right pieces in place. Dark eyes moved cautiously around the large room, investigating the high ceilings with ornate designs. The furniture and other items in the room were antiques. He was lying on a soft piece of furniture, like a sofa without arms. He felt warmth to his left and turned to see a fire burning in a large hearth. He immediately regretted the move as his head threatened to explode. Moaning softly, he brought his hand over his eyes and tried to quell the waves of nausea rising steadily. This was not just the cold and sore throat he'd had this morning.
The questions arrived again, rudely interrupting his attempt to return to the blackness without pain. Where was he? How did he get here? What happened? The last thing he remembered was leaving a courthouse. Why did his head feel like a house fell on him? He regarded his shoes, glad to see that they were intact and not encrusted with rubies.
"Toto, we ain't in Kansas anymore," Danny rasped and closed his eyes, hoping that would help. He took several slow breaths, trying hard not to vomit. His hand dropped off the edge of the silky fabric and hit something soft and warm, hair and flesh met his touch. A face emerged in his mind's eye, classically handsome with blue eyes. "Martin?"
He gingerly moved his head a tiny bit and peered down, enough to see his partner was lying on the floor on his stomach, arms strewn out. It was an unnatural position, which told the foggy-brained detective that Martin had either fallen or been hit by something. His fingers moved down until they found the unmoving man's neck and a solid pulse. He grabbed hold of the neck and shook it.
"Hey, man, you okay? Wake up," he croaked, lying back and gagging twice. His body moved on instinct, turning and leaning down so as not to choke. He began to cough then and his eyes teared up from the effort.
"Whoa!" Martin blinked and saw the eruption about to occur. He tried to move but the stabbing pain in his back prevented it. "No... I can't move... go the other way..."
Why couldn't Martin move? Danny eased his body back onto the couch and wondered why the room was spinning. His hand moved to his head and he felt a sticky gash and cried out when his fingers hit the tender spot. "...the hell happened...." he demanded, frowning as the sound of his own voice came back to pierce his skull.
"Storm... car ran off the road... you got hit by a tree..." Martin managed, worried about the fact he couldn't move.
A tree? Danny thought hard and continued taking slow breaths, grateful that the threat of throwing up had left. Flashes appeared, coming quickly and leaving too fast to allow recollection of details. Like annoying insects in the summer that buzz in your ear, by the time you swat, they're gone. He tried to grab onto some of them, a diner, a car trip, a dark road, and then nothing. He opened his eyes and realized that Martin was still on the floor. "Harvard? You still with me?"
"I'm sorry..." Martin replied, frustrated that he couldn't move. His ragged breaths came with his fisted hands as he once again tried to rise. "Ahhhh... God...." he cried out as a paralyzing pain prevented movement.
"What the hell's wrong?" Danny sat up and grabbed onto the edges of the chair, taking slow breaths and waiting for the room to level out. He recalled Martin mentioning an 'accident' and a 'tree' hitting him. "The tree hit you too?"
"No... yes... no... shit..." Martin pounded the floor.
"Calm down," Danny ordered, seeing half of Martin's face and the severe bruising. It was swollen and discolored, the only eye he could see was nearly shut. "The tree hit your face?"
"Yeah, through a window," Martin sighed in frustration. "The car went off the road, it hit a tree, my back got twisted up in the wreck, my face hit the trunk. We walked here and lightning hit the tree outside, the limb caught your head." He let out a long breath, totally spent by the effort. The silence that followed told him his partner was trying to remember. "Nothing?"
"No, just a diner and a dark road, that's it." Danny stood up and sneezed twice, sending his body into motion.
"Sit down!" Martin said, unable to see much but Taylor swaying. "You're swooning..."
"The hell I am!" Danny replied testily, "I look like a girl to you?"
"You have a concussion... I can't... we can't afford to have you pass out. I can't move. Sit down..."
"Okay," Danny agreed, eyeing the room again. "Where are we?"
"Connecticut, the Heatherstone mansion." Martin squinted at his watch. "Shit! I lost an hour."
"You call it in?" Danny asked, reaching for his cellphone. "Where's my phone?"
"...car... I dunno..." Martin replied." You called Jack awhile ago; he knows we were headed home."
Danny was looking at Martin's body on the floor and the face creased in pain. "Okay, bend your knees and try to slowly move into a kneeling position."
Martin was panting heavily from the sheer will of the motion, causing his face to bead up with sweat. But it worked, he felt Danny latch onto his arm and haul him upright. Now he was kneeling forward, leaning on the settee.
"Sorry, wee Martin, the confessional is closed," Danny teased of the kneeling body next to him. Martin rolled his eyes and flattened both palms on the seat. "Okay, now slow... just try to move a little, maybe you can get your butt over and sit."
He watched the fine features crease in concentration and the bottom lip disappear under the front teeth. Martin's muscles were straining and a fine sheen of sweat covered his face. Danny felt his face flush with guilt when he realized that Martin must have carried him inside. His back was injured in the wreck and hauling him in here had to have done some additional damage. For several moments, the only thing that moved was the blue eyes creasing in pain. Twice they looked over at him, as if inspecting him.
"I'm fine!" Danny replied to the silent inquiry, "sort of..."
"You got a fever..." Martin rasped, "You need water... maybe there's stuff in the kitchen. Just give me a minute."
"What? You gonna send the mice out for takeout?" Taylor returned, easing his body upright. "I'll be okay... if the room would just stay still."
"Hey, it's working," Martin managed through gritted teeth. He shoved off and stood testing his arms and then gingerly lifting his legs. It was painful and they felt numb to him, but he could move. He pointed to the sofa and the woozy man complied, sitting down hard, and then falling back into a lying position. "Better?"
"Yeah," Danny grumbled, watching the tiny steps his injured partner was taking. "As long as you're up, see if you can find a diet ice tea, peach or raspberry, lots of ice." He saw the body pause and a single digit reply appear. "That's my boy," he chuckled.
Route 272, Near Torrington, CT One a.m.
Jack leaned forward and once again tried to find an update on the radio of the road conditions. The storm had moved on, but the fierce wind and icy roads made it a tough ride. He was glad they had good traction. Although Chris was making great time on the road, with every passing hour his concern rose. Fitzgerald's empty car was nagging at him. How long could his missing men survive in this weather? He paused as a news reporter's voice filled the car, giving sports scores.
"Leave it there," Chris suggested, "that's bound to have a traffic or weather update."
"Yeah," Jack replied, fishing his phone out of his pocket. "I thought that state trooper would call back by now. Shit!"
"The battery died," Jack replied, snaking his hand into Chris's leather jacket which was tossed behind him on the seat. He dialed the number and waited, before a voice answered on the third ring. "This is Special Agent Jack Malone, FBI, New York. Who am I speaking with?"
"Hello Agent Malone, uh... hold on..." Buck Thomson put the caller on hold and signaled wildly across the room to his partner. "Eddie... Eddie, it's Malone."
"Yeah..." Davis hit the blinking digit on the phone. "This is Ed Davis, Agent Malone, I spoke with you earlier."
"Anything yet?" Jack hoped but the silence that met his question caused his heart to sink a bit.
"Sorry, we've got men looking, but the roads are bad. It's dark and some of the woods aren't accessible."
"Well then you better try harder, Barney Fife!" Jack roared. "I got two men missing, maybe injured in those damn woods. I don't care if you have to get out a fuckin' team of sled dogs, you get your ass in gear and have a team combing that entire area."
"There's another problem..." Davis hedged, rubbing his temple where the headache he'd been nursing was going into overdrive.
"Great," Jack muttered, shaking his head. "What kind of problem?"
"Cleaver Deaver is missing and ..."
"Cleaver Deaver?" Jack repeated and saw Chris's head tilt.
"That nut who carved up girls years ago, remember?" Boone quizzed. "His family were long-haired freaks who lived in the hills. He died last week; I heard it on the news."
"Whaddya mean 'missing', he died right?" Jack asked.
"His body was being transported and well... we found the car and a dead trooper, his hands, feet and eyes were missing."
"Christ!" Jack sat back, his mind flashing on Danny and Martin in pieces in the woods. "Where?"
"Not far from where we found Fitzgerald's car," Davis updated and paused, holding the phone away from his ear when the curses sailed through. "It was a van, the tires were shot out, they're on foot."
"They?" Jack pronounced slowly.
"Some of Deaver's family... looks like they took him back. But, without wheels, they would have to head for shelter. We're checking all the homes in the area, there's a lot of ground to cover."
"Give me the exact location!" Jack ordered, pulling the map from the visor and putting it on his lap. He juggled the phone on his shoulder and marked off the coordinates. "We're not far, we should be there in less than an hour." Jack turned the phone off and cursed again.
"What?" Chris demanded and then his concern rose as Jack updated him. "That band of freaks is no match for Taylor and Fitzgerald. They're smart Jack, they'll be okay. They probably found shelter."
Jack didn't reply, he moved his gaze to the black road ahead. Danny and Martin could take care of themselves, he had full faith in them. He'd seen them in action and he knew that they had an uncanny ability to sense each other's movements. But what if they'd been injured and coupled with the severe weather, were set upon by a band of bloodthirsty killers? His fears grew with every passing mile.
Heatherstone Mansion One a.m.
Martin regretted having to move but Danny was shivering. The fever had given him chills and the congested agent was having a tough time. He'd been coughing a lot and dozing off. Martin didn't want him to sleep, not with a head injury. Although the room was warm, his partner needed a blanket. The fevered man had ingested two bottles of water and that was good; he didn't want him to dehydrate. Martin eyed the sleeping man and stood up, walking past him across the room to the French doors. The freezing rain had stopped but the winds had kicked up. The gusting force seemed to scream at him, causing the trees to dance in protest.
He turned back and headed for the doorway, eyeing the rooms in the hall above. He hoped there was a bathroom up there, the rumbling in his gut had turned to a burning pain, prompting him to move. He wondered if it was really 'beef' stew he had eaten.
"Danny!" he called out, watching for signs of life. The body didn't move and Martin didn't like the flushed face. "Danny!"
"Take it easy," Fitzgerald ordered of the flailing limbs trying to right themselves. "Over here." he paused while the fuzzy eyes focused on him. I'm heading upstairs to use the bathroom. Stay awake!"
"I am was awake," Danny mumbled in a very annoyed tone.
"Am was?" Martin shook his head, patting his confused partner on the chest. "Real Rhodes scholar."
The trip up the stairs shouldn't have taken quite so long, but halfway up his legs began to give way. He paused for a moment, leaning heavily on the thick banister for support. There wasn't anything quite like the fear of diarrhea to make you move. Once at the top he eyed a dark hallway. He saw a switch on the wall and flipped it, causing the gas lights in the long passage to come on. He tried several doors before the right one opened. The copy of Sports Illustrated had been left behind by one of the television crew. That brought a sigh of relief as it told him that the toilet was working.
He completed his task and eyed his face in the mirror. The left side was swollen and blue, his fingers probed the tender area. He was washing his hands and face, when footsteps in the hall caused him to finish up. He turned the water off and cocked his head, again hearing the tread of someone walking right outside. Then a loud rapping on the door startled him. Cautiously, he approached the door. What was Danny doing up here? "Danny?"
Martin's eyes roamed the long hallway as he waited outside the door of the Victorian water closet. There was no one in the hall. His hair stood on end and tingles of apprehension raked over his aching body. A long mirror stood at the end of the hall. Its gilded edges seemed to glow and he thought he saw a bluish, misted figure reflected there standing behind him. He swallowed hard, narrowed his eyes in the dim light and looked closer, seeing his own image the lone one in the glass. He glanced at it briefly before turning back to the door. It was the third room on the floor and he hoped it would net some much needed blankets and pillows. He had to keep Danny warm; the fever already consuming his ailing partner didn't need any help. He turned the knob and entered the room, which was a large bedroom.
The walls were in a dusty rose with pale white flowers. He moved to the bed and quickly folded up the thick quilt and blanket, tucking it under one arm. With the other, he scooped up the pillows. He froze in place when the air changed. The temperature dropped so suddenly and severely, he sucked in his breath and his teeth chattered. Martin felt like he was standing in a freezer. He felt a chill and his heart began to beat a little faster. Then his throat went dry and seemed to constrict when his wide eyes caught the mirror over the vanity in the room. A scarlet robed figure was standing right behind him. The hooded apparition bore no features. He wanted to tear his gaze from the dust-covered mirror, but could not. His limbs were frozen in place as if bolted to the floor. The figure moved silently, coming closer and the right arm rose up. He felt cold fingers on his neck and felt icy breath as it caressed his cheek. He felt the fingers wrap around his neck and suddenly he couldn't breathe.
Martin shot forward, stumbling over a bench at the foot of the bed. That caused him to go off balance and he stumbled. He tried to correct his errant steps and ended up grasping at air to break his fall. His hand hit the candelabra on the wall and it moved in his hand. He fell down hard with his back to the wall, his heart hammering. The robed figure was floating several inches off the floor, its thick folds swaying in the cold air. As his back met the wall, it gave way and he tumbled into darkness, his loud cry was the only thing that remained in the eerie room. "DANNEEEE!"
"Martin!" Danny sat up, ignoring the room spinning wildly and got to his feet. He felt like he was navigating slippery floors on a very rocky ship as he staggered across the room. His eyes went to the upper floor where he knew his missing partner had gone. The sound of Fitzgerald's cry clung uneasily in the air. "Martin!"
He paused at the foot of the stairs and got no reply. His heart pounding, he took the stairs two at a time and fell twice, but never took his eyes or heart from his goal. Martin was in trouble, he could feel it. In a house as old as this, anything could have happened. Plus it was haunted and that caused the uneasiness to grip his insides tighter as he climbed the stairs. He pulled his gun out, prepared if someone or something other than his partner greeted him. The thought of the spirits supposedly haunting this house engulfed him. Fighting felons was one thing, but the undead? He glared at the upper level appearing before him and at the hall which had eerie shadows dancing on the walls, courtesy of the gas lamps.
"MARTIN!" He paused in the long hall and shivered, not from the cold air enveloping his damp body, but from the sinister aura that this whole house was consumed with. He saw the gas light flickering and the lone open door. He didn't waste any time moving quickly to the entry. He saw a pile of blankets, and pillows lying on the floor. The room was empty. How had Martin exited without being seen? He'd had his eye on the hall from the moment he hit the foyer. He moved closer to the bed, trying to see the other side. Thinking of Martin's bad back, Danny wondered if the injured man had fallen or passed out. He leaned on the edge of the bed and peered over it. The air in the room was icy, unusually so and his hair stood on end. He felt sure he was being watched yet he was alone. Or was he?
"Heatherstone?" he whispered and recalled the article he'd read. This wasn't just any old house, it was a haunted one, a place built by a wealthy recluse who dabbled in the occult. Rumor had it that human sacrifice had taken place somewhere on the grounds, but no trace of evidence had been found. Over the years, many reports had circulated about bone chilling screams and blood curdling cries, mad laughter and other unnatural sounds.
Cold tendrils of apprehension slowly stroked his body, causing his throat to go dry. The icy fingers moved along his neck and down his body in a very familiar fashion. He stiffened up when what felt like a female form pressed against him. He tried to move and fell backwards onto the bed. Although he couldn't see anyone, he could feel her on top of him, straddling him. Her icy limbs caused his own to chill, he felt like a human Popsicle. Cold fingers moved up his chest, encircling his neck and caressing his face. Then icy lips pressed against his neck and he moved, instinctively covering the area with his hand. Sweat ran freely down his back, and his breath came in short pants.
"Fuck off..." he ordered in a shaky voice, rolling until he fell off the other side. In the mirror over the chest he saw the nearly transparent image of the upper body of a woman, with long hair and coal black eyes. Her lips parted revealing teeth glistened with what he presumed was blood. "Shit... shit..." he swore and headed for the door. He didn't dare turn around; he didn't want to see what was behind him. He began to pray and fingered the cross on his neck, as he slowly moved out of the room. When he reached the hall, he continued to move slowly, never taking his eyes from the doorway.
Connecticut Two a.m.
Despite the security of the rugged vehicle, Chris was fighting for control. The roads were slick and visibility was narrowing. They had to be getting close; they'd passed the truck that forced Fitzgerald and Taylor off the road awhile back. He knew by the heavy silence in the car that Malone was worried. He had every right to be, the temperature was freezing, unless the missing men had found shelter, they would be no match for a storm like this.
"That's gotta be it," Malone directed, as Boone's headlights caught several orange cones by the side of the road.
"Where's that damn trooper?" Chris asked, slowing down and coming to a halt.
"So much for meeting us here," Jack grumbled, unlocking the door and stepping outside. His feet immediately began to slip and he grabbed the top of the door. "Hey, Chris, be careful it's-"
"...slippery out here," Jack finished and buttoned his thick coat up, peeking over the roof. Not seeing a body standing, he ducked down and peered through the car. Only the top of the blond head was visible. "You okay?"
"Yeah, lucky for me I landed on my pride," Boone returned, gingerly rising and wincing at his wet backside. "Great...." He took time to retrieve his heavy leather jacket and put it on, before joining Malone by the side of the road. He was tugging his gloves on when the team leader spoke.
"There... there it is," Jack said, flashing his light down the steep grade. A white car was twisted against a tree. "Let's go."
Chris got a rope from his trunk and secured it to the car. Then he tossed it down, before propelling himself slowly down the hill. He heard Jack updating the State Troopers before the dark-haired agent followed him down. Finally he touched bottom, wary of the icy uneven terrain, he slowly made his way to the car. He flicked the light into the passenger side, noticing the tree protruding into the driver's side. "That had to hurt," he noted, making his way to the other side.
"That's why they didn't answer the phone," Jack updated, his light hitting a cell phone on the floor of the backseat. He saw the blond moving away from the car, continuing down the hill beyond. "You got something?"
"Puke," Chris replied, squatting over the mess that was partially obscured by rocks. He flashed his light and it caught footprints. "They headed this way, into the woods."
Jack nodded and pulled out his cell phone. He called the troopers office and got a voicemail. He left word where they were, what they'd found and that they 'urgently' needed help. He noted the direction that they were heading and then flipped the phone shut
They followed the footsteps in the light snow and found a second spot where someone had become sick. Although Jack was worried about that, thinking it was possibly due to a head injury, at least they were moving. One was helping the other; the odd footprints told him that. But the temperature was too low for anyone to be outside for this many hours. With every step they trod through the dark and eerily quiet woods, he hoped that Boone's flashlight wouldn't find two frozen corpses.
"Shit," Malone swore, dread filling him. Then he made his way around the bend and followed the beam of Chris's light.
"I told you!" he pronounced, his light flashing on a large house in the distance.
It was on a direct path from the footprints they were following. He quickened his step and felt Malone move into place beside him. Neither said a word as they moved through the woods, even as the freezing rain began again, hitting them like needles.
It smelled like he was wrapped in a musty blanket covered by mold and washed with mildew. The horrid scent made him gag and cough, forcing his eyes to open. He was lying on his stomach on an old rug of some kind. Something crawled over his face and he shook his head, sending whatever vermin it was to a quick retreat. He rolled over and blinked, but there was nothing to see, the inky blackness was overwhelming. His last thought was falling and grabbing the wall to break his fall. The candlestick he grabbed moved in his hand, apparently it opened a panel in the wall. The tunnel he'd fallen into was steep, like a steel sliding board. He didn't recall landing here and realized he must have passed out for a moment. How far had he gone? He heard a voice and concentrated hard, it seemed to be coming from a place far away. It was Danny; his partner was calling to him. "Danny! Danny!"
He moved gingerly, first to his knees and then to his feet. Totally blind, he walked slowly, using his arms to feel his way through the cold room. The wall was cement and by the slickness on it, covered with the mold that was gagging him. A cellar, that's where he was. There had to be door and he had to find it. He stumbled twice over debris in his path. Boxes and other knee high obstacles got in his way. Then he heard something move behind him. He froze in place, his senses keen.
A shuffled series of footsteps and a slurping sound met his ear; the kind of sound that comes from sucking your tongue outside your mouth. The stench from whatever or whoever was behind him was vile. Body odor mixed with feces and urine combined in a smell so strong it took all he had not to vomit. He was not alone.
Then something hard hit him in the back, sending to the floor. He pulled his gun out and turned, firing on instinct. A thud and a crash told him his bullet had been true. A wayward flash spiraled past, dropped from whoever was following him. He picked it up and flipped it back, but he was not prepared for the gruesome sight that met his gaze. "Jesus... God..." he staggered back, moving his hand to cover his nose and mouth.
Clothed in what appeared to be sewn up burlap bags made into crude pants and a shirt, was what once had been a man. Long white hair, wild and wooly, covered the body to the elbow. The skin was almost as pale and the face looked like the masks in the costume shops at Halloween. Distorted features akin to the horror movies he'd seen as a kid were before him in flesh and blood. The creatures fingernails were several inches long and a single long tooth, protruded over the corpse's lip.
Then as he was about to turn and use the light to find his way out, he heard the shuffling again, but this time it was more than one. What kind of hellhole had he fallen into? Where did these freaks come from? He stood up, using one hand to flash the light, the other to raise his weapon. As soon as the light hit them, they began to shriek, covering their eyes, which had a pinkish tinge. There were three of them; one was a woman, her breasts showing through a holy sweater.
"Back off! F.B.I.!" he ordered, moving back to place more room between them. They didn't hear, or appeared not to, they continued to howl and make guttural sounds. "Get the fuck away now!" he thundered, raising the gun. His back was on fire, threatening his unsteady legs to give out. The headache roared into overdrive and he felt dizzy. He needed help fast, he couldn't afford to pass out now, not with the freak show trapped with him. "Danny! Danny!" For a moment he was in control, until something hard slammed into his skull and the pain exploded, taking him into utter blackness.
"I hate cops!" Carl Deaver spat a wad of tobacco on the floor, squatting over the unconscious man. He cupped the young man's chin, turning his face towards him. "The prettier ones are always more fun to play with, ain't they?" He reached for the gun and examined it, turning it over in his hand.
They moved around him then, jumping and clapping, their mad eyes bright with glee. The moved over him, fighting like animals over a fresh kill. They stripped him of his coat, shoes and shirt. They were still fighting when their leader's loud voice halted them, sending them cowering again. He was tall and strong, lifting the heaviest burden with ease and they were frightened by him. They had seen his fury in action, he could snap a man's neck in a flash.
"Cut it out! We ain't got much time. Only a few more hours until Clyde's gone for good. Once the sun comes up it'll be too late. But now we got us some hope, yessir..." He ran his filthy hand over the naked chest and pressed his grimy fingers over the heart. A strong beat met his touch and tapped the stilled man's cheek. He lifted his prey up and slung him over his shoulder. "This boy's got fresh blood, just what Clyde needs."
Nodding and grunting, happy with their new clothes they shuffled after their leader. The word blood caused them to cry in excitement. That meant fresh meat to eat; Clyde would give them the meat when he was done, he always did.
A gunshot halted the worried detective in his tracks. The house was so large it was hard to tell where it came from. Danny froze and his face creased in desperation when Martin's cry for help once again filled the air. It was as if he was calling from the bowels of the house; in a place so deep and lost there was no way out. The voice bounced off the walls, creating a horribly, gut-wrenching effect on the shaken agent. The voice was full of pain and anxiety; was Martin lying hurt and trapped somewhere below? "Martin! Tell me where you are?" he pleaded, paused and heard only silence, which was deafening.
The upstairs hall was eerie and quiet as the wheezing body moved warily towards the frigid door ahead. He'd been searching every room that opened for him, hoping to find the missing man. His heart thumped wildly against his chest wall, his dark eyes were guarded and fearful. The antique crystal knob beneath his fingers moved. He sucked air in noisily through his teeth. He felt as if he was gripping an ice block. He pushed hard, yanking his fingers back and shaking them, it was as if they'd suffered ice burns
In the dim light, he saw pale wallpaper with tiny pastel animals. His eyes caught the crib, chest of drawers, a large armory and a rocker with several old toys on the seat. It was a child's nursery from the turn of the century. The room was in a deep freeze; frost hung on every breath the emerged from his shivering lips. Martin wasn't here that was clear. But something evil was gripping this room; he could feel it in his bones. It strangulated him, causing him to fight hard for every breath. His chest hurt and he got dizzy. The doorknob on the closet began to rattle and shake, as did the shutters on the window. The rocker began to move on its own, causing the dolls on the seat to stand up and dance.
"Madre Maria!" he whispered, blessing himself. He turned to leave and gasped at the image before him. Two toy soldiers wearing identical uniforms, one painted blue the other gray were floating in midair. Then one turned and raised his weapon and fired. A tiny ping sent the other to the floor. Danny bent over and picked it up. "Christ, it's bleeding...." He held out his hand, the tiny soldier's chest was covered in blood. "Aw, shit..." he frowned, when his eyes caught something that caused him to drop the dead soldier. A group of building blocks had formed a word and floated before his eyes. 'U DIE' they warned and then hurled across the room, seeking their mark. They hit him square in the chest, which propelled him to flee the room, slamming the door behind him. He ran down the stairs and back to the fireplace, sitting down hard on the settee. He was dizzy and fighting hard to breathe. Collapsing, he closed his eyes, surrendering to the lethargy.
Something loud caused his eyes to jerk open. He moved his gaze to the fire and felt the warmth on his face. He furrowed his brow and tried to remember what happened. The images came back and they were disturbing. His fever flushed body and congested chest were battling him hard and winning. He rubbed the spot on his skull and thought maybe he had a bad concussion. He'd had head injuries before; but nothing that caused hallucinations. That was the answer; it had to be his head was messed up.
Except that he was alone. Where was Martin? Was the scream real? What of the gunshot? Had that all happened or had he dreamed it all? Martin had gone upstairs for blankets. Didn't he hear the other man cry for help? Or had he dreamed the whole thing? It was too much for his throbbing, hot head to decide upon. "Martin?"
The wind outside began to shriek, screaming wildly, a loud banging sound echoed in the room as if someone were pounding on steel drums and a woman's shrill laughter could be heard. The windows started to rattle and the French Doors blew open. Danny struggled to his feet against the fierce wind. Frozen rain pelted his face, stinging him like dozens of tiny needles. He tried to secure the door and fought hard, the wind was pulling it the other way. Then a face appeared on the other side of the glass. A face so disfigured and horrid, he cried out, released his hold and pulled out his gun. He fired twice and the long-haired freak ran across the porch, disappearing around the side of the house.
"What the hell..." he panted before scrambling to his feet, pulling the door shut and locking it. He got back to the settee and sat down hard, his throat was on fire and he got the last water bottle from the floor and drank from it, wincing as the liquid felt like it was traveling over razors. His body ached to rest; the warmth of the fire and the soft furniture beneath him were calling. But his partner was missing; he had a job to do. So he saved the remaining water and got to his feet, taking time to reload. He was on a mission and he wouldn't be denied.
I hear hurricanes a blowing. I know the end is coming soon. I fear rivers over flowing. I hear the voice of rage and ruin."
The smell attacked him, as soon as he managed to peel his eyes open over the pain crashing into the wall of his skull. The light was dim; he saw candles burning beyond his feet and on the shelves near the walls next to him. He gagged twice, his body repulsed by the vile odor. He'd been around enough corpses to know that was the odor assaulting him. He felt the vomit rising and tried to move to expel it and found he could not. His hands and feet were bound by metal clamps of some kind to a steel table. He knew it was metal; it was freezing on his bare skin.
Bare skin? He realised that he was naked, save his boxers. Then his eyes saw the bloated body of an old man just a few feet away on a similar table. He turned his head the best he could and threw up, sending the mess on his neck and chin, along with the table. This effort caused his headache to flare up even more intensely and his eyes were burning. A rough hand grabbed his head and yanked him up by the hair. He saw that the old man's features matched that of the corpse.
"Look what you've done!" Carl screamed, using a filthy rag to sweep the mess onto the floor.
"....your...fuckin'...hands...off...me..." Martin wheezed and turned away, fighting as best he could when the brute tried to shove the rag into his mouth. He clamped his jaw tight, but then the beefy paw pressed hard into his throat, the strength of the old man was amazing. Martin's eyes bulged as he fought for air, and the action forced his mouth open.
"All you cops are stupid," Carl berated, shoving the gag in place.
Martin continued to struggle, yanking futilely on the iron grips. The other creatures moved in then, encircling the table. One appeared to be wounded, its side was bloody. He vaguely recalled them attacking him earlier. But he hadn't shot them, so Danny must have winged one. Danny? Was his partner trapped too? He glanced around the table, ignoring the claws that pawed at his body. No, the room was small and although not bright, he could see Taylor was not here. Either Danny was dead or hiding. He opted for the latter, hoping his clever partner had a plan. His struggles ceased and his eyes shut. It took all he had not to throw up again. He couldn't risk that, he'd choke to death. He didn't want to think about what foul matter was on the rag shoved in his mouth. He felt the old bastard's hand stroke his face and pulled away.
"It won't hurt, you'll just get sleepy and gradually drift away," he promised, enjoying what would come next.
There was nothing like the naked fear that shined strongly from the victim's eyes when they realized what was about to transpire. He moved to the ragged bag and withdrew the tools; these should really be replaced, they were rather slow, he should get new ones. He had stolen these from the hospital where he worked back in Virginia. They didn't know who he was; he'd changed his name years ago. He saw the blue eyes regarding him with a mixture of fear and confusion. The pale brown brows were furrowed as they watched his every move.
"Of course," he stated, laying the tubing on the lean abdomen that was rising quickly in fearful bursts. "I can't control my kin, ya got 'em all worked up. Yer fresh meat, it's gets 'em all itchy. Sometimes they start eatin' 'fore I get done." Deaver paused to douse the end of the tubing with whiskey and then inserted the needle into a juicy vein on the underside of the victim's left elbow. He connected it to the tubing, which ran into a large glass tank of sorts. An identical tube ran from the other side, which would eventually be connected to Clyde's arm. His grandmother had taught him how to drain a body well. Once the meat was consumed, they harvested the bones turning them into tools. He ran his hand along the cop's chest, down his lean belly and snapped the band on the shorts.
He laughed when his sister began to grunt and move towards their captive. She used one taloned hand to tug at his shorts, the other grabbing her crotch. He shoved her away, sending her into an angered frenzy, her high pitched shrieks indicating she was not happy.
"I'm sorry about that sister, we ain't got time fer ya to give the boy a ride. Next time, I promise. Maybe we'll find that pretty friend of his and take him back home with us. Would ya like that? Ya could play with him all winter." The angry grunts changed to excited ones. "Attagirl, I always keep m'word, don't I?"
Martin's heart was beating so rapidly, it was giving him pain. This man was mad; his demented idea was to bleed him dry. Somehow his twisted brain thought that his blood would bring his dead brother back to life. How much time did he have? Where was Danny? His frantic eyes moved to the thin tubing where already his blood had started to move. He moaned under the gag and that caused the old man to chuckle evilly, moving over to where his brother was lying. He saw a line from the corpse's neck but couldn't see where it went.
The fear excited Carl, giving him a hard on. Seeing the same alarm that they all became filled with when they realized their fate. The cop's one eye was nearly swollen shut, but the other was unnaturally wide and blue, trained on the blood starting to leave his body. As soon as Clyde was empty, he could begin. He was sure it would work this time, it had to. He'd failed in every attempt, when his mother and father died, his other kin as well. But he'd never done a blood bath on Halloween and never a cop. That was special blood, it had fire in it, he was sure of that. A muffled cry of pain caused him to turn back. He frowned and moved quickly, slapping his sister hard enough to send her to the floor.
"No!" He roared loud enough to scare the others as well. He eyed the wound her fangs had made in the young man's inner thigh. Blood was running from the wound and he frowned, kicking her hard where she lay on the floor. "I warned ya, didn't I? We need all the blood for Clyde. Ya can have his meat when we're done. Don't I always let ya eat the good parts? Ya leave 'im be."
Martin was lost in a living nightmare. For a fleeting second, he thought maybe it would be better to be unconscious, so he wouldn't have to bear this horror any longer. The smell was ungodly, the sight of the zombie-like freaks was heart-churning and the idea of being either bled dry or eaten alive was too horrific to comprehend fully. He saw the jug in the old guy's hand and knew what it was, homemade whiskey. Sure enough, after the head-case took a sip, he poured it over the bite on his upper thigh. It burned like hell and he screamed, tossing his head. The impact of the metal table with the tender spot on his skull was too much; his eyes rolled back and he went limp.
"Shit!" Carl complained, slapping the slack jaw, but getting no reply. "It ain't no fun iffen they ain't awake. Dammit." He turned back and swept his arm, the mere effort of the threat sent the others cowering. "Ya settle down now, it won't be long. Plenty of meat to go around." He knew the cop's partner was upstairs somewhere, he'd seen them come inside. But he couldn't dare leave his victim; they'd eat him and ruin everything. He had the cop's gun, if the other found them down here, he'd use the gun. He couldn't believe the room was still here, just as he and Clyde left it forty years ago. He sat down next to Clyde and kept watch, recalling that winter they'd spent here. He'd been separated from his twin for forty years; he couldn't wait to see Clyde's reaction when he woke up.
Danny paused in the hallway downstairs, his eyes going to the floor above. The footsteps came again, along with the banging doors and moans. He sighed hard and took the steps two at a time, jogging to the top. A part of him knew that he would not find Martin up here, that the noises he heard were not from this earth. But on the off chance his partner had stumbled back through whatever tunnel he'd accessed he kept going, Martin might be hurt. So Danny started with the bathroom, checking the rooms again, one by one. "Martin! Martin!"
He checked all the rooms again, even the ones with doors that didn't budge at first. Then a door that he'd just checked that was locked flew open as he turned away. He flashed the light inside, revealing an empty room with something painted on the floor. He moved closer and knelt down then the beam of light revealed it was not paint, but appeared to be blood, running from the cracks between the boards.
"Jesus!" He turned to stand up, the light exposing the ends of a black dress floating several inches above the floor. He swallowed his fear and stood up, watching as a creamy low neckline appeared and long reddish curls around a white face. There were no eyes, just bottomless black pits. The red lips parted, the teeth bared and the figure moved swiftly towards him. He ran out of the door and slammed it, quickly heading back downstairs. He paused at the bottom, leaning heavily on the banister and coughing. A thick wad of green stuff flew from his mouth and he continued to hack away, causing his eyes to water. He swiped at them, but never left his eyes move from the upper floor. Finally, his breathing regulated and he got control of himself again.
The wheezing agent blessed himself and went on his way, entering a library of sorts. There was a framed newspaper article on the wall and he went over to see what it was. He flashed his light on the glass, scanning the article. It was outlining the coven that had practiced in this house over a hundred years ago. Although not proven, it was suspected that deep within the bowels of the house, was a secret tunnel that they used to come and go. It went on to say that many young women, mostly virgins, who disappeared were thought to have been slain here. He moved the light over to the next section of the article and his heart skipped a beat. There in the black and white photo, was the same face he'd seen upstairs, red hair, white skin and dark eyes. "Sorcha, Queen of the Dead," he read of the label under.
She was the daughter of the builder of the home and the leader of the cult. She lived there until the nineteen forties, when she was killed. She died in the house, after the fearful locals stormed it on Halloween night. She fell from the second floor, breaking her neck. Just as he finished reading the article, the temperature dropped again, his breath caused tiny white puffs to appear.
"Here we go again," he rasped, rubbing his sore throat. He pulled his gun out and a fierce cry erupted, filling the room with a bitter cold air. The gas lamps on the walls flickered, coming to life and going out, over and over again. The wind outside intensified, sending the windows to shaking and the shrieking sound blended in. Books flew off the shelves, the chair behind the desk moved five feet, sliding to a stop by the fireplace.
Danny tried to move, but as in the other episodes, his feet were frozen in place. He closed his eyes and prayed, until it stopped as quickly as it started. Then he staggered back to the living room, shutting the door tight. He picked up the last bottle of water and drained it. He tried to find a way to get downstairs and had come up dry. The only thing left to do, was to go upstairs to the bedroom where Martin disappeared and check every fixture, wall seam and such. There had to be an exit inside the room, a tunnel or secret passage. He was totally and utterly drained; the warmth of the fire was exactly what his shivering body needed. He was so cold, his teeth were chattering. His throat hurt and the congestion in his chest was worse. The sneezing made his eyes heavy and he leaned against the wall, resting his face on the cold marble. He'd rest his eyes for a moment, he'd feel better then.
The icy roads made their trek ever more difficult. It seemed like forever until the woods thinned out and they came upon a dirt path. It led to the overgrown gardens of what once had been a large estate. The overgrowth was tough, some of the bushes were taller then they were. They were also thorny and twice they had to turn back and take another path, due to thick, sharp bushes that scratched their face and arms.
Jack had just found a narrow path through two large bushes, when he heard a cry followed by a curse. He turned back and saw Boone's feet sticking up out of the bushes. He backtracked and squatted down, snagging the arm that was extended and hauling the swearing agent upright.
"You okay?" Malone asked of the face screwed in pain. "What?" He flashed the light and saw no cuts or wounds on the front of the dark pants or hip hugging leather jacket. Then he noticed that one hand was gingering moving over the tightly clothed backside. "Turn around."
"No," Chris hissed, pulling his hand around. "Great..."
"What the hell is that?" Jack squinted at the bloody thing in Chris's palm. "A thorn?" He shoved the protesting body around and flashed his light, exposing a three inch area of skin. Several more thorns were embedded there, some of them deep. "Skin? How come..."
"It ruins the line of the pants," Boone snarled at his lack of undergarments.
"Serves you right," Jack snapped releasing Casanova and returning to his mission.
"Just keep going Lord Tetley," Chris replied, pulling out what thorns he could and leaving the rest alone. "Or I'll piss in your moat."
With Jack leading the way, they managed to get through, finally ending up by the back side of a manor house. They paused by the garden gate, catching their breath.
"You get them?" Chris paused, squinting at Jack through the icy rain.
"No, only static, maybe the towers are down," Malone updated, shutting his phone off.
Chris only paused long enough to flash his light on the side of the building. The gargoyles seemed to grin down at him, giving him a chill. He saw Jack move past him, up the steps towards the door. The knob didn't budge and Boone turned his light to the immediate area.
Malone heard the quiet call and moved to where the wet blond was squatted by the side of the patio. His light was trained on an area a few feet away, where several prints were scattered in the wet mud.
"We got company," Chris warned. "We go in quiet, if the Deavers have Danny and Martin, we need to surprise them."
"Yeah," Jack replied, eyeing the house again. His light caught the window on the side of the house and he crossed through the mud. He handed his light to Chris, who flashed both on the window frames. Jack spotted a broken one and reached through, unlocking it.
"I'll go," Boone offered, he was slim enough to slide through easy. The window was at shoulder height, so Jack boosted him. Once inside, he went back to the door and opened it from the inside.
It appeared to be a kitchen. Jack walked over to the sink and saw a striped tie strewn on the counter. He knew the tie, Danny teased Martin enough about the dreaded item. He also knew Fitzgerald only wore the damn thing to annoy Taylor. If they got this far, and Martin was in here looking for food and water, there was a good chance they were still alive.
"Martin's," he answered Chris's glance at the item in his hand. "Damned thing drives Danny nuts, let's go."
The kitchen and pantry were empty. The hallway let up towards the front of the house. The first two rooms were locked; the third was a library of sorts with books on the floor. The study and dining room were also empty. As they entered a large, formal foyer by the front of the house, the temperature dropped at least thirty degrees. Both men were wet from the storm and the icy air attacked them.
"Christ, it's cold in here."
"Haunted houses usually are," Chris replied and moved past Malone.
"What? You're some kind of expert?" he whispered and saw Boone nodding to the door.
"There!" Chris mouthed silently and motioned to the light coming from under a door off the foyer. He moved closer and tested the knob. It didn't appear locked, just stuck, so he leaned his upper body against the wood, turned the knob again and shoved hard.
Something woke Danny up, he sat up too quickly and the room began to move back and forth. He closed his eyes and took a breath to steady himself. Then he heard the door knob turning and looked over, sure enough it was moving. He wasn't going to take any chances; whatever he'd seen on the porch was now trying to get at him in this room. His fevered brain ordered him into action. He wasn't going to let any zombie get to him. He moved to the door and raised his gun, just as the latch clicked and the door opened, he saw a shadow and fired.
Jack barely got the word out of his mouth, ducking as a bullet hit the spot in the doorframe where his head had been. He glared hard at Boone, who was flat on his belly in the doorway. The lean blond moved fast, scrambling for cover. Just as Jack drew his gun, he saw Chris's head rise, as the irate agent's voice was heard.
"What the fuck's wrong with you? You damn near shot me!"
"Huh?" Jack puzzled and cautiously peered around the door.
The large room was definitely out of another time and era. It screamed Victorian, with the furniture, wall coverings and accents all in that theme. There in front of a blazing fire in the hearth was one of his missing agents. The face was flushed, the eyes were heavy and the wheezing chest suggested an illness. The gun was still aimed at them and that was their first task. He put a hand in front of Chris's shoulder to halt him; neither of them moved.
"Danny?" Malone tried and the eyebrows furrowed. The dark eyes were trying to figure out what was going on. "Danny? Taylor!"
"Huh?" Danny managed, as the fog lifted.
He saw Jack standing before him with Chris Boone. The fair-haired man looked like one of the Three Musketeers. He was hallucinating again. He dropped his hand, sat back and shook his head. He'd never find Martin if he continued to waste bullets on imaginary figures.
"Shit... damn concussion..." he mumbled, rubbing his tender scalp.
Relieved, both agents moved into the room. Jack went to Taylor's side while Boone inspected the room. Satisfied that they were alone, Chris moved back to where Malone was kneeling in front of the dazed younger man.
"Danny?" Jack said quietly, taking the gun from the loose fingers. The eyes blinked and the hand moved to get the weapon back. "You with me?"
"Jack?" Danny whispered, touching his boss's hand and feeling flesh not air. "You're here? Jesus... thank God... thank God..."
Chris could feel the relief surging from Taylor and tapped the slumped agent's damp back in a show of support.
"Where's Martin, Danny?" Malone asked.
Jack frowned at the small sound of Taylor's voice. His cautious gaze moved over the dried blood on the injured agent's scalp. The dark hair around it was matted with blood and it stained his shirt collar as well. He wondered just how serious the head injury was and thought again on the shot that nearly took his head off. His eyes moved and caught Boone's guarded green ones. The other agent was thinking the same thing. Jack shook his head, denying that thought. No way did Taylor injure his own partner.
"Martin, Danny, what happened to Martin?" Jack pressed and felt the body slump as a long breath exhaled.
"I dunno, Jack. I think maybe they got him, he screamed for me but I couldn't find him I tried but his voice was inside the walls and then I found that room with the dead soldiers and..."
"Hold it," Jack tried to halt the long unending stream of words that ran together. It was clear that the young man's nerves were jangled.
"Dead soldiers?" Chris repeated, eyeing the upper floor.
"From the Civil War, little ones," Danny answered Chris and held his fingers several inches apart to illustrate, then kept going. "I was in that room and he was screaming for me, he needs me and I can't find him, he sounds hurt but maybe it's just his back again then the shot came and..."
"Whoa!" Jack forced the rambling to stop by placing both hands on the slim shoulders and shaking them gently. In a stupor, Danny blinked at him just as Boone's hand moved to Taylor's forehead.
"He's burning up," Chris warned. "Between the fever and the head injury..."
"I'm not crazy!" Danny snapped, shoving the hands of assistance off.
"Okay, then slow down and tell us what happened," Jack instructed.
"We found your car; some drunk forced you off the road?" Chris supplied and the dark head bobbed.
"Here," Jack picked up a bottle of water that was lying under the divan and uncapped it, handing it to the shaken man.
"Thanks." Danny took a long draw and caught his breath. "Martin did a hellauva job, it's a miracle we both weren't killed. He twisted the car so he'd get the impact. The tree came through the window."
"How bad is he hurt?" Jack asked.
"His face is a mess, all swollen and stuff. His back, he hurt his back, his legs give out," Danny updated. "I don't know how we got here. I can't remember much, but he carried me inside. When I came to, he was right there." Danny pointed to the floor. "He couldn't move at first. He went upstairs to use the bathroom. I must have passed out, I heard him scream. I went upstairs but he wasn't there."
"What about the shot? And who are 'they'?" Chris asked of the initial report the dazed agent was giving them. "You said 'they' got him. Have you seen anyone else?"
"Yeah... no... maybe... Martin's trapped in the house somewhere, I could hear him calling for me but I couldn't find him." Danny paused and his eyes pleaded with his boss. "I tried Jack I did..."
"I know you did, Danny. So Martin was upstairs, you heard him scream for help but you can't find him now?"
"Yeah... it was like his voice was inside the walls. I heard a shot... and then he... his voice..." Danny shuddered, hunching over slightly. "Something bad happened to him."
"Jack," Chris called from across the room.
"You take it easy, Danny. We'll find him, I promise." Jack gave the trembling young man a tug on the shoulder and moved to the French Doors where Chris Boone was standing. As he approached, the lean body opened the door and moved a few feet onto the chilly porch. "What?" he! asked watching Chris squat over something.
"Blood... not that old." His pale eyes regarded Jack's dark ones and he saw them flash in anger.
"He didn't shoot Martin!"
"I don't want to believe it either, but he damn near shot us. What if Martin came back the same way? What if the shot Danny heard was his own? Martin ran for cover, ducked outside?"
"No... there's another answer." Jack turned back and went inside. He ran smack into Danny Taylor, looking at the blood on the ground. He watched as the blood drained from the stricken man's face. "We'll split up, you stick with me. Chris, you call in every five minutes. I'm going topside, you take this floor."
"Jack, I didn't... I wouldn't..." Danny's voice was unsure now. He vaguely recalled something trying to get at him from that area. "Something tried to get inside… I shot... I... no... Martin?"
"Danny, snap out of it!" Jack drilled, glaring at Boone for suggesting such a thing. "I need your head clear."
"I'm fine," Danny shook it off and concentrated on the task at hand.
"You said his voice was 'in the walls'?" Jack quizzed as they moved to the foyer.
"Yeah... all over... the echoes drove me nuts..." Danny peered upstairs and blessed himself again. He didn't tell them about the phantom up there, they'd really think he was nuts.
"Big house, high ceilings," Chris appraised. "Could be he took a fall, especially if his back's out. Maybe he can't move, it's dark, he's trying to find Danny and his voice is coming through the vents."
"Yeah, could be," Jack answered, his foot on the bottom step. He flashed his light to where Boone was approaching the corridor that led to the back of the house. "Every five minutes!"
"I heard you, 'Mom'," Chris teased and nodded, then saw the guilt on Danny's face. "We'll find him, Danny, okay?"
"Yeah," Danny managed, still wondering if his mind had gotten the best of him. What if Chris was right? What if he had shot Martin on the porch?
Carl moved from his perch when the footsteps and new voices came through the vents. He cocked his head and listened. The others moved over towards him, their frantic grunts answering what he felt.
"Yeah, we got company. I can't leave Clyde, ya'll git up there and take care of whoever that is," he directed to his brothers, nodding to the knives nearby. "Go on now... don't be long."
After the pair left, he moved back to the marble slab where the federal agent was stirring. A slow muffled moan sounded under the gag and he grinned. He leaned on the table, watching as the eyes blinked slowly and opened. Unfortunately, the tubing wasn't working right; the blood was running out slowly. The blue eyes regarded him with great hostility, which surprised him, usually they were afraid. The slim body was shivering terribly and yet he fought, trying still to break free.
"Yer a feisty one, that's good. That fire's jest what Clyde needs." He paused to stroke the tender side of the neck. "Course them tubes ain't workin' right, once the boys git back, I'm gonna hafta open ya up t'speed things along." Carl moved his other beefy paw to the lean abdomen, giving it a loud slap.
That caused Martin's heart to race. He didn't want to know if that meant gutting him or using another line. His foggy brain was trying to put the clues together. The 'boys' weren't here? Why? Where had they gone? Was Danny close by? Is that why the others left? He turned away from the madman's leering eyes and began to pray. That was all he had left now, so he clung to it, his silent cry of hope sailing into the chilling air.
Danny remained in the hallway, just by the door as Jack searched the room where he'd suspected Martin had been. He wouldn't enter; his nervous eyes roamed the halls, flitting to every corner. He couldn't seem to catch his breath and his hacking coughs caused his boss to turn.
"I will be once we find him," Danny replied quietly.
Jack kept his eyes on the suffering Taylor for a moment, not missing how hard the young man was breathing. This old house and its chilly halls, along with the damp clothes the injured man was wearing didn't help. He turned back to the scattered blankets and pillows lying on the floor. He directed his attention to the bed, moved to the other side and stood facing the mirror. If Fitzgerald had his arms full of the items and had seen someone sneak up behind him, he'd have dropped them. Did they fight? Had his injured agent been overpowered? He inspected the closets again, finding them empty. If Martin was attacked, could the attackers have taken him downstairs, unaware Danny was inside the other room? The grisly remains of the state trooper and the missing clan invaded his thoughts. He moved back towards where Danny was leaning heavily on the doorjamb.
"Could be we have company," he addressed and the dark head rose slowly. "The state troopers found an abandoned unit, the cop was killed. Before he was dismembered, he got a couple shots off. He shot the tires out."
"Dismembered?" Danny shoved off the door and frowned.
"Yeah... he was transporting Clyde Deaver, aka Cleaver Deaver, a whack job from the sixties who's been rotting in prison for almost forty years. He died this week and his clan left their pond scum in Virginia to claim him back."
"Deaver?" Danny thought and a grainy image of a wooded area appeared in his mind's eye. "I read about them once. They live in the hills... long haired freaks..."
"Yeah... we found tracks out back and a broken window."
"That's who I shot!" Danny exclaimed excitedly, causing a severe coughing fit. "I remember now!"
"Great!" Jack muttered, clapping his back. "Don't keel over on me now."
"I... saw... one... porch... monsterish... shot... at..."
"Okay, okay, easy," he coached, leading the wheezing body to the bathroom. "Toss it out, clean up and let's get going." While Danny was in the bathroom, Jack pulled out his radio. "Chris, anything?"
"Negative, Jack," Chris replied. "But I..."
"Chris?" Jack's antenna went up when a strangulated sound, a series of thumps and glass breaking met his ear. Then Chris Boone's voice broke into the tension.
"Danny! Let's go! We got trouble!" Jack sprung into action when Chris's cry for help came through the line.
Jack was halfway down the stairs by the time Danny exited the bathroom. He took the stairs quickly, absorbing each word Malone called back to him. They ran to the back of the house, opening and closing doors. Then they found a dark, rotted door already open three steps down off the pantry near the kitchen. Hooks from the ceiling told them it had been a room where meat was hung. Danny ran smack into Jack's back; the beam of the flashlight was lingering on a bloody body in the middle of the room.
"Chris!" Jack called, dropping to his friend's side. He slapped at the bloody face, trying to ignore the large amount of blood covering the once pristine white shirt. His fingers moved to the neck, his heart praying. "Be there... be there..." he whispered and then sighed in relief.
"Aw, Jesus," Danny whispered, his eyes frozen on the crimson mass covering Boone's chest.
"Stay put! You'll make it worse," Jack ordered when the green eyes shot open and the bloody man struggled to get up.
"No... s'okay... J...J...ack..." Chris stammered, rubbing the tender area on the back of his head where it hit the floor. "...s'not mine... we fought... I won."
"Who?" Jack asked, eyeing the bloody puddle near Boone's body.
"Jack!" Danny's light moved to the side wall where a body was swaying. A large hook was right through the man's neck.
"What the fuck is that?" Malone winced at the creature before him. It looked like a leftover from a freak show. Every bad 'B' movie from his youth come to life before his eyes. The gaping wound in the neck told him why Boone was covered in so much blood.
"...Deaver..." Chris coughed and tried to sit up. "...two... other one... ran off... into... wall..."
"I should have thought of that," Jack assessed, flashing the light closer.
"That's Martin's..." Danny's voice trailed off when he recognized the shirt the corpse wore. Were they too late? Was his missing partner already dead? The thought of Martin lying hacked to pieces in the cellar below caused his stomach to drop and slide onto the filthy floor. He saw the blond agent wince and clutch his side. Then fresh blood ran through his fingers onto the floor. "Chris, you're bleeding!"
"What?" Boone moved his hand from his side. What he thought had been pain from moving was indeed a wound. "Shit... shit..."
"How bad?" Jack moved next to his friend and pulled the shirt away. A large slashing wound was bleeding freely from the left side of the ribcage. He then noticed fresh blood running from a wound just over the battered man's left ear.
"Shit, that was a new jacket," Boone noted of the expensive leather item now wearing a large wound.
"Saved your life," Jack groused of the thick coat which had lessened the knife's penetration. "It's not deep, but we should bind it. Here," he moved the bloody cloth back in place. "Put pressure on it." He turned and took Fitzgerald's shirt off the corpse and noticed Taylor frozen in place staring at the dead body. He knew what the younger man was thinking and made a quick decision. "Danny... get some water. We can wash it off. Danny!"
"Go with him... freak could be..." Chris pulled his free hand up and fumbled for his gun. "I'm okay."
But Jack tore the shirt up quickly and Danny returned with a bottle of water. In didn't take but a few moments to bandage the chest and head wound. "I never saw them. One of them swung a hook at me, damn thing ways a ton. The other one jumped me, but I grabbed the hook and speared him. The other one hit me again, my head hit the ground. I guess you two coming in scared him off."
"Secret passages," Jack answered Chris's silent question. "A house this old would be full of them. They were often used in Victorian designs. That's why Danny never saw Martin again. Whatever attacked him upstairs, he was either taken into a passage or he ran into one. He's trapped downstairs somewhere."
"Yeah... the coven..." Danny murmured, watching as Jack got Chris on his feet. The lean man swayed a bit and Jack kept his hand under Boone's elbow.
"Coven?" Chris asked, nodding to Jack that he was now steady.
"This place was used at the turn of the century by a coven. The locals thought that they were sacrificing virgins here."
"Then they won't need Martin," Jack quipped but saw something he didn't like in Taylor's eyes; fear. It was spelled out clearly. "They're long dead, Danny, they can't hurt him."
"Hey... hey..." Chris called out, nodding to the wall behind a row of the rusty hooks. "Look..." He shuffled painfully to the area and pressed his hand along the wall. A tiny piece of cloth was seemingly growing through it. "It's gotta be here somewhere."
"Yeah," Jack noted, joining him. Danny began pulling on the hooks, the light switch, the lamps, anything that would trigger the spring.
Martin groaned and pushed the dark edges of the brutal dream away. He didn't get nightmares much but this one was a doozey. His head was throbbing and he felt very dizzy. Whatever flu gripped him was a bad dose. He felt sick and began to gag, his body convulsing. Something foul was in his mouth. He couldn't breathe. He began to panic and felt a large hand press onto his chest. His eyes wouldn't work; it took forever to open them. Why was he so cold? Lord, it was freezing it here.
In here? Just where the hell was he? He eyes would only open halfway, but enough to see old concrete walls with bizarre writing on them. Words or letters were written there along with crude drawings. He knew it was Latin but his brain wouldn't tell him what it said. The drawing was clear enough, it depicted human sacrifice. Then a large body appeared in his way, blocking the view. A hand reached out and he twisted away from it. The sick laughter filled the room and his gag was taken away.
"Ya got any last words, boy?" Carl asked, watching the dazed face.
There would be no bugle call. Danny was not going to save him. He saw the large knife in the madman's hand and he swallowed hard. He was too groggy to realize the gravity of the situation, of his last moments on earth. He was so tired and his eyes were so heavy. The evil laughter rained down on him as the beast used the tip of the knife to make a lazy pattern on his neck, chest and navel. No blood was drawn but the picture the gesture brought up was enough to keep him awake. He hoped that Danny had escaped. He was now worried his partner was lying dead somewhere in the house.
"Okay, sister, git that bucket over here, when I slice 'im, it's gonna fly out."
Carl hit the end of the table, causing the area behind the cop's neck to fall. The head dropped back, the blue eyes shot opened, startled and terrified. He used one hand to move the prisoner's head to one side and held the knife over the ripe vein, dancing for him on the side of the pale neck. Once the bucket was under the cop's neck, Carl gave Clyde a solid wink.
"Get ready to dance again, brother Clyde!"
Strangely enough, Martin's heart wasn't hammering in panic. It was as if everything was working in slow motion. He could hear his heart beating and the sounds of the room died away. He felt hands on his body but he couldn't fight them anymore. This nightmare was real and being played out in living color. With one last burst of energy, he stretched his body to the limit, rattling the chains that bound him. The blade descended then and he parted his lips as Taylor's anxious face appeared in his mind.
"Hope you got your things together. Hope you are quite prepared to die. Looks like we're in for nasty weather One eye is taken for an eye."
The agony of the scream that bounced off every wall caused the three agents to move fast. They'd gained entry just moments before and were now racing down a set of old, rickety steps. Jack was way ahead of the other two and saw the hellish scene unfolding before his horrified eyes. He never hesitated; he aimed and fired twice. The first bullet went through Carl's wrist, sending the knife out of harm's way. The second went through his face, sending him to Lucifer's kitchen. He then fired at whatever thing jumped at him, holding a knife.
Chris arrived next, quickly assessing the situation and limping to the macabre altar. Two bodies were on the floor. He moved the bottom half of the table back in place, gently cradling the unconscious young man's head. He tapped the stilled cheek until the eyebrows furrowed and a soft cough emerged.
Jack had been checking the bodies and was approaching, when sudden movement from behind Boone caught his eye.
The wounded blond tried to protect Martin, throwing his body over the prone agent. Something sharp tore into his backside and he used his right elbow to shove the weight of whatever was on his back away.
Malone wheeled and fired, sending the last of the Deavers straight to hell. He holstered his gun, sighed hard and turned as Danny staggered into the room. Sweat covered every fine feature and the dark eyes were bright with fever. They were trained on Martin's limp body displayed on the crude sacrificial altar. Danny saw Jack's lips moving but didn't hear any words. The vision before him was too horrific to comprehend fully. Martin was stripped and tied to an altar. In between him and a large dead male was a glass tank with blood.
"God... oh God... the sick fuckin' bastard..." Danny choked, swallowing his rage and fear so hard it hurt. The smell sickened him and worse was the thought of the nightmarish ordeal his partner had suffered through. The very image of it sent him back rocking on his hells.
"Sit down before you fall down!" Jack ordered, pointing to the benches on the wall. He turned back to the other team leader who was standing again, his right hand on his backside. "You okay?"
"Yeah and he's alive," Chris updated, but Taylor wouldn't be denied and continued his small steps, his dark eyes trained on the pale body on the marble.
"Get the fuckin' thing outta his arm!" Malone hissed as he moved towards his fallen agent.
"Christ!" Boone emphasized, gently easing the IV needle from Fitzgerald. He quickly unclamped the steel bindings and pushing his arm back to stop the trickle of blood. "Damn things shot... thank God. They didn't get much from him." Chris painfully eased his body from his leather coat and covered Martin's lower body to knees, wrapping it securely and taking the chill off his legs.
"What the hell did they do to you?" Danny mumbled, not able to take it all in. The only thing he needed, the one thing he had to have was Martin's blue eyes looking back at him.
"Clyde?" Chris guessed, nodding to the other corpse. The glass tank between them and the other line into the stiff's arm gave him his reply. It sickened him and caused a wave of repulsion to rise up fast. "Sick fuckin' bastards..."
"Easy, Tiger, we got them," Malone issued, tugging on Chris's shoulder. 'Sit down, you're bleeding again."
"I think not," Boone protested, flushing slightly.
"What?" Jack turned the lean man around and saw another gaping hole in the tight pants. "Well, now at least you got a matched set. Human bites can be very painful, especially if the biter is rabid. Might take months and months of painful shots in your ass."
"You're just enjoyin' the hell out of this, aren't you?" Chris complained.
"You're the ladies man," Jack teased, eyeing the corpse who'd attacked the blond. "She put a nice tattoo on your ass, Casanova." His slight smile faded a bit as he watched Danny bend over his partner. He felt Boone's hand on his arm and saw the blond head shake. He was right; Taylor need a moment.
As if sensing his partner was nearby, Fitzgerald stirred.
"Martin?" Danny whispered, tapping the stilled face. The eyes blinked and two blue slits appeared. The face was furrowed in confusion and pain. It was swollen and discolored, but it looked beautiful to Danny. He was alive! "You look like shit, Harvard!"
"...fuck... you... Tay...lor..." Martin managed and saw a blurry smile appear. Then the voice and the blurry face merged in his mind. He wasn't dead. He was standing right here. "Danny... not dead..." His hand fumbled twice but finally latched on, securing a grip of brotherhood. There it was, right beneath his fingers, the grip he'd thought he lost forever.
"You know?" Danny said, trying to keep the sluggish eyes from closing. He gripped harder, painfully causing the eyes to shoot open again. "I always thought I'd go in a hail of bullets, saving the world."
"...not gonna happen..." Martin whispered. "...got... your... back... part... part...ner."
"You two have balls, taking on a pack of zombies on Halloween in a haunted house," Jack teased, moving closer to inspect the pair.
"Jack?" Martin blinked as a fuzzy form took shape next to Danny. How did Malone get here? How long was he unconscious? "How... get... here..."
"You two screwups... how else?" Jack tossed back, turning his head and tapping a spot near the top. "I used to have hair here..."
"We keep you young," Danny tried and heard Boone laughing. Taylor's grin was brief when Martin sighed once, his eyes fluttered shut and he went limp.
"Yeah, that must be it," Jack chuffed, taking his coat off and gently easing Martin up. The icy body needed warmth but Taylor wouldn't let go. "Danny, let go. Danny... Danny!" he growled and physically removed the hand from Martin's limp one. "He's freezing; we need to warm him up." He wrapped his coat around the still body and lifted him carefully. "Upstairs now!" he ordered of the other two injured agents. "Helluva thing when I'm the healthiest one in the group." Martin's head, his neck and the warmth of the breath that hit his skin was welcomed. He didn't question Fate or how her sly hands had once again worked their magic. But for the span of mere seconds, Martin would have been dead.
Twenty minutes later, the trio of injured agents was by the fire in the large front room. The blankets and pillows from the upper floor were now being used. Danny Taylor was sound asleep on one quilt and covered by another. Next to him on the divan was Martin Fitzgerald. Malone rested his hand on Martin's face; it still felt too cold to him. There was also a very nasty lump on the back of his head. He tugged the two blankets up and Martin stirred, but didn't rouse. Jack wasn't sure how much blood they'd gotten, but the medics could assess that when they arrived. Chris was lying on his good side, on a sofa watching the fire. Malone didn't like the flush on Boone's face or the sluggish eyes. There was an infection already working on him from the nasty wounds.
"You gotta go for help. The car's not that far and it'll be daylight soon." Chris frowned as it seemed like his tongue was too thick for his mouth.
Jack thought on Chris's words and found himself nodding. He watched Chris again lick his dry lips and moved past him. A few moments later he returned, handing the thirsty man a bottle of water.
"I filled three up in case Danny wakes up. How you doing?"
"Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'pain in the ass'," Chris rasped and nodded in gratitude at the water. He drained half and his pale brows furrowed when Jack sat down on the chair next to him and pulled a bottle out.
"Irish Whiskey?" Chris read the label. "Where the hell did you get that?"
"It was in the kitchen," Jack answered, pouring them each a shot. "The receipt was still in the bag. I guess that television crew forgot it."
"Slainte!" Chris toasted, downing the gut warmer and tapping the bottle for a refill. "It's good shit."
"Throw away your pills, it'll cure all ills," Jack quoted of the song his grandmother used to sing. "So sang my grandmother and she lived to be ninety."
"God bless the Irish!" Chris proclaimed and sipped slowly. He kept his eyes on Danny and Martin. They needed medical attention and he wasn't sure how much longer he could stay awake. His ass hurt, his side was throbbing and his head felt like an axe was embedded in it.
"I'm thinking you won't be getting your deposit back," Jack teased of the rental outfit.
"Next year," Chris sat up gingerly, shifting so he could be upright. "I'm gonna prove it's better in the Bahamas!"
Jack laughed, stood up and reached for the blanket that the shivering blond had on him.
"You reach for the blanket again and I'll break your wrist," Chris warned as the blanket was pulled off. "I'm fine... Goddammit that hurts!"
"It's inflamed," Jack updated of the nasty wound on Boone's side. He saw Chris slide the whiskey over and eyed the pale eyes. "You sure?"
"No," Chris answered and braced himself.
Jack winced as he poured the whiskey onto the wound. He felt Chris stiffen and hiss but he didn't cry out. Beads of sweat formed on his head and rolled down his face. Jack poured some of the water out onto a napkin in his pocket and handed it to the grateful man. He then replaced the bandages, which were covered in blood and muck and stood back up.
"You'll live to fight another day, Casanova," he said, pulling the blanket back up.
"Get going, Jack," Chris whispered, picking his gun up. "I don't know how much longer I can stay awake."
"Okay, I won't be long."
While Jack made the trek back across the frozen terrain to the car, Chris fought to stay awake. He dozed off twice and the third time, he again forced his heavy eyes to open wide. He rolled and sat up, using the pain of his posterior wounds to keep him awake. The room was warm and the fire was nearly hypnotizing. He managed to rise twice and stagger over to check on Taylor and Fitzgerald. Danny was restless, tossing and mumbling in a fevered dream.
"Cut it out," Boone ordered, shaking the younger man's shoulders. Danny's face reflected brief annoyance, then he sighed and relaxed. Turning his attention to Fitzgerald, he noticed that the blue eyes were opened slightly. He bent down and waved his hand and the eyes moved, following them.
It didn't come out as he intended and he saw Chris moving awkwardly to a bottle on the table. Why were they still here? He didn't see Jack, but then his eyes saw Danny sleeping on the floor. He studied the chest rising and falling and then saw the bottle by his face. A hand raised his head up and he latched on, like a greedy infant on a full breast.
"Slow down, you'll get sick," Chris coached and stopped when the injured man turned away. He saw the confusion. "How you doing, Martin?"
"...head... hurts... tired... cold... back... back..."
"Okay, it' won't be long, Jack went to get help." He waited until the head bobbed and the eyes slid shut before heading back to the couch. Every time he moved, the wound in his side tore, the scabs trying to form were opened. His headache was worse and he was extremely tired. He sat down and rested his head on the back of the sofa. His rest was short lived. "...the hell..."
He sat up, took the gun out and listened intently. His eyes went to the doorway and he moved slowly, hearing again the tread of footsteps above. He peered in the hall, wondering if they'd gotten all the Deavers. Where there more hiding upstairs? The steps seemed to be coming from different directions and the temperature dropped suddenly. The air that enveloped him was freezing and a strange sound filled the upper floor cavity. There must be a window open up there, he theorized. That would cause the cold air and odd sound, like a moan or a shriek. Perhaps some raccoons or other small animals had gotten in. The footsteps were getting louder and he glanced back at his helpless charges for a moment, before proceeding closer to the stairwell. He couldn't afford to pass out again if there was someone else in the house. He had to find them first. Movement at the far end of the top of the staircase caught his eye. It looked like a robed figure was standing just on the other side of the edge of the hall. He crept quietly up the stairs, seeking what he assumed was the last of the Deavers.
He was just inches from the robed figure, whose head was covered. He raised his gun and began to identify himself, "F.B...."
The words died in his throat when he realized that the 'body' was floating at least one foot off the ground. It turned then and there was utter blackness where the face should be. The arm raised and swept across his chest and neck, sending an icy blast through him. It was as if his blood was freezing. He found he couldn't move; his legs were paralyzed. The arm rose, the cloth fell back and he felt a hand latch onto his throat, but there was nothing there! His air was cut off and he fired his gun, the bullet passed right through the body of the robe. He was lifted off the ground and forced hard against the wall. He saw black spots appear, just as sick laughter filled the air. The echo of it was deafening and then the hall faded away.
Jack called out and entered the house and went immediately to the living room. He put the First Aid kit down on the table and checked on the two sleeping men. Annoyance crossed Danny's face at his touch while Martin remained quiet. He opened the kit and took out antibacterial wash, gauze and tape. "Chris, I got...." he broke off the thought when he realized the blond man was missing.
"Chris?" He went back into the hall and eyed the empty room. He shivered and saw his breath in white frosted puffs. He went to the kitchen, thinking the injured man might be there. It was empty. He heard a thud from overhead. What the hell was he doing upstairs? He wouldn't have left Martin and Danny unless he felt threatened. Jack drew his weapon and took the stairs two at a time. He saw a leg just inside the edge of the entry to the hall and moved closer.
"Chris?" He squatted down next to where his friend was slumped against the wall. He saw the gun nearby and picked it up; it had been fired recently. He eyed both sides of the hall and didn't see anyone. Turning his attention back to the prone man he tapped his cheek hard. "Hey, wake up! Snap out of it, Chris!"
The head jerked back, the brows furrowed and the face screwed up in annoyance. Jack rested his hand there again and noticed his skin was icy cold. The hairs on his neck stood up then and a chill raced up his spine. He got the distinct impression he was being watched. He turned slowly, keeping one hand protectively against Boone's chest. The hall was empty. When he turned back, the green eyes were open but squinting in either pain or confusion.
"You okay? What the hell were you doing up here? Who'd you shoot at?"
Chris narrowed his eyes and took several uneven breaths. He pressed his back closer to the wall and watched as the phantoms formed a spectral half-circle around him. They had no faces, only black voids under the dark cloaks. Every arm was now moving slowly, each bony set of fingers flexing and moving closer. Was this real or was he dreaming? He slid his hand slowly on the floor, seeking his gun.
"Chris!" Jack spoke in a loud voice hoping to rouse the dazed man. The look of horror and fear on the blonde's face was something that he found very unnerving. He turned a bit to see if there was something behind him but the hall was empty. He turned back and moved in to grip the shoulder of the shaken man.
"No!" Chris roared, grabbing the gun and swinging it hard. "Go back to hell where you belong!" he ordered, raising the weapon at the closest ghoul.
"Whoa!" Jack rocked back and grabbed his jaw where the gun hit. It forced his tooth into his lip and he spit out a wad of blood. He put up both hands in front of him. He realized now that part of the strange look in his friend's pale eyes was pain. He thought back again on the hard floor his head had been slammed onto as well as the hook hitting its side. He lowered his voice and tried to find his way through to the lost soul before him.
"Okay, it's me, Jack, Jack Malone. Put the gun down," he soothed, keeping an eye on the wavering gun in a very wobbly hand. "Chris, can you hear me?"
They began to shriek and moan then, creating a disturbance so loud that it pierced his brain like a hot needle through the eye. He cried out in pain, the gun tumbled from his fingers and he doubled over, clutching his head in both hands.
"Shit! Shit!" Jack cursed outwardly and flailed inwardly for his shortsightedness. He shouldn't have taken Boone's injuries so lightly. What if that blow had done internal damage? What if there was a leak inside. "I'm sorry... Chris?"
Somewhere through the rippling red waves of pain a voice penetrated. Not just any voice, a voice he knew. He felt the cold leave and warmth surround him. He knew the voice and the strong hand that now embraced him. He wasn't lost anymore... he was safe. He leaned in toward the voice, like a lost ship seeking that beacon.
"Yeah, buddy, it's me," Malone managed as the body went limp in his arms. As he moved to lift Chris, he noticed bruising on his throat. "What the hell?" He moved the shirt collar aside and examined the marks closely. The imprints now bruising up were from a pair of hands. "Shit!"
He rose and pulled his gun out, peering into the room closest to him. A quick examination told him it was empty. Glancing back at the unconscious blond every few minutes, he proceeded to examine the rooms in the hall that were open. It appeared he was alone, but then there were most likely hidden passages in these rooms.
"Christ!" he hissed, when his hand hit the knob of the door before him and it was burning cold. He used his coat sleeve to open it and shivered. It was below freezing in the room and a quick glance told him it had belonged to a child at one point. He moved cautiously, with an uneasy feeling that he was being watched. Something on the floor of the nursery caught his eye. He squatted down to examine it and found two tiny Civil War era soldiers. "...little soldiers..." he recalled Danny mentioning them. He frowned at the dark stains on the front of the tin men.
A chill so deep ran up his spine it caused him to rise. He didn't question his instincts; they'd kept him alive until now. So, he backtracked out of the room and closed the door. A glance at his watch told him that the helicopters would be here any moment. He gathered up Chris and got back to the warmth of the only room in the house that felt normal.
Martin didn't know how long he'd been watching Jack, but he knew he was pissed. He could tell by the annoyed huffs of bated breath coming from him as he paced the room. A pattern was forming; he would do two turns and then peer out the window. The sky wasn't black anymore; it was now a medium blue. He frowned and eyed the old room again, it reminded him of a house his grandparents rented for the summer when he was a child. Ornate furniture and antique fixtures didn't give the weak man any clues. He didn't know where he was or how he got here. His eyes flicked to Danny lying on the floor and the golden light on his face. His partner didn't look so good; his features were distressed and damp. His dark hair was plastered to his face which had a slight flush. He saw the fire playing on Taylor's features and wondered why he couldn't feel it. He was right next to it, why was he so cold? He heard Jack curse again and saw a phone in his hand. He watched as Malone paused by Chris Boone to rest a hand on his neck.
Satisfied with Chris's pulse, Jack turned at Fitzgerald's rasp and moved to where two weak blue eyes were peering up at him. He studied the pale face and winced at the chattering teeth. He didn't know how much blood Martin had lost, but he didn't like the sluggish reaction and chills. "How you doing, Hotshot?"
"Hold on," Jack replied, lifting the groggy head and easing a bottle up, "Just a little."
"Thanks..." Martin was blinking hard and eyeing the other two sleeping agents. "...okay?"
"You didn't think they'd let you have all those ER nurses to yourself did you?" he teased but the face before just puzzled up more.
"...what... hap...pen...ed... I can't... I don't..."
"Shh!" Jack sat down on the table next to the settee and tugged the blanket up more. "Don't worry about that now, just rest. Help's on the way."
"Not a minute too soon," Jack replied, eyes going to the window as a motor whirred overheard.
"Cold... why so... cold... I can't feel the fire... Jack... s'wrong..."
"Take it easy," Jack reassured and rested a hand on the blanketed shoulder. "You lost some blood, you got the chills from that."
"So... cold... so..."
"Martin?" Jack tapped the face which now stilled as the door opened. "Where the hell were you? I called over an hour ago. I got three men down!" he roared at the medics who entered carrying gear.
"We had to wait for the wind to die down; we only got a green light fifteen minutes ago." Andy Miller replied, eyeing the three victims and beginning his work. He couldn't see the face of the lone man left standing, but he felt the intense stare on him the whole time he worked.
Charlotte Hungerford Hosptial, Torrington, CT Six thirty a.m.
Danny Taylor was miserable. If it were possible to feel any worse, he doubted it. His head hurt so much even blinking caused pain. The coughing was endless and all it did was cause a jackhammer to start riveting in his skull. He was hot, his stomach was upset and the smell of blood from somebody nearby was making him test his resistance to throwing up again. A cool hand on his face and a soft voice brought his head and his spirits up.
"You okay, sugar?"
"I need... a bucket..." Danny moaned when a small kidney dish was placed in his hand. "A big bucket."
"You got a nice chest full of congestion, Mister Taylor." Doctor Parker suggested, watching the green faced young man struggling. "We're gonna take some chest films, but from your fever and what I heard, I think you have an upper respiratory infection. We need some pictures of your head too, you'll be admitted."
"How's Martin?" Taylor asked, trying to quell the extreme waves of nausea. "They... took... his blood. The accident... the tree hit him... he won't say he's hurt, you have to watch... out... for... that..."
"He's down a couple of units, but we're going to replace that. He'll be warmed up and we'll make sure we check him good, okay?" She watched the gagging patient move his head several times to keep his foggy gaze on the unmoving man on the next table. "Anything else I can get you?"
"Phone number?" Danny managed with a weak smile and saw the pale blue eyes crinkle in mirth and the ring finger shown. "It figures."
He saw the gurney next to him moving and Martin being wheeled away. He heard a nurse say something about 'now' and 'stat'. He'd been keeping his eyes on Martin since he'd woken up and seen his pale partner. But now he saw the upper body exposed and without someone being in his line of view. Martin's left side was black and blue. He started to sit up and succeeded, only to have a hand thumped on his chest.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Where did they take him? What's wrong with him? I thought he just needed blood or something?"
"He is getting blood and we need pictures of his back, chest and head. He's going to be fine, okay?" She had to admire the determination still firing in his fevered eyes. They narrowed and roamed the room until another body was spotted.
"I'm going over there now, his vitals are very strong." She firmly eased him back down. "You're very persistent."
"Persistent," Danny sighed hard and laid back. "I bet you didn't describe Martin as 'persistent'. Did he open his eyes?"
"True blue," she stated and saw where this conversation was going. "He's quite handsome." She winked at the nurse behind Danny Taylor who smiled.
"See... I knew it..." Danny muttered, clutching his prized kidney dish. "Even... without blood he has it. I'm 'persistent' and he's 'handsome'..."
"Take him down to Radiology, he gets a full chest and head series," she updated as an orderly approached.
"You got it, Doc," the tall, dark orderly replied.
Once the second patient was on his way to radiology, she turned her attention to the last remaining injured body.
"Good Morning, I'm Doctor Parker." She flipped quickly through the report given by the paramedics as the nurse updated her on the blond man's vital signs. "You have two different injuries to your head that we'll want to get pictures of. Any double vision, blurred vision..."
"No..." Chris whispered. "But my side's killing me, Doc and my throat hurts. Hell, I hope I didn't catch Taylor's crud."
"It's a nasty wound, we'll have to go in and clean it up." She looked up as another man approached the cubicle. He looked worn to the bone and very disheveled. He pulled out his badge and flashed it, nodding to the patient.
"How is he?" Jack asked and the bloodied head turned a bit. Chris was on his side on a gurney; his pallor was a shade of grayish green that almost matched his eyes.
"His vital signs are good, his side has a nasty laceration and we put a few stitches in his head. We'll do a skull series to rule out any possible injuries there. He'll live to fight another day."
"My other two men, Taylor and Fitzgerald?" Jack asked. He'd taken his car to the hospital and had just arrived. He couldn't see Danny or Martin, so he assumed they were already taken care of.
"On their way to Radiology first for some tests, then to a room. Both of your men are young and strong, nothing serious to worry about."
"Martin, they took blood from him, he was so cold..." Jack asked of his blue-eyed agent.
"He was a couple units down, we'll replace that. We'll warm him up. He'll be very tired for a while. He had extensive bruising on his left side from what the report stated was a car accident. I don't think he broke anything, but we'll make sure."
"Good, thanks," Jack said, watching Chris's head moving. "Speaking of wounds, Agent Boone sustained a couple of serious wounds in a rather delicate area."
"Go away..." Chris mumbled, unable to see Malone. It was an exercise in futility. He sighed hard and placed his head back down, listening to bits and pieces of Jack's conversation with the doctor. She also updated him on Martin and Danny. "Hey!" he complained as the sheet was pulled down.
"And just how did you sustain those wounds?" she asked, eyeing the inflamed areas on both posterior cheeks.
"Go on Casanova, explain how you got thorns up your ass," Jack noted.
"I fell," Chris grimaced.
"And that," Jack put in without being asked as the doctor probed the bite marks, "was from a very demented love sick victim. You see Casanova breaks hearts all over, even the mentally unstable can't resist his charms."
"So help me... God... Jack!" Chris hissed, as his dignity rolled off the table and onto the floor. "I got my rights, you can leave now."
"Oh, I wouldn't miss this," Jack teased. "You could pass out at any time and the doctor has to know your complete history of how you were injured if she's going to do her job." He paused, enjoying the battered blond squirming. "Hey, some of those thorns are deep, you better check good to make sure..."
"Get out now!" Chris protested and felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Sorry, you're delirious and you might say something that will affect National Security." He watched the lips forming a very colorful reply. "Hey, you watch that tongue, Sailor, we're in port now." Jack then moved silently from the cubicle so the doctor could treat Chris. He saw a discarded piece of plastic nearby and picked it up. Smiling, he fingered the item in his palm and 'tested' it, as an idea formed. Finally, a few moments later the curtain moved and the doctor walked away to write on Boone's chart.
Chris just wanted this ordeal to be over. He'd been shot, stabbed, nearly blown up and suffered a variety of injuries in his twenty plus years as an agent but never had he 'bared' his ass or suffered the embarrassment of having thorns pulled from it. He hoped he could just get the x-rays done and get to a room. He cocked his head and his eyes puzzled when the clicking sound started. He couldn't see Jack but heard him moving around in the same place the odd sound was coming from.
"What the hell are you doing?" Chris demanded, unable to move to see behind him.
"Taking pictures," Jack replied calmly, clicking the plastic again.
"What!" The level of his voice caused his stomach to rebel, but he'd already lost everything in it, the only thing left was dry heaves.
"For insurance purposes only, of course," Jack noted, pausing to grip Chris's shoulder until the gagging stopped. Once he was sure the younger man was okay, he continued. "Of course, for the right price, I'll keep them off the Internet. You know if these photos were made available to the right women in New York, I could retire on the interest alone."
"Your sense of humor is worse than your stench," Chris growled, realizing he'd been had.
"Stench?" Jack sniffed his ripe clothes. "I think you hurt my feelings." He moved to peer at his now silent friend and saw the pain etched face. The bruises on his neck stood out in an ugly bluish- purple reminder of what had transpired when he was gone. He walked away to where the doctor was standing and waited for her to look up.
"It'll be a few hours yet until you can see your three friends. Why don't you find a hotel nearby and get a hot shower and some food. You might even get some sleep, you can use it."
"Yeah, I gotta call the office too, my team and Chris' will be wondering what happened. Thanks, Doc."
She saw him eyeing the severe bruising on the blond man's neck. "It's badly bruised, he'll be sore for awhile, it'll hurt to swallow. Whoever attacked him had incredible strength."
"Yeah," Jack replied and saw the nurse who'd been tending to both Martin and Danny approaching. She had a good sense of humor and he got an idea. He whispered to her and she smiled, nodding her head. "Hey, Cassanova, you have some admirers waiting," Jack piped up.
"Jesus, would you leave already?" Chris groaned. "How can this day get any worse?"
"Excuse me, Doctor," the nurse said, winking to the doctor, "I have a group of medical students with me, can we observe?"
"Oh my God!" Chris moaned, burying his face.
"You spoke to soon," Jack replied. "Come on over, girls, don't be shy."
"Girls!" Chris choked in panic.
"Women's Medical Collage," Jack winked at the doctor who was finished and couldn't resist adding, "You can sketch some notes, if you think that will help your studies..."
"Jack!" Chris forced himself up on his elbows then and noticed they were alone. "I'm gonna kill you, Malone, I swear to God. That wasn't funny."
"It was fuckin' hilarious, you should have seen your face." He moved aside as the orderly came over.
"Who are you?" Chris demanded, "Hell, why don't we call the homeless in from the street as long as my ass is on display?"
"I'm transport, you're going to the OR..." he pulled the blanket up and unlocked the wheels on the table.
"What for?" Jack called after the brisk orderly who was already taking his charge to the elevator. He caught the doctor as she approached the nurse’s station. "Hey, he's okay right? Why's he going to surgery?"
"His vitals are good and that wound in his side has bleeders that have to be fixed in the OR." She saw the worry rising and rested a hand on his rumpled coat sleeve. "He's going to be fine. You need some rest and food. You'll feel better and more refreshed when you see your friends again. Visiting hours start at noon."
"Okay," Jack agreed, walking to the elevators. Now that all his men were safe and being cared for he finally felt his own exhaustion creep up on him. The weary man pushed the button and waited, longing for a soft bed.
Manhattan, Federal Bldg November 1, 7:30 a.m.
"Morning, Viv." Sam paused at Vivian's desk on her way to the coffee pot. "How was the wedding?"
"Beautiful," Vivian replied, "Marielle and I have been friends since High School. When her husband died five years ago, she moved south to get a new start. His death really shook her up." She handed over a photo taken at the wedding.
"She looks happy," Sam noted of the pretty woman beaming at her from the picture. She also noticed the handsome man next to her. "Course if I had something like that keeping me warm at night, I'd be beaming too."
"David is the best thing that's ever happened to her. He's a veterinarian. She decided to adopt a dog when she bought her house and took Casey there for a checkup from the shelter. One thing led to another."
"Happily ever after," Spade finished, handing the photo back. She frowned at the empty office. "Where are the guys?"
"I'm not sure. It's funny all three would be late. Martin and Danny might have stayed over in Connecticut. They got hit with a bad storm overnight."
"Jack and Chris were still drinking in the bar when I left."
"Great," Vivian cringed. "A hung over Jack is not a pretty sight."
"Ouch!" Sam agreed and saw Brendan Gavin enter the room. He was one of the agents on Boone's team. "Hey Brendan, how are you?"
"Good. That was a great party, Sam!" Gavin complimented and made his way to where the two female agents.
"Is something wrong?" Johnson asked Boone's top agent.
"There was a message waiting for me from Jack."
"Jack!" Vivian eyed the young man and saw the concern "What happened?"
"Martin and Danny were in an accident in Connecticut. The troopers found the car, but it was empty. Jack and Chris went up to find them. He didn't say what happened, but Martin, Danny and Chris are being admitted to the hospital. He mentioned something about the Deavers and then a doctor called out to him and he had to hang up."
"The Deavers?" Sam frowned, "I can't place that name."
"Cleaver Deaver was a nut who butchered women like forty years ago," Brendan supplied. "He died and the prison was transferring his body on Halloween night when the rest of the clan decided to get revenge."
"Jack said all that?" Vivian asked.
"No, I called the Connecticut State Troopers and they sent over the report. The car broke down and they ended up taking refuge in an old house, Heatherstone Mansion. Unfortunately, Danny and Martin were there too. Apparently their car got run off the road by a drunk."
Sam looked at Vivian who shook her head. "I got in early, just after six. I didn't have any word then." She paused, "But I left for about twenty minutes to go to the file room."
"My call came in at seven," Gavin stated. "Anyway, I'm heading up there; I thought one of you might like to come."
Spade went to her desk and picked up her phone, forwarding past the first message until Jack's voice came on the line. "Vivian," she called out, placing the phone down and hitting the 'conference' button.
"Sam, it's me. I left a message for Vivian and Brendan. I'm at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, it's almost seven a.m. Danny and Martin were in an accident and Chris got hurt after we got up there. Nobody's critical, but they're all going to be admitted. It's a story right out of the Twilight Zone, complete with a freak show also known as the Deaver clan. I'll update you when I talk to you."
"Go on." Vivian nodded. "I have a pre-trial with the D.A. at nine I can't miss. Call me!"
"You got it," Sam said, leaving with the tall, dark-haired agent.
Days Inn, Torrington, CT 8 a.m.
Jack couldn't remember that last time he was so tired. By the time he'd pulled into the Days Inn, he didn't think he could drive another mile. He stopped for twenty minutes at a store to pick up some necessities. He spoke to Sam in the car and was relieved that she and Brendan were on their way, it meant he could rest a bit longer. After registering, he headed for the coffee shop to eat. He swallowed the last of the 'sunrise special' and downed a gulp of coffee. The pancakes were good but the sausage would be causing some problems later. The large platter was completed by scrambled eggs, hash browns and a biscuit. Since he'd been ushered out of the ER, the only update he had was that Danny and Martin were being X-Rayed and Chris was in recovery. He tossed the napkin out and left the coffee shop, picked up his bag and paused long enough to look at the donuts under the glass dome by the register. Martin would have made a quick job of polishing at least two off, definitely the chocolate. He returned, lifted the dome and took two donuts for later. He grabbed a large coffee to go and paid his bill, just as a voice called out to him "Yeah?" Jack turned in the lobby at the call of his name.
"Paul Davis, we spoke on the phone."
"Yeah," Jack spat out in near disgust. He didn't like the Mickey Mouse way that the locals had handled this problem.
"I'm sorry about the confusion last night. I've been assured your agents will recover fully."
"You're sorry!" Malone's voice rose a full octave and he didn't hide his anger. "Those fuckin' freaks damn near slit the throat of one of my men. Where the hell were you?"
"Hey we have a lot of ground to cover; there were accidents all over the place, roads closed. I did the best I could."
"Not good enough!" Jack hissed. "I want that house combed from top to bottom. One of those freaks escaped and attacked my counterpart, Chris Boone, while I was calling you."
"The house is empty. We found the corpses in the room in the cellar."
"It can't be empty," Jack disagreed. "I saw his throat, somebody tried to strangle him."
"We searched every room and I've got men looking in the woods, but from what the Virginia State Police told us, those are the last of the clan. Are you sure that didn't happen before you left? Maybe the bruises just didn't come out at first."
Jack thought for a moment about the tussle Boone had in the room off the kitchen. It could be that was the place where he'd suffered the bruising. But what drew the blond man upstairs? Who did he fire his weapon at? Maybe when he woke up he'd get more answers. "Anything else?"
"No, I just wanted to apologize in person."
"Mission completed," Jack replied, turning away towards the elevators. Right now the only thing he wanted to do was collapse in the bed and forget that the nightmare had ever happened.
Charlotte Hungerford Hosptial, Torrington, CT 10 a.m.
Sam remained at Chris's bedside for a few moments, a little uneasy at the pale complexion and the brutal marks on his neck. The nurse said he would make a full recovery, but the fact that he, Danny and Martin had been attacked by cleaver-welding maniacs on Halloween in a haunted house was unnerving. On the way up, she'd gotten the basics from the Connecticut police. Brendan was on the phone updating their boss and she nodded to the door, indicating she was leaving. She bent down and kissed Chris's cheek, gave his hand a tug and headed to the room next door.
"And I thought I threw a scary party."
"Hey Sam," Martin yawned, trying to force his eyes open. "You got here fast."
"You and Danny find the most new and innovative ways to get yourselves sponge baths."
"Yeah, that must be it," Martin rasped, nodding to his sleeping partner. "Can you have the nurse check on him? He's so restless..."
"He's got a fever, I already talked to her. He's getting a nice antibiotic cocktail, he'll be fine." She put a large cup in front of him with a straw. "Careful it's hot. Mocha-chino, extra chocolate."
"I might have to marry you," Martin teased and opened his lips when she offered the straw. He took a slow sip and the warmth that flooded his shivering body was a welcomed relief. "Damn... damn..."
"Actually, I prefer to live in sin," she teased of the proposal. "Wicked and naughty but you're welcome." She smiled and turned towards the other patient who was moaning. She moved to Danny's bed. "Danny?"
"Mmmm...." Danny heard someone calling him and tried to pry his heavy eyes open. A cool hand rested on his face and he moved into it. "...so... cool..."
"Poor baby," Sam cooed, brushing her fingers through his hair. His eyes opened a crack and by the puzzled face, she knew he didn't realize where he was or who she was. "It's Sam, you're in the hospital, you're sick. Go back to sleep."
"'kay'," he agreed, sighing once and losing himself in the warmth of his dream state.
"Did you talk to Jack?" Martin asked when the blonde reappeared and sat next to him.
"Not yet. I spoke with a cop named Davis. He said Jack was exhausted. I'll let him sleep awhile. I got the report faxed to me in the Admissions office. You guys had quite a night." She paused and noted how pale he was, "I hear you ran into modern day vampires."
"I can't remember much, but what I do remember isn't worth remembering." Martin shivered then and not from the cold. "I was tied down naked with a bunch of long-haired freaks hovering over me."
"S and M? Didn't think you were the type," she teased and lifted the cup again. His eyes shifted and he turned away, shuddered slightly and sighed. "It's over, they're dead now. Jack and Chris took care of them."
"Chris?" Martin frowned, savoring the hot brew. "He got hurt... he okay?"
"Concussion, a minor wound in his side and a bad bruise on his neck." He was fighting to stay awake and shivering badly. She got another blanket from the closet. She put it over him and rested her hand on his cheek. "Sleep," she ordered and he relaxed, gradually letting his eyes drift shut.
"Sam..." he mumbled and saw her foggy image appear. "Thanks for coming."
Days Inn, Torrington, CT Nov. 1
Jack frowned and tried to find the source of the annoying sound that was drilling through his head. He cursed and rolled away from it, but it followed him. He lashed out then, hitting everything on the table next to him. The ringing stopped. Satisfied, he slipped back into the nothingness from which he'd left. It almost worked. A disembodied voice then began to invade his sleep.
He ignored the voice, it would go away. But to his annoyance and dismay, it got louder.
"Fuck off," he snapped, burrowing again into the warmth of the blanket.
"Jack, wake up!" The voice became a body with a name.
"Sam?" He sat up, shook the cobwebs from the mud in his head and scrubbed his face with his hands. He fumbled and got the light on, then saw the phone on the floor. He bent down and picked it up. "Sam?"
"Thanks for the colorful greeting. I was worried until then that you were dead."
"I feel like I need a crypt," he agreed, his head was pounding and his stomach was upset. The sunrise special would soon be making a reappearance the hard way. "Where are you?"
"I'm at the hospital." She was in the lobby having just finished lunch. "Danny and Martin are doing much better. Chris isn't responding and they're a little concerned, they're doing another CAT Scan."
"Shit!" Jack chastised himself again. "What time is it?"
"Almost three p.m. Brendan and I came up this morning and he updated the office. You want me to pick you up? You sound beat."
"No, I stopped and got a sweat suit and other stuff, I'm okay." It wasn't very formal but it was clean. "I'll get a hot shower and come over. Thanks for busting into the tomb."
As he stood under the shower and let the hot fingers of water massage his aching body, Jack thought again on the close call. If not for the quick fingers of Fate, Martin's throat would be slit now. He'd be lying in the morgue. Chris could have been strangled to death by whatever maniac they'd missed. He felt the guilt pangs gnawing at him, his friend seemed okay in the ER. Why wouldn't he wake up?
Charlotte Hungerford Hosptial, Torrington, CT 6 p.m.
Once his two agents had finished their dinner and were dozing with a rerun of Barney Miller on the television, Jack exited the room. He paused in Chris's doorway and saw Brendan wincing in the stiff chair. Boone's team was loyal to a fault. He doubted if the likeable young man had left his boss's side all day.
"As comfy as you look, Gavin, I'm dumping you."
Brendan looked up and managed a smile for Jack Malone. The gruff voice didn't fool him or anyone that knew him well. Malone bled for his troops, the same way his own boss did. He stretched and rose, rubbing his back.
"I think I'll get a side job designing comfortable hospital furniture."
"I'm in for twenty percent," Jack teased, gripping the tired agent's hand. "Any change?"
"Not since you checked a half-hour ago. Everything's negative, though, that's a good sign, I guess."
"Get some hot food and get some sleep, that's an order."
"If something happens, if he..."
"You'll be my first call. Day's Inn has a room for you. I reserved one for you and Sam. Go..."
"Thanks, Jack." Brendan paused at the side of the bed, trying to will the grayish eyes open. He'd welcome a growl now, even half a growl.
"Yeah, I'm going."
Jack settled into the vacant chair, moved it closer and leaned on the rail, hanging over it slightly. He studied the bruises again and it disturbed him that someone with that much strength could have easily eluded them. But the house had secrets; it could be that they would remain a mystery. He furrowed his brows in annoyance at the unmoving body. "Wake up!" he tried to no avail. "You check out on me now and I'll follow your sorry ass to hell and drag you back."
Jack sat back and found the television remote. He turned it on and fished around until the evening news came on. He watched the events transpiring in other corners of the world. He made it to the final round of Jeopardy and then switched to Seinfeld. He left twice to go across the hall and chat with Sam, who was sitting with Martin. Danny's battle with his germ war left him exhausted and he'd sleep until morning. Martin was in and out, but when he was awake, he seemed glad to have company. Although he hadn't spoken much on the events in the house, he knew the younger man didn't want to be alone. He entered Chris's room again and saw twin gray-green eyes peering at the ceiling. He didn't move for a moment, but the IV'd hand moved to the throat and a raspy squeak emerged.
"Chris?" He moved closer to the bed and the eyes followed him but the face remained unresponsive. He hoped the blank look was the affect of having awoken in a strange room. He didn't want to think on the possibility of any permanent damage. The soft coughs and painful winces made him move into action. He picked up the pitcher and poured some water, adjusted the straw and offered if over. The hand didn't move and the body pressed back into the bed. "You okay?"
"...where..." Chris managed and held his throat. It was if he had swallowed razors.
"It's swollen, someone tried to choke you. You're in the hospital in Connecticut. Do you know what happened?"
"...nightmare... freaks... sac..ri..fice..."
"A living nightmare," Jack concluded and sighed in relief. He held the water out again and was glad when Chris took it.
"Thanks," he whispered. "Sorry... I just couldn't seem to figure... everything's all mixed... up..."
"Don't talk; the doctor said that swelling won't go down for awhile."
Chris nodded and eyed the window behind Malone's shoulder. It was dark outside. He vaguely recalled arriving in a helicopter but that was at daybreak. He drank the water slowly and rested his hand over his eyes. He felt as if he'd been over Niagara Falls in a paper cup. He remembered Jack being with him in the ER and then bits and pieces of hallways and tunnels. "How... long..."
"You've been out all day. You gave us a good scare." Jack sat back down, turned the television off and buzzed for the nurse.
"This is Agent Malone, Mister Boone is awake. The chart nurse said to notify the doctor if he woke up."
"Thanks, I'll call him."
"Danny and Martin?" Chris asked, recalling the other two injured men.
"Across the hall. Danny's got a pretty good respiratory infection and a slight concussion. His fever's coming down finally. Martin's just worn out from the blood loss and cold. He has a concussion and his left side is all bruised. He'll be stiff and sore for awhile. They had to operate on you to repair some minor damage in your side and you got a brain bruise."
"That mean I can... get... a handicap... space..."
Jack grinned and relaxed, the last part of the ordeal was finally clearing up. Until he'd seen the signs of normalcy returning, he was worried. A head injury was always a cause for concern. He'd been friends with the charismatic blond for over a dozen years; he'd not find another friend like this.
"..bury me yet..."
Jack chuckled then, that Chris could read his silences that easily. "Don't worry, I got no extra money to spend on a new suit." He watched as Chris's hand moved again to his throat. "You remember how that happened?"
"No... well... no... " Chris theorized. He'd had head injuries before but none that produced hallucinations. The bruises must have come from the struggle with the two Deavers. That had to be it; it couldn't be the face phantom that seemed to be in the center of his memory bank. That was the stuff on Saturday movies when he was a kid. "Just before you... and Danny... busted into that room... they tried to... kill..."
"The Deavers? They choked you? You're sure? I found you upstairs, you sure seemed like you fought with someone. You took a shot." He saw the pale face grow paler and the eyes widen in alarm. The last thing he intended was to put more worry on the injured agent. "Look you hit your head pretty good. I should have never left you, I'm sorry for that." The hand shot up in a 'save it' gesture.
The silence that followed was almost as painful as his headache. Chris wanted to go back to sleep but suffered through an examination by the house doctor. He answered every question and nodded at all the appropriate times. Jack had left when the doctor arrived, and waited outside. Finally, the exam was over and his dinner tray arrived. Along with it, a sheepish face lurking in the doorway. He jerked his head to the chair and the body followed.
"Any hot nurses on the floor?" Chris broke the silence and saw a ghost of a smile play on Malone's lips. "You have to watch my back, partner, sometimes they sneak the good ones into the overnight shift, too late for my sponge bath."
"You'll still be chasing skirts when you're eighty in the Old Federal Agent's Home." Jack quipped but his expression displayed his true feelings.
"Leave it alone, Jack, it's not your fault."
"I dragged you into this..." Try as he might, the sight of the bruised throat still bothered him.
"Bullshit, it was my choice to come. We had two missing agents, we had a job to do, it got done, okay?" Chris settled back and lifted the lid on the dinner tray. "What the fuck is this shit?"
"Well," Jack said with a straight face. "I wish I could join you, but I'm having dinner with Sam at a steakhouse. I got a nice thick steak with my name on it calling me, a loaded baked potato oozing butter and cheese..."
"You're a sick bastard, Malone." Chris winced at the pale liquid, semi warm, which he assumed was broth. There was also apple juice, lemon water ice and a pile of yellow jello cubes. He speared one with a fork and made it jiggle. "Christ, I hate shimmering shit..."
Jack laughed at that, rose and paused by the bed. The fork dropped, the hand went out and they shook. The grip was strong as it always would be, the ones that come from a true open hand always are. He paused in the doorway and waited for the blond head to lift.
"Fifty-ish with a good waddle, two moles and some nice gray chin hairs." He laughed and ducked when a jello cube was launched at him. "Big, strong hands too, great for scrubbing those intimate places." He wagged his finger at the scowling body when the entire jello dish was lifted and aimed at him. "Temper, temper, Agent Boone!"
It was late, how late Martin didn't know. The room was dark and the shadows were playing tricks with his head. He heard rustling noises and was instantly awake, his eyes roaming the room for signs of movement. He relaxed then, realizing that it was the hospital and the danger was over. He was still troubled by the lingering thoughts of that moment that his life was nearly taken. He wasn't a superstitious man by nature; he always found the logical explanation. But this time, he was out of answers. Something had encountered him in the bedroom and his fear sent him tumbling into trouble.
While his partner quietly tried to reason with himself over the supernatural incidents, Danny Taylor fought on. He was still lost in the house, searching for his missing partner. He called out his name, hoping to hear the blue-eyed agent reply. The hallways were getting narrower and the evil laughter that echoed in the dark tunnel was not of this earth. It was so loud it caused him to cover both ears, blocking out the pain.
He cried out and rolled, opening his eyes. His eyes adjusted to the darkness and a room took shape. The call in the hall for a doctor and the chrome railings told him he was in a hospital. He relaxed and saw a body by the bed. "You a doctor?" He whispered, then felt something drip onto his chest and arm. "..the hell..." he pressed the button on the cord attached to his bed and it rose. The next button had a little light bulb on it and he pressed it. As the light came on more drops of liquid hit his face, running down his cheek. Red drops of warm liquid.
"Red? Blood!" The naked fear caused his head to spin, just as Martin Fitzgerald's severed head was thrust in front on him. The eyes were looking right at him, twin pools of blue accusation. The corpse's blue lips moved then.
"Where were you? I screamed for you, you never came."
"No, Martin... I tried to find you... I did... you gotta... believe... me... no... no..."
"Hey, wake up!" Martin tried again, easing his body into the chair next to his thrashing roommate. Danny's weak cry of his name had brought him from his own bed. His partner was lost in a nightmare, unable to rouse. The eyes were open but didn't seem to see him. "HEY!" he gripped the slick chin and turned the face. "Snap out of it, you'll have every nurse in here. I'll get busted."
"Martin?" Danny moved his hand and reached out, touching Fitzgerald's neck. "It's attached... thank God..."
"How bad?" Martin asked when the hand retracted, but noticed it was visibly trembling.
"I thought... I was awake. It was so real." Danny paused and pushed the button moving his bed upright. He reached for the water on the tray over his bed and took a sip before sticking out his tongue. "Warm as cat piss."
"Yeah, I thought I woke up, I saw the walls, heard the intercom. Then I felt something dripping on me." He shuddered and sighed hard, raking his shaking hand through his wet, spiky hair. "It was your blood, your severed head was right there." He pointed to the space in front of him "You kept saying I deserted you."
"Shit," Martin hissed, annoyed that he couldn't save his friend from the awful dream. "That's just a dream. I never gave up hope, I knew you'd find me and you did."
The ease of the confidence in that tone was the best medicine for Daniel Taylor. Martin spoke the words right from his heart and that made all the difference. "How's Chris?" Danny asked, foggily recalling earlier that the blond man had not woken.
"Better, he woke up, his voice is shot, but he'll be okay."
Danny peered sideways at the pale face, which was etched in varying shades of exhaustion. He knew just how tired Martin was and how much effort it took for him to get to this side of the room. The blue eyes were bruised and the dim light revealed his side was purplish. Any movement had to hurt like hell. He had to drag the IV pole with him and maintain his balance.
"How'd you get free?" he asked.
"It wasn't easy," Martin replied and saw the worry on Danny's face. He smiled then, giving the blanketed leg a pat. "I said what would Danny do? So here I am."
"You should have stayed put, I was doin' okay. You got more colors on your skinny ass now than Crayola invented." Danny didn't mean to sound so annoyed.
"I'm touched!" Martin sent back with a wink. His smile faded when the upset face before him didn't change. "It's done, Danny, they're all dead. Jack and Chris took care of that. They stole Cleaver's body and were hiding in the house. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's all."
They sat in silence for awhile, each enjoying the strength the other gave. Martin watched twice as Danny drifted off to sleep, only to wake again with a gasp. The dark eyes would roam around until they saw his blue ones, then they'd lock on, he'd sigh once and nod, drifting back to sleep. Finally, he was too sore and stiff and had to move. He waited until he felt sure that Danny was at peace and he rose. Every bruise on his battered body cried out in a unified call of protest. He couldn't hide his cry of pain and held the IV pole with a death grip.
Danny heard the cry and woke up, watching Martin's face screw up in pain. The open back gown revealed a seeming unending line of purple and blue marred skin with slashes of red. It was excruciating to watch him take baby steps as if treading on glass. Every footstep was agony. It just reinforced everything he knew about Martin Fitzgerald and why he thanked God that Fate put them on the same team. "Martin?"
Martin paused and turned his head halfway when Danny called out. "Yeah?"
"Do me a favor?" He asked in his best 'I'm weak and frail' voice.
"Anything," Martin vowed, wondering how he could possible turn around without causing even move pain.
"Get a robe," Danny ordered, eyeing the lean ass, "the glare off that sorry white ass of yours is burnin' my eyes." He watched the single digit reply appear despite the death grip on the IV pole. He waited and counted every painful, tiny step until Martin was again in bed. He watched the beads of sweat covering the exhausted body and the chest rising with every gasp. Finally, Martin seemed to have caught his breath. He wasn't gasping anymore or gripping the rail in pain. The blue eyes shut and satisfied, Danny shut his own. His rest was short-lived.
"You got balls, Taylor, calling my ass sorry."
"It's white isn't it?" Danny trumped. "Enough said." He heard the soft chuckle and cracked an eye open.
Martin smiled at him and nodded, sending Danny's hand into a fist which tapped his chest.
Charlotte Hungerford Hosptial, Torrington, CT Nightfall
The three injured federal agents were sharing a moment before retiring. They were all being discharged in the morning finally and Jack would be there to pick them up. Sam and Brendan left the day before, their case loads heavy. But Sam had made time to forward the photos from the Halloween, party which were now being viewed on Chris's laptop that Jack had brought from the trunk of the car earlier that day. Danny was just finishing up in the bathroom when he heard Martin's exclamation. The odd call and the low laugh had the wheezing man curious. He turned the light off and shuffled into the room. Chris and Martin were sitting on the bed peering at a computer screen.
"Wow!" Martin repeated, eyeing the gorgeous creature on Chris's Boone's arm. He couldn't help notice the 'ample' chest that spilled over the form fitting leather corset. "They can't be real."
"Oh yeah," Chris's voice dropped low and his pale head bobbed. He wiggled his fingers then, "these hands are certified, they know the difference. Those magnificent orbs are flesh, not silicone."
Danny was more than curious now and hobbled faster. It was no secret that Chris Boone turned female heads everywhere he went. He had to see this stunning woman that Boone apparently met at Sam's party. But the vision that met his gaze was not the one he expected to see. "Ow!" Chris cried out and grinned when Danny punched his arm.
"Lola!" Danny snarled, giving the amused blond his best 'Malone' glare. "You stole my woman! That's low!"
"Your woman!" Chris defended, "Look cave boy, while you were busy fighting the undead, the lovely lady was left cold and lonely."
"She was my date," Danny emphasized, hitting the arrows to see the other photos. "You got your hands all over her."
"Yeah," Chris chuckled and wagged his eyebrows. "You left her high and dry. I was just being a nice guy."
"See," Martin slapped Danny's leg. "Nice guys like us always get the girl." He said gesturing to himself and Chris.
"Man, I can't win!" Danny moaned.
"All's fair in love and war," Chris reminded him and winked at Martin. "Me and Lola had quite a night. She has this technique when she kisses, I mean, my pants got so tight..."
"Enough!" Danny announced and narrowed his eyes. He studied the amusement in the green eyes and sighed. "You're full of shit, Chris."
"Got that Latin blood of yours to rise up, huh?" Chris teased. "She's a nice girl Danny and she's crazy about you. Matter of fact, she'll be arriving at your apartment tomorrow in another costume. Could be she has this hot little nurse's outfit."
"Oh-la-la!" Danny smirked, settling into the spot that Chris vacated.
"I'd better get back, Nurzilla is on the loose," Chris stated, "she catches me over here before I'm formally released, there might be consequences."
"See ya, Chris," Danny said as the other man left.
"I can't wait to get outta this place," Martin said, the ghosts of the awful ordeal still hovering.
"Yeah," Danny agreed.
The wind rose up suddenly and shrieked, causing both heads to swivel and peer at the window. Danny packed up the computer and locked it, stowing it in the closet. He made his way to his own bed and settled into it, but the wind just wouldn't die. It caused him to shiver, recalling the awful storm and the harrowing Halloween night he'd spent. Finally, silence eased into the room, but it was a dark silence and a very uneasy one.
"I guess you were right," Danny lied. He wasn't about to tell Martin or anyone about the gruesome, spectral encounter he'd had. "It was just an old house with creaks and noises."
"Yeah," Martin lied, not wanting to upset Danny any more. Whoever or whatever he'd met in that room still bothered him. "That wind must have come through a broken window." He noted of the rigid cold and the moans.
Somewhere in the dark many miles away the specters rose up and protested. They were still hungry and that insatiable appetite would have to wait for another night. So, they lingered in the drafty mansion, waltzing the dance of the dead and waiting for the next visitor to grace the hallowed halls of Heatherstone Manor.
Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
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