A small pink wet drop splattered on the pavement. Followed by another and soon forming a puddle. It was quite obvious on the aged walk, but it was not the focus of attention. Quite the contrary the focus of attention was on the monument that sat upon the sidewalk.
The mini-van teetered on the metal edge of the walkway surrounding the upper levels of the Eiffel Tower, its strawberry-ice-cream covered wheels making the tenacious grip even more faulty.
The three occupants held themselves still inside the vehicle. Two in the back seat and one, clinging to the steering wheel, trying to at the same time to pull weapons and seat belts from their persons.
"This is bad, Ez."
A strawberry covered ATF agent rolled his eyes from the back of the vehicle and nodded slightly. "You have just figured this out, Mr. Tanner?" "No. I mean it's bad cause-"
The third sticky blob spoke. "What Vin? You hurt?"
Vin shook his head at Nathan, the melting ice cream that coated his body splattered slightly with the movement, his hands gripping the steering wheel for dear life. "I'm scared of heights."
The other two in the vehicle groaned and continued to wipe wet and sticky sludge from themselves and the various guns they carried. Ezra kept his eye on the window beside him, listening for the return of the helicopter, since he couldn't see the vehicle that had plagued them ever sense they had landed on the monument.
"What . . . what are we gonna do? I mean I can't go out there. I'll . . . fall and smash up against the pavement. And then what are ya gonna do. I'll be in peices, just waitin' to be scrapped together and shoved in a tiny box. Won't need but a shoe box hold me in. I can't fall. I don't like falling. I never even bungee jumped before. I can barely stand roller coasters. This is bad. Oh this is really bad."
Ezra glared at the ranting sharpshooter, wishing the man wasn't under the heavy influence of truth serum. "Mister Tanner. Concentrate on staying still."
He glanced at Nathan and nodded, signalling that he was ready for whatever move Nathan deemed wise. Nathan took a deep breath and slowly sat forward, climbing into the empty front passenger seat. The van teetered, metal creaked and groaned, but the vehicle remained.
"The underbelly probably got ground into the walkway," he said quietly as he settled into the cushioned seat, making sure the van was steady.
"We hope," Ezra added, sitting as still has he could.
Nathan took another careful breath and slowly opened his door, the bottom edge barely clearing the surface of the metal promenade. Again the tower protested and the sound of the wind whipping by struck a new fear in Tanner.
Nathan waited for a second longer, making sure the mini-van was in good spirits about all this, then stepped into the windy but sunny afternoon air in Paris. As soon as his feet were solidly planted on the sturdy metal he reached in for Vin.
"No . . . Nathan. I'll just wait here. It'll be ok in here. Just gotta wait."
Nathan rolled his eyes and insisted, grabbing hold of Vin's coat collar for emphasis. "If you don't get out here now your gonna look like a shirt-waist-fire-victim. Now come on. I got ya."
Ezra added to the persuasive tactic, leaning forward to pry Vin's fingers from the wheel. The van croaked in protest and he stopped his movement's quickly. "We have to remove ourselves from this vehicle post haste or they won't be an us, Vin."
With the confused look he got, Ezra decided that verbal persuasion would not diffuse the situation, much less improve it. He attacked Vin's hands again, wrenching him bodily from the driver's seat and shoving his shoulders and upper body towards the open door. Nathan latched onto Vin's frantic hands as a terrifying screech of dying metal announced the van was finally giving in to gravity. Vin shot through the open door as the vehicle hurtled to the ground behind him.
The end of the walkway opposite Vin and Nathan started unravelling from the side of the Tower, pulled down by the vehicle's weight and rapid decent. Nathan let out a strangled cry as the vehicle drew nearer to the unforgiving earth, at the same time dragging Tanner farther from the edge.
Seconds later and barely ten feet from the ground the van came to an abrupt and bone jarring halt as the make shift life line refused to separate itself from either the tower or the van. The vehicle bounced slightly, metal groaning, swaying back and forth slightly.
Seconds later Ezra tumbled from the side door to the ground, holding his head and curling up into a tight ball. The shocked crowd stayed back, watching the man uncurl and crawl slowly away from the vehicle.
Three hundred feet above Nathan watched in shock. The man had once again managed to cheat death. He shook his head in wonder, the sound of applause and cheering echoing up from below.
Slowly he pulled Tanner to his feet and directed the bewildered man's attention to the crowd below them. The blonde man smiled broadly, swaying slightly in Nathan grasp.
Ezra stood slowly and glanced up at the two figures far above him. Waving weakly that he was ok. Glancing to the van he smirked as with a final, sad, sagging groan the tower let go of its burdened walk way and the van smashed back end first into the pavement.
+ + + + + + +
He put his hands up quickly both to quiet the man and to reassure him that it really wasn't that big of a deal. "The vehicle is not your liability and the French Ambassador stated that they had been looking for a reason to replace that particular section of walkway anyway. It's perfectly all right."
Chris stared at him blankly. "All right. ALL RIGHT? How can you say it's all right? You disobeyed direct orders, completely disappeared from face of the Earth without so much as a phone call. Ruined six, did I mention, six pieces of expensive armory that belong to the United States Army. Downed a helicopter and made a permanent dent in a thousand-year-old landmark. What in the hell do you think is 'alright' about this?"
"We didn't blow up the helo."
Chris glared at Vin who had taken up sudden residence behind Ezra. "What?"
"We didn't blow up the helo. Carnige did."
Ezra nodded to the statement and Nathan rolled his eyes, but acknowledged that it was indeed true. Chris looked at the EMT for explanation. "You didn't have a problem with any of this?"
Nathan sighed. "I was just trying to keep these two idiots alive."
Both Vin and Ezra stepped away, taken aback, insisting they were not the idiots at all. Chris glared them into silence.
"I want you to finish your reports, IN DETAIL, by Friday. Then we're going to go over them until I have every fact straight and can understand how in God's name you justified this."
He turned sharply and slammed his office door shut.
Vin smirked. "I think he's jealous."
Ezra raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"He didn't get to go to Paris too."
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