Author: Mahala PM
Flack, Mac and the ships cat! One-shot! Rated T for occasional language!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Humor - Don F. & Mac T. - Words: 6,814 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 1 - Published: 03-17-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7931982
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N : Thanks to all who have read and reviewed my previous stories. Your reviews really make my day. This is just a quick one-shot for the 17th March. Happy Birthday Mr Sinise and thank you for giving us Mac to play with. I promise to give him back when I'm finished! ;-).
Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Don Flack winced as he hitched himself up against the cold metal bulkhead. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone and blinked furiously to bring the tiny screen into focus. He sighed as he saw there was no service. He was unable to move and had no means of calling for help. He should have called for back-up. Why hadn't he called for back-up? This was all his fault. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply as a wave of nausea washed over him. His limbs began to feel heavy and his vision began to darken.
A sudden burst of gun-fire from a machine pistol came from deep within the ship. Don twisted his head but the bullets ricocheting off the metal walls and containers echoed strangely making it impossible to determine the direction from which they came. There was a moment of silence before two sharp reports from a handgun reached his ears. He counted. Sixteen. Seventeen. The tiny ray of hope which he had been desperately holding onto was quickly stamped out as another long rattle from the machine pistol made him flinch. And then silence. Don's head fell to his chest as he looked down at his blood-soaked hand where it gripped his leg just above the knee. The once blue shirt now stained red was only good for the trash but at present it filled its role admirably, preventing him from bleeding out from the through and through. It hurt like hell. Don looked at the shirt and the jacket that was folded up under his leg and thought about the man to whom they belonged. The man for whom time and bullets had just run out.
Earlier that day...
Don rolled over in bed stretching out his hand to grab his phone. He grunted something into the pillow that sounded approximately like hello.
"Wakey wakey Flack. Port authorities called. Got a DOA for you down at the docks. Pier seventeen. Go to the admin building and ask for Haskins."
Don groaned. "Janice! How the hell can you sound so cheerful at this time in the morning?" he grumbled. "What time is it anyway?"
"Five seventeen. And I'm always cheerful especially when I get to call you at unearthly hours of the morning." giggled the high-pitched voice at the other end of the phone. "Hearing your charming voice is so much more fun than a text message."
"I hate you." mumbled Flack into his pillow which elicited even more giggles from the other end of the phone before Janice wished him a nice day and the line was cut. Flack dragged himself out of bed making a mental note to find and strangle Janice from dispatch. He wondered what she looked like as he headed straight for the bathroom. For some strange reason he pictured a dizzy blond with Betty Boop lips and lurid plastic jewellery. Don switched on the shower; he really needed a wake-up even if it was only to try to figure out whether there was a coffee shop between his place and the port.
Forty minutes later Don stopped his car in front of the port's authority building. A portly man bundled up in a heavy blue coat and yellow hard hat rushed down the steps towards him. He opened the passenger door. "Detective Flack?" Don nodded. The man looked relieved. "I'm Martin Haskins, Port Security. I'll accompany you." Don nodded and the heavy-featured man removed his hat to reveal a shiny bald head surrounded by tufts of dark hair. The car rocked as he got in. Don followed his directions steering the car slowly through the maze of buildings and equipment. Despite the early hour, the port was a hive of activity. Fork-lifts, cranes, trucks, cars. Men and machines melded together as they loaded and unloaded the thousands of containers and crates. As they drove down to the pier, Don noticed the number seventeen lit up in the early morning mist. Don shuddered as he recalled Danny telling him that his Italian grandmother considered it to be unlucky. Apparently many buildings in Italy don't have seventeenth floors or a room seventeen. Don directed his attention back to Martin Haskins.
"The Hamlin docked just after five this morning and called us in straight away to say they'd found a body in one of the cabins. Captain's name is Ralf Holtman. Nice fella." Don followed Haskins up the gangplank onto the enormous container ship that seemed to stretch away forever. Don paused at the top of the metal staircase that led to the crews quarters stunned at the sheer quantity of multi-coloured containers that were stacked on the forward deck.
"Two hundred and seventeen meters, forty thousand tonnes, four thousand, two hundred and twenty eight teu..." Don turned to look at the six-foot five giant of a man in a crew-cut sweater and seaman's hat. "...equivalent to twenty-foot containers." he explained in slightly accented English, his face lighting up as he spoke about his beloved ship. "We are a mixed cargo. She's a good ship. I can get 28 knots if we're running light and the weather is fair." Don took the hand that was offered. Don Flack was by no means a small man but the fair haired captain seemed to tower over him. "Please come this way Detective."
Don followed him through a door-well and along a narrow blue-carpeted corridor. The captain led him down a narrow flight of iron steps and back the way they had come. He stopped at a door and opened it. He gestured to Flack to go in.
"How the hell did you get here before me?"
Mac Taylor turned and grinned. "I didn't stop for coffee." Don flinched wondering how the hell Mac knew that. He surreptitiously glanced down at his suit wondering if he had spilt some. "Edward Jacobsen." Mac gestured at the elderly man lying on the blue carpeted floor of the stateroom. Don glanced around the room before taking a closer look.
"Nice quarters." he commented admiring the spacious room with a bunk neatly made up in one corner, a large sofa and coffee table which held a copy of Moby Dick and a glass of brandy. One side of the room had fitted wooden cabinets, a taller one behind the door and a row of shorter ones on top of which stood a television, DVD player and tea making facilities. A small desk stood against the other wall near the bunk. "I thought all sailors slept in bunks with barely enough room to swing a cat."
"That's because he's not crew. He's a fare-paying passenger." smiled Mac as he lifted some hairs from the victim's trousers.
"Passenger?" Don looked around in amazement. "But this is a cargo vessel..."
"... which takes passengers wanting a more leisurely way to cross the Atlantic. This one has four cabins set aside for passengers including Mr Jacobsen here. He's got his own TV, refrigerator and store cupboard." Mac pointed to the polished wooden cabinets. "Fare includes 3 meals a day, drinks from the bar at duty free prices, and access to the ships amenities." Don stared at Mac as though he was speaking a foreign language. "He was on his way back to New York after visiting his family in Rotterdam. He used to be captain of a vessel himself and apparently missed the sea. He asked to be woken up as soon as they entered port as he likes to watch the docking and unloading. The steward was worried when he didn't answer. The door was unlocked when he found him."
Mac smiled at Don."...who is waiting for you with the other passengers and crew in the officer's lounge. I'll finish up here and wait for the coroner's van though I fear that may take some time." Mac sighed.
"Crazy night huh?" asked Don who had already wondered how come Mac had picked this up. He guessed with Danny and Lindsay away on vacation, and Jo and Sheldon stuck on the multiple rape case, Mac had pulled yet another all-nighter and rolled one case into another. No doubt Jo would be having words with him later. Don pulled out his note book and jotted down the name of the victim and what Mac had told him
Mac nodded. "Well at least this should be straight forward. Liver temp puts his death at around eleven last night." Mac reached down to his kit. "And he was killed by the Pied Piper!" Don's head jerked up in time to see Mac lift a ten inch statue of the legendary musician. Peering through the plastic bag Don could see blood on the base of the statue. Blunt force trauma. Weapon of opportunity so not pre-meditated. "Apparently there's one in every cabin. No prints. It's been wiped down but someone on this ship killed him and that means you have seventeen suspects."
"Seventeen?" Mac nodded as Don shuddered involuntarily at the mention of seventeen. He wasn't superstitious but even he had to admit that this was an incredible coincidence. Pier seventeen. Seventeen suspects. What was Janice had said. 'Five seventeen!' Ridiculous, he thought to himself. Must be the lack of sleep getting to him. He turned to leave.
"Oh and Don?" Mac smirked. "Watch out for Griselda. She doesn't like to be manhandled."
Don frowned. "Griselda?"
Mac simulated a swinging motion above his head. "The ship's cat."
Don threw Mac his best 'I hate you right now' look and promptly left. Mac chuckled as he heard moans and grumbles about 'bloody cats' all the way down the hall. Don and his aversion to cats. Mac was sure it was more than just an allergy.
Two hours later, Don had completed his preliminary interviews and was sat completing his notes in the chart room when Mac joined him. Mac put his case down and slid into a chair. He looked exhausted. "So what did you find out?" he asked as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Don worried about his friend. One of these days he would work himself to the grave. Don sighed as he opened his notebook knowing that Mac would brush it off and tell him to get on with it.
"Unbelievable! When you said amenities, I thought you meant a tour around the engine room and a game of checkers. Do you know that there's a recreation room, a lounge with a bar and home cinema and even a swimming pool? Admittedly it looks more like a septic tank with seawater – not exactly your five star hotel – but it's got an inflatable crocodile!" Don grinned as Mac arched an eyebrow.
"Okay! Okay! First off, no one knows anything or heard anything. They are all shocked; all swear he was a nice guy. Everyone gets on well, no problems, one big happy family yada yada yada." Don glanced at Mac who was clearly waiting for him to continue.
"So the captain and pilot officer were on duty on the bridge until midnight when they were relieved by the first officer and a trainee crewman called Brian Walters. Nice kid, big teeth!" Mac raised both eyebrows as Don grinned and continued. "Log entries and daily reports confirm it." Don pointed up to a row of clipboards hung on the wall behind him. Mac glanced at them noting weather reports, ships manifest, health and safety check-lists. "To be honest Mac I don't like any of the bridge crew for it. They all seemed genuinely concerned, especially the kid. Think he'd enjoyed listening to the old fella's stories of adventures on the high seas. Anyway their stories seem to check out so far. Now most of the crew retire by ten knowing that they need to up by five for docking procedures. Only the chief engineer ... tough French guy with a Gaulois glued to lip ... and his assistant were working till late as they had some problem in the windlass room that needed sorting before they docked. Apparently they'd radioed ahead and are due to pick up spare parts today. They swear they were together at the other end of the ship until well after one o'clock." Mac nodded for him to continue.
"According to the steward, Domingo Sanchez, he finished serving dinner at seven. He cleared up the bar and the dining room and helped the chef, Lucky Lee ..." Don caught Mac's look. "... no seriously his name is Lucky. It's not a nickname. He's from Hong Kong and everyone says he's the greatest chef! Apparently his Nasi Goreng is to die for. And he sure as hell makes a mean Eggs Benedict!" Don caught the look on Mac's face and cleared his throat. "Well it was going begging! Could hardly let it go to waste! … So they finished clearing away just before nine, went back to their cabin to change from their uniforms. They confirm that the four Filipino crew were in their cabin playing Mah-Jong as they always do. Apparently they keep pretty much to themselves which is hardly surprising as they all appear to have a three word vocabulary. Yes, no, and sorry!" Don shook his head in frustration. "And then … get this … Domingo and Lucky went on deck to race cars with the two other crew members, the Gonzalez brothers." Don had to grin at Mac's look of incredulity. "Seems they have a competition going called the Hamlin 500." As Mac opened his mouth to ask how on earth someone could race cars on a ship, Don held up a hand. "And before you ask, they're remote control models."
"Seems being at sea can be a little boring." Don smiled at his friend as he pulled a face and shifted his aching bones. "Anyway, they were there till just after ten. This is confirmed by the three other passengers who have been going to watch. Mr and Mrs Schultz, a German couple who are on the way to New York for their daughter's wedding. Mrs Schultz is scared of flying. And a wannabe author Ingrid Lester ..." Don looked around to make sure he wasn't being overheard and leaned towards Mac. " … watch out for her Mac. A real man-eater! I'm telling ya! I can guess how she entertains herself during the long lonely nights at sea!" Don waggled his eyebrows up and down. Even Mac, exhausted as he was, had to smile.
"Was our vic with them?" asked Mac.
"No but they all say they saw him having his evening constitutional around the deck. There's no smoking in the cabins and Mr ... or as I should say … Captain Jacobsen it seems enjoyed a pipe so he always did a couple of turns around the deck before returning to his room for a nightcap which our steward Sanchez says he left in his room at ten twenty-five precisely before going to bed. They all say that they were in their cabins from ten-thirty until this morning."
Mac frowned. "There was an untouched brandy glass on the table but I don't recall seeing a pipe." Don watched as Mac closed his eyes. He could have sworn he could hear his mind working. He waited for Mac to process the information. "So there were four on the bridge, two in the windlass room, four playing Mah-Jong in a cabin, four racing model cars with three passengers for an audience and our vic alone on the deck. He returns to his room sometime around ten-thirty for his brandy and someone comes in and hits him over the head. Some one was not in their cabin."
"Look Mac, everyone is confined to the ship until this sorted out. The engineer and his assistant need to go get spare parts but they won't leave the port and Haskins says he will ensure that they are accompanied at all times. I need to head back to the station to run some background checks. You want me to run you back home?" For a moment Don thought that Mac hadn't heard him but then he shook his head, grabbed his kit and muttered something about finding a pipe. Don shrugged leaving Mac to it.
As Don descended the gangway on the way back to his car he turned back to watch his friend slowly pacing the deck, his dark hair and blue CSI windcheater framed against the red metal containers behind him. Don was glad it wasn't him. That was one big ship.
Four hours and what seemed like a thousand phone-calls later Don glanced up at the clock. Despite the Eggs Benedict his stomach was rumbling and he decided to grab a bite to eat on his way to the lab to check out what Mac had found. He gathered up his papers and crammed them into a folder and headed for his favourite deli which was packed as usual. Don grabbed a ticket and read through the files as he waited. He had already sent a message to let Mac know that he thought they could let the passengers go. Don couldn't see a couple of seventy year old's beating the poor guy to death. He had found nothing concrete on any of the crew members. According to the head office of the shipping company, the captain, the first officer and the pilot officer had all long-standing service records. The chief engineer had been with them five years and he too had an exemplary record. The four Filipino's and Lucky Lee had recently joined the crew from other ships in the fleet and all had excellent references. The fourth member of the bridge crew was a recent recruit but had good qualifications from a British university; he found it hard to believe that the eager young man with the enormous teeth was old enough to pilot a ship that size. Don had put in a request via Interpol for background on the international crew members and had run background checks on the four US citizens. Domingo Sanchez, the steward had worked on a small cruise line that had gone bust before joining the Hamlin a year ago, and the young Ross Peterson, the engineer's assistant was on his first voyage fresh from engineering school. Don shuffled the papers and picked out the background checks for the Gonzalez brothers. Both from LA, they had worked for a Pacific based shipping company for the last eight years before transferring to the Hamlin. Don made a mental note to check their references.
"Seventeen!" a voice shouted. Don started. He looked down at his ticket. Nineteen. Damn he was getting paranoid. Fifteen minutes later armed with a sandwich, fruit, cookies and coffee he made his way to the lab. The crime lab was as busy as usual. Don passed Mac's office which was empty and headed towards lay-out. A couple of lab techs were pulling trace from clothing. Don continued looking. Strangely none of the team appeared to about. Finally he spied Adam hunched over a microscope.
"Hey Adam. You seen Mac?" Adam jumped slightly at the sound of his voice. Damn if the kid wasn't skittish.
"Hey Flack. No he hasn't been back. He called about twenty minutes ago though."
Don frowned. "Any reason?" he asked.
"No, he just wanted the results of the trace and the ship's manifest sent to his tablet."
"What was the trace?" asked Don.
Adam thought for a moment. "Erm... from the vic's clothing I got blue carpet fibres, cat hair, and tobacco. And from the statue I found traces of mineral oil. The kind used for small machinery – you know - sewing machines, that kind of thing. I'm going to run a comparison now to try to narrow it down."
Don thought furiously. "Mineral oil? Would it be used on a container ship?"
Adam shook his head "Er dunno. I wouldn't have thought so. It's for fine machinery. It's possible I guess. Want me to check?"
"What about remote control cars?"
Adam looked at him strangely but nodded. "Yeah you'd use it to grease the moving parts, wheel bearings and such."
Don looked at his notes. "Sanchez, Lucky and the Gonzalez brothers. Okay thanks Adam." Don took off leaving Adam a little bemused. He dug in his pocket for his phone. "Come on Mac. Pick up." The phone went straight to voice mail. "Mac. It's Don, call me as soon as you get this. I'm on my way back to the Hamlin."
Twenty minutes later Don pulled up at the Port Authorities building. He requested access to Pier Seventeen. The same balding guy Haskins who had escorted him earlier finally made an appearance. "Detective Flack?" Don nodded and asked if he'd seen Mac. "Not since I asked if it was okay for the captain and first officer to go to the harbour master's office; they're making changes to their schedule. Your investigation has put them behind and the chief engineer and his assistant are down at the machine-works. I have someone with them."
"Are the passengers still on board?" asked Don.
"Mr and Mrs Schultz left about an hour ago. Ms Lester is still on board I believe. She wasn't due to leave the ship until their stop in Charleston on the return voyage." Don nodded as he guided the car down the same route he had taken earlier that day and pulled up next to the pier. He ignored the number on the pier as Haskins excused himself to check with the ground crew. Don grabbed his files and then checked his watch. Mid-morning in LA, he should just check out those brothers before he lost his phone signal inside the Hamlin. Flipping open the file, he dialled the number for the Pacific shipping company. Thirteen frustrating minutes later he managed to get an actual person on the line. Damn if he didn't hate those automated answering systems. If he had to 'press one' one more time ...
"Detective Flack, my name is Jimmy Hodder, personnel manager. How can I help you?" came the nasal voice from the phone. Don explained the need for the background check and listened while the man typed away on his keyboard. "Ah yes the Gonzalez brothers. I remember now. Very sad. Terrible accident." Don's flesh crawled as a warning bell rang at the back of his mind.
"Yes, the younger brother Pedro had a bad fall. We had to let him go. He got compensation of course! But the older brother Ricardo left too to look after his brother, him being in a wheelchair and all."
"Wheelchair!" Don swore to himself as he thanked the man. He dialled Mac's number but it went straight to voice-mail. Damn! Don thought for a minute then dialled Adam. "Adam, do you have access to the personnel files from the ship? Good get the photos of the Gonzalez brothers and run them for facial recognition. They're not who they say they are. And if Mac calls tell him to be careful and go to the bridge." Don flung open the car door and charged up the gangplank heading straight for the bridge. He took the stairs two at a time and arrived breathing heavily. He paused to take a gulp of air before pulling open the heavy door.
Brian Walters jumped up dropping his book as Don entered. "Hello there Detective Flack. " The young man's face broke into a huge grin. Don was struck by the teeth once more. "Captain Holtman and Officer Carter are still at the harbour-masters office, and Officer Smith has gone downstairs for refreshments. Can I help?" he asked eagerly.
"Where are the rest of the crew?" Don asked still breathing heavily. Damn if he was getting a little out of shape. Maybe he ought to cut out the cookies! "And where is Detective Taylor?"
The young man looked nonplussed. "Er I haven't seen Detective Taylor but Lucky and Domingo are clearing up lunch. The others should be in the recreation area waiting for unloading … that is … as soon as you are done with your investigation..." His voice trailed away as Don whirled around and disappeared through the door. "I'll stay here then shall I?" Brian shrugged and picked up his book. He settled back into the pilots chair and returned to the latest adventures of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino.
Don grumbled to himself about the number of stairs on this damn ship as he entered the crew's quarters. All the cabins were empty so he took the stairs at the far end. As he moved carefully along the passage-way with his hand on his holster he could hear a regular tapping sound from the recreation room. As he entered four pairs of eyes swivelled towards and a ping-pong ball landed at his feet. The four Filipino crew looked at him with a mixture of fear and distrust. "The Gonzalez brothers? Detective Taylor?" he asked. They all shook their heads. "Stay here!" he ordered. Don checked the rest-rooms and the dining room but nothing. Next stop was the kitchen where he found Lucky Lee and Domingo Sanchez. Having made lunch for everyone else they were now taking the time to enjoy tea and coffee and a hand of poker. Again Don asked for Mac and the Gonzalez brothers but neither knew anything.
Don cautiously made his way down to the guest rooms. The victims room still had crime tape across the doorway. The next room was empty, Mr and Mrs Shultz having left. It looked like Domingo had been busy as the beds were already stripped and the linen taken away. Don listened carefully. He could hear moaning. Taking his gun from his holster, he slowly twisted the knob to the door of the next cabin. He flung it open with a shout of NYPD and froze as a shriek of surprise split the air.
Don lowered his gun. "Excuse me!" he muttered as he glared at the pilot officer and Ingrid Lester, both of whom looked distinctly embarrassed at being caught in flagrante. "I don't suppose either of you have seen Detective Taylor or the Gonzalez brothers?" Both shook their heads and Don left them to it closing the door behind him. Refreshments my ass!
Don tried his phone again but the signal was weak inside the ship. Too many metal walls. He needed to get outside. He made his way down to the main deck. As he passed the laundry room, he put his head round the door but there was nothing other than the over-powering smell of detergent and a blast of hot steamy air. Seemed to be a lot of that on this ship thought Don to himself thinking of the couple upstairs. Don checked out a few other rooms but other than finding ships stores, linen and cleaning products, and strangely enough a barbecue, there was no sign of anyone. Just as he was about to go out onto the deck, he heard a loud clang which echoed through the ship. Don noticed a sign on a door. "Authorized Personnel Only. Hard Hat Area!" Don pulled the door open and peered down the stairwell. It was then that the air was punctuated by the rattle of automatic fire followed by three sharp retorts that Don had heard many times. It was the sound of bullets being fired from a handgun. And not any hand-gun. A Glock 17 standard police issue and almost certainly belonging to one Mac Taylor.
Don ran down the stairs. Surprised to see the air-tight door at the bottom open, he cautiously pulled it towards him and peered in. Don was taken aback as he found himself on a platform overlooking the ships vast engine room. It was built over several levels to house the diesel generators, a boiler, fresh water generator, and purifiers, fuel and oil pumps and storage tanks. To his right was the engine control room, and several electrical panels. To his left a waste incinerator and engine parts store room. Another rattle of gunfire echoed through the vast space followed by three distinct shots. Don turned right following the walkway that circumnavigated the engine room. He headed for the door at the far end. Again it was ajar. Opening it just enough to put his head through he found himself on the other side of the bulkhead facing a wall of containers that stretched up to the ceiling above him and down below the platform on which he was standing. Don figured he was on the starboard side of the ship as a narrow passage-way ran the length of the compartment, the left hand side being a series of girders that held the containers in place. Don imagined that that port side must be similar. He quietly ran down the stairs and crept slowly down the passageway to the end of the compartment. As he reached the end he heard another rattle of gunfire and three more sharp retorts from the other side of the door. It had to be Mac firing in groups in groups of three. The shots sounded much closer but the echo made it difficult to determine position. Don pulled open the door at the end of the compartment and fell back in fright as a shrieking ball of fur flew at him. He fell backwards with a cry dropping his gun which skittered across the floor. Don rolled and came face to face with a hissing mass of black and white fur that shot away from him. Griselda! "Bloody cats!"
Don scrambled for his gun as a hail of bullets ricocheted off the door. His fingers closed around the grip and he rolled back to face the gunman now framed in the open hatch, an ugly machine pistol pointed straight at him. He raised his gun to fire but before he could loose off a shot three shots pierced the air. The gunman's face took on a look of utter surprise as he collapsed to his knees and fell forward through the hatch, the machine pistol in his hands clanging to the floor.
"My God Don!" Mac stepped over the gunman pausing only to kick away his weapon and ran to his friend. Don was surprised to see a look of utter horror on his face. For a split second he wondered what had upset him so but then he realized that Mac was looking down. It was then that Don registered the pain. He looked down at his leg and watched the blood soak through the cloth and drip onto the floor. Before he could get a grasp on what was happening Mac had pulled off his jacket and was pulling at his shirt sending a small plastic button skittering across the floor. Mac rolled the shirt and tied it around his leg all the while looking over his shoulder listening for the remaining brother.
"It's the Gonzalez brothers." said Don realizing how ridiculous that sounded the moment the words left his mouth. He groaned as Mac tightened the shirt around his leg. Mac rolled his jacket and put it under the wound and pressed Don's gun into his hand.
"Yeah I kinda worked that one out when they started shooting at me. Just take it easy. Stay here. I'm going for help." Mac got up and ran to the gunman. Grabbing him by the shoulders he hauled him through the hatch. He picked up the machine pistol and checked it. He pulled out the cartridge and seeing that it was virtually empty flipped out the last bullets and discarded it. Mac took one last look at Don, checked his own weapon and disappeared through the hatchway pulling it closed behind him with one final clang that reverberated through the ship.
Don pulled himself slowly up to lean against the bulkhead. He couldn't make it up the stairs and Mac had gone through the other doorway locking it behind him. He wasn't sure how much time had gone past before he heard a burst of gunfire and three sharp retorts. It was then that he looked down at his own weapon clasped in his hand. Damn Mac should have taken it. How much ammo did he have? More gunfire. And it was then that Don started counting. Three, six, nine, twelve!
Thirteen … Fourteen ... Fifteen. Don Flack winced as he hitched himself up against the cold metal bulkhead. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone and blinked furiously to bring the tiny screen into focus. He sighed as he saw there was no service. He was unable to move and had no means of calling for help. He should have called for back-up. Why hadn't he called for back-up? This was all his fault. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply as a wave of nausea washed over him. His limbs began to feel heavy and his vision began to darken.
A sudden burst of gun-fire from a machine pistol came from deep within the ship. Don twisted his head but the bullets ricocheting off the metal walls and containers echoed strangely making it impossible to determine the direction from which they came. There was a moment of silence before two sharp reports from a handgun reached his ears. He counted … Sixteen ... Seventeen ... The tiny ray of hope which he had been desperately holding onto was quickly stamped out as another long rattle from the machine pistol made him flinch. And then silence. Don's head fell to his chest as he looked down at his blood-soaked hand where it gripped his leg just above the knee. The once blue shirt now stained red was only good for the trash but at present it filled its role admirably, preventing him from bleeding out from the through and through. It hurt like hell. Don looked at the shirt and the jacket that was folded up under his leg and thought about the man to whom they belonged. The man for whom time and bullets had just run out.
Two days later...
"Detective Flack? Wakey wakey!"
Don groaned. "Go away Janice!"
Don opened his eyes and squinted at the smiling face leaning over him. He attempted a smile but his body didn't appear to be connected to his brain so when the face frowned he wasn't sure if it had come out right. Don blinked. Janice was not what he had expected. She was older than he had imagined and rather striking, with long dark hair scraped away from a slim elegant face, the prominent feature of which was two purple eyes. "You have purple eyes." This elicited a peal of soft laughter.
"Well his powers of observation are back. As I have already explained to your friend they're contacts. My name is Lisa and you're in Bellevue. Now how are you feeling? Any pain?" Don shook his head mutely transfixed by the purple eyes. To be honest he didn't feel anything. He wasn't even sure that he had a body. "Think you could eat something?" Don nodded. "I'll be right back. Just ring if you need anything though I'm sure your friend here will take good care of you." As she moved out of his line of sight Don's eyes opened wide in surprise.
"You're not dead!" he exclaimed as his brain came to terms with what it was seeing.
Mac looked at him strangely. "Why would I be dead?" he asked.
"Seventeen." replied Don screwing up his face.
Mac frowned looking confused as he glanced over at Lisa who merely shrugged and mouthed 'Effects of the anaesthetic?' at him before she left. Mac put the files he had been working on the table beside him and rose out of the comfortable armchair that had been his home for the past two days to stand by the bed. He put his hand gently on Don's shoulder as though to assure himself that his friend was all right. "Seventeen what Don?" he asked gently.
Don thought for a moment. Everything seemed confused but he could remember seventeen. "Five-seventeen. Pier seventeen. Seventeen suspects. Glock 17. You only had seventeen bullets. I counted them."
Mac didn't quite follow but knew what Don had been thinking. "I got him with number seventeen. He let off a wild burst as he went down. Missed me by a mile. Good thing that you dove for cover too or his partner would have had you booked to rights." Don shifted uneasily and found himself blushing. Mac frowned. "What?"
Don still felt detached from reality and he discovered that his mouth now had a mind of it's own. "Bloody cat!"
"Cat?" asked Mac and then realization dawned. "Griselda?"
"Flew at me when I opened the door and sent me flying." Don moaned.
Mac laughed. "Well for once it was a good thing too or Ruiz would have made mincemeat of you before I could take him out."
"José Ruiz, well-known felon in LA and his partner Manuel Perez. Files are thicker than my arm. Cut a long story short. They decided to impersonate the Gonzalez brothers and use their credentials to get on board. Seems that they were spending their nights removing certain specially selected goods from containers and ensuring that they were repacked in a specially marked crate. You name it they stole it: electronics, clothing, tobacco, alcohol, guns. They were trying to score several cases of fine French brandy and a crate of new Steiner Machine Pistols when our vic caught them at it. They must have noticed his pipe which he had dropped. They followed him back to his cabin and tried to bribe him but he insisted he was going to the authorities so they end up struggling and killing him. Turns out Perez' cousin works as a longshoreman who was going to help them get the stuff off the ship and his girlfriend works for the security tag company so they can break the tags and replace them without anyone noticing. Pretty good scam."
Before Don could take all this in, the door opened and Lisa entered with a tray of food. Mac raised the head of the bed for him and Lisa got him settled with the tray which Don was happy to see. He actually felt quite hungry. "Well, if that will be all I'm handing over to the next shift so I'll see you later." Don raised his head with a smile thinking that was something to look forward to. However his smile dropped from his face as he saw Lisa smiling shyly at Mac.
"Six o'clock?" he asked. Lisa nodded. Don turned to look at Mac as he realized the latter part of the statement hadn't been directed at him. Don's eyes flew back to Lisa not quite believing what he was seeing.
"You've got my address? First floor. Apartment seven." Lisa's smile spread into a grin and with a wink she disappeared out of the door.
Mac flinched as he turned and saw Don staring at him in utter shock. He shifted uneasily and had the decency to look a little sheepish, still unable to believe that he had actually asked her out and even more surprisingly that she had said yes. "What?"
Don continued to stare at Mac as though he might suddenly sprout a second head. "First floor? Apartment 7?" Mac licked his lips and ran his hand down the back of his head nervously as Don continued. "One Seven. Seventeen?"
Mac didn't quite understand his friends obsession with that particular number so he merely grinned. "What can I say? Must be my lucky number!"