Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987
Night Out of Time
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This is loosely inspired by a Mannix episode of the same title. It is part of my Exit the Fly verse. Baxter is human again and an ally of the Turtles. His brother Barney no longer works for Shredder.
The mood in Manhattan was grim and panicked that evening. The Turtles, Splinter, Vincent, and April had been searching for hours, desperately trying to find their missing friends. That afternoon, Baxter had been helping Barney and Vincent take audio-visual materials back to their respective rooms after a presentation in class. Then Baxter and Barney had gone out to the car for a minute while Vincent was gathering a few last things in the classroom. When he had gone out to the car, they were both gone and neither one could be reached by phone or Turtle-Comm. It had long ago become more than obvious that there had been some kind of foul play. Everyone was frantic.
"This is totally bogus!" Michelangelo cried as they got out of the Turtle Van to walk up and down another block. "We've looked everywhere!"
"Yeah. And according to April, the only interesting thing that's happened is a bunch of crooks came out of the sewers screaming about rats," Raphael rolled his eyes. "Looks like some more poor suckers stumbled into The Rat King's lair."
"I wonder what they were doing down there in the first place," Donatello blinked.
"Probably trying to make a get-away after pulling a daring heist," Leonardo said. "We have more important things to worry about. Let's try making a list of everyone who might benefit from abducting our friends."
Raphael blew out his breath in aggravation. "Didn't we do that when this mess first started?!"
"Let's go through it again," Leonardo insisted. "We might remember someone we forgot the first time."
"Okay," Raphael sighed, resigned. "There's Shredder and Krang."
"Pinky McFingers," Leonardo added.
"Big Louie," Michelangelo shuddered.
"The Rat King," Donatello said.
"And we're drawing a blank beyond that!" Raphael cried. "It could be any of them or none of them! It could be someone we've never even heard of!"
"Yeah, like, somebody from their pasts," Michelangelo said.
"That's not a bad idea," Leonardo mused. "We should really know more about their pasts, just in case of times like this."
"Well, if and when we find them, we'll have to tell them," Raphael said dryly. "'Boys, please walk us down Memory Lane and tell us about all the kooks in your lives who might want to hurt you.'"
"I'm serious, Raphael!" Leonardo said in frustration.
"So am I," Raphael countered. "I'm pointing out how ridiculous it's going to sound to them! And probably painful. They don't want to talk about all the nutcases they've known."
"I'm sure they'd see the logic in it, Raphael," Donatello said.
"I certainly do," Vincent piped up. "Baxter told me some things, but mostly when his poor mind was in such a garbled mess that it wasn't always easy to sort out what he really meant. I think he said once that he and Barney went to high school with the idiot who later became . . . Electrozapper? Is that right?"
"Electrozapper?!" Michelangelo stared at him. "Bugman's numero uno nemesis?!"
"Yes, Baxter said something about Bugman," Vincent said slowly. "But I can't think of any reason why Electrozapper would want to hurt Baxter and Barney. They barely associated."
"That doesn't make much sense," Leonardo agreed.
"Barney didn't really talk about any nutcases he met," Vincent continued. "Except for Professor Willardson. . . . But he isn't a villain."
"No, he's just a cranky, senile old man who thinks he's hot stuff and doesn't care if his inventions hurt people, as long as they work," Raphael snorted. "Which is arguably just as bad or worse."
"You know, coming to think about it, I thought the dude's name was Willard," Michelangelo said. "How did we all end up calling him Willardson anyway?"
"Heh, who knows," Raphael shrugged. "Or cares. It's close enough. We've got more important things to think about right now."
"No duh." Michelangelo looked around. "I guess I'm getting so worried I'm just saying any old thing to have something else to talk about."
"I'm picking up on an organic heat source in that building," Vincent suddenly announced, pointing to what looked like an abandoned laboratory.
"Well, what a perfect place for two missing scientists to be," Raphael wisecracked.
"There's only one living person in there," Vincent said quietly.
Michelangelo started. "You mean there might be . . . unliving people in there?!" he said in horror.
"I don't know," Vincent said. "Anything is possible. But I don't want to believe it."
They hurried over and through the doors. The trail of blood on the floor chilled them all.
"Oh man, what happened in here?!" Michelangelo gasped. "Somebody's hurt!"
"Or worse," Leonardo said grimly.
"And scope this out! Here's two Turtle-Comms and a phone!" Michelangelo cried, lifting them off a table. "Baxter and Barney really were here!"
"Maybe they both escaped and the person here is the one who abducted them," Vincent said hopefully. But his eyes were afraid as he analyzed the blood. ". . . This is Baxter's blood type."
Michelangelo swallowed hard. "No. . . ." He paused, frowning. "Wait, don't he and Barney have the same blood type?"
"No," Vincent replied. "They're fraternal, not identical, twins. I've looked at their medical records in the past. They have different blood types."
They followed the trail of blood to an open doorway. Barney was sitting on the floor, staring blankly at a large kitchen knife that was also covered in blood.
"Barney!" Vincent ran in and over to his brother. "Barney, what happened?!" He knelt down and gripped Barney's shoulders. "Are you hurt?"
Barney looked up, and the emptiness in his eyes haunted all of them. "No," he said.
"What happened, Dude?!" Michelangelo demanded. "Who brought you here?! And where's Baxter?!"
"I . . . don't remember," Barney said haltingly. "Except . . ." He looked at the knife again. "Baxter's dead. I killed him."
A wave of shock and disbelief swept over the group. "Barney, you must be mistaken!" Vincent exclaimed. "You wouldn't!" His eyes darkened in his resolve. "You couldn't."
"I did it." Barney's voice was monotone and matter-of-fact.
"Like, how?" Michelangelo frowned, still not believing it.
"I don't remember," Barney said.
"Okay, if you killed him, where's the body?!" Raphael gestured at the room. "You're the only one here!"
"And there's a trail of blood leading all the way out the door!" Michelangelo added. "Somebody's hurt, not dead!"
For the first time a spark of hope went through Barney's eyes. "Then he's alive . . . ?"
"And we need to find him mondo quick," Michelangelo declared.
Vincent gently took Barney's hands and drew him to his feet. "You're sure you're not hurt too, Buddy?" He gave Barney a worried look.
Finally some life. "I did this!" Barney screamed, pointing at the blood. "I stabbed my brother! No, I'm not hurt! He's hurt! He left to get away from me!"
"Barney." Vincent gripped Barney's shoulders. "You admitted you can't remember what happened. How can you be so sure that you did it?"
"That's the one thing I do remember!" Barney snapped. "I was holding that knife. I pulled it and I heard a horrible cry of pain!" He dug his hands into his hair and slumped forward, shaking. "I dropped the knife. . . . It was covered in blood. And Baxter hit the floor too."
Michelangelo stared at him. "That's . . . that's awful," he stammered. "Poor Baxter. . . ."
Vincent drew an arm around Barney's shoulders. "It was an accident," he soothed. "And Baxter has to be alive. Let's go find him."
Leonardo was already leading the Turtles out of the room. Michelangelo lingered, worried about Barney as well as Baxter. Vincent looked to him and indicated for him to go on. He would bring Barney. Finally Michelangelo nodded and hurried out of the room.
"Of course it was an accident!" he called over his shoulder. "You would never stab Baxter on purpose, Dude!"
"That's right," Vincent agreed.
"That's just it." Barney walked with Vincent, but he was clearly haunted and moving almost mechanically. "I think we were having an argument. I remember anger . . . rage. . . . I must have picked up the knife and swung it at him the same as I did the crowbar!"
"Nonsense." Vincent kept his arm around Barney's shoulders as they walked. "You would never do such a thing."
"I grabbed the crowbar out of blind rage," Barney said. "You yourself said maybe I'll always struggle with my temper. Why couldn't I have grabbed the knife the same way?"
Vincent fell silent. He had to admit, logic told him it was sadly possible. And yet . . .
"You're sadder and wiser than you were last year, Barney," he said softly. "I don't believe you would make that same mistake again."
"But . . . I had the knife," Barney protested. "I heard Baxter cry out. And he fell. . . ." He slumped heavily against Vincent as they left the building behind and stepped into the night with the Turtles.
"It was an accident," Vincent insisted. "If you did it at all. Barney, when you remember so little, the truth could be vastly different from what you think!"
"Totally," Michelangelo nodded.
"I found Baxter's vest and coat on a slab in that room," Donatello said, holding them up. "There's no rips or tears in them. If he was wounded, he wasn't wearing them at the time. And why wouldn't he have taken part of the coat to hold over the wound?"
"He could have been too dazed," Leonardo frowned.
"The trail of blood ends here." Raphael pointed to a spot in the parking lot.
"Oh no!" Michelangelo gasped. "Don't tell me Baxter actually drove off with a stab wound!"
Barney stared in horror. "It's obvious I hurt him," he said. "He drove off to get away from me!"
"We don't know that," Vincent said firmly. "Barney, you and Baxter have been missing for hours. Someone abducted you from the university. Where did that person go? Maybe he took Baxter somewhere else."
"If he wanted both of us, why did he leave me?" Barney countered.
Leonardo pulled out his Turtle-Comm. "I think it's time to check in with Master Splinter and April," he declared. "Either way, they need to know that Baxter may be in a car, either as a driver or a passenger." He pressed the button.
"What is it, Leonardo?" Splinter greeted. "Have you had any luck? I am afraid April and I have not."
"Well . . ." Leonardo glanced over his shoulder at Barney before replying. "We found Barney at an old laboratory, Master. He doesn't remember what happened to him and Baxter, except that he believes with all his heart that he stabbed Baxter with a bloodied knife we found on the floor. He says that's the one thing he does remember, only it's still vague enough that I'm not sure." He gave a heavy sigh. "But there's blood all over the floor matching Baxter's blood type. It stops in the parking lot. It looks like he must have gotten into a car. Either that or he was forced in."
"Hmm. This is very serious indeed," Splinter said. "Where is this laboratory? April and I will scout the general area for the vehicle."
Leonardo gave the address. "What do you think could have happened, Master?" he worried. "Could Barney really have stabbed Baxter?"
"It is certainly possible, especially if he has a corresponding memory," Splinter said. "Most likely it would have been an accident. In any case, it is obviously a deeply significant event when it is the only thing he still remembers of what happened to them. Perhaps when we meet, I should try to use hypnosis on him to unlock the rest of his memories. He may know where Baxter is and not remember that he knows it."
"That's true," Leonardo said slowly. "If Barney would be alright with being put under hypnosis, maybe we should try it."
"If he has blocked the memories too strongly, however, not even my hypnosis will unlock them," Splinter warned.
"Ohh! And Burne's insisting I go interview some of those crooks that were running from rats!" April cried in the background. "The police nabbed a few of them. Vernon absolutely refuses to touch the assignment!"
Barney paused. "Crooks? Running from rats?" A strange look came into his eyes.
Vincent regarded him in surprise. "That means something to you, Buddy?"
"I . . ." Barney brought a hand to the side of his head. "I don't know. . . ."
April leaned into Splinter's Turtle-Comm, bewildered. "Then maybe interviewing these creeps might actually be helpful?" she blinked.
Barney was staring off into the distance. "You led us right into The Rat King's lair," he whispered. "All my men are still running from those filthy rodents. . . ."
"He's quoting someone," Vincent frowned.
"April, I think you'd better talk to those guys," Leonardo said. "Drop Master Splinter off here and we'll look for a vehicle Baxter could be using."
"O-Okay," April stammered, stunned. "But I don't get what one thing has to do with another."
"You triggered some kind of memory from Barney," Leonardo said. "We don't understand it either, but something tells me it's important."
"Then you can count on me, guys!" April promised. "We'll be by in a few minutes."
Leonardo hung up. "Let's keep busy while we're waiting," he said. "We'll scout the area and see if there's any more clues left behind."
"Like more blood?" Raphael retorted.
"Like . . . Baxter!" Michelangelo gasped, pointing ahead.
Everyone whipped around to look. A figure in jeans and an open white shirt was staggering around a tree. He swayed and grabbed for the trunk, his wild brown hair flying into his face with the motion. He caught hold of the tree and swung into it, clutching it for dear life.
"He's alive," Barney whispered in joyous relief. "Of course he'll hate me now, but he's alive. . . ."
"Barney, Baxter could never hate you," Vincent frowned sharply as they hurried over along with the Turtles.
"I stabbed him even after the crowbar incident," Barney said. "There's no forgiveness for that."
"Baxter!" Michelangelo reached their loved one first. "Baxter, where are you hurt?!" He looked up and down what he could see of the clothing. There was no blood on them.
"I . . . I'm not hurt," Baxter said in surprise.
"Baxter, you're not able to stand up straight!" Vincent exclaimed.
"I'm not hurt," Baxter repeated impatiently. "I don't know what happened, but Barney's back in there, lying dead! . . . No, no, he can't be dead. He's hurt. He's hurt and I'm trying to get help for him."
Everyone went stiff in stunned shock.
"But . . ." Barney stepped forward. "I'm not hurt, Baxter. I'm right here. I stabbed you. I know I stabbed you! I . . ."
"Barney!" Baxter's eyes lit up in utter joy. "You're alive! Oh, you're alive. . . ." He let go of the tree and threw his arms around Barney, who just stood stiff as a board, unable to comprehend or understand.
The Turtles looked at each other in bewilderment.
"Does anyone else get the feeling we're missing something here?" Raphael frowned.
"We all are," Donatello said. "Each of them must know a piece of the truth, but it's only a tiny piece. There's obviously much more!"
"When Master Splinter gets here, maybe he can sort it out," Leonardo said. "He offered to put Barney under hypnosis and try to find the locked memories."
Vincent looked to Barney. "Would you be willing to do that, Buddy?"
Barney tried to shake himself back into reality. "What? Hypnosis?" He frowned and pulled back from Baxter, but held onto his arms as he studied him. "You're really not stabbed," he said in disbelief. "But . . . the blood on the floor was your type . . ."
Baxter stared back at Barney. "You're not stabbed either? But . . . you were lying on the floor, so still. . . . And the knife was there. . . ." He fell back, shaking his head in disbelief. "I left you," he gasped. "I thought you were stabbed, but I left you!"
"Pal, you were so dazed you obviously weren't thinking clearly," Vincent said in concern.
"Anyway, you said you were trying to find help for him," Raphael put in. "It's not like you just wandered off for kicks and didn't care."
"You really don't remember what happened, Bud?" Michelangelo asked.
"No, I don't." Baxter frowned. "Seeing Barney alive and well cleared my mind, but the past few hours are still a blank to me."
"Well, you've obviously been hurt somehow, even if not from stabbing." Vincent scooped Baxter into his arms. "Let's go back to the Turtle Van and you can rest on the seat."
". . . Alright," Baxter said slowly. "But Barney, you're sure you're alright?!"
"I'm fine," Barney insisted.
"Actually . . ." Vincent balanced Baxter with one arm in order to lay his other hand on Barney's head and start feeling across it. When Barney flinched and hissed at a particular spot, Vincent drew his hand back. "The skin's really tender there. You hit your head! You must have been lying unconscious from that when Baxter thought you'd been stabbed."
"And maybe the blow to the head wiped his memories!" Raphael suggested.
"Maybe," Donatello said slowly. "But there was definitely a knife and someone was stabbed. Maybe it was the guy who abducted them."
"But somehow Barney believed it was Baxter who was stabbed," Vincent said. "Thinking that he had done it could have been enough of an emotional blow that he blocked out everything, only he couldn't fully block that memory."
"And Baxter blocked everything because he thought Barney was dead?" Michelangelo blinked.
"It's possible," Vincent agreed. They reached the Turtle Van and after Leonardo opened the door, Vincent tenderly laid Baxter on the seat. "Let me see what kind of injuries you do have, Pal."
Baxter watched as Vincent gently examined him. "I'm sure I wasn't hit on the head," he objected.
"I'm not finding any evidence of it," Vincent agreed. "But . . ." He touched Baxter's skin. "I'm picking up traces of energy. I think . . ." His eyes darkened in fury. "Someone was repeatedly blasting you."
Baxter flinched. "What?"
"Those scuzz-buckets!" Michelangelo yelled in outrage.
Barney paled. Without a word, he pulled up Baxter's sleeve and stared at the raw skin on his wrist.
"What is it, Barney?" Baxter asked in surprise.
"You were strapped down," Barney said softly, his voice far-away. "You were being tortured . . . blasted over and over. . . . You strained against the bonds, but you couldn't get free. They hurt your skin. . . ."
"I'm sure I've got some salve in the first aid kit," Donatello called over his shoulder. He hopped up the ramp and went directly to the kit on the wall. "Yeah, here it is!" He handed it to Barney, who took it and started rubbing the contents on Baxter's wrists.
"I didn't even realize until now," Baxter said in amazement. "Now that it's been pointed out, they really do sting. But this feels good. Thank you, Barney." He smiled and relaxed into the seat.
Barney grunted. "I still don't understand. And I know there was anger and rage during whatever happened. There isn't anyone besides us in what I remember. I had to have been angry at you."
"We know there was another person now, Barney," Baxter insisted. "You were angry at him, not me."
"Bah!" Barney finished his self-appointed task and grabbed a cloth to wipe his hands of the excess salve. "You're a fool. All of you. You believe in me when the evidence all points to my guilt!"
"The evidence could point several different ways," Leonardo said. "Your guilt isn't cut and dried."
"It was an accident, Barney," Vincent insisted. "You never laid a finger on Baxter, but you believed you hurt him by accident."
"You don't know that!" Barney snapped. "None of us know it! I may have had another fit of blind rage and then felt so horrible about it that I blocked out everything about it! Maybe that's why Baxter doesn't remember either! What if he had to push me away to defend himself and that's how I hit my head?! Then he was so distraught that he made himself forget it all!" Suddenly he realized how much his voice had raised. Sobered, he said quietly, "And I'm just proving my point by getting so emotional."
Baxter looked stricken. "No," he protested. "That didn't happen. I didn't hurt you!"
Barney regarded him in disbelief. "If you did, you would have only been protecting yourself against my inexcusable rage. You would have been innocent. Instead you're acting like you would have been the one in the wrong. Surely you see how plausible it is that you pushed me while defending yourself and then you made yourself forget it. You can't even handle the suggestion that it happened!"
"It didn't happen!" Baxter cried. He started to rise off the seat, but then cringed and laid down again.
"Baxter . . . Barney . . ." Vincent laid a hand on each brother's shoulder. "I know this is extremely upsetting and you're both confused and distressed. But you need to try to calm down."
Now Barney looked stricken. "I'm only making it worse for Baxter," he realized. "And he's already hurt, even though he wasn't stabbed."
"No, I'm alright," Baxter insisted. "But what if I really did push you?! I could have seriously hurt you! Maybe it is the knock on the head that's preventing you from remembering what happened. And if I'm the one who caused you to hit your head . . ."
Vincent looked to the Turtles in distress. Barney hadn't been peaceful as it was. Now he was even worse and Baxter couldn't relax either. He had completely fallen apart when he had participated in Professor Sopho's draining of Barney's memories while as a fly creature. Obviously the thought that he might have harmed his brother again, no matter how justified, was something he could not handle as a completely sane human, either.
Michelangelo took the signal to step forward. "Hey, Baxter Dude, you didn't hurt Barney," he soothed. "Just like Barney didn't hurt you. You guys keep forgetting about the creepazoid who abducted you two. He's probably responsible for both of you being hurt!"
"Probably," Barney agreed. "But we don't know that for sure."
"Well," Splinter said as he suddenly appeared and approached the Turtle Van, "we will soon find out. We can do the hypnosis here, if you wish, or go somewhere else."
"Master Splinter, we found Baxter," Leonardo said. "He was still in the area. He's not stabbed, but Vincent thinks he was repeatedly shocked with energy."
Splinter's expression darkened. "How treacherous."
"It sure is!" April gasped. "What could have happened to you guys?!"
"I wish we knew," Baxter sighed. "I'm willing to undergo the hypnosis here. I don't want to wait to learn the truth."
Barney shut his eyes, pained. "I don't want to know," he choked out. "And yet, if I'm truly a danger to Baxter and everyone around me, I need to know. Yes, let's do it."
"I'm going to stick around for this," April said. "The crooks will keep."
"We'll find out that Barney has nothing to worry about," Vincent said confidently.
"Of course we will," Raphael nodded.
Splinter placed one hand on Baxter's forehead and the other on the back of Barney's neck. "Now, you will both remember what happened to you, starting with when you were abducted and what followed. You will remember everything you have blocked out and why you blocked it out."
Everyone waited, tense.
"There isn't much to remember about the actual abduction," Baxter mused. "We were just there at the car when these men jumped us and sprayed us with some sort of knock-out gas. We collapsed almost instantly."
"But when we woke up . . ." Barney's voice was dark. "That was when things really got bad."
Barney stirred at the frantic sound of Baxter's voice. "Barney! Barney, wake up!"
He groaned and growled. He felt unusually cold. As all of his senses returned, it became obvious that the reason was because he was both stripped to the waist and bound to a heavy metal slab. His eyes flew open. "What . . ." He strained against the manacles, but it was no use. He turned his head to the left.
Baxter was looking back at him from an identical slab, in the same situation. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness."
Barney wasn't in as good a mood. "What's happened to us?!" Again he strained.
"I don't know," Baxter admitted in dismay. "I only woke up a few minutes ago. I've been trying to wake you up since then."
"Allow me to explain, gentlemen." A large man they didn't know stepped out of the shadows. "You're here for one reason and one reason only. I need some information from you and I am going to get it."
"What sort of information?" Baxter gave him a dark look. "Chaining us up half-naked isn't going to endear you to us any."
"I have a little beef with the Turtles," their new enemy continued. "I need to find them and pay them back for how they dismantled my operations. That, and to make sure they can't do it again. But to do that in the best and most effective possible way, I need to surprise them at their Lair. The only problem is, I don't know where it is."
"But we do," Barney finished.
"You're smart. But are you smart enough to tell me what I want to know?"
"Why should we tell you when we'd be signing the Turtles' death warrants?" Barney's expression darkened more.
The villain walked between Baxter and Barney's respective slabs, his hands behind his back. "It's been my experience that those strong-willed souls who won't break if they're tortured will crumble like soda crackers if instead they have to watch someone they love being tortured."
The twins went stiff. "What are you going to do?!" Baxter cried in outraged horror.
"I think you know." The wretch paused in front of a lever on a console. "I imagine either of you would break if you saw the other being harmed. But, since I've done research on both of you and I know Barney is the darker person who might not have as much trouble selling out the Ninja Turtles to save his brother . . ." He pulled the lever down.
Baxter struggled, screaming in pain as energy and electricity charged into his body. Barney looked over and then away. He couldn't bear it. "Stop it!" he roared, fighting against the shackles binding him to the slab. "Turn it off!"
"Will you tell me where the Lair is?" was the heartless reply.
"No," Baxter choked out. "No, Barney, don't! You can't . . ." The pain increased and he couldn't refrain from crying out again.
At last the lever was pulled back up. Baxter went limp, gasping and breathing heavily. He groaned, closing his eyes.
"Baxter!" Barney looked to their captor with sheer hatred in his eyes. "You're a monster."
"But I know how to get what I want," was the smooth answer. "You know, it makes it worse when you're laying on metal slabs and restrained with metal bracelets. All that metal conducts even more energy into your bodies. Now, are you going to cooperate or not?"
Barney's heart beat fast. What was he going to do? He couldn't betray the Turtles. Once this vengeful man knew where the Lair was, he intended to ambush and kill the Turtles and Splinter with the help of his thugs. But Barney couldn't watch his brother being murdered either.
"Do you need a little more time deciding?" The man's voice was cruel, mocking. "I wonder how much more this weak little body can take." Again he pulled the lever down.
Baxter screamed, straining with all his might against the manacles. The pain coursed through his body until his eyes fell closed and he went motionless on the slab. Their captor let the energy continue pounding into the lifeless form, his expression twisted in aggravation.
"Stop," Barney begged. "Stop. I'll tell you what you want to know. I'll draw you a map."
"It was about time." The villain pulled the lever up. This time Baxter did not react. A bit of energy sparked from his body.
"Is he still alive?!" Barney demanded. "I'll never tell you anything if he's dead. I'll hold it back out of spite." He snarled.
The man walked across the floor, his expensive shoes making an infuriating clicking sound on the cement. He practically jabbed a finger into Baxter's palm. "He's alive."
Barney's shoulders slumped in his relief. "Let me up and I'll draw the map."
At a nod from their boss, two of the henchmen came over to undo Barney's manacles. He slowly sat up, rubbing his wrists. "And I'll want the rest of my clothes back," he said, his voice clipped.
One of the henchmen threw Barney's shirt, vest, and coat at him. "Hurry," he snapped.
Barney was a fast dresser. Within two minutes he was adjusting the bowtie and pulling a small notepad out of his coat pocket. Using the slab as a table, he quickly sketched a map, tore it off, and handed it to the man in charge.
The villain looked it over before placing it in his pocket. "If we find you've lied to us, we'll come back for both of you," he warned.
Barney just gave him a cold look and went over to Baxter. "Baxter . . . Brother . . ." The first thing he did was to feel for a pulse to make sure he hadn't been lied to. He hadn't; Baxter's pulse was strong. Barney smoothed Baxter's hair back and reached to undo the manacles.
The villain gave him a look of annoyance but didn't stop him. "There'll be a guard on the door and another at the window," he said. "You won't be able to leave."
"Fine!" Barney spat, but the wheels were already turning in his head. It wasn't fine at all. Somehow they had to be away from here before their nemesis came back. Most assuredly he would be back.
Baxter didn't move when Barney took off the shackles. Underneath, his skin was raw from straining against them as the energy had cruelly charged through his poor body. Barney snarled under his breath and gently moved his hands over the marks. Baxter still didn't respond.
"What a weak little man," the villain jeered.
"He's stronger than you'll ever know," Barney retorted. It was stupid and wasted breath, but that had rarely stopped him from blurting things out when he was angry.
"Yeah, sure." The man headed for the door. "The word used to go around that you hated your brother. It's interesting to see that exactly the opposite is true."
"It always was," Barney growled.
"At least, if you haven't lied, that love has certainly been a help to me. But I wonder if your brother will forgive you." The door shut.
Barney waited until the footsteps traveling up the hall faded before speaking again, and when he did, it was very low. "Forgive me, Brother. I know all through the years I never gave you much reason to trust me, but I've earned your trust of late. Even though it looks bad, I pray you'll trust me a little longer."
He crossed the room to where Baxter's shirt, vest, and coat had been thrown onto a table and brought them over to his brother. Baxter was meek and mild and very modest. He hated being here, stripped to the waist. He had no doubt been mortified upon awakening and finding himself in that state. Barney covered him with the coat.
How were they going to get out of here? Their Turtle-Comms and Baxter's phone had been taken away from them too, and unlike their clothes, those had not been left in the room. There was no way to call for help. And there were guards at every exit. They were on their own.
He'll come back, Barney knew. He'll come back to kill us both when he finds I drew a map to The Rat King's lair. I got the Turtles to tell me where it was after he tortured Baxter with his own Mousers. I knew it would be useful information someday. Now I've used it to save the Turtles and Splinter, but what about us? Oh God, please help us. . . .
He reached to Baxter's neck, feeling the pulse again. Still strong.
Baxter stirred at the touch. "Barney?" He groaned, weakly opening his eyes.
"Yes." Barney stepped back to give him space. "How are you feeling?"
"Terrible," Baxter mumbled. "But . . . you're free. . . . How . . . ?"
"You're free too," Barney said gruffly. "But only in this room. There's guards posted at the window and door."
Baxter revived enough to process the coat draped over him. He had to smile. But as he sat up, the memories of what had happened right before he had fallen unconscious rushed back to him. He looked to Barney with a start.
Barney hated that fearful, worried look. "Baxter . . ." He gripped his brother's shoulders. "Do you trust me?"
"Y-Yes," Baxter stammered. "Of course I trust you."
Barney hugged Baxter close in order to whisper in his ear. "I didn't sell out the Turtles."
Baxter smiled again. "I knew you wouldn't. Not if you could think of anything else to do."
"They're our family," Barney said. "I won't betray them any more than I'll betray you or Vincent."
"So what did you do?" Baxter wondered.
"Nevermind." Barney pulled back. "Get dressed. Somehow we have to find a way out of here."
"That won't happen."
They both looked up as the door flew open and their captor stood there, his face twisted in fury and disgust. What looked like rat hair was clinging to his clothes.
"You miserable . . . !" He called Barney a series of ugly oaths that curled Baxter's blood. "You led us right into The Rat King's lair! All my men are still running from those filthy rodents!"
If it wasn't for the serious danger they were now in, Baxter would have laughed. As it was, he simply slipped into his shirt. "You were foolish to think Barney would betray the Turtles," he spat. "What are you going to do to us?" He hoped it wasn't obvious that his hands were shaking, not just from fear but because he was weak and wobbly.
"What do you think?" The large knife the criminal pulled from inside his coat was not expected. Most criminals used guns. But on second thought, Barney decided, this was better. They had a greater chance of fighting off a knife than a gun, since a gun could go off at any time during a struggle if the safety was off. Of course, on the downside, if either of them ended up knifed, especially by something as large as this, it would be gravely serious.
The villain tried to take the brothers both on at once. In his weakened state, Baxter almost immediately fell to the floor. But as Barney struggled, twisting the gangster's thick arm in desperation, Baxter fought to get back up and grab him as well. The extra weight was unexpected; they all tumbled to the floor.
The struggle didn't continue for long. Baxter watched in horror as their enemy violently kicked Barney away. He hit the wall and lay still. When the man lunged, aiming to stab Barney in the back, Baxter tackled him to the floor again.
Barney groaned, dazedly blinking as he fought to open his eyes. He had hit his head on a beam and it had badly stunned him. He wasn't sure he was going to stay conscious. "Baxter . . ."
The duo was struggling over the knife again. Barney couldn't see clearly who had the upper hand, but he forced himself to crawl over to the fight and desperately grab for the knife to pull it towards him. At the moment he did, a sharp cry pierced his ears. The knife clattered to the floor, red with blood. And it was Baxter who fell with it.
Barney's hands shook. "I killed him," he choked out in semi-conscious anguish. "I was trying to protect him and I killed him!"
Something in his mind snapped. Even as the dizziness overwhelmed him and he sank to the floor in unconsciousness, his mind was blocking all memory of everything that had happened since their abduction hours earlier. The only thing he would remember upon awakening was his absolute certainty that he had stabbed Baxter to death.
He didn't see their enemy stagger out of the room, badly wounded, and call for the guards to leave with him to get help. Nor did he see Baxter stir and struggle to kneel on the floor, unhurt by the knife but barely conscious from the vicious battle right after he had been tortured.
"Barney?!" He looked from his lifeless brother to the bloody knife. "He's dead," he whispered. "He was trying so hard to save all of us and he couldn't save himself!"
His mind was shutting down as well. Everything that had happened tonight was too much and he couldn't handle this latest shock in his current state. By the time he could stand, dazed and in an absolute mental fog, all he could think of was leaving the building and finding help.
Splinter stepped back from the twins and removed his hands from them. "And now we have the entire story," he said quietly. "Barney, now you know that you did not harm Baxter. You saved his life, just as you were trying to do. And Baxter, you saved Barney in turn. The both of you showed immense strength and courage."
"Like, totally," Michelangelo said, but he looked shaken.
As did everyone else. They all sat there, solemn and stunned by the revelation of the horrors that had unfolded for Baxter and Barney over that evening.
Barney finally shook his head. "I didn't do it," he whispered in awe. "I really didn't do it. I wasn't angry at Baxter. And when I thought I'd hurt him, it really was an accident."
"I knew it, Barney," Baxter said.
"We all did," said Vincent. "If only I could have stopped all of this from happening!" He knelt in front of them in sorrow and reached to draw an arm around them both.
"Vincent, I know you tried so hard to find us when we went missing," Baxter said softly, hugging their brother. "Of course you wouldn't think something would go wrong with us just going out to the car for a few minutes."
Barney nodded. "Neither of us blame you."
"As it was, you were tortured physically, Baxter, and Barney, you were tortured emotionally," Vincent said. "And then you were both tortured emotionally when you each thought the other was dead."
Barney shook his head, looking both awed and amazed. "Baxter really wasn't hurt. All this evening I've thought I harmed him. I couldn't even remember the other man there. I ended up convincing myself I'd stabbed him to death during an argument between us." He shut his eyes tightly. It was a horrible, haunting image. But finally he knew it was completely fake.
"We all believed in you, Barney," Vincent said.
"Of course," Leonardo said. "Even before we found Baxter alive and wandering around pleading for help for you, we knew you never could have done such a thing to him."
"Even in spite of the crowbar." Barney looked disbelieving.
"You regretted that the instant you did it," Raphael said. "Nah, none of us had any doubts about you. You never would have let yourself hurt Baxter like that again."
"Of course you wouldn't have," Baxter said. "Oh, my poor brother." He looked at Barney in regret and sorrow. "At least I believed someone else had stabbed you. I didn't think I'd done it. I don't know how I could have lived with myself if I had thought that. It was horrible enough wondering if I'd pushed you away and caused you to hit your head. But I shouldn't have even entertained the idea, since in order for that to have happened, it would have meant that you were attacking me. And I definitely didn't believe you'd done that." He sighed. "I got so caught up in worrying that I'd hurt you that I really wasn't stopping to think about the impossibility of you having attacked me in the first place."
"If we had learned that what I was afraid of was true, I wouldn't have been able to have lived with myself," Barney said. "And even if I learned that I picked up a knife and tried to hurt you even though I didn't succeed, as I believed after we found you alive, it would have been very difficult for me to get over it."
Baxter hugged him close. "The one thing I knew even when I didn't remember the truth was that you hadn't hurt me. I knew what you were thinking had to be nonsense, because you wouldn't have done it!"
Barney let Baxter hug him and swiftly returned it. "I don't know how you could have such faith in me," he said, shaking his head. "Not when we couldn't remember."
"I didn't have faith, Barney," Baxter replied. "I said I knew. I didn't need faith."
Splinter smiled. "Yes. You have that special bond that families have. All of us have it because we are all united as a family."
"Mondo notion!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "And like, you totally saved us too!"
"It would have been understandable if you had broken," Donatello said.
"I couldn't have done that," Barney retorted. "It wouldn't have been understandable at all. As Splinter just said, we're a family. I wouldn't betray some family members to save another."
Splinter smiled. "Well said."
"What a story!" April gushed. "This is incredible and beautiful. It's alright if I put this on the wire, isn't it? It even ties in after all with the story I was supposed to get!"
Baxter and Barney looked at each other. "It's alright," Barney said at last. "Put it out to broadcast the utter cruelty of that man."
"Would you be able to describe him?" Leonardo asked.
"I think so," Baxter said. "As long as there aren't any others in the city who look like him."
"Wonderful! Then maybe we'll stand a chance of capturing him!" April exclaimed.
She was right; the description panned out and definitely matched someone the Turtles knew-Tony Vivaldi, alias The Butcher.
Raphael snorted. "You know, it figures The Butcher would be carrying a kitchen knife around."
"Like, I didn't know he was so cruel, though," Michelangelo shuddered. "Or so bent on revenge."
"It sounded like he mainly just wanted us out of the way so we wouldn't wreck his plans again," Raphael said.
"He sure wanted revenge when he realized Barney tricked him," April said.
"Either way, I guess being in prison doesn't always change people for the better," Donatello said.
"It doesn't," Barney grunted, and that was all he wanted to say on the subject.
"Oh! I just realized something," Baxter declared. He took Barney's arm and gently pushed the sleeve up.
"What are you doing?" Barney frowned.
"It's just as I thought," Baxter said softly. "Your wrists are sore too." He reached for the salve. "I'll help you now, Barney."
Barney let him. "Funny; I didn't notice the pain."
"That's not a surprise," Vincent said. He watched fondly as Baxter rubbed the soothing substance around Barney's wrists. His brothers were safe and sound, both physically and emotionally. Everything was alright now.
"This is totally bodacious!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "I say it calls for a pizza celebration!"
Baxter chuckled. "When doesn't it? But you're right, Michelangelo. We should celebrate."
"And I'm sure we will, long into the night," Raphael said. ". . . Or maybe not," he added at a look from Vincent. Baxter and Barney no doubt wouldn't feel like celebrating too long, after the experience they'd had.
"For an hour or two, anyway," Baxter said.
"And I'd better hurry to get this story on the air," April said. "With any luck, we just might catch The Butcher!"
"That'd be awesome, Dudette!" Michelangelo beamed.
"Good luck," Barney said.
April waved and hurried off.
Baxter finished with the salve and set it aside. "There," he said softly.
Barney inspected the work and nodded. "Thank you." He leaned back against the seat.
Baxter smiled, but shivered a bit. "It's actually a little chilly tonight," he mused.
"Summer is totally coming to an end," Michelangelo sighed.
"But you might be cold because you're not completely dressed, Pal," Vincent pointed out.
"What? Oh." Baxter stared down at himself. "Are my other clothes here?"
"We have them," Donatello smiled, draping the vest and coat on the back of the seat.
"Thank you." Baxter finished buttoning his shirt and reached for the vest. He winced when he had to raise his arms to pull it on. "It looks like I'll be sore for a while again. . . ."
"Totally not cool," Michelangelo proclaimed. "But oh, here's something gnarly." He took out the Turtle-Comms and phone. "We have your stuff!"
Baxter smiled and took his. "Thank you, Michelangelo. I wondered if I'd see these again."
"I wasn't crazy about losing this Turtle-Comm after only recently acquiring it," Barney remarked.
"You wouldn't believe how many Turtle-Comms April's gone through," Donatello said.
"I might," Barney grunted.
"I kind of think we've lost count," Michelangelo said with a sheepish and not-really-joking grin. "So maybe we wouldn't believe it either."
"At least," said Splinter, "it was merely the Turtle-Comms being damaged. They are replaceable. April is not."
"Oh, totally, Master Splinter," Michelangelo agreed.
"And I think it's time we took the Stockmans home," Leonardo said. "They've had a really busy time of it."
"Most of it bad," Barney said flatly.
"Yeah, let's get you guys home," Michelangelo agreed. "Then we'll go grab the pizzas while you rest up."
Everyone climbed into the Turtle Van and Michelangelo drove them home. Baxter smiled, still resting on the seat during the trip.
"I'm mondo glad you're okay, Baxter Dude," Michelangelo said to him.
"I'm certainly relieved as well," Baxter said. "For Barney's sake as well as my own. It would have been horrible if I had been stabbed during the fight, especially when Barney grabbed for the knife. He would have kept blaming himself."
"Yeah, he would have," Michelangelo frowned. "You're pretty badly shaken up as it is."
"But I'll recover," Baxter assured him.
"And that is totally radical!" Michelangelo declared.
It was just as they were pulling into the driveway that Donatello switched the Van's television on and found April just about to begin her report.
"This just in," she intoned. "Police have caught Tony Vivaldi, A.K.A. The Butcher, just as he was attempting to catch the ferry to Staten Island with two of his henchmen. Apparently he was looking for his favorite crooked doctor, who is currently somewhere on Staten Island. Vivaldi was wounded earlier tonight while attemping to murder two of the Stockman brothers with a kitchen knife."
A clip played on the screen of the police loading The Butcher into the squad car. He glowered coldly at the news cameras as he was eased inside. His clothes were torn and blood-soaked.
Barney shuddered. He would never forget that man or his cruelty. And now he saw the evidence of what his grab for the knife had caused. If that had been Baxter's poor body . . .
"Looks like you got that creep good," Donatello commented.
Barney shook his head. "What I still don't get is why I thought it was Baxter crying out in pain. Their voices couldn't be more different."
"I did cry out," Baxter quietly admitted, "but not because of you, Barney. At the same moment you took the knife, The Butcher was brutally trying to shove me to the floor. And he would have put the knife in my chest if you hadn't taken it from him. I was crying out in fear."
Barney sighed. "Then I was just in time."
"You managed to stay conscious even after you hit your head because Baxter needed you," Vincent said kindly.
"Now if I just could have stayed conscious long enough to realize Baxter hadn't been stabbed," Barney grunted.
"Your mind simply shut down when you thought you'd killed him, Buddy," Vincent replied. "You just couldn't take it."
Michelangelo parked at the head of the doorway. "Hey, Baxter, are you gonna be okay when you try to sleep tonight?" he asked in concern. "Not just because of being shocked and that stuff, but because that scuzz-bucket tried to stab you. That's probably going to bring back some bad memories, won't it?"
Baxter slowly sat up. "It probably will," he said softly. "But I'll be alright, Michelangelo. I have my brothers. And my favorite nephew." He smiled at his friend.
Michelangelo beamed. "Bodacious! Just call if you need to talk, okay?"
"I will," Baxter promised.
Barney and Vincent climbed out first. Then Vincent reached to help Baxter down. "Thank you so much for all of your help," Vincent said to the group. "And for helping Baxter and Barney understand the truth of what happened tonight." He looked to Splinter.
"I am glad the truth was not as horrible as Barney feared," Splinter said.
"Hey, I'm glad that Barney wanted to protect us as well as Baxter," Raphael said.
"And no prob about the help," Michelangelo said. "We always help our family!" He gave them all a thumbs-up. "We'll be back with dinner soon."
Goodbyes were exchanged all around and the Stockmans headed up to the porch.
Leonardo smiled. "There goes a great family in their own right."
"And so totally awesome that they're part of ours," Michelangelo declared as he drove off.
Baxter waved to them as Vincent remotely unlocked the front door to let them in.
Barney watched him somewhat warily. "Are you planning to lay down?"
"Maybe," Baxter said in some surprise. "The Turtles might be a while. Why?"
"Because I'm thinking you're thinking you probably want to shower," Barney said. "And if you do, please, for Heaven's sake, let me help you. Don't risk falling again in your current condition."
Baxter still looked surprised. He smiled, touched, but said, "Actually, I was thinking of just sitting in the tub, because you're right, standing is too dangerous."
Barney sighed. "As long as you don't take any stupid chances."
"We'll still be right nearby if you need us, old pal," Vincent said.
"I know," Baxter said. "You always are. Both of you."
For a moment Barney felt a pang of guilt. That certainly hadn't been true of him in the past. But he could see in Baxter's eyes that his brother was filled with thoughts of the present and the future. Barney had tried with everything he had to be there for Baxter of late, including tonight. And he had succeeded.
He thanked God for that as he walked into the house with his brothers.