Father Brown sat upon a ratty chair with his hands tied tight behind his back. The rope cut, burning the skin of his wrists and causing him to wince. His captors, three men stationed at different points of the room, held their pistols tightly, one pointed at the Father, the other two at their sides. The woman, no doubt the mastermind behind his kidnap, stood before the Father with her arms crossed. They'd been waiting hours for the appearance of flambeau.
"I am not valuable enough," Father Brown sighed, "Flambeau will not come to trade for me."
The woman scoffed, unfurling her arms to place a hand at her hip and kick the ground once with her shiny black heel, "He will Father. You're his favorite renegade."
"While I may practice a different sort of tolerance than my peers," he retorted, "I assure you I have not strayed from my faith."
"Then you best pray that Flambeau shows up, or you will be meeting your God very soon."
While the Father liked to believe the best of everyone, in truth, the odds that Flambeau would arrive willing to trade a priceless jewel for his life gave him some doubt. He wasn't worth that much to Hercule, surely. The man had said himself that they were not friends, Flambeau merely exploited his faith when it suited him to do so. He meant little more than a pawn in Flambeau's schemes. Whatever friendship the Father felt for him was irrelevant.
"He will not come."
The woman stormed forward, clamping her claws into Father Brown's chin and lifting his face even with her scowl, "Then you will die, Father."
"There's no need for that now."
The three gunmen turned towards the door, their pistols raised toward the figure in the doorway. Flambeau, self confident as ever, stood with his hip propped against the frame, dangling a small sack from his hand. "If a trinket like this is all you want then I'll be glad to hand it over and be on my way with the Father." he chimed, tossing the bag onto the floor at the foot of the woman.
She, however, didn't pick it up. "You wouldn't give away something so valuable without a fight." she scoffed, "How am I to know that is the real jewel?"
"See for yourself."
She scoffed, but bent down to scoop up the parchment, never taking her eyes off of Flambeau. She hurriedly pulled the jewel from the bag, gasping with excitement as she looked over it's glittering gold and shimmering ruby. "It's beautiful..."
"Yes. Indeed." Flambeau said, curtly, "Now, the Father?"
"Yes." she nodded towards one gunmen who came closer to Flambeau, gun almost in his shoulder blades, "You and the Father will wait here while we leave. If there's any funny business- if you give chase- I will not hesitate to end your lives."
Flambeau was led towards the Father by her goon. When he reached him, Flambeau was finally able to gauge his state. When he did, he snarled, "He's bleeding."
The woman clicked her tongue a frown, "Yes, well. He did not initially cooperate. My men had to knock him out."
"Father Brown is rarely ever difficult." Flambeau retorted, eyes never leaving the cut on the Father's forehead, "If you claim to know so much about my relationship with Father Brown, then surely you must know that I am never happy to see him harmed."
She huffed, a laugh with no mirth, "Then I suppose you'll attempt to hunt me down in retribution?"
"Make no mistake Mirah, I will find you. And your gunmen." He added, "You should ask the Father to pray for the one who put the cut on his head."
One of the men beside the door shifted uncomfortably, catching Flambeau's eye. He grinned, a show of teeth that was anything but friendly, "Ah. There you are."
Father Brown tsked, "I will not condone you hurting anyone on my account Hercule."
"Even if they would have killed you?" Flambeau snapped, turning his attention back to the Father, "Dumped your body in some god forsaken place without a second thought?"
"I know where I will end up should I pass-"
"But those who care for you would not." Hercule spat, angry.
"You sound like a lovesick puppy." she huffed, a teasing glint in her eye.
Flambeau looked at the Father, his face contorted with an anger Father Brown had only seen a couple times. Hercule let his eyes lower a fraction, barely breathing out his words when he replied, "Perhaps."
Her eyes widened, lips pulling into an elated smile, "So you admit your care for the priest extends beyond friendship!" she exclaimed, pointing at him with an accusing finger, "I knew you wouldn't have done this for some passing accomplice! No matter how you tried to stifle the whispers of the underworld, I knew."
He scoffed, pointedly not looking at Father Brown when he smirked, "Why else would I be here?"
"Hah!" She cheered, clearly pleased with herself, "The famous Hercule Flambeau! A pansy. For a blithering old Priest! Oh you poor fool."
Father Brown was stunned into silence. He stared, openly, at Flambeau as he glared down the woman, Mirah, as he'd called her. Hercule? Towards him? Why? Why on all the good things in God's earth, would Hercule Flambeau be enamored with him? Maybe their partnership had stirred some sort of fancy right under his nose. Maybe because they thought so alike? Apart from their obvious conflicting moral standpoints...
"Release us now, if you'd please." Flambeau snipped, teeth tight as he scowled at her.
Mirah tutted, "Well I can't very well do that now." she sneered, "You said yourself, you'll just come after us. I'd rather end this dispute right here and now."
Mirah raised her pistol, aiming the barrel right between Flambeau's eyes. Father Brown startled, but Flambeau only grimaced, "I thought as much. You always were so predictable, Mirah." He waited under her grip on the gun faltered, shaken just a bit before yelling, "Now!"
From the door, Inspector Sullivan entered, voice bellowing with orders for the men to drop their weapons as several officers entered behind him. The gunmen were startled enough to lose the precious seconds needed to react, left with no choice but to put down their weapons. Mirah turned away from them, gun still pointed at Hercule and screamed a cry of war. Flambeau barrelled into Mirah head first, knocking her off her feet just as her gun went off, bullet hitting the ceiling.
They wrestled on the floor for a moment before Flambeau had her pinned, the gun skittering across the floor and out of reach. Flambeau tsked and raised a fist, anger fueling his movements as she squealed and flinched away from him.
"Hercule!" Father Brown insisted, unable to physically stop him from his still-tied position. "This is not the way."
"She'll get a couple years, maximum." he sneered, "They won't serve out the proper justice-"
"Justice," Father brown piqued, "is the Lord's and the Lord's alone."
Sullivan came forward, peeling Flambeau away easily from a weary Mirah before pulling her up and forcing her into handcuffs. "You're keeping company with the police now?!" Mirah jeered, spitting out her words, "Priests and police, oh how the mighty have fallen!"
"I would prefer to think that I've risen." Flambeau retorted, a small smile of satisfaction gracing him as she scoffed, "They tend to come in handy now and then."
She was pulled out with the other gunmen, cursing Flambeau even as she went.
Flambeau waited to watch her leave before he turned back to the Father with something like cockyness shining in his eyes, "I see why you keep that inspector of yours around."
He knelt beside the chair, starting work on the ropes as the Father laughed, "I don't actually influence the decisions of the force."
"Oh please." Flambeau chuckled, the first wrist coming free, "They ought to consider you their golden boy after all you've done for them. They should hang on your every word."
Father Brown jiggled his free wrist, "Will you still be here when they come back in for my statement? I suspect Sullivan will want to arrest you too..."
"I'll be gone long before he gets the chance."
Flambeau started on his ankles, making quick and careful work of the ropes. Father Brown felt worried hands caress his ankles after they were untied, as if trying to gauge the damage to the skin and massage the rope burn away. It was an action he might not have lingered on if the earlier admission of Flambeau's feelings hadn't still been running circles in his head. He sighed, worried how this conversation was going to go.
"Don't." He spurred, "I would prefer not to delve into the sin of homosexuality today Father." he smiled as he stood, taking Father Brown by the hand to pull him up from his seat. "Until the next time." Flambeau placed a gentle kiss on his knuckles before running to retreat out one of the back windows, leaving Father Brown utterly speechless.
When Inspector Sullivan returned and demanded to know where Flambeau had gone, he found he couldn't answer, even to lie.