Frank Martin was not having a good day. Scratch that, he wasn't having a good year. First the ordeal with Lai and her psychotic freak of a father, and then the run-in with Gianni, finding Jack and returning him safe and sound to Audrey…who had seemed not in the least bit reluctant to let go of whatever might have been and go back to her husband. He had even thrown his rules out the proverbial window; they had always ended up being broken anyway. The lack of at least that stability was enough to make him a bit antsy.

No…it most definitely was not a good year.

Which was why he now found himself stuck in heavy Manhattan traffic. New York was almost a culture shock compared to California; the people were different, the sights were different, hell, even the air seemed different somehow. Maybe that was due to the almost constant fumes of odor wafting around or the congesting quality of the public's shouts, but he wasn't complaining. Drowned most of the thoughts from his head…an almost pleasant distraction.

At least it was until the entirety of the population of New York City appeared to have gone horn-happy. What was with these people? Sighing curtly in frustration, Frank began maneuvering his brand-spanking new black 720 towards his exit, edging past a middle-aged woman in a mini-van, casting a small smile in her direction. The snarl she sent him and the near collision her anger caused struck him as almost certain knowledge that he would soon seriously doubt his decision to move to New York.

"Wench," he muttered, speeding off the freeway and onto country roads on the way to meet his newest client, an Alex Nomikov, who was apparently the new ring-leader of the Russian thugs that permeated New York. Frank sighed. Another idiot with delusions of grandeur. The only bit of knowledge worth anything procured by Frank's research was that Mr. Nomikov was exceptionally sadistic. The pictures taken of what was believed to be his latest victim were gruesome, to put it lightly. Who knew the Russian underground could procure weapons capable of such precise torture? And on the deceased, no less. No respect at all.

Frank resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he pulled up to the Victorian home specified in during his brief conversation with Nomikov's second-in-command. Sergei had said a mile from the edge of the city, the tan three-story house, which turned out to be the most frightening shade of vanilla (strangely resembling melted ice cream left out too long) Frank had ever had the misfortune of witnessing. One would think a steadily rising criminal would consider maintaining at least a semblance of anonymity; the line of two Beamers, three Mercedes, and a Hummer, compounded with the pulsing base of techno emerging from the horrendous mansion, served to prove otherwise.

It was safe to say that as Alex sauntered out of the house clad in a wind breaker and matching pants, Frank didn't know what to expect. The man probably only wanted him to deliver coke or some such thing. So the sight of a stocky fellow walked out behind Nomikov toting a yellow oversized duffle bag made Frank understandably apprehensive. The hefting of the stuffed, still bag into his trunk and the slamming of said trunk, along with Nomikov's subsequent tossing of the agreed sum into Frank's lap added to the irritation that had been building all day. So much so, in fact, that Frank considered ending the deal then and there.

Five years in the Air Force, another seven spent establishing his credentials, and for what? To become a peddler for an idiot with ridiculously gelled hair?

"Dispose of it," Alex broke his thoughts before turning away and going back into the house.

Ah. A garbage man then.

Nope. No respect at all.


Sophie groggily came to as her forehead softly made contact with something hard. Opening her eyes, she found that she couldn't see. Why was it so dark? She always left the hallway light on in her apartment, a habit since childhood. Reaching up to rub her eyes and finding that she couldn't caused her alarm to grow, leading to downright panic upon the realization that her ankles were bound as well.

And in a most uncomfortable position; it felt as though she were kneeling with her hands and feet tied behind her back, only…on her side…and in a moving vehicle. What the hell?

Was she being kidnapped? Various reasons as to why she would be tied tightly in the trunk of a car ran through her head until she remembered what had happened before her little tryst with unconsciousness. Fear infused itself into her spine. Her research and somewhat limited field experience had done nothing to prepare her for the very realistic possibility that she might actually be…off-ed

Oh God…what if they torture me first? She shuddered, wriggling her limbs with renewed strength. Maybe one of them would get loose…so valiant was her struggle that in her haste to escape a certain doom at the ruthless hands of Alex Nomikov and her relief at having one foot free, that she couldn't control the appendage as it surged to life with renewed blood flow and kicked the roof of the trunk…very loudly.


She started pulling at the ropes with even more energy.


Frank was contemplating the various ways in which he would spend his time if he ever retired (find a new villa somewhere, maybe Greece, acquire honest work, maybe find someone without pathological tendencies toward fibbing, and single) when he heard it.

Not this again. Good Lord, the sound made his skin crawl.

He pulled onto the shoulder and slammed on the breaks, somewhat satisfied at hearing the muffled groan come from his trunk. What was it about him today that kept attracting trouble? Was it some karmic kick in the ass for all of the illegal activities he had been involved in over the years? The day could not get any worse.

At least that was what he thought until he popped his trunk and was met with the sight of the anxious brown eyes of one Sophie Jones.

A/N: Hey peeps, sorry for the long update. Hope you enjoyed this chapter! More to come soon.