The grand opening was due to start and Hawke was covering the final arrangements with Michael in the security room when Castle and Jack appeared. Hawke pulled at his uniform feeling slightly ludicrous in the lilac one-piece flight suit when all the other men were in tuxedos.
'Are we all set?' Castle asked.
'Looks like it.' Hawke said.
'Caitlin not here yet?' Jack asked casually straightening his cuff.
Hawke stiffened. He'd come back from his chat with Marella to find the other man had swept Caitlin out to lunch. When she'd returned to Airwolf, she'd seemed distracted even whilst she'd filled them in on her discussion with Jack over Castle's expedition and they'd run the scans she'd wanted. The results had surprised even him…he shook himself realising that Jack had repeated his question.
'She's just finishing getting ready.' He answered.
Caitlin's Texan drawl had all the men turning toward the door. Hawke's eyes travelled over the artful hair arrangement which had left red tendrils caressing her neck; over her face which had been enhanced with make-up so her eyes seemed wider, deeper and her lips soft and glossy. He took in the plunging neckline which made the most of her modest bust and followed the downward sweep of black velvet where his eyes widened at a slit which revealed a well shaped leg covered in black silk that finally ended in a strappy high-heeled silver sandal. He jerked his gaze upwards to meet her eyes.
They were still looking at each other when Jack whistled slowly. 'Wow.'
Caitlin broke her eye contact with Hawke reluctantly to smile at Jack. 'Thank you.' Her eyes flickered back to Hawke.
'You look…' he said finally finding his voice, 'you look stunning.'
Caitlin smoothed a hand over her dress; it had cost her a whole week's rent but it had been worth it to see the surprised look in Hawke's eyes.
Michael regarded them both thoughtfully. 'You'd better get to the roof, Hawke.'
Hawke's eyes slid to the spy. 'Right.' He slipped off the desk he'd been using as a perch. He paused by Caitlin. 'Be careful.'
She nodded. 'You too.'
Hawke left the exhibition room and made his way to Airwolf.
'All set?' Dom asked as Hawke pulled on his helmet.
Hawke stared out at the small chopper on the opposite side of the roof; Jack's bird. For the first time he could remember he wanted to be somewhere other than the Lady.
Dom's voice prompted him out of his reverie. 'Yeah. Let's go.' He pushed the buttons to start the engines, bring the systems on line and a few moments later, they were taking to the air. Hawke kept Airwolf at a hover, the museum directly below them.
'Dom, patch me through to Cait on the ground.' Hawke instructed. She was wearing an earpiece and a wire so they could communicate.
'Done.' Dom confirmed.
'Caitlin, are you reading me?'
'Loud and clear.' Caitlin paused behind a marble column and pretended to be admiring the architecture. The room was beginning to fill with people in tuxedos and ball gowns. 'The guests have started arriving.'
'Let's keep the comm channel open.' Hawke suggested.
'Sounds good to me.' Caitlin said.
He sighed. 'And…keep safe, OK?'
'Are you talking to yourself?' Jack asked appearing by Caitlin's side.
'Bad habit.' Caitlin said easily. She viewed the two glasses of champagne with amusement. 'Is one of those mine?'
Jack smiled and handed her the drink. 'Come on, let me introduce you to the museum director.'
'Great.' Caitlin took a fortifying sip and took his arm.
It took another hour before the director decreed that it was time for the big reveal. Above the museum, Hawke shifted restlessly and Airwolf vibrated under him impatiently.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' the voice of the museum director sounded over the PA system as he introduced Castle. They were stood on the small stage that had been put together especially for the occasion situated in the middle of the five display cabinets. Castle held the remote in his hand. Caitlin scanned the perimeter with a practised eye and she caught Marella in a shining white and silver dress doing the same on the opposite side of the room.
Caitlin tensed, waiting, barely listening to the director finish his introduction of Castle. She frowned as Jack reappeared by her side and slid his hand under her elbow.
'…I give you John Castle.'
Caitlin joined in the applause as Castle took the mike and started his speech.
'Come with me.' Jack murmured at Caitlin and took a step back, his hand pulling her with him.
Caitlin didn't resist. 'What are you doing?' Castle was making a joke about trekking through the Amazon…
Overhead, Hawke nodded at Dom…
The fire alarm sounded in the exhibition room. Castle's eyes shot through the crowd to Jack who froze in leading Caitlin to a side-exit.
Michael's voice sounded over the PA system cutting through the alarm. 'Ladies and gentlemen, we have a fire reported in the building. Please start to make your way out of the building.'
Caitlin was about to move forward and help to direct people out when Jack spun her behind a column. He laid a finger over her lips.
'This could be an attempt to grab the jade, we should stay here.' He peeked out from behind the column and caught Castle's eyes across the room.
Castle frowned but nodded and slipped behind another column. It only took a few minutes before the room was empty; the alarm still ringing in the vast space.
Caitlin regarded Jack thoughtfully. 'Now what?' She turned at the sound of footsteps and froze at the sight of Castle with a gun in his hand.
'Now we get the jade.' He said harshly.
'What is this?' She asked.
'Sorry, Caitlin.' Jack said pulling another gun on her. 'This wasn't in the plan but this fire alarm…well, we're having to improvise.'
'I'm going to blow the cabinets.' Castle said and Jack grabbed Caitlin pushing her back behind the column. His gun poked sharply into her spine. Castle pressed the remote he still held. The men looked back at the intact display cabinets and frowned.
Castle pressed it again. Nothing.
'Something wrong?' Caitlin drawled.
'I'm afraid we had to dismantle your bombs.' Michael's voice sounded from the other side of the room and both men turned guns drawn.
'It's over Shaw, Castle. We have you covered.' Michael yelled. 'Put down the guns and let the girl go.'
'Back off, Michael.' Jack yelled back. 'Or we'll kill her.'
'You know me, Jack.' Michael shouted. 'I'm not bluffing.'
'Neither am I.'
There was a tense silence and Caitlin held her breath.
'OK, we're backing off.' Michael said.
'Good. I'm going to get the jade. You make one wrong move and Castle will kill Caitlin.'
Castle nodded at Jack and placed his gun under Caitlin's rib. 'Get the jade.' He ordered Jack. 'Quickly.'
Jack nodded and walked swiftly to the nearest display cabinet. He smashed the glass with the butt of his gun. He picked up a heavy jade figurine of a snarling wolf. The security system triggered; the siren screaming even over the continuing shrill fire alarm. The entrance and exit door thudded shut and automatically locked.
'You're not getting out of here.' Caitlin noted as Jack returned. He hadn't bothered with the other display cabinets; they were empty.
'On the contrary,' Castle pushed her toward the side exit using her as a shield and took out a key. 'I think we're doing rather well.'
'And we have you for insurance. Hawke won't risk you; you're too important to him.' Jack pointed out. 'Now, move.' He said pushing her through the door.
The side exit led straight to the stairwell and they climbed at a fast pace to the roof. Castle opened the door and headed straight for the chopper, dragging her with him. Caitlin tried to wiggle free but his hand was tightened fast around her upper arm.
'Don't worry, Cait. We've got you.' Hawke's voice, calm and authoritative in her ear, stopped her from panicking.
Airwolf careened out of the sky like a dark bullet and drove them all to the ground; Caitlin was thrown free. She lurched to her feet and stamped on Castle's arm as he tried to grab her. Jack tackled her and she fell, the impact as she hit the concrete roof driving the breath from her body. She heard Airwolf's banshee cry and stayed down, curling into a ball as the helicopter flew to hover barely a foot over her, covering her, protecting her from Jack who stood in front of the machine in frozen awe. Hawke fingered the chain gun trigger as his ice-cold gaze met his former friend's.
A gunshot rang out across the roof and Castle fell to the ground. Jack caught the glint of Michael's white suit from the spy's position at the top of the stairwell and backed away from Airwolf. He headed for his chopper clutching the jade wolf tightly.
'String, he's getting away.' Dom warned him.
'He won't get far.' Hawke noted and moved Airwolf sideways to enable Caitlin to climb in. He waited until she was safely inside before he raised Airwolf and ordered Dom to get a fix on the chopper.
'He's got the jade wolf.' She told them as she adjusted the helmet.
'He's directly ahead.' Dom confirmed.
'Put me through to him.' Hawke ordered as they flew up beside the chopper.
'Jack, it's Hawke.'
'Tell me, Hawke.' Jack's voice crackled through the radio. 'How did you figure it out?'
'Caitlin worked out you only had the first statue and we figured it out from there.' Hawke said. 'Why, Jack?'
'Why do you think?' Jack asked. 'Do you have any idea how much money we stood to make from the insurance?'
'Set her down, Jack.' Hawke said. 'You know you can't outrun Airwolf.'
'I'm not landing voluntarily and I have a few surprises yet.' Jack said. 'You're going to have to shoot me out of the sky and that'll mean you blow up the jade. Catch me if you can.' The chopper veered away. The next instant gunfire chattered off the armour on Caitlin's side. She flinched automatically even though she knew she was safe.
Hawke's jaw tensed. 'Weapons to combat mode, Dom.'
'String…' Dom's worry for him transmitted itself through the radio.
'I said weapons to combat mode.' Hawke snapped.
'Weapons to combat mode.' Dom confirmed the order.
Hawke pulled back on the stick and climbed before executing a hammerhead stall and diving back down, the chopper in his sight. He launched the missile. The chopper exploded in front of them, the cockpit filling with an orange glow. Suddenly there was a second explosion and a brilliant white light. Their visors snapped down automatically. Everything in Airwolf stilled for a second and then the electronics went mad.
The emergency siren sounded and lights started flashing. She shook badly and Hawke had to use both hands to stop her spinning out. Already in a dive, they were losing altitude fast; the ground racing up to meet them.
'I can't get control! She's not responding.' Hawke yelled plaintively as his visor snapped up. 'Cait…'
'On it.' Her hands were already reaching for the stick in front of her, adding her weight to his to try and pull her up. She bit her lip as she yanked back on the stick with no visible effect.
Dom tried one system after another futilely. 'Nothing's working back here, String!'
'Shut her down!' Hawke called. 'And shut that siren off!'
Dom tried to switch the system down. 'Negative function on shutdown! Now what?'
'Pray!' Hawke grappled with the stick. 'Come on, baby.' He muttered. 'Pull up! Pull up!'
Dom closed his eyes.
The scream of the metal frame contracting ripped through the cockpit; it sounded like a death cry.
No, thought Hawke desperately, not now, I'm not letting go now, not now…
The controls suddenly responded.
Hawke yanked hard and Airwolf levelled out, the ground rushed by mere feet underneath them. The siren stopped and Hawke breathed out, gulped in air as he slowed her down.
'Systems coming back online, String.' Dom's voice wasn't quite steady.
'Dom, find me a landing spot.' Hawke felt the beginnings of a tremor run through his arms. His eyes slid to the woman next to him and he caught her damp eyes with his. 'It's OK. I've got her.'
Caitlin let go of the stick, consciously removing her hand finger by finger as Hawke landed Airwolf at the coordinates Dom managed to give him in a deserted park. It wasn't his best landing; bumpy, no finesse. Nobody minded; they were just relieved to be down.
Hawke removed his helmet and reached over to help Caitlin remove hers; her hands were trembling badly.
'You OK?' His hand slid into hers. She nodded and turned her hand over to interweave their fingers. They both looked over their shoulders at Dom.
The older man nodded, breathing heavily. 'I'm OK but I don't mind telling you…I thought that was it.'
'What the hell hit us?' Hawke asked.
'I don't know and I don't want to know.' Dom said firmly.
The communications panel beeped. Hawke answered it.
'What the hell happened?' The worry in Michael's voice laced the anger into something acceptable. 'We saw a huge explosion…'
'We're fine, Michael.' Hawke reassured him hastily. 'But whatever it was, it took out the electronics for a while. We've set down for a system check.'
Michael nodded. 'You might as well head home when you're done. We're busy doing clean-up here. I'll catch up with you tomorrow.' The video screen went blank as Michael disconnected the link.
Hawke sighed and pushed his free hand through his hair. He belatedly realised his other hand was still holding onto Caitlin's. He glanced over at her and for the first time, he noticed the raw scrapes on her arms and shoulder.
'You're hurt.' Hawke said.
Caitlin glanced down at the new cuts and bruises. 'I must have got them when I was on the roof.'
'Here.' The older man was ahead of him already handing him the first aid kit. 'I'll do that systems check whilst you take care of her.'
Hawke let go her hand to take it, rummaging through until he found what he needed. He shifted so he could swab the cuts with antiseptic lotion; Caitlin obligingly held out her arms.
'I'm sorry about Jack, Hawke.' Caitlin said softly.
'So am I.' Hawke admitted. He frowned at a particularly bloody scratch down the length of her arm. 'You know you never told me how you worked out that the remote to reveal the cabinets was rigged to explosives.' He asked hoping to distract her from the pain he was about to cause.
'I guessed,' she winced at the sting from the lotion, 'after all, if they only had the wolf, then they had to do something to prevent everyone from seeing the exhibition. When Jack told me about the reveal it seemed too coincidental that they'd done something complicated like that.'
'So that's why you got us to check for explosives already placed in the room?' Dom chipped in from the back.
'Right. When we found the explosive and then when we ran the scans for the jade and confirmed only the wolf was present, it confirmed all my suspicions.' Caitlin said. 'I figure that Castle and Jack were behind the threats from SAHPA, trying to establish a likely suspect. They planted just enough explosive to cause a panic and I think they were going to leave the room with everyone else. When they returned, four of the five pieces would of course be missing. They would blame SAHPA and collect on the insurance. Only they didn't count on the museum calling in the FIRM and us. That was when they must have decided I was their back up plan to get away if anything went wrong.'
'I've been wondering,' Dom began, 'exactly what did Jack say to you at lunch that so convinced you that he was in on it?'
Caitlin glanced into the back of the cockpit with a wry smile. 'It seemed unlikely that Jack wouldn't know about it; he was Castle's head of security.' She sighed. 'And he told me he liked me.'
Hawke looked at her sharply and paused in securing the gauze over her scrape. 'He told you he liked you and from that you assumed he was in on it?'
Caitlin nodded. 'Well let's face it, Hawke.' She said blushing and avoiding his eyes. 'Most of the attractive men who've asked me out in the last year have been after only one thing and it's not the thing my mother warned me about when I was thirteen.'
'That's because none of them saw you tonight.' Hawke replied quietly.
Caitlin looked up straight into his eyes and her breath caught at the warmth in the blue eyes gazing back at her. Hawke felt the tug of attraction and gave into it; he reached up to tuck a strand of errant hair behind her ear.
'You kids ready?' Dom asked oblivious to the sudden tension at the front of the cockpit.
Hawke raised an eyebrow at Caitlin. 'Are you ready?'
'Whenever you are.' She replied lightly.
He nodded slowly. 'Let's go home.'