Uncommon Bond

Chapter 36

Rated – NC-17/MA

Author: Batistafan(given name, given on request)

THIS IS THE SEQUEL TO UNCOMMON SENSE – If you have not yet read the first story, doing so may better help you to piece together the events and characters of this fiction…enjoy!

Disclaimer: This is a mature fanfiction intended for mature readers. This story contains graphic violence, as well as explicit, mature, consensual sexual situations and these would not be deemed appropriate for all readers.

I do not own nor claim to have any affiliation with the WWE, its characters, wrestlers, staff or other affiliates. I do own any original characters that I have created, as well as scenarios that ensue throughout the course of this fiction. However, since both my characters and scenarios are inexorably intertwined with those of the WWE, my ownership of them is not autonomous.

I do not endorse nor do I discourage the use of any brand-name products that might be referenced in the fiction and have no claim to them as they are property of their respective companies of license. Thank you kindly for not suing.

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"The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on."

Joseph Heller, Catch 22
US novelist (1923 - 1999)

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Owen swallowed nervously as he drove along the highway, staying far enough behind the BMW to keep from being seen, yet close enough not to lose them should they take a sudden detour. He was doing a fine job of tailing them undetected, but the stink of it was; that he had a gun trained on him the entire time he drove. In all of his years of open battle and covert operations training, he'd never been caught off guard before…certainly not by someone like the man in the yellow parka, seated next to him.

He almost laughed out loud when he recalled just how it was that he had come to find himself in his current predicament. Owen had been parked in a lot a quarter of a block away and had been so closely watching the men in the beamer as it sat parked in the YMCA parking-lot, that he'd not been paying close attention to his surroundings and had soon felt the unmistakable pressure of a gun pressed against his temple. He'd been so certain that a bullet was to follow, that he was almost offended when the only thing that came next was a series of clipped questions.

"Who are you and why are you following that car?"

The man wasn't a killer…maybe not by professional standards. Owen could tell that much by the tone of his voice. But regardless of whether the man was a professional or not, there was the muzzle of the .45 firmly planted against his head…he knew what kind of gun it was by the way it felt. He didn't need to see it. So any musings about whether the man was or wasn't the killing type were swiftly tugged from his brain, when the man repeated the question, this time following it with a little jab of the gun.

"If ye'll pull that gun away from my head, perhaps we can introduce ourselves properly." Owen calmly cajoled, hoping that the man didn't have itchy fingers; else he'd end up setting off the gun's hair trigger and Owen would be left with only half of his head.

"I asked you a question." The man said in a lucid, no nonsense voice. "Either answer it, or I'll shoot you and resume the chase myself."

"Would ye believe me if I told you I'm not following them?" Owen ventured to ask, knowing that the more people that became involved in this chase, the more out of control things could turn out to be. This whole situation could end badly and he certainly didn't know this man well enough to trust him.

"I might be tempted to believe that, except for the fact that I've been following you—following them, for the past 15 miles." The man pointed out rather logically. "So since I have the gun, I get to ask the questions. If I don't like the answers, then I hope you're right with God because as I said once already, I'll kill you."

Owen sensed, more than actually knowing, that this man was about to make good on his ineloquent threat, so he clenched his jaw and sighed in defeat. "I'm following them so that I can save my woman's life and get her out of the country. The other girl must've been pulled in by mistake, but I was planning on getting her out of there too…just so ye know."

Satisfied that this would help appease the man holding the gun, Owen gulped, praying that the beamer wouldn't drive off while he was being held hostage. But he hadn't been prepared for what came next.

"Get out of the car." The man ordered in his same self-assured voice. Calm—the man was eerily calm and Owen wasn't exactly sure what he might be tempted to do. Owen remained.

"Listen…" Owen began, his hands up half-distance, in a gesture of surrender. "If ye have been following them as ye say, then ye know if we lose them, we won't find them again…at least not alive anyway."

"Get out of the car." The man repeated, apparently not phased by Owen's words. "I have fewer targets to keep my eyes on if you're with me."

"Me? Go with you…in yer car?" Owen asked in disbelief, as his eyes widened.

"That's the idea." The man confirmed succinctly, as he extended his hand and opened the door for Owen, never moving the gun from its target.

Owen chewed his lip as he stepped from the car in resigned obedience. "I'll go with ye, but I need my bag from the trunk first."

"Not a chance." The man announced. "I'll almost bet there's a gun in that bag."

"Look, even if we manage to get to them in time." Owen began to point out, thinking of the false passports in his trunk. "Without the paperwork in my bag, I can't get Barren to safety, so I won't go without it. Ye'll have to kill me…or trust me."

Owen could see that the man appeared to be in deep contemplation for a moment and yet his thoughtful posture never allowed him to relax his hold on the gun, giving Owen no opportunity to disarm him. The man could easily run out of patience and put a bullet in him right where he stood, but Owen was firm in his decision. He could not assure that Barren would be admitted through the Canadian Border without those papers and he knew that time would not allow for him to backtrack to get them. Owen had no choice but to stand.

The man nodded and with a warning he allowed Owen to get his bag. "That bag stays in the back of the truck until we get where we're going." He informed Owen as he led him still at gun-point to the black Dodge Ram 4x4, parked several yards to the rear. He instructed Owen to enter from the passenger side and to slide over to the driver's seat, his gun still trained on him. "You're driving." He told Owen. "And don't pull any horseshit, because I'm not in a real good mood right now."

Owen agreed affably and started up the engine, pulling out just in time to resume his pursuit. After a few silent moments behind the wheel, he ventured to inquire as to the man's name. "I'm Owen McDade." He said, hoping that his introduction would act as a prompt. It didn't. The road stretched on and finally Owen alleged, "She's really not as bad as you think she is."

"Excuse me?"

"Barren…I get the sense that ye don't care much for her." Owen announced, noting with satisfaction that the man's expression confirmed his distaste for Owen's intended. "Not a lot of people do when first they meet her." He continued. "But she's had it rough in life and she doesn't always know how to handle it. I'm sure if ye got trampled underfoot by her, 'twas not what she intended."

"The other woman in that car is my very best friend." The man announced in a clipped, slightly angry tone. "And Barren's senseless trampling put Nancy in that position, when she had no business being there, so you'll forgive me if I'm not apt to buy into your sympathy plea. But since the idea of you taking Barren out of the country appeals so greatly to me, I'll help you. Otherwise let's keep the chit-chat to a minimum."

"Agreed…What was it you said yer name was?" Owen asked, knowing he'd never actually told him. He couldn't say whether he liked the man or not, but at least he had some clue as to whose side he was on and for now that was good enough.

"I didn't." The man snapped.

"Anyone ever tell ye, that yer mighty cordial?"

A sigh fluttered through the man's lips and then he finally spoke. "My name is Max."

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The group had stopped at a service station for a fill-up and though it might have served as a fine opportunity to flag down some help, so tightly locked down was each of the women that little more than a glance through the windows was possible. Tulley had his meaty hand tightly gripping the flesh of each woman's thigh and on his lips came the hiss of a threat, should either of them utter so much as a whimper. It was effective, for neither Nancy, nor Barren did anything more than breathe the entire time the car was at the pump.

The drive had taken almost 4 hours and it was early afternoon, by the time that Sullivan announced that they must turn off onto a side road that led through a copse of trees, into the woods. The wind was picking up, whipping the drizzle into a frenzy and rocking the car slightly as they drove.

Nancy was trembling and anxious, but she did her best to remain calm. Any tendency toward panic would fracture her ability to think and foil any attempt she might make to escape; and it was becoming clearer by the moment that escape was the only way that she was going to get out of her current predicament alive. It was almost an animalistic instinct, brewing inside of her—growing bigger, hotter, more intense by the moment. The thought of not seeing her son grow old enough to walk, or speak, or even to return the love she had for him, had Nancy envisioning the most horrible ways possible to kill the men in the car.

Surely it wasn't morally right that Nancy was thinking of how the shoestring in her shoes could prove useful for choking the man next to her, or that the long fingernails on her hands could be useful in gouging his eyes out, long enough for her to slam her palm into his nose, shattering the bone and sending it upward into his brain. At this point, she didn't really care that her thoughts might be evil in nature or that they might be earning her an extended stay in confession; she just wanted her life back—the way it had been before Barren had come charging in like a big white elephant. Her macabre feelings were interrupted by the slowing of the car and a soft murmur from Sullivan's lips.

"Slow down, we're almost at the spot."

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"I know you can find her if anybody can." Audrey spoke encouragingly to the white rabbit on her lap. "It's real important."

The rabbit seemed unaffected by her praise, as his tiny pink nose twitched it's curiosity for the sock on the bed next to Audrey.

Audrey was certain that since police used dogs to track people that a rabbit would do just as well. First off, she didn't have a dog, which would have been her best choice and secondly, she was pretty sure that rabbits were smarter than dogs anyhow. Therefore Audrey had settled upon the rabbit as her rescuer. Of course Audrey had really wanted to do the job herself, but her mother was downstairs and had her eye on everything—in fact Audrey was pretty sure her mother could see out of the back of her head, so it could mean big trouble if she went to look for her stepmother on her own.

"Now you'll need to know what Nancy smells like so that you can pick up her trail." Audrey announced firmly as she stood from her sitting position and then placed the rabbit on the bed in the spot she had been. At this point, Audrey withdrew a bottle of Euphoria perfume from her top-hat. She had placed the bottle in her hat in order to hide it so that her mother wouldn't be curious and though it wasn't her stepmother's usual scent, it had been the only one that she could reach without a stool. So it would have to do.

Audrey pulled the cap off and aimed the bottle at the oblivious rabbit, pressing down on the sprayer twice. The blast of perfume hit the rabbit directly in the face both times and he very nearly hopped away, but Audrey caught him in time to inquire, "Have you got it?" The rabbit's only answer was a series of sneezes and a bit of squirming.

"I'm almost done." Audrey announced, remembering that often when people were rescued, they were cold. Saint Bernards were sent to find people with a barrel of hot cocoa strapped to their necks, and though she knew her bunny could not possibly carry a barrel, she was positive he could carry at least one packet of hot cocoa. So, Audrey eagerly taped the packet of cocoa to the rabbit's chest with a roll of her father's athletic tape and was just about to send him out of the two-story window inside of the top hat, which she had nestled inside of her sheet cape, when she heard her mother's voice behind her.

"I'm not sure what you're sending out of that window, but you'd better pull it back in here right now." Angie's voice was firm yet placid, as she watched her youngest daughter turn back around. She could tell by the look on Audrey's face that she was obviously more disappointed that she'd been halted in mid-plan, than scared of being in trouble.

"Don't be mad." Audrey fairly begged. "I was just trying to help out."

Angie curled her finger indicating that Audrey should step away from the window and bring the package with her. "I don't doubt that you were trying to help and I'm not mad, er…at least I don't think I'll be—What do you have in there?"

An indecisive moment of hesitation passed and then Audrey thrust the bundle toward her mother. She was exhausted by the prospect of trying to explain her plan in detail, scared of her stepmother not ever being found, but most of all she was certain she had failed her baby brother in the very worst way. "He was going to pick up Nancy's trail and then she could come home. I think he would lead her home." She spoke the last comment on a hopeful sigh.

Angie thought she might have glimpsed a tear in her daughter's eye and in addition to the urge to hold her to comfort her, she also felt compelled to compliment Audrey's attempt at improvisation. "Oh, I see." Angie concurred, peeling back the sheet cape to reveal the claustrophobic rabbit, who was squirming madly, hell bent on getting out of the hat. A quick look at the sad tape job on the rabbit's chest, gave Angie pause. "Oh my…complete with cocoa." She exclaimed with a furrowed brow, wondering how in the world they would ever get all of that tape off of the silky white fur.

Audrey nodded perfunctorily and announced in a rather panicked babble. "My Daddy said big sisters are supposed to protect little brothers. If my rabbit doesn't find Nancy, then my baby brother won't have a mommy and that's so sad because I have a mommy and so does Vanessa and even so does Toby and just about everyone I know has one, but he won't and…" Her tiny arms flopped down to her side and her chin touched her chest as she ducked her head in defeat. "If I don't help, then I'm a worser big sister than anyone…and I love Nancy a bunch too and that's so bad if she's gone forever." Her voice was a tremble mixed with a whine and Angie knew that as honorable as Audrey's intentions were, her daughter was clearly mistaken about her duties as a big-sister.

"You actually helped more than anyone else did." Angie stated matter-of-factly, grasping Audrey's hands and then tugging the girl onto her lap. "You were the one who was smart enough to look out the window and copy down the numbers on the license plate and you managed to remember the car…only good big sisters think fast like you did."

"Daddy might find her." Was all Audrey said and even that unsure statement was uttered with a lackluster whimper as she leaned her head onto her mommy's shoulder, snaking her tiny arms around Angie's neck.

"Your Daddy will find her." Angie assured, but even as she spoke, she couldn't be certain that she believed her own words.

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"That 'Dot' has been sitting in the same spot on this map for about the past forty-five minutes." Randy noted with utter annoyance as he glanced sideways at Dave Batista. "You don't think they could have found the phone on her and tossed it out?" He further inquired.

Dave was just as disinclined to answer the question, as he was to ponder it. If they had found the phone, then that meant that someone had put their hands on his wife in some sort of search and so thinking about that possibility only angered him to the point of an existential explosion. He swallowed, his fingers tightening in their grip on the steering wheel. "Don't know." Dave muttered.

Randy shifted nervously with the laptop in his grasp. "Do you think she would have had the presence of mind to ditch it, if she thought she would be caught with it? I-I mean that might explain why it's not moving on the GPS." He rambled on. "Unless they're dead. I don't mean that, but maybe—I mean that's the only other reason that they—"

Dave sighed, eyebrows pleating and frowned. "Would you stop?"

"Well I'm trying to be realistic about this, Dave!" Randy was clearly on the verge of a meltdown. "There's every possibility that we won't get there in time and I think we should get the cops involved…there's bound to be a highway trooper closer to their location than we are and—"

"She's not dead!" Dave snapped, punctuating the statement with a glare. His grip on the wheel was now so fiercely tight that his fingers were going numb.

"Why the hell are we taking the chance?" Randy asked. "How do we know she's not dead? I mean we don't know they could both—"

Dave nearly growled, his chest heaving with a deep breath. "Because I just know! Okay?" He told Randy through gritted teeth. "I know, because I think I would just feel something if she were dead…" At least he thought he might know if Nancy were dead…he would feel something; some equally living part of him would just naturally die along with her. Wouldn't it? Even when his wife had been lying in the hospital bed, before he had arrived at the hospital…As fearful for her as he had been, Dave had just somehow known that she wasn't dead…he had known that she wouldn't die. But as certain as he was that she wasn't dead at present, the minutes ticking by with grueling sluggishness, were robbing him of that certainty.

As many times in the past, as Dave Batista had been able to intervene and aid Nancy when she got herself into a sticky mess, this did not seem like one of those times. Yet as often as Nancy found herself in a jam, which was fairly often given her perennial flawed judgment, she found her way back out, as if she'd ridden on the wings of her guardian angel the whole time. Sure, he wasn't there by her side now, but Dave knew that if there was the slightest chance for escape, Nancy would take it. At least he sure as hell hoped she would. She was fairly savvy and so he was sure that the moment no one was looking, she would take off running and be gone like a shot in the dark. But then Dave's satisfaction as he contemplated her innate speed, reminded him of her intrinsic tendency toward compassion. She wouldn't try to escape if it meant leaving someone behind, even if that someone happened to be Barren. She would wait until opportunity afforded them both a way out or she wouldn't go at all.

A sigh and a groan of frustration seeped through his lips when he thought to himself that the only way out for both women was a well-timed distraction. Goodness only knew Nancy was good at enacting distractions, simply because she was a thinker. She'd stolen the remote from him countless times by pointing behind him, horror etched on her face as she cited some heinous crime taking place in the other room at the hands of his youngest daughter. He would be fooled, of course, and turn back around only to find her in possession of the remote and out of arms reach at the same time. One particularly disturbing incident set a precedent for her ability to distract when he'd spied the last Krispy Kreme donut in a box on the counter, but he'd been so concerned with catching his own shaving bag as she tossed it in the air and suddenly made a mad dash, that he'd missed his opportunity to seize the last donut. And he'd had to watch her eat it on the run. Dave Batista's heart literally ached with the memories as they trickled through his already jumbled brain and with his lips in a hard-set line, he drove on in determined silence.

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"X marks the spot." Sullivan announced, as he tapped the ground beneath him with the tip of his Italian leather shoe. "Start digging."

Nancy lifted her hands just in time to catch the heavy shovel as it was tossed toward her by Sullivan who snorted his amusement. She almost fumbled, when she felt the weight of it hit her palms, the cold feel of the wood stinging her skin. The wind was still whipping through the tops of the trees and the fine mist that had earlier moistened the landscape had turned into a chilling sleet that soaked her through to the bone. Nancy hesitated for a moment when she heard Tulley clear his throat.

"Eh, Sully? Do ye really think it's wise to be givin' her somethin' she could use as a weapon?" Tulley asked, his forehead creasing in confusion as he rubbed the scruff on his chin with two fingers. "I mean…one good swing and she, well let's just say…at least one of us could stand a damned good chance of being decapitated."

Sullivan grinned as he stood behind Barren, one of his hands resting on her shoulder and the other on the gun pressed against the back of her neck. "Fine. You dig, then."

Tulley didn't really feel like being the victim of a stiff spade to the face, but he sure as hell didn't feel like digging a damned trench either. He hadn't bought in for all of the hell he'd been put through in the past month and a half. All he really wanted was to collect his paycheck and get the fuck out of there. Tulley frowned and let an angry breath flutter past his lips, as he turned to face Nancy. "Start diggin'." He told her firmly, jabbing his thick finger a mere hairsbreadth from her nose. "And if that shovel ends up aiming anywhere but the ground, you'll be digging yer own grave."

Nancy's shoulder lurched forward as Tulley's hand gave her a rough shove and so she hefted the shovel and positioned the spaded end on the ground. Though the snow had long ago stopped falling only to be replaced by sleet, and the spot where she was to dig was clear, she knew that the dirt was frozen. Nancy could tell that much by the cold seeping through the bottoms of her shoes and chilling her feet. It was going to be hellishly hard to dig in earth that was frozen solid. She released a pensive breath and jumped onto the head of the spade, suddenly daunted when the blade sunk a mere two inches into the frozen ground. Up in the air once more, she jumped and came down onto the shovel with all her might. The shovel sank less than a half inch.

"Oh hell, Tulley!" Sullivan barked on a laugh. "She's a hundred pounds soakin' wet and by the time she gets that hole dug, the next president will be in office…get yer ass over there and let's be done with this."

Tulley groused as he ripped the shovel from Nancy's timid grasp and then he shoved her backward toward Evan, who caught her just before she fell on her rump. He gently pressed the tip of his own gun against her side to keep her in place.

All in the group watched as Tulley raised the spade into the air, slamming it down to plant it into position. He then jumped on it, sinking the spade clean to the hilt. His efforts behind the tool made Nancy's previous two attempts appear dreadfully inferior as he moved mountains of dirt with each excavation. In minutes, he was standing in a hole, three-feet wide by three-feet deep with a look of dubiousness etched into his face. "Well? Where in the hell is it?" He glared at Nancy. "Yer the one who had the almighty-wise idea that those numbers ye wrote meant somethin' so where the hell is it?" He accused, jabbing a finger in the air.

"I-I don't know." Nancy stammered, her voice quickly becoming a broken whisper as the wind whipped her hair across her face. "I don't even know what you're looking for."

"Dig a little farther down, lazy ass." Barren piped up. "Surely you don't actually think Duncan would bury it close enough to the surface that a squirrel could find it?"

Exhausted from digging and sweating his ass off in the thick jacket, fed up with being forced to baby-sit two temperamental women was about all he could stand. Tulley nearly roared in injustice as he proceeded to plant one foot outside of the hole, evidently intent on putting his hands on Barren. "I've had enough of yer sarcasm fer one day!"

"Calm down!" Sullivan snapped, his face twisting into a grimace. "She's right. That hole does look a bit shallow, so keep digging."

"…keep digging…sorry sons of whores…mouthy bitches…" Tulley muttered and cursed as he sank himself back in the hole and continued to ram the spade into the ground again and again, that action followed by sheets of dirt as it flew from within.

It was less than twenty minutes later when one particularly temper-filled jab of the shovel produced the sound of metal on metal. "Ah ha!" Tulley laughed out loud as he scraped away the remainder of dirt from around the object and reached down, pulling out a fire-safe metal box.

The almost irresistible thought of announcing 'I told you so', crossed Nancy's mind, but she was sure her comment wouldn't be well received and so she kept silent, her own curiosity for what was in the box, barely superseded by her desire to be free.

"On yer knees." Sullivan told Barren, giving her a stiff push that planted her forcefully on the ground. "Lace your fingers behind yer head…Stay put and don't move." He took a few steps forward and grasped the cold metal box, laying it on the ground several feet away. Sullivan took expert aim with his pistol and fired one shot, blowing the lock off of the box, the force of which sent the lid flying open.

Not one in the group of five breathed for what seemed like an eternity, as Sullivan pulled a plastic bag, housing a multitude of folders, from within the box. The slow, sardonic smile of satisfaction crept across his countenance as he turned the package over in his free hand. "Well I guess you were right after all." He told Nancy and then glanced back down at the package.

Barren glared at Nancy with narrow-eyed disgust, deciding that now was as good a time as any for her to act, she just hoped that Nancy would jump at the bait and then they could use the much needed distraction as a means of escape. "I hope you're happy, Genius…now he has what he wants, thanks to you, and he's about to kill us."

"Shut up." Nancy muttered, her face a mask of sadness. She had been thinking the very same thing and now that they would be of no further use to the men, they were in fact going to die…it's not like she'd needed Barren to remind her of that.

"Well you can be nonchalant about it if you want." Barren pointed out angrily. "Maybe Dave's ex-wife can raise your son once you're gone…who knows this might be just the thing those two needed to work out their differences…seeing how you'll be out of the picture and all."

If Barren had harbored any doubts about whether her last few comments would set the hook, those doubts were instantly dispelled when Nancy's tiny balled-up fist connected with her jaw, bringing with it a force that she would not have thought possible for someone so petite. It rattled Barren's cage, knocking her nearly senseless for a second or two. Both women hit the ground, with Barren falling to her back and Nancy on top of her, arm raised, ready to land a second blow.

Sullivan laid the package down on the ground and reached down with his free hand. Grasping at the back of her pants, he hauled Nancy off of Barren, kicking and screaming. "You two have been hanging out with wrestlers for far too long." He chided sardonically, uncharacteristically placid…a humorless laugh following. "Tulley, shoot both of these bitches and let's get on the road."

Both women soon found themselves on their knees in the dirt as Tulley stood behind them, eager to un-holster his weapon and rid the trio of the two female antagonists—the only two people who could connect them to the possession of the documents that would bring the IRP to it's knees.

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Max had allowed Owen out of the truck once he'd reached the spot on the top of the hill that he knew would give him the best view of what was happening in the cold valley below. He'd given the man his bag and kept his gun trained on him until he'd descended the rise down into the valley, at which point he'd set up his position from the cliff so he could watch the group below and intercede when the time was right.

Several factors and a multitude of variables were going to come into play once he had to make his move. From his vantage point, he could see that the sleet in the valley was subsiding, and yet it was increasing on the hill. The afternoon light was wreaking havoc with his unaided eyes and the wind was shifting, changing directions between the valley walls. That alone could mean that the shear from a strong breeze would send his well-aimed bullet off course by a few inches, or even a few yards. That could mean the difference in taking a life or losing his only chance to save one.

He was lying on his stomach, with his rifle situated on a rack so there would be minimal movement as he adjusted the sight and set the focus on the scope. Max was a good two-hundred and twenty yards away at least and though he could not hear what was being said, the scope showed him every movement that was being made. What he'd determined to be a very dangerous and heated situation had quickly come to a boiling point.

He carefully eyed the group through the crosshairs on the scope, knowing that now was the time. Years of hunting with his father were about to pay off, but he had to be accurate and he had to be quick, because his best friend was kneeling on the ground with her life mere inches away from being snuffed out. Thankful that the man's standing position behind the women kneeling, presented no obstacles. Max Hadaway could have picked off a pheasant from three hundred yards, so nailing a full human torso from this distance would prove far simpler. Max squinted into the scope lining the crosshairs over the man's heart. The wind seemed steady, but not wildly irregular for the moment and so he said a swift prayer and squeezed the trigger.

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Sullivan had barely bent over to retrieve the package, when a suspicious and eerily familiar sound from an elevated location forced his eyes heavenward. He heard the bullet slice through the air like a lover's whisper, mere seconds before it plummeted through the flesh of Tulley's chest. There was no crack of a discharge, as would be common in a shot that had missed its mark. And Sullivan could tell by the sharp pitch of Tulley's body as he fell backward, instantly lifeless, that the shot was a direct heart-hit, from a high caliber weapon. There was a sniper on that hill somewhere and he was a damned good shot. In one fluid motion, suspecting that he'd been betrayed, Sullivan snarled and ripped Barren from her kneeling position clutching her to the front of his body for use as a human shield. No matter how expert in his craft the sniper proved to be, there would always be the possibility that the wind would drag his round off of its intended path and having someone in front of him made him less of a target. Yet still, he took care to keep his head behind Barren's, lest he be the next target.

Evan was surely thinking the same, for he too snatched Nancy upward and held her against himself. "Who's on that hill?!" He shouted toward Sullivan, aiming his handgun straight at Sullivan and Barren. "You shameless sunuva bitch! You brought back-up didn't you?"

"Me?!" Sullivan scoffed in disbelief Turning his own gun on Nancy and Evan. "You're the one who went AWOL because of a piece of ass! Which one of my men did you pay off to stab me in the back?"

The air around them seemed to zip and zing with an unseen energy of betrayal, as every eye in the small circle seemed to search for the traitor among them. Charged and heavy, the atmosphere all around them appeared to be primed for an explosion of sorts. Heavy breathing, heavy tension…something or someone was bound to snap.

A familiar musical voice rang through the trees, causing Barren's head to whip around so hard her neck threatened to snap.

"That would be me." A very alive, very unscathed, Duncan O'Neill stepped from behind the cover of trees, with his gun raised, pointing in Sullivan's direction. He almost looked like a model from a wilderness, GQ photo-shoot, graceful as he was. The gun resting confidently in his palm seemed out of place, but he held it like a professional marksman nonetheless, taking slow, sure steps into the small clearing as if he owned the whole world and everything in it. His sparkling cerulean eyes swept from one pair to the next and then down to the dead man on the ground, as if he were simply surveying a myriad of guests at a cocktail party.

Sullivan was shell-shocked, but only momentarily. He regained his composure quickly, holding Barren tightly to him, he spoke. "I should have known, Evan…I should have known that if I didn't finish the job myself it wouldn't get done!" Sullivan's gaze riveted nervously between the two men, his gun reverting aim from Evan to Duncan and then back again. "You are incredibly naïve if you believe you can trust him." He reasoned with Evan, waiting for a response of sorts; none came. "You would turn on me? How long have we worked as a team?"

Evan chose not to react to Sullivan's prattling, instead he softly whispered to Nancy. "I don't wanna kill ye, lass…so reach down and get those papers fer me."

Terrified to do so, yet mortified not to obey, Nancy leaned down to grasp them, but before her icy, shaking fingers could make contact, she heard Sullivan speak once more.

"Yer a fool, Evan If ye think he cares what happens to ye."

"Maybe." Evan admitted. "But none of that matters now, because I just want out."

Mere inches away from the documents, Nancy remained motionless, something in her gut told her that the situation was about to take a volatile turn. Not to mention, there was still the sniper on the hill and there was no telling which of the three men he was siding with, so it was probably best to stay as close to the ground as she could. Nancy cast a timid glance in the direction of the hill, just past the break in the tree-line and her jaw nearly hit the ground. She could not distinguish a face from such a great distance, but there was no mistaking that flash of yellow. It was a color unlike any other and Nancy knew colors, because she dealt with them on a daily basis. At least she knew that particular shade of canary yellow…she knew that parka.

"Out!?" Sullivan laughed in incredulity. "There's no 'getting out' of this business! There's only degrees of how deeply yer 'in it'! You may be out of my circle, but yer still in with him…that means yer always going to be a part of something you wish you'd never started."

"The package." Evan reminded Nancy, whom he realized was frozen in her crouched position. To Sullivan he stated. "I don't care to what degree I'm in, as long as I'm no longer in it with you."

Nancy heard the last brave words of his speech, followed by the loud crack of a bullet as it discharged from Duncan's gun and sank into Evan's throat. The spatter of blood pelted her face and neck and she began to tremble almost violently, stifling the urge to scream. Nancy scrambled backward on her haunches breathing heavily as she watched his body fall with a loud thump to the earth below. "Oh my God…Oh God…" She wiped at the blood on her face and let out a tiny whimper before she felt herself being tugged with gratuitous force to her feet.

"Bravo…" Duncan said as he placed Nancy in front of his body, and jammed the gun into her temple with undue pressure. "You know, the one thing about Evan that I never liked; was his soft spot for women…it clouded his judgment. I think we could have been done and gone a lot sooner had I not enlisted him. But it doesn't matter, because I find myself in the position where he was more a liability than an asset, anyhow."

"Duncan? You…" Barren's voice was tremulous as she was hit the sudden realization of what was happening. "I thought you were dead! I-I saw you on that—there was that video and I saw you—you faked your death?"

Duncan frowned. "Well you could act like you were just the least bit happy to see me alive."

Barren felt nauseous. "But if you were alive, then why did you put all of this on me? Why didn't you get the papers yourself? Everyone already thought you were dead, they wouldn't have even been looking for you!" She twisted her face into a contemptuous grimace. "Or better yet! Why in the hell did you hide them in the first place? Why didn't you just take them to the authorities!?" Her hands were curled in rage against the swell of her chest, as the depth of her own brother's treachery hit her fully. "I-I risked my life! I put other people's lives at risk! I mourned for you-you asshole!"

"You always were an idiot, Barren. Weak, nonsensical…forever running to mommy and daddy when things didn't go your way. They always did coddle you." He spoke in a disgusted tone as he stepped forward, taking Nancy with him, inching ever closer to the documents that she had backed away from only seconds before.

"If you take another step toward those papers, I'll kill Barren." Sullivan insisted as he rammed the barrel of the gun under her chin. "I mean it."

A long tense silence ensued and then Duncan slowly flashed his trademark smile, blue eyes twinkling. "Kill her…hell, kill them both. I don't care, because honestly you'd be saving me the trouble of killing them after I'm done offing you." Another step closer to the package he went, all the while taking Nancy with him, his entire body shielded by her own.

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