Whispers in the Dark



Disclaimer: I don't own them Rhysher does.

A team of Elite operatives must pull out all the stops to save one of their own.

Hermosa Beach CA

He sat comfortably on his balcony his feet propped up on a little stool overlooking the ocean. His thoughts were on the woman he loved. Over a month ago she'd moved into the building one floor below his. He'd seen her coming and going at all hours, her chestnut hair waving gently as she swayed from side to side. Emerald green eye sparkled with laughter from her heart shaped face. He had fallen in love the minute his eyes beheld her. Several times he'd passed her in the elevator and she had smiled at him. Soon very soon he would make her, his.

A sleek little corvette stopped beside the building and he watched as the two occupants got out. The tall dark haired man played the gallant crossing to the passenger side he opened the door. The watchers mind-registered shock at the chestnut locks of his beloved as she stepped out of the car. Leaning into the man she wrapped her arms around his neck, placing a sweet lingering kiss on his laughing mouth. Hugging her close the tall man deepened the kiss before setting her back on her feet. The watcher could see the love and laughter that passed between them as they entered the building. Frantically he rushed from the room making his way down the stairs to the hallway in front of her apartment. Standing in the shadows he jumped when the ding of the elevator echoed through the silent hallway.

He could hear her giggling as the doors opened.

"Oh please Matt," she pouted, "what ever it is can wait I want to spend more time with you."

"The bar doesn't run itself Leandra, I have a mountain of paperwork waiting on my desk," he groaned.

Fishing the key from her purse Leandra opened the door to her apartment. Standing outside Matt places a hand on each side of the doorframe as she steps inside. Turning back she splays her hands across his chest standing on tiptoes to playfully grab his mouth with her own, her tongue flicked across his lips as she taunted him.

Matt closed his eyes and groaned again as she teased his senses to life. His resolve vanished as she grabbed the front of his shirt and dragged him into the apartment, kicking the door closed behind him he followed her meekly inside.

The watchers eyes went dark with hatred as he stepped out of the shadows to stare at the door. His lip curled into a snarl as he pictured the tall man in his head.

Silver Star

Hermosa Beach CA

Two weeks later

The place was packed, behind the bar Debbie smiled and passed out drinks to all her customers. He sat near the end of the bar laughing and smiling at everyone around him, he was a favorite with all of the waitresses, Debbie in particular since he was an outrageous tipper. He'd been coming to the bar for almost two weeks now. Of medium height dark gray eyes and balding slightly, he had a laughing open friendly face. But if you looked closely you could see the laughter never reached his eyes. Those eyes were cold and lifeless as he looked around the room. Only one person had seen the darkness and he for the most part ignored the man.

As Matt walked into the bar with Leandra on his arm those dark lifeless eyes turned suddenly flinty. Walking past him, Matt grinned and slapped him on the back. Hey Frank, he grinned how's it going tonight?"

"Just great," Frank grinned back, "how about you?

Leaning close Matt whispers "The evening has only just begun, my friend."

Frank laughed heartily shaking Matt's hand as he walks away.

Across the room three people sat in a booth and watched the interchange. Margo rolled her eyes as the blonde bimbo wrapped herself around Matt. Sitting beside her Chance laughed at the boss's antics, beside him, Benny Ray's steely eyes watched Franks face. He saw the smile, but he also saw something else, a fleeting glimpse of hatred as he turned to greet the Major. He covered it quickly but Benny Ray had caught the glance. It made him uneasy but just being around the man made his skin crawl. He didn't like Frank he didn't know why, it was just a feeling deep inside him that the man was more than he appeared.

Sliding over Benny Ray reached up to help Leandra into the booth beside him, Matt on her other side. The man at the bar was soon forgotten as they drank, talked and joked the night away.

Frank left the bar early walking the short distance to his apartment. Standing in front of a large mirror he reverently fingers the pictures taped along the left side. Leandra, beautiful Leandra! She would soon forget her lover and fall into his consoling arms. Picking up the bat beside the dresser Frank walked out into the darkness. The moonless night hid his slight figure from prying eyes. He waited motionless in the darkness time would soon bring his rival to him.

Matt pulled the corvette up beside the building. Helping Leandra out he steels himself for the coming battle. Leandra would plead and beg him to come in, but her clinging vine routine had begun to wear on him. Her flighty demeanor and childish laughter drove him crazy, but worse was the fact that she didn't have a single original thought in her head. If he asked for medium well for his steak, that's what she choose, if he changed his mind to medium she changed hers. She did it every time. It got rather annoying after a while. Tonight would see an end to their relationship.

It was nearly an hour later when he stepped off the elevator heading for the car. His nerves were stretched to the limit. Opening the car door he turns catching the sound of footsteps from behind him. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye he ducks raising his left arm to ward off the blow. The bat slams into his shoulder driving him to his knees as his arm goes numb. Matt kicks out but his attacker jumps out of reach swinging the bat again. This time the powerful blow hit him in the back laying him out across the cold concrete. Matt hasn't yet given up, lashing out he catches his attacker in the knee hearing a grunt of pain, but it's not enough. Swinging the bat a third time he catches Matt a glancing blow to the side of his head. Drifting close to unconsciousness, Matt glances up as Franks' face hovers in front of his. Those dark lifeless eyes sparkle with hatred as he whispers into the darkness – "She'll always be mine," before swinging the bat once more. Unable to avoid the blow, Matt shudders as it falls and the black of unconsciousness engulfs him.

Ops Room 0930 hrs

Silver Star Hotel

Hermosa Beach, CA

"So where the hell is he. Call him again, or bloody beep him or something," CJ mumbled.

"This isn't like him," Margo argues, "Something must be wrong."

Across the room CJ continues to mumble as he paces the room.

"Margo's right," Benny Ray's voice breaks in. His calm demeanor bellied the emotions swirling in his eyes, "The Major said 0900 hrs, he's never late." Standing up Benny Ray turns saying, "Margo, check all the hospitals, see if they've admitted him or any John Doe's. Chance, CJ, check the police stations, maybe he got arrested and they haven't let him make his phone call yet."

"Benny Ray," Margo questions?

"When he left here he was headed to Leandra's apartment, that's where I'll be."

They move into action as Benny Ray walks out of the room. It wasn't like the Major, Benny Ray's gut twisted at the thought. He knew something was wrong, desperately wrong and Matt was in big trouble.

It took him less than five minutes to drive the short distance to Leandra's apartment. Parking the Big Dog in the shadows he climbed the three flights of stairs to Leandra's apartment. Silently he opened the door stepping out into the hallway. Turning the corner he stops as the sound of familiar voices echoed down the passage.

"Why, did he do it, I did everything he ever asked of me," Leandra screeched. "I just don't understand."

"I don't know babe, but he wasn't worthy of you, you deserve someone who will appreciate your beauty."

"Oh Frank, you're so sweet!"

Benny Ray could hear her sobbing, and the soft patting of Frank's hand on her back as he consoles her.

"Forget him, Leandra, he isn't worth your tears. Why don't you have dinner with me tonight, we can talk and laugh and you can forget all about the no good liar."

"Oh Frank, I don't know, I'm not really in the mood."

"Well a little wine, a little music and some good food will fix you up. I'll call for you at seven. If you need anything, I'll be right upstairs"

"Ok Frank!"

Backing out Frank closed the door a deep throated chuckle of satisfaction escaped him. From the corner Benny Ray could see the cruel light in the man's empty eyes.

Frank rubbed his hands in satisfaction as he headed for the elevator.

Benny Ray waited until the doors closed before stepping out. He stood staring down the hallway at the closed doors of the elevator. Frank lived in the same building as Leandra - now that was interesting. His silent tread carried him to Leandra's door, his mind still on Frank, wondering why he disliked the man so much. Knocking he waited, hearing her footsteps as they approach the door.

Opening the door, her red-rimmed eyes stare at him as she asks, "What do you want?"

"Is Matt here Leandra," he asked though he already knew the answer?

"No," she spit angrily.

"Did Matt say where he was going when he left here?"

"I don't know where he went, and I don't care," she sniffs, "he broke up with me last night. I don't care if I ever see him again."

"He didn't go home last night Leandra, he's missing. I know you still care for him, if he said something I have to know."

"Oh Benny Ray, what did I do wrong, I tried everything to make him love me and want me, but nothing worked, I still love him no matter what I said."

"The Major's not an easy man to know Leandra."

"Don't I know it," she chuckles tearily! "We spent about an hour talking last night he said he was going back to the bar when he left. I don't know what he did after that. What if he's hurt Benny Ray, what if…?"

Breaking in Benny Ray says, "We'll find him ma'am - I can promise you that."

He went out the way he came in down the stairs. Standing outside the building his eyes comb the surrounding area searching for anything that might be out of place. Stepping out onto the curb Benny Ray catches sight of several dark drops along the sidewalk. Kneeling down he runs his finger over the spot putting it to his nose he smelled the acrid tang of copper. "Blood," and still fresh!

Benny Ray ran through the scenarios in his head. If the Major had been mugged they more than likely would have left the body just taken the money and possibly the car. If it were an enemy, they would have taken the major and possibly dumped the car somewhere. Either way, he didn't like the possibilities.

Looking up he caught movement in a third floor window, like someone had been watching from behind the curtains.

Silver Star

Ops Room

1100 hrs

Benny Ray slowly walked down the steps into the basement. He could hear CJ and Margo on the phone and hoped they had found something. He didn't like the possibilities if they hadn't.

Taking the last few steps into the room he stands behind CJ waiting until he hangs up before speaking. "Anything?"

CJ jumped, swearing loudly at the sudden voice, "Bloody hell, you need to warn a fellow before you sneak up on him."

Margo turned smiling at CJ's illogical statement, surprised when Benny Ray didn't comment. She didn't like the look in his eyes, he was worried and that troubled her.

Shaking his head CJ said, "Nothing, I've called every police, station and sheriff's office within a hundred miles."


"Same here, Benny Ray, no Matt and no John Doe's have turned up at any of the hospitals. Taking a deep breath she continues, "I've even called the morgues. Nothing!"

"What did Leandra have to say," Chance asks as he walks up?

"It seems Matt broke up with her last night? Said he left early headed back here."

Margo saw something in his stance and the way he avoided her eyes, cautiously she asks. "What else did you find?"

Taking a deep breath he turns to look at all three of his teammates before saying, "Blood - on the sidewalk outside the apartment. Just a couple of drops but it was fresh."

"Damn," CJ murmurs.

Hearing the click of footsteps coming down the stairs all four sets of eyes swivel toward the sound holding their breath.

A tall dark suited man steps into the room. "Good Morning," Trout says smiling, looking around he asks, "Where's Matt?"

Silence greets his question and he frowns looking at the four familiar faces standing in the room.

"Missing," Margo finally answers.

"Missing," Trout says incredulously.

"He set up a meeting for 0900 hrs this morning, but he never showed. He never came back last night, his car is gone and so is he. We've checked all the hospitals and Police stations," Margo continues, "but still nothing."

Trout stands quietly watching them as closely as they are watching him. "I'll make some inquiry's," he states before turning away and walking back up the stairs.

"Margo," Benny Ray says, "I'm going hunting."

"Same here," Chance says.

"Stay in touch," she whispers.

Abandoned warehouse

5 miles from the Silver Star

1230 hrs

Matt regained consciousness, his head pounding. Every muscle in his body ached the bat had done its job. He tried to open his eyes, but found he couldn't, his attacker had taped them closed, his mouth also. His hands were tied behind his back and he lay on his side on the cold concrete floor. He tried to turn his head but the movement only caused him more pain.

A disembodied voice whispers out of the darkness, "Thief," it growled viciously, "this is the last time you will ever steal what belongs to me."

Hearing the man draw a breath Matt gasps as Frank kicks him brutally in the back. Struggling to catch his breath, Matt cries out as a second kick sends white-hot searing pain coursing through him. The voice was vaguely familiar but Matt could barely draw breath as consciousness recedes.

Frank stood over the body of his enemy, his cold lifeless eyes staring at the man on the floor. His temper had gotten the best of him and he had kicked a little too hard. He had wanted to toy with the man a little longer, teach him about his error, but that could wait for another time.

Frank's twisted mind drifted back to that morning, Matt's friend from the bar had come to the apartment he'd probably talked with Leandra. Frank grew angry thinking about the man being alone with her. He didn't like him, he saw too much. Benny Ray, that was his name, Frank had never been afraid of anyone, but those icy blue eyes had rested on him assessing him, it sent shivers through his slight frame. He'd watched him through the bedroom window as he kneeled down on the sidewalk. If the man got in the way, Frank knew he would have to take care of him and the though was delightfully pleasant.

Matt regained consciousness again it was dark and the air around him dank and musty. This time he knew he was alone. He nearly panicked as he tried to open his eyes he could feel the tape tearing at his skin. Sensory deprivation! An efficient means of breaking the captives will. Taking a breath to calm himself he groaned at the pain it solicited from his bruised body. Matt wriggled his hands, he could feel the tape but also something else banded his wrists making it almost impossible to break free, but that didn't stop him from trying. His efforts were futile succeeding only in tearing the skin on his wrists.

He wracked his brain trying to put a face to the voice he'd heard earlier. He couldn't remember what happened or how he got there, he only remembered the whispering voice.

Silver Star

1720 hrs

The ringing of the phone broke the eerie silence of the room. Both Margo and CJ jumped their thoughts elsewhere.

"Margo," Chance's voice echoes, " found his car."

"But no Matt," she states.

"No Matt," Chance agrees sadly. "I think we need to dust for prints, and go over the whole car. It might give us a clue?"

"Give me the address, CJ and I will be there as soon as we can." Calling Trout and Benny Ray, Margo relayed the information. Less than fifteen minutes later they all converge on Matt's car. Margo had searched Matt's desk finding the spare set of keys.

Opening the trunk, Margo closed her eyes and sighs. More blood, several drops lay splattered on the carpet. They immediately went to work dusting the car for prints and bagging and tagging every strand of hair and other objects that might give them a clue. Who ever had done this had been smart most of the cars surfaces had been wiped clean.

Margo crowed in delight as she pulled a thumbprint off the back of the mirror. When the car had been thoroughly searched to everyone satisfaction, CJ drove the corvette back to the Silver Star.

Setting to work, Margo taps into the CIA, FBI and Interpol databases running the print. Upstairs Chance and CJ went to Matt's office and apartment hoping to find some clue as to who might have kidnapped him.

Leandra's Apartment

1900 hrs

Frank knocked on Leandra's door at exactly 7pm. Opening the door she invited him in while she finished getting ready. He waited impatiently snapping his fingers by his side. Why couldn't they ever be ready on time, he raged. It took another ten minutes before Leandra was ready, standing beside him she flashed him a radiant smile and the turmoil raging inside him quieted.

Frank had made reservations at a posh Italian restaurant in Venice. The atmosphere was romantic and the food superb. He wanted this night with her to be special!

Because of Leandra's lateness their table had been given away. It took another 10 minutes before they could be seated and Frank's blood began to boil. He could tell Leandra was unhappy, her bubbling laughter remained silent, her eyes were bright with unshed tears. He tried everything to make her smile, finally asking her what was wrong.

"It's Matt," she sniffed, "he's disappeared and I'm worried."

"I told you not to worry about him Leandra, he doesn't deserve you," Frank voice was low and angry as he spit out the words.

"I know what you said Frank, but I can't just turn my feeling on and off with a snap, I think I fell in love with him and now he's missing, I'm worried about him, can't you understand that."

"Honestly Leandra, No, I don't understand, he dumped you last night, why should you care what happens to him? "I'm here why can't you see what's in front of you, I care for you, I love you," Frank whispers taking her hand.

Shocked by his statement, Leandra throws her napkin on the table. "You love me Frank, you hardly know me. Please take me home!"

"So you don't love me," Frank asks coldly? "Do you think you could ever love me?"

"No Frank I don't, I would like to have you as my friend but no I don't think I could ever come to love you – not romantic love Frank," Leandra says placing her hand over his.

Pulling his hand from beneath hers, he sits up in his chair, his mind whirling with seething hatred for the woman sitting in front of him. How could she treat him like this, he had opened his heart to her, let her see that he love her and she threw his love back in his face.

His voice was tight with suppressed rage as he stands up. "We're leaving."

"Ok, Frank, I'm sorry I made you mad," she murmurs.

Without answering he walks out leaving her to follow in his wake.

Driving his car back toward the apartment he pulls into a dark alleyway and stops the car. He doesn't hesitate, reaching across he grabs her by the throat shaking her hard his fist slams into her face and body several times. Screaming and crying out, Leandra tries to fight off the maniac beside her, but he's too strong and his frenzied mind too far-gone. When he's done and Leandra lay unconscious beside him, he looks at his bloodied hand. Pulling a cloth from beneath his seat he wipes the blood slowly from his hand his empty eyes staring unseeing at the white square of cloth.

Silver Star

1930 hrs

It was nearly an hour after she input the fingerprint into the system when the little screen started flashing a match. Quickly typing in an access code Margo pulls up the FBI bio.

Sucking in her breath she reads the bad news out loud.

"Subject is white male, approx 5'10" tall, gray eyes slightly balding. He's wanted for rape and murder of several men and women in four states. None of his victim's has survived. It says one woman lasted several hours - long enough to give a description. The man is ruthless and deranged a psychopathic profile. All of his victims were beaten to death, most with his fists or a baseball bat."

The description had rung a bell in Benny Ray's head! "Dam," he whispers jumping to his feet.

"What," CJ yells?

"Leandra has a date with him. The man you just described is Frank," Benny Ray whispers again.

"God," Margo murmurs, "Frank, I remember now, he started coming into the bar about two weeks ago, just a little after Matt and Leandra started dating."

"Let's go people, gather your gear, I hope we're not too late," Benny Ray yells as he grabs the Remington and the Glock 21 out of the arms room.

Parking a block away, the team moved cautiously toward the building.

"Chance," Benny Ray says, "go in the front see if there's a mailbox or something that would tell us what apartment he lives in."

"Sure thing," Chance answers.

Heading up the back stairs the rest of the team moves silently toward Leandra's door. Knocking Benny Ray wasn't surprised when no one answered. Frank had invited her to dinner at 7 and it was now close to 7:45. A few second later Chance steps up behind them," saying, "406."

"Roger that, Chance you're with me, Margo CJ, see if you can get in and take a look around. She might have left some clue as to where they are going."

Pulling the Glock from beneath his jacket, Benny Ray waits while Chance tries the door. Shaking his head no, Chance steps back knowing Benny Ray is not going to take the time to finesse the door. With one kick the Benny Ray shatters the lock and the door flies open.

Cautiously working their way inside, Benny Ray stops dead in his tracks as he looks into Frank's bedroom. The mirror above the dresser was covered in pictures. Leandra on one side with flowers and hearts taped beside them, Matt's' on the other. Only Matt's pictures were hacked and torn to ribbons. Fear for Matt coursed through Benny Ray, balling his fist he slams it against the mirror, shattering it into a thousand pieces, the pictures flying around him slowly settling to the floor.

Chance steps into the room seeing the wreckage asking, "Hey Amigo, you ok."

"No," Benny Ray answers, "I think we have our answer, I just hope we're not to late."

Looking at the torn and hacked pictures of Matt scattered on the floor, Chance says, "So do I my friend, so do I. Come on, there's got to be something here that will tell us where he's got Matt stashed.

Snapping into action, Benny Ray starts rifling through the drawers and closets as Chance goes back into the living room to do the same.

Looking around at the wreckage of the room, Benny Ray gets the feeling he missed something. Pulling the bed apart he sees a small pad of paper hidden between the bed and the table beside it. "Romano's 7pm"

"Margo," Benny Ray called over the comlink.

"Go," Margo answers.

"Frank took Leandra to Romano's, can you and CJ get over there? I've got a bad feeling."

"Roger," Margo answers, "on our way."

Walking into the study Benny Ray starts pulling books and papers from the desk when Chance's voice rings out over the comlink. "I think I found something."

Seconds later Benny Ray is standing beside him. "It's a receipt for rent on a warehouse in Santa Monica."

"Let's go," Benny Ray says heading for the door.

With Benny Ray at the wheel the big red Dodge speeds off down the street toward Santa Monica.


0810 hrs

Matt woke to the sounds of a woman's cries. He could hear her whimpering moans through the thin walls of his room. He struggled against his bonds once again reopening the raw wounds his previous struggles had created.

He could hear the creaking of a door and stilled as a slight breeze drifted over him. His captor had returned. "It seems you've won after all my friend," the voice whispered. "The damsel has declared her undying love for you."

Swinging the bat in his hand, Frank slams it into the wall. Matt could hear the splintering of wood, steeling himself, knowing the next blow would be aimed at him.

"I would have given her the world," Frank croaked, "Loved her cherished her been the man of her dreams, I would have fulfilled her every wish, given her children - but she betrayed me."

Swinging the bat Frank snickers as it catches Matt in the center of his back. Stars explode in his head as the agony of the blow travels through him.

"You stole her from me and you will die for it!" The bat swings time and time again as Frank's chaotic laughter echo's around the room." Matt laid still his mind and body numb with shock and pain. His breath came in ragged gasps, he prayed for the darkness to take him but Frank knew exactly where to pummel him, excruciating pain encompassed his world.

Suddenly the blows stopped and Franks cackling laughter cuts through to his consciousness. "Leandra, sweet gentle Leandra, how shall I repay her for her unfaithfulness."

"Death," he whispers his face inches from Matt's ear.

Leaving the room he returns several minutes later dragging a mewling body behind him.

Reaching down, Frank pulled the tape from Matt's eyes. "Here's your lover my sweet come to watch you die."

Blinking in the dim light, Matt cried at the sight. Leandra had paid dearly for Frank's insanity. Her once beautiful face was ravaged, torn and bloodied by his fists and bat, her body a misshapen mass of broken bones and flesh. Ragged wheezing breath the only indication that life still existed in her broken body.


2020 hrs

Margo had the forethought to bring a picture of Leandra. The Maitre de' spoke volumes about the couple. Waving his hands in distress the man told her of their lateness and Frank's rude behavior. They didn't even finish their meal the man stomped out, the woman in tears followed closely on heels. That was over twenty minutes ago.

Pulling the phone from her pocket Margo dials Benny Ray. When he answers she says, "We missed them, they left here about twenty minutes ago."

"Roger that, Margo, Chance found a receipt for a rental in the warehouse district, we're on our way over there now. Meet us there." Relaying the address for the warehouse Benny Ray closes the connection.

The warehouse was at least another fifteen minutes away. Trying not to think about what they'd find Benny Ray pulls the Glock, checking it once more before replacing it. Beside him Chance glances over, seeing the concern and worried expression that mirrors his own. "We'll find him," he says quietly.

Benny Ray mumbles his agreement, his word indecipherable.

Matt's Cell

2035 hrs

Frank stilled, seconds later he rushes from the room bat in hand locking the door behind him. Climbing nimbly into the rafters he heads for the roof. A big red truck partially hidden behind the adjacent building looked familiar, he'd seen it many times before parked at the Silver Star. Someone had found him, he didn't know how but it didn't matter, he would have to take care of him like he had taken care of many others before.

Moving quietly back inside the building Frank takes up a position in the dark above his little torture chamber.

Chance and Benny Ray silently work their way into the warehouse. Checking doors and boxes for any sign of Matt, Leandra or Frank. With Benny Ray in the lead they make their way down a long corridor stopping near the end. Benny Ray could feel him, Frank was close and so was the Major. The warehouse was dark and smelled badly of rotting trash.

Cautiously they checked the area, the walls the doors the rafters above, but neither man could pierce the veil of darkness.

Stepping into an open doorway, Benny Ray can see a pool of fresh blood. Who ever it was had been dragged across the room to a second doorway. Following the blood trail he reaches for the door handle only to find it locked. Preparing to break it down, he's hit hard from behind and slammed forward against the door. Chance spins to face their attacker but Frank's bat whirls low catching Chance just above the knee knocking him to the floor.

Benny Ray twists right. Bringing the Glock around he squeezes the trigger as Frank's bat swings again connecting just above Benny Ray's wrist. The shot goes wide as Benny Ray's hand goes numb. Dropping to his knees the pain flares through his arm and into his shoulder. His right arm useless, Benny Ray switches the Glock to his left as he tries to roll out of reach of Frank's next blow. Chance took the next blow to the back knocking the breath from his body. Frank's next swing catches Benny Ray a glancing blow to the shoulder as he rolls away.

Frank had worked himself into a frenzy, with each successive blow one after the other his gleeful laughter grew wilder.

Swinging back toward Chance he squints in surprise to see Chance on his feet. Grabbing the bat beneath his left arm Chance pins it to his side, punching Frank in the face. Staggering backwards Frank pulls a .45 from his belt as two shots ring out.

The room goes deathly quiet as Frank's shocked eyes stare at the growing patch of blood spreading across his chest. CJ steps into the room his weapon raised, Margo close on his heels.

On the floor Benny Ray lowers his weapon and slowly gets to his feet, his right arm hanging limply at his side. Chance leaned heavily against the wall taking all the weight off his left leg.

Grabbing hold of his right arm, Benny Ray kicks out splintering the lock on the door beside him. In the dim recesses of the room, he can see two battered and bloody bodies.

"Margo call an ambulance," he yells, kneeling down between Frank's two victims. Beside him CJ feels for a pulse, weak and thready but Matt was alive.

Turning to Leandra, CJ gags at the carnage Frank's bat had created. Her shallow raspy breathing told him she was alive but he didn't think it was going to be for long.

Hospital Waiting Room

2230 hrs

Chance and Benny Ray had protested their need for treatment, but CJ and Margo has bullied them into complying.

Nearly an hour later they had emerged. Chance, sporting a knee brace awkwardly maneuvered his way down the hall on a set of crutches. Benny Ray's arm was cradled in a sling, his wrist tightly wrapped. Neither man had sustained a major injury, no broken bones, but the bat had caused deep bruises that were painful and already darkening.

It was nearly two hours later when the doctor walks in. Scrambling to their feet they listen as he goes over Matt's list of injuries.

"Mr. Shepherd sustained quite a few broken bones. Several broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a severe concussion and lacerated kidney. He was bleeding internally but we've managed to get it stopped. From the massive bruises I'd say he's lucky to be alive."

"Your other friend wasn't as lucky I'm afraid," shaking his head the doctor, continues, "She didn't make it, the damage was just too severe."

"Can we see him," Margo asks quietly.

Looking into four pairs of worried eyes, the doctor can see that they need to confirm for themselves that their friend was indeed going to be ok.

Nodding, he says, "follow me, but please, only for a little while, he needs to rest."

Tumbling into the room the foursome range themselves around the bed. Intent searching eyes look at the man lying in the bed, tubes and wires blipped and bleeped in rhythm with his breathing. His eyes flutter open, blinking several time to clear the mist Matt cracks a smile at the people standing in front of him. All four sigh in relief!

"Took you long enough to find me," he rasps grinning at them.

Four voices erupt simultaneously, and Matt sighs a silly contented smile on his face.

Waiting for the racket to settle down he quietly asks, "Leandra?"

Silence greets his question and that gives him his answer before Benny Ray speaks. "She didn't make it boss."

Silver Star

Two weeks later

Matt was in the kitchen making coffee, two weeks in the hospital had been almost as bad as captivity. Poked and prodded, woken at six am to take his meds. Rest they had told him, in the hospital? Impossible! He didn't think anyone ever got the chance to rest in the hospital.

Leandra still haunted his dreams, he could see her beautiful smile her silky hair blowing in the breeze and it hurt knowing he was probably the cause of her death. Frank's sick mind had trapped them all in his web and Matt was having a hard time pulling himself free.

Trout had uncovered Frank's background. His mother had taken a lover, his father had found them one evening in his bed. Unable to cope with his wife's infidelity, he had beaten her and her lover to death with a bat. Frank only eight at the time had watched. His twisted tortured mind had blamed every woman he ever met with infidelity. They and their lovers had paid the ultimate price for his parents' folly.

Coming up to stand beside him, Margo could see the regret in his eyes. "You have to let it go Matt." Taking his head in her hands she continues, "Leandra died because of Frank, not because of you. You'll never be able to forget her or what happened, but you need to let it go."

"I know Margo," he says leaning over to hug her tight, "I just need a little more time."

End of Line