Hello everyone! I know it's been a while since I've updated. In my defense, I'm on deployment, out somewhere on the ocean...I finally managed to carve out a bit of time to come back to poor Connor and Murphy. (Evil grin). So I hope you enjoy the update...let me know what you think, and the next will be on the way as soon as I can manage.
On an un-Boondock-Saints-related note, but of interest, if you enjoy my writing, feel free to check out my first novel, The Iron Sword, published by Three Ravens books and available on both the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites. :) If you have any questions or comments about it feel free to PM me!
And with no further ado...I present to you our bloodied yet still devilishly handsome Irish twins...
"How's he doing, Chris?" Clare asked, trying to keep the note of anxiety out of her voice and only partially succeeding. The headlights of opposing traffic were gaudy, too bright after the fire and blood of her basement, the clinical cleanliness of the crime-scene technicians, the hazy dark of the shed in her back yard, lit by the soft glow of the camping lantern. She fought to keep her grip on the wheel steady, her face unconcerned despite her instinct to duck and cover at every flashing light and blaring horn. Taking a deep breath, she made herself let it go slowly, counting to five.
"Blood pressure's low," Christian informed her from the back seat. "His skin is getting clammy. He's going into shock."
"That's no wonder," she replied over the terrible twisting feeling in her chest. Her arm throbbed. Blood slipped down into the crook of her elbow, a small snake of crimson sliding over her skin. She heard Murpy talking to Connor softly. At the next red light, she kept her foot firmly on the brakes and glanced back over her shoulder. They had Connor stretched over the length of the back seat, his head in Murphy's lap and Christian kneeling by his side with the bags of medical supplies opened and the contents strewn haphazardly on the floor of the SUV. Even in the dark, she could tell that there was a blue tinge to Connor's lips, a gray pallor to his skin, and blood still leaking in a slow but steady stream from the bullet wound in his shoulder. "Dammit," she swore softly, swallowing hard against the panic rising in the back of her throat. She took another deep breath. This isn't the same as last time, she told herself. This is different. This will be different.
The light turned green. She jumped as the car behind her honked its horn impatiently. A dirty, blood-stained hand squeezed her shoulder. "Easy now," said Murphy softly from the back seat.
"When's my next turn?" she replied tersely. They were downtown, more into the seedier part of Boston than she had been in a long while, but she supposed that these were the true hunting grounds of the Boondock Saints. Her home had been destroyed, ravaged by the Lobos and then taped off by bright yellow police caution tape, so she had little choice but to rely on the brothers—or Murphy, rather, she corrected herself with a grimace.
"The street just after The Pink Cat," Murphy replied.
Clare raised her eyebrows. "The strip club?"
"Well, wi' a name like that, it might be more than a strip club," Murphy replied with an attempt at a cheeky grin. Then the SUV hit a pothole, Connor gave a strangled moan of anguish and the dark-haired twin's focus was completely absorbed by his brother. "Canna you give him anymore?" he asked Christian almost pleadingly, brushing Connor's hair back from his forehead in an uncharacteristic display of tenderness. Connor quieted at his brother's touch, his breathing harsh in the silence.
"I can't," Christian answered. "If I give him too much painkiller, he'll go into cardiac arrest, Murphy. With the blood loss, I don't know whether we'd be able to get him back."
Murphy said nothing, hunching his shoulders slightly and leaning over Connor as if he could protect his twin from the pain.
"Do you have a saline drip going?" Clare asked.
"Yes," replied Christian.
The road clogged with traffic as the SUV rolled past a series of neon-bright strip clubs, booming bass leaking out onto the streets, slicking the sidewalk beneath the feet of the clubs' myriad customers: olive-skinned men in sharply tailored suits, middle-aged hacks with pot bellies and bald spots, groups of young men out for a rowdy time for one reason or another. After a quick glance Clare kept her eyes forward, breathing slow and deep. She was wound tight with tension, alert to any chance of discovery. The traffic rolled along at a snail's pace, doors opening and closing as friends dropped off their drunken companions to stagger from the cars and to one or another of the neon lit entryways.
Finally, Murphy said, "Here."
Clare turned the wheel of the car almost gratefully, glad to be out of the tight confines of traffic and the blaring of the strip club signs, the drunken loudness of their customers. They had turned onto a smaller side street, but there was still more room to maneuver than on the crowded main street. There were a few other cars on the road. Clare relaxed her grip on the steering wheel slightly. After a few blocks, the landscape of the street started changing from pawn shops and liquor stores to apartments, row houses three stories high all crowded together on either side of the street. Most of them were in relatively good repair but every so often there was an eyesore, with peeling paint and hanging shutters, cracked windows that hadn't been replaced.
"Don't tell me we're going to a house like that," Clare said in trepidation as they passed one such house. Three young people in hooded sweatshirts smoked something that definitely wasn't cigarettes or even weed, lounging on the dilapidated front porch with fold-out metal chairs. They glared sullenly at the SUV as it passed.
"It's a safe house," Murphy replied with uncharacteristic gravity. "Only one person knows where it is, and what it's for."
"And who's that?" She glided to a gentle stop at an intersection, glancing back over her shoulder.
"It might be better if you don't know."
"If I don't know?" she repeated caustically, raising one eyebrow. "I know pretty much everything. What's one more piece of information?"
Murphy opened his mouth to reply, then shut it and reconsidered. Instead he gave a one-shouldered shrug. Christian tightened the blood pressure cuff around Connor's upper arm.
"Hold this," he said to Murphy, handing him a small flashlight. Murphy silently obeyed, watching with hungry eyes as the needle quivered, pulsing with his twin's heartbeat.
"What? What is it?" he demanded as Christian's mouth tightened and he began rifling through the medical supplies again.
"His blood pressure is dangerously low, Murphy," Christian replied tersely. "From blood loss and shock. If it gets much lower, he could go into respiratory arrest, or cardiac arrest, or the blood flow to his brain could be restricted—"
"In other words," Clare interrupted, "he'll stop breathing, his heart will stop beating, and if we can get him back from that, he might be brain damaged. He might not be the same Connor."
She heard a sharp intake of breath from Murphy, and another.
"He'll always be Connor," she heard him say thickly, fighting to get the words out. "He'll always be m'brother."
Her throat tightened. She cleared it. "Which house is it?"
Murphy coughed and took another shuddering breath. "2165B. Pull in the driveway, the entrance is at the back."
After only another minute or so of driving and carefully scanning the mailboxes for the correct house number, Clare flicked on her blinker in triumph and turned into the narrow gravel driveway. Thick unkempt bushes obscured the driveway from view, and once they rounded a slight bend, squeezing between the back of the house and the row house behind it, they were all but invisible from the street. She hoped that would be enough as she put the SUV in park, threw on the emergency brake and slid out of the front seat. Murphy opened the back door for her. He gently laid his brother's head on the seat and took out the Beretta from where he'd tucked it in his waistband, grimacing slightly as he moved his injured leg. He overbalanced as he was climbing out of the SUV and cursed, anticipating the fall, but Clare was suddenly beside him, her hand gripping his upper arm firmly. Regaining his balance, he gave her a curt nod and adjusted his grip on the pistol.
"Gonna go clear it," he told her. The words even though it is supposed to be a safe house went unspoken. They both understood the fluidity of loyalty, the fickleness of fate. The cruelty of chance.
"Let me see your leg first," she said, her grip on his arm unyielding. He mumbled a few curses under his breath but leaned back against the SUV, gripping the gun and scanning the shadows around the house.
"'S not that…" He swayed suddenly as she tightened the bloodied makeshift bandage, putting one hand against the SUV behind him for balance. "…Bad," he finished shakily. "Christ, woman, why d'ye have to go pokin' about?"
"Because you insist on walking on it and now it won't bleed as much," she replied. Raising her voice slightly, she said, "Chris, go with Murphy? He says it's not bad but he'll probably pass out at some point." She levied a stare at Murphy, daring him to rebuff her assertion. To her surprise, he nodded slightly.
Christian slid out of the SUV, checking the safety on his own weapon. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he told her, pulling her into a one-armed hug and planting a brotherly kiss on her forehead. "Talk to him. He likes you. Maybe he'll listen to you."
"Connor never listens to anyone," Murphy retorted. "Not even his own brother."
Clare listened to their quiet banter as she climbed back into the SUV. Her small smile died on her lips as she surveyed Connor. She pulled the car door shut and locked it, turning off the overhead light and turning on the camp lantern that Christian had set by the medical kit. Her own weapon pressed comfortingly against her side in the hidden holster she'd had custom-made. Christian had cut away the shoulder of Connor's shirt and applied a field dressing to the bullet wound, but the white bandages were dark with blood. An IV line snaked from his wrist to a bag filled with clear fluid, jerry-rigged to the headrest of the back seat in the absence of an IV stand. She pressed two fingers to the tender spot below his jaw. His pulse was weak and thready, and as she leaned over him she could tell it was getting hard for him to breathe.
"This is all too familiar, Connor," she told him as she found an oxygen mask in the supply kit and ripped its cover off, holding it gently over his mouth and nose. She didn't know if it was a trick of the shadows, but after a moment it looked like his color was a little better. She leaned in closer over him, pressing her palm to his forehead softly. He was still clammy, a cold sweat dampening his skin. As she took her hand away, he shivered, slowly opening his eyes. "Hey," she said softly. He made a small sound of pain, forehead creasing; and then he tried to reach up for the oxygen mask. She moved it to the side.
"Where..?" he rasped through dry lips.
"Somewhere safe," she murmured. "We're still in the car. Murphy and Christian went to go make sure everything is in order."
His eyes gazed hazily into hers for a moment, and then he blinked. "'M cold, Clare," he whispered as another shiver ran through his body.
"It's from the shock," she said softly, brushing his hair back from his forehead. He leaned into her hand.
"Ye're warm," he said, voice barely more than a whisper. Another, more violent tremor traveled through his body and she watched helplessly as the pain flashed across his face. He tried so hard to hide it. She laid her hand against his cheek.
"You should stop talking for a bit," she told him. "I'll put the mask back on, but I'm just going to hold it there. No elastic or anything."
He shivered and nodded wearily, eyes half-closed as he leaned into the warmth of her hand. She swallowed hard against the tightness in her throat. Connor's shivering began to look more like tremors, his legs twitching involuntarily. His breath hitched as the tremors reached his torso, his good hand clenching and unclenching against the car seat.
"Hold on," Clare said. "Stay still." She balanced the mask on his face carefully and half-stood, crouching over him in the confines of the SUV. Looking into the trunk of the SUV, she triumphantly grabbed an ugly green and brown patterned blanket, bundling it carefully over the back seat and arranging it over Connor from the waist down. It was large enough to fold double and tuck around him. She sat back on her heels, one hand still holding the oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, watching closely to see if the blanket did any good. His shivering continued unabated, his hand still clenching and unclenching spasmodically. She pushed away the sinking feeling in her chest, instead slipping her free hand into his. His fingers closed over hers in a vise-like grip, and she bit her lip, watching as his breath fogged the plastic of the oxygen mask in quick spurts. "Breathe a little more slowly for me, if you can," she said. He clutched her hand like he was a drowning man and she was offering him her hand from a lifeboat.
"How's the pain?" she asked, even though it was a moronic question. She could see it written all over his face. But he took a deep breath and she moved the mask to the side.
"Hurts more…than it should," he rasped. "Not a simple…through and through."
"There's no exit wound," she agreed quietly. Where the hell were Murphy and Christian? They needed to hurry up with their damn SWAT-team wanna-be room clearing and get their asses back out to the car, she thought.
Connor grimaced as another tremor wracked his body, squeezing her hand so hard that she thought it was going to break. When it passed, he took another breath. "Prob'ly nicked…collarbone…or m'shoulder blade, in back…"
"You're more of an expert on gunshot wounds than I am," she replied, teasing him gently.
"Comes with…th'territory…of bein' so…damn sexy," he managed, looking proud of himself at the end of the sentence despite the sweat lacing his brow and the raggedness of his breathing.
Clare raised one eyebrow. "Well. I would rather being an expert on gunshot wounds not be a requirement for you to be sexy."
"You agreein'…with me, woman?" The ghost of a grin flickered across Connor's grey face.
"Don't call me woman," she told him, mock-chastising. And then she leaned over him, letting her lips brush his cheek as she said, "And yes, I'm agreeing with you."
He turned his head and met her whispering mouth with his, cutting off anything else she intended to say. She could taste his pain on his lips, but all the same she kissed him thoroughly. Connor made a small sound—not pain, she realized in the back of her mind, the part of her mind not consumed by the white fire racing through her veins, but contentment. She sat back, satisfied, slipping the mask over his face again. He closed his eyes, a smile visible through the plastic of the mask.
A brisk knock on the window made Clare's heart jump like a frightened rabbit. She looked sharply at the window, but it was Christian, his face barely visible in the ambient light from the moon and the faraway street lamps. Reaching across, she unlocked the door.
"How long have you been watching?" she demanded suspiciously as soon as he opened the door.
"Long enough," he replied, a devilish glint to his eyes. Then he sobered. "It's clear, but Murphy couldn't make it back down the stairs." He rolled his eyes. "Or…rather, he thought he could make it down the stairs and tried, like the stubborn ass he is. And then I had to carry him halfway back up."
"I'm sure he absolutely loved that," Clare commented.
"He was half-conscious, Clare," Christian said, the strain of the day and now the night ahead of them showing in his brusque tone. "But he's in better shape than Connor."
"Can you carry him?"
"I'll manage," Christian replied, "if you can get the bags."
Clare nodded and gently disentangled her hand from Connor's. He watched her with glassy half-lidded eyes as she quickly organized their medical supplies and shut off the camp lantern, throwing it into the overnight bag and zipping it up with an air of efficiency. She leaned over him and untied the IV bag from the back seat's headrest, making sure the keep the line clear and the saline still flowing. Christian reached over and took the saline bag from her, keeping it elevated while she slipped out of the car and dragged the overnight bag and the medical bag from the back seat. The medical bag was a lot heavier than it looked and at first she didn't know whether she could handle it. But she reminded herself that she only had a scratch on the arm, and both the twins would probably need everything in that medical bag. That stiffened her resolve.
"Help me with his feet," Christian said.
Clare stopped and surveyed the setup. "We should just take the IV out," she offered. "If it gets caught on something, it'll hurt like a bitch. We have more, don't we?"
"Yes," said Christian. "Hold this." They switched places, and Christian expertly drew the long, wicked needle from Connor's wrist, holding pressure over it for a moment until the blood clotted. Connor didn't make a sound. Clare put the saline bag to one side. Christian took the mask and stretched its elastic over the back of Connor's head.
"He doesn't like that," Clare protested quietly.
"He's unconscious," replied Christian tersely.
Wordlessly, Clare walked around the front of the SUV and opened the other door, climbing into the back seat again. "Connor," she said, "if you can hear me, we're going to get you inside. Christian is going to carry you. It's going to hurt, but I need you to stay still as much as you can, all right?" She didn't expect a response, but to her surprise, Connor raised his uninjured hand and gave a shaky thumbs-up sign. She couldn't help but grin.
"Smartass," Christian said from the other side of the car. Connor's eyes opened a little at the sound of his voice, and he raised his eyebrows at Clare as he transitioned from a thumbs-up to a middle finger, turning his hand so that the bird was directed at Christian. "I hope you're this chipper once we get you inside," Christian said, and Connor didn't have a response for that. He let his hand fall to his side.
"All right, enough teasing," Clare said, watching in concern as shivers rippled through Connor's prone form. The night air certainly wasn't helping things. She tucked the ugly green-and-brown blanket firmly under his legs.
"I can…help," said Connor suddenly, words muffled by the mask.
Clare looked at Christian, who shrugged. "Okay. Then we'll help you sit up, and you can slide out of the car. We'll see how it works from there."
Connor nodded. Christian leaned in, sliding his arm beneath Connor's back on the uninjured side. Clare grasped Connor's legs. "Ready?" Connor nodded again. With Christian at his back and Clare rotating his legs, Connor managed to push himself into a sitting position, a strangled sound somewhere between a grunt and a moan escaping him. His chest was heaving and sweat rolled down his face, which was even grayer than it had been.
"He's not going to be able to stand up at all. It'll do more damage than good," Christian said, moving to shift Connor. The Irishman, despite his pallor, put out his good arm and gripped Christian's shirt, shaking his head slightly.
"This isn't about your pride, Connor," Christian retorted. "It's about your life. You can damn well take a blow to your ego if that means keeping you alive."
Clare watched the exchange tensely. Finally Connor relaxed his grip on Christian's shirt. Christian leaned forward, put one arm under Connor's knees and positioned the other by his side. "Ready? This is going to hurt like a motherfucker."
"Ready as…I'll ever be," Connor replied.
In one smooth motion, Christian slid his right arm behind Connor's shoulder and his left arm beneath the other man's knees. He carefully moved him to the edge of the car seat, and then with seemingly little effort, lifted him. Clare shut the car doors hurriedly and locked them, slipping the keys into her pocket. She arranged the straps of the medical kit and the overnight bag on her good shoulder and heaved them up, following Christian quickly.
Christian strode toward the house purposefully. It took an effort to catch up to him. She saw dark droplets falling from Connor's fingers, splotching the sparse grass of the unkempt lawn. "He's bleeding again," she told Christian urgently.
"I know," Christian said. "I'm going as fast as I can, unless you'd like me to drop him and see where that leaves us."
She scowled at Christian, despite the fact that he probably couldn't see her expression in the dark, and darted ahead to hold the door open. There was a patched screen door, then a pleasingly heavy, solid back door. Christian turned sideways and carefully carried Connor through. The interior of the house was dark, but Christian headed unerringly for a set of stairs to the left. There was another heavy door at the top of the stairs. Clare opened it, waited for them to go through and then shut and locked it behind them, relishing the feel of the deadbolt driving home.
Clare stopped when she turned to the room. From the outside, it was a shabby eyesore, shrubbery overgrown, lawn unkempt, paint peeling in patches from the shutters. But the inside…at least the upstairs…she raised her eyebrows. It was one large room, subdivided with a counter separating the kitchen nook from the main room, and a sleek black screen shielding two full-size beds from view. A modest but serviceable television set rested on an entertainment center that was well-stocked with DVDs. A black couch faced the TV.
The windows, though, were what made Clare feel the safest. They had heavy blinds, which were drawn, and shutters on the inside that looked like they were lined with some sort of bulletproof material. The blinds looked light-proof, so the building would still seem deserted. She had to admire the ingenuity of it.
The covers had been ripped hastily from both beds, leaving only the black sheets beneath. Whoever had furnished the apartment, Clare thought, knew how to decorate around bloodstains. Murphy occupied one of the beds, and he pushed himself onto his elbows as Christian crossed the room with Connor. Christian carefully laid the unconscious twin on the empty bed, the green and brown blanket still tucked around his legs. At some point on the trip from the car to the bed, Connor had passed out. Clare supposed they should be grateful. She checked the deadbolt on the door again and then lugged the overnight bag and medical kit across the room, grimacing slightly as the graze on her arm throbbed. She set the medical bag down by the foot of Connor's bed, and the overnight bag beside it.
Murphy watched her as she glanced around the room again. "There're perks to knowin' an FBI agent," he told her with an air of satisfaction.
"I'm starting another saline drip," Christian told her, elbow-deep in the medical kit.
She nodded, feeling oddly numb. "I'm going to close the shutters," she heard herself say as if from a distance. The shutters were heavy. Sharp pain lanced through her upper arm as she closed the first set, but the feeling of drawing another bolt, putting up another defense, was enough to drown out the discomfort. After all three windows were shuttered and locked, she turned around and drifted back toward the beds, as if in a dream.
Christian took one glance at her and quickly finished rigging the saline bag to the bedpost. "Clare, sit down," he said.
She blinked. It sounded as though he was underwater. Were they underwater? Why was everything so…slow? She shivered. Then Christian's hands were on her shoulders, guiding her over to the bed, where Murphy had shifted to one side to give her room. He sat her firmly on the edge of the bed. She blinked dreamily, only half-feeling Christian push up her sleeve and inspect the graze on her arm. He applied something that stung. She didn't even move, watching instead the fog on the oxygen mask from Connor's breathing, the shallow rise and fall of his bandage-swathed chest. Christian finished bandaging her arm and then disappeared for a moment, returning with a Kit-Kat bar in his hand.
"The fridge and cabinets are stocked," he told Murphy with a note of suspicion in his voice. "Have you been here before?"
"Nah," replied Murphy, "but they knew we were goin' to, after the scene at the house."
"Impressive," Christian murmured, only half sarcastic. He brandished the red-wrapped candy bar at Clare. "Eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"I don't care if you're not hungry. Just because you weren't shot in the chest doesn't mean you can't go into shock, too."
She looked at him sharply and snatched the candy bar from his hand, eyes flashing.
"I didn't mean anything by it," he told her gently, putting a hand on her uninjured shoulder. "I know you're worried." His eyes glimmered devilishly. "And you know that when you're worried, it always falls to me to take care of you. So." He took the candy bar back from her and opened it, peeling back the wrapper. "Here. Sugary goodness."
Clare broke off one of the chocolate sticks and bit into it. At first her motions were mechanical, but as the chocolate melted in her mouth, her stomach growled and she realized how truly hungry and tired she was. She heard Murphy shift behind her, and she broke off a second stick, passing it over her shoulder to him without a word. He took it and munched on it happily, one eye always on Connor.
"Oh," said Murphy, "by t'way, we might be expectin' guests soon."
"Guests?" Clare turned to him skeptically.
"Of the FBI agent persuasion," he replied.
And as if on cue, there came a knock at the door. All the same, Clare wiped her fingers on the edge of her shirt and drew her pistol, walking toward the door on cat-quiet feet. The knock came again, and then the sound of a key in the lock. She pressed herself against the wall, pistol aimed at the door so that as soon as it opened she would have the person entering the room in her sights. Her thumb poised to flick off the safety, she adjusted her stance and then settled, waiting.
The door swung open slightly and a hand ventured through, holding a badge. Clare edged closer and peered at it. Then she lowered her gun and pushed the door open the rest of the way with her foot. Agent Smecker stood in the doorway, smile slowly uncoiling across his face. "Miss McDonough. I had a feeling you'd be guarding this little nest." His eyes flickered to her gun and then back to her face. "Now, please don't be alarmed, but I brought a companion."
She tensed at that, and almost brought up the gun again. "Who?"
"Someone discreet," he answered simply. "After that majestic work of art in your basement, I knew there would be damage. Of the potentially fatal kind, am I right?" He glanced around her, back to the beds that were concealed from view.
Clare grudgingly nodded.
"Oh, I love it when I'm such a good guesser." Smecker gave that gremlin-like smile again, and motioned with one hand. A lanky middle-aged man with a sweep of nondescript brown hair stepped up behind the FBI agent. "This is the good doctor. No names need be exchanged. He has worked for the agency before, when our undercover agents have gotten into tight spots." Smecker raised one eyebrow slightly at the words "undercover agents."
"Of course," Clare said, relief flooding through her in a dizzy rush. "We did the best we could, but…"
"If you let us in, my dear, we can help," Agent Smecker said, cutting her off. He raised a bag in his hand that she hadn't noticed before. "And I brought donuts. It's going to be a regular party."
She stepped aside and held the door as the FBI agent and doctor strode into the room, shutting it and locking it firmly behind them. "Yeah, donuts and gunshot wounds. Every girl's idea of a great party," she muttered as she followed them across the room; but her voice was soft with relief, and she let herself hope that maybe, just maybe, they would come out all right after all.