Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: You don't have to have read Flowers for a Friend but it would probably help. Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board!
It's funny, Don thought aimlessly. How your nose always itches at the most inconvenient times. Not much you can do to scratch it when you're lying on a table, fastened down in five-point restraints with an extra strap across your bare shoulders, shivering in the cold.
The randomness of his thoughts spoke volumes as to how nonchalant he'd become about his situation. He'd spent so much of the past twenty-four hours in a drug-induced haze as he was transported by his captors that he'd ceased to have a single coherent thought. Had he been more alert, Don would have realized that he had every reason to be concerned, if not downright panicked.
In fact, he was still so far out of it that Don didn't realize his companion – someone who had been abducted with him – was no longer with him. All he knew was that his existence had been simplified to a hated routine – wake from a drug induced sleep, feel a needle slide into his neck and return to dreamless slumber.
He was dragged to semi-awareness once more as the door to his cell creaked open, revealing the largest of his abductors smiling at him coldly.
Big Blond, Don reminded himself, the agent buried beneath the mental fog still needing to identify his captors by some sort of name.
"I see you're awake," the man sneered as he moved to Don's side. "You have an annoying habit of coming around before you're supposed to. I won't have to worry about that any more, though." He gripped Don's jaw and forced it open as he poured a glass of water down his throat.
Don worked his sluggish muscles and swallowed as efficiently and quickly as he could, feeling like he was in a sick race against time to avoid drowning. His fists clenched uselessly at his side as he struggled to arch his back or do anything to escape the torture, succeeding only in leaving himself exhausted and panting for air once his captor had released his grip.
"No sirree," his captor grinned. "Can't have you getting dehydrated. And no more drugs for you, either. We want you awake, alert and clear as a bell for the next few days of… fun."
Despite his clouded mind, the blond's last word managed to send a shiver of fear down Don's spine.
"Ah, is the little Fed scared?" Big Blond laughed evilly. "Don't be. Reunions are always fun. You know – seeing people you haven't spoken to for such a long time. There will be so much catching up to do, although I suspect for the most part you'll be the one doing the listening." The big man paused as if to consider his theory and then smiled and shook his head. "On second thought, we did have this place soundproofed… I guess you'll be doing some talking, too… if you'd call it that." He leaned over and pinned Don with an intense gaze, as if he were eyeing a lab specimen about to be dissected.
"Who?" Don rasped, his rough voice barely audible.
"You'll find out soon enough," Big Blond told him as he turned to leave. Just before he exited the room, he snapped his fingers as if remembering an important thought and whirled back around to the bound man in front of him. "Oh wait, he told me to give you this."
With an icy glare, the big man leaned over and pulled something from his jacket pocket, watching Don shake his head as his eyes fearfully tracked the object. "No…"
"He said you'd recognize it," Big Blond chuckled as he laid it on top of Don's heaving chest. "I'll leave you alone to think about how much fun you're going to have when he gets here."
Don's attention was so focused on the hateful object on his torso that he hardly noticed when his captor took a picture of him before leaving the room and shutting the door behind him. Left alone in the room, the agent's blood ran cold with fear. No, it can't be him…
But the single white flower lying tauntingly on his chest told him that his worst nightmare had just come true.
Twenty-four Hours Earlier
"Thanks for dinner," Colby nodded to his boss.
"Hey, you deserve it," Don smiled back. "A little celebration after we wrap up a case like this is always in order."
"Megan and David sure missed out."
"I think they're happy where they are tonight. Ever since Larry returned to Earth, Megan's been spending every spare moment she has with him. And David's got that new girl he's interested in…"
"Yeah, yeah," Colby said with a shake of his head as the two walked down the street to Don's SUV. "The ME chick. He's been interested in her for a while. I finally gave him a kick in the pants to get him started and off they went."
"Real thoughtful of you, Granger."
"I try," he laughed. He studied Don for a moment and carefully observed, "I haven't seen Agent Warner lately."
His boss sighed and shrugged. "She got another protection assignment. She's very good at them."
"Apparently. Bummer though, man. Sorry."
"Life of an agent. Or two." Don spotted his SUV parked where they'd left it earlier, at the back end of the parking deck. "Sure did clear out since we got here."
With a glance at his watch, Colby pointed out, "It is eleven o'clock on a Wednesday. Not too many people are out eating dinner this late."
"Just overworked FBI agents like us," Don replied dryly, pulling out the remote for his vehicle. As he and Colby walked closer, Don pressed the button to unlock the car doors. The headlights flashed like they usually did, but neither man was prepared for the explosion that knocked them both off their feet.
"You okay?" Don coughed as he glanced over at his agent, his mind still trying to process what had just happened.
Before Colby could answer, four men appeared from the shadows and raced toward the them. Don started to push himself to his feet, but a stinging sensation in his neck threw him off balance and he crashed back to the ground. "Granger?" he mumbled as his vision started to blur. He rolled his head toward his friend, not surprised to see Colby in a similar predicament beside him.
The sound of an vehicle coming to a halt nearby drew Don's attention away from his coworker. He tried to crane his neck around but his muscles had stopped obeying his commands. Cold metal encircled his left wrist as he was rolled onto his stomach and his right hand was soon locked into a metal bracelet as well. Handcuffs? he wondered. His world spun alarmingly as one of their attackers hauled him to his feet, dragging him to a van and throwing him inside.
Don wanted to call out to his agent but found he was unable to speak as the drug rapidly spread through his system. He was very concerned about Colby and couldn't decide if it was a good or bad thing when he felt his friend's body tossed into the van beside him. Before he could give any more thought to his dilemma, the drug took over and Don slipped into unconsciousness.
Once their cargo was safely loaded, the four men sped through the parking garage, racing past – and almost sideswiping – the security guard's vehicle. The driver smiled coldly as they blew by the rent-a-cop exiting the garage and headed down the deserted street.
"Working like a charm so far," the red-headed man in the passenger seat said as he removed the ball cap and glasses he'd been wearing. "Now we just have to make it to checkpoint two before the cops are on our tail."
"I know the plan, Joey," the large blond man driving snapped. "Just keep an eye out on our six." He glanced in the rearview and was satisfied to see the other two men busy trussing up their captives even more tightly than before. "Go ahead and dose them again," he ordered. "The last thing we need is for either one of them to wake up and complicate our lives."
"Got it, Roberto," the smaller of the two nodded as he drew two preloaded syringes out of a case of many more.
"Cops?" the blond asked the redhead.
"No, nothing yet."
"Good," Roberto nodded. He allowed himself to relax just a fraction as he maneuvered the van through the streets of downtown, enjoying the sights around him as much as possible given his sense of urgency. He'd missed LA over the past ten months and he was glad to be back – even if it was only temporary. In fact when his boss had mentioned the trip to their old home Roberto had jumped at the chance, even though he knew that it was probably too soon to go back. Their organization was still in its early stages in Miami and Roberto wasn't sure leaving it in the hands of lower-ranking men was such a good idea. But he did miss LA and he knew his boss wouldn't really be able to focus on rebuilding until he got past the flame of hatred that burned in his heart. So Roberto had agreed – he would go grab Eppes and his boss could finally exact his revenge.
"There's the garage," Joey spoke up.
Roberto nodded and turned the van inside, carefully driving up to the second floor from the top. He spotted a solitary white van parked in the far corner and eased his vehicle into the spot next to it. "Load 'em up," he ordered as he killed the engine.
The two men in the back threw open the doors and transferred the agents into the other van. Roberto made sure his cap and glasses were on, then grabbed his 'kidnap kit' and joined the other three. Once he was settled he turned and eyed Joey. "That van is clear of prints, right?"
"I cleaned it myself this morning," the other man assured him. "And we've all been wearing our gloves and coveralls. They're not going to trace it back to us."
"They'd better not," Roberto growled as he started up the white van and backed out of the parking space. "You know what Mister Gardenia does to people who complicate his life."
"Yeah," Joey nervously nodded as he galnced at the unconscious agents in the back. "Yeah, I do."
Detective Steve Madison stared at the scorched remains of the SUV in front of him. He'd been a detective with LAPD long enough to know that a bombed vehicle in a public parking deck was going to lead to a large headache of interdepartmental bickering. Homeland Security and the FBI would be arriving at the scene as soon as they heard about the incident and Madison was determined to have his territory staked out before they could start meddling.
"Hey boss!" a young cop called out to him.
"Security has the surveillance footage pulled up for us."
"Lead on," Madison said as he followed the eager young man down the stairs to the guard's shack on the first level. When they reached their destination, an older man in his late fifties wearing a guard's uniform nodded and pointed at the monitor in front of him. Madison squeezed into the shack and peered at the screen, swearing silently at what he saw. "How do I play this thing?"
The guard pointed to a button on the control panel which the detective pressed, watching as the footage moved forward. He saw two men approaching the vehicle, one of them using the remote to unlock the doors, when a bright light filled the screen. When it faded, Madison saw the two men lying on the ground in a daze moments before four other men – their identities obscured by eyeglasses and ball caps pulled low over their faces – appeared on the screen, binding and packing the two dazed men into a dark-colored van. As the getaway vehicle pulled away from the camera, Madison squinted at the license plate.
"Rewind it back to where you had it," the detective commanded the elderly guard. "Jerry, put in a call to the Feds. And tell them to have their digital enhancement guys on standby."
"What?" the younger man asked. "You want me to call them?"
"Yes," he snapped as his headache started to grow. "That SUV that was blown up – it had government plates on it." As the young cop rushed off to his cruiser to make the call, Madison rubbed his temples and sighed, knowing his headache was only beginning.
Roberto brought the white van to a slow stop inside the empty building, eyeing the deserted area around them. When he was sure they were alone, he nodded to the men in back. "Let's get loaded up."
They jumped out of the van, pulling the two agents out with them and dropping them into a heap on the ground. The smaller of the two checked their captives' restraints as the other man began relocating their equipment to their newest form of transportation.
"This van has been wiped down too?" Roberto inquired as he studied Joey in the dim light of the building.
"I swear," the other man nodded. "I ain't going to mess the boss man's plans up."
"Well if you have, you'll be answering for it soon enough."
"I wouldn't let him or you down, Roberto."
"Good," the blond stated. "Now, make sure everything's ready to go. Report back to me when it is."
As Joey scampered off to help the other men – two brothers he thought of as 'Frick' and 'Frack' – Roberto watched their every move, a malicious grin appearing as he thought about how much fun the two kidnapped agents were in for. Especially Eppes. Gardenia rarely spoke of anything else during the past ten months except his overwhelming desire to exact revenge on the agent who had ruined his crime organization and sent him packing off to Miami. At times Roberto had been frustrated by his boss's single-minded determination, fearing that their new gang would suffer because of it. Roberto had quickly taken the reins and steered the Gardenia crew into an impressive status on the streets of Miami. And once his boss had gotten his revenge on Eppes, Gardenia could focus on the future instead of the past.
"We're all set, Roberto."
He nodded as he studied the privately owned and operated helicopter before him – capable of flying him under the radar to just about anywhere he wanted to go – and he felt the last of his tension melt away. In minutes the chopper would lift off from the desolate, makeshift airstrip, embarking on a quick flight to another major city where the journey would then continue on board a private jet with an official flight plan that conveniently did not mention a stop in Los Angeles.
A smile appeared on Roberto's face as he pulled out a prepaid cell and dialed a number from memory. "We got him," he said when the person on the other end answered. "We're at the airstrip now."
"Excellent," Gardenia replied. "I shall sleep well tonight. Tomorrow evening, then?"
"We'll be ready," the blond man assured him before disconnecting the call.
It won't be long now, Roberto thought joyfully as he tucked the phone into his pocket. And Eppes will finally get what's coming to him.