"Thanks for the ride." an appreciative Mary said as she stepped out of a very familiar yellow Camaro convertible. Shutting the door behind her, the red-haired woman smiled at Danny, who had stepped out of the driver's side. "That piece of crap has been giving me problems for awhile now." Sighing, she shook her head. "Don't know why it decided to break down now."
"Maybe after work I should come and take a look at it." Danny suggested, turning the alarm on his car on as the two headed for the employees' entrance to the Montecito. "Delinda doesn't get off until late tonight anyway."
"If you wouldn't mind." Mary blushed, reaching into her purse for her badge.
Danny was about to comment that he wouldn't mind helping his best friend since childhood out when he heard a noise from behind them. Turning around, he looked at the empty parking lot, trying to figure out what he had heard.
"What's up?" Mary asked, noticing Danny's change in demeanor.
However, McCoy didn't have time to answer her question. A group of men had appeared from where they had presumably been hiding. Knowing that this couldn't mean anything good, Danny gritted his teeth and stepped protectively in front of Mary.
"Get inside." he whispered to her, keeping his eyes on the strange men.
"You Danny McCoy?" one of the men demanded.
"Who wants to know?" Danny fired back, getting into a fighting stance.
"Danny." Mary pleaded quietly, putting a hand on her friend's shoulders.
"Get out of here." Danny repeated, glancing back at her.
"That's him." another one of the men confirmed, looking at some sort of paper in his hands. "Matches the picture perfectly."
"What do you assholes want?" Danny demanded, wishing that Mary would follow his instructions and get to safety.
"You." the first man answered, crossing his arms across his chest as the third and fourth man approached Danny. "Now, we can do this two ways: the easy way or the hard way?"
"Given those choices..." Danny shrugged before punching one of the men. As the other approached, McCoy managed to grab him by his neck and slam his head into the trunk of a nearby car. "Is that all you guys got?"
"Get him!" the first man encouraged as the second man rushed Danny.
This man was bigger and had more muscle than Danny, but McCoy was quicker. The burly man threw a punch at him with all of his might, but Danny managed to dodge it. A second punch quickly followed the first, directed at the abdomen, but he managed to catch this one right before it struck him.
"Danny!" Mary suddenly called out, earning Danny's immediate attention. His brown eyes widened with horror as he noticed the goon he had punched earlier was now holding onto the red-haired woman.
"Mary!" a worried Danny exclaimed, allowing the giant of a man in front of him to get a free shot to the stomach. Letting out a groan, McCoy doubled over in pain. "Ain't so tough now, are you?" the man whose head Danny had slammed into the car commented, holding an old tail pipe he had procured from somewhere. Mary could barely watch as the man swung the pipe like a bat, hitting Danny in the side of the head.
"Danny!" she screamed as she watched her friend fall to the side, blood beginning to trickle down from his temple. Tears began to trickle down her cheeks. "DANNY!"
"Shut up, bitch!" the first man ordered, walking past Danny, who was still on the ground but had rolled onto his stomach, and backhanding her across the face. If the man behind her hadn't been holding her up, Mary probably would have fallen to the ground herself.
"Mary!" an incensed Danny growled, immediately getting to his feet. The man with the pipe and the burly man grabbed his arms before he could do any damage. "You son of a bitch! I'll make you..."
"Man in your position shouldn't make threats." the first man interrupted, hitting him in the stomach with the pipe. Groaning, Danny tried to double over in pain, but found it nearly impossible with the two men holding onto his arms so tight. He had barely enough time to deal with the pain in his stomach when he felt the man in front of him punch him square in the jaw. "You'd better be worth a good payoff with all of the trouble you've caused us."
"Danny..." Mary whimpered from where she stood helplessly by.
"Shut it!" the man holding Mary ordered, holding onto her tighter. He looked at the man in front of Danny. "Hadn't we better wrap this up? You-Know-Who said that we didn't want to have to deal with Deline."
"Yeah," the first man laughed, reaching into his back pocket. "And the boss seems to know what he's talking about, since he said that this one would be a problem."
"Who are you working for?" Danny demanded, looking at the man in front of him right in the eyes.
"You'll find out soon enough." the first man promised wickedly, plunging a syringe into Danny's neck. "But first, it's nighty-night time for you, pretty boy."
"No!" a horrified Mary gasped as she watched Danny slowly lose consciousness and become limp in the arms of the men holding him.
"Load him in the van!" the first man ordered, nodding his head behind him. "Make sure his restraints are on tight, in case he wakes up during his little trip."
"Right." the men holding Danny nodded as they dragged his limp body away.
"What have you bastards done to him?" a tearful Mary demanded, struggling to get away from the man holding her. She had to help Danny!
"Relax, babe." the first man promised, sticking the syringe into Mary's neck and injecting her with whatever liquid was left. "He's no longer your concern."
"We really just going to leave her here?" the other man asked, letting Mary slowly fall to the floor. "The boss told us not to leave any witnesses behind."
"Exactly." the first man replied, pulling a pistol out of his friend's back pocket and tossing it to him. "It sucks that a pretty girl like her has to die, but..." Footsteps were suddenly heard, fast approaching the pair from the other side of the door. "Shit! Get to the van!"
"You bastards!" Ed growled as the door to the casino suddenly flew open. As the two thugs turned and started running for their getaway car, the gray-haired man gave chase with a look of murder in his blue eyes. "Get your asses back here!"
"Mary!" a worried Mike exclaimed as he followed in Ed's wake. However, unlike the older man, the bald, African American man stopped and knelt down by his redheaded friend. Gently, he grabbed her shoulders and shook her, trying to wake her up. "Mary! Come on, baby!" Hearing the sounds of rubber squealing against the pavement, he looked up. "Ed!"
"Damn it!" Deline's loud, frustrated voice echoed through the parking lot in response. As he walked back towards Mike and the unconscious Mary, he sighed and shook his head. "I couldn't get to them in time. How is she?"
"She's been drugged." Mike replied, shaking his own head. "No telling how long she'll be out." He got to his feet and looked at Ed. "Shouldn't we go after those guys, Mr. D.? My car's not too far..."
"Nah," Ed interrupted, still staring in the direction the van had gone. "Our first priority is to get Mary somewhere safe and checked out by a doctor. Danny will be all right for now"
"In here!" Ed instructed, opening the door to his office so that Mike, who was right behind him, would have no problem carrying the still unconscious Mary in. Aware of the awkward stares many of his employees sending him, Deline quickly followed Mike inside, letting the door slam shut behind him. "Set her down on the couch." He immediately headed for his desk and picked up the telephone. "Yeah, I need the hotel doctor up here immediately. Thanks, sweetheart."
"Shouldn't we call the cops?" Mike asked, looking from Mary to Ed.
"What in the hell for?" Ed fired back.
"Uh, call me crazy," Mike replied sarcastically, "But so they can go after those guys and rescue Danny before something happens to him?"
"No cops." Ed vehemently shook his head. "We can handle this, Mikey."
"My mistake." Mike muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes for emphasis. Admittedly, he didn't know why he had expected a different answer as Ed (and Danny too) NEVER called the cops in a situation like this. However, Cannon found himself worrying about his friend's safety, so the answer still irritated him.
"Why don't you..." Ed started before finding himself being interrupted by the telephone. "Hold that thought. Hello?"
"It's been too long, Ed." an obviously mechanically disguised voice replied from the other line.
"Who the hell is this?" Ed demanded, not feeling up to any games.
"You know who I am. I'm the person that's got your protégé."
"What do you want?" Ed said through gritted teeth, gripping the phone tighter. It took everything the older man had not to start cussing this mystery person out.
"You'll find that out in time." the voice reassured, "As well as how to get your Danny Boy back."
"Who..." was all Ed managed to say before hearing a dial tone from the other line. Letting out a growl of frustration, he slammed the phone back down on his desk. "That mother..."
"Who was that?" a curious Mike asked as the door to the office opened.
"Is it true?" Sam asked, looking back and forth at Mike and Ed.
"Who got attacked in the parking lot?" a more-to-the-point Delinda added, following the raven-haired casino host inside. However, her question was answered the minute she spotted Mary lying on the couch. "Oh my God! MARY!"
"Mary?" a surprised Sam repeated, looking over to the couch herself. "What...Who..."
"Who would do this to her?" Delinda interrupted, kneeling down next to red-haired woman and stroking her hair. "Mary's never harmed anyone."
"Sweetheart..." Ed began but found himself trailing off.
"Where's Danny?" Delinda asked, thinking about her current boyfriend and his close friendship with Mary. She looked around the office as if Ed and Mike were stashing him somewhere. "Is he already out hunting down the guys that did this?" Upon noticing that Mike was unwilling to meet her eyes, she turned towards her father. "Daddy, please tell me that he knows what happened."
"That's just the thing, sweetheart." Ed sighed, walking over and putting his hands on his daughter's shoulders. Instantly, Delinda stood up again. "Mary wasn't the intended victim. Danny was."
"Danny?" Delinda repeated slowly as if she didn't understand Ed.
"Well, where is he?" a concerned Sam asked, "Is he all right? He's not hurt too badly, is he?"
"We don't know." Mike sighed, putting his arms around Sam.
"What do you mean you don't know?" a tearful Delinda replied, looking into her father's eyes. "Daddy? Where's Danny?"
"I'm afraid that he's been kidnapped, honey." Ed replied, taking Delinda's hands in his own and kissing them. "But don't worry, all right? I promise you that I'm going to get him back. He's going to be all right."
"I know." Delinda nodded through her tears. "I know you will." She turned her attention back to Mary. "You have to, Daddy."
"Mike." Ed said suddenly, looking at Delinda and Mary.
"Yeah, Mr. D.?" Mike asked from where he was comforting Sam.
"See to things around here, will you?" Ed instructed, heading for the door to his office. "I've got some ideas about who may have done this that I want to check out."
"You got it." Mike nodded his head.
To be continued...