Chapter Twenty-Five: Turquoise
Chapter Twenty-Five: Turquoise
The air was arid and thick with a heaviness that only spelled an impeding change. Brennan could feel it weigh down her shoulders as she stepped from the dusty and decrepit van that the locals called "taxi." She gave the cautious driver a large sum of money for transporting her from the outskirts of Jameenza to the Gates. He stared at the establishment behind Brennan, looked over the money, and promptly sped away from the site. After a thick cloud of dust settled, Brennan pulled out the only weapon the Black Commanders did not seize. She efficiently checked the chambers and switched off the safety of the Colt Booth gave her, and she thanked her common sense for not leaving it in the jeep when they entered Jameenza. She did not want to use the gun so soon in her plan to get Booth and Zach back. It was not meant for anyone inside the Gates. Putting the weapon behind her jean waistband, she felt a tremor of adrenaline course through her veins. The night air of the desert would have chilled anyone, but Brennan was burning with a sense of purpose and fear, though it wasn't because of what she was about to do. Her near-terror came from the knowledge that she might not be able to save her family.
Her hand went to the thick leather case containing thousands of dollars of her own money that she wired days earlier from Washington, in case there was an emergency. Booth had assured her she wouldn't need it. In a grim, ironic way, she was glad she hadn't listened to him.
Of course, you neglect to remember that your grand plan will get you killed.
If Booth disliked Brennan's notion of going to Iraq alone (which he did) then he would despise Brennan's new plan with every fiber of his being. She knew this: she of course, didn't care. She had come to the Gates for an informant. Someone had to know where the Black Commanders compound was, and she was willing to pay all she had for that information. She also understood that she would have to go alone. No sane civilian would tempt to bring forth the fury of the radical terrorist group. Bren, you also forget that the people inside may not know where this place is. Lt. Don King had thought the Black Commanders had died out. Surely others also think that, too. Brennan shook her head. There were so many 'ifs' in her strategy. She supposed, though, that having too many 'ifs' was far better than having no plan at all.
Obtaining the location would be difficult; the second part of her grand scheme would be damn near impossible. The only thing Brennan could take comfort in was that it was simple enough. Once she arrived at the compound, she would go in, preferably undetected, and rescue Booth and Zach.
And shoot anyone who tried to stop her.
You're dead. You only have 6 bullets and another cartridge. You're dead. Not only that, they might be dead already. More than likely, really. If only you had some help…
But I have to try. I owe them that much.
Brennan studied the outside of the Gates, and found only three vehicles. Her eyes rested briefly on a jeep that appeared familiar, but moved on soon after. Seeing none that appeared to be an enemy, she strode up the stairs and into the barroom.
What she saw shocked her: then she was infuriated.
Where in the hell did he come from?
Disregarding her earlier declaration not to use the gun so soon, she pulled it out and stated icily, "You'll get gangrene soon."
She heard the man in the corner sigh as he slammed on the table a plastic container of rubbing alcohol. He was feverish, and sweat dampened the hair around his temples and forehead. She could tell he was in a great deal of pain. Good. I hope it burns like acid. Roman Proditorson drawled, "Lady, I know how to take care of a gunshot wound without it rotting. After all, I've kept you're boy scientist's bullet wound from getting rank."
Brennan saw shades of red. She shook, "You've betrayed us. About everything. You are the reason why Zach was taken, and why he's in pain." She saw movement out of the corner of her eye as the Gates only patron and bartender slipped out the front door. Smart. They sense a fight coming. If I were them, I would leave, too.
Roman took out a roll of gauze and said casually, "It's part of the business."
"If it's all just business, I'll pay you to take me to Booth and Zach," Brennan proposed steadily. "Trust me, I can afford it."
Roman grabbed a bloodied bullet from a tin bowl and replied, "In case you're wondering how I got this sucker embedded in my foot, that asshole Booth ratted me out about how I helped him seventeen years ago. I cannot afford to piss those bastards off again."
"That's ridiculous! What makes you think they'll keep you in 'business' after all that? You have to know they're through with you!"
Roman remained silent for a moment as he took a shot of vodka. He answered evenly, "You don't understand how things work out here. Go back home, where you belong. Collect your losses. There is nothing left for you. Not here."
Brennan shook her head. "I can't do that." She motioned with her weapon, "Take me to the Black Commanders."
Roman wasn't fazed. "You won't shoot me. I have the information you want, and trust me, very few know what I know." He stood up, to Brennan's surprise. "Come on," he said. "Give me your best shot."
There's no one else around who can take me to the Black Commanders. We're at a stalemate…unless I fight him. He has the warrior mentality. If I defeat him…I might be able to make him tell me that way.
Damn. There's that 'if' and 'might' again.
She placed the gun on a table. "I won't shoot you. But I'm going to make you wish I did."
He laughed. "Okay, bitch. You asked for it."
His hands were tied tightly behind his back; he could feel the coarse rope bite and cut into his wrists to the point where the skin began to flay. He had been stripped down to his boxers and a white beater. Before him was a steel tub filled with water. Shabandar motioned to the two men holding Booth's arms with a flick of a hand, and before he could react, his head was forced into the water.
It had begun.
Brennan marched toward Roman, aiming for a kick to the stomach. Her hands were up, protecting her face. She called forth years of practice in kickboxing and jujitsu and controlled a small smirk as her opponent left himself wide open. He threw a punch, but Brennan blocked it easily. She kicked upwards with such speed that any other person would have been knocked down.
She wasn't counting on Roman catching her leg. He smiled, and with sudden strength, threw her onto her back. She felt the air whoosh out if her lungs as her back made contact with the hardwood floor. Roman wasted no time hitting her while she was down, and she felt several painful kicks to the ribs. The force he had exhibited, even though he was clearly wounded, stunned her.
He backed off, saying, "Get up. That was only round one, sugar."
His lungs began to burn, and a vivid blue haze clouded his thoughts. He tried to force his head over the water, but he was shoved roughly, and ultimately, further down. Panic broke through a cemented stoic exterior, and he began to kick out blindly. He felt someone punch him in his kidneys, and he involuntary gasped. Lukewarm, dirty water invaded his mouth and throat.
They have to let me up soon.
I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die.
Bones! I need you…
I'd give anything to see them one more time…
Brennan rose to her feet, and took a more defensive posture. Roman studied her stance for a moment, stepped forward and threw another punch toward her temple. Brennan blocked it once more, and blocked the additional left hook Roman threw. She jabbed him in the nose with her elbow, and satisfaction bloomed inside her as she felt the cartilage crack. To her shock, he merely blinked twice and charged her. She felt his arms crush around her waist and she was lifted like a rag doll. Roman slammed Brennan on top of a table, which once again left her momentarily breathless. He smacked her hard across the mouth, and she could taste liquid copper. She kicked him in the stomach, which allowed her enough time to roll off the table. As soon as her feet touched ground, however, he kicked behind her left knee, which sent her into a semi-crouching position. He promptly struck her down to the floor by chopping the back of her neck with his hand. As the room spun, she caught a wave of pain flash across his face for putting so much strain on his injured foot. Broken thoughts raced through her mind.
Get his foot. It's the only way you can get him.
You let Booth and Zach down.
FIGHT DAMN IT: FIGHT!
She spat out a mouthful of blood, and tried to gain a sitting position. Roman shoved her back down roughly and got to his knees. "You're pathetic," he snarled. He smacked her once again across the face as he climbed on top of her. She threw a straight punch toward his Adam's apple, but he caught her fist within his. He grabbed her other arm and slowly lowered them to the ground, where he used the weight of his knees and body as a restraint. She tried to throw him off by using her own weight, but found he was too strong. She started to scream, even though she knew, no one would come.
"Shut your mouth!" he demanded. He hit her once more across the eye. "We let you go, you stupid bitch! Do you know what the Black Commanders do to women hostages? Huh?? How about I show you!" He grabbed the front of her shirt and ripped it savagely, showing part of her bra and pale skin. Brennan struggled furiously, and a near animalistic fervor invaded Roman's body. More recklessly, he fumbled with the button and zipper on her jeans. She smelled sweat and blood mingled together in a rank combination and heard Roman's harsh, loud breathing in her ear as he tried to pull down his pants, all the while managing to keep her pinned down with his weight. As he yanked her jeans down to her knees he accidentally let loose one of her arms.
It was all she needed.
The blurry images fogging his thoughts became a vibrant, beautiful turquoise. Almost absurdly, he realized the wonderful hue was identical to Brennan's eyes when she became very, very, angry.
Water filled his lungs.
She sucker-punched Roman in the groin. Twice. A guttural moan rose from his mouth as he doubled over. She promptly threw him off her body, and brought her hand down on his gunshot wound. He cried out fiercely as she pulled her pants back up. Her face was flushed with fury and a newfound determination as she kicked Roman multiple times in the thighs and ribs. "You're gonna regret doing that," she threatened, "you disgusting pig!"
Booth was thrown out of the water. He collapsed to his knees, gasping and choking for air.
She stomped his gunshot wound three more times, knowing full well that she was breaking additional bones. Every time he lifted his face from his shielding arms, she struck him down. "Tell me where they are!" she demanded. "TELL ME!"
Booth sputtered between gulps of air, "Where's Zach? Let me see him. Let me know he's okay…that he's alive—"
Shabandar strode over to Booth, with a hose in hand. "You do not speak." He raised the stiff rubber above his head and brought down on Booth's back. He cried out and nearly spasmed from the stunning force. The hose struck Booth again, and again, and again…
In a last ditch effort, Roman grabbed the leg of a chair and threw it at Brennan. She jumped away in time, but the sudden lapse in beating allowed her opponent to get to his feet. He was breathing raggedly, and blood from numerous cuts and scratched oozed forth. He was slumped, and his arms hung loosely at his sides. Brennan felt her own strength worn, and she was standing on swaying legs. She could feel that her face was puffy, and one of her eyes was beginning to swell shut. She needed to end this. Now. As if answering her thoughts, Roman charged her once more. Recalling a defense maneuver Booth taught her, she turned away from him and bent over. He tried to wrap her arms around her neck: she gripped his arm and by using his weight against himself, she flipped him over. He landed on his back and hit the table where Brennan's discarded weapon lay. Knowing he was at the end of his rope, he reached frantically for the Colt, since he had abandoned his weapon at the beginning of the fight, too. Brennan reacted speedily, and immediately thrust another bone-snapping stomp unto his wounded foot. He screamed and clutched his foot as agony rocked his very core. Brennan snatched the gun from the table.
She had won.
"Tell me," she huffed as she cocked the gun, "where they are. Because at this point, I have no problem putting another bullet in your foot."
"Psycho whore!" he spat. She smiled sweetly at him. "Where is the location, Roman. I have six bullets, and there are plenty of places on your body that I can shoot, and it won't kill you. Not immediately, anyway."
"You shoot me, you won't know where they are. Ever!" he challenged.
Her smile vanished, and she informed him cruelly, "I will shoot you dead if you don't tell me. The way I figure it, if you refuse to tell me what I need, Booth and Zach are dead. I won't find anyone else in time. I might as well exact justice. Painfully and willingly. It's you're choice. Live and tell me where they are, or die…with your ass kicked by a woman."
He gnashed his teeth and punched the floor, understanding she was a woman with nothing left to lose, and that made her dangerous and true to her word. Roman gave in, and shaking with indignation and anger, whispered, "20 minutes west."
"I want your jeep."
"I walked miles to retrieve that vehicle after Shabandar gave me the boot. You are not—"
She fired a warning shot into the floor.
Roman stared at her. "The keys are on the back table with the medicine supplies." Brennan backed up several steps, all the while training her eyes on Roman for sudden movement. She swiped keys to his jeep, and took the only gun he had brought into the bar. She knew the jeep would be loaded with weapons, and it gave her a small confidence boost.
"Guess what else is going with me to make sure I get to the right place," she stated as she yanked Roman to his feet, and commanded, "you are."
Shabandar tossed the bloodied hose in the corner.
"Got a question for you." Booth croaked. He shook from exhaustion and pain. "When you look in the mirror, does your reflection duck? You're what we call fugly."
Shabandar's hands clutched into tight little balls. He brought his fist down across Booth's jaw. There was a long sigh from Booth as pain escaped him, and he fell into the soothing abyss of unconsciousness.
Brennan trained her firearm on Roman's head as the Jeep sped through the desert. She realized soon enough that her passenger was nearly out of commission. He leaned dangerously close to the doorless opening of the jeep, and she saw tremors of exhaustion ripple under his skin. She felt no guilt for targeting his wounded foot; it had saved her life, and it may save Booth's and Zach's.
Cradling her satellite phone between her ear and her shoulder, she called Base Salinger. She pressed the gas harder, and drove towards the west.
She was patched once again to civilian services. "I need to speak with Lt. Don King NOW!" she barked.
"Ma'am, you need to calm yourself—"
"No, you need to listen to me! Get him on the phone, now! I called hours ago for Christ sake's! I'm no one new."
"I bet he is," she stated coolly. "You let him know that Dr. Brennan found the Black Commanders compound. 20 minutes due west from the Gates. They have two American hostages. You let him know I'm going in by myself." She slammed the phone shut and within seconds, a single light shone from the darkness.
"That's it," Roman pointed. "It's a campfire. Tucked into that rising hill is a concrete building, no lights on the outside. Once you get in, though, it's well-lit. There's no place to hide."
She turned her head toward Roman. "Either you jump out willingly, or I shoot you now. I don't need you anymore." She slowed down to 20 miles per hour. "I'd prefer not to kill you."
He pointed at her. "You're going to die. They will kill you the minute you walk in."
"We'll see about that." Without waiting to see his choice, she lifted her leg from the gas pedal and kicked Roman out of the jeep. He fell with a thud and rolled twenty feet before stopping. As the jeep picked up speed, Roman found that for the second time that day, he was stranded in the middle of the desert.