Chapter 15

When the thrashing of Danny and Fedora's limbs, barely visible in the dark waters, had ceased Ed feared the worst. For a few tense moments everything became deathly still, but just as Ed grabbed the rail to hurl himself overboard Danny's head popped up, gasping for breath and looking around to get his bearings.

"Danny!"

"Thanks," the young man managed to say between gasps for air as Ed leaned over the swim ladder. The older man reached as far as he could with an outstretched hand to help the soaked marine back onboard.

"Either I am seriously out of shape or that guy was jacked up on something." Danny said, still trying to catch his breath.

"That something is piled up in one of the staterooms down in the cabin. It must be worth millions. "Ed retorted as they made their way over and knelt next to Mike who was propped up against a storage bench. His hand was covering his leg wound and he still seemed a little confused by what had just happened.

"Damn, man. I thought you were a goner." Mike finally squeaked.

"Can't get rid of me that easy." Danny grinned as he and Ed inspected Mike's leg.

"Just a flesh wound." Ed stated matter of fact and Danny quickly agreed. Mike peered down at his leg anxiously. It was killing him but the bleeding didn't seem too bad.

"You clean up the boat and I'll dress his wound." Ed looked at Danny who was already scanning the area for the first aid kit. "It's in the cabin." Ed jerked his head towards the steps, their minds working in tandem.

Once Danny retrieved the small white box and passed it to Ed he began hauling packets of fine white powder up from the cabin, ripping them open and dumping them around the boat. Ed worked quickly to bandage up Mikes leg and told the younger man to stay put as he helped Danny open the storage benches along the deck. Together they dumped some of the contents onto the highly waxed teak, adding to the mess that already littered the luxury yacht.

"Drug deal gone bad?"

"Yep."

"The dinghy has a trolling motor."

"Good. "

"Almost done here."

"That should do it. "

Mike sat completely still, mesmerized by Ed and Danny's quick actions, his mind unable to register their unspoken plan. Then he felt Danny's hand squeeze his shoulder as they walked past him toward the cabin.

"Sit tight, Mikey. We'll be right back. "

As Mike watched the two men disappear down the stairs, he couldn't help but wonder. They seemed so sure of themselves; like they knew exactly what they were doing. Had they discussed it and he just missed it somehow? The two men seemed to communicate with barely a word and anticipate each other's actions. It wasn't until they hauled up two gas cans and began pouring the fuel over the deck that Mike finally realized what they had planned. The reality of what they were about to do made him sick to his stomach. No, no. I've been watching too many crime shows; we are not going to torch this boat. Mike tried to convince himself as he looked at his friends, then thought of the men whose lifeless bodies were still aboard.

------

"Ness? Ed? We're home!" Jillian called out happily into the empty hallway. "We have a little girl here who wants to see her papa!" Jillian smiled at Sophie who ran down the hall toward the kitchen, calling for her grandfather.

"Ed? Nessa?" The older woman called out again, this time her voice laced with concern. Ed and Nessa both said they would be here tonight since it would be Sophie's first night home after spending time with her mother in California.

After hanging up their coats in the foyer Jillian heard Nessa's soft voice float down the hallway. She smiled as Nessa came walking down the hall, smothering the little girl in her arms with kisses.

"I missed you so much, peanut." Nessa cooed to Sophie.

"Papa?" The toddler asked questioningly, her dark brown eyes never leaving her aunt's face as she wrapped a piece of hair around her small finger.

"Papa had to run to the store, he'll be back soon." Nessa smiled at Sophie before turning her gaze to Jillian.

That one look was all it took for Jillian to see that her daughter was lying.

-----

"Wh-What are you doing?" Mike swallowed hard, trying to push back the bile in his throat.

Ed and Danny stared at each other before resuming their work. "We don't have a choice, Mike." Danny said somewhat regretfully.

Mortified, Mike watched both men spread fuel throughout the boat before Danny turned his back, hoping to shield the injured man from seeing him splash more liquid onto one of the bodies.

"No way! You can't-" Mike's desperate plea was cut off by Danny's stern reply.

"Our DNA is all over this boat. There is no other choice."

"We could…" Mike stuttered, but was quickly cut off by Danny.

"We could what?" All of the day's tension suddenly rose to the surface and Danny snapped. He was tired, his shoulder and arm hurt, and all he wanted to do was get back to Vegas. Listening to Mike whining was the last straw.

"We could call the police and tell them we just happened to be out fishing, without a fishing boat, and took down a major drug dealer? Or we could call the police and tell them we took down Fedora and his men ourselves? I don't think the State of Nevada would look kindly on our act of vigilante justice and I sure as hell am not going to jail for this!" Danny yelled in frustration.

Ed quickly tried to diffuse the situation. He realized that the gravity of what just happened and its potential repercussions must be weighing heavily on the young father's mind. "Boys, settle down. We've gotta get off this boat. Danny, help me get him to the dinghy."

Ed put a comforting arm on Danny and led him over to where Mike was sitting. Within minutes they were safely away from the Big Bang, headed toward shore as the bright orange and yellow flames began to engulf the beautiful yacht.

"Alright, just get back here. I'll have Frank and John take care of your car." Jillian took a deep breath as she set the phone onto its charger.

"Well?" Nessa asked quietly. Her arms wrapped around her middle, worry marring her pretty features.

"They're on their way home. Mike has a graze on his leg but they are all okay." Jillian smiled and began gathering supplies to treat Mike's leg wound. Nessa had filled her in on the events of the day as soon as they had gotten Sophie settled. Jillian had listened intently as Nessa told her about Mike's search for more evidence against the man who had killed his cousin and Ed and Danny's separate insistence on following him.

Half an hour later she had sent Nessa with Sophie to Sam's for a sleep over despite Nessa's objections. Firmly stating it was not negotiable, Jillian had sent them away, determined to keep her daughter and granddaughter as far from this situation as possible. Shortly after that she heard Mike's car pull up with Danny following behind in Sam's convertible. As the men made their way inside Jillian ushered them into the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen. She had covered a chaise lounge with a blanket and without hesitation began to cut away at Mike's pant leg.

"Uh, Mrs. D-" Mike looked at Ed and Danny with uncertainty.

"Just shut up and let her look at it." Ed gruffed.

"It's just a flesh wound." Jillian said after cleaning the area with stinky antiseptic. "A few stitches and you'll be good as new." Mike could feel his anxiety levels rising as he watched the older woman begin to lay out what looked like fishing line, a hook and some gauze bandages.

"Ouch! Don't I need to go to the hospital?"

"Hospitals, ER's, Urgent Care…they all have to report gunshot wounds. I'll have you stitched up in no time and you can see our doctor on Monday." Jillian replied in a calm voice.

"I don't mean to sound ungrateful but can't you call him now? This hurts like hell!" Mike looked at the curved needle and his fear of shiny metal objects imbedding, slicing or stabbing into his skin made him pale. "I don't want to do this! " Mike began to whine and started to move around like an antsy child.

"If you are going to play with the big boys then you better learn to take your lumps." Jillian's tone was purposely harsh, the desired affect immediate as Mike stopped moving, chastened by her reprimand.

"Dr. Warren is working in the ER tonight and I am not calling in a favor or risk you getting caught over a little scrape." Jillian's tone softened as she turned her attention to Danny.

"You're shivering. Go take a hot shower, I laid some clothes out for you in the spare room. Pizza will be here in 10 minutes. I recorded the basketball games, Michigan State is leading Gonzaga 52 to 23. It will give you something to talk to the pizza boy about."

Danny just nodded his head in thanks and Ed gave his wife a grateful smile. As he watched her skillfully begin to close the wound Ed swore she was more beautiful today than the day he married her.

There were so many times people discounted his wife, looking at the pretty package on the outside and never noticing the tough layer underneath. It was easy to just pass her off as the trophy wife of a wealthy, ex-CIA agent turned casino boss. Few seemed to know this side of her, the woman who didn't rattle easy, who could keep your darkest secrets. She was one of the strongest people he knew and for a moment he wondered if even Delinda knew how special her mother was.

When he noticed Mike watching them with obvious confusion, Ed cocked his head to the side, silently giving him permission to speak.

"I don't get it. Why does Danny want to speak with the pizza boy?" Mike bit his lip when he felt a tug as Jillian tied off the string.

"To establish an alibi." Ed frowned at the injured man, trying to remind himself not to be too hard on him. Mike did not have any military or police training, no cause in his childhood to develop street smarts that would allow him the thought processes that came with handling situations like tonight. Definitely not experience in covering up any wrongdoing of this magnitude.

"Ed, why don't you get changed? Then you can help Mike, we're almost done here." Jillian smiled at her husband then turned her attention back to her patient.

"Thanks, Mrs D. That didn't hurt as much as I thought."

"I have had practice." Jillian said dryly, a little miffed at the surprise she heard in Mike's voice over her abilities. "I keep extra penicillin around, just in case. Take one of these now, then twice a day until they're gone. I'll get you some water." After handing over the small brown bottle, she gracefully stood and made her way into the kitchen.

Mike sat on the chaise completely miserable. Everyone had risked so much and all he seemed to be doing was complaining about getting hurt. He had apologized profusely to Ed and Danny once they reached the parking lot but it hadn't stopped him from acting like an idiot again. It was bad enough how he had acted on the boat but now he had offended Jillian too. Taking a shaky breath he watched her return with a glass of water.

"Mrs. D… I am sorry. I'm sorry for acting like a baby, for involving all of you in this. I don't know what to say."

Jillian put her hand on Mike's healthy leg and patted it gently. "It's okay Mike. What comes around goes around. I am sure you have helped Ed out of some tight spots before."

Mike laughed, the break in tension lifting his spirits. "Yeah, I guess I have."

Upstairs Danny showered and changed quickly, keeping one ear out for the doorbell signaling the pizza delivery. He hadn't called Mary on the way in case someone checked his cell phone records and was able to tell he had not been at Ed's the entire night.

He didn't give much thought to the fact that Jillian had kept a pair of track pants and old sweatshirt he must have left here years ago. He was just grateful she had. The old clothes were soft and warm, a small comfort to his aching shoulder and arm. Bruises peppered his torso and he had a small cut on his upper lip. Thankfully it wouldn't be very noticeable to the casual observer. On the other hand, Mike and Ed would need to come up with a good story for their bumps and bruises. Deciding to worry about that later he picked up the bedroom extension and dialed Sam's number.

As he waited for the other line to ring he ran his fingers over the ends of the two pins that were sticking out at the back of his elbow. He had forgotten they were there until Ed had checked him over once they got back to their cars, concerned Danny had further injured himself in the fight with Burly. With all of the adrenaline coursing through his system while they were on the boat Danny had forgotten about the pins. The first two men he had taken out were easy, they hit the ground before they even knew he was there. Burly, however, was a different story. It was more luck than his skill that had allowed him to win that fight. The bigger man had slipped on the wet deck and once they were both on the ground Danny was able to use his legs rather than his weakened arm to subdue the man.

Ed had looked his arm over closely, pointing out how lucky he was that the pins still seemed secure. It was then that Danny's mind registered they were still there. Yep, they sure are, Danny mused as he rubbed his fingers over the ends of them one more time. He wondered if there was any way to get a cast or new splint on his arm before his wife saw it.

Danny smiled when he remembered how he felt when Ed showed so much concern regarding his welfare. Sure Mary would make a fuss over him sometimes but it was a different feeling you get when it's your parent–or someone like a parent. It had made Danny feel safe and reassured, like when his mother would put his favorite snoopy band-aid on even the tiniest of cuts.

Danny took a swig of the beer Ed had handed him when he came upstairs earlier. He needed to get back downstairs but first he needed to speak to Mary, his limbs protesting as he bent over to stretch his back.

As soon as Mary picked up the other line Danny felt his whole body relax and he collapsed into the bedside chair.

"Hi babe, it's me. We're back and everything is okay."

"Oh, thank god Danny. I was so worried when Nessa came over……she tried not to show it but I could tell something was wrong."

"Everything is fine now, I promise. I'll explain it all when I get home. Are you feeling okay? How is Ryan? Did he have fun tonight?'

Mary heard the fatigue in her husband's voice and obliged his change of subject. Explanations would come later, right now she was just content he was okay.

"We played in the pool, played with Reggie. I called Lily to make sure Max was okay, she taught him to 'speak'.

"He knows how to 'speak'". Danny absently rubbed his shoulder, picturing his large German Shepherd in his mind.

"Not like this. He sounds like he is howling!" Her laugh was infectious and Danny wished he could reach out and touch her through the phone line. "Lily says he misses us."

"We'll get him soon." Danny managed to say. For some reason he just couldn't say 'we'll be home soon'. It raised too many questions of where is home? Tahoe? Las Vegas? At this point he was too tired to analyze his feelings, he just wanted his family to be together, the rest would work itself out.

"Mare, I gotta get downstairs but I'll call you soon. I won't be much later."

"I love you Danny."

"I love you too Mare."