A/N: I must admit that I am shocked that there are still those out there taking a real interest in this story. For that I thank you. I can't see too many more chapters left. I'm in the process of wrapping things up so things have to get stepped up a notch. Sorry if this chapter reads a little rushed. I have so little time any more so my apologies. Any mistakes are mine. No need to tell me, I already know. Enjoy!
Parker felt her heart speeding up with each passing moment. She wondered how Griffin did things such as this on a regular basis. Her stomach churned out of control. There were various knives tucked away in the dark cargo pants she wore and silently she prayed that she would not have to put them to use. Parker was second guessing her decision to be included even though she knew she couldn't leave Griffin to perform the brunt of things.
Currently, Jack, Griffin and herself were hidden behind massive bushes. A single set of binoculars were being shared between the three and every now and then, they'd peak over at a building that was currently experiencing a lot of traffic. Being that they were dressed in black, atop a hill, they were well unnoticed. Parker should have felt alright about their hiding spot but she did not. Her hands shook as she grasped the binoculars Jack passed to her.
The tremor did not go unnoticed to Griffin as he surveyed both the spot where Alaster Fleming allegedly was and Parker. His doubts about involving her still rang within him, but ultimately it would have come to this moment. He snuck a look as Parker whipped her head around them, in a paranoid way, before putting the binoculars to her eyes. The memory of her hug flashed in his mind without his control. Griffin gave his head a small shake.
He couldn't afford not to have his head in the game.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Jack, with a more tamed look, was hunched over. His shirt was free of rips, scrawl or pins and his pants matched in quite the same manner. He rubbed cold hands together and looked at Griffin.
Griffin shot him an annoyed look. "Of course this is the right place."
"Moscow? A Chinese restaurant in Moscow no less," Jack said surprised. "I didn't even know Moscowians had Chinese food."
Griffin muttered, "It astounds me how dim you are."
"Yeah well," Jack having caught what Griffin said raised a middle finger to him. "You could've at least gave us a heads up to grab coats for this little excursion. You've got little bit here shivering."
Griffin did not all together believe Parker was shivering due to the extreme cold they were exposed to. Parker hadn't batted an eye to their talk. The binoculars stayed glued to her eyes as she looked at what was before them.
"I thought Englishmen were supposed to be gentlemen," Jack scoffed.
"Shut it will you?" Griffin snatched the binoculars from Parker and spied things himself. "We aren't going to be out here for long."
"What's the plan," Parker asked trying to take her mind away from being nervous.
Griffin lowered the binoculars, looked at Parker and smirked. "Simple."
Jack shook his head. "I don't like the sound of this."
Parker bit her lip as she walked towards the entrance of the building. Her brown curls blew about her as the wind picked up. She chanced a glance behind her to where she knew Griffin and Jack were still hiding. Griffin no doubt watched her through the binoculars while Jack argued logistics of the plan. She was nothing but a mess of jitters but she was determined to not screw things up.
Parker went through the door and was meant with a cacophony of delightful smells. Just as predicted by the shuffle, the place was packed wall to wall. Scooting and squeezing past folks talking and trying to figure out what they wanted, Parker spotted a void in the crowd and filled it. She feigned studying the menu posted above heads. The plan was so simple Parker was more than sure it wasn't going to work.
"Chink yeda dovolʹno khorosha!"
Parker looked over at the heavyset man who had uttered words she was sure had been a racist remark. He was with another man of equal weight. Parker knew they had to be nice and toasty with all their weight stuffed well into their thick coats. She wished she had a coat on, but with all the bodies around her and being in from the cold, she was beginning to warm up. Getting her head back into the game, she looked at who was working the counter.
One, two men. Both of which took orders nonstop and relayed them by yelling out food under numbers to those in the back. Parker took a quick head count of those who were patrons. Her eyes slipped to the visible kitchen behind the two men receiving orders. Small Chinese women ran around dumping pots filled with water over sinks and sautéing various foods in giant woks. Had she been in any other circumstance, Parker would have loved to sit and watch them cook.
It was damn near hypnotizing.
"UMPH!" Parker felt someone roughly bump into her. For a second, she felt the air leave her lungs in a rush and got instantly mad. With furrowed brows and an empty head, she forgot what was to occur until she looked over and saw both Griffin and Jack.
"Sorry sweetheart," Griffin apologized. He stared at her as if waiting for something.
Parker touched both hands to her cheeks twice, and then a solid finger swiped itself against her left cheek. Two fingers she rubbed on her ear and she placed her palm over her heart. "It's okay," she said breathlessly.
Griffin nodded his head. Message received.
"Twenty one in, two behind the counter, five in the kitchen." Griffin inconspicuously relayed the information to Jack. He pushed past the crowd and brushed against her with Jack following a few paces behind. He whispered to her, "Action."
Silently, Parker sent up a prayer before she let out a shrill scream. All attention in the room turned to her in an instant.
"That man! That man right there!" She pointed a finger towards the man whom she thought was racist. Parker screamed again. The two men behind the counter stopped taking orders to look over.
"He-he touched my ass!" Parker looked in the direction of Jack and Griffin and saw them slink towards the kitchen. For dramatic effect she patted the back pockets of her cargo pants. "My wallet is gone now! It's gone!"
The man being accused looked confused. Parker continued to wave her finger in his direction. Others looked on at the man, some from disgust or confusion.
"Thief!" Parker screamed. "Thief!"
"Ty, suka!" The man bellowed, clearly enraged that he was being accused. Whether or not he understood Parker, she didn't know.
"I'm no thief." The man's cheeks reddened. "Im ne vor!" He shoved past people and advanced towards Parker and as if she'd been a few blocks around the corner when it came to acting, she dropped like a hat. The place went silent. The man stopped in his tracks, just a few inches from Parker.
The entire kitchen was looking at the happenings in the front of the restaurant. The two small Chinese men came from behind the counter and crouched down before Parker. Other patrons looked at the man who made the slight American pass out with anger. Before a word could be said or any action could be taken, Jack appeared excusing himself to others. He knelt beside Parker and gently shook her shoulder.
"She's a friend," he explained quickly. With a nervous laugh, he asked the two men who'd been working the counter if they spoke any English. One of the two men nodded.
"He stole from her," the man who spoke English pointed up towards the gigantic red faced man. Jack followed the digit pointing towards the man and acted as if he was afraid.
"J-just keep it man." Without hesitation, he pulled Parker up by her elbow. "Time to wake up sleeping beauty," he muttered in her ear. With that cue, Parker popped her eyes open and let Jack usher her out the door.
"How'd I do?" Parker shook her hair out and posed the question once they were out of earshot and around the corner.
"Amazing. That shit was risky. Coulda went south real quick but we made it. Grif and I snuck into the kitchen with ease thanks to your awesome diversion. There's a secret elevator in their walk in fridge."
"Just when I thought I could stop being cold," Parker groaned. "Is he waiting for us?"
"Righto. Gotta make it quick. Come on." Jack pulled Parker through an alley and behind a dumpster. From there he jumped, and before she could blink Parker was standing before Griffin.
Her breath was visible in the walk in refrigerator and danced in front of her as she breathed.
Griffin gave her a smile that was barely there. "Let's not arse around about this." Griffin walked ahead of his two companions, leading them past multiple heads of lettuce and boxes of carrots. The elevator door was behind shelves of lifeless whole chickens, their heads still intact. Parker tried ignoring them while Griffin pressed the button and waited for the elevator to spring open.
Jack placed a hand on Parker's shoulder. The action reassured her, but the feeling of turmoil entered her stomach once more. The feeling she was getting was a bad one, but she choice not to voice her feelings. Griffin and Jack were with her, she'd be fine. The elevator opened up and Griffin stepped in first followed by Parker and then Jack.
Parker looked at Griffin and couldn't imagine how he stayed so calm. Their elevator ride was short lived and soon the doors opened up for them. They were meant with the sight of a wall made entirely of boxes.
"What the he-"
Griffin shot Jack a look that told him to shut his mouth. He stepped from the confines of the elevator and found that the wall of boxes was put in front of the entrance for a reason. Peering around, that reason became apparent. Parker followed but stopped behind Griffin when he quickly raised a hand to halt them from advancing further. Parker took a peak over Griffin's shoulder.
It was exactly what he'd said earlier.
Alaster Fleming had been found out.
"Mr. Cox," Parker whispered under her breath. She couldn't believe it. Parker heard Jack say something about not being able to catch a break. The image of her parents flashed within Parker's mind and an anger she'd never in her life felt before bubbled up within her.
"Fucking Roland." Griffin balled his hands into fists.
The trio watched behind the safety of boxes as Roland Cox raised a gun to Alaster Fleming, a man with little hair atop his head and short and stout in size. Over sized spectacles sat on the bridge of his nose and he was perched on a stool, appearing as if he did not care at all that he was being held hostage.
"I don't give a damn where you stand in this. All I know is if you won't help the right side, we've got a problem Mr. Fleming."
Parker heard the hate filled in Roland's voice and couldn't believe her parent's had once invited him into their home. She couldn't fathom that there was a time she passed him mash potatoes at the dinner table and laughed at his corny knock knock jokes. Parker dug in her pocket and took out of the knives secured there.
"He knows we're here," Griffin said to them.
"Roland?" Jack questioned while trying to stay still.
"No," Griffin shook his head. "Fleming."
"How do you know," Jack asked.
"Look at the bloke. He's been waiting."
"Where is it?" Roland cocked the hammer back on his gun.
"Look, I don't know. I've told your god damn monkeys that and now I'm telling you. Even if I did, I don't have the workings to get to it." Alaster tapped fingers against his thigh.
"You have to do something Griffin," Parker said. "He'll kill him. He'll kill him and we'll never get his help. He doesn't deserve that."
Griffin waved a hand in her direction. "I am."
"For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil." Roland spoke with a voice mighty and sure. "Roman thirteen four."
Alaster Fleming laughed and while looking the other man in the eye said, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James one nineteen."
There was a pause for what seemed like an eternity. Alaster kept up the repeated taps against his thigh. Roland's eyes moved from Alaster's to the man's hand.
"You son of a bitch!" Without hesitation, Roland pulled the trigger and turned towards the direction of the elevator.
"NO!" Parker darted from their hiding place and threw the dagger she had been holding on to.
Jack lunged for her, but it was too late. Parker's knife found itself embedded in Roland's side. Parker didn't see the Paladin grimace. Her eyes shot to Alaster and the image of him slumped over on the floor, with bits of his brain matter beside him made her scream. This time no acting was required.
"I got it. Let's go," Griffin announced. He grabbed Parker around her waist, pulling her to him. Facing Roland he nodded faking pleasantries. "Nice to see you again Roland. As always, a pleasure."
Roland, enraged, fired off a shot at them but it was too late. Griffin, Parker and Jack were gone.
After a series of random jumps so that Roland could not trace and follow them, they were safe to return back to the lair. Once on solid, Jack sent a hand through his Mohawk, unsticking it from his head.
"What the fuck man?!"
Griffin knew exactly what Jack was thinking.
"I've got all we need," was his simple reply.
Jack threw up his hands. "How? How could you possibly have what we need when old dude back there got his brains blew out before we could even give ourselves intros?"
Jack parroted, "Morse code."
Parker, having been seemingly forgotten for the moment, freed herself from Griffin's side and moved to the couch. She fell into the pliable cushions and curled into herself.
"Fill me in later?" Jack watched the unmoving figure of Parker and thought it best to make his exit. Without waiting for confirmation, he patted Griffin on the arm and jumped leaving the two alone.
Griffin sighed as he watched Parker and her still form. Every so often she let out a sniffle or two. He debated going over to her. He debated on whether he should mind his business and jot down the information he had acquired lest he forgot. But ultimately, his newly acquired soft side won the battle. He went over to her and pushed her a bit so that she'd take the hint and scoot over.
It was a tad awkward. Griffin didn't know what to say to her. She had not done such a terrible job as he imagined she would, but then he didn't think she would want to hear that at the moment. Seeing a person die never got old to a person like Parker, that he knew. Luckily, for Griffin he didn't have to break the silence within the lair. Parker did.
"You were right," she sniffled. "I shouldn't have come. I wasn't ready for that."
"You did alright," Griffin grunted.
"You can't think about that shit. It'll drive you mad."
"I'm already mad Griffin." Parker sat up, pulling her legs under herself.
"No, not mad mad. Mad insane." Griffin explained. "When you have something that needs doing, you put feelings aside. Feelings get you killed."
Parker looked down at her hands as she felt the fresh sting of an onslaught of tears.
"Cheeky move back there." Griffin looked at her and nudged his shoulder against hers.
"Yeah," Parker let a twinge of hope slip through her tone.
"Which one? My acting or throwing a knife at Mr. Cox?"
"Don't get cocky," Griffin admonished.
Parker removed the remaining knives off her person and tossed them to the floor. She wiped away tears and snuggled more comfortably into the couch. Resting her head against Griffin's shoulder she relaxed. Later, she told herself she'd make Griffin tell her what the morse code was about. Later would be waiting.
Now she wanted to try and erase the mental image of Alaster Fleming's demise from her head. Let Griffin chase it away with the closeness of his presence. The amazing part was that he let her stay tucked close to his side.
No more words needed to be said that night.