Chapter 28: The Monroe Club

February 13th

9:09 a.m.

Ness put on an air of superiority and practiced her lines in her head in an attempt to drown out her inner voices as she strode elegantly up the steps toward the two men who guarded the doorway.

"Gentlemen," she said without preamble, "my name is Dorian Belner and I have an appointment to meet one of your members for breakfast."

The man on her left, tall with a rather over-sized poof of unruly red hair and a badly trimmed beard looked her up and down and drew his walkie-talkie from his belt. "I'll need to verify that with the member in question. What's his name?"

She raked him with a condescending glare. "He doesn't want to be disturbed by the likes of you, young man. He gave me a guest pass to show at the door so he wouldn't be bothered."

The red-headed man scowled and held out his hand and Ness pulled a black clutch-purse from under her elbow, opened it, and began rifling around inside.

The man at her right chuckled. "Hey, Mick, would you get a load of them." he said to his companion, gesturing at the sidewalk.

Ness stopped rummaging and turned to look over her shoulder. "Oh, for heaven's sake, what is wrong with people today!" she complained loudly, staring at the large and gaudily colored crowd walking past the building.

"Keep goin' you freaks! You should keep that shit off the streets!" shouted Mick.

Several of the people passing looked in their direction and a couple of them had just let loose with wolf-whistles at the two men when a deep and angry voice drifted to them from down the block. "What the fuck? Hey, guys, take a look at the faggots!"

The three people on the steps turned their heads to look at the newcomers, a rough-looking crowd headed in their direction. Several of them were in leather and chains and all of them sported looks of pure hatred.

"Oh crap." muttered Mick as the two groups collided right in front of them.

Ness backed away from the fray as insults were traded and fists began to fly.

She was slammed hard into the heavy wooden doors behind her as a couple of men in dresses tried to dodge blows by leaping up the steps.

"My purse!" she screamed. "I dropped my purse! Give it back to me you heathens!" she shrieked indignantly as she was shoved repeatedly in the confusion.

"Ma'am, get back!" shouted Mick before speaking into his radio. "I need immediate back-up at the front entrance!"

Someone from the crowd reached out and grabbed Ness by the hair, nearly yanking her off her feet, and she screamed shrilly before the dark-haired doorman broke the person's grip and hauled her back, thrusting her through the elegant doorway and into the safety of the lobby as several large men barreled outside and dove into the fight. "Stay there!" he shouted at her and she nodded shakily as he pulled the door shut, blocking her view of the ruckus.

There were several members in the lobby and, along with the desk clerk, they approached the front doors, curious about the noise. Ness quietly let them slide between her and the entrance until she stood at the back of the crowd. Quickly glancing around her, she strode towards a half-open door in the distance and stepped inside, surveying the empty office with satisfaction.

She kept the door cracked open slightly in order to keep an eye on the developments in the lobby and did her best to fix her now-bedraggled hair while smiling to herself.

So far the plan had gone perfectly... now it was just a matter of finding Murdock.

February 13th

9:18 a.m.

"Hey, what the hell's going on up here? Where is everybody?"

Ness stared through the crack in the door with wide eyes as she recognized one of the voices she'd heard earlier that morning over her walkie-talkie.

"Big fight out front, you missed all the excitement. Some jerk called the police and you should have seen everybody in the lobby clear out when they heard the sirens." responded a woman she couldn't see as a skinny man with bad skin came into view.

"It's been taken care of?" he asked.

"Yeah, security got everyone separated and sent them packing before the cops even showed up, it's all quiet again outside." she responded.

"Good. What kind of idiots start a fight outside of a place like this anyway? Don't they know we've got the biggest bouncers on the west coast?" he asked, smiling confidently and tipping a smarmy wink at the desk clerk.

"Some people just aren't too smart. They're lucky nobody got hurt." answered the woman.

The man laughed and pushed the 'up' button on the elevator. "Guess that means we don't get to watch the paramedics scrape anyone off the sidewalk. Damn, that would have made my day." The elevator doors opened and he strode in, jabbing at a button on the inside wall.

Ness watched as the doors slid shut and then squinted at the ornate needle moving above the opening. She couldn't read the blurry numbers above it but smiled when it stopped moving, the pointer almost directly vertical.

She waited a few moments until she heard a door open and close out of sight and cautiously peeked around the door frame to check the lobby.

The woman manning the front desk was in an office just behind her station and Ness could see the back of her head through the window as she dug for something in a file cabinet.

Smoothing the front of her dress nervously, Ness squared her shoulders and waltzed through the lobby as if she had every right to be there, striding with assumed confidence to the elevator and pressing the button. She watched the needle drop as the car descended and made note of what floor her quarry had stopped on.

"Gotcha." she whispered to herself as the doors slid open for her.

February 13th

9:21 a.m.

"Wow, nice decor." Ness observed quietly, stepping from the elevator onto a lush burgundy carpet.

The hallway that stretched out in both directions was darkly paneled, dimly lit, and the paintings on the wall were exquisite. "Glad I'm not the one paying dues on this place."

She randomly chose to turn left and began listening at doors until she found a room in which she could just make out the sound of someone talking.

"-know we said we wouldn't need you, but this guy's not saying anything." A pause. "Yeah, if that's what has to be done." Another pause. "Okay, we'll see you then. Yes, that's fine! He'll pay up, just get over here he's getting impatient."

There was a faint ringing sound as he slammed down the receiver and Ness stepped to the side of the doorway just as the handle turned and the man stepped into the hallway.

There was a loud cracking noise as she caught him under the jaw with a punch and his head slammed violently into the door. Then he slid, dazed, to thick carpet. She reached down, grabbed him by the front of his shirt, and dragged him inside the office while shoving the door closed behind them as she dropped him to the ground and straddled him, putting her weight on his chest.

"We're going to have a nice little chat, my friend." she hissed angrily through clenched teeth.

The man blinked in surprise, shook off his daze, and tried to reach past her leg into the waistband of his pants, but she slammed her fist into his face and felt around underneath her until her hand closed on the gun pressed between his waist and the floor.

She pulled it out and tossed it gently into a nearby chair. "Now, now, we don't want you playing with that, it's dangerous."

He looked her over suspiciously and gasped, "Who the hell are you?"

She let the light of insanity show in her eyes. "Me? I'm the monster that other monsters are afraid of."

He looked confused. "The hell?"

She shifted her weight and smiled evilly as his struggles to take a breath intensified. "I'm going to make you tell me exactly what I want to hear," she gestured at the gun. "and I don't even need one of your toys to do it."

"You're crazy! You're not even armed."

"I don't need to be." She shifted again, reached up, and plucked two ball-point pens from a holder on the desk. She settled herself back down and eyed her new acquisitions contemplatively. "You've heard that the pen is mightier than the sword, haven't you?" she asked in a decidedly psychotic sing-song voice.

The man watched her silently for a moment, pushing at her fruitlessly, and struggling to breathe against the weight on his chest. "Wh- what?"

"Where's Murdock?" she asked sweetly.

"What's it to you?"

Ness smiled disarmingly just before grasping a pen tightly and shoving it up one of his nostrils as far as it would go. The man let out a sharp bark of pain and she levered her weapon up slightly, twisting, enduring the squirming fight and enraged whimpers of pain beneath her.

"I'm not the most stable of individuals at the best of times, and I'm having a really bad day. Where's Murdock?" she repeated as he tried to pull at her wrists, the lack of oxygen taking the fight out of him as blood began to slowly trickle out of his nose.

"You're too late. We already dumped what's left of him." he growled.

She thrust and twisted the first pen again and let its partner quickly invade the other nostril as he howled.

"If he were already dead you wouldn't have had to call for help. There's a whole cup-full of these things up there, my friend. Are you sure you don't want to tell me the truth?"

He steeled himself and whispered, "Fuck you."

"Have it your way." she answered, and reached up again.

February 13th

9:38 a.m.

She cast one last glance at the man on the office floor, passed out in several small pools of blood, wrists and ankles trussed up tightly with tape.

Finally getting him to tell her about Murdock was easy.

Getting him to call his accomplice on the walkie-talkie to lure him on a wild goose-chase around the building was easy.

Wrapping enough layers of clear office tape around a still struggling, albeit weakly, man to keep him from getting himself free within a few minutes and coming after her?

That was hard.

If he was lucky, the doctors would be able to save his hearing in one ear. The other had already been thoroughly sacrificed to the Scripto gods during a moment of blind fury and a slip of her hard-won control.

Ducking into the stairwell at the end of the hallway she breathed a shaky sigh of relief that he'd started talking before she'd been forced to start working on his eyes.

Even she had her limits. Despite the cacophony of noise rolling relentlessly through her mind, screaming for blood and pain and violence, the thought of puncturing the globes with an ink-filled writing utensil made her nauseous.

She ran down the steps, then stopped to listen at the first landing to make sure no one was coming up toward her.

He'd already informed her that the elevators were for guests and only descended to the level of the lobby. The man's accomplice should have been well gone by now, trying in vain to locate the man she'd just left behind, and she slowly walked down until she came to a door set below ground level.

She heard nothing and braced herself, pulling hard on the heavy door until it swung open with a creak.

February 13th

9:41 a.m.

Murdock breathed heavily, wincing at the sharp aches that flashed their way through him with each breath.

When the door creaked open he barely lifted his head and waited to see if it would be friend or foe that stepped into the room.

"Colonel?" he forced out with a tight whisper.

A woman stepped gingerly into the room and shut the door behind her and he tried to blink the blood out of his eyes as the realization sunk in that this was neither the thugs who had been keeping him here nor his friends.

He tried to put on a nonchalant demeanor despite his well-worn appearance. "Um, ma'am, I know this looks bad, but I don't suppose you could look around for a set of handcuff keys for me?" he ventured.

"Holy shit, kid, what the hell did they do to you?!?" the woman hissed as she ran up to him and kneeled on the concrete floor to examine a large gash on his forehead.

"Ness?" he asked, perplexed, trying to clear his vision. "What are you doin' here? You're gonna get yourself killed!"

"I'm doing a hell of a lot better than you are right now." she eased him forward to inspect the cuffs.

"Where are the guys?"

"No clue."

"You're here alone?!?"

"I tried to call for help, but the police just laughed at me." She reached into her cleavage and worked her lockpicks free. "Hold still, let's get you out of here."

"I'd have been long gone by now by they took my picks when they searched me." Murdock said, leaning far forward to give her space and gesturing with his chin at the small pile of personal effects on the ping-pong table.

She grumbled something under her breath behind him.

"What's wrong?" he asked, trying to crane his neck to look at her.

"These are weird. I can't get them open." she squirmed behind her even further and tried from a different angle, growling to herself. "What are these? I think there's an extra catch on them or something!"

Ness pulled herself to her feet in irritation and tried to run a hand through her hair exasperatedly, then scowled.

"I can't pick the lock, that guy's gonna be back any minute, and I'm covered in hairspray!" she shrieked. Ness stalked across the room, grabbed a chair, and returned to slam it violently against the wall at Murdock's side before stepping onto it.

Murdock eyed her warily and tried to calm her down. "Ness, give me the picks, maybe I can get it."

"No." She stepped from the chair onto the water pipe. "You." she yelled at the pipe as she put her full weight on it. "Are." Another stomp. "Coming." A jump that nearly sent her crashing back to the floor. "Loose!" she screamed as she braced her back against the wall and pushed with all of her might.

One end of the pipe suddenly plunged to the floor and she sprawled onto the concrete as water began pouring down around her.

Ness pushed herself onto her hands and knees and smirked triumphantly at the loose piping. "One thing about older buildings." she said conversationally. "Crappy maintenance."

Murdock slid himself along the wall and slipped loose from the pipe, then stood as the water drenched his black high-tops. "We need to go."

"I'm all for that plan." she answered, peeling herself off the floor and dashing for the table to grab his wallet before running over and grasping the knob and pushing on the door.

"Oh no. No no no." she whined, shoving again.

A muffled voice came to them from the other side. "Sounds like you've sprung a leak."

Ness and Murdock shared a look of horror. "Open this door right now or I'm going to hunt you down and serve you your own testicles on a silver platter!" shouted Ness at the unseen newcomer.

Mr. Fist's voice carried a hint of a chuckle. "Lady, I don't know who you are, but I've seen what you can do with office supplies and I'm sure you'd be happy to slice me up. However, my partner needs a doctor, so I've really got to go."

Ness pounded on the door vehemently for several moments, shouting obscenities, then pressed her ear to it and listened to the silence.

"I... am... going... to... kill... that... guy." she growled through clenched teeth before focusing on Murdock. "There any other way out of here?"

Murdock glanced around the small room. "Not unless you can tunnel through the ceiling into the lobby." He gave her an appraising look. "Office supplies?"

"I followed a skinny guy with a face like a train wreck earlier and got him to tell his partner that he was in trouble on the roof by shoving pens up his nose."

Murdock guffawed. "That's... inventive." he paused. "His partner was armed, do you think you could shoot out the lock?" he nodded at the door.

"I left his gun in the office."

Murdock raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You didn't take his gun?"

"I've never used one! I'd be more likely to shoot my own foot than hit a target."

Sloshing through the knee-high water, Murdock approached the door. "The two of us together, on three. One. Two. Three!"

The door didn't budge.

"Again. One. Two. Three!"

By the time the water was waist-high they'd given up a frontal assault and they were searching through the random odds and ends stored in the room for anything they could wedge between the door and the frame to try and force the lock.

"This is just going to be one of those days when nothing goes right, isn't it?" Ness muttered quietly.

Murdock grinned at her. "My nose finally stopped bleeding." he offered.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Great, I'm locked in a room with Pollyanna."

February 13th

10:11 a.m.

Ness closed her mouth and exhaled sharply to clear her nostrils as water lapped at her cheekbones. Casting a glance at Murdock she suddenly gave up on her efforts on the door and grabbed him by the front of his jacket.

"You should have let me know that your nose was under water!" she growled.

She hefted him against her and up slightly, taking advantage of the few inches of extra height her boots afforded her to keep both of their faces above the rising water line.

Murdock sputtered for a moment. "I couldn't, my nose was underwater." he joked.

"We're in serious kimchi, kid. This gets much deeper and I'm going to have to start swimming and we're going to have one hell of a time keeping you afloat with your hands behind you."

Glancing around the room her eyes settled on the ping-pong table half-floating in the far corner and she slowly made her way towards it, reaching out to shove it back under the surface until the legs hit bottom, and then helped Murdock maneuver onto it before climbing up herself.

There was still several feet of breathable air near the ceiling, but the room was filling fast.

"You stay here, I'm going to go work on the door a-" she was cut off by a muted rumble in the distance. She looked around her. "Please tell me that's not an earthquake. The last thing we need is to drown and have a building fall on us."

Murdock wasn't paying attention to her, his eyes were unfocused as he listened. Another muted rumble reached their ears and now they could just make out a series of pops that sounded suspiciously like gunfire.

Murdock's eyes lit up and he grinned at Ness. "That, little girl, sounds suspiciously like the cavalry's arrived!"

Barely a minute later there was a muted thump at the door and suddenly the water level jumped downward as a torrent rushed into the hallway outside to thoroughly flood the rest of the basement.

Murdock and Ness slid off the table and into the now knee-high water as three men pushed their way into the room, covering the corners with automatic weapons.

A silver-haired man approached them quickly, his eyes and weapon trained on Ness. "Captain, you okay?"

"Never been better, Colonel. Glad you could join the party."

"Halloran led us on a wild-goose-chase across half of L.A. before we cornered him and got him to talk. With a little persuasion from B.A." he added, grinning around a soggy cigar. He gestured at the woman. "Who are you?" he asked suspiciously.

"Colonel, this is Ness. She's a friend." Ness nodded at him as he lowered his weapon and then she cast a glance around the room. The blond man was keeping watch at the door and now the man with the mohawk was approaching them.

Murdock shifted uncomfortably and shot a glance at Mohawk. "Hey, B.A., I don't suppose you could help your ol' buddy get his arms back?" he said, turning to show off the cuffs that still pinned his hands behind him.

Mohawk grunted, stepped up, examined the manacles, and then wrapped his large hands around them to either side of one of the loops that attached to chain to the cuffs. Ness saw the strain in his face as he pulled and in the next moment Murdock was swinging his arms in front of him and rolling his shoulders to work out the stiffness as what was left of the chain clanked against one cuff.

"Thanks big guy, you're the best set of lockpicks a fella could ask for!" Murdock grinned widely and made as if to give Mohawk a hug, but the man backed away, growling something about 'never having let the fool loose'.

Ness watched, fascinated, as the SilverHair started issuing orders to the group. Her fascination increased as she noticed the change in her friend.

The happy-go-lucky manner slid away, his eyes hardened, and his usual devil-may-care demeanor was replaced with a quiet seriousness that she'd never seen before.

Still soaked from head to toe. Still wearing a t-shirt whose front was covered in his own blood. Still the same Murdock she'd known for all of these months. Yet... not.

This wasn't the helpless fool from the V.A., some hopeless little boy trapped in a man's body, some kid she had to keep an eye on lest he wander off and get himself into trouble.

This Murdock was focused. In control. And she had the feeling that if they met up again with the men who'd kidnapped him... dangerous.

Blond tossed him a weapon and he hoisted it confidently, moving through the door at a signal from SilverHair as though all the injuries he'd recently sustained were nothing but a distant memory.

SilverHair paused in the doorway, shin-deep in water, and extended his hand to her. "You coming or not?"

Ness, wide-eyed, splashed determinedly after them.

Author's Notes:

2000 hits and counting!

Woo hoo!

*happy dances*

I love my readers!

A big welcome redrose7856, my latest reviewer!

I worked in a little B.A. beat-down for you, even if it was off-screen.

You can just imagine the damage B.A. did to Halloran when they finally caught up with the bastard who set up the kidnapping!

This chapter (including the previous 'half') were really interesting to write because it was the one chapter that I didn't have anything written for in advance.

In the outline I simply had the title The Monroe Club (the name was one of those 'randomly sprang to mind' things and as far as I know there is no Monroe Club in Los Angeles) and it stated that "Murdock gets kidnapped by the bad guys, taken to the club, Ness has to figure out how to get in to try and rescue him, the team shows up and takes care of things.".

All I knew at that point was that the previous chapter was going to end with the line about drag queens (another of those 'randomly sprang to mind' things which I decided that I liked and wanted to use somewhere) and I hadn't, in fact, even decided yet if Ness was going to finally meet the rest of the team during this story or just watch them pull off the rescue that she'd bungled.

It dawned on me that if there was one chapter that was going to kick my ass and possibly make me stop writing this fic (or at least scrap the ending and re-work it), this was it.

It turned out that I needn't have worried.

I finally bit the bullet, opened a page to start typing, and the words just flowed.