Disclaimer: Still don't own the rights. And I'm going into withdrawal! January cannot come fast enough!
This chapter is from Sam's POV. Hope you enjoy. I actually wrote this a while ago, but I couldn't find the right last line. I'm still not sure about the one I have. Oh, well…
Sam Axe answered the phone on the first ring and pressed it to his ear as a pretty waitress placed a mojito in front of him.
"Yeah?" he said into the cell as he watched her walk away.
"Sam, I need your help."
"Sure, Mikey – what's up?"
There was nothing but silence on the other end of the line.
"It's Fi." Sam's brow furrowed. There was something wrong with his friend's voice.
"What happened?" he asked, throwing some money on the bar before walking away from his untouched drink.
"There was a fire," Mike mumbled. "The bomber's house…" He sounded listless. A knife twisted in Sam's gut.
"I need you to focus, buddy," he said, peeling away from the curb. "Where are you?"
"I left for Ft. Lauderdale an hour ago. Fi had a weapons cache there. I thought…"
Sam felt his blood run cold. Had? "Okay, Mikey, listen – I want you to get home and stay put. I'll find her."
"No. I have to –"
Taking a deep breath, Sam laid into his friend. "Mike, you can't help right now. You're not thinking clearly." Just like the other day, when you beat the crap out of me, he thought. "If you think I'm gonna let you get yourself killed, or arrested 'cause you left Miami, you're a bigger idiot than I ever gave you credit for!"
"Sam –" His voice shook. His friend ignored it.
"Turn around and GO HOME!" Sam heard Mike take in a ragged breath. "Now!"
"Alright, Sam," he said quietly. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Sam sighed. There was one hell of a storm on the way. But for Mike, it seemed to have broken early.
"Take care of yourself, okay buddy?" Sam said as he turned another corner. "I'll find her."
"Thanks, Sam," Michael replied. But there was no hope in his voice.
Without another word, Sam hung up with Mike and immediately called Fi's cell. It rolled straight to voicemail, not a good sign. "It's Fi. Leave a message." Sam took in a breath, but a computer voice interrupted what would have been a scathing voicemail.
"Mailbox full," it said dispassionately – as if the laws that governed how many messages a person could receive were more important than a woman's life. He shook his head and hung up again to call the fire department. The setting sun seemed to take his patience along with it as it sunk below the horizon.
He'd been transferred to another extension so many times by now that he was seriously considering burying himself in a beer the size of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, he kept driving – checking all the customary meeting places, and a few locales he knew Fi preferred for her gun deals. He was sure Mike had tried them all, but it didn't hurt to double check. Maybe he'd missed her the first time around.
Or maybe she wouldn't be coming back.
A voice cut into his macabre thoughts. "This is Chief Waterman – can I help you?" Sam tried not to laugh at the irony of the guy's name.
"This is Chuck Finley – reporter with the Herald. I heard there was a fire out at…" he paused long enough to grab the piece of paper on which he'd scrawled the address and read it off to the man. "I was just wondering if I could get any details. Was anyone hurt?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't give out that information."
Sam rolled his eyes, but played along. "Look, I know, man. I understand, but can I just tell you the position I'm in? My editor is out for blood. He's looking for something with some action for tomorrow's paper. No one's buying 'em anymore. Can't you give me anything? Throw me a bone?"
Sam prayed. He actually said a silent prayer that the man on the other end of the line would give him the information he needed. And that preferably it would be what he wanted to hear. Well, if "Come on, you son-of-a-bitch" could be counted as a prayer. But he meant well.
"We did hear from witnesses that someone had gone in the structure, but we haven't recovered a body. I highly doubt there was anyone in there."
Exhaling slowly, Sam switched the phone to the other ear. "You're sure? That's all you've got for me?"
"Yeah. No sign of human remains. By all accounts, the house hadn't been lived in in a while. Probably why it took so long to put the fire out. Dry grass, and all of that," he added. And a couple gallons of lighter fluid, Sam thought.
"Okay," he said, the knot in his chest loosening only a fraction. If Fi wasn't there, then where is she? he wondered. "Thanks." He was about to hang up on the man when he spoke again.
"There was one other thing."
"Some guy pulled up to the house while we were trying to contain the blaze. Kept yelling something about a woman that might have been trapped. Took three of us to stop him from running in after her." Sam swallowed hard. Mike. "Finally left, though. Don't know if that'll help you."
"Sure," Sam did his best to sound excited despite his nausea. "My editor will eat that up. Mystery man desperately seeking woman possibly caught in burning building. Modern day Romeo and Juliet."
"I guess," the fire chief said. Sam hung up without another word, tossing his phone disgustedly into the passenger seat. He gripped the steering wheel hard in both hands. No sign of human remains, he kept telling himself. A little voice kept nagging at the back of his mind. Why are you so concerned, anyway? it asked. He pulled to the side of the road and closed his eyes.
Because it's Michael, he answered. This could destroy him. And I won't let anything destroy my friends. He shook his head at the "s" he'd put on the end of "friend" – knowing against his better judgment that the term applied to Fi, too. He didn't think he'd ever completely trust her, but Mike did, and that was good enough for him. But she was crazy. No doubt about that. He laughed as he recalled the time she'd tasered that Russian kidnapper – despite the fact that he'd grabbed hold of her leg. The memory made him take a deep breath. "I swear, Fi – if you're dead, I'm gonna kill you."
Peeling away from yet another curb, Sam drove on. He even tried contacting Seymour. Now there was a fruitcake. Their conversation consisted mainly of the man yelling at some jackass. He'd seemed genuinely concerned about Fi, but didn't have any helpful intel. He probably doesn't have any intelligence, Sam thought. How this moron's lasted so long in his business… Must be sheer dumb luck. What he wouldn't give for some of that right now.
Two hours later, barely able to see through his windshield in the pouring rain, Sam had to admit defeat. It tasted bitter in his throat. He couldn't bring himself to accept the idea that Fi was dead, but he didn't have any leads. Taking the long route to Mike's loft, Sam tried desperately to come up with something he could tell his friend. But there was nothing – no salve that would make it all go away.
Sam left the car parked in front of the nightclub and pried open the door to the back. There were two dark shapes sitting before him. But he couldn't make them out. There was too much rain and too little moonlight. Stepping to his left, his shin came into painful contact with Mike's Charger. Swearing, he rubbed the spot vigorously – hoping it wouldn't bruise. Walking carefully to the right, he found another car. It was nearly black – a convertible. He stopped, shocked. It was Fi's Saab. If she's alive, he thought, why the hell didn't either one of them call me?!
Stomping up the stairs to the loft, Sam raised his fist to pound on the door. But something stopped him. He stood there – rain drenching him as he stared at Mike's new door. Remembered how worried he'd been for his friend when their call had cut off in a rush of fire. How his heart beat in his throat the entire time it'd taken to get to the loft. Twenty minutes of hell, he thought. Had it only been a few days ago? He checked his watch. Hours had passed since Mike had first called him. Heaven only knew how long he'd suffered with the idea that Fi was dead. Sighing heavily, Sam dropped his hand and turned for the stairs.
I'll give them tonight, he thought. But tomorrow, they sure as hell had better have some answers for me.
I really don't think there's anyone else's perspective I could use for this. Unless I decide to throw Madeline in.
Dang it. Now I might just have to do that. No promises, though!