Entitled: Destruction Games
Fandom: Red Eye
Length: 4,200 words
Disclaimer: I do not own Red Eye and etc.
Notes: I will have you know that I put a lot of thought into the plotline for this thing.
"Okay, Jack," Lisa braced her arm, speaking low into the scratched, bulky phone, "Want to tell me how to kill someone?"
On the other side of the Plexiglas, she watched Ripner's head tilt and his slow, lazy smile. Orange really wasn't his color. He didn't seem to care. "Joined the dark side, Leese?" he whispered, something very close to fondness touching the edge of his grin. Lisa straightened minutely.
"No." she caught and curbed her own defensive tone, took a breath, and spoke again as a cool professional, "There's someone I have to keep alive."
Jackson notably lost interest, "What, your boyfriend?"
Lisa just looked at him. He sighed, "Who is this person?"
"I can't tell you that," Lisa denied immediately. Jackson rolled his eyes.
"Then, I can't help you."
"Come on," Lisa wheedled, "Do you really think I'd be talking to you if this wasn't important?"
"You're going to hurt my feelings," Jackson had begun playing with the cuff of his jumpsuit, steadily unraveling it and wrapping the glaring neon thread around his hand as he progressed, "Honestly, Lisa, I'm locked up. Why can't you tell me?"
"Because I know exactly what you're capable of," Lisa muttered. They held each other's gazes for a long moment, before Jackson quirked a smile.
"Someone important, then?" he asked smoothly. Lisa felt the denial rising to her lips and only just caught it, struggling. Slowly, she nodded. Jackson leaned forwards lightly, frighteningly light eyes open and hungry.
"A man?" he pried. Lisa nodded again, carefully.
"And let me guess," he snapped his fingers, "He's staying at your hotel."
Lisa listened to herself breathing, and adjusted her grip on the phone, "A different hotel," she said softly, "Not the Lux Atlantic. I got cut."
Anyone else would have said that Jackson's face was impassive, but Lisa had spent nine hours devoted to his every facial tick. Now, she saw his jaw tighten slightly, he corners of his mouth pursing. "They fired you?"
"I got their building blown up," Lisa said wryly, "It's not like they could have kept me after that." She felt suddenly exposed under his intense stare, like he was looking somewhere she didn't want him to. Her collarbones, the dip of skin before her shirt's neckline. She crossed her arms.
Jackson wet his lips, "I thought that was my fault."
"Are you angry I stole the credit, Jack?" Lisa murmured with false bravado.
In the next second Jackson wasn't sitting and talking into his phone, but upright with his palms open and slamming against the glass. Lisa flinched backwards, her heart hammering, wishing he was a thousand miles away.
"I told you not to call me that," she heard him say, voice faint through the receiver, before the guards came and wrestled him away. She watched him fall limp against them, that low, calculating smile still meant for her.
She hung up.
They didn't want to let her see Jackson the next day, something about provoking the prisoner to aggression, which was ridiculous, frankly, because she'd never known Jackson to be violent unless it was for a reason. They could discuss things like calm and reasonable adults.
"You're here," Jackson smiled at her. He had his left arm wrapped and pinned in a straightjacket. She frowned at the restraints—it made her oddly uncomfortable.
"I still need your help," she said stiffly. Jackson leaned back in his chair.
"What makes you think that I want to help you? What makes you think that I can?"
"Because," Lisa started a stopped, struggling with how much she could reveal, "It's…a very similar case."
"Another politician," Jackson said coolly, "Which explains how you got in. You've got the CIA and the FBI backing you, and this information is important. Let me guess, you think that because I failed, my people will have to take on another job to make it up to our employer. The war on terrorism…or the war against terrorism."
Lisa bit her lip and hated herself for feeling vulnerable. She had the upper hand.
"So which politician is it?" Jackson's eyes gleamed, "It can't be our own secretary of defense, he'll be too skittish. Too protective of his family. But it doesn't get much higher than that, does it?"
"You aren't answering my question," Lisa interrupted coolly. Her hand twisted in her lap, clammy. Jackson grinned.
"Presidential assassinations," he mused, "A long and prestigious tradition. Well, Lisa? Am I right?"
Lisa stared at him. And then she smiled, "No."
His pale, pale eyes flickered and he formed the word carefully, "Liar."
"It's a senator," Lisa lied. Jackson smirked.
"Yeah, okay," he shifted, "And where is our senator staying?"
"I can't tell you that," Lisa said quickly, "But yes, you're right, it is your…friends. Well, I think it is. So you must know, right? What's standard procedure?"
"Not the boat trick," Jackson said dismissively, "We won't be able to use that one for another decade."
"There is no 'we,'" Lisa corrected him harshly, "Don't you get it, Jack? You're locked up, and you're never getting out."
"I told you not to call me that," Jackson snapped, and called the guard.
When Lisa reported her failure to the agents, the looked at one another and snorted. "Shouldn't have let a civilian handle this," said the younger of the two, a well built black man. His superior fixed him with a look, perhaps to remind him of his manners, and then glanced back towards Lisa. Middle-aged and with fake red hair, she reminded Lisa of her own mother.
"Thank you for your assistance," she dismissed, "We'll handle questioning the prisoner from here on."
"Okay," Lisa said, and wondered what, exactly, she felt just then.
She went home and made herself eggs, then sat at the kitchen table, dragging her fork against her plate and staring at nothing. The phone rang at exactly eight thirty, and she answered on the third ring so she wouldn't seem desperate, "Yes?"
"I'm sorry," she recognized the FBI agent from earlier, "We talked at him for five hours and the only thing he said was that he'd only talk to you."
"I see," Lisa murmured, and tried to quell the spike of triumph.
"I didn't like them," Jackson said mockingly, "Too blunt."
Lisa presses her knees together. Under the table, her hand twists in the hem of her skirt. "Well, I'm here now, aren't I? So talk."
"What impresses me," Jackson ignored her, "Is that you agreed to come in here at all."
Lisa swallows and looks into those pale, pale eyes and measures her breathing because her voice cannot shake, "You don't scare me."
"No," Jackson agrees, "Not as much as I'd like to."
They've kept him in the straight jacket, she can see that now. It's so ridiculously unnecessary that she wants to laugh. "I want you to tell me how they're going to kill him?"
"The senator." Lisa corrects, "I think the CIA's getting impatient. They're fighting the FBI to get you taken in for some sort of personal questioning-interogation thing."
"They can't do that," Jackson raised his eyebrows, "That's against my rights, isn't it? It's in there somewhere, I'm pretty sure."
Lisa blinked, searching any part of him for fear, and finding none. The same straight-cut features and sensuous mouth, his frightening eyes and casual haircut, everything was perfectly in place. "I don't think," she said softly, "Terrorists have rights anymore. Not now."
Jackson looked at her for a very long time. And then he smiled. "Well," he said, "How much are you willing to bet that I can get you into CIA headquarters?"
"They aren't going to take me," Lisa said immediately, "They made that very clear. My job is to ensure my guest's safety, and since I wasn't able to get anything out of you, they'll have to let me go back to work."
"Come on, Lisa," Jackson grinned, "Have I ever lied to you?"
In a week she boarded the next plane to D.C. Her father flew with her, in the seat beside hers, and the take off and landing was executed flawlessly. Her father kept asking the stewardess for more bags of flavored peanuts, while Lisa looked out the window and thought, carefully, of the many ways to kill a man.
"Do you want me to go with you?" her father asked, as they settled into their hotel room. Lisa smiled at him reflexively.
"No, dad, it's okay." She brushed down her suit, "It's not like he'll be able to do anything to me."
Her father frowned, bouncing a little on the seat of the bed while he flicked through channels, stopping at The Simpsons. He caught her wrist as she started towards the door. "Lisa," he said, not really looking at her, "Are you okay?"
Lisa stood for a moment, then nodded, smiling tightly, "Yeah, dad," she edged out of the room, nodding at the men in dark suits, "I'm fine."
"What did I tell you?" Jackson asked lightly. The woman standing beside Lisa scowled a little, looking almost surprised.
"So he can talk."
Jackson ignored her, tipping his chin at the chair opposite him and smiling mockingly, "Have a seat, Leese."
Lisa didn't sit. The order seemed familiar. She glanced around the room, similar to something she imagined could be found in a police station. Mirrors. There were probably people back there, watching her. She grimaced, then studied Jackson. He'd been belted into a chair, but his restraints didn't look to painful. There was a table between them. It was odd, hearing him directly, without a phone's interference. Odd, to see him without a glass shield.
She thought she could hear the faintest tug at his voice. Like a scratch. Maybe she'd left her mark on him, even if there'd been no scar.
She propped her hip against the chair. The lady agent beside her shifted, crossing her arms, and Jackson looked towards her in a blankly hostile manner. After a moment she went to stand against the door, her eyes dark and watchful, and Lisa still did not sit.
"Why can't you just talk to someone else?" Lisa asked finally. Jackson snorted.
"Because I want to beat you," he said coolly, "And what's the point of revenge if it's through a third party?"
Lisa frowned, sliding into her seat slowly, "I was thinking explosives," she said, slowly, "Guns could miss. Poison works too slowly…and it would be hard to get to him."
"Bombs," Jackson approved lazily, then asked, "Which hotel?"
"I'm not going to tell you," Lisa said, softly, and then glanced over her shoulder, "Listen, Jackson. If you help us, you probably get off easier. I mean, I'm sure they'd at least negotiate."
"Leese," Jackson sneered, "Good work on guessing bombs."
Lisa blinked at him, frowning, "What—"
"I'll talk to you tomorrow," Jackson said, and let his head loll backwards, every muscles slackening as he, for all intensive purposes, fell asleep. Lisa stood, striding forwards until the edge of the table pressed into her thighs, "Wait, so you know? You know what's going to happen? Jack! Jack—"
"He's not going to talk," the lady agent said, and pushed off the wall. She strode over to Lisa smoothly, frowning. "Well, I guess we'll send a car to pick you up tomorrow."
"No, I—" Lisa shook her head, clenching her fingers together and trying to steady herself, "I haven't got much time, there'll be just a week left for me to prepare for the…visit." She stopped, and then said, "You can't let him—you have to swap hotels."
The agent reached out and gripped Lisa by the bicep, firmly steering her from the room. "Yes, we'll have to start planning on that. But if there is a group of terrorists on American soil, it's our job to find them, you understand me?"
Lisa nodded miserably, and allowed herself to be hustled away without a backwards glance.
This was, perhaps, her greatest mistake.
It was almost seven thirty when Lisa heard the first explosion. She sat up, her head turning towards the faint sound, wondering if she'd dreamed it. She slid forwards, resting her hands against the cold window glass and squinting out at the capital city, the high buildings and miles of sleek grey cars.
She could see the edges of fire curling around the buildings to her left, no where close to where Ripner was—and yet.
She crossed the room to the twin bed adjacent to her own and touched her father's shoulder, "Dad," she whispered, "Dad, come on, we have to go."
Her father woke quickly, "Leese? You okay?"
"Fine," Lisa dismissed hastily, "Dad, get up, please. We have to go. We have to go right now."
"Okay," her father said after a moment, standing and stretching, his muscles cracking. Lisa winced, already rushing around the room, stuffing her things back into her suitcase and rummaging around for a fresh change of clothes.
"I'll be out in a minute," she said, sliding into the bathroom and shutting the door gently, slipping out of her pajamas and into snug, professional clothes. She ran her fingers through her hair and brushed her teeth sloppily, forgoing make-up for speed, and hustling back into the main room, tucking away her toiletries as she went. "Dad, I think we should—"
She stopped, an unimaginable, animal sort of fear drawing into her throat. Black-out fear, a moment of true and terrible panic, followed by the sweet rush of adrenaline, her muscles ready for speed and her every thought rendered sharp and clear.
Jackson turned from the minibar, looking utterly relaxed. Her father had been tucked into his own hotel bed, temple already rising with a ripe purple bruise. "Lisa," Jackson smiled, and she could see nothing but malice, right down to the gun in his right hand, "They didn't stock a sea breeze, sorry. Straight vodka's the best I can do."
Lisa stepped back, glancing between his gun and her father. Her hands were clammy and noticeably empty. She slid them along the wall instinctively, looking for something, anything. Jackson made a sharp noise. "Come on, Lisa, play nice."
Lisa stopped, then set down her bag and lifted her hands, her lower lip shaking between her teeth though every thought radiated a cold and terrible fury. "Are you going to kill me? Did you kill my father?"
"Your father has awful luck," Jackson agreed. He took a fast sip, ran the drink through his teeth, then swallowed. She watched the action, so graceful and so mortal, and knew a hatred that only a victim can know. "But no, I'm not here to kill you, Lisa. It's never been about you, actually. It's not like I have something against you—well. I didn't. But that was round one. So, now I do." He shrugged, still strangely jovial as he set down the glass, gun still trained on her breast, and began his gloating swagger towards her. "It's not about killing you, Lisa. It's about beating you."
"How'd you get here?" she asked, pitching her voice a little louder than she normally would. Loud enough to carry through a hotel wall. Jackson paused, his lips tightening as he glared at her.
"Lisa," he said lowly, "Indoor voices."
Lisa kept backing up, her fingers curled into fists as they hung weakly in the air. "Answer my question," she said again, though it was softer. Jackson smiled.
"There's a capsule imbedded in my left molar," he said, "If I crush it, I'm poisoned. I did. They took me to the nearest hospital and I was collected by my people in a timely fashion."
Lisa felt sick. "What about the explosion? Was that you? Or—"
"Oh, that," Jackson shrugged, "That was so they'd loose my trail. You'd be amazed by the chaos just one little bomb can produce, Lisa." He smiled ruefully, "One very, very small bomb."
Lisa glanced at her father, waiting for him to mutter or stir—but he didn't. Jackson followed her gaze and said, ruefully, "Oh, yeah, I hit him a little harder this time."
She was surprised, then, by the angry sob that escaped her. She clasped one hand over her mouth, sinking down onto the bed opposite her father and trying to calm down—to think faster.
"Stop crying," Jackson said curtly, "It's annoying."
"I hate you," Lisa hushed, sniffed, and looked up, "So is this enough for you? Got me backed into a corner, and all?"
"Not quite," Jackson said, and pointed the gun between her eyes. Lisa froze, every muscle tight, shock radiating through her system. Jackson licked his lips, looking down the sights as the seconds dragged themselves out, Lisa's heart beating double their sum.
And then his arm lowered, a raw sort of look crossing his features. He was sweating.
"Okay," he said, shaking out his shoulders. Lisa gripped at the bed sheets, shaking, biting her lower lip, stuck between cruel memories and an equally unpleasant present. "Let's get down to business, then."
And then he was little more than a blurred motion, features wiped of expression even as he moved in and his arm drew back, then the hand with the gun came crashing against the side of her head, and she was flying with the sheer force of such an action, flying to a very dark place.
When she woke up, Jackson was holding a phone to her loosely, his smile wry. "You know the drill," he purred, "And you know what'll happen if you say no. So let's just cut to the chase, alright?"
Whatever reply Lisa might have made was cut off as her balance lurched and she fell forwards—Jackson pushing her back impatiently. Lisa shook her head and instantly regretted it, feeling like the insides of her head had been reduced to a pulpy sponge.
"I'm going to throw up," she managed, unsteadily, hearing Jackson's cut-off curse. When the next shift came he had already steadied her and was snapping something to—to another man, in front of her and—she was in a car. No, a limo. Was the driver a terrorist too?
Her nausea was subsiding as her bearings straightened. Jackson had evidently noticed the change in her breathing, as it deepened and steadied, and so reached out and held her by the chin. "I need you to make a call, Lisa," he said sweetly, "Call the CIA. Tell them there's been a bomb threat at your hotel—wherever it is you're working, anyways. Tell them that, won't you?"
"Why?" Lisa asked, her voice slurred, "What'll happen then?"
"Lisa," Jackson sighed, "Do you really want to know?"
Lisa licked her lips, glancing down at the phone, "And let me guess," she said dully, "If I don't make the call, you shoot my dad. And if I do, you let both of us go."
"No," Jackson said, "I let him go. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with you."
Somehow, this did not surprise her. She was beyond feeling even fear. Now, just as it had been all those weeks ago on the plane, she felt a deep coldness sliding through her limbs, freezing the jittery adrenaline and pooling everything she had into ruthless calculation. They hadn't taught her this in stress-management.
She reached out and took the phone from him. It was sleek, and warm from his hand. "I don't know the number," she lied. Jackson raised his eyebrows.
"Try the operator," he suggested, leaning back from her, relaxing against his seat. She could see the city passing by through the window's framing his head. Their knees were almost touching, and all Lisa could think of was control. Complete dominance of a situation—of every movement. Every prediction. Her fingers moved over the keys, hitting send, waiting.
She looked up at him, and felt his self-assurance. She glanced at the driver, the upcoming turn.
Lisa took a breath, and then looked straight into eyes the color of razor blades and dropped the greatest lie she had ever told. "Jack," she said, "I love you."
And then there was a half second of motion. There was the instant of honest confusion in Jackson's gaze, the moment of faltering and weakness that Lisa seized. There was the driver cutting the hard turn too fast, giving Lisa more momentum she needed as she pitched forwards and jammed her elbow into Ripner's throat, her hip pinning his gun flat, and then she was groping for the door and kicking Jackson away, his hands fumbling at her hips, then down the length of her leg as she got the door open and rolled out, hitting the ground awkward and scrambling, dashing to the sidewalk even as Jackson pushed himself out of the car after her, swearing as his ankle wrenched, but not so bad he couldn't run on it.
Lisa sprinted down the sidewalk, only a couple paces in front of him, legs and arms pumping the air as she shot away, her hands fumbling at the phone's keypad, until she outright-plowed into another woman and had to stagger away, apologizing, with Jack's fingertips ghosting the back of her arm, so close, and so Lisa just screamed, "Help, help he's got a gun!"
There was a moment, then, when everyone paused, and then someone else screamed—the woman Lisa had run into. Jack stopped, looking cornered, before his mouth tightened, eyes flicking to Lisa.
"You lied to me," she said, softly, "I texted my dad. And he replied. You just left him in the hotel room."
"I didn't lie," Jackson said, short and dark and furious, "I implied."
He took a step back, then, and his hand was in his pocket and Lisa realized with a thrill that there was nothing, nothing keeping him from pulling it out and shooting her here in the street.
Their eyes meet for a moment as they both realized the same thing, the coldness leaving her, Jackson's face hard—and then he smiled, sort of crookedly, and was running back after the limo, shaking his head.
"Lisa," he said, impatiently, "What am I going to do with you?"
And then he was in, and the door had shut, and with a pained screech of rubber, Jackson Ripner was gone.
Slowly, the phone he'd given her slipped through her fingers, and smashed to the ground.
Lisa called the CIA. The president wasn't killed. She had her MRI scan with her father lying beside her, their concussions treated. She was alive and Jack was still out there, somewhere.
She locked her doors at night.
But never the windows.