Can't keep away from you, I'm afraid! I couldn't get this idea out of my head and it's based on what could have happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene...
Ranger stood with his shoulders drooped in his office on five, his back to the door, gazing out of the window at the bright Trenton afternoon. His hands were crammed into his black cargo pant's pockets. Everything about posture looked defeated.
"Wassup, Bro'?" Tank's voice asked, breaking into Ranger's thoughts, making him spin round.
"I'm leaving, Tank."
"What?" Tank asked warily, sidling over to the large dark brown sofa that ran along one wall, sinking into its sumptuous leather.
Ranger sighed and sat down behind his desk where he closed down a window on his laptop before turning back to his friend. "You heard me, I'm leaving." His jaw clenched slightly as he finished the statement for a second time.
"Are you in the wind? When and where and how long?" Tank asked standing up quickly, not understanding the statement. "Dammit man, you told me you'd resigned six month's ago, did you lie to me?"
Ranger shook his head wearily in reply.
"Have you told Bomber yet?" Tank spat out disgustedly, arms folded across his broad chest.
"No, I'm not in the wind, I'm leaving. Trenton, Rangeman. Everything... Everyone... It's time to move on." Ranger replied blankly before turning to stand then look out of the window, effectively turning his back on his friend.
"I... I don't understand!" Tank replied, furrowing his brows as he walked over to join him. His anger, dissipating with every step, was being slowly replaced with concern.
"I'm done, finished, for all intense and purposes. Bankrupt." He turned to face Tank as the last word dripped heavily off his tongue. "Hurricane Irene and the sudden downturn in the economy has wiped me out and I'm practically penniless." He shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the window where he place his hand on the glass and leaned his head against his arm. "Where's Steph?" he added softly.
"She's out with Lula chasing a skip. Hector is monitoring them." Tank added softly.
Ranger nodded and turned as if to leave.
"Leave if you have to, but you'd better explain to me exactly what the fuck has happened before you go." Tank said calmly, placing a large paw on Ranger's arm. "Don't you think you owe Bomber an explanation too - before you run away? It's the least you can do before you break her heart." He added at a whisper. He could see what Ranger was about to do and hell, if he didn't hate him for it right now. He was pissed that Ranger felt he could run out on him, but Bomber? It would break her. Just when things were finally going their way.
"Hurricane Irene just took out all my New Jersey properties and as they were on the beach front I couldn't insure them. Now I can't even sell them. I've just had my stock broker on the phone who told me that all my stocks and bonds have just collapsed with no hope of recovery so there's no money to rebuild either.
"But how does that affect Rangeman?" Tank asked, a deep and real fear of losing his friend growing in his belly. Scenes of him throwing himself off the top of the building à la the 1930's collapse flittered through his head.
Ranger turned back to the window and began to stare at some point in the far distance. "I used all my other assets to buy out the other investors last year but we're currently losing business every week as another of our clients goes to the wall. I've been using the money from my last Black Ops assignment to keep the company afloat and pay the men." He sighed and closed his eyes. "That all ran out last week. I didn't want to say anything to anyone as I thought the beach fronts and my shares could be used while we restructured and perhaps shed some staff. Now I know I have to sell up to cover my losses, if I can do so in time." He added softly, dropping his forehead to the glass.
"But what about the properties in Miami?"
"Gone, I sold them last year to help fund the buy outs."
"Leased, even the Porsche."
"Is there anything left?" Tank added hesitantly.
"Nothing, it's all gone. Pretty much all I own is what I'm wearing. Two week's time the banks will foreclose and after that..." he couldn't finish the sentence as the enormity of the situation swirled about him.
"Fuck." Tank said, sinking back against the glass and staring up at the ceiling, letting the back of his bald head fall against the cool window.
"Yeah, succinctly put." Ranger replied as he turned and gave his friend a wry smile before standing up and pushing back his shoulders. "Come on Pierre, might as well drink the assets before they're impounded!" He said brightly "I think I have a bottle or two of something really expensive in my drinks cabinet on 7. I think we need to commiserate."
"Fucking A." Tank said, too stunned by Ranger's revelations to take him to task for calling him by his given name.
Ranger pretended not to care as they walked silently up the stairs. All the time his heart was breaking as he realised that he would probably lose the thing he cared most for in all the world when the shit hit the fan. His heart stuttered as he thought of his life without Stephanie Michelle Plum in it.
Steph smiled at Connie as she handed over the dockets for her 5th, 6th and 7th skips of the week, giving her a big fat check to add to her growing bank account. With all the skills she'd picked up from the Merry Men and Carlos she'd pocketed a cool $42k for the month so far and there was over a week to go. Lula looked after the bottom end of the pile and she was now regularly picking up trickier, nastier skips with higher bonds which meant more reward money.
At the end of the month she'd be able to go talk to Val about setting up a couple of college funds for Angie and Mary Alice and as the thought skipped across her head, a warm feeling spread through her heart. She liked that she was going to be able to help someone less fortunate than herself. After all, since moving in with Ranger he'd refused to let her pay any of the bills for their penthouse on 7, saying that it was too difficult to separate them out and as there was only so much a girl can spend on a pair of shoes, she'd been stashing away money left, right and centre ever since. Coupled with the $350k she'd picked up for her share of collaring the in skip in Atlanta, she figured she had enough to even start talking potential Batcaves with Batman. Perhaps even Batbabies... It was time for their someday.
Grinning, she left TPD and headed back to Haywood and her wonderful, wonderful life.
A few minutes later she pulled into the underground and parked her 'Rangeman black' Explorer next to Ranger's pristine 911. Stepping out quickly she headed for the stairs. Yep, since becoming Ranger's significant 'other' she'd agreed to get fit, learnt a whole pile of self defense moves and even practiced with her guns. Waving at the camera she opened the door and started up the flight of stairs to her safe haven.
Tank lay on the floor as it seemed the safest option. He was seeing at least two of Ranger and three of the coffee table. He pressed his head into the back of the couch and sighed, contentedly. "Good idea, this, 'los!" he slurred out before moving slightly so that he could take another large swig of whisky "What are we celebrating, again?"
"My bankrupture." Ranger said happily as he slid off the couch to join Tank on the floor.
"Fabulous" Tank murmured, just before he passed out.
Ranger grinned at his partner in crime then picked up the virtually empty bottle of 40 Year Old Bruichladdich he'd been holding and tried to wring another few drops from inside before rolling it to join the others in the middle of the room. He could take his alcohol far better than his giant of a friend, but even he was not sure exactly how many TVs he had at that precise moment. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes, a big grin spreading across his very drunk face.
Wandering in, Steph dropped her keys into the small silver dish in the hall and hung her coat up. Slipping off her cat boots she padded into the kitchen to get a drink. A frown formed as she noticed the cupboard doors open and several empty chip and cracker packets on the counter. After a quick check on Rex who seemed perfectly happy in all the chaos, she ventured forth in search of some answers.
Ranger groaned at the soft hand that caressed his cheek and he leaned into the warmth.
"Carlos?" Steph said for the fourth time as she began to gently slap his cheek to see if she could get a reaction. "Please, Carlos, wake up!" He smiled and snuggled further back against the couch and started to drift back off into his stupor.
The last thing he heard was Steph telling Bobby that she couldn't wake 'him' up, whoever 'him' was. Hmm, not happy he thought lazily. He'd have to kill 'him' or send 'him' to a third world country when he woke up again. But right now he needed to sleep and it was all too much to think about he decided, as darkness engulfed him again.
Ranger woke up on his side in a darkened room feeling decidedly disjointed as a tube was pushed non-too gently down his throat, it quickly warmed up as liquid was poured down it. He blinked groggily, unable to push the hands that held him, as salty fluid reached his stomach, swirled round for a millisecond then rushed back up the tube, taking everything that it found with it. He watched with morbid fascination as the contents of his gut splattered noisily into a large opaque bucket. He groaned as another wave of nausea hit and he retched again, his body sweating with the abruptness and violence of his reactions. Every fibre of his being ached and he wondered where he was to be going through such horrendous torture. Perhaps the building had been stormed and 'him' was holding him hostage. He groaned as his stomach revolted again and he closed his eyes, desperate for the whole thing to stop.
Steph looked down at Ranger as he lay cradled in her arms. Through the whole stomach pumping process he hadn't even realised she's been holding him, caressing his brow, and trying to comfort him through the hurt.
She looked up as Bobby nodded that it was all over.
"Is he going to be OK?" she asked, tears coursing down her cheeks with worry.
"Yeah, he should sleep it off now. I'm going to set up a drip to avoid dehydration and give him a shot for the pain. He'll be fine by the morning."
Steph nodded her thanks. "And Tank?"
"Luckily he's more of a lightweight and didn't drink as much as Ranger so he'll just sleep it all off, but he's going to feel like hell when he comes round. They both drank far too much." he added looking worried as he inserted a canula into Ranger's arm and hung up a bag of fluid on the bed post before packing up the equipment he'd been using. "Les, Ram and Cal have taken Tank down to his apartment so I need to go sort him out too."
"Yeah, s'ok." Came the sad reply from a very confused but blank faced Bobby.
Range tried to roll over but something had him pinned down. He wriggled but tired quickly as he realised he'd been drugged and pinned down. The effects of whatever drugs they'd used on him made him feel like shit but he knew he needed to get his bearings and quick! Opening his eyes caused pinpricks of light to inflict scalding pain through his head and he groaned involuntarily.
"Carlos? You ok?" Steph whispered in his ear.
"Shit!" he thought, they've got her too! He fought against the darkness but it pulled him back into his embrace. His final thought before passing out was "don't hurt her, you bastard!" and it was aimed at 'him'. He'd find out who 'him' was and make him pay if he so much as hurt a hair on his Babe's head.
Hope you like the beginning of this one - it's only a short story, but do please let me know what you think :o)-