Chapter Twenty Nine
Freezing in place with his hand still on the door leading into the Zedillo's clinic, Sam peered through the gap he had created and realized his day had definitely taken a turn for the worst. Though no where near as bad as it was for Doctor Pilar Zedillo and everybody else who was inside.
Two young men were center stage, one holding a gun in a weak, wavering hand, while his other hand was pressing on his stomach trying unsuccessfully to stop the flow of blood from an obviously deep wound. The second man stood behind Pilar Zedillo, one arm wrapped about her waist holding her tight against his body, while in his other hand he held the blade of a large knife to her throat.
The man with the knife was barking out orders, speaking so rapidly that Sam couldn't understand every word. But from the way everybody else was cowering against the wall, he could guess at what was being said and it didn't look good for the hostages. Slowly letting the door close, Sam stepped back. The two young men were nervous and strung out. He was pretty sure that one wrong move inside that room was going to see the doctor's throat slashed and most likely somebody else shot.
Standing on the pavement, Sam quickly reviewed the situation. The clinic was on a back street away from all the activity of the tourist areas filled with shops and hotels. So at least the chance of somebody blundering into the situation was small, but that didn't mean it wouldn't happen. The way Sam saw it, there was no time to waste. Because as soon as the two young men inside realized they had been discovered, they were going to panic and then people would start dying.
Looking around while he tried to think up a plan of action, Sam headed around to the side of the clinic searching for a back door into the building. Getting everybody out in one piece was not going to be easy and to do it while maintaining his cover in front of the doctor was going to nearly impossible. Mr. Charles 'Heartless Bastard' Finley would have definitely walked away from the scene taking place in the clinic, but luckily Sam Axe was made of sterner stuff.
Rubbing a hand over his chin, he decided he was going to have to sneak inside and wait for the opportune moment to act. First of all, he was going to have to hide the brief case full of money. Checking out the deserted alley, he walked to where an overflowing dumpster stood outside the back of a restaurant and hid the case in the gap between it and the wall.
Next, he pulled out the gun he had borrowed from Jojo and checked the clip. Satisfied that he had the means to stop the two men inside, he went to the back door and quickly broke the simple lock with the blade of his pocket knife.
Slipping inside, he kept low, closing the door silently behind him. He could hear low sobbing sounds from a terrified woman and the angry raised voice of one of the men ordering everybody to remain silent. There were more words, but Sam with his rudimentary Spanish was finding it hard going to make out what was being said.
Creeping closer, he peeked through the swing door of the back storeroom into the clinic and caught sight of a stocky man wearing the white coat of a doctor working nervously on the injured man who was now lying on a bed.
Meanwhile the other man stood guard over everybody else, keeping them in line with a gun in one hand and the threat of killing the lady doctor with the knife still at her throat.
Sam ran the tip of his tongue over his lips. From his present position, he didn't have a clear shot at the man holding Pilar and, without a clear shot, any move he made was likely to get the doctor killed. Resting his back against the wall, he tilted his head up to stare at the ceiling; he needed a plan fast.
Michael would have come up with something brilliantly simple which would have the intruders quickly disarmed, tied up and awaiting the police. Fiona would probably go in there all guns blazing and both men would end up in a bloody mess. But he wasn't a spy or a psychotic little ex terrorist. He had been trained to go in against the bad guys and save the hostages with a highly trained team backing him up. On his own, he could see so many variables, he wasn't sure he could cover them all on his own.
More shouting and then the sound he had been dreading; somebody new had just walked through the main door at the front. He had no more time to think about it, getting quickly to his feet, he lunged through the door his gun raised in front of him.
The man holding Pilar had his back towards the stockroom, but Sam could see from the angle of his arm that he still had the knife to the lady doctor's throat. The second man shouted a warning and the screams of the hostages who had suddenly seen him burst into view alerted the knife wielding man. As he began to turn, Pilar screamed and Sam eyes widened as he saw a thin spray of blood hit the floor. There was no chance of a happy ending now. Given no choice, he opened fire hitting the man in the head, dropping him before he could do any more damage.
With one threat gone, Sam turned towards the injured man, but the male doctor had him pinned down and helpless. Seeing that Sam was covering the injured man, the doctor ran across to where Pilar Zedillo sat on the floor holding a hand to her neck, trying unsuccessfully to stop the flow of blood from a shallow slash across her throat.
Moving over to the wounded man, Sam winced when he saw the extent of his injury. He had seen similar wounds before and knew the man had little chance of survival.
"The – there was four of them," Pilar began to speak, her voice trembling with shock. "B – but the other t – two left. They said it was t- too dangerous that the policia – ." She stared at Sam through wide pain filled eyes. "Mr Finley? What are you doing here?"
Sam could see Pilar trying to reconcile her opinion of the rich and heartless Charles Finley, a man who would let his own brother suffer to save the family name with the man who had burst into the clinic and saved her life.
Sam cleared his throat and stood up straighter hastily, putting his hand behind his back to hide the gun. "I – I came to see if you had the results from my brothers blood tests."
"I see." She got to her feet with the help of the male doctor. "This is my husband, Juan. Juan, this is Mr Finley. I told you all about him and his brother."
Juan Zedillo gave Sam nervous smile of thanks as he held a thick pad of gauze to his wife's wound. "Si, gracias, Senor. Mi esposa, Pilar, I 'ave to -" he gestured as if using a needle and thread all the while trying to direct his wife on to a bed.
"He llamado a la policía, ellos están en el camino," a frightened, wide-eyed woman called out from the receptionist desk.
"Ah," Sam easily translated the receptionists words now the Spanish was coming at a slower rate. However, he hadn't really thought about what he was going to tell the Mexican police when they turned up. So much for keeping a low profile.
"The police could be a problem for me." He followed Pilar and her husband to a side cubicle where Juan was searching for the equipment needed to treat his wife's injury.
Pilar smiled and then winced as her husband began to work. "So, you're not a lawyer?" Sam shook his head and looked a little sheepish. "And your brother is not a drug addict?"
"Correct – but – it is still essential we keep a low profile. Do you think you can do that for me?" He poured every ounce of charm into his expression.
"You saved my life, Mr. Finley, if that is your real name." She closed her eyes and winced as Juan started to sew up the four inch slash across her throat. "Go. Nobody else knows who you are. We'll claim you were some mysterious stranger." She took a deep breath and went very pale as the stitching continued and shock began to settle in. "But we will come out to Senor Delaney's later for a talk and I want to know what is going on."
"Here you go. This might be more comfortable." Hands around his head, lifting, pulling and then they were gone.
Michael stirred; the voice had been familiar though he couldn't quite place it. A soft gentle breeze caressed his arms and face and he could hear the faint rustle of leaves moving in the wind.
Was he outside?
His fingers brushed against a cotton sheet and eventually he felt the edge of the bed.
So, maybe not outside.
"You're taking too long Westen. C'mon, hotshot, use that razor sharp brain of yours and figure this out," Training Officer Card's voice sounded in his ears.
Michael smiled. He had the answers this time. I know you're not real. I've been drugged, by a doctor. I was rescued by Sam Axe and Fiona Glenanne, my friends.
"And how do you know all this, Kiddo?"
They told me, he answered confidently.
"And you trust them? A terrorist and a disgraced SEAL?"
She's not a terrorist and Sam, Sam was never disgraced. They are my friends.
"Well, if you're sure... Who else can you trust?"
Nobody. He wasn't even sure he could trust himself any more. But he had to believe that Sam told him the truth; that his present state was caused by a chemical interrogation.
"Are you sure about that, Westen? You're helpless at the moment. You're going to have to put your trust in more than those two."
"Fine, so what's your next move, smart guy?"
Gather intelligence. He rifled through his thoughts, trying to find an order to the muddled mess of memories both false and real. A sharp pain shooting through his head warned him he was pushing too hard, but apart from a wince and a groan, he ignored the warning. Instead he pushed harder, determined to follow through on all his years of training.
First of all, where am I? He knew that. Fiona had told him, a friend's house. They brought him here when the first location became unsecure.
More pain behind his eyes and squeezing the back of his neck, yet he continued to push through and like a dam bursting, the carefully thought out questions turned into a flood of queries he had no chance of controlling.
How secure is this location? Could he trust Fiona's friend? Who had taken him? What resources did they have? Why couldn't he move? How long had he been like this? Fiona's friend, who was he or she? Why did his stomach hurt? The questions were coming fast too fast. He couldn't control the flow. With his mind reeling, he gasped and reached out, desperately trying to find something to grab hold of. His fingertips and then his hand closed in on an arm and then came a familiar touch and a comforting hand closing about his, entwining their fingers.
"Shhh, it's alright, Michael. Wake up now, you're safe."
While he fought to gain control, he clung on to Fiona's hand and gradually the loud thudding of his heart slowed and he began to relax. Opening his eyes a crack, he confirmed it was Fiona at his side, her fingers turning red in his tight grip.
"Light," he muttered, shutting his eyes against the morning sun that was streaming into the room through an open window.
"There, we're shutting the blinds. It's safe to open your eyes. How do you feel? You were having a bad dream."
When he next peered out of half open eyes, the room was bathed in darkness. Looking around, he saw the blinds had been closed and the only light coming into the room was coming from a couple of small table lamps. Fiona was at his side with a welcoming smile on her lips.
He went to speak, but as his mouth opened the words of thanks he meant to utter died in his throat.
"She's not here, you're hallucinating."
"I'm sorry, Michael, but she hates you. You broke her heart. She wants nothing more than your death."
"Fiona Glenanne will wreck your career. Are you willing to throw everything away over a pretty face?"
"If you don't come in, the British are going to out you as a spy and let her take her chances."
"Stay here. If you attempt to leave, you'll be shot. Your own people have sent somebody to talk some sense into you. You should count yourself lucky – If you were under my command, I'd have cut your bollocks off months ago. You're a disgrace."
Out of nowhere, voices from his past filled his ears, Dr. Vincent, Dan Siebels, Tom Card and Richard Chambers, his one-time MI6 handler, scattering every rational thought into the wind.
He shivered; he was cold. The room he'd been left in was cold, dark and dripping with damp, which ran down the old brick walls. He recognized the place. He was in the basement of a MI6 safe house. It was the room usually reserved for prisoners waiting for interrogation. His MI6 handler had escorted him down the steep stone steps to the room and, after his parting shot, had left him alone.
He hadn't left alone for long. He'd heard a door slam and hollow echoing footsteps rushing down the stairs. Tom Card had stormed into the room and he'd been beyond furious with his favorite protégé.
"Sit down!" Card's eyes were bugging out of his head and his thinning hair, which was normally immaculately styled, was in disarray.
He had paused in his pacing but held his ground in the face of his old mentor's wrath.
"I -" He'd wanted to explain his actions, but it had seemed that Card was only interested in his own agenda.
"Sit down!" The first loud order turned into a bellowing demand and he had to duck to avoid the plastic chair that flew across the room at his head.
Doing his best not to show how shaken he was by the older man's outburst, he had righted the chair and sat down, all the time his heart thudding in his chest.
"I've just had a nine hour flight and the whole goddamn way I've had to listen to some prissy Brit intelligence chief whine in my ear about you." Card took a breath running his hands through his hair before turning back to the reason for his mad dash across the Atlantic. "You've repeatedly refused come in, even though your cover is as good as blown. Questions are being asked about Michael McBride by some very angry Irishmen and MI6 is ready to hand you over to them on a silver platter. Can ya explain to me why I don't just have ya put in a strait jacket and sent back home on a Section Eight?"
"I -" He had wanted to explain that he hadn't refused to leave, that he'd just wanted some time.
"I've heard it all. You want to bring your asset in with you?"
"Yes." He had breathed a sigh of relief at finally being given a chance to give them his side. "Fiona Glenanne is -"
"Is an arms dealer and a bank robber. Her whole family is heavily involved with the Republican Army and you think she will forget about all that and willingly run away with you? Then what? The birds will sing and a heavenly choir of angels will float down to lay blessings -"
"No – no I know it won't be perfect but we – I – . We're a good team. She would be a valuable asset to the agency." He had cut through Card's sarcasm and tried to make him understand that he wasn't only thinking with his heart.
Card frowned and shook his head. "Let me make this clear to you. I'm not here as a shoulder for you to cry on. Fiona Glenanne comes from a family of terrorists. Her father died in a British internment camp. Her oldest brother was killed during a botched attempt to arrest him, which left five British soldiers hospitalized. The present head of the family, Liam Glenanne, would, if there was any justice in the world, be locked up for the rest of his life for multiple murders. But apparently every time they make a case against him, all the witnesses mysteriously die or disappear. Colin Glenanne is probably considered the black sheep of the family as all he appears to be guilty of is some minor hacking offenses. Then there is Seamus, your gal's partner in crime vis a vis arms dealing, and finally Sean, the loyal para military soldier. Do ya see where I'm goin' with this?"
Card had told him nothing he didn't already know, he'd shrugged his shoulders and looked down.
"She's not like that. We've worked together. You know that she's helped me out a lot."
"So stay, and when your cover is blown and her big brother has you strung up on a meat hook, what happens then? You've seen what they do to informers. Do you think Liam Glenanne or any of the others could stop dear sweet Fiona being killed?"
"That's why you have to give me time to talk to her, to explain."
"There is no time. The Brits have had enough of you. They want you gone right now. They want me to escort you out of Ireland or they're threatening to expose you as a foreign agent and have you arrested as a spy."
"Arrested? If they do that they might as well sign her death warrant."
"Finally, you're beginning to see the big picture!" Card pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. "Look, I get it, I do, really. She's a nice looking girl. Passionate and – not what you're used to. But, away from here, it would never work. She would have to leave everything behind and never come back. Her family would disown her and it would all be for you. Are you ready for that level of commitment?"
"Maybe, I -"
"I know you, Michael, a wife, - kids. It isn't you. Now, the Brits are making a lot of noise. They're accusing you of going native. You are about to lose your standing not only within the agency, but with the whole intelligence community... You are about to destroy a very promising career and ruin your whole life. Is that what you want?"
Deep down, he had known Card was right but it hadn't help with how he'd felt.
"What can I do?"
"Leave. You can save your career and her life by leaving without a word."
It had felt like his heart was being torn out, but he had nodded silently, agreeing to do whatever he could to save her life.
"Good, I'll arrange it. It'll take a couple of days. You can use the time to clean the flat. Make sure you leave nothing behind. I'll contact you with a time and place for your departure."
He had been released from the safe house and spent the next two days feeling like he'd been kicked in the guts. He had barely spoken to Fiona because he had been afraid of what he might say. Then when he'd believed he had finally thought of a way which might work, the decision was taken forcefully out of his hands.
"Michael, Michael, you're hallucinating." He felt her hand on his cheek and then on his shoulders, shaking him.
"Fi – Fiona, what?"
The cold damp of an Irish winter left him feeling chilled to the bones was replaced by the stifling heat of the Caribbean and, with his head still spinning, Michael tried to focus on Fiona's worried voice.
"It's alright, I'm here. I know they made you leave." Both Fiona and Billy had heard Michael's side of the conversation. But only Fiona had any idea what he was talking about. Listening to him pleading for them to be allowed to stay together had made her heart beat faster. He had fought for them. He hadn't just run away with his tail between his legs like he had let her believe.
"Fiona," he gasped. "Am sorry. I didn't wanna go. They made me. Your brother, my boss. Am sorry." Still fighting the confusion and pain filling his head, it seemed terribly important that she believed him.
"Shhh. It's all in the past it doesn't matter."
Gulping in mouthfuls of air, it was only then Michael realized the oxygen mask was gone, replaced by simple tubing that looped around his ears and across his upper lip with two tiny prongs sending a light stream of oxygen into his nose. Taking another look around the room, he reassured himself that nothing else had changed.
"Are you feeling better now?" Fiona asked, letting her fingertips trail down his cheek and on to his still rapidly rising and falling chest.
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak, too exhausted to fight any more. He hated feeling so helpless, yet his every attempt to push aside the pain and weariness was crushed as his mind and body rebelled. For somebody who was used to being always being in command of all his senses, the feeling of loss of control was scaring him more than he cared to admit.
"Think you can manage a drink?" She took the carton of banana milkshake from Billy and directed the straw in between Michael's lips.
He sucked down the sickly sweet liquid, his eyes closing as he willingly surrendered to sleep.
"Don't let him go back to sleep, at least not yet. Hey, Mike, can you stay awake a little bit longer?" Billy shook his patient's shoulder. "C'mon you're not going to get better if you just sleep the day away."
Fiona looked up at the medic. "I thought you wanted him to rest?"
"Yeah I do. But now he's coming round more, he also needs to clear his mind and interacting will help him get back to reality and out of the dream world he's been living in."
"You're right. Every time we talk, he improves. Michael!" she spoke a little louder, shaking him a lot harder than Billy's light touch. "Michael, are ya gonna wake up or do I have ta kick yer ass?"
He opened one eye a crack and looked at her. "You've used that threat before," he mumbled.
"And I'll keep using it until you learn ta listen. Now sit up." She tugged on his arm and, after a huff of complaint, he let Fiona and Billy help him into a sitting position.
"Good. Now, I'm going to leave you two alone. Try to keep him awake at least for a little while."
Left alone, they sat in silence for a few minutes with Michael staring into her eyes before letting his gaze flicker over her features. "You've lost weight? I – I think – I mean." He broke off unable to remember exactly when he last saw her.
"Shhh." She leaned in taking his head in her hands and kissing his forehead, then his cheek. "We just need to go through things slowly and it will come back to you. Let's start with what you do remember." She tried to calm him down.
He laid back, his heart thumping away in his chest as he tentatively shifted through his memories searching for the last time he clearly remembered seeing her. He waited for the stabbing pain which warned he was pushing too far. But instead of pain, he gasped as suddenly a clear image came into sight: Fiona standing in his mom's yard in a long green sundress, her long hair tumbling loosely about her shoulders, the reddish gold in her hair glinting in the sunlight.
At that moment he had thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
He remembered the jump out of a helicopter: the rush of air surrounding him, the shock of hitting the water, sinking down under the waves, following bubbles of air back to the surface and staring at the Miami coastline faraway in the distance, knowing he had a long swim ahead of him.
His eyes went wide and he turned to stare up into Fiona's blue green eyes.