Title: On Deadly Ground
Chapter 5 – SRU vs THE DEVIL
Despite the fact that he was beyond exhausted and chilled to the bone, being in a very strange place with vengeful hunters on their backs, reminded him that no matter what he needed to stay as alert as possible. Ed had helped him get most of the wet clothes off, but his body was still damp and shaking.
He hears Ed in the other room, feeling the agitation in his voice and frowning at the uncertain tone in his voice. Wordy's eyes slowly start to drift around the room, his body starting to tingle – a sure sign it was trying to pull itself out of the hypothermic funk. With only the small bedside light on, his brain had to work overtime to keep his weary eyes in focus as he starts to scan the room for anything that might give them a clue about who had extended some measure of hospitality and where they were.
Wordy's entire frame seizes as he hears the dog bark and then the older man, who had now identified himself as Milton's voice telling the dog to hush around his guest. Picking up the agitation in Ed's voice as he tries to make a funny comment about the dog's iconic name was easy; registering what his eyes were resting on next was a bit more difficult. And then things started to slow…literally. He feels himself leaning upward, pulling his cool back from the warm nest of the bed, the covers opening and allowing a rush of cool air inside the warm envelopment and forcing him to instantly shudder.
"Need some help?" Wordy hears Milton ask and instantly feels his stomach tighten, his brain cursing the fact that his limbs couldn't get out of the warm bed fast enough; his body rebelling against any kind of movement. But his best friend didn't know what he just discovered and he has to act.
"Just tell me the number to dial," Wordy's fingers react to Milton's next statement to an unsuspecting Ed as his fingers wrap around the gun and he pushes his scantily clad frame into the hallway, virtually stumbling toward the aromatic kitchen; telling himself if Ed makes that call they might know Milton has company – that is if Lockhart's men don't already. Wordy rounds the corner with the gun drawn and instantly curses his bad timing as he comes face to face with Ed not the old man.
"Hands where I can see em!" Wordy demands as he cocks the rifle, the gun seemingly pointing right at Ed.
But seeing Wordy's gaze moving past him and resting on the old man standing beside the agitated dog, Ed slowly steps aside and then turns to look at Milton, his body now flush between his injured best friend and their would be savior. "Wordy?"
"My friend makes a call and suddenly you have company right?" Wordy states firmly.
"I have no idea what you mean?"
"What?" Ed asks in shock.
"We know who you are and there won't be any calls made from you telling them we're here," Wordy hisses at Milton, making Ed's fists instantly seize as he looks at their kind host in anger.
"Young man I can assure you…"
"Ed, did he make any calls?"
"No. Who is he?"
"Not a friend. Where's our clothes?"
"Wordy, you're freezing," Ed half whispers as he notices the end of the rifle starting to waver.
"I can assure you that I mean the two of you no harm," Milton replies as he tries to quiet the agitated dog on his right. "Please put that gun down. You're upsetting Cujo."
"Sir…you stay where you are. Ed where's our clothing?"
"Get them," Wordy directs, using a tone that even Ed dare not question.
"Will you kindly explain what's going on?"
"Why? So you can go and tell your friends where we are and in what shape?" Wordy retorts angrily. "I won't tip my hand to the devil."
"I'm not the devil."
"You know him so don't play games."
They had only been in the dryer about twenty minutes and so were still mostly damp as Ed retrieves them; his mind racing with wonder as to what Wordy had found out about their host. For a split second he wondered if perhaps the cold had affected his thinking and he just wasn't reasoning rashly. But he knows Wordy's instincts, much like his, in a situation like this would always be on; he found something that connected the old man to Lockhart – that was the only explanation.
Not seeing keys to the truck or even a cell phone, Ed hurries back to the kitchen entrance, dumping the slightly warmed clothes on the floor and then taking the rifle from Wordy.
"I really wish you'd explain yourself for these seemingly rash actions," Milton mentions to Ed in a calm tone. "Do you just agree with him without question?"
"My partner doesn't like you…that's good enough for me," Ed replies firmly, his heart racing at top speed.
"You boys have me pegged all wrong it seems. But…"
"Don't move," Ed insists as Milton takes a step toward them, Cujo's barking instantly gaining strength.
"Am not gonna hurt either of you," Milton replies with a frown as Wordy yanks the cord from the wall, ripping its head away from the cords and rendering the phone useless.
"Where is your cell phone?"
"I don't have one and that is the truth. But I really wish you'd tell me what's going on here? I opened my home to you and offered…"
"To give us a false sense of security before you send a signal to your friends to come and get us?" Wordy retorts as he glares at Milton in anger. "I'm going home to my family and nothing you or the devil's helpers out there will stop that."
"Very well then…I wish you and your injured partner god speed…you'll both need it," Milton's voice turns serious as locks eyes with Ed and holds his gaze with a haunted stare; Ed instantly feeling his agitation starting to grow. "I know you're both afraid."
"Like hell we are," Ed replies firmly.
"Oh you should be…I know what hunts you."
"Thanks for the hospitality," Ed offers in sarcasm as he glances over at Wordy to ensure he was once again fully dressed and ready to move on. They had no other way of knowing what other means of communication the old man had and neither did they have time to play hide and seek and search for the elusive object either. They only knew that Lockhart's grip was starting to close around them and they needed a way out and fast.
"Where are the damn keys?" Wordy demands.
"I lost them," Milton merely replies, him now tired of holding up the façade and just stalling for time.
Ed quickly glances over at Wordy as he pulls on the jacket and then his boots.
"You boys won't last long in your condition out there."
"Better a fighting chance out there than sitting ducks in here," Ed retorts. "Ready?"
"Ready," Wordy nods as he heads for the back door, night goggles in hand and starts to look around.
"Turn around," Ed motions to the old man, drawing an inquisitive glance from his partner.
"You going to shoot me in the back officer?" Milton quips.
"Turn around and find out," Ed demands as Milton slowly turns around his hands still in the air. He had thought about hitting the old man over the head but knows that it's the devil's MO to leave a trail of bodies in his wake – not that of the SRU; so he merely wraps his arm around his neck and holds onto Milton until the old man's frame goes limp in his arms and then slowly lowers him to the ground as Cujo helplessly barks on. Both Ed and Wordy scour the cupboards, pulling out a few breakfast bars and a first aid kit.
"What was that all about?"
"His wife is on the board that funds this place…" Wordy states as he looks back at Ed with a heavy frown. "But at least I know where we are, The Chapleau Crown Game Reserve."
"Great," Ed groans as his mind references the information that they were indeed being hunted on the world's largest game reserve. "How did we not see any bears yet?" He huffs, knowing the wildlife ratio.
"Well Lockhart does have the money to pay someone to corral them to a certain part of this place if he so wanted; I mean it is huge and am sure his men don't want to get attacked or come under fire for killing animals on crown land that is protected by the government. Why do you think we are being sent in a certain direction?"
"Damn it," Ed grumbles. "What else?"
"I have had run ins with the board his wife sits on…certain members were hand picked by Darren Lockhart, he's their biggest contributor. And I saw a plaque in that small room given to his wife by the devil himself and a picture of them shaking hands," Wordy groans. "We hafta move now. You see keys to that truck outside?"
"No, but I can hotwire it. You sure you don't need a few more minutes?"
"I'm cold and…what about your shoulder? Can I at least see it in the light?"
Ed looks at Wordy with a deep frown, hesitating in his movements.
"Back there…for a split second…when you came around the corner with the gun…"
"You thought I had turned on you?"
"I was kinda delusional but you know I never would betray you right?" Wordy inquires.
"I know that," Ed assures him in haste. "Was just surprised."
"Sorry for pointing the gun at you but I didn't expect you to be right there. Okay can I see the shoulder?"
As much as he knows another second wasted in the would be death trap might lead to their ultimate demise, his shoulder was throbbing and the bullet at least needed to come out. But were Wordy's hands steady enough to perform the task? Giving himself a quick mental ass kicking for even doubting his best friend's capabilities, he tells himself it was warm and Wordy's actions would be fine. So with a slow nod, he finally gives in, shrugging off his sweater and slumping down on a nearby chair, Cujo still barking at them.
"Hold on a sec," Wordy sighs as he opens the fridge and pulls out a steak and tosses it at the dog. "Wasn't that getting on your nerves?" He quips as Ed smirks. "Now hold still. Your t-shirt is stuck in the…hold on…"
"Ahhhh!" Ed's lips offer a painful gasp as Wordy's fingers start to tug at the fabric wrapped around the bullet and embedded in his shoulder. "Wordy…" Ed groans.
"Sorry…it's stuck with the fabric and I'm gonna pull it out. It's gonna hurt."
Ed braces himself and then utters another painful moan as Wordy pulls the fabric against the direction of the already chewed up skin, tearing it open a bit more but finally dislodging the terrible object of his friend's pain. "Sorry."
"Thanks," Ed frowns as he feels Wordy's fingers still fiddling with the injured area, his teeth gritting as the raw skin dances with the unforgiving disinfectant before a soothing pad is placed over it and taped down.
"Its crude but at least the bullet's out. Oh and speaking of bullets…"
"Yeah?" Ed looks up at Wordy in wonder.
"This thing only has one in its chamber."
"I'm serious," Wordy confirms, making Ed curse.
"Then we gotta make it count. Okay let's find some warmer clothes and get the hell outta here."
Ed quickly redresses as Wordy goes in search of some jackets coming back with that and a pair of warm dry boots for each. "At least the sizes are close," Wordy mentions and Ed can only offer his friend a small smile as he quickly dresses, his mind trying to ignore the biting pain from his shoulder movements. He pulls on the sweater and black toque and then looks at Wordy and nods – it was time to leave now. After they were dressed with warmer clothes and pockets stuffed with some bars and first aid supplies they prepare to move out; both wishing they had another rifle or some other sort of weapon as a defense.
"Why'd you kill the phone?"
"All I heard was static and am guessing he was supposed to send a beep or something and then wait for them to come get us."
They hurry toward the truck, Ed heading for the drivers side while Wordy, once again equipped with the night goggles and keeping an eye out. With only one bullet and no other means of defending themselves they had to make sure it wasn't wasted. But at least they had a sense of where they were; no where near home but at least he both had a basic knowledge of the area enough to know what they were up against – an unforgiving destination that one dare not take for granted.
"Can you hotwire that thing?" Wordy asks quickly, his body begging for another bout of heat as the cold starts to attack his exposed skin once more.
Ed uses the small flashlight he had taken to illuminate the panel below the steering column to pry it lose and then pull down the wires he hopes will help to jump start the truck – the plan works and the late model truck hums to life and Wordy hurries around the passenger side and hops in. Ed flips on the headlights and then turns the truck to face the pre-made tracks and then pulls away, hoping it will lead them to the highway and freedom.
But not ten minutes into their journey, fate once again decides to cruelly intervene.
"Boss where are you?" Sam asks into his headset as he and Spike near the quiet abode of Leon Matthews, the second missing Lockhart henchman.
"Raf and I are about sixty seconds away nearing the back alley on fifth. What do you see?"
"Looks all quiet," Sam frowns as he squints at the darkened residence before him. "We're ready on your go."
"Copy that," Greg replies as he and Raf head down the darkened alleyway and near the quiet backyard of Leon Matthews."
"All dark and quiet back here too," Raf informs the team.
"Let's go stealth team. We don't want to tip our hand in case he's in there."
Greg and Raf quietly exit the SRU SUV and head for the rickety back gate, Sam and Spike heading for the front door.
"Any sign of a security system?" Spike wonders.
"Nothing we can see," Raf replies softly. "What's there to guard with this place?" He tosses out, making the other three smirk and nod.
"Okay quiet entry if possible."
"Does that mean I can pick the lock?" Spike offers as he looks at Sam who merely shakes his head. But before Sam and argue in return, Spike pulls out a pick and expertly picks the lock.
"Do I even wanna know where you learned that? Geek with lock picking skills."
"That's why the ladies love me," Spike smirks as he stows the pick and readies his gun once more.
"Yeah so you can break without being invited?" Sam quips before he's back to all business. "Boss, we're inside," Sam whispers as he sends Spike to the back to let Greg and Raf into the sparsely furnished dwelling. "I'm going upstairs."
"Raf check the basement," Greg directs as he joins up with Spike. "Anything electronic we can use?"
"On it," Spike replies as Greg finally flips on the hall light.
Greg feels his nervous agitation starting to mount, knowing what kind of reputation Darren Lockhart was known and feared for and what his two friends might now be facing. Compounding his anxiety was his last communication with Jules about how Sophie and Shelly refused to sleep at all, any word on their missing husbands was the only thing that would ease some of their concern, but the right word – an affirmation of death wasn't an option.
"All clear upstairs," Sam informs them as joins Greg in the main living room area.
"Same with the basement," Raf states as he walks up to them. "But I did find this."
"A receipt dated yesterday for ammunition," Greg frowns as he reads the order and then looks up at his team. "And this ammunition is for long range hunting rifles."
"What?" Spike asks as he walks up to them with a small iPad in his hands.
"He researched hunting rifles."
"This is not good," Raf states the obvious as Sam feels his stomach tighten. "What is it?" Raf asks Sam.
"Rifles..hunting ammo…bad gut feeling."
"Like maybe they took them somewhere and uh…are hunting them? Man that's messed up," Raf mumbles.
"Yeah but not far fetched," Spike interrupts.
"You find something?" Greg inquires in haste.
"Not an exact location but enough to suggest Sam's right. They were kidnapped and taken somewhere…to be hunted," Spike shows them a website.
"What the hell? Now that's messed up," Raf comments. "Hunting men dot com? Thought that was a dating site."
"Spike…we need to find them and I mean now," Greg directs his frustrated team. "Its us and them verses the devil and time is running out on our boys."
"Ed! Look o…" is all Wordy manages as the shot shatters the back left tire of the truck, instantly rendering the means of escape useless and forcing it to swerve and shudder over the snowy path.
"Dam…" Ed grunts as his fingers try to control the skid as they hit an icy patch and sail toward a group of trees. Not wanting a head on collision and knowing that hitting either passenger side wasn't a wise option; Ed tries to get the out of control truck into a controlled swing so that it would end up hitting the back box and not doing any more damage to them than anticipated. For the most part the move works; but it's the right side of the box that slams into the tree, jarring the two inside passengers; jostling them around in the front like two rag dolls.
Despite his pounding head, Wordy looks up through the night goggles and sees bright green specks heading toward them. "Ed…here they come!" He exclaims excitedly; prompting both to vacate the smoking wreck and hurry back into the thick dense forest.
Biting back a fresh tsunami of pain, Ed pushes himself out of the drivers side and hurries after Wordy, both of them cringing at the sound of a distinct 'ping' reverberating off the side of the truck they had just removed themselves from.
"WE GOT THEM NOW!" The call is heard followed by sickening laughter.
"Ed…we hafta…even the…odds…" Wordy pants as they head deeper into the unknown wilderness before them.
"I know…but we can't stop…only one shot…" Ed agrees, nearly out of breath, his heart straining to keep his lungs breathing and his entire frame moving with as much energy it can muster. His leg and arm were both screaming at him to stop but hearing the mocking laughter in the background and knowing that daylight would soon be coming they had to get somewhere fast and hide; the odds were piling up against them and stopping wasn't an option.
"Ed!" Wordy huffs as he veers to the right, Ed following without question. The once darkened sky was starting to lighten, meaning the cold, frigid night was going to ease but that would mean daylight would bring a whole host of other problems – such as leaving them less places to hide and more chances of getting caught.
"How many…did you see?" Ed manages with a painful wheeze as they near another outcropping of trees and then hide behind it, waiting.
"Three…" Wordy whispers as they hear footsteps nearing. "Just…don't move."
Ed feels himself holding his breath as the footsteps near, not waiting for Wordy to tell him how many were approaching but jumping out and just slamming his body into one as they approached. The man, who would be later identified as Leon Matthews, the one his team was searching for, stumbles backward, Ed pouncing again before he has a chance to fire off a shot.
"Over here!" Another shouts.
"Roger…to your right!" The other shouts.
Wordy thinks about the long range rifle in his hands and knows with the darkness still impeding a clean kill shot, wasting the bullet into the cool night air was something he wasn't planning to do. So instead, he follows Ed's lead and jumps into the fray with Ed and Leon, trying to pry away the gun and leaving Ed to take care of their attacker.
Wordy manages to get the gun away and fire in the direction of the other two green figures, forcing them to stop and duck for cover; Ed managing to get Leon out with a choker hold but having to leave him unrestrained as he had even less on him than the last one.
Wordy fires again, finishing off the half filled clip and ensuring they were able to get some ground on their escape. So with the other two still hiding, Wordy and Ed once again try to keep themselves behind the trees as they head further away from the last two hunters left standing – or so that was their count. They run hard for about twenty more minutes before physical fatigue forces them to finally stop, both of them dropping to their knees, chests heaving and hearts racing.
"Think…just two left?" Wordy asks with a heavy pant.
"Hope…so," Ed replies with a distinct wheeze, drawing a worried glance from his best friend. "I'm…fine."
"I know you're not," Wordy retorts, making Ed's shoulders slightly slump.
"Fine…I hurt like hell...is that better?"
"It's the truth," Wordy gently teases him in return. "Think the team found anything to search?"
"Lockhart's smart…I doubt he left more than bodies as a trail of breadcrumbs. But if they do get my phone then maybe the ballistics from the tire would…" Ed rambles off without thinking about all he was offering.
"Ballistics? Tire? What are you talking about?"
Ed looks at Wordy's wondering expression in the soft growing light and frowns. "What?"
"I asked if you ran into any problems this past week and you said no."
"I didn't want to worry you okay?"
"What happened Ed?" Wordy asks directly.
"I was coming out of work a few nights back and was shot at. The bullet missed me and landed in the tire. I got a flat on the way home and then took the whole tire into Phil the next morning and that was it…I heard nothing back. That's it. I didn't mention it because I know how tense this week was for you and until I had ruled it targeted figured it could have also just been a stray."
"Sent in your direction?"
"Hey it could happen okay," Ed rushes in his defense. "It doesn't matter now does it?"
"Suppose not," Wordy answers a bit stiffly and Ed grits his teeth. "But I had run in myself this week so I guess the week was tense for both of us."
"What happened to you?"
"Bullet in the tire."
"What?" Ed asks in shock. "Anyone stop to offer you help and then drive off?"
"Smarmy lookin' guy with a reddish beard and close cropped buzz cut?"
"Same guy as me! Damn so it was targeted…" Ed curses in anger. "Okay so where to now?"
"Am sure they'll have stationed someone at the end of that road by now in case we double back, but if that is the only way out of here then we hafta head in that direction."
"Parallel. Okay…let's get moving."
Both were pushing themselves past their own personal breaking point, but dawn was coming and that would mean Lockhart's men would be getting more desperate to end the chase and ending the chase meant them both dead; they had to find help and fast. Ed looks over at Wordy and frowns; both had kept secrets from the other, something they never would have done in the past. Once again Ed can't help but think back to his first stumbling into Wordy's undercover op and nearly ending up a liability with his best friend taking the fall. Did that event strain their friendship beyond repair? Would this growing tension subside or just continue to gain momentum? Come on Greg…you hafta have something by now.
Greg looks at his team as they talk with Shelly and Sophie and feels his mind silently curse. The rather sordid website had told them nothing, only offered sick places for some rather unorthodox practices that appealed to certain lifestyles; and said establishments were mostly in the US, nothing in Ontario to suggest that Darren Lockhart would be mixed up with. But just to be sure Spike was running the Lockhart accounts they had access to against any of the locations listed on the website just to be sure.
He looks over at Shelly and Sophie and frowns; their husbands and the father's of their children were missing and he wasn't in any position to offer any kind of comfort or hope, more so than he already had; he could only pray a location was found and fast.
"Boss…" Spike suddenly pipes up. "I think I might have something," he exclaims, bringing team one to his side in haste; both wives holding each other's hands and praying it was the location of their husbands.
The sky was still overcast but starting to lighten enough that Wordy was able to stuff the night goggles into the pocket of his jacket for a later time if necessary. The jackets they had taken from the old man's house had worked well to keep precious body heat against their aching chests from escaping and keep the onset of hypothermia at bay. But their legs were cold, both were sporting injuries and Ed's shoulder needed tending to and fast.
"Hold up…" Ed stops Wordy as they near the edge of the forest and look upon a clearing; a sprint that would take them to another forested section, but in the interim leave them out in the open. "Are we still parallel with the road?"
"We are but that doesn't mean much…this place is massive," Wordy reminds him as they both look at the seemingly harmless clearing and the protective forest on the other side of the great divide. "What do you think? Ed?"
"What if you're right and they are corralling us in the direction they want?"
"What other option do we have? We go back and all we run into is the old man who we know is not on our side."
Ed looks at the unfriendly forested entrance before them and feels his stomach tighten. They were trapped. What lay ahead? Only danger behind? And if they went to the left or right could possibly risk heading deeper into the thick forest and running into local wildlife that they would be mostly defenseless against. He looks over at Wordy and shakes his head.
"I hate that they have the upper hand. We need to even this out and draw them out and meet us on our terms."
"A trap. And the bait?" Wordy asks, drawing Ed's gaze back to him. "Right."
"We each have a rifle with one shot but I figure they won't send both of them to check if you're dead. You're better at hand to hand than me…"
"And you have the sniper shot."
"We hafta do this," Ed states, trying to downplay the hint of desperation in his voice.
"Okay what's your plan?" Wordy inquires, his own agitation starting to build. Ed leans in closer to talk to Wordy in a lower tone, not realizing that a dark set of eyes was watching him through a long range sniper scope; a twisted smile slowly forming as another plan was being put into motion.
A/N: Okay so seriously I had planned to end this another way but realized this chapter was already 8 pages and I didn't want to rush anything further or leave mid-action. So think their plan will work? Will they escape? Will time run out? Or will team one find them in time? Hope you all have some nails left lol and please do review before you go (you know it makes us write faster) and thanks so much in advance! You all rock! :D