A/N: Thank you all so much for a such a fantastic response to the last chapter, I really appreciate all your wonderful reviews! Apologies for taking a week to get this chapter up but I hope to do better in the future :)
"Get out. Nice and slow," said a deep male voice from behind Jane.
The consultant felt the pressure on the back of his head ease somewhat and he tentatively started to turn. He thought briefly of making a grab for Lisbon's gun in the glove compartment but then rejected it almost immediately; he knew he wouldn't be able to get it quick enough. Taking measured movements, he slowly manoeuvred himself out of the vehicle then held up his hands as he came face to face with a young man holding a rifle pointed squarely at his chest.
He swallowed hard. He wasn't a firearms expert but even he could hazard a guess that the six men who had been murdered over the past few months probably died at the hands of someone using a gun exactly like that.
His gaze went to the man who was a good four inches taller than him with black, cropped hair, dark brown eyes and at least a day's growth of stubble. He wore a tight fitting, dark blue t-shirt and his jeans were faded and worn, although the consultant gauged they were intentionally so and not from age. Hiking boots completed the look and, along with the rest of the man's attire, they didn't look cheap either.
"What do you want?" Jane asked, sounding calm.
"Shut up and empty your pockets," the man ordered.
Trepidation filling his entire being, Jane eyed the long barrel of the gun as he slowly did as he was told. Dipping his hands into his jacket pockets, he pulled out his phone from one and a pen from the other then held them up.
Jane felt a momentary pang of relief that the man hadn't also demanded that he retrieve things from his inside pocket. He could feel his notebook burning a significant a hole there but despite his fear, he wouldn't have been about to give that up quite so willingly. He opened his hands and let the items he held fall to the ground. The man then gestured with the gun towards the car.
"Go get your girlfriend out."
The blond walked cautiously around the back of the vehicle, conscious the whole time of the man following slowly, his only diversion to stoop to pick up the discarded phone. Jane opened the driver's door then, after glancing at the man again, he reached forward across Lisbon into the car. His action caused her jacket to fall open slightly and his gaze was immediately drawn to the badge resting on her hip. He had to get rid of it. He couldn't let the gunman know they were cops. He felt sure that their lives would be over there and then if he found out.
Under the guise of unclipping her seatbelt, he surreptitiously removed her badge then dropped it down the gap between the seat and the centre console. It was so fluid and skilful a movement that the man behind was none the wiser…or so he thought. He stilled and looked up as the dark haired man came to his side.
"She got a phone too?" he asked.
Jane almost smiled in relief. He nodded then realised he was going to have to dig around in Lisbon's front jeans pocket to retrieve the item. He hesitated a moment then remembered that the man had assumed they were a couple. It would look odd if he was reluctant to touch her with any familiarity and he knew he should being doing what he could to encourage the man's misapprehension. It would put the ball firmly in their court once Lisbon was awake. The gunman wouldn't expect a petite looking female such as her to be any kind of threat.
Jane glanced at her face then, sending up a silent prayer that she didn't wake up in the middle of what he was doing, he eased his fingers into her pocket. He was glad that he felt the phone straight away and pulled it out quickly. Shifting slightly, he held it out to the gunman who snatched it from his grasp.
The consultant wasn't sure what the man was going to do with the phones but while they were still on, at least the team would be able to get a fix on them once they realised they were missing.
The blond turned back to the car then carefully placed his arms under Lisbon's limp body and gingerly lifted her off the seat and out of the car. He adjusted her weight more comfortably in his arms then tensed as he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching. Casting a quick look in the gunman's direction, he was surprised and a little unsettled to find that the young man seemed unperturbed at the thought that he might be caught.
Seconds later a silver van pulled up a few feet away and two men got out then walked towards them. One was older, in his forties with fair hair, wearing a green check shirt and jeans and sporting a grim expression. The younger man was also fair and had more than a passing resemblance to the older man for Jane to deduce that he was his son. He was grinning widely and carrying a rifle.
The older man took in the scene before him and shook his head. He looked at the consultant then dropped his eyes to Lisbon, his blue gaze slowly sliding over her inert body in such a way that the blond subconsciously tightened his grip and drew her in closer towards him.
"Wade, put them in the van," the fair-haired man suddenly ordered sharply.
The youth quickly moved behind Jane and nudged him, none to gently, on the back with his gun.
The blond walked slowly to the vehicle carrying his precious bundle. He was beginning to feel more than a little alarmed at the turn of events but damped it down as best he could. He couldn't start panicking just yet, even though the odds were stacked drastically against them now. Together he and Lisbon could've probably taken the one man by surprise, but three of them? With weapons? Not to mention that the men clearly hadn't bothered to hide their faces nor concerned themselves that he could hear their names. That obviously meant only one possible outcome for Lisbon and himself.
And if that wasn't bad enough, he really hadn't liked the way the father had practically ogled Lisbon's body. Jane knew he wasn't in any position to do much by way of protecting her when these men had guns. That didn't mean he wouldn't die trying though.
The son opened the back doors of the van and motioned for the consultant to get inside. The blond gently laid Lisbon down on the cold, metal floor then clambered in beside her. He sat down with his back against the side of the van and his legs stretched out in front of him then leaned over to Lisbon. Lifting her head, he shuffled closer until it rested on his lap and then he draped his arm over her waist. He looked down at her still features and his other hand found its way to her hair, taking up a slow stroking motion.
Outside, the older man looked at the black-haired youth in disgust.
"I thought I specifically told you not to go after anyone else yet, Zack. The Feds are in Arcata swarming all over this thing. Do you want to get us caught?" he demanded angrily.
"How are they going to catch us? They don't even know what's going on," Zack retorted scathingly. He shook his head then suddenly grinned maliciously. "Just think of doing this right under their noses, Ben. A couple at that. It's the ultimate game."
"It's the ultimate stupidity," Ben countered wrathfully. He paused and looked at the damaged SUV then gestured towards it with a sneer. "What have I told you about shooting out a tyre on a bend for Christ's sake? Look at the damage to this thing. What the hell am I supposed to do with it now, huh?" He shook his head. "Just hide it until I can come back and get it later. And give me their phones," he added as an afterthought, holding out his hand.
Zack stared at the older man defiantly for a few seconds then let out a heavy sigh and pulled the mobiles out of his pocket and reluctantly handed them over. Ben spun around and nodded at Wade to help Zack out as he took his son's place at the back of the van.
Jane looked up as the first door slammed shut swiftly followed by the second, leaving them in semi darkness despite the bright light of the day that spilled in from the windscreen.
He'd heard every word the men had said to each other and was busy trying to piece together what the hell was going on. Obviously, these men were behind the killings and they were organised. As for a motive…
A sudden soft groan broke into his thoughts and he immediately focussed his attention on Lisbon as she slowly came back to consciousness. The noise from the doors must have woken her finally.
"Hey," he whispered with a soft smile as her eyes fluttered open. "How are you feeling?"
Lisbon blinked a few times, trying to get her bearings. Her eyes darted around the gloom of the van interior until eventually resting on Jane's face and she frowned. She could feel his arm lying just below her chest, his hand curving under her body. His other hand was in her hair, his fingers gently massaging her scalp as he stared down at her with such a tender expression that made her heart thud. She was feeling pretty good, actually. Except, the situation was so surreal that she wondered briefly if she'd been drinking. Her fuzzy head certainly felt like she had. Then it all came back to her in a rush. The car. The tree…
"Where are we?" she asked as sat up far too quickly. Her head swam at the movement but she shut her eyes and rode it out until the world righted itself once more.
"Take it easy, you've had a nasty knock to your head," he soothed, automatically reaching out and placing his hand on the small of her back. "Do you remember the tyre blowing out?"
"Yeah. I guess we hit that tree, right?" she replied, looking at him for confirmation.
He nodded then leaned in closer to her and said in an low, urgent voice, "Listen, we don't have much time. It wasn't an accident, Lisbon, the tyre was shot out. There are three men outside, two of them have rifles and I'm certain these are the people that killed Miller and the others."
"What?" she exclaimed in shock.
"I've hidden your badge in the SUV. They mustn't know we're anything to do with the police. It's the only thing keeping us alive at the moment," he continued, ignoring her surprise. "They think we're just a normal couple, so try not to be so, so…Lisbony."
"Excuse me?" she queried, looking affronted before demanding to know in a loud whisper, "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, you know, angry, aggressive, that hard cop exterior thing you do," he explained in a hushed tone. "Try and be a bit more…"
"Pathetic, like you?" she cut in angrily.
"No; I was going to say be a bit more, Teresa," he corrected tersely. "The sensitive, kind-hearted woman behind that façade that I used to be privileged to witness on the odd occasion. I know it's a tall order in my company lately, but dig deep, I'm sure you'll find her in there somewhere."
Lisbon drew in a sharp breath at his comments and felt a dart of compunction shoot through her system. She'd thought he'd been completely unfazed by her thoughtless gibe, but she was obviously wrong considering the way his expression had turned from intense to impassive in a matter of seconds. She knew that look. She'd hurt him.
She shifted uncomfortably under his carefully crafted emotionless gaze only to become aware that he still had his arm about her waist and his hand on her back. She immediately tensed, her gaze locking with his intently as she fleetingly wondered how she'd not noticed his close proximity before. Something warm suddenly flickered in his eyes, cracking through the cool mask and his features softened a little as she felt his arm tighten around her, causing her heart to give a sudden leap. His fingers pressed firmly into her back for a second and then, as quick as it had begun, the moment was over as he suddenly released her and looked away.
Lisbon didn't have a clue what had just happened and before she had time to even try and work it out the doors to the van suddenly opened. The harsh light of the sun, broke their bubble of semi darkness for a moment, causing them to squint and turn their heads away as Ben climbed in then shut the doors behind him with a clang. The two young men then got in the front and Wade started up the vehicle before pulling smoothly off down the road.
Ben sat down and placed the rifle that he'd brought in with him across his lap, muzzle pointing at them, and rested his hand lightly by the trigger. Once settled, he looked at first Jane and then Lisbon.
"You're awake then," he observed with a predatory smile emerging on his face. "Shame. I was hoping I might have to find some way to…arouse you."
The double meaning wasn't lost on Lisbon as his gaze raked insolently over her form, making her skin crawl. Her hand automatically clenched into a fist as she recognised the overtly sexual overtures in the way he ran his tongue along his bottom lip as his eyes stayed riveted on her chest.
A sudden warmth enveloped her fist and she glanced down to find Jane's hand wrapped firmly around hers. She quickly looked up at him and he stared back at her with a slight frown, minutely shaking his head in warning. She took a deep breath and forced herself to unclench her fist. As soon and her hand opened, Jane laced his fingers through hers and held on tight. She drew some comfort from his hold and offered him a small smile of acknowledgement.
"Where are you taking us?" asked Jane, attempting to keep the older man's attention on himself. "If this is a kidnapping, you've got the wrong people, I assure you we don't have any money."
Ben snorted and gave Jane an assessing look. "Your suit and that SUV tell a different story," he retorted dryly. Off the consultant's shrug, he glanced at Lisbon and added, "We're not interested in your money anyway. We have something else planned for you two."
"Oh? What's that?" the blond queried mildly.
"You'll find out soon enough," the fair-haired man replied, his gaze moving back to Jane. "Now, shut up."
The consultant did as he was told and the tension stretched out thinly within the tight confines of the van as it sped along the road. It wasn't long before they turned off onto a winding forest trail that they followed for a good twenty minutes until Wade unexpectedly executed a sharp left turn. Caught unawares, Lisbon was jostled into Jane and he put his free hand to her back to steady her as the van bumped along an uneven track heading deep into the forest.
He could feel the apprehension emanating from her tiny frame and wished he could do something to alleviate it but he feared he'd only transfer some of his own anxiety over what fate might be awaiting them.
They eventually arrived at a small clearing that had a moderate sized log cabin situated in the middle. From inside the van they could hear the muffled sounds of dogs barking and whining, obviously pleased and excited that their owners were back. The three men got out then Ben gestured for Lisbon and Jane to do the same before ushering the couple into the cabin at the point of his gun.
"Tie them up and put them out back," the older man directed as he pulled the pair's phones from his pocket and dropped them carelessly onto a nearby table.
Wade obediently went into another room then came back a few moments later carrying some rope. He tied their hands behind then backs then pushed Jane towards what appeared to be a sparse, but still functional, kitchen. Lisbon followed then Zack moved past them and opened a door off to the right. He shoved them inside then shut the door behind them and locked it.
He and Wade sauntered back into the lounge area where Ben was on his cell. He finished his call then turned to them and let out a heavy sigh.
"Well, your father's not happy about this and neither am I," he began, pinning Zack with a baleful glare. "But since it's already done, he doesn't want to waste the opportunity so we have to keep them hidden here until the Fed's have gone."
"I knew it'd be OK," Zack gloated with a grin.
"It's not OK, boy," Ben ground out furiously. "You might be my nephew but I swear to God, the next time you disobey me, I'm going to shoot you myself. Do you understand?"
Zack gave his uncle a resentful look but remained silent and nodded.
"Good. Wade, you come and help me clean out that SUV," he said, turning to his son.
"Sure, Dad," he replied, immediately going to the door and heading outside.
Ben gave his nephew one last menacing stare then followed his son out.
Zack watched until they drove away then turned and strode purposefully towards the kitchen. He'd seen the way his uncle had looked at the woman they held captive; heard what he'd said to her. He knew what his older relative had a mind to do but he was damned sure he was going to do it to her first. Anything to upset the old bastard after the way he'd just spoken to him.
No one treated Zack Newland that way.
END CHAPTER 4
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed it, please let me know what you think :)