Daryl was only seconds behind Martinez when they pulled up in front of the house. He let the bike skid to the ground as he nimbly dismounted, his eyes only on the wide open door. Michonne was just inside, talking rapidly and urgently into the phone. Somewhere along the journey, they'd been joined by motorcade of police cars and pitch black SUVs with flashing lights fixed to the roof. Daryl knew with some certainty that Rick was in one of those cars.
With numb fingers he dug his phone out of his pocket. Haste made him fumble as he desperately fought to open the device that would show him exactly where Beth was. Normally the screen held a vibrant red dot, pinpointing the place, down to the inch, where Beth was standing. It was ominously blank now.
He was dimly aware of Martinez shouting questions, demanding answers but it was like someone had pressed the mute button. Daryl could see his lips moving but he wasn't registering the sounds, not really.
Michonne spotted him and her whole expression shifted. Even at a distance he could see her guilt.
"What happened?" he asked, surprised by how calm he sounded. His gaze started sweeping, looking for even the smallest clue that would reveal what had happened here. "Is she alive?"
"They took the women. All of them." Michonne didn't try and soften the blow because she knew there was no way to say it that would make it any better. Sympathy flashed in the depths of her eyes.
Daryl could hear Rick and Walsh behind him now and knew that this place would be swarming with agents soon. If anyone would be able to find Beth, it would be them. Of course, it would help if they had assistance from someone who had been in direct contact with the man responsible.
Exploding into motion, Daryl had two hands hooked into the front of Martinez' shirt before he could blink, cutting the man off mid shout.
Daryl slammed the gang leader hard into the wall, oblivious to the hands fruitlessly clawing at his shoulders, trying to pull him backwards.
"You tell them everything!" he shouted, all his rage suddenly radiating outward. "Every fuckin' little detail about this prick."
Stronger arms enclosed around his middle, wresting him backwards. Walsh.
Martinez was staring at him like he'd grown a second head. In fact, most of them were. Pete was already murmuring to someone wearing a uniform. Daryl had almost forgotten Haley had been here too in his anger.
It was making it difficult to breath and his chest was heaving with the effort of trying to drag enough oxygen into his body.
"You're taking this a little personally, agent Dixon," a knowing voice said in his ear. Shane still had him gripped tightly. That comment made his vision swim red, maybe it was guilt and maybe it was blind fear for Beth's safety but he twisted in the iron hold and managed to punch Shane square in the jaw.
His knuckles ached immediately from the force of it but it was satisfying to see Shane stagger backwards, almost losing his balance.
Rick was suddenly in between the pair of them, using two firm hands on Shane's shoulders to stop him surging back at Daryl. Daryl didn't care; he would have welcomed the fight. On a normal day, he was pretty sure Shane could kick his ass. After all, he was well trained and something about him breathed violence. But today? Daryl wanted to tear him limb for limb.
"You were s'posed to protect her!" Daryl spat.
"Get your pet redneck back on his leash, Rick," Shane snarled over Rick's shoulder, flushing with fury.
"Pet?" Martinez was finding his voice again after being attacked.
"She trusted us and we let her get taken right from under our nose!" Daryl snapped back, ignoring Martinez' question, ignoring how much they were revealing with their behaviour.
Rick raised soothing hands. "We'll get her back. We'll find her. We just have to keep a level head."
Shane laughed sardonically. "This idiot's too in love with her to think rationally."
"What are you talking about?" Rick asked eyes flicked back and forward and Daryl realised in that moment he hadn't even suspected. Michonne probably knew beyond doubt even before the kiss, though she had never mentioned it. Shane had clearly figured it out too but noble, honourable Rick hadn't pieced it together.
Shane was shooting an incredulous look at his partner who was starting to look uncomfortable as the silence went on and Daryl didn't rush to deny it.
"It's obvious, man. You seen the way he looks at her?" Shane's attention swivelled back Daryl. "I thought your taste didn't swing to little girls."
Daryl surged forward with every intention of punching Shane until he bled. This time it was Michonne who stopped him, stronger than she looked as always.
Rick already looked like he'd been hit in the stomach. Blinking dazedly he gestured at the surrounding men. "Take them in."
Agents went into motion, and Daryl could hear Merle hollering something intelligible. Daryl didn't know when he'd made it to the crime scene.
"Is it true?" Rick asked, competently ignoring the ruckus all around them.
Daryl still didn't have anything to say, wordlessly simmering at Shane. This moment was inevitable but he imagined he'd have Beth safe and at his side when it arrived. They were wasting time with this bullshit when she was out there in danger.
"What were you thinking?" Rick asked, disappointment seeping into his tone.
"She's an adult woman," Michonne reminded everyone quietly.
"Barely," Shane interjected darkly.
"That's beside the point," Rick exclaimed, speaking over his partner. "It's unethical; we had an obligation of care to her."
"Was she even consenting?" Shane asked, lifting his eyebrows. Part of Daryl could tell that Shane wasn't even trying to exacerbate the situation, he just thought that little of him.
"How about you shut your mouth?" Michonne suggested, a warm undercurrent of anger stirring in her voice.
Rick looked queasy at the suggestion.
"I wouldn't do that," Daryl said, low and dangerous.
"I know that," Rick announced abruptly. "Doesn't change the fact she was vulnerable and grieving. It was natural for her to grow attached to you but you're older and smarter. At least I thought you were." Rick looked like the beginnings of a headache were starting to besiege him.
"They're gonna fire you for this if they find out," Rick explained. To his credit, it appeared that wasn't what he wanted himself.
"When they find out," Shane clarified.
"I don't give a shit," Daryl replied automatically. "I never wanted this cluster fuck of a life anyway. When she's back and she's safe, you can fire me all you want."
Shane opened his mouth but Rick cut him off with a hand gesture. "You need to find out everything Pete and Martinez know. Everything."
Daryl nodded. "Done."
Rick stepped away to pull out his phone, talking into it urgently. Michonne squeezed his elbow and gave him some privacy though Daryl knew if he so much as inched towards Shane aggressively she would be right there to stop him. Shane was the last thing on his mind now. He had to get his head on straight. Beth was counting on him and he'd be damned if he disappointed her.
The floor beneath Beth was soft and cool. Not like her head, which felt like it was comprised of sharp edges and lava. When she blinked her eyes open, the shapes in front of her moved and blurred. It took a minute for it to clear and then another minute for her to recognise them.
Karen slumped backwards with relief when Beth opened her eyes. She murmured a quick prayer and Beth obscurely thought that she hadn't even known Karen was particularly religious.
The other face belonged to Michonne's partner Tyreese and he looked thankful that she wasn't dead too. Beth started to sit up but he placed a careful hand on her shoulder.
"Don't go rushing into anything," he advised. Her head was throbbing with that simple motion so Beth decided to heed his suggestion. She turned her head very slightly. Haley was off to the side, stalking back and forward, pausing occasionally to examine a door handle or a crack in the wall.
"Where are we?" Beth asked with a slur, noting the way Tyreese eased himself backwards, pressing a hand to his shoulder. His sleeve was sodden with blood and Beth remembered he'd been shot. Part of her wanted to help in some way but she wasn't sure how or if she could even sit up.
Karen shrugged helplessly; tear tracks obvious on her cheeks though her eyes were clear now. "A room somewhere. "
Beth didn't think that was much information but her own glancing around hadn't revealed much more. The carpet was dense and white but there was no other furniture in the room aside from a single bucket and Beth shuddered to think what that was there for.
"Doors locked and reinforced, and we can't break the window," Haley explained, speaking for the first time. She threw herself down next to Karen, who automatically reached for her hand. Haley allowed Karen to lace her fingers comfortingly through hers but she was practically thrumming with frustration.
Haley glanced down at Beth and her eyes softened. "You done napping?" she asked lightly.
"For now," Beth managed.
"So any ideas?" Haley turned to Tyreese.
"None yet. You got any?"
Haley shook her head, "no but I'm not the cop here."
"We could start with asking why they have you?" Tyreese asked very pointedly.
Both women's mouths sealed into thin lines. An automatic reaction when the law asked them questions to do with their husband or brother but this wasn't the time.
"You know why," Beth grumbled, wishing he wasn't picking now to do sleuthing. "Its revenge and we need to work together if we're going to get out of here."
Beth struggled upright, disregarding the cry of concern from Karen. Pain slid down her body in a wave of agony but Beth could see the room better now and that was important. Apart from the obvious lack of anything useful, it was a nice room. It was well kept and clean. From her vantage point, she couldn't see much out the window but that could mean anything, after all it was night time and they could have been on the second floor.
It was better than Beth expected. After their undignified capture, Beth wouldn't have been surprised if they had woken up in a cold basement with a flickering light and leaking plumbing. Alarmed, but not surprised. The bucket was still there in the corner of the room but Beth shoved it out of her mind.
If Tyreese was with them then that was a good sign. Michonne would know they were gone and hopefully who had taken them. That they hadn't killed him already was reassuring. At least Beth was choosing to find it so. It meant they served a purpose and they weren't just mindlessly violent. Or they were smart enough not to leave the body of a policeman behind.
Beth refused to follow that train of thought. She was absolutely not going to panic. She had seen the resources of the Organisation and they were vast. She knew Daryl would move hell and heaven to find her. She somehow felt certain that he had survived the night and would begin tracking her almost immediately. She almost felt sorry for the people that got between her and him.
Maybe she had jinxed it by saying she loved him but she was glad she had.
Beth's lips were dry and she wondered how low she had been unconscious. It was still dark but she didn't know how far they had travelled. You could get plenty far in one night if you had a plane.
"How long were we moving for?" Beth asked.
"Maybe two hours?" Karen ventured.
"But at speed so no telling where are now," Tyreese added.
Beth's heart spiked a little at hearing that. Just when she was about to give into tears, she glanced down. Her wrist was still encircled in the bracelet Daryl had given her and a small bubble of joy formed inside of her.
But the blue jewel had been torn away and Beth could see the frayed ends of what used to be wires. Her stomach felt hollow. She didn't get too long to contemplate the fact the best and easiest way for Daryl to find her had been destroyed. There was the sound of a lock turning over and the door began to open.
Tyreese started to push his way to his feet, teeth gritted with pain but the gun that appeared first stopped him in his tracks. The cold terror of seeing a gun pointed at them did more to clear Beth's head than anything so far.
Her captor followed the weapon, his face as impassive as ever. He looked even taller now than before. Hot on his heels was a woman carrying a first aid kit. The woman looked up, blonde hair falling back from her face. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene.
"What the fuck are they doing here?" Candy demanded.