By Lyn Townsend
Beta Read by Melinda and Carol Cappe
Written for PetFly by John Vorhaus
Rated PG -13
Blair Sandburg ushered the distraught young woman into the loft and
steered her over to sit at the dining room table. He sat down beside her and took her
hand, watching as his partner, Jim Ellison, walked past them to pick up the phone and call
his captain. The detective hung up after reporting to Simon and perched on the edge of the
table, studying the young woman seated next to him.
Maya Carasco looked up and nodded, acknowledging his presence, then pressed a handkerchief to the split on her lip.
Ellison's stomach did cartwheels thinking about her. The last time he and Blair had seen the pretty Chilean student was several months ago. At that time, her father, Hector Carasco, had been arrested for gun smuggling and murder. Jim had given Blair his first undercover assignment back then. He had asked him to get close to Maya and find out more about her father. That had almost gotten Blair killed. And then Maya had broken the young man's heart. Blair had fallen head over heels in love with the young woman. But after the arrest of her father, she had returned to South America, angry with Blair for his subterfuge.
Now she was back. The two men had been returning from a retirement party when two men had attacked a woman in the street. The attackers had run at Jim's shout identifying him as a police officer, escaping in a white van that careened up the street at breakneck speed.
While Jim tried in vain to focus his sentinel sight on the tags of the wildly swerving vehicle, Blair ran to help the victim. He had recoiled in shock as the woman pulled herself up and looked at him.
Jim watched as Blair solicitously poured tea, telling Maya how some
obscure South American tribe used it for its healing properties, then laughed shyly as he
remembered Maya's Chilean heritage.
Jim cleared his throat, reminding the two that he was there. "Maya, are you sure you've never seen those guys before?"
Maya shook her head vehemently. "No, never," she said, looking at him steadily.
"And you haven't a clue as to what they may have wanted? I don't mean to scare you," he said, looking at Blair now. "But unless you say otherwise, I have no reason to believe those guys won't come back. So, why don't we start at the beginning?"
Maya glared at him, her pale features hard and challenging. "In the beginning, you arrested my father and put him in jail."
"You know why that happened," Jim answered.
"Yes, I know," Maya agreed, fiddling with the teacup. "For gun smuggling and murder, hmm? Well, after that I went back to Chile to start my life over and forget I was Hector Carasco's daughter." She laughed softly and looked over at Blair. "As if they would let me."
Blair reached out and grasped her hand. "Who?"
Maya sighed and squeezed his fingers. "The cartel in Santiago. The one my father worked for. A few days ago, I was told they were going to try to kidnap me. I tried to contact my Uncle Gustavo. He's the only one I really trust, but I couldn't find him. I was told he is out of the country. So I came here." She turned now and raised tear-filled eyes to Jim. "I thought if I ran far enough, they wouldn't find me."
Blair squeezed her hand again, bringing her attention back to him. "Well, you'll be safe here." He looked over at his partner. "Right, Jim?"
Jim nodded slowly, not liking the heavy feeling that was settling in the pit of his stomach. "Yeah," he agreed, nodding. It was all he could manage right now.
"You can stay in my bed," Blair offered helpfully. "Alone," he added as Jim glared at him.
Maya giggled, then insisted on taking the couch. Jim went through the motions of getting everyone organized for the night, his nerves on edge, his entire body tense.
Blair tiptoed quietly out of his room and headed toward the coffee table.
He'd had no luck sleeping and decided to try to work for awhile. Anything to take his mind
off the questions crowding his mind. Realizing he'd left a tape he needed in the living
room, he made his way across the room, relying on the weak moonlight coming in through the
balcony doors to light his way. He found the cassette quickly and turned back toward his
bedroom, his gaze drawn unerringly to the young woman sleeping on the couch. He looked at
her for a long moment, finding it hard to believe that the only woman he had ever felt a
deep and abiding love for was back in his life.
He'd been aware of Jim's reticence around Maya earlier that evening. Although he was somewhat puzzled by it, he felt warmed by his partner's protective instincts. He was saddened that Maya had not come to him when she arrived in the U.S. It was obvious she still harbored resentment toward him for his part in her father's downfall. Blair took one more look at the sleeping woman and began to pad back to his room.
"Am I that interesting?" Maya's voice came softly out of the darkness. Blair paused at the bedroom door, then turned around.
"You always were," he answered.
"What are you thinking," she asked, pulling herself upright on the couch.
Blair moved over and perched on the arm of the couch. "Well," he began slowly. "I was just wondering if you still hate me?"
"For what?" Maya asked, sounding genuinely puzzled.
"For lying to you, using you to get information on your father."
"I don't hate you, Blair," Maya answered, placing a warm hand on Blair's leg. "It's my father I hate. All my life, I thought he was the greatest man who ever lived and then I found out that he was a gangster, a killer. There were things happening that I couldn't explain, suspicious things, but he always had a plausible reason for them. I feel dirty, like there's a stain on me that I can't get off."
"Maya, that was your father. You didn't do those things," Blair said.
"No, but it's my family." Maya stood, pulling the blanket from the couch with her and wrapping it about her body. "You're not Chilean. You wouldn't understand." She walked over to the balcony doors and stood, looking out at the night.
Blair moved over to join her. "I want to understand," he answered. "I want to help you."
Maya turned to him, her face closed. "I remember what we had before, Blair, but right now I don't know how I feel about anything. I need to work things out for myself. I'm sorry."
Blair hesitated a moment then walked back to his bedroom. "There's nothing to be sorry for," he said. "It's okay. Good night."
Jim Ellison escorted Maya into the dining room of the safe house, trying
to evade Blair's angry glare. The kid was still pissed that both he and Simon had pulled
rank over him staying at the safe house with Maya. Blair had nodded patiently at the
standard 'you're not a cop' remark, then exploded with anger at Jim's observation that his
personal involvement precluded him having anything to do with the case.
"Why does that never stop you," he'd shouted, his stance aggressive.
Jim had fobbed his question off with a vague comment. "This is not about me."
Blair had continued to bluster, bemoaning the different set of rules for him and Jim, not wanting to listen to Jim's plausible explanations that, as a cop, the rules had to be different. Simon, finally, had lost his temper with the two of them and ordered Sandburg from his office.
Jim shivered slightly as he deflected another glacial Sandburg stare and introduced Maya to the police officers assigned to protect her. He stepped over to the front door to allow Blair to say goodbye, his uneasiness at the situation forcing him to hover within Blair's sight. He watched as Maya took Blair's hands and thanked him for his help. He noted Blair's reluctance to let go of the beautiful young woman and felt his nervousness increase another notch.
Jim waited out front for Blair to exit the house and then kept pace with his partner's agitated, choppy steps toward the truck.
"Don't say it, all right, Jim?" Blair growled.
Jim grinned and continued toward the parked vehicle. "All I was going to say was I could use some breakfast."
Blair looked over at his partner as they strolled down the street. His
anger had dissipated somewhat, but he still felt upset and worried about leaving Maya.
"Only you could have Chinese for breakfast," he groused.
Jim shrugged. "Fried eggs, poached eggs, egg foo yong. What's the difference?" He broke off more fortune cookie and pulled the tiny slip of paper from within.
"I know what you're thinking," Blair continued, getting back to the matter at hand. "She's got me using my heart and not my head, right?"
"Actually, I'm thinking what's it mean when your fortune is blank?" Jim frowned and showed Blair the paper.
Blair ignored him and went on, not noticing the two men who suddenly flanked them. "Whatever feelings I had for Maya in the past are just that."
"Uh-huh," Jim said non-committally.
Blair took up the challenge. "You don't believe me?"
Jim reached over and squeezed his friend's shoulder. "I don't think you believe you," he answered.
Blair sighed. "Maybe I've got some feelings left for her..."
He broke off suddenly and looked at Jim.
"I've got the feeling I've got a gun in my side." Jim began to slowly raise his hands and motioned for Blair to do the same.
The man at Blair's side pushed his weapon painfully into Blair's ribs. "You're going to come with us," he ordered in heavily accented English. "Get in the car."
Blair struggled in the grip of the gunman, in spite of Jim's glare that
clearly said 'Behave.'
They were pushed into a darkened warehouse, and both men looked around studying their surroundings. Much of the building was in darkness, but it looked to be a small foundry.
"Que tenemos acqui?"
The partners looked up at the voice and watched an older mustachioed man approach. One of the gunmen held out Jim's wallet. The man took it and flipped it open.
He studied Jim with disdain. "So, you're a policeman? Bought and paid for, no doubt."
Jim opened his mouth to protest, but the stranger continued, "Whatever they paid you, I'll double it. Just tell me where Maya Carasco is." He threw the wallet back at Jim.
"Who?" Jim asked.
The man shook his head. "You damn, stubborn Americans. Everything is a pissing contest."
Blair watched as he picked up a piece of crafted metal from the table behind him and brought it over to them. "Beautiful, isn't it? Made by my cousin. A true craftsman. Even something as hard as iron will bend like clay, when fire is applied."
He patted Blair roughly on the chest. "Take that one," he ordered.
Blair struggled in the grip of the two men as he was hauled bodily over to a second table. A large strong hand grasped his wrist and forced his arm forward to rest on the table. Blair pushed back, feeling the tension pull at his shoulder muscles. He watched in mute horror as another man picked up a blowtorch and lit it.
"I'll ask again, seņor. Where is Maya Carasco?"
Blair watched Jim's jaw twitch madly and begged him silently not to tell.
Jim spoke quietly, calmly. "Touch him, and you're a dead man."
The old man shrugged. "Of course. Talk, seņor. You're friend is getting warm."
Blair fought against his captor, the heat from the blowtorch causing sweat to dribble into his eyes, making them sting.
"Jim! Don't do it," he warned, despite the warmth on his hand now becoming unbearably hot. "Don't say a thing."
He tried to stifle a moan of pain as the heat began to bite at his palm. Suddenly Jim launched himself at the man next to him. Blair watched on in fear, his own pain forgotten as his partner struggled for the henchman's gun. Suddenly, the detective stopped fighting and stood completely still as the man in charge pulled a weapon from his pocket and pushed it into Jim's back.
"Uh-uh." He jabbed again with the gun until Jim raised his hands.
The other man took a couple of steps back and raised his weapon. "Do you want me to kill him now, Seņor Gustavo?"
"Gustavo? Uncle Gustavo?" Blair squeaked from his uncomfortable position. He was sure his hand had begun to blister, and he didn't think he could take much more. The man looked over at him.
"Only one person calls me Uncle Gustavo," he said slowly.
"You're Uncle Gustavo. The one Maya says she trusts."
Gustavo waved a hand at his men. "Let them go."
Blair relaxed as he felt the pressure released from his wrist and stood, rubbing at the red marks left there. He moved quickly back to Jim's side, cradling his stinging hand, and glared at Gustavo.
Jim leaned over and took his hand gently, wincing in sympathy at Blair's hiss of pain. "You okay, Sandburg?"
Blair nodded, not arguing with Jim's blessed protector instincts. "It's fine, Jim. Just like a bad sunburn."
Jim nodded and released his hand then before giving Gustavo his own glare. The older man did not seem to notice the unspoken threat in Jim's look.
"So, you have seen her?"
"Seen her? Yeah, we're protecting her," Blair answered.
"Why didn't you just tell me?"
"I don't feel very comfortable talking with a gun in my side," Jim said, his features still stern.
Gustavo laughed and held out a hand. "Forgive me. I am Gustavo Alcante."
"I should bust you for attempted murder, Gustavo," Jim said, ignoring the proffered hand.
"By all means, Detective, bust me," Gustavo agreed. "But first, take me to see Maya."
Blair could see that Alcante's charm was doing nothing but further provoking Jim's ire so he stepped into the fray. "She did say she wanted to see him," he said softly.
"I'm not going to compromise her safety," Jim replied firmly.
Gustavo looked heavenward and smacked his forehead theatrically. "Ay, dios mio," he groaned.
He pulled a large colored handkerchief from his breast pocket and held it out to Jim. "Then blindfold me, all right?" he suggested. "My men will stay here. Come on."
He turned to his men and spoke to them in rapid Spanish as Jim reluctantly took the cloth. Blair listened carefully to the conversation then nodded to Jim that Gustavo was telling the truth. Gustavo turned and waited for Jim to tie the blindfold. With Blair holding one arm and Jim the other, the three men left the warehouse.
Jim steered Gustavo's Jaguar through the streets of Cascade. The older man
sat blindfolded beside him. Blair took up the rear.
"It's a nice car you have, Seņor Alcante."
Gustavo smiled and turned his head in Jim's direction. "You like my Jaguar? I have a friend who can sell you one cheap."
Jim shook his head. "No, thank you. I don't think driving a hot car would be good for my image."
In the back seat, Blair snorted. Seeing Jim's eyes on him in the rear vision mirror, he changed the subject. "Exactly what do you do back in Chile?"
"I'm retired," Gustavo replied.
"From what?" Jim chipped in, hoping to get a handle on the man.
"From what I did before," Gustavo answered doggedly.
"Well, that clarifies things," Jim offered.
Blair leaned over the front seat. "So, Maya. She must be pretty special to you, huh?"
Gustavo shook his head. "Maya is my late wife's niece. We haven't seen each other for the last couple of years, but we are close. There. Are you satisfied? You Americans," he blustered. "You think everything is a talk show."
Blair shrugged his shoulders at Jim and sat back until the detective pulled the car up outside the safe house. Getting out quickly, he hurried to help Gustavo out and guide him to the front door. Jim took one look at the front door, seeing the scratches visible near the lock, the door slightly ajar, and motioned the others back. "We got trouble."
Jim held his weapon up at the ready as he slowly entered the house. He pulled the blindfold from Gustavo's eyes and told both men to wait outside, knowing that Blair would be right behind him. They walked into a scene from hell.
The two police officers lay dead on the floor. Jim extended his hearing, already knowing what his senses confirmed. Apart from the bodies lying on the floor, the house was empty.
"Oh my God. Maya!"
Blair took off in a fruitless search through the rooms then returned to find Gustavo gazing sadly at the bodies.
"I know who did it," he said softly. "The bullet holes through the hands are his signature. His name is Francisco Rivero. He's a warlord who used to work for Hector Carasco. If he has Maya, it's only a matter of time before he kills her."