Durocha P.I. 004

In a shady apartment building, North rounded a corner and peeked into a room. Sure enough, there were his targets, a group of mobsters, all decked out in fancy suits and carrying all sorts of weapons. One man handed another a large suitcase, full of money no doubt. It was time for the detective to make his move. “FREEZE!” North shouted and jumped into the room.

The group of mobsters all threw their hands into the air at the sound of North’s voice. “A’ight, a’ight coppa, you got us. But, eh, before’s ya do anythin’ let be just say somethin’.” The apparent leader said.

“Ok, what is it?” North said, lowering his gun a little.

The man smiled slightly, evil in his eyes. “Well, what I wanted to say is – SCREEEEEEEEEECH!!!

North suddenly jumped up his sleep, his dream somewhat fresh in his mind. He looked out to see some one who was probably late for work peel out of their parking spot. The noise in his dream.

“Bloody…” He said and looked at his watch. “10:45, I still have a couple hours.” He sat back down in hopes of getting a little more sleep, but it was pointless. With a huff, he stood up and stretched while yawning. He decided he might as well get started early then, a first in a long time.

When he went to check on Diana, he found her still sleeping peacefully in his bed. Not having the heart to wake her, North decided he would just run down to the police station and pick up that warrant himself, picking Diana up on the way back. Hopefully she would appreciate the gesture, and besides, it would give her time to do all those lady things she probably did in the morning.

North washed up a little in the bathroom and changed his shirt and pants for something a little less showy. A quick gargle of mouthwash and he was out the door, locking it behind him. He wasn’t feeling all that great though, his head was killing him. He barely remembered the night before and why his face hurt like it did. “Just how much did I have to drink?!” He said as he walked down the stairs to the front door.

Once outside and in the sun for the first time since he could remember, North walked to the street, ready to hail a cab. That’s when he noticed it; his car was parked in his normal spot, just behind the alleyway. “When did I…?: North muttered. He didn’t remember bringing it home, but then again, he didn’t remember a lot of things from last night. Scratching his head, North shrugged, passing it off as his stroke of luck for the day. Maybe he even managed to put gas in it.

He stepped around and got in, everything seemed in check. But hell if he could remember getting it there. He tried starting the engine, and with a few tried, it actually ignited! With a smile and a nod, North was ready to get going when he felt in his jacket for something. “Damnit … my badge.” Getting a warrant without that was going to be pretty hard. He kicked open the door and stepped out of the ally way.

Only a few steps from his car, he noticed the sound of it starting to die out. He turned to see what might have been wrong when it happened. A sudden explosion ripped through the car, sending parts of it and North through the air in a smoking wreck. All the windows in the area shattered as the ball of flame raised high into the air, people in every direction were either cowering or running to see what happened.

North, on the other hand, had hit the ground hard, barely able to move now. He looked up only to see a black limo speeding away – It had to be Vlachka. Trying to get up, the impact finally got to him and he fell back down in pain. The explosion was so powerful, he wasn’t even able to cry out in pain All he could do was lie there, gripping his sides.

Diana jolted awake by the startling sound of something shaking the foundation and panes of glass shattering. Rewarded with a splitting headache, she pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead trying to clear the fog and get a decent baring on where exactly she was. The room being a disaster, she immediatly recognized it as North’s, then took several surprised moments hoping she didn’t do anything completly insane that she couldn’t remember! Her clothes were still on, as well as her gun holster it seemed, as her side ached in complaint for sleeping on the damn thing all night.

“North!” She called out as she slid slowly from the bed wincing at her swimming headache and her stiff limbs. When he didn’t answer she was mildly concerned, and then horribly worried! Something damn loud had woken her up, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t just an alarm clock!

Not wasting any more time and despite heavy protests from her head, Diana left North’s apartment quickly. She didn’t fail to notice the windows on her way down the stairs, and as she got outside there was a large billowing cloud of smoke from around the corner in the alley. Rounding the corner she could see the charred remains of what could barely be recognized as the private eye’s car, and the man sprawled out of the pavement.

“Jesus Christ, North!” she ran and knealed next to him, checking for a pulse to at least ensure he was still alive. “Damnit, if you’re hurt, I’m going to kill you!”

The world was a blur to North, he tried to focus but it just seemed to make things worse, his head throbbed like crazy. When he heard his name called, he raised his head a bit to see who it was but could only make out a dark blob coming his way. Suddenly, he felt someone rolling him onto his back and saw Diana hovering over him. Whatever she said sounded muffled to North, his ears still ringing from the explosion.

“J-Jones…” North said, trying to sit up, but couldn’t move. “It – it was Vlachka. I saw his limo. We – we need to go!” North’s words came out in short bursts and his eyes were half shut as he spoke. All of a sudden, his breaths became shorter and shorter until it almost sounded like he was gasping for air and North’s eyes began to roll back into his head.

He was going into shock.

“North,.. Sonofa-!” Damnable man couldn’t go a croak on her now! She was actually starting to like him! She glanced around quickly at the gathering spectaters. “Stop standing around like a bunch of idiots, and call a freaking ambulance!” If anyone was dumb enough not to follow her orders, they might’ve gotton themselves shot had she not been more concerned with North.

Diana checked his pulse again, finding his heart to be beating strong enough but he had stop breathing! Muttering a curse, she loosened his tie and tilted his head back. CPR was just one of those things she had been trained to do in emergencies, and this was definetly an emergency. She was going to keep him alive so could yell at him for nearly getting himself killed!

North’s chest rose as Diana filled it with air; she pushed on it afterwards, hoping to get him breathing again. She repeated this again, but still, no result as North’s life slowly began to leave him. This went on for nearly five minutes as the more and more people surrounded them.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, North’s head jerked from Diana’s mouth as he gasped for air – he was alive. He laid there for a moment, trying to collect himself as he fully regained consciousness. After a moment, he gave his hand to Diana and she helped him to his feet just as several squad cars and a couple ambulances pulled up.

North wasn’t looking for a trip to the hospital, though, even if it was the best thing for him at that moment. He was mad, at Vlach, at Lisa and at himself for trusting her so much. This wasn’t his finest hour. “C’mon” He said, walking past Diana. “We need to get to Vlachka’s place.”

The world was still spinning; he could barely walk straight as he looked around for a vehicle. He needed something, anything and right now. Then he saw one of the police cars pull up and a young cop step out, looking around almost nervously – a rookie. North new this was probably going to be his best shot.

“Detective North McCoy.” He said, walking up to the officer. “I need your car.” And he pushed past him.

“But I – you…” The cop said confused. North didn’t pay any attention to him and sat down in the driver’s seat. When he looked out the window, all he could see was a blurry mush of colors, unable to make out a thing. He was still suffering from shellshock and was in no condition to drive, let alone at high speeds. Looking to Diana, North scooted over to the passenger side and rubbed his head.

“You’re going to have to drive, Agent.”

“First of all, I think you’re an idiot.” Diana said as she dropped in to the driver’s seat and slammed the door. The man belong in an ambulance on his way to the hospital. How did they know that he didn’t have some sort of internal bleeding or broken bones? She had to give him CPR and now he wanted to charge down to Vlachka’s!

“You should on your way to the bloody hospital, not scaring the local cops out of the squad cars.” Despite her lecturing, she looked behind her as she backed out trying to avoid hitting anyone and thing. The woman was ticked off herself, but she could have taken care of it without having to worry if he were going to pass out from a concussion.

Weaving out of the way of the passing firetruck, she made full use of the police car’s lights to speed their way to Vlachka’s. “Second, I’m going to have to shoot someone, and I really hate having to shoot people wearing a skirt. A blown up partner and a skirt for a gun fight is completly unaccetpable!”

After Diana finished scolding him, North turned to her, his face showing nothing but irritation. “Diana…” He said, finally calling her by her first name. Pausing for a moment, he just looked at her. “Thanks…” His voice low, North turned back to the road. He was finally able to see straight, but his head was killing him still. His body wasn’t much better.

A ways down the road, North just remembered something. He quickly searched his jacket and his pants but came up empty handed. “Damnit, my gun.” He muttered in dismay. He had left it, as well as his badge in his dress coat back in the apartment. He wasn’t going to be much help if things got ugly, and given the circumstances, that was inevitable. North leaned his head back, not happy about that, when it dawned on him – he was in a squad car.

“Wait!” He said, looking to between the seats. “I know they normally … a-ha!” He had found what he was looking for. Rising back up, North was now holding on to long, sleek shotgun. It was a simple pump-action weapon, but it was better than going in empty handed. North made sure it was loaded and then picked up the few extra shells lying between the seats, placing them in his pockets.

Diana sighed. “Just returning the favor, I guess.” She cast a quick glance at him as he rummaged around, finally producing the shot gun. It was terrible! Like a cliche cop film, they were going to storm the house armed with a shotgun and no warrant. Any other day she might’ve enjoyed the idea, but North didn’t look fit enough to aim straight!

“This is a terrible idea.” she muttered. “Can you even shoot that thing? You know what, I’m going to make you stay in the car, while I go inside. When I’m done shooting people, I’m taking you to the hospital where you belong.” The woman had a straight face, and she looked serious too! Infact, there was problably a good set of handcuffs in that squad car and she could have him cuffed to the steering wheel if he had any designs of not doing what she asked.

“You just try and stop me. I’m not letting you going there alone. They may not be expecting us, but that doesn’t change anything.” He said, resting the weapon on his lap. “And besides, I’m fine. It was just an – explosion.” Did he really just try and pass that of as nothing? He couldn’t believe what he just said either but North wasn’t going to let Vlachka get away with nearly killing Diana and himself twice.

In the distance, there was a small black dot on the road ahead. As they sped closer, North could finally make it out, and to their surprise, it was the limo! But how did they catch up so soon? It had left nearly a half an hour before they took off and should have been back at the mansion by then. What was it doing still on the road?

“Floor it.” North said, getting his gun ready.

“Is there any fries left?” A Russian man inside the limo asked, grabbing a paper bag with a large, gold-colored M on it.

“No, fatass. You ate them all!” Another man said, munching down on a burger. There were four men seated alone in the back of the limousine and they had apparently stopped for fast food before returning to the mansion. As one laughed, he peered behind them, catching sight of the squad car quickly gaining on them.

“Hey, uh guys?” He said, the car still gaining. No one paid any attention to him. “HEY! GUYS!” This finally caught their attention.

“What is it?” One said, putting down his meal.

“You know that cop we killed?” The man looking out the back said, catching sight of the passenger in the squad car.

“Yeah? What about him?”

The man in back turned around to face his companions and pointed out the back with his thumb. “He’s right behind us…”

What?!” She exclaimed loudly as he readied his gun. Diana gathered that he probably meaned to drive by and shoot the bastards. That was just the last straw! Someone was going to have to be the responsible one, and if he was going to take her position of randomly shooting people, she would have to be the voice of reason. Still, she sped up the squad car until they gained on the limousine. The passengers isnide must have caught wind of their chasers, because when she tried to pass, the limo would weave dangerously infront of her nearly ramming it’s tail end in to the front bumper of the car.

This is exactly why she never drove!

“Bloody…” she muttered a few silent curses as she avoided getting rammed and finally pulled up along the side the sleek black machine. “Just don’t kill anyone! I’d hate to get suspended again!”

“I’m not going to shoot anyone.” North said, rolling down the window. “I’m just going to ask them to stop.” As he leaned out the window, the detective tried to see into the back of the limo, but the windows were tinted beyond necessary. Giving that up, he peered into the driver’s seat and pointed the shotgun in its direction, hoping this would be enough incentive to pull over. But this only caused the driver to speed up.

Left without a choice, North decided he would have to take out a tire, but it was dangerous at these speeds – but so was installing a bomb in his car. He took careful aim at the back tire and was about to pull the trigger when the sunroof popped open. Rising from the roof of the limo was one of the thugs wielding an AK-47. Worse yet, North recognized him as the man they brought into the hospital three days ago.

He smiled a cocky grin at North and waved his gun around amused. “Hey!” He shouted over the noise. “FUCK YOU, COP! HA!” And he open fired. Luckily, at those speeds, he wasn’t able to handle the recoil and bullets struck everything but the squad car. North quickly pulled himself back in before the assailant could regain his balance.

“Looks like they’re armed.” North said. “Good news is it’s the same group of guys who tried to kill us before. Turns out they’re not very good at that.”

Casting him a quick incredulous look, she blinked. “Simply looks like?” The limo was obviously not going to stop without some force, and she wasn’t looking forward to getting shot at by bullet crazy Russians. Worse yet, what exactly did one do with a limo of armed Russians, anyway? If they pulled them over there’d just be a gun fight in the street, or they could try and beat them to Vlachka’s and have the gun fight there!

“I’ve got to do everything myself…” she muttered as she took her foot off the gas and let the squad car fall back to the end of the limo. Vlachka was the one they needed, but she couldn’t risk these idiots getting in the way! Using some very basic police tactics, she ‘tapped’ the rear bumper of the limousine with the squad car. The driver balked, but seemed to right the limo again before swerving off the road. Giving a scowl, she rammed the side rear of the limo again with more force, this time getting a more satisfying reaction. The limo’s driver lost control of the wheels and ran off the road, taking up residence in a steep ditch. The only way they were getting out of there was being dragged out by a tow truck!

With a self satisfied grin she sped right past them.

Glancing back at the crash, North seemed impressed with Diana’s driving skills. The groups in the limo stepped out onto the street and were obviously pissed, but were too far away by now to do anything. “Nice driving, Agent.” He said and settled back in his seat.

The D’nro Estate was only a couple miles away now, and knocking out that limo might have worked in their favor. Vlachka probably wouldn’t expect them, before any word from his hired guns yet, at least. For all they knew, things have gone to plan, even if it was setting off a bomb in the middle of the city. North thought it was a little obvious to use a car bomb, almost as if Vlachka was inviting the publicity.

They finally rounded the last corner before the mansion. “Stop here.” North said, still a bit away from the gates. “The cameras will see us if we get any closer in this.”

Diana stopped the car along the street, cutting off the engine and pulling the key from the ignition. There was a strange sense of forboding, lke her instincts were screaming that this was a terrible idea. Maybe North really did have a concussion and going in to the don’s home was going to be a terrible idea. It just wasn’t her style to considering calling for help, but maybe it was about time to call in some backup.

“North… Maybe we should call the SWAT or something. It couldn’t take them too long to get here and I…” she paused, then continued with a sigh. “I don’t think you should go inside. You do realize your head is bleeding, and just a few minutes ago you were sprawled out on the pavement half dead!”

Normally North would listen to the voice of reason, being someone who wouldn’t charge head on into a firefight. Any other day he would have thought this through and probably let someone else, someone more qualified, handle the rest of the case. But it was too late for that now, they were so far past the point of no return, North couldn’t remember when they had crossed it.

Feeling his head, the detective looked down at his blooded hand. He hadn’t realized he was bleeding until now and this brought a feeling of discomfort to him. “I’m fine…” He said, wiping his hand on his pants. There was a worried tone in his voice, but he wasn’t about to stop for a small wound, not now.

“Besides, we can’t call for back up. These guys probably have more scanners than they can count. If we wait around now, that’ll just give them time to disappear. If you don’t want to go in, that’s fine, I’m not about to let them get away with this.”

North certainly wasn’t being himself lately.

She cast him a disaproving stare, but if he were determined, she wasn’t going to go let him go get himself killed. Besides, she were probably the only one that could see straight enough to fire off a shot. “Alright…” Swinging open the car door, she climbed out and slammed it behind her with more force than was really necessery. “But if you drop dead I’m going to be pretty damn pissed.”

Diana pulled her clip from her jacket pocket and clipped her hair back from her face. They were going to have to pull some espionage, as storming up to the front door with a shot gun wasn’t going to be well met by a bunch of Russian mobsters. They were lucky Vlachka probably assumed they were dead, or at the least not dumb to waltz in there alone.

Oh, why did they have to go and be dumb enough?

“You’re not going to the front door with that.” She pointed at his shot gun. “We can go through the back.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t plan on getting killed.” North said, getting out of the car. As he looked around, the place seemed pretty much unchanged since their last visit, including the all too familiar feeling of being watched. But North passed that off as the feeling of the calm before the storm.

“Good idea.” North said at the mention of going around. The two doubled back around the tall, stone wall until they were behind the manor. But unfortunately for them, the wall continued around the entire property. There was a small, wooden door, but as expected, it was locked. North looked up at the wall; it couldn’t have been more than ten feet tall, just short enough to make it over.

“Think you can, uh, make it over the wall, Agent?” He said, rubbing his chin. She looked light enough for him to give her a boost up to the top. “You can unlock the door from the other side that way.”

She gave an incredulous look at the wall and then back at him. Of course she could scale the wall without problem. There were plenty of grooves for her feet, and with the added bonus of his help there would be little effort at all, but damned it all if this weren’t exactly why she hated wearing a skirt. Flashing the man with designer silk panties was not her idea of keeping a professional relationship.

Pushing at the locked wooden door a few good times to see how strong it was, she grimaced. It was too heavy to kick in and the lock was too rusted to simply pick open. She was just going to have to cave in to climbing the wall.

“Fine, hold out your hands and keep your eyes closed until I open the door! And if you peek, I promise my rear end is the last thing you’re ever going to see!” Moving him close enough to the wall so she didn’t have to pull any olympic style jumps, she waved her hands infront of his eyes a few good times to make sure he wasn’t looking. Then, with a small boost Diana hopped up over the wall, landing with an unceremonious thump when she lost her footing a toppled over. Not quite the cat-like landing she was going for, but it did the job!

“You can open your eyes now.” Diana called, as she returned to her feet and dusted herself off. She moved to the door to to get it unlocked.

Her behind? Looking up Diana’s skirt was the last thing on North’s mind – or at least it was before she said something about it. But he decide it was better just to do what she asked, rather than taking a beating for something as childish as that.

“I’m not going to look.” he said and resisted rolling his eyes. Quickly shutting his eyes, he cupped his hand before him, ready to hoist Diana to the top of the wall. When she leapt into his hands, North stumbled a bit, trying to keep his balance, after all, he couldn’t see anything. Out of reaction, the detective looked up to make sure she had scaled the wall, but all he caught were the end of her legs.

After hearing a grunt from over the wall, North walked back to the door and waited for her to unlock it. “You ok?” He shouted, just to make sure.

“I’m not the one to be concerned with.” she muttered, making tough work of the lock. Darn thing was rusted worse than she had thought, and it took using her jacket sleeve and alot of force to get it to move. Finally swinging open the door she allowed him to step inside.

Casting a look towards the manor she chewed on her lip with consideration. “There are too many cameras to really sneak past them. Especially in broad daylight.” The gardens were at least empty and it seemed the don didn’t have any sort of affection for roaming dogs. If he did, they were put away and not sniffing around looking for some fresh meat to gnaw on, in any case. The estate was also surprisingly clear of guards, which struck her as somewhat odd considering the last time they paid a visit there were at least a few scattered around the grounds.

The place looked deserted and for some reason that made her more uneasy than facing a bunch of armed goons. Diana pulled her gun, giving North a questioning look. “Ready?”

North stepped through the doorway, feeling uneasy as ever. What was it about this place that gave him the creeps. It was just the average big house, nothing special. There weren’t any stories about this place or anything. There had to be something, because whatever it was telling him not to go in there. But his anger and thirst for vengeance got the better of him.

Reading his shotgun, North crept a ways down a path. They were in a small grove, surrounded by bushes. If there were any cameras, they had to be well hidden. There was a small door on the side of the house; it looked like their best choice for entering the manor.

“Hey, Agent Jones, over there.” He said, pointing to the door. “Looks like a cellar door or something. Maybe we can get in through the basement.” He quickly hurried over to it and pulled it open, peering in with his weapon. I was dark, but empty as well. He waved for Diana to follow and stepped down the stairs, each making all sorts of squeaks and groans, normal old stairs sounds.

In another room of the house, a small, blinking red light went off near a security console – a silent alarm. Apparently Diana and North hadn’t gone as unnoticed as they thought. In the soft glow of the monitors, a pale, bony hand reached over and switched off the alarm. It then reached back and pulled a cigarette out of its owner’s mouth.

“Welcome back, North.”

“I hate basements…” Diana muttered, as they walked carefully through the cellar, the only light was from the opening at the door and casting everything in to large abnormal looking shadows. It was a terrible time to realize she still hadn’t quite gotten over her closterphobia, but was greatful the door was still open to ease any panicing thoughts.

Well, until the cellar door slammed closed, startling both detectives.

‘Damn!’ They both paused, listening for any guards or sign to who closed the cellar door, but there was no sound beyond their breathing. “It wasn’t propped up very sturdy… Just the wind.” She hoped it was just the wind, because now she was trapped in a pitch black cellar belonging to a bunch of murdering with just her gun, a bleemin’ skirt, and damned if hell beats and ghosts didn’t like creepy cellars and pretty girls and strange situations and-

Diana took a deep shakey breath and gave a silent curse as she quickly took ahold of the tail end of North’s jacket. It wasn’t that she was afraid or anything, but it was impossibly dark and she didn’t want the man to get lost. “Let’s get the hell out of here, please.”

Inside the security room, the smoking man reclined in his chair, waiting for his two guests to exit the cellar room. He couldn’t see them while they were in there, but the motion sensors would pick them up the instant they exited. He hadn’t sent anyone after them, not yet, and instead waited for North and Diana to make the first move.

As the smoking man waited patiently, there was a sudden knock at the door and Lisa D’nro stepped into the room. “What’s going on? I saw the alarm and – YOU!” She was surprised to find the normal guard gone and the strange man in his place.

“You, what are you doing?” She demanded to know.

“Oh, I gave the guard the night off.” The man said, his cigarette flopping around as he spoke. “He complained of a stabbing pain.” There was a wicked undertone in his voice.

“What is going on here?!” Lisa shouted. “Why have the alarms gone off?! Is it…” She paused. “It’s them, isn’t it! Those two cops!” She stomped right up behind the man, shouting right at him. “You led them right to us! Why haven’t you told us anything?!”

“My dear Lisa.” The smoking man stood up. “You ask far too many questions, you know that?” Suddenly, he grabbed her arm in the same way he had Diana’s and quickly dragged her from the room, kicking and screaming. The smoking man put his hand over he mouth to muffle the screaming, but it didn’t help much, but luckily for him, there were no body guards close by.

Taking her into a nearby room, the man tossed Lisa inside, throwing her to the floor. He pulled out a key and before she could get up, closed and locked the door. And to make sure it would stay that way, the smoking man took a step back, raised his foot into the air, and kicked the key, breaking it off inside the door.

“Do try to settle down, Lisa. The angry look just does not work for you.”

Back in the cellar, North nearly fell over when the door slammed shut. He wasn’t particularly afraid of the dark – just what he couldn’t see. And this was the worst place to be blind.

“Don’t worry.” He said, sounding nervous. “There has to be a light switch somewhere.” He fumbled around in the dark for a bit, not knowing what direction he was heading in anymore. Suddenly he felt something grab his jacket and was prepared to start swinging until he realized it was Diana. It was bad enough he could walk right into the barrel of a gun and not know it, but did she have to cling onto him like that? Then again, It was nice to know where she was – and had something to hang on to as well.

“Say, uh, here.” He said, reaching back and taking her hand. This was better than her clinging on to his tattered jacket at least. Plus, it wasn’t just for her; her fear must have been rubbing off on him or something.

They continued through the basement, kicking and tripping on random objects all the way though. The room was huge, it felt like it was going on forever. Not to mention, neither of them knew exactly where they were anymore.

“We’re almost there – I think…”

Diana had opened her mouth to ask exactly how he planned to aim a shot gun while he was holding her hand, but thought twice about it and remained silent instead. As long as he held her hand neither of them was going to get lost and it was absolutly not because she thought it was rather pleasant. That’d just be absurb.

Stummbling around in the dark for who knew how many minutes had just about snapped her last thread of sanity, until the pair caught site of light through the cracks of a door. They had reached the bottom of some steps, and with some regret she let go of North’s hand to quickly climb to the top and try the door handle.

“It’s unlocked.” she whispered quietly, then leaned close to the door to listen for any movement on the other side. Satisfied the coast was clear, she readied her gun and slowly cracked open the door. Afterall, North was going to need both hands for that rediculous thing he decided to lug around. The room turned out to be a magnificently huge and well lit kitchen, which looked like sheer heaven for a woman just stepping out of a dark cellar. Once again there wasn’t a single person in sight, adding to her confusion.

“I don’t get it…” Diana replied softly as she stepped in to the kitchen. “We should have ran in to someone by now.”

North followed her and relaxed his pose when he stepped into the room. She was right, there was nobody there. No bodyguards, maids or cooks; nothing. Had Vlachka taken off already? It would have made sense, after all. But it was the idea North dreaded most, that it was all for naught and the Mafia boss had made a clean getaway.

Pushing those thoughts out of his head, North still continued into the manor, hoping to find something, anything on the Don. And if he was gone, this would be the perfect opportunity to snoop around, after all, there’s always something interesting locked away in these big houses.

“Well, either they’re gone, having a meeting or…” He paused for a moment before finishing his sentence. “…Expecting us.”

He didn’t care much for the thought of that, but it would explain the feeling of being watched. He readied his weapon again, just to be sure. Not about to be caught off guard, North peeked in every room they passed, every nook and cranny. The place was empty though, but there had to be someone there. After all, the group of hitmen from earlier were heading this way.

Back in the security room, the smoking man sat back and watched his guests wander aimlessly through the halls. But there was a look of distraught on his face as he rolled his fingers on the desk. Leaning forward, he picked up a small two-way radio.

“On second thought, I want them both alive.” He said, and leaned back, taking another breath of smoke.

If anything screamed setup it was an empty mansion belonging to a notorious mafia boss. As they looked through rooms and wandered down halls, this was the only reason Diana could conclude for the place being as empty as a tomb. With that in mind, she quickly decided they were going to have to leave before they ended up springing whatever trap could have been laid out. But, before she could alert North of her sudden decision a shot rang out behind them!

There was going to be a whole lot of ‘I knew its’ and ‘I told you sos’ later, but for the time being the woman snagged North by the collar of his jacket and jerked him sideways through and open door. Perhaps it would have been better to take their chances in the hallway, for she ended up walking in eye to eye with a barrel of a gun and surrounded by a bunch of smirking guards.

“So. We have intruders? It is nice of you to join us.” The guard said smugly.

It was one of those moments she really wished she wasn’t right all of the time!

At the sound of the shot, North spun around, shotgun and all and pointed down the hallway. He was about to shoot whoever it was firing on them when Diana chose to yank him into a side room.

“Jones?! What are you doing? I had a-” He regained his balance only to find a gun pointed right at his face. “Oh, uh – hi.” He said, glancing at the man’s face. Apparently, they had been expecting them, or were just quick to mobilize. They were caught, surrounded by a dozen or so armed bodyguards, and with more just outside the room, they were left with little choice. Reluctantly, North handed over his shotgun to a close-by guard who yanked it from his hand, saying something to another guard in Russian; something in a mocking tone.

They had to fight with Diana to part her from her gun, but managed to pry it from her in the end. Giving her an evil smirk as they eyed her up and down, the guards seemed rather amused by her attire. One was even bold enough to approach her with a nasty grin on his face.

“Hey there, cutie” He said, the other guards did not seem amused by his actions, some sighing out annoyance. “When all over, why not you come to my room, hmm? And with that, he brought his hand up, swung it through the air, and firmly slapped Diana’s behind.

It wasn’t a second, before he or Diana could really react, before North’s fist flew through the air. It landed on the guard’s face, sending him to the floor in one punch and leaving him sprawling on the floor, grasping his jaw. A few guards quickly raised their guns, pointing them at North incase he tried to pull anything else, even if they were laughing at the downed goon.

Now, North hadn’t laid him out like that because he was ‘defending Diana’s honor’; because he didn’t like seeing someone he cared for treated like that or anything. He just thought that wasn’t proper behavior and a right jab to the face was the best way to express his feelings. Or, at least that’s what he tried to tell himself. Finally noticing every gun in the room pointed at him, he brought his hands back into the air.

“Oh come on.” North said. “Like none of you wold have done the same thing.” A few of the guards shrugged and nodded agreeably.

“Stupid cop!” The man on the ground shouted, getting back up “I kill you now!” He reached into his coat and produced a small pistol and pointed it at North’s head, ready to blow it off.

“I believe I said I wanted them alive.” A voice rang out from the doorway. North’s eyes suddenly opened wide when he heard it. He had recognized the voice, a wispy, smoky voice he heard a long time ago and never forgot. Slowly turning towards the source, North found himself face to face with the smoking man.

North just stood there with his mouth gaping open. There was a look of shock, almost horror on his face as he looked into those black sunglasses. The Smoking man, on the other hand, simply removed his cigarette from his mouth and blew smoke from his nose.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, North? A long, long time…”

There was no way in hell she was just going to hand over her gun willing, so it took a good amount of wrestling before they managed to get it from her an shove her away. The more sleezy guard caused her to give a nasty scowl more from the fact she could feel her cheeks turn a flushing red than irritation at anything else. Stupid attention grabbing skirt. The man had to audacity to touch her, and she was ready to spring on him like a cat before North’s fist shot out and sent him flying to the floor. Diana blinked somewhat surprised for a moment.

Until there was that voice. She turned, recognizing the same man that had dragged her unceremoniously from the Don’s hallways and ordered her to take her partner and leave. The look on North’s faced showed he recognized the man from somewhere too, and that look of shock didn’t bode well at all.

“I suggest you have your men sent away and let us speak with Vlachka D’rno. We have several teams of men on their way here, and it’d be terrible unfortunete of you to get involved in a gun fight for holding a pair of cops hostage.” So it was a bald faced lie. A little bluffing never hurt, especially considering they were being held at gun point by a miniature mafia army and a creepy guy. Of course, if it didn’t work they were going to be in a hell of alot of trouble.

“Oh Miss Jones.” The smoking man said. “Please don’t try and bullshit me. Considering you’re with Mr. McCoy here, and he’s not exactly what I would call…” Pausing for a moment, the man pulled another smoke from his coat pocket. “…Unpredictable. When he gets angry, he gets stupid. And when he gets stupid, bad things tend to happen, don’t they, North? Terrible … bad things.”

At the end of that last comment, North snapped. He lunged for the smoking man but was quickly restrained by a couple guards, who were having a bit of trouble at that. He just wanted to kill that man.

“Right.” The smoking man said. “Well, I was expecting you to come here alone. But having you both here brings up a small – predicament. But more on that later. Right now…” He stopped to think for a moment. “Take them to the room.” And the smoking man turned to leave.

“Hey! HEY!” North shouted, trying to break free. “Get back here, you son of a bitch!”

The smoking man looked back for a moment. “Shut him up, will you?” And with that, one of the guards lifted his rifle and slammed the butt end against the back of North’s head, knocking the detective unconscious. They then dragged Diana and North’s body to another room.

It was a bare room, next to nothing inside except for a few chairs. They placed Diana in one and North in another, a bit of distance away from each other. Next, they tied both of them down, binding them tightly to the seats.

“Well then.” The smoking man said. “I must collect some things. But – I’ll be back. Very – very soon.” Nodding, the man left the room, but not before switching off the lights, leaving Diana and North in the dark.

It was some time before the unconscious detective finally began to move again. His head was killing him before, not it felt like he got hit by a train or something. Lifting his bruised head slightly, he found he couldn’t see a thing. Then he remembered where he was.

“Diana? D-Diana?!” He shouted out. He attempted to move, but the ropes managed to keep him in place pretty well.

Why did it have to be the dark. She hated the dark, small rooms with locked doors and being tied to chairs. Why on earth did they always decide to turn off the lights? There had to be some sort of underground bad guy filing system with her name on it that said, ‘turn off the lights!’. It was taking such a severe amount of self control not to fall in to a million pieces. At least she wasn’t alone, and that tiny thought that someone was going to have to rescue her bummbling partner was enough to keep her mind focused on the important stuff. Not the suffering lack of light.

North finally came too, and out of spite she let him call her name for a bit before replying. It was his fault they were there in the first place! “I’m fine.” As fine as one could be tied to a chair in the dark. “Just don’t go in to a frenzy lest ye awaken the beast…” Sarcasm was a handy way to reduce the situation to something less trying.

Diana squirmed, testing the ropes and frowned with disastisfaction. It would take hours to worm her way out of the things and by then their captors would have returned. She really should start thinking about carrying a knife for these sort of situations. Frustrated she blew a few stray strands of hair from her face. “You wouldn’t happen to have a knife in a reachable location, would you?”

“Knife?” North didn’t even have his wallet. As much as he hated to admit it, the smoking man was right, when he got angry, North didn’t think straight or rationally. He wasn’t at all pleased with his predicament, and hated even more putting someone else in danger because of his actions.

“No, but – uh, Diana. I’m … I’m sorry for this. I … didn’t mean for this to happen.” His voice was different, seeing that man seemed to change something in him. There was a sad, dreadful tone in his words. If it weren’t so dark, Diana could see him staring at the floor, his face looking as if it were burst out crying. Old memories North tried to repress flooding back into his mind.

The whole situation was far too familiar, almost too much for him to bear, and seeing that old man just brought the last piece into place. What disturbed North even more was why he was alive still. What was he planning next…

Rolling her eyes would have been futile in the dark, so she simply sighed. He had cracked his head one too many times, and forgetting now wasn’t the best time for apologising. He could do that later when she was lecturing him in the safty of a well lit room!

“There’s really no need to worry about that right now.” She mummbled, still trying to twist her hands free from the ropes. Things were going to have to be done the hard way, and if worst came to worse she’d make North play nursemaid as revenge. If he didn’t go and get himself killed in the process.

Diana gave a worried blink to the darkness. He did get clonked in the head one too many times. “Maybe you should talk to me for a bit, while I try to get us out of here.” There were still some things she didn’t know, and now was a good a time as any. “Tell me who creepy guy is.”

North was reluctant to say anything at first, he really didn’t want to think about it. It was hard to imagine he would meet him again, much less working with Vlachka. But given the circumstances, he had little else to do while he was away.

“That man was … he was…” The very name brought North dismay. “That man is Charles Mandell. Or Syko Mandell or whatever they called him. He’s the guy Dr. Armacu worked for before he disappeared. He’s … he’s… ” North gritted his teeth, trying to hold back his emotions.

“He’s also the man who killed West.” It was hard for him to say that. He didn’t want to remember it, he didn’t even want to think about it, but now that he had, the images were as fresh as if it happened just the day before.

“Oh.” A simple breathless statement. It explained quite a bit. Diana had a small regret she didn’t shoot the guy the first time she met him. Might’ve saved them all some trouble. It was something else they had common ground on, loosing someone important. Maybe later she could be a better friend and discuss it all with him, but for now thinking about the guy that killed his brother wasn’t the best idea. I was time to change the subject, and quickly!

Choosing a subject wasn’t exactly easy though. She went for something random. “Think about bunnies.” Yeah, that was random enough. “Fuzzy white bunnies with long ears. Not the floppy eared ones, though.” Wriggling her hands free from the ropes was slow going but at least she was making some process. Whatever bozo that tied them might’ve about cut off her circulation, but they couldn’t tie a knot worth crap. A light crack caused her to wince and suck in a quick breath of air. Well, maybe it was better than she thought.

“If that doesn’t work… ah,” she winced again. If she sprained her wrist, that was going to cause some problems! “Think of fuzzy yellow chicks.”

“Fuzzy … bunnies?” North stopped to think for a moment. What the hell did she just say?! If it weren’t so dark, he would have cast her a most confused look. He wiggleed around a bit, trying out the ropes, which were quite tight. Stopping for a moment, he listened to Diana struggling on the knots herself.

“Are you ok, Agent?” He said, hearing her sounds of pain. North was beginning to get tired of the dark and would do anything to see – unfortunately, he got his wish. The door swung open to reveal the thin, bony figure of Charles Mandell. In his hand some files and papers.

“I apologize for the wait. I really do. Like I said, having you both here has brought up a small complication, but nothing I can’t deal with.” Stopping in, Mandell flipped on the lights, wincing a bit at their brightness. “Now then, I’m sure North has told you enough about me already. Our history and what not, hmm?” Looking back and forth at their faces, Mandell got the feeling North really hadn’t said a thing.

“No? Well, I’m surprised, I would thing by now McCoy here would be a blubbering mess. We have quite a history together, you see. But … you know, that’s not too important right now.” He lifted the files up and fingered through them.

“Now, for that predicament. Lisa was misinformed that you, Miss Jones, had left, gone back to wherever it was you came from. I, for god knows why, believed her. Now, I have more than enough information on North here, but it took me a bit to read up of you, my dear.” He pulled a paper from the file. “Here we are. Ah yes, your history is very interesting indeed. And this brings me to my next point.”

Mandell pulled over a chair and sat down, tenting his fingers. “You see, I was prepared for North, and North alone. But luckily, I’ve been watching you two, carefully. And I’ve come to some rather interesting conclusions. But – I’m getting besides the point.”

“Just what the hell do you want?!” North shouted, becoming impatient. Mandell was almost rambling now, which was driving him crazy.

“I’m getting there!” Mandell replied bluntly, not liking the interruption. “Now, as I said, I was simply expecting McCoy. And simply planning to kill him. But with Miss Jones, I’ve changed my mind, well, not so much as not made up my mind.” Mandell reached into his coat and pulled out an old looking revolver. This caused North to once again look on in a state of shock.

“Ah, so you do recognize it. Good.” Mandell said, looking over the gun. “Yes, West’s firearm. A nine millimeter revolver. A swell weapon, if I say so myself. Now then, as you might recall, all those months ago, you and West were caught in a bit of a firefight between a certain mafia group. You, North, fired three shots, and West fired five.”

What … does this have to do with anything?” North said, more confused than anything.

“Again, I’m getting there.” Mandell said with a huff. “Now then, five shots, yes. Since I removed West of his weapon, I have kept it as it was since that day, one bullet remaining in its chamber. Originally, this was meant for you, McCoy. And this is where the complication comes in. Thanks to the efforts of your friend here, Miss Jones. You see, there’s two of you, and only one bullet.”

It took some time for her eyes to adjust to the sudden bright light filling the room. Enough time for Charles Mandell to go in to a long rather annoying speech, and her to make sure he hadn’t noticed just how much she had managed to pull her hands from the ropes. He seemed too busy with talking to notice her, though that file of his made her uneasy. Exactly how much information was in there? The last thing she needed was some psycho attempting to mess with her head as easily as it seemed he could with North.

The relevation and sudden uncovering of the gun made things all the more difficult. The man gave the impression he assumed that there was something between the two detectives. Perposterous really, but if he shot North first, she would kill him point blank. Diana had never killed anyone out of cold blood before, and the thought she would be very willing to kill Charles Mandell if he killed her partner was possibly more annoying than the dramatic speech.

Her hand slipped free from the ropes, and she concealed all hints of elation. “Your speech was very eloquent, but your methods are something left to be desired.” she mummbled. Diana needed him to leave, and it wasn’t going to server her purpose if he stayed there and decided to fire off a shot before both of them were free. “Aren’t you supposed to leave much more time for suspense and dread? It ruins the whole dramatic affect, otherwise.”

“PLEASE! I am NOT finished.” Mandell seemed agitated. “I am not doing this for effect, or any other silly reason you got from movies. Now then, this is where I’ve come to some sort of predicament. Which one of you – will watch other die, hmm? I know a lot about both of you, but just who will go through the most trauma is the bigger question.”

North didn’t like this, he knew Mandell was a sick freak, he had seen that first hand. But to do something like this was beyond comprehension. He was going to kill one and leave the other alive? And worse yet, it was with Diana.

And it was in that instant, that he realized he wanted that bullet. He wanted Diana to live more than anything, and above anything else, he was prepared to die for her. North turned and looked at Diana, who was still focused on Mandell. And he knew he could not lose her the same way he had lost his brother.

Mandell stood up again and began to pace back and forth in the room. Suddenly stopping in front of North, he raised the gun to his head. “North McCoy. We met on the night of September seventh, nine months ago. On that day, I took your brother’s gun and promptly shot him in the head at point blank range. Unable to fully register the situation, you froze, allowing me time to escape on my 11:00 flight.”

Still holding the gun to his head, Charles took another breath of smoke and returned to his speech. “For the next three months, you searched for me, torturing yourself for being the reason for your brother’s demise. In the following weeks, you had a mental break down, and sought psychiatric help. You recovered soonly afterwards and returned to your detective business, of course, one man down now.”

“The following months, your life returned to what you could best describe as “normal.” But I never left your thoughts. Night after night you would lie awake and think about me. Where had I gone? What was I doing? Why had I done what I had done? And now you see me again. And once again your partner is in danger. And once again it’s your fault. And once again, there is nothing you can do to help them.” Pulling the gun away from North, he slowly aimed it at Diana.

“If I were to kill her now and leave you here, there is no doubt that you would fall back into that hole you dug all those months ago, only this time it would be deeper than you could ever imagine. You would fall apart at the seems; insanity, North McCoy, insanity!”

He released North from his grip and backed away, he had read him like a book. North didn’t know how, but Mandell was right, he had never really forgotten that day, and dwelled on it ever since. Looking up at the smoking figure, North didn’t say a work, the expression on his face said enough for him.

“And then there’s Agent Diana Jones of the Federal Bural of Investigation” Mandell said and stepped over to her. “A woman who has seen crime and corruption since her teenage years. You happily and gleefully solved petty crime after petty crimes along side your friend; a Jennifer Smith was it? At least, until she wound up dead. And that was he beginning of your spiral into a life of solitude and loneliness. You began pushing away everyone, friends, family – everyone. You thought this would help, with no one close, you couldn’t get hurt, right? Oh, but instead it hurt you so very deeply. You wanted companionship, you wanted someone to help you, but you simply couldn’t admit it.”

Mandell paced somewhat, studying Diana and her reactions. The expression on his face stayed the same, no sign of him enjoying this or anything. He then returned to her and knelt before Diana.

“It wasn’t until you joined the FBI that you got another chance at a partner, someone to stand by your side when you needed them. But something was off; it all felt so hollow, somehow not what you were hoping for. He was transferred to another division and you were partnered up with another man, but this one ended much differently. This time your partner met a most unfortunate fate. Being gunned down is such a terrible way to end a career.”

“And this is when you moved away from Seattle, not just because of the case, oh no, because of what you would leave behind you. Deaths, sadness, everything. You simply couldn’t deal with it. And I believe it was then, that you met North McCoy, wasn’t it? At first, you pushed him away like all the others. You put up that very wall you couldn’t stand to hide behind. But, things here were different, North – didn’t simply back away like the others. He was kind, compassionate and caring. He treated you with respect and benevolence. The very things you have been looking for. They made you feel complete, warm and concordant. Over time, you opened up to him; you tore down that wall, little by little, until you began to care about him. You started to like him…” Mandell leaned in, just close enough so only Diana could hear him. “You began to fall for him.”

Mandell stood back up and returned to speaking normally. “And now.” And just like he had done before, Mandell raised West’s pistol and pointed it at North. “Should I kill him. Should I leave you here with his corpse, you would be absolutely destroyed. There’s no telling how secluded you would become, how much you would push away – anyone! It could get so out of hand that you would avoid contact at all cost. You would lose it all, Diana Jones. Your world would come crashing down around you, and your mind would leave you.”

She was the untouchable, the unphaseable, that rock hard pillar of ice that would never collapse. But damned if that man didn’t hit a very raw nerve. He made his speech for North, something that gave her insight and a steel-like reserve to be that rock solid figure. She would be the strong one, and no amount of rediculous preaching and mind-bending was going to twist her thoughts or knock her off balance.

So he stepped to her pointing his gun, reciting the peices he had learned and the conclusions he had made, while she simply sat, giving him that stoic blue eyed stare. Analyzing her with an alarming amount of accuracy and an irritating amount of assumptions. Her jaw tightly clenched so that she wouldn’t tell him exactly where he could shove his rantings, she listened, silently screaming and pointing out every single error in his speech. Perhaps she did push people away, but she didn’t need them nor did she crave them. Companionship was heartbreak waiting to happen, an unessecery weakness.

Then to whisper such statements in her ear… She caught her breath with a sudden look of dumbfoundedness. You began to fall for him. That was rediculous. It was stupid. Impossible! It was only a few days, no one could be such a fool. Quickly she masked her confusion with a belligerent air. It was simply not true. She was fond of her partner and she considered him a friend. She absolutely refused to believe anything else.

Charles Mandell was the most wrong about his last statement. She would not loose her mind, but to the contrary. She would hunt him down and remove every bone from his body in the most delightfully painful ways possible. Diana suddenly understood just how consumed one could be with the thoughts of revenge. If he shot North, he had better shoot her too because she was going to kill him point blank. But, what if he shot her? She cast a quick glance at North. Mandell had been setting up this moment for months, she had no doubt North would torture himself right in to insanity with guilt. There was such a terrible price to pay for being a nice guy.

She was just going to have to make sure neither of them ended up dead.

“Well,” she finally replied with a voice more steady than she expected, “I could never imagine someone so cold would be such a romantic.” She wished she had some sort of fancy mind powers, she’d make that blackend heart of his explode in his chest. “Now are you going to leave us alone with ours thoughts, frantically wondering which is to die while you revel in your perfectly executed plans?” ‘For the love of god, be predictable and leave us alone!’

“Oh please. I’m not doing this for the melodrama. For any effect. I am honestly unsure as to whom I want to kill! It’s rather embarrassing. Really, you weren’t suppose to stick around after you contacted North, Miss Jones.” Mandell said as he pondered what to do.

“Wait.” North finally spoke up. “You had her come to me? You set that – that whole thing up?”

“Well yes!” Mandell smiled. “After all, I wanted you, North. But just killing you outright wasn’t what I really had in mind.”

North couldn’t help but cock an eyebrow. He couldn’t believe this was the whole reason Charles had plotted this whole thing. To get rid of him in the most dramatic way possible. “This – this is the whole reason you’ve dragged all this out for the last three days? So you could get back at me?!”

Mandell stepped away from Diana, now rather intrigued with North’s reaction. “Close, detective. But not quite. But you’re catching on, I see. You see, I wish to return to my former profession. A high classed surgeon. And of course, large payoffs from people who didn’t want my patients to survive. It was a cushy job. And, well, to do that, I needed-”

“To get rid of everyone who ever knew you…” North’s voice trailed off. “That explains why Dr. Armacu was killed. The hitmen were late so … you killed him yourself! But, what about those diamonds he was so closely related to?”

“Glad you asked!” Mandell lit another smoke. “You see, I needed you to be put on the case. Had I simply killed my former student without those diamond connections, the case would have been left for the cops. Maybe you could have seen it on the news, but I wasn’t willing to take that chance. So, I contacted Terrence and had him make a quick stop for the diamonds. Who were previously owned by an associate of Vlachka’s.”

“But why?” North asked. “If you weren’t after the diamonds then what?”

“Still don’t see it? Very well.” Smoke lifted from Mandell’s mouth as he spoke. “The Diamonds were my way of paying the Good Don for his services, as well as my insurance to get you here. You see, if this was a simple murder, he cops would handle it. But with the diamonds gone missing, it now became an international dilemma. This is, of course, where the FBI came in. They would send an agent and he or she would seek as much info as possible.”

“Me…” North said, thoughtfully.

“Exactly!” Mandell enthusiastically threw his finger into the air. “And Miss Jones brought you out into the open, where I simply needed to manipulate you further so you would come to me. Though, I did not expect her and you to actually create a partnership. I suspected you would hunt me down on your own. You’re not quite as predictable as I thought.”

“So the auction house fire and the car bombing were … just to point me in Vlachka’s direction…” Everything Mandell said racing through North’s head.

“Very good, North. That’s quite the partner you have there, Miss Jones.” Mandell said, glancing in her direction. “Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ve had events you would like explained as well, Agent. Particularly the one dealing with your apartment the first night you met North.”

Diana was not sure what she was more annoyed with; being tied to a chair with a gun pointed at her and having to listen to a long speech, or finding out she’s been the puppet of a madman! At least he didn’t have have grandeur plots of romance and intruige… he was just freaking nuts!

His lengthy confession was the only good part of having to sit and listen. Though, she wondered why criminals were so intent on creating complicated plots to lure their victims in. Perhaps it was just a game to the man, but his speech was just going to give him a one way ticket to prison.

“I don’t care to hear… what?” She exclaimed suddenly, giving a wide eyed look of shock as she forgot to mask her thoughts. Diana had thought her apartment was trashed by Stephan Burch. The man was out of jail, surely he should be tracking her down by now. “You don’t mean to tell me you had anything to do with that.” she replied, with another dubious expression.

Giving a slight smile at her reaction, Charles once again moved towards the Agent. “Ah, so, finally some reaction! Good. And yes, you don’t think your old friend Burch found your new residence on his own, especially since the FBI themselves assisted your relocation. After I learned of your newfound partnership with North, I was hoping this would be enough to scare you off. Afterall, he did manage to get you out of Seattle, didn’t he?”

Mandell seemed pleased in his own knowledge. He was certainly digging into a part of Diana’s past she didn’t want brought up. “Hmm, being run out ones own home by a simple murderer. That’s not what you would expect some who seems so hardened, so un-phasable now is it?”

Charles Mandell walked around Diana, circling her somewhat. “But its not because he’s angry with you, now, is it? It’s not because he wants vengeance because you put him in jail, is it? No, those aren’t the reasons you left, why you didn’t stay in Washington.”

Suddenly stopping in front of Diana, Mandell quickly grabbed her by the shoulders and brought his face to hers. “It is because you simply cannot face the man who ended the life of your best friend! For every moment he is in your mind, it is like a searing memory of that tragic event!” His voice sounded as if he was scolding her.

North had overheard everything. He wanted to stop Mandell from digging into Diana like that, but nothing he could have done would have stopped anything. But the last comment he made struck something in North, something he didn’t realize about Diana.

Had it been Stephan Burch who had captured them like this, who was doing the same thing to them as Mandell was now. It was possible Diana would be in the same spot he was, being tortured by memories by the man who caused them. But would she have been effected by them as he had? Afterall, she was Diana Jones of the FBI. She wouldn’t give in to it, and neither should he. North decided it was time for him to do something about it, as Diana certainly already was.

Diana visibly cringed as Mandell grabbed her shoulders bring his face uncomfortably close to hers. She never thought herself easily intimidated, but she twisted in the chair trying to remove herself from his grasp. It was futile, and she could only listen, her face terrible pale!

“No…” she muttered meekly. It was such a strange subdued sound coming from the woman that seemed like she would stare lion in the eye and call it names. She was the infallible agent, never lost never beaten. And yet some crazy psychopathic stranger could pull strings without her knowledge. Have her play in to his sick little schemes, spouting nonsense of her fears and her weaknesses all of which struck too closely to a truth she never wanted to realize. She had no control, there was nothing she could do and they would die…

No…!” Diana annouced with a little more force, sending Mandell a bitter stare. “Don’t waste your breath! I’m not going to cow to your stupid mind games, and when I get out of here I’m going to merrily send you back hell where you belong!” Ha! She might be about to die for it, but she’s giving everyone last one of them grief! He was just a man, and it was just a gun, and if she could just make North see that too, maybe they’d escaped with their heads still attached.

Mandell stepped back and once again stood before the two tied detectives. “Well, you’re resilient, I’ll give you that. Never the less, we still need to decide whom of you will live – and who will die, and to be quite honest, this is taking way too long.”

North, who had been building the strength to speak this whole time, had heard enough. “Do you really think you’re going to get away with this, Mandell? Killing one of us is only going to get you in more trouble than you’re already in.” North hated looking at him, and speaking to him was even worse, but if he was going to die, he wasn’t going to let Mandell see him sobbing.

“And if you think you’re making me angry, or sad or whatever it is you’re trying to do, I’m past that. So, if you’re going to kill anyone, it had better be me, or I will track you down for the rest of your life.” North was trying anything to take Mandell’s attention away from Diana. At least if he met his end, he knew Diana would take this psycho down.

“Ah!” Charles said. “So the detective has finally joined this conversation. And with such chivalry, too! But sadly, and once again, you are woefully mistaken, North. I very much doubt either of you will ever come close to finding me. Of course, I’m not about to tell you any more about that.”

“Then what’s stopping you from doing me in right now?” North’s voice turned towards demanding. “I mean, if you’re going to get off scott-free, then why haven’t you just put a bullet in my head already?”

Mandell fell silent for a moment, pondering and thinking about what to do. “Actually.” He said, raising the gun to North’s face. “I’d rather watch you suffer…” And with that, Mandell’s arm swung over to point the gun in Diana’s direction.

“NO!” North yelled, dropping the tough guy act as the barrel of the pistol pointed towards his partner. But before he could do anything, a gunshot went off. Unable to stop it, the detective cringed as the shot echoed through the house. He had just ended Diana’s life, he failed to save her. He-

Then he suddenly realized, the shot did echo through the house, and they were in a closed room. North looked up only to find Mandell and Diana looking towards the source of the noise. She was still alive! Letting out a sigh of relief, North now wondered who was blasting away inside the house.

“Hmmm…” Mandell muttered. “Shouldn’t have locked her in the hunting room…” Suddenly, the door to the room they were in was nearly blown to pieces, splinters of wood flying through the air. The smoke finally cleared to reveal Lisa D’nro standing there – wielding a double-barrel hunting shotgun.

“Bloody hell!” North said, shaking the wood from his hair. “Never thought I’d be happy to see her.”

The agent shot North an exasperated scowl when he goaded Mandell. Did he want himself to get killed? Granted, she was grateful he had washed away that woebegotton expression, still she wanted to escape, not watch him die! But Mandell didn’t fire the gun at North, he had swerved in her direction! She had to move or, dodge or something, but she froze as all coherant thought seemed to escape her and waited for that piercing sensation of pain as the gun was fired.

Only it never came and instead of finding herself dead, there was Lisa D’rno aiming a huge shotgun at Mandell.

Diana decided she might rather have been shot.

Oh, god… why’d it have to be her!’ Despite not exactly being pleased at a rescue by the mafia princess, it was an opportunty they needed. With Mandell’s eyes on Lisa, she slipped her free hand from the ropes and quickly worked on the other. If she were lucky, Lisa would blast a hole through Mandell’s gut and save her the trouble. Of course this meant they’d owe the woman the favor, and Diana didn’t like that idea one bit.

Mandell quickly pulled the gun away from Diana and hid it behind his back. He hadn’t counted on Lisa getting herself free, but he would quickly think of something. “Lisa, my dear, how nice it is to se-”

“Shut up!” She shouted. “Shut up you mad man! I don’t know who you think you are, but no one locks me away!” Lifting the weapon, Lisa took aim at Mandell. North didn’t exactly see this as a good thing, from that range Lisa was about to blow them all away! “I’m going to kill you for everything you’ve done!” The maniacal woman shouted and finally pulled the trigger.

Click! The gun didn’t fire. Lisa tried again only for the sound of an empty barrel to ring out again. ‘Oh yeah, only two shots in those.’ North thought to himself. It was a relief for him, but now Lisa was in as much trouble as Diana and him.

Standing there, dumbfounded, Lisa finally realized what was wrong. She quickly snapped the shotgun open but it was too late, Mandell raised West’s pistol and gave a slight smirk. “Lisa, my darling, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” With all his attention on the woman, Mandell had failed to notice Diana freeing herself from her ropes.

She could have rolled her eyes if she weren’t busy keeping an eye on Mandell. As long as he was concerned with Lisa D’rno, Diana could slip herself out of the ropes. The trick would be getting him unarmed. There weren’t any weapons stashed away on her person, and apparently for all her glory Lisa wasn’t bright enough to plan ahead!

Only one bullet was in that pistol, unless the man lied. With three of them there, he wasn’t going to be able to shoot them all. Infact, if she got the ropes off and jumped him, he’d misfire if she were lucky.

With some elation Diana slipped her second hand free, leaving only the ropes that had her stuck to the chair to remove. She could bend her arms easier now and untie those without any problems, but as soon as she moved them, Mandell would know. He needed to turn his attention away from her… then she could smash him with her chair!

As Mandell was focused on Lisa, she tried to catch North’s attention. She mouthed the words distract him! and hoped to god the man would figure it out!

North sighed softly; their so-called rescue was over as quickly as it begun. And now Mandell had three hostages, though North didn’t know if he had changed his mind about who he was going to shoot. Glancing over at Diana, North was surprised to find her hands were now untied.

When she looked over to over to him and told him to distract Mandell, North couldn’t help but mouth back me? But of course she meant him, though, he wasn’t sure what he could do while being tied to a chair. He wasn’t about to tick Mandell off, which would only cause him to start shooting. Looking around, North hoped to find something, anything – and then he saw his chance. The light switch!

He was only a couple of feet away from it, and he would be able to reach it with his head at least. The only problem was getting over there. Mandell was still busy with Lisa, so that gave him a little more freedom as to what to do. He was going to have to hop over there. North leaned back slightly and shifted his weight, causing the chair to slide a little bit closer. The rug did nicely to muffle the sound of the chair and Mandell hadn’t heard a thing.

North continued this for a few seconds until there were only a few inches left. When he leaned back this time, he could just barely reach the switch. Inching his toes a little further, he could now FEEL the switch! ‘Just a little – further.’ North said to himself. Suddenly, he felt his feet leave the floor and his head fly towards the ground.

“SHIT!” North shouted as he tumbled backwards to the floor, landing with a loud thunk. It certainly wasn’t his finest plan. Squirming, North tried to see if maybe something loosened, but it was no use, the knots tight as ever.

Just then, North looked up passed his legs to see Mandell hovering over him now. “I’m sorry, North. Are our accommodations not to your liking or something? Or did you just need to lie down?” He said in his dry, sarcastic tone. North didn’t reply, he was just hoping he gave Diana the distraction she needed. After all, Mandell was at the other side of the room now.

“Uhhh, lie down?”

Diana couldn’t help but stare with an incredulous raise of her eyebrow as North started hopping away. Had he simply gone mad?! She narrowed her eyes as he moved closer to the light switch, thinking maybe, just maybe for once the man had a good idea, and quickly fussed with the last of her ropes. As her graceful partner failed in his attempt to kill the lights and toppled over she gave a silent sigh. He was one hundred percent hopeless.

But at least she had her distraction.

Mandell moved across the room with his back to her, clearly amused with North’s seeminly obvious attempt to escape. Diana moved stiffly, trying to move the last of the ropes and rise from the chair without making a sound. As she stood, she let the ropes fall silently to the ground and picked up the back of her chair. Her right wrist gave a jolt of pain, so she passed the brunt of the weight to her other hand, giving Lisa a quick nod of her head to move out of the way.

With as much force as she could muster she swung the chair as swiftly as possible and crashed it against the back of Mandell’s head!

Mandell was looming over North, almost gloating when there was a loud crack, pieces of chair showering North. Diana had made good on her side of the plan and Mandell was now nothing more than a limp body slumped over North’s legs. North, himself, was as relieved as he could possibly be, the man who had him captive, tortured and hurting was no threat to them anymore.

Lisa finally stepped over to see what had become of the man and was satisfied to find him unconscious. Turning to Diana she smiled a wide, gleeful smile of appreciation towards her, likely to her dismay. “Thank you, Miss, um, Johns was it? You have saved my family and me! That – that man was planning to kill us all, I know it! He was insane! He was mad! He-”

“HEY!” North shouted. “Could someone get him off and untie me already?!” Trying to kick Mandell off of him, the detective struggled to see over the seat at Diana or Lisa. He was glad it was over, but he would rather celebrate untied and standing up.

“It’s Jones.” she muttered, tempted to tell Lisa D’rno exactly what she thought of the woman’s damsel in distress story. Diana cast an amused look at North, dragging Mandell out of the way. Her wrist was killing her, and she grimly suspected she might’ve actually gotton herself hurt, but decided no one really needed for now.

Besides, North was the one that got himself blown up and clonked in the head twice in one day. He needed to see a doctor as soon as they left. “What did you think you were, a jack rabbit?” she grummbled, untying his hands and pulling him free of the ropes. “And I don’t suppose you thought I could see in the dark if you did manage to get that light out.”

“It was a good idea, I guess. Might wanna try it a little sooner next time.” She was rammbling by now as she helped him from the floor. There was still getting out of the mansion to worry about, along with what to do with the mafia princess and the out cold madman. Perhaps she was just a smidge bit relieved he didn’t break his neck.

“Yeah, you’re welcome.” North said as he got up. The least she could have said was a thank you or something other than harass him. But he was somewhat used to it by now, at least this time he halfway expected it and wasn’t as distressed as he normally would have been. Besides, she was most likely masking whatever pain or fear she might had felt during the ordeal, but he was nice enough just to let it go.

Once he was back on his feet, North stretched his arms and legs; it was nice to be able to move again. His head was still throbbing though, but at least it wasn’t bleeding anymore. When he felt he was good and ready – or as good and ready as he was going to get, North decided it was best to get Mandell locked away as soon as possible, as having the man he despised most lying there wasn’t the best thing for either of them.

At least he wanted to until Lisa needed to have her say.

“Oh North!” She said, hurrying over to him. “I was so worried!” As she was about to wrap her arms around him, North managed to block her before she could.

“Uhh, thanks Miss D’rno but-” He glanced over at Diana discreetly. “But I have a – a job which I am loyal and dedicated to … but I – appreciate the gesture!” There was a short, awkward silence in the room before North managed to speak up again. “But I want to know, where is your father?”

“He’s at a dinner party, Mandell arranged it. He’ll be home in an hour.” She explained, North nodded.

Peeking out the shattered door, North saw the halls were empty. “Sounds like he needed Vlachka out of the house for a while. What about his body guards?”

Lisa crossed her arms, feeling somewhat rejected yet. “They’re gone as well.”

Nodding, North let out a deep breath. “Well, Mandell really wanted the house to himself after he caught us.” He said. Turning to Lisa, North placed his hands in his pockets. “Lisa, I’m going to need you to call the police, get them out here. Agent Jones and I well, uh, clean up in here.”

The woman nodded slightly in acceptance and turned to walk away. As she passed by Diana, Lisa looked up her face. “You are a very lucky woman.” She said softly and quickly left the room.

Lucky for what Diana wasn’t exactly sure. Maybe she was lucky she resisted clobbering the other woman with the other chair. Knocking out alleged innocent people never looked good. Infact North was the lucky one for remembering he had a job to do instead of having a rediculous mushy moment with Lisa. Diana might’ve used that last bullet to spare herself the annoyance. Not that she cared if he had a relationship with Lisa, but they had to do something about Mandell.

Frowning, she glanced down at Charles Mandell. He was a twisted bastard; maybe they should shoot him. Then again there would be too many explanations to make and paperwork to do. She liked her job too much to ruin it by shooting someone in cold blood. Diana hadn’t realized her hands were shaking, and stuffed them quickly in her pockets to still them. It was just her wrist, she told herlself. The small insignifigant things always seemed to hurt the most.

With that thought she quickly opened her mouth to speak before she had any other disturbing ideas. “After the cops pick him up, we’ll go to the hospital. We really should’ve gone there in the first place.” She was almost itching to check on him herself, but after a quick once over with her eyes he looked well enough. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, and he didn’t look like he was going to pass out.

“Are you okay?” It was out of her mouth before she could thnk twice about asking it. Of course he was okay. He was still alive, his brother’s killer was caught and there was a drop dead gorgeous woman waiting to throw herself at his feet! Everything was peachy keen! “Nevermind… I suppose we should do something about him before he wakes up.” she inclined her heads towards Mandell with a frown. Everything was okay. There was no reason for her to feel so terrible.

North stepped over and plucked his brother’s gun off the floor, looking at it in his hand. Mandell was out cold and West was avenged, but North still didn’t feel right, maybe because Mandell was still breathing, or maybe because he was right about what he said earlier; North was to blame.

Before North could drift too far into memory, he was snapped out of it by Diana’s comment. “Hospital?” He replied, feeling the back of his head, It stung and hurt like hell, and the hospital was the best thing for him at the moment. “I don’t need to go to any hospital. Just a couple of aspirin will be fine. And – I’m fine, thanks.” He said and flashed her a quick smile, but he quickly noticed the look of distress on her face, though she covered it well. She just didn’t seem her normal self at the moment, as if she needed empathy and caring. For someone to tend to her wounds.

North set the weapon down and stepped over to his partner, knowing full well he was going to do what he needed to do. Standing before her, he glanced down ad Diana, noticing her pain clearly now; she was definitely hurting and North knew what he had to do.

“Agent Jon- No, Diana?” He said, his voice soft and caring. “I know this has been a difficult ordeal for the both of us, and we’ve been through a lot together, even if it has been just a few days. But these last few hours have been the hardest, I know. And there’s something I need to ask you, that I need to know.” North reached out and grabbed Diana by the shoulders softly, and drew his head close her hers, eyes and lips only inches away.

“I – I just have to know.” He was now almost caressing her, her body in his hands.

“They didn’t bang you around or anything, did they?” Suddenly, he turned her body and inspected her head for any kind of bruise or scratch or anything.

She blushed furiously, having half a mind to sock him in the nose if it weren’t for the fact her swinging arm was out of commission. What was he thinking? What was she thinking? For a moment she almost thought – well, it was crazy. Mandell must have messed with her head more than she thought. Diana moved a hand from her pocket, motioning to push him back a few steps but only holding him at bay with a hand at his chest to keep him from fussing over her instead. She sighed, simply too weary to put up much more of an argument. Last thing she wanted was him being all galant and trying to carry her off. She felt dumb enough as it was!

“You forget who the Fed is around here. It’s nothing I haven’t done before.” Not that being held hostage and playing a makeshift game of Russian roullete was a normal daily routine. Maybe just a little gunfire and some bad attitudes. It reminded her that though they had Mandell she still had another to worry about. Stephan Burch wasn’t a part of their case and that had nothing to do wth her current partner, but thanks to Mandell he was in Chicago a lot sooner than she would have expected.

Diana shook her head somberly. “Any case, I’m not a damsel. Infact I distinctly recall doing the rescuing here.” She gave a half-hearted grin, at the classic role reversal. “All I need now is a white horse and you swooning at my feet.” That was an interesting thought.

“Uhh, right – right.” North said, letting go of Diana when she pushed him away. She seemed well enough, albeit acting somewhat strange at that moment. “Just making sure, that’s all. Anyway, I guess we should do something with Mandell while we wait for the police. You know, make she he doesn’t – get free.”

If North could have his way, he would make sure Mandell would never wake up. But as much as he wanted to, and as much as he believed he might get away with it, North was one to uphold the law – no matter how much Mandell deserved it. As he walked over to the unconscious madman, North noticed he was in a rather uncomfortable position. He was reluctant to move him but he had to do something.

North pushed Mandell off the chair, letting his body slump to the floor before taking the used to tie him up to bind the man’s hands. At least he found some satisfaction in that. Finished with the knot, North stood up, brushed his hands off and stuck them in his pockets. As he stood around a bit, he realized nearly ten minutes had gone by and Lisa D’nro was no where to be seen, not that her disappearing was new, but this time he needed her there, afterall she was a part of this as much as they were.

“Hey, what happened to Lisa, anyway?” he said, glancing out the doorway, again finding the halls empty. “Damnit, there better not be anyone left in the house. We don’t need anymore hostage situations.” He wanted to take off and look for her, but at the same time he didn’t feel like leaving Diana alone with Mandell. Not that he didn’t think she couldn’t take care of herself, but he didn’t want to leave anyone alone with him. He had a knack of manipulating people, but he needed to find Lisa and make sure nothing has happened to her.

“Where the hell has she gone?” He mumbled to himself.

“Surprise surprise…” Diana muttered under her breath. Lisa D’rno was about as reliable as a stray cat. The woman probably took off to warn daddy if she weren’t deciding to knock off the two detectives on her own. While they spoke, she could’ve been off gathering her goons instead of calling the cops.

Still, that didn’t bode well in either case. They needed to find the woman, and Diana didn’t like the idea of leaving North behind to watch Mandell, nor having him go off to find Lisa on his own. For some reason she figured he’d get himself in trouble.

“It’s her house, I doubt she got lost.” She paused for a moment glancing down at Mandell. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere soon and having Lisa running around was more of a liability than a help. “We should probably find her just in case. I can stay here in the hall, and you can look on the next floor. She’s probably doing something stupid like powdering her nose or something…”

He really didn’t like it, but North didn’t have any other choice, he was going to have to find out what happened to Lisa.

“I’ll be real quick.” He said and took off. He searched the house high and low but found no trace of the Don’s daughter, in fact, every room in the house was empty. There wasn’t a person to be found. North called out for Lisa a couple times but didn’t get any response, just empty halls. He wandered around for a bit longer, expecting to see someone less and less now.

It wasn’t until he came by the security room that he thought he’d have some luck. Why waste time wandering when you could have eyes all over the house! Stepping inside, North began messing with some of the keys, monitors cycling through different cameras. Finally he came to one that gave a little insight to where Lisa might be – drive way. Diana was right, she was gone. Her car was no where to be seen and the streets were empty.

North gave a frustrated sigh, that was one witness gone, and now Vlachka was probably tipped off by now as well. There goes their chance of getting him pinned down with Mandell. And now that North had the answer he was looking for, he didn’t want to leave Diana with the madman another moment. He might be tied up, but North was worried enough with just having him alive.

Turning to go, North’s first step towards the door hit the ground with a wet splat. As he looked down, he found himself standing in a puddle of blood. “The hell?” He muttered. Reaching for his brother’s gun, he realized he had left it with Diana. “Damn…” He muttered.

The blood streaked across the floor to some old, large lockers in the corner. North, who was without something to defend himself but his own two hands, slowly inched towards them. He didn’t know what to expect, but knew what he didn’t want to see.

“Don’t be Lisa. Don’t be Lisa. Don’t be Lisa…” He said over and over in his head as he came closer. Finally close enough North slowly reached out and turned the locker handle. Suddenly, the door swung open under the weight of its contents and a body fell out and to the ground.

“GOD DAMNIT, SON OF A BITCH!” North shouted, obviously spooked by the event. He didn’t like surprises – like dead people falling out of things. Once he had settled down, he checked the body. It was obvious from first glance it wasn’t Lisa, but a rather large man; one of Vlach’s thugs no doubt. Inspecting the body further, North found several stab wounds on his backside, no different than the ones Diana and he found on Dr. Armacu before. Another one of Mandell’s victims.

With Lisa gone and nothing left for them there, North decided he should return to the room Diana and Mandell occupied. He felt he was gone too long as it was. Stepping over the dead body, North quickly hurried back.

“You were right, Lisa’s gone.” North said, finding Diana outside the room still. “Which means she probably hasn’t phoned the police. Seen a phone around here?”

“I did, and I made a phone call. Your rookie friend wasn’t pleased about you taking his car.” She smirked. That wasn’t the only the the local cops weren’t pleased about. The two were in for quite an earful when they showed up. Diana had managed to snoop around the floor a bit, not straying to far from their captive. It seemed the whole place was cleared out. She’d have thought Mandell would have kept a few men around in case of an emergency, but perhaps he wasn’t as clever as he thought himself to be.

“Oh, I managed to find my gun… but nothing else useful. D’rno cleanup up his business pretty quick.” Having her gun back with her where it belonged gave her a better sense of control. She wasn’t taking kindly to someone else pulling all the strings.

Shrugging a shoulder she leaned against the doorframe to wait. “I guess it’s case over…”

“Yeah.” North said, unethusastically. “I guess it is. By the way, I found another one of Mandell’s victims upstairs. I guess it was someone more loyal to Vlach than he expected. Either way, with that and Mandells guilt-free confession, he’s going to need a lot more than a miracle lawyer to get himself out of this one.”

The night may have not ended the way he had wanted, but at least it was over. They had Mandell, and he wasn’t taking any chances with him. Yet, North still felt like it was incomplete, like West’s ghost was still hanting him. Or maybe he was just feeing guilty over the whole thing again – At leaset, that’s what he was telling himself. Besides, they had a whole new problem to deal with. A very angry police chief.

“By the way. Don’t worry about the police too much. “North said, acting somewhat embarassed. “Might be hard to believe, but this isn’t the first time I’ve managed to tick them off. Just let me do the talking, the Chief is a pretty reasonable guy…”

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