Deep in thought Michael sat on the couch reviewing the days events. He felt sick thinking about the two men who were pawing at him trying to undo his buttons. He jumped up announcing “I’m going to take a shower.” Everyone nodded as he got up and left the room. Under the hot water he hoped his skin would stop crawling. He had gotten out of the room before anything happened it was just a delayed reaction. Stepping out of the shower he suddenly felt light headed and sick to his stomach.
Knocking on the bathroom door Jeff called “Uncle Michael are you alright?” He stood outside the closed door. He put an ear to the door listening for a response. The sounds of retching had him entering the room. Kneeling beside the older man he asked “you don’t have to do this.”
Nodding Michael sat up and leaned against the wall. “It’s too late to back out now. The dice have been rolled the game is in play.” He smiled up into the concerned dark eyes of his nephew. “I’m ok it’s just not every day I get a chance to be treated like a prized piece of meat and know that the people who desire you also killed a dozen other people already.”
“No I guess not,” Jeff sat beside him “I’ll tell you a secret. You never get used to it. Once you do you lose your edge. You get sloppy…then you die.”
Shaking his head Michael looked at his nephew “I don’t know how you do this.”
“I want to help stop people like this. Stop them before they can destroy some kids life.”He shrugged “someone has to do it otherwise no one would ever be safe.”
“You’re right,” Michael said getting to his feet “I better get dressed.”
Jeff nodded and moved towards the door. He stopped “thanks for coming Uncle Michael. I really do appreciate your help.”
“You’re welcome but between you and me if I had known what I was getting myself into I might not have volunteered.” Michael laughed “now scoot so I can get dressed.”
Zayne looked up as he came down the stairs, “so how is he?”
“Ok I guess,” Jeff shrugged “he’s not trained for this.”
“I know but what other choice do we have?” Zayne asked his frustration beginning to show.
“You’re right. I’m not saying we should back out,” Jeff told him sitting opposite him on the couch “I’m just saying he’s not used to it. He doesn’t have the training. Things could go wrong if we’re not vigilant. I don’t want to lose anyone else…”
“What does Michael want to do?” Zayne asked.
“He wants to continue. He feels it’s too late to back out now.” Jeff looked up his eyes troubled “he’s right you know. They’ve found someone that fits their MO. He’s their type. We both know serial killers don’t stop until they bring down their prey. If we pull out now Uncle Michael would be a sitting duck.”
“What does that leave us?” Zayne asked.
“Right where we were with Uncle Michael as bait,” Jeff replied standing up he moved towards the door.
“where are you going?” Zayne asked following him.
“To scope out all the possible places where they could ambush him on his way to work.”
“Good idea,” Zayne said keen to do something useful.
“You’re not coming,” Jeff told him.
“Yes I am,” he frowned determined to go with Jeff.
“Someone has to stay here and protect the civilians,” Jeff told him determined to get his way.
“Then you stay and I’ll go,” Zayne said placing a hand on the door holding it shot preventing Jeff from leaving.
“What will you do if someone recognizes you?” Jeff asked trying to shove him out of the way “you’re supposed to be dead remember?”
“Argh” he dropped his hands from the door and moved out of the way “I forgot,” he mumbled.
“Until we can resurrect you” Jeff told him “you’re on home protection duty.”
“Don’t get used to bossing me around,” Zayne warned “this is temporary and I have seniority over you.”
“Says you” Jeff smiled “besides when will I ever get the chance? You said you might quit…”
Snorting Zayne crossed his arms “I must have been out of mind when I said that. I can’t quit. Who’d keep you out of trouble?”
“Yeah I’d hate to have to break in a new partner,” Jeff said as he slipped through the door.
“Where’s everyone?” Michael asked coming downstairs.
“Jeff is scoping out ambush spots along your route to work,” Zayne told him “and Jennifer is upstairs resting.”
Michael sat down in a chair staring out at the city skyline. “Jeff doesn’t like this plan does he?”
“How’d you guess?” Zayne asked chuckling a little “he’s concerned about keeping you safe. He takes solving crime seriously; especially when it deals with children. Every victim had children….”
“I know and Jeff lost his parents when he was little,” Michael fell silent remembering the phone call. How shattered Gene had been over the loss of his brother Robert. They had been close and because he had been close to Gene, Micheal felt the loss of Robert that much more. It had been a difficult time for everyone. Standing Michael went to the kitchen “you hungry?” he asked abruptly.
“Yeah I could go for some food,” Zayne stood up and followed the older man into the kitchen “can I help?”
“You know how to cook?” Michael asked surprised.
“Not really but I’ve had to learn after losing my wife…”
“I’m sorry I hadn’t realized” Michael apologized.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s been a while.”
They started to talk about trivial things when about thirty minutes later Jeff came bouncing into the apartment. “We’ve got tails” he announced.
Zayne looked up from where he was chopping onions “let me guess the captain knows you’re back in town and our serial killers.”
“Ding ding ding you are correct” Jeff said “we’ll need to figure out a way to disguise your hair when you go out.” Turning to Michael “I’ve pin pointed two likely ambush areas along your route to work.” Sniffing the air “that smells good,” he smiled as his stomach growled loudly “I’ll show you so that you’re aware of the possible hiding places. I took lots of pictures.”
“You made sure our killers didn’t follow you” Zayne asked “the last thing we need is for them feeling like they’re being led into a trap.”
Rolling his eyes Jeff crossed his arms “I know what I’m doing. They didn’t see me or know what I was taking pictures of.” his stomach growled again “when is supper going to be ready?”
“In about 20 minutes” Michael said “plenty of time for you to wash some of that stench off.”
Breathing deeply “sorry I forgot I went dumpster diving” Jeff grinned “I’ll take a shower before we eat.”
Michael kept telling himself that nothing would happen at least not on the first day. He’d probably have to walk this stretch for a few days if not weeks before the killers made a move. He tried not to think about how exposed and vulnerable he was. He couldn’t help but think about everything that could go wrong. Jennifer had taken the twins to Mrs Reynolds daycare and she confirmed that Mr Reynolds had asked if he h ad planned to go to work that morning. Not an odd question but unnerving under the circumstances.
Nearing the first alley that Jeff warned him about he slowed down moving to the opposite side of the sidewalk. The next possible ambush location the sidewalk was crowded due to a small fender bender and the crowd of gawkers that had gathered. He couldn’t avoid walking near the alley opening.
When it happened he almost froze. An arm reached out and grabbed him. Dragging him deep into the alley. A hand covered his mouth preventing him from calling out for help. His attacker was strong, agile as he dragged him towards a secluded door propped open where another man waited. He kicked out forcing his weight forwards. It was almost enough to break away from his attacker but the man’s fierce grip didn’t break. Michael knew if they got him inside he was a goner. He knew and so did his assailant.
He was losing ground. He was no match for the man. Michael hoped Jeff would come for him when he realized he didn’t arrive at his destination. Could he hold out long enough for him to come?”
Jennifer called Jeff “he hasn’t arrived,” she informed him from the lobby of the office building. “It doesn’t take this long to walk here from the apartment.”
Gripping the phone Jeff began to job back towards the alley with the fender bender in front of it. Even if the killers hadn’t planned it it was the perfect distraction they needed to take someone on a busy street. Fighting through the crowd of gawkers Jeff made his way into the alley just in time to see the door at the far end close with a dull thud. Fighting to control his labored breathing he called his partner “it’s going down now.”
“I’m on my way” Zayne said pulling a hat over his head and getting out of the van he had been sitting in. Five minutes later he came up along side Jeff in the alley.
Pointing towards the door Jeff moved to one side while Zayne moved to the other. Drawing their guns Zayne nodded. Taking a deep breath Jeff tried to door. Locked as expected. He took a step back and kicked at the lock with all the strength he could muster. It cracked but didn’t budge. He prepared to kick again once Zayne gave him the signal.
Time was running out he could feel it draining fast for his Uncle. With a grim determination he kicked the door with everything he had. Putting into his kick his refusal to make the call informing his family he had failed to protect him. There was no way he was going to let his Uncle’s children grow up without their father.
He stumbled forward as the door gave way under his assault. He shrugged off Zayne’s hands as he attempted to steady him. The hallway was dark, silent, no sign of where the killers had taken his Uncle.
Michael was shoved into a dark must smelly room. Water dripped from exposed pipes in the ceiling. The men roughly pushed him to the floor laughing at his predicament. The older man took a deep breath as if savoring the aroma of a good meal. “Do you smell that? he asked his son who was standing behind Michael barring his escape “he reeks of fear.”
Leaning over Michael the younger man sniffed loudly in his ear “I love the smell of fear in the morning. It’s one of my biggest turn ons.”
Michael felt sick inside as the men circled him. Taking turnes taunting him. So far neither of the men had touched him. How long would that last he had no idea. He concentrated on the drip drip of the water from the pipes anything but the horror that lay ahead of him. So attuned he was to his surroundings he thought he heard the distant banging of a door being forcfully opened. Could it be? His heart leaped with hoped even as the son lunged for him. Michael called out in a mixture of shock, surprise, fear and pain.