|Manda Rider 3: Endgame
Author: Raven O'Connor PM
COMPLETED Someone from Michael Mackenzie's past has kidnapped Manda. For her release, Michael has to accept one impossible demand that could prove unlawful and dangerous.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Drama - Chapters: 21 - Words: 70,087 - Reviews: 104 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-10-04 - Published: 03-22-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1558477
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The hallway was buzzing with excited voices. A fifteen-year-old boy could feel his palms grew clammy as he stared at the dark mahogany door to where the jury had disappeared. Then he glanced at a tall imposing man standing next to him. Wearing a gray suit and dark tie, the man, still in his late thirties, looked as confident as ever, but underneath the exterior, the boy knew how much strain and pressure he had to endure for this trial. When the man turned toward him, his dark eyes hardened slightly.
"I've already done as best as I could," he told the boy crisply. "Now, it's up for the jury to decide."
"You've done all that you could, Dad. I can't thank you enough."
"Don't thank me, yet. And don't call me 'Dad' when I'm working," he said gruffly. "The prosecutor has delivered better argument than mine."
The boy was silent, knowing his future was in the hands of the twelve jurors behind that room. It wasn't that that had bothered him, but it was the way his father had treated him since this thing started. He felt as if his father was...isolating him, as if ashamed that his son was tangled in this predicament. But why should he be ashamed? None of this was his fault. Or maybe it did, he reflected suddenly. Is it so wrong for one to have a good intention?
He sighed. He couldn't turn back the time to undo his stupidity. He wished his mother were here. She would be able to comfort him at times like this, but his father wouldn't let her come to the trial. She might get upset and hysterical, his father had told him.
A young man in his late twenties approached them. It was Miles, his father's assistant.
"The jury's back. Let's go in now," Miles reported solemnly.
The boy had to drag his feet to get into the room that suddenly seemed menacing. When they were seated in their proper places, the judge looked at the jury questioningly.
"Has the jury reached a verdict?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"In the case of Michael Mackenzie vs New York on charges of manslaughter, we find the defendant..."
The boy tensed and clenched his fists, praying silently for a favorable outcome. Oh, please, please, please...
"...guilty as charge."
Michael felt as if the world had crashed onto him, feeling as if his blood had chilled like Arctic ice. This couldn't be happening. It had to be a dream. A dream that he couldn't wake up from. Cruelest dream is reality. A song he once heard. How true. The murmur throughout the courtroom was deafening but he was oblivious to the exuberance in the courtroom. Even without exactly hearing, he knew what they were saying. After all, he was the son of one of the most prominent lawyers in New York. He would definitely be the talk of the metropolitan. He glanced at his father for support. His heart sank when his father's dark eyes glanced at him indifferently. The eyes of a stranger. Michael's shoulders drooped with desolation; he suddenly didn't care if he was sentenced for life.
Michael Mackenzie woke up with a start. He blinked his eyes several times before he finally registered of where he was. On his own bed in the Mackenzie's mansion. He took a deep breath, and raked his fingers through his thick sweat-drenched hair. Whew. Thank goodness it's only a dream, he thought. He frowned, still shaken by the dream. He knew his dream was just a recollection from his past -- a past that he never wanted to remember, but it would keep haunting him through his sleep. Lately, the occurrence had been too constant for his liking. It has to be an omen. A bad omen.
He lay still for a moment, staring out of the window, framed with white lacy draperies. Outside, the apple tree was blooming with tiny leaves sprouting out of the bare branches set against the blue backdrop of the sky. Far beyond the tree, gray in shadow, was the peak of Hunter Mountain. He stared, transfixed by the sight. Birds were singing, and soon he found himself enjoying the soothing solitude, momentarily forgetting his present gloomy enmity. After a long while, he was reluctant to get out of the bed, never wanting to break the peaceful atmosphere and returning to the real world.
He exhaled a long breath. Shaking his head as if to discard his thoughts, he rolled out of his bed and headed to the bathroom. A cold shower might help ease his distraught mind.
Half an hour later, Michael stepped into the dining room. Both of his parents were already seated at the table, having scramble eggs and toast for breakfast.
"Morning, Michael," his mother greeted him cheerfully.
"Morning," he mumbled and sat across from his father. Mr. Mackenzie didn't acknowledge his presence as Michael had expected. His father had a morning paper lying next to his breakfast.
"You don't look like your morning self." His mother studied him closely with her keen blue eyes.
Sometimes, Michael wished his mother wasn't that observant. She never stopped fussing over him. Sure it was her job as a mother, but he felt smothered when she tends to do it too much.
Michael shrugged. "I just couldn't sleep. That's all," he said in an evasive fashion. He poured himself some orange juice; glad he was doing something than facing his mother's scrutiny. He tried as best as he could to ignore her glance as he swallowed and polished off his scramble eggs in record time.
"Anyway, your father has something to talk to you about," she told him, casting a sour look at her husband. Michael knew her expression real well. It could mean bad news for him, and good news for his father.
"Can it wait till later? I've got some shopping to do," Michael said.
"Shopping?" Her mother raised her eyebrows in surprise as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"Just to get some stuff." He shrugged. Michael rarely went shopping, except when he needed something to buy. Only this time it was for a special occasion, which was why he was reluctant to explain, especially in front of his father -- especially when the subject happened to be about Manda Rider. He wasn't sure what his mother thought of his friend, but he could sense she seemed to like Manda.
"No. This simply cannot wait." Mr. Mackenzie plopped down the newspaper that he was reading. He shot a stern look toward Michael.
"So, now I finally exist, huh?" Michael muttered under his breath. He didn't bother to hide his sarcasm.
Mrs. Mackenzie looked at both of them worriedly. There had been too many times more than he'd like to count they had argued even on little things.
"Young man," Mr. Mackenzie warned, frowning at Michael, "I've had it enough with your attitude. You and your rebellious act have to stop. I've been working hard for years to save the Mackenzie's reputation because of your foolishness. But no matter, that should be resolved soon by tomorrow night."
Michael's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What happens tomorrow night?"
"We're having a few guests. I should advice you to dress formally," his mother replied instead.
Michael winced inwardly. "Who's coming?"
His mother opened her mouth to speak up when his father interrupted her.
"You'll find out by tomorrow," he told Michael cryptically. "They're, after all, our close friends." Then he glanced at his gold wristwatch. "I've got to go to the courthouse within an hour." He stood and gave a peck to his wife before leaving the room.
Once his father was out of earshot, Michael turned to his mother. "So, who are our guests for tomorrow?" He picked up the newspaper that his father had left.
"I don't think your father wants you to know yet," she said with a sympathetic look at him.
He gave an exasperated sigh. "Come on, Mom. Can't you just give me a hint? What's he planning to do to me now? Marrying me off to some girl again?"
The guilty look on his mother's face confirmed his suspicion.
"No... I'm not going through that again. Mom, I'm already twenty-four. I can make my own decision of whom I want to marry."
"I'm sorry, Michael. I've tried hard to reason with your father, but he really believed he could secure the family's reputation this time. He doesn't want to be known as a ruthless and crooked attorney to his peers. He's tired of clients coming to him hoping he could clear them from criminal charges."
"That's supposed to be his job. He's an attorney, for Pete's sake."
"I know, but most of his clients have shady pasts, and police records. More often than not, they are the ones who usually commit the crime."
"Someone like me. Is that it? He doesn't like it because I'm a reminder of his failure... Right?" He swallowed hard.
"Michael, I didn't mean it like that. I don't believe for a second --"
"Save it. I don't want to hear that anymore." He flipped open the newspaper, skimming through the pages in an attempt to tune out his mother's voice. As he turned to the front page, the headline caught his eyes. RODRIGUEZ TO FACE TRIAL NEXT WEEK.
His mother's voice became an evanescing monotone as he read through the article quickly. Olivia Pavlov, Rodriguez's personal accountant, had turned herself in and became the main witness for the prosecutors. She had evidence of Rodriguez's records that dated back fifteen years ago of all his contacts and illegal operations that would bring down the tycoon from Texas. As for Rodriguez, the defender would be none other than Maxwell Mackenzie -- Michael's own father! Michael felt as if someone had punched him right through his gut. It was somewhat kind of a sick irony. Michael had been working on a couple of cases with Manda Rider not too long ago to bring down Rodriguez's operations. Their efforts even had appeared into newspapers. No wonder his father had been grumpy and secretive lately about his work.
Ms. Pavlov's, and Rodriguez's pictures were shown side by side on the front page. The woman seemed to be in her late thirties, with blond hair and gray eyes. Rodriguez was good-looking with dark hair that was pomaded back and tinged with gray around the temples. His deepset eyes were dark and penetrating as if they could see through one's soul. Michael felt as if the man was mocking him, laughing at him.
"Took you long enough," Michael murmured, as he continued reading. He couldn't help feeling relieved to see the crime lord finally would pay for his crimes.
"Is that so?" Mrs. Mackenzie seemed to be saying when Michael turned back to her.
"I was asking if you've told Manda about your...bad luck." She looked expectantly at him.
"Umm, no...but she already has a general guess of what had happened to me." He squirmed on his seat. In an instinctive move, he reached for his glass and took a last swig of his orange juice.
"You didn't set the record straight to her? Why?"
"Why bother?" He could hear a tinge of edge in his voice much to his displeasure. The subject was becoming bothersome lately.
"She seems to trust you, the last time I checked."
"And I don't want to spoil it."
His mother sighed. Her hand idly went to her blond hair with a careful sweep. "She isn't Angela, you know."
His body stiffened at the mention of the name. He hadn't heard the name in years. Just the thought of it brought out a sliver of numbed pain that he had repressed from his memory.
His mother let out another sigh before she stood and gathered the plates. "There will be time you'll have to trust your instinct, Michael, despite of your father's scheme."
Michael stared at his mother as she disappeared into the kitchen, pondering on her cryptic remark.
Michael decided to commute to New York City instead of taking a drive in his land rover. The trip was uneventful as he was used to the drowning sounds of the crowd, the beeping horns of vehicles and cell-phones, to the suffocating smoggy air.
As he walked along the sidewalk that led up toward the shopping stores, he couldn't help feeling a sense of déjà vu. It was there...the alley, where it all began. The image of blood and death was still vivid in his mind.
He almost jumped when he heard someone called out his name. For a moment, he thought he was about to be handcuffed again...until he saw Amy Johnson, standing before him.
"Oh, Amy. Hi," he said, trying not to show his relief. Amy was Manda's roommate in the campus of Greenwood University, where he, too, was studying there.
She beamed. "You look like you're miles away out there."
"I was just thinking some stuff," he replied vaguely. "Where are you heading?"
Her brown eyes widened. "What a coincidence. Let me guess, you're shopping for Manda, right? Her birthday's coming up next week."
"You're a psychic. I hate to admit, I'm stumped of what I should get her," he said glumly.
"You're not the only one. Come on, maybe we can brainstorm together and hopefully, get her something." She hooked her arm through his, and led him toward the main entrance of the shopping centre.
Across the street from Macy's, parked a black van. The four occupants inside were watching intently at the pair, who was strolling into Macy's.
"Should we take action now?" the man behind the steering wheel asked another man, who was sitting next to him.
The second man took a deep drag from his cigarette before blowing out in a wisp of smoke. His right hand was missing his little finger. There was a long angry gash on the left side of his face, so old that it became a permanent scar.
"No, not yet," he said. "We're just going to watch."
"What about the girl? This Manda Rider?"
The Scarface's lips twisted into a sneer. "We've secured everything over there. Our channel will report to us when everything's ready."
"Then why are we wasting time over here?" the third man, who was sitting at the backseat of the van, grumbled.
Scarface whipped out his gun and pointed at the man. "Shut up, and don't complain!"
The man fell silent immediately.
"Besides, it's not the time to execute the plan, yet. Let's go back now." As the van rolled away, he glanced back at Macy's. "Soon we'll meet again, Michael Mackenzie," he murmured, tracing the scar on his face. "We're going to have some fun."