|Manda Rider 7: Blood Retribution
Author: Raven O'Connor PM
COMPLETED The death of a family member leads Manda into an investigation that strikes close to home and threatens her friendship with Michael.Rated: Fiction T - English - Crime - Chapters: 25 - Words: 76,424 - Reviews: 19 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 04-10-07 - Published: 10-06-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2258054
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's note: I'm rating this story as PG-15 just to be safe.
Dead. He's really dead.
"You're going to get suspended again if you don't start working on these cases," Daniels admonished from across the table, pointing toward a stack of folders on his desk. "I can't work on them alone."
Blake Rider looked up with a start from his family photos, cluttering next to his computer. His partner was frowning at him with a curious look.
"Your brother's dead, Rider. You have to let go of that," he said slowly. "He died in an accident, and you know there's nothing you could do about it."
After three months of searching and all I found is Connor's remains in a wrecked car.
"There's always something I can do," Blake retorted to his partner. Such as finding out why Connor was in New Jersey when he died? Why did he go there first after he'd arrived from Budapest? He had received an e-mail from Connor while the latter was in a conference in Budapest, telling him he'd meet Blake after his trip to New Jersey. He knew it might be nothing out of the ordinary, but lately before his death, his brother often made trips to New Jersey. Blake didn't want to intrude in his brother's life, but the way Connor kept his mouth shut about these trips was making him curious. For all he knew, whoever Connor was meeting in New Jersey might know or witness something about the car accident.
However, Blake refused to believe Connor's death was accidental. There were a few clues in the car that suggested him that Connor was behaving out of character, such as his body was found without wearing a seat belt. Though it might seem insignificant, he knew Connor never failed to put on his seat belt whenever he was driving, even for a short distance drive.
"It's an open-and-shut case, Rider," Daniels told him as if reading his mind. "We've got no evidence of sabotage or any wrong doings.
"You don't know my brother as well as I did."
Daniels sighed. Blake knew his partner was trying to keep him focusing back on their other cases and from getting him suspended again. But Connor's death was too personal and he had a hard time concentrating on his real job.
"How's Manda coping with this?" Daniels asked.
"She's fine," he fibbed, and his gaze went to the photo of his daughter.
In fact, he hadn't met or talked to Manda since he'd told her about Connor's death. He didn't even attend Connor's funeral after all the arrangements that he had made. Instead, he threw himself at work, getting every piece of information that he could get on Connor's accident. You're doing it again. Running away when Manda needs him most. He hadn't been there for Manda and his wife, Lauren, when he'd found out about Logan's death. He hadn't been there for Manda again when his wife died. Instead, Connor and Byron had been there for Manda. Blake grimaced in distaste at the thought of Byron. Byron wasn't his friend anymore.
God, how screwed up my life could be? Sometimes he felt too ashamed to be with his family. He had joined the FBI because he believed in fighting for justice and protecting the weak. He scoffed at the latter. He could solve countless of cases but he couldn't even protect his family. What kind of FBI agent would that make him?
His gaze went to another old photo of him, Lauren and twelve-year-old Manda. If he could have prevented Logan's murder, Manda would have a big brother by now. Forgive me, Manda. The shrill of a telephone snapped out of his thoughts, and he watched Daniels picked up the receiver and answered the call.
"FBI. Special Agent Daniels speaking."
Daniels' smooth forehead creased into a concerned frown as he listened to the speaker.
"All right. I'll be right there," he told the caller and hung up. He stood and grabbed his jacket.
"What's going on?" Blake asked.
"Someone's reported a shooting at Fulton. I'm going to check it out."
"Why didn't he call the cops?"
"No time to dwell on it, Rider. I've got to go now."
"Alone? I'm coming with you." Blake stood, slipping his jacket on.
"Don't you have somebody to meet?"
"My appointment is at three."
Daniels snorted. "I didn't think this sort of work would be personal enough for you."
Blake ignored his sarcasm. "We're partners, and you'll never know if you need a back up."
"You killed him."
"Because I can."
Manda Rider grabbed the papers from her friend, Amy Johnson, and read again what Amy had written.
"But I like the character. And you made him die without any reason or motive."
Amy rolled her eyes. "This is creative writing, Manda. Not everyone dies from getting maimed, or shot like your favorite mystery novels."
Manda frowned. "Still... his death seems pointless."
Amy stared at her from across the table. "This isn't about your uncle's death, is it?"
Manda tried not to flinch at the turn of the subject. "Can we... Can we not talk about that?"
"I'm sorry. It's just you haven't spoken anything about it since the funeral a month ago."
"Because there is nothing to speak about," she replied, irritation creeping into her voice.
"And today, you finally want to meet me and pretend like nothing ever happened. If you--"
"Sorry, I'm late!" A tall broad-shouldered man dropped his backpack on the table and plopped down on a chair next to Amy's.
"Adam!" Amy's brown eyes sparkled at the appearance of her boyfriend.
Manda's gaze landed on her notebook when both of them instantly engaged into passionate kisses. She cleared her throat, but both of them seemed oblivious to their surroundings. Manda sighed with resignation. Couldn't they see they are in the library? A few students around them started to send disapproval looks toward her table. She gave an embarrass shrug.
Manda hadn't known Adam Archer that well, but she knew he and Amy had been seeing each other for a few months. Unlike other faculties in Greenwood University, Adam was in his fifth year, studying architecture. Manda wasn't sure how Amy had met Adam, but then, she had been so busy with her own life that she had sort of lost track of what was happening around her. It had been a shock when Amy had announced at the start of the semester that she was moving in to Adam's off-campus apartment. Manda was unsure how to take the news. It seemed like Amy's relationship was going too fast, but seeing how happy her friend was, she refrained herself from commenting her concern.
She and Amy had been roommates since they were freshman, and the thought of sharing her dorm in her final year with a new roommate was very unsettling. It had been two months since Amy had moved out of the dorm. Manda still had yet to get used to the silence in her room. On the other hand, the timing was fitting with her uncle's death, but after a while, she'd found out the silence was kind of depressing. She needed something to take her mind away from thinking about her uncle too much. It hadn't occurred to her until now how she had taken Amy's presence for granted all this time. Sighing, Manda closed her notebook and stuffed it into her backpack, and glanced at her wristwatch. Her Research In Writing class was about to start in a few minutes.
"I've got to go," she announced.
"See you later, Manda," Adam said, pulling away from his girlfriend and waved at her.
"Yeah, bye," Amy replied before both of them continued doing what they were doing earlier.
Changes. I hate changes.
The traffic along Brooklyn Bridge was heavy as usual, especially now that the Dance Festival, San Gennaro Festival and the Film Festival were being held in New York. However, the festivals were not the focus of Blake Rider's mind. As soon as he and Daniels arrived at the old building of Franklin Hotel at Fulton Street, where the shooting was reported to be heard, Blake pulled out his gun and reconnoitered the surrounding area, while Daniels went inside the building. They had been doing this for years that they didn't need to be told of what to do.
Franklin Hotel went bankrupt ten years ago. While its building still remained standing, the area around the hotel was run-down ever since more roads and highways had been developed. That means more land was needed for road constructions. Blake couldn't believe how fast time flies as he carefully surveyed the dilapidated buildings and small stores surrounding the old hotel. However, the opposite could be said of the neighborhood across the street. While the buildings on this side were quiet and abandoned, the buildings across the street were busy and alive with business. Warehouses, convenience stores, and bars filled the neighborhood.
The last time he'd been this part of Fulton Street was six years ago. During that time, there were a few stores, warehouses, a theatre and a mall. Now, all he saw was the boarded up windows, crumbling walls of the stores and theatre, and the burnt-down mall.
But what he remembered most was chasing a criminal at the back of the Franklin Hotel six years ago. Donnie Eldgrim. Even the name still sent a chill down his spine. It had been one of his favorite cases because he and his brother had worked as a team to capture Eldgrim and sentenced him for life. Connor was the one who had won the prosecution against Eldgrim.
Manda. How could he forget Manda? He had trained his daughter to help him gathering the evidence. He still remembered how ecstatic she was when they had solved the case. He was damn proud of her. His eyes narrowed slightly, remembering his wife wasn't too happy when Manda had been helping him. Though Lauren was proud of her, which he could tell easily, he also knew she was worried about the danger he had put Manda in, especially since she was still a teenager.
Letting out a sigh, he forced himself to stop reminiscing the past. Blake walked down the dirty alley between the hotel and the old theatre. He wondered if the old shack at the back of the hotel still existed. That was where he had found Eldgrim's hiding place. The ground was uneven beneath his feet while he walked. Broken glasses, brown pebbles, tin cans, beer bottles and other rubbish covered the surface. The shack was still there, looking deteriorated as the rest of the buildings. Even the junkyard behind the hotel looked abandoned.
Daniels came out of the back door of the hotel; his gun still in hand. He shook his head when he saw Blake. Then he pointed toward the shack. Blake nodded. He watched Daniels went around the back of the shack, where the door was located.
Someone's probably playing a joke on us. There was no sign of shooting. Aside the sound of honking cars from the street and the highway nearby, the place was dead quiet. Still, he continued looking around just to be sure. More garbage piles were lumped at the back of the hotel. Blake was forced to move around them, almost tripping over a car battery that was poking out from the pile. He managed to avoid himself from stepping into a puddle of mud before him. His right feet planted firmly next to the puddle, onto the ground covered with brown pebbles -- or so he'd thought they were pebbles until he saw his shoe print was molded onto their surface. Frowning, he picked it up and froze when he finally registered what it was.
A plastique explosive.
And it looked pretty recent. His eyes instinctively scanned the ground, finally noticing a trail of the small plastique pieces leading to the shack. Anyone who was walking by would think nothing of this minor detail, but for Blake, it was a clue.
Or a decoy.
Like leaving bits of cheese to lure a rat into a trap.
His blood grew cold at the realization. His gaze flew to the shack.
"Daniels, get out of there!"
A blast of hot flame shook the whole world, sending wooden splinters, bricks and debris all over him. Blake was thrown back from the explosion, stunned for a moment before his fear took over. The shack now was consumed with fire.
Oh, my God.
He was scrambling to his feet when something cold and sharp struck the base of his skull. His vision spun as he stumbled to the ground. He tried to look at his attacker, but all he could see was a pair of jeans legs and boots before darkness enveloped him.