|On the Run
Author: thenifoundfivedollars PM
I thought I liked Jeremy Rhider. And then he kissed me, shoved a briefcase in my hands, and jumped out my second story window. Now I'm under the watch of Agent Ryan Sumner, FBI. And he's about as thrilled with our arrangement as yours truly. Complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 22 - Words: 72,512 - Reviews: 612 - Favs: 476 - Follows: 464 - Updated: 01-24-13 - Published: 02-04-12 - Status: Complete - id: 2994498
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It felt like my eyelids were glued shut. They weren't, of course. After a couple blinks I managed to pry my lashes apart and peer through a fuddled film at my surroundings.
My eyes might not have been bound, but my arms and legs certainly were. Careful of my pounding head, I glanced down to confirm that my ankles were tied to the legs of a wooden chair and while I couldn't see my hands, I could feel that they were pinned securely behind my back. With a firm tug of my arms against their restraints, I groaned.
The constant banging in my skull distorted the last memories I had, but they were there. A man – no, two men – had come to my hotel. One of them had knocked my head against the door, which explained why my mind was groggy and the pounding ache was killing me. With slow movements, I lifted my gaze from my fastened legs to take in the room.
The sparse décor wasn't exactly tasteless, which came as a shock. Robin's egg blue walls were framed with thick, wooden trim painted a sophisticated shade of white. The furniture was understated but classic and I wondered briefly if the Russian Mafia knew what shabby chic vibes they were giving off. Perhaps they'd hired a decorator.
"Oh shit." The words were hissed between my teeth. The mafia. I was a complete airhead.
However, before I could scold myself further on how long it had taken me to snap the rather obvious pieces together, two men rose from the white sofa and started my way.
"So," one said, his dark eyes raking over my body as I shrunk further back into the wooden chair. Unfortunately it didn't have the ability to open up and swallow me whole, and so I sat, unhindered, beneath the weight of their gazes. "She's finally awake."
My natural response was to scream, but I only got a few good seconds of panic-release before one of the men cupped a palm over my mouth. His fingers smelt of tobacco. He shot me a scolding look and my eyes darted frantically from the dark hair dotting his large hand to his slated eyes.
"Ms. Bravi, relax." His tone was gentle, warm even. I swallowed beneath his slowly retracting palm. "We just want to ask you a few questions."
"Can I ask you one first?" My voice sounded small, but at least it hadn't trembled the way my knees were.
He had the audacity to look amused; his only response was to quirk a single flyaway brow in my direction.
"Do you have any medicine? My head is killing me."
Tossing back his head, the sounds of his booming laughter filled the room. The second man, a head shorter and wearing a nondescript brown pullover looked at me. It was he that spoke,
"And why would we give you medication?"
I blinked. "Just moments ago you were trying to comfort me." And then I glanced from the grinning dark haired man to his shorter accomplice and sighed. "On second thought, nix the medicine. I probably shouldn't trust anything you give me. It could be poisoned."
"Oh Alik, I like her."
Ignoring him, the shorter man – Alik, apparently – frowned.
"Ms. Bravi, what is your relationship with Jeremy Rhider?"
"We don't have a relationship anymore," I answered truthfully. "Apparently he was faking it, trying to frame me. Something about cocaine routes." I worried my lower lip. The light in the room was making my headache worse, but I didn't want to risk closing my eyes.
Alik leaned forward, making it impossible to look anywhere but at him. "What do you mean, anymore?"
"We were dating." I blinked, and swallowing thickly I wondered why this was the part of my confession he was focusing on and not the whole framing me bit. "It wasn't serious, but the FBI seems to think he was faking it to—"
The taller, nameless man cut me off with a click of his tongue followed by a derogatory comment about the FBI. I imagine he rolled his eyes, but I couldn't look away from Alik to confirm this suspicion.
Alik's thick stare never let up; he was looking straight into my eyes as if he could see more there than he was supposed to. And maybe he could. Weren't people trained in the art of lying and lie detection?
"To what, Ms. Bravi?"
"To make it look like I was either seducing or blackmailing him into working with Ukrainians. Or, something about me planting evidence on him or..." They really shouldn't have slammed my head into that door. I shut my eyes. What theories had Ryan listed for Jeremy framing me? I probably had a concussion.
"Hm." Alik took a step back. Slowly, I repeated the process of opening my eyes and moved my gaze up the man's crisp khaki pants, brown jumper and to the thoughtful frown cresting his features. "Interesting."
"It certainly explains why none of our spies knew anything about her," the taller man cut in. He was regarding me carefully, as though my muddled speech had convinced him. I knew I looked just as innocent as I was.
Alik ignored him. "Rhider said you had a briefcase. What did it contain?"
"An external hard drive." Not a bomb like I'd first believed. That day felt like ages ago. "And that contained all of your cocaine routes."
"You bitch. Do you know what the FBI could do with that information?"
"No." I gave an offhanded shrug. It wasn't like I'd given up the information on purpose.
His jaw tightened and before I could blink he struck the right side of my face with the back of his hand. My cheek stung from the blow; tangy copper coated my tongue and I could feel the welling of tears sting my eyes. It was only then that I realized they weren't so amused by my light hearted banter to let me go, to write me off as cute and harmless. They were the reason Ryan never wanted to let his guard down.
Even still, the taller man cursed beneath his breath and muttered,
"I don't think she's Ukrainian mob, boss."
"Hn," Alik huffed in agreement. "I think Rhider's full of shit."
I opened my mouth to confirm their suspicions but was promptly cut off by Alik's phone. Without breaking eye contact, he plucked the device from his pocket and pressed it to his ear.
"This is Alik." He paused and his lips crept to a slow, sinister smile. "Ah. Agent Sumner. Always a pleasure."
It was like the world stopped spinning. My head wasn't pounding and my ears ceased ringing. The blood coursing through my veins picked up a notch and I could feel it pulsing against my restraints.
"A girl?" Alik asked, and with a frown he craned his neck right and then left, making the other man snicker. And then he paused at me and the mirthless smile was back. "Oh. That girl. Would you like to speak with her?"
With a nod and a glint in his eyes, Alik extended the phone in my direction. I wetted my lips with my tongue, blood being the only moisture I could lend. It should have bothered me more, but all I could think of was Ryan.
The nod must have been a signal for something, because while Alik stood resolute – one arm still holding the phone aloft – the other man started towards me. He sunk down to eyelevel and gave a cruel smirk. And then with a deft flick of his wrist he grabbed my left hand from behind my back, took hold of my index finger and bent it back. I could hear the loud snap of bone separating and I cried out in surprise and pain. The surprise came first but the pain remained. It was biting, numbing and all I could think of. The room started spinning again.
Alik gave a short chuckle. "It appears she's a bit tied up at the moment. I'd apologize to you Sumner, but I'm really not all that sorry."
Tossing the phone on the ground, he stepped forward and crunched the device beneath his boot. It gave a short crack, eerily similar to the sound of my finger breaking. I swallowed and glared through the tears welling angrily in my eyes.
"Tomas," Alik commanded, causing the man still peering maliciously into my eyes to stand at attention. "Take her upstairs and have Erik look after her, then see if any of our leaks can gather anything on Rhider's association with the Ukrainians."
He didn't even cast me a second look as he kicked aside the broken remnants of his cell phone. Tomas worked the restraints, untying them none too gently and yanking at my swollen finger. I let out another involuntary yelp of pain but didn't shut my eyes. I wouldn't - couldn't - look away from the pieces of Alik's phone.
It was gone, and I'd missed my chance at hearing Ryan's voice. The pain settling in my gut momentarily eclipsed the painful throbbing of my left hand. Ryan was within reach and I'd lost him. I shouldn't have ever let him leave my side.
Tomas unceremoniously wrenched me to my feet. Because I hated him for breaking my finger for no reason, it took him four tugs to get me to walk with him towards the door. He laughed when he turned and caught sight of my glare.
"Don't be like that babe," he grinned, steering me by my right arm towards a set of stairs. "It's nothing personal. You heard me, I like you."
My eyes narrowed a fraction and I continued to yank back and stumble clumsily against each of his tugs. I knew it was useless, but it wasn't in me to just give up, to stop fighting.
"Just give Alik a few minutes with the guys he has planted on the inside. They find one thing Rhider's done and that man's good as gone."
I didn't care if Rhider was good or gone. I just wanted out of here.
"Erik," Tomas snapped once we reached the top of the stairway, presumably referring to the guy loitering about on the landing. Looking past him, I saw that the upstairs corridor was as elegantly decorated as the downstairs, the hallway flanked by a row of closed, white doors.
At the sound of his name, Erik straightened and raced to the second door on the right. He glanced at me before wrenching open the door and stepping aside as Tomas dragged me into the center of the room, releasing me by an opulent King-size bed.
The words then exchanged between the two men were in Russian. I don't think I knew a single word in Russian. Well, maybe Guten Tag, if that was even Russian. My brow knitted. No, perhaps that was German.
The door shut and I glanced up to find Tomas had left. It was only Erik and I now, and I shrunk against the thick stare. His dark eyes traveled the length of my body and I cradled my broken finger against my chest and frowned back at him.
His face was expressionless as he stepped towards me. He looked younger than the other two, but not any kinder. A flop of jet black hair curled over his forehead and his shirt was hanging mostly loose with only a few scraps of fabric tucked in. Stupider, maybe.
Sneering, Erik leaned his back against the shut door and crossed his arms against his chest. His job was to watch me while the others planned, got things done, that was clear.
They were in on the action, the decision making, while he was left to babysit. Poor Sumner, he hadn't been keen for this job any more than this kid was.
With a deep inhale, I sunk into the plush mattress of the bed and glared at the white duvet. There was a splattering of pillows and I turned my glower on them, too. The pain of my index finger subsided a fraction as I kept it still, only making me hiss whenever I tried to move the obviously shattered knuckle. However, it was easier to focus on the physical pain rather than the mental.
It clearly wasn't good that they were finding that I didn't have any information, that I was absolutely useless in catching Rhider or being a wealth of inside information on the Ukrainians.
But I had to keep my head above water. Sumner was looking for me. And he knew who I was with. He'd find me; he wouldn't stop looking until he did.
I moved my gaze from the artfully arranged toss pillows to the man still frowning at me from the door.
In the meantime, maybe there was a way to get out of this mess myself.
"Agent Sumner," the slender redhead snapped, staring down her straight nose as the man in question slammed his headset on the counter, "calm down."
He mumbled another curse beneath his breath but loosened his grip on the headphones. The woman calmed a fraction in response. Her supervisor would have her head if another testy agent broke any more tracking equipment on her watch. But then she hadn't thought shed have to be on guard as Ryan Sumner had never been a particularly irritable agent. She studied the impatience straining his features and the uncharacteristic temperament flashing in his green eyes. With a sigh, Olivia straightened in her chair,
"Right then, we'll try once more."
"It's no use." Seeming to catch on to the wary look she was shooting him, Ryan tried to ease some of the tension from his shoulders. "I just mean… Alik's smart. The phone's been destroyed, and even if it wasn't he isn't picking it up again." He'd come to the conclusion that Alik had only answered the first time to fuck with him. And, boy, had it worked…
Removing her headphones, Olivia exhaled. "There's always a chance we'll get through."
"No. He knows what we're up to." Olivia's face fell. "Fine. Try it again, but after that I have another number I need you to trace."
All business, she turned her attention back to her computer, deft fingers flying over the keyboard. Her lips pursed, brows narrowing over keen eyes, before folding into a defeated frown.
"He didn't pick up," she admitted. "What was the other number you wanted to try?"
"Jeremy Rhider." His brow creased. "And you talk."
Olivia quickly typed in Jeremy's surname. It was already loaded onto the system and therefore easily located. Eyes on the monitor, she asked, "What do you want me to say?"
"Just keep him talking." Ryan's gaze was also fixated on the name, ignoring the sinking feeling in his gut. He was betraying the agency at this moment as well as a friend. Olivia was a fine agent with a good head on her shoulders, but at times she allowed her emotions to get the better of her. He was fully aware he was taking advantage of that. "This is your job, yeah?"
Rolling her eyes, Olivia double clicked Jeremy's name and they both listened in silence as the phone rang. On the fourth ring, Rhider picked up,
He sounded bored.
"Hey," Olivia started, and Ryan noted there was a flirty edge that hadn't been there before. It was subtly seductive and it made Rhider stay on the line. Ryan shook his head; she was good at her job. "This is Anthony, right?"
From the other end of the line, both agents heard Rhider chuckle. "Baby, this is whoever you want me to be."
Ryan's fingers dug into the fabric of his shorts. Never before had he wanted to strangle someone so badly in all his twenty-six years.
Oliva gave a short titter. "I'm sure you would be, but I'm actually looking for Anthony. He gave me this number a few weeks ago at X-T-C and I only found it today at the bottom of my bag."
"You were so wasted you forgot about me?"
"I was so wasted I thought I left your number at the club," she replied breezily. Well, they did pay her to keep people talking. "So, do you want to buy that drink you promised me?"
Despite her flippant tone, her green eyes were focused on the map, watching the pixels focus and zoom on an area of town well known to both agents. It was a small shipping platform notorious for turning a blind eye on the town's more illegal dealings.
"You know," Jeremy hesitated.
Olivia snorted. "Sarah."
"You know Sarah, I'm a bit busy with things at the moment, but how about you give me a call sometime next week and we'll see about that drink."
With a small, breathy sign, Oliva said, "Okay. But you know it's not kind to make a lady wait."
Jeremy laughed. "Call me."
When he hung up, Olivia removed her headset, swiveled in her chair and grinned at Ryan. "Got him."
"Yeah," Ryan replied, already on his feet and removing his keys from his pocket. "West End Shipping. I'm on it."
"You're not…" Her eyes flickered to his gun, darted briefly towards the briefcase he'd brought along with him, and then settled on his steely expression. White teeth pinching her lips, she shook her head, "I don't want to know."
"No." Ryan grinned before wrenching the door open. "You don't."
"Be careful." Her smile was small but genuine, a touch of hope brightening her eyes. "I'll keep trying known numbers for the guys in Austin. Maybe between us we'll find a way to get Tori out."
Tori. He could hear her crying out in pain, over and over, and he spent the entire drive to the other side of Dallas torturing himself with the possibilities. But it was nothing, nothing compared to what they could be doing to her. What they most likely were.
His knuckles hurt by the time he pulled a few blocks away from the shipping yard and into an unmanned pay-by-the-hour lot. Flexing his hands by his side as he rounded the corner of the building, he grabbed the pistol from his waist and carried it, barrel down, as he approached the docking area. This was not protocol, a small, sensible part of his brain pointed out. The rest of him was past giving a shit.
It wasn't a large lot, and leaning against one of the two garage doors Jeremy Rhider was easy to spot. Ryan quickened his pace and kept his footstep light, soundless. The platform was raised so that eighteen-wheelers could back trailers into them, but Ryan made an easy leap of this distance.
Jeremy dropped his cigarette butt. A brief flash of recognition – and perhaps fear, but Ryan couldn't be sure – flashed in his eyes. And then with a cool smile Jeremy stomped out the cigarette without moving from his reclined position.
"Sumner, what a surprise."
"Hn." Ryan frowned, still clutching the gun at his side but dropping the small briefcase he'd been carrying to the ground. It bounced against the pavement with a series of staccato thuds.
"So, what's the nature of this visit? I've been paying my taxes and keeping my misdeeds on the down low. Unless I've slipped up..." The smirk in his tone indicated that he knew there was nothing Ryan could do to harm him. He didn't have means to make an arrest and what he wanted to do most was entirely off the table.
"Let me remind you of a little scare you caused in the 0900 block of Denton, just a few miles north of here," Ryan answered. "One involving an innocent college student you tried to pin your association with the Ukrainians on."
Jeremy exhaled. "Ah, Tori. Now there's one I'll miss. A fun girl, that's for sure. If she wasn't necessary in all this, I'd certainly go back for another round. She—"
The words caught in his throat and he let out a strangled choking sound. Ryan had shoved his forearm into his windpipe, cutting off the other man's source of oxygen. With a warped sense of pleasure, the agent watched as Jeremy's face darkened from an austere shade of red to sickly purple.
"I should kill you for what they're doing to Tori," Ryan managed between bared teeth. "I swear to God, I'd torture you slowly if I didn't still have to find her." Slowly easing pressure from the other man's neck, but still holding him in place between the wall and his forearm, Ryan craned his neck, awaiting the sound of inevitable footsteps.
They came in a pair, two men rounding the corner and skidding to a stop. One shouted something in Russian, but Jeremy was too busy catching his breath to respond.
With one hand still on Rhider, Sumner steadily balanced his gun towards the two approaching figures.
"Look in the briefcase," Ryan demanded slowly. His eyes flickered towards one of the men as he took a series of shaky footsteps forward. "Open it." The dark-haired man did as requested as the other two Mafia members kept their gazes trained on Sumner's pistol.
Flicking open the case, the mafioso cleared his throat, "It's a black box."
"The external hard drive," the other supplied, voice thick with accent. Clearly he was higher up than the man still crouched over the briefcase, looking befuddled by the box before him.
"Jeremy Rhider's been working for the Ukrainians on the side. Lift up the box," Sumner continued in his authoritative tone. Jeremy stopped coughing and glared at him. "There you'll find copies of some of Jeremy's files, a copy of his phone record and photos of him meeting with several of the Ukrainian higher-ups."
Shuffling through the papers, the man's eyes widened in surprise. The other newcomer joined him, a crease forming in his brow.
"There are also copies of some leaks Rhider's been slipping to the Ukrainians, and the hard drive itself contains copies of your cocaine routes." Ryan frowned, watching as the two men in question continued to rifle through the contents of the briefcase. Jeremy struggled against his arm and he shoved him back against the wall. "So in short, Rhider's the two-faced jackass who's giving your information to the Ukrainians to make a profit on the side. You can see several copies of his bank account statements."
"It's fraudulent," Jeremy spat. "He's making it up. The girl, Tori—"
Ryan dug his arm in his throat. "Tori isn't anything but a normal girl. There's a folder beneath that with enough information to clear her name. The only thing Tori's guilty of is having a Ukrainian surname and being stupid enough to trust Rhider."
For another few moments, the pair scoured through the papers and photos. One of them stood and dialed a number on his cell. Ryan couldn't understand the one sided conversation, but the clipped Russian was angry, definitive.
When he hung up, the man shot Ryan a glance. "Agent Sumner, if you would be so kind to leave."
Ryan threw a punch, his fist contacting solidly against Jeremy's left cheek. Rhider cursed as his head ricocheted against the brick wall. Wiping his swelling knuckles on the fabric of his pants, Ryan bowed out with his hands still firmly on his gun. As he approached his car in the neighboring lot, he listened to the sounds of Jeremy pleading in a panicked mixture of English and Russian. Then a pair of gunshots rang out. And just as he started up his truck, there was silence.
This chapter was made far more readable with the help of star123 and WritingKnightmare. I kept staring at the Rhider/Ryan scene and without these amazing, talented ladies looking over it I'm not sure I would have ever been up to posting this chapter. Also, they smoothed out some of the other rough bits, so a million thanks.
Also! SKoW is back and I have been nominated for Best Breakout Author. So, if you have some extra time and feel so inclined, you should go and vote. Winning won't do anything amazing like, say, make me update any faster, but it sure would do wonders for my vanity.
In all seriousness, there's a ton of good reads - so go! Check them out! And vote. And review. At some point one of these commands will get through, right?
… and thenifoundfivedollars