Marco restlessly moved around the drafty farmhouse. He was feeling agitated because he was in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't another house within miles of this shack, which was to their benefit, but also left Marco craving the sounds and activities of the city. At least they had food so they could make do for dinner, and Miguel was content enough watching the local news on the television.
"Hey, you call Valdez yet?" Miguel called to him, not taking his eyes off the flickering screen.
"Nah, not yet," Marco responded.
"Well why don't you? I'm not really wanting to baby-sit the brat forever here," Miguel called back.
Pulling out the cell phone, Marco punched in the familiar numbers. It rang and was picked up.
"Yeah boss, you know that little package you had us pick up for you?"
"Yeah," Valdez answered slowly.
"What did you want us to do with it?" Marco asked.
"Has it served its purpose?" Valdez asked from the other end.
"Yeah, everything is in motion. I already called Franky," Marco replied with a self-satisfied smile.
"Then the package is no longer of any use to us. Dispose of it any way you wish," Valdez ordered.
"You got it sir, it's as good as done," Marco said.
"Good, that pleases me," Valdez said before hanging up.
Marco flipped the phone off. "Hey Miguel."
"What?" he called from the other room.
"We got us somethin' to do."
Leon struggled against the cords that held him bound to the wooden chair, but the rope didn't give much. Above his head, he could hear voices penetrating the wooden cellar door, but they were muffled and indistinct.
Something within him internally warned him that his time was growing short, that his usefulness to the men who held him captive was virtually non-existent now. Even at twelve years old, Leon had read enough books and seen enough movies to know what happened to people who become expendable to men like these. The only thing that was different in a movie, there was always some hero who came to rescue the captive at the last moment. Though it would have been nice for him to believe that someone was going to come to his rescue, Leon knew realistically how slim a chance that was.
A sense of terror started to swell inside of him, but with effort, Leon squelched it.
Relying on some breathing techniques he'd learned from Sensei Malloy, he calmed himself. He knew that if he panicked, he wouldn't be able to concentrate enough to be able to help himself, that he couldn't afford the luxury of panicking.
Momentarily he thought about Mr. Malloy and grew angry at himself. How could he have possibly have betrayed his Sensei like that? Shame and humiliation washed through him when he consider how Trent Malloy's life was now in danger because of him. Why hadn't he just refused to make the call? Mr. Malloy would still be safe if it hadn't been for him being so weak.
Leon tried to shake the thought off. He knew that feeling sorry for himself wasn't going to get him out of this mess any faster than panicking would.
'Okay Doshava,' he told himself. 'Carlos is all the time telling you what a good head you've got on your shoulders. Now would be the time to start using it.'
Okay, so his only option really was to find a way to escape. 'But how?' he wondered. The first thing he had to do was get out of the ropes that were holding him to the chair. How could...Leon stopped suddenly when he realized that when he was taken, none of the men bothered to check his pockets! Excitedly, Leon remembered the pocket knife that was in his left back pocket. They probably didn't expect a kid to have anything worth checking for. Sometimes being a kid had definite advantages. Now, if he could just get to it.
Leon worked his arms, bending them as far as he could. He was grateful for the martial arts training he'd taken that had kept his joints loose and limber. The men who had tied his arms had also done him a favor by tying them down by his lower back.
Slim fingers worked their way into the tight denim back pocket until Leon could feel the familiar light weight steel. His fingertips managed to close around it and he carefully withdrew it out.
Once in his grasp, Leon turned it around in his hands until he felt the notch used to pull the blade out. It was difficult getting the blade to open up when he wasn't able to see what he was doing and he was scared of dropping it onto the ground and not being able to find it again in the utter blackness he was submerged in. Even though the felt hood he'd been forced to wear had been removed when he'd been thrown into the cellar, it was still pitch black in the desolate hole. After playing around with it for several long minutes, he managed to open it and get it turned to use on the ropes.
Sawing the knife back and forth against the rope, he could feel it fraying and loosening against his wrists. When he felt like he was almost through the cord, he gave it a hard yank and it broke away from him.
Once his hands were free, Leon quickly moved to cut the rope that bound his feet too, rubbing them get the circulation going again. Moving as quietly as he could, he stood on the chair so he could reach the hatch of the cellar door.
Listening intensely, Leon decided that he didn't hear any voices. Maybe they had moved into the farmhouse? He could only hope he was so lucky. Standing on his sneakered toes, he attempted to open the door enough to peek out the half inch slit. Holding his breath, he didn't see or hear anyone.
The trap door was heavy, but with a shove that nearly toppled over the chair, it swung open and landed on the straw covered ground with a loud thud. Leon's heart stopped cold in his chest. 'Oh great, why not just set off a flare or something smart boy? Hey, escapee right here, come and get him!' he chided himself. Squeezing his eyes shut, he waited for the rush of men to come in and thoroughly thrash him. Several heart beats...nothing happened. He opened his eyes and knew that either the thugs holding him were deaf or nowhere in sight. He chose to believe the latter.
Using his arms, he hauled himself up and swung his legs up and over. The wind whipped and howled through the dilapidated barn, rain pelting in through partially open double doors. The pungent scent of wet hay, manure, and horses hung heavy in the air.
Leon stopped and listened once more, still he couldn't sense any movement or activity outside the barn. With hesitant steps, the boy approached one of the dingy, dirt streaked, cracked windows and peeked out. About one hundred feet away from the barn stood a worn farmhouse, the guts of it lit up and shining through the bleak, grayness of outdoors.
Leon stood motionless and just watched. He was certain that there were only two men watching him. If there were more than that, he hadn't heard or seen them, so there being more wasn't an impossibility, but not likely. Pulling the sleeve of his shirt over his hand, Leon wiped away some of the grime over the window and watched as he saw one...then two figures moving around inside of the house.
"Thank you," he whispered to no one inparticular.
Moving over to the other side of the building, Leon looked out of that window to see there was about fifty yards of a clearing before it turned into the edge of the woods. Leon knew that if he was going to be able to escape, he'd not be likely to make it by going down the dirt road that they had taken here. No, there was too much open space for that, even if it would take him to a major crossroad he'd be likely to find help on. He didn't know what those woods were like, but he was certain that it would provide decent coverage to hide his escape, and seeing that it continued north, he could, in theory, make it to the highway and get help from there. If he could make it to the woods without being noticed that was.
Leon moved to the edge of the door and stopped momentarily to take a deep, calming breath. He knew that for a few precious seconds, until he could get around the side of the barn, he was going to be vulnerable to being spotted, but there was no other way out that he could see. All of the windows were nailed down and there was only the single set of doors he could escape through.
Stepping out, he quickly pressed his back against the wooden structure, as though if by sheer will, it would absorb and hide him from sight. Hesitant steps moved him until he felt the corner against him and he turned it, ready to sprint off.
That is when he saw the dog.
A huge pitbull rested its large head on forelegs, it's snout sticking out of the dog house that had been out of sight of the window Leon had peered out of. Dark cinnamon colored, pointed ears perked up and intense glittering brown eyes tracked Leon's movement. Leon stopped dead in his tracks, paralyzed by fear so much so that his muscles didn't want to obey him any longer.
"Nice doggie, good doggie," Leon whispered, feeling his body turn slightly damp from perspiration despite the chilling wind.
The dog's ears twitched and turned, it's nose snuffing at the air.
"You wouldn't want to hurt me, now would you? No, not you," Leon continued to murmur softly, trying to ignore the so faint growling he heard emanating from the beast.
Miniscule steps moved Leon, inch by inch he crawled past. The dog started barking - loudly.
Leon heard the door to the farmhouse slam open and his two captors racing out to investigate the commotion.
Leon took off at a dead run to the safe haven of the waiting woods. As Leon ran, the pitbull lunged for him, it's heavy chain snapping in its attempts to attack. Caught in the wind, he heard voice calling after him, heard footsteps gaining on him, the ringing shots of a gun that fired at him.
Feet pounding against the sodden ground, blood racing through him as adrenaline made him move without thinking, Leon reached the edge of the woods that just moments ago seemed like a eternity away.
Diving through the foliage, dodging the best he could, the low branches that snagged at his clothes and scratched at his skin, Leon tore through the path, knowing just a heartbeat behind him, the thugs were following.
Fallen, gnarled, limbs, discarded from the autumn trees like an gangrenous appendages, threatened to topple him as he dashed through the unfamiliar territory.
Leon's ears picked up the sound of snapping branches and crunching leaves, and knew that his pursuers were moving more cautiously than he was, apparently as unfamiliar with the terrain as he was and he used it to his advantage to put more distance between them.
He dodged left and zigzagged right, not wanting to leave a steady path behind him as he continued, his feet carrying him on their own accord, his chest heaving, rain dropping into his face and obscuring his vision.
One of the men called out to the other one. The voices sounded close...too close. Leon chanced a look behind him, eyes quickly scanning the area but because of the trees and rain, he couldn't see anything. When he turned back, he had just enough time to see the edge of a huge gorge opening up in front of him, ready to swallow him. He skidded, trying to stop in time, but the soles of his sneakers didn't give him the traction he needed.
For a few brief seconds, Leon felt a weightlessness surround him as he fell and fell, but the ride was quickly cut short when he hit bottom and everything went black.
A few minutes later, one of the men approached the brink of gorge and looked down at the small body sprawled out over some downed limbs and large rocks that cluttered the bottom of the gulch.
"Hey, Miguel, over here!" Marco called out. Seconds later, Miguel arrived by the man's side and laughed as he looked down at the boy's body.
"Looks like he did our job for us," the Hispanic man commented wryly.
"Should we make sure he's taken care of?" the other man asked him.
"Nah," Miguel answered. "I don't feel like going down there, do you? Let the animals finish him off," he ordered and turned away and began following the path that had led them there.
Marco gave one last doubtful look over his shoulder to the boy before sprinting to catch up with Miguel.
Stars danced in front of Leon as he slowly opened sticky eyes. Pain shot through his head as he tried to sit up. Reaching up, he felt a cut at his temple and when he drew his fingers away, he saw a small amount of blood on them. He waited a few minutes until the world stopped spinning in front of him before he attempted to stand up. That's when he felt a stabbing pain shooting up his leg and surmised that besides the cut on his head, he'd managed to twist his ankle in the fall.
Suddenly he recalled just how he fell and worried, looked around him to see if the two men that were after him had found him while he was out and were waiting on him to wake up. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw no one and heard no movement around him. At least 'something' was going his way now.
Best he could figure it, his two captors had left him for dead. He didn't mind it though, considering he could now make his way though the woods in peace and not have to worry about gun toting thugs being on his trail.
Reaching around him, Leon grabbed a large limb and used it to support some of his weight, trying to keep most of it off his injured and swelling ankle.
Carefully, slowly, Leon fought to find footing and finger holds to haul himself up the side of the ravine. Once he made it, he started the slow process of working his way north through the woods and to the highway he could hear in the distance.
When Trent came to, the first thing he noticed was the throbbing behind his eyes, his head pounding and his body aching. When he tried to move, the second thing he noticed was that his feet and hands were held immobile by ropes. His shoulder and ribs were burning in agony. Lifting up his head slowly, he glanced around to find himself in a dark, damp, basement. Slowly he recalled the car chase and being wrecked. Where was he now though?
"Ah, so blondie finally awakens huh?" Trent moved his eyes to search the shadows to see who was speaking. The face drew nearer and Trent groaned softly as he was once more face to face with a smug looking Beak-nose.
"Oh not you," Trent murmured, wondering how much worse this situation could get.
"Oh yeah pretty boy, you remember me don't you sweetheart?" Beak-nose asked with a predatory grin. A beefy hand slowly ran down the length of Trent's cheek. "Not so tough now are you?"
"You must think so, why else would you have me tied up? Too much of a wimp to let me defend myself?" Trent jeered.
Franky drew his hand back and threw a punch that contacted with Trent's jaw. Trent could taste the bitter flavor of blood on his tongue.
"I'd watch your mouth pretty one, unless you want me to figure out a better use for it. After all, you're probably missing your cop boyfriend."
"Leave Carlos out of this," Trent said, gritting his teeth as Beak-nose fingered the buttons on his shirt.
Beak-nose brought his fist up again and hammered it down onto Trent's stomach.
"You don't get it do you sweet thing? You are in 'no' position to give orders of 'any' kind and the quicker you get that through that blonde head of yours, the easier it'll be for all of us."
Beak-nose then took a hold of Trent's shirt and pulled at it abruptly, ripping it open. At seeing the bandages around Trent's ribs and arm, he smirked even more.
"At least you didn't get away without a reminder of me did you darlin'?" With a smug leer he said, "And that was only the beginning." Trent saw Beak-nose draw out a syringe.
Ryan Colewell was contentedly singing along with the radio, knowing he was singing off key. Today had been one of his best ever. He'd manage to land one of the biggest clients his advertising firm had been wooing for months. One afternoon at the gym, and he had landed the score. He was flying higher than he could ever remember and now he was on his way home to tell his wife, planning a big night on the town of dinner and the theater.
The rain was pouring down heavily, and the road was slick but his car was less than a year old and the tires were good so he didn't worry about it and simply turned up the speed of his wipers. The tape he was humming along with ended and he reached down to flip it over. When he looked back up, his heart leapt when he saw a bedraggled little boy standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms widely above his head.
Slamming on the brakes to keep from hitting him, Ryan's car skidded and screeched, fishtailing erratically, and finally coming to rest near the shoulder of the road. The boy came running over to him and Ryan rolled his window down, rain coming in to soak his upholstery.
"Dammit kid, do you know you could get yourself killed pulling shit like that?" he yelled.
"Sorry mister," the tan skinned boy said, "but I really need your help badly, you 'gotta' help me!"
Ryan looked skeptically at the youth, seeing his dirty, torn clothing, clotted blood on scratches covering the kid's face and how he was sort of hobbling, favoring one of his legs.
"What's your problem? What happened? “he finally asked.
The kid briefly told him how a couple of goons had grabbed him and he was desperate to get back home and call a police officer friend of his. Ryan listened to the story with dubiousness, taking what the kid was saying with a grain of salt. The more he listened though and saw the fear in the kid's eyes, he began to be swayed against his better judgement.
"Get in," he told the kid, who rushed around to the other side of the car and climbed in. Ryan flinched as he watched his leather upholstery and carpeting was smeared with caked mud.
Picking up his car phone, he dialed. "Yeah, Beth? Look's like I'm going home later than I thought. Yeah...long story, I'll tell you later." He then turned back to the kid. "What's your name kid?"
"Leon," the boy said, sinking down into the plush seat.
"So where do you live Leon?"
Carlos watched Maria pacing the floor of her living room. It made him feel antsy just watching her.
"Come on Maria, come sit down," Carlos said, patting the couch beside him. "You're going to wear yourself out."
Brown eyes turned to him, pleading. "Where is he? Where is my baby?"
Carlos pulled the distraught woman down and gently placed his arms around her. She finally broke down and started crying. Carlos held her as she wept, running a hand soothingly up and down her back.
"Hush, come on now, don't start crying," Carlos said gently. Pulling her face back, he used his thumbs to wipe her tears away. "You've got to be strong for Leon okay? If he is in trouble, he's going to need you to help him all right?"
Maria sniffled and wiped at her eyes before finally nodding.
"Yeah, you're right, we'll find him and bring him back where he belongs," she said with conviction.
Carlos smiled. "That's my girl."
Caught between laughing and sniffling, she said, "If I find out he's been out playing basketball or something I'll kill him myself." She did her best to smile.
"You'll have to wait in line," Carlos said seriously. He would be more than a little upset if Leon had put his mother through all this worry needlessly.
The front door creaked open and both Carlos and Maria turned in unison to see the object of their conversation staring at them.
"Leon!" Maria exclaimed and pulled her son into a hug, just cuddling him close to her chest before pulling back. "Where have you been?"
"Yeah Leon, you owe your mother an explanation," Carlos said and Leon flung himself at him.
Burrowing his face in Carlos' stomach, Leon's muffled voice said, "Carlos, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't want Sensei Malloy to get hurt, I didn't want to call him, really I didn't, but these men grabbed me and said if I didn't they'd hurt me and..."
At the sound of his lover's name, Carlos pulled back from Leon, hunching down to him, Carlos said. "Whoa, wait a minute there buddy, what do you mean you didn't want Sensei Malloy to get hurt?"
"Two men grabbed you?" Maria said, her hand coming up to her mouth. "Oh Dios!"
"Leon, take a deep breath," Carlos instructed him and the boy did as he was told. "Okay, now start from the beginning." Carlos used all of his skill to keep his own face from betraying any of the fear he felt.
Leon recounted his story from when the men took him after school and up through the man he had convinced to drive him back home, who had dropped him off and left when Leon had assured him that he was home and safe. Carlos' eyes turned stone cold when he heard about how they were planning on luring Trent and fired shots at Leon.
"Leon, you were brave, Trent would be proud of you and I can tell you he wouldn't blame you at all for any of this. It isn't your fault so don't blame yourself," Carlos told him, his heart pounding heavily in his chest.
Leon nodded, but refused to look Carlos in the eyes. Gently he tipped the boy's face up to meet his own. "I mean it Leon. This isn't any of your doing and you did the right thing by cooperating with them, it gave you the chance to escape later."
"But Mister Malloy, they're going to hurt him," Leon protested.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Carlos' voice was not more than a growl.
"What should we do?" Maria asked.
Carlos turned his attention back to her. "Why don't you take Leon and get something hot in his stomach. I'm going to call Walker."
She nodded and steered her boy into the kitchen while Carlos dialed numbers. The first number he called was the loft, begging, pleading, and hoping Trent would pick up, leaving a nearly frantic message on their answering machine. Next he tried the academy, still no answer. He cursed silently and dialed up Walker's number.
Finally the other Ranger answered. "Walker here."
"Yeah, Walker, Carlos. We've got a 'big' problem."
"What's up?" Walker asked.
"I think they went after Trent again and got him this time." Carlos hated the fact that his voice was tremulous, but he couldn't hide it either.
The Hispanic detective told the Ranger everything he had found out so far, leaving none of the details that Leon had given him about being forced to call Trent and lure him onto a deserted road, Brewer Road, Leon had recalled.
"Okay, I'll send someone to check out that stretch of road along Brewer and you bring Leon in to the station all right? We need to see if he can identify any of the men responsible. Right now Leon's the only witness we have to Trent's abduction," Walker told him.
"Will do," Carlos said quickly and hung up.
Inside Carlos' chest felt like there was a vice wrapped around his gut and twisting it into a mangled mess. He barely waited until Leon quickly finished a bowl of soup before bundling the boy up and heading out with his mother to the headquarters.
Less than an hour later, Leon was sitting with an officer going through photos while Walker was shoving a steaming cup of coffee at Carlos.
"Here, drink it," Walker said as he handed the styrofoam cup over to the officer sitting on the corner of his desk.
"Thanks," Carlos said listlessly. He then turned his head to look at his 'little brother'.
"I sure hope he can recognize someone, right now he's the only lead we got."
Walker nodded his head. "I'm still thinking that this was professional, and if it was, I'm sure at least one of them have been brought up on charges at one time or another, it's inevitable."
"Why doesn't that make me feel any better, huh?" Carlos commented dryly.
"Just keep the faith Carlos, something will turn up," the Ranger reassured.
Carlos laughed bitterly. "Keep the faith? That's easy for you to say isn't it? It's not Alex who's in danger here."
Walker gave him a stern look. "Carlos, remember, I'm on your side here."
Carlos' head dropped a little. "Yeah, I know man, sorry. I'm just frustrated, don't take it personally okay?"
"I know," Cordell said empathetically.
Carlos sighed heavily, his hand shooting through his mused hair. "Dammit Walker, why did this have to happen now, just when things were going so good between us?"
Pale blue eyes softened. "If there is one thing I know without any doubt is that Trent is able to take care of himself. Don't ever question that."
"I know he can handle himself, hell, you're the one who taught him what he knows. Still, I wonder if this time he might not be in over his head," Carlos said, finally taking a sip of the strong, stale, coffee.
Walker moved closer and dropped his voice so that he couldn't be overheard. "Well, if he is, fighting to get back to you is what's going to keep him going. I've seen the changes in him these last couple of months, Carlos, and he's not going to give up willingly, that I'll guarantee."
Carlos shot the older Ranger a look of gratitude, grateful for the sentiment behind the words, but it still wasn't enough to shake the foreboding shrouding his heart.
At that moment, Trivette came up to them, a grim look crossing his face.
"What did you find out?" Walker asked.
"Rodgers just radioed in, seems they found Trent's car upturned and abandoned in an embankment off of Brewer," the younger Ranger reported.
"Dammit!" Carlos exclaimed, almost crushing the styrofoam in his hand.
"There's more," Trivette said unrelenting.
"What?" Walker asked.
"There was another set of tire tracks besides those coming from Trent's car. Apparently who ever was driving the second vehicle 'helped' Trent over that embankment."
The only thing in Carlos' field of vision at that moment was a cloak of hazy red that colored everything he saw. He swore to God that if anything happened to his mate, so help those responsible because he wasn't going to be held accountable for what happened to them.
"Any other leads?" Walker asked.
"None," Trivette offered.
Walker looked over his shoulder to Leon, still going through page after page of photos, his mother standing vigil behind him. Carlos turned as well to look at the boy who apparently held the fate of his lover in his small hands, the only one who might provide the answers he so desperately sought.
It was another two and a half hours before a break through was made. Carlos about jumped out of his seat when he heard Leon's exclamation from across the room.
"That's him! He's one of the men who took me!"
The surety of the boy's voice sent flutters of excitement and hope running through Carlos' stomach. Coming up behind Leon, Carlos and Walker both peered at the photo the boy was fingering.
The mug shot was of an average size Hispanic man with grungy, unkempt, hair and nothing particularly remarkable or distinguishing about him except for a long, thin, white scar that ran down his right cheek, characteristic of a old knife wound.
"Are you sure?" Walker asked, looking up from the book back to Leon.
"Yeah, positive," Leon answered with a grin. "This is one of them." Though he hadn't seen the man with the goatee in here, this he was certain, the second man that had been watching him. He was the one, Leon knew, who had held the gun on him as he called Mister Malloy.
"Miguel Ramires," Walker said, reading the name under the picture.
"What?" Carlos asked curiously, snatching the book away from the Ranger to look it over himself.
He stared hard at the picture for a long moment before turning his attention back to Leon. "Are you absolutely positive that this was one of the guys?" He had to be certain.
"Yeah, I told you, that's him. I'd know him anywhere," Leon confirmed.
Walker saw the recognition come to light in Carlos' eyes, saw the anger and disbelief flaring in their dark depths. "What is it Carlos? Who is he?"
"Johnny Prima," Carlos said with constrained quietness, resisting the urge to throw the book clear across the room. "This was one of Johnny's top henchmen. I recognize him."
"El Vaquero." The name rolling off Walker's tongue with bitter contempt.
"You know this for a fact?" Trivette asked, taking a look at the book himself.
"You don't go undercover and infiltrate one of the biggest drug smuggling rings for over four months without becoming familiar with the top dogs," Carlos responded, the room falling into silence.
Walker and Trivette passed glances, each of them remembering Carlos' undercover assignment with vice and how he had worked his way into El Vaquero's crime family, by the way of becoming a trusted friend of Johnny Prima's, only to find out that Johnny 'was' El Vaquero. When Carlos' cover was blown, Johnny and his thugs almost killed Carlos. Beaten within an inch of his life, Carlos had been rescued and taken to a homeless encampment where he was hidden, but Johnny had wanted the job finished and came searching for him. Trent had managed to come to Carlos' aid as Prima discovered where Carlos was being concealed, but it had been in fact Walker who ended up taking Johnny Prima down in a gun battle, Johnny finding out first hand just who the quicker draw was. Afterwards, they had come to find out that Prima was also the one who had been the one to kill Carlos' brother, Hector when he had wanted to make an example of Hector, who was trying to get clean.
"I thought we had taken them all down, even the underlings," Trivette said.
"Sometimes when your after a big catch, the smaller fish have a tendency to slip through the net. Apparently when we took the family down, a few of them got by," Walker said, his forehead wrinkled in thought.
"You don't think they've regrouped do you?" Trivette asked.
"Anything is possible," Walker responded, his mind running through the people he remembered were associated with Prima, making a mental list he wanted to check out.
"Why target Trent though?" Carlos wondered. "If they wanted revenge against me, why not come after me directly?"
"I think we know the answer to that one," Trivette mumbled.
"Come again?" Carlos asked.
"Never mind," Jimmy muttered, waving it off and was met with a hard stare from Walker.
"Listen," Walker interrupted. "Until we figure out what this is all about, I want Leon and Maria put under protective custody. I'm not going to take any chances with their safety."
"Good idea," Carlos agreed. "I'm sure Alex knows of a good safe-house for both of them."
"Yeah, I'll give her a call," Walker said, already picking up the phone.
Within a few minutes of conversation, Alex and Walker both agreed on a place they knew would be secure for Maria and Leon while Trivette filled the boy and his mother on what was going to be happening. Trivette then issued orders for a uniform to take charge of overseeing their transport to the safe-house where Alex would be waiting for them.
As he started to put his jacket on, Leon turned his face up to Carlos. "Mister Malloy is going to be okay isn't he?"
Dark brown eyes met lighter brown. "Have I ever lied to you, or backed out of a promise before, Leon?"
"No," the boy responded.
"And I'm not lying now, Trent will be okay, we'll find him," Carlos replied and rubbed the boy's back. "I promise."
Maria and Leon were then ushered out by their escort and Carlos focused his attention back onto Walker and Trivette.
"Okay, so what do we do now?"
Walker looked at the heavy, dark, bags under Carlos' eyes, the slumped posture, and the slight shakiness in his muscles. "'We' aren't going to do anything now, you're going to go home while Trivette and I find some information on Ramires."
Carlos shook his dark head. "Uh-uh, no way man, I'm here for the duration."
Walker took Carlos by the arm and pulled him off and into a secluded corner. "Look Carlos, you're dead on your feet all right? You're not going to do Trent or yourself any good by being so tired your judgement is impaired."
"Walker, you can't very well expect me to just sit around the loft while Trent is God only knows where," Carlos protested.
"That's exactly what I expect," Walker informed him, his eyes firm and adamant. "Besides, there is a good possibility that they might try and get in touch with you and you should be there if that happens."
The thought of facing an empty loft, knowing Trent wouldn't be there waiting for him, was almost unbearable. His chest tightened at the mere thought of it, but he also knew Walker was right. If by some chance they tried to get in touch with him, he needed to be at home.
Carlos' breath left in a deep rush of a sigh. "All right, I don't like it, not one bit, but all right. You're the only other one I'd trust with this."
Walker squeezed his arm. "I'll call you if we find out anything relevant."
Carlos didn't comment on what a cold comfort that provided, but simply nodded in resignation. Reluctantly he left headquarters to the car that waited for him in the parking lot.
Staring at the Hispanic officer as he left, Trivette said, "What's next?"
"We find out where Ramires has been keeping himself since Prima went down. We start with his last known address and getting together a list of associates and girlfriends that might be putting him up," Walker responded. He was going to find Ramires, that was a fact. Not much got under Walker's skin, but no one, 'no' one, went after his friends.
Carlos numbly made his way home, the streets and lights passing before his eyes, but nothing really registering. There was no anger at the moment, no fear that he was feeling...there was nothing but an empty, deep, dull, throbbing ache in his chest.
The car steered itself into the parking lot of the loft and Carlos slowly made his way up the steps, not caring that the rain soaked him, chilled him. It was nothing compared to the chill that had taken over his insides.
The elevator carried up to his loft and taking a great deal of energy, Carlos unlocked the door and went in. It wasn't the first time he had come home to an empty apartment, but it was the first time since Trent had moved in that Carlos would be without his company. The loft, his sanctuary, that had come to mean love and contentment, of joy and peace, was now nothing more than a hollow shell. It was a barren dwelling that offered no comfort, offered nothing to soothe Carlos' troubled mind.
Stripping out of his clothes, leaving it in an uncharacteristic trail into the bedroom, Carlos fell into bed. His stomach growled, but he didn't care, simply longing for the respite that sleep might offer him. He curled up on his side of the bed, his back turned to the portion his lover usually occupied, unused to having all the space in the full-sized bed he now had to himself.
Forcing his eyes closed, Carlos tossed and turned uneasily. His arms felt achingly empty, he was cold, and he couldn't get comfortable. Finally giving up the pretense of having a restful night's sleep, Carlos reached blindly behind him until he grabbed Trent's pillow and pulled it to his chest and held it, absorbing the lingering scent of his lover that was still on it.
Trent was lying on cot, his arms and feet aching from the circulation being restricted. He didn't even notice it though, the pain of his shoulder and ribs overshadowing his other minor discomforts. His mouth was dry, as he hadn't had anything to drink or eat since being captured. His head still pounded, spinning from whatever Beak-nose shot his system up with.
All of this was only barely considered though, because above all of the discomfort, beyond the pain, Trent took comfort in knowing that for at least now these men had left Carlos alone, that his lover was being spared what he was suffering. As long as he knew Carlos was safe, Trent felt like he could take anything these thugs could dish out.
As if almost able to read his mind, the door to Trent's cell opened up and Beak-nose arrived, followed by goatee man, and another man he hadn't seen before who had a scar covering his cheek. The one with the scar was also carrying a small video camera.
"What do you want?" Trent mumbled. He was feeling so tired and weak from the drug he had been given and his physical injuries, and he was a little concerned that if these guys were to try something, he'd not have the strength to fight back.
Beak-face leered down on him. "Rise and shine pretty boy, you're gonna be a star."
The next morning, Walker was going over the lists of previous employers, parole reports that went back to Ramires' teenage years, and a rap sheet that was several sheets long and had the interesting highlights of armed robbery, assault and battery, and drug possession.
On the armed robbery charges, Ramires was convicted and served two years for it. On a hunch, Walker called up the correctional institution that Ramires had been an inmate at. He had a friend there named James Brady, that worked in records.
"Hi James, it's Walker," Cordell said when his old friend picked up the phone.
"Cordell Walker, how the hell are you? Its been ages since I last heard from you," Brady exclaimed.
"Sorry about that James, I keep meaning to call you, but you know how it is," Walker said, smiling to himself.
"Yeah, yeah, I sure do buddy. I bet that pretty little fiance is keeping you darn busy ain't she?" Brady chuckled. "You lucky ol' SOB, how an old coot like you ever landed a sweet little number like her, I'll never know. You are one lucky man, my friend."
"You don't have to tell me that, believe me, I know," Cordell said good naturedly.
"Well partner, I'm sure you didn't call me at work for a social call, so what can I do you for?" Brady asked, getting down to business.
"Well, I was hoping you could do me a favor," Walker said. "There was an inmate there that I need some information on."
"I'll see what I can do for you, what was his name?" Brady asked, and Walker could hear clicking on computer keys on the other end.
"His name was Miguel Ramires," Walker said and gave James Ramires' record number as well.
"Okay, got um up on the screen, what do you need?" Brady said.
"What I'm interested in is finding out if Ramires had any steady visitors while he was there, anyone besides family," Walker, pulling out a pad of paper and pen, poised in anticipation.
"Hmmm, let's see here..." Brady's voice trailed off and Walker heard more clicking of a keyboard. "Okay, here we go," James said finally. "Looks like our boy here didn't get very many visitors period, let alone family, but there is one name that seems to be popping up here, one that visited him once every three weeks like clockwork."
"What's the name?" Walker asked when it wasn't forthcoming.
"A Lucia Montablo," Brady finally answered.
Walker scribbled down the name. "Thanks, I owe you one old friend."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, just buy me a beer at C.D.'s and we'll call it even."
"You got it buddy, give Rachel and the kids my love," Walker said with a chuckle.
"Will do, take care of yourself Walker," James said.
"Will do, you do the same, you hear?" Walker said and then hung up after final good-byes were spoken.
Walker stared at the name he'd written down. Lucia Montablo, why did that sound vaguely familiar? Suddenly it came him. Montablo, Paco Montablo, had been one of Prima's right hand men and one of the men who was there when Prima had shot Carlos' brother.
It seemed like Paco's kid sister had something going with Miguel. Checking DMV records, Walker soon had a current address on Ms. Montablo.
"Hey Trivette," he called out to his partner.
"Grab your coat, we have a visit to pay," Walker responded.
Walker's younger partner gave him a questioning look, but didn't say anything, simply followed along, expecting to be filled while in the truck.
Carlos walked into Spy the Ultimate Nightclub, the place being the front of Prima's old operation. For four months he had practically lived in this place, in this environment when he had been undercover. He'd hated it then, and he hated it even worse now. So many bad memories haunted this place, ghosts of the past that clung to the place as thickly as the stale smoke and stench of alcohol.
Though it was early in the afternoon, Carlos still saw a few familiar faces. He couldn't help feeling sorry for them, knowing that their lives would never consist of more than what these four walls provided them.
It seemed a lifetime ago that he had been a part of this lifestyle - long before he realized his love for a certain blonde private investigator, the same love that had brought him back. Ordering a beer, Carlos scoped out the surroundings for potential sources that could lead him those responsible for taking his lover away from him.
"Oh yeah Lucia, ride me baby, take it, take it all," Miguel groaned out as the bed shook under him. Lucia's hot body was so lush, so willing! Small breasts bobbed up and down and her long dark hair was flung around her shoulders. Her tanned skin was slick with perspiration and it was hard to keep a firm grasp on her slender hips.
"Oh Miguel, do it to me baby, do it, harder dammit, harder!" Lucia begged.
The bed in the small apartment rocked and shook, knocking into the wall it was against, but Miguel didn't give a damn if the neighbors could hear or not. It had been days since he'd had a piece of her ass, Valdez keeping him more than busy and he was now enjoying his free time.
Flipping her over roughly, Miguel pinned her hot little Latino body under his and pounded into her until she was writhing under him.
Miguel was so close to cumming, could feel his balls tighten and moaned when Lucia bit his shoulders.
There was a knocking at the door.
"Go the fuck away!" he yelled, not even pausing with his thrusting.
Suddenly the door was flung open and a a man wearing a black cowboy hat was standing in the doorway. There was a black man wearing a white hat standing behind him, a gun drawn and pointed in his direction.
"Who the hell are you?" Miguel bellowed as Lucia scrambled out from under him and pulled a blanket up to her throat.
It was the red haired man in the black cowboy hat that spoke. "Texas Rangers, you're under arrest Casanova."
A feeling of utter helplessness was starting to devour Carlos. The club had turned up nothing of value. He hadn't even know what he had really hoped to accomplish by going there in the first place, knowing that even if one of Prima's contacts still hung out there, they wouldn't talk to him anyway. His face was too well known in their circles.
So Carlos went back to the apartment in hopes of some word from Walker or Trivette. Carlos was about to reach for the door and unlock it when he noticed that it was slightly ajar.
Drawing his revolved out of his shoulder harness, he gently nudged the door open wider. Cautiously moving in with his gun pointed in front him, his eyes scanned the perimeters and corners. He found no one within sight. Checking all the rooms and finding them empty as well, Carlos released the pent up breath he'd been holding and replaced his gun back into the holster.
Glancing around, he could see nothing that had been stolen or even out of place for that matter. So what was going on here? Had someone heard him coming before they had a chance to take anything? Deep in his gut though, Carlos knew that this was no foiled burglary attempt. That was when he spotted an unfamiliar tape sitting on top of his VCR.
Walking over to the set, Carlos picked the tape up. It was in a plain white holder and the tape itself was unmarked as well. He drew the tape out, suspecting that there wouldn't be any prints on it anyway, and put it the VCR.
As it played, Carlos' heart threatened to drop out his chest. There, captured on tape, was Trent, his beautiful, vivacious body moving on top of Carlos', the sound of his passionate moans filling the empty loft. Carlos ached as he vividly recalled the night they had made such tender and gentle love, several nights ago before Trent was injured or taken from him.
The night had been sheer perfection in Carlos' mind, but now all he felt was anguish. Someone had quite obviously invaded their privacy, violated their security, and marred something so beautiful and wonderful, raping a precious and sweet memory; an ethereal moment now spoiled, blatantly tainted and forever lost him. From the screen, he heard his whispered words of love to Trent and Trent's declarations of love returned and Carlos felt like his heart was going to be ripped out.
If he thought it couldn't get much worse, Carlos' heart sunk even more as the tape changed scenes, revealing his lover once more. This time though, his beloved lifemate was chained to a wall, his shirt having been stripped off of him, his chest still in bandages. Carlos could see his sweet lover's face had been bruised and cut. Trent's lip had been split, a trickle of blood at the corner, older blood clotting a nasty looking cut on his forehead. Carlos could tell by the limp way Trent simply hung there and the vacant look that dulled sapphire eyes, that there was something terribly wrong with the private investigator.
The camera was pulled back as two unfamiliar men walked into the scene. Without a word spoken, the men began taking turns swinging at Trent's face, chest, and anything else they could contact with. The horrid sound of bitter laughter from the two men and Trent's groans of pain was enough to cause a burning rage to ignite in Carlos' blood. Carlos then watched with loathing and dread as the men then picked up two tethered, leather whips.
Carlos closed his eyes to the screen, but could still hear the slicing of the air, the snapping and cracking as it made impact with his mate's body, could still hear the agonizing sound of his lover's voice ripping in screams. Several tears broke free from Carlos' eyes and trailed down his cheek, his whole body pulsating, seething with quiet fury.
The Hispanic officer then heard an unfamiliar voice from the screen. Forcing his eyes to open, Carlos saw a rather distinguished, darkly handsome, and strangely familiar looking man sitting in a stuffed leather chair behind a desk.
"So Mister Sandoval, what do you think of my attempts at directing? Oh come now, I know I'm not exactly Spielburg, but you have to admit that my intentions came across beautifully, no?" the man said with such an arrogance that Carlos' blood was now running with white-hot anger. "Now you might be asking yourself just why you've had the chance to view this particular footage. The answer to that is rather simple, you've been called on to do a favor for me. I have a younger brother, Seirge Valdez, who was arrested several months ago when some overzealous DEA agents set up a sting and raided one of my warehouses. Why is this any concern to you? Because you will be the one that will gain my brother's release from the penitentiary. You have exactly forty-eight hours beginning now in which to accomplish this. At the end of this time, you shall meet me with Seirge at 315 East Riverside. This is an abandoned warehouse where I will then trade Trent Malloy for my little brother. Now before you say what an impossibility this is, let me remind you Mr. Sandoval, that if you do not do this favor for me, your precious Trent will not survive to be returned to you."
"You rotten bastard!" Carlos hissed at the screen.
"Now before you go running off to your little Ranger friends, let me make the ground rules of this exchange perfectly clear. If any of your cop friends interfere, Trent dies. If you do not show up on time, Trent dies. If anything happens to Seirge during the transfer, Trent dies. Am I making myself understood Mr. Sandoval? Good."
The man then leaned forward into the camera. "Carlos, you might be wondering why you were the one I, Jarius Valdez, hand picked you for this. The answer to that, Carlitos, is because you are responsible in my brother's death. That's right, Johnny Prima was my older half-brother and you single handedly are to be blamed for his death and all of the hardship that brought to my family. Now if you do not make retribution, you will also suffer the hardship of a death...that of your lover."
The camera was then clicked off, leaving only white static on the screen.
Carlos looked down at the remote he still held in his hand. With a growling wail tearing from his throat, the Hispanic detective hurled the thing and watched in satisfaction as it crashed through the television, sending electrical sparks to fly from the screen that had held Valdez's face. The debris hissed and smoked, the smell of singed wiring filling the room.
Carlos was only vaguely aware of a ringing phone breaking through the haze that had settled over him.
"Yeah, what?" he snapped.
"Carlos, it's Walker," he heard the other voice say.
Carlos shook his head to clear it. "Yeah Walker, what's up?"
"We got Ramires," Walker stated matter of factly.
"Good, I'll be down in about fifteen minutes. I got something for you too."
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