into the basement as Matt was hanging up his office phone. Taking
in the look on his face, she changed direction and headed in.
Sitting on the leather chair in front of his desk, she asked,
Whats wrong? Trout just called. He has
volunteered us for a fund raiser the night before Christmas.
Suspicion illuminated her eyes. Doing what?
to choose what we do in the program, Matt replied, shaking
his head. I dont know where he got this bright idea
from. Its a security detail but he wants four of us to
Matt. I dont have any talents.
her. Yes you do, darlin.
stammered, Uhm, well, none I can perform in public.
Regaining control of herself, she smiled brightly. Those
are reserved for you.
turned his attention back to his paperwork. Weve
got almost a month to figure out something. Itll be fine.
I work the detail then? Cindy asked hopefully.
We have two couples on this team, and the two couples are going
to perform together.
Cindy grumbled as she stalked to the corner of the basement,
closing the office door behind her. When she was out of earshot,
Matt chuckled. This was the perfect opportunity to start working
on getting Cindy out of her shyness. When in trouble she could
be a tigress, but when it came to anything public...she preferred
to hide. The plan had just come to him when he had told her...now
he had to tell Benny Ray and Margo they had to come up with an
act. Picking up the phone, he called everyone in. For once, time
was on their side, giving everyone ample time to work on their
part of the plan.
two hours later
The team sat
around the table waiting for Matt to emerge from his office.
wrong? Benny Ray asked of Cindy, noting the nervous look
in her eyes.
no, not really, no, she responded absently, doodling on
Benny Ray drawled, shooting a look at Margo, who just shrugged.
people, Matt called out, emerging from his office and approaching
the table. Weve got until the evening of December
24 to work this one out. Trout needs security at a fund raiser
being held in Los Angeles. Four behind the scenes performing,
and two helping out on security detail. So, Cindy and I will
be performing as will Benny Ray and Margo.
Benny Ray made
a choking sound and sputtered, Excuse me boss? Its
not like I can go on stage at a fund raiser and demonstrate firing
a smart guy, youll figure out something, Matt said
with amusement. Nick and Deke, youll be working with
the security detail.
Nick affirmed, Deke nodding silently.
As the team
split off to decide how they were going to proceed, Matt steered
Cindy into his office. You okay?
she replied honestly. On what you decide were going
to do at this thing.
thinking about a song and dance.
you ever really heard me sing? Cindy choked out.
sure you have a lovely voice. And yes, Ive heard you in
give us an excuse to wear the com links.
Nothing fancy though and I hope I dont embarrass us.
be fine, he assured her with a kiss on the cheek.
Cindy responded absently, heading for the stairs. Reaching the
apartment, she slipped inside and started looking through exercise
video tapes, selecting one to limber up before getting into dancing.
Damn it, she repeated to herself.
the Silver Star next morning
from his morning jog, finding Cindy at the table playing with
a bowl of cold cereal. Hey darlin, he greeted
her, leaning down to kiss the back of her neck.
to her and taking her hand, Matt looked into her eyes. Youre
not going to be up there alone, you know. And you dont
give yourself enough credit. You never do.
from him, Cindy said, I know I dont. Have you picked
a song yet? she asked, smiling at him brightly.
Would you like to pick the song? Matt offered.
We want it to have a holiday theme, just keep that in mind.
it. Oh. Costumes! Cindy exclaimed, getting caught up in
glanced at her. What kind?
know yet, she admitted with a chuckle. Ill
take care of that too.
Im going down to the bar to do some paperwork. Ill
be in the office if you need me.
The Whole Bean
coffee cup with both hands, Margo joined Benny Ray at the table.
he replied cryptically, smiling.
Okay. What kind of dancing?
interesting. And what music are we going to dance to?
decided yet. Something bouncy Im thinking
be something to do with the holidays.
a point, sweet pea, Benny Ray commented absently, thoughts
swirling through his mind.
a few hours later
Cindy sat on
the floor, piles of Christmas cds piled around her, trying
to pick a song. She jumped up when there was a knock on the door
and opened it, finding Nick and Deke standing there.
her at the pile on the floor, Nick commented, Looks like
we got the easy work, Deke.
like. Matt around?
at Deke, Cindy informed them Matt was in the office in the bar
and returned to her task. Nick and Deke chuckled as they left,
hearing her grumbling no and throwing a disc off to the side.
with delight about half an hour later. Its perfect!
she exclaimed. Grabbing the phone, she called a local costume
shop and set up an appointment to select the costumes she and
Matt would need. Then she started thinking about the set they
would need and excitement began to build within, causing her
to forget her nervousness. One more call, this time to the local
record store, netted her and instrumental copy of the song she
had chosen. Smiling, she grabbed her purse and headed out to
pick up the cd they were holding for her.
office, Cindy flashed Matt a bright smile Wondering what she
was up to, Matt jumped to his feet and followed her outside.
At her car, he grabbed her arm. Hey slow down there. What
are you up to?
go to the record store and pick up our music. And the costume
shop to pick out the costumes. Start thinking about building
sets, sweetie, Cindy informed him, blinking innocently.
relinquished his hold and she slid behind the wheel. What
kind of set?
wintery, like a wintery park, Cindy answered, turning on
the ignition. See you in a little while, she shouted,
waving at him as she left him in the dust.
after her, smiling. She was in organization mode. Satisfied,
he returned to his office. He was still sitting there, staring
unseeing at invoices when his cell phone rang. Shepherd,
he barked into the device.
its Trout. Im just checking in to see how your plans
Cindys organizing our bit, and Benny Ray and Margo are
coming up with something.
Any idea so I can let the organizers know what to put on the
and I are going to sing and dance. I think Benny Ray and Margo
are going to dance, but dont quote me on that.
good. Oh...the heads of security at the coliseum will be down
to meet with Nick and Deke the week prior.
help them work out details if we knew what the threat was,
past few months, fund raisers all over L.A. have been robbed.
This is a very high profile event and we dont want to take
they can grab. The last one, they shot and killed several civilians.
This event is being attended by the California Governor as well
as some members of Congress and the House. We dont want
to take any chances at all.
hear it, Matt. Not that there was any doubt in my mind.
Whats their M.O.?
different Matt. Pickpocket, cat burglars, last time well armed
and meaning business. And theres also the silent auction
at this one.
guess...some things that are worth millions or even priceless,
Matt commented with a growl.
it. Works of art, silent movie memorabilia, classic movie memorabilia,
and...the worlds largest, perfect, uncut diamond.
Trout. This is gonna get everybody in a ten mile radius killed.
up to you and your people to make sure it doesnt.
and four of us are going to be real effective backstage and on
suspect an inside job. The week prior all of the performers will
be there day and night, as well as the backstage crew. Eavesdrop,
find the inside man or woman.
theyre in the wait staff or the caterer? Or security even
for heavens sake?
and C.J. are coming over to work in the wait staff and help the
caterer. And weve got Nick and Deke working in security.
Youve got all the angles covered. Just relax, have fun
and keep your eyes and ears open.
Nothing is ever simple and straightforward with you, Matt
fussed as he hung up the phone. He started to pick it up again
then decided to wait until Cindy was back and hed call
the team in for a meeting. Briefly, he wondered when Trout had
intended to tell him all of this information.
into the record store and stopped at the counter. The teenager
with the pierced nose, eyebrow and lip looked at her. Can
I help you maam?
Hating to be
called maam, Cindy cringed then softly spoke. Im
the one that called about half an hour ago for the instrumental
You were looking for that old standard, Winter Wonderland. Sure
you dont want something more today?
sure, thank you.
he mumbled as he went to the back to pick up the cd. He was a
few feet further when she heard him mumble, Old folks.
Cant turn em on to anything new.
a smile when he returned to the counter. Clenching her fists,
she resisted the urge to hit the young man when he sneered Anything
you, she replied with a false sweetness.
be $5.35, please. Maam, he added snidely.
her patience, Cindy put her money back in her purse. No.
You know what, is your manager in?
young man leaned forward over the counter. Im the
manager in charge today, maam. Gotta problem?
none at all. Ill just take my business to one of the record
stores in town. See ya. With a flourish, Cindy spun on
her heel and stalked from the record store.
Once in her
car, Cindy let out a primal scream and then shook her head. Good,
now I feel better, she thought. Calmer, she started the car and
drove downtown, knowing there was a record store near the costume
shop. Downtown Shopping Area
Parking in the
street in front of the shops, Cindy slipped into the record store
first. Quickly locating what she needed, she headed to the counter
and paid the man at the register. When she emerged from the shop,
she found clerk from the mall record store leaning against her
you need, maam?
went to the trunk of her car and stowed the bag, keeping her
keys in her left hand. Slamming down the trunk lid, she began
to pass him to go to the costume shop. Cindy jolted to a stop
when he grabbed her right wrist, twisting her arm behind her.
Suddenly have nothing to say maam? I have to say
I didnt like your attitude in my store.
When she found
herself pulled face to face with him, Cindy snapped. I
didnt like your attitude either, so why dont we call
it a draw?
think so, he growled roughly, slamming her back against
the car. When his hand went to the top of her jeans, Cindy lifted
her knee, slamming into his groin. When he fell to the ground,
she bent over him. Now, Im going to finish my business.
I advise you to be gone when I come back. Because I assure you,
you will not like what comes next, she hissed menacingly
before turning and walking into the costume shop. His upper lip
curled into a sneer as he got to his knees. Ill be
waiting for you. Some time, some place, he shouted through
the blur of pain.
sonny boy, she shouted back before the door closed behind
her. Peering into the semi-darkness of the crowded costume shop,
Cindy groaned when she saw another pierced teenage boy working
wrong? he inquired, walking over to her
a run in with someone I had trouble with at the mall. Everythings
under control, thanks, Cindy explained, grateful that he
at least seemed polite.
from the record store? the boy asked.
his royal blue hair, Cindy nodded mutely. Even Deke never had
this color of hair.
Jed. He hates the whole world. One of these days, hes gonna
be in jail.
that too. What can I help you with?
looking for two costumesone male, one female. Something
in velvet, maybe Victorian.
behind him to a rack of romantic looking costumes. Feel
free to look through these. If you cant find what you need
here, let me know. Ive got more in the back.
Smiling at the
young man, Cindy thanked him and turned her attention to the
task at hand.
An hour had
passed before she found what she wanted, both outfits in bright
red velvet trimmed with white fur. Rummaging in the accessory
box, she found a white fur muff that matched, perfect for hiding
her weapon in. Smiling to herself, she found a hat for Matt.
Her arms full, she headed to the counter and waited while the
young man tallied up her order. From the corner of her eye, Cindy
could see out of the shop window and saw the surly young man
from the mall lurking around.
Hes still out there, she mumbled, pocketing her change.
Is there a back exit I can use?
I dont blame you for wanting to avoid old Jed, the
young man agreed. In fact... stepping from behind
the counter, he ran through the shop, returning with a pin striped
suit and a blonde wig, along with a purse and shoes. Why
dont you put this on, and do some shopping until hes
gone. Then you can come back here to pick up your costumes
replied, Thank you. Taking the clothes, she headed
for the dressing room. But whats going to make him
that up to me, he smiled, watching Cindy disappear into
the small area. When she emerged five minutes later, Cindy stopped
to look in the full length mirror. She blinked with disbelief
finding herself unrecognizable. Wow, she whispered.
Thanking the young man for his help, she went out the back door
and down the alley to the end of the street. Adjusting the wig,
Cindy rounded the corner and came up in front of the clothing
store and went in to shop. After a few minutes, she glanced out
the window, seeing a wild looking gang come up toward Jed. Cindy
stifled a smile when she saw the panicked expression cross his
face before he turned tail and ran. Turning her attention back
to the store, Cindy decided she might as well shop as long as
she was in the store.
behind the bar and went through the back doorway with her packages.
Matt came through the kitchen and rushed over toward her to take
you do, buy out the stores? I thought you were never coming back.
a little trouble, had to spend just a little more time shopping
than I planned. Matt looked her over. You okay? What
Its handled. I accidentally aggravated a whippersnapper
at the record store. He tried to cause a problem downtown, but
the boy at the costume shop helped out.
was fine, Matt laughed. Youll use any excuse to shop,
and batted her eyes innocently as she started up the stairs.
Convention Center week before Christmas Eve
nervously backstage, watching Matt watch her. What?
she asked, stopping in front of him.
cute when youre nervous, he observed with a smile.
never sang in public before, she admitted with a blush.
Theres too many people here, Matt.
be fine. Just imagine the audience in their underwear.
laughing, Cindy coughed out, What? It reminds
you theyre only human just like you. Now take a deep breath
and calm yourself.
Cindy replied, trying to inhale a deep breath only to start choking.
Matt moved in
front of her and rubbed his hand over her back. Calm down,
trying. I think Im hyperventilating.
be right up there with you, darlin.
still trying to catch her breath. Matt guided her to a chair
to sit down on and lean forward.
she smiled at Matt. Thanks, sweetie.
Matt whispered, his face leaning in toward hers.
The moment was
broken by the stage manager calling for them for their first
holding his hand out for Cindy. Ready darlin?
he asked with a grin.
as Ill ever be I suppose, she answered, holding her
hand on her stomach, hoping to keep the butterflies in.
The first rehearsal
went off without a hitch and the pair returned backstage, finding
Benny Ray and Margo awaiting their stage call. Watching their
team mates go on stage, Matt and Cindy mingled around the other
people backstage, keeping their ears open.
Needing a break
half an hour later, Cindy wandered past the conference room doorway,
which was open. Acknowledging Nick and Deke with a nod, she walked
back down the hall, not wanting to chance blowing their cover
After the rehearsals
were over, Matt and Cindy adjourned to their hotel room and waited
for Benny Ray and Margo.
Sitting at the
table, Cindy stated, I didnt hear or see anything
suspicious. How about you?
thing, darlin. Maybe Benny Ray and Margo did.
anyone not here that will be there that night?
wait staff, and some of the propmasters and backstage people
that werent necessary for rehearsals. Damn.
Thats a lot of people, Matt.
it is. Matt looked up at the knock on the door. Yeah?
us, Major, Benny Ray drawled through the door.
back, Matt said to Cindy, getting up from his chair and
going to open the door.
gathered at the table. Matt looked at the two newcomers hopefully.
first. I heard a few little tidbits about back stagers
they hoped wouldnt be at this event. Apparently theres
a few that have been unnerving the performers. Theyre also
worried about the burglaries and the possibility of performers
two performers asking if one certain person was going to be there
next week, that they had something important to talk to him about.
the two first names, boss. John and Jessica. Sounds like an inside
job on many sides here.
continue keeping your eyes and ears open people.
Convention Center Christmas Eve Cindy wandered down the hall
to the snack machine. She and Matt werent due on stage
until midway through the show and she needed something to calm
the butterflies before she got in her costume.
the snack machine, and hand came from a doorway and clamped over
her mouth, another hand holding a gun wrapped around her midsection.
struggle or Ill kill you where you stand, the voice
hissed in her ear.
the voice familiar to her but unable to place it. She felt the
hardness of the gun barrel pressed against her stomach as she
was guided to a room at the far end of the hall.
She was shoved
unceremoniously into the room where she was tied to a chair and
gagged. Looking up, she saw Jed, the clerk from the record store,
shoved the gun barrel under her chin forcing her to look up at
him. So we meet again. And Im in charge this time.
Cindy struggled against the tight ropes, unable to even reach
the knife under her sleeve. These people were smart, too smart,
tying each hand to a chair arm and each leg to a chair leg, and
a rope around her waist. She glared at him, giving him a look
to indicate he wasnt going to get away with this.
correctly, Jed knelt in front of her and snarled, But I
will. Every fund raiser, we replace a performer with a lookalike.
But this...this might be the first time we kill the performer.
Are you comfortable maam? he asked. With a yank on
the end of the rope, the bounds holding her to the chair tightened
immensely. Im your guard you know. You and I are
going to have great fun. Lets see...what else can I do?
he asked absently, looking around the room.
An hour later
on Benny Ray and Margos door. Yeah boss? Benny
Ray asked opening the door.
seen Cindy? I havent seen her since she went for a snack.
She needs to get in her costume.
boss, we havent.
Where the hell is she? Matt grumbled, leaving the sniper
He heard the
stage manager yell Shepherd and Varanti!. Ignoring
the stage manager, he kept walking through the hall until the
woman grabbed his arm.
Matt. We have to do our number.
He looked at
the woman. She was wearing Cindys costume and looked similar
to her, but he knew it wasnt her. Wheres Cindy?
and she wont be hurt, the woman prodded, pointing
her gun at him.
me... Matt started again, walking toward the stage.
for that. Shes just, well, shes tied up right now.
wrapping the rope around Cindys neck, not tight enough
to cause permanent damage unless needed, but enough to make her
breathing difficult, keeping the end in his hand. More
comfortable now, maam?
him, trying to remain calm. She wondered where Matt was and why
he wasnt looking for her She watched as the door opened
and one of the other thieves entered with an identical chair,
placing it behind hers.
When he left,
Jed said, Youll be getting company soon. When the
numbers over. Leaning toward her, Jed whispered,
I just know the two of you are trouble.
to shake head to say no, but the rope tightened around her neck,
making it impossible. Matt and the imposter performed the number,
but he missed a couple of steps keeping a close eye on her. When
they were backstage, he stopped and turned. Now where is
Not until our work here is done. She stopped to speak into
her radio unit, her other hand training the gun on Matt. Plans
have changed. Walk to the opposite end of the hall.
No. Matt argued.
him, she pressed the barrel of the gun against the back of his
neck. Move. Youll get to be with your girlfriend
Benny Ray slipped
on his com link just in time to hear the end of the conversation.
Major? Whats going on?
me get this straight, Matt began saying to the woman, You
kidnapped her for what reason? And forced me to perform but yet
your people didnt make a move to rob anyone.
the troublemakers out of the way right now. Now move! And stop
talking, the woman ordered him, cocking the gun.
on the door at the end of the hall and Matt swallowed nervously
when he saw Cindy tied to the chair. Now he knew why she didnt
get away from them.
Jed pushed Matt
on the other chair and quickly tied him in the same way. Looking
at Liz, he asked, Did you check him for communication equipment?
He has the mike on, but theyre turned off now.
one, Liz, take no chances. Searching Matt, Jed found the
com link and turned it off. All right, now that we dont
have to worry about anyone looking for you, Ill ungag her
and you two can talk while we work, Jed explained, tying
the other end of the rope around Matts neck. If we
dont get caught or killed out there, once were away
well call someone to let you two loose.
get away with this, Matt stated, curling his hands into
we should take them somewhere else, Jed, Liz stated. I
didnt know he was wired and he was doing a lot of talking
on the way here.
He untied Cindy and Matt and ordered them to the boiler room
free of him and ran out the door. She had made it only a few
feet before Jed aimed his gun. Matt dove at him, knocking him
to the ground but not before Jed fired and hit Cindy in the back.
Liz fired her gun simultaneously, hitting Matt in the side.
Getting to his
feet, Jed said, Glad we had silencers. On his radio
he called for Steve to come to their location. Jed and Steve
picked them up and carried them to the boiler room, Liz following
them, making sure know one came after them.
and Matt against the wall, their wrists were tied to the pipe
running along the back wall of the boiler room closet. They closed
and locked the door and Steve stopped to look at the huge boiler.
rig this boiler to explode. Thatll get rid of them.
Nick and Deke
were patrolling the halls upstairs when they saw a door open
that wasnt supposed to be. Gingerly pushing it open, they
found the two chairs with the ropes hanging from them.
hell? Nick asked. Deke shrugged, moving from the room and
going down the next hall.
Lots of it, Nick.
we follow it and see where it leads?
as well. Deke quickly radioed Benny Ray who had just gotten
They had gotten
halfway down the hall when the lights went out.
dark, Nick commented.
men rushed into the audience in the darkness.
see a thing, Margo, Benny Ray complained up on the stage,
the lights having just gone out when he was to have done a difficult
step with Margo on his back. He found himself glad the lights
had gone out before that point.
she stated, handing him a pair of night vision goggles.
Chance and C.J.
abandoned their posts at the buffet table, pulling their weapons.
the auction room, Benny Ray ordered them, not knowing where
Chance agreed as he and the Brit headed to the next room. Spotting
someone with a flashlight trying to break the glass in the cases,
Chance yelled Freeze!
figure dropped the flashlight before regaining their composure.
Suddenly they pulled a gun from their waist and aimed it. Chance
kicked out, making contact with their wrist, the gun flying through
the air, landing a few feet from C.J., who swiftly picked it
The figure and
Chance went down in a tangle of arms and legs each one trying
to take the other down. In the process of taking the figure down,
Chance was startled when he realized it was a female.
of his hesitation, the woman shoved him away from her and ran
out the door, C.J. in hot pursuit. Nick rounded the corner heading
their way just as the woman plowed into him.
Delvechio! C.J. shouted, closing the distance.
Matt came around
first, not knowing where he was. He felt the burning in his side
and he looked down, seeing the blood. Damn. Looking
to his right, he saw Cindy was still unconscious. Darlin?
Jerking on his wrists, he couldnt get either one free to
check her pulse. Darlin?
mumbled but didnt wake up. Dont wanna get up.
her usual morning comment, Matt continued. Come on...its
not morning. Youre hurt, darlin. And weve got
to find a way out of here.
Matt, she complained, opening her eyes
tell where they hit you?
is worse in right shoulder. Whatd they hit me with?
Any ideas on how we can get free?
her head, the pain clouding her thoughts. You sound a little
pained yourself, sweetie. You okay?
the side, but I can handle it. Just gotta figure out how to get
free of these ropes.
C.J. took the
woman from Nick and secured her wrists. Thanks Delvechio.
Everything under control up here? Deke and I found some blood
we were going to follow.
On the com link,
C.J. called Benny Ray. Everything under control up there?
securitys got most of the tangos.
Deke found some blood in the hall, were gonna see where
it goes and whos hurt.
Margo and I will help security. Anyone seen the Major and Cindy?
Chance spoke softly, No, but I imagine theyre on
the trail of something.
youre searching, see if you all can find them, Benny
Ray drawled, concerned.
his wrist, trying to break the ropes, but he was growing weaker.
youre gonna hurt yourself worse, Cindy whispered.
Looking at her
with concern, he said Weve got to get out of here.
And no one knows were down here, its up to us.
was right, Cindy began tugging on her ropes too, but was to weak
to have any effect. The slightest movement sent shooting pains
darlin. Were gonna have to hope someone comes down
here in time. Neither one of us are in any condition to break
this pole off. Were well and stuck.
way to spend our first Christmas Eve together, Cindy mumbled
weakly, trying to stay conscious. Were together,
anyway, Matt commented, trying to look for the silver lining.
Nick and Deke walked to the end of the hall where the blood started.
Thats a lot of blood, C.J. exclaimed.
followed the trail until they arrived at a service elevator with
bloody hand prints on the doors.
ends here, Nick said. So which way..up or down?
Chance answered, noting their trail ended at the elevator. I
guess two of us go up, two of us go down.
Well go up, you guys go downstairs
Nick answered. He watched C.J. and Chance head for the stairs,
then pushed the basement button on the elevator. When the elevator
didnt respond, he growled, Damn it.
Deke went to
the staircase and came back. Stairs dont go down,
So how do we get down there?
way I see, Deke answered, forcing the elevator doors open.
Youre kidding me, man. I aint climbing down there.
the only way down, Nick, Deke stated, grabbing Nicks
arm and pulling him to the elevator shaft.
a long way down there, you mean, Nick complained.
bud. Its a piece of cake.
at him with disbelief. Its alright for you, being
seven foot tall.
start climbing down or Ill just toss you down, let you
take the express route. Thanks a lot buddy,
Nick retorted. Easing himself through the door, he made the mistake
of looking down. Nope. Forget it.
Deke moved close
to Nick. The offer of the express route stands, Deke
all right, Im going. Nick jumped from the ledge,
screaming as he grabbed for the cables.
right Delvechio, announce to the world that were coming.
Deke, Nick responded, clinging to the cable, his eyes closed.
Deke shook his
head then started his descent down the cable.
At the Fund
Benny Ray and
Margo stood with the security team, interrogating the would-be
Benny Ray asked the one closest to him, Who is the ring
The young man
remained silent and sullen.
do this the easy way or the hard way, Benny Ray drawled,
slamming his hand on the table.
back, noting that no one in the gang was over the age of twenty
one. Grabbing some of the ids from the security team, she
went to the computer to run background checks on them.
Jed and Liz
wandered through the convention center, mapping out a new escape
route. The way the two downstairs had fought, Jed was sure they
were on to them and there were probably more up at the fund raiser.
silent tears, Liz looked at Jed. I told you. I told you
it was too greedy and we should have stopped while we were ahead!
Liz. We didnt have enough yet, so just shut up, he
shouted at her.
she continued her tirade. And now were hurting people.
Its not worth it, Jed. Its not.
You want to quit? Jed snarled. When Liz nodded, he pulled
out his gun and shot her in the chest. Youre out
of it now.
without a backward glance, Jed headed toward the basement.
of the thieves decided to talk. Jeds not up here.
He and Liz never take part of the heist. Tonight she took the
place of one of the performers while he kidnapped the performer.
They switch back and forth each job. Looking up into Benny
Rays ice blue eyes, he added, Everyone else is here
except Wanda, Thor, Steven, James and Kent. She was to grab the
did Liz replace?
The thief shrugged.
Dunno, cant tell you.
the elevator doors open and he and Nick jumped down and into
an experience Id prefer not to repeat, thank you very much.
way, Delvechio. Whats that racket?
his head to listen. Sounds like...sounds like the boiler
is overworking. And that means?
unless we fix the thing, its gonna explode.
nothing about boilers.
worked with a plumber when I was in high school.
Its in your hands then, Deke stated as they searched
for the boiler room, weapons at the ready.
boiler room, Nick went in while Deke covered the door.
This things been rigged.
fix it or do we just tell Benny Ray to evacuate and run like
I can fix it. You just watch the door for awhile. I need quiet
before turning his attention the hallway. Delvechio telling him
he needed quiet. He never thought hed hear that.
banging and cursing alternately, Deke putting his hands over
his ears. He was going to tell Matt that next mission, he could
pair Nick with Benny Ray. No wonder the southerner was always
Benny Ray to the side. These kids are all runaways or former
runaways. Theyve got records longer than some Generals
the thieves, Benny Ray stood, his arms folded across his chest.
One more time. Whos behind this? You kids arent
smart enough to plan all of this, and I doubt if that Jed is
looked from one to another, the largest one shrugging. Jonas
Jones. He took each of us in, gave us roofs over our heads and
food. All we had to do in exchange was let him train us. We did
well too...until you all interfered.
seriously think youd get away with it forever, did you?
Margo asked, incredulous.
our last job, one of the others commented. Mr. Jones
back to the computer to run a check on Jonas Jones.
Cindy cast an
anxious glance at Matt, who was growing paler by the minute.
Matt? she whispered weakly. Hmmm?
you leave me.
nowhere, he responded, forcing his eyes open.
Trying to adjust
her position, Cindy groaned at the pain. With her left hand,
she stretched her hand until her fingers brushed Matts.
Well get out of here soon, she tried to assure
him, as well as trying to make herself believe it too. With a
sigh, she tilted her head back, staring at the ceiling. As she
sat there, new sounds started penetrating her mind.
someones outside this room. Sounds like theyre working
started listening too.
to curse the boiler as he worked on the rigging that had been
done. When the boiler quieted finally, he released a sigh of
relief. Done, Deke
Then we can get out of here. Nick started for the door
when he heard a faint voice saying hello.
Nick whispered loudly, waving his teammate in.
else is down here.
Nick snarled. Didnt see it before, but the blood
trail leads to this door.
Deke mumbled, joining Nick at the door.
Nick tried the
knob, only to find the door locked. Pulling his lock picks, Nick
picked the lock and gingerly pulled the door open, Deke covering
The pair walked
around the boxes in the center of the floor, surprised to find
Cindy and Matt.
What the hell? Nick asked, pulling out his knife, Deke
doing the same and going over to cut the ropes.
Everything under control upstairs?
Deke assured him, checking Matts injury.
guys, Matt said to Nick and Deke.
the record boss, be glad we got here when we did. The boiler
out there was rigged to explode and it was almost ready to blow,
Nick explained as he sliced the ropes holding Cindy.
Cindy fell forward
into Nicks arms and he held her against him as he checked
Deke and Nick patched the pair up best as they could. Can
you walk? Deke asked them.
They both nodded,
getting to their unsteady feet. Cindy wavered for a moment, Nick
rushing to her side to steady her. Finally they both managed
to stand on their own.
have you guys been down here? Nick asked.
a moment, Matt answered, Since the end of our number which
ended up being me and an impostor.
about that, Cindy apologized, giving him a weak smile.
The couple wrapped
their arms around each other, trying to support the other while
Matt took a gun from Deke. Well just slow you guys
down. Cindy and I will take the rear and watch our sixes. You
guys take point.
Nick and Deke
started leading the way out of the basement to the exit when
four of the thieves appeared in front of them. The four thieves
shot panicked looks at Nick and Deke, one of them preparing to
fire, the others turning tail to run.
this one Deke, get the others, Nick yelled, firing at the
one aiming at them, striking him in the head. Gotcha!
he shouted, running after Deke when Matt yelled for him to move.
and Cindy walked toward the exit, being cut off by Jed.
at the couple. Going so soon?
of a... Matt began.
Jed fussed, aiming his weapon at first Matt then Cindy. Who
to take out first, that is the question, isnt it?
Settling his aim on Cindy, he sneered Ive wanted
to do this since I laid eyes on you at the store. Cindy
watched in mute horror as Jeds finger wrapped around the
trigger. Not wanting to jeopardize Matt, she refused to step
Before Jed could
wrap his finger completely around the trigger, Matt had lifted
Dekes spare gun and shot the criminal in the chest, killing
him instantly. Quietly, he lowered the gun and pulled Cindy close
to him, hearing her softly crying. Knowing she had been through
too much tonight, he spoke to her lovingly until she calmed down.
When she was
calmer, they walked on, meeting up with Nick and Deke who had
the other three thieves secured and handed off to the police
Chance and C.J. had sent downstairs.
Hotel Room 0300
hours Benny Ray left Matt and Cindy ensconced in their hotel
room. He had just brought them back from the hospital where they
had been stitched up and gotten blood Both refused to spend the
remainder of Christmas in the hospital. He had waited while they
got changed for bed and ordered them to bed rest for at least
two days. Getting no argument, he smiled going out the door.
Crossing the hall, he joined Margo for their own Christmas celebration.
Leaving the hospital, Matt told the team they had off until the
day after New Years.
In bed, Cindy
rolled over into Matts arms, laying on her left side. You
sure youre okay? she asked with concern, rubbing
her hand on his chest.
fine. Im with you, he assured her, kissing her on
the nose. Merry Christmas, darlin, he whispered.
Christmas to you too, she replied, laying her head on his
shoulder and going to sleep.
at the ceiling, smiling. Life was good, he decided before he
too drifted off to sleep.
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