Nick laid the bunch of flowers across the grave and stepped back. He looked down, smiling at the headstone. If you could see me now you'd be just as shocked as the day I told you. He smiled. Yeah, you would have loved this one. Me getting bothered by a straight military guy who wouldn't know what to do with me and then running away when it got too hot for me to be there. Just like the old days man. Just like the old days. He smoothed a leaf that had just fallen on the top of the headstone and patted it. See ya soon. He turned and ran into Margo. "Warn a guy."
"You know how much I like to sneak up on you." She smiled at him, but it wasn't returned. "So, who was he?" She waved at the grave.
"My first partner. Died of a heart attack not an hour after I came out to him." He smiled. "It wasn't my fault, but that didn't keep me from blaming myself for a few years." He moved to step around her, but she got in his way. "I'm not coming back."
"Yeah, you will." She took out an air hypo. "The only decision you get to make is awake or not."
He laughed and kissed her lightly on the lips. "I gotta go. It's been nice seeing you again." He waved his hand around her side, sliding out the gun and dropping something into her purse. "See ya." He walked away.
"Wait, Nick," she tried to catch up with him, but something stopped her. "Nick, give it back," she yelled. She watched as he dropped the gun on another grave and kept walking.
Margo Vincent flipped open her phone and dialed the man who had come with her. "He's coming your way, Deke." She got an answer and hung up, only to have to answer the phone again. "Hello?"
Nick smiled as he stood at the bus stop. "Margo, in your purse is the antidote and the poison. One, the antidote, will make your lips go numb. The poison will make them feel like they've been asleep." He hung up, then remembered to tell her the rest so dialed her cell phone again. "Oh, and the main symptom is chest pains but they aren't the fatal part." He hung up again and stepped onto the bus.
Margo dropped her purse to the ground and started to dig through it, coming up with only two things that shouldn't be there, lip glosses. She looked at them, then scowled in the direction the younger man had gone. "You asshole," she muttered and applied the first one, smiling when she felt them go numb. "Thanks Nick, I'll get you for that though." She looked up at Deke. "The man gave me a poisoned kiss." She held up the lip gloss that she hadn't used, "and the antidote."
Deke shook his head and took both, noting which was which. "Yeah, he's a slick little guy, but I still know which bus he got on."
Margo just shook her head. "He's been trained by the best of us too."
Deke helped Margo up. "Ah, but he's not us, or the best and therein lies his defeat."
Nick cruised by the downtown groups of hookers looking for one he might like to spend his last night with. The poison should start working in an hour or so. Hmm, he looks tasty. He pulled over and rolled down the window.
The young man, big, butch, bulky with muscles, walked over, trying to pick him up. "Hey."
"Hey, want an easy three grand?"
"That's a bit much for one of us. What you want?"
"Someone to hold me while my heart stops."
The younger man stepped back. "Now, wait a minute...."
"It's not like that, you don't have to do anything but hold me. I know my hearts going to stop tonight, in a few hours. I don't want to be alone. It'll be nothing that will get you in trouble or anything, nothing fatal to you. Just a plain old heart attack."
The man looked around and motioned for a bigger man to come over. They held a whispered conference. The hooker nodded and turned back around. "Okay, but I need the money now." Nick tossed an envelope to him, which he counted and handed over. The thug looking guy backed off and the hooker got into the car. "I'm Steve."
"Nick, nice to meet ya." He started the car and pulled off, back to his cheap room.
Nick was laying there, drifting off on the effects of the poison, being held in strong arms just like he wanted. He never saw the ashtray that hit him, never saw the person he had hired pick up the phone and dial a number on a card he had had in his pocket.
Never saw the two people who came to pick him up.
Nick did something that shocked him, he woke up. He listened to the sounds around him trying to figure out where he was. Hospital. Should use a higher dosage next time. Hmm, not strapped down, always a good sign. Someone next to me. Familiar perfume. Bitch. "Deke, go away."
He got slapped for the request. Not hard, but enough to tell him someone wasn't pleased with him.
Nick opened his eyes and turned his head. "Tough." He braced himself for another slap, but none came. Only a gentle kiss on his cheek. "I don't want you here."
"You know," a female voice said from the other side of the room, "it would be easier if you would have just gotten shot doing something stupid like holding up a convenience store."
"Too risky, might have made it." He snorted. "The miracles of modern medicine." He was laughing when the doctor came in. "Hey, when can I get out?"
"When you have convinced your friends that you're not only stable, but sane again." He made some notes in Nick's chart before coming over. "And yes, medicine is miraculous; whether it's five thousand year old herbalism or modern chemistry." He smiled down. "I would be most interested in where you had learned about those plants. Our chemist was with the FBI and she had never heard of them."
Nick smiled and tried to sit up. "Well, I got this book for my birthday as an eight year old. How To Kill Your Brother And Make Everyone Think It Was An Accident. Heard of it?"
The doctor started to laugh and blew across his stethoscope before listening to Nick's heart. "No, but your sense of humor is wasted on you. You should donate it to a worthy cause."
"I planned to, but they stopped me," he said, pointing at the two standing at the foot of his bed. "How long?"
"Until you're well enough to be released? I'd say a few days at the most. Until I'm releasing you? Until Margo tells me I can." He patted the sheet back into place and smiled. "I wouldn't want to disappoint that woman for anything and it's against hospital policy to release suicidal patients, even this one's." He made a few more notes in the chart and left, stopping to say something quietly to the two team members.
After the doctor left, Margo came to sit on the side of Nick's bed. "So, I guess you never expected to wake up here, huh." She was clearly nervous.
Nick laughed. "Oh, you could say that." He looked around, noting the not normal hospital accommodations. "So, is this like a hospital for the intelligentsia or what?" She nodded. "And I'm not in New York any more, am I?" Deke nodded. "So, how long was I out?"
"More than long enough to worry some of us," Deke answered, coming over to sit on the other side of him. "Now, why don't you lay back down and rest. You need it."
Nope, not what I need at all. But getting out of here can wait, at least until I have a plan. "Not really tired."
"Good, then you'll be ready to go home in a few days." Deke patted the thick hair and grimaced. "I'll go tell the nurse you need a bath."
"Not really needed," Nick said and Margo sighed. "What? I'm not going anywhere."
"Nick, you need a bed bath, at the least, and some help. We'll do what we can for you, both here and back at home."
He held up a finger. "See, that's where you keep missing a step. I don't have a home anymore, not one that I can live in and keep hiding. You two do and it's not here with me; it's back in Hermosa Beach. Remember that place? Matt, worrier type person and Benny Ray, Mr. Guns. Ring a bell?" Deke smacked him upside the head again. "Go home. It's not good for anyone if you're here, splitting up the team."
Margo shook her head and walked around to stand beside Deke. "We knew you were desperate, but this?"
"What? Do you think whoever ordered Trout to tape us is suddenly gone? There's probably some reason why you're houses were bugged and what ever it was, it's still there." He looked directly at Margo. "Are you going to let those two men do it all on their own?"
Deke shook his head. "No choice. It was either split us up or move you back and watch you. We didn't think you would want anyone else to know about this though."
"I'm not going back, it's not good for any of us."
Margo started to laugh. "Oh, that's rich. The team argument along with the I'm doing what I have to argument. How noble."
"What a piece of shit," Deke said. "I never thought you'd stoop that low man." He walked outside the room, heading toward the nearest body in white.
Margo settled down and planted herself on the end of the bed. "That's about the lowest you've hit yet. Outside of poisoning me, that is."
"I gave..." He was cut off by her hand squeezing his ankle painfully.
"I know and I thank you for it. We all know you couldn't hurt any of us, not if you tried, but your leaving has done more to hurt the team than anything else in the last few years has. It's caused the first split in years."
"I never meant to split them on this. None of you. But I can't go back, won't. It's not good, not right, for any of us."
"How would you know," Deke hissed into Nick's ear. "They would have accepted you just as they did me." He stood back up and let the nurse he had brought back take his place. "Now, time for a nice hot bed bath."
"I can stand."
"Of course you can, Mr. Delvecchio, but one of the side effects of the three poisons you used is commonly dizziness so we're taking precautions." He smiled down and rang out the cloth before lowering the sheet and undoing the top of his gown. "Now, just relax and enjoy it."
"Uh-huh, just don't poke me with anything. I don't like needles."
"We know, we figure that's why you used the lip gloss medium to spread the toxins in you." He wet down Nick's face and neck. "Now, enough talk. Your friends will just be in the hall in case you feel like screaming." The nurse turned and looked at them. "Won't they."
Margo pulled Deke out of the room and into the hall. "He's right. We split the team when it couldn't take it. Whoever it was might still be around."
"I'll go call, you stay with laughing boy." Deke headed down the hall, pulling out his cell phone on the way.
Nick waited until he was alone to check out the room. No windows, only the two doors. Hmm, from what I can see of the bathroom, no windows in there either. Maybe an air vent or something, that would have to lead to an outside vent eventually. Uh-oh, here comes Margo, gotta act straight. Now there's a phrase: act straight. Isn't that what I did all along? Using all those women to hide it, me, from everyone else. Hell, that's the reason I went undercover; there you get to do things you couldn't do any place else and call it necessary. Oh, those were the good times. All that free play, all the men, all the fun. All shot to hell because I wanted to settle down in one place and be myself. Like that happened. Nick looked up at Margo, watching her watch him. "What?"
"Just wondering what you were thinking." She stroked the soft flesh on his cheek. "Wondering why we care?"
"Because you're a brother to us now. We've been through too many hard times to let you go to this. And we all want to shoot at you again soon." She gave him a bright smile. "We'll get you home soon and get you straightened out. Forgive the pun."
"That's okay and I'm not going back. I'm not needed there, you can always find another body to fill in. I'm not the one with the special skills or the superior training. I'm just the extra guy who can be replaced. Like the red shirted guy on Star Trek."
Deke laughed, having caught the last part of his statement, as he came in the door. "Oh, well, that's not really true. We all bring something to the group, even you."
"Yeah, my sense of humor, such as it is." Margo slapped him lightly. "What? I'm not the intelligence person or the shooter or the pilot. I'm the guy that fills in that Žextra' role in the team." See, not someone you need or want, not really. Just an extra body that fills in the gap of the line. Get over it and let me go already. I don't even know why you care. You don't respect me, or like me even, so just leave. "And you know it's true."
"No, not really," Deke said and pulled Margo away. "We gotta talk."
Nick settled back into the almost comfortable bed and thought back to all he had learned. No windows, no doors, guards probably with guns. He sat up suddenly. That nurse said three poisons, there were four. They must have missed one. He reviewed the list of ingredients in his mixture. They must have missed the slowest one. It's supposed to be untraceable and all. So, maybe all I have to do is wait it out for another week or so. He smiled, quickly removing it when Margo and Deke walked back in. "So, I was right, huh?"
"Yes, you were right. And we want you to promise to be here when we get back."
"We know you're an honorable man, and that a promise you make will be held up," Deke added.
"All right. I promise I won't harm myself until you get back here," Nick said, holding up his hands, mostly to make Margo laugh. She's got such a pretty laugh. Now if only the stupid men would notice it. She could do a lot better than that thing she's dating now.
Margo shook her head, chuckling a little. "Your priceless, Nicky, and we don't want to lose you." She leaned down and kissed his cheek. "Now, get better and I'll play poker with you when I get back." She walked out, leaving Deke to say his goodbyes.
The two men watched her leave. "Take care of her, watch her back," Nick asked.
Deke nodded and stroked his fingers through Nick's still damp hair. "I always do and so do you. Just still be here." He leaned over, putting his face closer. "I don't want to have to break the news to her."
Nick impulsively sat up, kissing Deke. "Would I do that to you?"
"Yeah, you would, and thanks, it's been a while since I got one of those." Deke smiled and left the room. "We'll be back in a few days," he called from the door.
"And I'll still be living, if not in this bed, when you get back to this hospital," Nick whispered after them. "But this time, I'll hide better."
He laid back and made his plans for his escape.
Nick sneaked around the last obstacle in his path, finding freedom at last. It had taken him a few days and some careful planning, but he had made it. Now all he had to do was leave. He checked the outside, looking around to make sure he hadn't been seen, and started to walk.
He made it to the first major intersection and never noticed his shadow. When he got on the bus, he wasn't followed, but the network of people who were looking after him in their Žfriend's' absence noted where he was headed.
Nick picked up his extra credit cards and left the post office. Good people, American Express and Master Card. They really do get you a new card in 48 hours or less. He headed for the nearest ATM, at a bank on the corner, and withdrew just enough money to go someplace else.
He made it to the bus station just in time to buy a ticket, using his
new cash, and get on. He left Philadelphia smiling, happy about getting
go to the next story: