It was ridiculous to be going about it this way. He worked for DPI. He was one of them. He could punch in the code, walk right through the gates, up to the front door, and demand to see the prisoner.
But something held him back, made him cautious. Crazy, vague suspicions clouded his mind. He'd put them to rest when he saw that she was okay, but until then, he figured he'd be better off erring on the side of caution.
He'd had to argue with Kirkland to get him to stay behind. Hell, the guy had no idea what he'd be getting into if he came along. DPI was big. Powerful. It was dangerous to get on the wrong side of them. It was bad enough Kirkland was going to make the call.
Vaguely, she heard the phone and the low muttering from beyond the closed bedroom door. Two of the men remained with her. One, the one called Fuller, had gone out to answer it. Seconds later, he returned.
"We've got him."
Whaley rose from where he'd been comfy on the bed. "Bachman?"
Fuller nodded. "That was the hospital in Caribou. Seems Bachman was brought in, unconscious. They found this number on him."
Cuyler bit her lip to keep from gasping. God, what had happened to Ramsey?
"What the hell was he doing in Caribou?" Whaley asked.
"Probably trying to make his way here, to the safehouse. I still think you guys are wrong about him." That was Stiles, the most gentle of the three. "How bad is he?"
"Doesn't look like he'll make it through the night. We'd better get over there."
Pain tore through her heart. Dying? Ramsey was dying? She squeezed her eyes tighter to stop the tears that burned in them.
"What about her?"
Fuller glanced at Stiles, who stood unspeaking in the corner. "Can you handle her?"
The pale man nodded.
"She gets too lively, just give her another shot. We'll call in from the hospital."
She didn't lift her head as the two walked out. Just let it hang. She'd be damned if she'd give them any reason to inject her with more of that awful, debilitating drug.
Ramsey crouched behind a shrub near the gate and waited. Two men came out of the house. Their car started up, headlights came on, and he cringed lower. An electronic hum, a metallic groan, and the gates swung open. The car rolled through, and they began to close again.
He watched the car accelerate as soon as it hit the road. The gates were still closing. Taillights disappeared around a bend, and Ramsey lunged to his feet and dove. The metal scraped his sides as he threw himself in, then banged solidly as his body hit the ground. Closing his eyes, he drew three steadying breaths.
Night birds slowly resumed their nightly serenade. A few seconds later, frogs joined in. The wind rustled the trees again. Other than that, Ramsey heard nothing. He got to his feet, brushed himself off, and started toward the house.
The numbered panel beside the door stared at him, the System Armed light glaring like an evil eye. If they'd changed the entry code and he punched in the wrong numbers, an alarm would tell anyone inside of his presence. And he was certain there was still someone inside. They wouldn't leave Cuyler unguarded.
His tongue darted out to moisten dry lips, and he tasted the sweat on his upper lip. There was no other way. If he opened a window or door without entering the code, the alarm would sound anyway. His hand rose slowly, hovering at the panel.
He wiggled his fingers, grated his teeth, and entered the four-digit code he'd committed to memory.
The red light blinked out. A green one came on instead.
Ramsey pressed his ear to the door, listening. Only silence came from within. He gripped the knob and his hand slipped on its surface when he tried to turn it.
Rubbing his palm against his pant leg, he tried again.
The door opened without a creak, and Ramsey ducked inside, closing it quickly and quietly behind him. He didn't hesitate, but went directly to the staircase and up it, straining every cell in his body to be quiet.
At the top, he froze as heavy footsteps sounded. Pressing his back to the wall, he waited and watched. A door opened down the hall. In the muted light he recognized the man who emerged. Ron Stiles. Ramsey had worked with him before.
He'd personally thought the guy lacked the grit to be with DPI. Tonight, though, he was secretly relieved the mild-mannered agent was the one guarding Cuyler.
Stiles crossed the hall and ducked into a bathroom, never once glancing Ramsey's way. When the door closed, Ramsey hurried to the room Stiles had exited and slipped inside.
Cuyler sat in a hard chair, her arms pulled severely behind her. Her head leaned forward unnaturally. She wasn't moving, and Ramsey felt his pulse skid to a stop. Dropping to his knees in front of her, he caught her chin and lifted it.
Her eyes were tear-swollen and closed. A vivid purple bruise marred her cheek, and her lower lip was crusted with dried blood. He just stared at her, unable to form words.
Weakly, she tugged her chin away from his hand. "Leave me alone," she murmured.
"Please, just leave me alone."
Her eyes opened, but they were unfocused. She stared at him from somewhere behind that drugged haze. "Ramsey?"
The toilet across the hall flushed and a second later steps came toward him.
Ramsey fell back a few steps, so he'd be behind the door when it opened. Stiles came inside.
"If you twitch, I'll have to shoot you, Ron." Big words, he thought, for a man with no gun.
Stiles's narrow back stiffened, but he didn't move. His hands rose slowly on either side of his head. "Bachman? I thought you were- "Never mind what you thought." Ramsey came closer, reached around Stiles and took his side arm. "Now get me the key to the handcuffs. Quick." He prodded the man's back with his own gun, glad Stiles had fallen for the bluff.
Stiles nodded hard, dipped into his pants pocket and brought out the key. He held it up, and Ramsey prodded him again. "Get those cuffs off her."
Stiles moved slowly around to the back of Cuyler's chair, bent down and unlocked the cuffs. He stood again, dangling them from one crooked finger. "I didn't believe Fuller when he said you'd turn on us." He shook his head. "Guess he was right."
Ramsey moved forward, keeping the gun leveled on his former colleague. "Why did he think that?"
Stiles just shook his head. "I'm not saying any more. Kill me if you have to."
"Okay, if I have to." Ramsey nodded toward the man. "Snap one of those cuffs to your wrist, Stiles." He waited while the other man complied. "Good. Now turn around, hands behind your back. Come on, you know the drill." Stiles turned. "On your knees." When he complied, Ramsey moved quickly to slip one cuff through the foot of the bed, around the frame, and then snapped it around Stiles's other hand.
"You won't get far, Bachman. Fuller and Whaley will be back here just as soon as-"
"Fuller?" Ramsey gave his head a shake, stuffing the automatic into his waistband. Fuller was his immediate superior, a man he'd trusted. And Whaley was the crudest's.o.b. ever to walk the planet.
Ramsey went around in front of Cuyler again, kneeling. She sat limply, rubbing her wrists. Ramsey's anger grew when he saw the way the cuffs had cut into her flesh. He grew still more angry when she lifted her head to look into his eyes and he saw the pain in hers.
"Which one of you did this to her, Stiles?"
Stiles only glared at him and shook his head.
"And why, for God's sake? It's pretty obvious the tranquilizer works. Why'd they have to hit her?"
Stiles swore viciously. "She wouldn't tell us where you were. You'd think she was human the way you're carrying on. Hell, Bachman, she's only one of them. An animal, like the rest." At Ramsey's glare, he lowered his head. "I forgot, though. You are, too, aren't you? Just like them."
"What the hell do you mean by that?" Ramsey rose, towering over the man on the floor, his fists opening and closing at his sides.
Stiles clamped his jaw and refused to say another word. Ramsey turned back to Cuyler, bent over her, gripping her shoulders. "Can you stand?"
She nodded, and tried to rise to her feet, only to have her knees buckle as she collapsed against him. Ramsey caught her, slipped one hand beneath her legs and lifted her. He carried her across the hall and into the bathroom. Propping her against the sink, he ran cold water onto a washcloth. Carefully, he bathed her bruised face, her swollen eyes. He dabbed the blood from her lip.
"Here, hold this to that bruise and I'll look for something to put on your wrists."
She took it, but shook her head. "We have to get out of here, Ramsey. Those other two…" Her words trailed off and she swayed a little.
Ramsey found a tube of ointment and some bandages in the cabinet and stuffed them into his pocket. Then he bent to scoop her up again. He carried her down the stairs, toward the front door.
Cuyler's eyes had fallen closed again. The damned drug. And God only knew what else they'd done to her. His fury was beyond anything he'd felt in his life. The closest he'd come was the rage he'd felt when his own mother had been murdered.
But that had been a child's rage. It didn't compare to the full-blown tempest whirling inside him now. He wanted to kill the DPI bastards for hurting her this way.
He carried her out into the chilly autumn night, marveling at the way her small body fit in his arms. He cradled her to his chest as if she were something precious. Hell, she was! Why was that so hard for him to admit? Cuyler was special, no matter what else she might be, and she didn't deserve what they'd done to her.
His shoes ground over gravel as he ran to the gate, opening it. He didn't care that it set off alarms inside…it didn't matter now.
Ramsey reached the twisting, narrow road and started up the opposite direction from the one Whaley and Fuller had gone. The car sat off the roadside where he'd left it, surrounded by scraggly brush and branches. He managed to open the passenger door with one hand and lower Cuyler to the seat. He forced his hands to remain steady as he snapped the safety belt around her, but it wasn't easy.
She looked bad, and he had no idea what to do for her. She might be dying for all he knew.
Gently he pushed her hair out of her eyes. Why had he left her the way he had?
Why the hell hadn't he been there when those bastards had shown up? Why hadn't he believed what she'd told him about DPI?
Her eyes opened, mere slits fringed by damp black lashes. "Hurry."
Nodding, he slammed her door and raced around to the driver's side. Seconds later the car reversed out of its hiding place and onto the road. Grinding gears in his haste, Ramsey shifted, and spun tires as they sped away from the safehouse, away from DPI, away from everything Ramsey had known in his life.
Ron Stiles twisted and squirmed until he managed to work the extra key out of his back pocket. It took some maneuvering to fit it into the lock without being able to see what he was doing, but he did it. The cuffs sprang free and he automatically brought his hands around in front of him and rubbed his wrists.
Then he stopped and looked down at them. Cuyler Jade's wrists had been rubbed raw, bleeding. There'd been no reason for Fuller to put the handcuffs on so tightly. But he had, and it had pricked Stiles's conscience to see it. Still, he hadn't said anything.
And there'd really been no reason for Whaley to hit her. Not once, but twice.
And they hadn't been slaps. The bruises on her face had come from Whaley's knuckles when she'd told them more lies about Ramsey's whereabouts. Once again, Stiles hadn't voiced his objections. If Ramsey cared about her at all, Stiles supposed it was little wonder he'd been furious to see her that way.
But that was the question, wasn't it? Why on earth did Ramsey care about her?
How had he gotten so mixed up with her that he'd toss his career-his life-in the toilet by coming to her rescue that way? God, he knew she wasn't human. He knew.
So what was going on in his head?
Stiles hadn't wanted to believe what he'd read in Ramsey's files. He'd balked against what Fuller had said. That Ramsey had turned on them. That he was the enemy now. But now that he'd seen the proof of it with his own eyes, he couldn't doubt anymore. He just wished he understood.
Stiles left the bedroom, jogged down the stairs, and picked up the phone.READ MORE >>