Divide & conquer, p.10
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       Divide & Conquer, p.10

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 10


  The chain-link rattling near his head drew his attention back to Ty. Tys fingers gripped the fence, and he looked through it to the bleachers.

  “Do me a favor, Zane?” he whispered.

  Ty looked really worried, which didnt do much for Zanes peace of mind. “Yeah. ” “Grab the kid and dont let her out of your sight, okay?” Ty requested as he looked at Zane finally. “As soon as people hear „bomb, theyre gonna panic and scatter. ”

  Zane nodded slowly. There was a story there somewhere related to the “he and Mommy used to date” comment. But it didnt matter. “Yeah, Ill do it. Be careful. ”

  Ty merely nodded and reached up to touch Zanes fingers through the fence before turning away. He picked up his helmet, then jogged toward the home dugout as the speakers blared on.

  “Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we ask you to please move in an orderly fashion toward the south field. ” Zane took a couple of careful steps backward, still watching Ty, before he turned to the stands to find Elaina. With just a few strides, he was next to her. “Cmon, Elaina,” he said, holding out his hand.

  “What about Mommy?” Elaina asked as she climbed down the bleachers. “Ty will get her and the rest of the team,” Zane said as she slid her hand into his, and he started walking, almost immediately hitching his steps shorter because his legs were so long compared to hers.

  They were almost across the parking lot when the cute brunette from second base caught up to them and took Elainas other hand. “Are you Garrett?” she asked Zane breathlessly.

  “Yes, maam,” Zane responded automatically. He looked at Elaina and noted the strong resemblance. Dark-brown hair, large eyes so brown they were nearly black. “You must be Mommy. ”

  She laughed slightly and nodded. “Im Shannon. ” She didnt offer her hand, though, instead reaching down and picking Elaina up so they could move faster. “Is this for real, or is Ty going off the deep end?”

  Zane glanced at her, surprised. “Id say its for real. ” He pointed at the dugout on the far side of the next field. The lower part of it was made of wooden planks, the upper part more chain-link. “That ought to be a good place to hunker down. Were far enough away. ”

  “God, I was hoping hed just had too many painkillers,” the woman said under her breath. She pulled her daughter higher on her hip and quickened her pace. Zane heard sirens in the distance as they reached the other field.

  Zane stopped at the steps to let Shannon get into the dugout first, and then he waited as several other people passed by, distractedly offering an arm to help them clamber down the concrete steps, watching for Ty as fire trucks pulled up at the field. He hated being back here doing nothing.

  He finally spotted Ty, standing next to the blue bomb squad truck and speaking with one of the techs. He was gesticulating erratically, obviously worked up, and the tech seemed to be trying to reason with him. Finally, two firemen came up to join the conversation, and one began leading Ty away, toward the dugouts. The fireman was larger than Ty by quite a bit, a true hulk, and though Ty didnt appear happy with the arrangement, he went along without fussing until they reached the dugout where Zane stood.

  “Does this belong to you?” the fireman asked Zane in a deep, booming voice, scruffing Ty by his jersey collar like a stray dog. Zane raised a brow at the phrasing but nodded anyway. “Should have made sure he was wearing his tags, I guess,” he answered as he tried to judge Tys condition.

  Ty rolled his eyes and shifted his jaw in annoyance. “They dont believe me,” he told Zane under his breath. “This is Tank, by the way. He runs people over. ”

  The big fireman laughed heartily and shook his head. His teeth gleamed bright against his black skin. “Gotta lead with the shoulder when a big dawg is blocking the plate. You know that. ”

  “Yeah, shoulder, not front bumper,” Ty shot back.

  Tank looked to Zane. “Shape he was in last time I saw him, Im not surprised hes like this. ”

  “You sure knocked him for a loop,” Zane confirmed before asking Ty, “Are they checking it out?” Ty pressed his lips tightly together and nodded, looking at Zane sideways like he knew hed be in trouble. Tank spoke up when Ty didnt. “He told them if they didnt, hed go on record saying he put it there himself so theyd have to check it out. ”

  Zane snorted. “Jesus, Ty,” he muttered, shaking his head. “There were tool marks!” Ty insisted.

  “Take it easy, Bulldog,” Tank said as he turned and patted Ty on the back hard enough to send him stumbling forward into Zane, who reacted automatically and raised his arms to grab hold of him.

  He still had on the catchers gear, but as Ty wrapped one arm around Zanes waist to keep his balance, it was clear the pill hed taken had finally gotten the best of him. His body was loose and relaxed, his movements not as controlled as usual.

  Ty muttered obstinately as he turned to look at the scene behind them, his body still brushing against Zanes as they stood together. He obviously felt certain he was right about the threat. But it was entirely possible theyd just evacuated a few hundred people in front of the local news because Ty was high. Zane sighed and kept his arm discreetly around Tys waist. Most of their co-workers would figure Zane was holding him back anyway.

  The bomb squad techs directed a small robot down a ramp from the back of their truck, and another member of the team pulled out a bullhorn to address the crowd as the robot chugged away at a snails pace toward home plate. Besides that, it was hard to see what was happening on the field.

  Ty cleared his throat and turned his head to look at Zane. He leaned closer and spoke quietly. “Where are Shannon and Elaina? They safe?”

  “Theyre in here somewhere,” Zane murmured. He splayed his hand flat on Tys lower back against the fabric. “You dont look so good. ”

  “Shut up,” Ty muttered as he turned and looked further into the dugout. He kept one hand on Zanes arm to hold himself steady. Zane sighed and resisted the urge to lay his forehead against Tys in a bid for support and comfort. This definitely wasnt the place, or the time, no matter how much Zanes instincts were screaming at him to drag Ty away from here to somewhere safe so he could take care of him. Hed have to deal with that—and the fallout of the other momentous realizations of the morning—later.

  A voice blared over the bullhorn, and Ty startled against Zane before turning to look at the field as the announcer warned people to stay where they were and cover their heads.

  “Tyler, get down here before you fall over!” Shannon shouted. She stepped out and grabbed the strap of Tys chest protector. “What were you thinking, taking something before you came out here?”

  “I was thinking, „Wow, my ribs hurt,” Ty answered as he stumbled sideways.

  Zane released him as Shannon took charge and pulled Ty down into the dugout. “He really wanted to be here. ” “Not getting what he wants wont kill him,” Shannon informed them both. She shoved at Tys chest, and he fell back onto the old, scarred wooden bench with a thump and a rattle of protective gear. She pointed her finger in his face and waved it. “Something had better damn well blow up out there,” she warned.

  “Mommy, I think you need a time-out,” Elaina observed, her young voice wry and amused. Ty merely nodded as he looked up at her with wide eyes. It was kind of funny, really. Zane had never seen Ty act like that around a woman, except maybe his mama. Usually he was all charm and charismatic quips. Zane had to cover his smile with one hand and turn away. When he did, he saw one of the bomb squad team jogging their way. When he got to them, he leaned against the back fence of the dugout to speak to Ty through the chain-link.

  “Theres definitely something down there,” the man told them quietly. “Looks like a pressure switch of some sort. ” Ty turned his head, and the man kept talking to him in lower tones for a moment before standing abruptly and jogging back toward his truck. Zane stepped down into the dugout to stand next to Ty. “Well?”

looked up at him and licked his lips uneasily. “They think its a pressure switch,” Ty repeated for the people around them. “Bouncing Betty type thing. Bomb squads going to get one of those kamikaze robots out there to poke it,” he told Zane in a lower voice.

  Zane sat down next to him. “The games were here yesterday, right? So this had to have been done overnight?”

  “Had to be. I was practically laying on the damn thing last night,” Ty muttered. “And it was crooked. ”

  “Jesus, Grady,” someone from close by said. “Im never making fun of your superstitions again. ” “Told you touching home plate before the first pitch was bad luck,” Ty responded under his breath, looking away from Zane as he spoke.

  Zane propped his elbows on his knees as he listened to the circus of bomb squad, firemen, news cameras, and cops circling the other ballfield. He didnt want to think about how close Ty had been to bodily harm. He could wish Ty had been in the outfield, but he wouldnt lay odds on someone else noticing the problem with the plate. He sighed and dropped his head, shaking it.

  Tys shoulder brushed his, and Zane could feel him thrumming with nervous energy.

  “Are we safe here?” someone asked. “Should we get further away?” “Were good,” Ty assured them curtly. “If it does blow before they can disarm it, they say its not packed, so there wont be any shrapnel. Unless it blows the arm off the robot or something. ”

  “Ive seen that happen,” an unfamiliar voice said from further down the dugout.

  “Bullshit,” someone else responded with a laugh.

  “Gods honest truth. Arm flew through the air and landed like a damn lawn dart. ”

  “Would it reach us if that happened?” a worried voice asked. “The robot is made to blow shit up,” Ty answered in an annoyed voice. “The articulating parts dont blow off,” he snapped. On the surface, his tone of voice said he was talking to a civilian who was getting on his nerves, but underneath that Zane recognized his partner was badly shaken. Zane straightened and leaned back, and when he scooted—not a big deal, since people were crammed onto the bench anyway—he slid enough so their legs touched from hip to knee.

  “Everybody down!” someone called from somewhere behind Zane. Tys hands were immediately on Zane, tugging at him and pulling him down with everyone else onto the packed dirt. Zane hit the ground hard on his knees, shifting his weight back just in time to avoid falling straight forward onto his face. Ty pulled Shannon and her daughter closer and huddled them all together, wrapping his arm over Zane and pressing him down into the dirt. His chest protector dug into Zanes side as he tried to shield all three of them from the coming blast that supposedly wouldnt reach them.

  Sirens blared across the parking lot, and someone shouted into a bullhorn to make certain the area was clear. The scene had to be easier to handle than most, considering everyone there was involved with the city and knew emergency procedures in some fashion. Hell, half of them probably would have been working the scene if theyd been on duty.

  It was a long, drawn-out ten seconds of what seemed like pure silence before the explosion sounded. Obviously disarming it hadnt gone well.

  Zane winced. It was really, really loud for a bomb little enough to fit under home plate. A whoosh of dirt and small pieces of trash filtered through the chain-link to flutter over them, and Ty curled above him protectively as the air wafted past. He waited a long moment, his fingers digging into Zanes shoulder as he held him, his breaths harsh in Zanes ear. Zane closed his eyes, thankful that Ty was here next to him rather than across the field. He slowly started to sit up.

  Ty pushed himself up when he felt Zane moving, and he raised his head and looked around to survey the damage. People around them were coughing and scrabbling around on the ground of the dugout, everyone trying to gain their feet at the same time. Ty pulled himself up unsteadily and looked through the fence as he offered his hand to help Zane or Shannon up.

  “Oh God,” he said suddenly, his hand going limp at his side as he pulled his face closer to the chain-link.

  Zane got to his feet next to him and looked out across the field with a frown. “What?”

  “Garrett,” Ty practically whined as he grabbed at Zanes shoulder. “The Bronco!” The green Bronco rocked as the robotic arm of the bomb robot rolled slowly off the hood. The dent it left behind was massive, giving the distinct impression that the grill was scowling.

  “Ouch,” Zane breathed.

  “My truck,” Ty whimpered.

  “Oh, Ty,” Shannon said sympathetically as she stood and peered out into the parking lot. Someone else down the dugout gave a low whistle, and several of the other agents began laughing. “The articulating parts dont blow off, huh?” someone asked in a teasing voice.

  “My truck,” Ty repeated pitifully. “Im sure thatll… buff out, man,” one of them told Ty in a voice that was attempting to be consoling but only managing to waver as the man tried not to laugh.

  “In three years, nothing has ever landed there!” Ty cried suddenly. Everyone in the dugout began to laugh. Zane moved slowly, deciding that turning to face Ty and standing between him and the dugout exit was probably not a bad idea. With Tys state of mind, he was liable to run out there and lay himself out over the truck to protect it. After another look at Ty, Zane took hold of his forearm. Just in case.

  “Who the hell thinks that shits funny?” Ty shouted at everyone. “Wheres my gun?” he demanded with all seriousness as he began to pat himself down.

  “Who are you gonna shoot? The robot?” Zane asked with a sigh. He saw one of the bomb squad men give the all clear sign, and he tugged at Tys arm. Reporters began to crowd toward the cordoned-off area as people began to stir. “Come on. Well go check the damage. ”
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