Divide & conquer, p.11
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       Divide & Conquer, p.11

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 11


  Ty swung out of the dugout and began stalking toward the Bronco, muttering angrily as he started shedding his catchers gear. Zane jogged after him, dodging the shin guards and chest protector as they bounced to the ground.

  “I cant fucking believe this,” Ty exclaimed. “Whats the likelihood of that shit, huh?”

  “Special Agent Grady!” a reporter called out, and Zane turned to see her running after them in an impressive pair of stilettos. Ty turned to her and flopped his hands. “Seriously?” he shouted angrily. “Is that your car, Agent Grady?” she yelled after him, microphone out as she and her cameraman continued hurrying toward them, trying to catch up from twenty yards behind. Zane wondered how she knew Tys name.

  Ty turned to look at the Bronco, waving his hand at it. “Yes, its mine! Look at it!” He took one more step toward the frowning Bronco, and the hood blasted upward, belching flames. The sound followed, a scream of metal and machinery, like a terrified mechanical plea for help, and the old Bronco jumped into the air, flame and heat blasting out of it as the gas tank exploded. The concussion of the explosion knocked Ty and Zane backward and to the ground, heat whooshing over them with what Zane would have sworn was a pained groan from the vehicle.

  The dying breath of Tys beloved Bronco. Ty rose slowly, looking with absolute horror at the flames that licked at the tree branches above. He suddenly pushed himself up and made to run toward the wreckage. Zane grabbed for him, tripping him up and then tackling him to the ground. Zane had no doubt Ty would try to put the flames out himself and probably go down in a fiery blaze of glory trying to save the damn thing.

  “Shes burning, Zane!” Ty yelled, in a panic, voice full of anguish as he tried to squirm out of Zanes grasp. The sound broke Zanes heart. He had to wrap both arms around his partner and put all his weight into him to keep Ty from lashing out blindly as firemen ran past them. “Ty, stop,” he said firmly.

  Ty tensed like he was going to lunge again, but then he relaxed beneath Zane as if someone had let the air out of him. He didnt make a sound, and he seemed to be holding his breath as he craned his neck, staring at the crackling flames and pillar of black smoke.

  The cameraman skidded to a stop beside them, filming the burning Bronco, filming the firemen trying to stem the flames with extinguishers, and filming them as Ty lay beneath Zane and watched his oldest friend burn.

  Chapter Five

  Z ANE jogged down the stairs to the living room and stopped, looking around to find Shannon. Shed given them a ride to Tys house, since Zanes truck had been behind the cordoned-off safety line. They had decided they needed to get Ty home, away from the television cameras that seemed to love to torment him, where he could fall apart in peace.

  He found her sitting in an armchair, and Elaina was crashed out on the couch, so Zane moved to join them.

  “How is he?” Shannon asked dubiously. “I know how he felt about that truck. ” Zane shook his head as he stripped out of his heavy sweatshirt before sitting down. “Hes still in shock. Not pacing or ranting or anything else I would expect out of him. Im not sure which is better. ” He glanced up to the ceiling. “Hes supposed to be getting in the shower. ”

  “Silent and still is not a good sign,” Shannon advised as she straightened and put her hands on her knees. She stood and glanced up at the ceiling as well. “You want a beer? I think we all deserve one after today,” she said quietly as she headed for the kitchen.

  “Dr Pepper is fine,” Zane said. “I was thinking about suggesting we order in some food. I want to keep an eye on him after the reaction he had to the painkillers. ”

  “Its not the painkillers Im worried about. He talks about that truck like its a person. He just lost his oldest friend out there. ” “I know,” Zane said grimly.

  “The pills will just make it worse. How many did he take, anyway?” Shannon asked as she rummaged in the refrigerator. She certainly behaved like shed been there before. Zane had to force himself not to wonder how long it had been. Hed never heard Ty speak of her, and hed never seen her before.

  She let the door swing shut as she moved back toward Zane with a bottle of beer and a can of soda. “I didnt see him take the pill. After the shape he was in last night, Id say he took a whole one today, which makes me think I should smack him upside the head,” Zane rambled, accepting the Dr Pepper with a quiet thank-you as he thought about how sick Ty would be tomorrow.

  Shannon laughed at him quietly and sat down opposite him. “You two are funny,” she commented with a shake of her head.

  Zane blinked and focused on her, thinking back over what hed just said and deeming it safe. “Why do you say that?” “I mean, dont take offense or anything,” she said quickly, keeping her voice down as Elaina snored beside her. “You just dont take any of his bull. And seeing him today, he obviously trusts you. Its just… unusual to see him show that much real emotion around anyone. ”

  Zane studied her for a long moment before relaxing back into the chair. “Well. Weve been through a lot together. ” “So I hear,” she acknowledged with a slow nod. She licked her lower lip and looked down at the rug, tapping her finger on her beer bottle uneasily, as if shed run out of things to say and couldnt seem to decide on a safe new topic.

  Zane resisted the urge to smile. She wasnt a field agent; she was too easy to read. “And what have you heard?” he prompted, curious about her. “Im guessing youre assigned here at the Baltimore office, but Ive not seen you before today. ” He gave her an honest grin. “Id have remembered. ”

  She snorted at him and smiled wryly. “You cant charm me, Agent Garrett,” she warned, pointing upward to where they could hear Ty moving around. “Ive been baptized by fire. ”

  “Please, call me Zane,” he requested. He was starting to see why Ty had been drawn to her. Not only was she attractive, she was smart and straightforward.

  She smiled more and nodded in thanks, then looked down at her hands as she played with the peeling label of her beer. “Im an analyst focusing on the Middle East. Thats how I met Ty. A couple years ago I needed a native speaker for a recording, and someone pointed me to him for help. ”

  Zane continued to watch her. “Elaina told me you and Ty used to date. ” He glanced up at the ceiling again as he heard the water turn on in the shower upstairs.

  She cleared her throat and nodded, gazing at her daughter before looking at Zane. “We were together for a few months. Nothing really serious, more…. ” She shrugged and shook her head, searching for the right words. “Like duct tape on a window. You know itll fall apart eventually, but at least you can make interesting patterns in the meantime. ”

  Zane laughed softly. “Thats an odd description. ” “But apt, isnt it? With Ty? I dont mean it as an insult. He was good to me. He still is. We parted on good terms. And he was like a godsend for Elaina when she really needed someone. He still makes an effort to spend time with her when he can. Hes just not the type you bring home to Mom, but hes a good guy,” she asserted with a selfconscious laugh.

  “One of the best Ive met. ” Zane looked over Elaina and thought about Tys family. “Im not surprised he spends time with her. Shes adorable. ”

  “Thank you,” Shannon said with a smile. The water turned off upstairs with a heavy clank, and she glanced upward. She looked back at Zane, and her smile faltered.

  Zane shook his head, wondering what had her anxious. Then it occurred to him. She was waiting for him to excuse himself. “Ah, I dont live far, but its pretty cold to walk it. I cant leave until I call a cab,” he said, hinting at leaving to give her time with Ty. Now to see if shed take it.

  She began shaking her head quickly. “No, theres no need for that, I can take you home. I just… he really shouldnt be alone tonight. But…. ” She stopped and held her breath for a heartbeat before letting it out in an irritated rush as she smiled and laughed at herself. “When hes all pitiful and drugged like this, I just really shouldnt be ar
ound him,” she admitted as she blushed furiously. “Could you maybe stay with him?”

  Zane didnt even try to hide the grin. Yeah, she was spunky. “Well, that being the case, yes, if you can run me to my truck so were not stranded. ” He shrugged and took a drink from the half-empty can in his hand.

  “Of course,” she agreed gratefully. They could hear Ty moving around upstairs again, which was an altogether good thing, since hed been practically catatonic earlier. A few moments later, he thumped heavily down the stairs and padded barefoot into the living room, hair still damp and mussed. He wore a pair of sweatpants and a thin, faded T-shirt that had once had writing on it, and hed taken the time to tape up his fingers after the shower. He looked awful, like someone had just put his puppy on a spit roast. He glanced at them both sheepishly as he joined them, but then he waved a hand at Shannons beer and snorted.

  “Make yourself at home, sweetheart,” he joked quietly. Shannon huffed back at him. “At least its real beer and not hard lemonade. ”

  “Hes probably got that too,” Zane commented before draining his soda can. He pointed at Ty. “But none for you at all. ”

  “Whats wrong with hard lemonade?” Ty asked, clearly offended. Shannon laughed as she stood and set the bottle on the table beside the couch. “Are you okay?” Ty shrugged uncomfortably, obviously searching for an answer that was somewhat honest. Zane looked between the two, deciding it would be best if he stayed out of this conversation. Hed have his own version with Ty later.

  “Well,” Shannon murmured, obviously knowing Ty well enough to know that he wasnt okay. She stepped closer and hugged him tight. “Im going to take Zane back to get his truck, okay? Hes going to stay with you tonight to make sure you dont throw yourself off the balcony. ”

  Zane stood and moved away, giving them some space, wondering if Ty was feeling as awkward as he was. Zane had never met one of Tys old girlfriends. He hadnt realized Ty had old girlfriends.

  Ty merely nodded as she let him go. He made an effort to give her a smile, but his heart obviously wasnt in keeping up a façade. It was interesting that he didnt seem to feel the need to bother with her.

  Shannon retrieved her purse from the kitchen counter, and Ty glanced over at Zane and met his eyes. Zane tipped his head to the side in question, raising one brow. Ty responded with a helpless gesture that wasnt quite identifiable, other than to say he was indeed uncomfortable and probably heartbroken.

  Ty cleared his throat and stepped over to the couch where Elaina still slept peacefully, and he bent and gathered her carefully in his arms before easily lifting her. She murmured sleepily and snuggled up against his shoulder.

  “Lets get you to the car,” he said, and Shannon watched them with a sad smile as Ty carried the girl toward the door.

  She looked to Zane. “Ready?” Zane nodded, watching Ty closely, but he figured he had to trust Ty to know if hed trust himself enough to carry the little girl. Seeing him with her, so careful, almost loving… it was a totally different side of Ty, even from what Zane saw in him, and he doubted he would ever see all the sides of the man he called his lover.

  TY SAT in his living room with all the lights off and the blinds drawn, staring at the outlines of the furniture in the dark. His head was pounding, but it was from anger and anguish more than the pill hed taken several hours ago.

  Not only was someone trying to kill as many Feds, cops, firemen, EMTs, and civil servants as they could, they were setting bombs in public places where anyone could stumble over them.

  And they had bombed his Bronco. Ty closed his eyes as a wave of nausea passed through him. He knew it was silly to be sitting in the dark mourning a vehicle, but he didnt care. That Bronco had been part of him. Hed had her for half his life. Rescued her from the scrap yard and rebuilt every piece of her with his own two hands. Why the bomb had gone off when it did was anyones guess, but Ty firmly believed the Bronco had done it—no matter how silly that sounded. She had been a loyal companion, and now she had taken the hit for him. Thrown herself on the grenade.

  He knew he had tears streaming down his face, but he didnt care. She deserved to be mourned. The scratch of the key in the lock of the front door didnt even faze him. Zane entered in a splash of sunlight and a rush of cold air, quiet besides a rustling of plastic and paper. He closed and locked the door behind him and stayed in place. Probably letting his eyes adjust to the dark.

  “I brought some lunch. ”

  “Ugh,” Ty responded automatically as the thought of food made his stomach protest. “Yeah, I figured that would be your reaction. ” Zanes voice held a hint of amusement. “So I got chicken, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Plain stuff to settle your stomach. ” He started moving toward the kitchen bar.

  Ty swallowed heavily and watched him go, trying to think of something to say that didnt involve food, bombs, cars, women, or him sitting there by himself in the dark and wiping tears off his face. He watched Zane set a couple of bags on the bar along with his keys, wallet, and badge. After turning on the small work light under the microwave, he came out of his heavy leather jacket, and his gun joined the pile. Then he turned and leaned back against the bar, hands in his pockets, looking toward his partner.

  “Vicodin worn off?” “Oh yeah,” Ty answered as his stomach flip-flopped and nerves inexplicably assaulted him. He didnt know why he was nervous. Hell, he hadnt even done anything wrong this time. Much.

  Zane watched him for a long moment before walking over and standing in front of him. “Can I get you anything?” He sounded—and looked—honestly concerned.

  Ty looked up at him as the vise around his chest eased some. He smiled wanly and reached out to slide his fingers against the back of Zanes hand.
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