Divide & conquer, p.13
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       Divide & Conquer, p.13

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 13


  Ty groaned at the thought of food and shut his eyes. He should have just taken the Tylenol and bitched about being sore all day. If he started throwing up, his ribs would hurt again.

  He unbuckled his seatbelt and slumped further in his seat, practically lying flat with his legs extended onto the drivers side dashboard. He watched the building idly, waiting for Zane to come back and drive him home, where he could wallow in misery for the rest of the day.

  He zoned out for awhile, drifting in and out, but his eyes were open when all the windows on the far corner of the buildings third floor blew out in an explosion that sent flames licking out of the casements.

  Ty was moving and out of the truck, feet pounding on the concrete, before he realized what he was doing. He and other agents whod been loitering around outside ran toward the building as the flames receded back into the windows and alarms began to blare. First through the doors, Ty took off toward the stairs with several others on his heels. He took the stairs two at a time, the other agents falling behind by the time he reached the third-story fire exit.

  When Ty pushed through the door, it was face-first into a fine mist the sprinklers spit and sprayed over him, the water working to put out the flames. Smoke choked the shattered concourse; smoldering and dripping debris littered the once-shining marbled floors, and scorch marks blackened the walls.

  “Garrett!” Ty called out as he covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve and moved into the cluttered space.

  “Fire and rescues on the way,” an agent told him breathlessly as he came through the door behind Ty.

  “How many we got up here?” Ty demanded. “Ten, at least,” the man answered, “not counting BPD. ” Ty began picking his way down the ruined hall, staying low and watching the ceiling for falling tiles. He heard a dog whining and followed the sound.

  “Garrett!” he called out again before coughing. Thick, ugly smoke billowed through the once-clear hall, drawn by shattered windows acting like a flue, making his eyes sting. Whole walls had been blown out of several ritzy boutiques, sending merchandise flying like the building was an ashy snow globe turned over and shaken violently. The blast pattern fanned so far out—all the way to the exterior walls in places—that it was impossible to tell where their people could have been. Then Ty found two agents in windbreakers leaning on each other, one limping heavily, struggling through the mess.

  Ty grabbed one by the shoulder, looking them both over for obvious injuries. He could see a broken arm on one; the other appeared merely bruised and battered. “You okay?” he asked, raising his voice in anticipation of both men being nearly deaf from the concussion of the blast.

  One glanced up and nodded, although he grimaced. “Two storefronts that way,” he said hoarsely as he pointed. “Some of our guys are down. ”

  Ty took off the way the agent had pointed, moving over the debris with less care than he should have. He clambered over a grisly burnt and melted mannequin and half a wall of shredded clothes blown out of one of the stores. At the sound of a sharp crack, he looked down to see a now-crunched pair of aviator sunglasses. More glass from the storefronts covered the floor like scattered diamonds glinting in the rain still coming down from what sprinklers were intact. Getting around a collapsed metal gate took precious seconds he didnt have, and then he stumbled upon a group of agents with various injuries, some worse than others. A dog hunched over its master, whining mournfully and periodically pacing away as if trying to decide whether to go for help or stay.

  An agent turned and waved Ty over. “We need EMTs,” the man said, his voice overloud. He pointed down at the woman in an FBI windbreaker. She grimaced, the soot streaks on her face emphasizing how she was white with pain, holding onto her broken leg while another agent tried to splint it to hold it still.

  Ty took out his phone, though he was certain paramedics had already been called and were right behind him. He moved toward them as he made the call anyway. Why hadnt he done that first? Or at least told someone else to do it? He wasnt thinking clearly.

  “How many?” Ty asked the man, who seemed unharmed. “Four down here, two unaccounted for. They were in the store, checking the back rooms. ” The man pointed to a couple of agents frantically laboring to push aside burning debris where some interior walls had collapsed in. “They were closer to it,” he said, dread clear in his voice.

  Ty moved to help and ended up ordering one of them to head toward the exit because his head was split open and bleeding. His training was kicking in, so he wasnt panicking about Zane just yet. He knew that later, when the adrenaline wore off, he would be sick no matter what happened.

  They moved chunks of plaster and torn wood, tossing them to the side as they dug around. “Garrett!” Ty called again as soon as theyd made a dent in it. Later, he wouldnt remember how much time had passed.

  Some of the plasterboard on the floor shifted further in, and the other guy digging yanked it off to reveal an unconscious agent with terrible burns on her face and hands. He knelt down and checked her neck and back, then swung her into his arms before nodding at Ty to keep going, then heading out of the ruined storefront.

  Ty stuck his head into the hole theyd made, but there was nothing else in there but more plaster and cement block. “Fuck,” Ty breathed as he pulled back out and looked around a little wildly. Out in the concourse, the way he had come, he could see two firemen in their bulky yellow suits working their way toward him. It had been at least six minutes, then, counting on standard response time. It seemed like it had been so much longer. A lifetime longer. Ty turned and looked deeper into the store filled with dull smoke and shifting shadows.

  “Garrett!” he yelled as he headed that way. It was dark where the lights had all been blown out, and most of the debris was unidentifiable. He ducked under a fallen ceiling support, forced to crawl across the soaked carpet to get under it.

  The rubble blocked so much of the floor that he had to climb on it rather than pushing it aside. As he got closer to the back, the smoke cleared, blown by a cold breeze from the outside. And then he saw it: a bright splotch of red against a charred gray wall. The blood streaked in vertical lines like someone had tried to wipe it down the wall, and a thick, scorch-marked metal door lay at an angle under it, blocking the corner.

  But one long leg ending in a familiar dress shoe extended out of the mess of splintered particle board into what used to be the entrance to the storeroom.

  “Zane,” Ty gasped as the feeling in his entire body seeped away. He moved as fast as he could, batting away the light pieces of wallboard and shoving the still-hot metal door over and out of the way. Ty knelt beside him. “Zane?” he whispered. His voice wavered as he ran his hand over Zanes face.

  He wasnt cut up or burned; the metal door had saved him from the explosion. One shoe was scorched, but even the laces were still intact. He didnt look like he was injured at all, other than the garish bloodstain on the wall behind him from his impact and slide to the floor under the door that had shielded him from the blast.

  But Zane didnt move, didnt twitch, didnt open his eyes when Ty tapped his cheek. Nothing.

  Tys stomach turned. He pressed his fingers to Zanes neck, feeling for a pulse. His other hand ran through Zanes hair as he did so. The pulse was there. Ty gasped in relief, leaned down, and pressed his lips to Zanes forehead, heedless of who might see, and then he looked back into the store for help. He knew without a doubt he couldnt carry Zane out of there.

  “Hey!” he called as he saw a beam of light playing through the swirling smoke. “Man down!” he called to the fireman desperately. As the fireman came closer, hacking his way through the wreckage to clear a path for his retreat, Ty recognized him just by his size.

  “I could kiss you, man,” he told the large black man he knew only as Tank. The man handed his axe to the other fireman and knelt down at Zanes other side.

  “Not on a first date,” Tank answere
d. He checked Zane over quickly for injuries, then hefted him onto his thick shoulders with a grunt. “You hurt?” he asked. Ty shook his head. “Shake a leg, then, Bulldog. Buildings not stable,” he said as he turned and carried Zane into the smoke.

  Ty stood there, unable to make himself move. His entire body shook as he watched them disappear.

  The other fireman gripped his arm. “Come on. We gotta get out of here,” he said. “The ceilings starting to come down. ”

  Ty nodded and forced his feet to move. He followed the man along the path Tank had cut through the devastation. By the time he got out of the building—wet, filthy, half-blind, and coughing—the ambulances had cleared out and the firemen were trying to put out what was left of the flames.

  What remained were the television cameras. Reporters saw him as he emerged, and Ty could see the recognition sweep through them as he wiped the soot off his face. They began shouting questions over the barrier that had been hastily set up.

  Ty ignored them and stalked toward the milling emergency workers. “Hey,” Ty called out to a young agent in a pristine windbreaker standing and staring at the building. The kid looked at him with wide eyes, apparently recognizing him. Ty had earned a reputation with the rookies, not necessarily by deed but through word of mouth. They were all too terrified of him to realize most of the stories were exaggerated. Right now Ty didnt care. “Whered they take the wounded?” he demanded.

  “Uh, I—”

  “Where?” Ty shouted angrily.

  “UMMC,” the kid stammered.

  “Youre driving,” Ty told him as he pointed at Zanes truck.

  Chapter Six

  I T FELT like it took forever to get through traffic to the University of Maryland Medical Center, even though it wasnt even a mile away from the Inner Harbor. On the ride there, Ty sat tense and silent in the seat next to the rookie he didnt know and didnt give a shit about right then. When they arrived, Ty tersely told the kid to head back to the office and that hed pick up the keys later. Despite the rookies stunned gape, Ty jogged inside the ER without a glance back.

  He was at the information desk asking for Zanes location and status when he heard a familiar voice behind him.

  “Grady, Im glad to see you. ” McCoy stood behind him, looking somber and worn.

  Ty turned in surprise, but any formal greetings to his immediate superior were lost on him. “Have you seen him, Mac? Is he okay?” McCoy slid his hands into his pants pockets and tipped his head to one side before answering in a tired voice, “I dont know anything yet. I just got here. Where were you during all of this?”

  “I was in the truck, sick from a Vicodin I took this morning,” Ty answered immediately. It didnt even cross his mind to gloss it over. McCoys eyebrow jumped, but he didnt otherwise comment. “Ive got six agents in this hospital tonight, Grady. Are you going to be able to work?” he asked bluntly.

  Ty nodded jerkily. McCoy just looked at him, not breaking eye contact. “Ill do whatever you need,” Ty insisted in a hoarse voice. McCoy nodded slowly. “For right now, I need you to go home. ” He raised a hand when Ty opened his mouth to question him. “Seriously. You look like you just got spit out by a giant drooling dog, and Ive got to muster together a group to investigate what happened. ”

  Ty looked down at himself in consternation. He didnt look that bad. “But I can help—” “Not when youre being targeted. I cant afford to put a team on you to protect you, so I want you off the radar. This may have been a second attempt, for all we know. ” He turned his chin as an agent appeared at his elbow and murmured in his ear. McCoy turned his eyes back to Ty. “All right. Theyre asking for you in the Shock Trauma Center. Fifth floor. Get me a status report, then go the hell home. Do not sit here with Garrett and make yourself and him a target, understood?”

  “Yes, sir,” Ty said mutinously. “Anything else?” He wanted to dart to the elevator and get up there as fast as he could, but he had to at least pretend he still gave a shit about the case.

  “Go on,” McCoy answered, nodding his head toward the elevator. Then he started talking with the other agent, who held an armful of file folders.

  Tys mind whirred the entire ride up the elevator, throwing all sorts of grim scenarios at him that he tried hard to ignore. Hed no sooner gotten to the nurses station than he heard his name again.

  “Special Agent Grady?”

  Ty turned to meet the doctor whod called his name, abject terror clogging his throat. The doctor was a younger man despite his nearly white hair, and he projected an air of knowledge and experience around him. “Im Dr. Jameson,” he said, holding out his hand. “An agent downstairs called up to say you were on your way. ”

  Ty shook his hand automatically, not bothering to try to be polite. “Special Agent Garrett has you listed as his emergency contact. Does he have any family? Wife or children?” Jameson asked, his voice dropping to a tone that was probably supposed to be soothing.

  Tys mouth went completely dry, and he had to work just to swallow hard enough to get words out. “He has family in Texas,” he said hoarsely.

  The doctor nodded. “His next of kin will need to be notified, of course. ” Ty stared at the man, trying to take in what he was implying as he felt tunnel vision threatening. It just wasnt making it through. He opened his mouth to respond but couldnt manage it.

  “Special Agent Grady? Are you all right?” Jameson asked in concern. “I was told you werent injured. Your partner will need someone with him until his family can arrive. ”

  Ty closed his eyes and cocked his head to one side, trying to maintain control for just a little while longer. “You saying hes alive?” he managed to ask shakily.

  Jamesons jaw dropped. It would have been comical under other circumstances. “Im so sorry—I thought youd already been informed. Special Agent Garrett is in serious but stable condition. ”
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