Tried amp true, p.12
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       Tried & True, p.12
 

         Part #10 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
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  “You’re going to want to step outside for this, Dexter.”

  “I said I’m not going anywhere.”

  Wolf studied him, and Dex was stunned by the look of concern that came into Wolf’s eyes. Wait, was it concern or something else? Before Dex could figure it out, Wolf reached inside his suit jacket and removed a familiar leather wrap. He placed it on the table and unrolled it. Dex sucked in a sharp breath, his blood turning to ice at the sight of the long thin needles.

  Dex bolted for the door. He yanked it open, ignoring Sloane and everyone else. Dex took off down the hall, Sloane calling after him, but he didn’t stop until his stomach decided to empty itself of what little was in there. He used the wall to support himself as he doubled over, his whole body shaking as he threw up to the sound of Fred’s screams. Oh God. He’d screamed like that once.

  A gentle hand came to rest on his back, and Sloane handed him a tissue. Dex wiped his mouth, tears streaming down his cheeks as it all flooded back. The excruciating pain, the terror, the desperation as he’d clung to the hope he’d survive to see Sloane and his family again.

  “I’m so fucking stupid,” he croaked. “I asked for this. I brought him here to do this and convinced myself I had the balls to follow through, but I couldn’t…. Just seeing those needles again…. I couldn’t stay in there.” A sob tore through him, and Sloane wrapped Dex up in his strong arms. Dex buried his face against Sloane’s chest as Sloane pressed his cheek to Dex’s hair and tightened his hold on Dex.

  “Dex, you’re not stupid. There was no telling what methods Wolf would use. After what you went through, no one expects you to be in there, and before you think this reflects on you or your ability to become a TIN operative, you’re not Wolf. Sparks knows that. Whatever training Wolf may have received to do what he does, doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for us.” Sloane pulled back and cupped Dex’s face. “You’re a good man, Dex, with the biggest heart of anyone I know. You’re strong. Stronger than you give yourself credit for.” He wiped the tears from Dex’s cheeks with his thumb. “Feeling the way you do, not being in there, does not for one fucking second invalidate your conviction to find your father. Do you hear me?”

  Dex nodded. He couldn’t help his small smile as he wrapped his hands around Sloane’s wrists, his voice quiet when he spoke. “You know me so well.”

  “So I’ve been saying,” Sloane replied, placing a gentle kiss on Dex’s forehead. “I’m right here, Dex, and I’m with you every step of the way.”

  “Dex?”

  Dex wiped at his eyes and stepped out from behind Sloane to see Wolf standing outside the room.

  “I believe he’s ready to give you some answers.”

  There was no going back now. Dex understood what Austen had been trying to tell him. What Sparks had warned him of on several occasions. This wasn’t a new skill Wolf picked up after he went rogue. This was a skillset TIN had trained him with, one he clearly had experience using to do what needed to be done. How many times had Dex condemned Sparks’s actions? Just the other day, she’d asked him how far he was willing to go to protect those he cared about. He’d been quick to stand on his soapbox, criticizing TIN and their methods. He’d been so naïve. Now look at him. Despite what Sloane said, Dex had brought in a killer to do to Fred what had been done to him. What kind of man did that make him? What did it say about him that this was the path he’d chosen? Maybe Sloane was wrong. Maybe he and Wolf weren’t all that different.

  “Stop.”

  Sloane’s harsh tone snapped Dex out of his thoughts, and he blinked up at Sloane, his chest tight at the heartache in Sloane’s warm amber eyes.

  “I mean it, Dex. You two are nothing alike, and neither are the situations that led Wolf to you and this guy. That mercenary in there may not have given the order to kill your parents, but he works for the men who did. He chose to cause pain and misery, to kidnap people, make innocent people suffer. Maybe not all those people were innocent, but some were. Hudson is. Your parents were. They fought for what was right. Maybe they got in over their heads, but they didn’t deserve to die for it. They shouldn’t have been ripped from your life, from Tony’s life. You did nothing to bring on what Wolf did to you, but this guy?” Sloane thrust a finger behind him to the room where Fred was. “If he hadn’t been caught, he would have kept on hurting and killing. It’s time for him to pay for what he’s done.”

  Dex nodded. Sloane was right. The words may have been difficult to hear, but everything Sloane said was true. Dex thought about his parents, about how the reason they weren’t going to be at his wedding was sitting in that room. How if he didn’t get some answers, he was going to lose someone else he loved. He couldn’t let that happen.

  “You’re right.” Dex headed down the corridor to where Wolf stood. “I’m ready.” And this time, he had no intention of backing out.

  Wolf hesitated, looking as if he were going to say something, but instead turned and walked into the room. Dex followed, closing the door behind him. He was surprised to find the needles gone. Glancing at Wolf, Dex expected a teasing comment or snide remark, but received neither. Wolf stood quietly with his gloved hands clasped in front of him.

  Dex focused his attention on Fred, who was violently shaking. “Give me something, Fred.”

  “The doctor,” Fred replied, his voice hoarse from the screaming. Saliva dripped from his bloodied mouth, his tears mixing with the fluids on his face. “We were going to take the doctor to the theater.”

  “Keep going,” Dex insisted.

  “We… were… taking him… to an abandoned theater. In Borough Park. From there we’d keep moving him around the city until it was time to put him on a boat.”

  “Where were you going to move him after the theater?” Dex asked.

  Fred shook his head, his entire body shivering uncontrollably and what was left of his teeth chattering. “I don’t know. We’d receive a message the night before the move and would have to get him there by morning. Same thing would happen the next night. The guys are scheduled to change shifts every night, so no one knows where we’d been before that night or where we’re going the next night.”

  “Except for you,” Dex said. “You weren’t going anywhere. That’s why you had that nifty pill in your tooth.”

  Fred nodded.

  “Were the rest of the locations likely to be abandoned?”

  “Yeah. We use a lot of abandoned places because of how many there are. Most of them are condemned, full of crackheads or feral Therians. No one goes in those places, especially at night.”

  “Except you guys.”

  Wolf stepped up beside him. “You said ‘put him on a boat.’ Where?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “I’m getting tired of that reply, Fred.” Wolf grabbed a power drill from the toolbox, then walked around the table. He placed it to Fred’s leg.

  “I swear! I don’t know! Again, we’d get told right before, and then we’d move out. It’s usually a shipping yard. We use containers to smuggle them out of the country.”

  Dex narrowed his eyes. “Them?”

  “Anyone the Makhai needs to make disappear.”

  “Why did you try to kidnap Hudson?” Wolf asked.

  Fred sneered at him. “They want their attack dog back.”

  “Oh, I don’t like being called a dog, Fred. It upsets me.” Wolf pressed the power drill button, and an agonized cry tore from Fred’s throat.

  “Fuck’s sake, Wolf,” Dex growled.

  Wolf shrugged. He turned his attention back to Fred. “Explain.”

  “They wanted someone with your skills under their thumb, and figured it was also good revenge for you reneging on your contract to kill Agent Daley. Two birds with one stone.”

  “And what exactly did they wish to do with my skills?”

  “They….” Fred swallowed hard. He looked from Wolf to Dex and back. “After they got what they wanted from Sparks, they planned to use your brother to get you to torture Sergeant Maddo
ck and then kill him.”

  Dex’s blood ran cold. They were going to kill Tony anyway. What the hell was he thinking? Of course they were going to kill Tony. The Makhai wasn’t going to just let him loose, especially after they got what they wanted. No, they’d string Sparks along until the damage to TIN was done and the Makhai was well and truly in control, and then they’d kill Tony.

  “I swear, that’s all I know. Please.”

  Wolf nodded. “I believe you, Fred.” He placed the power drill in the toolbox, then pulled out his gun and shot Fred in the head.

  Dex stared at him. “What the fuck did you just do?”

  Wolf returned his gun to the holster inside his jacket. “Removed a loose end, Dexter. What were you planning on doing? Arresting him? You certainly couldn’t hand him over to TIN, not with the Makhai on the inside. He had no more information. You arrest him, and the Makhai would simply find him and do what I just did, only make it look like he’d done it to himself. I saved the city time and money. Lucky for you, you happen to have the Chief Medical Examiner just outside.”

  Wolf opened the door, and Dex ran after him.

  Damn it, he should have known Wolf wasn’t going to just walk away from Fred. He’d probably made the decision to kill the guy from the moment he’d agreed to interrogate him. Hell, maybe that was why he’d agreed to this whole thing, knowing that at the end he could end the guy’s life. How much killing had Wolf done to feel no remorse for his actions? He didn’t think twice about pulling the trigger and planting a bullet in Fred. Was that what TIN expected from Dex? From Sloane? Dex quickly shook those thoughts from his head. Right now, the only thing that mattered was finding his father. Everything else would have to wait.

  “WHAT HAPPENED?” Sloane asked the moment Wolf and Dex emerged from the interrogation room. The look on Dex’s face said it wasn’t good. Damn it. Sloane had hoped that son of a bitch would give them something. One lead. They just needed a place to start.

  “We got a lead,” Dex said somberly, “but it’s not much. I doubt they’ve taken Tony to where they were going to take Hudson, but we need to check it out anyway. They tried to kidnap Hudson so Wolf would do what they wanted.”

  “Which was what?” Hudson asked.

  “After they got what they wanted from Sparks, they were going to get him to torture my dad and then kill him.”

  Sloane balled his hands into fists at his sides and told himself to breathe.

  “And we’re just going to let him walk out of here?” Ash asked, pointing to Wolf. “What if, God forbid, they manage to get their hands on Hudson? You really think Wolf isn’t going to do exactly what they want him to do?”

  Hudson looked horrified. He turned to his brother. “You will do nothing of the sort.”

  Wolf arched an eyebrow at him. His expression turned dark. “You expect me to do what? Stand by and allow them to kill you?”

  “You honestly believe they won’t kill me anyway? That they’ll hold up their side of the deal? Like they plan to do with Sergeant Maddock? I will not be the source of someone else’s grief, Alfie! Do you understand me?”

  “And who bloody said I’d leave the decision to you?” Wolf growled at Hudson, crowding him menacingly.

  Hudson held his head high. “You won’t have a choice.” There was no mistaking the conviction in Hudson’s voice.

  Wolf stared at him. “What are you saying?”

  “I will not allow myself to be used to hurt someone I care about. Perhaps you forget who I am. Death is not your specialty alone, brother.”

  “You wouldn’t dare.”

  “Try me.”

  Wolf turned to Seb. “Talk some sense into your bloody husband, will you?”

  Seb swallowed hard, pain in his eyes. “I wish I could.”

  “What?”

  “Come on, Wolf. You really think he’s going to listen? If it was me, and I knew someone was going to use me to hurt Hudson, or my brothers… I’d do the same.”

  Wolf looked around at everyone and their determined expressions. “I’m surrounded by fucking martyrs. Unbelievable.”

  “Are you saying you wouldn’t do the same?” Dex asked. He stepped up to Wolf and put two fingers to the sides of his temple. It took everything Sloane had not to grab him and move him away from that asshole. “Someone puts a gun to your head and says to Hudson, ‘you kill your friends, or your brother dies,’ what do you do? Do you let him do it, knowing what it will do to him? Knowing there’s a chance he’s going to turn into you?”

  Wolf stilled. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. When he opened them, he took hold of Dex’s fingers, tucked them under his hand, and brought Dex’s hand to his lips for a kiss. Dex arched an eyebrow at him. What the hell was this guy’s deal? He was always flirting with Dex or finding an excuse to touch him. It drove Sloane, and his Felid half, insane.

  “You’re a very dangerous man, Dexter. I imagine you would be very bad for my reputation.” He released Dex and headed for the exit. “You have your answers. I would move quickly.”

  “What are you going to do?” Dex called out after him.

  “Seeing as how my little brother has some very stupid ideas knocking around that annoying brain of his, I’m going to do what I do best. Find those who do not wish to be found. I’ll be in touch. Keep the little wanker safe, will you?” He turned and winked at his brother. “Have fun cleaning up my mess for once.”

  “What’s he on about?” Hudson turned to Dex.

  “Wolf shot Fred. In the head.”

  Sloane groaned, and Hudson let out a slew of curses, but by the time he turned to look for Wolf, he was gone.

  Dex put a hand on Hudson’s shoulder. “We gotta go. You okay to handle this?”

  “Yes. I’ll get Nina to help.”

  “Okay.” Sloane turned to Seb. “You stay with him. The only people we trust are family. Everyone else is considered a possible threat. You need backup.”

  “I’ll get Dom and Rafe,” Seb replied without hesitation.

  Sloane nodded. He agreed with Seb’s choice. Dom could be trusted, and Rafe was a given. Also, Rafe was just as fierce as Seb, if not more. He’d be one hell of an obstacle to get through if Seb went down. “We’ll keep you posted. Destructive Delta, we’re moving out.” Sloane led his team down the corridor toward the exit, while Dex filled him in on the information they obtained before Wolf put a bullet in Fred’s head. They joined up with Rosa, Letty, and Calvin, and together they made for the elevator and headed up to the garage where the BearCat was parked. Sloane opened the back doors, and everyone took their positions except for Dex, who grabbed a bottled water from the mini fridge, rinsed his mouth out, and spit it out into the small trash bin inside one of the compartments. Taking the bottle with him, he took a seat on the bench. Hobbs got behind the wheel, with Calvin buckling up in the passenger side. Cael took a seat behind the security console, and everyone else took the bench. They buckled up, and Hobbs got them moving.

  “Where are we heading?” Cael asked.

  “Queens,” Sloane replied. Dex shifted beside him, and Sloane quickly removed his phone from his pocket. He held it up so everyone could see it, then turned it off. He tapped his earpiece, the light turning from blue to red. Everyone pulled out their phones and did the same. Hobbs handed his phone to Calvin. Cael turned and powered down the security console. Once everyone’s earpiece was off, Sloane spoke up. “No tech,” Sloane reminded them. “We gotta go dark until we get some tech the Makhai can’t use against us. No cell phones, no security console, no earpieces, no GPS, nothing. Hobbs, we’re heading for Brooklyn. Off Eleventh Avenue and Forty-Sixth Street.”

  “Wow,” Ash said with a whistle. “That’s really specific, bro. How do you know where it is?”

  Sloane shrugged and looked down at his gloved hands. “I know the area really well. I spent a lot of nights driving aimlessly through the streets. It’s near Green-Wood Cemetery.” Sloane gave Dex a small smile. “That’s where Gabe is buried.”

&n
bsp; “You okay?” Dex put his arm around Sloane, and Sloane kissed his cheek.

  “I am, sweetheart. I promise.” It was the truth. Dex had played a major role in helping Sloane heal, and although he still missed Gabe, he was now able to draw fond memories rather than painful tragic ones.

  They were making good time, despite traffic, and needed to get in there before the sun set. Not that he could recall the place having any windows. The old theater had been bustling with activity back in the twenties and had held some pretty epic concerts up until the seventies when the neighborhood got tired of the noise. Sadly, the place was falling apart. It had been owned by a furniture company once and used for storage. It was then sold to another furniture company, which also used it for storage. Considering the Makhai had planned to use it, even if it was for one evening, it most likely had been abandoned for some time.

  Hobbs drove up Eleventh Avenue and made a left on Forty-Sixth Street. The old brick building looked pretty much like it had the last time Sloane had seen it, with the addition of some more scaffolding along the front and side. Back when he’d aimlessly roamed these streets, he’d felt a tinge of sadness whenever he’d gone by the old theater. Its façade showed remnants of elegant molding, and Sloane couldn’t help but wonder what she must have looked like in her heyday. Now the building looked much like the hundreds of other abandoned places around the city, with its heavily boarded-up entrances and mismatched brickwork where windows had once been.

  The BearCat came to a stop beside the theater, and Sloane unbuckled his belt. “Let’s try and get in there as quietly as possible. We don’t know what we’re walking into. Our priority is the Sarge. Once we’re inside, turn your coms on and stay safe. Ready?”

  Everyone nodded. They secured their helmets, then grabbed their rifles and shields. Sloane opened the back doors and jumped out. He waited for the rest of his team and then closed the doors. They fell into formation and quickly ran under the scaffolding. There were plenty of vans and commercial vehicles parked in the area, thanks to the lumberyard across the street and the surrounding businesses.

  “It looks like it’s scheduled to be demolished. I saw a banner back there,” Cael said.

  “That would explain why the Makhai picked it. They only needed it for one night.” Sloane went straight for the back. It was very unlikely the Makhai were going to camp out on the other side of the building, which had been converted into a storefront some time ago, complete with large glass windows. No, if the Makhai were here, they would be on the other side of the wall, where the rest of the theater remained untouched. They reached a set of heavy metal doors. “Ash, help me out here.” Ash joined him, and Sloane took hold of one door while Ash took the other. “Lift and pull.” They did, and the doors opened. They exchanged glances.

  “Well, that’s a good sign,” Ash murmured before returning to formation. Sloane motioned for them to follow, and he raised his rifle, keeping an eye out for any movement as they entered the makeshift alley. More scaffolding and an aluminum roof had been placed between the buildings, with heavy mesh and a string of lightbulbs. Sloane would hazard a guess that this was the entrance the demolition crew intended to use before they brought the whole thing down. To his left there was another set of double doors. This one wasn’t locked either. The hairs on the back of Sloane’s neck stood on end as he reached for the handle.

  “What’s wrong?” Dex asked from behind him.

  “I don’t know,” he said. “Something doesn’t feel right.” It wasn’t just the convenience of finding no locks on either set of doors. His gut was telling him something was off. He checked around the doors, the hinges, the frame, looking for any trip wires or any evidence of something suspicious, but he found nothing.

  “Do you want to find another way in?” Dex asked.

  Sloane shook his head. “Everyone, stand back.” Gripping the handle tight, he carefully inched the door open. Nothing. He opened it and motioned for Hobbs to come forward and check it out.

  Hobbs stepped in, rifle at the ready. He quickly checked the area, his sharp eyes not missing anything. Hobbs knew exactly what to look for. He inspected the walls, the ceiling, the floor, checked the dust, the splintered boards, everywhere. He sniffed the air and then turned to Sloane, shaking his head.

  “Okay.” Sloane nodded, and Hobbs rejoined the formation. “Area’s clear,” Sloane said, motioning for his team to follow. They headed through the dilapidated corridor, the walls plastered with old fliers and posters, the floor still littered with old ticket stubs and candy wrappers. Sloane held his rifle at the ready, his Therian vision helping him see into the shadows. He listened for any sounds that shouldn’t be there. So far there was no movement. They reached the door that led out into the orchestra level of the theater, and Sloane turned. He signaled for Ash, Letty, Hobbs, and Calvin to take the stairs up to the balcony level. If there was any trouble down below, he wanted his sniper up there with a full view of everything and everyone. Ash, Letty, and Hobbs would provide cover for Calvin, should he need it. The rest of the team would go in with Sloane.

  The old blue doors had seen better days. They were rotting, the paint crackled and chipped. Pieces of the decorative molding had broken off over the years. Sloane took hold of one handle and motioned for Dex to take the other. He mouthed the words “on three,” and Dex nodded.

  Sloane counted down on his fingers, and on three, they opened the doors with a loud creak. Sloane cringed, but there was no way around it. This place had been built in the twenties and abandoned decades ago. What was left of it was crumbling around them. Sloane quickly took the lead once more, and the rest of the team entered behind him and spread out into the orchestra pit filled with broken furniture, debris, and empty boxes. They each checked a section, making sure there was no one hiding behind the mountains of rubble and garbage. Each one of his teammates came back with the same reply. The area was clear.

  “Sloane.”

  Dex’s tone had Sloane running over, and he gently put his hand on Dex’s shoulder when he saw the weathered black leather bomber jacket hanging from the back of a bloodstained chair.

  “That’s Tony’s,” Dex said, reaching out to take the jacket, then hesitating. There was a note sticking out of the front breast pocket. Dex pulled it out and opened it for them to read.

  Predictable. Nice try. We’ll say hi to dad for you.

  Dex crushed the paper in his hand. Before he could reply, Ash shouted from the balcony.

 
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