Cursing the cold, Mac Ramsey hunched his shoulders and flipped the collar of his jacket up, trying to keep the frozen sleet from coming into contact with the bare skin of his neck. Damn unseasonable weather, who could believe that a week ago it had been masquerading as summer now... Now the temperature had dipped past the freezing mark, sending most sane people home to their warm homes and cozy beds.
But then, people who knew Mac nowadays weren't quite sure if he was sane or not.
That aside, the teenage thief wouldn't normally be out on a night like this except for the fact that the damn police had managed to track down the warehouse he and the rest of the gang had been using as a clearing depot and a place to crash and were even now sifting through the junk that had been left there when everyone cleared out.
So, it was back on the street. All in all not a very appealing prospect, especially on a night like this. He had money, that wasn't the issue. The problem was that any decent hotel would have clerks who asked questions and the prospect of crashing at one of the low end fleabags just didn't do much, if anything, for him.
The wind gusted again, and Mac pulled the heavy brown leather tighter around his torso, mulling over his options. A muted click accompanied this act as he tapped the silver barbell that pierced his tongue against his upper teeth, a habit he'd fallen into since getting the piercing several months before. Waking up feeling as if his tongue was going to swell out of his mouth was not an experience Mac wanted to relive, but once it had healed, he'd found it to be entertaining if nothing else and, as it had been an initiation rite, it had been unavoidable.
The past six months hadn't been easy, even with the cache Li Ann had left him, and the Mac Ramsey who sat astride the gleaming black Ducati motorcycle was a far cry from the worldly yet still innocent teen who had left his hotel room looking for adventure. Gone were the fashionable clothes, the carefully styled hair, and the laid back attitude. Mac now wore whatever was handy, generally denims and flannels, his hair curled over his forehead and ears, hiding the three silver hoops dangling from his right lobe, and his attitude could best be described as suicidal.
In one night he'd lost everything that made up his life, and the one he had been scrambling to build now revolved around one thing - revenge. A passing thought made Mac grin, and he kick-started the motorcycle, knowing exactly where he was going.
Traffic was light, and he made it out to Queen's Quay in under fifteen minutes even if he was a good deal colder and wetter when he arrived then when he had started the journey. Rolling the bike into the underground parking garage, the thief wasted no time in bypassing the elevator security and sliding inside, standing purposefully away from the walls.
A shudder that had nothing to do with the damp and chill that clung to him passed through the Mac's tall, rangy body and he forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand, not on the flashes of memory that kept threatening to overtake him. Most of that night was a blur, but Mac vividly remembered being pushed against the side of this compartment and kissed until his knees gave out.
"Stop it," he growled to himself, angered because of the feelings of arousal that threatened to claim him even now, this long after the event. "Fucker was a cop trying to make a bust who just decided to get a little extra in. Well, now he can give me back some."
Sporadic surveillance of the condo as well as clandestine record checks had let Mac know that Vic the vice cop didn't live at this address full time, in fact that he rarely, if ever, frequented this area. That was fine with Mac, the last thing he wanted to do was to run into Victor Mansfield, but if he did... The elevator ground to a halt and the thief indulged himself in a brief fantasy of kicking the older man's ass from one side of his apartment to the other - and then off the balcony.
Vic had no idea why he was here. Fuck, he'd been ready to sell this place a few times. More than ready. Had even gone so far as having papers drawn up, but he could never bring himself to sign on the dotted line.
How pathetic was that? Holding on to a place that he couldn't stand - hated more than he hated himself - just because it was all that he had left of his night with Mac. Mac Ramsey - a sixteen year old kid who'd become his devil and his savior.
The stupid ass punk haunted Vic's every sleeping moment and most of his waking. Mansfield had lost count of the number of sleepless nights over the past six months. Nights when he tore himself apart for what he'd done. Nights when the only thing that had stopped him from eating a bullet was the desire to make that bitch Rictor pay for ruining the life of an innocent kid. Screw what she'd done to him. He deserved it and he knew it.
But Mac, his pretty baby had been completely innocent. So sweetly giving - so hot and vibrant under him, around him, working his way into Vic's high security heart without even knowing it. And what had the kid gotten for his innocent trust of Victor? Mac's father was killed while out looking for him, his sister had turned up dead two months ago, and Michael Tang had put a price on his own brother's head - all because Mac had slept with a man he didn't even know was a cop until it was too late.
So here was Vic, well on his way to becoming a burnt out and bitter husk of a man. When he wasn't working - Narcotics now, he'd gotten the fuck out of Vice once he'd come off his month long suspension for disobeying Rictor's orders - he was working his way through a bottle. Didn't matter what it was, just so long as it dulled the pain enough to let him sleep.
The bottle of tequila in his hand had been full when he'd forced himself to walk through the door of his own personal purgatory. It was now almost three-quarters empty. The burn was pleasant, an almost enjoyable pain going down.
He'd thrown the doors to the balcony wide open to help keep him awake when he'd started drinking.
Vic's face had more than a few days' stubble on it, not that he cared, and his jeans had been through more than a few wars and lost - holes in the knees and the seams white with stress. His tee shirt, which had once hugged a muscular body, was now loose from weight loss, and grungy from lack of care. The circles under his eyes were cavernous and almost midnight blue in color - another sign of lack of sleep, and there were stress lines etched into his forehead.
"Six months tonight I loved you Mac Ramsey," he whispered into the frigid darkness. "Six months tomorrow that bitch destroyed you. Fuck I want her dead. I want her to rot in hell!" He snarled, hurling the bottle at the wall, listening to the satisfying sound of glass shattering - just like his life. Flinging himself back on the couch he closed his eyes, "Gotta stay awake - at least gotta shut the fucking doors so I don't freeze to death," he mumbled, his eyes closing involuntarily. Wouldn't do to end up dead before he could find a way to destroy Rictor. He was asleep in minutes.
Mac had been so prepared to walk into a warm apartment that when he bypassed the electronic lock and opened the door, the frigid air that greeted him came as a complete shock.
"Fuck!" the teen exclaimed, shutting the door behind him and striding across the room to close the sliding glass door, sealing the cold out and the heat in. "What the..." he muttered, turning slowly and scanning the room as he realized he had just made a stupid and potentially deadly error.
No motion greeted his slow surveillance of the living room, and there was no noise audible except the incessant drone of the heater striving to drive the damp chill from the air. Mac relaxed imperceptibly, then almost jumped out of his skin when a raspy snore split the air.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" he swore, already halfway to the door before it hit him that whoever had made the noise wasn't moving from their position on the couch.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm his racing heart, Mac crept closer, going against his better judgment to satisfy his curiosity. The smell of alcohol grew stronger the closer he got to the sofa and the thief's mouth twisted in an expression of disgust as he leaned in and got a face-full of the fumes.
"Mansfield..." The word was breathed out almost gleefully, and Mac's eyes lit up at the thought of what had basically been dropped in his lap to do with as he pleased. Victor the vice cop. Asleep. Drunk. And all his.
Shoving aside the part of him that wanted to be concerned over the older man's haggard appearance, and the part that wanted to relive the events of half a year before, Mac leaned closer, running a finger over the cop's stubbled jaw.
Dead to the world - and cold too.
After waging a momentary internal war, Mac went in search of a blanket, purposefully avoiding the master bedroom as he looked. No way was he going in there if he could help it, just being here was bad enough as it was without that.
Dropping the quilted throw he'd found over Victor's prone form, Mac retreated to the overstuffed chair opposite it, contemplating his next move as he waited for the other man to wake up and face what he had coming.
Vic wasn't sure of what had dragged him from his drunken stupor until he remembered the last time he'd felt this prickling sensation at the back of his neck. Not bothering to open his eyes he growled out softly. "I told you last time you heartless blood-sucking bitch, that if I ever caught you sniffing around me again they wouldn't be able to find enough of you to identify the body. You've already ruined the kid's life, then there's the lovely little side-trip through hell I get to live every day, you've had more than your pound of my flesh Rictor - ain't gonna get anymore. So get. The fuck. Out!"
When he didn't hear movement, Vic slowly turned his head and opened his eyes. And decided that maybe he'd finally died and gotten the real hell he deserved. "Mac... baby?" he managed to choke out, staring at someone who looked like Mac, yet was tougher, harder, a more sinister copy of the sweet young man who'd broken through his defenses six months ago. Finally unable to bear the menacing stare from this tormenting vision/apparition, he rolled away, trying to block out those laser sharp eyes. "Not real, never real," the cop moaned, pressing his face into the back of the couch.
"Oh I'm real all right," the younger man snarled, dragging his hiking boots from the coffee table and leaning in, his fingers twitching in anticipation of wrapping around the older man's neck. "You'll find out just how real if you call me 'baby' again, Detective Mansfield."
Mac had expected the white-hot anger that swept through him at the sound of the cop's voice, but what he hadn't anticipated was the bone-jarring arousal that flooded him at the same time. Somehow that rough, velvety voice had invaded his dreams, twining itself with whatever pleasurable ones he'd managed to have since his life had been ripped apart, etching itself into his consciousness.
His cock twitched within the confines of his jeans, a fact that only goaded Mac on in the course he was taking - the one that included ignoring everything the other man said as a lie. "What? No kids to pick up tonight or your boss decide you look too ratty for that now and put you out to pasture?"
"M-Mac?" Victor gasped almost inaudibly. No, it couldn't be - but oh God it sounded like him, it was Mac's voice, yet harsher, crueler. The venomous words registered dimly and were accepted as being deserved. He owed this kid... so much.
Slowly rolling onto his back, Vic stared up at the ceiling. He wouldn't, couldn't look Mac in the eye. "Don't work for her anymore," he mumbled softly. "When I wouldn't turn over she suspended me and tried to have me brought up on charges. IA had a field day. I switched to Narcotics once they gave me my badge back, not that it mattered. Only one reason why I even stayed. . ." Revenge, he thought to himself, cold, bloody revenge.
"Poor baby." Mac's reply was filled with vitriol. "Though I suppose it does make getting those drugs you seem so fond of easier."
"What are you doing here, Mac?" Vic finally managed to choke out, not really expecting an answer. "What do you want?"
The younger man sneered at that, then flicked his tongue out over his lower lip, the stud that impaled it flashing in the dim lighting. "The list is long and varied, Vice-man, and exceedingly bloody." Noting that Victor still refused to look at him, Mac stood and went to rummage in the kitchen cabinets. "Don't you have any...ah!" He returned to the living room, brandishing a bottle of bourbon in his left hand. The young thief took a swig and grimaced at the taste, then licked his lips and took a seat on the edge of the coffee table, leaning in over Vic and eyeing him wickedly. "First and foremost would be giving you a taste of what fun I've had since our 'date'. You game?"
Vic wasn't sure he was, but... fuck how he'd missed the younger man. Not even a night and something about Mac Ramsey had found a home inside Victor. And it hurt. Bad.
Although Victor was willing to take the lion's share of the younger man's accusations and pain, there was one thing he wouldn't be blamed for. "I didn't drug you, Mac. I tried my hardest to see that you weren't, but the bitch overrode me and then decided to 'help' me along with it too. I didn't want... Fuck, who am I kidding here? I wanted you so bad from the moment I saw your picture that I let Rictor lead me around by the balls," Victor sighed before trying to knock the bourbon bottle out of the younger man's hands.
"And you're too fucking young to be drinking that stuff - especially in my house. Put it back!" It was only then that he noticed the glint of silver on Mac's lush, glistening tongue. Victor could only stare at the younger man in shocked dismay. "Oh, Mac - what have I done?" he almost sobbed, his breath catching, his eyes watering, and his throat constricting painfully. Before he could think, it slipped out. "Baby..."
"Don't. Call. Me. That." Mac's voice cracked with the strain of keeping it from trembling and he fisted his hand in Vic's shirt, dragging the other man closer to him, staring into his bloodshot eyes. "Don't ever call me that again or you'll think whatever your boss did to you was a fuckin' party compared to it."
The younger man's breathing was short and erratic and his dark eyes were wild and slightly unfocused as he shoved Vic back against the couch, then took a deliberate swig from the bottle he still held. "You aren't my father, Vic-tor - he's dead if you hadn't heard that choice bit of news - so don't act like you give a shit what I drink or where." Mac took another drink, letting his tongue play around the rim of the bottle and smirking to himself at the reaction it drew from the cop.
"You know, maybe I should thank you, man. Not many people get fucked, fucked over and then have their lives fucked up all in one day. It did teach me something though - people are willing to do just about anything for you if you give them what they want. It's pretty damn funny actually." The misery in Vic's eyes was a treat and Mac lapped it up, reveling in his ability to inflict pain on this man who had given him so much. Who gave a fuck if Vic hadn't had him drugged - if he was even telling the truth about it. He knew what was going on and had participated willingly and enthusiastically. Another memory breached, sending cascades of auditory and tactile ghosts over Mac's tightly strung nerves and he shuddered, banishing the feelings with another gulp of the harsh fire of the whiskey.
Six months of anger, bitterness and, until now, unacknowledged resentment seemed to coalesce in Victor at that moment. Before he'd realized it, he had slapped the bottle out of Mac's hand, hard, was sitting up and in the younger man's face. Vic didn't even notice the bourbon soaking into the oriental carpet that covered gleaming bleached wood floors, his attention was focused on the rebellious teen in front of him.
"Do you think that I wanted all of this Ramsey? That I wanted you? I'm a fucking cop for Christ's sake - and I used to be a damn good one until you and your happy little family decided to come to town. I had orders, kid," he sneered. "Orders to help bring down the godfather of an Asian criminal organization who was bringing contraband into the country. So I was supposed to set up his youngest son - the one who was known for almost every style of theft known to law enforcement - a criminal in his own right. You really think I would want to fall for a thief, especially a teenaged one? Can you say jailbait? Yeah, I really wanted to throw my career away for the naive little larcenous brat of a fucking crime lord! There's a fan-fucking-tastic career move for sure," Vic continued mercilessly.
"Oh and here's a news flash for you - I honestly can't say I give a rat's ass that your old man is dead. Far as I'm concerned the only good thing he ever did, other than raise you, was dying. Do you even know why dear old 'daddy' was in Canada, junior? Son of a bitch was here to oversee the shipment of guns headed for the States - and the hands of whatever stupid ass teenager or junkie or idiot with a vendetta that could buy them. That and the couple hundred kilos of China White he was bringing in as a sideline. So forgive me if I don't mourn for the bastard, okay?" the cop continued to spew venomously.
"But hey we all know fate is a bitch to rival my ex- boss, so guess what happens? I get called into said bitch's office, given the assignment from hell and get shown a picture of the kid I'm supposed to roll over. Then I get an eyeful of you and my career, beliefs, hell my fucking life goes right out the window 'coz I know, I know I can't do that to you. Not that it matters because dragon lady slips me the same drug and all I can fucking see, want, need is some snot-nosed baby with more attitude than brains and I end up screwing myself royally by screwing him. Fucking great career move, a cop committing statutory rape!"
"Even after I toss it all to protect said snot nosed kid, I get screwed over by the ex-boss, raked across IA's coals, suspended, and have Rictor threaten to have me arrested on whatever trumped up charges she can, then try to crawl into bed with me 'coz she likes the new Victor. Oh yeah, let's not forget the transfer into another department that makes Vice seem like the fucking boy and girl scouts of America in comparison, even that's not enough."
"Neither, apparently, is six months of guilt and hell, drinking myself into oblivion whenever I can, letting my conscience eat me alive. So tell me Mac what is enough? You want my blood? Sure, I'm sure there's plenty of sharp objects in this apartment that will let you get quick and immediate access. You wanna take a chunk of my hide? Go for it - hell, feel free to rip my fucking heart out, not that I have one according to you. No wait, the mess would be a bitch to clean up - how about my gun instead?" Vic unclipped his HK USP45 Tactical, released the safety and shoved it at the teen
"Go ahead Ramsey - have a party. Oh yeah since I haven't written up a will or anything, here's the keys to the place. Consider it your reward for your righteous revenge against the evil mother-fucking cop who single handedly, without ever truly caring about you or the consequences, destroyed your fucking life in a cold-blooded, calculating and totally emotionless manner," Vic continued, tossing the keys next to the youth. "But whatever the fuck it is that you want - just get it the hell over with because I'm sick and tired of the dancing and bullshit and my fucking life in general. Here's your chance, Ramsey, go on, show everyone just what an evil, unconscionable bastard I really am. Do the world in general and yourself in particular a favor, and pull the fucking trigger!"
Seething emotions joined forces with the undiluted bourbon to make war on Mac's empty stomach. Bullshit, that's all it was, complete and total bullshit. Mansfield was just trying to fuck with his head, to save his own skin, to... The weight of the semi-automatic pistol tugged at Mac's hand and he refocused his attention on the smooth metal that filled his palm. What would it feel like to pull the trigger? To plant a bullet between the cop's hate-filled eyes, to end the vicious words that were even now eating at the self-righteous fury that had possessed Mac and fueled his life, forcing him to keep going when he was ready to give in, give up.
Would Mansfield's last expression be one of shock or would the sneering twist of his lips remain? As his eyes filmed over, would he cast a last scornful look on his killer, pitying him even in death? It wasn't supposed to be like this. All Mac had wanted out of this night was somewhere warm to curl up and hide for a while. He couldn't handle this, not now. His foundation had been knocked off kilter during their first meeting and each derogatory word Vic spoke succeeded in chipping away at what was left of it.
If only he could talk to his father, or Li Ann, or even Michael, but they were all gone, the first two dead and the third wanting to kill him. The only tenuous connection Mac had to his past was Victor, and the cop obviously didn't care if either of them lived or died. Fine. If that was how he wanted to play it, that's how they would.
Schooling his features into a hard mask, but unable to completely hide the anguish in his eyes, Mac extended the gun, pointing it at the center of Victor's chest. "Thanks for the opportunity, man. Won't bring back Pop and Li Ann, but it's a start." A small tremor communicated itself to the deadly weapon, then the air echoed with the sound of the shot and the dull thud as the bullet embedded itself in the plaster behind the sofa.
Vic's whole world narrowed down to the younger man's words and Mac's finger on the trigger. Then Mac squeezed it and Vic felt something inside him die, just like he was going to. And he shut down.
Except he didn't die, the sofa did. It almost felt like he was under water, or not really there, that slow motion, life flashing before your eyes sort of thing. Turning his head he stared at the hole in the couch, then the one in the wall behind it while his heart shut down and iced over. Something cold and ugly was born in Victor. A raging hate, not of Mac, but of the person, no persons, who'd done this to the sweet, innocent kid he'd known only for a few short hours but would mourn the death of for the rest of his life.
Eyes burning with an unholy light, Vic turned to the young stranger before him. "That your best shot kid? Tough luck, it's the last one you get."
All Victor truly wanted to do was to take the younger man in his arms and hold him tight and safe, but he couldn't, instead he could only continue on as he'd started this evening - making Mac hate him all the more. It was for the best though, Vic thought, what little of his heart not yet frozen aching painfully. It was better if all Mac ever remembered of Victor Mansfield was that he was a bastard cop who'd stolen his life.
Taking the now dangling gun from Mac's trembling hands, Victor calmly, almost icily, re-engaged the safety and re-holstered the weapon. Victor was stone sober now, and colder then he could ever remember being. It was as if everything had gone numb or simply iced over. Even his rage was cold, frozen beyond belief. And it was all directed on one person. Rictor.
"Like I said earlier, the place is yours kid. Have a nice life. I'd say see you around, but after tonight I seriously doubt that'll happen." If he managed to do what he was planning he'd either be dead or would have to disappear forever. Cop killers were always caught, and if a cop killed another cop it was even worse. He'd have to make arrangements if he got the chance, to see to it that Mac was protected and the condo turned over to him legally with enough money to make sure he was well cared for until he was old enough to work legally. But that was for a later time - if he survived that long.
With a precise economy of movement, Victor stood, turned and, eyeing his jacket and the younger man wearing it with something akin to regret before shrugging fatalistically. Not like he'd be needing either one after tonight.
"At least try to have a happy life, baby," Vic murmured gently as he strode out the door without looking back, only a single, regretful sigh for all the might have beens that he'd never have a chance to see now. Then he was striding down the stairs with a grim sense of purpose. He had a sudden yen to go and see Diana Rictor.
Mac stood there, frozen, as the door snicked shut behind him, his unseeing eyes trained on the bits of stuffing bleeding from the singed hole in the couch's upholstery. "I - " he began, his voice a broken whisper in the still of the apartment. Nausea robbed the thief of his ability to speak and Mac raced for the kitchen, making it to the sink in time to violently lose the bourbon he had downed as well as what little food he'd eaten that day.
"Jesus. Oh god. Oh fuck." Greasy sweat coated Mac's forehead and he splashed cold water on his face in a feeble attempt to get some kind of hold on his churning emotions. He hadn't meant to pull the trigger, had only wanted to wipe that condescending sneer from Mansfield's face and then... Thank god he'd managed to pull the shot, he hadn't wanted to kill the other man - not really - just make him understand what real misery felt like.
After rinsing his mouth and spitting to clear the rancid taste, Mac straightened, rubbing at his lips with the back of his hand to try and cleanse the memory from his skin. "Need to get out of here." It was too much to deal with. If he stayed here any longer, he'd go as nuts as Victor apparently was.
Well you did take a shot at him, the nasty little voice of his conscience reminded him.
"Yeah, well he screwed up my life!" Mac snarled into the empty air.
Like he made you sneak out of the hotel and go with him. Deal with it, Ramsey, if you had stayed where you were supposed to, none of this would have happened.
Oh god, it was true, all of it. Mac sagged against the counter, fighting another round of nausea, this one brought on by self-recrimination and not shock. Shit, where had Victor gone? Considering what he had said, wherever it was, it couldn't be good. "Stupid fucker," Mac growled, sprinting out of the apartment and down the stairs, reaching the garage just in time to see a dark green Stealth pull out onto the street, tires squealing on the sleet-slick pavement. "Gonna get yourself killed." Cursing the weather, the idiot cop and his own emotions, the thief threw himself astride his motorcycle, kicked it into gear and pealed out into the wet night, following the vanishing taillights of Victor's car.
The drive to Rictor's was relatively short, but long enough for Vic to really think about what he was doing. Could he do this? Could he pull the trigger on his former captain? He'd shot people before - but only as a last resort and always at a soft target like a leg or a shoulder if he could help it. He'd had to shoot to kill twice in his lifetime and the faces of each victim were burned like a scar on his mind. Could he pull the trigger in cold blood?
Mac's face chose that moment to dance across Victor's mind's eye. Young, haggard, scared beyond measure, eyes older then they should have ever been. Smoking gun in his hand. Rictor had done that. Had taken a naïve kid, albeit a less than honest one, and systematically destroyed his life in order to get her promotion without ever caring what happened to Mac. He'd lost his father, his sister, his brother, his family - everything ever important to him. All for the advancement of Rictor's career. Oh yeah, Victor could pull the trigger all right. It was simple retribution. An eye for an eye and all that. Vic just chose to elect himself judge, jury and executioner.
Slowing to an almost silent stop in front of the elegant little townhouse complex in Rosedale, Victor didn't notice the nondescript car across the street, he was too busy checking his clip.
"You were right, the kid showing up tonight was his breaking point. He's here and he's none too happy. You'd better get here fast or your lookalike is gonna be a dead double," Dobrinsky murmured into his cell.
A year of watching Victor, waiting for the chance to recruit him, had given Dobrinsky three other now fully trained operatives, but not the one his boss really wanted. Mr. Mansfield had remained an elusive target - the everyman hero who could do no wrong - until Mac Ramsey decided to pay Ace a call tonight and set off a time bomb very few knew about, much less realized had been ticking away. It had been sheer luck that the agent assigned to watch Vic's condo tonight had caught a glimpse of the young man on the bike tearing after Victor. It was the break the Director had been looking for, she was about to get the man she wanted most for the little group she was assembling. Victor was about to fall into her lap, ripe and ready. Dobrinsky just hoped that she showed up before Vic did something really stupid - like actually kill his ex-boss.
He liked Mansfield. He was a good guy, if a little too much of a bleeding heart do-gooder. At least he had been until the Tangs came to town half a year ago. Still was in many ways - a tarnished hero attempting to right the wrong he'd committed, to pay his debt to a kid who had somehow managed to do what no one else ever had in Mansfield's life - get buried inside the man. He watched with more than a little uneasiness as Victor got out of the car and very calmly made his way towards Rictor's front door. The Director had better get there soon.
Gun checked and bullet in the chamber, Victor got out of the car and walked silently towards Rictor's front door. Raising a fist, he thought to knock, then after a quick scan, thought better of it, got out his lock pick set and pulled on the leather gloves he had in his pocket - no prints, no mess. The kid wasn't the only one who knew what to do with a pick. The door swung silently open and Victor stalked into the darkened interior, moving unerringly towards what was probably the living room, where a tv flickered.
Something wasn't quite right, but Vic couldn't put his finger on it and didn't really care. Moving into the room he saw her sitting in an overstuffed chair watching... Victor watching her. The place was being monitored with a feed directly into the television.
What the fuck? More importantly who the fuck was this? She looked like Rictor - and yet this was definitely not Rictor. His ex-boss was a barracuda - this woman was a viper - much more deadly and even more lethal. And yet - strangely enough, Vic liked her on the spot - until she spoke that was.
"Hello Victor, do sit down and join me, we have a lot to talk about. Oh - and you can call me The Director, only fair since I now own your life."
What the fuck was going on here?
Mac shut off the bike's engine and rolled it up to the curb several buildings away from where Victor's car was parked. He'd spotted at least two people watching the cop break into the upscale townhouse, but as to who they were and what they wanted, he had no clue. Something was going on here, and it wasn't good.
Unable to understand why he'd want to protect Mansfield, but needing to do something in that regard, Mac eased himself off the motorcycle, cursing silently as his soaked jeans clung to his legs, making each step a misery. God he hated the cold, and it seemed he was destined to spend this whole night that way.
Concentrate on the job, the thief reminded himself as he ghosted up the walkway along the back side of the building, his keen eyes searching for an unguarded entrance into the place. The windows of the unit he was casing were guarded by a top of the line security system, not that its presence deterred Mac for more then a few seconds. Fry the contacts, slip the lock, and bingo...
The window slid up without a hitch and Mac prepared to boost himself into the room when he felt a heavy hand clamp down on his shoulder.
"Planning on going somewhere, kid? I'd say entering through the front door is more polite."
Cursing viciously and struggling to break free of the iron-hard grip on his arm, Mac fought until he was slammed up against the side of the townhouse and found himself gasping for breath while staring at a tall bald man who's grin flashed whitely against his dark skin.
"C'mon, kid. Inside. Looks like it's two for one night for us."
Try as he might, Mac found it impossible to break free of the bald man's grip and he finally gave in, following meekly along as he was dragged into the elegantly appointed home. Maybe, just maybe, going along with whatever this was would earn him a little leeway and if it did, he was out of here.
"Easy on the jacket, it's not mine," he griped, yanking his arm away from the older man and giving himself a shake, sending a cascade of water droplets flying out from his body as he was unceremoniously pushed into the living room.
Mac opened his mouth to complain again, then closed it as he stared in disbelief at the huge wingback chair where Victor Mansfield was sitting, then at the other one where a handsome red-haired woman held court. "What the fuck is going on here?" he blurted out, beginning to think this whole thing was just another setup.
"What the fuck do you mean you own my life? No one owns me lady - least of all someone I don't know from hell, and who happens to look like my ex-boss to boot," Vic responded defiantly even as his watery knees forced him into the nearby wingback.
"Correct me if I'm wrong Victor - but you came here with the intent to kill Captain Rictor did you not? A little too late unfortunately - she's... disappeared. Permanently. However, that does not change your intent. Killing someone is a crime, plotting to kill someone is a crime - plotting to kill a cop is a death sentence waiting to happen. Being a cop yourself - well they'd probably let you go to prison, and make sure you got into general. After all, that way you'd be dead and their hands would still be lily white. Sensing a pattern here Mr. Mansfield?" the Director replied calmly, her fingers steepled, elbows resting on the chair arms, her leather clad legs crossed and her stiletto heels making them appear longer.
"However, I can offer you an alternative. Work for me."
"And just who the fuck are you?" Vic managed to choke out.
"I'm your last chance. I can offer you a career in law enforcement, working for a govenrment agency and working for me. You'd be above the local laws, above most of them. My organization is international in its scope and it's authority. You'd be doing good work Victor - helping a lot of people who needed it. Taking down criminals like Michael Tang and his ilk. Preventing what happened to young Mr. Ramsey from ever happening again. You'd have a great deal of authority Victor - and even more as you prove yourself. You have potential Mr. Mansfield. More than I've seen in a long, long time," the slinky redhead purred.
"So what's your answer - work for me, or prison?"
"When you put it like that - don't really have much of a choice now do I?" Vic sighed heavily. Well, guess it could be worse, he could be stuck with...
"Dobrinsky?!" he managed to gasp before he registered just who his ex-partner was dragging in behind him, before he got a good look at the slightly drowned looking thief he'd left in his apartment an hour ago, brown eyes looking a little scared and a whole lot belligerent. Before Victor heard the softly gasped "What the fuck is going on here?"
"Oh no, no way! No fucking way!! He is not part of this, Director or whatever the fuck your name is. Leave the kid alone!" Vic was out of his seat and ripping Dobie's arm off of Mac before anyone could move, and shoving the youth behind him. "Mac has nothing to do with this - let him go."
"Of course we will, Victor," the Director purred, "but young Mr. Ramsey is in the country illegally. Mr. Dobrinsky, please see that Mr. Ramsey is escorted to the airport and put on the first available flight back to Hong Kong. I understand that your brother is very anxious to welcome you back home, Mr. Ramsey," the red head continued to purr - this time much more menacingly.
"Dobie, you touch him and I'll fucking break you," Vic growled softly, his eyes flashing green fire as he positioned himself in such a way that the bigger man would have to go through him to get to Mac. No one was gonna hurt Mac ever again.
Turning to the viper, Vic sold his soul to the devil without a second thought. "Okay lady you win - whatever you want from me, it's yours. Whatever the price. Just leave the kid alone. You never saw him, he was never here. This never happened. Just let him walk away and you've got me forever."
The Director smiled ferally. "Still the white knight trying to save the innocent young victim, Victor? Even after he tried to kill you with your own gun," she tsked softly. "Very well. Mac Ramsey was never here. My people and I never saw him. But you, Victor... you're all mine," the older woman purred in absolute delight.
Mac wondered if he'd stumbled into some weird new age play or something. Who was this woman and what was she talking about? When Vic grabbed him, dragging him away from the guy who'd caught him, the young man almost fell but recovered in time to come up against the cop's back. Sputtering out half-formed protests to this treatment, Mac tried to push his way around Victor, especially when he heard the news that he was getting sent back to Hong Kong. No way, no how. He wouldn't last ten seconds there, not with the price Michael had on his head. Yes, he had plans to go back, but they included making his brother pay for what he had done, not ending up dead in the street.
"You think you're sending me back there, you're crazy, lady!" Mac growled in frustration when none of the others in the room paid him any attention - and then Victor gave in, turning himself over to whatever it was witch wanted. This was wrong, way wrong. "Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?" he snarled, grabbing Vic's arm and yanking the other man around to look at him. "I don't need a protector or someone martyring himself to 'save' me. And you - " here he rounded on the woman, jabbing his finger in her direction. "Guess what lady, I'm here, saying I'm not isn't going to make me go away. Whatever you want from Mansfield, I have a prior claim on him so you're just gonna have to wait. You want to try to send me back to Hong Kong, go ahead, but you'll have to catch me first."
"Mac, stay out of this," Victor ordered, trying to turn away from the younger man and face his new boss once more, slapping the younger man's hand down. "You don't know what's going on, so keep your pretty little mouth shut."
Swinging back to the Director, Vic tried to smooth things over. "He's just a kid, and one with a massive chip on his shoulder. You pushed the wrong buttons, is all," Vic explained away. "Lemme take him home and then we can talk, you can have Dobie follow me if you want," the ex-cop wheedled. He wanted Mac away from this woman. Now. She had the hairs on the back of his neck crawling. This was not good.
"Oh but Victor, I think I like this 'charming' young man," the red head spat out softly. "He's got a nice set on him for one so young if he thinks he can actually stand up to me. Perhaps... well, Mr. Dobrinsky, what do you think?"
"The kid's got some impressive talent. You know that ring of thieves that's been running out of that warehouse down in the industrial park, the one they shut down tonight? Macky was one of the primary players. Not to mention that the Tangs taught him quite a few 'interesting' trades that could be worth our while. Our boy here speaks at least two other languages besides English and Chinese - and he speaks dialcts of that - Cantonese and Mandarin. I'd say he'd make a nice addition," Dobrinsky replied calmly, ignoring the fury springing into Victor's eyes.
"No. Fucking. Way!" the cop bellowed. "You keep your god damned hands off of him or no fucking deal. I am not going to let you use him the way I did. I'm not letting him get hurt again - you got me?!"
"Oh but this isn't up to you, Victor. Now be an angel and sit. Come join us Mr. Ramsey. I think perhaps I need to re-evaluate my assessment of you, yes?"
"Yeah, go sit down Victor. I want to hear what she has to say." Ignoring the barely banked fury in the older man's eyes and the feeling that he should be more then a little grateful for what Vic had tried to do for him, Mac sauntered past the cop and toward the cozy little seating arrangement.
Whoever these people were, they knew too much about him. The depth of their information was unnerving as well as the fact that they seemed to have his weaknesses pegged with laser-sharp intensity. But if they knew that, why did they keep throwing his safety up in Victor's face as a threat? Ignoring the question as unimportant for now, Mac dropped onto the damask tapestry sofa and sprawled out, kicking his boots up onto the expensive fabric with little heed for the muddy marks they left behind.
"So, you seem to know all there is to know about me, care to fill me in on you?" The question may have been asked with studied nonchalance, but even as he spoke, Mac was studying the room and the people in it, working on an escape plan that would hopefully get Vic out of there too. Even though he only dealt with the periphery of the Tang crime syndicate, Mac knew danger when he saw it and this woman embodied the word.
"All in good time, Mr. Ramsey, all in good time," the Director smiled, her eyes raking over the youth's lithe form and causing Victor's teeth to clench even tighter - something that humored her to no end.
"Oh relax ,Victor, unlike some people around here, Mr. Ramsey is just a little too young for my taste. You, however," the red head got up out of her chair in a catlike stretch and stalked towards the soon to be ex-cop. Running a blood red tipped finger down the center of Vic's chest, she brushed up against him. "Clean you up a bit, make sure you gain all that weight you shed pining for little lost Mac, and you'll be just about right."
Vic backed hastily away, so fast he didn't realize the wingback he'd been sitting in was directly behind him, and he found himself unceremoniously sitting once more - caged by the prowling Director. "This was not part of that deal I made. Work wise, you got me - my personal life is...
"Mine as well ,Victor - just like I told you before Mr. Ramsey decided to join our little party. I own you now - you and your little Mac too," the Director snickered softly, before sauntering away. God she loved making grown men tremble in fear, not to mention the heated look she received from young Mac as she went after 'his man'.
Foolish boys - she could read them both like books - the sexual tension, the lust, the almost compulsive need to protect one another. These two were going to cause her a lot of problems and disappoint a great many people at the Agency, female and male alike, because it was obvious to anyone who knew how to read people, as she did, that these two were going to be explosive together - and probably for a very long time.
Returning to her 'throne' she turned to her aide. "Mr. Dobrinsky, these two fine gentlemen will be added to the roster immediately. You will see to their training - oh and make sure they clean up nice. Victor, your resignation has already been tendered for you, and a letter dispatched to your, parents," the director sniffed haughtily at that last word. She'd made sure she knew everything there was to know about Mr. Mansfield, and she was less than enamored of his parents and elder sibling. How they'd managed to make someone like Victor she'd never know.
"You've decided to go away for two months - to 'find yourself' and you will be in touch when you return. That flea trap you normally live in has been condemned. Your things are being boxed even as we speak and will put into storage at the condominium - your new place of residence. When you return, you will become employed as a security consultant for a company that protects government officials, and you will be the 'host father' of a young man who's come to Canada from Hong Kong to study here," she smirked.
"Mac - say hello to your new 'daddy'. You will ostensibly be under Victor's guardianship. You will attend any of the institutes of higher learning here in the city - your choice as to which one and your course of study. This is your cover. You will also live at the condo, with your own room - sleeping arrangements I leave to the two of you, of course, but appearances must be kept. Especially when Victor's relatives come to town. I don't foresee you having the same problem Mr. Ramsey," the older woman said matter-of-factly as she turned her attention towards Mac.
"Seeing as how no one will miss you, no one has been notified. You too will be trained with Victor, considering that the two of you shall be living and working so closely from now on, you may as well start getting used to each other immediately. I suggest you boys find some way to settle your differences and fast. I will not tolerate either of you trying to kill the other, you're partners from now on, until I decide otherwise. Welcome to your new lives, gentlemen."
With that, the Director stood and swept out of the room, leaving a speechless Victor in her wake. He couldn't even bring himself to look at Mac. God - he'd really, really screwed the kid's life up now.
"Hey, cheer up Ace," Dobrinsky slapped him on the back. "You're gonna be in great company. The Director managed to snag Jacks, Camier and Murphy as well. It's gonna be like a Vice reunion - the three of us and the creeps from Asian Crime. And you get to keep playing with pretty little boy toy too," the big man chuckled.
"Don't touch me. Don't talk to me. Don't fucking breathe near me!" Victor ground out, still staring at the vacated seat. "And if you ever call me Ace again or suggest what you just did, Dobie you're gonna be living with your dick crammed down your throat - got it?"
"Whatever - Vic-tor, now move. You and Macky boy here got a date with the trainers."
After listening to the Director's blithe pronouncement concerning his future, Mac had been ready to blow up and rip a strip out of her leather covered hide. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck with Mansfield full time, especially with the older man as his 'guardian'. God, just the thought of having to live with the cop made his stomach clench, though it felt different then any normal apprehension he'd felt before.
A very vocal and crude protest died on the thief's lips however, when her next comments drove home the fact that this was all he had to his life. There was nothing else and never would be at this rate. Pushing the memories of his life in Hong Kong to the back of his mind and swallowing hard to cover any slippage of his bored expression, Mac remained silent through his new boss's - hell, his new owner's blithe platitudes and breezy exit.
Maybe he had to take her shit, but he sure didn't have to take it from whoever the fuck this other guy was. With a show of feigned insolence, Mac waited until Victor stood then, using the older man's movements as a distraction, launched himself at the Director's stooge. Using the momentum he'd built up as he barreled into the larger man, Mac shoved him back against the wall, pulling the collar of his tailored shirt tight around his neck.
"Call me a boy toy again and the Vice-man over there won't be able to find your dick to cram it down your throat if he does come after you, understand?"
The sudden pressure under his rib cage made Mac aware of the pistol the other man had trained on him, but he didn't give an inch. "Wanna shoot me? Go ahead though I don't think your boss would like it too much considering I seem to be a piece in whatever fucked up game it is she's playing."
Dobrinsky smiled at that and jabbed his gun deeper into Mac's ribs. "Not if I don't kill you, Macky, and trust me, I know where to shoot to make you wish you were dead while not granting the wish. Now be a good boy and get moving, don't want to be late do you?"
Mac stepped back at that, his tension-filled body radiating anger, pain and disgust with everything about the situation, himself included. Why was it every time he went near Victor Mansfield his life turned inside out? And why wasn't he smart enough to stay away?
Casting one last sneering glance at the Director's unruffled assistant, Mac spat out a curse in Russian toward him, then looked over toward Victor. "Looks like it's back to school for you, partner."
"Fuck you, Ramsey," Vic bit out without thinking. "Oh right - been there, done that, and can't even say I enjoyed the ride." Storming past Dobrinsky and the young man, who was now sporting a devastated expression on his face, Victor let his fury carry him outside and into his car.
"What the hell am I doing?" he whispered, looking at his reflection in the mirror dark glass. It would be so easy. Just swallow the barrel and pull the trigger. But Mac would be left alone - with her. No matter how cruel he'd just been, he'd never let his baby face whatever was in store for him alone. Mac was his, whether he knew it or not. His to protect and watch over. It was the least he owed the kid after screwing up his life.
"You may hate me, Mac," he whispered as he watched Dobrinsky escort the young man outside and to his bike with what looked like a stern admonishment to follow closely. "But you're stuck with me. I'm gonna make sure you make it through this in one piece - I promise. God, oh god, baby... I miss you." Wiping a trembling hand over a suddenly damp face, Vic turned to see Dobrinsky watching him with something akin to understanding in his eyes. A slight dip of the head and a smile of encouragement. Maybe things wouldn't be that bad after all