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Surveillance – Ch. 6

Tires squealing, Reese careened around the corner, police sirens wailing in the distance, following in his wake. He’d run at least seven red lights and clipped three other vehicles, but it was a stolen car, so it wasn’t like he cared. At that moment, there was only one thing he cared about and he couldn’t bear the thought of losing it.

Six blocks from the library – as close as he dared go with the cops after him – Reese slammed on the brakes, cranked the wheel, and slid sideways into a vacant lot. Leaping from the vehicle, he took off on foot, ducking into the shadows as whirling red and blue lights painted the dark streets.

Breathing hard, Reese paused outside the library door, his training overriding the urge to rush in. He drew his gun, checked the clip, and took off the safety. Easing the door open, he slipped inside, his ears straining for the faintest noise and catching a distant, echoing whine of an electric motor, followed by a sound that made his stomach knot up and his skin go cold. It was the unmistakable sound of a scream.

His heart pounding, Reese rushed through the library halls, drawing up short and adjusting his grip on his pistol as the electric whine suddenly fell silent, leaving the scream to trail off into a breathless, choking sob. Pressing his back to the cold, cinder block wall, Reese peered around the edge of the carved support column, taking in the scene before him in one quick glance.

Finch sat in his desk chair, restrained by some kind of black cord or tape, his back to Reese with some kind of hood or bag over his head. Standing over him was Mr. Allen, his face and shirt flecked with dark drops of blood, holding an electric drill in his hands, the brush-head bit covered in gore.

“I admire your resolve, I really do,” Mr. Allen said to Finch, “but if you’re holding out for your friend, thinking he’s going to come save you, I have some bad news. I’m going to be waiting for him, and I’m going to kill him, and then I’m going to come back and finish with you, unless you tell me what you know. Who are you working for?”

Finch drew a long, ragged breath. “Fuck you,” he said, his voice hoarse and trembling. Mr. Allen squeezed the button on the drill and laughed as the sound made Finch jump. Reese tightened his grip on the gun, his jaw clenching. Eyes tracking every movement, Reese watched Mr. Allen lay the drill down on the table and pick up a small black handgun.

“I’ll be back,” Mr. Allen said as he stepped past Finch.

Reese waited until he had moved several yards away from Finch, then he stepped away from the wall, raised his gun, and took aim. “Drop your weapon,” he said, his voice almost lost in the wide, cold hall.

“Ah, Mr. Reese,” Mr. Allen said, betraying no hint of surprise or alarm. “Looks like traffic was better than I expected.”

“It helps to drive on the sidewalk,” Reese said. “Now put it down.”

“We both know that’s not going to happen,” Mr. Allen said. They regarded each other for a moment; it was like looking into a mirror. “So what happens now?” Mr. Allen asked. “We stand here and stare at each other while your friend bleeds to death?”

Reese’s gaze darted to Finch, searching the floor for a dangerous amount of blood and finding only a small puddle. A flash of movement caught his eye – he glanced back. Mr. Allen started to raise his gun. Reese squeezed the trigger.

The bullet took him cleanly through the eye, blowing the back off his skull and splattering gray matter across the wall. As the body crumpled to the floor, arms and legs still twitching, Reese raced into the room and over to Finch. He stopped short, his breath catching at the sight of his employer, a blood-splattered pillowcase over his head. One leg of his trousers had been rolled up, one sleeve pushed back, and his shirt had been unbuttoned, each area of bare skin bearing a large, bloody abrasion that resembled so much hamburger.

“Jesus, Finch,” Reese whispered.

Finch raised his head. “John?”

“Yeah…” Reese said, his voice cracking; he wished he knew Finch’s first name, his real name. “Yeah, it’s me.” Carefully, he lifted off the pillowcase, steeling himself for whatever might lie beneath. Hair disheveled and glasses askew, Finch peered up at him, a dark, angry red mark on the right side of his ashen face, but that was all.

Finch opened his mouth like he was going to say something, then closed it again and swallowed hard. “I think I owe you a bonus,” he said finally, only a shadow of that sharp, dry wit in his voice.

Reese didn’t respond, except to pull his knife out of his pocket – he didn’t trust what might come out of his mouth at that moment. Slicing through the tape that bound Finch to the chair, he watched with an uncomfortable helplessness as Finch slowly raised his hand to fix his glasses, the movement causing him to draw a pained breath through his teeth.

“Try to stay still,” Reese said softly. “I’ll find a car and take you to the hospital.”

“No,” Finch said with a small shake of his head. “No, Mr. Reese, there will be no hospital. I’m fine.” He seemed to gather his strength, to brace himself, and then he grabbed the edge of the table and levered himself to his feet. Reese watched him bite back a cry as the leg of his trousers slid down over the raw wound, his whole body stiff and trembling. “It’s just some minor abrasions,” he said as he closed his shirt over his bloody chest.

Reese picked up the drill and held it toward Finch, the wire bristles caked with tattered bits of skin. “Does this look minor to you?”

Finch averted his eyes as more of the color drained from his face. “Fine, major abrasions – but that still doesn’t require a trip to the hospital. I’m going to go clean up – I would appreciate it if you would do the same.” He gave his head a small nod toward the hall, where a large puddle of blood had spread across the floor under the body.

“Whatever you say, boss,” Reese said with a sigh. He watched Finch walk away, his limp significantly more pronounced, and then went to find something to wrap the body in. As soon as he was out of earshot, he pulled his cell out of his pocket, glad he had committed Dr. Tillman’s number to memory. He had expected to need her skills at some point, though he’d never imagined it would be Finch who needed the help.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Megan, I need a favor,” Reese said. There was a long pause.

“Who is this?” she asked finally, though from her tone it was obvious knew exactly who he was.

“I talked you out of making a terrible mistake a while ago.”

She sighed. “I thought that was you. What do you want?”

“My…partner – He’s been injured. We need gauze, antibiotics, and something for the pain.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to take him to a hospital?”

“He won’t go. Too many questions.”

She hesitated. “What happened?”

“He was tortured,” Reese said softly. “A drill with a wire brush bit. Three circular abrasions four to five inches across.”

“Oh my God,” she whispered. He heard her swallow hard. “All right, but then we’re even, right?”

“I’m not keeping score, Megan,” Reese said. “If you tell me to leave you alone, you’ll never hear from me again.” She didn’t respond. “Thank you. Can you meet me in an hour?” He gave her an address a few blocks away and started to hang up.

“Wait,” she said, taking a shaking breath. “What…what did you do with him?”

“I made sure he’ll never hurt anyone ever again,” Reese said. “See you in an hour.”

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