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Damaged – Ch. 18

It was hot inside the heavy black hood, the air stale, bitter, the coffee on his breath starting to make him nauseated. Or perhaps that queasy feeling was caused by fear. There were few things on the planet that frightened Reese, but Mark was one of them. Reese had seen the man in action, he knew exactly what he was capable of, and he was afraid.

He hid it well, of course, lounging in the back seat, his limbs loose and relaxed, his breathing slow and even, as though here were on a Sunday drive and not handcuffed in the back of a CIA vehicle, a hood over his head and the barrel of a handgun biting into his ribs, on his way to some generic hotel room where he would be tortured, then executed. For as long as he could remember, he’d known this was how he was going to die. Maybe not the details, but a violent death had always been in his cards. He was resigned to it. The only thing that really bothered him was leaving Finch. Finch would blame himself for this.

The vehicle lurched to a stop and Reese tensed, his heart rate accelerating. He heard car doors opening, closing, opening, and he was roughly pulled from the back seat, his feet hitting pavement. He stumbled and was punched in the ribs. Gasping, he was dragged out of the warmth of the sun into the cool, climate-controlled atmosphere of a building. There was carpet under his feet as he was forced down a long hall. Definitely a hotel. Didn’t these guys ever think outside the box?

Mark did. Reese shuddered, remembering just how creative he could be. Finally, he was turned ninety degrees, he heard the sound of a door opening, and he was propelled forward and shoved down into a hard, metal chair. His socks and shoes were removed, his shirt unbuttoned, and the hood was finally jerked off of his head. Blinking hard against the sudden, glaring light in his eyes, Reese peered all around the room, trying to identify his location. He’d stayed in a couple dozen different hotels since he’d started working with Finch, but this wasn’t one he recognized. It took only a moment longer to realize that he wasn’t in a hotel at all.

The hall was carpeted, but the floor of the room was old, linoleum tile, probably the kind that contained asbestos, which put him in an old building, most likely one that had been abandoned or closed down for health concerns. The walls were drab tan, the paint chipped, water damage to the ceiling tiles, the windows boarded up from the outside, the wire mesh still holding the glass in place. The only furniture in the room was the metal chair he was sitting in and an institution-grade metal bed frame standing against the wall, the mattress thin, ripped, and stained.

“Figure out where you are yet?” Mark asked, his voice coming from right behind Reese. “Let me give you a hint – it’s where you’re going to die.”

“Of boredom?” Reese replied. “Because if this is the best you’ve got, I may have to take a nap.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you stay conscious,” Mark replied. He stepped around in front of Reese, removing the sling that supported his right arm before shrugging out of his jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves. Reese could see the bulkiness of a bandage under his shirt and his movements were stiff and pained. “Back in the sixties, this was a private mental institution, where the wealthy could discreetly dispose of embarrassing relatives or gay sons or cheating wives. When it was closed down, the health department discovered hundreds of partial files detailing unnecessary lobotomies and shock therapy and experimental drug trials. Lucky for us, much of their old equipment is still here.”

Reese cringed inwardly at the words ‘shock therapy’, but he kept his face impassive as Mark continued.

“I know none of this scares you, John. Nothing that I could do to you would break that stubborn streak. Which is why you get to watch while I play with your little friend.” Reese tensed and Mark smirked. “I thought so. As we speak, Evans is on his way back to the Eighth to collect your four-eyed fuck-buddy.”

“You’ll never break him,” Reese said. And if Fusco valued his life, Mark better not get the chance to try.

“Never is an awfully long time, John,” Mark said. “I’ll admit the little geek is tougher than he looks, but he’s not the one who’s going to crack. How much pain can you bear to see him in? How long before you talk to save him, because that’s what you really want, isn’t it? To save people? Like you’re some goddamn superhero? That’s what you and your sidekick do, isn’t it? Play Batman and Robin?”

“I guess that makes you the Joker,” Reese replied and he laughed, staring defiantly up at Mark. A small twitch at the corner of Mark’s mouth, a slight tightening of the skin around his eyes, gave away the anger inside him. Mark hated being laughed at. Reese knew the blow was coming, but he did nothing to try to avoid it. The punch hit him square on the left side of his jaw, splitting his lower lip and sending a trickle of blood running down his chin.

“Anger management classes didn’t take, I see,” Reese said, ignoring the stinging and throbbing in his lip and jaw.

“Always with the witty comeback,” Mark said. “You never did know when to keep your fucking mouth shut.” They were interrupted by a sound outside the room – a low rumbling and an intermittent squeak; some kind of cart being pushed down the hall, one with a squeaky wheel. “Ah, let’s see what the boys have found for us to play with, shall we?” Reese steeled himself as the cart was wheeled into the room, two young agents – tier one boys, as Kara used to call them – giving him wary looks and a wide berth as they pushed the laden metal cart over to the foot of the bed.

Mark stepped over to the cart, looking down at the collection of outdated machinery and implements, taking his eyes off of Reese for a split second. That was all he needed. Muscles bunching, flexing, Reese lunged to his feet, crashing into Mark and sending both of them stumbling across the room. Mark grunted as Reese slammed him against the wall, Reese planting his bare feet on the linoleum and leaning hard against the other man, digging the bony part of his shoulder into Mark’s bullet wound. Mark screamed, filling Reese with a dark mix of satisfaction and pleasure.

Hands grabbed him by the arms, dragging him back, but he left Mark with a final parting shot, bringing his knee up hard into Mark’s groin, leaving him doubled over and struggling to draw breath. Watching Mark gasp and choke, spittle dangling from his lower lip, his face red, Reese didn’t even feel the fists that pummeled his ribcage. He struggled and kicked, pain in his shoulders as they wrenched on his arms, still cuffed behind his back, pain in his side as one of his ribs cracked, a grim smile pulling at his lips. Broken rib, punctured lung, drowning in his own blood – all things considered, not a bad way to go.

“Stop,” Mark said, his voice strained. “Knock it off, you idiots. That’s what he wants. Just secure him, but don’t kill him before I have the chance.” Reese was forced back down into the chair, one of the two agents grabbing a long, padded leather restraining strap off the cart and wrapping it around his chest and the chair back, pulling it tight until Reese could hardly draw a full breath. They wrapped another around his thighs and the seat of the chair, but he still managed to kick one of them in the face as they bent down to tighten the strap. The response was a hearty backhand across the face, but it was worth it.

“Now get out,” Mark said. “Wait in the hall for Evans.” Once they were gone, he turned to Reese. “Think you’re clever, do you? You’re just making things harder on yourself. Tell me what you and your friend have been doing and I won’t have to hurt him. Tell me and I will let him go.”

Reese licked his swollen and bloodied lip before drawing a shaking breath. “We help people,” he said finally.

“Why?”

“Because they need help.”

“How do you know who needs help? Where do you get your information?”

“Detective Carter,” Reese said, seeing a flash of triumph in Mark’s dark eyes. “She hears about cases, problems that the police can’t handle, and she climbs to the roof of the Eighth Precinct and shines the Bat-signal into the air, and the Boy Wonder and I grab our tights and capes and-”

Mark punched him in the face again, his teeth cutting through his upper lip and a fresh trickle of blood running down his chin to drip onto his chest. Reese just laughed. Before Mark could hit him again, the shrill ring of a cell phone filled the room. Eyes blazing with fury, Mark took a step back and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He glanced at the screen before answering.

“You better have him.”

Reese held his breath, his heart suddenly pounding. Had Fusco gotten Finch out of danger, or had he seen it as an opportunity to get rid of them both? The look on Mark’s face was all the answer he needed and he let out his breath in a relieved rush. He owed Fusco big for this. Too bad he’d never get the chance to repay him.

“Find him,” Mark ordered. “Look everywhere, question everyone. Do not come back without him.” He hung up and put the cell away, just standing there for a moment taking slow, deliberate breaths. “Well,” he said finally, “it looks like your boyfriend won’t be joining us quite yet, so it’ll just be you and me.”

“That’s fine, Mark,” Reese said. “Whatever you want to do. You can’t hurt me now.”

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