tagRomanceBeauty--Remastered Ch. 10

Beauty--Remastered Ch. 10

byalmostluver©

Dear Lovely Readers,

After trials and tribulations, I'm back. So very sorry to have been gone so long, but I had things to deal with, one after the other. And I tried writing, honest I did. But nothing I've written, this or anything else, has progressed much in the past few months.

And, for those of you who told me my last chapter was crap and I should give up writing, thank you! I appreciate those words. Reading them, usually sent to my email ANONYMOUSLY, of course, just made me want to keep going. Sure, my last chapter and probably this one have things wrong, but it's my brain. Don't read it if you don't like it, it's that simple.

To the lovely, WONDERFUL readers who begged me to continue, YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING! I love you all very much and I hope I never have trouble like this again, so I don't disappoint you. This one only has another chapter or two till the end, and I'm considering new fairy tales to remake. Any suggestions? <3

Love and kisses,

Almostluver!


***

Joey was terrified.

When they first arrived at the huge, impressive, slightly terrifying old mansion that was Bonnet's home, it had been eerily quiet. He'd been half expecting dozens of men to come pouring through the black gates as they pulled up just short of them and piled out. They kept away from what Kevin explained was the reach of the security cameras, and trekked around for nearly half an hour to a small door built into the heavy, wrought iron fence. Funnily enough, there were no cameras around the gate. To Joey, that just screamed trouble. It was too simple.

The team had murmured among themselves for a moment, and every one of them did a quick, almost nervous, check of their weapons, from the various guns to the array of knives they kept tucked into belts strung around their beefy bodies.

Donovan had even deigned to give Joey another gun and a long, wicked looking hunting knife. 'No chances,' he growled, caressing his own gun. It was a mystery to Joey why Donovan had it in the first place; he couldn't see, he might end up shooting one of his own men. Their enemies knew who he was, and they knew that he was blind, so he couldn't bluff. His men didn't seem too concerned, though; they quickly and silently followed their fearless, determined leader through the grounds.

Something buzzed in Joey's ear, making him jump and spin around with his gun raised, but it was just Michael giving them directions to a tunnel around the side of the house. Kevin smacked Joey upside the head gently and tugged him along, silently reprimanding him for his panic.

The journey into the house was surprisingly, and disturbingly easy. Nobody tried to stop them -- nobody was there to stop them. They were all tense, and cautious. The old tunnel was wet and dark, and Joey slid several times in the mud, and ran into the walls often, but eventually Kevin pushed him along with a huge hand at the back of his neck.

"Sir," Michael's voice filled the silence. "There's a door coming up. After that, two hallways. It would be best to split up the team. Finding Mrs. Alford will be faster that way."

"Thank you, Michael." Donovan rapped out in a quiet, brusque tone. His hand met the damp door and he gently turned the knob. One of the men crept up beside him, gun ready. Donovan pushed it open quietly, easing it gently through the creaks and groans the others could hardly hear, and the other man leapt through the door, prepared to shoot.

A moment later, he signaled for them to move, and they spilled into the empty hallway. It appeared they were in an older, unused, long neglected corridor. Dust billowed under their shuffling feet, and the walls were undecorated and covered with torn, faded paper. There were no lights, and a couple of the men switched on low flashlights. None of the rooms they peeked in contained furniture, or even carpet; the very first few had hard dirt floors and no windows.

"Right, Kevin, you take a team to the right, and I'll go left with the rest." Donovan waited for Kevin to select his men, and started off ahead of his group.

"Come on," Kevin growled at Joey when he hesitated at the back of their group.

Everybody was on high alert. It was much too quiet. Bonnet's men could be anywhere in this huge, strange mansion. Michael had his hands full tracking and directing both teams separately, and they had to wait once or twice for him to finish with the other group and move on to them. The halls were long and twisting, and it all looked the same. They had entered on the bottom floor, most likely the basement, and they slowly made their way up. Nobody approached them, even when they made it to the floors that seemed inhabited.

"Where is everybody?" Joey chanced a whisper, wincing as it echoed hollowly, and Kevin shushed him promptly.

"He's right, you know," One of the others muttered when they stopped in a small alcove on the third floor. "Something's up. Bonnet wouldn't kidnap the boss' wife without a shitload of backup."

"I know," Kevin glanced down the hall in both ways, fingering the massive knife on his well laden belt. He pressed a button on his comm device. "Boss, anything happening?"

"No," Donovan's deep growl filled everyone's ears, and they all subconsciously stood a little straighter. "I don't like it. We're getting to more used areas, now, men. Keep alert, and be careful. There's a chance he's expecting us, and just waiting for us to show. Michael?"

"Sir?" The young man peeped up.

"Work us closer together."

"Will do, sir."

They all, with the exception of their navigator, fell silent again and moved on. There were more rooms now, and they took them in teams of two, darting into each for a few seconds and then rejoining the group. It was a quick, effective way to rule out the rooms.

"Movement, up ahead," Donovan murmured. "I can hear it."

"Us too," Kevin and the others readied their guns. Joey followed suit, nervously. "Mister Joseph, sir, stay directly behind me."

It happened too quickly for any orders to be given. Two men at the front of the group fell immediately as bullets flew toward them from unseen assailants. They fired back, retreating down the hall to one of the rooms they had passed. The gunfire stopped and they barred the door with an armoire

"They got Scotty and Dean, sir." Kevin brushed blood off a small wound where a bullet had just barely grazed his arm.

"Dammit! We're all good, here, but they've got us pinned in a room." Donovan growled over the sound of bullets. Strangely, his voice rose above the noise, though his tone was no louder than it ever was.

Joey pulled his earpiece from his ear, escaping the noise for a few moments. His hands were trembling, and he clenched them together. "What are we going to do?"

One of the men cracked the door open an inch against the cupboard and peeked out. "It's quiet out here." As if on cue, a single bullet struck the heavy wooden door. Everything was silent again when it closed.

Joey started pacing, though the other men were still and waiting for a plan. "What are they doing? Why did they stop?"

"Would you like to go out there and ask them?" The man who'd checked, Anthony, laid his hand on the door like he'd open it. Joey sputtered and stepped up to him.

"Quiet." Kevin muttered from the corner of the room. He stared up at a small vent, and then looked at Joey. "There are no screws on these grates; I bet we could get it open easy. You could fit in there."

"Are you insane?" Joey snapped back, backing away.

"Mikey, do you think you could chance leading him through the vents? If you can get him near the boss, he could take out the guys in the way, and they could come get us out of here."

"Are you insane?" Joey repeated.

"Do you want to find your friend or not?" Kevin rounded on him. "We need to get out of here, and it's not going to happen with us pinned here. You've got a gun. Take another if you need to. Going out that door is suicide, and you alone could fit in the vents."

All of two minutes later, Joey found himself in the dark, dusty, cramped vents, wriggling along on his elbows. It was very warm and close in there, and he was distinctly glad he wasn't incredibly claustrophobic. Michael murmured tentative directions; the vents split off in so many directions. He felt like a secret agent -- except a whole hell of a lot less glam. In movies, there was exciting, intense music, and the crawls lasted for mere minutes and were easy and the vents weren't coated in dust an inch thick.

"This is bullshit," he muttered to himself, forgetting that everybody could hear him.

"Be glad you're not me." Michael chuckled. "Half the time, it's me up in those little tunnels, but I have extra gear."

"Shut it, Mikey," Kevin murmured. Michael giggled and quieted down.

Joey's interest was piqued. But he said nothing for the moment and continued struggling in the tight space.

"You should be near a room a few doors down from the boss. Do you see any openings or grates?" Michael broke the silence a few minutes later.

Joey slid down the tunnel and peeked into the room on the other side of the grating. It was empty, so he slid himself around, with difficulty, and kicked it open. It made a harsh bump when it hit the ground below and he waited for a few minutes in case anybody came running. When no one did, he carefully slid feet first out of the vent and dropped into the room below. Drawing one of his guns, he crept to the door and peeked out. The halls were silent and he left the room.

"They're just down the left hallway. Be careful, Joseph." Michael said.

His feet echoed, or so he imagined, while he tiptoed down the hall. There were faint rustling and murmurs ahead of him. His pulse raced, and he paused to wipe the sweat from his gun-totting hand. This was crazy, possibly suicide.

Joey stopped when he was close enough to pick out individual voices. They were speaking what he guessed was French, and he readied his gun and glanced around the corner.

The first man in his sight fell with a bullet in his back. In the time it took for the other four men in the enemy group to turn, another was down, though Joey's hand had been shaking too hard to make it a good clean kill shot.

Their leader shouted something and two began firing their machine guns in his direction, while the leader lifted the wounded man and they all started retreating down the corridor.

Joey waited for the guns to stop before he followed, stepping carefully over the downed man without looking. He might have been dead, he might have been unconscious. Joey could live without finding out, and simply pretend he was still breathing. The dark stain spreading rapidly over the carpet wasn't too serious, he reasoned. Some areas bled more rapidly than others, that's all. Even so, he had to force himself to stay calm.

When he set out to help Donovan rescue Scarlet, he hadn't realized that he might have to kill some people to do it.

Some of the bullets from the first salvo had come incredibly close, a couple even embedding themselves in the wall across from where he'd stuck his head out. That was too close to comfort, and after they rescued Scarlet, he doubted he'd ever even be able glance at another gun without panicking. His heart was racing so fast, he almost expected it to burst at any minute.

"Okay, they're right next to you." Michael said suddenly, startling Joey so he fumbled with the gun in his hands. "Boss, Joseph's reached you. You can come out now."

"Good man, Joseph." Donovan patted his shoulder once he and the men emerged from the room they'd been trapped in.

"That was too easy," Joey muttered, glancing down the hall in the direction their assailants had taken.

"I agree. I have a feeling they're just toying with us. Let's go get the others, and we'll stick together this time. It'll take longer, but I don't want this to happen again."

They approached the other group with caution, much like the way Joseph had; but when they neared the door, they were shocked to find that the foes keeping them pinned in the room were nowhere to be found. The men in their group exited the room when they were given the 'all clear.'

"I don't understand it, boss," Kevin muttered to Donovan before they set out again. "They weren't trying to kill us, just keeping our heads down. They're stalling for time."

"I know. Come on," Three of the men stepped in front of him, shielding him.

Their journey to the next floor was quiet and slow. They had to circle the floor twice, just so they could check each room. It was worrying; there was only one floor left, and besides that little skirmish, they'd seen neither hide nor hair of anyone.

"This is it," Donovan murmured as they stood at the foot of the final flight of stairs. They stopped for a quick breather, and to check their weapons. Quiet clicks filled the silent hallway as guns were reloaded, and each man's personal weapons were adjusted or loosened enough to be grabbed easily. "Thank you, guys. I --"

"Hey, anytime, boss." Kevin spoke up for all of them. The others nodded or murmured their agreement and Donovan smiled slightly.

"What's the deal with everybody?" Joey finally had a chance to ask Kevin during their pause. It'd been go-get-em' from the start. That brooding, secluded Donovan had a veritable army at his beck and call, and was obviously competent enough to lead them -- despite his blindness -- was a shock, and seemingly impossible.

"The Boss and us? We're all ex-military, except him. Mercenaries, some seem to think, but we're not just hired guns." Kevin muttered, keeping his voice low. "We all have specialties. Like Mikey. The Boss likes to keep himself busy, doing odd jobs for some of his associates. Usually he just manages from afar, but I'm afraid we've tangled with Bonnet a few too many times, and this time it's personal."

Joey opened his mouth to ask another question, but Donovan approached Kevin, who promptly snapped to attention and into business mode. Joey couldn't hear what Donovan murmured, but the look on Kevin's face was grim.

"What was that about?" Joey whispered as they lined up at the foot of the stairs.

"Our mission is to get Lady Alford out alive. That's it."

"So he's just going to let this Bonnet guy get away with it?" Joey's voice shook with indignation. "He kidnapped my pregnant friend and --"

"Our mission is to get Lady Alford out alive," Kevin growled again. "Anything else is up to the boss."

It finally dawned on Joey what that meant. "If he gets his blind ass killed, Scarlet will murder me!"

Donovan led them up the final flight of steps.

***

There was so much blood, so much pain. In spite of the cocktail of medications and tranquilizers the doctors had given her, the removal of the baby hurt her. Part of her was sure it was purely in her mind. She was still screaming inside over the violation from Bonnet. The doctors had reentered the room as he finished, and had started right to work.

It was fast, effective. Her heart sang when at last she heard the soft, warbling cry of her baby. She couldn't see it, a sheet separating her view of the lower part of her body, but that cry made her arms ache to cuddle the little bundle.

"Please," she whispered at the sheet. "Can I hold my baby, once?" She didn't think they'd actually hear her, but after a couple moments quiet conversation beyond the divider, a figure in blood-spattered white scrubs carried a blanket-wrapped little parcel into her view.

A tiny pink fist extended from the folds as she took it, and she kissed the delicate fingers. Whimpers escaped, and she opened the blanket further to stare down into wide, dark eyes. Even knowing that it wasn't his, those unfocused eyes made her think of her husband. Dark hair fuzzed on a perfect round head, and she kissed that as well. Love filled her heart, and her eyes streamed.

"Hi baby," she whispered. "You're so pretty. Such a pretty baby. Mummy loves you so much."

The doctors approached again. "Ma-am, the baby..."

Scarlet's silent tears became heart-wrenching sobs as they wrested the babe from her arms. The tiny infant joined in her cries, and it thrashed in the head doctor's arms. They bundled it away from the room and left Scarlet on the bed.

Outside the room, gunfire exploded through the halls.

***

They were set upon as soon as they reached the top floor. Bullets whizzed toward them, taking down the first men in the group. Kevin shoved Donovan and Joey, the most vulnerable members of the band, down out of harm's way. Joey watched as they returned fire, most efficiently and organized than their opponents. Bonnet's larger group of men crept back down the halls, giving ground, and Donovan's team followed doggedly.

"Alford..." Joey pulled Donovan up into a sitting position once the landing was cleared. "Do you hear that? It sounds like...like a baby."

"Of course I do," Donovan snapped. "You go, find out. You'll be faster without me. Be careful." Joey glanced at him in surprise. "Scarlet will murder me if you get your ass killed."

Joey chuckled mirthlessly. Creeping down the hall, in the opposite direction of the fight, he paused to check the rooms briefly. They were empty, but he followed the quickly fading wails.

Donovan listened to Joseph's footsteps fade, before he stood to follow his men. The gunfire had slacked off; only the occasional shot shook the halls around him. They must have had Bonnet's men pinned in a room, like their teams had been.

"Bonsoir, Monsieur Alford." Bonnet spoke from behind him.

Donovan turned slowly. "Bonnet."

"Tch, so curt. That is not becoming, mon ami."

"Where is my wife?" It came out in a soft but dangerous growl, and unbeknownst to Donovan, Bonnet shuddered and gripped his small handgun tighter.

"Oh, the madame is resting. Childbirth is very tiring, you know."

"You took her child?"

"My child." Donovan took a step toward him. Bonnet raised his gun defensively. The man was blind, but he knew from experience that the man was skilled in ways beyond perfect vision. He was dangerous. "Don't move..."

"Boss?" Michael whispered in Donovan's ear. "Should I get someone over there?"

Donovan didn't reply. His team had their orders, whether they liked it or not. And they would follow them. Joey was going after the baby. Once Bonnet's team was taken down, Scarlet would be retrieved and all would be well.

"What are you going to do with my wife?" Donovan took a step backwards, sensing Bonnet relaxing as the space between them grew.

"Oh, she's of no use to me, you know."

"Let me take her, then."

"Unfortunately, that's quite impossible. You see, neither you, nor the dear Madame Alford shall make it out of this house alive. It would be quite...problematic, if either one of you came back, to haunt me, I mean. You and I have tangled too many times, mon ami. You know this. We are old enemies, and that's reached its end."

"I agree. But why kill her? There's nothing she could do to take the child back. You're too powerful."

"Insurance. Your wife is a stubborn, determined, beautiful woman, Alford. A wonderful choice for you, I should think. But she would try. And, I feel, succeed. Hell hath no fury, and she fights like a hellcat, let me tell you." Bonnet touched his arm, stirred at a memory. "She clawed me so hard the first time I took her, I had to get half a dozen stitches."

Donovan tensed at the last statement. Knowing that Bonnet had fathered his wife's child was different from actually knowing that Bonnet had raped his wife. "First time?"

"Ah yes," Bonnet backed away slowly. "We had another encounter today. She's quite irresistible."

Donovan saw red. Blood pounded in his veins and he charged at his armed enemy, ignoring the singing bullets that rushed by him, and the sting as one connected. An almighty roar escaped his frame as he tackled Bonnet to the ground. His opponent's fist connected with his jaw, but he only felt the jarring of it, not the pain. His hands became wet, and he knew it was his blood; still he pummeled and pounded the man's body wherever he could make a connection.

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