The Program Ch. 07byewebie©
I've always been open and welcome to comments and criticism of my work, and any feedback that helps me improve my writing or the plot line of a story is well considered. But for the love, don't tell me that my medical treatments are incorrect. Clearly I'm not trying to be medically accurate. This is a work of fiction.
I deal with enough gunshot wounds on a daily basis to want to relay appropriate, algorithmic management in my free time. Obviously if you're shot in the gut you've probably perforated your bowel, an artery or two, maybe a kidney, a spleen, your liver, your stomach if you're really unlucky. And no, you can't treat that in a shady motel with some alcohol, sutures, and morphine. Taylor would have, without a doubt, died. And even with proper hospital care, she wouldn't be running around shooting people the next day. But that doesn't suit my story. I took a literary license and made some stuff up, but as I said before, these are works of fiction. If you think that was bad, you should see how I plan to cure some genetic diseases in my next story.
And before it shows up in my inbox: No, you don't defibrillate patients in Afib, you chemically cardiovert... And most doctors don't sedate patients that are anxiously hyperventilating. (I say most, because I don't know every doctor and frankly, it's tempting, and some docs get their jollies pointing out clinical error in erotic fiction, so who the hell knows) If you want medical accuracy, read Kumar and Clark, the NEJM, or skim some Up-to-Date. If you want to read an action-based, fictional novella with a bit of sex thrown in... You're in the right place.
I normally don't use these chapter openings for rants. That was aimed at one anonymous comment, from an anonymous email, that just managed to irk me on a bad day. Apparently, there's still a snarky bitch hidden under this white coat. I apologise to everyone else for having to read that. If I keep these up, I may have to start a blog. In the mean time, I've managed to squeeze out Ch. 7. I hope you enjoy it. And if you leave feedback at the end of the story, I do try to make a comment on it somehow. If you send me a message, I do try to get back to people. And I'm normally very sweet (not that I've lived up to that today). Oh, and I apologise for that weird non-spacing between the computer correspondence in Ch. 6. I don't really know what happened there. It looked fine in the text doc before I uploaded, but I must have done something weird with the line breaks in the formatting.
That's about enough of that... I think I left you at a point where I was really starting to feel bad for Taylor. What a rough bunch of days she's having. And I'm sorry to say, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. This is a short chapter, but I hit a good break point and thought I better keep posting after the long break last time.
[The information contained within this story is not meant to serve as instruction for medical care or as an alternative to seeking appropriate medical attention. In case of illness, please ring your GP and schedule an appointment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911.]
Thanks for reading!
Bill sipped his coffee as he watched Danny stretch her arms over her head. She was down on the hard-packed, beach sand finishing a yoga workout, and it afforded him a wonderful view from the porch of the cottage. He'd never been much of a yoga fan until now. Maybe it wasn't as absurd of a workout as he thought. He smiled to himself as he leaned casually against the porch railing.
Danny shook the sand from her towel and padded up the dunes and stairs to the cottage. She grinned at him, accepting the cup of coffee he offered her and ruffling his hair as she walked past. "I'm going to take a quick shower. Why don't you stay here and keep enjoying the view."
"If you're leaving, then I can't do both," he groused playfully, turning to watch her walk inside.
"I'm sure you can figure something to do," she called over her shoulder.
He could think of plenty of things to do, but none of them were Josh Wilson approved. He blushed as his thoughts took a dirty turn. God, that was so unlike him. Calm down, Bill, he told himself. This constant stream of adrenaline was making him act a little goofy.
With a sigh, he turned back out toward the water, watching the waves crash and retreat against the coastline. He glanced at his watch. Taylor and Wilson had been gone for nearly an hour; they should be back soon. Or calling soon. Or... Stop it, he scolded himself, forcing his hands to remain on the coffee mug rather than reaching for the mobile phone in his pocket.
Waiting around sucked. He stared at the coffee and swirled it around the mug. He couldn't fathom how Danny could stand this. How often did she know that her brother and her best friend were putting themselves in mortal danger? He wasn't even that vested in either of them and he was horribly on edge.
How involved was he anyway? Granted he'd known Taylor for a few months. But come to think of it, he never really knew her. Part of him was actually still angry with her. She had lied to him for months and didn't seem the least bit contrite. The least she could do was let him in on what exactly was going on. She flat out upended his whole life and was awfully cavalier about it. And where did she get off kissing him like that yesterday. I bet she hadn't told Wilson.
And Wilson, he'd know for what? A few days? And that guy seemed to intrude on his thoughts. He couldn't even look at Danny without worrying that her brother would see. But as rough as the guy was, Bill was worrying about him too. Maybe, if they made it out of this alive, he and Wilson might actually be friends. Or maybe Wilson just saw him as an eerie reminder of Mick too. But Wilson and Taylor had their own messy relationship; that much was obvious. Here's hoping they don't kill each other before they get back. In the mean time, Danny's upstairs, in the shower...
He groaned. He was far too worried about Danny. In more ways than one. He'd only known her a few days as well. But it certainly didn't feel like it. She just seemed to fill a space in his awareness and fit the void so completely that it was hard to imagine her not being there. And that was crazy. Who was he kidding? Danny wasn't the type of girl he usually went for, and he was quite certain that he wasn't the type of guy that Danny was usually after.
"Quit thinking so much, Boy Scout. I can practically smell the burning from here."
Bill snorted and turned, his mind stalling before he could retort. She was gorgeous. There were just no words. And the intensity of his reaction sent a small jolt of fear through him. Maybe he was going crazy. It wasn't as if she was trying to look good. Her hair was still damp, hanging in loose strands to frame her face, and the tips had dampened her pink t-shirt where they fell over her shoulders. Her face was still flushed from the shower and her skin was practically glowing. And her smile was infectious. He had to chuckle. Wow. "You don't look nervous."
"Yeah. How are you so calm?"
"Years of practice," she said with a wry smile. "You'll find that worrying will only give you ulcers and wrinkles. It doesn't help anyone and it won't get you anywhere." She leaned against the railing next to him. "Why? Are you getting nervous?"
Bill sighed. "I don't know what else to be doing."
Danny set her hand on his. "If you want something else to do," she grinned.
"No offence, but I think I'd rather be hoping your brother comes back."
"Fair enough." She left her hand on his and turned to gaze out on the water.
"Want to talk about it?"
"How do you do it?"
"Years of practice."
"Come on, Danny. How do you tolerate all this waiting around?"
"Bill, it will wreck your head to sit around and come up with all the horrible things that could be happening. Once in a rare while something goes wrong, but you'll never be able to predict it. It's like a flood. You can get some flood insurance, but there's no point in boarding up your house every time it looks like rain."
"Is it really that simple?"
"You either learn to keep going, or you lose yourself to the fear. Why do you think I work so hard?"
He forced a smile and threw an arm around her shoulders, drawing her to his side. "So wise for someone so short," he murmured.
Danny laughed. "You and Josh both seem to love picking on my height."
"It was simply an observation." He rested his chin on the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her; she fit so well against his body. "I happen to like your height."
The tinkling sound of shattered glass passed through the open door and out onto the porch. Bill stiffened, staring into the cottage over Danny's head. "You hear that?"
"Stay here." He released her reluctantly.
"No," she grabbed his arm. "We should just leave."
"And go where?" he hissed. "The car is gone and the beach is too exposed. Just stay here. It's probably just a bottle overturned or something." It took a visible effort to let go of his arm, but she did. And Bill glanced back before ducking into the cottage.
It was absolutely silent inside, and in spite of the lights being out, the rooms were well lit by the sun. He checked the kitchen, but everything looked intact. He passed in and out of the bedrooms and hallways, but everything was as he left it. Then he checked the back door. A small pane of glass had been shattered and the lock was no longer engaged. He frowned and backed away from the door, heading toward the porch.
"Danny," he called ahead of himself, pulling the mobile phone from his pocket. "We need to go, now." The phone was halfway to his ear as he stepped out on the porch, but that was as far as it reached. The phone clattered to the wooden planks below his feet and his two long strides took him to the middle of the open space before his head exploded in pain and he dropped to the ground.
Taylor winced as she tried to raise her head. Everywhere seemed to hurt and each movement just made another part of her body scream in pain, but the worst of it was coming from her shoulders. The effort it took to straighten her neck managed to irritate the massive lump on the side of her forehead and she groaned. Dropping her ear against her arm, she pressed her eyes shut against the pounding sensation in her skull. After a moment, she grunted and forced her eyes open, squinting into the dimly lit space.
She tried to move her arms, but they wouldn't budge. A bubble of panic welled in her chest and she quickly tamped down on it, pushing the emotion and pain aside in an effort to clear her head. Ok, Taylor, just breathe. Breathe and think. She tested her legs, finding them unfettered and in normal working condition if not a little weak. Ok, good.
She planted her feet and straightened her legs to take the weight off of her arms. Her shoulders slumped a little and she groaned as the muscles were finally allowed to relax and blood rushed through them. She tilted her head back and tugged against the restraints that secured her arms over her head. She choked back gasp, squinting up at what looked like riot ties binding her wrists to a metal hook overhead. The elevation was cutting off the blood to her hands and the sharp edges of the plastic had cut into her skin leaving a small trail of blood tracking down her arms. But that pain paled in comparison to that in her side when she tried to take a deep breath. She must have popped the stitches in her side.
Where the hell were they? The space looked like a warehouse of some kind. A hanger? A granary with low ceilings? Or maybe a vault? Or a basement? That's what it looked like, an industrial storage cellar. Concrete floors, concrete walls, maybe even concrete ceilings with metal piping forming a disordered grid overhead. Periodic round fluorescent lights were scattered throughout the space, but the only one that illuminated the space she could see was almost directly overhead. It looked like there could be shelves or crates or boxes or fucking walls just in the inky shadows outside the halo of light, but she couldn't tell. "Fuck me," she breathed.
The whisper came from somewhere behind her, and Taylor twisted sharply, gasping when pain lanced up her side. She slumped forward, surrendering to the inability to see around her. "Wilson?" she asked hopefully.
Taylor moved to nod her head and thought better of it. "Where are we?"
He grunted and chuckled. "Not sure."
"Danny and Martin?"
"They're both over here near me. I think they're still out cold, but they look ok."
"Does Danny still have that panic button I gave her?"
"God I hope so."
Taylor shifted against the hook trying to gauge how far she could move and was rewarded with another lance of pain in her arms. "Why aren't we dead?" she asked hesitantly.
A creaking noise preceded a startling metallic bang, and she jumped, biting back a moan when the sudden movement sent a spike of pain through her head. "Oh good, you're awake." A few more overhead lights flickered on, brightening the space.
Taylor went rigid. She would recognise that voice anywhere. "VanTerran," she hissed through clenched teeth. A moment of pure, blinding rage washed through her and she realized that she had never wanted to kill anyone before. But she desperately wanted to end his life now.
His confidence as he moved into view gave his gait a swagger that had Taylor itching for her gun. "Officer James, welcome to the party," he smiled coldly, unbuttoning the cuffs of his pristine white shirt and rolling the sleeves. "How are you, sweetie? Comfortable?"
Taylor snorted. "If this is your idea of a party, the invitations were pretty weak."
"I'll have to work on that." A dark grin twisted his face. "Maybe you can file a formal complaint with HR."
"Untie my hands and we'll see where that takes us," she retorted sweetly.
"Ha!" He seemed to contemplate her position for a moment. "No, I don't think so. I think I like you better this way."
"I'd probably like you better this way too," she muttered.
He stepped forward and stroked a finger under her chin. "It's too bad you missed your chance."
His touch sent a chill down her spine and she jerked away with a snarl. "Don't touch me," she hissed.
The faint flicker of a frown curled his mouth before he stepped back, crossed his arms over his chest, and began walking a slow circle around her. "You know, Officer James, I'm not one to really deny my impulses when it comes to killing people, and I wouldn't want you to feel special. I am going to kill you when I no longer find you amusing."
"I'm glad you're so easily amused," she tried to follow his progress, but he was nearly behind her.
"I think you overestimate my patience."
"Sorry to disappoint. I was never good at guesswork."
"Well let me explain then," he whispered from directly behind her. It was a struggle not to move as his hand stroked down her spine. "You have something of mine and I want it back."
He clucked his tongue at her as he circled back around front, his eyes tracing her bound form. "Such language."
"What do you want?"
He gazed up at her fettered wrists. His fingers grazed the inside of her elbow just before he gave her arm a sharp tug. Taylor choked back a scream at the stab of pain and narrowed her eyes at VanTerran. He grinned, "Just checking. Better safe than sorry."
He wanted the chip. She knew it and he knew it. But he had to know that even if she had it with her, which she didn't, she would never give it to him. He really was an arrogant prick. "Fuck you."
The smile on his face never wavered as he leaned closer. "There's no need to be rude." She sneered at him, her lip curling in distaste. He pressed on, "I'm only going to ask you once. Where is it?"
She let confusion play across her face. "Where's what?"
The loud crack of skin on skin echoed in the room and Taylor's head jerked to the right. She winced, blinking away stars as a burning welt rose on her cheek.
"Hey!" Wilson shouted from behind her.
VanTerran glanced over Taylor's shoulder and smiled. "Oh, don't worry, that was just a warning." He leaned in as Taylor pulled as far away as her arms would allow. "Now that I have your attention, let's see if we can't get to the bottom of this. I know Matthews offered you evidence against me. I want it."
There was no way he could know that. At least, not without someone from NCS feeding him information. She tried to stall. "He said he had it but he never gave it to us. He was dead before I could interrogate him." It was, in part, the truth.
He struck her with the back of his hand and Taylor couldn't keep from issuing a small cry in surprise. He roughly grabbed her chin and tilted her face back toward his. "Stop lying to me. I know he gave it to you. I want it back."
"Even if I did have it," she snarled. "Why would I give it to you? You're going to kill me anyway."
He glared at her for a minute before smiling again. "Because there are so many ways to die, Officer James. There's killing you, and then well..."
Taylor felt a cold chill run down her spine. The menace in his voice was glacial and calculating, but the smile he wore was one of pleasure, pleasure because he knew she wasn't going to cooperate. He was psychotic. "And if I don't have it?" she asked quietly.
"Then you make my life that much more difficult."
Wilson pulled at the ties that kept his wrists securely behind his back. There was absolutely no give. He tested his left ankle again, the swelling and pain made him hope it was only sprained, but he could put weight on it if necessary. He'd pull his shoulder out of socket if necessary. He shot a glance at Bill and Danny. Bill was awake and watching everything with wide eyes. Wilson didn't fancy having civilians involved in any operations, let alone uncontrolled situations like this. But the guy seemed to be holding his own. Bill caught Wilson's gaze and opened his mouth, but Wilson shook his head. It was better if VanTerran didn't remember they were there.
Danny stirred, and Wilson nudged her elbow with his foot when her eyes fluttered open. He shushed her and spoke as softly as he could. "Don't move. No matter what happens, just stay where you are." He saw her swallow visibly and give the tiniest nod of her head. He was never more relieved to have a sister that was calm under pressure than he was right then. "If you can, I need you to hit the panic button Taylor gave you. Do you think you can?" Again, Danny nodded ever so slightly, shifting her hands slowly and methodically to reach the waistband of her pants. Now, how the fuck was he going to get them out of here in the meantime?
He turned back to watch Taylor, wincing as VanTerran's fist connected solidly with her cheek. Her shoulders shuddered, but she didn't cry out, instead she muttered something that only VanTerran could hear. A look of rage contorted the man's face and Taylor's head jerked to the other side as he struck her again. Damnit, Taylor, quit antagonising the psychopath.
Taylor felt the inside of her cheek split over her teeth and her mouth filled with blood. Angrily she spat it out on the floor. The longer he was focused on her, the longer Wilson had to figure something out. Come on, Wilson, think of something fast. She lifted her chin defiantly and met VanTerran's stare. He looked at the blood on the floor with distain. "You know you're only making this harder on yourself."
Taylor glared. It was a bad idea, and she knew it. She did it anyway. She spat at him, droplets of blood staining his pristine white shirt. He froze, staring at the stain. "You stupid bitch," he whispered.