tagLoving WivesClaim It! Pt. 04

Claim It! Pt. 04

byJLRemora2©

"Hudson, you got lucky. Spur of the moment action is fine, but it won't save you in the long run. Eventually, sooner rather than later, the bad guys are going to get you. I'm not going to argue the point anymore with you. You'll stay here, until we're done with this fucked up mission. More importantly, you aren't going to endanger my teams because your feelings are hurt and want to leave. If you try to leave I'll shoot you myself, and save the bad guys the effort. Do we understand each other?" asked Hughes hotly.

Don was fuming. He'd been cooped up since the night of his attempted murder, three days ago. He'd been transported to a farmhouse lost in the middle of bumfuck woods. Don doubted anyone had lived there since before the American Civil War. The interior of the two story house had been repaired well enough to make it livable. Barely. The barn was large enough to hold the four vehicles that were hidden within its confines.

There was a reasonably stocked kitchen and plenty of reading material, but what it didn't have and what Don wanted most, was freedom.

"I hear you, Hughes." replied Don, his voice strained by the effort of keeping his temper under control.

"Goddammit, Hudson, I don't give a fuck about your ears! I asked if you understood! Are we going to have to restrain you? Is that what you want?" roared Hughes, angry at Don's peevishness.

"Fuck it! Alright, I understand!" shouted Dom back at Hughes.

After shaking his head and glaring furiously at Don, Hughes stalked off.

Rhodes was in the adjoining room, and unwillingly overheard the exchange between her boss and Hudson. She wasn't prone to getting involved in other people's business, unless, of course, she was on a mission, but something needed to be done before things escalated to the point of no return.

"Hello, Mister Hudson. Might I talk with you?" asked Wanda as she stood in the doorway of Don's room.

Surprised at her presence, for a second Don could only stare at Rhodes. "Why not, Ms. Rhodes? Everyone else seems to want to talk at me. Maybe you will talk 'with' me. Come on in. Have a sit." angrily answered Don.

Nodding her head, Wanda took one step into Don's room. "I'll get right to the point. I couldn't help overhear you and Mister Hughes."

"Okay. And? Or is this a but moment?" asked Don sarcastically.

"Please, Mister Hudson. I'm not here to argue with you." said Wanda in her soft lilting voice.

Sighing Don stepped to one of the chairs at the table in his room. "I'm sorry. Look- Please sit. It'll be more comfortable as we talk." Don pulled out one of the chairs, patting its backrest, inviting her to sit.

Wanda moved somewhat stiffly to the chair, yet, somehow managed to make her motion seem dainty. Don found it fascinating that Rhodes could move so femininely, and be such a cold blooded killer.

Rhodes stood a slim five foot ten inches and probably weighed in around one-hundred and twenty pounds. She had a longish neck, almost delicate, and a narrow face. Her eyes were bluish-gray and seemed both soft and icy in their appearance. She wore her auburn hair short, in a nineteen-fifties dutch boy style, which framed her face in a pixie-like manner. Her present attire, which consisted of skin hugging cream colored capris, and a semi-tight powder blue blouse, added to the effect. Her footwear were black loafers. She wore no makeup and no jewelry. Her hands were slim, long of finger with short unpainted nails, and appeared delicate. Don hadn't really noticed the size of Rhodes' breasts, until now. As Wanda sat down, her blouse pulled even tighter across her chest, and for a moment, Don saw that her breasts were small and pert. At their sight, Don felt a familiar stirring within his neither regions. Glancing away, Don looked back at her face. Up close, Don saw that her head was definitely misshapen; it was the left side of her face. Her cheek bone was more prominent than the other and the eye was a bit higher, however, the disfigurement was slight, and it wasn't really all that obvious. In fact, her hair, her clothing, and her slight disfigurement gave her a certain air, like a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Doris Day.

"I've some coffee made, if you'd like some." offered Don, pointing to a small carafe.

"Yes, that would be- nice. Thank you."

After getting them both a cup of coffee, Don sat, took a sip, and began, "Okay, it's your dime."

Don noticed Rhodes hadn't reached for her coffee.

Looking him squarely in the eye, Rhodes said, "A lot of people are now involved. Everyone of those people is basically working on your behalf. Hughes- We didn't expect the escalation we've encountered. Not for something as simple as a wife leaving her husband." She saw him flinch at her words and quickly spoke, "I'm sorry, but it's the truth. Still, we knew from the beginning there was more to the situation than was immediately obvious. It's why Hughes set up the surveillance on those surveilling you."

Wanda saw a flicker of anger and something else, perhaps emotional pain, cross his face for a second, before he settled to a more neutral expression.

"I know all that! What's your fucking point?" asked Don with some exasperation.

"My point? My point is-" Then something shifted inside Wanda Rhodes. She was going to try to be the peacemaker, but of a sudden she realized that approach wouldn't work. Instead, she decided to bring him to the reality of the situation. "The team has lost a good man and I've lost a good friend. Hughes is now paying out of pocket for the extra bodies we need. As for your friend, Pete Santos- not only has he spent a large sum of money to initially bring the team in, but he also now owes a large favor to Hughes. It was the only way Hughes would get involved, because he really didn't want any part of it. Yes, you've had a bad time of it, but you're attitude- your behavior, is making it even more difficult than it needs to be, Mister Hudson. We are trying to get to the bottom of this, while protecting you. You're not making this any easier with your constant and childish demands of trying to get your way."

Somewhat floored at Rhodes' words, Don didn't immediately respond. He was angry at what she'd just said, but also, he was beginning to doubt his own perspective. Had he been such an asshole? Some part of him knew he had, but he wasn't ready to admit it fully to himself. Not just yet.

"What the...? I didn't do shi-" sputtered Don in rising anger.

Rhodes went on as if she hadn't heard him.

"Let me put it to you another way. I had my doubts concerning your cooperation, and as you refused sound advise and the offer of protection, you proved yourself in a way that doesn't help your case. But, I tried to do my job, despite your constant interference. However, I do thank you. When you made it abundantly clear that you didn't want my help in keeping you alive, I was able to walk away with a clear conscious." Giving him a cold steady look, Rhodes said, "In my opinion, you're a ignorant, arrogant, insensitive fool, and I sorely regret we took this job. You don't deserve the sacrifices made by Mendoza, Santos, Hughes and myself. Now, unfortunately, we are in too deep to walk away, and the murder of Mendoza has made this a personal matter. Despite your wife being tied to the case, you yourself have become superfluous to the goal of the mission. The fact is, Mister Hudson, we don't need you as anything more than as bait. And, it's your faked death that will draw them out." The way Rhodes said the last sentence had Don thinking that to Rhodes, his real death would have been a better alternative, with far less work.

Don stared at Rhodes, some part of him, the part not sheathed in anger, felt wonder at her delivery. Her soft lilt of a voice hadn't rising in volume, yet, she had been clear and loud enough to be heard easily. Her words were without any particular inflection, they'd been spoken in a cool detached way, much like a lab technician might refer to a rat in a cage.

Don, outside of the always present anger, wasn't sure how to feel with what Rhodes' had just told him. He squashed a knee-jerk emotional reaction, instead letting her words be absorbed, and rather than think on them, he allowed each word to meander through his mind freely. Don began to gain a different sense- a differing interpretation- one that was at odds with an entrenched part of his anger. Put more aptly, it was at odds with the actual cause of his anger. Then a epiphany hit.

While Don had pondered his response those few seconds, he had looked away from Rhodes. Now, he raised his head and locked eyes with her.

"Finally! Someone has explained what's going on, and with a bit of honesty tossed in. Thanks, Rhodes." said Don with a sardonic smile.

Wanda raised one shapely eye brow in question.

"It's my life that's been going down the shitter. First, my wife accuses me of infidelity and leaves to live with another man. And, I don't know why. Or, I didn't. Then, I'm followed by two goons and Pete brings you all in. Hughes has a game plan, but he won't let me even sit along the sideline. Instead, as it turns out, I'm the fucking football. Next, the shit goes from bad to worse. Mendoza gets killed and you get shot up." At his last words, Don sees Rhodes frown slightly, before her expression quickly returns to it's normal stoicalness.

"Then, you come along, demanding I do this and that to improve security. That night, you really didn't discuss anything with me, what you did when we were supposed to be discussing those things, was to repeat the same demands over and over." said Don heatedly. He stopped to draw a calming breath, before continuing. "Then, someone tries to kill me." A toothy but mirthless grin stretches Don's face as he recalls the two would be killers and of the nervy excitement he felt as it went down. "Now, here I am, hidden away, sitting on my ass, pretending to be dead. And, until now, I wasn't certain to what was going on and what my role is. Until you explained its fishing out the bad guys and I'm the bait. So, thanks."

Upon finishing his speech, Don immediately lifted his coffee cup and took a careful sip, it had cooled down enough not to sear his tongue, so he gulped a large portion and set the cup back down.

Rhodes was looking at him as if he were some unknown creature.

"How long has she been sleeping with him?" asked Don calmly.

A quizzical expression crossed Wanda's face. "Who?"

"Oh, come on. I know you're not dense and neither am I. Donna doesn't have a blood relative named- What was it? Mark McClansky? So how long has she been sleeping with him?"

Surprise widened Rhodes' eyes. "How did you- Who told you?"

"No one told me, but you just confirmed it."

Her surprise increased, as well as a growing anger at her carelessness. She saw Don was waiting for an answer to his question.

"You'll have to speak to Hughes about that."

Sighing, Don said, "We both know how that will go. So, I'm asking you. How long?"

For the first time in years, Wanda felt trapped. Even the recent ambush didn't have her feeling so cornered.

"I really think you should-"

"No, goddammit! Just tell me. I think I already know, but if you'll confirm it, then I'll drop any further questions concerning my slut of a wife. Okay?"

Wanda didn't like deceiving anyone. In fact, she had argued against withholding any information from Hudson, but Hughes and Santos thought it best not to tell him. But, she also followed orders, even when she didn't agree with those orders. So she hadn't breathed a word of it. Now here was Hudson, already aware that his wife had cheated on him, and wanting to know the time table. Fuck it!

"As best as we can tell, her relationship with McClansky has been ongoing for about twelve weeks."

Don nodded to himself. "That's about what I figured. That's around the time she left me. I guess this guy McClansky is the one who faked the evidence that was used to break up my marriage." Don said musingly.

Wanda sat there, unmoving, carefully watching Hudson's reaction to the news.

"So how does McClansky fit into what's going on? Is he the guy behind all the other shit?"

Wanda slowly stood before replying. "We aren't certain, but at the very least he's part of it. And now Mister Hudson, I must be going."

Don sat silently, as he watched Rhodes walk out of his room, leaving her coffee cold and untouched.

~N~

"He knew! He's probably known since she left him. But, not the who or the why. And we should have told him. From the very beginning. Sir." explained Rhodes in a clipped voice as she briskly entered the main planning room.

"What? Who knew what?" Asked a bemused Hughes, looking up from his laptop screen.

"Hudson! He knew his wife cheated on him. We fucked up by not tell him everything." said a slightly exasperated Rhodes.

"Oh, that! I did what I thought was best." replied Hughes in a somewhat annoyed tone.

"Well, sir. I think we really fucked up by not giving him full disclosure. He's like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode. He's lost trust in his wife, trust in his friend and now any chance of trust in us. We've cornered him and he's going to treat us like we've treated him. He is going to go dark. I bet my life on that. Soon, he's going to disappear and none of us will find him." said Rhodes in a concerned tone.

"You think he's capable of that?" asked Hughes, surprised at Rhodes' assessment.

"Sir! He's killed two trained assassins. From what I gather, he had no trouble. Before what odds would you have given him to survive a hit?"

"Damn! I get your point. Okay, assuming he does get away from us, what do you think his next move will be? Presume his access to resources is limited."

After a few moments of thoughtful silence, Rhodes began her analyses.

"He'll move quickly. He won't go to ground and regroup. His best chance at accomplishing his objective is to move quickly, and my guess he realizes this. Next, he'll target McClansky. Hudson will grab him and interrogate him."

"He won't go for the wife?" Hughes was rubbing the back of his hand under his chin. A habit he did when he was musing over things.

"No, sir. Not to talk to her anyway." answered Wanda.

"What do you mean? You think he might kill her?! His own wife?"

"It's dependent on his emotional and mental state at that time. But, yes, he might just kill her- If he's in a rage. From his psych evaluation administered at separation from military service, it's obvious Hudson isn't one to brook with his wife's infidelity, since such an action is, in his belief, considered to be treacherous disloyalty."

"Damn! Are you sure of this?" asked Hughes, perturbation evident on his face.

"No, of course not. But, all the indicators point to that sort of mind set."

"What about McCullah? What do you think Hudson will do with him?"

"Once he's finished interrogating McCullah, and assuming Hudson gets what he wants, then he might kill McCullah, or worse- indiscriminately torture him for pleasure." said Rhodes calmly, her voice lifting on the last syllables. "If McCullah is a braggart, then it isn't a matter of if, but of when, Hudson will kill him."

Hughes brooded a few seconds over Rhodes' analyses. "What of us? Will Hudson perceive us in the same light, as disloyal and treacherous?"

Thinking a moment, Rhodes looked up at Hughes, meeting his eyes. "I think- In my opinion, because of our close association with Santos, he'll overlook what he sees as deception on our part, but if we continue to treat him as we have, then his thinking might very well change."

Hughes looked away, remaining silent.

"Boss, bring him up to speed. Spill your guts, and let him make those decisions solely involving him. You probably won't like his decisions, but you'll like even less what he decides if you don't include him in this operation."

"He's not part of the team. He's an outsider. Santos was once one of us, so we cut him some slack, but this guy, Hudson, he ain't part of shit. And you want me to place my trust in his character?" asked Hughes incredulously.

"No, Lieutenant Hughes, I'm saying to inform Mister Hudson of the situation. Let him decide on the action he wants to pursue that doesn't involve us. If we don't allow him some latitude, he's going to escape, then act as he sees fit. At least if you include him in the planning, you might have a chance to direct him. Because, you won't be able to stop him. For a civilian, he's very adaptive."

"Maybe I should just put a bullet in his head. That'll take care of the problem. After all, he's already dead." laughed Hughes harshly.

Rhodes stood with her usual stoic expression, knowing it was just her boss' way of coming to terms with the situation. If he had been serious about killing Hudson, he never would have said a thing.

After a few moments, Hughes said, "Okay. Shit. It isn't what I had planned, but maybe we can use his 'freedom' to our advantage. By the way, how long?"

Rhodes raised a finely manicured eye brow in question.

Sighing, Hughes rephrased his question. "How long have you had feelings for our Hudson?"

Rhodes was caught off guard, and her face instantly flamed red in embarrassment. "What? I- Never!" snapped Rhodes.

"Easy there, First Sergeant." Hughes said in a soothing tone. "I didn't mean to pry, but it seems to be affecting your judgment. Not badly, but a little." He finished with a genuine smile.

"Might I sit, sir?" asked Rhodes. She was yet blushing, although it was beginning to fade.

"Plant it." said Hughes as one beefy finger pointed to a nearby chair.

Sitting, Rhodes began speaking, "It's true, sir. I do have- Feelings for Mister Hudson. I don't know why. He's the most arrogant and stubborn of men I've ever met. I should dislike him, but I don't. But, rest assured, sir, I would never act on my feelings."

"Does he know? I mean does Hudson know how you feel about him?"

After a brief hesitation, Rhodes quietly said, "I don't think so, sir. I don't believe I've given any indication of my feelings about him to him. I've tried to stay neutral in my association with Don- I mean, Mister Hudson. Also, he's never indicated or reacted he knows or suspects how I feel."

"Okay, Rhodes. Good enough." said Hughes to his subordinate. After a moment's pause, the Lieutenant added, "Now, I want you to escape with him."

A look of total shock passed quickly across Wanda's face, it was gone an instant later, still, Hughes caught her expression and began laughing. "I'm sorry, Rhodes. I don't mean to laugh, but it's a rare thing to see you lose control, of anything, but especially this."

"If you say so. Sir." acknowledged First Sergeant Rhodes in a tightly controlled voice.

Assuming a serene expression, Hughes went on to explain, "I'm serious, Wanda. I want you to get buddy buddy with Hudson. Team up with him. Help him. But, most of all protect him." He held up a hand to forestall her argument. "I know you aren't ready for field work, and I suspect Hudson is aware of this, that'll play out in your favor. One other thing, and I can't force you to use this particular option, although I do want you to consider it- Let him know how you feel about him. No man is so dense that he can't somehow feel when a woman has an interest in him, and I think Hudson suspects how you feel, but doubts his suspicions."

Rhodes' eyes widened alarmingly at her superiors suggestion, or was it an order; either way she was suitably stunned by the idea. As her thoughts flew in all sorts of different directions, her hand involuntarily rose to touch her face. It was the place where her slight deformity was most prominent.

After a moment's introspection, Wanda Rhodes' eyes became cold and her face drained of color, while her hand snapped down.

"Why would I want to do that, Lieutenant?" Rhodes asked in a low grating voice.

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