The Program Ch. 06byewebie©
Oh my goodness... I've been a delinquent storyteller. For those of you who have been waiting for this forever (and for all the gentle nudges you've sent me), my apologies. I feel that at this point, I owe you an explanation beyond the standard "I got busy" reason.
In all honesty, I did get busy. But... I'm always busy. Here's the thing: I love to write, but writing is not my job. I wish it was, but unfortunately, I've invested myself in something that tends to demand much more time and energy and has increasingly taken me from writing in my spare time (mostly because I lost any semblance of spare time). I had hoped to finish this story before my life became as crazy as it was, but alas, not everything goes to plan.
After exams in the spring, my entire summer was spent studying for a test called the USMLE (commonly referred to as "The Medical Boards"). That finished just before I had to ship back med school. I'm not in lectures, I'm in the hospitals working fulltime. Most time not in the hospital is spent studying or eating or sleeping... but mostly studying. It's a never ending thing (as those of you still in school know). And to complicate things further, I'm on rotation away from home without internet access... * sigh * But I shouldn't complain. I love this life (I would like a little more time for writing).
In addition to that, I just ran a marathon... What is wrong with me? I'm some kind of crazy. Anyway, I've been trying to find the time to polish this chapter off, edit it, and post it in the middle of all the work, studying, running, and other such life things.
My apologies again for the delay. And for anyone who sent me an email or a message begging this to be finished, I do try... I really do try... I hope you enjoy it. And the wait for the next chapter should not be nearly as long.
As always, thank you for reading,
The sound of a bullet ratcheting into the chamber had her breath catching in her chest. "I knew I heard something."
Taylor's eyes locked on the muzzle of the gun aimed at her head.
Her gun was in her hand, but down by her side. The suit had already aimed, his finger on the trigger, safety off; there was no way she'd get a shot off. And he was too far away for her to try to disarm him. Not to mention the reception desk between them.
"You know, you look exactly like one of the targets. Funny." The suit re-levelled the gun to the centre of her chest.
Taylor closed her eyes. Somehow, a seedy motel wasn't exactly her ideal place to go. Josh was going to be so pissed at her.
Her eyes snapped open as Bill rushed into the lobby.
She didn't even take the time to aim, and the two guns erupted simultaneously as she squeezed off a double-tap. The suit twisted awkwardly, dropping to his knees before crumpling to the floor. Bill staggered back a step and collapsed.
Jesus Fucking Christ.
Taylor spun behind the wall, cursing loudly and expecting the other goons to rush the lobby. After a steadying breath, she convinced herself that they were too far to have heard the shots, no one was coming, and she rushed from behind the desk to where Bill lay still and prone on the floor. Oh God...
She dropped to her knees and rolled him onto his back, searching desperately for a wound. There was no blood. Why wasn't there any blood? Bill coughed weakly. The vest! Oh sweet Jesus, Bill was wearing the vest. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him gently. "Bill!"
Bill coughed, gasped, sucked in air, and coughed again. He forced his eyes open and squinted at Taylor, the pain in his ribs making his eyes water. Taylor laughed with relief and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him on the floor.
The hug hurt and Bill grunted as her weight came down roughly on his chest. "Ow." Taylor pulled back and laughed again, prying a slug from the centre of his vest. Bill groaned again, "These vests don't do anything. That hurt like hell!" He forced a smile and a grin bloomed across Taylor's face in response. He struggled to prop himself up on his elbows with a wince and was gauging how hard it would be to get to his feet when Taylor reached out, took his face between her palms, and pressed her lips to his.
Bill started, managed to swallow the gasp that threatened to escape, and groaned instead. He could feel his heart hammering in his chest with the adrenaline that rushed through his veins. It was a high unlike anything he'd experienced and heat flooded his body. He grunted and wrapped an arm around her slim frame, holding her against him. Her lips were so soft, so inviting. It wasn't like him to be so bold, but what the hell, he held her tighter as her tongue slid between his lips, teasing the inside of his mouth and coaxing a moan from him.
He'd been thinking about this ever since he'd caught her singing to herself. And in spite of his complete inability to get a handle on who she really was, she was always gorgeous. Who was he to stop her? Now her body was draped across his, her mouth moving against his, and her fingers wrapped in his hair. His arm wrapped tighter around her waist and she squeaked, breaking the kiss with a gasp for breath as her face paled. "Oh God, Taylor, your side," he whispered. "I forgot."
Taylor startled him again by chuckling, a rosy glow returning to her cheeks, "You scared the living hell out of me." She pushed herself back onto her knees and stared at him for a moment before shaking her head and helping him sit up. "If you ever do that to me again, so help me, I'll kill you myself."
Bill blinked at her where she stood, offering him a hand up. What the hell just happened? Did she really just... Did he? And how was she just standing there so... nonchalant? She tilted her head to the side, "Come on, boy scout, we have to get out of here."
Bill declined her hand. Because he didn't want her to hurt her side, he told himself, shaking off the small voice of rejection that nagged at the back of his mind. He pushed himself up and took a second to find his feet as the adrenaline had left him with the shakes. The adrenaline, or getting shot, or seeing someone else get shot... Taylor stooped and relieved the suit of his gun and radio, slipping the gun into the waist of her fatigues and the radio into a pocket. "Do we have a plan?" Bill asked cautiously, trying to avoid looking at either of the bodies on the floor.
When Taylor grinned, it was a purely feral expression. "Oh yeah. Go behind the truck, I'll pick you up."
"Pick me up? Taylor, we don't have a car," he objected.
"Grab the bags and get moving. I'm going to steal one." She didn't wait to see if he followed; she was back in action mode. She checked the front doors, they seemed clear. "Ready?" Bill nodded. Taylor smiled, pulled a switch from her pocket, triggered the first detonator, and pulled Bill out the door.
It was sudden chaos in the parking lot as two men were thrown from the balcony outside of their former room. The remaining goons rushed forward to recover their comrades and rush up the stairs toward the room. Bill pressed his back to the tire of the truck. "What was that?!"
"A distraction." She smiled and peered under the truck. "Stay here. I'll be back in a sec." Taylor crawled under the carriage of the semi and carefully timed her movements. The remaining five suits were either on or up the stairs, all focused on the tatters of the door or the two fallen suits. She dashed to the side of the nearest SUV, sending up a thanks as she found it running. Moving slowly, she inched up to the driver's side and climbed in. She kept her head down, but managed to get into a driving position.
Taking a deep breath, she triggered the second block of C4, threw the car in reverse and backed around the semi. She unlocked the doors, rolled down the window and sent a smile Bill's way before the second wave of debris had settled. "Get in."
"Are you sure they'll be here?" Bill asked timidly as he slowed the car next to the tall beach grass. They were in their third car since leaving the motel. Taylor had insisted on ditching the SUV as soon as possible. Then after heading north-east for over an hour, she had pulled into a large Walmart parking lot and "borrowed" another car, but not before swapping license plates with the car next to it. By the time they were moving again, they were heading south and Bill was behind the wheel.
Taylor's energy level had dropped sharply with the rise in pain from her side, and rather than drain herself dry, she'd consented to allow Bill to drive, telling him to stay on the same highway and wake her when they reached the Carolinas.
She nodded slowly. "It's our exit strategy. We both know it. If they're not here, something went wrong for them too. But Wilson said they were already here." She didn't want to consider the possibility that something had gone wrong since they last spoke. She needed Wilson right now. She didn't know if she could trust Patrick or Larson, or even if they were alive, but Wilson would know what to do. He had to, because she had never felt this helpless before. Well, she could run. She was good at that. She had money and passports and contacts across the globe. But there was Bill to think about. What the hell was she supposed to do with him? "See that white cottage? Pull in there; we'll hide the car later."
"That one on stilts?" Bill stared at the small house. After the cabin in the woods, he wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but this wasn't it. It looked like a Nantucket cottage built a storey off the ground. "Isn't this a little exposed?"
Taylor snorted. "You've never been to the Outer Banks before, have you?" When he shook his head, she smiled. "How many houses do you see around here?"
"Yup, and I know the people that live in all three houses. I know the people that work in the local shops, that run the B&Bs, that own the marinas, that drive the ferries. The tourists don't come down to Frisco except to see the lighthouse. There are two ways to get here and two ways to get out: the road, and the ferry. People here like their privacy. And the locals will be suspicious of anyone asking questions."
Bill furrowed his brow as he put the car in park, quickly turning off the engine. "Is it dangerous that you're known around here?"
"Yes and no. People around here don't know my last name and I haven't been here in years. It's not even in my file." She climbed out of the car and reached into the back to pull out the smaller duffel. "Isolation didn't work so well last time, so I'd rather not do that again. But, it is a little risky. That's why this isn't an approved exit. It's our fall back, mine and Wilson's."
"Are you ok to carry that?" Bill winced as soon as he'd asked the question. Taylor had been a little brusque with him since they'd first changed cars. He couldn't tell if she was upset, angry at him, or just in pain. Regardless, dumb question. He knew better than to antagonise the short angry female.
Taylor shot him a dark look, dropped the small bag and hoisted the large bag up onto her shoulder. "I just slept for two hours, I'm pretty damn sure I can walk a flight of stairs with this." She probably would have been better off not carrying anything. Bill could carry them both, or Wilson could come down and get it. But she was stubborn. She held her breath while she climbed the stairs, refusing to show how hard it actually was.
She slowed just before opening the door and knocked loudly. "Wilson? Wilson, it's me, I'm coming in." She pushed the door open and pulled up short in the entryway, staring down the muzzle of another gun.
"Oh thank God," Wilson blurted out, lowering his pistol. Taylor smiled weakly and dumped the bag on the floor as Bill came in behind her and shut the door. "What took you so long?"
God, he was a sight for sore eyes. Suddenly, her side was aching and she wasn't sure how much longer she'd be able to stay on her feet and more than anything, she actually wanted to cry. She glanced down at the bag to make sure she hadn't just dropped it on anything important and before she even heard him move, Wilson had her wrapped in his arms. Taylor gasped as his arms tightened around her and tried to push away. Wilson released her immediately, reaching for her shoulders as she staggered back. "Taylor, what's wrong?"
Bill dropped the small bag quickly and managed to catch her from behind; helping her right herself as Wilson took her elbows. "It's her side," he said quietly.
Wilson drew her carefully against his chest, blue his eyes flashing dangerously at Bill. "What is she doing carrying that if she's injured?" he hissed angrily. Bill held up his hands defensively. He wouldn't have let her carry the bag if she actually listened to anything he said. Wilson should know that. Wilson ignored the gesture, scooped Taylor up and carried her out of the room.
Bill sighed heavily as his shoulders drooped. For less than a minute, he had been grateful to see Wilson. Now he just wanted to crawl into a hole. He didn't think he could tolerate another angry glare. The tentative touch at the small of his back had him nearly jumping out of his skin and he spun around. "Danny?"
Danny smiled wryly. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
Bill shook his head. "No, no worries. I'm just wound a little tight."
"That was a warm welcome," she said, a small bob of her head aimed at the door her brother had closed roughly.
He held his hands out. "I tried to take the bag away, I swear, Danny. I never would have let her carry that, but she was insistent. I'm sure you've seen Taylor when she makes up her mind. And she's armed."
Danny was laughing softly. "Don't sweat it, Boy Scout. As stubborn as Taylor is, Josh is just as stubborn. He's probably more pissed at her than at you." She took his hand with a smile. "Come on, you can tell me all about it. You hungry?" And she led him from the hallway.
Wilson set Taylor down on the edge of the bed. "Are you alright? Can I get you something?" Taylor gazed vacantly around the room for a minute, her eyes coming to rest on the sole picture adorning the wall. Her eyes narrowed. She shook her head and stood stiffly, tugging at the Velcro of her vest. Wilson caught her wrists, "No, let me."
"I can do it myself," she snarled and tried to wrench her hands free. Wilson swiped the Velcro open and released her so quickly that she stumbled backward. Her frown turned into a grimace as she pulled the vest off over her head and dropped it unceremoniously on the floor.
"Taylor," Wilson began, concern plastered on his face.
She cut him of with a wave of her hand, pulling the spare gun from the back of her fatigues and setting it on the dresser. "I'm fine, leave me alone."
"You're bleeding," he said softly, trying to turn her toward the bed.
"No, I'm not," she grumbled, twisting away again. She silently berated herself for sounding like a child. She was just so exhausted. She pulled the second gun from her holster and dropped it next to the first before dumping the holster on the floor.
"Taylor." Wilson was getting frustrated with her and she knew it, but she couldn't stop. She sighed heavily and took a step toward the door. Wilson growled and planted a hand on the door, his weight preventing her from opening it.
"Damnit, Wilson. Get out of my way." She had wanted to get here so badly, but everything Wilson did was pissing her off and now she felt trapped. God, she always knew what to do. She hated needing other people; they always let her down. Why was now so different? She needed out of this room. She tugged at the doorknob ineffectively and her hands slipped from the knob. She fell back against Wilson with a grunt, the sudden movement sending a wave of pain through her.
Wilson caught her from behind, gently pulling her against him. "Just stop," he said quietly, tucking her into the curve of his body.
"Let me go!" she snapped, struggling against his arms.
"Taylor stop!" he caught her wrists in one hand and dropped onto the bed, tugging her down on his lap. She tried to push free, but he held fast. "Taylor, calm down."
She shoved against him, but he wouldn't let go. "Ow," she gasped, not even sure what was actually hurting anymore. Instinct had her panicking. She wanted out. She couldn't breathe. She twisted, trying to wrench her wrists out of his hand and pain lanced up her side causing her to double over with a whimper.
Wilson sighed heavily and eased her upright, cradling her against his chest. Taylor shuddered and buried her face against his shoulder. Coming here was a mistake. They had picked it because Mick had kept the place when it was willed to him, because Mick had willed it to a unique third party that left both her name and Wilson's name off of the deed to keep it from their files, because the only time she had felt safe as a teenager was when Mick brought her here for the summers, and because it was still supposed to be a safe place. Hell, the framed picture of her and Mick was still on the wall. She wasn't going to feel comfortable here. This was a terrible mistake.
"Shh, it's ok," Wilson whispered.
Taylor was horrified to feel the tears running down her cheeks and her fingers dug into Wilson's shirt. What happened to being in control? She was always in control. Get a grip, Taylor, she told herself. Taking a few deep, calming breaths, she eased her grip on Wilson's arm and pushed back the tears. One large palm stroked up and down her back and she sighed. "I'm fine."
"Will you let me take a look at that?" he asked.
She nodded. "The extra bandages are in one of the bags in the hall." While Wilson left to retrieve the med kit, she dug her bottle of pills from the pocket of her vest and sat on the side of the bed, dropping her head into her hands. The sensation of complete exhaustion closed in again and she shut her eyes against the returning impulse to cry. She needed rest. She was dead on her feet now, and they were damn lucky she'd made it as far as she did without collapsing.
Wilson closed the door softly when he returned and squatted down in front of her, resting a hand on her knee. "Let me patch you up, then you can rest while I scrounge up something for you to eat." She gave a small murmur of assent as his fingers tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "Ok, arms up."
She obeyed, gingerly lifting her arms so Wilson could pull the dirty, bloodstained tee shirt over her head. It wasn't like her to be so compliant, but she didn't feel much like arguing. "Don't lose that, I don't have anything else to wear," she mumbled.
He chuckled. "It's so filthy, I'm going to burn it. You have clothes here." His hand slid under her knees and he laid her back on the bed. The mattress dipped under his weight as he sat at her right side and she watched as he peered at the bandages. "This might sting a bit when I pull off the tape."
She turned her face away and swallowed hard. "Like a band aid, Wilson. Fast and all at once." She tucked her left hand behind her head to keep it out of the way.
"Sorry," he whispered, placing a steadying hand on her hip and snapping the bandage off as quickly as possible. Taylor's brow furrowed and she grunted sharply, but she didn't move. He produced a warm washcloth and carefully cleaned the dried blood from her side. "Who stitched this?"
"Doc," she croaked.
"Someday, I'd love to meet the guy. He does great work." Wilson's fingers gently checked the skin around the stitches. "What did he say about taking these out?"
"Four days. I called him from somewhere in Virginia, and he said they should come out clean, but not to get them dirty in the mean time."
"And any instructions beyond that?" Wilson used a small disinfectant wipe to clean the wound.
She snorted. "Yeah. He told me to take it easy."