Kyle was blue in the face from saying it was a stupid idea, while the Captain only grunted and drank from his third cup of coffee during a sleepless night, going over Owen’s information on Alexander’s house, and his plan to leave his undercover job.
Rory had had to go into her room and shut herself in the bathroom, unable to take any more of the gruesome details of Owen’s job, and their plans for today. Especially Owen’s plan for luring Nathan to them.
It was already six a.m., and she couldn’t hold still. Owen would be making the call to Nathan in an hour, and his plan would be set into motion. Yet, she had a part to play and picking up her phone, she dialed her best friend’s number.
“Hey, you. Listen, I think I may have caught something and I feel horrible this morning. You think you can cover my hours today? I know it’s a day before your wedding but I would really appreciate it.”
Rory hoped her friend bought it, for it wasn’t often she called her out of the blue to cover for her. Sure, she was sick and that could happen anytime, but not after they’d seen each other last night. Terry would have to wonder what have happened between then and now for her to have caught something.
Either it was that she was distracted with wedding joy, or she just believed her, because all she said next was.
“I can ask for the day, too. I can go take care of you. I’m sure they can find some temps to cover for us. I didn’t see you feel sick last night. Then again, I’ve been a lousy friend, all focused on the wedding.”
“It’s your wedding, Terry. You’re supposed to be a lousy and self-centered friend for that.”
Her friend chuckled.
“And you don’t have to take the day off to babysit me, I’ll be fine.”
“You don’t sound so convinced. Maybe I can call Kyle, have him drop by some chicken soup for lunch. I can easily stop by after classes end.”
“No!” Rory winced at her desperate plea. “I mean, there really is no need to come. What if I am contagious and either you or Kyle catch it? You seriously want to be blowing your nose or nursing a headache during the happiest day of your life?”
Silence, then a sigh that told her Terry’s excitement over her wedding had won over best friend duties.
“Okay. You’re right. But you should call your parents, have them go over.”
“I will, later. Just……don’t call them. I will.”
“Okay……I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Are you sure you’re okay? You sound off. Did Kyle go by your place last night?”
Rory nearly dropped the phone and asked, dubious.
“Why? I mean, why do you ask about Kyle?”
“Oh, he called me and said he wanted to check up on you. He said he hated going back to an empty apartment. Told him I hope he still feels that way after we’re married.”
“Oh, right. Yeah, he did. Actually, I asked him to crash here, and we had crazy cheating sex. By the way, you could do better.”
Rory knew the best way to keep Terry from suspecting anything was to tease her, like she always did.
“Oh, well, then I guess I’ll call off the wedding. Lousy sex for as long as I shall live?” There was a hint of laughter in her friend’s voice, and Rory almost breathed out loudly in relief.
“Okay, so take care, talk to you later. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Rory hung up, took a deep breath and prepared to face the grueling day ahead.
“Are you ready?” Owen zipped the jacket Kyle lent him, while he and the Captain went over the final details.
Rory had her school bag ready, as if she truly was heading for work this morning. She even had bothered with make up, if only to hide the dark circles under her eyes.
“I…..think, so.” She shut her eyes and tried to steady her erratic heartbeat. Then, she opened them again, only to find his searching her face. “Yes, I’m ready.”
Owen grabbed her shoulders.
“I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I know.” That she was certain about, the mess her feelings were in at the moment involving him, not so much. Because she still felt apprehension as she always did whenever he would leave for another day at the station, she hesitated before saying.
“Be safe.” She saw his slight nod, at both what she said but also at what she hadn’t. Like he had accepted she didn’t want to risk her heart again by telling him she still loved him.
He turned to confer with his Captain, while Kyle came to her. He pulled her in for a comforting hug, and she held on to him, as much as she wished she could’ve held on to Owen.
“You can walk away from this. You don’t have to do this.”
“Yet, you won’t.”
“As stubborn as Terry.”
Rory smiled against his chest and said from under his chin.
“I told her you stayed here and we had crazy sex. I said you ain’t worth it.”
Kyle snorted and pulled her away, glad to see some spark in those haunted eyes.
“Trust me, she says otherwise.”
Owen watched the exchange between Rory and Kyle from the corner of his eye, while he tuned in to his Captain’s words. They used to have that. That silent trust, she used to look at him like that, like she could trust him with her life and vice versa.
He knew better than to feel jealous of a man who was obviously in love with someone else. The problem was he was jealous Kyle got to see the old Rory and he didn’t. He’d walked away from her, and she was not so easy to reach anymore.
When his Captain finished going over their plan, Owen took out his phone and called Nathan.
Rory stepped out into the street, looked one way then the other just as she’d been doing since being attacked, and started heading her usual route to school. Although she knew what would happen in the next minutes, the second Owen stepped into her line of vision, she faltered, but only because he looked like that guy she’d seen back in the alley. A ghost of Owen, the look so devoid of love, of kindness. Instead, it was a look filled with those horrific images he’d described for them back at her apartment during the night.
Just as he’d told her too, she turned around and started going the other way, then found her exit blocked by the very same man who had been following her since the day at the park. The same man who had described the gruesome things he wanted to do to her. The same man who had almost killed Owen last night. The man who had killed that woman and who knew how many more, who had destroyed countless female lives.
The sudden fury surprised her. How she wanted to lunge at him and make him pay, or at least inflict some damage to that sneering face of his. But she remembered the plan and turned the other way, only to find her exit blocked by Owen.
“Haven’t we met before?” He asked, bumping his body against hers.
“Leave me alone.”
“I think she doesn’t like you, Patrick. Remember me, beautiful?”
Rory used her school bag to try to push him away, just as Owen had told her, only to have Nathan wrap his arms around her, before she used her heel to kick him in the shins. He let go and she ran to Owen, who put her behind his back and pulled out a gun, pointing it at Nathan.
Nathan’s eyes widened, and he pulled his gun, both men pointing at each other, while Rory clung to Owen’s back.
“Well, well, well. Alexander’s pet after all.”
“No, the FBI’s, actually.”
Nathan’s head whirled around as a couple of black vans pulled up to Rory’s street, and a handful of agents surrounded him.
“You’re an idiot. And you’ll die because of it.”
The shot resounded around them and deep in Rory’s heart, despite she’d been warned what would happen. However, the idea of that bullet truly wounding him had unrehearsed panic rising up her throat.
Owen fell to the ground, while the agents ran to him, and Kyle came to grab her from behind.
“No!” She started to kick, to struggle against Kyle’s hold, as he dragged her away, while Nathan shot two other agents and ran away, disappearing in seconds.
“Rory, don’t.” Kyle pulled her away from the scene and into a waiting car, which sped off from the scene.
Despite her tears, which she didn’t know if were acting or real, as her heart still pounded in her chest, she turned to look at her best friend’s fiancé and asked.
“How did I do?”
Captain Jackson made certain Nathan was gone before he knelt down to the ground and said.
“You can come back to life now, son.”
Owen grunted, for despite the bullet proof vest, the impact from the bullet had hurt like hell.
“It worked.” He stated.
“For now. We have to move fast. Nathan will alert Alexander. The Shadow is coming today. He won’t change the meeting, not this close. But he’ll be ready.”
“He thinks you’re dead, that gives us some time.”
“Barely. What about Rory?” He accepted the Captain’s hand and stood up.
“Safe with Kyle.”
And maybe that’s how things should stay, Owen thought grimly, before getting into another waiting vehicle to prepare for the final act of the day.