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This is a work of fiction intended for adults only, as it contains explicit scenes not appropriate for minors. By continuing to read, you are acknowledging you are of legal age to do so. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 by AJ Rose

Chapter 12 

“You’re an educated boy, Ty. You ever hear of Stockholm Syndrome?” Veronica brought the roll of tape to her mouth, tearing it with her teeth and smoothing the errant end against Ty’s torso before tearing another long strip off and winding it around both his and the chair’s leg.


Ty’s voice was flat, his eyes distant. “Yes.” He didn’t give a shit about anything, and he only answered because it was easier than facing her wrath. After the word passed through his lips, he wondered if he should have just ignored her, let her rain down her anger. Maybe, mercifully, she’d end his pain. Grady had only just left, and the hollow sound of the closing door replayed in his mind. The inky despair of loneliness pooled in his chest and threatened to swallow him whole. When she’d removed the needle after marching him back to his bedroom and his chair, he felt a pang that she didn’t intend to put him out of his misery.

He left. I made him go, and I know why he did, but now he’s gone. For good. I’ll never see him again. The thought left him wishing for oblivion.

Veronica landed a light smack to his cheek, forcing him to look at her with a strong finger under his chin.

“You with me, Sailor?” She studied his face. He was too broken to bother wondering if the concern in her eyes was part of the crazy act or genuine.

“Don’t call me that,” he hissed.

She laughed. “Oh, I know, Tyler. Baggage used to call you that. Where do you think I got it? Hours of watching you together. You really were very sweet with each other, in a weak-gag-reflex kind of way.”

Ty closed his eyes, not caring to look at Veronica’s face anymore, regardless of if she wore her sane mask for him or not. She sighed dramatically and stooped to finish taping his other leg.

“There, snug as a bug in a rug.” She turned from him then, gathered her laptop from his dresser and flopped belly-first onto his bed. The keys clicked softly for a moment before she spoke again, as though her original question hadn’t been interrupted. “It’s where the person being held forms an attachment to their keeper. They become utterly dependant on that one person for their every need to the point where they fall for them. Stockholm Syndrome, I mean.” She looked up from her screen. “Ty, did you hear me?”

His head had fallen forward, and his eyes closed. He wanted to sleep, though his awkward position prevented that. He didn’t care. He just wanted to block out everything, Veronica’s voice, Grady’s absence, his own aching body… He grunted in answer, but fell quiet again, wishing for a drink. He didn’t even have the wherewithal to hate himself for the craving.

Veronica scrambled up from the bed and knelt in front of him, looking into his face, her tone fervent. “In time, that’ll be you. I can be your everything, Ty, if you’ll just let me.”

He raised his head and stared at her, unblinking, wearing no expression. After a long time without a reaction from him, Veronica sighed. “I’ve been patient so far. I can wait a little longer.” She went back to monitoring her computer.

“I’m waiting for Grady to get home,” she said after a long moment. “Make sure he’s done what he promised. He walked out on you again, Ty. That’s gotta hurt.” She said it conversationally, pushing her thumb in an already bleeding, gaping wound. He tried to ignore her, but she kept mumbling, and he heard a few words now and then, mostly about finding Grady. So far, nothing. That he wasn’t home yet clearly concerned her. Her fingers flew over the keyboard. The more she searched, the louder she got, until Tyhad a front row seat to her stream of consciousness. Even with the deadness inside him, he was unnerved by her spoken thoughts.

“Fucking software should find him,” she muttered. “Paid enough for it. Military grade, my ass. Phone GPS, yeah, yeah, yeah.” More typing, followed by a curse. “Shit, he turned it off. When? Just now? Before? Should have watched him, too. Pictures should have been enough.”

Ty registered how unglued she sounded. He could only hang his head and hope that Grady got away. Far away.

“Nothing you can do about it now,” she whispered to herself.

***

Grady sat, unconsciously gnawing on his fingernails in a habit he’d long ago conquered. He spoke in clipped tones, every pause leaving the next finger to fall victim to his teeth. His knee shook with nervous energy, and he kept staring at the bank of monitors along one wall of the van, shuddering at the memory of Veronica’s voice. Yes, Grady, baby. I have your place wired, too. In fact, Ty, your attic is full of equipment worth more than the value of your entire house.

The back of the van Grady was parked in stank of old fast food and sweat, long hours, and not enough air despite the open back doors. The man beside him, introduced as Detective Bolton, scribbled furiously on his notepad while the annoying clack of the techs’ typing played backdrop to the whole surreality. Suddenly, the monitors leapt to life and Grady jumped at the tech’s exclamation.

“Got it! Frequency acquired and routed to our network. Good to go.”

The officer who had been leaning on the edge of the door walked off and grabbed his walkie-talkie, muttering into it unintelligibly. Bolton turned to Grady, the monotone he’d spoken in for the duration of his questions changing with the abrupt shift in the van’s atmosphere. Since Grady had walked into the nearest police station, Bolton’s demeanor had been one of calm assurance, even though he looked like a 1940s mobster. Nothing rattled the detective, and right now, Grady would glom onto any reassurance he could find. The whole scene, a block from Ty’s house, buzzed with activity, adrenaline palpable in the air, but Bolton was a rock.

“Okay, Mr. Dolan. Personally, I would prefer you be nowhere near this area right now,” Bolton held up a hand as Grady began to protest, “But there’s valuable information you can provide about the layout of Mr. Stull’s house and where the perp may have weapons, which is only helpful to our boys. You can identify that for us from the feed we’ve intercepted and stay out of our way at the same time. All communications to and from the house are set to go through us now, so this woman will have no contact with the outside world, even though it will look to her as though nothing has changed. I know you’ve been through a lot tonight, but I will tell you right now, you sit tight and let us handle this. No hero stuff, got it?”

Grady nodded, eyes glued to the screens, particularly the one highlighting Ty’s room, where Ty was once again trussed to a chair, his face lowered while Veronica lounged on his bed, her laptop open and her fingers dexterously working the keys. Helpless anger surged through his body, and he had nowhere to direct it.

Fuck Veronica and her threats. If she thought he cared about his career more than he did Ty, she had a new lesson to learn. So she’d wired his house? Had his cell tapped? So fucking what? That was one thing for which he was grateful; she was so caught up in her gadgets and her electronic spying prowess that she didn’t stop to think of him driving straight to the police department and grabbing the first person he saw. He’d remembered to deactivate the GPS feature on his phone, but beyond that, his brain and gone on auto pilot as he drove to the police.

“You sure she won’t know you’ve hacked her?” Grady asked, going to town on the next finger with bared teeth.

The heavier set technician didn’t take his eyes from the screens, but he spoke in answer. “Yes, I’m sure. She’s got a network set up between two locations, so we just piggy backed onto one of them, and she thinks she’s seeing her setup talking to itself. It is, but we’re the proverbial fly on the wall.”

Grady winced as his teeth went too far, chewing a nail to the quick. He pulled the finger from his mouth to watch blood well up around the cuticle. He sucked the blood off, tasting the coppery richness on his tongue. He concentrated on that taste, so he didn’t have to remember Ty’s face, trying bravely to put on an expression of reassurance as Grady walked to his door. But when Grady had turned to tell Ty he loved him, he’d seen it, the look of someone dying inside. He had wanted so badly to wrap Ty in his arms, whisper that he’d get help, but he couldn’t. The bitch would have dropped Ty in an instant if Grady hadn’t simply turned his back on the man he loved and walked away. He swore that wouldn’t be the last time he saw Ty alive. It’s the only thing that kept him moving, had helped his hand pull on the doorknob until the click of the latch had sounded, hollow and reverberating in his chest.

Bolton’s voice drew him back to the present, and Grady crossed his arms over his thighs, his palms cupping his elbows as he leaned forward. “As for her threat of leaking personal information about you, we’re intercepting her outgoing communications. Any emails she sends will not reach their intended recipients, but it will look to her like it’s going through. It’ll buy us some time if she does try to leak anything.”

“All of this is legal?” Grady wondered aloud, flipping his hand at the screens. He didn’t care what happened to Veronica, but if she survived this, he didn’t want her walking on some technicality.

The detective’s voice wavered a little. “We have probable cause with your statement that she has a hostage, and her using open airwaves to transmit her signal between her house and Ty’s opens her up to cellular interference that allows us to eavesdrop without needing a warrant for searching private property. The signal crosses public streets. It’s like using a coffee shop’s free wi-fi, although a little more technical.”

Bolton shifted, lowering his head toward Grady and also lowering his voice. “Here’s what’s going to happen. We’ll place a call into the house to get her negotiating with us, see if we can get her to release him voluntarily. Now hold on,” he raised a hand as Grady was already shaking his head. “These are trained professionals, and unlike most situations, we have eyes inside with all her cameras, and so if she poses any danger to Ty, we’ll be able to enter the premises and neutralize the threat. The negotiator is here and ready, waiting for me to give the word. Is there anything we haven’t covered?”

Grady shook his head, his fear ratcheting up. Painting Veronica into a corner could very well bring out her fangs… not that they hadn’t been flashed around quite a bit already. His only concern was that she didn’t turn her bite on Ty. But she could not be allowed to get away with this. He would not sit idly by as she expected of him. “I’ve told you what I know. Please, just make him safe,” Grady pleaded, eyes straying to the stooped figure on the screen.

Ty, I’m getting you help. Hang in there, Sailor. Hang in there for me.

The detective exited the van, calling to a pair of plainclothes officers. Grady watched on the screen when Veronica’s head snapped up a few minutes later. There was no audio, or if there was, it wasn’t loud enough for Grady to hear. He watched her scramble off Ty’s bed, taking long strides to the dresser where she snatched her cell phone from its surface. The look on her face went from annoyed to menacing at what she saw on the screen. Grady highly doubted her caller ID would show the police department’s number, probably coming in as a private number. Slowly, she pressed the talk button and brought it to her ear, her scowl deepening as she listened. Grady cringed when, in a fit of rage, her face contorted and she threw the phone to the floor, stomping on it, smearing it to pieces on the carpet. She went to the wall by Ty’s nightstand and yanked the cord for his home phone from the wall. Grady’s breath caught in his throat when she charged Ty next, but she only frantically dug her hand into his pockets, coming away with his phone, which she also destroyed.

“Guess that concludes negotiations,” Grady murmured, eyes wide with fear for what she would do next. A buzz of activity from outside the van reached his ears and he looked in time to see a S.W.A.T. vehicle fly by and smoothly negotiate the corner as it careened toward the house to deposit the men closer to the target. On the screen, Veronica pulled her computer close, her fingers flying across the keys as she called something up. Grady’s heart stopped when she appeared to let out a frenzied cry and flung the computer to the floor, smashing it with her foot. Cold coursed through him as he watched, and instinct kicked in when he saw her dig into her bag.

“That’s the bag with the drugs,” he scrambled forward, hands clamping on one of the tech’s shoulders. The man immediately radioed the S.W.A.T. leader. Ice dropped like a canon into Grady’s belly as she pulled out a syringe. She stared at it with a mixture of regret and anger. It was, however, the unmistakable shape of the next item she pulled from her bag that sent him into a tailspin, even as the tech spoke to the S.W.A.T. leader again. “Suspect has a handgun, possibly a 9mm. Repeat. Suspect is armed.”

He was on his feet and out the back of the van, ignoring the technician’s shout of, “Hey!” at his back as he sprinted through yards towards Ty’s house. A uniformed officer tackled him, laying him out on his belly on someone’s lawn. Grady fought only to get free, every fistful of grass inching him closer to Ty. He grunted as his hands were yanked behind him and handcuffs pinched around his wrists. He heard someone sobbing as he was pulled by his shoulders to his feet. It took a moment before he realized it was him, breath wheezing through his lungs as desperate cries ripped from his throat. He heard shouts from Ty’s house several yards away, the sound of glass breaking, and he closed his eyes as he was led back to the mobile command post, a single word escaping his lips. Ty’s name.

An officer pushed his head down to fold him into the back of a cruiser, but his vision blanked out as memories overtook him. Ty laughing, his blue eyes twinkling, the smart ass way his mouth twitched when he parried Grady’s verbal zingers during interviews they’d done together. The first time they’d kissed, the feel of Ty’s hands on him, his mouth playing across Grady’s skin. The feel of Ty’s comforting weight dipping the mattress beside him when they’d wake up together.  Ty turning up his nose at  anything with tofu in it. A hundred quick snapshots of their lives together. All of them flashed through Grady’s mind until he cried out in pain, unable to take it anymore. The handcuffs strained his shoulders and dug into his wrists, and he leaned back into them, inviting the pain, punishing himself for leaving Ty with the lunatic who would take his life. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks, and he prayed for something to numb the guilt and drown out the voice in his head that spit venomous accusations at him. You left him twice. You let him deal with this all alone. He’s dead because of you.

He sat in his puddle of misery for an indeterminate amount of time, head bowed and resting against the window before knuckles rapping on the glass got his attention. With red rimmed eyes, he looked up into the face of Detective Bolton, whose stern expression showed mostly annoyance, but a hint of compassion. He leaned off the door as Bolton opened it and helped the man haul him to his feet.

“Turn around,” Bolton directed, and he complied, the tears on his cheeks still wet, but subsided.  “I told you no hero stuff. You’re lucky Officer O’Brien was quick on his feet, or things could have gone from serious to disastrous if you’d reached that house.” O’Brien gave a soft chuckle as the detective stepped back, giving him room to unlock Grady’s cuffs and pull them off. Grady turned around, rubbing his wrists slightly as he looked down at Bolton, who was a head shorter than him, but stocky and likely could have kicked anyone’s ass in a fair fight.

“Aren’t I under arrest?” Grady asked, surprised to be freed with such little fuss.

“Technically, the only thing you’ve done is trespass on some lawns, though you could have caused far more serious problems had you reached your destination. Deadly problems.” Bolton growled that last at Grady, who found he didn’t give a shit about the detective’s opinion. After a brief appraisal of Grady’s anguished face, Bolton shook his head. “Follow me.”

Numbly, Grady obeyed, keeping his eyes on the back of the detective’s jacket, ignoring everything else. He only looked up when the detective led him to bright lights. He was standing just behind an ambulance, its fluorescent interior painting the street through the open doors. A paramedic sat inside, swabbing alcohol on a deep cut over a pair of intense, haunted, shocked, familiar, gorgeous blue eyes. Eyes that met his own, widened, and filled. Bolton moved out of the way as Ty waved off the medic and hopped down from the ambulance, taking the three steps between them with purpose before crashing into Grady.

The brief thought of Ty surviving his ordeal only to be crushed in Grady’s arms did not stop him from holding on hard to the life he thought he’d lost. His throat worked to keep the lump down enough so that he could breathe. Ty buried his face in Grady’s neck and didn’t move, didn’t react more than to breathe against Grady’s skin.

Alive. He’s alive.

Grady murmured over and over in Ty’s ear, “I love you. I’ll never leave again.” They stood like that for a very long time, until Bolton cleared his throat, touching his hand to Ty’s arm around Grady’s waist.

“Mr. Stull, we need a statement concerning what went on with Miss Edgar.”

“Okay,” Ty nodded, only slightly pulling back from Grady and looking up into his face. “You’re coming with me, right?” His voice was hoarse, raw with emotion.

“You’ll be lucky if I ever let you leave my sight again, Stull.”

And in front of everyone, on a public street milling with residential onlookers, officers, and other emergency personnel, Grady kissed the hell out of Ty.

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Disclaimer so I don’t get sued: Any resemblance in this work to people living or dead is entirely coincidental and locations are used fictitiously. Registered trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

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