azombiewrites: (Department S)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: The Man with a New Body
Fandom: Department S
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst.
Rating: PG
Warning: Whumpage
Main Characters: Stewart Sullivan, Annabelle Hurst and Jason King.
Secondary Characters: Sir Curtis Seretse.
Disclaimer: Based on the characters created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman.
Challenge: Written for [livejournal.com profile] 10_hurt_comfort
Prompt: #5 Pain
Chapter Word Count: 8,174
Total Word Count: 34,760
Status: Complete

Summary: In an attempt to keep a case unsolved, the agents of Department S are abducted. Kept hidden away in an isolated location. When two of them escape plans begin to unravel leaving one life at risk.




The Man with a New Body

Chapter Three



A lonely gunshot . . .

Annabelle’s heart sank. A heavy, uncomfortable weight in the pit of her stomach.

Stewart.

Emotions boiling, reaching a breaking point, she moved forward, desperate to find him. To help him. A strong, painful grip on her arm. She snapped her head to the side, her anger and fear visible. She glared at King. He shook his head. She knew what he was thinking; they couldn’t allow Stewart’s sacrifice to be for nothing. They had to escape . . .

No.

She wasn’t going to leave Stewart. She wasn’t going to leave him to die . . . if he wasn’t already dead. Annabelle turned her face away. Closed her eyes. A single tear falling. She had to think. A deep breath. Another one. Difficult to ease the ache gripping her chest in a tight embrace. Sudden clarity. She opened her eyes. Realised they wouldn’t kill Stewart. Not yet. Not until Stewart released the information, they required.

More torture . . .

Understanding. They had to get Stewart out, as quickly as possible but to do that, they needed a plan. Annabelle took control of her emotions. Easier to think. They needed to stay hidden long enough for . . . Stewart had called him . . . Stanford . . . long enough for Stanford to think a successful escape had been made. Rescue not possible if they were caught a second time.

Stanford would search the building. They would search outside. Nowhere to hide. Certain they would search this hearth, the fireplace not a good hiding spot; large enough, sun filtering through the crumbling brick, the shadows not dark enough, not deep enough.

A more gentle touch on her arm. “Annabelle, we can’t stay here. They’ll find us.”

“I’m not leaving him.”

Snapped in a harsh whisper. “Annabelle! We have to leave. We can’t stay.”

She missed Stewart’s calm approach. His calm assurance. “Then go, Jason. But I’m not leaving Stewart.”

King reached out. Took Annabelle’s upper arm in a firm grip. Pulled her close. “This isn’t what Stewart wanted.”

Annabelle stared into King’s eyes. “He may have just died for us, Jason. I’m prepared to do the same for him. Are you? Was Stewart right? Is this just a hobby for you? Are you willing to let him die just so you can escape with another plot for your next book?”

She was angry. Her words meant to hurt. Meant to snap King back into reality. As much as he wanted to get away, they couldn’t. Shoe on the other foot, Stewart wouldn’t even think of escape. He would risk everything to rescue them. Why wasn’t King as protective of Stewart?

“How do you think Stewart would feel? He’s so willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. How do you think he’d feel if we were put back in front of him? He’ll talk, Annabelle. He’ll talk to protect you. To protect me. Once Stanford has what he wants, he’ll kill you in front of Stewart. He’ll kill me. How do you think Stewart would feel about that? We have to escape. Once we’ve gotten help, we’ll come back.”

“Stewart wouldn’t leave me,” said Annabelle. “I’m not leaving him.”

“You don’t have a choice.”

“Yes, I do.”

“If he’s dead . . . if we’re caught a second time we won’t get another chance . . .”

Determined. “I’m not leaving him.”

King deflated. Shoulders sagging with the weight of the truth. “I can’t talk you out of it?”

“No.” Annabelle tried to pull her arm from King’s grip. Difficult. King not willing to let her go.

“Annabelle, look at me.”

She didn’t want to look at him. Didn’t want to see the self-serving attitude. Stewart’s life meant nothing to King.

“Devil’s advocate.”

Annabelle turned her upper body, arm still in King’s grip. She saw it in his eyes. The worry. The fear and the concern. He felt the same way she did. She closed her eyes. Took too long to open them again. The things she had said . . . she should have known better.

“Of course, I wouldn’t leave Stewart. I thought you knew me better than that,” said King, letting go of her arm. “But I had to be sure you understood the consequences. I had to be sure you were willing to take the risk. If we’re caught . . . it’ll be the end for all of us.”

Annabelle smiled. Relieved. “I understand.”

“Now that you do, you must do everything I tell you.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“No. But we have to find a better hiding place where we can wait them out.”

“Stewart can’t wait . . .”

“Yes, he can. Stewart--”

“Don’t tell me he can look after himself,” said Annabelle, “because right now, I don’t believe he can.”

“No. He can’t. But we have to give them time to think we escaped. If Stanford sends someone out to look for us, it’ll be one less person to worry about.”

“We stay here,” said Annabelle. “It’s the last place they’ll expect us to be.”

“I’m not so sure about that. Stanford isn’t stupid.”

“Yes, he is.”

King sent her a look.

“He brought us here. He brought Stewart here.”

Nodded in agreement. “He allowed Stewart to see the man meant to replace Henry Declan.”

“And Stewart told us how to recognise the fake Declan. We now know a lot more than we did this morning.”

“He’s relying on us to get that information back to Seretse,” said King.

“We’re not leaving Stewart behind.”

“No. We’re not.”

“Any ideas?” said Annabelle.

“Wait here.”

She didn’t want to wait but she had agreed to do what he asked.

King, shoulders hunched, body in a low crouch, moved forward. Stopped at the edge of the large fireplace. Looked out. Nothing to see. Only fabricated rooms and empty corridors. He looked up. More to see. A plan delivered. Moved back into the hearth. He took Annabelle by the arm. Led her outside. Pointed upward.

Plan revealed. Annabelle smiled. Removed her shoes. Threw them up onto the roof. Hands clasped together, King offered a helping hand. Her foot in his hands, King lifted, pushing Annabelle upward. She stretched her arms, hands gripping the edge of the fabricated room. Helped herself up the rest of the way. No time to be lady-like. Clambered on to the flat roof of the room. She turned. Lay on her stomach, reaching over the edge. King reached up, took her hand. How they managed it, Annabelle didn’t know. In a matter of seconds, they were both on the roof . . .

Just in time . . .

Jack appeared below them, upper body disappearing into the fireplace. Came back out. Looked around.

Body still, Annabelle held her breath . . . waited.

Jack looked up. Looked away. An expression of frustration. “If you don’t show yourself, we’ll kill Sullivan.”

A soft exhale. Stewart still alive. The threat to kill him a weak attempt to force their hand.

“You’ve got ten minutes. Enough time for Sullivan to bleed to death.”

King placed his hand on Annabelle’s arm. A gentle, reassuring squeeze.

Moved further down the corridor, Jack repeating his empty threats.

Now out of range. His voice no longer heard. Annabelle turned to King. He refused to look at her. Refused to acknowledge her growing fear. If they’d shot Stewart . . . no time left. Stewart’s life at risk. They had to move. Not waiting for King, Annabelle got up onto her hands and knees. Taking her shoes with her, she crawled to the other side of the roof. They had heard the roller door open . . . possibly Stewart’s last location. They would start there.

King moved into a position beside her. “All this will be for nothing if they move Stewart to another location.”

Annabelle made a poor attempt to ignore him. If Stanford did move Stewart to another location . . . they might never find him. She looked at King. Something in her features causing him to regret his words, his own expression falling.

“Not to worry, we’ll find Stewart.”

She glanced across the maze of rooms toward the front of the building. Concentrated on the one in front of her. She looked over the edge. Searching for Jack, for anyone. Nothing. Annabelle stood up, a low crouch. Took a few steps back, ran and jumped. Landed with a soft thump. Closed her eyes and waited. If they were in the room below her . . .

Seconds passed. Her position not revealed. She turned around. Watched as King removed his shoes and socks; less noise with bare feet. He searched the corridor below. Satisfied, he jumped, landing beside her. Repetitive. A look to make sure the area was clear. Jump to the next room. The distance between some greater than the distance between others.

They finally made it to the front of the building. The roller door still open. An obvious trap. A splatter of blood against the wall beside the door. A small pool of blood on the floor . . .

Had it been a bluff . . . Stewart left to bleed to death?

“They won’t let him die,” said King. “They can’t take the risk. They need to know what Stewart saw.”

Not reassured. “What if they can’t keep him alive?”

The sound of a car engine. Stones shifting beneath moving tyres.

No . . .

They were moving Stewart, taking him away from her. If she lost him. If she couldn’t protect him from further harm . . . she would never forgive herself.

The car came to a stop. The engine turned off. A car door opened. Closed.

Stewart had been right . . .

Sarah Townsend, lacking her nervous nature, appeared in the open doorway. Another player added to the mix. One more person to deal with.

Annabelle watched as Townsend made her way down a corridor. Four rooms down. Turned a corner. Annabelle stood up, ran to the other side of the room. No sign of Townsend appearing in the next corridor. A small smile. A little more confident. Hopeful, she now had the location of Stewart Sullivan.

Annabelle didn’t want to wait. Without a plan, there was little choice. Until an opportunity presented itself, or they created their own, there was little they could do.

They had to wait.

She had to wait.

.
.
.

Left alone to contemplate his fate, Sullivan lay on his back on the floor. Lack of strength keeping him there, consciousness refusing to leave him. Pain, heavy and dull filled his right shoulder, his side. The pain overriding everything else; head and face and broken finger no longer as painful as they had been. He could feel the blood beneath him. The wound still bleeding, a thick, slow, oozing rhythm. Blood loss, the biggest threat to his life. Shooter’s aim correct, nothing vital hit. Lung and subclavian vein left alone.

Sullivan closed his eyes.

Contemplation: he knew he might die here. Death an acceptance made a long time ago. Knew it would be a slow, painful death. Wanting information, Stanford would keep him alive by any means possible. Also knew he would refuse to talk, to give Stanford what he wanted. Death on its way, Sullivan needed to hold out as long as he could. Rescue now achievable. Annabelle and King successful in their endeavour to escape. A sinking feeling. He knew Annabelle too well. Knew she wouldn’t leave him. His hope lay with King. Dependent on Jason to keep Annabelle away. To keep her safe. If she stayed. If caught . . . all this for nothing. They needed to find help . . .

The door opened.

Stanford moved into the room. Blood cleaned from his face. Bruises already forming beneath his eyes. An ugly sight. Knelt down beside Sullivan. Watched, gaze roaming across Sullivan’s features. Taking his time. Enjoying the moment. Fingers against the side of Sullivan’s face, turning his head. A soft caress across bruised flesh. A gentle touch. Hand removed. A backhanded slap across Sullivan’s face.

A nauseating, bout of dizziness, brain feeling as though it were on the move. A strange, sensation of floating. Felt as though he were going to be ill. A moment. The feeling fading into the background. Sullivan opened his eyes. Stared up at Stanford.

“Why don’t we make you more comfortable, Mr. Sullivan?”

Throat dry. Desperate for a drink of water. Unwilling to ask. Brain making a poor effort to understand what Stanford meant by ‘comfortable’. An expectation of more pain . . . another beating. Nothing comfortable about that. A misguided attempt to unbalance Sullivan; violent shifts between pain and comfort. Sullivan not fooled. Experienced in the methods of torture.

Stanley entered the room, a chair in his right hand.

If he never saw another chair . . . Sullivan rolled his eyes. Not a smart move. Dizziness moving back in. No time to recover. Stanford grabbed a hold of Sullivan’s shirt. Pulled Sullivan upright. His body suffered a fusion of feelings. Pain ripped through his shoulder. An ache similar to a leaden weight filled his skull. His stomach rolled . . . short breaths. Body limp his head fell forward, forehead resting on Stanford’s shoulder. A smell of cologne. Not Brown Avon aftershave. Still not as bad. Nothing they could do to equal the pain created by Yuri Krasnoff.

A hand on the back of his head. Fingers in his hair. His head pulled back. Gaze unsteady, Sullivan stared up at the ceiling. A hand against his chest, fingers playing with the buttons of his shirt. His shirt opened . . . cool air against his warm skin. The shirt pulled from his shoulders, his arms, material pulling at the drying blood. Sullivan grimaced.

Upper body left bare . . .

No.

Too much of a reminder . . .

Pulled up onto weak legs, limbs trembling. Sullivan thrown into the chair. Gunshot entry at the back of his shoulder slamming against the back of the chair. Bit into his lower lip, scream cut off. Searched for his balance. Couldn’t find it. Body slumping down, forward. Hands on his shoulders, pulling him back. Pulling him up. Fingers dug into the exit wound. Pressure applied. A slow growth of pain. Sullivan clenched his jaw . . .

Leather restraints applied to his wrists, strapping him down . . .

No.

So much like last time . . .

Stanford waved his hand. The added pain removed from Sullivan’s shoulder. Stepping forward, Stanford crouched down in front of Sullivan. Looked up. Found Sullivan’s wandering gaze. Not pleased, Sullivan not giving Stanford his full attention. Stanford stood up to his full height. Gave Stanley a subtle nod.

A hard grip on his jaw. His head held still. Sullivan looked back at Stanford. Watched as Stanford removed something from his pocket. A pale, brown glass bottle shaped into a car, the liquid inside visible . . .

Brown Avon aftershave.

How did Stanford know?

Hand removed. Sullivan memorised. Unable to pull his gaze away. To turn his head.

Stanford opened the bottle. Splashed a small amount of the aftershave onto his right hand. Placed his hand against Sullivan’s throat . . .

A fearful reaction. Sullivan pulled his head away, Stanford moving with him. The aftershave wet, cold. The odour unmistakable . . .

Stanford stepped back. Screwed the lid back onto the bottle. Placed it into his pocket. Watched Sullivan react.

Fear took hold. Refused to let go. Tried to keep it from his eyes. Couldn’t. He felt weak with fear. It restricted his breathing even further. A taught knot across his chest. His body began to shake. Violent tremors. Pain, so much like a phantom, filled him. Tried to convince himself this wasn’t real . . . couldn’t.

He was back in that room.

Upper body naked. Strapped into a chair with leather restraints. The smell of Brown Avon aftershave in the air . . . so strong.

He wanted to scream . . .

Couldn’t find his voice.

Short, rapid breaths.

“I can see your fear, Mr. Sullivan,” said Stanford. “Perhaps, I can break you after all.”

Mind lost, Sullivan couldn’t find his way back.

Stanford moved in. So close. Leaned over. So close. Breath warm against Sullivan’s skin. Sullivan’s eyes, glazed over, looked through him . . . Stanford frowned. Slapped Sullivan’s face. No reaction. Pressed his fingers into Sullivan’s shoulder . . . smiled.

Sullivan blinked. The pain different. His shoulder the focal point. Gaze coming into focus. A face . . . too close. Not Yuri Krasnoff. Sullivan concentrated on the features in front of him. A gruelling effort . . . a slow return to the real world.

Stanford.

He wasn’t in that room.

He closed his eyes. A grateful sob released. The smell of aftershave lingered. He couldn’t take a breath without smelling it, each breath a violent reminder. If he lived through this . . . a rescue made . . . a physical survival . . . sure his mind would never be the same . . . certain, he’d just been broken.

Stanford stood upright. Moved back. Stood in front of Sullivan. “Open your eyes.”

No fight left in him, Sullivan opened his eyes. Looked at the man in front of him. Not Yuri Krasnoff. Stanford. Awareness not enough, the fear still strong . . . too strong. That room, that man ready to take him back without a moment’s hesitation. He couldn’t go back there. He had to stay in the here and now . . . if he didn’t . . . if his mind returned to that room, he knew he would never come back. He had to concentrate. A short, painful breath. Brown Avon aftershave. Sullivan bit into his cheek. Tasted the blood. Mind kept in the moment.

“I’ve made a call, Mr. Sullivan,” said Stanford. “I now know enough about what happened to you two years ago to make use of it. If I need to, I will use the same method Krasnoff used.”

Words escaped before he could stop them. “No . . . please don’t.”

“Then tell me what I want to know. What did you see?”

The wrong thing to say. The words a strong incentive to stay in the present. Taking control of his emotions, Sullivan’s resolve grew. Tenacity a welcomed strength. Stanford didn’t know everything about what had happened to him, Sullivan not revealing everything. Only he knew the extent of what had happened . . .

He smiled. The only response he was willing to give. Stanford couldn’t know everything.

Stanford returned the expression. “Don’t push me, Sullivan. You don’t know how far I’ll go to get answers.”

Decided to give up a little information. “You don’t know enough about what happened with Yuri Krasnoff.”

“My source has access to your file. He has access to you medical files. I know enough.”

“No. You don’t. I didn’t tell them everything that happened.”

“You told them enough,” said Stanford. “Enough to recreate the same environment. Your reaction was interesting. The smell of the aftershave took you back there. Didn’t it?”

Sullivan wanted to look away. His eyes giving up too much information. Held his gaze steady. Stared back at Stanford.

“The leather around your wrists started the journey. But it was the aftershave that did it.” Stanford smiled. “Does it happen every time you smell that particular odour?”

Looked away. Unable to stop himself.

“What did you see, Sullivan?”

“I saw Henry Declan.”

“Did you tell your friends about Declan?”

“No.” No reason to keep him alive if he admitted he told Annabelle and Jason. A distraction. An effort to gain more time . . . “They got away didn’t they.” Not a question. A statement.

“Not yet. They’re still in the building somewhere. Jack is still looking.”

Kept the anger from his features. If King stayed . . . Annabelle still with him. His life almost given to help them escape . . . if they stayed . . . everything he’d done thrown back into his face. Sullivan wasn’t happy. The anger welcomed. The emotion helping to keep his mind in the present. He wasn’t in that room. Yuri Krasnoff wasn’t standing in front of him.

He couldn’t let the thought of Annabelle, still here, play with his mind. Concentration needed he decided to continue, keep playing for time.

“How did you know we would be at Finch’s home?”

“We already knew who you were. Department S. You solve the unsolvable. I couldn’t let that happen. We’ve been following you since you left your meeting with Seretse.”

Managed to keep the surprise from his face. “You must be good.”

“We used different vehicles. Different drivers. Makes it harder to spot.”

Definitely off his game.

“By the time you got the front door open, Jack was already upstairs. Eddie, Stanley and I waited out the back.”

“I let King open the front door,” said Sullivan. “I won’t do that again.”

“You won’t get the chance.”

“Maybe not but I’m not ready to give up.”

“Then let’s get on with it shall we?”

No.

“You made a mistake,” said Sullivan.

Stanford nodded in agreement. “Finch. That turned out to be a rather big mistake. I should have known better. I assume he wanted a closer look at his competition.”

“Not much of a competition.”

“No.”

“He wasn’t your only mistake.”

Stanford’s expression asked for an explanation.

Sullivan explained. “You brought us here.”

“Ahh, but that turned out to be a good thing. You saw something that revealed the man you thought was Declan to be a fake. I want to know what you saw.”

Words repeated. “I saw Henry Declan.”

“Once I have Miss. Hurst back, you’ll talk.”

Yes, he would. Anything to protect her. Anything to stop her from suffering . . . even if it meant her death.

Stanley spoke up from behind Sullivan. “We should move him to another location. If they do manage to escape, they’ll--”

Stanford waved his hand in the air. “They won’t leave him. They’re too loyal. Now, enough of your games, Mr. Sullivan. I know you’re only trying to delay the inevitable but it will happen. I will break you. Permanently.” Stanford took out a piece of paper. A written list. Gaze searching the list. “I have a few things I need to gather before we proceed.” He looked up. Smiled. “We’ll be back. In the meantime, why don’t you enjoy that pleasant aftershave?” He took the bottle from his pocket. Threw it against the wall, the glass shattering . . . the odour filling the room.

Stanford and Jack left the room. The door closing. Lock engaging.

The aftershave stung his eyes. It overwhelmed his senses. It sent him back, suddenly pulled away from the present.

His head fell back.

Voice willing . . .

Sullivan screamed. A broken sound . . . his voice rough.

He struggled to breathe through the fear. A living nightmare. Everything felt so real. A current of pain coursed through his body, fingertips tingling. The voltage not high enough to cause permanent damage . . . but enough to cause excruciating pain. Questions asked. Repeated. Cruel in their relentless pursuit of answers. He won’t talk. He can’t. Information given would cost numerous lives. He refused to be responsible for the deaths of fellow agents. Responsible only for his own . . .

A warm breath on the side of his face . . .

Tears of pain in his eyes . . . he blinked. His body shuddered. The pain stopped. Time to recover before the next bout. Krasnoff knew what he was doing . . .

The door opened.

Sarah Townsend walked into the room. Closed the door behind her. Stared at Sullivan for a moment. A quick intake of breath, she rushed forward. Held his face in a gentle grip, thumbs rubbing across his skin, a continuous touch.

“Stewart.” She titled his head forward; better access. Looked into his eyes. More urgent. “Stewart!”

Let go, his head falling forward.

Another current of pain . . .

Long fingernails pressed deep into the wound on his shoulder . . .

Snatched from the past. Thrown back into the present. Pain of Krasnoff’s torture lingering, Sullivan tried to pull away.

“I’m sorry, but I need you to be here,” said Townsend. Removed her hand. Wiped the bloody tips of fingers against her coat.

A hand on the side of his face, thumb beneath his chin. His head lifted, turned. He frowned. Sure, he was seeing things. Sarah Townsend stood beside him . . .

“I work for MI5. For Mr. Declan.”

Still in a nightmare, the subject changing, becoming more of a fable than reality. He fought hard to think, to make sense of what was happening. Thought process shattered, everything changing so quickly, he couldn’t keep up. Memory broken, only pieces emerging. Enough to make him understand. Enough to know this was wrong.

“No. You’re part of it.”

“I’m a Sleeper, Mr. Sullivan. I only work as an agent when needed.”

“Sleepers work for the other side.” He knew that much.

“We’re called Sleepers for a reason. We stay hidden until needed.”

“You let them take Declan.”

She shook her head. The movement making Sullivan’s own head spin. “I have to get you out of here.”

It was still wrong. “Get Declan out of here.”

“I don’t know where he is.”

“But you knew where I am?”

“You don’t believe me?”

“No.”

Her fingers pulled at his restraints. The leather difficult to handle. At least a minute to release his right wrist. “One year ago, Stanford approached me and offered me money to give him information on Declan. Personal things. How he interacted with his wife. What he did at home.” Released his left wrist a little quicker. “Hobbies. What he liked to eat. What type music he listened to . . . I told Mr. Declan. He made a report to his boss, Mr. Turnbull. They decided that I should play along--”

“That’s what you were doing this morning?” said Sullivan. Thoughts becoming more organised. “You were playing along. Why didn’t you tell me then?”

“I couldn’t. There was a listening device in the study.” Continued when he frowned up at her. “On the bookshelf. I couldn’t lead you toward it. They would have known.”

He still wasn’t convinced. “You knew they were coming for him. You let them in. Why weren’t MI5 waiting for them?”

“We had to know why they wanted Declan. Stanford wouldn’t tell me.”

“You know now?”

“Stanford called me and told me to come here. I’m supposed to be collecting the money he offered.”

“He’s not going to pay you.”

“I think he intends to kill me. I heard them talking about you. Said you saw something but you won’t tell them what. I heard what they were planning to do to you. I have to get you out. We can’t wait any longer.”

“Why didn’t you bring MI5 with you?”

“I had to make sure Mr. Declan was here. If I brought help and Declan wasn’t here . . . I’m not sure he is. I haven’t seen him. I asked Stanford but he wouldn’t tell me. I think he’s dead.”

Gut instinct told him she was lying. Off his game, not working to his full capacity, he wondered if he was right. Either way, he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity offered to him. He didn’t know how far she was willing to go. Didn’t know how far Stanford told her to go. Sure, she had permission to get him out of the building. Maybe into a car . . . he could take it from there . . .

No.

If Annabelle and Jason were still here. Hiding somewhere, waiting for a chance . . .

Stanford would follow them. Keep them close. If he made a move to escape without Townsend, Stanford would move in. If he could get away, drive the car . . . he could draw them away from the building. Give Annabelle and Jason another chance to get away. They wouldn’t stay if they knew he was gone, escaped without their help.

Decision made . . .

Left hand gripping the arm of the chair, he pushed forward. Up. Failed miserably. Slumped back down into the chair, dizziness and pain threatening to take him down. Townsend came around to his other side. Arm under his, she lifted, her thin frame hiding a formable strength. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. His own strength lacking. More difficult to overcome any opponent.

Arm wrapping around his waist, she kept him upright. “Okay.”

Wanted to nod in agreement. Refused to move his head, any movement creating a session of vertigo. Said yes instead. Took a tentative step. He felt much the same as he had the last time someone shot him. King with him at the time. Grateful he wasn’t with him now. The distance to the door felt like miles, an eternity to walk them. Got to the door quicker than expected.

“Can you stay up long enough for me to check outside?”

He looked into her eyes. Saw the betrayal. He’d continue to play along. “Yes.”

Leaned back against the wall, mindful of his shoulder, his broken rib. Legs weak, ready to collapse. Wondered what his doctor would say when he showed up on his doorstep with more injuries.

Townsend opened the door. Stuck her head out.

Sullivan waited. Closed his eyes. Brown Avon aftershave. Yuri Krasnoff’s voice. His face. A question asked . . .

Her hand on his arm. Snapped his eyes open. “In case we don’t get out, tell me what you saw.”

There it was. If he told her now, any chance of escape gone. “I’m still not sure I trust you.”

She nodded. Took another quick look outside. “All clear.”

Of course it is.

He shivered. An unexpected chill moving across his skin. Grimaced, twitching muscles causing the pain to spike. Could feel his knees giving way. Body pushed to the edge of his limit. Mind pushed to breaking point. Townsend’s hand against his chest, her skin warm. She applied pressure, a strength he longer held. Kept him up. Her other hand against his cheek. Held there for a moment. Moved to his forehead. Up close, he looked at her. A lack of concern in her eyes.

“You’ve got a fever.” She didn’t offer her coat. “We have to get you to a hospital.”

Hand still against his chest, she opened the door. Allowed it to swing wide. Stood beside him. Arm around his waist, fingers digging into his side. Lifted his left arm over her head, across her shoulders, a firm grip on his wrist. The first step sent him down, his legs too weak, blood loss taking its toll. Townsend’s balance shifted, taking his added weight. Kept him up. Kept him going. Another step. A third. A rhythm created.

Out of the room, the smell of Brown Avon aftershave began to dissipate. Enough on his skin. A constant reminder. His own voice screaming in the back of his mind. Krasnoff’s accent breaking through . . . He wasn’t in that room.

He had to keep moving. He had to get out. He had to survive. Physically and mentally. He couldn’t let this break him . . . knew it wasn’t that simple, already feeling like he’d been broken. Mind wanting to shut down, Sullivan struggled to stay alert. Body no longer cold, he could feel the heat . . . could feel the sweat on his skin. Could feel the drying blood. Realised Townsend had made no effort to stop the bleeding.

The corridor stretched out before them. So close to the front of the building . . . Sullivan could see the roller door was still open. Beyond the open door, a car . . .

Sullivan stumbled. Balance lost, momentum sending him to the right, injured shoulder hitting the wall. The expected pain exploded through his shoulder. Knees collapsed. Body falling. Darkness pushed inward. Empty void beckoning, an invitation he couldn’t accept. If he gave up now . . .

“Get up.”

Townsend, so charming.

It was a hard fight. Legs unreliable, Sullivan battled against his body’s fatigue. Used everything he had left. Climbed his way back up, Townsend pulling him up onto his feet. He needed a moment. Needed to catch his breath. Give the pain time to settle back into an irritating ache. A moment to reassure himself . . . he had to get out. Get out of that room. Get away from Krasnoff. He couldn’t wait for rescue. If he did, more time given to Krasnoff. More time to break him.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time . . .

He’d lost count of the steps taken. Finally reached the open door. Stepped out in the open. Blue sky above him. The air cold against his skin. Beneath him, gravel, the small stones sharp against his bare feet. Another shiver, a tremor rolling through his body. Lost his balance for a moment. Regained it.

“A few more steps, Stewart,” said Townsend.

Sullivan frowned. Looked to his left. Sarah Townsend. Back in the present. The car so close. He didn’t expect company, so sure this was a ploy to get him to talk. Surprised when he heard the footsteps behind him; gravel giving way beneath their feet. They were coming for him. They were going to take him back . . .

No.

Take him back to Krasnoff.

Sullivan tried to pull away from the woman beside him. No strength left. Twisted his body. Ankles and legs tangled, tripping him. He fell forward, taking Townsend with him. Struck the ground hard, sharp corners digging into his flesh. Not yet willing to give up, he struggled to get up onto hands and knees. He couldn’t stop. He had to keep moving. Couldn’t do it, right arm collapsing every time he tried to get up. His body betrayed him. He closed his eyes . . .

It was over.

He’d failed.

A hand on his lower back. Fingers running up his spine. He shivered beneath the touch. Fingers wrapped around the back of his neck. A gentle squeeze. Palm against the back of his head . . .

“Stewart.”

Opened his eyes. Jason King was helping Townsend up onto her feet. King bent forward. Brushed away the small collection of stones sticking to her knees. No. She was the enemy. Throat dry, Sullivan couldn’t find his voice. Couldn’t warn King of the danger. Stanford probably already on his way. Tried to shake his head. Closed his eyes against the threat of dizziness.

“Stewart.”

Annie. She would understand. Knew him well enough to read his expression. He didn’t have to use words with Annabelle. Opened his eyes. Looked up at Annabelle. He licked his dry lips. Swallowed, dryness in his throat painful. Relaxed his features. Revealed his emotions. Allowed her to see everything.

Her expression changed. She understood. “Jason. Leave her. We have to go. Now.”

King frowned. Misunderstanding. “She--”

“It’s a trap.”

Good girl.

A look of disgust on his face, King pushed Townsend away, the force throwing her off her feet.

“Stanford!”

King leaned over. Raised his fist. Changed his mind. Two steps taken and he was on Sullivan’s other side, kneeling beside him. “Check the car. See if the keys are still in it.”

Annabelle nodded. Stood up. Walked away.

Her presence gone, Sullivan already losing confidence. His thoughts drifted. Brown Avon aftershave. Returned to the past. “Krasnoff.” His voice cracked, throat too dry.

Running footsteps.

“Isn’t here, Stewart,” said King. “Krasnoff isn’t here.”

Sullivan didn’t believe him. “I can smell him.”

Annabelle returned. Nodded to King.

So quick, Sullivan unable to help. They had him up and moving in a matter of seconds. He couldn’t do this. He felt so dizzy, about to throw up. His limbs so weak. Heavy weight of fatigue pulling him down. Before he knew it, they had him pressed up against the side of the car. Annabelle opened the back door . . .

A gunshot.

Sullivan’s body jerked in surprise. The passenger side window shattered. No time to be careful. King pushed Sullivan into the car. His upper body fell forward onto the back seat. King pushed Sullivan’s legs in after him. Annabelle climbed in behind him. The door slammed shut. She ducked down onto the floor. Held onto Sullivan’s arm, keeping him down. Not difficult.

King ran around to the other side of the car. Opened the door . . .

Another gunshot. The aim poor. Stanford desperate to stop their escape.

Got in. Closed the door. The engine started. Handbrake released. The vehicle an automatic. No need to struggle through the gears to gain speed. King floored the accelerator. The car sped off, back tyres kicking up loose gravel. Small stones spraying across the open doorway. They were away . . .

It wasn’t over. Not yet.

Townsend covered her face. Spots of blood appeared on the back of her hands. Stanford and Jack ran out into the open. Waited. A car came around the corner of the building, back end skidding through the stones. Stanley at the wheel. Declan in the passenger seat beside him. The car came to a stop. Stanford and Jack got into the back. The car drove away, now in pursuit of the car ahead of them.

Annabelle got up. Sat down on the seat, pressed up against the door, handle pressing painfully into her hip. Held Sullivan beneath his arms and pulled his upper body into her lap, a heavy weight. An attempt to make him more comfortable.

The movement increased his pain. His confusion.

Sullivan opened his eyes. Back in the past. Didn’t recognise the face above him. He panicked. Eyes wide with fear. Short, quick breaths. Struggles weak, a valiant effort to get away, arms flailing. Heels scraping against the leather car seat.

Annabelle wrapped her arms around his head. A gentle embrace. One hand against the side of his face, the other around the back of his head. Leaned over and pulled him close. So close, he could smell her perfume.

A scent of flowers . . . aftershave. A sickening mix. Confused, Sullivan didn’t know where he was. Bit into his lower lip, skin giving away beneath the onslaught. Blood pooled. Slipped over his lip, rolled across his chin. Created a small stain on Annabelle’s dress.

She whispered into his ear.

Her voice brought him back.

Her scent strong. More pleasant, it didn’t evoke an attack of fear.

Annabelle began a gentle, rocking rhythm . . .

“Stop.”

She did. Her expression uncertain.

“Dizzy . . .”

King glanced back over his shoulder. Saw the car behind them. “They’re following us.”

Annabelle turned her head. Four men in the car behind. Looked back at King. “It’s all or nothing, Jason.”

They skidded around the curve in the road. Momentum pressing Sullivan closer to her body. She kept him there. Fingers brushing through his damp hair. Sullivan familiar with the touch. Mind staying in the present. More aware of his surroundings.

Jason and Annabelle. He felt relieved; they were safe.

“How is he?”

“Both wounds are still bleeding,” said Annabelle, looking for something, anything to use as a bandage. “And he’s already developing a fever.” Her coat the only thing available. She let Sullivan go, his head falling away from her.

Distance created . . . the smell of Krasnoff’s aftershave returning.

She struggled in the confined space to remove her coat. Snapped her elbow against the door. Grimaced. Coat off. She folded it more than once. Lifted Sullivan’s shoulder. Placed one end of the coat beneath him. Folded it over his shoulder. Front exit wound covered. Wound on his back against her thigh. One hand on top of the other. Placed her hands over the coat. Closed her eyes. Pressed down on the wound.

A bolt of electricity shredded his shoulder. The pain too much, Sullivan released a scream. Tried to move away. Too weak. Used his voice. Throat still dry. His voice a coarse whisper. “Stop. Please. No more. I can’t . . . please.” His mind . . . so close to breaking. A gutted cry. “Please . . . Stop.”

King allowed the car to slow. Turned off the dirt road onto the main road. Increased the speed once more. An elongated road in front of them. Behind them, Stanford’s car skidded through the turn, across the road, came to a stop. A few moments, the car hesitant to continue. Continue it did, trying to eat up the distance. Failing.

Annabelle looked down into eyes filled with fear.

Sullivan didn’t look back at her, his gaze flickering . . . side to side. Mind somewhere else, he was lost. So hard to find his way back.

She frowned when she saw Sullivan had bitten his lip. Confused, Annabelle released the pressure on his shoulder, removing her hands. She returned to her previous position, arms around Sullivan’s head. Pulled him close once more. No change.

“Something’s wrong.”

“Talk to him,” said King. A quick glance back over his shoulder. “You have to bring him back.”

Annabelle didn’t question King. She moved in, even closer. Stared into Sullivan’s eyes. Her breath warm against his skin. Sullivan, gaze still awkward, mind somewhere else, flinched. His fear grew. He could hear the questions. Expected the pain . . .

King followed a curve in the road. Too fast. The car left the road. Dirt beneath its wheels. King lost control for a moment. Turned the wheel with the car. With skill, he regained control. Backend missing a solid tree trunk by a few inches. Back on the road. Accelerated.

Beginning a one sided conversation, Annabelle talked about anything and everything . . .

Annabelle. She was here. She was in the room with him. No. She hadn’t been there. She couldn’t be there. He concentrated on her voice. Listened to what she wasn’t saying. Listened to the tone of her voice. She was scared. Worried. He understood. She was scared for him. Worried about him. He blinked. Looked up. Annabelle above him. He stared at her, sight and sound of her voice bringing him back into the present. Still unsure of where he was, he made an effort to look around, search his surroundings.

“Where . . .”

King the better driver, began to create more distance. The gap between the two cars increasing. Stanford falling behind. Enough distance to feel safe. Up ahead. A welcomed sight. A sign directing them to London. Distance not as great as perceived during the journey out of London; must have taken the scenic route, an effort to confuse their prisoners.

Movement. Continuous. An uncomfortable feeling that left him nauseated and dizzy. Pain in his shoulder no longer dull, now sharp . . . raw. His position awkward. A strain on his neck. His shoulder. Pulling at his broken rib. She meant well. He was certain. The need to comfort. The need to be close. So close.

“Annie . . . let go.”

Annabelle looked down. Released Sullivan from her embrace. Pulled her coat from beneath him. Shook it out. Laid it over his body. Rested the palm of her right hand on his forehead.

He felt the need to apologise. Afraid he had hurt her feelings. “Sorry . . . too much pain.”

“It’s okay, Stewart. I understand.”

King looked in the rear view mirror. A long time before Stanford’s car appeared. “I think we’re okay now. Unless of course, we run off the road and hit a tree.”

A more comfortable position, Sullivan closed his eyes. Breathed as deep as his injuries would allow. Krasnoff. Eyes snapped open. He couldn’t let himself sleep. A fresh round of nightmares inevitable. Bad enough he was reliving it. Mind damaged as a result. Everything too much. He couldn’t allow himself to fall sleep.

“Don’t let me sleep.”

Long fingers stroked his forehead. “Everything’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.”

He didn’t believe her. Nothing was okay. How can he be okay after everything that’s happened? He didn’t think he’d ever be okay. Didn’t believe he was going to recover. Forever broken. No longer able to do his job. A broken man with no purpose in life.

“Please . . . don’t let me sleep.”

“I’ll stay with you, Stewart. I won’t leave you. I promise.”

His eyes closed. Dragged them open. Lids heavy with exhaustion. Don’t sleep. Don’t let me sleep. A hand over his eyes. Lids pulled down. Words whispered.

“I’ll stay with you, Stewart. I’ll keep talking to you . . .”

Fought for as long as he could. Body too weak to keep up the pretence it didn’t need sleep. Mind shutting down . . . don’t sleep . . .

.
.
.

A rush of activity. Police entering the industrial building through the open roller door. Corridors no longer empty. Fabricated rooms forced open. A search made. Taking too long . . . It didn’t matter. No one left in the building. Stanford wouldn’t return. Mission gone bad, he would now be on the run. Their main concern . . . the real Henry Declan. An urgent need to locate him.

Cigarette in hand. A desperate need for a drink, King stood outside the building. Waited. Memories returning; each one ugly . . . cruel in their reminders of what had happened. Not a witness to everything Stewart Sullivan had gone through, but he’d seen enough. Knew he would suffer his own nightmares. Knew it would be so much worse for Stewart . . .

Seretse stepped up beside King. Clasped his hands behind his back. Conversation hesitant. A false start . . . unsure.

King stepped forward. Shoulders tense. Still angry.

“This wasn’t my intention,” said Seretse.

“No.” King turned on his heels. Body snapping around. Faced Seretse. Took a deep breath. Tried to calm his anger. “He shouldn’t have been on the case. He wasn’t fully recovered--”

“We had no choice. Lives were at risk. Sullivan knew what he was doing.”

King laughed a humourless sound. “You know Stewart. You knew he wouldn’t say no.”

“You would rather the deaths of several MI5 agents in Russia?”

Moved in close. “He smelt like Brown Avon aftershave.”

Seretse frowned. Looked away. Returned his gaze. “Krasnoff.”

“He wasn’t here. But Stanford knew enough to use it against Stewart. You have a leak in your office.”

“How can you be sure?”

“They were aware of your meeting with Stewart. One of Stanford’s men was there.”

“Tall, thin man. Very plain looking,” said Seretse, nodding

“He’s dead now. Stanford killed him in front of us.” King took another step, so close. “If Stewart doesn’t recover from this . . . if we lose him, I will hold you responsible.”

“Come now, Mr. King. We’re all aware of what can happen in this job. Sullivan more so than anybody. And as you said, yes, I know Stewart. I know how capable he is. I know we won’t lose him. He’s too stubborn. Too strong willed.”

“You didn’t see him.”

“I saw him two years ago. And that was much worse than this--”

“I read the file, Sir Curtis. I know how bad it was.”

“No. You don’t. You didn’t see him. You didn’t see . . .” A breath. “You’re not giving Stewart enough credit. Don’t underestimate him, King. That would be a mistake.”

Anger discouraged. No, he hadn’t been there when they rescued Sullivan. Didn’t know what had happened until days later. Sullivan not allowed visitors. A debriefing taking too long. Stewart almost recovered by the time King and Annabelle were able to see him. The signs faint, the physical and mental abuse hidden behind a false bravado. No, King hadn’t seen Sullivan’s injuries. He hadn’t seen the result of torture on the physical mind.

But King had a vivid imagination. The words, the descriptions of injuries in the report enough for King to understand the extent of what had happened.

“Stubborn isn’t the word I would use to describe Stewart.”

“Sir!”

King turned around. “You found something?”

The uniformed officer looked at Seretse. A nod from the government official.

“We’ve found two bodies, sir. One of them is Henry Declan.”

A deep drag on his cigarette. “Did you check the side of his neck for a scar?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“There’s no scar.”

King nodded. Turned away. Another drag on his cigarette.

“How does it feel, Mr. King?” said Seretse.

King frowned.

Seretse continued. “The brutality of real life.”






Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


Master Fan Fiction List

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