“Whatever it is that you see fit to do to Sorel, I’ll make it my business to be ooking the other way.”
Taggert sat, still as stone. His voice was hushed, his mouth barely moving as the words escaped. He meant what he said, and it terrified him. As his eyes stayed fixed on the marble floor, Taggert waited in silence for some small sign of life from the rigid figure beside him.
But Sonny’s body had locked. His knuckles glowed white as his fingers dug into the edge of the couch. The force of his grip sent a ripple of tension through his arms, which trembled in a steady stream from shoulders to fingertips. He couldn’t breath. His throat had closed up on him. The sound of her pain and terror had flooded him, and he was drowning.
The silence in the room took on a presence all its own, one haunted by Alexis’s cries. Taggert couldn’t stand it any more. He shifted his gaze across the floor to the small, shiny spots reflecting off the tops of Sonny’s well-polished shoes. Slowly raising his head, he froze at the sight of the shaking that had traveled down to take hold of Sonny’s legs. He closed his eyes, trying to clear his thoughts. Suddenly, something struck him: the gift they’d been given within those ten horrific minutes. He took a deep breath, preparing to offer it to Sonny.
“At least now we know that…”
Sonny abruptly pushed himself away from the couch, his hand raised up to Taggert, silencing him. Sonny's tongue across his lower lip as his breathing grew noticeably rapid and shallow. Before Taggert could blink, Sonny had left the room. The sharp slam of the door sounding from just up the stairs made Taggert jump, although he knew it was coming.
Corinthos was going to be sick.
Taggert wasn’t surprised – he wasn’t too far from it himself. His capacity to be leveled still thrived, in spite of all his years on the force, of all that his job had shown him of man’s
inhumanity to man. And this was an innocent woman – a woman he knew, a woman worked with…a woman he liked. This wasn’t personal only for Sonny.
He needed to move. Taggert straightened his spine, craning his neck from one side to the other to crack out the tension. He glanced at the stairs as he rose to resume his errant pacing…and try to ignore the throbbing in his temples. He heard the door open. It moved him to the bar, where he reached for the pitcher of water. He avoided giving Sonny’s abrupt departure any weight, allowing him his dignity. Taggert concentrated instead on methodically pouring a glass of water. The clicking of Sonny’s heels, stopping behind him, turned him around. He held up the glass.
Sonny’s eyes were wide, his shirt speckled with dark spots from the water he’d splashed on his face.
As Sonny took the glass, small droplets began to drop from the ends of the wet hair. Taggert turned back to the bar to pour a fresh glass for himself. With the dark, desperate eyes no longer boring into his, Taggert continued with his interrupted thought.
“At least we know Malloy’s for real. I’d make book on it. The way he was with her…” He sighed and turned back to Sonny, who simply nodded. Taggert cleared his throat.
“In fact, I get the feeling he’s as sickened by what Sorel’s doing as…” Taggert winced.
Sonny smiled lightly. “Don’t worry about it. Surprise, Taggert: I am human after all.”
“Noted.” Taggert felt a small thrill of pathos run through him. He smiled in spite of it…because of it.
“Damn. All this civility between us. It’s just unnatural.”
Sonny didn’t miss a beat. “What about the last few days HASN’T been?”
Taggert nodded, his eyes absently wandering to the phone still sitting upright on the desk. Something still bothered him, something besides the obvious. He frowned, intense with thought as fragments of the call replayed in his head. Sonny saw it.
Taggert quickly turned away, shaking his head. “Nothing.”
“Don’t do that Taggert.” Sonny’s voice was flat.
With a deep breath, Taggert turned back to him. “Alexis…the things she said. It doesn’t make sense. Heroin is NOT a hallucinogen.”
Sonny’s eyes left Taggert’s questioning face as the queasiness hit him yet again. His body had been reminded of what his mind sought to ignore altogether.
“No. It’s not a hallucinogen. But it can be one hell of a crowbar.”
Taggert frowned, remembering. “Stavros – wasn’t that her brother’s name? The one who died for real?”
“Just leave it along Taggert!” Sonny’s voice bore a harsh, threatening edge. "Leave it alone." The wounded child within him had risen up in recognition and fierce protection of another. They weren’t his secrets to tell.
Though jolted Sonny’s abrupt change in tone, the look in his eyes gave Taggert a deathly cold chill. It made the root of Alexis’s drug-induced terror was blindingly clear. His jaw stiffened as he closed his eyes against it.
“She doesn’t need to know what we heard.” Sonny’s voice was soft as air.
"God willing, she won't remember a thing."
Taggert nodded slowly. He opened his eyes to the floor, then stared hard at his watch, willing the hands to move faster.
“Come on Malloy. It’s time to bring her home.”
“You’ll be home real soon. I promise.” Thomas moved the damp cloth down to her cheek, still working as best he could to slow the fever’s pace. The aspirin might help her some, but he knew at this point it wasn’t enough. Alexis rolled her head to the side, her lids to heavy to even try opening her eyes.
“Don’t promise.” She was barely audible, and Thomas leaned in closer to hear her.
“No one should ever promise.”
“You’re right. No one should make a promise if it might get broken.” He reached for the water glass, refreshing the cloth now grown warm from the heat within her.
“Broken…” Alexis slowly slid her bandaged arm up against the smooth sheet beneath her, fingers curving in against her face.
“But this one won’t be.” He laid the cloth against her neck, sending a small shiver through her. This time, it was a welcome sight. The fever was reacting to his attack against it.
“Do you feel that?” He asked her softly.
“Good. That’s real. And so is my promise.”
He kept the cool dampness moving on her skin. The trauma of what Sorel had just put her through seemed to have abated, tucked away in the Pandora’s box with all the rest. Her face had finally softened, the fear and hurt dissolved. It was ironic: the very thing that stirred her ghosts was also what which put them back to rest. Thomas never wanted to see another drug ever again.
“Real soon, you can tell Ned yourself that you love him.”
Again, she shivered as he moved the cloth back to her still-bruised cheek. Her fingers uncurled, brushing against the edge of his wrist. Her touch, such a gentle thing, sent a shock of shame and grief straight through him. She smiled again, her fingertips moving back and forth against his skin. Thomas looked down on the sweet expression gracing her face, he shivered himself as she murmured her lover’s name.
Something suddenly tugged at him. He’d lost track of the time. His eyes tore away from her face to check his watch.
It had been more than a couple of hours. If Corinthos’s man wasn’t waiting he’d have to contact Corinthos himself...or call a tip in to the police. He knew he was the worst kind of coward, but the extent of Sorel’s power and the number of his friends terrified him. Corinthos as well. Thomas couldn’t let Sorel find out that he had double-crossed him, no more than he could let Corinthos know of his part in what had been done to her. Either way, he’d be a dead man.
A distant noise caught his ear, startling him out of his thoughts. He turned to the open door, waiting for Sorel to return and give him leave. Footsteps grew louder and Sorel finally appeared.
“How’s our…butterfly doing?” Sorel grinned.
Thomas’s muscles clenched. “A little better sir.” He lifted the cloth from her face.
“This seems to be helping to calm the heat some.”
“Mmm.” Sorel moved closer to the cot.
Thomas unconsciously pulled away from Alexis, breaking all physical contact between them. He had a vague fear of stirring a sick jealousy he’d sensed within Sorel. It was the way he looked at her, the myriad of expressions that flashed across his face. Even more disturbing was the morphing of his moods, the sick twisting of behaviors both seductive and sadistic. Thomas had never known such a thing as the kind of evil this man had wrought.
As Sorel reached down to Alexis, Thomas shifted his weight to rise from the creaking cot. He stood tall next to Sorel, intending to provide an imposing presence. Sorel payed him no attention as his fingers touched down on her face, toying with a lock of her hair that lay damp across her ear.
“Yeah. She looks okay.”
Is there anything you need me to do for you Mr. Sorel?”
Again, Sorel reached down without a word. He took hold of the blanket that covered her, slowly pulling it from her body. Alexis sighed and turned her head with the movement of the soft cotton brushing over her.
“The car’s out back. It’s a bit early yet, but I want to be well prepared. Everything is going to go my way tonight, Thomas.” Sorel folded the blanked over his arm.
“I thought I'd put this in the trunk. It’ll keep Miss Davis more comfortable on the trip.”
Thomas’s pulled his head up straight, his mind buzzing. He knew what he would do.
“I’ll come with then, keep watch while you take care of what you need to. Corinthos’s people might still be lurking around. We can’t be too careful at this point in the game, right sir?”
“I like that, Thomas.” Sorel slapped his arm. “You’re always one step ahead.”
Thomas made a note to himself to break Sorel’s hand when he had the chance. With one backward glance to Alexis, assuring himself that she was okay for now, Thomas slowly followed after Sorel with the softest of whispers under his breath.
“One step ahead…of YOU.”