Chapter 8

Jonathan was sore from not-sleeping on the couch. He ignored the ache in his back and prepared breakfast fit for a queen. If he was about to be dragged off to the middle of nowhere, he didn't want to go without making up with Tané. He was putting the finishing touches on the steak and eggs when Tané hurried in the kitchen. "Hey," he cried, "get back in bed! How am I supposed to give you breakfast in bed if you're out here??"

Tané blinked confusedly, then grabbed Jonathan's hand. "Diane's on the phone. She sounds frantic." She tugged on him, swatting the utensils out of his other hand. "C'mon, baby, come to the phone!"

Jonathan allowed her to drag him to the nearest phone. "Diane?"

"Omigod, I can't find him, he's not answering the phone, management said he never checked out, he hasn't called, Smitty said he was gonna be there all night, and he just disappeared again, he didn't leave me a message, he told me I could call him anytime, and he's not answering the phone!!" Diane sobbed once, then started rambling again. "Jay, I don't know what to do, nobody is telling me anything, that damned Herbert told me not to worry about it, Smitty won't say if it's bad, I called Neal and Steve, and nobody's -"

"Whoa, whoa, slow down! Ross isn't answering the phone."

Diane sniffled. "No."

"You tried more than once?"

"Of course I did!"

"Did he take his car?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, he did." She sounded calmer. "Why?"

"Well, maybe he went to get something to eat. Did you ask the management if his car was still there?"

"Oh... No, I didn't."

Jonathan relaxed. "That's probably all it is." He glanced back at Tané's breakfast. She'd taken it away, and he could hear the morning news coming from the den. "Listen, I'm gonna have breakfast. You should eat something too. Have some warm bread. It'll calm your nerves."

"Yeah. I guess." Diane sounded dejected.

Jonathan said good-bye and hung up the phone. He went back to the kitchen, and started his own food. "Hey, how's your steak?"

There was a giggle from the den. "Apology accepted!" Jonathan nodded to himself, glad that his efforts hadn't been a total waste. He'd just put a fresh steak on the skillet for himself when he heard Tané gasp. "Jay... come look at this!"

"Gimme a sec, babe."

"Jonathan! Get in here! Hurry up!"

Jonathan sighed and turned the fire down. He headed towards the den, picking up the pace at Tané's cajoling. Just as he went through the door, the phone rang. "I'm gonna get -"

"No! For God's sake, let it ring! Before they take the - shit. Nevermind."

Jonathan heard the channels flip in rapid fire succession and wondered what the big deal was. He shrugged and answered the phone.

"Jonathan... he's dead... he's dead..." Diane.

"Huh? Who's dead? What are you -"

"It- it's on... the n-news..."

Tané yelped from the den. "Jonathan, c'mere!!"

He was torn between comforting Diane and obeying Tané. "Look, I, it -"

"He's gone..." Jonathan heard the phone clatter against something hard as Diane began to sob in the background.

He put the receiver down gently and went to see what Tané was so excited about. "Can you talk to Di -" He was surprised when Tané streaked past him in a flash and grabbed the phone.

Then he saw the television.

There were dark stains on the black asphalt. Blood, according to the reporter. Glass everywhere, black lines on the road. Deep grooves where tireless rims had scored into the road. And a car, upside down, crushed, mangled almost beyond recognition.


Jonathan dropped to his knees. Ross... They'd have to see Diane. She needed help. He'd have to call Herbie. They'd have to cancel the tour. Ross...

Jonathan crawled to the television to turn it off, and stopped mid-crawl. The reporter was droning on about the mysterious hit-and-run, how the driver was missing.

Missing? "He's missing?" Jonathan sat back on his haunches and listened a little longer. The reporter was making speculations about the driver having been drunk, or confused, or possibly kidnapped.

FUCK!!!! Jonathan scrabbled to his feet and ran out the house, before realizing he didn't have car keys. He ran back in the house, grabbed his keys, kissed a bewildered Tané, and zoomed out again.

Smitty paced the length of his living room. We're fucked. We're really fucked. If the car on the news that morning really did belong to Ross, then things were out of control. Too much, too fast. He wished he could figure out how to stop the thing, but there wasn't anything for him to do but pace and wait. Really fucked.

Steve was still mad at Neal. It was clear by the way Neal glared that the feeling was mutual. Steve didn't care. He was tired, sore, cranky, and fucking hungry. And he was in serious danger of being decapitated. It was almost enough to make him forget about Gina's presence.She grumbled about the quality of the motel's tap water and opened the package of complimentary instant coffee. Steve half-hoped she would share, but he figured she would probably just kick him if he asked. He thought nasty thoughts about her choking to death on a coffee granule.The phone rang, and that pissed him off further. He wished that Murphy and Jim would crawl under a rock and turn into pile of mush. Or something. He watched Gina stalk over to the phone and pick it up. She sounded almost as mad as he felt. "Hello."

It has been said that without evil, people would not know good. Steve was never more understanding of that concept than at that moment. All of the pain and suffering he had experienced at Gina's hands were damn near worth the look of utter shock on her face. She dropped her cup of insta-coffee, and started yammering helplessly. "I - they... b-b-but... wait! No! Nooooooo!" She was near tears when she hung up the phone. Steve couldn't help smiling at her. Anything that wrong for her must be good for him.

"What the fuck are you grinning at?!?" She picked up her cup and threw it at Steve's head. He just ducked and laughed. She wasn't invincible. Even if Herbie never paid her, there was hope. Hell, even if Steve wound up dead, she would get caught. He'd be avenged, one way or the other.

An incessant tapping began at the door, until Gina yanked it open with a growl. Murphy was standing there, palms forward in a position of self-defense. "I swear I didn't shoot! I didn't!"

"Get the FUCK in here!!!!!! Where the FUCK IS HE?!?!?!" Steve was impressed - Gina's face was actually purple.

Murphy hurried out of the room, and came back, backing into the room with a heavy load. As he came further in, Steve could see Jim struggling with the other side. "I can explain, Gina," Jim started.

"Shut up and get your good for nothing ass in here! What the fuck am I paying you for?!?" Gina reached over and slammed the door. Then she grabbed a corner of the blanket on the load the two men were carrying. Steve could hear Neal cry out in shock. Steve stretched up to get a better look - all he could see was something red, fuzzy and matted looking. Gina was swearing more quietly. "On the bed."

They eased their load onto the bed, and stepped back, looking sheepish. "He got the jump on us, Gina. I didn't think -"

"No shit! Do you have any idea how fucking much trouble you two idiots have gotten us into?? Do you?!?" Gina threw her hands in the air. "Fucking IDIOTS! Get his clothes off! Hurry up!" As if to punctuate, Gina ripped away the rest of the blanket. Steve gasped in horror.

Ross was bruised, badly. His hair was crusted and matted with dried blood, and his skin was pale and blotchy. He looked like he'd been dropped from a high-rise.

Gina squealed and started beating on Jim. "You're supposed to be the smart one!! What the fuck are we supposed to do now?!" It was clear to Steve that she had reached her limit. Nobody was safe anymore. Gina continued to punch Jim, even while he helped Ross out of his bloody clothes. "It's on the news, Jim! The news!!! You left a fucking car wreck!!!!!"

Jim turned on Gina suddenly, grabbing her by the wrists. "It's over! Let's just leave them here and get out of town while we can. There's no money, Gina! None. We can't finish this job, we knew it when that fatass didn't show up the first time. The fucker that hired you ain't gonna do shit to you if we leave. Let's just -"

"NO!" She yanked away. "You wanna run out on me? Go ahead! And when I finish this thing, I'm gonna make it my mission in life to hunt your ass down and skin you alive!! I hired you, and you are gonna stay here and finish this shit if it kills you! That 'fucker' might be my boss, but I'm your boss, and I am telling you we finish this! And we're gonna start with you figuring out what the FUCK we're gonna do about the car wreck!!! Okay?" She turned and saw Steve watching her. "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT?!"

"You." Hell, she'd beaten him up so many times, it probably wouldn't hurt anymore. But she just patted her frizzy hair and turned away, stealing glances at him over her shoulder. Steve smiled to himself. The smallest victories were still sweet.

Chapter 7
Chapter 9

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