Chapter 9

Jonathan slammed on the brake, screeching to a halt directly behind Herbie's parked car. Herbie was coming out of his front door, suitcase in hand. Jonathan scowled and burst from the car in a rage. "Hey! What gives!"

Herbie headed directly to his car. He opened the back door and started rearranging its contents. With barely a glance in Jonathan's direction, Herbie asked blandly, "What are you doing, Jonathan?"

"Me?! What the hell are you doing?? Have you seen the news?!? Herbie, I really think -"

"I don't have time for this, Jonathan. I've only got so much time to take care of this shit before they come and try to haul your ass off, too." Herbie heaved his luggage into the back seat and headed for the driver's seat.

"What? How? You - did you get the cash?"

Herbie paused with a sigh. "I have... friends, in Vegas. I think - think - I can get it. But," he said, getting in the car, "I'm short on time as it is. Wish me luck." Before Jonathan could form a response, Herbie gunned the engine and zoomed away, leaving a dumbstruck Jonathan in his wake.

Jonathan decided not to return home. He went around to the side of Herbie's house and found an open window to climb in through. He made himself at home, turning on all the lights, raiding the fridge, and settling in to watch television. He was careful to avoid the news reports, and managed to almost forget his troubles.

The phone rang, startling him out of his comfort zone. He thought about answering it, but decided to let Herbie's answering machine play through. Still, curiosity drove him to listen in on the one-sided conversation. When the machine cued the caller, Jonathan leaned forward to hear a little better.

"It's getting late, big boy, and I'm getting angry. Did you think I wouldn't find him!? Wrong, and I'll find that other Goldilocks, too. I've got eyes all over the place, Herbert, and I will have what I want, when I want it, and how. You can just tell Mr. Ivory Fingers that his hours are numbered, and I will have him before the night is through - unless, of course, you can find it within yourself to get up off your fat lazy ass and give me my money. Last chance, Herbert. Tomorrow is your very last chance."

Jonathan stood frozen in place for several terrifying moments. When he could finally command his body to move, he reached hesitantly for the phone, and dialed.



"What the- Jonathan, where the fuck are you? Have you lost all your -"

"Baby, listen to me," Jonathan interrupted. He plopped down in a nearby chair and proceeded to tell her the entire story, from the suspiciously long wait in the limo to the threatening message on Herbie's machine. He carefully answered all of her questions at least twice, and counseled her to leave the house for the night. "They'll be looking for me there, and I don't want them to take their anger out on you.

"Baby, I can't just go! What about you? How will I find you?"

Jonathan snorted. "If I'm still free, I'll find you. If not... you might not hear from me again."


"Tané, please don't argue. Ross probably told Diane to keep things to herself, and now -"

"This is not Diane's fault! How can you say that when -"

"She told you, you told me and Smitty. All she had to do was tell one other person, and who knows how those people found -"

"Jonathan Cain, she did not cause Ross' ac-"

"If you say one word, I will die. Do you understand me? We will all die. Ross might still be alive now, we don't know. But I just told you that we are being slowly kidnapped, and that these people are dead serious. If you don't want me to return to you in a box, just let me be, and take care of yourself. I'll be back. Do not call the police."


"I know. Me too." He waited for his weeping lover to hang up the phone, and placed the receiver on the hook. Then he headed to the hallway, pulled a folding stepstool out of the closet, and found the attic access.

Herbie dashed back into the house, praying that he wasn't too late. There were several messages from the whacked out chick, each one nastier than the last. Apparently, she was having trouble finding Jonathan. Hey, whatever. It bought him time. He managed to glean some sort of instructions from the nasty messages, and headed out to complete his drop.

Gina checked her watch and growled. "Pants." She went to a suitcase and dumped its contents on the floor. She shoved them around with her foot, and settled on a pair of sweatpants. She tossed the empty suitcase aside and grabbed the pants. "Murphy. Clean up." She sneered at Murphy's grumbling, but didn't address it. Instead, she headed straight for Steve, much to his delight. "Put 'em on."Steve rolled his eyes. "Why me?" he whined.Gina grabbed Steve by a handful of hair and gave him a shake. "Put. Them. On."

"Alright, alright!" Steve reached for the pants and pulled them on. When he straightened up, Gina was scowling furiously at him. "Now what did I do?"

"Don't forget who owns you. Until I get my cash, you're mine. Got it?" Gina put a hand in her jacket pocket, exposing the butt of her favorite pistol.

Steve couldn't bother to be impressed anymore. "Mm-hm."

She looked as if she wanted to shoot him, but instead she rolled her eyes and grabbed Steve's wrist. "Let's go for a walk, cutie pie."

They left the room and went to a small, grey box of a car. Nothing particularly noticeable about it. Peachy, Steve thought. Gina shoved him in through the driver's side, and pushed him to his seat. Before he had a chance to get settled in, the engine roared to life, and they took off.

A few minutes later, they were in the parking lot of a major department store. Gina grabbed her sunglasses from the dashboard, pulled out her gun and got out of the car. "Hurry up, I'm running late."

"For what?" Steve took his sweet time exiting the car.

"Get your fucking ass out here before - oh for shit's sake." She reached in and pulled Steve out, dumping him on the asphalt. "Up. Now." She kicked at him until he finally dragged himself off the ground. When he was on his feet, she got behind him and poked the barrel of her gun in the small of his back. "Towards the loading dock, honey."

They made their way across the expansive lot, around the building, to the darkened area where deliveries were taken. There was a sickly looking tree that never got any sun, sitting in the shade of the giant store. Underneath the tree was a lone, plump figure. There is a God.

Gina grabbed Steve with her free hand and held him close to her. He could feel her breath on his bare shoulder. He leaned away from it, cringing when she began to call out instructions. "Let me see the package, big boy."

The figure moved away from the tree. Steve could see that he was carrying a duffel bag. It looked like it was loaded down. The figure put the bag on the ground and waited.

"Open it and step back."

"Where are the others?"

Gina growled deep in her throat before answering. "Safe. I don't want you double crossing me, big boy."


"I said open the bag and step back."

Herbie leaned over and fiddled with the bag. He hesitated before moving away from the bag. "It's all there."

Gina pressed the gun in Steve's back. "I'll be the judge of that. Pick it up, sweetie." Steve shuffled slowly towards the bag, careful not to make any sudden moves. He squatted down, aware that Gina was moving with him, gun still shoved up against one of his kidneys. He grabbed the bag and stood again, just as carefully. "Let's take it to the light." She raised her voice to address Herbie, "Stay in the shadows. I need to check."

They backed away, and around a corner. "Drop the bag. Good boy. Face the wall, hands above your head. Move and I'll blow your head off." Steve sighed and turned to the wall, hands on top of his head. He could hear her making little derisive noises, which soon gave way to mild exclamations of disbelief. Steve was sure that Herbie had really fucked up, and wondered if he could at least get somebody to administer Last Rites. The gun was against his back again. Steve squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the blast.

"Back up. Okay, turn, slow. Head for the car."

Steve stopped cold at the last command. "Excuse me?"

"The car."

Just as Steve was about to protest, he could hear Herbie calling out. "Hey, where are you going?"

"BACK OFF, HERBERT!! I've been through too much these past couple of days, so stay the fuck back!!"

Herbie looked confused. "But... It's all there... I watched them count it..."

Steve heard the click of the hammer being pulled back on Gina's little pistol. "Please, Gina..."

"Now it's 'please'? What the fuck happened to 'uh-huh'? Every last one of you fuckers have made this job close to impossible. I need better compensation than this. I'm not giving anybody up until I get another five million. The time limit stays. You're down to two days, Herbert. Don't make me wait this long again. Start walking, sugar."

Herbie wasn't ready to give up. "But you can't do that! I got the -"

Gina turned suddenly, and a window imploded. "I can too. I've got a gun." Steve glanced in Herbie's direction, but Gina put the gun to Steve's head. "No more second chances. Next time anybody fucks up, and I'm blowing your brains out. Walk, Perry." Silently, he allowed himself to be herded to the car, away from freedom.

Chapter 8
Chapter 10

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