Monday, December 15, 2014

Santa Suit Hijinks Part Three ~ by Leah St. James





Jacob's lack of reaction to Raven's bombshell proved the woman's statement. The boy who'd filled her teenage nights with dreams of romance now created nightmares for the families of his victims.
Hardening her heart, Cassandra shot him a sideways glance. "Sounds impressive.  I'm sure your parents would be proud."
Raven snorted out a laugh, then waved her hand in Cassandra's direction. "Tie her up and put her in the van with her partner. Dose her well.  She'll be so full of narcotics, no one will believe a word she says. We will decide what to do with her later."
With a flip of hair that cascaded halfway down her back, Raven pivoted and exited the office, leaving Jacob holding the assault weapon as easily as if it were an extension of his hand. Cassandra dropped into a defensive posture, hands out, ready to grab or deflect. "Don't even try, Jacob."
Squinting, he considered her while she darted her gaze between his eyes and the weapon.  Finally he reholstered the AR-15 and lifted his hands, palms out. "For old time's sake, let's try to do this without hurting anyone, all right?"
He stepped forward, arm outstretched, but she lunged backward, hitting her butt against the desk crammed into the corner of the tiny space. A sharp pain shot into her hip, and she swallowed the  yelp.
"What the hell happened to you, Jacob? I know things were tough for you after your dad died, but how did you end up with the Ravensworth Group?"
He shrugged. "I climbed the ladder. What's not to understand?"
His words, his admission of guilt, sent a pang through her gut, but somewhere in a corner of her heart she held out hope that the Jacob she knew still lived. Shaking her head, she allowed herself a step closer.
"Drugs are bad enough, but to get mixed up with one of the most violent of the drug cartels? And to be the enforcer?"
She moved nearer, hoping to see something of her friend's humanity in his eyes. "You couldn't even squash a spider when we were teens."
A smirk crossed his face, and he laughed, a short, choppy sound that sent a shiver down her back. "We're light years from our teens, Speedy. You're not the same person either. I'd never have pictured you as a narc. Weren't you the one who used to say cops were nothing but legally armed tools?"
Her back stiffened at his tone of censure. She hadn't planned on giving him more, on letting him know the pain he'd caused, but she couldn't hold back.
"You want to know what changed things for me? Finding you half dead behind the football bleachers from some exotic concoction you let your so-called friends inject into your veins. I called the cops. I watched them trying to bring you out of it until the EMTs arrived." She stifled the sob that wanted to climb up her throat.
"They didn't see you as the thug you'd become.  They saw you as a stupid, stupid kid who'd made terrible choices. After that, I tried to reach you, but you'd disappeared. And that's when I decided I'd spend my life trying to keep other stupid kids away from that poison you loved more than you loved me."
He stood silently while she let the cleansing words flow, like suds from an overflowing tub of laundry. She'd rehearsed them for years on the chance she'd get to use them some day. And even knowing she was making a terrible mistake, it felt damn good.
 "I got into college, studied my brains out for four years, took classes in criminal justice, Spanish and Russian, and trained like a maniac to get in physical shape. The DEA hired me right from school, and when I took the oath of office, it was your face I saw in my mind."
That same stupid smirk was on that face, but he blinked, as if to clear his vision, his chest underneath the ridiculous costume rising and falling far more rapidly than she would have expected. 
"I always wondered how the cops found me that day. Guess I have you to thank for those couple nights in juvie."
"If it weren't for them, you might not be alive now." She lifted a shoulder. "Then again, looking at what you've become, it was probably a mistake."
Later she'd blame her overflowing emotions for her lack of focus when his eyes hardened and his mouth thinned. In an instant, his arms were around her, clamping her to his body, his hand over her mouth and nose. Unable to breathe, and starting to panic, she squirmed to free herself. But he gripped more and more tightly, making small huffing noises with the effort.
Her vision was tunneling, blacking out, when he said, "You shouldn't have come here today, Speedy." 
With a final conscious thought, she let herself go limp. He grunted but caught her weight, and her head spun lightly when he eased her onto the floor and pressed his fingers to her neck. She sensed his hesitation, sensed him hovering. He probably felt her heart jack-hammering away, so she focused on slowing her breathing until it was shallow and easy.
Something ripped next to her ear, like fabric, and she willed herself to remain relaxed while Jacob plastered some sort of tape across her mouth. Then  a metallic scraping several feet away, followed by a puff of air. Maybe a cushion deflating. He'd taken a seat?  
After a series of tinny beeps, he began to speak in his normal voice. "Coyote here."
Coyote? Who, or what, the hell was Coyote?
"I have a cleanup." Pause. "Three minutes."
Cleanup? Cleanup implied he had a mess on his hands. Like Cleanup on Aisle 5. An unconscious federal agent did not need to be cleaned up. Unless you planned to mess her up first.
Deciding it was now or never to make a move, she braced her hands where they'd fallen, palms down on the floor, and gathered her strength. She'd give herself a three-count, then go.
One...two...
She was airborne before she hit three, hoisted and flung over his shoulder. "You never were any good at playing dead," he said. "You were thinking so loudly, you blew out my eardrums."
She bucked in his grip as the upside-down world swayed dizzily past, but he clutched harder, with one arm banded across her mid-thighs, the other hand clamped heavily on her backside. She could only beat her fists against his back as tears welled in her eyes. At some point she'd lost her shoes. And she was starting to feel sick.
He flung the office door open, banging it against the far wall, and hauled her down the corridor to an exterior exit. After shoving the door open with his hip, he stalked into the freezing cold night that smelled like snow, and stopped next to a group of men, at least judging by the view she had of a bunch of thick, muscular lower legs. He leaned over, tossing her upright and into the arms of one of them, where she was immediately gripped from behind.
"I'll be back," he said. She caught his gaze as he started to turn. As if an afterthought he added, "Watch for head butts."  Somehow through all the hauling and carrying and wrestling, the Santa head had remained fastened to his side, and as he turned, the fake twinkling eyes seemed to catch her gaze like a  crazed gremlin. Jacob dragged the top of the costume over his head and with a few long strides slipped back inside.
His exit was met with subdued snickering, and her eyes darted from one lethal-looking, hard-bodied man to the next. Four plus the man holding her—five altogether—standing a dozen feet from the club's loading dock. A black cargo van sat 50 feet away, its side doors open like a hulking monster ready to swallow anything in its path.
The men wore black from head to toe, including face make-up and black knit face masks. Their tactical gear was professional—assault weapons, night-vision goggles and what looked like the newest gee-whiz communications bands around their wrists.
Figuring it was probably not the right moment to try a ninja move, she stood quietly when the man holding her dragged her arms behind her and cuffed her, tightly, with a set of metal cuffs.
He'd barely clicked the lock when one of the men approached. "Go time. Now," he said, his voice low. He waved an arm toward the club entrance. "Go, go, go, go, go."
The man who'd cuffed Cassandra snatched her, carted her a dozen feet to the van,  and with a dizzying twist, dumped her into the cargo hold. The vehicle rocked back and forth for the second it took him to slam the door, pitching her into absolute black but for the rays of a sickly floodlight filtering through the front windshield.
It was enough, though, to see that he'd carelessly, or stupidly, left her alone.
Relief swamped her,  and she almost laughed as she wiggled her cuffed arms under her butt, then tightened her knees to her chest and slipped her hands past her feet.  Her arms now in front, she pushed onto her knees and crawled to the front. No keys in the ignition.
She was about to check the nooks and crannies when a blur of white zipped by in her peripheral vision. Abominable...Raven, the real one.
Cassandra clawed at the handle, kicked the door open and hopped to the pavement, biting back a curse as her bare soles hit the cold, rough macadam. Shoving the discomfort from her mind, she sprinted, following the trail of white feathers that dotted the inky sky.
Even without the use of her arms, running in what felt more like a hobble, Cassandra gained on Raven, and when her prey dove into a line of pines at the edge of the property, Cassandra followed, landing on the big white ball with a solid thud.
The two lay there for a heartbeat or two. Raven came out of it first. Screeching Russian obscenities, she slapped at Cassandra's face, arms and neck.
Scrambling to her knees, Cassandra blocked the blows with her forearms while she spit feathers from her mouth. Her arms were beginning to tire when footsteps thundered behind her. She twisted around. Jacob, without the costume head.  
"Nice move, Speedy," he said around gulps of air. "I don't know how, but she slipped out on us."
He pulled Raven, still spitting out curses, to her feet and waved over one of the men from the van. "Cuff her, read her her rights."
Wondering if she'd lost her mind, Cassandra shook her head. "What is going on?"
Jacob pulled an evidence bag from one of his inner pockets, then unhooked Santa's head from his belt and dropped it into the bag. He handed it off to another of his men then turned to Cassandra.
"You okay, Speedy?" He his lips curved and his eyes softened. "That was some take-down. You need medical attention?
"What the hell are you?"
He grinned and threw an arm around her shoulders as he led her toward the front of the club. "Special agent Jacob Newsome, DEA, just completed a five-year deep cover assignment in the Ravensworth Organization."
"No way." She pulled him to a stop. "Why didn't you try to reach me all these years?" Tears stung at her eyes.
He shrugged, looked away for a moment. "Shame, I guess."
"But...how?"
"That episode at Christmas behind the bleachers scared the hell out of me. Not to mention Mom. When I got out of the hospital, she moved us to Miami, away from that crowd. I vowed off that crap, studied like a maniac and joined the DEA after college. I was lucky they took me."
"So you've been enforcing Raven's orders all these years?"
His eyebrows lifted at her tone of outrage. "Yeah, right into witness protection."
Her head reeling, Cassandra asked, "So what now?"
"Now? Been thinking about requesting a transfer."
"Oh? Where?"
He lifted her left hand and stroked his thumb along her bare ring finger. "I hear Virginia's nice."
She cleared her throat. "I love Virginia."
"So what about it, Speedy? Give me, us, another chance?"
Stepping back, she put her fist under her chin and eyed him, top to bottom, then grinned. "Depends. What do you look like under that suit?"
__________________________
I hope you've enjoyed "Santa Suit Hijinks"! Please stop by tomorrow for "Red Suit Surprise" by Christine DePetrillo.  
For more information about my writing, please visit me at LeahStJames.com
Wishing all a safe and blessed holiday season.
Merry Christmas!

12 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

Just as I suspected! Nice ending, Leah. Great story!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Jannine, glad you enjoyed it!

Mimi Kronkowski said...

Loved it Leah! Now, on to your sequels...

Diane Burton said...

This was great! I was pretty sure he was a good guy--although I had my doubts at the end yesterday's chapter. Happy Christmas to you & your family, Leah.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Yep! That worked! Thanks, Leah. Nice job.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Good example of how bad experiences in youth can frame career experiences. Nice to have these two converge at the end. Ho, ho, ho!

Christine DePetrillo said...

Yay! Great ending. I knew Jacob was a good guy!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, everyone! Yeah, I couldn't make him a bad guy in a Christmas story. My sister (who was my beta reader) was upset enough that I included narcotics! :-)

Alicia Dean said...

Fantastic!!! I love, love, love this! What a sexy hero, even when he was 'bad' :) (or maybe especially when he was bad, LOL). I think it's awesome about the drug incident in his past, that just made him have further to go and made it more gritty and real. Excellent job!!!

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Alicia! That means a lot to me. (You know I can't complete a story without some sort of angst-ridden angle!)

Alison Henderson said...

I finally got a chance to finish it (wouldn't have missed it for anything!) Great job, Leah. You managed to pack an enormous amount of story and action into a short story. Kudos!

Donna Michaels said...

Great ending, Leah! Love the take-down.