They made quick progress along the path that the ranger had specified from the map. It was fortunately an easy trek, with no obvious hazards. The ranger led the way, with Olivia, Alex and Carolyn close behind, and the rest of their colleagues bringing up the rear.

“Just ahead,” the ranger told them. “I’m certain this is the spot that your perp was talking about. Be careful, and don’t get too close to that edge. We’re on a soft shoulder here, and the ground is very unstable.”

Silence reigned as the detectives spread out to search the area for any sign that their colleagues had been there.

“I’ve got a knife, here,” Fin announced suddenly. “Looks like Blake’s preferred choice, too. It’s a big, ugly son of a bitch.”

“And I’ve got blood over here,” Ross spoke up.

“And a rope,” Carolyn called out from where she’d walked further along. They headed over to where she stood, and sure enough there was a rope tied to a thick tree trunk, hanging over the

edge of the drop.

“This couldn’t have been left here by Blake,” Cragen said with a frown. “Not if our boys got the drop on him like we think.”

“Blake said Elliot fell,” Alex said tensely, aware of how pale Olivia was in the torchlight. “He never said Bobby and Mike fell. What if they left this rope here?”

“You’re saying they might have climbed down to Elliot?” Ross wondered, and Alex nodded.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“That doesn’t make sense, though,” Fin argued. “We assume that they had Blake secured, at that point at least. They had his car… If Elliot went over here, why the hell didn’t they just take Blake’s car and go for help?”

“I can give you three reasons why they wouldn’t have done that,” Carolyn said grimly, “and two of them were provided by Blake. He said it himself, that he shot one, and probably left the other one badly concussed. Odds are that neither of them were thinking too clearly at the time.”

“And the other reason they abandoned the logical choice?” Ross asked coolly. Alex and Carolyn exchanged glances, and Carolyn could see the anger in her friend’s eyes. She went on calmly, silently pleading with Alex to stay cool.

“Because I can tell you right now that the only thing either them would have been thinking about was Elliot,” Carolyn said firmly. “If Elliot went over the side here, all Bobby and Mike would have been thinking about was getting to him as fast as possible.”

Alex had edged across and was leaning out over the edge of the drop while holding onto the branch of a nearby tree.

“Someone give me a torch.”

“Be careful, Eames,” Ross warned her as he handed her his torch. She nodded, and shone the powerful light down into the chasm.

“I can’t see anyone,” she announced finally, and wasn’t sure whether to be disappointed or relieved. “There’s no one down there. Not now.”

“So Blake lied,” Ross growled, but Carolyn shook her head, increasingly agitated as the truth of Blake’s manipulations suddenly occurred to her.

“No, he didn’t. That son of a bitch, he knew we wouldn’t find them here. He knew they wouldn’t be down there. That’s why he gave up this location! He wanted to buy himself time!”

Stunned silence fell across the group as they stared at each other. Then, the local sheriff who had accompanied them pulled out his radio.

“Andrews, give me a sit-rep, now!”

But there was nothing but static on the other end. Cragen whirled around to confront the ranger.

“Is there another way down there? A path?”

“Well, yes,” stammered the ranger, “but it takes over an hour to walk, even fully fit.”

“And Goren and Logan have had possibly hours to find a way to get Elliot out of there,” Cragen said tensely. “Blake played us. He’s loose, and he’s gone after them again. We need to get back, now!”

All of them took off back towards the cabin, with Olivia, Alex and Carolyn leading the way.

They arrived back at the cabin to find the place chaos. Two local officers were dead, one seriously injured after being stabbed in the gut, and the fourth officer was in a state of near panic. Blake, not surprisingly, was gone.

“Son of a bitch!” Cragen exploded as the sheriff tried to calm his remaining uninjured officer, as well as see to the wounded man. “What the hell happened?”

“Wilson…” the injured officer managed to choke out. “Stupid idiot… fell for the ‘I’ve gotta go to the bathroom’ line. Blake snapped his neck, then came after the rest of us. He… He’s gone after your three guys. He looked like he knew exactly where he was going.”

“He knew all along where to find them,” Ross growled. He turned, his sharp eyes quickly locating the ranger. “Where is this other path?”

“Go out the outer kitchen door,” the ranger told him, “and it’s right there. Leads into the forest…”

He trailed off very abruptly as a not-so-distant scream of pain suddenly shattered the deathly stillness.

“Mike,” Alex whispered in horror. “That was Mike! I’m sure it was!”

“And it sounded damned close, too,” Cragen growled. “Hey, wait!”

It was too late, though. Alex, Carolyn and Olivia had already taken off, too intent on reaching Elliot, Mike and Bobby to stop and think about the risk.

“Damn it!” Ross exploded as he checked his weapon. “We have to go, now! If they run into Blake, God only knows what might happen.”

“Yeah,” Munch retorted. “They might kill the son of a bitch. What a shame that would be.”

Cragen glared at him.

“Not helpful, John.”

“Tim,” the sheriff said quickly, “stay here with my boys, would you?”

The ranger nodded in compliance.

“I’ll radio for a Med-Evac chopper,” he offered. “I get the feeling we’re going to need it for those other cops, as well.”

The men then hurried out of the cabin, in hot pursuit of their female colleagues.

Bobby had walked perhaps half a dozen steps before he realised that Mike had stopped. He turned slowly, trying to focus rapidly blurring eyes on his brother.

“Mike? What’s wrong?”

“Thought I saw a… a light,” Mike mumbled. “Up there somewhere.”

Bobby glanced up, but as far as he could tell there was nothing to be seen.

“Nothing there, Mikey. C’mon. We’ve got to keep going.”

Mike, however, didn’t move.

“No, Bobby. I heard a chopper before, and I saw a light just now. I know I did. What if it’s help?”

“And what if it’s not?”

That brought Mike up short, and he stared at Bobby with a sinking feeling.

“Blake? You think it might be Blake? We left him handcuffed in the bathroom, Bobby. You do remember that, don’t you?”

“Yes, I remember that,” Bobby muttered, gingerly rubbing at the back of his neck. “But how long have we been out here now? Hours? The man is psychotic, and he’s turned on by pain… even his own. I wouldn’t put it past him to break his own hands to get out of those cuffs… and if he does that, there’s nothing to keep him in there.”

Mike sighed.

“You’re just all sunshine and happiness, aren’t you?”

“Sorry, Mike. I believe you saw a light up there, but we just can’t know for sure who it is. It’s not worth risking our lives to find out, either. Is it?”

“No,” Mike agreed with reluctance. “No, it’s not. Damn it…”

“Let’s just keep going,” Bobby murmured tiredly.

“Do you know how far it is?” Mike wondered, and Bobby sighed softly.

“No. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Mike murmured. At that, Bobby slowed to a halt.

“No… No, it’s not. It’s not okay. None of it is!”

Concerned by the distress he heard in his brother’s voice, Mike set the travois down carefully and stepped over to where Bobby stood.

“Bobby, don’t do this. Please, not now.”

Bobby stared at Mike in visible distress.

“I… I can’t…”

“You can’t what?”

And suddenly, Bobby’s knees buckled and he went down. Mike dove forward, wrapping his arms around Bobby’s upper body, going down with him in an effort to break his fall.

“No,” Mike whispered hoarsely. “Bobby, no, don’t do this to me. C’mon, baby brother…”

Bobby slumped heavily against Mike, head lolling against his brother’s shoulder. In the artificial torchlight, Mike could make out the discolouration that was spreading across Bobby’s temple and head, and the blood that was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as well as from his ear.

He had gone as far as he could, Mike realised in dismay. Bobby would be going no further under his own steam.

“Just hang on a little longer, please,” Mike begged him, even though he wasn’t so sure that Bobby could even hear him now. “Please, baby brother, don’t give up on me…”

He held Bobby to him with tender care, barely aware of the tears that stung his own eyes. How long he knelt there for, cradling his brother to him, he didn’t know. All he knew was a growing despair as he gradually came to realise that they were not going to make it. Tears filled his eyes, and his shoulders shook with ill-suppressed sobs as grief and despair took over. He had tried… He’d tried so damned hard but it was all for nothing.

“Look at that. How fuckin’ sweet.”

Mike froze, and then looked around to see a new figure standing there, illuminated by the torchlight. Darius Blake…

“Comforting your lover boy there, you fuckin’ fag?” Blake snarled.

In that moment, the despair was gone, to be replaced with a white hot rage. Taking care to lower Bobby gently to the ground, Mike turned back to face Blake.

“C’mon,” Blake hissed. “Bring it on, pig.”

Mike didn’t yell, didn’t scream, and he didn’t lose control. Instead, he dropped one hand to the ground where he crouched, and felt his fingers close around a smooth, round stone. He waited with a patience that he hadn’t known he possessed and watched as Blake advanced. He waited until the last possible moment, when Blake was almost on top of him, before lifting the stone and throwing it as hard as his injuries would allow.

It was a good throw, striking Blake right smack in the middle of his forehead. The killer staggered, stunned by the unexpected blow, but he didn’t fall. He lurched unsteadily towards Mike, and tackled him with an angry snarl.

Mike grunted as he fell backwards over Bobby’s unmoving form. His head struck the ground and he felt sharp pain as his teeth clicked together over his tongue, followed by the metallic taste of blood in his mouth.

He barely had time to register the pain as he struggled to push Blake off him. The killer was in a blind rage, punching and clawing at Mike with one hand while slashing the knife at him with the other. Mike barely felt it, though. He fought back hard, his moves powered by adrenalin and sheer desperation.

In his mind’s eyes, Mike no longer saw Darius Blake, but rather Richie Goren, whose hunger for money and power had nearly killed both him and Bobby. He saw Richie’s leering face, and his own anger finally boiled over. Blake grunted in surprise as Mike suddenly threw him off, and then literally jumped on top of him, fists swinging with a wild fury.

“You psychotic bastard!” Mike exploded. “Why can’t you leave us alone? We’re just trying to have a fucking vacation!”

His fist found a target in Blake’s nose, breaking it decisively. While Blake was still recovering from the shock of that blow, Mike grabbed Blake’s wrist in an effort to force him to let go of the knife.

A snarl escaped Blake, and he jammed his knee up into Mike’s ribs, where he’d taken the buckshot. Mike groaned in pain and momentarily lost his tenuous grip on the killer. In the next instant, he found himself flipped over, and Blake was suddenly on top of him once more.

The knife came down again, and Mike instinctively lifted his arm to shield his face. Seconds later, his groan of pain turned into a scream as the blade plunged into his forearm. Blake wasted not a second. He threw his weight forward, pinning Mike’s arms to the ground and jamming his left hand against Mike’s forehead to hold his head still.

“I’m taking your eyes, Irish piggie,” Blake rasped as he wiped the blade clean on his pants leg. “Pretty green eyes. Are you ready to give me your soul?”

Mike gasped and tried to buck Blake off, but the killer wouldn’t be dislodged from his perch. He jammed his knees down, pushing Mike harder into the ground, and drew a thin, bloody line with the knife along the base of Mike’s throat.

“Gonna cut your throat, little piggie. But first I’m gonna have me those beautiful green eyes. Just hold still, this’ll hardly hurt at all…”

Mike saw the knife descending towards his face and tried twisting away, but Blake held him fast. Then, just as the knife was millimetres away from his left eyes, Mike caught sight of movement in his peripheral vision. He barely had time to think ‘Bobby’ before another figure collided into Blake, sending the killer crashing to the ground.

Shaken, Mike started up, and froze in momentary shock. Bobby was, indeed, stirring again, but he was still only on his hands and knees some feet away. Which meant…

Twisting around, Mike’s eyes widened at the sight of Elliot struggling with Blake. He had one hand and one leg out of action, but his visible fury was easily making up for the lack of usable limbs.

Picking himself up with some difficulty, and trying to ignore the burning pain in his arm, Mike threw himself back into the fray, determined to end it once and for all.

“You can’t stop me,” Blake crowed in between hysterical giggles that sent chills down both Mike and Elliot’s spines. “Gonna kill you. Gonna kill all of you. Gonna have your eyes, Elliot, gonna take ’em and eat ’em so you’ll always be with me…”

“Shut the fuck up, you sick son of a bitch!” Mike growled as, between him and Elliot, they managed to finally pin Blake down. Blake looked wildly from one man to the other.

“You put me back in prison, and I’ll get out again. I’ll come for you. I’ll come for both of you. I want your eyes and your souls. They’re mine, and I’ll have them sooner or later, you’ll see. You’ll never be free of me. You’ll always be looking for me over your shoulder. Every day, you’ll wake up and you’ll wonder, is this the day he’ll come for me? You’ll always…”

Blake’s rant ended mid-sentence as a good-sized rock slammed into the side of his head, knocking him out cold. Both Mike and Elliot looked up in surprise to see Bobby kneeling there, dazed but awake.

“Bastard was giving me a headache,” he mumbled as he sat down on the cold ground with a thud. Abandoning his position of holding Blake down, Mike pulled Bobby to him in a fierce embrace.

“Thought you were a goner, baby brother.”

“Nah,” Bobby answered weakly. “You don’t get rid of me that… that easy.”

Their embrace was interrupted only by a soft, weak voice that spoke with a distinct tremor.

“I… I’m…”

Mike looked around, and found Elliot’s guilt-riddled features staring back at them.

“Don’t,” Mike warned him with a slight frown. “Don’t you dare say you’re sorry, Elliot. Not after you just saved me from losing my eyes to that psycho. C’mere…”

And suddenly, Elliot found himself caught up in a three-way hug. He sat rigid for a moment before relaxing and surrendering to the collective embrace.

“Hate to spoil the moment,” Elliot whispered as Mike finally released both him and Bobby, “but I still can’t walk.”

Mike squeezed his shoulder very gently.

“Elliot, I’ll carry you on my back, if I have to. Don’t you worry about it, pal.”

“Mikey, I don’t think you’ll have to,” Bobby said, relief evident in his voice. “Look…”

Both Mike and Elliot looked, and saw what Bobby had just spotted. Coming towards them through the darkness were three distinct torch lights.

“Are we agreed that it’s highly unlikely that that’s another lunatic wanting to kill us?” Mike asked, and Bobby smiled weakly.


Nodding, Mike gathered what remained of his strength and called out to the newcomers.

“We’re over here!”

“Mike? Is that you?”

Both Mike and Bobby wept at the sound of Carolyn’s voice. Slowly, three figures emerged out of the darkness. Olivia got there first, her longer legs giving her an edge on Alex and Carolyn.

“Elliot? Oh god, look at you,” Olivia choked out as she dropped to the ground beside him. He reached up weakly, and she quickly grasped his hand in hers, kissing it softly.

“M’okay,” he told her, even as he struggled to stay conscious. “Mikey… and Bobby… saved me…”

And then he was out again, exhaustion overtaking him. Olivia paused, watching to ensure that he was breathing without difficulties, before looking around. She was quietly amazed at the sight that greeted her. Alex had taken a battered and bloodied Mike in her arms, while Carolyn was cradling Bobby. She must have missed something, she mused. She could have sworn the pairings went the other way – Alex with Bobby, and Carolyn with Mike.

“How do we get them back to the cabin?” Olivia asked. “I don’t think any of them are walking any further than this.”

“We need to let the others know where we are,” Carolyn said. “Any ideas on how to do that?”

“This is how,” Alex said. She pulled out her gun, aimed at a distant tree and fired twice. Then, she slipped her arm back around Mike, who sighed with relief at her touch. A moment beyond that, though, he felt her hands patting gently over his body, searching for injuries. He closed his hand over hers, gazing up at her wearily, his eyes bright with pain.

“Don’t, Alex. I… I’ll be okay. Just scratches and bruises.”


He tightened his grip fractionally on her hand.

“Please, baby. Just hold me?”

Swallowing the sob that hitched in her chest, she hugged him to her as tightly as she dared.

A short distance away, Carolyn cradled Bobby to her, tears brimming in her eyes as she looked over his head wound. At a glance, even in the dim light, she could see what Mike had suspected.

“I know,” Bobby whispered weakly, struggling to focus on her face. Carolyn regarded him worriedly.

“What do you know?”

“My head… Not good.”

Carolyn pressed a feather-light kiss to his forehead.

“No, honey, it’s not good, but it’s gonna be okay. We’ve got you now. You’re safe, Bobby. You’re all safe.”

“You want us to be safe,” Mike croaked out, “then shoot that asshole in the friggin’ head.”

“Don’t worry about him, Mike,” Alex assured him. “That son of a bitch will never see the light of day again after this.”

“He was going to cut out my eyes,” Mike said, and his voice took on a distinct tremor as he remembered the stark fear of watching that knife descending towards his face. “He would have, too… except for Elliot. He… He saved my life.”

Alex hugged him again, while glaring at Blake’s unmoving form.

“He’ll get the death penalty for this, Mike. None of you have to worry anymore.”

“They’re coming,” Olivia announced suddenly, and both Alex and Carolyn looked up to see lights appearing through the trees.

“Over here!” Alex called out. “We found them!”

Familiar figures emerged into the area; Cragen, Ross, Fin, Munch and the local sheriff.

“For the love of all things sacred,” Cragen groaned as they got an eyeful of their wounded colleagues. “Look at the three of you!”

Mike grunted.

“Hey… Donnie… What t… took you so long?”

Cragen couldn’t quite suppress a smirk.

“Don’t smart mouth me, Mikey, or I’ll leave your sorry ass right here.”

“You wanna go ahead and try… My girlfriend’ll have your ass in a sling.”

Ross walked over and dropped into a crouch beside Mike, smiling wryly at his detective.

“And you were worried about poison ivy.”

Mike groaned aloud at Ross’s obvious amusement.

“Gimme a break, I’m in pain here.”

The smile on Ross’s face faded at that admission.

“I’m not surprised,” he murmured as he looked at Mike’s blood-soaked side. “Did he shoot you?”

“He tried,” Mike admitted. “I caught some buckshot when Blake fired at me and Bobby. Seriously, no wonder the guy uses a knife. He’s a friggin’ lousy shot. Not that I’m complaining, mind you…”

“Barek?” Ross asked, turning his attention to Bobby. “How is he?”

“He’s not good, Captain,” Carolyn answered in a strained voice. It was painfully obvious that she was trying to control her fear. “He needs medical attention.”

“They all do,” Ross agreed. He looked around at Cragen. “Don, the Med-Evac chopper shouldn’t be too far away. I think a few of us should head back to meet them, and guide them down here. The sooner we get them off this mountain and back home to New York, the happier I’ll be.”

“You and us both, Captain,” Mike mumbled wearily. Cragen nodded his agreement.

“Good idea, Danny. Fin? Would you go?”

“Sure, Captain,” Fin murmured, although he seemed reluctant to leave Elliot’s side.

“What about that son of a bitch?” Olivia asked bitterly, nodding towards Blake. Munch walked over to where Blake lay and crouched beside him, checking automatically for a pulse. A moment later, he looked back up at them worriedly.

“Ah… We might have a problem, people. Mr Blake is just a little bit… you know… dead.”

“Dead?” Cragen burst out incredulously. “How the hell did that happen?”

“Blunt force trauma, maybe,” Ross mused as he strode over to get a closer look. “It looks like he took a hell of a hit to the head, square on the right temple.”

Cragen looked back to Mike, who was the only one of the three who was still conscious and coherent.

“Mike? You want to tell us what happened?”

Mike stared unblinkingly at Cragen.

“We saved ourselves,” he answered quietly. “We used what we had to save ourselves.”

“And that’s it?” Cragen asked sceptically. Mike frowned.

“What do you want me to say, Donnie? You want me to say we conspired to ambush him and kill him? For God’s sake, look at us! Elliot’s barely been conscious most of the time… Bobby could barely think straight after being clubbed in the head twice, and what the hell could I do? We defended ourselves, no more, no less.”

“IAB is going to want to investigate this…” Ross started to say, and Mike let out an angry noise in response.

“So then Blake becomes the victim? And we’re the suspects? Look at us, Captain! He was going to kill us! He wanted to cut out mine and Elliot’s eyes, and God only knows what he had planned for Bobby! No, we didn’t mean to kill him, but I’m not sorry he’s dead, either. We are not going down over that bastard’s death, Captain. Not after what he did to us… for what he was going to do to us. He can’t hurt us now… He can’t hurt Elliot now, and I’m not going to be sorry about that.”

Ross couldn’t resist a smile. Just six months ago, he would have been seriously pissed off at Mike’s outburst. Now, though, he found it strangely comforting to know the detective was so willing to come to the defence of his companions.

“Relax, Logan,” he said. “As I was saying, it’ll be investigated, and I know you’ll be cleared. All of you, including whichever of you it was that struck the killing blow. Whatever happened, however it played out, I think it was a pretty clear cut case of self defence.”

“Well, that’s what it was,” Mike mumbled, visibly thrown by Ross’s words.

“It’s okay, Logan,” Ross told him quietly. “I’ve got your backs. Don’t worry.”

Mike looked back at Ross, puzzled, but the captain only clapped him lightly on the shoulder and stood up again.

“Sheriff? Detective Tutuola? Shall we head back to meet the Med-Evac chopper?”

They went, leaving Cragen, Munch and the women behind to wait with the wounded men.

“What the hell is this…?”

All eyes turned at Cragen’s startled question. He had just discovered the makeshift travois. Mike shifted uncomfortably in Alex’s arms, feeling suddenly as though he’d done something wrong.

“We couldn’t just sit around at the bottom of that cliff, but Bobby wasn’t up to helping carry Elliot on the stretcher, so I kind of mutilated it so it only needed one person to pull it.”

You did that?” Cragen asked incredulously. “You turned a stretcher into a travois? Damn, Mikey…”

“Wasn’t leaving him behind,” Mike mumbled, even as shock and exhaustion finally began to catch up with him. “I won’t… leave behind my… brother…”

Alex hugged him to her as he finally gave in and slipped into unconsciousness.

“We know, baby. We know you won’t.”

The Med-Evac chopper had arrived by the time that Ross, Fin and the sheriff got back to the cabin, and they were greeted by a team of medics. Within fifteen minutes, they were back down the path, and back to where their colleagues waited.

There, for the next several minutes, they were all pushed aside while Elliot, Mike and Bobby all received the medical treatment that they so desperately needed.


Ross glanced sideways as Alex stepped up to stand next to him.

“What is it, Eames?”

“I need to know, sir. Did you mean it? What you said to Mike, I mean.”

Ross didn’t need to ask what she was talking about. He already knew.

“I meant it,” he confirmed. “They’ve got my support. None of this was their fault, and anyone who can’t see that is a fool. Frankly, I’m impressed with their ingenuity. Especially Logan’s.”

Alex sighed, finally relaxing.

“Thankyou, sir.”

“They’re ready to move them,” Cragen announced as he joined them.

“Do they need help with the stretchers?” Ross wondered, and Cragen nodded. Ross promptly walked over to where Bobby lay strapped into one of the four stretchers, and joined one of the medics in helping to lift him up. Then, together, they all began the trek back to the cabin.

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