DELIVERANCE

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“So how badly are you hurt?” Eames asked finally, deciding enough was enough with her partner’s strong and silent routine. The question was met with a long silence from Goren.

“I’m not…”

“Please, Bobby,” she begged him softly. “Don’t lie to me. Not now.”

“My head hurts pretty bad,” he admitted reluctantly.

“I’ll bet it does,” she agreed. “The son of a bitch damn near split your head open.”

Goren didn’t answer that. It didn’t surprise him, though. The truth was, his head hurt worse than any headache or migraine he’d ever had before in his life. He was quietly glad of the blindfold, for he doubted that he would be able to tolerate any light. Even his partner’s soft voice was like someone bashing on the inside of his skull with a sledgehammer.

Rather than keeping quiet, though, he instead tried to divert the conversation.

“What about you?”

If she could have hit him, she probably would have. She had to answer truthfully, though, after demanding the same honesty of him.

“My head hurts, too,” she said. “And my right shoulder hurts… I think it might be dislocated. I’m scared, Bobby.”

“So am I,” he admitted.

Hot tears filled her eyes behind the rough material of the blindfold, and a miserable sob escaped her before she could stop it. A moment later, she felt her partner shift beside her, and felt his cheek, rough with the usual stubble, brush gently against her forehead.

“You need to shave.”

Goren froze, taken aback by the unexpected comment. A moment later, he started to laugh softly.

“It really bugs you, doesn’t it? That I’m hardly ever clean shaven.”

She had to smile, despite their predicament.

“Just another of your quirks that I’ve had to learn to live with. I guess it’s just one of the many things that makes you who you are. It used to bug me, but it doesn’t anymore.”

She hesitated, then ventured a question. “Do I ever… You know…”

“Do you ever bug me?”

“Yeah.”

Goren smiled faintly.

“No, you don’t. I don’t think you’ve ever… bugged me. You’ve always been there when I needed you. I… I’ve never been able to say how much I appreciate that.”

She felt a spark of warmth light up somewhere inside her. Leaning across, she found his forehead and planted a soft kiss there. She tasted blood, but said nothing of that.

“I think you just said it. Thankyou, Bobby.”

A blanket of quiet fell, and they lay in silence for a while, frightened and captive to an unknown menace, but taking some small comfort in each other’s presence and in knowing that at least they were not alone.

“Aw, look at that. You got your gags off.”

Both Goren and Eames froze at the new voice. Footsteps came around and halted in front of them.

“I guess I could tape your mouths up again but I suppose I don’t really need to. Even if you wanted to waste your breath yelling for help, no one would hear you. Not where we are.”

“Erik?” Goren asked tentatively. Their captor laughed.

“That’s right, Detective. I bet your pretty partner clued you in there, didn’t she? Well, never mind. Oh, sorry about the way I had to tie you both up. Normally I’m a bit more considerate than that, but I just didn’t want to take any chances. I mean, you managed to get the tape off your mouths after all, didn’t you? I just didn’t want my plans spoiled by you getting yourselves loose. And this really does promise to be something spectacular.”

“You’re insane,” Eames said hoarsely, trying to keep the fear out of her voice. “You’re out of your mind, Erik. If you don’t let us go, you’ll have every cop in New York after your blood.”

“She’s right, Erik,” Goren added. “You’ll be lucky if you live long enough to be indicted.”

Mathers laughed again.

“You two have a good sense of humour. I mean, c’mon! You didn’t even know it was me until Detective Eames saw me in the warehouse. I wouldn’t have come in here to talk to you now if it weren’t for that. So don’t kid yourselves that any of your cop buddies are going to be busting down the front door any time soon. Even if they do somehow manage to work out that I’m their guy, this place where we are now is listed under an alias I picked at random years ago. So, we’re perfectly safe for the time being.”

Mathers shifted, then placed a water-filled container on the floor in front of each detective.

“I’ve got water here for both of you. It should hold you for now. I’ve gotta go, but I promise it won’t be long now. I promise.”

Then he was gone.

“What won’t be long?” Eames wondered helplessly. Goren didn’t respond, but rather stretched himself forward a few inches until his lips closed over a straw. Moments later, blessedly cool water trickled down his dry, sore throat. He swallowed a few mouthfuls of water before speaking again.

“It’s okay, Eames. It’s just water.”

She, too, stretched forward and managed to take a few sips.

“Well,” she said finally, “I guess he’s not going to let us die of dehydration, at least.”

“I wish I knew what he was planning,” Goren said.

“If it’s anything like his other five victims,” Eames said grimly, “then I’d guess we’ve got three, maybe four days of torture to look forward to before he pulls the plug on us.”

“We’ll get our chance,” Goren murmured, sounding more confident than Eames suspected he really felt. “We just have to be ready when it happens. And we have to stick together. Whatever happens, we have to stick together.”

Eames was silent for a long moment, considering both his words and their bleak situation.

“You really think Deakins will pull out all the stops to find us?”

“I know he will. I’ll bet he already is. We’ll get through this, Alex. Trust me.”

She smiled tearfully, feeling somehow reassured by his use of her first name.

“I do trust you,” she answered softly.

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