Summer Vacation

The glitter of the buildings reflected the sun as the plane made its final approach into JFK International.

"We'll be landing soon. Are you excited?" asked the older woman beside me.

"Yeah, a little," I replied.

She nodded, then started babbling on about her dreadful daughter-in-law, and I tried to tune her out. She had complained the entire flight, ranting and raving about how tragic it was for her son to make such an awful choice for a wife. At first I pretended to care, to be polite, but was tired of hearing the constant babble, and turned toward the window to try to see something more interesting.

I was visiting my second cousin Robert, who lived in Manhattan. I hadn't seen him in about 8 years, but had kept in touch by writing. With our correspondence, we had stayed fairly close. I had called a few days prior and he assured me he'd love to have me stay, but said he'd have a friend pick me up at the airport, since he had a meeting out of town to attend. I reflected on this upon disembarking and worried that I wouldn't know who was picking me up.

As I was looking around, trying not to show how afraid I was becoming, a young man in a brown leather jacket approached. He opened his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read, "Hi, I'm Mickey, McCall's friend." I laughed at the young man with the tousled brown hair standing before me.

"What a great idea! I was wondering how I'd know who was picking me up," I responded. "I'm Shawna, Robert's cousin, but I guess you've figured that one out already!" I continued. He nodded and smiled.

As we went to get my bag, he told me that Robert had been detained a little longer than he'd intended, and would try to make it home on Saturday. It was Tuesday now, so I'd have to wait a little longer than I'd wanted. Mickey looked over at me, and as if reading my mind, said, "Don't worry. I'm off work right now so I can show you some sights."

"Oh, that'd be great! I've never been to New York City before, so I'm a little uneasy. It's so big!"

"I'll get you settled in, then we can go tour the city if you want," Mickey said, grabbing my bag, as we headed out to his van. I climbed in and soon we were off. I couldn't believe the traffic, but Mickey seemed to maneuver well in it.

"You drive like a native, are you?" I asked.

"Naw, I'm originally from Houston, but I've been in New York City for the last few years."

I didn't know what else to say, a sudden shyness coming over me. Mickey glanced over, noticing my uneasiness. "So, Robert tells me you're in college, is that right?"

"Yeah, I have one more year, then I'll be done. It seems like it's taking forever," I laughed.

"What are you studying?"

"Law Enforcement; I want to go into police work."

"That sounds challenging," he responded.

I nodded in agreement and he smiled as we pulled up to Robert's tall red-brick apartment building. Mickey let me in and showed me where to put my bags. I glanced around the room, which was decorated warmly with tans and creams.

"So, consider me your tour guide! Where to?" Mickey said as we headed out the door.

"I'd like to see the Statue of Liberty, The Smithsonian, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, all of those touristy places! So, wherever you'd like to take me is fine with me. You sure I'm not taking you away from anything?"

"Naw, I'm off for a week or so. But, I don't think we'll be able to visit all those today, so how about Times Square right now? Although you'll probably change your mind after you see it. It's not a great place to visit. How about Central Park? You can see a lot from there and the weather's warm today. We outta get out and enjoy it."

"Yeah, well you know this city better than I do, so I'll just follow you," I said, yawning.

"Hey, you gonna stay awake?"

"Yeah, I'll try. I haven't been sleeping well lately, so forgive me." I said, rubbing my eyes.

We spent the afternoon in the park, enjoying the various people we encountered. There was a dance troupe performing, people were playing Frisbee, jogging, skating, and doing other interesting things. We decided to rent some skates and skated for an hour while I held onto him for dear life! He was a lot better at it than I was, and I told him so. He laughed and led me over to a bench while he went to get some ice cream cones for us. We talked and laughed the afternoon away, then went to dinner at the top of a skyscraper. I loved the city so far, and was beginning to really like Mickey. Besides being very good looking, he seemed very caring and yet unruffable! I tried to ask him what kind of work he did, and he said he worked in the same agency that Robert had retired from. He was being very secretive, and I didn't want to pry. I just enjoyed being with him, but I still longed for Robert to come home soon.

The next couple of days Mickey took me to the Statue, the Smithsonian, and Radio City Music Hall. He also took me to an aquarium and amusement park, and we grew closer as friends. I could tell he liked being with me as much as I liked being with him. He asked me about school and work, and I found myself sharing things with him that I hadn't been able to confide to anyone before. I didn't tell him about Bryan, however, not wanting to drag him into a mess that hopefully wouldn't happen.

I showered and was blow-drying my hair the next morning as the phone rang. It was Robert. He asked how everything was going and I told him that Mickey was being just terrific taking me around the city. He seemed pleased and said he'd have to stay a few more days, and would try to get home Sunday evening. I assured him that I'd be just fine until he came home, but that I was anxious to see him. We hung up and I got ready for Mickey's impending arrival. We were going to go see a movie. There was a knock at the door and I let Mickey in as the phone rang. I picked it up and said, "Hello?"

"You're dead," was all I heard as the sound of machine gun fire crackled over the phone line. I started shaking and hung up.

"Hey! Are you okay? Shawna, what's wrong?" Mickey asked coming over. I jumped as the phone rang again. Mickey reached for it, but I picked it up and slammed it down again before he could get it.

"Let's go, okay Mickey?" I pleaded as the phone rang again.

"No, I want to know what's going on! Now let me answer the phone!" Mickey exclaimed, as he started to pick up the receiver. He was too late and it went to the answering machine, which resounded in loud machine gunfire before it disconnected. I ran into the bedroom and started to throw some clothes in my suitcase.

"Where are you going? What are you doing? Shawna, talk to me! Who was that on the phone?" Mickey yelled.

"I hafta get out of here, Mickey. He's found me and I gotta hide, I can't stay here!" I yelled back.

The phone rang again and I jumped. Mickey came over and I cried as he held me close, waiting for me to calm down.

"We'll go over to my place for a while, okay? He won't call you there, and you can tell me what's going on. Maybe I can help. Now, let's go."

"Okay," I said, trying to calm down. The phone rang again as we were leaving. On the way over, Mickey kept asking me who had called, but I couldn't calm down enough to tell him. We arrived at his apartment and gradually I calmed down enough to accept a Pepsi as we sat at his kitchen table. I looked around a little bit when he excused himself a few minutes later. There was an automatic rifle on the kitchen counter and I went over to look at it. Mickey came up behind me.

"This is a cool-looking weapon; what is it?" I asked.

"Colt Commando," he answered, reaching over to take the magazine out.

"It must be a cousin of the M-16," I said.

Yeah, it is. How do you know about that?" he asked.

I ignored him and picked it up. "Can I borrow this for awhile?!"

"No, you can't borrow it! You'll just get yourself into a helluva lot of trouble."

"Maybe, but at least I'll be alive."

He reached over and took the rifle from me. "Look, someone is probably just playing a sick joke. There are a lot of weirdoes out there who like to call and scare people half to death. You can't take it seriously, Shawna."

"Oh, yes I can. The FBI has warned me about Bryan coming after me," I said quietly.

"Tell me what's going on," Mickey said as we sat down at the table.

I took a deep breath, and told Mickey of the whirlwind 'romance' I'd had in Basic Training with a man who paid so much attention to me that I was flattered enough to say I'd marry him. I told of his buddy, Thompson, who also wanted to marry me. He smiled occasionally and gently encouraged me to go on.

"He and I were put 'on profile' when I broke my foot and he injured his shoulder throwing a hand grenade. He and I used to work in the Arms Room cleaning M-16's."

"So, that's how you know about guns, huh?" he asked.

"Yeah," I answered, continuing. "It was going along okay until one day I mentioned to the Sergeant that Bryan was planning on sending rifle parts back to Michigan so he could assemble it when he got back home. I didn't think he would take it so seriously, but he got upset and searched Bryan's locker, finding some verboten articles, then they sat us down and warned us not to do that. But, Bryan was mad that I mentioned it," I said, growing quiet as I sipped my Pepsi and losing myself in the memories.

"Well, I'd surely want to kill someone who snitched that about me!" Mickey said smiling, then turned serious. "Sorry, go on."

"I was discharged for my foot, and Bryan would call me every night from Basic. He'd always call collect, which would drive my Mom crazy. Anyway, one night he called really late, like 2300, and he was really angry that they wouldn't let him do anything but sleep. I couldn't feel sorry for him, because that's all I wanted to do when I was there!"

"Yeah, I did too, as I recall," Mickey said, smiling.

"You were in the Army?"

"Navy. So, he was mad?"

"Yeah, really mad. He told me he was going to bomb the place and kill everyone."

"Right! How was he planning on doing that? Sounds like a real genius!" Mickey exclaimed, getting another Pepsi from the fridge.

I looked at him leaning on the counter, legs crossed, Was he taking me seriously? "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to make a bomb, Mickey!"

"I'm sorry, you're right. So how was he going to pull it off?"

I told him of the fuel barrel they had on the pavilion under the bays, and said he had said he'd take a book of matches, light it, and throw it in. A lot of the trainees would be on Bivouac, but a lot would be at the barracks, sleeping, and would be hurt or killed. Remembering some of my friends and my buddy, I looked at Mickey. "What the hell was I supposed to do? Let him kill 3-400 people?!!!" I yelled, bursting into tears.

He came over and sat down next to me again. "Hey, calm down! I understand! So you called someone to let them know what he was planning?" he said, taking my hand.

I nodded, and tried to collect myself. I continued. "I called the NCOIC, and Thompson told me the next day that the Sergeant had contacted the Commander, and at 2 AM they pulled him out of bed and discharged him on the spot. So, now he's pissed off because I've 'ruined his promising career."

"Yeah, some career!" he said, taking a sip of his soda. "So, you just change your phone number and he'll leave you alone, okay? Problem solved," Mickey said, standing up again.

"Well, not exactly," I said, quietly.

"What do you mean?"

"I've already gone to court and had my name legally changed. Robert doesn't know about that yet," I said, looking up. "And…

"And what?" he said, sitting down again.

"And the FBI called me last week and told me that they had stopped him trying to cross state lines with a trunk full of guns and my address in the front seat. That's when I contacted Robert and asked if I could stay with him for a while. I really didn't think he could find me so quickly. I mean, how did he know where I was?" I asked.

"I don't know. Who knows you're out here? Did you tell anyone?"

"Just my roommate, but she knows not to tell anyone. She's got a goofy boyfriend; maybe he told him."

"Well, it's not important. What do you think it would take to get this loser to come out here?"

I almost choked. "What?! Why would we want him to come out here?!" I exclaimed.

"Well, how else are we going to get him to leave you alone? I mean, you've been out a couple years, right? And he still hasn't let it go. You've already gotten one warning from the FBI, I think it's time you take some action, don't you?"

"Yeah, but how will him coming here help me get rid of him?"

"Maybe I can persuade him to leave you alone, or would you rather be running the rest of your life?"

"How can you persuade him? He won't listen to anyone, I've tried. And he's dangerous, Mickey! I can't have you risk your life for this jerk!"

"Don't worry. I'll have Robert's help, and we do this sort of thing all the time, and we've survived. So, tell me, what would it take to get him out here?"

I was quiet for a minute, then shook my head. "It's too risky."

"Let me be the judge of that. What's your idea?"

"If he thought I had a fiancé or something, he might get mad. See, he not only wants to kill me, he wants me all to himself. I mentioned once that I was dating someone and he went ballistic."

"That's good, that might do it. So, when's the wedding?!" he said, pulling me to my feet.

I must have looked startled, for he just hugged me and laughed.

The next few days were spent trying to set things up, then it was Sunday and time to pick up Robert at the airport. I ran to him and hugged him as we walked back to Mickey and the van.

"So, what kind of trouble have you two been up to? If I know Mickey, it's plenty!" Robert exclaimed, as Mickey pulled away from the curb. We looked at each other and smiled.

"So, I was right. Alright, alright, what's going on?"

Mickey outlined the last couple of days to him and he agreed with our plans, saying he would give Jimmy a call to monitor Bryan's movements once he landed in New York. "And I thought I'd have a nice rest when I got home!" Robert said, exasperated.

"I'm sorry, Robert. But it was Mickey's idea to invite this lunatic to New York for a visit!" I said, grinning.

"Well, I think we can persuade him that he will not like his stay, don't you, colleague?"

"Absolutely!" Mickey answered, pulling up in front of the apartment.

Once inside, we went over details, and I started to feel more at ease after listening to the two of them banter strategy back and forth. I sat on the couch and picked up the Colt 45 Robert had laid there when we arrived. I unloaded it, and tried to figure out how it worked. Robert went into the back room to get some things he'd need, and I picked up the gun and approached Mickey's back. Aiming it in the small of his back, I said, "You're coming with me, buddy!"

"What? What are you doing?! "

"I'm Bryan, and you're coming with me! Now let's go!" I said, quietly, hoping he'd catch on. He did.

"Okay, Bryan, where to?" he asked, putting his hands up.

"Where I say, that's where!"

Robert walked into the room, a startled expression on his face.

"Is that loaded?" he asked, coming over.

"I took out the magazine," I replied.

"Yes, but is it loaded?"

"I hope not," I said, turning it over in my hand.

Just then Mickey turned around and grabbed it. I stepped backwards in surprise as he slowly aimed it at me.

"Mickey! It may be loaded!" I exclaimed.

"Even if it were, it wouldn't fire without the hammer pulled back. So, the roles are reversed, and now you're coming with me!"

"Hey! Time out, alright?"

Mickey laughed, "What do you mean 'time out!' There's no such thing. Now, come on, let's go!!!" he yelled, grabbing my arm and turning me around so my back was facing him.

I tried to turn around in protest, but Robert interjected by saying, "The first rule is distraction. Try to distract him while formulating a plan of escape."

I wasn't very good at this, and stood still, trying to think of a distraction. Mickey pushed me toward the living room and I asked where we were going. "Wherever I say, now MOVE!" he yelled.

I tried to turn around and face him, but he grabbed my shirt and pushed me, still aiming the .45 at me. I watched as he reached over and grabbed the magazine, inserting it once again in the semi-automatic. I started panicking, and couldn't think of anything to do.

"Now what?" I asked Mickey.

"You're coming with me, that's what. Now let's go," Mickey said, gesturing with the gun for me to stand up.

I stood up and waited. Mickey grabbed an arm and pushed me toward the front door.

"God, you're mean," I said under my breath.

"What did you say?" Mickey yelled.

"Nothing!"

"Fine, then let's go!" he said, pushing me again toward the door.

I whirled around, "You are really starting to piss me off, Mickey!" I yelled back at him.

"Good! It's about time you got mad! Now, what are you going to do with your anger?" Robert said from his perch at the kitchen counter.

I tried to grab the gun from Mickey's hands, and we wrestled. I failed and ended up in the kitchen, exasperated.

"I give up! I don't know how to handle this situation!" I yelled.

Mickey's face softened. He put the gun on the counter. "First of all, NEVER try to take a loaded gun away from someone. If it were anyone else, he'd have fired and you'd be dead! Do what he says as calmly as possible, and try to think of a diversion, okay?"

"Okay," I replied, quietly.

"Alright, onto the problem at hand," Robert said, leading us into the living room. "The first thing on the agenda, since we have time before he arrives, is to get you more familiar with guns. Therefore, Mickey will take you down to the range. And now, I need you to call this Thompson character and let him know of your engagement."

I retrieved Thompson's number and dialed after getting the signal from Robert, so he could record the conversation. As we waited for him to pick up, Mickey asked if Thompson had been threatening me also.

"No, he just proposes to me constantly."

"Ah, that's sweet!" Mickey said, sarcastically.

"You haven't seen this guy, he…"

Just then Thompson sleepily answered, "Hello?"

"Hey, Thompson, it's Edwards. What's happening? I haven't heard from you in awhile," I said, trying to sound relaxed.

"Hey Edwards! I been thinkin' of you. Where you at?"

"At my cousin's place in Manhattan," I responded, per Robert's suggestion. I asked if he'd heard from Bryan.

"Yeah, Mickey called me, said he was gonna go rescue you from some guy up there," he said, then continued to ramble on as I looked at Mickey, who had a very confused look on his face. I put my hand over the receiver.

"Bryan's nickname is 'Mickey," I whispered.

Thompson was still droning on when I interrupted by asking when Mickey had left, and if he knew where he was staying.

"He's got a friend that lives in the Bronx, I think. Anyhow, he said he'd call me when he got settled and everything. You need me to come back you up, Edwards? Say you need me!"

I rolled my eyes.

"Alright, I need you. But to stay there and relay messages, okay?"

"Oh, alright! For now. But you just call me, and I'll come pick you up. I got this beautiful car; wait until you see it. It's a black Trans-Am, custom mag wheels, power steering…" he went on and on.

"Hey! Sounds great, but I gotta go now. Call me when you hear from him, okay?"

I gave him the number and we hung up. I collapsed in the living room chair as Mickey and Robert finished up and joined me.

"He sounds like a winner!" Mickey said.

"Yeah, you bet!" I replied. "So, how far is the Bronx from here?"

"Not too far. But don't worry. As soon as he lands in New York, we'll know about it and can monitor his movements. I'll call a friend of mine, and we'll get things set up."

He came back a few minutes later. "Jimmy will call us when he's got this guy tagged."

He said he had to go out to get a few things, and he'd drop Mickey and me at the range for a little practice. As Mickey and I entered the cold damp garage-like structure, I suddenly felt unsure of what I was doing. Mickey looked at me and gave me a small smile. He selected a Beretta, Colt .45, M-16, and Colt Commando to start with. I picked up the .45.

"I don't think I want to try this one, Mickey. I've heard the recoil will pull your shoulder out."

"You're going to try it, and yes, it does that to women, who don't have the upper body strength. But don't worry, I'll be right behind you to help. I want you to know the feel of this weapon, so the Beretta will be easier."

I did as he said, and the kickback sent me reeling. Mickey held on and I wasn't hurt. I stood there and waited, then heard Mickey exclaim, "Hey! How are you supposed to see the target with your eyes closed, now come on!"

"I don't like this gun, Mickey. Can I try the Beretta now?"

"If you promise to keep your eyes open!"

I promised and did much better. We tried the two other weapons, and I scored expert on the M-16, just as I had done in Basic Training. He seemed proud of me, then showed me some tricks.

"After seeing you handle these, I'm just glad we're on the same side!" I exclaimed. He smiled.

We practiced a few more minutes, then I said, "Let's go grab some dinner, okay? I'm buying!"

"No, you're not!" he replied.

"Don't argue with me, Mickey. I know how to use an automatic, you know?!"

He laughed, "So do I!"

We continued to banter back and forth as we waited for Robert. As it turned out, Robert paid for it, and I found I couldn't argue with him!

After a nice Italian dinner, we headed back to Robert's. As we got out of the car, Robert introduced me to Jimmy, who was sitting in a brown van parked down the street. He had a lot of electronic equipment throughout the van, and I thought it better that I just didn't ask. He said a call had come in while we were out, and it sounded like our man. He had traced it to a nearby address, but couldn't confirm it from the limited time on the recording.

"Hopefully he'll call back," Robert said, as we entered the apartment.

We sat down to watch television, and let our dinner settle. Just as I was about to doze off, the phone rang. Everyone jumped. Robert gave me the cue when to answer, and I picked up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Edwards! Guess who this is? Betcha think you could forget about me, don'tcha?"

"How'd you find me, Bryan?" I asked, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.

"You can't run from me, Edwards, so just quit trying. And who the hell is this guy you're engaged to?! You'd better end that right now, before I get there, you hear me?!"

"I love him more than anything and I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him, so leave us alone!"

After a pause, he said heatedly, " You get rid of him or I will, you hear me?!"

He continued to curse at me, when all of a sudden Mickey picked up the extension.

"Enough threats. What is it you want?" Mickey asked, coolly.

"Oh, you must be the lucky guy! You get away from her, or I'll make you wish you'd never met her, you hear me?"

"Listen, because I'm only going to say this once. I'm going to marry her, and there's not thing one you can do about it, so don't even waste your time. In my opinion you're just a waste of oxygen, and you're going to leave us alone. If you want her, you'll have to go through me, so just try it, loser."

I almost dropped the other phone, but Mickey motioned for me to stay quiet. Bryan continued his tirade, and Mickey hung up on him. I put my head in my hands.

"That should do it, he should be sufficiently mad by now." Mickey said, sitting down.

"Now he'll come after you! Why did you do that?!" I asked, amazed.

"That's what we want, to shift his anger from you to Mickey. Trust us, Shawna." Robert said.

I assured them that I did, but I'd feel better if Mickey sacked out on the couch here for the night rather than going home. Mickey agreed and we all headed for a good night's sleep. Sometime during the night, I woke up screaming and fighting off someone, only to wake up and find Mickey holding me down.

"Shhh, it's okay, it's just a dream. Calm down now," he whispered.

"Mickey?" I asked, crying.

"Yeah, it's me. Everything's okay. You were just having a nightmare, but it's over. You're safe now," he said, holding me as the nightmare faded.

I relaxed and soon fell asleep in his arms.

Morning came too soon .As I got my shower and got dressed, I could hear them making breakfast, and soon joined them. As we sat and ate, I remembered my nightmare, and apologized for waking up everyone.

Robert patted my arm and reassured me that he understood, and hoped my nightmares would soon be just a distant memory.

The phone rang and Robert got up to get it. After a brief conversation, he rejoined us at the table.

"That was Jimmy. He's got our man pegged, and everything's set up to proceed. So, I would suggest that you two go look at rings or something today. Let's see how far we can push him, shall we?"

"Sounds great to me!" Mickey exclaimed. He got up and put on a scarf, making him look very debonair in his blue jeans, sweater, and brown leather coat. As we headed out the door, Robert told me not to panic, but Bryan was across the street watching us. I felt as though my heart was in my throat, but Mickey put his arm around me and told me to relax, and act carefree if possible. I nodded, feeling safer, and we climbed in Mickey's car, while Robert followed a block away in his. We stopped at a jewelry store downtown, and looked at a few rings, trying some on. The owner was a friend of Robert's, and I started to relax and enjoy this part of the plan! We pretended to settle on a set, and decided to stroll down the street and do some window-shopping. I stuck close to Mickey as we walked, and he hugged me to him, helping me to feel safe.

"Is he still watching us?" I asked.

"I'm not sure. But either way, McCall is watching in case he makes a move. Don't worry, he's real good at this."

"I'm trying not to worry, but it's hard."

We walked by a few more shops, trying to look carefree and having fun. As we walked by the alley, I heard something and froze.

"Wait here, Shawna. I'm going to check it out."

I moved towards the wall and held my breath. I felt someone behind me and started to turn around expecting Robert, when I felt myself being grabbed. I struggled to get loose when I felt a gun press into my back.

"Don't say a word. You're coming with me," Bryan whispered.

"No, I'm not! Leave me alone!"

"You'll do what I say or I'll kill both you and your ugly boyfriend. Don't think I won't!"

I tried to think of a way out, wondering where Mickey was. I saw him then, in the shadows.

"Let her go!" Mickey yelled, pointing his gun at Bryan.

Bryan grabbed me and put the gun to my head. "I'll kill her! Now back off!" he screamed.

The next few seconds were a blur. Mickey backed off and Bryan lowered the gun and pulled me toward him. I struggled and broke free, running to Mickey. I fell into him as both he and Bryan fired. It was then I saw Robert, who gave chase to Bryan, but apparently lost him, for he came back alone.

"Shawna! Are you okay? Are you hurt?" Mickey asked, pulling me to my feet.

"I don't know, I don't know," I sobbed, shaking.

We got into Robert's car and I tried to calm down. Next to me Mickey tried to reassure me that everything was all right, and that he hadn't been hurt. I was still shaking when we pulled up to the apartment. I settled into the recliner as they followed me in. It was then that I felt a burning pain in my arm and looked down. I looked up at Mickey standing in the kitchen.

"Oh my God, Mickey. I think I've been shot!"

"What?!" he asked, as he and Robert came over and knelt beside me.

They helped me take my jacket off. My arm was bleeding though not much anymore.

"It just grazed you, fortunately. I'll get the first aid kit," Robert said, standing up.

He bandaged it, then gave me a pill for the throbbing. I didn't ask him what it was, just accepted it gratefully. My head started feeling fuzzy a few minutes later as I drifted off to sleep. I awoke in my bed, all the rooms dark and still. My mouth felt like cotton; so I got up to get a Pepsi from the fridge. I heard the click of a hammer and looked up, alarmed. I recognized Mickey, half asleep but always on the alert!

"It's just me!" I whispered, as Mickey slowly lowered the gun.

"Sorry, you surprised me. What are you doing up?," he asked.

"My mouth feels like cotton and my arm is throbbing, so I thought I'd grab a Pepsi and sit up for a little while." I paused. "I guess I woke you, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he replied, rubbing his eyes.

"I'm glad you're still here," I said, quietly.

"Why?"

"Because at least I know you're safe from that idiot."

"You don't have to worry about me, I can pretty much take care of myself." He replied.

"Yeah, I'm starting to get that general idea!"

"I don't know how I get mixed up with these people, you know? There's so much that happened in Basic that has changed me forever," I said quietly.

"Well, if you ever want to talk, I'm here," he said, propping himself up on his elbow.

"Thanks, Mickey, for everything. I mean that."

"Don't mention it."

"Good night," I said.

"Good night," he echoed.

The morning dawned hazy as cars started their ritual honking. Getting up, I wondered what the game plan would be. I found out as I sat down at the breakfast table.

"I believe we've piqued this young man's interest after his performance last night. We need to draw him into a trap, and that is where we'll begin today," Robert said, taking a bite of toast.

"You saw how dangerous he is. I really think we should all be wearing body armor, don't you?" I said, half jokingly.

"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary, do you McCall?"

I looked up as Mickey joined us at the table. He looked a little rumpled, but was good looking even in that state!

"No, no I think we can handle him without accessories!" Robert replied.

"So what's going to happen today? How will we trap him?" I asked.

"We are going to tighten the screws a bit. He will think he'll need to move fast to get you away from Mickey. I've outlined the plan to Mickey. Just follow his lead, alright?"

I must have looked a little doubtful, for Robert reached over and squeezed my hand, telling me to trust them, they knew what they were doing. I nodded slowly, trying to have faith that everything would turn out okay.

"Can I carry the Beretta, just in case?" I asked.

"No! Mickey and I will be armed, not you!"

"But Mickey showed me how to use it!" I exclaimed.

Robert paused, then agreed that I could carry it once we reached our destination, if I kept it out of sight.

I nodded in agreement. I straightened up as the two of them went over their plans. I was just finishing up when Mickey told me it was time to get going.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"You'll see. Just play along. This is an adventure, right?!" Mickey said, as we headed out the door.

I laughed, but agreed. Mickey and I climbed into the backseat of the jaguar as Robert contacted Jimmy. Mickey put his arm around me, and soon we were navigating the city streets. We picked up "our rings," and I made sure to make a production of admiring them, as Mickey instructed. Then Robert took us to a bridal shop, and I started to see the plan unfolding. We went to eat lunch at Lexington's, a fancy bistro down the street.

So, are you having fun yet?" Mickey asked as soon as we'd sat down.

"So far! I can almost forget about Bryan. Almost," I said, gazing out the window. "Is he still watching?" I asked quietly.

"Yep, he's been following our every move."

"And what's our next move going to be?" I asked.

"We're going to look for apartments," Robert replied.

"I hope he's not carrying an automatic," I said, warily.

"Don't worry! Believe me, we're better at this than he is," Mickey said.

We finished our lunch, then Mickey and I strolled along the street, arm in arm. We 'chanced' upon an apartment for rent and Mickey announced aloud that we should go 'check it out.' I looked around, and noticed Robert in the Jag parked down the street. We went in and it was obvious to me that it was one of Robert's 'safe houses.' The apartment was already furnished and had safety latches and precautions everywhere. We took our time in the rooms, but nothing happened. Behind the building we met up with Robert.

"Now we know what he really wants, don't we?" Robert said.

"Yeah, are we going to deliver?" Mickey asked in return.

"Deliver what?" I asked, baffled.

"You," Robert said, looking at me.

"Me! I thought the idea was to keep me safe!" I exclaimed, panicking.

"Oh, you'll be safe, I assure you. We had to see if he was after Mickey or after you, and since he hasn't made an attempt on Mickey, we must conclude that it is you he wants."

"And I'd say he wants to take you with him, rather than kill you, or he'd have tried that already," Mickey added.

"You're not saying I have to go with him, because I won't!"

"It won't come to that, trust us, Robert said firmly.

"I do trust you guys, but he's so unpredictable."

"It's not to say he won't go after Mickey. If he were threatened enough, he may try to eliminate him."

"So now what?" Mickey asked.

"It appears we need to draw him out in a more isolated location. I think the warehouse by the river would make an excellent scenario, don't you?" Robert said.

Mickey nodded.

"I'll let Jimmy know. Let's go."

I started to follow, but Mickey pulled me back. He reminded me that we'd need to leave the apartment by the front door, so we wouldn't arouse suspicion. We locked everything up, then stood on the curb and hailed a cab with both Jimmy and Robert following at a discreet distance.

We pulled up to an abandoned warehouse where Mickey informed me we'd wait until he was signaled to know everyone was in place. When that happened, we entered the warehouse.

"Okay, I have some business to attend to in the office, so you wait here and I'll be back as soon as I can," Mickey said loudly, giving me a kiss.

I put my hands in my pockets and tried to relax as Mickey disappeared behind some crates. I thought we had failed again when I heard someone behind me. I turned around to face my nemesis.

"Hello, Edwards."

"Why are you following me? What do you want?"

"Haven't you figured it out yet? I've come to take you home with me, where you belong instead of with that clown."

"I'm not going with you, Bryan. I thought I made that clear to you," I said firmly as I turned to walk away.

"I don't think you understand!" Bryan said, grabbing my arm.

"Let go of me, Bryan!" I said, struggling to free myself from his grip.

"You heard her! Back off!" Mickey yelled, aiming his Uzi at Bryan from behind the crates.

"You back off or she's dead!" Bryan yelled back, gripping me harder. He pulled out his gun and aimed it at my head, positioning me in front of him and trying to maneuver me outside.

Mickey didn't move, just continued to train his Uzi on us.

"See, Edwards? He don't care one little bit about you! Probably wants me to blow you away right now. That what you want, moron?"

I breathed in sharply and watched as Mickey relaxed his grip, but didn't lower the weapon.

"Okay, take it easy. Just let her go. You don't really want her, do you?" Mickey asked calmly.

"Oh, yeah, I do. She's screwed up my career, so do yourself a favor and forget about her, because she's trouble," Bryan said, still trying to move us outside.

"If she's so much trouble, why do you want her, man?" Mickey asked.

"Because she OWES me and where I come from you pay back what's owed." Bryan yelled. "Come on, Edwards. You're about to start evening up the score. I'm going to have so much fun with you you'll forget about loverboy here!"

I struggled again and Mickey reached for his Uzi as Robert came up behind Bryan.

"Put it down and let her go, Mr. Wilson," Robert said firmly.

Bryan didn't move. I tried to remember what Mickey had told me to do in this situation, but was starting to panic, which made my mind a blank. Suddenly Bryan pointed his weapon at Mickey and pulled the trigger. I was amidst a volley of gunfire and dove to the ground as Bryan released me. Just then I felt someone pulling me to my feet. I struggled to get free, then saw that it was Mickey.

"You're safe, it's over Shawna," he said, hugging me.

I looked behind me to see Robert kneeling by Bryan.

"He's dead," he said, grimacing.

"Oh my God! I didn't want him to die!" I cried.

"Neither did we. But it was his choice in the end. Remember that, Shawna," Robert said.

I nodded and followed them to Robert's Jag. Jimmy helped me into the back seat as Robert and Mickey called the police. I calmed down but was still in a state of shock as Mickey joined me in the backseat.

"Are you okay?" he asked, hugging me.

"Yeah, I think I'll make it. I'm glad it's finally over. Are you okay Mickey?"

"Yeah."

He hugged me as I leaned against him and felt some peace for the first time in 2 years. As we drove to O'Phelan's for a much-needed drink, I wondered if my relationship with Mickey could continue, or would I have to let that go as well?

Time would only tell.

 

 

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