The voices were there again. In his head. They almost never went away now. Still, he could not hear their exact words. He could only hear their fear and pain as they called out for him to help them. Their pain was almost physical to him. Sitting on the floor in the dark apartment, back against the couch, arms wrapped around knees that were drawn to his chest, he silently pleaded once again, "Please stop. Please just go away." Even as he whispered to the bodiless voices he knew it was useless. Sleep. That's what he needed. What his body screamed for. How long had it been since he slept? Three or was it four days. If he could just sleep for a few hours. He let his head drop forward and his eyes slide shut. "NO!" He jerked his head back up shaking it violently from side to side. Sleeping was worse. With sleep came the nightmares. Nightmares that left him screaming in terror.
He reached out and picked up the phone that sat on the table next to the couch. He knew it was far too early for any civilized person to be making phone calls. He also knew that if he didn't call now it would be too late, the voices would no longer be bodiless and he knew the people to whom the voices belonged. As the phone started to ring, one voice pushed its way to the front and said with a certain clarity "He's going to kill me."
Mickey slammed on the breaks of his van causing it to skid to a stop in front of Robert McCall's apartment. Leaving it double parked in the predawn light, he raced to the entrance grateful that he had not returned the keys to Robert's apartment yet and let himself in. McCall had taken Scott on a three week trip to Europe as a present for graduating from college and Robert had asked him to keep an eye on the place while they were away. His heart pounding, he drew his gun then took the stairs two at a time. Kostmayer could still hear the terror in Scott's voice as he frantically begged Mickey to come to his father's apartment. Something horrible had happened. His father was asking for Mickey, he wouldn't trust anyone else. Mickey knew he had to be at the airfield soon to leave on a mission but he had rushed to McCall's place anyway. Hell, I'm in charge, they aren't going anywhere without me he reasoned. Their plans could afford a slight delay in departure if it came to that. He had called Brock and let him know where he was going and why. After assuring him and that he didn't need any back-up, Kostmayer put Brock in charge of the final preparations and raced to McCall's.
Reaching the apartment, Mickey immediately sensed that something was wrong. Not in the way Scott had painted the picture. It was too far quiet for that. He had expected the younger McCall to be waiting frantically for him at the door but it was firmly locked shut, not a sound coming from within. Had something happened to Robert's son as well? Even more on edge now, he quietly unlocked the door. Then, shielding himself as much as possible, he slowly opened the door and made his way down the vestibule to the front room. It looked perfectly normal in its stillness. Nothing was out of place. Not one sign that a violent struggle had taken place or that anyone had been injured. According to Scott, the place was a wreck. Where the hell was Scott anyway? He had promised to wait for the agent at the apartment.
Gun still at the ready, he slowly made his way down the hall toward the bedrooms finding nothing amiss there either. As he reached Robert's bedroom door, he paused. Obviously no great tragedy had taken place and he was starting to feel a bit foolish. He was torn between searching further and chance looking completely stupid and turning around and leaving right now, saving some of his dignity in the process. When Kostmayer got a hold of the blond musician, there was going to a great tragedy all right, that much was certain. Before he could make a decision, the door to Robert's bedroom cracked open just an inch.
"Robert?" Mickey called softly, pointing his gun at the door.
"Mickey?" came an equally soft reply, the voice filled with sleepy confusion.
The door swung open to reveal Robert McCall still in his pajama's, gun pointing at his friend.
"What the bloody hell are you doing prowling around here?" Robert demanded angrily as both men lowered their guns. "You scared the hell out of me," he continued not waiting for a reply. Mickey saw the anger in the older man's face and decided it would probably be better to let him blow off a little steam before giving an explanation. If he tried to explain right now, Mickey was afraid Robert's head might actually explode. Better to wait than throw gas on an already blazing fire.
"You had better have a damn good explanation for this Michael Anthony Kostmayer," Robert was saying. Uh-oh, McCall was using middle names, he was madder than Kostmayer thought. "I could have shot you! Do you know that, creeping around here like that, I thought you were a burglar, or an assassin or, or..." Robert finished with a stutter. "Don't just stand there, answer me!"
"Just waiting for you to wind down first," Mickey grinned and put his gun back in its holder. "Got any coffee? You're going to need it," he said as he turned and headed back toward the kitchen. Yep, one way or another, Scott was going to be in deep shit.
Ten minutes later Robert emerged freshly shaven, dressed in casual pants and a pullover. Silently he accepted the cup of freshly made coffee Mickey had poured him. Taking a sip, he glared at the younger agent across the bar, obviously waiting for an explanation. Silently cursing Scott for the tenth time in as many minutes, Mickey took a deep breath then stopped, not sure exactly where to start.
"Try starting at the beginning," McCall said as if reading Mickey's mind.
"I got a call from Scott."
Robert's eyes widened in surprise but he said nothing.
"He sounded like he was in a panic," Mickey continued. "He said there had been some sort of trouble, like when you'd been kidnapped by the KGB. He kept saying I had to get over here right away. That you had asked for me and no one else. You should have heard his voice Robert, he sounded almost hysterical. I came over right away but when I got here there was no Scott, no trouble and, well, you know the rest."
The anger slowly crept back into Robert's face. He picked up the phone and dialed the number to his sons apartment, hitting the buttons on the phone so hard Mickey was afraid he was going to break them. "What the hell could he be thinking? If this is some kind of joke..." Robert muttered angrily as he waited for Scott to answer. After four rings the answering machine picked up. He waited impatiently for the prerecorded greeting to finish then started talking.
"Scott, it's your father. I know you're there Scott, pick up the phone," McCall demanded, his voice rising in anger with each unanswered command. "I know you're listening Scott. Pick up the phone. Pick up the damn phone now or else!" Giving up, Robert slammed the phone down so hard Kostmayer was sure he had broken it.
Mickey watched Robert in silent amusement. He knew first hand how crazy Scott could make his father when he wasn't trying. If McCall's son was actually trying to aggravate his dad, the results could end up with a homicide. Judging from the look on his friend's face, when he finally did catch up with the kid, Scott had better have an excellent excuse or he would wind up dead before Mickey could get his hands on him. Whichever the case, Kostmayer had run out of time. Looking at his watch he realized that he had to get going or his butt was going to be in just as big a sling as the kid's, only his would be in trouble with Control.
"We'll I've got to go. I have a team to tend to," Mickey said, finishing the last of his coffee.
"You're suppose to be leaving for a mission this morning?" Robert asked.
"One funfilled trip to Paraguay, all expenses paid," Mickey joked flashing the famous Kostmayer grin. It was lost on the older man. Setting his cup in the sink, he turned back to face an agitated Robert McCall. It was impossible to miss the anger still burning in his eyes.
"Give him a chance to explain before you rip his head off, OK McCall," Mickey said in a complete about face of his earlier feelings toward Scott. Why he was bothering to defend him? Wasn't he contemplating doing great bodily harm to the young man himself just minutes ago? "He really did sound scared. I don't think he would consider this some sort of game.
That's to weird, even for Scott," he finished cautiously.
"Oh really Mickey," Robert said throwing the younger man a look that clearly said he doubted his sincerity. "Are you trying to protect my son or are you just worried there won't be anything left over for you when I'm through?"
Mickey gave a small snort laugh "Yeah, something like that. After all he put me through this morning, it wouldn't be fair to let you have all the fun."
"I guess I'd best go find him," McCall sighed wearily. As the two men headed for the door the phone rang behind them. Guess he didn't break it after all Mickey thought as Robert quickly snatched it off its hook.
"Is Kostmayer there?" the voice on the other end asked. Robert wordlessly handed the phone to the agent, disappointed that it wasn't his son,
"Talk to me."
Robert listened intently as the one-sided conversation progressed.
"We'll be right there. Take him to the office and keep an eye on him. Tell him we're coming if you think that will help. Whatever happens make sure he doesn't leave," Mickey hung up the phone, clearly confused.
"Scott showed up at the airfield about fifteen minutes ago. Alex found him standing at the fence staring at the plane. Brock said he looked like hell," Mickey explained as he started toward the door with Robert in tow. More concerned now than angry, they hurried to the van that was still double parked in front of the building. Great, just great Mickey cursed himself, Scott and Robert, though not necessarily in the order. Scowling as he rounded the front of the van, he quickly grabbed the parking ticket that had been tucked under the wiper blade. This had better be good, Scott, damn good, he thought to himself again as he jumped into the driver's seat. Out of the corner of his eye he could see his so called friend trying to hide a grin.
The instant Scott hung up the phone, the apartment walls started closing in, suddenly there wasn't enough air to breath. An unrelenting fear took hold of him. Not just the fear of what his father and Mickey would do to him when they found out what he had done but the fear of what would happen if he hadn't stopped the plane from taking off. Scott knew what would happen, was absolutely certain of it. He didn't know how, but it had come to him in his nightmares over the last two weeks. Occasionally at first, then more and more frequently until he couldn't close his eyes without seeing the terrible visions.
He had only intended to go for a short walk, to get some fresh air and to give himself a chance to calm down. Besides, Scott didn't want to be anywhere that his father or his father's friend could find him. Maybe he could move to Alaska. No Alaska was to cold and certainly not far enough away. Maybe Pakistan he thought and smiled for the first time in days. Both men hated the country. Something they had both declared long and loud one day after returning from a mission there. Scott was sure they would leave him there rather than take a trip to the despised country to retrieve him.
Scott walked a few blocks in a daze, watching as the sun rose over the city to start a new day. Exhaustion threatened to overtake him as he sat on a bench. Maybe he should go home, Scott thought as a fog started to settle on his mind and then he wasn't quite sure where home was. If he could just stand up, start walking surely he could find his way back. Then the voices were back, calling to him.
The next thing Scott knew he was at the airfield, although he could not remember how he got there. He vaguely recalled a cab ride but nothing else until Alex and Brock had approached him as he stood by the fence looking at the plane sitting on the tarmac. Waiting. Waiting patiently to take its passengers away. Away to their deaths. Neither of the two men said anything as they looked him over. Scott knew he must be a sight with his unkempt hair and unshaven face in clothes he had not bothered to change in two days.
"Come on Scott," Brock said softly as he gently took Scott's arm and lead him toward a building not far from the runway. Alex fell in on the young man's other side placing a supportive hand in the middle of his back.
After Scott had been brought into the building, the agents that knew him, Brock, Alex and Ginger had tried to persuade the young man to talk to them but all attempts fell on deaf ears. Scott's incessant pacing had quickly gotten the better of everyone but all attempts to try and get him to sit still for even a minute were met with frightened resistance. It was obvious that the boy was on the verge of collapsing. Brock was about to force Scott to sit down when he suddenly took up a position near a window and resumed his silent vigil. It was then that the group noticed just how bad the boy looked. It looked as if he hadn't eaten or slept in days. His face was drawn and so pale it blended perfectly with the white walls of the room. The only indication that there was a head on top of the shirt that hung limply around his shoulders were the dark circles under the pale blue eyes. The six agents gathered wordlessly at a table on the opposite side of the room, occasionally casting furtive glances Scott's way. The situation did not change until McCall and Kostmayer arrived.
Robert and Mickey walked into a small room filled with a heavy silence. With a nod of his head Brock directed the two to where Robert's son stood. McCall walked silently to where his son waited, unaware of the new arrivals.
"Scott?" Robert said quietly. Getting no response, he reached out and touched his son's arm. "Scott?" he tried again. Startled by the touch, Scott spun to face his father, fear rising in him. Slowly he sunk into the corner of the room.
"It's all right Scott," Robert said trying to comfort his son but Scott only pull farther away.
"I'm sorry dad," Scott said miserably. Then, as tears started spilling down his pale cheeks, he whispered "Please don't be mad at me, I didn't mean to mess everything up. I just want it to stop. I just want the voices to go away. Please make them stop." The words poured out as McCall reached out and pulled his son into a tight embrace. Robert waited until the boy calmed down then gently steered him toward the couch. This time Scott let himself be lead and sat meekly beside his father. McCall sat silently until Scott had finally composed himself before trying to coax an explanation.
"Who are you talking about, Scott. Who do you want stopped?" he prompted cautiously. The only response was Scott's pulling away, the fear returning. They'll never understand, he thought, he didn't understand himself. How would he ever explain things so everyone would believe him?
"Scott, I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong." McCall tried again. Again he was met with silence. The retired agent looked helplessly toward Kostmayer. Deciding that maybe Scott might feel less threatened by him, Mickey walked over to the pair and squatted down in front of the frightened young man.
"Hey," he said putting a hand on Scott's knee to get his attention. "No one's mad at you, certainly not your father or me. We're worried about you. We know you would never have called me unless there was a good reason." No there wasn't Scott said to himself as he shook his head. Not one that you'd believe.
"I don't know where to start," Scott replied lamely.
"Start at the beginning," came an answer from the door. All heads turned to see the agency head silhouetted in the doorway. Mickey shot to his feet and turned to face his boss.
"Uh, hi Control. What are you doing here?" Kostmayer asked uneasily.
"Well, I was just about to ask you the same question. Shouldn't you have taken off by now?"
"It seems that a small situation has developed."
"I see that." Control interjected. Hands thrust into his pockets, he strolled toward the couch. "I received a call from security. They said some spaced out junkie was camped out at the fence. Then it seems some of my agents came and brought said junkie into the briefing room. They were a little concerned. I guess the junkie would be you?" he finished in a teasing tone as he stopped in front of the pair on the couch. Getting no response he sighed deeply, one hand reaching up to undo his bowtie before continuing. "Mickey's right son, no one's going to get mad at you. All we want to do is help."
"You won't believe me," Scott said hopelessly as he dropped his head into his hands. Seeing no way around an explanation, bizarre or not, he plunged in. "I keep having this nightmare," he started in a small shaky voice. "It's always the same, the plane explodes and everyone dies. I can't stop it. I hear you, in my head, you're scared and in pain and you want me to do something but I can't understand what it is." Scott lifted his head then, the tears threatening to return. Mickey realized in shock that he was now talking directly to him. The horror on the young man's face sent a chill through the agent.
Kneeling back down to look at Scott at eye level Mickey asked, "What do you mean the plane exploded?"
"It exploded, blew up. Over water. I think it was an ocean. There were pieces everywhere." Scott had wrapped his arms around himself and was starting to rock slowly back and forth. Pieces of what? Mickey thought then decided he didn't want to know.
"Tell me about the nightmare," Robert was saying but Scott was shaking his head.
Robert was suddenly afraid his son could be having some sort of mental breakdown. Putting an arm around Scott and pulling him closer, Robert tried again. "You're safe Scott. I'm here, I wont let it hurt you. Maybe if you tell me about it, it will go away."
Scott let his head rest on his fathers shoulder. Maybe he was right. Maybe if he told his dad everything it would go away. Maybe.
"It's always the same," he started, then closed his eyes get a better picture. "I'm standing by the fence. In the exact same place Brock and Alex found me earlier. I watch everyone get on the plane then watch it take off. It seems like I watch it fly away forever. Then it's over the water, so am I, I think. I mean I'm not in the water but sort of standing on it and I can't see land any more. I just stand there watching the plane. Then it explodes and pieces of it start raining down all around me. All of a sudden I'm really in the water in the middle of the wreck. It's still raining, but it's not the ocean now, it's not water either. It's blood, it's everywhere, there's so much blood. The whole ocean is blood." Scott stopped talking and clutched one of his father's hands in his own, not sure he could go on. Robert's arm tightened around his son in response.
"It's all right Scott," he soothed, stroking the boys hair. "You're doing fine."
Scott opened his eyes then, his blue eyes looking directly into Mickey's hazel eyes. "The voices start then. Yours and theirs." He indicated Mickey and the other agents in the room. "You want me to help you, to do something but I don't know what. I can't hear what you're saying. I start swimming toward the voices and I can almost make out the words, something about one hour, I have one hour. Then I can see you Mickey. Your burned really bad but your still trying to talk to me. I know if I can just get to you, you'll be all right, that I'll finally be able to understand you. Be able to help you. But just as I get close to you, that I can almost reach out and touch you, something grabs my legs and pulls me under the blood and I can't breath. That's when I wake up," Scott finished, shaking in his fathers arms. The tears had return to run silently down his face once more. No one said a word. Without warning Scott reached out and grabbed Mickey by the wrists. "You can't get on that plane Mickey, none of you! If you do you'll die," he said emphatically.
"It's just a nightmare Scott, It's not real." Mickey said awkwardly as he stood back up.
"It's not just a nightmare, Mickey. It will happen! The plane is going to explode and all of you will die. I know it! I do." The words tapered off as defeat crept into his voice and he sank back into the couch. "I told you you wouldn't believe me."
"Scott," Mickey said slowly, trying to think of something to say to reassure his young friend. Then, looking at his watch, he said instead, "Well boys and girls it's well past time we were on our way. I guess we'd better get the this show on the road.
Looking back to Scott, he tried again. "We'll be OK kid, wait and see. I'll even send you a postcard." Leading the rest of the team out of the building, Kostmayer wondered why he suddenly felt like someone was walking over his grave.
Left alone with his father and Control, Scott sat in silence, staring at the hands he had folded in his lap.
"Scott," Control said, his voice filled with concern.
"It's really going to happen. I know it is," Scott said softly not looking at either man.
Nodding silently to his friend to follow him, Control got up and walked to the door.
"I can set up a meeting with a psychiatrist from the agency if you'd like," Control said gently, careful to keep his voice out of Scott's hearing.
"You can't be serious!" Robert exploded, shocked that his friend would even begin to think of such a thing. Control took a long calculated look at the young man on the couch, then looked back saying nothing.
"This can't be happening," Robert said in stunned disbelief. "He was fine, not even two weeks ago he was perfectly fine. How could something like this happen so quickly and no one see it coming?"
"Take him home Robert. I'll call you as soon as I have it set up," his friend replied sympathetically, then walked through the door. It took Robert several minutes to gather himself before he could walk back to his son to take him home.
"Man, what a nut case," laughed Tanner, one of the three agents that were unaware of the relationship between Robert McCall, his son and the other four agents. "Nuttier than a fruit cake," Che, the other female in the group, chimed in. Wisely, Jackson, the third newcomer, remained silent. It proved to be a good move seconds later.
The exchange stopped the others dead in their tracks. Mickey turned slowly, trying to calm himself before attempting to reprimand the two agents. He was about two seconds too slow.
"What the hell is the matter with you two?" Ginger spat as she whirled on the offenders. "Robert McCall is a very good friend of ours and so is his son. You don't know them, we do." She advanced on Tanner and Che, her anger making them take a step back. "Scott McCall is not a nut. So he's been having nightmares. That doesn't make him crazy. Maybe you should pay attention to him. Dreams and nightmares usually mean something. It can be the subconscious' way of telling you something. In the future you might want to make sure you know who and what you're talking about before you go spouting off," she finished, spinning back around and heading toward the plane as the rest of the group watched her in stunned silence, glad that they were not on the receiving end of her tirade. Ginger came even with Kostmayer then stopped. The agent turned. He, and everyone else, followed her gaze to the plane, some of her words coming back to them.
"Anyone else feel really weird about this?" he asked no one in general.
Robert had just gotten his son off the couch and they were preparing to leave when the office door burst open, slamming against the wall. Through the door strode an angry Control, Kostmayer close at his heals.
"I don't believe I'm doing this," Control snapped, stabbing Mickey with an icy glare.
"Half an hour Control, that's all I'm asking, one half hour. We have the extra time. Even if we leave an hour late, we'll still get there an hour early. I padded the flight time in case there was a problem," Mickey said somewhat smugly.
Robert and Scott stared at the pair in astonishment as Control grabbed the phone and made a quick call.
"This is Control, I need a K-9 unit at the airfield to search for a bomb. I want them here within fifteen minutes. Send the bomb squad also." Seeing a grin cross Scott's face and then grow to a full smile, the agency head gave him a withering look.
"You can tell your "voices" they can shut up now." he snapped before sinking into a chair near the phone.
"Looks like we'll be here a little longer," Robert said as he and his son settled back onto to the couch. He was encouraged at how relieved Scott was over the phone call. It also worried him that if no bomb was found and the plane left anyway it could make Scott's mental condition even worse. Maybe even leading to a very real breakdown.
It was almost forty five minutes later when Mickey Kostmayer came back into the office, a small box held carefully in his hands. Robert and Control looked up from the card game they were playing.
"Thought you might want to see this," he said setting the box on the table between the other two men. Looking at the contents, both let out a low whistle.
"Please tell me that thing has been defused," Robert said.
"Get real McCall. I may be crazy but I'm not that crazy. Even I wouldn't walk around with a live bomb." Mickey said incredulously .
"Well, it looks like you have some work to do." McCall told Control.
"Someone was pretty serious about wanting us dead," Kostmayer said. "We found it attached near the fuselage. It has a device that triggers the timer to start when the plane reaches two thousand feet. One hour later the bomb explodes." The words hung heavy in the air.
"The mission still on?" asked Robert.
"Yeah," Mickey shrugged. "Control can send out a phony message saying they lost track of the plane and ask for a search crew. Hopefully, whoever planted the bomb will think their plan worked. We should be able to enter the country without any trouble after that. Who knows, it might even work to our advantage. If our friends really take the bait and believe we're dead, we should have no trouble taking them by surprise." Looking over to the sleeping young man, the agent shook his head and mumbled, mostly to himself, "How the hell did he know?"
"Maybe he saw or heard something and only subconsciously remembers it. Maybe it was a freak attack of ESP," Robert replied, grinning slyly. "I'm sure Control's people will want to talk to Scott later, to try to figure it out but I doubt we'll ever really know," he finished with a shake of his head.
"Yeah, well, tell Scott not to wait so long to tell someone the next time he has a nightmare, or a vision, or whatever the hell it was," Mickey grumbled as he started back to help finish changing planes, the new one already having been check by the dog from the K-9 unit. "Oh, and when he wakes up, tell him the team says they owe him. Big time. And tell him I said thanks." With that he disappeared back out into the daylight.
"Time to go?" Control asked as they turned to look at Robert's son where he lay on the couch in peaceful sleep.
"I hate to wake him."
"He'll sleep better at your place."
"Right now I don't think he'd have a problem sleeping on the top of a speeding train," Robert laughed. Smiling at his friend, Control picked up the box and the two made their way to the sleeping boy.
"You're right, he's better off in a bed and it will be a better place to explain that," Robert said pointing to the box. "Do you think he'll still need to see the psychiatrist?" some of the worry crept back into his voice.
"We'll have to wait and see, my friend." Control replied as Robert reached down to wake his child. "But I doubt it. It looks like the nightmare is over."