posted on 27-Dec-2001 2:16:41 PM
Author: Fanatic101 (Dani)

Category: A\U with M\L

Summary: This story is in response to a challenge issued by Chepi. I’ll list the conditions of the challenge as I go along, or if you want to spoil yourselves and find out the area’s I’m going to cover, the challenge can be found on this board. Keep in mind that everything is NOT how it seems.

Disclaimer: I own nothing that will be beneficial to others.



Silent Assassin



Prologue

Max Evans sat in front of his laptop computer, just staring at the screen. He knew the exact moment that ‘Eli’ came online, and he waited patiently for instructions. Eli was the name that his employer used, although Max used the word ‘employer’ loosely. Max was his own boss. He decided what mark to take and what mark to pass on. When it came down to it, he did kill people for money, but he still had a conscious. He never killed anyone whom he didn’t think deserved it, and this case he was about to take was no different.

Max had been in the game for nearly ten years, and he wanted nothing more than to escape from it all. The only thing that kept him in the loop was the fact that Eli was a very powerful person. He had friends in high places, and an entire band of assassins at his disposal. As much as Max wanted to forget, there was really only one reason why he couldn’t quit…or more specifically, one person that kept him from walking away. He pushed that thought out of his mind, knowing that he had gotten her in enough trouble already.

· ‘Hello, Mr. Evans.’

Max looked at that one sentence on his screen and felt the sudden urge to throw his laptop out the window. He hated Eli with a passion, and he was quite sure that Eli knew it. Max knew that one of these day he would get his opportunity to walk away, that one of these days he would have the leverage he needed to keep Eli and his goons off his back for good.

· ‘Who’s the mark, and how much is the job worth?’

Max typed the sentence and waited for a reply.

· ‘I love your style, Max. You cut right to the chase. The next mark works for a biological powerhouse named Intergreen, Inc. She’s a molecular biologist who’s been poking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She stole some very valuable information, and we believe she’s going to use that information for personal gain. We’ll need to arrange for you to meet with one of my colleges so he can give you the case folder on the scientist. The price for the job is $3,000,000.00’

Max shook his head as he started to type back.

· ‘You know I don’t take marks like this.’

He had never killed anyone who wasn’t corrupt in some major way, and he wasn’t about to make an exception, even if it was the biggest payday of his life. He wasn’t about to kill a scientist just because she was trying to use some information that she had found to either promote herself or to grab a quick buck. There was a brief pause before Max got an answer.

· ‘I’m sorry, Max, but you don’t have a choice on this one.’

Max set his jaw as he controlled his urge to put his fist through the computer screen. The last time he was forced to take a case was back when he was forced to join the agency. If there was one thing that Max had learned from his time out in the field, it was to trust his instincts. Right now he felt that there was definitely something fishy going on with this deal. Before he could respond, Eli sent another message.

· ‘The partners here are very worried about you Max, and to be honest, so am I. Your last job was not your typical work. If fact, you seemed a bit reluctant to do it, just like you are now.’

“You should be worried,” Max said to himself as he started to type his reply.

· ‘Don’t be worried - I’m fine. I was a bit under the whether last time.’

· ‘That’s good to hear, Max. Meet my college in front of the Wildflower Café tomorrow at noon. It will only take a second to relay the information to you.’

· ‘Does this scientist have a name?’

With a name, Max could at least look up her record to see what she had been doing for the past few years.

· ‘Her name is Elizabeth Parker.’

To Be Continued……?????

**********************

Part 1

Liz walked around her house humming softly to herself as she got ready for work. She loved her job and really enjoyed the work she was doing in the molecular biology field. She loved her job so much, she constantly found herself bringing her work home with her at night.

She walked over to her purse and grabbed a disc that had some data on it she needed to analyze, then walked over to her home computer and put the disc into the machine. She clicked on her disc drive and waited for the files to appear on her screen. What came up was not only the wrong information, but was data from a completely different department all together.

She ejected the disc and looked at it again, realizing for the first time that it wasn’t the same disc she had put into her purse the night before. The disc she needed was black, and this one was red. She searched through her things, but couldn’t find the one she needed. She put the red disc back in her machine so she could take a better look at what was on it.

There were several video files along with numerous text reports. She randomly clicked on one of the reports and tried to open it up. An error message suddenly appeared, prompting her to enter an encryption code. Since she had no idea what to key in, she clicked on the cancel button. She checked every file on the disc and found that they all had the same encryption message appear. All but one.

It was a field report from someone named Sean Wallace who worked in the environmental division, which was located on the same floor as the molecular biology department. It contained information from a field study done around the surrounding areas of a ghost town near Las Vegas, Nevada called Rhyolite.

She briefly wondered how the disc ended up in her purse, but quickly dismissed it as an honest mistake. She placed the disc back in her purse, intent on returning it to the right department as soon as she got to work.

*****************

As Liz walked through the front doors of her office building, she could tell that something was wrong. There were quite a few police officers in the building, talking will various people. She stepped onto the elevator and pressed the button for the sixth floor, the floor her office was on.

When the doors opened, Liz found that there were several more police officers there. One of her co-workers, Janet, was in tears as Liz walked up to her.

“What’s wrong?” Liz asked as she looked around, noticing that quite a few people were crying.

“Sean, the head of…of the environmental division…someone killed him last night,” Janet choked out.

“Why would anyone want to…” Liz stopped mid-sentence as realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She felt pure, unadulterated fear run through her body. “His name was Sean? Sean Wallace?” she asked, almost afraid of the answer.

“Yeah,” Janet responded. “Did you know him?”

Liz didn’t respond. She started to back away from everyone, looking around the office so quickly that her eyes were unable to focus on anything she saw.

“Liz…are you alright?” Janet asked, her tears momentarily stopping as she looked at her co-worker.

“Could you tell Angie that I went home sick?” Liz asked, referring to her boss. She needed to get out of the building as quickly as possible before she lost her breakfast.

Liz made her way out as fast as she could without drawing any attention to herself. She climbed into her car and sped away, never looking back. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed the only number she could think of at that moment.

“Hello?”

“Maria?” Liz asked. Maria was her best friend, and was married to another one of her close friends, Michael. “I need to talk to you.”

“Liz?” Maria asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Just meet me at the Plaza Hotel in an hour,” Liz said before she hung up the phone.

********************

Max had followed Liz from her house to her work, and waited outside in his car while she went inside. He immediately thought that she was acting very strangely for someone who possessed certain information that people were willing to kill her for. She was…cheerful when she walked into her office building.

Max was surprised to find that the information he was supposed to pick up at the Wildflower café suddenly appeared under his front door earlier that morning before he woke up. He had read that another member of Intergreen Inc. had been marked, and that someone else had been hired to take him out. Max knew how to get certain information before the public did, so he already knew that the hit on this other employee had taken place.

He was a bit surprised to see Liz run back out of her building with a completely different look on her face. She now looked panicked and in a hurry to get away as quickly as she could.

Although Eli didn’t always provide Max with every detail of the cases he took, Max was no dummy. He knew when something didn’t add up, and the things that Eli had told him about Liz just didn’t add up.

He waited until she pulled out of the parking lot and then followed her. He had some equipment set up on the seat next to him, and he listened into the conversation that Liz had with someone named Maria. He had bugged Liz’s car while she was at her house, so all he could hear was Liz’s side of the conversation.

Max followed Liz to the Plaza Hotel and watched as she parked her car and hurried into the lobby. He climbed out of his car and followed, careful not to be spotted. As he walked, he reached behind him and adjusted the gun that he was carrying in his waistband. He saw that Liz was checking into a room, so he positioned himself to overhear the room number she would be staying in.

Liz took the elevator up to the fourth floor and then walked over to room 410. She opened the door and stepped inside, closing it behind her before she started to pace back and forth as she waited for Maria to arrive.

Max walked up the stairs and opened the door leading to the fourth floor. He scanned the hallways, making sure nobody was in sight before he walked up to room 410. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something that looked like a garage door opener with a credit card attached to it. He placed the card into the key slot and then pushed the button on the electronic device.

A few seconds later there was a quiet click that disabled the lock on the door.

Liz jumped back as the door to her room suddenly swung open. She nervously watched the doorway, waiting for Maria to walk through. She let out a gasp when she saw a tall, muscular man walk through instead. He had brown hair that fell over his forehead, and amber eyes that immediately locked with hers. He reached back and closed the door, never once taking his eyes off of her.

The fear running through Liz’s body almost brought her to her knees. She watched as the man slowly reached behind his back and pulled out a gun with a silencer on the end of it. He pointed it directly at her, causing her to stumble backwards onto the bed, her arms stretched out in front of her body.

“Please don’t kill me,” Liz begged, tears streaming down her face as she started to sob. “Please don’t kill me.”

“Where’s the disc?” Max asked with an emotionless voice.

“What disc?” Liz managed to ask, her brain not functioning properly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Max eyed her for a second, then reached over and grabbed her purse. He emptied the contents out on the bed, immediately locating the red disc.

Liz’s eyes widened when she realized what he was looking for. “I swear I don’t know what’s on that disc. Someone put it into my bag last night when I wasn’t looking.”

Max put the disc into his coat pocket, then turned his full attention toward Liz, his gun still pointed at her.

A knock on the door distracted Max as he turned his attention away from Liz.

“Ask who it is,” Max said quietly as he reached down and grabbed Liz by the arm, pulling her off the bed.

“Who…who is it?” Liz asked, her voice cracking slightly. She was fully expecting to hear Maria’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Room service,” came the reply.

“Did you order room service?” Max asked quietly, his eyes never leaving the door.

“N…no,” Liz replied, a little confused.

“When I give you the signal, tell him to go away,” Max said before he walked up and leaned back against the wall next to the door. He held out his gun, the muzzle resting flush against the door, pointing directly at whomever was on the over side. He then turned toward Liz and nodded.

“You must have the wrong room,” Liz said.

“No. It says here to deliver this to room 410,” the voiced called back.

“Look…I don’t want it, so why don’t you just take it back,” Liz said.

There was a brief moment of silence before Max heard the wheels of the cart start to move away. He quickly opened the door and grabbed the waiter by the back of the collar, dragging him inside before quickly shutting the door behind him.

“What the hell?!?” the waiter asked. Once he saw the gun that Max was holding, he raised his hands in the air as his legs started to shake.

“Who the hell are you?” Max asked as he stood over the guy.

“M…my…my name’s Benito,” the guy replied.

“Who ordered the food?” Max asked.

“It…it was complements of the house,” Benito replied.

“I’m only going to ask you one more time before I throw you out the window,” Max said, taking a step towards the waiter. “Who ordered the food?”

“Okay, okay,” Benito replied, backing away. “Some guy down in the lobby gave me a hundred bucks to bring the food up here and claim that it was on the house.”

The expression on Max’s face didn’t change, but inside he was cursing to himself. There was someone else in the hotel looking for the scientist. “Did he want to check the food before you brought it up here?”

“Y…yeah,” Benito replied.

That means the food was laced with something.

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Max said as he walked over and grabbed Liz’s arm. “We’re going to follow you down to the kitchen, then you’re going to point out the guy who sent the food up.”

As they started to walk out into the hallway, Max tucked his gun into the waistband of his pants and then covered it up with his shirt. “Put your hands down for Christ’s sake,” he told the waiter who still had his hands raised in the air.

Liz didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to be anywhere near this guy holding onto her arm, but she didn’t have much choice at the moment. She was too scared to do anything but cooperate.

They took the service elevator down to the kitchen and then walked over to the door that opened out into the restaurant. Benito pointed the guy out to Max through the circular window in the middle of the door. Max took a good look at the guy, but didn’t recognize him.

“Do you know him?” Max asked Liz.

“N…no,” Liz replied.

“Alright,” Max said, turning to face Liz. “I’m going to go out there and have a little chat with him. The smartest thing you can do right now is wait here for me. This guy may have other men around the hotel, so if you run, you’re a goner. Besides, I didn’t have any trouble finding you this time. I seriously doubt that I’ll have any trouble finding you again.”

Liz’s thoughts immediately turned to Maria. She was going to be up in the hotel room any second now.

“Benito, go back up to the room and find out if anyone else is near it,” Max said. He didn’t really need the waiter to do that; he just wanted the guy to get lost.

Max pulled the gun out from his waistband, then took off his coat and draped it over his arm to cover his weapon. “Don’t go anywhere,” he told Liz before he walked out into the restaurant.

Max walked right over to the table the guy was sitting at and pulled out a chair to sit in. The guy looked up from his meal, instantly realizing who Max was. He glanced down at the coat hanging over Max’s arm and saw that the gun was pointed right at him. He leaned back in his seat and wiped his mouth with his napkin.

“I’m impressed you found her so quickly,” the guy said.

“Who are you?” Max asked, resting comfortably in his seat. The guy looked rather old. He had gray hair, a graying mustache, and eyeglasses.

“My name is Nicholas,” the guy replied. “I must say…it’s a pleasure to meet you Max. Word is, you’re the best in the game.”

So the guy was an assassin after all. “Who’s your contractor?” Max asked.

“Why do you ask pointless questions?” Nicholas asked back. “What you should be asking is how many guns are pointed at your head right now.”

Max smirked as he eyed the old man. “Now why would that bother me? You think I’ve never had a gun pointed at me before?”

Nicholas smiled as he tossed his napkin on the table. “No. I knew it wouldn’t. That’s what makes you so great. But the one thing you need to realize is that there are two police officers watching the table right now,” he said, nodded towards the front of the restaurant.

Max turned his head slightly and noticed that there were indeed two officers staring right at him.

“You see,” Nicholas said as he stood up. “I had a feeling that I may run into you here, so I went out and hired a few of my friends from the department to look after me.”

Max stood up as soon as he noticed that the two cops were making their way over to him. He couldn’t do anything in a crowded restaurant, and if there was going to be a shoot out, he didn’t want it to be here. He retreated back towards the kitchen as quickly as possible, noticing that the two cops were still following him.

“It was nice to meet you, Max,” Nicholas called out.

Max rushed through the kitchen door and immediately noticed that Liz was gone. “For someone who has a doctorate degree, the woman sure is dense,” he muttered to himself as he ran out the back of the kitchen, the cops still following.

He made his way around to the side entrance of the hotel and ducked into an ‘employees only’ stairway. He could either go up or down, and since he wasn’t big on heights, he decided to go down. He had just reached the basement door when he heard the two cops burst into the stairway three levels above him.

The basement level was used for valet parking, and as Max stepped out of the stairway, he noticed that the elevator right next to him was just starting to close. He hurried over and jumped inside before it could close all the way.

“Lobby please,” Max told the bellhop who was staring at him, waiting to be told which floor he needed.

When the elevator doors opened, Max nonchalantly made his way out the front doors, climbed into his car, and drove away.

******************

Liz had raced back to her house and was throwing everything she could into her suitcase. She didn’t know what she was going to do, or where she was going to go, but she knew she couldn’t stay around town. She had frantically gathered everything she needed and was about to open the front door when she suddenly remembered her laptop computer. She dropped her suitcases and rushed back up to her bedroom.

As she grabbed her computer, she glanced at the phone sitting on her dresser and thought about calling Maria. She quickly picked up the receiver and dialed her friends cell number.

“Hello?”

“Maria, it’s Liz.”

“Where the hell are you?” Maria demanded. “I’ve been waiting at the hotel now for half an hour.”

“Maria, I can’t talk right now,” Liz said. “Just go home. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”

“Tell me what’s wrong Liz,” Maria said.

“I can’t talk right now,” Liz said. “Whatever you do, stay away from my house and my work. I’ll explain everything later.” She then hung up the phone before Maria could respond. She let out a sigh, happy to know that her friend was safe for the time being.

When she came back down stairs, she picked up all her things and made her way to the front door. As she reached out for the door handle, the door suddenly swung open, causing Liz let out a scream before she looked up to see who it was. It was Max. Liz began to sob as she fell to her knees in front of him. Max reached back and closed the front door, his eyes full of irritation as he stared at Liz. He knelt down in front of her and waited until she hesitantly raised her eyes to meet his.

“That was stupid,” Max said, referring to her running out of the hotel like she did. “You came back to the one place that everybody knows about.”

“WHAT ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?” Liz yelled. Her temper had finally gotten the better of her.

Max set his jaw as he reached over and grabbed the laptop out of her hands, then helped her to her feet. That’s when something suddenly caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He quickly stepped in front of Liz as he pulled his gun out of his waistband.

“MOVE!” Max ordered, pushing Liz into the kitchen just as bullets started to litter the living room.

Liz covered her ears and ducked as low to the floor as she could, raising her knees to her chest. Max knelt down in front of her, shielding her from the bullets with his body. He handed her the laptop, then turned around and started to shoot back. When Max stopped to listen, he heard the front door open slowly.

Max glanced around and noticed that there was another door at the far side of the kitchen, leading to the garage. He pointed over to it, silently telling Liz to make her way over. He stopped when he passed the stove, an idea suddenly forming in his mind.

“Do you have a gas stove or an electric?” Max whispered.

“What?” Liz asked in confusion.

“Gas or electric?” Max asked again.

“G…gas,” Liz responded.

“Do you have any wine?” Max asked.

“In…in the fridge,” Liz responded.

Max nodded before he pushed Liz towards the door again. He glanced between the stove and the fridge and found exactly what he was looking for…the gas hook-up. He reached into the fridge and grabbed the wine before he pulled the line out of the wall, causing the gas to shoot out into the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” Liz asked in disbelief.

“Making sure that whoever’s in your house doesn’t follow us,” Max said as he opened the bottle of wine and began to pour it out into a trail as he walked over to the door. That’s when he heard that the intruder had made his way to the kitchen. “MOVE!” Max whispered forcefully.

Once he and Liz were out in the garage, Max shut the door before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette lighter. “You might want to make a run for the side door,” he said as he sparked the lighter and dropped it onto the trail of wine at his feet.

Max ran right behind Liz and just as they made it outside, the intruder opened the door to the garage. He had noticed the gas leak and fire trail and tried desperately to get outside before the house blew up. It didn’t take long for the flame to reach the gas, and once it did, half the house blew into pieces, including the garage.

The percussion blast sent Max and Liz through the air, both landing softly on the grass in the front yard, but whoever was following them didn’t make it out. Max quickly climbed to his feet and pulled Liz up.

“If you what to live, never leave my side,” Max said before he made his way over to his car, towing Liz behind him.

To Be Continued……

Part 2

“So this is your house?” Liz asked, her voice clearly laced with anger.

“This is my safe house,” Max said. “Nobody knows about this place but me.”

Liz placed her laptop on the kitchen counter before she walked over and sat in a chair in the living room. Max took his gun out of his waistband and placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch he fell onto. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands, and when he opened them again, he found himself staring down the barrel of his own gun.

While Max was rubbing his eyes, Liz had taken the opportunity to rush out of her chair and grab his gun. But the reaction that Max gave her was not what she was expecting.

Max simply leaned back against the sofa, crossed one leg over the other, then laid one arm across the back of the sofa. He tilted his head to the side slightly as his face took on a look of amusement, his eyebrow arching at Liz.

“What?” Liz asked in annoyance. “Are you going to try and tell me the gun isn’t loaded?”

“No,” Max said as he suddenly stood up and grabbed a throw pillow off the couch. “It’s loaded.” He slowly made his way over to the marble dinning room table that was sitting nearby, placed the pillow on it, then walked right up to Liz and took the gun out of her hands.

The way he took the gun caught Liz completely by surprise. There was no fear in his eyes and he acted as if he was just taking a piece of candy from her. He then walked over to the dinning room table again, pointed the gun muzzle down against the pillow and pulled the trigger.

There was a soft swishing noise before Max pulled the gun away and threw the pillow back on the sofa, a hole through the middle of it. Liz looked back over at Max who was digging a bullet out of his marble tabletop. He held the bullet up for Liz to see, then tossed it on the table.

“I told you it was loaded,” Max said as he walked back up to Liz, handed her the gun and then brushed past her into the kitchen.

Liz just started at the gun in her hands, still trying to wrap her mind around what just happened. The gun was loaded, yet Max just gave it back to her. She realized that he had the chance to kill her several times now, but he never did. She placed the gun down on the table with shaky hands before she walked over and sat back down in the chair she had previously occupied.

“I’ve never shot a gun before,” Liz admitted out of nowhere.

“I know,” Max said as he walked back into the living room and handed Liz a glass of water.

“What else do you know about me?” Liz asked nervously. “Why does everyone want to kill me?”

“I don’t want to kill you,” Max said as he sat down on the couch. “If I did, you’d be dead already.”

“That’s comforting,” Liz muttered.

“You have a disc that everyone wants,” Max said, ignoring Liz’s last comment.

“The red disc?” Liz asked. “I don’t even know what’s on it.”

“How did you get your hands on it?” Max asked.

“Someone must have slipped it into my purse last night,” Liz said. “I didn’t find it until this morning. I just thought that I grabbed the wrong one. It wasn’t until I got to work and heard that the guy the disc belonged to was killed that I realized he put it in my purse on purpose.”

Max knew that Eli had lied to him about this case, he just didn’t know why. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just hang onto it.”

“Please,” Liz said, wishing she had never seen the disc in the first place. “Now, if you don’t mind, I need to use the restroom,” she said as she stood up.

Max stood up with her. “First door on the left,” he said as he pointed down the hallway.

Liz started to walk towards the door but stopped short, turning around to face Max. “Do you have a name, or should I just call you master?”

For the first time in years, a genuine smile came to Max’s face. It wasn’t a full-blown smile, but a smile nonetheless. “Max. My name’s Max.”

***************

They spent the rest of the day talking about what Liz knew of the activities of her company. She hadn’t noticed anything strange lately…at least not anything in her department. They tried to look at the disc, but everything was encrypted except for that one field report. The report didn’t reveal anything to answer the question as to why the disc was so important.

“Do you know anything about this ghost town in Nevada?” Max asked.

“Not a thing,” Liz replied. “But I’m sure we can find something at the public library or over the Internet.”

“Yeah,” Max replied before he changed the conversation. “We can’t stay here long. Nobody knows about this place, but it’s still possible to find.”

“Where are we going to go?” Liz asked nervously.

“Somewhere safe,” Max said. “We need to keep you hidden until I can figure out what’s going on.”

“Keep me hidden?” Liz asked. “You told me that if I wanted to live, I needed to stay right by your side. Now you’re telling me that you’re just going to drop me off someplace and hope that nobody finds me while your away playing detective.”

“That’s the safest option,” Max said, locking eyes with Liz. “If you went with me, you’d be in danger.”

“But I could help you,” Liz said. “Look…my life’s on the line here, not yours. You don’t have half a dozen assassins out to kill you.”

“You’re right,” Max said. “I don’t have half a dozen assassins out to kill me. I have about three dozen assassins out to kill me.”

“Oh,” Liz said, looking away. “Still, I don’t want to be shacked up in some shed, waiting for you to hopefully save me someday.”

“We’ll talk about this once we get to a safer location,” Max said, standing up and walking out of the room, ending the conversation.

“Yes sir,” Liz muttered, giving Max’s retreating form a mocked salute.

********************

Before long, night came. Max gave Liz one of his oversized shirts to wear to bed since all of her cloths were now nothing more than ash.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s only one bed,” Liz said as she walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.

Max was looking out the window, but turned to face her when she spoke. For the second time that day, a genuine smile came to his lips. “It’s all yours,” he said before he turned back to look out the window.

“Where are you going to sleep?” Liz asked as she pulled back the covers. “I mean, you’re not going to stand in front of that window all night are you?”

Max reached over and turned on a small lamp that was sitting on his dresser, angling it away from the bed. He grabbed his gun off the dresser and checked to make sure it was loaded before he laid down on the carpet and placed his gun next to him.

“Do you want a pillow?” Liz asked, feeling bad that he was just going to sleep on the hard floor, but also feeling relieved that he wasn’t going to sleep out on the sofa in the living room. It was strange, but she felt a little safer knowing that he was in the same room she was.

“That’s alright,” Max replied as he closed his eyes.

Liz looked over at him for a second before she threw a pillow at him, hitting him in the head. Max slowly grabbed the pillow as he opened his eyes, then looked over at Liz with a raised eyebrow, the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. Liz just shrugged her shoulders as a tiny smile came to her lips. She quickly reached over and turned out the lights, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable with the way that her and Max were staring at each other. She laid her head down on the pillow, praying that she would be able to sleep. Max might not be out to kill her, but she still felt a little uncomfortable around him.

****************

When Liz awoke the next morning, she wasn’t surprised to find that Max was already up. She glanced over to where he had spent the night, and found that only the pillow remained. She climbed out of bed and made her way into the living room, glancing around as she tried to find Max. When she walked into the kitchen and found that he was nowhere in sight, she started to get a little worried.

That’s when she glanced out on the back deck and saw Max sitting cross-legged on a blanket, his back facing her, his arms resting conformably on his knees. It looked as if he was meditating, and she thought it was strange that he would be doing that outside. It was still pretty cold in the mornings, so doing that kind of thing indoors would be much more comfortable.

Liz backed away, not wanting to interrupt Max at the moment. She decided to get herself ready for the day, so she walked into the bathroom to take a shower.

********************

Max was sitting out on the deck trying to clear his head. There were so many things running around in his mind that he had a hard time sorting through them. He had only spent one day with Liz, but it was the longest he had ever been around someone in ten years. He normally went outside to relax and reflect, but today was different.

He knew that Eli, his ‘employer’, would not be too happy that Liz was still alive, but the great thing about it was that Max was happy with his decision. It was the first decision in years that he felt good about, and the feeling was incredible. He began to wonder if the three million dollar contract was mainly for the disc, or if killing Liz was really important. Max came to the conclusion that Eli could care less if Liz lived, so long as she had no idea what was on the disc. Knowing Eli, he probably thought that it would be easier to kill Liz and take the disc rather that try to steal it.

Max took a deep breath then stood up and walked back into the house. He could smell the distinct scent of bacon and eggs as soon as he opened the sliding glass door. He glanced over and saw that Liz was standing over the stove, now wearing another one of his shirts, cooking breakfast. She looked over at him when she heard the door open and gave him a nervous smile.

“I thought I’d make something to eat,” Liz said, quickly turning her attention back to the food she was cooking.

Max walked over and sat down at the dinner table, running his index finger over the bullet hole that permanently scarred the tabletop. “Are you still scared of me?” he asked out of nowhere.

Liz didn’t turn around to face him because if she did, Max would know the answer to his question without her even speaking. He would see the terror in her eyes right away. “Yeah…a little,” she replied softly.

“I don’t blame you,” Max said, his eyes downcast, taking on a distant look. “I know you probably won’t believe me, but I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Liz didn’t answer, mostly because she didn’t believe him. She had no doubt that his intentions were good, but she didn’t know him nearly well enough to trust him.

“I want to explain something to you,” Max said, his eyes still downcast. “My contractor offered me three million dollars to kill you and hand over the red disc that you had.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat. She slowly turned to face Max, her eyes wide with shock. “Th…th…three million?”

Max nodded, not daring to look up at Liz. “Obviously whatever’s on that disc is worth a lot of money. I was going to get a hold of my contractor to see just how much he is willing to pay for it. I wanted to tell you that…I’m going to split the money with you.”

Liz dropped the spatula that was in her hands. “You’re going to split several millions of dollars with me?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Max replied quietly.

“Why?” Liz asked as she slowly walked over to the dinner table and sat down.

“Because after this, you may not be able to go back to your normal life,” Max said, wishing he didn’t have to break the news to her.

“Why not?” Liz asked, sadness overtaking her.

“Because my contractor might send someone after you again,” Max said. “He’s the one who wanted you dead, so as long as he’s alive, you’re life is in jeopardy.”

Liz looked at Max, her eyes taking in every little movement, every single emotion that crossed his face. He wasn’t looking at her, but she could still see his eyes and they gave away everything.

“This isn’t really you, is it?” Liz asked, completely changing the subject.

“What do you mean?” Max asked, his eyes finally raising to meet hers.

“This profession you’re in,” Liz said. “It’s not you.”

“You’ve known me for one day and you already think that you’ve got me figured out?” Max asked seriously.

“I can see it in your eyes,” Liz said simply. “You don’t do this because you want to. You don’t do this because of the money. You do this because someone’s forcing you to.”

Max couldn’t respond. He hadn’t mentioned a single thing about his past, present or future with this woman, yet she could tell exactly what he was feeling.

“You have a conscience,” Liz continued. “You have feelings. That’s why you didn’t kill me, isn’t it? You knew that I had no idea what was going on, so you couldn’t bring yourself to pull the trigger. That’s why you’re helping me now. It’s not because of the three million or so that you might get if you trade the disc off, it’s because you feel responsible for me. You know that this boss of yours will send someone else to kill me because you didn’t, so you feel like you have to protect me.”

Max just stared at Liz in shock. Her gaze consistently met his, never once wavering - and for the first time in his life, Max Evans lost a staring contest. He usually made the other person look away because he had that intimidation factor about him, but Liz was different. She saw right down into his soul, and it scared him. It scared him to death.

Max quickly stood up and walked out of the kitchen, feeling extremely unnerved by the conversation he just had with Liz. As he thought about it, he found it very ironic that it didn’t take someone pointing a gun in his face to get him to flinch. All it took were a few choice sentences from a short, petite, fragile-looking brunette to get him to run away as fast as he could.

To Be Continued……….

Part 3

Later that afternoon, Max and Liz packed a few things and headed out of town. They had to stop by the store so Liz could get some cloths to wear, and she took full advantage of the fact that Max was paying for it all.

Max glanced over at Liz as he drove, shaking his head slightly before he turned to face the road again. Liz caught him shaking his head out of the corner of her eye, so she turned to face him.

“What?” Liz asked.

Max glanced back over at her and then down at her cloths with raised eyebrows.

“Hey, give me a break,” Liz said, looking down at her shirt. “You never said there was a price limit on what I could buy.”

The corner of Max’s mouth turned up slightly as he continued to drive. “At least you have good taste,” he said. “Except for that coat you tried to buy with all those flowers on it. That thing looked like the drapes in my grandmothers old house.”

“Thanks,” Liz said with sarcasm. “You know, while we were out cloths shopping we should have bought you a new outfit,” she said, looking over Max’s attire.

Max quickly glanced over at Liz, then down at his cloths. “What’s wrong with my cloths?”

“Nothing,” Liz said with a shrug. “As long as you don’t mind looking like the Grim Reaper. Tell me…do you own anything that isn’t black?”

“Of course I do,” Max said, acting offended. “This is the only outfit I brought with me that’s black.”

“Whatever you say,” Liz said as she turned to look out the window.

Max gave her one last glance before he tried to ignore her. It had been a long time since he felt attracted to someone, and he didn’t like the feelings he was starting to get when he looked at Liz. Truth be told, he started having these feeling when he first saw her. That’s one of the main reasons why he couldn’t pull the trigger the other day.

For the most part Liz kept her gaze out the window, but every once in a while she would sneak a peek at Max. It was kind of ironic that just the other day she was terrified of the guy, and now she found herself starting to enjoy his company. She was still scared of him, but not nearly as much as she was the day before.

Liz was able to see through his rough exterior and the thick wall that he had built around himself, right down to his soul. His eyes gave everything away and she could tell that the Max she first met – the one pointing the gun at her head – was not the real Max. The real Max was kind and compassionate, and it surprised her that she could tell all that by simply looking into his incredibly soulful eyes.

“Can I ask you something?” Liz said, breaking the silence.

“I have a feeling you’re going to ask me no matter what my response is,” Max said, keeping his gaze on the road.

Liz faltered slightly, unable to tell if Max was kidding or not. She had the hardest time reading him when he refused to look at her. “Why didn’t you kill me back at the hotel?” she finally asked, her eyes downcast. She really wanted to know if what she thought was right - that he felt responsible for her.

Max momentarily glanced over at Liz, noticing right away the vulnerability coursing through her body. He could feel his stone wall crumbling and he fought desperately to keep it up. He quickly brought his gaze back to the road and gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands.

“It was you,” Max whispered, unable to think of another way to phrase what he felt. He could see out of the corner of his eye that Liz was now looking at him, so he concentrated on the road, desperately trying to think of anything but her.

“Why do you do this?” Liz asked. “I know you don’t want to kill people, so why don’t you just walk away?”

“I thought you only had one question for me?” Max replied, desperately trying to steer the conversation away from where it was heading.

“Please?” Liz asked gently, tucking her hair behind her ears.

“I can’t just walk away,” Max said, as if that answered everything.

“Why not?” Liz pried.

“Drop it,” Max said forcefully. He didn’t want to sound harsh, but he was not about to have this conversation with Liz.

The tone of Max’s voice caused Liz to look away. She didn’t want to make him angry so she didn’t press the issue. “I just wanted to know more about you, that’s all,” she said gently as she started to fidget with the rings on her fingers.

The two of them didn’t talk for the rest of the drive, which lasted another five hours. When they finally arrived at their destination, Max pulled onto a dirt road and followed it back several miles until it ended at a log cabin.

Liz climbed out and stretched as she looked around. The cabin was the only building around, with a lake nearby, complete with a dock and a small motorboat. “Are there any other homes around?”

“Not for at least twenty miles,” Max said as he started to unpack the suitcases from the trunk of the car.

“And this place is yours?” Liz asked, motioning toward the cabin.

“Yeah,” Max replied as he started to walk toward the front door. “My father left it to me when he died.”

This was just the opportunity Liz had been waiting for. She wanted to know more about Max, and he had just willing told her something about his family. “When did he die?” she asked as she followed him up the walkway.

“A week before I turned eighteen,” Max replied as he unlocked the front door and pushed it open.

“I’m sorry,” Liz said as she followed Max inside and shut the door. “What about your mom?”

Max put the suitcases down in the entryway and turned to Liz. “She died a week before I turned eighteen,” he replied before he walked off.

Liz found herself standing by the front door, feeling very uncomfortable. She nervously walked further into the cabin and started to look around. It was a good sized home, with a large living room, kitchen, dining room, and bathroom on the bottom level. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and two bathrooms, all large in size.

“Are you hungry?” Max asked as he walked into the bedroom that Liz was inspecting.

“A little,” Liz replied quietly.

“Come on,” Max said, nodding toward the door. “We need groceries so we’ll stop and get something to eat while we’re out.”

Liz followed Max out to his car and climbed in. A half an hour later, Max pulled into the parking lot of the only grocery store in sight.

“What town are we in?” Liz asked as they walked into the store.

“We’re safe,” Max replied in an even tone. “That’s all you need to know.”

Liz let out an exasperated sigh as she threw her hands up in the air. “You know, you don’t always have to be such an asshole!” she said before she walked away, grabbing a shopping cart on her way to one end of the store.

Max stopped and stared after her, shocked at what she had just said. The only reason he didn’t tell her where they were was because he was worried she’d run off and call her friends, letting them know their exact whereabouts. He was just trying to keep her safe. He hadn’t spent more than a few hours with the same person in over ten years, so this was definitely a change for him.

He followed behind Liz as she grabbed things off the shelves.

“Are you going to help me shop, or are you just going to follow me around like a lost mutt?” Liz snapped as she turned and stared at Max.

Max blinked as he took a small step back. It was hard for him to believe that this was the same person who was on her knees, sobbing and begging for her life just yesterday. Max quickly looked away, then turned on his heels and walked in the opposite direction. He didn’t like the fact that he felt so unnerved whenever he locked eyes with Liz. It felt as if she knew things about him that she shouldn’t. She knew that he was hiding his true self, and he suspected that was why she was biting his head off.

After buying the groceries, they stopped by a local hamburger joint and bought some dinner to take back to the cabin. After unpacking the food and putting it away, they both sat down at the dinner table and started to eat.

Max glanced over at Liz and could tell that she was still mad at him. He didn’t know what to do, and he had no idea why it bothered him so much that she was mad. It never bothered him before when someone else got mad at him, not even when he was a kid.

“Did you want something to drink?” Max asked as he stood up and made his way over to the cabinet. He reached in and grabbed two glasses, one for him and one for Liz.

Liz ignored him as she stood up, walked over and reached into the cabinet for a glass, getting herself some water. She walked back to the table and set the glass down in front of her, leaving Max standing there with two glasses still in his hands. He looked down momentarily before he put one of the glasses back, got a drink of water, then returned to the table.

They ate in silence for what felt like an eternity before Max couldn’t handle it any more.

“We’re in Colorado,” Max blurted out.

Liz looked up at him, surprised that he had told her. She then looked back down at her food and continued to ignore him. Just because he finally told her the answer to a question she had asked nearly two hours ago, didn’t mean that she wasn’t still pissed at him.

Max was hoping for more of a reaction than that. He waited a few more minutes, and when it became clear that Liz wasn’t going to say anything in return, he stood up, grabbed his jacket and walked out the front door. He needed to get away.

After Max left, Liz propped her elbows up on the table and ran both hands through her hair. She then glanced over at the door that Max had just walked through, knowing that in his own small way, he had just tired to apologize to her.

*****************

An hour had pasted since Max had left, and he still wasn’t back yet. Liz had no idea where he went, so she would occasionally glance out the front window to see if he was in sight. Since she wasn’t having any luck there, she walked up to the bay window in the kitchen that overlooked the lake. She spotted Max right away, sitting on the end of the dock, legs swinging back and forth slightly as he looked out over the lake. Even from the distance that separated them, Liz could see his emotions coming off him in waves. She didn’t think it was possible, but he looked…scared.

She grabbed her coat and slowly walked down the dirt path that led to the dock. As she approached Max, she could tell that he was aware of her presence. He turned his head slightly, but never fully looked at her. When she reached the edge where Max was, she sat down next to him. She didn’t say anything, and even though she was sorry that the two of them weren’t getting along at the moment, she didn’t feel like she had anything to apologize for.

“My dad used to bring me out here,” Max said out of nowhere, his gaze never leaving the lake. “We used to go fishing right over there,” he said as he pointed to the far end of the lake.

Liz kept her gaze locked on Max, not saying anything in the hopes that he would continue to open up to her a bit.

“I remember one winter, my dad and I went out on a walk around the bend,” Max continued, still refusing to look at Liz. “I fell and broke my wrist, and I can still remember the look on my dad’s face when he realized what had happened. I think he was more terrified than I was,” Max said with a smile.

“How old were you?” Liz asked softly.

“Nine,” Max answered, looking down at his hands. “He wanted to take my pain away, and since he couldn’t, all he could do was cry.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Liz asked as she scooted closer to Max.

Max glanced over at Liz, but quickly looked away as soon as their eyes met. “I’m not who you think I am,” he finally said. “I know you think I’m some horrible monster that goes around killing people, but I’m not.”

“I don’t think you’re a horrible monster,” Liz said as she glanced down at her hands.

Max looked up at her, noticing the hesitation in her response. “Then why are you scared of me?”

Liz looked up at Max, her expression softening slightly. “You do kill people, Max. You were hired to kill me. If the tables were turned, don’t you think you’d be scared too?”

Max nodded as he looked back out over the lake. “Yeah. I know you won’t believe me, but I’m not going to hurt you in any way. The only thing I want to do is protect you.”

“I do believe you,” Liz said as she reached over and placed her hand on Max’s forearm. “I’m just trying to cope with everything that’s happened, that’s all. I believe you when you say that you won’t hurt me. I can see it in your eyes.” There was a brief pause before Liz suddenly realized something. “You’re not used to this, are you?’

“Used to what?” Max asked in confusion, glancing over at Liz.

“Not being in control,” Liz replied. “In the past, you’ve always been in control of every situation, haven’t you?”

“Yeah,” Max said before quickly changing the subject. “I’m going to make contact with Eli tomorrow night. I’m going to find out just how bad he wants that disc.”

“Can I call my friend?” Liz asked, knowing that Maria was probably freaking out by now.

“As long as you don’t tell her anything,” Max replied. “Eli probably has her phone tapped, so if you say anything about the situation we’re in, he’ll kill her.”

“What are we going to do until then?” Liz asked.

“First, we’re going to sleep,” Max said, noticing that the sun was staring to set. “Tomorrow I’m going to teach you how to shoot a gun.”

“I hate guns,” Liz said as she shook her head.

“So do I,” Max said as he stood up, then extended his hand to help Liz up. The gesture caught Liz off guard momentarily, but she placed her hand in his, allowing him to help her up. Once she was standing, their eyes locked for a few moments. As soon as Max realized that he and Liz had been staring at each other for a lot longer than necessary, he quickly let go of her hand and looked up toward the cabin. “After you,” he said, motioning for Liz to walk ahead of him.

Liz smiled softly before she made her way up to the cabin with Max right behind her.

Part 4

Liz awoke the next morning with sunlight filling her room. She glanced over at the bedside clock and noticed that it was nearly nine o’clock. She yawned and stretched before she threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. She opened her bedroom door and made her way downstairs where she found Max sitting at the dinner table cleaning his gun.

“Morning,” Liz said with a yawn as she walked over to the coffee machine and poured herself a cup. “What time did you wake up?” she asked as she brought the mug up to her lips and took a sip.

“I never really went to sleep,” Max answered, his attention focused on his gun.

“Why not?” Liz asked as she sat down in the chair across from him.

“Do you always ask this many questions?” Max asked, glancing up at Liz with a half smile.

“I’m just trying to make conversation. You know, like normal people do,” Liz said, throwing Max a challenging look.

Max shook his head slightly as he focused once again on cleaning his gun.

“Why are you cleaning that?” Liz asked.

Max stopped cleaning once again and glanced up at Liz, amusement in his eyes.

“What?” Liz asked. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to keep asking questions until you start talking to me.”

“I’m cleaning it because I’d feel awfully bad if it backfired in your hands and blinded you for life,” Max said sarcastically.

“Ha, ha…very funny,” Liz said, glaring at him.

“Why don’t you go grab yourself a shower while I’m finishing up here,” Max said. “Then we can wander out and pump the hillside full of hot led.”

Liz stood up and made her way down to the bathroom. As she walked in, it became apparent that Max had already showered several hours earlier. As she started the shower and began to undress, Liz wondered what Max’s real story was. She wondered what had happened to his parents and what circumstances had taken place to bring him to where he is now.

She stepped into the shower and let the warm water run over her body for a few minutes before she started to wash herself. She kept thinking about all the questions she wanted to ask Max, even though she knew better than to ask them. He was obviously having a hard time coping with things as they were. She didn’t want to make things harder or more uncomfortable for him.

When she finished drying off from her shower, Liz wrapped the towel around her body and began combing her hair. When her wet hair was all brushed back, she set her comb down and opened the bathroom door, walking out into the hallway. She made her way over to the stairs, and just as she was about to ascend up to her room, she glanced into the living room and saw Max sitting near the window, his legs folded in front of him, his arms resting comfortably on his knees. He was just staring out the window, but what first caught Liz’s attention was the fact that he didn’t have a shirt on.

She quietly walked into the living room and stood against the wall near the doorframe. That’s when she noticed that he had several large scars across his back. It looked like someone had…whipped him.

Max was well aware of Liz’s presence, but chose to ignore her for the time being. It wasn’t until he heard her start to advance towards him that he climbed to his feet and turned to face her. “Ready?” he asked as he pulled a shirt over his head.

“I…uh…I just need to change,” Liz said, looking at Max with mixed emotions. She felt sorrow, sympathy, and confusion all wrapped into one. She wanted to know where the scars had come from, but felt reluctant to ask.

“What?” Max asked, wondering why Liz was just staring at him.

“Nothing,” Liz said as she averted her gaze away from Max. “I’m just going to go change now.” She hurried up to her room and closed her door, then leaned back against it as she closed her eyes. She silently berated herself for admitting that she felt something for Max. He was an assassin for cripes sake! She busied herself by looking for something to wear, hoping that the slight distraction would allow her to regain control of her thoughts again.

When she was dressed, Liz stepped out of her room and made her way into the kitchen to where Max was.

“Ready?” Max asked as he handed Liz her coat.

“I guess,” Liz said with a sigh. She didn’t like guns to begin with so going out and willingly shooting one felt wrong.

“It’s just a precaution,” Max said as if he could sense what Liz was thinking. “If everything goes well, you won’t even have to pick up a gun.”

“I know,” Liz said as she followed Max outside.

They walked a short distance over to a hillside that was a couple hundred yards away.

“Stay here while I go set up a target,” Max said.

Liz nodded and watched as Max pulled a couple pieces of paper out of his coat pocket and set them up on the hillside. There were a few different circles on each paper, one large one and several smaller ones. Max walked back over and stood next to her.

“Whatever you do, please don’t shoot me,” Max said as he cautiously handed Liz the gun.

“If I wanted to shoot you, I would have done it by now,” Liz said, remembering that Max had said nearly that exact same thing to her a couple of days ago.

“Right,” Max said, a little nervous. “Don’t forget to put in the ear protection I gave you.”

Liz reached into her pocket and grabbed the earplugs, placing them in her ears.

“Go ahead and shoot off a round,” Max said as he took a step back.

“Okay,” Liz said as she raised the gun and aimed for a target. When she pulled the trigger, she didn’t expect there to be as much recoil as there was. The gun nearly flew out of her hands as she stumbled backwards slightly.

Luckily Max was standing right behind her, so all he had to do was reach out and catch her. He caught her around the waist and held her as she tried to steady herself, her back resting flush with his chest. Max held her there for a few seconds and was surprised when he didn’t feel Liz try to pull away. He finally released her, making sure she was steady before doing so.

“Oops,” Liz mumbled as she sheepishly looked up at Max.

Max couldn’t help the smile that came to his lips. He glanced down at Liz for a second before looking over at the targets. “Which one were you aiming for?”

“The one on the left,” Liz said, looking downrange at the target.

Max nodded as he glanced back over at Liz, amusement evident in his eyes.

Liz looked up at Max and saw that he was about to burst out into laughter. “Don’t you dare!” she warned, glaring at him.

Max let out a stifled laugh as he tried to refrain from rolling on the ground in laughter. “I…I think you missed,” he said with a smile.

“No shit, Sherlock,” Liz said sarcastically as she placed her left hand on her hip, shifting her weight from one foot to the other while still holding the gun in her right hand.

“Alright,” Max said, still smiling as he moved next to Liz. “Go ahead and take your stance again.” Liz obeyed, holding her breath as Max reached down and touched her leg, moving it to a different spot. “Don’t keep your feet right next to each other. By keeping them a little more than shoulder width apart you’re able to brace yourself from the recoil.”

“Okay,” Liz said as she looked down at her feet.

“It would probably be easier for you to stand with one foot in front of the other,” Max said, moving her left foot ahead of her right, still keeping them more than shoulder width apart. He stepped back and looked at Liz, who still had her hips square with the target. He moved up behind her and placed his hands on her hips, gently twisting them until they were square with her feet.

As Max stood behind Liz, he couldn’t help but inhale the scent of her shampoo. He closed his eyes briefly and let the fragrance of strawberries fill his senses. He fought to regain control of himself as he dropped his hands and took a step back, taking in a deep breath.

“Go ahead and aim at the target, but don’t shoot,” Max said, finally opening his eyes again.

Liz was having a hard time listening to his instructions. Having him so close to her and touching her hips was causing havoc on her body. Her stomach was turning over and over as her eyes fluttered closed momentarily. When he gently twisted her hips for her, she nearly lost it. It was a simple move, nothing really extravagant about it. But for some reason, having Max move her body for her was, for lack of a better word, erotic.

Liz raised the gun and aimed at the same target she tried to hit last time. She felt Max move up behind her and look over her shoulder. His chest was gently touching her arm, and she could see his face right next to hers out of the corner of her eye.

Max tried to keep his attention focused on the sights of the gun to make sure that Liz was lining them up correctly, but having her face that close to his made it impossible.

“Make sure the single dot on the front sight lines up with the two on the back,” Max whispered, tilting his head slightly so he could look at her.

Max was right next to Liz’s ear, so when he spoke she could feel his breath. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, opening them again when she felt Max back away. She wasn’t surprised to find that she was more than a little disappointed that he wasn’t close anymore, but she was relieved at the same time. She couldn’t concentrate when he was that close, so at least now she would have an easier time listening to his instructions.

Just as Max was about to tell Liz to shoot again, he noticed that she was holding the gun so tight her knuckles were white. He reached over and gently placed one hand over both of hers, grabbing the gun with the other. “Don’t hold it so tight,” he said as he placed the gun back in her hands and moved her fingers to the right spots.

Liz watched his hands closely as he moved hers into place. The contact of skin on skin, even if it was just their hands, caused her to inhale sharply. She quickly tried to cover it up with a cough as she turned her head to the side.

“The trick to shooting is to squeeze the trigger, not pull it,” Max said, causing Liz to look at him again. “Don’t anticipate the recoil; let it surprise you.”

“Let it surprise me,” Liz repeated as she forced her gaze away from Max and glanced downrange at the target instead. She held her breath as she aimed, then squeezed the trigger.

“Nice shot,” Max said.

Liz had no idea where the bullet had gone so she looked up at Max with uncertainty.

“Can you see where you hit the target?” Max asked as he glanced at Liz.

Liz looked back at the target and suddenly spotted the hole. It was by no means a bulls-eye, but at least she hit the target this time. She looked back up at Max and smiled as he reached over and took the gun out of her hands.

“It takes some practice, but it looks like you’re on your way,” Max said with a smile of his own. He then aimed the gun at the target and fired seven shots. When he was done, he tucked the gun into his waistband and motioned toward the target. “Let’s take a look at your shot.”

As Liz approached, she couldn’t help but laugh when she caught sight of what Max had done. He had made a smiley face out of bullet holes, using her single shot as the nose.

“You like?” Max asked with a smile.

“Very cute,” Liz said before she leaned over and gave Max a playful shove. “Can I keep it?”

“Yeah…sure,” Max said before he reached out and took the target down, handing it to her.

They continued to practice their shooting for another half an hour before they decided to head back to the cabin. Liz was really having a good time, mostly due to the fact that Max was not acting like he had been the past couple of days. He was laid back and open to conversation for the first time since they met. Granted, they didn’t talk about anything personal, but just holding a steady conversation without feeling like it was forced was a big step. Although he would never admit it out loud, Liz could tell that the stone wall Max had built around himself was slowly starting to crack.

********************

“So…when can I call my friend?” Liz asked later that afternoon. “I know she’s seriously wigging out by now.”

“We can head into town whenever you’re ready,” Max said. “There are just a few rules we need to follow. One: you can’t - I repeat - you CAN’T let her know where you are. If you do, Eli will kill her. Two: you have to limit your phone conversation to two minutes. I have some scrambling equipment that will help keep them from tracing our exact whereabouts, but the people tracing the call are very good. If you stay on the phone for longer than two minutes, Eli will know exactly where we are.”

“Is that it?” Liz asked as she grabbed her coat.

“No,” Max said. “You can’t let anyone know I’m with you. If your friend asks, tell her that you needed a break so you took a little vacation by yourself.”

“Gotcha,” Liz said with a nod of her head. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Right,” Max mumbled as he grabbed his gear and followed Liz out to the car.

“Can I ask you something?” Liz said as Max pulled away from the cabin.

“Can I ask YOU something?” Max said in return, catching Liz off guard.

“Uh…yeah…go ahead.”

“Why do you always ask if you can ask a question?” Max said as he glanced over at Liz.

“Well…I…uh…I…” Liz said, clearly stumbling over her words. “I…I just feel like you get upset with me every time I ask you something,” she said as she looked down at her hands that were folded on her lap.

“What’s your question?” Max asked gently, trying his best to convey that he wouldn’t get upset with her this time.

“How…I mean…you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to…but I was wondering how you got those scars on your back,” Liz said, keeping her gaze locked on her hands.

Max looked over at Liz for a second, then took a deep breath as he focused on the road again. “It’s a long story.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Liz said quietly as she looked up at Max, trying to show him that she really wanted to know.

Max took another deep breath as he made eye contact with Liz. “In order for me to answer that question I’ll have to tell you my whole life story.”

“Is that a problem?” Liz asked, hoping the answer would be no.

“Kind of,” Max replied, concentrating on the road again. “There are certain events that took place in my life that I’m sure you’d rather not hear about.”

“Try me,” Liz said gently.

Max glanced over at Liz again, suddenly feeling very nervous. He had never told anyone his ENTIRE life story before and he afraid of how Liz would look at him after hearing it. “Tell you what…I won’t have enough time to tell you in the car, so as soon as we get back to the cabin I’ll tell you the life story of Max Evans.”

“You promise?” Liz asked, wanting him to make a commitment.

“Yeah,” Max said, smiling at Liz. “I promise.”

“So your last name is Evans, huh?” Liz asked. “I like it.”

***************

When they arrived in town, Max drove around until they found a secluded payphone. He then somehow managed to plug his equipment into the phone before handing the receiver to Liz.

“Remember, keep the conversation down to…” Max began before Liz cut him off.

“Two minutes. I got it.”

“I’ll let you know when to hang up,” Max said as he looked at his watch.

Liz punched in Maria’s phone number and waited for her to pick up.

“Hello?”

“Hey Michael. It’s Liz.”

“LIZ!! Where the hell are you?” Michael demanded.

Liz was about to answer when she heard Maria’s voice in the background. She listened as a brief conversation took place between her friends.

“Maria,” Michael said in annoyance. “Go pick up the other phone if you want to talk to her.”

A couple of seconds later Liz heard Maria scream into the phone: “LIZ!! Thank God you’re all right! Where are you?”

“Maria,” Liz said calmly. “Take a deep breath. I’m fine. I just needed to get away so I decided to take a little vacation.”

“A vacation?” Michael asked in disbelief. “Did you come to this conclusion before or after your house blew up?”

“Look, I can’t tell you guys anything right now,” Liz said. “Just know that I’m safe. Will you guys please call my parents and let them know I’m okay?”

“Of course we will,” Maria said.

“I want to know where you are, and I want to know right now!” Michael demanded.

“Could you also call Kyle’s father too?” Liz asked, ignoring Michael. “Since he’s the sheriff, he’s probably looking for me. Let him know that I’ll contact him as soon as I can.”

“LIZ,” Michael said, raising his voice. “Where the hell are you!?”

Liz glanced over at Max who was pointing at his watch, letting her know that time was running out.

“Look guys, I have to go. I just wanted to let you know that I’m okay. I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to call you, but I’ll try to soon.”

“LIZ!” Michael yelled.

Max started a countdown with his fingers, letting Liz know that there was only a matter of seconds left.

“I’m sorry I can’t tell you more,” Liz said, starting to panic. “I love you guys,” she said before she slammed the receiver down, hanging up on her best friends.

“That was close,” Max said as he started to pack up his equipment.

“Sorry,” Liz said quietly as she hung her head. “I’ll be more careful next time.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Max said as he reached over and placed his finger under Liz’s chin, raising her head until she looked at him. “I know this is really hard for you. It takes an incredible woman to deal with everything you’re going through.”

“Thank you,” Liz said, giving Max a weak smile.

Max smiled back, wanting nothing more than to pull Liz into a hug and run his fingers through her hair. He instead pulled his hand back slowly and busied himself with gathering up the equipment. When they had everything loaded back up in the car, they pulled away from the payphone.

“You hungry?” Liz asked out of the blue.

Max glanced over at her momentarily. “Uh…yeah. I am.”

“I think I’m going to cook dinner tonight,” Liz said, looking out the window.

“Oh,” Max said, not knowing what else to say. “Sounds good.”

“What’s your favorite food?” Liz asked.

“Um…Chinese, I guess,” Max said.

“No way!” Liz said, looking over at Max in shock. “That’s my favorite too!”

“Well, it looks like we’ve finally found something in common,” Max said, giving Liz a half smile.

“Yeah it does,” Liz said as she stared at Max, a smile on her face.

To Be Continued…..

Part 5

As Liz busied herself in the kitchen getting dinner ready, Max sat at the dinner table and plugged in his laptop. He had everything set up to make sure that nobody traced the Internet connection before he turned his computer on.

“Are you contacting Eli?” Liz asked as she peered at the computer screen over Max’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Max replied. “Let’s see how much he’s willing to pay for this little red disc.”

“How much are you going to ask for?” Liz asked as she sat in the chair next to Max.

Max shrugged his shoulders as he looked at Liz. “What do you think? Give me a dollar figure.”

“Well,” Liz said, leaning forward in her seat. “You said that he initially offered you three million. Why not double it and see what happens?”

Max nodded his head as he contemplated Liz’s suggestion. He then started to type on the keyboard, causing Liz to stand back up and peer over his shoulder again to see what he was typing. She leaned over to rest her arms across the back of Max’s chair, bringing her face right next to his ear. Max glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, trying hard to ignore just how close she was.

>Hello, Eli.<

>Max? Is that you? I haven’t heard from you for a couple of days. I thought something happened to you.<

“You wish,” Max muttered as he typed his response.

>I have the disk you’re looking for.<

>That’s good to hear. I understand the scientist slipped through your fingers though.<

>Yeah. She’s a hard one to catch, but I’ll find her.<

>I know you will. There is one thing that I can’t quite figure out though. She somehow managed to blow up her house, with one of my operatives inside mind you, by simply using her gas powered stove. I’ve looked into her background and from everything I’ve seen she should have been easy to kill. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that she had a little help.<

“Bastard,” Liz muttered through clenched teeth.

>The disc is what you’re really after, right?<

>Straight to the point like always, Max. Let’s arrange to switch the disc for your money. If I’m not mistaken, we agreed on three million.<

>The price has gone up. I’ll switch the disc in return for twenty million.<

“TWENTY MILLION?” Liz choked out.

Max sat patiently as he waited for Eli to respond. A few minutes later, he got his reply.

>Twenty million it is. Now let’s arrange a time and place to make the transfer.<

Liz’s mind was still reeling from the dollar amount that this guy was willing to pay for a cheap piece of plastic.

>I don’t think a pick up would be wise. I’ll forward you an account number to a bank in Cabo San Lucas to transfer the funds into. Once I close the account and have the money in my hands, I’ll give the disc to the bank manager and he can relay that on to you.<

>Are you hiding something, Max?<

>Like what?<

>This is the first time you’ve ever requested that the money be wired.<

>I just need a vacation. I plan on hanging around Mexico for a couple of days once we’re all squared away.<

>Forward me the account number and I’ll have it taken care of. I’ll contact you when the money is ready for pick up.<

“Twenty million?” Liz asked in astonishment. “And you’re willing to give me ten?”

“No,” Max said as he closed his laptop and looked up at Liz. “The bank gets fifteen percent, so that only leaves you with eight point five million. I know it’s not much, but I hope you can manage,” he added sarcastically.

“Wow,” was all Liz could say as she walked back into the kitchen to finish dinner.

Ten minutes later, Liz walked back over to the dinner table with a pan full of stir-fry. While she dished the food out, Max made himself useful by opening the bottle of wine that they had picked up while in town. He poured two glasses before sitting across the table from Liz.

“I’m ready,” Liz said as she raised her eyebrows.

“Ready for what?” Max asked, confused.

“For you to tell me everything about you,” Liz said before she took a sip of wine.

“I planned on telling you after dinner,” Max said, clearly nervous.

“Okay,” Liz said with a smile before she started to eat.

Dinner went by way too quickly for Max. Before he knew it, the dishes were all cleared off the table and the only thing that remained was the wine.

“That was the best dinner I’ve had in years,” Max said as Liz sat in the seat next to him.

“Thank you,” Liz said as she grabbed her glass and took a drink. “But flattery won’t get you off the hook. I think it’s time you told me everything.”

Max nodded before he reached out, grabbed the bottle of wine and his glass, then motioned toward the living room. “Lets talk in there.”

After they were both settled on the couch, Max took a swig of his wine before he began.

“Before I begin, I want you to know that if any time you feel uncomfortable, or don’t want to hear about a certain situation I might talk about, you can tell me to stop. I don’t want you to hear something you’d rather not.”

Liz nodded but remained silent.

Max took a deep breath before he began.

“Growing up, my childhood was like any other. My parents were strict but loving, and always had my best interests in mind. My life didn’t take a turn for the worst until I was a junior in high school. The entire junior class was offered to take a test that would measure certain things like mechanical and problem solving skills. The test results would then be used by different agencies such as the Army and Navy for recruiting purposes. The only reason I took the test to begin with was because it meant that I could skip out on three classes.

“About two weeks after the test the phone calls started to come in. I must have been contacted by every agency out there: the Navy, the Air Force, the FBI, the CIA. But the two who really pushed for me to come in and talk to them were the Marines and the Army. I didn’t give it much thought at first because I planned on going to college at the time. It wasn’t until a recruiting officer for the Marines showed up on my front doorstep that I realized just how well I did on that test.

“He told me that I scored in the top one percent in the nation and that my score was so high, they wanted me to take a similar test just to make sure I didn’t cheat. So I humored them and took the test, only to find out that I finished with an even higher score than I did the first time. That’s when an Army General showed up at my door. We sat down and talked with my parents about what a future in the Army could hold for me.

“I wasn’t really paying attention until he told me that he could offer me a position with Army Intel as soon as I graduated from high school, paying six figures to start out. I was sixteen at the time - my parents started me in school early - so as soon as I heard the dollar amount, I was hooked. My parents still wanted me to get a college education, so the General told them that the Army would pay to send me to college. So I agreed.

“One month after I graduated, I turned seventeen and was sent to West Point. I spent six months there before I received my first mission. They told me that it was standard procedure to send potential Intel Officers on three missions, just so we would know what its like out there on the front lines. My first mission was my last.

“I was assigned to be the team leader and point man on a surveillance op. We were simply going to watch a drug compound down in Columbia, but the third day into the mission, the objectives changed to a full-fledged assault on the compound. I went over the mission plan and strategy with my team, but before we could put the plan into action, we were ambushed. Someone had tipped off the Columbians.

“I watched as my men were killed, one by one. Then it was my turn. When they raised the gun and pointed it at my head, I closed my eyes, thinking it was my time to go. Then I felt a bolt of electricity shoot through my body, staring at my neck. After that, all I saw was black.

“I’m not sure where they took me, but when I woke up I was in a cell. I only saw one person for the next three weeks or so, and the only time I saw him was when he gave me food and water. It was around the fourth week of captivity that I met someone new…Eli. He walked into my cell and explained exactly what I was doing there.

“He told me that I was going to be one of his operatives. When I asked him what kind of operative, he just smiled and answered: ‘You’re going to be one of my assassins’. Of course I refused, so he had me tortured.”

“That’s where you got those scars on your back,” Liz interrupted, realizing for the first time just how severe the torture that Max had been subjected to was.

Max nodded. “Up to that point, I had never felt so much pain in my life. But I didn’t give in. I still refused to work for him. The torture kept going for about six months, I think. When Eli finally realized that I’d die before I agreed to kill for him, he decided to try a new tactic.

“I still remember that day clearly; I still have nightmares about that day. Two men came into my cell early in the morning and chained me to the wall. At first I thought it was going to be some new form of torture. I had no idea at the time just how right I really was.

“Eli walked in with a chair a few minutes later and dismissed the guards. He then set the chair down right in front of me and took a seat. He smiled cryptically as he pulled out the front page of a newspaper from his coat pocket. He pretended to study the headlines for a minute before he looked up at me again. I still remember exactly what he said:

‘You forced me to do something I don’t normally do, Max. You forced me to get your family involved.’

“From the look in his eyes I could tell that he was enjoying himself. He then held the paper up for me to see, and as soon as I read the headline…I felt my entire heart and soul shatter. It was at that moment that I felt more pain than I ever had in my entire life. The headline read: ‘Two People Killed in Accidental House Fire’.”

“Oh my God!” Liz gasped as she covered her mouth with her hand. “Your parents?”

Max nodded again. “Eli was smart to have me shackled to the wall before he showed me that paper. I would have killed him with my bare hands. He went on to explain that the exact same thing would happen to the only other person in the whole world I care about unless I agreed to kill for him. I had no choice at that point, so I agreed.”

“Who else is there?” Liz asked, tears forming in her eyes.

“My sister, Isabel,” Max replied. “You were right when you said that it didn’t seem like I would kill people for the money. The only reason I keep doing it is to protect my sister.”

“Does she know what you do?” Liz asked.

Max hung his head before he answered. “She thinks I’m dead. It was the only way to really protect her.” There was a short pause before a smile came over Max’s face. “My sister is an amazing woman. She’s so strong. Not only did she have to deal with the death of our parents - alone - but she also had to deal with the Army telling her that I had died on my mission in Columbia. I can’t even imagine how hard that was for her,” he finished sadly.

Liz could feel Max’s pain as if it were her own. Nobody should ever have to go through what he did. She reached across the couch and placed her hand on his shoulder to try and show that while she couldn’t even image how hard it was for him, she knew just how much it had hurt him. That’s when she suddenly realized something. “Won’t Eli go after her now?”

“As far as he knows, I’m still on his side. I’m giving him the disc, and he still thinks that I’m out there looking to kill you,” Max replied.

“Don’t you think it’s better to be safe than sorry?” Liz asked.

Max stared at Liz for a few seconds before he responded. “Yeah.”

“Do you have any idea where she lives?” Liz asked.

“Roswell, New Mexico,” Max replied, looking down at his hands that were folded on his lap. “She lives there with her husband and son. She graduated from medical school at UC Davis, where she met her husband, Alex. She was an ER doctor for several years before she started her own family practice. Alex works in the computer crime division at the FBI. Their son is five years old now. His name is Jacob Maxwell Evans.”

Liz couldn’t help the watery smile that came to her lips. “Sounds like you’ve been keeping an eye on them.”

“Always,” Max replied.

Liz suddenly had an idea. “Did you say that your sisters’ husband works in the computer crime division at the FBI?”

“Yeah,” Max replied, looking up at Liz.

“So he would be able to break the encryption code on that disc, right?”

A smile slowly formed on Max’s face. “I knew I kept you around for a reason,” he joked.

“So when do we leave?” Liz asked as she hopped off the couch.

“Tomorrow morning,” Max replied. “Early. I want to be on the road by four.”

“Four o’clock?!” Liz whined.

“Four o’clock,” Max repeated. “That way we’ll pull into Roswell mid-afternoon.”

“Fine,” Liz mumbled as she walked over to the stairs. “I’m going to bed now if I have to get up that early.”

“See you in the morning,” Max said with a smile as he watched Liz walk up the stairs and into her bedroom. He was about to see his sister for the first time in over ten years, and he couldn’t wait.

To Be Continued…..

Part 6

Are we listening
To hymns of offering?
Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
All the words that I’ve been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one, into one.

So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself
As the tears roll down.
‘Cause it’s the world I know.
It’s the world I know.

‘The world I know’ by Collective Soul

Liz opted to stay awake that night. She could always sleep in the car on the way to Roswell, and she wanted to see if Max ever slept, and if he did, she wanted to know for how long. She guessed that he couldn’t get any more that four or five hours of sleep each night, but you’d never be able to tell by looking at him. He was always alert and noticed things around him that normal people wouldn’t. He could spot suspicious looking cars blocks away and noticed whenever someone looked at him for too long. Liz guessed that if she had to look over her shoulder for the past ten years she’d develop these traits as well. Being hunted will do that to a person.

But it wasn’t just Max’s alertness that surprised Liz. Granted he was in terrific physical shape, but he didn’t even have bags under his eyes from the lack of sleep. It was almost as if he only needed a couple hours of sleep each night to function, which was totally unheard of. It didn’t matter who you were, sleep deprevation affected everyone, even the strongest people.

Liz sat in her room listening for when Max went to bed. Around midnight she finally heard him acend the stairs and retire to his room. She waited another hour before she left her room, just in case it took Max a while to fall asleep. As she approached his bedroom door she noticed that it was cracked slightly. She wanted to be as quiet as she could, knowing that the slightest noise would wake him up. She didn’t really feel like getting shot because Max thought she was an intruder.

She gently pushed his door open until she could see his outline in the bed, winceing when the hinges on the door squeeked slightly. She held her breath, hoping that she didn’t wake him. When she was convinced that he was still asleep, she let out her breath slowly as she knelt in the doorframe. She just wanted to watch him for a little while before she went back to her room.

It didn’t take long for Liz to realize exactly why Max never slept. He continuously thrashed around in his bed, never staying in the same position for longer than a few seconds. At first she thought that he was still awake and was just having a hard time finding a comfortable position to sleep in, but after watching him for a little while she realized that he was asleep and was having a nightmare.

Max would occationally whimper and mumble, but the only words that Liz could make out were ‘please’ and ‘no’. She continued to watch him for a while longer, and just as she began to back out of his room to leave him alone, Max suddenly sat upright in his bed, taking in deep breaths.

At first Liz thought that she had woken him up so she remained perfectly still out in the hallway. She watched at Max flopped back down on his bed and covered his eyes with his forearms. As she turned to walk back to her own bedroom, she stopped midstep when she heard an unmistakable sound come from Max’s direction. She turned back to face his room and listened intently to make sure she wasn’t hearing things. When the sound came again, she felt her heart drop to the pit of her stomach. Max was crying.

Figuring that he would be embarrassed and upset if he found out that she had caught him crying, Liz quietly made her way back to her room, her shoulders slumped, her head hanging low.

When she had first met him, Liz never thought that she would feel sorry for Max. But after hearing what he had been subjected to in the past, she couldn’t help but feel sorrow for him. There was no doubt that he was a mysterious person, but after seeing two completely different sides of him, Liz realized that while he tried to hide his emotions, they were always right there under the surface, waiting to come out in the open.

*******************

“You okay?” Max asked as he and Liz drove down the highway on their way to Roswell, New Mexico.

“Yeah,” Liz said, turning to look at him.

“You sure?” Max asked. “You look tired.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night,” Liz replied. “What about you? How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby,” Max replied. From his expression, Liz could tell that he was really trying hard to hide the truth. It was obvious that he didn’t want her to know about his nightmares. “Why don’t you try to get some sleep? We’ll be on the road for a while.”

Liz nodded as she turned to look out the windshield. As much as she didn’t want to, she did need the rest. She laid her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes.

“Here,” Max said gently as he reached back and grabbed a pillow from the seat behind him. “I brought this just in case,” he said, handing her the pillow.

Liz smiled her thanks as she took the pillow. She propped it up against the window and made herself as comfortable as possible, but it was no use. She couldn’t fall asleep. After trying for a half an hour, she finally let out a sigh of frustration as she sat up straight in her seat and ran a hand through her hair.

Max glanced at her out of the corner of his eye before he eyed the back seat through the rearview mirror. “Maybe you’d be able to sleep if you laid down,” he suggested.

They were driving in a newer Ford Taurus, so it had a bench seat up front instead of bucket seats, with a moveable armrest separating the drivers side from the passangers side.

“Maybe you’re right,” Liz said as she moved the armrest up, threw the pillow down right next to Max’s leg and then laid out in the front seat, the top of her head nearly touching Max.

Max was surprised to say the least. When he had suggested that she lay down, he had meant the back seat. He glanced down at Liz a couple of times as he tried to force himself to focus on the road. But when she brought her hand up and tucked it between her cheek and the pillow, her fingertips slightly grazed his leg, causing him to jump a little.

He looked down to see if she had noticed his sudden shift and was thankful when he realized that she hadn’t.

Liz slept for a couple of hours, unaware that she had shifted slightly in her sleep. When she woke up, she immediately felt something rubbing against the back of her neck. It took her a second to adjust, but she soon realized that it was a hand rubbing her neck softly, giving her a gentle massage. Since the hand didn’t belong to her, the only other person it could be was the one person she never expected to get a massage from.

She kept her eyes closed, hoping that Max wouldn’t notice that she was awake. It didn’t take long before she realized that the fabric under her cheek was not the same fabric that the pillow was made out of. It felt soft on top, yet hard underneath. She cracked her eyes open to see what she was laying on and nearly had a heart attack when she saw that it was Max’s leg.

Not only was her head resting on his thigh but one of her hands was as well. She silently thanked the lord above that she was facing away from the rest of his body, otherwise she would have woken up to the sight of Max’s…er…waistline.

“Feel better?” Max asked.

Liz’s eyes snapped open at the sound of Max’s voice. “Um…yeah,” she said as she sat upright, regretting it as soon as she could no longer feel his hand gently rubbing her neck. “How did you know I was awake?”

“You’re breathing changed,” Max said.

“Oh,” was the only thing that Liz could think to say. “Max, I’m sorry that I practically crawled up on your lap while I was asleep. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose.”

Max smiled as he glanced over at Liz. “Don’t worry about it. Besides it made everything easier for me when you did.”

Liz eyed him suspiciously for a few seconds. “Made what easier?”

“Well…you wouldn’t stop snoring,” Max said with a shrug. “The only thing that made you stop was when I started to rub your neck.”

“SNORING!?” Liz asked in shock. “I’ll have you know that I never snore!”

“Tell that to the people working the drive thru widow at McDonalds,” Max said with a straight face. “They thought I had a chainsaw roaring in here.”

Liz gasped, then reached over and slapped Max on the shoulder. “You are such a liar! You never went to McDonalds. I would have woken up.”

“If you say so,” Max said with a shrug.

Liz folded her arms across her chest as she looked out the windshield. She sneaked a peak at Max, trying to determine if he really did go to McDonalds or not. “Did you really stop by to get food?”

Max chucked as he kept his gaze fixed on the road. “No. But if you’re hungry we can stop and get something the next chance we get.”

“Please,” Liz said as she started to flip through the radio stations. When she found a station to her liking, she leaned back in her seat and took in the scenery around her. So far the drive to New Mexico wasn’t as bad as Liz had thought it would be. But they still had a long way to go.

*******************

“So it’s been ten years since you’ve seen you sister?” Liz asked as Max pulled into the Roswell city limits.

“Well…no,” Max said. “I saw her about five years ago when I was in town for a…an assignment. But it has been ten years since she’s seen me.”

“But don’t you think that Eli has her under surveillance just in case?” Liz asked.

“I’m counting on it,” Max said.

“Okay, I must be missing something here,” Liz said, turning in her seat so she was facing Max fully. “If you are certain that she’s being watched, then why are we here? I mean, wouldn’t she be safer if he just left her alone?”

“Yes and no,” Max said, quickly glancing at Liz out of the corner of his eye.

“Yes and no?” Liz asked with a mixture of confusion and frustration. She didn’t know why Max couldn’t just explain things fully instead of using short sentences for his answers. “Would you please explain what you mean using complete sentences?”

“I mean that she would be safer if I didn’t make contact, but not for long,” Max explained patiently. “It would be better for her to see me know instead of later when it may be too late. I don’t want Eli going anywhere near her. He’ll just torture her to death in an attempt to get to me.”

“Max, that’s not going to happen,” Liz said, hoping to relieve his fears.

“I know its not,” Max said confidently. “I’m going to make sure of it.” He had every intention of protecting his sister, and the only way to do that was to kill Eli.

“You’re not just going to drive up to her house and knock on her front door are you?” Liz asked as Max pulled onto a residential street.

“Of course not,” Max said. “You are.”

“Beg your pardon?” Liz asked. “If your psychopathic employer has people watching your sisters house, don’t you think they’ll recognize me?”

“That’s why we have to make a quick stop first,” Max said.

“Stop?” Liz asked. “Where?”

“I own a storage unit out here,” Max said. He glanced over at Liz who was now looking at him strangely. “I wanted to be ready…just in case.”

Liz nodded once before she turned to look out the window. “What exactly do you have in this storage unit?”

“Just the necessities,” Max said. “Guns, ammo, bullet proof vests, tear gas, a motorcycle, disguises…you know, things like that.”

“Just the necessities?” Liz asked with amusement. “You know, I really need to help you rearrange your priorities.”

Max gave Liz a half smile before he turned his attention back to the road.

“Just what exactly do you want me to say to your sister when I see her?” Liz asked.

Max thought for a minute, another plan suddenly forming in his mind. “You know what, I think I’ve got a safer plan.”

“And what would that be?” Liz asked.

“Alex,” Max answered. “We’ll go see Alex first.”

To Be Continued...

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-May-2002 1:23:43 PM ]
posted on 27-Dec-2001 2:25:43 PM
Part 7

“I hate this,” Max muttered as he and Liz walked up to the front doors of the FBI building that Alex worked at.

“Hate what?” Liz asked. “Walking into a building full of government agents?”

“No…I hate not having my gun with me,” Max said as he glanced over his shoulder to make sure that nobody was following them.

“Can I ask you something,” Liz said, glancing over at Max.

“Only if you promise to stop asking me beforehand if you can ask something,” Max said as he glanced through the front doors of the building.

Liz smiled at Max even though he wasn’t paying attention. “I’m confused about something. You said that you were taken prisoner when you where seventeen, right?”

“Right,” Max said as he held the door open for Liz.

“Thanks. And you said that Isabel didn’t meet Alex until she was in college, right?” Liz asked as she and Max walked up to the front desk.

“Right,” Max said before he turned his attention to the receptionist. “Hi, I’m looking for Agent Whitman.”

“Can I tell him who’s here to see him?” the receptionist asked politely.

“Actually, I kind of want it to be a surprise,” Max said with a smile. “I used to room with him in college.”

“Oh,” the receptionist said, returning Max’s smile with one of her own. “Just let me page him. He should be down in a moment.”

“Thanks,” Max said before he and Liz walked over to the couch that was sitting in the lobby.

“Well,” Liz continued, “if your sister didn’t meet Alex until she was in college, then that means that he’s never met you, right?”

“Right,” Max said, looking at Liz for the first time since their conversation started.

“So that means he has no idea who you are, right?” Liz asked.

“Unless Isabel showed him pictures of me when I was a teenager,” Max said.

“Do you look the same as you did back then?” Liz asked.

“I think so,” Max said. “But you have to remember that I don’t really have any pictures of me or my family.”

“Right,” Liz said as she folded her hands on her lap and waited for Alex.

“Who is it that’s here to see me?” Max heard someone ask. He glanced up and saw Alex standing at the receptionists’ desk. When the receptionist pointed in his direction, Max took a deep breath to calm his nerves as he and Liz stood up from the couch.

“Can I help you?” Alex asked as he approached them.

“More than you know,” Max said, extending his hand toward Alex.

Alex cautiously reached out and shook his hand, desperately trying to remember where he had seen Max’s face before. “And you are?”

Max was about to answer when Alex’s face suddenly took on a different look. His eyes widened as his hand fell away from Max’s, his mouth hanging open slightly. He had paled about three shades whiter in a matter of seconds.

“You…you…” Alex stuttered. He shook his head a couple of times to clear it, the color returning to his face as a smile took over. “I’m sorry. It’s just that you look so familiar. You look just like my wife’s brother…but he died quite a few years ago.”

Max eyes immediately shot to the floor. “No he didn’t,” he said quietly.

“Excuse me?” Alex asked, leaning forward. “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch what you just said.”

“I said…no he didn’t,” Max repeated, his eyes rising to meet Alex’s again.

Alex just stood there staring at Max. “Alice!” Alex called over his shoulder, talking to the receptionist. “I need to run out for a bit. If Skinner calls, tell him I’ll be back in a little while.”

Alex practically ran out the front doors with Max and Liz in tow. “Get in,” he ordered as they walked up to an FBI issued sedan. Max climbed into the passengers seat while Liz took the back. Alex started the car and pulled out onto the street.

“Where are we going?” Max asked nervously. He didn’t want Alex taking him to go see Isabel just yet.

“Where do you think?” Alex asked excitedly. “I’m taking you to go see your sister. You know, the one who thinks that you’ve been dead for the past ten years or so.”

“You can’t do that,” Max said. “Not yet.”

“Why not?” Alex asked as he looked over at Max.

“Please stop and listen to us,” Liz said gently as she leaned forward between the two front seats.

Alex glanced at her through the rearview mirror before he gently pulled the car over to the side of the road and stopped. “Where have you been these past ten years?”

“Maybe we should find some place to sit and talk,” Max said. “It’s a long story.”

****************

“Wow,” Alex said with wide eyes, a look of astonishment on his face after Max had finished telling his life story. They were all sitting at a table in a small diner just a few blocks away from the FBI building.

“Yeah,” Max said, feeling very uncomfortable. For the past ten years he had never told anyone what really happened to him, yet here he was, telling the second person in as many days. And he would still have to explain everything to his sister.

“So…these guys are after you?” Alex asked Liz.

“Yeah,” Liz said. “They’re mostly after this,” she said, handing him the red disc.

“What’s on it?” Alex asked, taking the disc.

“We have no idea,” Max said. “We were kind of hoping that you could tell us.”

Alex took a deep breath as he looked at the disc. “I can try. It all depends on how well it’s encrypted.”

“If you do break it, it’s very important that you don’t tell anyone what you find,” Max said.

Alex looked back and forth between Max and Liz. “If this disc shows anything incriminating, no matter who it is that’s breaking the law, I could get into serious trouble if I don’t report it to my superiors.”

“I know,” Max said, locking eyes with Alex. “I’m not asking you to keep it from them altogether. Just don’t tell them until I can sort everything out. I need to make sure everyone’s safe before you turn that into the powers that be.”

“What makes you think that you can do a better job of protecting people than we can?” Alex asked.

“Just how do you expect to protect Isabel…or Liz?” Max asked. “Protective custody?”

“Despite what you may have seen in the movies, protective custody does work,” Alex said.

“Not this time it won’t,” Max said with certainty.

“And what makes you think that?” Alex asked.

“Because Eli has too many connections,” Max replied. “I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find that he has a few federal agents on his payroll.”

“I could protect them myself,” Alex said firmly.

Max took a deep breath as the leaned forward in his chair. “Alex…the reason I can protect them better than you is because I don’t have to play by the rules. You have to obey the law…I don’t. I can play just as dirty as they can.”

“Which brings me to another problem,” Alex said.

“Which is?” Max asked.

“You,” Alex said. “You’re an assassin. It’s my job – and my duty – to arrest you.”

“Then why don’t you?” Max asked as he leaned back and folded his arms across his chest.

“Look,” Alex said, bringing both hands up to rub his temples. “Even though we just met, I still consider you family. Besides me, you’re the only one Isabel has left, and she doesn’t even know you’re alive.”

“Why don’t we talk to her about this?” Liz suggested. “As much as you both would like to deny it, she’s involved in this mess too. Maybe we should get her opinion.”

Alex looked back and forth between Max and Liz before he let out a heavy sigh. “I guess we should. Besides, I can’t look at this during the day,” he said, holding up the disc. “I’ll have to go into the office at night.”

“I think Eli may have you’re house bugged,” Max said. “And I’m sure that he has some of his guys watching it just in case I show up.”

“My house is not bugged,” Alex said. “I do a sweep every week just to make sure.”

“You check for bugs every week?” Liz asked, surprised that he would be so paranoid about something like that. It wasn’t like he lived in L.A. or anything.

“The Bureau recommends it,” Alex said. “And since it’s free, I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for people watching my house…they’d have a hard time seeing anything. It’s pretty secluded, but just to be safe I’ll have another agent check it out. Our house is only one of three on the street, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a peeping tom.”

“I think it would be best if we all stuck together from here on out,” Max said. “If they’re watching your house, you, Isabel and your son may be in danger.”

“I have some vacation time that my boss has been pushing me to take,” Alex said.

“What about Isabel?” Max asked.

“She’s a doctor and has her own practice…but she also has a substitute that fills in whenever she can’t see patients,” Alex said. “All she has to do is make a phone call.”

“Then let’s go already,” Liz said. “We can work out the details on the way.”

They all agreed and slid out of the booth, making their way out to Alex’s car. After they had climbed in, Alex turned to Max who was sitting in the front with him. “I think I should warn you that Isabel is probably going to faint when she sees you.”

“Yeah,” was all Max said before he turned to look out the window. The guilt he had been carrying with him for the past ten years was now hitting him full force. Isabel had been put through so much pain…all because of him. Their parents died because of him. As far as Isabel knew, he had died as well. Now he was just going to show up on her front doorstep after ten years and change her life once again. As Alex pulled out and drove down the street, Max kept thinking to himself: ‘What kind of brother am I?’

******************

“Jacob, pick up your toys, honey,” Isabel said as she stepped over some of her son’s Tonka trucks. She walked into the kitchen and glanced out the window, surprised when she saw Alex pull into the driveway with two other people in the car. She glanced at the clock on the microwave, confused as to why her husband was home at four o’clock in the afternoon. Normally he didn’t come home until six. “Jacob…daddy’s home!”

“DADDY, DADDY, DADDY!” Jacob yelled as he ran for the front door.

Isabel smiled at her son as she turned to look out the window again. Alex had gotten out and was walking toward the front door, but the other two people with him just sat in the car. She tried to see who it was, but the windows of the sedan were tinted, making it nearly impossible to see inside.

“Hey there big guy!” Alex said as he leaned down and picked up his son.

“Daddy!” Jacob said enthusiastically as he wrapped his arms around his father’s neck.

“Have you been a good boy for mommy?” Alex asked, pulling back and looking at his son.

Jacob nodded his head emphatically, a smile on his face. “Yup.”

“That’s my boy,” Alex said as he walked into the house, his son still in his arms.

“Hey hon,” Isabel said as she walked up to her husband and placed a soft kiss on his lips. “You’re home early.”

“Yeah…something came up,” Alex said, putting his son down.

“Who’s that in the car with you?” Isabel asked, looking out the front door at the car parked in the driveway.

Alex looked out at Max and Liz, then back at his wife. “I need to tell you something,” he said, reaching out and taking both of Isabel’s hands in his own. “I know it happened a long time ago, but I just found some information on what really happened to your brother.”

Isabel gasped as she looked at her husband. “M…Max?” she asked, her eyes wide. “H…how did you find out? Do those people in the car know what happened to Max?”

“Yeah…those people in the car definitely know what happened to Max,” Alex said. He held onto Isabel’s hands firmly as she tried to pull away and run towards the car. Alex knew just how bad Isabel wanted to know what really happened to her brother, but he wanted to prepare her for what she was about to see. “Babe, listen to me,” he said, forcing Isabel to look at him. “Before I let you go, I want you to brace yourself for what you’re about to see and hear.”

“Why?” Isabel asked, glancing out at the car again.

“You’ll see,” Alex said as he let go of Isabel’s hands and picked up his son instead.

Isabel looked back at Alex and Jacob for a second before she started to walk towards the car. As she got closer, the car door opened up and a man stepped out. It only took a second for Isabel to realize who it was. She stopped mid-step, her breath catching in her throat as her eyes met Max’s. She placed a hand over her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes, her entire body starting to shake. She just stood there, staring at her brother for what seemed like hours. Her feet refused to move, and apparently so had Max’s because he was just standing there staring back at her.

After an eternity, Isabel finally took a step towards Max as her bottom lip started to quiver. That one step soon turned into a dead sprint as she ran over to her brother as fast as she could, tears streaming down her face. Max was only able to take one step forward before Isabel launched herself at him, knocking him back against the car. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him so tight she practically suffocated him.

Max closed his eyes as he wrapped his arms around Isabel. She was sobbing uncontrollably and he could tell that her legs had given out on her. He held her close, making sure she didn’t slump to the ground.

“MAX!” Isabel wailed as she held onto her brother with all her remaining strength. “Thank God I still have you!” She was crying so hard that that was the last thing she could say before her sobs refused to let her speak.

“I’m here Iz,” Max said, burying his face into his sister’s hair. He forced his tears back, not wanting anyone to see him cry, especially Liz. For some reason he didn’t want to show weakness in front of her, and crying was definitely a sign of weakness.

Isabel pulled back from her brother once her legs where steady again. She looked over every inch of his face as she reached out and traced his features with her fingertips. She was still crying, but not nearly as hard as she had been before. “I thought I lost you,” she whispered.

“I know,” Max whispered back, his eyes roaming over Isabel’s face. Sure he had seen her before, but that was always from a distance. Now that he was close enough to touch her, he could really see her…and she looked great.

“Why don’t we all go inside,” Alex said gently as he walked up behind Isabel.

Isabel turned to Alex and Jacob, then back to Max. “There’s so much I need to tell you. It looks like you’ve already met my husband Alex, but I’d like you to meet my son…”

“Jacob Maxwell Evans,” Max finished for her, causing Isabel to look at him in confusion. Max was in a trance as his eyes met those of his one and only nephew. It amazed him that he could see so much of his sister in the little boy.

“H…how did you know?” Isabel asked quietly.

“Honey,” Alex said, wrapping his free arm around his wife. “There’s a lot you need to hear. Why don’t we go inside so Max can explain it to you.”

Isabel let Alex lead her into the house, leaving Max and Liz standing alone in the driveway. Max just stared after them, unable to move at the moment. He didn’t snap out of his trance until he felt Liz’s small hand start to rub his back soothingly.

“You okay?” Liz asked gently, her eyes glued to Max’s.

Max turned and stared at Liz as if he was trying to find something hidden in her eyes. He had looked into those eyes before, but for some reason this time was different. It felt like he was seeing Liz for the first time - really seeing her instead of just looking at her. The amazing thing was…he never noticed just how beautiful she really was. Sure she was attractive, but he was just now realizing how beautiful she was on the inside, and it nearly floored him.

“Max?” Liz asked, raising an eyebrow in concern.

Max shook his head once before he looked back over at the front door of his sister’s house. “No…I’m not okay.”

“What’s wrong?” Liz asked, her eyes never leaving Max’s face.

“Everything’s my fault,” Max said. “I don’t think she’ll forgive me when she finds out that I killed our parents.”

“You did NOT kill your parents,” Liz said. “Max…look at me.” She waited until he turned to face her before she continued. “Eli killed them when you refused to be his puppet. You were only trying to do the right thing.”

“I’ve tried to blame Eli,” Max said, his gaze falling to the ground. “But every time I try, I always end up blaming myself. If I had just cooperated in the first place, my parents would still be alive today. Isabel will think I’m a monster after she finds out.”

“Max,” Liz said gently as she reached out and placed a finger under his chin, lifting his head until their eyes met. “If you tell her what really happened, you’ll see that she doesn’t blame you. You have to believe me when I say that it’s not your fault. When I first heard you tell me that story, never once did I think that you were at fault. And judging from Alex’s reaction, neither did he. You have to have some faith in your sister, and in yourself. You have to realize that it wasn’t you fault or you’re going to drive yourself crazy.”

“I’m already crazy,” Max muttered to himself, smiling despite himself.

“That may be,” Liz said with a smile as she reached up and cupped Max’s cheek in her hand. “But you’re a really good person. There’s no one I’d rather have protecting me than you. I trust you and as long as my life is in your hands, I know that I’m safe.”

Max’s smile deepened as he continued to stare into Liz’s eyes. “You’re something else, you know that?” he said as he reached up and grabbed Liz’s hand off his cheek. He laced his fingers through hers as he turned and looked at the front door once again.

“Ready?” Liz asked, making no attempt to pull away from him.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Max replied before he led the two of them into the house.

Part 8

When Max and Liz walked into the house, Alex led them into the living room. Max looked around the house on his way, noticing that there were pictures of himself everywhere. They were on the walls, on the tables, even on the fridge.

As he and Liz walked into the living room, he saw Isabel sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth slightly with her son on her lap. She had been staring off into space until he walked in, then her eyes immediately locked on him.

“Please, sit down,” Alex said, motioning toward the couch.

Max walked over and sat next to Isabel while Liz sat on the other side of Max. Max waited until Alex was seated in a nearby chair before he began.

“I’m sure you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past ten years,” Max said, looking directly at his sister. Before he could continue, Jacob reached over and touched his face as if to make sure that he was really there.

“Your Uncle Max,” Jacob said with certainty, a smile forming on his lips.

Max just stared at his nephew for a few seconds before Isabel’s voice broke the silence.

“That’s right honey. This is your Uncle Max.”

“You found him mommy,” Jacob said, smiling up at his mother.

Isabel tried to smile at her son, but had to cover her mouth with her hand when her bottom lip started to tremble and a tear rolled down her cheek. She looked up when she felt Max wipe the tear away with his thumb, looking him straight in the eyes. “Yeah baby…I found him.”

******************

Max spent the next hour or so retelling the story that was his life. He was now coming to the part about their parents dying, and he hesitated for a few seconds, unsure if he should tell her the truth about their deaths. In the end, he decided to be honest.

“…Eli came into my cell and ordered the other men out,” Max said, carefully watching Isabel for her reaction. “He placed a chair in front of me, sat in the chair and then pulled out the front page of a newspaper from his coat pocket. He told me that I forced him to do something he didn’t normally do, which was get my family involved. He turned the newspaper around and I can still remember exactly what the headline said. It read: ‘Two People Killed In Accidental House Fire’.”

Isabel had been on the verge of tears ever since Max started telling his story, but upon hearing that her parents were murdered, she promptly burst out into tears.

“Daddy,” Jacob said quietly as he climbed off Isabel’s lap and walked over to Alex. “Why is mommy crying?” he asked, his bottom lip trembling as he looked back at his mom, unshed tears glistening in his eyes.

“It’s okay bud,” Alex said as he reached out and picked up his son, sitting him down on his lap. “Mommy just found out some sad things about Grandma and Grandpa Evans.” After a short pause, Alex decided to give Max and Isabel some space. “Tell you what,” he said to his son. “Why don’t we go into the kitchen and have some ice cream. Maybe our new friend Liz would like some too.”

“Can I have two scoops?” Jacob asked excitedly.

“You sure can,” Alex said with a smile. “Care to join us Liz?”

“I’d love to,” Liz said, knowing full well that what Max needed was some time alone with his sister.

“Lets go then,” Alex said, setting his son down. Jacob immediately ran for the kitchen with Liz following.

“Take your time,” Alex said as he reached over and squeezed Isabel’s hand.

Isabel smiled up at her husband, trying her best to show him how much she appreciated what he was doing for her.

“He’s really great,” Max said as he watched Alex leave the room.

“Yeah…he is,” Isabel agreed. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I ever would have made it through…” She let her sentence drop off, not wanting to talk about the death of their parents right then.

“I’m so sorry Iz,” Max said, his gaze falling to the floor.

“For what?” Isabel asked gently.

“Everything,” Max said, refusing to look her in the eye. “For what happened to mom and dad, for you having to live the past ten years thinking I was dead…”

Isabel silenced him by reaching over and taking one of his hands in her own. “It’s not your fault, Max. You always did try to do the right thing, and this was no different. If you had known that this Eli guy was going to kill mom and dad, you would have done everything in your power to stop him. I know that. And even though I’m pissed that you let me think you were dead for the past ten years, I understand why you did it. You were just trying to protect me…like you always did when we were younger.”

Max hesitantly looked up into his sisters’ eyes, afraid of what he would find reflecting in them. He was afraid to find out exactly what Isabel thought of him now. When he did though, much to his surprise, he saw no signs of hatred or blame. The only things he saw were love and understanding.

“I just need to know one thing,” Isabel said uncomfortably. “I know you said that all the people you’ve killed were bad…you know, like drug dealers and murderers…but do you still kill people?”

Max looked over to where he could hear Liz and Alex talking. The truth was he never wanted to kill people in the first place, and now that he had Liz in his life, he had a way out. He had a way to quit for good. “I never wanted to kill people in the first place,” he said, turning back to his sister. “The only reason I did was because I could justify killing a drug lord or someone who enjoyed taking another’s life. But I never, not once, killed an innocent person. That’s why I wouldn’t kill Liz. With her in my life now, I have a way out for good. I’m not going back to that life, Iz. I’m not going to kill again unless someone I care about is in danger.”

*************

By the time Max had finished explaining everything it was dark out. They all decided to head out as soon as possible, just in case Eli knew their whereabouts. Max stood watch in the dinning room window while the others packed their suitcases. Liz helped Isabel pack some things for Jacob, wanting nothing more that to get out of town as soon a possible.

As Alex packed his car with luggage, Isabel buckled Jacob into his car seat in the back. Once Alex was done packing the car, he walked back into the house to get Max.

“We’re ready whenever you are,” Alex said.

“If we leave town, how are you going to look at the disc?” Max asked as he scanned the room, making sure they had everything they were going to need.

“We can stop by my office on our way out,” Alex said. “If we need more time than that, there’s a field office in Albuquerque. The only problem is that I don’t work there so I can’t just waltz in and use their equipment without a case number. That means we’ll have to break in at night.”

“Not a problem,” Max said as he walked toward the front door, looking out the dinning room window one last time. He stopped dead in his tracks when his eyes landed on two cars that were parked out on the street. “Where are the others?” he asked with urgency.

“In the car waiting for us,” Alex said, looking out the window to see what Max was staring at. “OH SHIT!” he exclaimed when he noticed the cars as well.

“Get them out of here,” Max said, making a dash for the front door with Alex right behind him.

“Are we ready to go?” Liz asked as she stood next to Alex’s car.

“GET IN THE CAR!” Alex yelled, jumping over the hood of the sedan to get to the drivers seat faster.

“What’s going on?” Liz asked Max who was racing toward her.

“Just get in and go with Alex,” Max said, pushing Liz into the car.

“What about you?” Liz asked Max, refusing to let him close the car door on her.

“I’m going to get their attention while Alex gets you out of here,” Max said, trying to force the door closed.

“I’m not leaving without you,” Liz said with determination.

“We don’t have time for this,” Max said. “I promise that I’ll meet up with you guys at the FBI building.”

“I’m not leaving without you,” Liz repeated.

Max glanced up toward the street, noticing that four men where now getting out of the cars. “Fine. Scoot over.”

As soon as Liz moved over, Max shut the door and yelled for Alex to go.

Liz yelled out for Max as she lunged for the door handle, but before she could open it, Alex threw the car in reverse.

Alex punched the gas, backing out of the driveway as fast as he could. “Keep your heads down!” he yelled as he made it up to the street and threw the car into gear. He ducked as bullets shattered the rear window, cursing under his breath as he turned onto a different street, away from danger. “Is everyone okay?”

“LET ME OUT!” Liz demanded.

“Liz, there is no way I’m letting you out of this car,” Alex said, looking over at his wife who was sitting beside him.

Isabel turned in her seat to make sure Jacob was all right. He was crying, but uninjured.

“We can’t just leave Max back there,” Isabel said to her husband.

“I know,” Alex said. “I’m going to take you guys to my work, then I’ll go back for him.”

***************

As Alex pulled out of the driveway, Max ran over to the middle of the lawn and dropped to a knee. He pulled out his gun, took aim at one of the four men on the street and pulled the trigger, hitting his intended target in the head, killing him. Before he could shoot again, the other three turned from shooting at Alex’s car and shot at him instead.

Max ran over to the side of the house and ducked behind a stack of firewood. He glanced around the wood, noticing that the three men were splitting up. One was going down the driveway while the other two headed towards the neighbors yard, most likely to make their way to the back of Alex’s house.

Max made a dash for the side of the house before anyone could see him, quickly running over to the back door and inside the house. He kept low as he walked over to the dinning room window, noticing that the guy who had run down the driveway was looking behind the firewood for him.

“Sorry for the window Alex,” Max whispered as he pointed his gun at the guy and fired one shot, killing him but shattering the window in the process.

“Two more,” Max muttered to himself as he turned to head out the back door. As he approached the door, he saw one of the men crouching down in the bushes. He scanned the backyard hoping to find the other guy, but frowned when he couldn’t see him.

Max decided to head out the front door so he had a better chance to ambush the guy in the bushes. He wanted answers so if he could take one of the remaining two alive he would.

As soon as he opened the front door, he spotted the other guy heading up the driveway. The two of them surprised each other. They both just stood there, staring at each other for a second before instinct took over. They both scrambled for cover as they shot blindly at one another. Max dove behind the stack of wood again while the other guy was forced to lie as flat on the ground as possible, for he had nothing to hide behind.

Max kept his eye on the side of the house, just in case the other guy decided to join the party. He didn’t have to wait long before he heard the bushes behind him shake. He decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to rush the guy bearing down on him with the hopes that he could disable him before getting shot.

Max ran for the side of the house, turning the corner just as the intruder came into view. Max reached out and grabbed the guys arm, the one holding the gun, and in one swift move he had applied pressure to all the right spots, breaking the guys arm at the elbow. The intruder let out a howl of pain as he dropped his gun and fell to the ground holding his elbow.

Max picked up the guys gun and turned to see if the last intruder was heading in his direction. To his surprise, Max found that the last guy was running up the driveway towards the cars, trying to get away. Max ran out to the front lawn and took aim, shooting at the guys retreating form. What Max didn’t know was that someone was in the car with a gun pointed right at him.

One shot rang out from the car as the last intruder scrambled into the sedan. Max fell to the ground, holding his side as he heard the car speed away. He silently cursed himself for being so stupid. Running out in the middle of the lawn without knowing if anyone was still in the car was the dumbest thing he had done in years.

He struggled to sit up, wincing from the pain. He looked down at his right side to see how bad he was shot, but there was too much blood to see anything. He stumbled to his feet, making his way back over to the spot where he had left the guy with the broken arm. He let out a heavy sigh when he found that the guy was gone.

“Damn,” Max muttered as he glanced around, hoping to find where the guy had hobbled off to…but he was nowhere to be found.

**************

After Alex had locked his wife, son and Liz inside one of the remote offices in his building, he headed back to his house for Max. When he got there, he was surprised to find a dead body lying in the middle of the road. He knew that the police were going to be there any second, so he had to make sure that Max was out of the house. As he pulled into the driveway, he saw that not only was there another dead body lying in front of his house, but his dinning room window was also shattered. He quickly got out of his car and ran towards the house.

“MAX!” Alex yelled.

Max came walking out of the house with his bag, more that a little surprised to see Alex there. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came back for you,” Alex said.

“Where are the others?” Max demanded as he and Alex climbed into the car. They could both hear the sirens in the background getting louder and louder by the second.

“I made sure they were safe,” Alex said.

“There is no ‘safe’ anymore,” Max muttered as Alex threw the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway. He screeched to a halt on the street as he threw the car into gear and sped away.

“Where those friends of yours?” Alex asked after they had successfully avoided the police.

“Yeah, those were definitely Eli’s men,” Max said. “We need to get out of town as soon as possible.”

“All we have to do is stop by my office to pick up the others,” Alex said.

Before long, Alex pulled into the parking lot of his office, not bothering to shut off the engine. As he and Max ran into the building, he noticed for the first time that Max was bleeding. “You’re hit,” he said, pointing down to the wound on Max’s side.

“I’m fine,” Max said. “Let’s just get the others and get out of here.”

Alex led the way to the top floor and then over to the office he had locked the others in. As soon as the door opened, Liz ran up and hugged Max, pulling back abruptly after she heard him hiss in pain.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, looking down at the side he was now holding.

“Nothing,” Max said. “We need to get out of here.”

“Nothing?” Liz asked in disbelief, seeing for the first time that blood was soaking through his shirt.

“Let me take a look at that,” Isabel said, handing her son to Alex.

“We don’t have time for this,” Max said sternly.

“The sooner you let me look at your side, the sooner we can leave,” Isabel said, locking eyes with her brother.

“Fine,” Max muttered as he took off his shirt.

Isabel tilted a desk lamp to light up the area she wanted to look at. “Jesus Max. You’ve lost enough blood to give a transplant.”

“It’s that bad?” Alex asked, shielding his son’s eyes from the wound as he peered over Isabel’s shoulder. He didn’t want Jacob to see all the blood and then start throwing up all over the place.

“Well…the good news is that the bullet didn’t hit any major organs and it passed straight through, so we don’t have to worry about a chunk of lead being stuck in there,” Isabel said, wiping as much blood away from the wound as she could using Max’s already stained shirt. “The bad news is that he needs a few stitches to close that up.”

“The only thing we have around here is a first aid kit,” Alex said.

“Get it,” Isabel instructed. “Maybe I can find some industrial strength butterfly bandages or something.”

Alex handed Jacob to Liz before he ran out of the office and returned a few seconds later with the first aid kit. Isabel rummaged through it but only found a bottle of disinfectant and some normal Band-Aids. “Damn,” she muttered. “I don’t suppose any of you have dental floss.”

“Dental floss?” Liz asked. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why Isabel wanted dental floss.

“Yeah,” Max said, suddenly feeling very weak. “Since we don’t have the normal materials to stitch up this wound, we could use dental floss and a sterile needle instead.”

“What about your office?” Liz asked Isabel. “Did you bring your keys with you?”

“Yeah,” Isabel answered. “My office is only a couple of blocks away.”

“We have to be careful,” Alex said. “The cops were just arriving at our house when Max and I left, so they’ll probably check our work places very soon; which means that we have to get out of here fast.”

“I’ll be fine,” Max said as he took a step towards the door.

Liz quickly handed Jacob back to Alex before she rushed over and wrapped her arm around Max, just in case he needed help.

Isabel wiped her hands clean as she followed everyone outside to the car. “I need to get him to my office.”

“I know,” Alex said as he handed his son to Isabel and then climbed into the car with everyone else. “I’ll park around back and stay in the car with Jacob. Just hurry.”

Before long they came up to Isabel’s office, where Alex proceeded to park in the alleyway behind the building. Liz helped Max out of the car as Isabel turned to her son.

“Jacob, I want you to stay in the car with daddy, okay?” Isabel said in a sweet voice.

Jacob nodded as he sat in the front seat, on the verge of tears. He had no idea what was going on, but he had seen the blood on Max’s shirt so he knew that his uncle was hurt.

“Come here big guy,” Alex said, pulling his son into his side after the others had left. “You okay?”

Jacob nodded as his lower lip started to tremble.

“It’s alright bud,” Alex said with a forced smile. “Uncle Max just got a little cut, that’s all.”

“He has a ouwie?” Jacob asked softly.

“Yeah,” Alex replied, still smiling. “It’s just a little ouwie. You’ve had a few of them before, haven’t you?”

Jacob nodded as he pointed to his right elbow. “I had a ouwie right here.”

“I remember,” Alex said, looking out the window. “It hurt, didn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Jacob said, nodding his head. “It hurt a lot. But mommy kissed it and made it better.”

Alex just smiled as he kept his gaze fixed on the street. “Come on honey,” he mumbled. “Hurry up.”

*************

Max and Liz followed Isabel into the office and over to an examination room.

“Sit,” Isabel instructed, pointing to the table in the middle of the room. “I need to grab a few things so I’ll be right back. Liz, keep pressure on that wound.”

Liz nodded as she pressed on Max’s side with both hands. Once Isabel was gone, she looked up at his face. “You know, you deserve this for what you did to me.”

Max looked at Liz, confusion evident in his eyes. “What did I do?”

“You tricked me,” Liz said. “And you lied to me. You told me to move over so you could climb in the car, then you slammed the door shut and told Alex to drive away.”

“Liz…I only did what I thought was safest for you and the others,” Max said. “If I hadn’t stayed behind, those guys would have climbed back in their cars and chased us. They would have run us off the road.”

“Maybe,” Liz said, looking down at Max’s wound. “But I guess we’ll never know.”

“Okay,” Isabel said as she walked back into the room. She put some supplies down on the counter before she turned to Max. “It looks like the bleeding has gone down a bit. Lets get you stitched up, then get the hell out of here.”

To Be Continued…..

Part 9

“Where are we going Max?” Alex asked after everyone was back in the car and on the road out of town. He was driving while Isabel and Jacob sat next to him on the bench seat up front, Max and Liz in the back.

“We need to find out what’s on that disc,” Max said, feeling a little tired. He figured it was from the loss of blood.

Liz noticed that Max’s eyelids were getting heavier and heavier by the second. He fought to stay awake but his body refused to let him. She reached over and pulled on his shirtsleeve to get his attention. “Here,” she said, patting her lap after he looked over at her.

Max was too tired to protest, so he did what he was told and laid down – on his good side - resting his head on Liz’s lap. It didn’t take long before he was out cold.

“Maybe we should find a place to rest,” Isabel said after looking back at her brother. “Max could use a bed right now.”

“I just want to get away from Roswell,” Alex said, looking in the rearview mirror. “I know a small motel on the way to Albuquerque. It’s so secluded there’s no way anyone will find us there.”

Liz ran her hand through Max’s hair, thankful that he was alive. She found it hard to believe that just a few days ago she had been scared to death of the man resting on her lap, but now she was trying her best to take care of him. Deep down she knew that she had fallen hard for Max, but the amazing thing was that she wasn’t the least bit surprised about it. She had never really been in love before, but the feelings she had for Max couldn’t be described any other way. She just prayed that he felt the same way about her.

**************

An hour or so later, Alex pulled into the parking lot of a slightly run down ma and pa motel. He parked the car and then turned to look at Liz, who was still staring down at Max’s sleeping face. “Um…Liz?”

“Huh?” Liz replied, looking up and noticing for the first time that the car had stopped.

“I…um…well…I was just wondering if I…should we get separate rooms for you and Max?” Alex asked uncomfortably. He wasn’t exactly sure how close Max and Liz really were.

“No,” Liz said with a smile. “I kind of want to keep an eye on him, you know?”

Alex smiled as he nodded. “Okay. I’ll be right back then.” He disappeared into the front office, leaving Liz in the back seat with Max sleeping on her lap while Isabel sat up front with Jacob sleeping on hers.

“Isabel?” Liz asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Isabel said as she turned to look at Liz.

“Can I ask you something?” Liz said, smiling when she remembered that it drove Max crazy whenever she asked him that.

“Sure,” Isabel said with a smile.

“I know that your last name before you were married was Evans, and I heard Max say that Alex’s last name is Whitman. So that means your last name is Whitman, right?” Liz asked.

“I hyphenated it actually,” Isabel said. “My name is Isabel Evans-Whitman.”

“Oh,” Liz said, pausing for a second. “I was just curious why Jacob has Evans as his last name instead of Whitman.”

Isabel smiled when she answered. “Max and I were the only children our parents had. Both our parents were only childs themselves, so once my grandparents died, we were the last of the Evans’. I always thought that one day Max would have children to carry on the family name, but when I was told that he and my parents had died, I was the last one left. I didn’t want my family name to die with me.”

Liz nodded as she tucked her hair behind her ears. “Alex was okay with that?”

“He said he was,” Isabel answered as she looked at Alex through the window. He was still talking to the people in the front office. “But I’ve always had the feeling that he wishes it could have been different.”

“What about his family?” Liz asked.

“He has two brothers and a sister,” Isabel said. “Not to mention the numerous uncles and aunts, so his family name will live on for years. He knew how important it was to me, to have my family name go on, so he agreed realizing that his was in no jeopardy of disappearing.”

Liz just nodded again as she watched Alex walk back to the car.

“Okay,” Alex said as he climbed in. “I got two rooms right next to each other. The entire motel is empty except for us, so I took the two on the far end, farthest from the highway.”

Alex drove the few yards it took to get to their rooms, hiding his car behind the building as best he could.

By this time Max had started to wake up, though it took him a few seconds to get his bearings. “Where are we?” he asked in a groggy voice.

“A motel on the way to Albuquerque,” Liz said. “We all need to sleep, so Alex pulled over.”

Max nodded as he slowly got out of the car. Liz wrapped her arm around his waist as soon as she could, helping him into their room.

After sitting Max down on the bed, Liz went out and grabbed their suitcases. She dropped them near the dresser, then turned and shut the door, locking it. She took a deep breath as she turned around, her eyes focusing on Max. He was still sitting exactly where she had put him, his shoulders slumped, his chin resting against his chest. As she walked up she could see that his eyes were closed, but judging from his breathing he was still awake.

“Let’s get you into bed,” Liz said as she grabbed Max’s shirt and helped him take it off.

“But there’s only one bed,” Max said, finally opening his eyes to look at Liz. “I’ll just sleep on the floor.”

“I don’t think so,” Liz said with a laugh. “I’LL sleep on the floor.”

“I don’t think so,” Max said with a half smile. “If you don’t take the bed, I guess we’ll both be sleeping on the floor.”

“Tell you what,” Liz said with a sigh. “Why don’t we share the bed? It is a queen size after all.”

“As long as you’re comfortable with that,” Max said.

“Oh I’m more than comfortable with it,” Liz muttered as she looked down at Max’s bare chest.

“Say what?” Max said with a full-blown smile. “Care to repeat that?”

“No,” Liz said with a smile of her own before she turned to get some things out of her suitcase. “I’ll only be a minute, then the bathroom’s all yours,” she said, leaving Max alone in the room.

“Come on Max,” Max whispered to himself. “You’re just sharing a bed to sleep. There’s no reason to be nervous.” He just sat on the edge of the bed while he waited for Liz to finish up. When she was done, she walked out of the bathroom wearing light blue silk pajamas.

The two of them exchanged smiles as they passed each other, Liz on her way to the bed, Max on his way to the bathroom.

Liz pulled back the covers and slipped into bed, leaning back against the headboard while she waited for Max. “Come on Liz,” she said to herself. “You’re just sharing a bed to sleep. There’s no reason to be nervous.” She didn’t have to wait long before Max poked his head out of the bathroom.

“Um…Liz?” Max asked.

“Yeah,” Liz said, leaning forward in bed.

“My bandage is kind of soaked,” Max said. “Do you think you could help me change it? I would do it myself but it hurts whenever I twist to…” he cut his sentence short when Liz smiled and slid out of bed.

“Isabel said we need to change it regularly,” Liz said as she walked over and grabbed the first aid supplies that Isabel had given her, then pulled Max back into the bathroom with her. “Lets just take this one off,” she said as she started to pull the old bandage off. She glanced up to see if Max was in any pain from the tape that was surely ripping his hairs out, but just as she had suspected, his expression gave nothing away. “Does it hurt?”

“Well it sure doesn’t tickle,” Max said as he watched Liz throw the old bandage way.

After they had put a new dressing on his wound, they both walked back into the bedroom. Liz slid back under the covers while Max just stood by his side of the bed, a little unsure what to do.

“I don’t bite,” Liz said with a giggle after she saw Max’s hesitation.

Max let out a chuckle as his eyes shot to the floor. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Don’t be,” Liz said as she pulled back the covers for him and patted the bed, telling him to climb in.

Max opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead he climbed into bed gingerly, trying his best not to aggravate his gunshot wound. He laid on his back, staring at the ceiling while Liz got up and turned off the lights. The moon was shining brightly through the window so they could still see each other’s expressions clearly.

Liz slid back into bed, lying on her back like Max, staring at the ceiling, unsure what to do next. ‘Go to bed,’ she told herself. But instead of listening to that little voice in her head, she turned on her side and looked at Max who was still wide awake.

“Is this the first time you’ve been shot?” Liz asked out of nowhere.

Max looked over at Liz and stared at her for a second before he answered. “No. I’ve been shot once before.”

“Where?” Liz asked.

“I was in St. Louis for a weekend…” Max began, only to stop his sentence short when he heard Liz start to giggle.

“No…I mean where on your body,” Liz clarified with a smile.

“Oh,” Max said with a smile of his own. “Right shoulder.”

“How long ago was that?” Liz asked as she kept her eyes locked on Max’s.

“Four years ago,” Max said. “But the ironic thing is that my getting shot had nothing to do with my profession. I was hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting.”

“So you’ve never been shot because of what you do?” Liz asked.

“Not until today,” Max said as he glanced down at his side.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Liz asked, looking Max over carefully.

“Do you always worry this much?” Max asked with a smile.

“No…the last time someone I cared about got shot I laughed,” Liz said sarcastically.

Instead of laughing at Liz’s joke, the smile on Max’s face slowly faded as he continued to stare at her.

“What?” Liz asked, a little worried about the look Max was giving her.

“You really care about me?” Max asked in disbelief.

Liz just stared back at him for a few seconds before she asked a question of her own. “Why is that so hard to believe?”

“Just look at me,” Max said, addressing himself with disgust. “I’ve killed people. I mean, just a few days ago I was pointing a gun at you.”

“You said yourself that you would never kill an innocent person,” Liz said. “As for the people you have killed…it’s not like you had a choice in the matter.”

Max turned and stared at the ceiling again, remaining silent for several minutes. When he finally turned to look at Liz again, he found that she had yet to take her eyes off of him. “Have you ever wondered what would happen if we had met under different circumstances?”

“What do you mean?” Liz asked, her brow furrowing together in confusion.

“Well,” Max said, turning on his side to face Liz fully. “What if we were two normal people who met at a bar, or at a party, or even out on the street? How would things turn out between us?”

Liz couldn’t believe her ears. Max was telling her, in his own unique way, that the thought of them together as a couple had crossed his mind. “Why would the circumstances have to be different?” she asked softly. “Why not ask how things will turn out between us the way we are now?”

“Liz,” Max said with a defeated sigh. “As much as I would love to think that things could work out between us, the bottom line is that there’s no way they could.”

“Why not?” Liz asked quietly.

“My life will always be dangerous,” Max said. “Maybe yours doesn’t have to be. If we play our cards right, there’s still a chance you can go back to your old life again. You’d be safe.”

“Why couldn’t you come with me?” Liz asked. “If we play our cards right, it could happen.”

“People will always be looking for me,” Max said. “The longer I stay in your life, the more dangerous it will be for you. For years I’ve lived with the knowledge that my life will always be that way. I couldn’t bare to bring you into it; I couldn’t bare to hurt you.”

“But that’s not your decision is it?” Liz asked gently, her eyes lowering to Max’s lips. “I know who you really are and I want to be with you. I don’t care about anything else.”

“This could never be normal, Liz,” Max said, not realizing that he and Liz had slowly started to lean in towards each other.

“What’s so great about normal?” Liz asked as she reached up and cupped Max’s cheek in her hand.

“Liz…I don’t think we…” Max began, only to be interrupted.

“Shut up,” Liz said before she closed the distance between them, gently brushing her lips against Max’s.

The two of them pulled back slightly and looked at one another. Max completely lost control when he saw Liz’s eyes lower to his lips again. He leaned in and started to nibble on her lower lip, their kiss intensifying as their mouths opened to one another, their tongues meeting, creating sensations that neither had felt before.

Liz pushed Max onto his back before she gently straddled his hips, careful not to bump his wound. She began to kiss a trail down his jaw line to his neck, then down to his chest.

Max knew that he should stop them before things got out of hand, so he pulled Liz back up his body. Liz shook her head as her eyes met Max’s. “Please Max. I want you in my life more than anything in the world. Please give us a chance.”

After seeing the pleading look in her eyes, Max knew he could deny her nothing. He didn’t want to. He wanted the exact same thing Liz did. He reached out and wrapped his hand behind her neck, gently pulling her down into a kiss.

It didn’t take long for things to heat up. Liz ran her hands over Max’s body, cursing under her breath when she heard him hiss in pain, realizing that she had gotten carried away and had accidentally hit his wound. “Sorry,” she said with a wince. “Let me kiss it and make it better.” She lowered herself down Max’s body, planting kisses on his stomach and all around the clean bandage on his side. Max laid his head back against the pillow, not knowing how much more he could take before he ripped Liz’s pajamas off.

“Liz,” Max mumbled. “If…if you don’t stop now…I’m not sure I can keep my hands off you.”

“Then don’t,” Liz said as she sat up, still straddling Max’s hips. She unbuttoned her shirt and took it off, then leaned over and attacked Max’s lips again.

Before long they were both completely naked. Max hesitated to go any further as he looked up into Liz’s eyes. “Are you sure?”

“Completely,” Liz said with a smile. “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”

****************

After their love making, Max laid on his back with his arm wrapped around Liz, who had her cheek resting against his chest as she absentmindedly drew patterns on his stomach with her finger.

“What are you thinking about?” Liz asked.

“I’m thinking about how much my life has changed in the past few days,” Max said as he began to run his hand through Liz’s hair.

“What do you mean?” Liz asked, smiling against his chest.

“Before I met you, I had a different way of thinking,” Max said. “I always wondered when my time would come, you know. When would someone take me out? I even had dreams, or rather nightmares, about it.”

Liz remembered the night she had stayed up at the cabin and had caught Max whimpering in his sleep, then listened as he cried after he finally woke up.

“My dreams would always be the same,” Max continued. “I would be in this big open field, covered with grass. There would always be an object in the middle of the field that I would be walking toward, yet I have no idea what that object is. Before I can reach it, someone would call out my name from behind me, causing me to stop and turn around. Things from here on out would always be in slow motion for some reason.

“There would be two figures standing there, looking at me. I always go to take a step towards them, but one of them would pull out a gun and start shooting. I glance down at my chest and there would be blood everywhere. I look back up at the two figures momentarily before I fall to the ground. It’s weird because at this point I can hear Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heavens Door’ playing in the background.

“Anyway…I just lie there, staring at the clear blue sky as a bright light starts to overtake my vision. I can see people in the light, beckoning me to go with them. The people get closer and closer until I can finally make out their faces. There are two people standing in front of the others, and they’re my parents. When I’m close enough to touch them, my mom always reaches out and cups my face in her hands. I turn to look at my dad and he’s smiling at me.

“Then everything changes. Everything turns dark around me, and when I look to my parents for help, I can see the blame and hatred in their eyes. They start asking me why I killed them. They say that they’re ashamed of what I’ve become and that I’m not their son. I cover my ears to block them out, but that only makes their voices louder. I plead with them to stop, begging for their forgiveness. And just when I feel like I can’t take anymore, I wake up.”

“Do you still blame yourself for their deaths?” Liz asked, tilting her head back so she could look into Max’s eyes.

“You know, for the longest time I did,” Max said. “Now I realize that while I may not have killed them with my own hands, my actions caused their deaths; so in a way it is my fault. I realize that at the time I had no way of knowing what would happen to them, but no matter how I look at it, I’m the reason my parents are dead.”

“But like you said, you had no way of knowing that Eli would take things to that extreme,” Liz said.

“Yeah, I know,” Max admitted. “That’s the only reason why I don’t hold myself solely responsible.”

“You shouldn’t hold yourself responsible at all,” Liz said.

“Maybe,” Max said with a shrug. “But it’ll never happen.”

To Be Continued…

Part 10

Max laid awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, his mind running a million miles a minute. He glanced down at Liz who was sleeping on his chest, her breath coming out in soft puffs on his stomach. He kissed the top of her head before he moved out from underneath her, laying her head softly on the pillow as he tried not to wake her. Liz moved around a bit, mumbling something incoherent, but didn’t wake up.

Max winced as he stood up from the bed, instinctively covering his wound with his hand. He pulled on a pair of cargo pants from his suitcase before he walked over and stood by the window. It was about four in the morning and the moon was shining brightly in the sky above.

He took a deep breath as he looked out the window, realizing that everything was different now that he and Liz had given in to their feelings for each other. Things were more complex now, a lot more complex. How was he supposed to protect her like this? All Eli had to do was barge in on them during an intimate moment and everything would come to an end. Max would literally be caught with his pants around his ankles.

They had to be careful. Max wasn’t about to throw away what he and Liz had just started, but they had to be smart about the situation they were in. They could still be together, they just couldn’t take things all the way like they had done a few hours ago; at least not until everything was sorted out. Max glanced over at Liz, her bare back exposed for him to see. “Yeah right,” he mumbled to himself. “I’d have more luck trying to part the Red Sea than I would trying to keep my hands off of her.”

As Max turned to look out the window again, he noticed Alex walk out of his room next door, taking a seat on the top step of the porch.

“M…Max?” Liz asked in a groggy voice. “What are you doing? Come back to bed.”

Max looked over to find that Liz was now sitting up in bed, holding the sheet to her chest with one hand while she rubbed her eyes with the other. He smiled as he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling Liz onto his lap.

Liz let out a sigh as she snuggled into Max’s embrace, a smile lighting her lips as she buried her face into the crook of his neck, inhaling his unique scent.

“Go back to bed,” Max whispered. “I’m going to talk to Alex.”

“But it’s four in the morning,” Liz said after she glanced at the bedside clock. “I don’t think you should wake him up.”

“He’s already awake,” Max said as he tucked Liz’s hair behind her ears. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Okay,” Liz said as she slid off Max’s lap and laid down in bed again. “Hurry.”

“I will,” Max said with a smile, running the back of his hand down Liz’s cheek as she closed her eyes to sleep again. He took a deep breath as he got up, threw on a shirt and some shoes, then walked out the door to talk to Alex.

Alex had been staring off into the darkness of night, trying to clear his head. He now had to answer questions once he got back to Roswell - questions that might end up getting him fired. He had two dead bodies at his house, leaving his boss with no explanation as to what happened. He had told everyone at the office that he was taking vacation, but now he was nowhere to be found, neither was Isabel or Jacob. And to top it off, he was about to break into a federal building in Albuquerque so he could break an encryption code on a disc, illegally withholding any information he may find on that disc from his superiors. This was not a good week for Alex Charles Whitman.

Alex turned when he heard a door open and watched as Max made his way over, sitting beside him. “Morning,” Alex said as he turned to look out over the dessert again.

“Yeah,” Max said, glancing up at the starlit sky. “What brings you out here?”

“Clearing my head,” Alex replied. “You?”

“Same,” Max said as he picked up a few pebbles from the ground, tossing them back to the earth one by one, aiming at nothing in particular. “How are Isabel and Jacob holding up?”

“Isabel is…well, she’s Isabel,” Alex said, glancing over at Max. “She always hits the ground running no matter what. But Jacob’s only five, so naturally he’s spooked. He doesn’t know what’s going on and I can tell that he’s scared…as he should be.”

Max nodded as he threw the last of the pebbles to the ground.

“What about Liz?” Alex asked. “How’s she doing?”

“She’s amazing,” Max said, raising his gaze to look out over the dessert. “I have no idea how she does it, but she’s got more courage and determination than anyone I know.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Alex said. “What about you? How’s your side?”

“It’ll heal,” Max said with a shrug. “Alex, listen…I don’t want you to feel obligated to help me. I mean, I’m asking you to break the law here. If we get caught breaking into that FBI building in Albuquerque, you’ll be lucky if you just get fired.”

Alex smiled as he reached up and itched his jaw line. “Well, I’m an optimist Max. I’m going to ‘will’ it not to happen.”

“You’re going to ‘will’ it?” Max asked with a half smile.

“That’s right,” Alex said with determination. “We’re not going to get caught because I say we’re not.”

“Are you feeling okay? Have you gotten any sleep tonight?” Max asked, eliciting a smile from Alex.

“Probably as much as you have,” Alex replied. The two of them remained in silence for a few minutes before Alex let out a heavy sigh. “Today’s going to be a long day.”

“Yeah,” Max agreed. “We need to head out of New Mexico as soon as we’re done in Albuquerque.”

“How long has it been since you tried to contact Eli?” Alex asked.

“I talked to him the day before yesterday,” Max replied. “I’ll try again tonight. He’s wiring me some money into a bank that’s located in Cabo San Lucas. That’s probably where we should head next. Do you guys have passports?”

“I do,” Alex said. “But Isabel and Jacob don’t.”

“Not a problem,” Max said. “Liz doesn’t either. I know a guy who can take care of it.”

“You said that Eli’s transferring you some money?” Alex asked, watching as Max nodded in response. “How much are we talking about?”

Max looked over at Alex before he answered. “Twenty million.”

“T…twenty million?” Alex asked in astonishment. “As in dollars?”

Max shrugged as he tilted his head to the side slightly. “What can I say? The information on that disc is valuable. That’s why I need to know what’s on it.”

“If it’s worth twenty million dollars then we better make a copy of it,” Alex said. “If we can crack the encryption code that is.”

“How far are we from Roswell?” Max asked out of nowhere.

“An hour and a half, maybe two hours away,” Alex answered. “Why?”

“I need to go back an get some things,” Max said.

“ARE YOU CRAZY!” Alex exclaimed, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that his sudden outburst didn’t wake anyone up. “Are you crazy?” he asked again in a hushed voice. “After what just happened? The Feds will be everywhere.”

“But they don’t know who I am,” Max said. “That’s why you, Isabel and Jacob can’t go with me. If I go by myself, the police won’t notice me. I’ll just be another tourist passing through town. Besides, I’m not going to be there long.”

“What about Liz?” Alex asked.

Max smiled as he looked back toward the room that Liz was sleeping in. “I’d like her to stay here with you guys, but I have a feeling that if I don’t wake her and ask her to go with me, she’ll kick my ass later.”

“Okay, there’s one problem here,” Alex said. “We only have one car.”

“If I leave now, I’ll be back by nine or ten,” Max said. “Could you just hold out here until I get back?”

“Yeah,” Alex said with a sigh. “I just hope your friends don’t pay us a visit.”

“They’re after me and Liz, not you guys,” Max said. “Besides, I know Eli. I used to work for him so I know how he operates. I have no doubt that he’s already pulled his men out of New Mexico. He has no idea where we are or where we’re heading. The only thing he knows is that I’ll be in Cabo San Lucas in a few days, so he’ll regroup and make his next move there.”

“I hope you’re right,” Alex said.

“Trust me,” Max replied.

************

“Liz,” Max said softly, rubbing her cheek with the back of his hand. “Wake up.”

“Hmm,” Liz mumbled as she turned onto her back. “Why aren’t you in bed with me?” she asked, her eyes still closed.

“I need to go somewhere,” Max said. “You can either come with me, or you can stay here and sleep.”

“Where are we going?” Liz asked, making no attempt to get out of bed.

“Back to Roswell,” Max said.

Liz’s eyes slowly opened and she stared up at Max to see if he was kidding. “Are you serious?”

“I need to,” Max said. “I left some things behind that I’m going to need. You don’t have to come with me if you….”

Before Max could finish his sentence, Liz had climbed out of bed and had started getting dressed. “I take it we’re leaving now,” she said as she ran a brush through her hair.

“Yeah,” Max replied. “I want to be back here no later than ten.”

“Let’s go then,” Liz said as she grabbed the motel room key off the dresser and walked outside. She saw Alex standing by the car, apparently waiting to talk to Max. She smiled at him as she climbed into the passengers seat and waited for Max herself.

Max followed Liz, checking to make sure the door was locked on his way out. As he walked up to the car, he saw Alex pull something out of his pocket.

“Here,” Alex said, handing him a cell phone. “I programmed Isabel’s cell number into the phone. Give me a call every so often so I know you’re alright.”

Max nodded as he took the phone. “We’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Be careful,” Alex said. “And don’t get pulled over. The last thing we need is for a gung-ho deputy to run a check on the license plate. He’ll be poking around in something that’s way over his head.”

“Yes dad,” Max joked with a smile as he climbed into the car. “I’ll see you in a bit.” He backed the car out of the parking spot and pulled onto the road that led to Roswell.

***********

The car ride to Roswell had started out a quiet one. Liz slept for the first hour, only waking when she felt Max slow down. She opened her eyes and found that he had just come upon a slow driver and was waiting for an opportunity to pass. She glanced over at him, wondering if she should offer to drive the rest of the way so he could get some rest.

Max looked over at Liz and smiled as he reached out and placed his hand on her thigh. “Your awake.”

“Yeah,” Liz replied with a smile of her own as she glanced out the windshield. If he was tired, he sure didn’t show it. “I don’t know how you do it,” she said, looking back over at Max.

“Do what?” Max asked, confusion etched across his face.

“Function without any sleep,” Liz replied. “I’d be a wreck by now if I tried to stay up all night.”

Max smiled as he pulled out and passed the slower car in front of him. “I don’t think I’ve had a descent nights sleep in ten years. I guess you just get used to it.”

Even though his expression gave nothing away, Liz still caught the underlying tone of sadness in his voice. She wasn’t sure if she was just getting better at reading his emotions through his voice, or if he was actually opening up to her a bit. Either way she was happy because it meant that the two of them were getting closer. “Did you want me to drive?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Nah,” Max said with a slight shake of his head. “I’m good. Thanks though.”

“Sure,” Liz replied as she reached up and started to rub the back of her neck. Sleeping in a car was definitely not therapeutic.

“Your neck sore?” Max asked, noticing Liz’s actions.

“A little,” Liz replied as she slowly rolled her head around in a circle.

“Here,” Max said as he reached over and gently began to rub her neck.

Liz let out a soft moan as her eyes fluttered shut, her head falling forward slightly to give Max better access to her neck. “I don’t know how you do that either.”

“What? Give a massage?” Max asked, amusement evident in his voice.

“No,” Liz moaned out. “I don’t know how you always manage to heal me with your hands.”

Max smiled lovingly at Liz, even though she couldn’t see him.

“God, I wish we were back at the motel right now,” Liz said as she placed her hand on Max’s thigh.

It was then that Max’s smile slowly disappeared. He stopped rubbing Liz’s neck, causing her to whine in protest, and placed it on the steering wheel instead. “Listen…Liz, we need to talk about something.”

“What’s that?” Liz asked, opening her eyes to look at Max.

“Us,” Max said simply.

“Oh,” Liz said, suddenly realizing that the talk they were about to have was not one that she was going to like. She took her hand off Max’s thigh and placed it on her lap, her head lowering slightly as her gaze fell to the floor of the car. “Us. I should have known this was coming.”

Max looked over at Liz and realized that he had given her the wrong impression. She thought that he was going to end their relationship – end it before it even began. “No, no…it’s not what you think,” he said quickly, reaching over and taking one of her hands in his own, interlacing their fingers together. “I’m not going to back out on you…on us.”

“Then what is it?” Liz asked, her gaze slowly rising to look at Max’s face.

Max took a deep breath as he alternated between looking at the road and looking at Liz. “It’s just that…I think we need to be more careful.”

“More careful?” Liz asked. “Hey, I know we didn’t use protection last night, but I thought we…”

“No, no…that’s not what I mean,” Max said, smiling to himself. He definitely needed to improve on his ability, or lack thereof, to state exactly what he meant. “I think we need to be more careful about how far we let things go between us…sexually.”

“Why?” Liz asked.

“It’s hard to explain,” Max said, letting go of Liz’s hand and putting it on the steering wheel instead. “It’s just that when we’re close, I get so wrapped up in you that I start to tune out everything else around me. I’ve always been alert…I always know what’s happening, but when I’m with you…I feel like I’m not in control anymore.”

“And you always have to be in control?” Liz asked seriously.

“When it comes to protecting you…yes,” Max said, glancing over at Liz.

“You can’t always control what happens, Max,” Liz said. “Nobody can.”

“That may be,” Max said. “But I’ll be damned if I willingly put you in danger. I’ll die before that happens.”

“And you think that I’ll be safer if we refrained from making love?” Liz asked, trying to understand.

“Liz,” Max said, starting to feel frustrated from his inability to explain how he really felt. “When we’re close, I have no control over what I feel or do. I feel like…I feel like you’re the one controlling me.”

“Me?” Liz asked in confusion.

“I have these feelings for you that I’ve never felt before,” Max said. “I’ve been alone for so long that I developed a wall around myself and I never let anyone in. But with you, that wall is non-existent. I’d do anything for you. If you told me to jump, I’d ask how high. If you told me to bark like a dog, I’d ask what breed. I feel like you’ve put this…this force on me…and it scares me.”

“You’re not the only one who feels that way,” Liz said as she reached over and began to lightly message the back of Max’s neck. “You don’t think that I’d jump off a bridge for you? I would. I’ve never felt this way about anyone either, but it’s not about being in control. Just let yourself feel. You said that you weren’t going back out on us, so don’t start by trying to dictate how fast our relationship moves. Just let things happen. I know it’s a big step for you, but just remember that you’re not in this alone. Everything that you feel for me, I feel for you. Besides, what are the chances that Eli will barge in on us during an intimate moment? He doesn’t even know where we are.”

Max let Liz’s words sink in, finally letting out a heavy sigh as he glanced over at her. “You’re right. The chances that Eli knows where we’re at are slim to none. I know I’m just being paranoid and overly protective, but when it comes to you and Isabel I can’t help it. The only thing I can promise you is that I’ll try. I’ll try to just let things happen between us, but don’t get mad if I try to take control. When you live a certain way for ten years it becomes habit.”

“Don’t worry,” Liz said with certainty. “If you start to get controlling, I’ll put you back in your place.”

Max couldn’t help but smile at Liz’s attitude. It didn’t matter what mood he was in, she always knew exactly what to say to get him to smile.

“I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here,” Liz said, eyeing Max carefully. “We’re not going to make a conscious effort to keep our hands off each other, are we?”

Max chuckled as he shook his head slightly. “Truthfully, now that I think about it, I doubt it would make the least bit of difference if we tried. I’ve found my biggest addiction in life, and it is you, Liz Parker.”

To Be Continued…

Part 11

As soon as Max pulled into Roswell, he headed straight for his storage unit. He wanted to get his stuff and leave as soon as possible.

“So what is it we’re getting here?” Liz asked as Max parked the car.

“You’ll see,” Max said, climbing out of the car. He walked up to his storage unit, looked around to see if anyone was watching, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a remote of some sort. He pointed the remote at the door and waited a few seconds until he heard a beeping sound, immediately followed by the sound of a heavy lock disengaging. He pulled the door open and looked around at his stuff, making sure it was all there.

“That’s a pretty high tech lock you got there,” Liz said, pointing at the remote in Max’s hand.

“I can’t take the chance that someone might break in here,” Max said. “If anyone tried to open the door without the remote…well, let’s just say that they’d be in for a big surprise.”

Liz looked around the unit, noticing that it was packed full of military supplies. “What can I do?”

“Back the car up as close as you can,” Max said, handing Liz the car keys. He started to gather everything he was going to need, along with a few things that he prayed he wouldn’t. When Liz had the car backed up, he opened the trunk and began to pack his stuff in. He threw in a couple of bulletproof vests, some cloths, a few guns, some ammo…etc. He made sure to grab his passport and all the paperwork he would need, then he closed the trunk.

“Is that it?” Liz asked.

Max eyed his motorcycle for a second but quickly decided to leave it. “Yeah. Let’s get out of here.” After locking his storage unit, he and Liz climbed into the car and headed out. “We need to make one more stop to get gas.”

“Good because I’m starving,” Liz said, holding her stomach.

“We passed a small diner on our way into town,” Max said, heading in that direction. “There was a gas station across the street from it.”

A few minutes later, Max and Liz found themselves sitting on a couple of barstools in the Blue Star Diner, waiting for the food they had ordered. When the waitress finally brought it over, Max pulled out his wallet to pay the bill while Liz turned her attention to the TV. The news was on.

“…cover story, an FBI agent from Roswell, New Mexico has gone missing, along with his wife and child.”

“Max,” Liz whispered, nudging him. When he turned to face her, she pointed at the TV.

“Authorities arrived at the home of Special Agent Alex Whitman late last night, after neighbors reported hearing gunshots. Two bodies were found at the scene, both having died from a single gunshot wound to the head. While the identities of the victims have not yet been released, the FBI fears that this may have been a professional hit. Special Agent Whitman was last seen leaving the FBI building on Monroe St. late yesterday afternoon with a man and a woman. The man is described as being well built, dark haired, standing about six feet tall and weighing about 170 lbs. The woman is described as petite, dark haired, standing about five feet, three inches tall and weighing about 105 lbs. Anyone who has any information on this case is encouraged to contact the FBI immediately.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Max said, grabbing the food with one hand while leading Liz towards the door with the other. They jumped in the car and sped away from Roswell as quickly as they could without drawing attention to themselves.

****************

Alex paced back and forth in his motel room, glancing at his watch every 30 seconds or so. He had just been watching TV and had seen pictures of himself posted on nearly every station. His concern for Max and Liz was growing by the second.

“Honey, I’m sure that everything’s fine,” Isabel said, trying to calm her husband down. She was sitting on the bed with Jacob, watching as Alex grew more and more impatient by the second.

“They should have been back by now,” Alex said, glancing out the window. Just then, Max and Liz pulled up out front.

“See? Everything’s fine,” Isabel said, standing from the bed.

Alex quickly made his way out the door and over to the car. “Are you guys okay?”

“Yeah,” Max said, giving Alex a strange look. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“I thought you’d be here an hour ago,” Alex said, leading the way back into his motel room. “Did you get everything you needed?”

“More or less,” Max said. “We need to hit the road. Your picture’s all over the news.”

“We know,” Isabel said, pointing at the TV.

“Do you think the people in the front office know who we are?” Liz asked, suddenly feeling a little panicked.

“I have no idea,” Alex answered.

“The sooner we get to Albuquerque the better,” Max said, picking up Isabel’s suitcase that was sitting near the door. “Once we get there, we can bunker down in another motel room until tonight.”

As Max and Alex packed everything into the car, Liz went to turn in the keys and pay for the rooms. Although she couldn’t be sure, it didn’t look like the people running the motel had any idea who they were. That didn’t calm her nerves though.

Max drove up to the office and picked Liz up, then headed out toward Albuquerque.

***************

Later that night, Isabel and Liz sat on a bed in another motel room as Max and Alex got ready for their criminal endeavor. Jacob had fallen asleep next to Isabel about an hour earlier and was currently snoring softly.

“So you guys are going to be in and out, right?” Liz asked. She didn’t need to voice her concern, it was evident in her facial expressions.

“That’s the plan,” Max said as he began to zip up his utility vest. Both he and Alex were decked out in all black, including facial paint and beanies.

“So you should be back here in what, an hour?” Liz asked.

“I’m not sure,” Max said with a lopsided grin. “Don’t worry,” he continued, kneeling down in front of Liz. “I’ve done this type of thing hundreds of times before.”

“Yeah, well, that was before,” Liz said, reaching out and zipping Max’s vest up the rest of the way. “I just don’t want you to hang around over there any longer than you have to. Break the encryption on the disc, make a copy, then get out,” she said, locking eyes with him.

“That’s all we’re going to do,” Max said. “I promise.”

As Max and Liz conversed, Isabel stood up and walked over to Alex. “Are you sure about this?” she asked in a whisper. “You could get into a lot of trouble if you guys get caught.”

“Then I guess we better not get caught,” Alex said, giving Isabel a smile.

“I’m serious, Alex,” Isabel said, giving her husband a worried look.

“Look,” Alex said, placing his hands on Isabel’s shoulders. “I can’t turn back now. The reason I joined the FBI in the first place was to uphold the law. I know that may sound kind of contradictory seeing as how I’m about to commit a felony, but this is the only way we can figure out what’s going on. People have died because of the information on that disc, so that leads me to believe that whatever it is we’re about to uncover is bigger than I could possibly imagine. Hopefully we’ll know more in a couple of hours.”

Isabel just nodded before she pulled Alex into a hug. “Be careful.”

“I’ll see you in a little while,” Alex said before he walked over to the door.

“You come back to me,” Liz said as she stood up and pulled Max into a hug. “And be careful with your side. I better not see any blood when you come back.”

“Okay,” Max said with a smile. He gave Liz a quick kiss, chuckling when he saw that some of his face paint had smudged onto her nose. He reached out and wiped it away, running the back of his hand down her cheek before he and Alex walked out of the room.

“They’ll be fine,” Isabel said as she wrapped her arm around Liz, hoping that by saying it out loud she could convince herself.

“Yeah,” Liz replied as she wrapped her arms around herself, keeping her eyes glued to the door that Max had just walked out of.

*************

“There shouldn’t be too many people inside at this time of night,” Alex whispered as he and Max crouched down next to an office window on the backside of the FBI building. “I’m not so sure we should go in through a window though; they all have alarms.”

“Not a problem,” Max said as he took out some putty from his pocket, along with a thin piece of metal and a pocketknife. He slid the metal piece under the window and secured it with the putty before taking his knife and picking the lock.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Alex said.

Max smiled as he slid the window up, giving Alex a wink when it was clear that the alarm wouldn’t go off. “After you.”

“You’ll have to show me how to do that some day,” Alex said as he climbed in, followed by Max. The two of them carefully made their way into the building and out into the hallway.

“The room I need is on the second floor,” Alex said, heading for the stairs. He carefully made his way up to the desired floor, checking the hallway to make sure it was clear before walking out of the stairwell. He came up to the computer room and found himself unsurprised when he noticed that the door was locked.

Max pulled out a lock-pick set from his vest pocket and went to work on the lock. In a matter of seconds he had the door open. Alex quickly went to the nearest computer and turned it on, taking the disc from Max before sitting in the chair to work on the encryption.

“This is strange,” Alex said, his brow furrowed together in confusion.

“What?” Max asked, glancing at the computer screen over Alex’s shoulder.

“The encryption code,” Alex said, throwing Max a quick look. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so simple. It’s almost as if the person who programmed this wanted it to be broken.”

“How long will it take you?” Max asked as he walked over to the door to make sure nobody was coming.

“It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes,” Alex said as he began to type things into the keyboard.

“I don’t think we have that much time,” Max said, his voice a little panicked. “Someone’s coming.”

Alex quickly shut the monitor off, ducking under the desk as Max dove headfirst to the floor, scrambling behind a filing cabinet. They both sat perfectly still as they heard the door open, then watched as the light from a flashlight passed briefly across the room before flickering out. A few seconds later the door opened and closed again, indicating that the visitor was now gone.

Alex let out a deep breath before he peaked over the desk to make sure they were alone.

“That was close,” Max said as he made his way over to Alex. “Let’s hurry up and get out of here.”

A few minutes later, Alex had successfully de-encrypted the disc and had made a copy. He stuck both discs into his pocket before he turned off the computer and followed Max down the stairs. They slipped out the same window they entered through, with Max making sure to remove the putty and metal strip he had used to deactivate the alarm before quietly disappeared into the night.

*************

“So you guys didn’t have any problems?” Isabel asked. Max and Alex had just gotten back from their outing and were currently busy setting up both of their laptop computers.

“Nope,” Alex said with a smile.

Everyone turned their attention to Max’s screen as he signed onto the Internet to make contact with Eli.

>Is the money ready for pick-up?<

>Yes. After you have your money, the branch manager will ask you for the disc. I am giving him a verification drive just to make sure you don’t hand him the wrong one.<

>Fine. You should have your disk in a couple of days.<

>I’ll be waiting, Max.<

“Yeah, I bet you will,” Max said as he logged off and closed his computer.

“When are we going to leave?” Isabel asked as everyone turned their attention to Alex’s computer.

“I’m going to pick up everyone’s fake passports tomorrow morning,” Max said. “I already reserved us some seats on a plane that leaves tomorrow night. Which reminds me…I need to cover a few things with everyone. I figure the safest, and easiest, way to pull this off is to say that we’re all going on vacation. Alex and Isabel, you two are still going to be married, as are Liz and I. If we travel as married couples it raises less suspicion. I also think that it would be best to pretend that Jacob is mine and Liz’s. The entire state is looking for the three of you right now, so if we pass Jacob off as ours, it’ll only help our cause.”

“I agree,” Alex said. “I also think it would be best to check in separately and keep a low profile.”

“Will Jacob be alright with us?” Liz asked. “The last thing we need is for him to start calling out to his mom and dad while we’re in the middle of customs. It might make a few people suspicious seeing as how Max and I are supposed to be his parents.”

“He’ll be fine,” Isabel said with a smile. “I’ll explain everything to him.”

“Good,” Max said, nodding toward the computer. “Let’s have a look at that disc.”

“Right,” Alex said as he pulled the disc out of his pocket and put it into the computer. A few keystrokes and mouse clicks later, they were all staring at the fieldwork of Liz’s former co-worker, Sean Wallace.

“Rhyolite, Nevada?” Isabel asked as she skimmed the field reports. “Where the hell is that?”

“Near Las Vegas,” Max said, scanning the photos on the screen. “That’s Eli,” he said, pointing at one of four pictures. “But who’s that with him?”

“OH…MY…GOD!” Alex said slowly, his mouth falling open as his eyes widened.

“Alex,” Isabel said, pointing at the same picture that had Eli in it. “Is that who I think it is?”

“Y…yeah,” Alex said in disbelief, turning to look at his wife. His eyes shifted to Max before he answered the question. “That’s my dad.”

To Be Continued…


posted on 7-May-2002 1:23:10 PM
Part 12

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…” Alex kept repeating as he paced the length of the room.

“Alex,” Isabel said as she sat on the bed next to Liz. “I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this.”

“What kind of explanation could there possibly be?” Alex asked, extending his arms out from his sides. “My dad belongs to a…a…a terrorist group. That’s what it is,” he said as he resumed his pacing.

“What does your dad do exactly?” Max asked. He was still sitting at the table in front of the computer, scrolling through a report.

“He’s in the military,” Alex said. “Army Intelligence.”

“The Army?” Liz asked as she turned to Max. “Isn’t that who recruited you out of high school?”

Max nodded as he sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest, a look of deep thought and concentration on his face.

“So what are you saying?” Isabel asked. “That Alex’s dad had something to do with ruining my brothers life? If that’s true, then that would mean that he also had something to do with my parents’ deaths.”

“Oh God, I think I’m going to puke,” Alex said as he clutched his stomach and ran for the bathroom.

“Nobody’s saying that,” Max said as he brought his hands up to rub his temples.

They all turned to look at the bathroom when they heard Alex throwing up. Isabel jumped to her feet and ran to help her husband. When they both emerged a few minutes later, Isabel was holding a damp washcloth on the back of Alex’s neck.

“Alex, sit down, please,” Max said as he stood up and motioned to the bed. When everyone was seated, he took a deep breath before he spoke again. “Look, the bottom line is that we have no idea why your dad was meeting with Eli. Any suggestion we may come up with is just going to be a half hazard guess, and I think the best way to tackle this is not to assume anything. For all we know, he may have been out there asking for directions.”

“I wish,” Alex muttered.

“There’s a few questions that I can’t seem to wrap my mind around,” Max said as he started to pace the length of the room, mimicking Alex’s movements from a few minutes earlier. He started to run off all the questions he had, talking more to himself than anyone else. He hoped that by saying them out loud he’d be able to think of the answers. “Who encrypted the disc? Was it Eli or this Sean guy? If it was Eli, how did Sean get a hold of it? Did Sean get a hold of it? Maybe Eli had it planted in Liz’s purse. But if that were the case, why would he be so eager to get it back? On the other hand, if it were Sean who put it in her purse, why did he choose Liz? Did he just stick the disc into the first purse he came across, or did he single Liz out? Think, think, think,” he said, scratching his forehead. “Okay…the disc has to belong to Sean, right?” he asked, turning to the other three for confirmation.

“I think so,” Alex said. “That’s the only explanation as to why Eli’s so hell-bent on getting it back.”

“Right,” Max said before he resumed pacing. “So that answers the next question: Who encrypted the disc? It had to be Sean as well. But why did he make it so easy to break?”

“Maybe he wanted it to be broken,” Liz suggested.

“If that were the case, why did he even bother to encrypt it in the first place?” Isabel asked.

“The encryption code was simple, but you’d have to know a little about computers to break it,” Alex said. “Your average Joe Blow wouldn’t be able to.”

“So maybe he encrypted the disc just to make sure that some idiot didn’t stumble across it on accident and delete it,” Liz said.

“Okay, here’s the next question,” Max said, standing in front of Liz. “Why did he choose you? I don’t think it was an accident, or that he just threw the disc in the first purse he came across. You said that he worked in a completely different division, located on the other side of the building than yours, right?” Liz nodded in response. “So he went out of his way to put it in your purse. He must have known that you weren’t an idiot, but there’s got to be more to it than that. Your entire office is filled with Ph.D.’s so I seriously doubt that he had a problem finding someone smart.”

After a few moments of silence, Alex spoke up. “It’s pointless to try and answer that question. I mean, realistically, we’ll never know why he chose Liz.”

Max nodded as he began to pace again. “Okay…here’s a question we can answer. Alex, where’s your dad stationed right now?”

“Washington, D.C.,” Alex replied. “Pentagon.”

“So we have you guys living in Roswell,” Max said, pointing at Alex and Isabel, “and your dad living in Washington, D.C. Liz lives in Boston, and the location that keeps popping up on that disc is Rhyolite, Nevada. God knows where Eli is, but put him aside and I don’t see any connections here. We have one person who works for the FBI, one for the Army, one for the molecular biology department at Harvard, and one that kills people for a living.” He continued to think for a minute when he suddenly stopped and turned to Liz. “What do your parents do?”

“They own a restaurant,” Liz replied.

“Where?” Max asked.

“Phoenix, Arizona,” Liz replied.

“Well there goes that theory,” Max said to himself.

“But my mom grew up in Roswell,” Liz added.

“You know, now that I think about it, my dad was stationed in Roswell a number of years ago,” Alex said. “He moved to Washington while I was still in college.”

“Okay,” Max said as he tried to piece everything together. “So now we have a connection with Roswell for some reason.”

“Maybe it’s just a coincidence,” Isabel suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Max said. “If it had been L.A. or New York then maybe. But Roswell’s far too small for this to be a coincidence.”

“I hate to interrupt, but do you think we could continue the brainstorming session tomorrow?” Alex asked. “I feel like crap and all this thinking is just making it worse.”

Isabel looked up at her brother for a second before she helped her husband into the bathroom.

Max grabbed his computer before he led Liz over to the door. “We’ll be back in the morning, sometime around eight or so,” he called out quietly, not wanting to wake Jacob.

“Okay,” came Isabel’s muffled reply. “Get some sleep.”

**********

Max stood near the window in his motel room, just staring out across the city. He had gone to bed with Liz a few hours earlier, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to rest with all the questions that were running around in his head. The only reason he tried in the first place was because he wanted Liz to fall asleep. Once she did, he slipped out of bed and made his way over to the spot he now occupied.

What does Alex’s dad have to do with all this?

That one question popped up more often than any other, and the one answer that kept rearing it’s head was the one that Max refused to accept – that Alex’s dad played a role in what happened to him and his parents. If that were true, then his dad also had to know who Isabel was when Alex first started to date her. That thought alone was enough to send shivers up Max’s spine. There had to be another explanation.

He ran a hand down his face before he folded his arms across his chest. He jumped a little when he felt a pair of arms delicately wrap themselves around his waist, obviously trying to avoid the bandage that still covered his gunshot wound. He looked over his shoulder when he felt Liz rest her cheek against his bare back, letting out a sigh in the process.

“Couldn’t sleep, huh?” Liz asked, her eyes closed.

“I just can’t wrap my mind around this,” Max said, looking back out the window. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know,” Liz said, maneuvering herself around until she was standing directly in front of Max. “But we won’t have any answers until we talk to certain people. I know it goes against your nature, but don’t beat yourself up trying to figure everything out. I’m sure everything will be answered in time.”

“That’s what my dad used to say,” Max said with a smile, looking down at Liz for the first time.

“Come back to bed,” Liz said as she pulled Max behind her, leaving no room for discussion. After they climbed in, Liz turned on her side so she was facing Max. “Can I ask you something?”

Max turned to look at Liz, giving her a half amused, half annoyed look. “I thought you were going to stop asking me that.”

“Oh…sorry,” Liz said with a shy smile. “Do…are you scared of dying?”

Max held Liz’s gaze for a minute before he answered the question. “I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t.”

“Why?” Liz asked.

“What’s with all the questions?” Max asked back.

“Please Max,” Liz said. “This is important to me.”

“Okay,” Max said, taking a deep breath as he collected his thoughts. “I’m scared to find out what’s waiting for me on the other side. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of, things that make most religious people certain that I’m bound for eternal damnation. I…I’m afraid to find out that they’re right.”

“But the only reason you did what you did was to protect Isabel,” Liz pointed out.

“But how do you justify killing one person to save another?” Max asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Liz replied honestly. “But I do know that you didn’t kill those people in cold blood. If you agreed to…to take care of them, they must have done something very bad. Sure you’ve killed people, but you’re not a murderer. You have to believe that.”

“I’ve always justified my actions by convincing myself that I was doing the world a favor,” Max said. “By killing a drug lord, I was saving numerous kids that were bound to fall into his trap. By killing a murderer, I was saving all the lives that he was bound to take. I still believe that I helped make the world a better place, but there are times that I feel just as low as those that I rid the world of.”

“Max, look at me,” Liz said, pausing until she could see his eyes shift to her through the moonlit room. “I’m still here, aren’t I? You didn’t kill me. You didn’t kill me because you knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. Despite what you may think, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well over the past few days. I know that you’re sweet, caring, and would rather shoot yourself than harm one hair on an innocent persons head. The fact that you have a conscience proves that deep down you’re the same person that you were ten years ago, before all this started.”

Max turned to look at the ceiling as silence filled the room. A few minutes later, he turned to look at Liz again, who still had her eyes glued to him. “Thank you, Liz.”

“For what?” Liz asked. “I’m only telling the truth.”

Max shook his head. “Not just for what you said, but for giving me a way out. You’ve given me an escape route from everything I desperately want to leave behind.”

Liz smiled as she snuggled into Max’s side. “Just promise that you won’t leave me behind too.”

“Never,” Max said as he wrapped his arms around Liz, planting a kiss on the top of her head. “Never.”

****************

The next morning was uncomfortably quiet for everyone. Max had met up with his contact around noon, picking up the fake passports for everyone but himself. When he got back to the motel, he found Liz in Alex and Isabel’s room with both of their suitcases sitting next to the door. He smiled, realizing that she had packed his stuff for him.

“Did you get the passports?” Alex asked, standing from the bed.

Max held up the passports before he passed them out to everyone.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Alex said, glancing up at Max. “It says here that I’m 50 years old. And look at my picture! I’m half bald, and the hair I do have is all gray…” He paused momentarily as he took a closer look at the picture on the passport. “No, make that white!”

“We have to change your appearance,” Max explained. “That’s the only way we’re going to get the two of you out of the country.”

“What about Jacob?” Isabel asked.

“He’ll be with us, so I don’t think anyone will think twice about it,” Max said. “They’re looking for the two of you, so I seriously doubt they’ll expect Jacob to hitch a ride with someone other than his parents.”

“Can we get back to the part about me being bald?” Alex asked. “You don’t actually expect me to cut my hair like that, do you?” he asked, pointing at the picture.

“Relax,” Max said with a smile. “Everything will be temporary. I know a little about disguise, including how to make a bald wig look real.”

Alex let out a sigh of relief, visibly relaxing. “What time does our flight leave tonight?”

“Six o’clock,” Max said. “Which means we need to get crackin’ on the makeovers if we’re going to get there on time.”

“What are you going to look like?” Alex asked his wife as he took a peak at her picture. “Not bad,” he said, nodding his head. “Kind of a mix between Cindy Crawford and Martha Stewart.”

“Oh no, you did NOT just go there,” Isabel said, glaring at her husband. Alex knew full well that his wife couldn’t stand Cindy Crawford because the model thought she was the best thing since sliced bread, and she couldn’t stand Martha Stewart because she could do everything Isabel couldn’t.

“Relax hun,” Alex said with a smile, giving Isabel’s shoulders a light massage. “I’m just trying to keep the atmosphere light.”

“By insulting me?” Isabel asked, turning to face her husband with an incredulous smile on her face.

“I was only kidding,” Alex said, holding his hands up in defense. “You and I both know that neither one of them can hold a candle to you.”

Isabel glared at her husband for a minute, her arms crossed in front of her chest. “Nice recovery,” she said, a smile slowly forming across her face.

“Thanks,” Alex said, a little cocky.

“But you’ve got a long way to go before you’re out of the dog house,” Isabel added before she walked away.

***************

The tour through the airport went a lot smoother than anyone had expected. Alex and Isabel looked so different, Max and Liz even had a hard time recognizing them once they got on the plane. Jacob had been the perfect soldier, not saying a word to anyone at the airport as Max and Liz took him through the terminal. He tried to act normal, just like his mom told him to. He refused to let go of Liz’s hand, even when she needed to reach into her purse for her I.D. Liz not only found it adorable, but she also found herself wanting a little boy just like him. She was rapidly nearing thirty and silently prayed that her and Max would have a chance at a normal life once everything was over.

Max was on high alert the entire time. He and Alex had little trouble coming up with a way to smuggle their guns onto the plane. They both carried Glocks, a gun made mostly of polymer, a special kind of plastic. The only things that were metal were the barrel and slide, which they easily hid in some special camera equipment that Max had, made solely for smuggling weapons. He had only had to use the equipment once before on a trip to Europe, but he was thankful for it now.

Max and Liz took their seats on the plane, three rows ahead of Alex and Isabel. They put Jacob in the seat between them, telling him that his mom and dad were going to be at the hotel room once they landed. The last thing Isabel wanted was for Jacob to see her and Alex the way they were now – older and completely different looking. The poor kid wouldn’t even recognize them.

Halfway through the flight, Liz glanced over at Jacob, smiling when she saw him sleeping against Max’s chest. Max had one arm wrapped around Jacob, the other propped up on the armrest as he held his chin in his hand. He was staring out the window, clearly deep in thought. She continued to watch him as his eyes danced around, focusing on nothing in particular.

“You okay?” Liz whispered, reaching over and touching Max’s shoulder.

Max turned his head quickly, surprised by the sudden question. “Yeah. Just thinking.”

“About what?” Liz asked.

Max glanced over his seat, briefly making eye contact with Alex before he turned back to Liz. “Listen Liz…I want you do be prepared for anything once we land. I have no doubt that Eli’s already down there waiting for me. I want you to understand that things probably aren’t going to go smoothly.”

“What do you mean by ‘smoothly’?” Liz asked.

“I mean…there’s a very good chance that I won’t walk out of that bank without someone taking a shot at me,” Max said. “I’m not sure how many men Eli has with him, but I do know that he won’t give up twenty million dollars without a fight.”

Liz nodded, wishing that the truth were different. Deep down she knew that things were going to be complex, but to hear Max say it out loud made the situation that much more real.

“That’s why I don’t want you anywhere near that bank tomorrow,” Max continued.

“But Max…” Liz began to protest, a pleading look on her face.

“Liz,” Max said, cutting her off. “I could never live with myself if anything ever happened to you.”

“But what if something happens to you?” Liz asked. “Do you think I could live with myself knowing that I didn’t do everything in my power to help you?”

“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” Max said. “Just because I said that things were going to be complicated doesn’t mean that I’m going to let Eli or one of his men kill me.”

“If someone shoots at you, I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do but pray that they miss,” Liz said.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Max asked with a smile. “I can catch bullets with my teeth.”

“Catch bullets with you teeth?” Liz asked with a smile, raising an eyebrow.

Max nodded. “It’s something I picked up from a monk living in the Tahoe area.”

“Oh please,” Liz said, rolling her eyes.

Max let out a laugh as he reached over and rubbed Liz’s arm. “Look…I want you safe. Please don’t be mad at me for that.”

“I’m not mad at you,” Liz said, covering Max’s hand with her own. “I just don’t want to let you out of my sight.”

Max smiled as he reached up and tucked Liz’s hair behind her ears. “To me, your safety comes first. I don’t think--“ he stopped his sentence short when Liz reached over and softly placed her index finger against his lips.

“Let’s worry about it tomorrow,” Liz said with a tiny smile. “Please?”

“Alright,” Max said with a smile of his own.

***************

Once they landed in Cabo San Lucas, Max and Liz, along with Jacob, grabbed their luggage and headed over to the hotel they were staying at. About a half an hour later, after getting rid of their disguises, Alex and Isabel knocked on the door.

“Mommy!” Jacob exclaimed as he jumped off the bed and ran for Isabel.

Isabel bent over and picked up her son, holding him close as she stood back up.

“You didn’t have any trouble at the airport, did you?” Max asked as he closed the door behind Alex.

“Nope,” Alex said, shaking his head. “Your make-up job fooled everyone.”

“Good,” Max said as he walked over to his suitcase that was sitting on the bed and opened it. “I think it would be a good idea if we took a stroll down to the bank, you know, to get an idea of the layout outside.”

“Is that safe?” Isabel asked. “Won’t Eli be looking for you?”

“I know he’s looking for me,” Max said. “But he won’t do anything until he gets the disc.”

“I don’t want to put Jacob in danger,” Isabel said. “I trust that you know what you’re talking about, but I don’t want to take the chance with my son.”

“Okay,” Max said with a smile. “Why don’t you and Liz stay here--”

“I’m going with you,” Liz said, interrupting Max.

Max turned and looked at Liz, realizing when she met his gaze head on that this was an argument he was bound to lose. “I know. I want you to go too, but it would be safer for Isabel and Jacob if you stayed here. I don’t want to leave her alone, and I think, especially at a time like this, that it would be best if nobody were by themselves. Please Liz,” he said, walking up to her and taking her hands. “I promise to take you down there as soon as Alex and I are done.”

Liz kept her eyes locked on Max’s the entire time, never once looking away. “You better.”

************

A short time later, Max and Alex got ready to leave for the bank. They both checked their guns, just in case things got a little hairy while they were out and about.

“Here,” Max said, handing Liz a third gun that he pulled out of his suitcase.

“Where did you get this?” Liz asked, looking at the gun in her hands.

Max just smiled. “It’s a secret,” he said in a hushed voice. He then turned to Isabel, who had just put Jacob to bed. “Do you know how to shoot a gun?”

“I hate guns,” Isabel said.

“Join the club,” Liz muttered.

“I highly doubt you’ll have to use it,” Max said as he took the gun from Liz, checked to make sure it wasn’t loaded, then handed it to his sister. “I just want you to know what to do if the circumstance arises.”

“You point it at the bad guy and pull the trigger,” Isabel said.

“In a nutshell, yeah,” Max said. “Just line up your sights and squeeze the trigger, don’t pull it.”

“What’s the difference?” Isabel asked. “Either way you get the job done.”

“If you pull the trigger, you have a tendency to pull your shots,” Max explained. “Just point the gun and squeeze the trigger without jerking it. You don’t have to worry too much about recoil because this gun has a compensated barrel.”

“What does that mean?” Isabel asked.

Max took the gun from his sister and showed both her and Liz the two slits that were on the top of the slide, near the end of the gun. “Without going into specifics, these slits help reduce recoil,” he explained. “It makes it a lot easier to get off a follow up shot if need be.”

Liz took the gun from Max since Isabel seemed reluctant to touch it. “We’ll be fine,” she said with a smile.

“We’ll be back in a little while,” Max reassured them as he handed Liz the magazine for the gun, then headed out the door with Alex. “Lock the door behind us.”

Liz did as Max had instructed, bolting the door closed as soon as the two men were gone. “Hurry back,” she whispered, running her hand down the door.

**************

As Max and Alex walked to the bank, they both kept an eye out for anything unusual.

“Let me ask you something,” Alex said. “What are you going to do when this is all over with?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Max said with a slight shrug. “Probably buy an island or something.”

“Seriously,” Alex said with a chuckle. “Are you going to stick around? I know it would mean the world to both Isabel and Jacob if you did.”

“I’m not sure I can,” Max said honestly. “I have no idea what options I’ll be left with after this. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to stay with Liz.”

Alex stopped walking then and placed a hand on Max’s arm, stopping him as well. “Wait a second…why wouldn’t you be able to stay with Liz?”

“Take a good look at me, Alex,” Max said. “I’ve got nothing to offer her but a life filled with danger. Sure we could run off, change our names and hide out for the rest of our lives, but what about her family and friends? I’m not going to let her give them up because of me.”

“Maybe she won’t have to,” Alex said as the two of them started to walk again. “I don’t know too much about the people you’re involved with, but I’m sure there’s some way you can walk away without fearing that you’ll get killed somewhere down the road.”

“I wish there were,” Max said. “All I know is that if there is a way to walk away like that, I haven’t thought of it yet.”

“Is that the bank?” Alex asked as he pointed to the building in front of them, changing the subject.

“That’s it,” Max said. “Tomorrow, I’m going to need you out here,” he said, motioning toward the café across the street. “We’ll be able to stay in touch using earpieces and miniature microphones that you can hide in your sleeve. I need you to be my eyes out here.”

“No problem,” Alex said. “Do you think that Eli will—” He cut his sentence short when he glanced over at Max and noticed a look of suspicion on his face. He followed Max’s gaze and soon found himself staring at a guy who was sitting on the bench in front of the gate that surrounded the bank.

Max slowly started to walk over to the guy, reaching under his coat and pulling out his gun as discreetly as he could. There were only a couple of people milling about, most of them off in the distance, but he just wanted to make sure he didn’t give anyone a heart attack by whipping out a firearm.

Alex followed Max’s lead, slowly taking out his gun as well.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Max asked as soon as they were standing in front of the guy on the bench.

Nicholas let out a laugh as he stood up. He had a gun in his right hand, but instead of pointing it at Max or Alex, he folded his hands in front of him, pointing it at the ground. “I knew you’d come by here tonight.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Max asked again, this time with more venom in his voice.

“What do you think?” Nicholas asked.

“You work for Eli, don’t you?” Max asked.

Nicholas laughed again, slowly shaking his head. “My dear boy, I don’t work for Eli. The reason I’m here is to make things as difficult for him as I can.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Alex said, holding up his free hand. “I’m not following. You’re an assassin, but you don’t work for Eli?” When Nicholas nodded, Alex asked another question. “Then who do you work for?”

“Myself,” Nicholas said. “You see, I’m Eli’s biggest competitor as far as contracts are concerned. I have quite a few people working for me, just like Eli has quite a few working for him. The only difference between us is that my men actually like their jobs. I don’t force people into this business like Eli does.”

“You said you were here to make things difficult for Eli,” Max said, noticing that there were about half a dozen men now surrounding them, all armed. “What does that mean exactly?”

“If you’re under the impression that I want you dead, you’re wrong,” Nicholas said. “In fact, I heard that you’re looking for a way out. Now we both know that Eli will never let you leave alive, so I figured I’d step in and try to help you out.”

“You want to help me?” Max asked with a mixture of disbelief and shock.

“We both know that Eli’s here,” Nicholas said. “In fact, I’m sure that either he or one of his men are watching us at this very second. What you want is to get your money and disappear, start a new life, and what I want is to get my hands on Eli.”

“So you want to use me as bait,” Max said.

“You’re bait whether you like it or not,” Nicholas said. “Surely you know that Eli will never let you leave the country with all that money.”

“So you’ll help me walk away if I help you get Eli,” Max said.

“If I’m able to take Eli out, I’ll have control over the two biggest companies in the business,” Nicholas said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

“How do we know that Eli didn’t send you?” Alex asked.

“Because if he did, you’d both be dead right now,” Nicholas said.

“But then he wouldn’t get the disc,” Alex said.

“What disc?” Nicholas asked. “I thought this was all about that little scientist you’re protecting.”

Max glanced over at Alex, trying to decide whether to let Nicholas in on the information or not. “The reason Eli wanted the scientist dead was because she had a disc in her possession. Suffice it to say that there’s information on that disc that would effect a lot of people…especially Eli.”

“Interesting,” Nicholas said, a smile spreading across his face. “And I assume you’ve already made a copy of that disc, right?” Max didn’t answer, which told Nicholas that he had. “What would it take to get my hands on that disc?”

“Can I talk to you for a second?” Alex asked Max.

Max nodded, following Alex past the group of men who had gathered around them.

“I’ve got two reservations right about now,” Alex said. “One, I don’t trust that guy any farther than I can throw him. Two, I don’t want to give him anything until I know why my dad’s picture was on that disc. I don’t want someone like him,” he said, pointing at Nicholas, “ruining my father.”

Max nodded as he turned to look at Nicholas. When he turned back to Alex, he had a smirk on his face.

“What?” Alex asked.

“I have an idea,” Max said. “Just follow my lead.”

To Be Continued…

Part 13

“I don’t know about this,” Alex said as he and Max made their way back to the hotel. “There are just too many variables. Too many things can go wrong with this plan.”

“Trust me,” Max said. “Even if something does go wrong, I can handle it.”

“But lying to Nicholas, someone who’ll kill you if he finds out…I’m not so sure that was the best idea,” Alex said.

“This is the only way I’ll be able to have a life with Liz without fearing for her safety,” Max said. “I’m willing to do anything to make that happen, even if I have to risk my own life in the process.”

Alex let out a sigh. He understood what Max was saying because he’d do the exact same thing for Isabel. “Let’s just hope nothing gets screwed up.”

Max stopped and placed a hand on Alex’s arm to stop him as well. “I need you to promise me something.”

“Sure,” Alex said with a nod.

“If something does go wrong…and something happens to me…would you protect Liz?” Max asked. “I need to know that she’ll be safe if I’m not around.”

Alex nodded, knowing that Max didn’t want him saying things like, ‘It’ll be okay’ and ‘Nothing’s going to happen to you.’ He knew, just as Max did, that there was a very real possibility that something would go wrong and that something might happen to him. “Yeah. I’ll take care of her.”

Max nodded his thanks before he and Alex made their way up to the room. Before he walked in, he turned to Alex. “Don’t mention this to either of them. The less they know, the safer they’ll be.”

Alex nodded, completely agreeing. As much as he hated keeping secrets from Isabel, he knew that this was one that needed to be kept.

Liz and Isabel turned when the two men walked into the room, both letting out a sigh of relief in the process.

“Thank God,” Isabel said as she stood up from the bed and hugged Alex.

“What took you so long?” Liz asked as she walked over and started to play with the buttons on Max’s jacket.

“I just wanted to show Alex the streets around the bank,” Max said. “I wanted to make sure he knew where everything was.”

“You’re still taking me down there, right?” Liz asked.

“Yeah,” Max said. “Grab your jacket.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” Alex said, fearing that Nicholas would still be around.

“Don’t worry,” Max said, giving him a wink before he turned to Liz. “Ready?”

“Let’s go,” Liz replied with a smile.

************

Max took a different route to the bank, making sure that he didn’t walk out in the open. He showed Liz the bank from a distance, explaining exactly what would happen there the next day.

“So where do you want me?” Liz asked.

“With Isabel and Jacob at the hotel,” Max said, knowing that she would fight him on that one.

“Okay,” Liz said, completely catching him off guard.

“Come again?” Max asked in shock. “I thought for sure you’d give me grief about it.”

“I think it would be best if I stayed at the hotel,” Liz said. “If something does go wrong, it would be a lot easier for you and Alex to slip away by yourselves. The fewer people we have around here tomorrow the better.”

Max just stared at Liz with a smile on his face.

“What?” Liz asked, catching his look.

Max shrugged before he answered. “This is the first time you’ve ever agreed with me about the safety issue.”

“I just want to make things as easy for you as possible,” Liz said. “I know that if I’m hanging around here tomorrow, you’ll just worry about me…even though you shouldn’t,” she said, giving him a pointed look.

“Hey,” Max said with a shrug, “I can’t help it. You’re just so darn cute,” he said, lightly pinching her cheek.

Liz let out a laugh as she swatted his hand away. “You’re just lucky I love you so damn much.”

Max was floored by that one sentence. He tried not to let it show, realizing that Liz had said it in a joking manner, but deep down he knew that she wasn’t joking. She really loved him, and the amazing part was the way she said it - without hesitation, without thinking. It just came naturally.

“What time are you going to be here tomorrow?” Liz asked, bringing Max out of his thoughts.

“Uh, as soon as the bank opens,” Max said. “It’s going to take most of the day to complete the transaction, so I want to give them a head start.”

“Is there any way Iz and I can stay in contact with you?” Liz asked.

“Alex can,” Max replied. “But there’s a range limit on the earpiece and microphone. I was thinking about giving him a Waukee-Talkie so you could at least talk to one of us.”

“That’s a good idea,” Liz said. “I’ll need to know if everything’s going okay.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Max said. They slowly started to make their way back to the hotel, making small talk along the way. With tomorrow’s events still unclear, there was no need to voice their concerns out loud. They both knew exactly what the other was thinking, and they were both looking forward to when they could get back to the states.

**************

The next morning was full of tension, which was to be expected. Everyone sat down to eat breakfast at a small café across from the hotel, each of them trying to avoid the topic of what was about to happen.

Max hadn’t said anything throughout breakfast. He just kept looking out the window, scanning the streets for anything strange.

“Max,” Liz said as she reached over and placed her hand on his arm.

Max turned to look at her, offering her a tiny smile when he saw that she was extremely nervous. “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Liz nodded, knowing that Max was only trying to make her feel better. In reality, she knew that he was just as nervous as she was.

“Lets head back to the hotel,” Alex said as he pulled out his wallet to pay for the check. “The bank opens in a few minutes.”

Everyone agreed and they were all soon standing in Max and Liz’s hotel room. Max and Alex got ready for their excursion, testing the microphones and earpieces before they put them in place.

“Now when I go into the vault for the money,” Max said, adjusting his earpiece, “you won’t be able to contact me. There’s too much interference, but it should only last for ten or fifteen minutes. Once we get to that stage, all I have to do is pick up the money, hand over the disk and then walk out.”

“How long will it take to get to that point?” Alex asked.

“Most of the day,” Max said. “The bank will need time to take out their fee, count the money, then pack it all for my inspection. I’m not even sure they have enough in their vault to cover it, so they may need to bring some in from another location.”

“Alright, let’s get going,” Alex said as he walked up and gave his wife a kiss, then hugged his son. “I’ll see you in a little bit. I’ll have the Waukee-Talkie so let me know if you need anything.”

“Okay,” Isabel said with a smile. “Be careful.”

Max and Liz were staring at each other, neither really knowing what to say.

“I left my gun in the dresser drawer,” Max said. “Make sure you take it out once I leave.”

Liz nodded as she ran her hand down Max’s chest. “I can’t wait until this is over.”

“I know,” Max said as he pulled Liz into a hug, resting his cheek against the top of her head. “Me to.”

*************

“Why does it feel like everyone’s staring at us?” Alex asked as he and Max made their way toward the bank.

“Because they are,” Max said. “We’re white boys.”

Alex cracked up at that comment, mostly because he realized that it was true. “White boys, huh?” Max just shrugged before he and Alex stopped outside the bank gates. “I’ll be across the street the entire time,” Alex said.

“Good,” Max replied. “I’ll keep in touch with you as long as I can. Just make sure you tell me if anything looks…off.”

“Will do boss,” Alex said before he made his way over to the café across the street and took up residence at one of the tables sitting outside.

Max took a deep breath before he walked through the gate and into the bank. He stood in line for a few minutes until the only English-speaking teller offered to help him. “I’d like to close my account please,” Max said, giving the young woman his account number.

The tellers’ eyes bulged out when she saw the dollar amount on her screen. She looked back and forth between Max and her computer a few times before she offered him a smile. “Based on the dollar amount, I need to get my supervisor to help you with this transaction,” she said politely. “I’m sure you understand.”

“Of course,” Max said, returning her smile. A few minutes later, the manager, an older man, approached from behind the teller line.

“Hello, Mr. Evans,” he said with an accent. “I understand you want to close your account.”

“That’s right,” Max replied.

“How did you want the money?”

“American currency,” Max answered.

“It will take some time to get it together,” the manager said.

“I can stay here all day,” Max said with a smile.

“I’m sure you’re aware of our fee.”

“Of course,” Max replied. “That’s not a problem.”

“Alright,” the manager said with a smile. “If you want, you can have a seat out in the lobby while you wait. Just let us know if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” Max said before he walked over and sat in one of the plush chairs facing the front door.

“It sounds like that went well,” Alex said through the earpiece.

“So far,” Max replied as discretely as possible. The last thing he wanted was for people to think that he was a nut case who talked to himself. “How’s it look out there?”

“About as calm as the ocean before a major storm,” Alex said. “I think I see one of your friends reading a newspaper, trying to act casual.”

“Anyone else around?” Max asked.

“No one I can see,” Alex said after a brief pause. “Liz wants to know how you’re doing.”

Max smiled as he shook his head. He hadn’t even been gone for an hour yet and Liz was already checking in on him. “Tell her that I got frisked by a female police officer who got a little too friendly with me…and I liked it.”

“Yeah right,” Alex said with a laugh. “She’d kick your ass for that comment.”

“That’s not all she’d do,” Max said with a smile. “I’d be sleeping out on the couch for a year if you really told her that.”

He and Alex continued to talk throughout the day, telling each other stories about their given professions. Every half an hour or so Liz would call in to Alex, wanting to know how things were going. It was nearing four o’clock before things really started to stir up a bit.

“Check the door,” Alex said. “I think you’ve got a friend walking in.”

Max looked up and saw that he was right. “Son of a bitch.”

“Who is it?” Alex asked.

“Eli,” Max replied.

“Hello Max,” Eli said as he sat in the chair next to him. “I don’t imagine you’re having too much trouble getting the money, are you?”

“Not at all,” Max said. “They’re just finishing with the final count.”

“Good, good,” Eli said with a fake smile. “It looks like our business is almost done then. I don’t imagine I’ll be hearing from you again after this, will I?”

Max shook his head but remained silent.

“What a shame,” Eli said as he stood up. “I really liked you.” He started to leave, but Max’s words stopped him.

“Nicholas is here.”

Eli slowly turned and faced Max, his expression giving nothing away. He then smiled as he sat back down in the chair. “Is that right? So you talked to him?”

Max nodded. “I ran into him last night.”

“And how is he?” Eli asked, not really caring about the answer.

“He offered me thirty million for the disc,” Max lied. Nicholas didn’t really offer him anything, but he had to get Eli to believe he did.

“Is that so,” Eli said with a raised eyebrow. “Yet you turned it down. Why?”

“I’m going to be brutally honest with you,” Max said as he leaned forward in his seat. “I don’t like you…not one bit. But I don’t like him either. I could care less what you two try and do to each other. If my prayers are answered, you’ll both end up killing one another. The reason I chose to stick with our deal is because I knew you were good for it.”

“Interesting,” Eli said, eyeing Max carefully. “Let me give you some advice, Max.”

“I’d rather you didn’t,” Max said as he leaned back in his seat.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Eli said, ignoring Max’s last comment. “As hard as it may be for you to comprehend, there are others in this business who are more brutal than I am.”

“And Nicholas is one of them, huh?” Max asked.

Eli didn’t respond as he stood back up. “It was good seeing you again,” he said as he started to walk away. “Both you and Dr. Parker.”

Max didn’t like the way he said Liz’s name, and he liked the smirk on his face even less. Once Eli was out of the building, the manager walked up to Max.

“The money is ready for your inspection, sir.”

“Thank you,” Max said, his eyes still watching Eli’s retreating form. There was definitely something wrong. “Could you give me a minute?”

“Certainly,” came the reply.

Once the manager was out of earshot, Max checked in with Alex.

“What’s up?” Alex asked.

“That was Eli,” Max said.

“No shit?” Alex asked as he watched Eli walk across the street and out of view. “What did he want?”

“I need you to check in on Liz and Isabel,” Max said. Several seconds passed before he heard back from Alex, but he was relieved to find that everyone was all right. He let out a sigh of relief before he told Alex that he was heading into the vault and couldn’t be reached for a few minutes. He then followed the manager as he led the way down to the secured room that held the money. After checking to make sure all the money bundles were there, Max handed the manager the disc as he grabbed the large briefcase off the table. Once the disc was checked and verified, he was allowed to leave. As soon as he walked out of the vault, he heard Alex calling out his name. “Alex, I’m back. What’s up?”

“Get out here right now!” Alex practically yelled.

Max didn’t need to be told twice. He ran out the front door and met up with Alex next to the gate.

“I can’t get a hold of Liz,” Alex said, out of breath. Both he and Max took off at a dead sprint for the hotel, with Max cradling the briefcase that held the money under his arm like a football. Several minutes later they both burst through the hotel doors and headed for the stairs, taking them two at a time. When they got to their room, they found the door wide open, the shattered wood on the frame indicating that it had been bashed in.

“Alex!” Isabel exclaimed as she ran over to her husband with Jacob in her arms, both of them crying.

“What happened?” Max asked frantically. “Where’s Liz?”

“They…they took her,” Isabel said between sobs.

Part 14

It had been a couple of hours since Liz was kidnapped and there was still no word from her captors. After Max found out about her disappearance, he immediately turned on his computer and logged onto the internet, knowing that that would be the only way he would find out what happened to her…Eli would get in touch with him and let him know what needed to be done to get her back. Everyone knew without a doubt that Eli was the one who took her, mostly because of what he said to Max back in the bank.

Max was sitting out on the balcony of the hotel room, alone, thinking about what he would do if anything happened to Liz. He looked out over the city of Cabo San Lucas as the sun started to set, tears starting to pool in his eyes as he leaned forward in his seat and ran a hand down his face. Alex and Isabel had both left him alone; knowing that what he needed the most was time to himself.

Max knew that Eli wanted the money back. That much was certain. What he didn’t know was what else the deranged lunatic wanted. Maybe Eli wanted him dead. Maybe Eli just wanted to mess with his mind, make him suffer. The only thing Max knew for sure was that he was going to pay for what he’d done.

“Max,” Alex said quietly, not wanting to startle him. “Your computer just started to beep.”

Max wiped at his eyes angrily, mad at himself for showing weakness by crying, before he followed Alex back into the room. He sat down in front of the computer and put in his password before a message popped up.

>Did you get the money<

“You bastard,” Isabel muttered as she and Alex read the message over Max’s shoulder. She glanced down at Jacob who was on the floor playing with his toys, trying to forget what had just happened.

Max flexed his jaw muscle a couple of times before he replied.

>Yes<

>Good. All I want is a simple trade. The money for the good Doctor<

>Where and when< Max typed.

>Head back to the states. I’ll be in touch<

That was the last sentence typed before Max found himself online alone.

“I’ll be in touch!?” Alex nearly shouted. “That’s all the mother fu…” he quickly looked down at his son, stopping himself before he used profanity. “That’s all he has to say?”

“He wants me to squirm,” Max said calmly as he shut off his computer and closed it. “He wants me to stress out about what he’s doing to Liz.”

“Well it’s a good thing you’re keeping it together,” Isabel said, taking note of her brothers calm exterior.

“But I’m not,” Max said as he stood up, throwing a quick glace at his sister before he turned to look out the window. “I’m not keeping it together at all.” Unshed tears suddenly blurred his vision, but before he let them fall, he walked out onto the balcony so he could cry alone.

**************

The next morning was overcast, which Max found fitting given the current circumstances. The rain that fell unabated reflected the exact mood he was in. He had gotten up early in the morning, unable to sleep at all throughout the night. He slowly walked over to Liz’s suitcase, putting it on the bed before he slowly opened it. He picked up one of her shirts and ran his hand over the surface, wanting to feel something that would give him a sense of peace. He lifted the shirt up to his nose and inhaled her scent, his eyes closing in agony as a new wave of tears poured forth. He dropped the shirt as he turned to the balcony and opened the doors, stepping out into the rain. He let the drops of water crash down on him, wishing they could somehow wash away his pain.

What was he going to do if something happened to her? How would he survive without her?

“MAX!” Isabel exclaimed when she walked into his room a half an hour later. She saw him out on the balcony, completely soaked, unaware of anything around him. The rain had yet to stop, but Max didn’t seem to notice.

Alex came rushing into the room a few seconds later with Jacob, handing him to Isabel before he ran over to help Max back into the room. Alex managed to get him into the bathroom but was forced to slap him a couple of times before he responded. “Max! Pull it together! Don’t you fall apart now, Liz needs you!”

Upon hearing Liz’s name, Max came back to reality as if a thunderbolt had struck him. He stared at Alex for a second before his face took on a look of determination. “We’re going to Washington, D.C.”

“What?” Alex asked, surprised by his statement. “Why?”

“We’re going to have a little talk with you’re father,” Max said.

***************

Later that day, everyone climbed aboard a plane and headed for the east coast of the United States. They found themselves in Washington, D.C. that night, and after dropping Isabel and Jacob off with his mom, Alex and Max set out for the Pentagon, where Alex’s dad was still working.

“Let me do the talking,” Alex said as they waited for Colonel Whitman to come get them.

“Alex!” his dad exclaimed as he walked up. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for the past two days. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine dad,” Alex replied.

“What in Sam Hell happened?” Colonel Whitman asked, referring to the incident in Roswell that left two men dead at his son’s house.

“Can we talk alone?” Alex asked.

“Sure,” Colonel Whitman said before he looked over at Max for the first time. His eyes widened as realization hit him…he knew exactly who Max Evans was.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Alex said, forgetting that he hadn’t introduced Max yet. “Max, this is my dad…dad this is Max Evans.”

Max made no attempt to shake hands with the man; instead he just glared at him. “He knows who I am, don’t you Colonel?”

Alex looked at his dad in shock, the expression on the Colonel’s face telling that he did indeed know who Max was. “Dad?”

“Come on,” Colonel Whitman said. “Let’s talk in my office.”

After everyone was inside the confines of the office, Colonel Whitman motioned towards the two seats facing his desk. “Please have a seat.”

Alex sat, but Max remained standing as he folded his arms across his chest.

Colonel Whitman nodded, sighing as he sat in the plush chair behind his desk.

“What’s going on dad?” Alex asked.

“How much do you know?” Colonel Whitman asked back.

“Enough,” Alex replied. “I know something’s going on here and that you know exactly what it is.”

“Where’s Liz?” Max asked.

“Who?” Colonel Whitman asked.

“Liz Parker,” Max said. “She was taken, and I have a feeling that you know where she was taken to.”

“I don’t know who Liz Parker is,” Colonel Whitman said. “I swear.”

“Enough of this,” Alex said, leaning forward in his seat. “What the hell’s going on here!?”

Colonel Whitman sighed again as he leaned back in his seat. “Alex, there are things that go on here at the Pentagon that you wouldn’t understand; things that you aren’t aware of, and in fact, only a handful of people are. I…I can’t fully explain them to you.”

“You can’t?” Alex asked in disbelief. “Alright, lets start small. Who’s Eli?”

“Alex…” Colonel Whitman paused as he looked up at Max. “I’m sorry. I can’t tell you.”

“Then I guess I have no choice but to go public with this,” Alex said as he stood up, showing his dad the copy of the disc that he and Max had made.

“What’s that?” Colonel Whitman asked, eyeing the disc carefully.

“This has your picture all over it,” Alex said. “This shows proof that top government officials have been conducting illegal activities while everyone else looks the other way. If you don’t tell me everything you know, I’ll have to choice but to hand this in to my superiors.”

“And what makes you think your superiors aren’t in on it?” Colonel Whitman asked.

“Then I’ll go to the press,” Alex said. “God, I feel like I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“Alex, please sit down,” Colonel Whitman said. He waited until Alex reluctantly sat before he continued. “There are groups that the government hires who take care of…things that we couldn’t legally do.”

“You mean kill people,” Alex said. “The government hires assassins to kill people they don’t like.”

“It’s not that simple,” Colonel Whitman said. “These aren’t just assassins here. Eli is one of the leaders of a secret group composed of government mercenaries. There are only three people who officially know of the group, and I’m one of them. Everyone else is on a need to know basis, which means that they’re all kept in the dark. You have to believe me when I say that I don’t issue the orders for them to kill. All I do is turn my head and make sure that everyone else does to.”

“Who are the other two?” Alex asked.

“I can’t tell you,” Colonel Whitman said. “One of them gives the orders while the other just handles the financial aspects of the operations. He has nothing to do with the killings either.”

“So there’s only one man who orders the kills then,” Max said.

“Yes,” Colonel Whitman replied. “But I can’t tell you who.”

“It’s General Aiken,” Max said, referring to the Chief of Staff of the Army.

“General Aiken?” Alex asked in shock. “As is the member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and head of the entire United States Army? How do you know?”

“He’s the only one ruthless enough, and dumb enough, to take the job,” Max said, his eyes locked on the Colonel. “Besides, he was the one who showed up on my doorstep ten years ago and convinced me to join Army Intelligence.”

“Look,” Colonel Whitman said. “The people involved in this will stop at nothing to get that disc and to shut you up. They’ll kill anyone even remotely involved if they have to, including me.”

“Right now I don’t really care about exposing this little illegal operation of yours,” Max said as he placed both hands on the desk and leaned forward. “The only thing I care about is getting to Liz. Now you said that you don’t know where she is, but I bet you can tell me the name of someone who does.”

“I want to help--” Colonel Whitman began.

“If you don’t help, you’re going to make me very upset,” Max said calmly, a tiny smile on his face. “Now I’m sure that most people around here don’t know who I really am, but you do so you know what I’m capable of. You know what can happen if I get upset.”

“That I do,” Colonel Whitman said. He took a deep breath before he spoke again. “Peter Duncan. He’s the other guy involved.”

“The C.I.A. guy?” Alex asked.

“The same,” Colonel Whitman said. “He doesn’t have any authority over Eli, but he knows everything about his operations.”

Max nodded before he walked over to the door with Alex close behind.

“Wait a second,” Alex said, facing his dad. “You said that Eli was ONE of the leaders of this group. Who are the others? I thought Eli was the head of it all.”

“I don’t know anyone else,” Colonel Whitman said. “Eli is the only one I’ve ever had contact with, but he’s not the one in charge. The only thing I know about the head honcho is that he uses the codename Khivar.”

When Alex looked over at Max, he could tell by the look on his face that his friend was just as confused as he was.

“There’s just one thing I need to know,” Alex said, turning back to his dad. “It’s obvious you knew who Isabel was the second I started dating her. Was my marrying her a set up?”

Colonel Whitman hung his head and avoided his son’s gaze, not needing to answer the question verbally because his actions told the truth.

“I can’t believe this,” Alex said, so shocked he was speechless. “I’ll be back later on,” he said, not sure he had the stomach to hear any more that night. Finding out that his dad was involved with people like Eli made him physically ill. But to find out that he and Isabel had been set up, he couldn’t help but feel that his entire relationship with her was somehow a fraud; that it wasn’t real. “I still have a lot of questions I need answered.”

Colonel Whitman nodded as he watched Max and Alex leave his office. As he turned to look out his window, he thought about what he had just done, hoping that he had made the right choice by telling his son the truth.

****************

Alex and Max had set up a stake out across the street from Peter Duncan’s home, waiting for the perfect opportunity to get to him. They stayed there all night, taking turns watching the house while the other slept. It was around seven o’clock the next morning before things started to stir.

“There he is,” Alex said, pointing to the front door. “Now you aren’t going to do anything rash, are you?”

Max kept his eyes locked on Peter. “This guy’s dirty. He knows where Eli’s holding Liz so I’ll do whatever’s necessary to get him to squeal.” He paused briefly before he turned to Alex. “I’m not sure you should be around when I talk to him. I may need to…bend the law a little.”

“Bend the law?” Alex asked before he shook his head. “Just promise me you won’t kill him.”

“I’ll try,” Max said, turning back to look at Peter again.

“I guess that’ll have to do,” Alex said with a sigh before he started the car. “It’s show time.” He threw it in gear before he sped up Peter’s driveway just as the man was climbing into his car, preventing him from leaving.

“What the hell?” Peter asked as he climbed back out of his car and shut the door. “Who the hell do you—”

“Get in the car,” Max said as he came around and grabbed Peter’s arm, sticking his gun into the agents’ back. Max quickly grabbed Peter’s gun and cell phone, just in case the guy felt the sudden urge to draw down and test his reflexes. Peter didn’t resist as Max forced him into the back seat of Alex’s sedan, mostly because of the gun in his face.

“What in God’s name is going on here?” Peter demanded after Max climbed in next to him.

Alex threw the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, speeding off as fast as he could before anyone saw what they had just done.

“We’re just going to take a little drive,” Max said, keeping his eyes on Peter the entire time. “Just relax until we get to where we’re going.”

About a half an hour later, Alex pulled into an abandoned warehouse surrounded by nothing but dirt. They were miles away from anything even remotely resembling civilization.

“Who are you guys?” Peter demanded as Max pulled him out of the car.

“We need to ask you a few questions,” Max said.

“Wait a minute, I know you,” Peter said, eyeing Alex. “Your Colonel Whitman’s boy.”

“It looks like you’re a celebrity,” Max said as he briefly turned to Alex, a smile on his face.

“Where’s Eli?” Alex asked.

“Who?” Peter asked back. “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

“No?” Max asked in mocked confusion before he looked at Alex and shrugged. He then pointed his gun at Peter’s leg and fired one shot.

“AWWWWWWW!!!!” Peter cried out as he fell to the ground, holding his injured leg.

“I hate it when people make you ask the same question twice,” Max said to Alex before he turned to Peter. “Where’s Eli?”

“You bastard,” Peter spit out as beads of sweat began to cover his forehead.

“Huh,” Max said before he took a deep breath. He then pointed his gun at Peter’s other leg and fired another shot.

Peter cried out again, even though Max’s second shot missed his leg and embedded itself in the ground instead.

“Would you look at that,” Max said as he glanced over at Alex. “I missed.” He then turned back to Peter. “Eli…where is he?”

“You’re a federal agent,” Peter said to Alex. “Aren’t you going to help?”

Alex looked at Max for a second, his expression showing his inner battle at what to do. “Alright,” he said as he took out his gun and pointed it at Peter’s uninjured leg. “But I’m a really bad shot.”

Max smiled as he grabbed Alex’s arm, knowing that his friend couldn’t shoot Peter if he still wanted to keep his job.

“I was just trying to help,” Alex said with a shrug.

Max turned back to Peter, a look of impatient on his face. “Don’t make me shoot you again. Where is Eli?”

“Go to hell,” Peter said.

Max shook his head as he reached down and grabbed Peter’s left hand, holding the palm against the barrel of his gun before he pulled the trigger, shooting him again.

“SON OF A BITCH!” Peter cried out as he brought his injured hand into his body, clenching it into a fist.

“I can do this all day,” Max said in a low voice as he knelt down next to him. “You’ve got plenty of limbs for me to shoot, and I’ve got plenty of ammo in the car.”

“Nevada,” Peter blurted out.

“Rhyolide, Nevada?” Alex asked.

Peter nodded as he sat up against the car.

“Who’s Nicholas?” Max asked.

“I…I don’t know,” Peter said, breathing heavily.

Max figured he was lying again so he reached down and grabbed Peter’s right hand, bringing the palm flush against the barrel of his gun. “Who’s Nicholas?”

“I DON’T KNOW, I SWEAR!!” Peter cried out. “Please, I need that hand. If I knew I’d tell you!”

Max looked over at Alex who nodded, showing that he believed Peter really didn’t know who Nicholas was. Max dropped Peter’s hand as he stood back up and put his gun away. “Thank you Peter. You were a big help.” He then made his way over to the passengers’ side of the car as Alex climbed behind the wheel.

“Wait a minute!” Peter yelled. “What about me? I need an ambulance!”

“Here’s your cell phone,” Max said, tossing it on the ground next to Peter. “Call them yourself.” He then climbed into the car momentarily before he bounced back out. “Oh, one more thing,” he said, smiling at Peter as he held up the disc. “If I were you, I wouldn’t say anything about our little meeting out here. I can promise that if you do, I’ll be the least of your worries. Your face is all over this disc. By the time the D.A.’s through with you, you’ll be locked up in Leavenworth for the rest of your life, playing footsies with Tyrone, your cellmate.” He then unloaded Peter’s gun and threw it about thirty feet away from the guy before he climbed back in and shut the door, running a hand through his hair as Alex sped away.

***************

“Why me?” Isabel asked as she followed her husband around the spare bedroom, watching as he re-packed his bags.

“Isabel please,” Max said calmly as he walked up to his sister and placed his hands on her shoulders, causing her to look at him. “Alex and I need to go to Nevada, but I want you to go to Arizona to tell Liz’s parents that she’s safe.”

“You want me to lie to them,” Isabel said.

Max took a deep breath, knowing that her comment wasn’t meant to hurt him even though it did. She was right; Liz wasn’t safe because of him. He wasn’t able to protect her like he promised he would. “Just tell them that Liz saw something at her work that she wasn’t supposed to see, so she brought it to my attention. I in turn notified Alex, an FBI agent, who placed her into protective custody until we could sort everything out and catch the people responsible for killing her co-worker.”

“What about her house blowing up?” Isabel asked.

“Just say that she wasn’t home at the time,” Alex said.

“Please Iz,” Max said again. “I know that Liz doesn’t want her family worrying about her, and you’re the only one who can go. Besides, it’ll be safe there.”

“How can you be so sure?” Isabel asked.

“Because Eli has more important things to do than worry about Liz’ parents,” Max said.

“But just in case, my dad’s going with you,” Alex said.

“He is?” Isabel and Max asked in unison.

“You’re damn right he is,” Alex muttered. “I’ll make sure of it.”

“I just hate lying to them about their daughter,” Isabel said.

“I know,” Max replied. “But whatever you do, DON’T tell them that she was kidnapped. As far as you know, she’s safe and sound in the FBI’s custody.”

“But what if something happens to her?” Isabel asked.

“Nothing’s going to happen to her,” Max said with determination.

“Okay,” Isabel said with a sigh, knowing that her brother would do whatever it took to
make sure that Liz made it out safely. “So I take it you’re leaving tonight?” she asked, motioning towards the luggage that was sitting near the door.

“Yeah,” Alex said as he pulled his wife into a hug and gave her a kiss. “Keep your cell phone charged. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”

“Be careful,” Isabel said quietly as she pulled back. “Both of you.”

Alex nodded before he gave her another kiss, hugged his son, then grabbed his suitcase and headed out for the airport with Max.

To Be Continued…

Part 15

The next morning, Isabel found herself on an airplane bound for Phoenix with Colonel Whitman and his wife. It didn’t take a lot of persuading to get Alex’s parents to go, even though they were only going to stay at a hotel with Jacob while Isabel went over to the Parker’s to tell them about Liz.

Alex’s mom had no idea what was going on, but the Colonel filled her in during the flight. He told her everything, even about his involvement with Eli. Needless to say she was appalled about the entire thing, which made Isabel feel a lot better. Mrs. Whitman was stunned speechless to say the least, and she refused to even look at her husband for the remainder of the flight.

The trip went by a lot faster than Isabel would have liked, and if given the choice, she would’ve preferred that the plane never land at all. She had no idea what to tell Liz’s parents, and the fact that she had to lie about most of it made her feel horrible. But after delaying as long as she could, she still found herself on the front doorstep of the Parker residence, trying to muster enough courage to ring the doorbell.

“Just do it and get it over with,” she coached herself. She took one last deep breath and ran a hand through her hair before she reached out and rang the bell. In a matter of seconds the door swung open, revealing a young woman in her mid to late twenties.

“Can I help you?”

For a moment Isabel thought she had the wrong house. “Uh, is this the Parker residence?”

“Yes, can I help you?” she repeated with a friendly smile.

“I…I’m looking for Mr. or Mrs. Parker,” Isabel said.

“Why?” a guy about the same age as the girl asked as he came up to the door.

“Michael!” the girl hissed, giving Isabel and apologetic look for him being so rude. “Did you want to come in?”

“Thanks,” Isabel said with a smile as she stepped into the house. As soon as she did, another man and woman, much older than the other two, walked into the entryway. These two had to be Liz’s parents.

“I’m Nancy Parker, what can I do for you?”

Isabel hesitated for a moment, contemplating whether or not to jump out the window. But in the end she offered them a tiny smile. “I…I have news about Liz.”

The two women gasped as they covered their mouths with their hands, the one called Michael folded his arms across his chest as he eyed Isabel carefully, and the man that had to be Liz’s dad quickly ushered everyone into the living room to sit.

“Is she okay?” Mr. Parker asked as soon as everyone was seated.

“She’s fine,” Isabel lied.

“Thank God,” Mrs. Parker said, now covering her heart with her hand. “Where is she?”

“She’s with my husband,” Isabel said.

“Can we back up a little here?” Michael asked. “Who are you and who’s your husband?”

“I’m sorry,” Isabel said, forgetting that she hadn’t even introduced herself yet. “My name is Isabel Evans-Whitman.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Isabel,” Mrs. Parker said. “Like I said, my name’s Nancy, this is my husband Jeff, and these two are Michael and Maria, Liz’s best friends.”

“Hi,” Isabel said, giving them a little wave.

“So who’s your husband?” Michael asked, getting right back to the topic at hand.

“My husband’s name is Alex and he’s an agent for the FBI,” Isabel said.

“The FBI?” Jeff asked. “I’m sorry, we have absolutely no clue what’s going on here so could you please fill us in?”

“I’ll do the best I can,” Isabel said. After she retold the story, leaving out certain things such as what they found on the disk, the fact that Max was an assassin and worked for the people who were currently after Liz, and the fact that Liz got kidnapped, Isabel ended by telling them that Liz was currently in the FBI’s custody and was being protected by Alex and Max.

“She really wanted to come see you herself, but it’s just not safe right now,” Isabel finished.

“So whoever killed her co-worker is now after her?” Nancy asked, unable to stop herself from crying.

Isabel just nodded.

“So that’s it?” Michael asked. “You’re saying that all we can do now is hope and pray that your husband and brother can protect her?”

“My husband and brother WILL protect her,” Isabel said with confidence, surprising everyone, including herself.

“I have so many questions I still need answered,” Jeff said.

Isabel sat there for a second before she perked up, suddenly thinking of an idea. “I’ll bring you someone who knows more than I do.”

“Who?” Michael asked.

“My husband’s father,” Isabel replied. She wanted the Colonel to see exactly what kind of heartache he was causing by being involved with people like Eli. She wanted him to look Liz’s parents square in the eye and tell them everything they wanted to know.

****************

“Alright, now that we’re here, where do we start looking?” Alex asked as he pulled the Jeep Wrangler they had rented at the airport over to the side of the road by the sign that read ‘Rhyolite, Nevada’. They had caught the red eye flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles before they jumped on a smaller plane that took them to Las Vegas, where they had rented the Jeep. It was around noon when they finally pulled into Rhyolite.

“I have no idea,” Max replied before he climbed out and took a look around. “This place is practically deserted, so the few people who still live here are bound to know something.”

“I hope so,” Alex said as he too got out and clasped both hands behind his head to stretch. “What do you think…just head down this road until we find someone?”

“Looks like that’s our best option,” Max said as he looked off in the distance, then climbed back into the Jeep with Alex. A few minutes later they came up to the one and only store in the entire town, a tiny ma and pa outfit that looked just as run down as the rest of the buildings next to it.

“Afternoon’,” the older man sitting behind the counter said when Max and Alex walked in. “What you boys lookin’ for?”

“Actually,” Alex said as he took out his badge and showed it to the man. “I was wondering if you could help me out.”

“I’ll sure try,” the man replied. “Though I gotta tell ya, ain’t much going on ‘round here that would interest most folks.”

“Has anyone been in your store lately, or have you noticed anyone new around town?” Alex asked.

“Well sure,” the man replied. “We get folks coming in here from the mines over yonder.”

Alex turned to look at where the man was pointing and saw a rather large hill obstructing his view. “Is one of the guys about six feet tall with short blonde hair, a faint goatee and a thin scar along the side of his forehead?” he asked, describing Eli’s attributes the best he could.

“Sure,” the man replied. “You’re talking ‘bout Elias.”

“That would be him,” Alex said with a thin smile.

“I reckon he said he was the foreman over there or somethin’,” the man said. “Too bad you boys didn’t show up half an hour earlier.”

“Why’s that?” Max asked.

“Well he was just here,” the man replied. “And he had a pretty young lady with him, though she didn’t look too happy. In point of fact, she looked like she’d been cryin’.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Max muttered as he turned around and headed out the door.

“Thank you,” Alex told the old man before he quickly headed for the door himself. “Would it be alright if I came back a little later and asked you a few more questions?”

“Come as often as you like,” the man replied. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

“I also need you to do me a huge favor,” Alex said. “If…Elias…comes back, don’t mention that I was asking about him. If he knows I’m here, it would blow the FBI’s entire operation.”

“You got it,” the man said as he watched Alex sprint out to catch up with Max.

“Max,” Alex said as he jumped into the Jeep just before it pulled away, kicking up a dust storm in its wake. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to get Liz,” Max said, gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turned white.

When Alex saw the look of pure, unadulterated rage in his eyes, he knew he had to do something before Max got them both killed. “We can’t right now. Just think about it. Eli probably has dozens of guards out patrolling the perimeter. The second they see us, the games over. We need to come up with a plan and then come back at night when it’s dark. That’s the only chance we have.”

Max kept driving for a few seconds before he slammed on the brakes, knowing full well that Alex was right. He closed his eyes as he tried to calm down, his grip on the steering wheel slowly loosening up.

“Come on,” Alex said as he looked at the hill that undoubtedly hid Eli. “We need to get out of here before someone sees us.”

Max opened his eyes and took a deep breath before he quickly turned the Jeep around. “Tonight,” he said with authority. “We get Liz back tonight.”

*************

“I don’t know about this plan,” Alex said later that night as he and Max got ready to head over to the mine. “I think it would be better if we went inside together.”

“I already told you,” Max said as he zipped up his black field vest and began to fill the pockets with everything he would need. “I work faster when I’m alone. Besides, I’d feel safer knowing that you’re in a position to shoot anyone who gets too close to me.”

Alex let out a sigh, finally giving in. The plan was for Max to somehow find a way into the mine to get Liz out while Alex perched himself on a hill a few hundred yards away with a high powered scope and silenced sniper rifle, one of the many weapons that Max had brought with him to Nevada, eliminating any possible threats. They were going to stay in contact using earpieces and microphones that were strapped around their necks, allowing them to keep their hands free in case they needed to act fast. “But what happens if you need backup once you’re inside?”

“I won’t,” Max said, briefly looking up at Alex before he continued getting ready. “If anything happens, just know that I’ll find a way to get Liz out, even if I have to sacrifice myself.”

Alex nodded as he gathered all the equipment and placed it by the door to the only run down motel that was within miles of Rhyolite. “Okay, let’s go over the plan one more time,” he said as he unrolled the topographical map that they had purchased back at the shop from the old man. “This is the hill that would give me the best vantage point so that’s where I’ll be perched.”

“Then I’ll make my way along this route,” Max said, pointing out the exact path he was going to take. “If anything happens, or if they get lucky and find out where you are, pack your shit and meet me here,” he said, pointing at another hill that was about a mile away from the mine.

“Right,” Alex said, taking a moment to stare at the map so he could get his bearings straight.

“Let’s go,” Max said as he headed for the door, picking up some of the equipment on his way out.

*************

The drive over to the mine was filled with silence. Max was driving without the headlights on, making it rather hard to spot the potholes and dips that lined the dirt street. When he pulled up to the hill that Alex was going to station himself on, no words were spoken between the two as Alex jumped out with his gear and started to race up the face of the hill. Max pulled out and drove the Jeep to another hill a few hundred yards away, leaving it there in the hopes that if someone accidentally saw it, the first place they would check for intruders would be a safe distance away from Alex.

Max hid the Jeep as best he could before he checked to make sure he had everything he was going to need, and then began to walk toward the mine. He came up to a few guards who were patrolling the area, but luckily for him they were concentrating more on their conversation than on doing their job. He walked under the safety of darkness as long as he could, but once he approached the mine, there were lights everywhere, making it impossible to stay in the shadows.

“We have a sentry making his way toward you,” he heard Alex say. “You can take cover at the shack to your left. There’s a bunch of oil drums lining the side of it.”

“Got it,” Max whispered back before he quickly made his way over to where Alex had instructed.

“Just hold out there for a second,” Alex said. “Okay, I can see the opening to the mine about fifty yards to your left, but in addition to the guard who’s making his way toward you, there are three more men standing post. I could take them out, but I’m not sure if there are any others around who would see. It looks like the only way into the compound is through the steel door behind the guards.”

“I need a diversion,” Max said as he peaked around the corner to see what Alex was talking about. “It looks like most of the guards are stationed around the perimeter. Besides those four, I can’t see any others.”

“Should I take them out?” Alex asked.

“Negative,” Max said as he took cover again. “Give me a second.” He looked between two of the drums and noticed that the sentry was now making his way toward the shack that he was hiding behind. He quickly glanced around as he tried to think of a plan, finally deciding that he really only had one option, evasion. With the guy getting closer, Max began to move towards the back of the shack. He was just about to turn the corner when one of the oil drums next to him suddenly knocked over, causing him to jump a little. He turned to see what had caused the ruckus, cursing under his breath when he noticed a raccoon scurry off through the shrubs. When he turned back towards the guard, he saw that the guy was now moving more quickly toward him, clearly investigating what had caused the disturbance.

Max turned the corner and knelt down, cautioning a peak around to see that the guard now had his weapon raised and was slowly approaching the corner of the shack. Max ducked again just before the guy saw him, mentally preparing himself for the fact that he was about to be forced to disarm the guy quietly so as not to alert the other three guards. He looked up and saw the barrel of the guard’s gun come into view, but before he had a chance to reach out and grab it, the guard suddenly dropped to the ground with a thud.

“Target one is down,” Alex said.

That’s when Max noticed that Alex had shot him in the head, killing him. “Nice shot.”

“Government training,” was Alex’s response. “What about the other three?”

“Well, the second you shoot one of them, the other two are bound to scramble for cover and radio in for help, alerting the entire base to our presence. You won’t be able to take them all down by yourself,” Max said as he looked at the dead guard in front of him, noticing that the guy was a lot bigger around the midsection than he was. A smile came to his face as a plan developed in his head. “I’ve got a plan.”

Alex couldn’t help but laugh when he saw Max emerge from behind the shack wearing the dead guards cloths, mostly because Max had somehow managed to make himself look about thirty pounds heavier than he really was. Even the camouflage hat was a little too big for him. “Do I even want to know how you filled out that uniform?”

“I just put his uniform over my cloths,” Max replied. “And I had to puff the top out a little. I just hope the wind doesn’t pick up or it’ll deflate by belly.”

“So what’s the plan?” Alex asked as he watched Max duck his head and slowly make his way toward the other guards, holding a silenced pistol in his hand behind his back.

“When I give the signal, shoot the guard on the right,” Max said. “Just make sure you don’t shoot me.”

“What’s the signal?” Alex asked.

“You’ll know it when you see it,” Max replied.

“In other words, when all hell breaks loose, shoot,” Alex muttered.

“Hey Riley,” one of the guards called out, obviously talking to Max. “Trent and I are betting on which one of us gets first dibs on that hot brunette they brought in as soon as the boss is done with her. You want in?”

Max’s jaw muscle flexed as he walked right up to the guy named Trent and pulled out his gun, shooting the guy in the head. Max ignored the guard to the right, knowing that Alex would take care of him, which he did rather quickly. That just left the guard who had asked Max if he wanted to bet on who got to rape Liz first. Before the guy could raise his gun to shoot, Max pointed his gun at the guard’s head as he reached down and disarmed the guy, thankful that he had the element of surprise.

The guard raised his hands as he backed into the wall, hoping that if he cooperated he would be allowed to live.

“Nobody gets ‘dibs’ on Liz,” Max said with quiet rage as he reached out and covered the guard’s mouth with his free hand, preventing him from yelling out. “NOBODY,” he said through clenched teeth as he lowered his gun and shot the guy in the heart. Max watched as the dead guard slumped to the ground, and even though he tried to fight it, he was unable to keep an image of the guy raping Liz from passing across his eyes. Seeing that made him momentarily snap, causing him to unload an entire magazine of fifteen bullets into the dead guy’s chest.

“Max!” Alex said. “What are you doing?”

Max ignored Alex as he dragged the three guards behind a nearby building before he entered the mine. “Let me know as soon as someone notices the guards are missing.”

Max cautiously entered the mine, realizing right away that it was more like a base than anything else. He still had the guard’s cloths on, even though he no longer looked like he weighed an extra thirty pounds. He wasn’t able to hang around the entrance for too long because there was another guard about thirty feet away from him, stationed at a gate that led into to base.

“Don’t tell me you forgot your ID card,” the guard said when he saw that Max was loitering around the entrance.

Max shrugged and smiled as he walked up to the guy, deciding to play along.

The guard let out an annoyed sigh as he picked up the phone that was sitting nearby. “I need to call this in. What’s your name?”

“Why don’t you put the phone down,” Max said as he walked up and stuck his gun in the guy’s back.

The guard obeyed, putting up no resistance as Max led him towards the gate.

“Open it,” Max said.

“I can’t,” the guard replied.

Knowing that the guy had a key on him somewhere, Max did a quick pat down and located it in the guard’s shirt pocket. He reached in and grabbed it with his free hand before he slid it through the keypad next to the gate, then noticed that he was now required to enter in a numeric code. “What’s your code?” When the guard refused to answer, Max reared back and punched him in the gut, effectively knocking the wind out of him. “What’s your code?”

Max watched as the guard tried to choke in a breath before he reached over and entered in his code.

“Good boy,” Max said before he hit him on the back of the head with the butt of his pistol, knocking him out. Max dragged him into the nearby booth, hiding his body the best he could. He took the guards key card and, now that he knew the numeric code, figured he wouldn’t have a problem unless he ran into someone else.

“You okay?” Alex asked.

“Yeah,” Max replied. “I just had to persuade a guard to give me his key.” He quickly made his way through the gate and down the hallway, hugging the wall the entire time. When the hall ended, he came up to another gate, which he quickly got through, and had the option of going either left or right. He peaked down each side and decided to go right, hoping that his gut instinct was correct.

“We have some activity out here,” Alex said. “But it doesn’t look like we have a threat yet. Just some people loitering around.”

About halfway down the hall, doors started to appear of either side of Max. After quickly glancing in each one, he saw that they were mostly labs and storage units. He only saw one person in the lab, a technician who apparently got stuck working the graveyard shift. Other than him, the entire floor was empty. “The security here is way too lax,” he said suspiciously.

“Um…Max,” Alex said, his voice slightly panicked. “We have a big problem.”

To Be Continued…

Part 16

“Um…Max? We have a big problem.”

The slight hitch in Alex’s voice instantly got Max’s attention. “What?”

“It looks like our cover’s about to be blown,” Alex said. “There’s a chopper coming in and it looks like it’s going to land off to the side of the compound.”

“How long do I have?” Max asked as he began to quicken his pace down the hallway, having spotted an elevator at the end of it.

“Two minutes tops,” Alex said.

“Shit,” Max muttered as he began to run, realizing that Liz was probably being held on a different floor. He quickly reached out and pushed the button for the elevator, stumbling back a step when the doors opened and he found himself standing face to face with a man in a lab coat. Max didn’t waste any time as he reached out and grabbed the man by the shirt, pushing him into the wall at the back of the elevator as he raised his gun up under the guy’s chin. “Where’s Eli?”

“L-Level B4,” the scientist stuttered.

Max threw the guy off the elevator before he pushed the button that read ‘B4’. As he neared the floor, he backed up against the side of the elevator before the doors opened, cautioning a peak to make sure nobody was there before he stepped out. The hallway looked almost identical to the one that he had just walked down, with rooms lining both sides of the walls.

“You better start thinking about high tailing it out of there,” Alex said.

“I don’t have Liz yet,” Max said, slightly panicked. He ran down the hallway, checking each room in the hopes of finding either her or Eli. He was just about to the end of the hall when he passed a room on his left, stopping mid-step when he looked through the window and saw Eli sitting in a chair behind a desk. Max’s eyes narrowed as he reached for the doorknob and threw the door open without caution, raising his gun and shooting once at a very startled Eli, hitting him in the shoulder.

Eli was pushed away from his desk by the impact, but barely made a sound as the bullet passed through his body. After the initial shock was over, he winced as he looked up at the intruder. “Max,” he said with a small smile. “Come in.”

“Where is she?” Max asked, the tone of his voice clearly indicating that he was on the verge of snapping.

“She’s here,” Eli said after a moment’s hesitation.

“Well then lets go get her,” Max said, standing to the side and motioning towards the door with his free hand, silently telling Eli walk out ahead of him.

“Boy, you sure are passionate about this one,” Eli said as he walked out of the room. “I don’t suppose I could pay you to forget about her, huh?”

Max remained silent as he followed Eli, carefully keeping an eye out for any traps.

“Didn’t think so,” Eli said as he turned down an adjacent hallway that only had one door at the very end. “She’s through here,” he said as he reached down to open the door.

Max quickly reached over and grabbed Eli’s hand, preventing him from opening it. He peeked through the window, wanting to make sure there weren’t any surprises waiting for him on the other side. It was nearly pitch black inside the room, making it difficult to see anything from the limited light that was coming from the hallway they were standing in. “I don’t see her.”

“She’s through the door on the left,” Eli said.

Max looked in that direction and could barley see that there was indeed another door inside the room, so he slowly let go of Eli’s hand and allowed him to open the door.

The next few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion, but as soon as Eli stepped through the door, he reached over to the left side of the doorframe and grabbed something before he dove in the opposite direction, causing Max to rush in after him.

When Max got through the door, he realized that Eli had grabbed a gun and was now shooting blindly at him while he scrambled behind a desk, looking for cover. Max was then forced to take cover himself, overturning a table in the middle of the room to keep from getting hit by a bullet.

The next minute was spent in silence.

“Max, Max, Max,” Eli said as the two men tried to figure out a way to outsmart the other. “I never thought you’d fall for a trick like that.”

“I didn’t fall for anything,” Max muttered to himself as he looked at the ceiling, trying to find anything that would give him the upper hand. “You just got lucky.”

“We’re in quite the predicament now, aren’t we?” Eli asked with a smile in his voice.

“Max,” Alex said through the earpiece, slightly out of breath. “They’re moving in on me from all sides. The only choice I have is to head into the compound with you. What’s your location?”

“Level B-4,” Max whispered so Eli wouldn’t hear him. “At the end of the first hallway, take a right to the elevator, then take that down and wait for me just outside the doors. Watch yourself.”

“I do have to commend you though,” Eli was saying. “I’m impressed that you infiltrated the base as easily as you did. How did you manage to get past the guards without setting off an alarm?”

“Very carefully,” Max whispered as he peaked around the corner of the table. He could barely see Eli moving around from under the desk, but he didn’t have enough room to get a shot off at him.

“So tell me, why is it that you’ve developed this fascination with Ms. Parker?” Eli asked. “Oh wait, never mind. All it took for me was one look at that ass of hers.”

Max had been playing it cool up until this point, but when Liz’s name was brought into the conversation his anger began to grow by the second. It was only a matter of time before he lost it, and Eli obviously knew that.

“I’ll bet you lost plenty of sleep wondering what I was doing to her, didn’t you?” Eli asked, clearly trying to antagonize Max. “I bet you spent hours on end wondering if I was hurting her, or more to the point, pleasuring myself with her. The thought that I might have taken advantage of her must be driving you crazy. The thought that her tiny body might have given me the ultimate rush…”

He wasn’t able to finish his sentence before he heard Max scramble out from behind the table. He in turn quickly came out from behind the desk, expecting to find Max standing in front of him, completely out in the open for him to shoot. He thought that by taunting Max with falsehoods of what he did to Liz he would draw his opponent out, but he frowned when he saw nothing in front of him but a dark, empty room. He held his gun out in front of him with one hand as he slowly made his way out from his hiding spot, his other hand completely immobilized by the gunshot wound to his shoulder. “Max? Come out, come out wherever you are.” Clearly pissing Max off was not the right move to make, so he decided to try a different approach as a small sense of fear overtook him from the fact that Max clearly had the advantage now. “Now Max, you know just as well as I do that I never touched your little girlfriend. I may be many things; but a rapist I am not. In fact, I made sure that nobody even got close to her and that she was as comfortable as she could possibly be.”

There was no response.

Eli eyed the open door and carefully started to make his way over to it. Just as he was about to step out into the hallway and close the door, locking his opponent inside, Max suddenly appeared from the shadows. He reached out and grabbed Eli’s wrist before he could react and twisted it around, effectively flipping Eli onto his back as he took the gun away. Max stood over Eli and pointed the gun as his head, leaving Eli powerless to do anything but remain still and smile.

“Is Liz behind that door?” Max asked, coming to the realization a while ago that she probably wasn’t.

“Why don’t you go look yourself,” Eli suggested with a smirk.

Max reared back and kicked him in the gut, obviously not in the mood to play games. “Where is she?”

Eli gasped for air after getting the wind knocked out of him.

“Max!” Alex yelled through the earpiece. “We need to get the hell out of here! They’re going to blow the place up!”

“What are you talking about?” Max asked, keeping his eyes on Eli as he conversed with Alex.

“I’m talking about a chopper full of guards running into the compound with explosives,” Alex said. “Nobody’s paying any attention to me because they’re all busy evacuating.”

“That’s why there was hardly anyone in here,” Max said to himself, suddenly realizing why the compound was nearly deserted.

Eli began to laugh. “Sounds like you have a friend on the outside. I take it he spotted the demolition team.”

“Look,” Max said as he reached down and grabbed Eli by the shirt, lifting him up onto his feet and pushing him back into the wall. “I don’t really care why you want to demolish this facility. You either show me where Liz is right now or I’ll make sure that you’re still down here when the explosives go off.” He didn’t wait for Eli to respond before he threw him towards the door that he claimed Liz was behind.

Eli let out a sigh as he reached over and opened the door that led to another hallway. He was only able to get one foot over the threshold before a group of three guards appeared at the end of the hall, all armed with automatic weapons. Before he was even able to utter a word in protest, all three guards raised their weapons and opened fire. Max was barely able to duck back into the room in time to prevent himself from getting hit, but Eli wasn’t so lucky. The impact from the bullets had sent him backpedaling into the room where he had fallen to the floor on his back, his chest completely littered with bullet holes. Max quickly scrambled over and closed the steel door, locking it to prevent the guards from getting in.

“What the hell was that?” Alex asked as he came running into the room, his eyes immediately landing on Eli. The man was still alive, but barely. “Oh shit,” he mumbled as he ran a hand through his hair, knowing right away that if Eli died, so did their chances of finding Liz alive.

Max moved over to Eli’s side and ripped open his shirt, confirming what he already knew to be true. He was going to die in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. “Tell me where she is, please,” Max said desperately.

“Y…You know,” Eli choked out, his mouth already filled with blood. “You always were o…one step behind.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alex asked.

“Y…You’ve always thought that I w…was at the top of the f…food chain here, didn’t you?” Eli asked Max with a bloody smile.

“If you’re not the one in charge then who is?” Max asked. “Is that who has Liz?”

“L…Liz was here,” Eli said, his eyes rolling back in his head momentarily before he groggily came back around. “B…But not anymore.”

“Who has her?” Max asked, feeling the sudden urge to shake the living hell out of the guy.

“My boss,” Eli said.

“Who’s your boss?” Alex asked, knowing that Eli wasn’t going to just come out and say it, but feeling the need to ask anyway.

“T…Think, Max,” Eli said with another smile. “W…Who else has known your w…whereabouts?”

Max thought for a second before Eli gave him another hint.

“W…Who else has c…crossed your path on m…more than one occasion?”

“Oh shit,” Max said as realization hit him like a ton of bricks. “OH SHIT!”

“F…Finally figured it o…out?” Eli asked with a laugh.

“Where is he?” Max asked.

“H…He’ll be in touch,” Eli said.

“Max, we need to get out of here,” Alex said, looking over his shoulder. “We have no idea when this place is going to blow.”

Max took one last look at Eli as he climbed to his feet, noting that his former boss was silently laughing at him. He didn’t say anything as he strode past Alex on his way back toward the elevator, unable to help the feeling that by dying, Eli was finally getting what he deserved.

Eli watched as the other two men left him lying on the floor. He knew his time was up and that all he could do was accept the inevitable. He stared at the ceiling as he took his final breath, letting it out slowly as his body went limp. He was dead.

“What the hell was he talking about back there, and why the hell did his own men shoot him?” Alex asked as he followed Max into Eli’s office.

“Those weren’t his men,” Max said as he started to search everything in sight.

“Then who’s were they?” Alex asked.

Max stopped searching for a second as he looked at Alex. “Who keeps popping up at the strangest places? Who seems to know every move we make before we even make them? Remember Cabo San Lucas?”

Alex thought for a second before he finally figured it out. “No way,” he said as he shook his head. “Nicholas is behind all this?”

Max nodded as he continued to search Eli’s desk.

“What are you looking for?” Alex asked.

“Anything useful,” Max said.

Alex put his rifle down and helped Max search, but after a few minutes of finding nothing, he knew their time was up. “We need to go.”

Max let out a sigh of frustration before he picked up a plastic filing tray off the end of the desk and threw it across the office, causing it to nosily break into four pieces. “Let’s go.”

Alex grabbed his rifle and slung it over his shoulder as he followed Max over to the elevator, silently agreeing that is was probably the safest route, seeing as how everyone simply ignored him a few minutes ago when he was on his way down here. They climbed onto the elevator and took it up to the first level, both holding pistols as the doors opened to reveal an empty hallway.

Side by side they quickly made their way down the hall, and when they turned the corner to make their way outside, they saw two guards walking towards them. Without hesitation, and without even slowing their strides, both Max and Alex raised their guns and shot twice, taking out the two guards with ease. When they finally got outside, they saw that practically everyone was running away from the compound as fast as they could. The only one’s who were holding their ground were those wearing camouflage and totting around automatic weapons, clearly indicating that they were Nicholas’s men.

Nobody paid that much attention to Max and Alex as they followed the herd of scientists and security guards away from the compound, most likely because they were both dressed exactly like all the other guards.

“What do we do now?” Alex asked in a hushed voice.

“We wait,” Max replied. “All we can do is wait for Nicholas to contact us.”

To Be Continued…


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Jul-2002 4:12:29 PM ]