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The Return of the Gray-haired Avengers

 

Chapter 5

The corridor made a ninety-degree turn, leading behind two other businesses. The good news, Johnny thought, as he raced down the narrow, tiled hallway, was the presence of a door that led outside. Again, he hoped that opening it would set off an alarm. Was sorely disappointed a second time.

Casey glanced around. Recognized the parking lot entrance she'd come through in Emma's car only minutes earlier. Which meant that Emma, her car, and more importantly, safety, were just around the corner. "This way!"

Johnny fell into step beside her. The slamming of the door behind them rang in his ears. A quick glance confirmed that the goons were still in hot pursuit. Something had to have happened to slow them…just enough to give him and Radar a chance to get further ahead. Couldn't have been Cliff…could it?

"Car's this way," Casey gasped. As soon as she'd cleared the corner of the building, her eyes lit on the red Charger. "Emma!" she shouted. "Emma!"

 

 

 

Two things happened simultaneously for the three elderly women sitting in the red Dodge Charger: the mall security truck stopped just behind them…and Casey appeared around the corner of the building, running as if her life depended on it, a teenaged boy beside her.

"Well, balderdash!" Emma sighed, watching the security officer in the rearview mirror. She didn't have a handicapped sticker…the most he could do would be to issue a citation and force her to move the car.

When she heard her name called, her head swung toward the sound. What she saw made it obvious that Casey was in trouble, and needed her help. There was no way to back out of the parking spot, not with that white truck sitting there! She didn't even notice when the uniformed man stepped out of the vehicle. Thankful she hadn't turned the engine off, choosing instead to let it idle until Casey returned, Emma jammed the gearshift into first gear, stomped on the gas, sending the car forward in a screech of tires and the smoke of burning rubber. The car bounced over the sidewalk that separated the two rows of parked cars and through the empty space in front of her. Her passengers grappled to for handholds as the car lurched forward.

"Good heavens!" Janelle exclaimed.

Jerking the steering wheel, the elderly woman sent the car sliding sideways into the driving lane, her foot still pressing the accelerator. She managed to straighten the vehicle enough to send it towards the sidewalk where Casey was running. When she saw a tall man appear around the corner of the building, his intent to grab the slender young woman obvious, she gunned the engine and headed for him. There was no doubt in her mind that running the bastard over was in the best interest of her young neighbor.

Still stunned, Janelle began to yell about the sedan that seemed to have appeared from nowhere, also heading for the tall, running man. "Don't let him get away!"

Determination in her eyes, Emma aimed the hood of the Charger for the man who was still pursuing Casey. A group of women, who had just emerged from the doors that led into Macy's, were shouting now as well, trying to wave the car off, not understanding that the old woman had a reason for her attempt to run over the tall man.

She barely heard the sound of another car engine roaring to life as she concentrated on her target. Emma wanted to scream with rage when the black sedan careened around the corner in front of her, putting itself between her and Casey…and the bastard chasing her.

The three older women watched as Casey and the teenager darted into the parking lot, dodging around parked cars. A second black sedan had appeared, and was attempting to follow the two who were on foot. When they looked back, the two men who had been pursuing Casey and her young friend were crawling into the car that had cut them off.

Before she could maneuver around the decorative planters on the sidewalk, two security vehicles had blocked her car into place. Emma threw the heavy car door open. "Get after them! The black cars! You have to stop them!"

Muriel was hanging out of the window of the backseat, pointing in the direction of the retreating figures of Casey and Johnny. "You have to help them! Stop those black cars!"

"All right ladies, just calm down," one of the security officers said, walking toward the Charger.

"Calm down? Are you out of your mind? Those kids are in trouble!" Emma screamed. "Get your asses after those cars!"

"Lady, don't take that tone with me!" the officer warned.

An alert on the Dodge Charger…more specifically the license plate of the car…had been issued by the Colorado Springs police department. If the vehicle was spotted, and the driver was a white-haired woman, she was to be retained until officers could arrive. The security guards had seen the car, took note of the license and the occupants, and had dutifully called the local PD. As a result, a squad car was pulling into the parking lot from the opposite direction the two black sedans were speeding away.

The police cruiser stopped behind one of the security vehicles. The driver, a pudgy man with a very large belly, took his time getting out of the car. He adjusted his belt, looked around casually, then adjusted his sunglasses. "So what seems to be the problem?"

As if a damn had burst, the security guards, the women who were still standing near the door of Macy's, two other women and a man who had been in the parking lot and had witnessed the entire bizarre event, and the three elderly women in the Charger began to speak at once.

Holding up one hand in a physical attempt to hold off the barrage of words, the cop put the fingers of the other hand in his mouth and whistled sharply. "Everyone just calm down!" He turned to the closest security officer. "Okay, what in the hell is going on here?"

"Well, we noticed this car-" the security guard began.

Emma pushed to stand in front of the man. "Officer, those cars over there have to be stopped!" She pointed toward the disappearing black sedans. "They're after my friend and her friend!"

"Lady, I'll take your statement in a minute," the cop said.

"Listen to me! You have to stop those cars! Now, damn it!" Emma demanded.

"I'm going to tell you nicely just once…shut up until it's your turn to talk!" the cop snapped.

The younger of the two police officers gently took Emma's arm. "Just step this way, ma'am."

Emma whirled to face him. "Please! You have to help! Serve and protect, isn't that what you're supposed to do? Well, then, do it!"

"Please, ma'am, step over here," the younger cop insisted.

Janelle was out of the car by now, and marched toward the cop who was holding Emma's arm. "My niece is in trouble! There were two men chasing her, and the teenager she came here to help!"

"They had guns!" a voice called out. "The men chasing the blonde and the kid…they had guns!"

"Wait a minute…there were weapons involved?" the younger officer asked.

"Yes, sir!" The woman who had been speaking, one of the two who had been in the parking lot, stepped forward. "The lady who was running…she was scared to death, you could see it on her face."

"The kid was scared, too," the man beside her said.

The young cop turned to look at his partner, who was discussing the situation with the security guards. "Uh…Tully? I think you should hear this."

The pudgy cop…Tully…waved a hand dismissively. "Just a minute."

"Tully, now. There were weapons involved," the younger cop said quietly.

"Boy, I've told you before, when I'm talking to a witness, you stay quiet!" Tully growled.

"Well, these witnesses say they saw armed men chasing a woman and a teenager," the younger cop insisted.

Tully turned toward the security guards. "Did you see these armed men?"

The guards looked at each other. "I saw couple of guys running. Didn't see any weapons," the speaker shrugged.

"The way it looked to me," one of the other guards said, stepping forward, "was that the woman and the kid were trying to get away from two guys. They were all running, but there wasn't any yelling or anything like that."

Tully crossed his arms over his ample belly. "Hmm. No yelling?"

"Well, not until the grannies tried to run the first guy over," the guard explained.

The cop turned to look at the three elderly women who glared at him in return. "You related to any of the people who were running?"

"Casey is my niece," Janelle huffed.

"And my granddaughter-in-law," Muriel sniffed.

"You related to the kid or the guys?" the cop asked Emma.

"Casey is my neighbor, and my friend," she replied.

His close-set brown eyes narrowed. "Sounds like a domestic to me," he sighed. "Just last week we got a call from Zumiez. Some kid all bent out of shape because Daddy wouldn't pay for the tee-shirt he wanted. Mom tries to play peace-maker, Dad slaps her and Junior…" He shook his head. "Wanna bet that's what happened?"

"That is not what happened!" Janelle said coldly. "Casey didn't even know the men who were chasing her!"

"You know that for fact?" the cop challenged.

Janelle glared. Then lowered her eyes. "No. But that man wasn't-"

"Lady, if you can't tell me for certain that she didn't know him, then I'm going to have to assume she did."

"Well, I can tell you right now that man-" Muriel started.

The cop held up his hand. "I don't wanna hear it."

The younger cop frowned. Tully had a very bad habit of making a situation whatever he wanted it to be. He always chose something that required as little paperwork as possible. If he decided this was another domestic dispute, that's what he would report it as. How the bastard had managed to remain on the police force for nearly twenty years was a freaking mystery, he thought. Quietly, the young officer began to talk to the witnesses who continued to stand in a group, taking their statements, names, and contact information. He wouldn't be able to talk to the older ladies until they moved away from Tully. But he was determined to get their statements as well.

"Officer, if you don't get after those cars right now, I'm going to file a complaint against you!" Emma said, her voice loud and firm.

"Okay, that's it. I'm tired of dealing with you. Kid, get these women in cuffs. We'll use the security vehicles to transport them to the precinct," Tully said.

"You can't do that!" Janelle gasped.

"Watch me," Tully sneered.

The young officer hesitated, taking in the shocked expressions on the faces of the elderly ladies. Then made a decision he hoped would work out for the best. With luck, this would be the one incident that Tully screwed up so badly that nothing the lieutenant could do or say would protect him. The two were both lousy cops, and old friends. Who knows, the young cop thought, both of the assholes might go down over this one! He pulled a pair of handcuffs from his belt. "I'm sorry," he murmured, clamping the metal around Emma's wrists.

"You can't be serious!" the man who had been a witness declared.

"Hey, the old lady almost ran that guy over!" one of the women who had come out of Macy's declared.

"She what?" Tully asked.

"Yeah, she was trying to run over that guy," the woman repeated.

"Because he was chasing the lady and that kid," the man retorted.

"Doesn't make it right," the woman sniffed indignantly.

Tully turned to Emma. "You're under arrest for reckless endangerment."

"And my friends?" Emma demanded angrily.

"Obstruction of a police investigation," Tully shrugged.

"Oh, please!" Janelle snapped. "What investigation? You haven't pulled your head out of your ass long enough to listen to what we've been trying to tell you!"

Tully's face turned red. "Get 'em in the cars!" he hissed.

"Uh…I don't know that we're authorized to transport prisoners," one of the security guards objected.

"I have three collars that need to be taken to the precinct for processing-" Tully started.

"They're old women. Just stick 'em in the back seat and take 'em in!" the supervisor of the security guards said. "Back to work, fellas." He glanced at the Charger. "Gotta call a tow truck to have this car impounded."

Without another word the security guards dispersed. They had done what they'd been instructed to do. Any arrests made were the jurisdiction of the police department, not the Chapel Hills Mall security. The only task left to them was seeing to the removal of the car belonging to the women now in police custody.

"Damned rent-a-cops," Tully muttered. He turned to his young partner. "Get 'em into the car."

"Maybe we should listen to what they have to say."

"We've already heard it. They're just family, pissed off at the guy. Get those women into the car!"

"I'm sorry," the young officer murmured to each of them as he helped the handcuffed women into the backseat of the cruiser.

Muriel studied the young man. She'd noticed the way he'd stared at his partner, before putting the handcuffs on Emma. Something told her that more was going on between the two officers than met the eye.

 

A A A A A A

 

The ride to the Northside Precinct was made in silence. When the squad car stopped in front of the building, half a dozen police officers on their way in or out of the building stopped to stare as the three elderly women were helped out of the back.

"Break up a 'Gray Panthers' meeting, Tully?" one of the officers teased.

"Ha ha. You're funny," Tully sneered. "Nah, just three old biddies from a domestic. Got real uncooperative and downright hostile."

The younger officer ducked his head, bit his tongue to remain silent. In doing so, missed the number of knowing glances that were tossed in his direction.

"Hostile, my ass," Emma said. "You should be after those men in the black sedans! By now they've probably caught Casey and her friend!"

"Lady, I don't want to hear it!" Tully insisted. As he tried to usher the women into the building, he missed the looks of interest…and speculation…that his fellow officers exchanged between themselves. His ego prevented him from seeing the writing on the wall. His arrogance was putting two innocent citizens into danger. That arrogance was about to cost him everything…and he was too blind to realize that fact.

One of the cops caught the younger officer's arm. "What really happened, kid?"

The young officer shrugged. "Witnesses saw two armed men chasing a woman and a teenager out of the mall. My guess is they were chased inside the mall as well."

"You didn't go inside to find out?" was the incredulous response.

The young man shook his head. "Are you kidding? Last week we had a domestic dispute there. Tully is convinced that's all this is."

"Yeah, less paperwork for him to deal with," the other officer said with disgust.

"I've got statements from the witnesses. With contact info. As soon as I can, I'm gonna talk to those ladies."

"Good job, kid. Let's just hope the lieutenant will listen."

"Here's hoping," the younger man sighed.

 

 

 

Led into a room filled with desks, Emma, Janelle, and Muriel were taken to chairs that were lined against one wall. They were then handcuffed to the chairs.

"I want my phone call!" Emma demanded.

"I want to know why you're not trying to help my niece!" Janelle snapped, her voice carrying in the large room. "She's in danger, and you're acting like an ass!"

"Quiet down, before you get yourselves in deeper trouble," Tully said.

"My granddaughter-in-law is in danger! You have to find those black cars!"

"Lady, I never saw any black cars. Didn't see your granddaughter, either," Tully replied haughtily.

"Well, you didn't see the man you're accusing Emma of trying to run over, either, yet here we are!" Janelle countered.

Tully just grunted, any actual words he might have spoken completely unintelligible, then headed toward the break room, where an ample supply of coffee and snacks waited.

Seizing the opportunity, the young officer squatted down in front of the women. "Okay, tell me everything that happened," he said quietly, his pen poised above a notepad.

"Well, we were having a nice visit with Casey," Emma started.

"Last name?"

"Jackson. Her husband is Daniel Jackson," Emma replied.

"He's my grandson," Muriel added.

The young officer smiled, nodded, and added that detail to his report.

"Casey…" Emma paused. She understood that most people didn't believe in seers. Certainly wouldn't understand just how…talented…Casey was. "Casey learned that a young friend of hers was in trouble. She called him, found out he was at the mall. So we drove there to pick him up."

"Okay."

"We were waiting in the car," Emma continued. She glanced at Janelle, then Muriel. Decided to leave out the part where Casey had instructed her to be ready to pick them up in a hurry. "I heard her calling me, and she was running, her young friend beside her. At first I just saw the one man chasing her. He had a gun in his hand. I was trying to get the car over to them…so they could get in the car."

"Then another man came around the corner, he had a gun, too," Muriel said. "I don't know where that car came from…it was just…there. And the two men got into it."

"What happened to Casey and her friend?" the young officer asked.

"They were still running through the parking lot, because I couldn't get turned around. Damned mall cops anyway," Emma complained.

He bit back his smile as he continued to write.

"Then all of a sudden there was another black car after them," Muriel said. Her eyes filled with tears. "Please, you have to get out there, you have to find Casey! She's in danger, I just know she is!"

"I'll do my best," the young officer assured her. With a nod, he rose and hurried to his desk. Then began typing furiously.

Five minutes later Tully reappeared, a cup of coffee in one hand, a Butterfinger candy bar in the other. He sat down at his desk, and began to type as well, his thick fingers moving slowly over the keyboard as he filled out his report.

"Hey! Chubby!" Emma called.

Tully looked over, a frown on his face.

"You never did read us our rights, and we have rights, ya know! So you either read my rights, or you let me go this minute! And I want my damned phone call!"

"Me, too!" Janelle said.

Several of the officers in the room stared at Tully. It wasn't uncommon for him to bring suspects into the precinct without Mirandizing them. Several times that failure had led to trouble for the lieutenant.

Tully turned in his chair. "You have the right to remain silent…and I really wish you would! Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights?"

"I'm not an idiot," Emma replied hotly.

"Just a simple yes or no, lady," Tully said.

"Yes," Emma said through clenched teeth.

"Yes," Janelle said, her voice tight.

"Yes," Muriel said quietly.

"There ya go. All nice and legal," Tully said, before turning back to his desk.

"I have the right to a phone call."

"You'll get it before you're processed," Tully said casually.

"I'd like mine now, thank you," Emma insisted.

"Let her make the call," the young man said quietly. "What's it gonna hurt?"

"They'll get their call when I'm finished with this," Tully insisted.

The younger man looked displeased. He returned to his interrupted typing.

"This is outrageous!" Janelle bellowed. Once again every head in the room swung in her direction.

"Lady, I'm gonna stick all of you into the holding tank if you don't shut up!" Tully warned.

"You wouldn't dare!" Janelle objected.

"Tully, just let them sit there," the young officer said, when the paunchy man rose to his feet, his face beet red with anger.

"Only if they shut up," Tully growled.

All three of the women took notice of the expression on the younger officer's face. His silent plea for them to cooperate.

Once again Muriel had the feeling that the young man was doing all that he could for them. "We can sit here, just as quiet as church mice," she said.

Emma and Janelle looked at her. Both were more than a bit agitated. "But-" Emma started.

"Quiet as church mice," Muriel said softly.

With a smile of approval, the younger officer returned to his interrupted task. That not one of the three questioned him when he rose thirty minutes later was a good sign, he thought. As long as they remained calm, he had a better chance of getting them out of the precinct altogether. He made a phone call on his personal cell phone from the janitor's closet, then hurried to the Lieutenant's office. Fingers crossed that his boss wasn't in a foul mood.

 

 

 

Forty minutes later, the young officer returned. "Have you let them make their calls yet?"

"Not finished with my report," Tully muttered, still hunting and pecking at the keyboard.

"You wait much longer, and you'll get slapped with a police harassment suit, and they'll walk away from any and all charges," the younger officer insisted.

Tully gave a grunt of disagreement, but stood to his feet, fishing for a key to the handcuffs. "Fine." He grabbed Emma's arm, jerked her to her feet. "C'mon, Grandma, let's go."

"I am not your grandma," Emma huffed. "If I were, I'd kick your ass for being such an idiot!"

Several barely concealed snickers echoed in the room.

Tully picked up the phone, slammed it down on the corner of the desk. "Make your damned call!"

Trembling hands picked up the receiver. Emma dialed the number she'd memorized. "Yes, I need to speak to General Hammond immediately. This is an emergency."

The young cop's head came up. General Hammond? Oh, shit…military! This could get very ugly, very quickly. He continued typing on his report, determined to make certain that everything he'd seen and heard completely filled the form.

Muriel was distressed to realize that her address book, which held Daniel's home and cell phone numbers, was in her purse. Which was in the Dodge Charger. Along with Emma's, Janelle's, and Casey's handbags. She hadn't memorized the numbers, which she castigated herself for. She turned down the offer of a phone book. "Calling my grandson's house won't do me any good," she replied.

Janelle was just as upset. "I don't have any of Gary's numbers," she sighed.

Emma patted Muriel on the arm. "General Hammond will take care of everything," she promised. It never occurred to her that both women could have called the general as well, given the connection of grandson and nephew to the SGC.

"But my purse! I need my purse! It has my wallet!" Muriel argued. "What if it's stolen? Casey's purse is there, too! What if they're both stolen?"

"Nothing will be removed from the vehicle, I promise," the younger officer assured the women, who were visibly shaken by the notion of their belongings being impounded with the car. He swore silently that he'd personally break the fingers of anyone in the impound yard who might make a liar out of him.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey pressed a hand to her side. "I gotta stop," she wheezed.

Johnny halted, bent over and put his hands on his knees, gasping for air. "We gotta find a place to hide."

Trying to drag as much oxygen into her lungs as possible, Casey looked around. A strip mall reached from one corner of the block to the other, just across the street from the parking lot where they stood. Which was annoyingly empty. The three restaurants that owned the lot appeared dark and deserted. A glance at her watch let her know it wasn't quite ten-thirty. There would be no refuge there.  Their best bet was one of the businesses in the strip mall...

"Shit!"

"What?" she asked.

Johnny continued to pat his pockets. "I must'a dropped my phone somewhere."

Phone! With a little whimper of relief, Casey reached into her pocket. She'd shoved her phone there before grabbing her purse. Which, as far as she knew, was still in Emma's car. A glance at the bars had her groaning. "Shit! No coverage here."

"Hills," Johnny said, nodding toward the foothills that led to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

"Shit." Her vocabulary, she noted, was definitely limited when she was out of breath and scared out of her wits.

"We should be able to get a better signal up there," he pointed toward the street behind the strip mall.

"Let's go."

They were halfway across the street when one of the black sedans appeared. Rubber squealed against pavement as the driver whipped the car into an illegal U-turn in the middle of the street.

"Oh, fuck!" Casey muttered.

Johnny grabbed her hand, and the two began to run once again.

 

A A A A A A

 

It was definitely Monday. He'd hoped to leave the mountain around eleven for lunch, and fully intended to take at least two hours, but a last minute meeting with Beth Meyers had delayed his departure by well over a hour. Daniel was on his way to change, preparing to go home. It was just past noon, but he couldn't take it any longer. He wasn't able to put his finger on what was wrong…why he seemed incapable of dealing with Casey's absence. She'd taken days off before, staying home to make the casseroles that were the mainstay of their diet during the week, and he'd not felt as unsettled…as lost…as he was feeling in that moment.

"Daniel Jackson, to General Hammond's office - stat. Doctor Daniel Jackson, report to General Hammond's office - stat."

With a sigh, he reversed course and rode the elevator down to level twenty-seven. He hurried into General Hammond's office, having every intention to put off whatever it was the general wanted to discuss until after he returned from lunch. He was surprised to see Jack standing there as well. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"I just received a phone call from Emma Hanks," Hammond began, holding Daniel with his gaze.

Oh, shit. What are those three old women up to now?

"She and Janelle Franklin and your grandmother are being held by the Colorado Springs police," the general continued.

"Wh-wha-wha-what?" Daniel stammered. He was too flabbergasted to note that Casey hadn't been mentioned.

"According to Emma, Casey was very upset. She called someone, from what I understand…a teenager." The general looked at Jack.

"Teenager, sir?" Jack asked, more than a little confused as to why he'd been called if it was Daniel's grandma and her cronies who were on the loose again. Not that he was opposed to any entertainment those three could provide. If he hadn't been interested before the general's partial explanation, he was certainly curious now.

"If I understand the details correctly, a trip to the mall followed the phone call. There was apparently trouble once they arrived," Hammond continued.

Frowning, Daniel tried to think of a reason that Casey would be upset…and would call Cassie Fraiser - the only teenager to come to mind - as a result. "Why is my grandmother being held by the police?"

"What did those three old ladies do now?" Jack asked at the same time…not doubting for a moment that they weren't just following a cablevision repairman this time.

"They tried to run down a man with Emma's car-" Hammond held his hand up to stop the shocked comments that were forming on the lips of the two men standing on the other side of his desk. "A man Emma claims was chasing Casey and the young man she was with. They…meaning Casey and the teenager…managed to escape. Although two black sedans, one of which picked up the man that Emma tried to run over, 'tore out after them', in her words. There was nearly a collision between Emma's car and that particular sedan."

"Teenager?" Jack asked, a frown on his face.

"Johnny!" Daniel gasped. "I knew that Casey was keeping in touch with him…she must have picked up something-" He grabbed his cell phone, frantically pushed 'one'. Pick up, Angel, he thought desperately, Please pick up! "No answer," he said hoarsely when the call rolled over to voice mail, his throat suddenly dry, his heart pounding against his ribs.

"I want the two of you, with Colonel Carter and Teal'c, to go get those ladies from jail. I'll be on the phone with the precinct where they're being held as soon as you're dismissed. I'll make certain they're released into your custody. Then I want you to find out exactly what's going on," Hammond said.

Colonel Reynolds stuck his head into the office. "Sir? Just got a call back from Agent Barrett."

"And?"

"No official investigation of General O'Neill. A request was made, but denied immediately. The White House refused to even discuss the issue."

"Unofficial?"

"He's still checking," Reynolds replied.

"NID." Jack shook his head. "They're not after me, they're after him! What the hell would they want with Mini-me?"

"Every bit of information that's in your head," Daniel said quietly. "He has all of your memories. Or all of them up to the moment when he learned he wasn't really you."

"Oy!"

Daniel snapped his fingers. "It's not your record they were looking for! At least, not exactly. They were looking for anything connected to the clone…er…Johnny!"

Jack nodded. "That has to be it," he agreed.

"It's possible that Casey isn't a target, although I seriously doubt that the NID will pass up the opportunity to grab her as well, especially if she's with Johnny," the general said quietly.

"Sir-" Daniel started, beginning to shake at the thought of the NID capturing his wife.

"I've already contacted the president," Hammond said, placing his hand on Daniel's shoulder. "We'll have files on every NID agent within the hour."

"Which helps us how, sir?" Jack demanded.

"For one, we'll have the identities of the men who were chasing Casey and Johnny," Hammond explained, "if Emma, Mrs. Franklin, and Mrs. Jackson can identify them. We'll have faces to post on the news and with every law enforcement officer in the Colorado Springs and Denver area. We'll have their names, any possible aliases, and their photos at the airports."

"If we make these guys desperate, they might retaliate against Casey," Daniel said worriedly. "And Johnny," he added.

"Doctor Jackson, your wife is a very intuitive, creative woman. Johnny O'Neill has all of the memories of General O'Neill's training and experience. I have no doubt that they'll either avoid capture, or be able to escape."

Jack managed a small smile. "No doubt Radar will have them throwing the door open and begging her to leave if she gives them any of that attitude of hers."

Daniel managed a small smile as well. "If they don't kill her first."

Hammond shook his head. "My gut tells me that Marshall wants those two alive."

Alive was not hale and hearty, Daniel thought frantically. And if just one of those bastards touched his Wife, he'd rip their arms off and beat them to death with the bloody stumps.

"Go, gentlemen. I want this issue resolved before innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire," General Hammond said firmly.

"On our way, sir," Jack replied.

"Civilian clothes. Let's keep the military out of this as much as possible, at least on the streets."

"Yes, sir." Jack glanced at Daniel. "I'll get Sam. You find Rocco. Topside, my truck fifteen minutes."

Daniel nodded, gave a cursory nod in General Hammond's direction, and bolted out the door. His grandmother had been arrested…and his Wife was either running for her life, or had been kidnapped by the NID. It's definitely Monday, he sighed mentally.

 

A A A A A A

 

Running as fast as their already stressed bodies could take them, Johnny led Casey behind the strip mall. A tall fence prevented them from slipping into the backyards of the houses on the street behind the businesses. Something that would have offered them safety…and perhaps even the assistance of one of the homeowners.

They could hear the car behind them…the shouts of the men who were climbing out to follow them.

"This way," Johnny said, darting toward a group of trash dumpsters. It wasn't the most desirable hiding place, but it would do in a pinch.

Casey bit back a curse when two men appeared near the large metal containers. "Well, shit!"

"We're gonna have to try to make a break for it," Johnny panted. "If we can get to one of those houses, we can get help."

Luck was still with them…temporarily…as they reversed their course and headed for the side street. Running uphill was sapping their already flagging energy.

Casey looked down at her phone, trying to focus on the symbol that alerted her to whether or not she had cell tower coverage. One bar…good enough. She pressed one, then send, praying that Daniel had his phone turned on.

The sound of a car engine behind them had both looking over their shoulders; made their hearts fall to their feet. Within seconds the car was beside them…then suddenly cutting off their escape up a nearby driveway.

Winded and frightened, neither Johnny nor Casey could turn quickly enough to run away before they were grabbed by the two large men who had jumped out of the car, one from the backseat, the other the passenger in the front. Huge hands wrapped around their arms and dragged them closer to the waiting vehicle.

One of the men took the phone from Casey's hand, dropped it to the ground, then stomped on it.

"Daniel is never going to believe this," she hissed angrily. "He just paid to get that phone."

"Lost another one, Radar?"

"Bite me, kid."

"Maybe you should check that suitcase you carry around. I'll bet it's in there somewhere," Johnny continued cheekily.

"You're a laugh a minute," Casey grumbled.

"The two of youse needs to just shut up," one of the men ordered sharply.

"Did he just say 'youse'?" Johnny asked incredulously.

"That's what I heard," Casey replied.

"Such a cliché," the teenager continued.

"That and the poor grammar definitely indicate lower intelligence," Casey agreed solemnly, staring at the goon.

"I tole' youse to shut up!" His hand was clamped around the back Johnny's neck, he shook the teen slightly.

The driver of the black sedan approached. "Take it easy."

"They won't shut up," the goon complained.

A tall, lanky man, the sole occupant of the car by that time, climbed out of the back passenger seat. Stepped closer and took a moment to examine the two who were now his prisoners. "Being too talkative isn't good for your health," he said quietly.

I know that guy! she thought, frantically searching her memory.

"You're worth more to me alive than dead," the man continued. "But if you become too…annoying…I won't be able to stop my…associates…from shutting you up."

Casey gulped at the coldness in his voice. She barely nodded.

Johnny noted the fear that had filled wide, green eyes. He wanted to tell the asshole to go fuck himself. Instead, he lowered his eyes. It would be best to prevent any sort of physical retaliation that could render him, and Casey, unable to escape. He'd bide his time. And then, he'd make these goons pay for ruining a very nice day. He hadn't been able to get the lovely Brandy's phone number because of them. Assholes.


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