The moon was shining fiercely, more intense than any full moon he could ever recall. It was almost blindingly bright. Of course, he had never taken in the moon from his back, lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood.
“At least I can still see it there,” he thought, breathing heavily. “That means that I’m still alive.” But the swirl of the night’s events was overtaking his mind like an out of control carousel. The party, the jokes… who was insulted? Who started screaming accusations? “Why did I run?” he muttered. Nothing made sense.
He needed to be clear, clearer than he had ever been in his entire life… the life that now hung in the balance. Rich (7/11/11)
Slowly he turned his head to the right and the movement made him grunt – excruciating pain, bolts of white flashes of that fierce moon like a rocket into his pulsating brain. The need to start assessing the reality of his situation was necessary but not tempting.
Memories where starting to line up in a more orderly fashion and he didn’t enjoy the way that the scenery unfolded. ”Oh no, he whispered, “I didn’t say that did I? Damn that Tequila….”
He could barely open his eyes, if he remembered it correctly there were a couple of terrible blows to both eyebrows and the swelling was troublesome to say the least. When he finally got his vision under control – he gasped for air. (Magdis 7/11/11)
Pain wracked his chest. The taste of blood flooded his mouth, and he began to choke. It was strange to hear your own death cry. He always pictured his final sound as a rebel yell, not this strange gurgling sound. He rolled over, agonizingly slow, and continued coughing up blood until only dry heaves remained. He spit the remaining blood out of his mouth and dropped his head to the dirt.
“Are you done yet? That’s quite the death cry you had going there. Leave it to you to die in the dirt, choking on your own blood. Though from the looks of it, I would say you don’t have much left in you. It’ll save me the trouble of killing you.” Though the voice was melodic, the words were cold steel.
Holding his rib, he struggled to his knees, gasping for breath. Dark hair covered his proud defiant eyes, but not the familiar smirk. A silver 9 mm handgun touched his forehead. He didn’t recognize the gun, but he knew its owner. Tequila, the woman who had started this whole mess. (Tiffany 7/12/11)
“Ah, you are still with it enough to recognize me. Good. I want you totally aware of how you feel.” Tequila’s voice was strong and filled with vengeance. She stood over Daniel Jacks staring through unsympathetic eyes. There was not an ounce of pity in her to ooze out and mingle with his blood. She gently shoved his body back to the earth.
She was thinking out loud, “We have no time to waste. It is only a few hours until sunrise.” By this time, Daniel was feeling very weak and disoriented. He begged her, “Please stop. Why are you doing this to me?” He was trying his best to gather what little strength he had left to pull himself up. But, every time he managed to lift his body just slightly off the ground, Tequila would lift her foot up and gently push him down. The time and place seemed surreal to Daniel. All he could think was that maybe hopefully someone had seen them leaving the party together… someone that knew their history.
Daniel was getting frantic inside. He needed to escape. With all his injuries and the pain he was enduring, he knew escape was impossible. Silently, his mind was racing, “Think, Daniel, think…you can’t just lay here like a victim. You have to try and fight back. You can’t let her do this again.” (Nico 7/12/2011)
Oddly, I Will Survive began wafting through the halls of his psyche, his head seemingly throbbing to the beat. “What the…?” He’d always been one to lean more toward Alice Cooper than Gloria Gaynor, more likely to be seen in some ramshackle biker bar that Studio 54. Just as he began wondering if he’d ever see his Harley again; another kick to the ribs brought him back to the present moment.
“I suggest you say your prayers.” Tequila hissed. Although it was still dark, the lunar sheen on her makeup-streaked face conjured vision of some primitive war painted she-bitch. He couldn’t help wondering, however briefly, what he’d ever seen in that mascara disaster.
“Wait a minute though,” he thought. “If her makeup is streaked, she’s been crying.” He’d been down that road with her more than once. This time, however, the potential to use her emotion against her became a growing ray of hope. (Melinda 7/13/11)
Daniel was a master manipulator, a connoisseur of con-artistry. He prided himself on being able to manipulate anyone into giving him anything that he wanted, especially women, but Tequila had been a challenge. She seemed to be able to see through him, through his exaggerations and lies. Tequila had fought back, both mentally and physically.
Daniel whispered, trying to catch her eye and conjure up a tear of his own, “Tequila, baby, don't do this. You know that I would never hurt you. I love y...”.
Daniel stopped cold when he made eye contact. The malice in her eyes held him still and nearly stopped his heart. Fear consumed him when he realized that she was no simple woman who's emotions could be toyed with. Tequila wasn't even human.
You do realize", Tequila said, "that as soon as I'm finished with you, I'm going to find that bitch Kahlua, don't you? And I'm going to take Mad Dog with me. I'm sure he'll want to have some fun with her before we're done. Mr. Martini just wants you both dead. After the way you treated me when you left, I was the one that wanted to see you suffer."
Instantly, the stillness of the early morning was shattered by two explosions. In a moment of lucidity, Jacks realized that every time Tequila pushed him back down with one foot, she left herself vulnerable. Drawing on every last bit of strength, he raised his butt slightly, as if to try and get up. Tequila, as he had hoped, lifted her foot to push him back down and when she did, Daniel rolled quickly, grabbing her ankle and twisting as hard as he could. The explosion of sound caused when her tibia was ripped from the femur, tearing apart tendons and ligaments, was exceeded only by the primal scream leaving Tequila's lips. The second explosion, a millisecond later, resulted from the chambered and cocked handgun hitting the pavement and firing.
After watching Tequila die, gurgling and gasping for air, Daniel drug himself to her car and pulled himself into the driver's seat. He'd worked for Martini and Rossi long enough to know that as soon as they heard of Tequila's failure, others would quickly follow. He had to get to Kahlua before they did. (Mitch 7/17/11)
He knew that she was in grave danger. If Martini found out Kahlua was the one who tipped him off, she wouldn't see the sunrise. The only problem was he had no idea where she was at the moment. Was she smart enough to go underground?
He shook his head and groaned at the effort. Well, he'd give her that much, Tequila could sure give you a kick when she wanted to. He'd loved her once and hated her always. He was glad she was dead, and he hated himself for the thought.
He never should have agreed to this bootlegging business. He was sick of running away. No matter how much money he brought in, it was never good enough for Martini. He might be able to negotiate with Rossi, but if Martini was around, he didn't stand a chance.
“I’m in bad shape,” Daniel thought. This required more than a patch job; he needed real medical attention. “Kahlua is smart. When she doesn’t hear from me in the next few hours, she’ll know that it went bad. Even if I found her tonight, what good would I be? I have to chance it.” Painfully, he backed the car up and headed for the Canadian border. Dr. Squeeze could still be depended upon to work his magic if he could reach him undetected.
“Dr. Squeeze,” Daniel managed to grin. Where the hell did that name come from? “Jesus,” he thought, “This whole friggin’ cluster has been as bad as Reservoir Dogs.” It was both ironic and brutally funny to make the association with that particular movie in this dark moment. “Martini, Rossi, Mad Dog, Tequila… Jesus, I don’t even know Kahlua by anything other than that name, as close as we are. We’re a goddamned liquor cabinet. At least I insisted on ‘Daniel Jacks’ instead of the friggin’ obvious.”
He winced and bit his lip hard to keep from screaming every time the car hit a rut. The road was awful; that’s why so few people knew that it actually went somewhere. Tonight, somewhere was to the “facility” of Dr. Squeeze, the magician who would keep him going. “I’m not in much worse shape than the night of the ‘bar exam,’ when I got pulled into all of this,” Daniel thought out loud. He hoped that the “Doctor” would concur. (Rich 7/22/11)
As he rounded the last hairpin curve headed up to the compound, the Pacific Ocean suddenly came into view, startling him with its unexpected magnificence. He rolled the car to a stop at the top of the hill. The sun was just beginning to rise over Vancouver Island, its orange-pink rays stretched across the horizon as if gathering up the morning in a warm, ethereal embrace. For one transcendent moment, he forgot he was perched upon the precipice of disaster, and Daniel remembered grace.
“Hey!” A knock on his window made him jump, and the pain returned in a sickening flood, along with the realization that this was going to be the longest day of his life. He turned to see the stoic face of the “Doctor” peering through his window. His stomach churned.
“Everything is ready. Follow me.” Dr. Squeeze turned and headed toward the “facility”, a posh Northwest-style chalet flanked with cedar, plate-glass windows and river rock at the edge of an alpine meadow which doubled as a helicopter landing field. Daniel didn’t want to know who’d footed the bill for this extravagance, so he tried to refocus his thoughts as he hobbled through the massive front doors into the great room. And there she was. (Melinda 7/25/11)
He felt a huge weight being lifted from his shoulders. Then suddenly, without warning the room began spinning faster than the blade of a helicopter. The relief he felt inside at the sight of Kahlua sent him to staggering to his knees. “Kahlua,” he whispered, and then fell to the floor as the darkness descended.
“Help me get him to the examining room, Kahlua” said Dr. Squeeze. She was trying her best to be strong, but inside she was trembling with fear. They gently lifted him from the floor, grasping him under his arms. Daniel felt like dead weight. Kahlua was not your typical praying person. But, in her mind she was begging someone, anyone to help Daniel make it through the night. “He did all of this for me,” she thought, as the years of regret consumed her heart and filled her eyes with tears.
Dr. Squeeze began to cut away Daniel’s clothes so he could examine the extent of his injuries. His eyes were nearly swollen shut. The blow to his head left a jagged gash. The blood had clotted over the gash. It looked as if he had fallen on the corner of a sharp rock. It was obvious from his labored breathing some of his ribs were broken and the collapsed lung needed to be taken care of immediately. There was no time to sedate him. Without hesitation, the doctor cut between Daniel’s ribs and inserted the tube to drain the air from around the lung. As the lung once again expanded, his breathing became substantially easier. Dr. Squeeze was feeling a little doubtful that he could manage the extensive care Daniel needed without taking him to the hospital. He mentioned this to Kahlua. Hysterically, she begged and pleaded, “No, no, no…you cannot take him to the hospital. They will kill him. They will find him and kill him. Please don’t do it. I will do whatever you want. I will pay you whatever you want. Just do not take him to the hospital.” She fell to her knees, her tears flowing like torrential rain. (Nico 7/25/11)
“Crisse de calisse de tabernak!”, Squeeze hissed loudly. “I work for the same damn agency, Kahlua! I'm doing my job to the best of my abilities. Your flare for the dramatic is neither helpful nor appreciated. Get the hell up and scrub in. You'll have to assist me.. if you think you can get a hold of yourself long enough to help."
The doctor had never really liked Kahlua. Sure she was beautiful, but in his opinion, a woman should be more than a pretty face. And besides that, she had always been a bit hostile toward Squeeze and his Quebecois manner. Her begging had disgusted him. His dedication to the agency was unquestionable. Did she really think offering him money, or God knows what else, would appeal to him? He found himself wondering if she truly was that brainless or just purposely offensive.
“I don't have anything to properly sedate him. We'll need to restrain him.” The doctor and Kahlua worked quickly to secure the semi-conscious Daniel to the bed. . (Amber 8/1/11)
“Is your phone working OK out here?” Knuckles looked concerned, a frown like dried up riverbeds all over his forehead. He sure wasn’t a pretty sight with all those scars criss-crossing his face. Tequila never missed an opportunity to comment his looks and now….. Knuckles laughed when he heard about her death…”found her with her frigging foot backwards, face all gone” Mad dog told him, ”…only recognized the ring on her finger, stupid bitch!”
He and Mad Dog had been sitting in the car for hours outside Dr. Squeeze’s house, well away from the huge windows, waiting for the phone call from Martini. After that it would all be over in a couple of seconds. Mad Dog trembled with joy as he pictured all three of them shot to pieces, how he would decorate the walls of that deceitful, pretend-wannabe-doctor.
The silence was broken by a mighty scream from inside the house. It ripped across the landscape like a missile, tearing something wide open, like the sound from a wounded animal. "What the f….” Knuckles and Mad Dog looked at each other, uncertain what to do. Then the phone went off, the awaited signal, at last. (Magdis 8/6/11)
“Damn, Kahlua, spare me the sarcasm!” said Daniel with as much humor as he could muster. He was still in a great deal of pain. The reality was they were on their own at this moment, trying to escape two of the most deadly hit men in existence today. They needed a plan. Daniel’s main focus was Kahlua. He had fallen in love with her during this covert operation, but knew it was against the ‘code of ethics’. Did she know? In his mind his thoughts were frantic, “I have to gut up and transcend this pain. This is the first woman I have ever had any respect for, any feelings of trust and love. If it kills me, I am going to get us out of this shit.”
“Any ideas, Superwoman?” Daniel said this jokingly, but he knew outwardly and physically Kahlua WAS a Superwoman. He also sensed that on the inside, there was a wounded, gentle side that she kept hidden from the world for some reason. This is what had drawn him to her. He looked over and saw her looking in the rear view mirror every couple of seconds. “Are they getting any closer?” Kahlua told him she thought they were just tailing them for the moment.
They looked at each other and almost simultaneously asked, “What are we going to do next?” Neither of their cell phones was working out here in ‘No Man’s Land’. There was no way to let their contact know that they were in deep trouble, that the whole plan had gone awry. And then there was Daniel’s injuries…how long could his body endure without medical attention? (Nico 8/11/11)
Daniel pushed the gas pedal to the floor. "Hold on. I've got an idea. We'll die trying."
Kahlua pushed her legs to the floor, bracing herself. She reached her hand over to Daniel and squeezed tightly. "At least we'll die together."
The car behind them sped up and continued right on their tail. Daniel watched the speedometer creep up...100...102...105. He knew the speed was dangerous, but on this road, any loose rock or stick could mean instant death. 106...109...110. Ahead Daniel could just make out a space where the sky seemed lower. He prayed he remembered which way the road turned from last night. Gently he turned the wheel. He didn't want to give too much away to the car behind him. 111...112...113. "God, I hope I'm right." He turned the wheel sharply to the right. The brakes behind him squealed and the wheels The brakes behind him squealed and the wheels spun, but Daniel's gamble paid off. The trailing car slid over the cliff and into the ocean below. (Tiffany 8/13/11)
Adrenaline coursed through Daniel's veins providing him with temporary pain relief. He felt giddy, almost a little high as he slowly began to apply the brake, both hands on the wheel, bringing the car back to an acceptable speed.
Kahlua was breathing heavily, relief working its way physically through her limbs as she began to relax them. Her legs bent slightly as her thighs relaxed. She sank into her seat again and sighed, her shoulders dropping. Kahlua pushed her hair back from her face and looking over at Daniel, caught his eye and laughed, giving him one of her dazzling smiles.
“Daniel, I should be driving. You're hurt.” Kahlua looked away from Daniel and back at the road and screamed. (Amber 8/19/11)
Daniel almost jumped out of his seat when he heard Kahlua scream. His eyes shot back to the road, expecting to see a deer, elk, or some other animal that inhabited the area. Finally, his brain processed what his eyes were seeing.
It was evening; they were heading west, trying to put as much distance between Squeeze's lair and all that had happened there. The sun was just above the horizon, which made driving, even under perfect conditions, difficult and dangerous. But these weren't perfect conditions...not by a long-shot. Daniel was still badly injured, they were on a treacherous mountain road, and the sun was in his eyes, making them burn. When his brain processed the image, the burn in his eyes worsened...fueled by the immense rage that accompanied his interpretation of the scene in front of him.
Standing in the middle of the road, pointing what appeared to be a 50mm machine gun straight at them, was the creator of the day's ungodly events. It was Martini. (Mitch 08/30/11)
Clearly the shots were meant to disable the vehicle, but just as Martini started firing, the truck hit a ridge in the rickety dirt road and caught air. The bullets ricocheted off the undercarriage and the front end came down with a thunderous crash and a double thud as it roared over Martini's body.
Daniel glanced in the rearview mirror and saw him lying there in a dust-covered heap like abandoned road kill. Was he dead? His heart was racing, and he knew it couldn't take much more.
"Don't look back!" Kahlua yelled. "We've got to keep going. You've got to pull through Daniel; I can't do this without you." Her words were the kind that might be spoken to a dying man, which struck Daniel as alien and unnerving, even after all he'd been through. He set his focus on the road, knuckles white against the steering wheel, and forged ahead. His only consolation was the belief that nothing worse could happen. (Melinda 8-29-11)
Kahlua leaned her body over towards Daniel, putting her head on his shoulder. Daniel wasn’t shocked at that. What did surprise him were the soft sobs that were being muffled as she cried into his arm. That he had never encountered before and it unnerved him like virtually nothing else that had happened the entire night.
He swore that she was saying, “I’m sorry. Oh Daniel, I’m so, so sorry…” but he wasn’t sure because it was just then that the world started doing spins around him, swirling like dull, thick liquid down an open sewer. The pain, the burning in his leg, blackness engulfed him and there was nothing, no one that could save them now.
Light, intensely bright light that he could sense through his swollen eyelids, as he was laying on something cold, something hard and metallic. Shuffling energy, confusion all around him, frantic voices asking for something… drugs? What? He groaned and then heard the energy rush towards him. “He’s alive! We haven’t lost him Doctor! Mr. Mason is alive!” (Rich 9/12/11)
Sharp flash of pain in his chest, ribcage on fire, eyes glued shut, “His heart rate is going up – give him more morphine! NOW” he heard, then he drifted off again. It just kept happening, same scenario, same pain, forever, never ending, stuck in Limbo. He was trying to move but he felt a tugging and pulling from a tube sticking out from his bandaged chest. ”Need to get out of here….got to leave…” sharper pain, felt like he was ripped in two pieces. “Can’t open my eyes” Daniel hissed….”have to leave…who the hell is Mason…?”
An hour or maybe a week later he woke up again, his head a little bit more clear this time but he still couldn’t see. Seemed like they’d covered his eyes with bandages, he just prayed he hadn’t gone blind.
A cell phone buzzed frantically from somewhere in the room and at the exact moment that he heard Kahlua’s heartbreaking shriek not so far away, someone answered the phone. The voice was familiar enough to scare the last ounce of strength right out of him: “Rossi.” (Magdis 9/16/11)
“I told you I have it covered,” said Rossi as he stepped out of the room. He was trying to be quiet so Daniel would not wake up. “They think his name is Charles Mason and for now he is safe. Do not call me here again.”
Daniel was motionless but his mind was racing. What is Rossi doing here? What happened to me? Where is Kahlua? He was so disoriented. Time seemed to be suspended. He was coming in and out of his morphine twilight, reality almost indiscernible to him.
He wanted to get up but he could not move. The pain was still constant and with the bandages over his eyes he knew disastrous results would follow if he tried to escape. Once again, he began drifting off into that drug induced oblivion. (Nico 9/19/11)