Pairing: Liam Neeson/Orlando Bloom, minor Liam/Johnny Depp, plus a few other pair-ups among the supporting characters.
Rating: NC-17 overall
Summary: Slave Orlando's been taken and the kidnappers aren't interested in ransom. And of course Master Liam's thundering rage is only at the personal insult, that someone would disrespect him by daring to touch his property.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone you recognize. I know nothing about their social lives or sexual activities, more's the pity. This is fiction, period. It is done as a labor of love and I make no money from it.
Notes: 1) Set in poisontaster's Kept Boy universe -- FAQ here. See Chapter 1 for more notes.
Previous Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight
They picked up Mr. Thewlis, who'd been on a later flight, then headed out to the industrial park where Kevin had said this Csokas guy spent most of his time. Johnny could tell that Master Liam's gut instinct was to head straight to the fake Commerce office where Kevin had last seen Orlando -- the clenched jaw and fidgeting hands while they drove in a different direction communicated that as clearly as a billboard to someone who'd known him as long as Johnny had. But Kevin had been absolutely certain that Orlando would've been sold on already, so getting the man who was running the show was the next best move.
Or would have been, except he wasn't there.
Johnny, who'd been driving their rental car, triple-checked the map he'd printed out, went back to his notes for the address Kevin had given them, then checked again with Liam's own memory, all with an increasingly sick feeling in his stomach that he must've done something wrong, something stupid.
Nothing changed -- they were still parked in front of a small printing shop. The address was correct, a unit toward one end of the block in a light industrial area. The property was sort of like a strip mall, except with lots of roll-up doors and no big display windows.
Thewlis went in to investigate while Johnny paged through his notes again, over and over. His master sat in the back seat, his silence a condemnation.
Or, not really. Johnny knew Master Liam wasn't actually blaming him. If he'd thought Johnny had made some kind of mistake, he'd be giving instructions or just taking over himself to fix it. The fact that he was just sitting only meant that he was stressed-out too. But still, a stressed-out owner was never a good thing, no matter whose fault the stress was.
Thewlis came out about five minutes later and slid back in next to Master Liam. He pulled out his laptop while saying, "They've only been there about three weeks. I got a card for the management company; we can find out who leased the space before the print shop was there. We might as well head over to the second site."
Unspoken was, "And hope they haven't moved out of that one too."
Master Liam nodded to Johnny in the rear view mirror, so he pulled out and drove west -- carefully, though his foot wanted to get there a hell of a lot faster -- toward the main commercial center, and then a little past it.
Thewlis found a number that wasn't just voicemail and Johnny heard him talking to someone with the company that collected rent on the industrial building. He asked about Csokas by name, then after a long pause, gave a description of him. That one worked; he'd leased the building under another name, or maybe someone else had leased it but he'd been there at the time. Whichever, it looked like that part of Kevin's story checked out, at least, which made Johnny feel a little better. Maybe a little optimistic, even.
The next stop was another strip mall only that one was real, complete with a 7-Eleven and a Starbucks. One unit was blank and looked like it was between occupants, like Kevin had said. Johnny pulled around to the back, counted doors, and parked near the one they wanted.
He hoped. He hoped this was the one they wanted.
Master Liam was out of the car before Johnny got the keys out of the ignition, Mr. Thewlis right behind him. Johnny scrambled after them, catching up just as his master rattled the doorknob, then banged on the panel with one fist.
He waited maybe five seconds, then pounded again, harder. He was about to make it number three when there was a rattling click at the level of the knob and the door was yanked open by an annoyed but otherwise average looking guy who was saying, "Swear to God, if you forget--" then cut himself off.
The guy looked shocked for about half a second, then glared and started over. "This is a private--"
Master Liam cut him off by bulling his way inside; the guy backed up, probably preferring that to getting run over by someone who had five inches on him.
"This is a Commerce office, is that right?" Straight to the point with no bullshit, that was Johnny's master. Mr. Thewlis followed him in and helped with the looming intimidation thing. Johnny stepped over the threshold and then stopped to look around, both because someone probably should and because no one had ordered him to get anywhere near where a fight might break out any time now.
"Of course it is, and we're closed now. I have to ask you to leave."
There was a desk to one side, the sort of plain, cheap, metal-frame desk one would expect of a very low-level bureaucrat type, and the sign behind it read "Commerce Processing Center, Bakersfield."
"Oh? When are you open, then? Odd to be closed in the middle of the afternoon." Master Liam pulled out his phone. "As a taxpayer I disapprove. I think I'll call Stan Parkinson and complain." He bipped numbers into the phone with one thumb, then put it to his ear while saying to the fake-Commerce guy, "You've heard of Parkinson, of course? Regional Director?"
Johnny recognized the name of the man his master'd had a meeting with. He also knew that Parkinson was Regional Director for the Bay Area back home and had no direct authority over an office in Bakersfield. Of course, if he'd really been as friendly with Master Liam as he was implying with his tone and the quick call, he'd probably have been interested in hearing about a local office slacking off, and at the very least would know where to send the complaint.
Fake Commerce Guy being fake, though, he likely wouldn't know the difference either way.
Apparently he didn't because his next move was to snag the phone out of Master Liam's hand, then before anyone could react, turn and make an awkward leap over his desk. He landed hard in a sort of kneeling sprawl, but instead of getting up he fumbled in a drawer.
Johnny had a good idea what was next, which was why he dove down to the floor, right up against the mostly-metal desk, while Master Liam and Mr. Thewlis lunged after the guy. Legs flew over Johnny and he got kicked in the shoulder, then another foot used his back to launch off of for a jump. Johnny heard grunts and swearing and thuds and creaking, and the sound of one silenced round being fired -- which got his head buried even farther under his arms, whether that would've done any good against flying bullets or not -- before the reception room went quiet again.
"Now," said Master Liam, sounding just a bit winded. "Let's start over."
Johnny felt a nudge against the sole of one shoe. He uncovered enough of his head to see Mr. Thewlis, who now had a pistol in one hand, gesturing for him to get up.
"I'm looking for someone," Master Liam continued. "Two, in fact, and you're going to help me find both of them. One is a Marton Csokas. The other is a slave named Orlando Bloom."
Fake Commerce Guy coughed out a short laugh. "You want Csokas? You should've said so instead of all the 'taxpayer' crap. He's gone. He made his target and got out. This is my operation now."
"Out of the country, that's all I know. He was gonna liquidate and head out somewhere, retire and live the good life."
"When was that?"
"About a month ago, something like that."
"He left a month ago?" Master Liam glared down at the guy, whose shirt front was still clenched in two large fists, and Johnny saw the guy's head shrink into his collar, like he thought he could hide or get away.
"No, no! He wrapped stuff up about a month ago, turned everything over to me. He was just waiting on some money and I paid him that a couple days ago. He might be gone by now or maybe not, I don't know, I swear! He didn't let me know where he was going or when or anything, and I don't expect to ever hear from him again!"
Master Liam muttered something that had "fuck" in it, then said "What about Orlando?"
"I don't know any Orlando."
Master Liam let go of the man's shirt with one hand and slammed a fist deep into his belly. The guy let out a breathy cry of pain, then gasped for air.
The guy shook his head and waved his hands in frantic little flutters. Mr. Thewlis pulled a photo out of his inside pocket and held it up in front of the guy's face. "How about this?"
The head shakes turned into eager nods. "Yeah, yeah! David! Right, he said his name was Orlando, I forgot!"
"Of course you did," snarled Master Liam. "Where is he?"
"I don't know. No, I don't, I swear! I... I sold him, I took him to a, you know, up to Santa Ana and processed him in! I don't know where he is now, could be anywhere!"
"How long ago?"
"About two and a half weeks ago! That Wednesday! He coulda been sold by now, he might be anywhere!"
"He's still there," said Johnny. All three men looked at him.
"Why?" asked Master Liam. "He could've been sold right away."
"Begging your pardon, Master, but if they sold him as a new slave, then he couldn't. Basic indoctrination takes three weeks so he couldn't have been sold yet." It'd been a long time, but Johnny still remembered. Still had terrifying dreams about it every now and again.
"Excellent." His master gave him a grim nod, then dragged Fake Commerce Guy up onto his feet. "Who's your contact at the Santa Ana office?"
"And don't try to convince me you just trot them all in and hand them off to whoever's working that shift. With all the fake paperwork you must deal in, that kind of risk would've had you caught a long time ago. You've got someone on the inside -- who is it?"
The guy shook his head again. Master Liam slammed it into the cinderblock wall.
"Who is it?"
"Parker!" The guy was starting to sound a little off, whether from the beating or from sheer terror. Johnny didn't feel at all sorry for him either way. "Warren Parker! He works swing."
"Good. Now, you're going to take us on a tour, and if I'm satisfied by what we see, we'll leave." He shoved the guy ahead of him toward the second door, leading to the inside.
They toured the place, which didn't take very long because it was pretty small -- about the size of a strip-mall restaurant, just partioned differently. There was one slave, a young man locked in one of the cells with recent marks from a flogging crusted across his back. Johnny, with his collar obvious over the unbuttoned collar of his polo shirt, went in to talk to him.
He said his name was Gerald. He didn't know how long he'd been there, but thought it was probably about a week. Long enough, anyway, that the flogging was definitely done there, and not something his old owner had done.
"Do I have to go back to her?" Gerald asked. He whispered, eyes down on the floor and arms wrapped around his stomach, as though afraid someone was about to leap out and punish him.
Johnny actually didn't know the answer to that. He wished not, but was afraid they'd have to give Gerald back. "I don't know," he said. "But you won't be here anymore, so that's good."
He touched Gerald's shoulder, then said, "Hang on, it's all right," when the kid flinched. "I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to see something." He ran his hand up one side of Gerald's neck, then the other. There, on his right side, the skin felt different. He tugged Gerald by the hand out into the hall where the light was brighter.
Gerald stopped when he saw the three men, or maybe it was just Fake Commerce Guy, who might well have been the one who'd been beating on him. Johnny repeated, "It's all right," and put his body between Gerald and the others. He tilted the kid's head to one side and took a look. Sure enough, the margins where the skin had been replaced were obvious -- smooth lines, no dimples from stitches, a few red and swollen places but nothing that looked infected.
He turned Gerald around to face the wall and searched across the center of his back. Again, a healing scar, this one much smaller and fainter.
"He's out of the system," Johnny said. He kept his voice neutral but it was a struggle. Gerald was free. Really free, not just run away and waiting to be tracked down "free," which was no such thing. He could just leave if he wanted to, go out and find a life. They could do this to anybody. To him. Johnny was momentarily overwhelmed with images of what his life could be like, if someone would just do this to slaves and then let them go instead of selling them again.
Johnny wasn't young anymore but he wasn't old, either, not really. He had a lot of mileage, maybe, but still, forty-five was barely approaching middle-age. He had valuable skills and experience, he'd travelled all over the world, he knew business down to the ground -- he could make a good living for himself, if he only had the chance.
But of course, he wasn't going to get that chance. Gerald probably wasn't either.
His master's voice startled his attention back to the there-and-then and Johnny pushed all the longing and anger away, forced them out of his mind the way he always did. There wasn't anything he could do about it, and being angry just made you make mistakes and do stupid things, and that got you punished.
"--all we can get from this," Master Liam was saying. He looked around, then hauled Fake Commerce Guy into the small training room. It wasn't spacious but it was thoroughly equipped. Master Liam shoved the guy down onto the floor, buckled on a leather gag that'd been lying in the dark scum in one corner, then clicked his wrists into manacles set into the wall.
He said to Johnny, "Give his pants to the boy," then waited while Johnny hauled the guy's pants off, ignoring his protests, and helped Gerald into them.
Then Master Liam led them all back to the reception area and stopped. "Stay here with them," he said to Thewlis. "And give me the gun. I'll be back in a minute."
Johnny felt his stomach twist, and Thewlis said, "My Lord, you can't."
"Who's going to complain?" Master Liam asked. His jaw was set and his voice was cold and hard. "You?"
"No, of course not, but--"
"Johnny can't testify unless I let him. We'll think of something to do with the slave, but he can't testify either. And I don't imagine the other participants in this 'operation' of theirs are going to be terribly eager to call in a police forensics team. They'll dump his body and maybe think twice about what they're doing."
"He knows Orlando!" Master Liam stepped right up in Mr. Thewlis's face and looked like he was about to roar. "If we just turn him over to the police, or to Commerce, they'll suck every bit of information out of him with drugs and they'll find Orlando. And no, I'm not letting the fucker go. Now give me the gun so we can leave."
Thewlis stared at him, his eyes searching for something, then handed him the gun. He didn't say anything, or even nod, but he put his hand on Gerald's shoulder and turned his back.
Master Liam went back in through the inner door. Johnny half expected to hear the gunshot, even though he knew the gun was silenced. He didn't hear anything except his own breathing and the thudding of his own heart. His master was back less than a minute later.
"The gun?" asked Thewlis.
"Barrel of bloody rags and who knows what else, plenty to obscure a DNA analysis. And yes, I wiped it off first. Out."
Thewlis stayed behind to wipe down the office, then came out the door, wiped the knob and the spot where Master Liam had knocked, then got into the car.
As Johnny pulled out of the parking lot, Thewlis said quietly, "I can take care of the boy for you."
Johnny glanced up in the mirror and saw his master nod. They drove on in silence.
Next Chapter: Chapter Thirty