Nate had gotten them a last-minute chartered flight to San Lorenzo by calling the Italian. Great, Eliot thought, someone else who has leverage over us. Just what we need.
The team was sleeping around the spacious cabin, except for Nate, who never seemed to need it. It had been a busy twenty-four hours as they prepared to leave, and everyone was exhausted, including Eliot. But he couldn't sleep. No, he wouldn't sleep; he badly wanted to, but not in front of the team. He wouldn't let them see the nightmares, because he wouldn't be able to answer the questions that followed. So instead he let the memories overwhelm him.
Almost a decade ago
Eliot awoke to a phone ringing, which confused him. He didn't remember asking for a wake-up call. He looked at the clock: 6:37 am. He definitely didn't ask for a wake-up call that fucking early. Not this week. Eventually it'd stop.
But as he listened to the ringing, he realized it wasn't the very distinctive ring of a hotel wake-up call. It was the very distinctive ring of Moreau's phone. Shit. Moreau insisted on being able to contact him at all times, and so he'd been provided with this mobile phone. It was clunky and he hated it, but that was part of the job. He grabbed it, because letting it ring wasn't going to make it stop. Besides, you always picked up for Moreau.
"Moreau needs you," Chapman snapped over the line.
"Like hell he does. I'm on vacation," Eliot snapped back. He was hoping it would be Moreau himself, not a toady.
"Yes, yes, we all know The Chosen One is on vacation, but he needs you. Now."
Eliot growled. He hated that dumbass nickname, and he wasn't in the mood for Chapman's inferiority complex. "Why don't you do it? Then you can show him what you're made of and finally get the approval you never received as a child."
"What about 'He needs you' don't you understand? He told me to call you and tell you to get your ass back here now. Some big job that can't wait, apparently."
Eliot sighed. "Tell him I'll be in first thing tomorrow morning. I'm not in the country."
"He won't be happy about that," Chapman warned.
"He wouldn't be happy if you said it, but he always understands when it's me," Eliot smirked. If his day was going to be ruined, he might at least get some enjoyment by rubbing salt in Chapman's chipped shoulder.
"Fuck you," Chapman snarled, and hung up.
Eliot flopped back down on the pillow and groaned. Fuck. He'd better get paid extra for this. Usually Moreau was respectful of Eliot's downtime, so this call was unusual. He lay in bed for a few more minutes, trying to imagine what could be so important.
He turned his head to the woman next to him. She was still sound asleep. Not surprising, after the night she had. Eliot smiled. He couldn't remember her name, but he did remember how much she cost. More than he expected. But she was perfect, just his type, so he splurged. Worth every penny, he smiled. But he was disappointed. He had been looking forward to spending the day in bed while she did all manner of unspeakable things to him.
Eliot grumbled and got out of bed. He showered and gathered his things. It wasn't until he put the cash on the nightstand that he noticed she was awake.
"Where are you going?" she said with a pout. Eliot got a hard-on just thinking about how she'd used that pout last night.
"Work. Duty calls."
"What do you do again?"
"If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Thanks for last night, darlin'." He left with a wink and a smile that had slain nearly every woman he met, even the ones that weren't paid to swoon at it.
Dammit, Damien, this had better be fucking important, he growled. Like, life-or-death important.
He had no idea.
It was just about eight the next morning when Eliot finally reached Moreau's mansion in San Lorenzo. He had planned to be in the night before, but his train had been late and he'd had to travel all night. He had barely slept and had no time to even go home, much less shower and change. He was seriously regretting not telling Chapman and Moreau to fuck off and going back to sleep yesterday. But no one told Moreau to fuck off. Not who lived to tell about it anyway. But if someone tries anything, I swear ...
Moreau's study was packed. He had called the whole team in. Odd.
"The Chosen One has returned!" Chapman exclaimed when he entered the room. Eliot almost punched him in the neck.
That damned nickname pissed him off even when he wasn't sleep-deprived. When Moreau needed a new Head of Security — the official title, but it obviously included more than that — everyone had assumed that he'd promote from within the organization, specifically Chapman. Chapman especially felt that he would and should get the job. But instead Moreau decided to hire from the outside and chose the best in the personal security/hitting business: Eliot Spencer. No one was happy about it, least of all Chapman, and they let him know by calling him Moreau's Chosen One. After a while, they learned why Eliot was chosen — because he was damn good at what he did — and the nickname lost its appeal. But not with Chapman. Eliot's success made him even more jealous and angry, so he taunted Eliot every chance he could, including in front of Moreau. Moreau didn't stop it; on the contrary, he enjoyed the competition, as long as it didn't interfere with the work. So Eliot had decided to fight fire with fire and dish it right back.
But he was too tired this morning to come up with anything witty, and punching Chapman in the neck wouldn't ingratiate himself to anyone, so he contented himself with a growl.
"Now, now, boys," Moreau cooed with a smile, "settle down. Eliot, good to see you. I apologize for calling you back here, I know I promised you two weeks, but this couldn't wait. Rest assured you will be sufficiently compensated."
Eliot gave Moreau a nod and smiled to himself. That's why he stayed in this job: Moreau paid better than any mob, any corporation, any military, any government or not-officially-a-part-of-the-government entity, or any cute little rebel cause. Eliot knew because he'd worked for them all. This was the best job he'd ever had, hands down.
"What's the job?" he asked.
Moreau handed him a folder.
"I want him taken care of."
About time, Eliot thought. William Perez had been a thorn in Moreau's side — and therefore Eliot's side — for over a year. He had borrowed a large sum of money from Moreau two years ago, but still hadn't paid it back. Initially he'd been paying the money back in small installments, but by the time the money was due, a large balance was left. He had given Moreau some sob story about a sick child, losing his job, blah blah. Moreau didn't care, and it wasn't Eliot's job to. But Moreau had been busy and hadn't had time to deal with it. Eliot had paid Perez several visits to convince him to pay Moreau back, and Eliot could be very convincing. But nothing had worked. Moreau must have found some time to deal with it now.
Eliot frowned. "You called me back from vacation for this? This is so straightforward, even Chapman could handle it."
He answered Chapman's growl with a devilish grin. "Hey, I'm just trying to give you some opportunities to show what you're capable of. Visibility is everything." He winked, and for a second it looked as if Chapman was going to punch him in the throat. I would love to see you try, Chapman.
Moreau smiled. "True, but let me finish. I don't want this done the usual way. I want the Maroni treatment."
Maroni was a local gangster who had been dumb enough to think he could unseat Damien Moreau. When Moreau figured out Maroni's plans, he told Eliot to make an example of him. When all was said and done, Moreau had called Eliot's work "inspired." Eliot had to agree. The things he'd done to Maroni were things he'd never done before or since; things he'd only ever had done to him, and some new things he was pretty sure no one had ever done before. It was the job Eliot was proudest of. Was it a bit much for someone who owed Moreau money? Maybe, but that wasn't Eliot's call. But there was something that still didn't make sense.
"I only need a couple guys for that. Why did you call everyone in?"
"You know, that's why I like you Eliot. You always get right to the point." Moreau smiled at him fondly. "You're right, you don't need everyone to give Perez the Maroni treatment. But I want to make an example of him. I can't let people think I've gone soft. Your previous visits had apparently no effect. So I'm going to punish him once and for all. You're not just going to take care of Perez, you're going to take care of his whole family."
The room was silent. They had never done anything like that before.
Eliot was sure he had misunderstood. "The — the whole family?" he stuttered.
Eliot opened the file again. It took him three tries; his hands had stopped working. "Sir," he said — always "Sir", never "Damien" in front of the men, like he was some sort of high-ranking general ordering his troops into battle — "he has a wife and six kids, ranging in age from eighteen to..." Eliot's breath caught in his throat. "Two years old. Four of them are girls."
Eliot didn't give a shit whether the kids were boys or girls, but girls didn't usually grow up to join Flores's freedom fighters, so he wasn't sure what Moreau's reasoning was. Children? That seemed a bit much, even for Moreau.
"I don't care if they're boys, girls, or something in between. I want them gone. They need to be made an example."
"But sir..." Eliot could barely breathe — this wasn't right. "Sir, maybe we could give Perez one last chance. Let me talk to him again, I'll let him know what's at stake, maybe he'll —"
"This isn't up for debate, Spencer. You have your orders. I want it done tonight. Make a plan and make sure everyone knows what they need to do. Call me when it's done. Is that clear?"
Eliot paused. Too long. "Y-yes, sir."
"Good. You're all dismissed. Spencer, stay, I'd like a word."
Eliot cringed. Shit, he called him Spencer. Moreau never called Eliot by his last name unless he was being formal or he was pissed. Eliot figured in this case it was both.
Chapman shot him a look before he closed the door. Eliot turned back to Moreau.
"Damien, I —"
"You look like shit. Did you sleep last night?" Moreau looked concerned.
Maybe this wouldn't be a chew-out session after all. Maybe Moreau was going to give Eliot extra orders — that wasn't unusual, especially if it was something that could help or hurt Moreau politically, like this. Maybe they'd pretend those were the orders, but have Moreau "change his mind" at the last minute so he'd look merciful. Maybe Eliot wouldn't have to do this ...
"Not much, but I'm fine. Listen, Damien, I wanted to —"
"Because I thought that might be why you completely undermined me in front of my men," Moreau snarled. "Is it?"
"This is not a democracy, Spencer. You work for me. I give you orders and you carry them out. That's your job. You offer your opinion only if I ask for it. Is there something you don't understand about that?"
Eliot felt his stomach turn to lead. He's not fucking around. He's really gonna — the whole family?
"Yes, sir… I just want to make sure this is definitely what you want to do. This will affect how the country views you." He had to try to talk him out of it.
"And that is precisely the point," Moreau smiled. "They've gotten complacent. They need to be reminded what I'm capable of ... and what you're capable of."
Am I capable of this?
"I just —"
"Do we have a problem, Spencer? Are you arguing with me?"
Eliot paused. "No. No problem."
"Good. And let the men loose. They've been whining that you've been having all the fun lately, but that's my fault. Too many small jobs that require only you. This is a big one, and I want all hands on deck. So plan around that."
Eliot nodded, because he couldn't speak.
Moreau sat and looked at some papers on his desk. Eliot took that as his sign to leave.
"Oh, and Spencer? Challenge me in front of the men again and you're gone. I don't care how good you are. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Eliot managed to say. He understood, he just wasn't sure if he cared.
Eliot stood underneath the scalding water, washing off the blood. It was done.
And so was he.
For the first time since he started down this path, he wasn't sure what was next. When Aimee had gotten married, he liberated Croatia and did the odd retrieval jobs around eastern Europe and Asia before he realized he could get paid to do what he did best: hurt people. He'd never looked back.
Until now. What he'd done last night was the worst thing he'd ever done in his entire life. He could never undo it. Why had he done it?
After his conversation with Moreau, he'd agonized over what to do. He thought about telling Moreau he was leaving; telling Moreau to go fuck himself; skipping town without telling Moreau anything; trying to warn the Perez family; trying to help smuggle the Perez family out of the country. None were feasible. He couldn't just leave; Moreau would just send Chapman or someone else. He didn't have the resources to get the Perezes out of the country, even as well-off as he was. He was surely being watched, so any warning he could have given wouldn't have helped anyway. And even if he had warned them, they probably wouldn't have believed him. Eliot Spencer, Moreau's Rottweiler, warning them that Moreau wanted them dead? He wouldn't have believed himself.
So he did the only thing he could: he did the job.
Except he didn't. "Let them loose," Moreau had said, and in his helplessness, Eliot was ready to do it. He'd let them have their fun, and he'd wait outside until it was over. But that changed when he saw the look in Chapman's eyes as he grabbed hold of the ten-year-old girl. Her name had been Anna. But Chapman didn't want to kill her, at least not right away. The hunger in his eyes showed that he wanted to ... enjoy her first. He wanted to —
Eliot fell to his hands and knees and retched onto the floor of the shower. Not that there was anything left. Blood wasn't the only thing he needed to wash off when he got home.
But it was the only thing he couldn't wash off. As he looked at his hands, he saw layers upon layers of it. Years' worth of it. He heard their voices, their pleading, their crying, their last breaths. He saw them all, and he knew all of their names.
The water was freezing now, but that wasn't why Eliot shivered. He pulled his knees to his chest and ... nothing. He felt nothing. Not anger, not grief, not sadness — nothing. He wanted to cry for them, for himself, but he couldn't. He wanted to feel rage at Moreau, at himself, but he couldn't. He was gone. He wasn't human anymore. He was an empty shell with blood on his hands, on his soul.
And the blood wouldn't wash off.
He chuckled mirthlessly as he thought of Lady MacBeth. "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" Did Shakespeare understand how she felt when he wrote those lines? Did he understand how Eliot felt?
Lady MacBeth had committed suicide because of her madness. Madness caused by the awful things she had done. Maybe he should kill himself, too. Maybe that was the only way to stop the emptiness.
The phone rang. Eliot knew who it was. He answered.
"Get over here. Now." It was a voice Eliot had only heard directed at other people: the enemies of Damien Moreau.
Maybe he wouldn't have to kill himself. Maybe Moreau would do it for him.
When he arrived at Moreau's mansion, it was dawn. Sunrise. It was beautiful. He'd always loved the sunrises and sunsets in San Lorenzo. But not today. He didn't love anymore. He couldn't feel anything.
The door to the study was closed. He knocked.
He did. Moreau was pacing the room, as pissed as Eliot had ever seen him. But Eliot wasn't scared. He couldn't feel anything.
"Spencer, how nice of you to join us. Chapman, give us the room."
Of course it had been Chapman. He had known it would be.
"But sir —" Chapman complained, clearly wanting a front row seat to Eliot's downfall.
"OUT!" Moreau yelled. Chapman scampered out the door.
"Do you want to explain to me what happened last night, Spencer? I gave you explicit orders. Do you remember that?"
Spencer again. But he didn't cringe this time. He couldn't feel pain.
"Yes, I remember that, Damien." It was the first time he'd spoken since he'd finished the job. His voice sounded odd to him. Foreign.
"Then you remember that I told you that I wanted the family gone?"
"The family is gone, Damien. I did it myself." His voice was emotionless. Like him.
"But I gave you very specific orders about how it was to be done. You didn't follow them."
Moreau looked surprised. Maybe he had expected Eliot to try to lie about it. Or at least argue. But Eliot didn't have any more fight in him.
"That's right. You didn't. Chapman said you ordered all the men to stand down, including him. You made them wait outside while you 'took care of things.' When you were done, you left without a word. Chapman said they hadn't been given the Maroni treatment."
"That's correct." Eliot was mildly surprised that Chapman hadn't exaggerated. Maybe he knew he didn't have to.
"Why did you blatantly disregard my orders?"
"Because I disagreed with them. The family didn't deserve it. But they were still made an example. You extinguished a whole family, Damien. Does it matter how they died?"
It didn't matter to Eliot. Dead was dead. There was blood on his hands no matter how it had been done.
"It does matter! You undermined me in front of my men! After I told you that if you did it again, you'd be gone. Do you remember that?"
"So you're aware you just threw away everything you had. Do you even want this job?"
Eliot shrugged. He didn't care either way.
"It pays well."
Moreau looked stunned. "Is this because I called you away from vacation?"
Eliot scowled. Is that what Moreau thought? He couldn't think of any other reason why Eliot would disobey his orders?
Then it hit him. Moreau didn't feel anything either, did he? He ordered people killed, and it didn't faze him. Huh. Maybe that was his problem last night. He felt too much. But now he didn't. He couldn't feel anything. And that made him perfect for Moreau's Head of Security. Maybe he wanted this job after all.
So he lied. "Yeah. I was pissed. So I fucked up your job. But the point was still made. They were made an example. I don't see what the problem is."
Moreau laughed. Like he actually thought this was funny. Maybe it was funny, Eliot couldn't tell.
"I've always liked you, Eliot." Eliot again. "You have the biggest balls of anyone I've ever known. I really would hate to see you go. But I have to punish you."
"So I'll make you a deal. I'm giving you one last job. If you pull it off, you can stay."
"What's the job?"
It was Eliot who laughed this time. Suicide it is, then.
"Are you thinking about your friend?"
The sound Eliot made when he heard Parker's question was one that he'd never made before in his life.
Parker laughed. "That was an awesome sound. Can you do it again?"
"Jesus, Parker! Don't sneak up on people like that! And no, I won't make it again!" His heart was pounding.
She stopped smiling. "I snuck up on you? I've only done that once before, and that was when you were nervous about singing." She smiled her big smile. "When you were the Fiddle! Do you remember that?"
"Of course I remember that, Parker. Kinda hard to forget."
She looked concerned now. "Why did I sneak up on you this time? Was it because you were thinking about your friend, the General?"
"Yeah ... I was."
Parker looked upset now. "Hardison feels really bad about that. He thinks you hate him."
Eliot looked over at Hardison, who had fallen asleep while working. His laptop was balanced precariously on his legs, his phone was in one hand, and an orange soda was in the other. Eliot wasn't sure he'd ever seen Hardison sleep laying down.
He felt a twinge of guilt as he turned back to Parker. "I don't hate him, Parker. It wasn't his fault."
"Then why did you yell at him?"
Eliot sighed. "Because I was scared."
Parker snorted. "Ha! Yeah right! You never get scared. Just mad."
Eliot looked into her eyes. So young, so ... innocent. She had seen some awful things in her life — not as awful as the things he'd seen, but still terrible. Bounced around the system. In and out of juvie. Probably abused, which made Eliot clench his fists, as it always did when he thought of it. How had she come away from all of that as innocent and naive as she was?
"Of course I get scared, Parker. I only get mad to cover it up."
"So whenever you're mad, that means you're scared?"
Eliot smiled. She really was like a child sometimes. "Of course not. Sometimes I really do get mad, but sometimes I only get mad because I'm scared and I don't know what else to do."
Parker thought about it. "So what kinds of things are you scared of?"
Losing the people I care about ... disappointing the people I care about ... not being able to protect the people I care about ... becoming the Rottweiler again ...
"I get scared whenever you guys are in danger and I can't help you."
"You do? Why?"
Shit. He sucked at this. Why couldn't she talk to Sophie?
"Is it because you like us and don't want anything to happen to us?" Parker asked.
Eliot smiled. "Yeah, Parker, I like you guys."
"And you like the General, and you don't want anything to happen to him? That's why you saved his life twice, right? Oh, sorry, once and a half." She smiled.
Eliot looked away. Please don't ask me, Parker. Please ...
"But why do you like him so much? I mean, you like us because we're your team. Were you on a team with him a long time ago, when he was a General and you were a Commander?" She giggled. "Commander. That sounds like Commodore, like in Pirates of the Caribbean ... hehe, you'd be funny as a pirate."
Eliot rolled his eyes.
"But seriously, were you on a team with him?"
Yes, after he saved me ... He couldn't explain to her his relationship with the General, because she wouldn't understand.
"Sorta, yeah ..." Wait a minute. "Actually, Parker, you know how you feel about Archie? How you did that job at Wakefield because you didn't want him to be in danger?"
She looked at her hands. "Yeah ..."
"Well, that's how I feel about the General. He took me in and helped me when I needed it. He helped me stop ..." He stopped. He was getting dangerously close to things he'd rather not talk about.
"He helped you stop doing that thing you don't do anymore?"
A cold pang sliced right through his heart. Yeah, that thing I don't do anymore ... except for last week. She couldn't ever know. None of them could ever know. The only thing worse than the look of disappointment in Juan's eyes would be the looks of horror in their eyes. Sophie had even said, "You're not that man anymore." If they ever found out that he was still that man, that he never really stopped ...
"Yeah ... that thing I don't do anymore ..." He turned away from her. He was trembling, he was close to losing it, and he couldn't let her see that.
"Eliot?" He flinched when she touched his arm. He wished she would go away.
Then all of a sudden her arms were wrapped around him, her head leaning against his shoulder. He froze. She didn't usually hug him, or anyone.
"Don't be scared, Eliot. We'll save him." She pulled away, smiling mischievously. "Nate has a plan!"
Then she skipped away, grabbed some chocolate from the fridge, and went back to picking the locks she'd brought with her.
He was alone again. He wished she would come back. His heart was a little bit warmer now.
This plan had better be the best you've ever come up with, Nate.