Few people noticed the dark-haired man stepping off the freighter, or gave him more than a second glance. There was nothing remarkable about the man, who wore a pair of jeans that had seen better days and a nondescript sweater, carrying only a duffle bag. Had anyone bothered to look closely at the man who quickly blended into the traffic leaving the port, they would have stumbled at the barely restrained fury that lurked beneath the placid expression. It was probably safer for everyone that no one looked. Damien Moreau had spent weeks plotting his revenge on the man who violated his sister, and he was ready to unleash that anger on anyone.
His first priority was to reach Milica. In order to do that, he needed to reach Eliot Spencer. It was too dangerous to risk a phone call; this would have to be done in person. Damien walked away from the port, flagging down the first taxi he could.
"Grand Central Station," he directed the driver. His escape had none of the elegance he preferred, it had been quick and dirty. That unfortunately meant skulking his way across the country. The hardest part was over; getting out of San Lorezno on a freighter ship. With so few ships travelling directly to the States from San Lorenzo he couldn't afford to be picky, so New York became his destination. A loyal associate had arranged everything he would need to organize train travel at the station. It was the long way to travel such a distance, but airports were too risky. His face was too well known. He must spend days making a crossing that would take only hours if he had his plane.
The stream of people in the station disgusted hi. So many ants, running around as though their mundae lives truly mattered. How he hated dealing with large groups of people, especially people who were beneath him. HE controlled governments. He could topple nations with a single word to the right people.
He headed for the phone booths, stepping into the first one. HE gave a short nod to the man occupying it, and accepted the envelope that was passed to him. Subway pass to Penn Station; train tickets; plenty of cash for the trip; everything he needed was all in order. There was even a second passport under a different alias.
"You've done good work."
"You'll also need this. It's clean."
A cell phone. No doubt a burner, recently purchased and unused. It would make communication easier.
"Any word yet?"
"We're still searching for the man you described. It can't be long before he's found. As soon as he is, you'll be the first to know."
With another nod Damien stepped out of the booth, cash, phone and passport stowed safely in his jeans pockets, subway pass in hand. He could have begun his journey directly from Penn Station, but it was much easier to get lost in the crowd of Grand Central. It was safest to assume that he'd been spotted as soon as he stepped off the ship.
It was a tremendous relief to board the train and enter the sleeper berth. He would be alone, and unbothered by those sitting up for the entire journey in coach. He would only need to deal with other passengers in the club car when he wanted a meal or a drink. He closed the door and sank into a seat with a soft sigh. It would take a full day to reach Chicago, and once he switched trains it would take another two plus to reach Portland. It would take nearly four days, but he would finally reach Spencer, and Milica. Once he assured himself that his sister was fine, he would turn all his energy into finding and punishing the man who'd hurt her. Once that was done, it would be time to get back to business.
Quinn straightened his right cuff as it tried ot ride up where it wasn't supposed to be. The dry cleaner had managed to shrink his shirt, but he didn't have time to by a new one that worked with the suit. Next time he was packing more than one, even for a short overnight. And he was changing his dry cleaner. This wasn't the first shirt they'd ruined. Maybe he'd pass them on to Eliot. They might fit the smaller man.
He looked up at the greeting. He couldn't place the accent, but it definitely wasn't North American. Italian, maybe? Not quite, but close.
"Your reputation precedes you. I'm so pleased you agreed to take this case."
"My agreement isn't final until I meet these people asking me to find the woman."
"I am the one asking you to find her. She is my niece."
"If you're going to lie to me from the start, then we're done. I know you're not the one missing this girl."
If this stranger was going to attempt to lie, he could at least be convincing. There was no way he was the one offering so much money for the retrieval. That Cartier wristwatch was a knock-off, and that suit wasn't Saville Row. This was a man pretending to wealth he didn't have, not someone prepared to shell out six figures. He was like Harker; a middle-man with pretensions.
Quinn stood, fully ready to make this man believe he would walk back out the door. It worked like a charm. His host paled and hurried to block his ext.
"Please, Mr. Quinn. Do not leave until you've heard me out."
A suspicious glare was thrown in for effect, but Quinn slowly nodded. His companion breathed a sigh of relief before launching into his entirely false explanation.
"My employer is—a very important man. Do you know the name Edwin Ribera?"
"Can't say I've heard of him."
His answer seemed to disappoint the other man.
"Mr. Ribera was the president of San Lorenzo until the last election. During his term, he made many enemies. We believe that one of them is behind the disappearance of his niece. Mr. Ribera has tasked me with finding her and bringing her home."
San Lorenzo…San Lorenzo….why did that name sound familiar?
"How long has she been missing?"
"We last heard from her a month ago. She has been living anonymously in the States, checking in with her uncle weekly."
As far as abduction stories went, it was plausible. It made Quinn wonder what the real story was. This Ribera was trying to hurt someone by kidnapping Emily, but who?
"If she's been missing a month, why hasn't it been reported to the police?"
It was a struggle to not just beat the man and instead ask the follow-up questions that would be expected. He wasn't ready to tip his hand just yet. He needed all the information he could gather, first.
"I wished to do so, but Mr. Ribera was afraid that involving the police might get her killed. His enemies are dangerous men."
"And there have been no ransom demands? How do you know she didn't just take off somewhere?"
"She would never take off and cut contact. He's her only family, and they are very close."
The photo he was handed showing Emily with this Ribera guy was good enough to pass a first inspection. Whoever had done the editing was a skilled photoshopper. It could have been good enough to fool him; had he not known coming in that every word was a lie, he might believe what he was told. It was a very well-crafted fiction.
"I'll find her."
He was ready to be away from this man, who had told him all he was likely to find out. He left with a promise to get back in contact once he had the target, and returned to his hotel to immediately jump in the shower and scrub himself clean. He felt slimy just having spent time in that man's company.
Once he felt almost clean, he toweled off and grabbed his cell phone, pulling up a now familiar number. He put the call on speaker so that he'd have his hands free to finish toweling off his hair. He might have to think seriously of getting a haircut in the near future. Taking care of it long was such a hassle.
And didn't Eliot sound like he was in a mood?
"I've got a name for you. Someone named Edwin Ribera is the one trying to get Emily."
"I take it you know that name."
"How soon can you get to Portland?"
"I'll be on the first flight out."
It was pretty rude of Eliot to just hang up on him, but Quinn figured he should let that slide. Eliot knew this Ribera guy, and it was obviously bad news. Quinn wondered as he got dressed and packed up his small personal bag if it was bad enough to need a personal meeting, or bad enough that Spencer was going to handle it himself, and leave Quinn as a babysitter. Either way, he'd never been to Oregon before, so it should be fun. It was going to be a bitch getting his flight changed though. Maybe he would just use a different ID and eat the cost of that return flight home.
He wasn't sure if God still listened to the prayers of hitmen, but he breathed a silent prayer of thanks that he wasn't going to be stuck at the airport for hours waiting for a flight out west. He hated spending so much time in airports. They were too easy a location to get a mark. Metal detectors didn't pick up ceramic knives.
No, he wouldn't spend hours on a flight. He was in a first-class seat and in the air within two hours. Even more fortunate, the flight was direct. He'd expected at least a layover somewhere in the Midwest. The flight attendant pausing to ask if he'd like to order a drink was cute, and attentive. This certainly wouldn't be the worst flight he'd ever taken.
Crossing time zones really could be a bitch. It was evening on the East Coast, but only afternoon in Oregon. Quinn's body was telling him it was almost time to get some sleep while they daylight was telling him to keep going. He had the same trouble adjusting to time zones whenever he returned to the ranch, but this time it was really pissing him off. It was pissing him off almost as much as the idiot in front of him in the rental car line. It was ridiculous, the amount of time the man was taking to try to decide on a car. As long as the thing had four wheels and a working engine, it should get him where he wanted to go.
"Just pick a damn car already," he muttered. He must not have been as quiet as he'd thought, because the man turned, and paled after taking one look at his expression. Less than two minutes later, Quinn was stepping up to the counter to arrange for his own vehicle. He smiled charmingly at the woman behind the counter, and was in his car and on the road in less than fifteen minutes. He wasn't overly picky about what he drove.
He double-checked the address Eliot gave him when he pulled up in front of a bar. The Brew Pub? Seriously? This was the establishment that Eliot Spencer ran? As a cover for their other operations, he guessed it fit the bill, but it didn't look like any place that Spencer would be caught dead in. It looked like a place where pot-smoking hipsters parked their asses to spend the afternoon whining on the internet about whatever offended their tender sensibilities as if they were five years old. If he saw so much as a single man-bun, he was out of there.
The waitress who tried to seat him at a table was cute, but he took himself over to the bar after telling her he was there to see Eliot. He might have enough time before Spencer found him to have a beer, but he sincerely doubted he'd be there long enough to eat. At least the beer that was slid across the counter was ice cold.
"That didn't take as long as I expected."
He turned at Spencer's voice on the stool next to him.
"Direct flights help."
He took another drink, downing almost half the bottle. He thought it was rather considerate of Eliot to let him finish his beer before nudging him along to the back of the pub. Spencer barely slowed down, though the cooks were asking questions as they walked through the kitchen. The older man seemed intently focused on getting through to the office, but no, he bypassed that for a set of stairs. Quinn figured they must keep their real offices above the bar. Hadn't Spencer said something about a similar setup in Boston? Maybe it was some weird catholic penance thing that Ford had which lead to that setup.
"Why am I here, Eliot?" Quinn asked as he got comfortable in a chair. He did like the place, although he was a little unnerved at the sheer number of cameras keeping an eye on the pub below.
"After what you said, I need to leave for a few days to take care of this. I need you to keep an eye on Emily, and my family."
So it WAS a babysitting job. Quinn was less offended by that than he probably should be. It was an insult to his skills to task him as a baby-sitter. But-
"I doubt that she's gonna be too happy to see me, Eliot."
"There wasn't another option. The only other person I'd trust is out of the country. She'll handle it. It's only a few days. Just don't let her convince you to get her out of the city. She stays here, where she's safer."
"I'm no expert, but that might not be the best reasoning to try to use here."
He thought he heard Eliot mutter something like 'don't remind me' but chose to ignore it when the older hitter didn't continue. He was curios about the "Eliot's family" part of this baby-sitting job. There had been rumors that the infamous Eliot Spencer had actually settled down with a woman, but Quinn valued his skin too much to ever dig into the truth of that. It was an unspoken rule among many retrieval specialists—and Quinn just thought it was common sense—that you didn't go after the loved ones of someone as dangerous as yourself. As good as you thought you were, there was always someone who could beat you, and you didn't invite that kind of biblical retribution by going after their loved ones. He was surprised at the amount of trust Eliot was showing by putting his family in his care.
"Is there anything in particular I need to look out for?"
"Just make sure Emily doesn't run off. And Newt's probably going to hate your guts, since you bein' here means I'm leavin'."
Newt? Wasn't the woman he'd had to track down for Spencer ages ago named Newton? Had Eliot finally hooked up with the former doctor to Julian Santiago?
"Fair enough. What about the rest of your team? Will I be expected to help them on some weird job?"
"No. Parker and Hardison'll lay off workin' until I get back. I wouldn't expect you to fill in for that."
Good. He didn't plan to become the Robin Hood that Spencer seemed to have become. He went where the money was. If he got to take down some assholes in the process, that was just a nice bonus.
Quinn still wasn't sold on the merits of being tasked as babysitter as he followed Eliot through the city streets. He might've saved Emily's life, but he was still the man who assaulted her. She was bound to hate him for that. IF she was already a flight risk—the impression he'd gotten from Spencer—wouldn't having him so physically close just make things worse?
He was surprised by the house he parked in front of. It was a non-descript ranch style house, not unlike half the houses on the street. Nothing about it was designed to draw attention but that just meant that nothing about it seemed like Eliot Spencer's type of house. He'd never pictured Spencer living in upper-middle class suburbia. He'd pictured every odd scenario from a cabin in the woods to a van down by the river, but not Suburban Hell. How did Spencer stand it?
"Watch what you say in here."
Before he could question what Spencer meant, the front door opened and the two men were greeted by a shrieking toddler. Spencer had a kid? The shrieks turned to giggles of delight as Eliot lifted the child into the air and let her go. Yeah, Eliot must be the father.
A feminine voice was calling, but not a voice that Quinn recognized. It must be the doctor. When she finally came into view, he recognized the face from photos with Julian Santiago. She was eyeing him questioningly.
"You didn't say anything about a guest, Eliot. You should have told me you were bringing someone. I would have started dinner."
"And end up with food poisoning? I don't think so. Newt, this is Quinn."
The eyes that had before only been curious narrowed in apparent anger. Quinn guessed that it was safe to say Newt knew what happened. And if her expression was any indication, she would happily castrate him for what he'd done.
"Tell me you know more than one Quinn, Eliot Spencer."
"He's here to help out for a few days while I take care of some business."
"You didn't answer my question."
Quinn wouldn't lie; he was relieved when that glare transferred from him to Eliot. Even if that relief was going to be short-lived, because it was only a matter of time before she was glaring daggers at him again. This woman was kind of scary when she was angry.
"It's the same Quinn. And he's here to help, Newt."
"I don't care if he's here to drop off a Publisher's Clearinghouse check! Have you lost your mind, to bring him around here?!"
"There's not a whole lot of choice, Newt. We found out who was behind the attack, and I'm going to take care of it. I can't leave you and Emily here by yourselves!"
"I can take care of myself, Eliot Hilary Spencer! And I don't think bringing him in is going to do Emily a bit of good!"
Quinn took a step back to get out of the line of fire. That step back took him into a wall. He took only a second to make sure he wasn't about to step on the toddler before he made his way as far from the arguing couple as he could. His escape led him into the kitchen, where he discovered that he wasn't alone. Emily was standing in front of the open refrigerator, fresh bottle of water in hand, staring at him.
"So you're the reason Newt's pissed at Eliot."
"Looks that way."
Now that the woman was standing right in front of him, he was at a loss as to what to say. Asking if she was alright seemed tasteless. It hadn't even been a month; of course she wouldn't be alright.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Eliot called me in."
"Of course he did," he heard her mutter as she closed the refrigerator door.
Now that she wasn't glaring at him, he started noticing the details he'd missed at first glance. The blond hair was gone; she'd become a redhead. Considering how dark her eyebrows were, he was fairly confident that neither shade was her natural hair color. It was shorter than it had been, falling just past her chin, but that only seemed to make it even curlier than he remembered.
"You done staring yet?"
"Sorry. It's just—" he gestured at her hair—"a big change."
"That was kind of the point."
He took a step back when he noticed how tense she was. That was also when he noticed that he was blocking the only exit, which meant that she was trapped in the kitchen with him.
"Sorry, Emily. I didn't mean to block you in."
It wasn't fine. She slipped past him as soon as there was an opening, keeping as much space as possible between them. He would have to be careful of that when he was near her. He was here to make Eliot's life a little bit easier, not to make Emily's life any harder. He was pleased to see that at least she wasn't limping when she walked. Hopefully that meant she didn't have any permanent injuries from her ordeal.
He still couldn't believe that Eliot thought having him anywhere near this girl was a good idea. Surely there was someone, anyone else Spencer could have called in. Hell, Spencer could've just told him where to find this Ribera guy was and he would've taken him out. Eliot wouldn't have to go anywhere.
A closing door told him Emily had likely retreated to her bedroom, and he muttered a soft curse.
"What did you do?"
He spun around at that angry tone to see Eliot's girl glaring at him. He hadn't even noticed they'd stopped arguing.
"I didn't do anything."
He thought it was ridiculous that a single look from the woman could make him squirm, but it did. He shifted uncomfortably, unable to keep eye contact with her.
"I may have accidentally blocked her in. As soon as I noticed I back up," he hurried to add when her look turned murderous, "but it may have triggered a flight response. It wasn't intentional."
He wsa relieved when she seemed to accept that answer. She looked only slightly less murderous, but he'd take any improvement as a good sign.
"She was doing better. But with you around, she's bound to be more skittish. If you even think of doing anything that's going to push her harder, you will answer to me. Understood?"
"Don't call me ma'am!"
"Yes ma'am—I mean Doctor. Sorry."
Good Lord, but the glare she gave him reminded him of the look hi mamma used to give him. A sense of self-preservation told him that this Newt could be just as formidable as Sadie Quinn. He wasn't about to try to get on her bad side, any more than he already was.
"Newt, lay off the man. He's not here to hurt anyone."
"The fact that he's here at all is still something you're going to answer for, Eliot!"
The smaller man held up his hands in a gesture of non-hostility, and stopped his foray into the kitchen.
"I told you already, if Shelley was in the country I'd have called him, but he's not. Quinn is the only option, so leave the man alone. You've got no call to try to hold her grudge for her."
When Newt's eyes narrowed and she looked as though she might physically attack someone, Quinn had to question Eliot's intelligence. Provoking the irate woman didn't strike him as a wise thing to do. With a glare that promised trouble for both men, she left them in the kitchen. Both men winced as they heard a door slam.
"I think my being here is just gonna cause trouble, Spencer."
"Whether Newt likes it or not, I need to leave someone I can trust to look out for them. If Ribera really sent Harker after Emily, he's sent others. He won't stop until someone stops him."
"You trust me?"
Eliot had hinted at that in the bar, but to hear him say it was a shock. There had been a small measure of trust building between the two of them, but Quinn had assumed that all went to hell after the Caymans. He'd hurt a woman Spencer valued, and Spencer still trusted him?
"I trust that you know how much you owe Emily, and that's a debt you'll honor. And I'm trusting you with my family based on Emily's judgment. The woman has decided she doesn't hate you, even after everything that happened; taken with the fact that you brought her home and kept her safe, that's reason enough to trust you'll do the same now."
Emily didn't hate him? That was—Quinn was stunned at that announcement.
"Besides, if my wife thinks that you've so much as thought about doing anything to hurt that girl, she'll slice through your carotid artery with one of my kitchen knives."