"Don't worry. No one ever died going in through an air duct. The worst that can happen ... You slip and fall … Break your legs … Lay there for days … Scratchin' on the metal … It's like a long metal coffin with wind."
Tara's eyes widened as an expression of insane ecstasy lit up the blonde thief's face. She shivered at the picture Parker's words painted, and while her innate curiosity wanted to hear the story, she wasn't sure she wanted to know the details of the life that formed Parker into the person she was today. Parker shook herself out of the memory and focused outward once more. She gave Tara a smile that was all teeth.
Parker threw her harness over her shoulder and ran across the roof to the entrance to the air duct.
Then their lives blew up ... Again.
Eliot directed the pilot to land at an abandoned airfield outside of Boston. He loaded the team in a van where he drove them to an ocean side estate.
Now Parker sat quietly pressed up against Eliot, her bare feet tucked under Hardison as his fingers raced over the laptop keys compiling information about Nate. Sophie had gone upstairs to clean up and rest after her mad rush to get to the US.
Parker didn't like the darkness she felt in her special angry place, but she knew Eliot needed Hardison to work his magic before he could tell them how to retrieve Nate.
This was a perfect place for them to hide. The wind coming off the ocean was like an old friend. They would worry if she went to the roof ... Besides Eliot warmed her like flames from her best explosions, and Alec was like her money … Beautiful, detailed, and would do most anything she wanted. So instead of worrying the men that had decided she was theirs to protect ... Even from herself ... She pulled out the memory she'd gifted to Tara earlier.
Since she was small, she knew she had an affinity with the wind. Whatever her troubles, whatever her pain, the wind always seemed to know. She knew all their names, and with arms outstretched ... Oya ... Yanza ... Mamacocha ... Mari ...Tempestates ... Orithyia ... She would call them all, and the wind would scour her clean, body and soul.
Parker was twenty-two the first and last time, she worked with a crew before Victor Dubenich hired her. She had foolishly allowed her libido to dictate to her brain. She was having the most wonderful sex with a man who thought it would be a good idea to steal the DeBeers Millennium Collection from the Millennium Dome in London.
The plan was for the crew to go in one way while Parker slipped in through the air conditioning vents. Parker's part of the plan was unbeknownst to her lover's cohorts as he planned to leave them high and dry after the job was finished.
Parker never did find out what happened. All she knew was something hit the duct work she was crawling through causing her to land at a junction thirty feet below in a jumbled heap. She tried to twist her body so her back took the brunt of the fall, but the confines of the duct and the speed of her fall worked against her.
When she returned to consciousness the first thing she did was check her watch. She had been out a little over an hour. Then she listened. She could hear people milling around, the occasional voice barking orders and muffled replies. Lastly, Parker started an inventory of her body. Right now everything was numb, but she had a bad feeling that was soon going to change.
A lump on the side of her head explained the blackout. Arms seemed to be working okay, ribs bruised, but not broken. Back and pelvis seemed to be the same. Then she tried to straighten her left leg. Three hours had passed when she regained consciousness. She spent the next fifteen minutes fighting nausea and fear. Nausea from her concussion and fear that no one would ever find her … Fear that they would find her … Fear that she would never walk again.
Her body agitated by her thoughts sang out its pain song distracting her from her fear that was turning to panic. Squashing her fear into a box in the corner of her mind, she panted through the pain she'd already cataloged. She had to finish her inventory. Her right leg was straight, but when she tried to move a new pain from the area of her ankle indicated that both legs were out of commission.
On the plus side there were no bones poking out of her skin. On the minus side she needed to straighten her left leg if she wanted to move. As she lay in the vent steeling herself for the pain that would come from straightening her broken leg. She vowed to only work alone and to never ever again trust anyone else with her safety. Stuffing one of her gloves in her mouth she reached down and pushed.
The next time she woke her watch said twelve hours had passed. She was numb with cold and there was no place her body she didn't hurt. Gathering her scattered wits she rolled onto her belly. Her nails made a terrible screech against the galvanized tin as her fingers curled involuntarily against the pain in her legs. Sweat running down her face, breath coming in short pants, Parker got her arms under her and started pulling herself through the duct work trying to move her lower body as little as possible. She made little progress as she would have to stop after each movement waiting for the black to recede from her vision and the nausea to settle.
While she waited for the latest bout of nausea to pass she remembered the pack she was still wearing. She usually only carried the bare essentials on a job. Her lock picks, a little C-4, det cord, detonators, and some emergency cash. She had used the pack when she checked the security at the Millennium Dome two days before, and now she was pleasantly surprised to find half a bottle of water and slightly mashed protein bar. In deference to her nausea she bypassed the protein bar, but took a couple sips of the tepid water. She tried to pull the map of the air conditioning system out of her aching brain, and figure out where she could drop out of the vents to get help without ending up in the prison ward.
With a groan she realized that she'd have to find a room with a vent close to floor to keep from making her injuries worse. Taking a deep breath Parker began pulling herself forward. She refused to look at her watch. She didn't want to know how long she'd been passed out when she bumped one of her legs maneuvering around a corner. She didn't want to know how long she'd lain on the cold metal waiting for her vision to clear and her stomach to settle.
Finally she just stopped. Her mind and body refused to contemplate going one more inch. Fever had set in, she had stopped sweating and she could feel her mind slipping away from reality more than usual. Parker laid her head on arms and waited for whatever was coming next. Then she felt it. It stirred the fine hairs around her face. Tickled the hair on her arms, teased her nose with tantalizing smells. The wind had come to her in her time of her most dire need and was coaxing her to move just a little more … Go just a little further. The names she knew as well as her own became a litany in her mind. With each name she moved a little further, the breeze becoming a little stronger.
When she came back to herself she was looking out of a vent close to the floor. She pushed the cover out into the room, which turned out to be a janitor's closet. She knew she couldn't be found inside the building or with her pack. She hid her money and lock picks in her clothes and stashed everything else in the back of a storage cabinet.
She almost gave up and sat where she was, but the wind was back calling her name and she was helpless to do naught but follow. She never remembered how she got outside or anything else until a security guard found her lying in the shrubbery. He called an ambulance and the police. The only word Parker spoke the whole time was "boyfriend". That led everyone to believe she had been beaten by her boyfriend and dumped. During her stay in the hospital the staff quickly learned to look for her outside when she disappeared. The spring sun in England wasn't as warm as she'd like, but every day she would heal a little more as the wind carried it all away.
Parker was jangled out of her memory when Eliot's warmth disappeared. He started pulling things out of the refrigerator and pantry, stopping long enough to bring Hardison an orange soda and Parker a mug of hot chocolate with teeny marshmallows.
The memory of the wind had calmed her soul. Eliot and Hardison's quiet support and Sophie's return made her special angry place not quite as dark as it had been when they'd flown off leaving Nate on the ship with Sterling.
Now she was ready to help Eliot retrieve their mastermind one more time.