(50)

The surveillance van quickly pulled up to the curb and Nikita sensed that something wasn't quite right. Michael was directly behind her as the door was open by not one but two operatives. As they reached for her, she side stepped, quickly turned and landed a blow to Michael's knee causing him to buckle and fall to the pavement. In that moment, she drew her weapon and brought it up to the side of his head. "You said no games!" she shouted unconcerned that she might be drawing the unwanted attention of passerby's.

"You lied," she cocked the gun. "Both of you out of the van!" she lifted the gun and aimed first at one man's chest and then the other. "Now!" she screamed as she grabbed the back of Michael's down jacket. "You, get up now." she put the gun against the side of his head. "How many more in the van?" No one answered at first. "I asked how many more are in the van?" Michael was having a hard time making it to a standing position, he was more than sure that Nikita had dislocated his kneecap and silently cursed himself for being caught off guard once again.

"Just the driver" one of the operatives finally answered, unsure of what to do faced with this situation.

"Your weapons, toss them in the van and get the driver out now!" she held the gun tightly pressed to the side of Michael's head. One of the operatives yelled for the driver while the other tried to decide whom he was supposed to be listening to.

"Do what she tells you." was the command directed from Michael. All three operatives stood on the cold Chicago streets faced with a very upset woman holding one of their best at gunpoint. Unsure of what to do they simply moved away from the van as she directed taking note that Michael seemed to already be in pain from some kind of injury.

"Get in the van Michael," she shoved him, limping along in pain toward the entrance.

"Nikita just listen..." he muttered but the gun came up to his kidney area.

"Michael, I told you, if you stand in my way I will shoot you," she pushed him up the steps "I won't kill you, but I will put you out of commission for quite a while, your choice." she turned to face the three that moved forward to join them. "Oh no, you find your own ride." she shoved Michael all the way inside, turned and pulled the door before securing it.

Michael was seated at the table inside slowly rubbing the painful knee that he could feel beginning to swell. "You can't leave them here," he looked up at her and she knew that he was indeed hurt.

"You should have thought about that before you pulled a stunt like this." she leaned over and felt under the table for a pair of handcuffs. "Get your hands behind your back." she instructed as she withdrew two pair. Michael did as he was told and she snapped the first pair on him. Farther under the table she found a pair of leg manacles and secured those around his ankles.

She wasn't very gentle as she pulled his legs together and secured the chain with the second set of handcuffs to he base of the table. "That should keep you secure for a while," she returned the gun to her waistband and got into the driverís seat. Turning the ignition she swiftly shifted the van into gear and pulled away from the curb. A moment longer and she would have seen Madeline exiting the Pizza Parlor. Two minutes and she would have realized that Madeline had seen the van and now knew that Section had found her.

As it was, Nikita headed toward Lincoln Park where at this hour she was sure she would be able to find a deserted street to park the van and plan her next move. She would have to risk losing contact with the operatives that Michael had following Madeline or hope that they contacted him and she would get another chance at her. Ten minutes later, her hopes were dashed.

"Michael come in." she heard a voice that sounded a lot like Davenport's coming over the intercom system in the van. Pulling over she withdrew her weapon and instructed him to answer "No tricks this time Michael," she cocked the weapon and listened carefully to each and every word.

"Yeah Davenport, it's Michael," he waited. "Bad news man, she made us." was the worst possible report for Nikita. "Where is she now?" he decided to script his own dialog as he noticed the confusion running across her face. "She's heading back toward Michigan Avenue should we pick her up?" Michael looked directly at Nikita before issuing his next statement. "No, continue following her," he hadn't even blinked.

"Michael what the hell are you doing?" she shouted. The blank stare infuriated her even more "Who's side are you on?" she slammed her hands on the table directly in front of him "You're working for Madeline aren't you?" she couldn't think of another reason that he would simply allow her continued freedom.

"She doesn't deserve to be killed" was his statement. The blow that Nikita directed at his cheek caused his head to snap back and as he raised his eyes to hers, the side of his face was already red and swollen "You Bastard! She deserves whatever she gets" she turned away in disgust. "I thought you wanted me fixed?" she turned only slightly to catch his look.

"I do, but she doesn't have to be canceled." he looked up, the pain of trying to balance two difficult situations weighing heavily on him. "She is important to Section." He added.

"And to you?" was the venomous retort.

"No, you are important to me but I am Section. I have been for a long time and I don't know any other way to be." was the most honest thing he had said.

"But all the trouble you went through to find her, you promised me that she was mine when you are done with her." she ran a hand through her blond mane more confused than ever.

"She is the only one that can restore your memory Nikita, if you kill her, you kill us is that what you want?" the sea green eyes were brimming with tears. Nikita sat heavily on the seat across from him. "I want revenge." she locked eyes with him. "I deserve that much." she put the gun down. Resting her head in her hand she was only slightly aware of how Michael was struggling with his inner demons.

If he gave Nikita the revenge she so badly needed, he would lose her forever. Madeline wasn't about to undo whatever it was that she had done to Nikita without a price and the only thing that she would value right now was her life. If he spared Madeline, Nikita might be lost to him forever, even if Madeline restored her. She would never forget how Michael had betrayed her in this situation. This added with all the other times would be the last straw and he had to play this out very carefully.

************

(51)

Michael was quickly becoming uncomfortable with his hands tightly cuffed behind his back, his legs manacled to the table base along with the swelling of his dislocated kneecap and the angry red welt growing brighter across his cheekbone where Nikita's hand had savagely made contact with it.

"I don't understand you Michael" she whispered, more to keep her temper in check than because of a risk of anyone hearing them.

"What do you want Nikita? Do you want to stay the same never knowing about us?" his glistening eyes following her every move "Do you want to have your memory back?" he continued. The sadness that settled within the van was unbearably heavy and he didn't know what to do "Do you really want to kill her that bad that you would risk remaining forever in the dark about us?" That brought her head slowly up from her hands.

Ocean blue eyes met moist seafoam green one as they silently sized each other up. "I want revenge is that so hard for you to understand?" she stared, slightly stunned that he still wanted her to change her mind about canceling Madeline.

"No, I understand that she hurt you, I understand that she took away your memory but you can have that back," he continued staring at her. "You can have that back only if you let her live." he clenched his jaw as a pain shot through his leg as he tried unsuccessfully to straighten his knee still chained to the table base. "Could you please remove these restraints?" he tilted his head motioning to the cuffs and manacles.

"No, I don't trust you" she smiled, an evil little lilt to her lips to show him that she did indeed mean business.

"I need to straighten my leg and I can't do it chained like a dog" his temper was flaring just under the surface.

"And I should care?" she stood up, picked up her weapon and faced him "You didn't hesitate to have me sedated like one!" was the statement that caught him off guard. Nikita left him struggling to find a comfortable position given the small amount of leeway that the restraints allowed him to move. His knee felt like it was on fire and each movement brought excruciating pain shooting up his leg. His head still rung from the impact of her hand against his face and that too brought a stinging pain as he moved his jaw from side to side.

She slid into the driver's seat and started up the van. "You might as well make yourself comfortable." she called back to him, a smile playing across her face as she realized that Michael didn't like being controlled. He had always been the one to take control of the situation, call the shots and make the major decisions never consulting her about anything that he deemed to important. Tonight he was getting a taste of what it was like to be the one being held hostage and it wasn't sitting to well with him.

Nikita drove around the entire perimeter of Lincoln Park Zoo before once again parking the van on a dark and deserted street. She hadn't planned on driving around blindly but she also didn't feel like explaining her actions or defending them for that matter. It rubbed her the wrong way that given all that she had been put through, Michael was still seriously expecting her to simply allow Madeline to live.

She quietly sat in the dark confines of the driver's seat and surveyed the area around the van. Assured that they were safe for the time being, she secured the locks on all access to the van, darkened the front window and slipped back to sit across the table from Michael.

Michael's head was now face down on the cool hard surface and he didn't seem to acknowledge that she had returned to the area. She sat back, pulled her knee up under her chin and locked her arms around her bent legs. "Michael?" she waited, listening for the steadiness of his breaths. "Michael?" she reached over to nudge him with her gun that she had not put back into the waistband of her pants. "Are you...?" before she got out another word, Michael's head and hands shot up simultaneously and he grabbed the weapon from her unsuspecting hand.

"What the hell?" she screamed in surprise as he leveled the weapon at her head.

"Sit down Nikita" was his simple coldly stated command. "How?" she looked around assuring herself that they were alone. "Never leave home without it." he smiled as he dangled a handcuff key that was on a chain around his wrist. She noticed that he had also managed to free his legs and they were now stretched across the underside of the table that separated them.

"I might be getting older, but I am still pretty limber don't ya think?" he laughed as he tossed the key into a pocket on his jacket.

"What now?" she stared. The wheels of thought were running rampant in her mind as she sized up the situation she now found herself in.

"What's the matter Nikita feeling like a rat in a cage?" he chuckled, amused at he turn of events. Nikita brought her hands down to her lap and in the blink of an eye; she brought her leg up underneath his wounded knee and shot it upwards inflicting further damage. The gun flew from his hand and slammed to the ground between the two of them. Michael's face was contorted in great pain and taking this into account Nikita lunged to the floor just making contact with the spinning weapon as Michael threw himself down on top of her.

For a moment the struggle could have gone either way as both operatives tried to gain the upper hand on the cold steel that was wedged between them. The sound of the weapon firing brought a startled look to each other eyes as both were hit with the realization that one or both of them had pulled the trigger. Michael and Nikita both felt the stickiness of the blood oozing between themselves and as their eyes locked onto each other, both filled with tears that it had come down to this...

"Michael..." Nikita whispered.

"Nikita," was his simple reply.

************

(52)

Madeline had just caught a glimpse of the black van leaving the curb in a bit of a hurry but it was all she needed to convince herself that it could only be Section. As she scanned the street for a taxicab, she also noticed two burly men stationed on each side of the dark road attempting to look inconspicuous at best.

Fiddling around in her purse or so it seemed, she simply wanted to reassure herself that the weapon she had placed there many months ago was indeed still nestled within easy reach if it became necessary. She was not going to return to Section, if that was one of her options without a fight and she was prepared to kill whoever threatened her freedom. Looking up, neither of the men had shifted their position until a Yellow Cab rounded the corner and drew up to the curb. Madeline tossed the long handled leather bag back over her shoulder, motioned the cab that she was interested and pulling the door she quickly slipped inside.

"There's a $100.00 tip in it if you lose anyone that might be following us," were her simple instructions. The driver looked a little confused but knowing that he would have to work a lot harder to make that in tips he was more than willing to oblige her. "Where to?" he smiled. She checked the name on the dashboard along with the picture. And after making sure that both matched, although she couldn't for the life of her pronounce his name she returned his smile, snuggled back into the vinyl upholstery and sighed "Anywhere for now," she hugged the purse closer feeling the outline of the hard steel object within.

She was surprised that it didn't appear that they were being followed. An hour later, after twisting and turning on the various one way streets of the North side neighborhoods, she began to relax and instructed the driver to take her to her apartment. As he brought the cab quickly to the curb in front of her building, he smiled at the amount on the meter hoping she wouldn't forget the promise of the extra income.

"That will be 85.00 please?" he smiled as he nodded toward the glowing red numbers on the face of the meter. "You did very well" she smiled as she leaned forward and handed him the crisp bills "And the extra hundred as promised." she held it out but withdrew it as his hand started forward. "Just remember, you never saw me." she waited. His brief smile and nod confirmed the command and he greedily took the money from her hand. "Have a good evening." he waited until she was out and floored it as he pulled out into traffic. With a cursory glance up and down the street, she pulled the ring of keys from her pocket and quickly entered the building making a beeline for her apartment. Once inside, she put the purse on the velvet red brocade chair just inside the door and turned to hang her coat on the ornately welded coat hook that she had installed last week.

After removing her shoes, slipping into a flannel nightgown and warm fuzzy slippers, she made herself a hot cup of tea and settled in to rethink her next move. Maybe her imagination had been running away with her and the two men were simply standing around waiting for some unsuspecting mark to come and be robbed. Maybe the van that she had seen wasn't at all the make or model that she was accustomed to seeing parked in van access. There were so many maybes and she wasn't quite as sure that she had been discovered. She decided to press her luck just a bit more and not alter her plans at the moment. She would remain in Chicago until she was absolutely sure that she had indeed been found out by Section.


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