sticks & stones (cut & run 2) - Page 1

Chapter 1

“THIS has got to be a fire hazard,” Ty Grady complained in a strained voice as they inched the heavy pool table across the scarred wooden floor, his broad shoulder pressed to the side of the table as they struggled.

Zane Garrett grunted as he pushed the table with his ass braced against the end. “Would you stop with the fire hazards?” he asked in annoyance. “This wasn’t really what I had in mind when I said we should take some time off, do something for ourselves,” he grumbled.

“You turned down my black market orchids,” Ty reminded. He looked up to see that they’d pushed the table far enough and stopped with an irritated huff. He turned and grabbed a nearby stool, sat it on the pool table, and climbed up on top of it, cursing as the stool wobbled beneath him. He pushed the access panel in the ceiling experimentally. It didn’t budge. He banged it with the heel of his hand. It rattled but didn’t pop free.

“The one thing in this place that’s built solid,” he muttered as he looked around for something to use. There was nothing. There wasn’t anything but the pool table and a pub table with two stools in the deserted pool hall. It didn’t even have pool cues!

He grumbled under his breath and punched the access panel, causing it to crack down the middle. With his movement the stool wobbled dangerously beneath his feet, and he threw his hands out to the sides to catch his balance. The stool stopped rocking almost as suddenly as it started, and as Ty glanced down, he saw Zane had grabbed it with both hands to hold it steady.

“Careful there, Twinkletoes,” Zane said with a half smile.

“Thank you,” Ty said to him as he shook his hand. “About time you did something useful. Watch your head,” he warned as he shoved at the pieces of the panel, which fell to the pool table below him with a muted clatter. He looked back down at Zane. “Come up here so I can stand on your head,” he said with a slight smile.

Zane snorted as he hefted himself up onto the table next to the stool. “You just want me for my body,” he said as he stood up, his shoulders even with Ty’s waist.

Ty petted him on the head with one gloved hand, then reached through the nearly foot-thick ceiling, placed his gun on the roof of the building, and gripped the edges to lever himself up. He growled in annoyance as he hung there, almost stuck in the opening due to the bulky body armor hindering his progress. He managed to pull himself through, grunting as he scratched and clawed his way through the opening and crawled out to flatten out on the roof. He yanked the protective helmet from his head and tossed it away, breathing in the crisp air in relief.

He stuck his head back over the edge and hung his arm down, offering Zane a hand up with a hint of dread. He never knew lately whether Zane would accept help or bite his head off for offering it. The abrupt mood swings and other problems Zane had been having since the Tri-State serial killer case were the reason they were doing jobs like this instead of working back at the Bureau.

But Zane was apparently still in the good mood he’d exhibited so far, because he took Ty’s arm without comment as he climbed up on the stool to follow him. Just as he pushed off with his long legs, there was a loud bang on the door.

Ty saw the flimsy door rattle, and he yanked at Zane with everything he could muster while still lying flat on his stomach. “Battering ram,” he warned in a strained voice.

Zane huffed and pulled himself up with Ty’s help, growling as soon as his feet were through the access hatch. “Clear,” he said under his breath. A second later a loud bang echoed in the pool hall underneath them as the door was forced open.

“Move, move, move,” Ty hissed to Zane as he grabbed his gun and mask and ran for the edge of the building, easily leaping to the next. They needed to be several buildings over before the team that had found them could relay their position.

Zane was right behind him. “Three buildings over. Fire escape.” He’d memorized the downtown layout the night before while Ty worked on today’s plans with Benson and the rest of the crew. Of course, those plans were now blown to hell. At least Ty still had the walking map with him.

They kept low, hurrying along the rooftops until they came to the fire escape Zane had mentioned. Ty glanced over the edge. The only problem, of course, was that the top of the metal stairs didn’t reach the roof. It was an eight-foot drop to the top level from where they were.

“I hate this f**king town,” Ty grumbled as he secured his gun and glanced over his shoulder. He could hear shouting, the various patrols communicating to each other; they obviously didn’t possess the same sort of gear he and Zane were using to stay in touch with their comrades.

He looked back down at the fire escape. It was their only way down unless they fancied trying to fly.

They were almost out of options, and not just because they were stuck on a roof. They’d planned for this contingency, though. There were three two-man teams in town today, each equipped with enough charges to blow one of three targets and radio receivers linked to each set. Bravo team had achieved its objective—blowing up a television station that doubled as the town’s communications center. But in doing so they’d moved too early and announced their presence before Ty and Zane could even reach their own target.

While Bravo team had done its job, the two men hadn’t survived long enough to celebrate. Alpha team had managed to set its charges at the supply stores at the end of the street, but the men had been assaulted on their way out and hadn’t managed to blow them. They were now involved in a running gunfight through the streets, taking their radio receivers farther and farther out of range as they went. They were screwed, much like Ty and Zane were about to be.

Ty climbed over the edge of the brick and lowered himself slowly until his feet dangled just a couple feet above the metal platform below, Zane following suit. To jump would have made too much noise, and they couldn’t afford to be captured or killed before they laid their charges. One target out of three was unacceptable. Two targets was still a failure, but it was better than nothing. Ty wanted all three targets, even if he had to do the last two himself.

They made their way down the fire escape quickly, causing only the occasional clang or bang as they hurried. When Ty’s booted feet hit the pavement, though, a shout from the corner of the building met them.

“Stop! Federal agents!” the man behind the protective mask warned as he held his gun up.

Ty turned without a moment’s hesitation and fired at him, two quick shots, and red bloomed across the letters on the man’s chest. He fell back, and Ty and Zane ran toward him rather than away, firing at the other agents who rounded the corner. Before the other two men in the patrol could retreat or call for backup, both took shots in the chest and dropped with pained cries.