sticks & stones (cut & run 2) - Page 4

A SERIES of piercing whistles sounded from one of the building tops.

Agents began filtering out from their locations, some of them covered with red paint where they’d been shot. The other two “terrorist” teams were brought out as well, all four of them covered in the blue paint of the FBI agents-in-training.

When everyone gathered in the middle of the street around the instructors who’d been observing from various points through the town, Special Agent Ty Grady emerged from the spot of safety he’d managed to reach, completely unscathed.

And Special Agent Zane Garrett sat up from where he lay sprawled on the asphalt, his chest soaked with blue paint.

He may have been covered in blue, but he was seeing red. Zane looked over his shoulder right at Ty and glared at him evilly. “You bastard. You cut and run?”

Ty shrugged unapologetically as he walked up to stand over him. “Every man for himself, partner,” he said with a wide grin. “Last man standing,” he announced triumphantly with his arms spread wide.

“I can change that,” Zane promised darkly, torn between being angry and surprised or amused and resigned. Ty had not only used him as a distraction to make his escape but also left him behind. Zane wasn’t even sure if it should bother him at all either way. It was just a training game, after all. And as he saw how relaxed and happy Ty looked, Zane could only sigh and set his arms on his propped-up knees, shaking his head.

“Trainees! Not only did all three points receive fatal damage, and not only did we not capture a live prisoner to interrogate, but you let one of the terrorist agents get away!” Special Agent Jason Stanford announced angrily, his voice booming out of his lanky frame. He was wearing a gray FBI sweatshirt and khakis like all the trainees. “But before I rip you all new ass**les, let me introduce the men who just ran the table on you. This is Special Agent Ty Grady, who was raised by wolves, if that makes any of you feel better about getting your asses kicked,” he said, pointing at Ty.

“I thought they hired actors for these things,” one of the trainees called out. “We didn’t know we were up against trained agents.”

“You expect to face actors in the field?” Zane pointed out as he stood up and shook his hands while he glared at the newbie agents. Blue paint splattered on the asphalt as it dripped off him. How many paintballs had hit him? Those little f**kers hurt!

Stanford looked at Zane with a smirk. “And this is the very dead Special Agent Zane Garrett, who was apparently raised by Kevlar,” he told his agents-in-training. “Nicely done, Special Agent Garrett.” Zane glared at him, too, just for good measure.

“That was cold, man,” one of the trainees muttered.

“No shit,” Zane muttered, glancing Ty’s way again. Ty studiously ignored him, though, blatantly pretending not to notice the look.

Stanford went on to introduce the other four agents participating as Zane swiped at the paint along his chest and arms. Ty stepped slightly away from Zane as the paint spattered, wiping delicately at a spot on his leg that may or may not have had blue paint on it. Zane narrowed his eyes as he watched him, considering what his chances were of tackling his partner to the street and kicking his ass. Or at least smearing him with paint. There was such a thing as enjoying oneself too much at your partner’s expense.

At least he wasn’t humming or whistling anymore. Or, God forbid, singing. Zane always knew there was trouble coming when Ty started making up his own words to “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“The special agents participating today are on loan to us for this exercise,” Stanford continued with a smug smile. “Give them all a hand, if you will, and be sure to try to learn something from them.”

“That was kind of awesome,” one guy said from the back of the crowd. The back of his sweatshirt had one small red splotch to indicate where he’d been shot. He was the man who’d tackled Zane. “Took three of us out without even saying anything to each other.”

“After years of working closely with your partner, you too will develop that skill,” Stanford said, blithely disregarding the fact that he knew Ty and Zane hadn’t been officially partnered for more than five or six weeks. Zane suppressed the urge to smile. “It’s something that can’t be taught,” Stanford added.

“Partners use each other as human shields often?” one of the group asked wryly.

“Never underestimate your enemy’s will to live or his mental instability,” Ty advised with a smirk. “You may be taught never to leave a man behind. Doesn’t mean they are. Expect anything.”

“Thank you, gentlemen. You were a big help today,” Stanford said to Ty, Zane, and the other four special agents. He turned and started lecturing the trainees, many of whom peered around him to watch Zane turn on his partner, hands on his hips, looking none too pleased.

“Last man standing, huh?” Zane asked, voice dropping dangerously low. His chest was starting to ache under the protective vest he was wearing.

But Ty merely smiled at him and held up the switch he’d used to trigger the pyrotechnics in the targeted building. “We won,” he said happily.

Zane made a disgusted sound in his throat even as his mouth threatened to turn up at the corners in the face of Ty’s childish glee. “You’re too damn pleased with yourself.”

“But we won,” Ty repeated, grinning widely in his pristine uniform.

“Keep talking,” Zane dared him. “Please. Keep talking.” Ty was only about four feet away, and Zane figured it was even money that he could take him down. Ty would probably kick his ass in the end, though, and it would also ruin Ty’s good mood. Zane grimaced.

Ty looked down at the switch, still smiling. “Spoilsport,” he said to Zane in a low voice, and then he tossed the switch to Stanford with a nod. The man was watching them in amusement, his smirk indicating that he was just as eager to see if Zane would retaliate as his class was.

“Next time try not to leave the place in pieces,” Stanford said to them with a smile.

“No promises,” Zane said, hands up as if to ward off the future. “They don’t let Grady out of his cage often enough.” Then he remembered something that actually made him smile. “C’mon, Grady. You drove today, remember?”

Ty pursed his lips, glancing at Stanford as he tried not to smile. He shook the man’s hand, thanking him for the opportunity to come blow shit up and shoot people, and then he joined Zane as they headed out of the little mock-up FBI town called Hogan’s Alley.