They were watching for him.
As Delaney climbed into his rental and placed his bag on the passenger seat, two pairs of eyes stared unblinkingly at him with naked hostility. In the background they noticed Lena Maclean waving goodbye and closing her front door. She was unimportant now. She was harmless. The bitch could whine and whinge all she liked and she could make as much noise as she liked, she was no threat.
Mike Delaney, on the other hand, posed a clear and present danger. Maybe the athletic guy leaving the house and getting into the mid sized coupé had screwed the woman senseless? Well, lucky her. It was certainly going to be the last time that Delaney got laid. As he pulled away from the drive, a dark blue Pontiac waited before moving off smoothly in pursuit.
Delaney headed for the airport where he found the rental return area. He cleared his paperwork and was told to take the car to a remote area of the car park. He pointed the coupé in that direction and found a bay. There was no one else around. The park was bordered beyond its high wire fence by rough scrubby land with construction hoardings announcing a future development of mid-priced homes.
Delaney had to walk back to the reception to catch the bus to the airport. He was thinking deeply about Lena Maclean as he pulled in close to a bleak brick wall. He half noticed a blue car arriving behind him. It was just another traveller en route somewhere.
He got out, put his bag on ground and locked the car. He needed to check his emailed tickets were in his inside pocket. He noticed something in the wing mirror of the sedan. It was just a shape materialising. He heard something then, someone trying to breath as quietly as they could and the faintest of footfalls approaching from behind. As he stepped out to his right a pair of powerful arms grabbed him. He could smell sweat and bad breath. He was pinned in a bear hug just as another man came round the front of him holding a black plastic bag. Delaney knew what was coming. The two muscle bound guys were paying a return visit.
"Thought we could let you go without saying goodbye?" the one holding him grunted close to Delaney's ear. Two fingers of one hand were bandaged with a splint and encased in a rigid black leather glove for protection the knuckles of which jammed under his chin. "That would be a shame, asshole. You need to be taught not to poke your nose where it's not wanted."
The other one took a step forward intending to ram the bag over Delaney's head. Delaney lifted his feet off the ground letting his weight drop. He twisted sideways and rammed his feet against the door of the coupé and pushed backwards. At the same time he dropped his head and shot it back into his attacker's face. The man yelped and Delaney felt the back of his hair dampen with blood as the grip loosened enough for him to raise his arms high. The one with the bag went for him bringing the bag down on the spot where Delaney's head had been. It was a split second manoeuvre as the bag was rammed over Delaney's arms and just over his head. It all went black for a moment. The stench of old garbage filled Delaney's nostrils. He squatted quickly, pulling his arms out of the loosened bear hug while kicking upwards into the big man's groin.
He screamed in pain.
Delaney rolled out of the embrace, twisting as he did so. The other attacker let fly a vicious short range hook that just missed Delaney's midriff but caught him on the shoulder spinning him back and knocking him into a nearby car. Delaney ripped the bag from his head, his shoulder throbbing. He stepped back and faced the two of them. The one on the left took a long nightstick out of his inside jacket while the other slipped his right hand into his pocket, withdrawing it with the dull metal of a knuckle-duster encasing his fist.
No words were exchanged. There were no threats.
The one on the left made his move, swinging in with the polished black hardwood baseball bat. Delaney saw it coming, feinted to block then spun on his heel until he was out of range. He caught the man's wrist, pulled him off balance, stepped in and hit him hard in the kidneys and then in the sciatic nerve. The assailant fell as though electrocuted. The second man was now upon Delaney. The iron fist was coming at him with considerable weight behind it. If it connected he would have been pole axed. Delaney blocked the punch with a sweeping movement and with blistering speed reached in and grabbed his opponent's Adam's Apple. He squeezed then slammed the heel of his other hand under the nose of the big guy. His attacker staggered back, blinking with pain and frustration. But he was as strong as an ox. His partner was struggling to get to his feet. Delaney stepped out once and swept his foot around in a short arc, catching the guy in the temple. He collapsed as a dead weight.
The other guy was stronger and faster than Delaney had imagined and he was upon him, wrestling him to the ground and attempting to knock Delaney's head off with the knuckle-duster. Delaney was used to street fighting and knew some dirty tricks learned in the back alleys the world. The muscle bound guy wasn't all muscle and he wasn't fit. Delaney had the dangerous fist in a wrist lock as the two of them rolled around between parked cars. Delaney remembered he had a plane to catch and he would have to get this over with.
With a lurch he levered himself off the big guy and wrenched at his wrist causing his assailant to loosen his grip around Delaney's shoulders. That was his big mistake. Delaney heaved himself up, lifting his knees off the ground then slammed them down together deep into the solar plexus. The man gasped with pain and his eyes dilated. Delaney, now kneeling on his chest, raised his fist to slam punch him with maximum chi.
That's when the lights went out.
The other man swung the baseball bat and caught Delaney a sliding, glancing blow across the back of his head. It sent shock waves of pain from his skull shooting down his spine. A deep pool of indigo ink washed over him. He dived into the pool and lost consciousness.
He came to inside a large room that stank faintly of old chemicals. The thick gloom was diluted by light from a window high up. He tried to move then fell back onto a makeshift bed. His head was pounding and sore. He would have to move very slowly and carefully.
He lay still, allowing his eyes to become accustomed to the grey light. His hands had been tied together crudely but effectively with a thick, bristly cord and his wrists were chafed and sore. He was lying on what felt like a hard wooden bench covered with some kind of sacking material about three feet off the ground. Slowly he turned on his hip, squinting through painful eyes at his surroundings.
A disused factory building of some description of about sixty cubic feet with concrete walls and floor with steel stanchions around the walls supporting a roof trellis of rusted iron beams. An iron work bench ran around most of three of the walls and there was evidence that equipment of some kind had once been bolted to the floor. Judging by the abrasive tang of undistinguishable chemicals that lingered and seemed to issue from the fabric of the room itself, Delaney guessed chemical vats or baths once stood there.
Next to his makeshift bed was a dirty, stained sink with a dripping tap. He might have water at least.
In the corner was a large door, constructed of blackened metal and heavily discolored wood, steel cross beams riveted with large bolts. A glimmer of light bled onto the concrete floor from under the door and Delaney could just make out voices outside. They were faint and sounded as if his captors were standing in a large, echoing space.
Delaney lifted his hands to his face and examined his bonds. His wrists had been trussed efficiently but he could move his fingers and grasp things. This was a relief. He tried to unpick the knots with his teeth but they had been expertly tied and counter tied. He tried to move slowly as the pain in his head began to ebb. He needed to get to the tap and sluice his head and face.
He raised his knees and swivelled on his hip until he was sitting upright. His head was painful but he'd had worse injuries, especially in the life and death situations he'd been in as a covert assassin for the US government's untraceable G-Force section.
He allowed himself to sink into a meditative state. He believed in the body's ability to heal itself of basic ailments, allowing endorphins to flow through his vital organs by visualising golden light surging through his blood stream.
After twenty minutes he stood up. His head still ached dully but his eyes and mind were clear. He walked to the sink and, using two hands, turned the tap. After an initial gurgle and a spurt of some ungodly fluid, what passed for clean water eventually began to pour from the tap.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish