Author's Notes: To Chya for here Beta-ing and constant help and advice. (Oh! and for the title). To my good friends Julia, Joey and Fozzie for their help and encouragement. Thanks again girls.
Chris opened his eyes once again and looked up at the plain white ceiling, the same ceiling he had been seeing every morning for the past two weeks. The pain in his side from the bullet wound was much better now and even his shoulder was more comfortable, but he still felt lousy and weak.
"Hi Chris!" said a familiar voice.
Chris turned to see Backup walking through the doorway.
"Hi Backup, any news?"
"No, I'm sorry."
"Where is he?" said Chris, sadly.
"Chris, he could be..." she began.
"No! 'Missing presumed dead' was what Malone said."
"Your car was found burnt out at the bottom of the river Thames, there's been no kidnap note for either Claudia or Camilla and no contact with Sam at all. If he was still alive he would have contacted us."
"Until I find his body I won't believe it. Backup, there's something very strange going on here, the men knew exactly where we were; those gardens were huge but they found us easily. It was as if they knew we were there. Why did the women decide to go into the garden at that time? They knew about the kidnap threat and yet they still took risks. Why?"
"I don't know. The eyewitness said he saw the car explode with the occupants still inside, he then watched as it hit the railing and catapulted over the top and into the river. If there were any bodies they were washed away with the tide. Chris you have to try and except that Sam might be dead."
Chris looked at her. "The whole operation stinks Tina, and whether Sam is dead or a live I'm going to get to the bottom of this."
"Chris, the first rule."
"Stuff it, pass me my clothes," he told her.
"No, I can't, you have to rest for another few days."
"Backup, get my cloths or get the hell out of here," he snapped.
"Mr Keel, you will stay in that bed until the doctor sees fit to release you, do I make myself clear?"
Malone stood in the doorway.
"No buts, you are in no condition to go anywhere yet."
A nurse came in followed by a doctor and Malone and Backup was asked to leave while they changed the dressings.
Chris lay back, he had no choice but to obey Malone because he was in no condition to argue, so he let the doctor do what he needed to do and lay still. He found himself thinking of his best friend yet again, Sam was different from anyone else he knew cool, calm and collected. The Englishman annoyed the hell out of him sometimes and he found Sam hard to understand a lot of the time, his ways were alien to the American even now, but his friend was loyal almost to a fault. Sam didn't trust people straight away because he had been let down a lot when he was younger, but once you'd gained the Brit's trust you knew he would never let you down, he was fiercely loyal to his friends and god help anyone that hurt any of them. They were like brothers, it had got to the stage now that they almost knew what the other one was thinking, on a mission this had become a valuable ally and saved both their lives many times. Life without Sam would be an upward battle for him he knew, he felt the same grief inside him now as he had the day he lost his family. He realised that in time he would get over it but without Sam's help it would be a long process. Chris let out a sigh and went over in his mind for the hundredth time what had happened that fateful day.
It all started when they were told that their next mission was to protect two women whose husbands were ranked very high in the Army and Navy. Both men had received threatening letters including one about a possible kidnapping of their wives if they didn't agree to their demands.
Sam was horrified when he found out their first duty was to look after them at a party, it wasn't the thought of the Christmas party that horrified him, it was the fancy dress bit that did it and the fact that he and Chris had to dress up too.
Backup held up the Englishman's costume.
"Here you are Sam," she said, trying hard not to smile.
"No! No way, there-is-nothing-in-this-world that will get me to dress up in a Santa suit, nothing, do you hear me Backup?" said Sam, glaring at Chris as he sniggered behind his hand.
"Oh Sam, you'll look so sweet in it," said Tina, desperately trying to hide a huge smile.
Finally Chris lost it totally, he was unable to hold in his feelings any longer and burst out laughing.
Spencer, who had watched as Sam was given his undercover outfit, smiled broadly as he went over with Chris' outfit.
"Hi Spencer," said Chris. "Don't you agree Sam would look rather fetching in a Santa Suit?" the American asked, still unable to keep a straight face.
Spencer looked at Sam who shot daggers at him, daring him to answer and conveying with his eyes that he would shoot him if he agreed with his partner.
"Not as cute as you'll look in your elf costume, Chris," he said, smiling as he handed the green outfit over to him.
"What?" cried Chris, with a total look of horror on his face.
Now it was Sam's turn to collapse into fits of laughter.
Malone was in his office and, hearing the laughter, was curious to what was so funny. As he stepped outside he heard the two agents arguing.
"Please Sam, green's not my colour," begged Keel.
"Mr Curtis, Mr Keel why is it when you two are in the office I always hear you before seeing you? Now get changed and get to the debriefing."
"Get changed first?" said both agents together, horrified.
"Yes, that will cut down on time and you can get to the party quicker."
Malone turned and Sam could have sworn he saw his boss smile.
"Oh great," moaned the Englishman.
"Oh come on Sam, it'll be fun," Chris said, grinning from ear to ear.
"For who exactly? Christmas is over three weeks away."
"You've got to get into the Christmas spirit early nowadays, the shops are full of Christmas bits and I've already got your present."
"Why does that scare me?" said Sam, worriedly.
Chris beamed "Because you know what I'm like and besides, you like furry animals don't you?"
"Yeah right," said Sam, rolling his eyes and turning to go.
Sam turned back.
"Why do you hate Christmas so much?"
Sam was surprised by the sadness in Chris' voice as he'd said it.
"I don't hate it Chris, I just have a few bad memories of past Christmases that's all."
Chris looked at his partner and felt sad, he himself had always loved Christmas, his family had always gone over the top with everything, but they could afford to as they had plenty of money. Sam on the other hand had come from a poor background, although to see him now you would never have thought so. He had told Chris he'd never really got what he wanted for Christmas like other children because eating was more important.
Although Teresa had died and he had lost some of his Christmas spirit, Chris had refused to let it all go and with each new Christmas that went by he began to get more of it back. CI5 was his family now.
Suddenly he heard someone call him.
"Chris, we've got to go."
He looked at Sam and shook himself out of the reverie.
"Sorry, just thinking that's all."
"What is it you always say to me, something about 'a bad habit' and about 'giving it up'."
"Oh, very funny. Come on let's go," said Chris, slapping his friend on the shoulder as he past.
The two agents went to the locker room and changed. Once they were in the costumes, they both just stood there looking at each other. Chris was relieved that he didn't have to wear tights; instead they were three quarter length trousers. He looked at himself then at Sam, and smiled.
"Don't say a word Keel, I really don't care what I look like so before you start, think again."
"Okay, I was only going to say...."
"Don't!" warned Sam, again.
Chris sighed and Sam decided to change the subject quickly.
"So, what do you want for Christmas then?" asked Sam, suddenly.
"Snow, why snow?" Sam said, frowning.
"Teresa loved snow, she always said that one year she would like to be in a country where it snowed on Christmas day. She will never be here in person but her spirit is and I guess it would just be nice."
It was Sam's turn to stare at his partner.
"I'll see what I can arrange," he said, softly.
"What about you? What do you want for Christmas, Sam?"
"I don't know, nothing really."
"You must want something."
Sam looked at his friend.
"You really want to know?" he asked.
Sam let out a sigh. "To be alive for the next one."
Chris was stunned by the remark
"Not now Chris, come on we better go," he said, walking to the door.
It was clear that Sam didn't want to talk about it anymore, so Chris said no more and followed his partner out. He was going to have to do something to change his partner's feelings towards Christmas. Previously he'd left Sam to enjoy it the way he wanted hoping he would get better in time. But over the past three years he had become worse.
Sam had always spent a lot of money, time and effort into buying each of his closest friends the best things he could. He always smiled on the outside, but deep down Chris knew he wasn't enjoying it at all.
The two friends went through the office and were relieved to see it was empty, thinking that they had done well not to be seen they headed for the briefing room. The room was quiet but as the door opened, there was a roar of laughter. Sam and Chris wanted to die; every agent in the building was in the room waiting to see them. Sam put his face in his hands and Chris closed his eyes and prayed that the ground below would open up and swallow him whole.
"Come in Santa and bring your little helper with you," said Malone, trying to keep a straight face.
Sam knew that if he'd had his gun on him at that moment, he would gladly have put a bullet through Malone's head, just to wipe the smile off his face.
Backup was almost wetting herself with laughter and nearly everyone else in the room was crying in hysterics.
Malone suddenly cleared his throat and the laughter stopped.
"Everybody but those who are suppose to be in here get out and do some work, you two take a seat," said the head of CI5, returning to a business like manner.
The other agents filed out, leaving Sam, Chris, Tina and Spencer alone with Malone.
"Alright ladies and gentlemen, let's get down to serious business."
He handed them a file each then sat on the desk.
"This is Fleet Admiral Charles 'Chuck' Cutts of the United States Navy SEALs and his wife Camilla, no doubt Mr Keel you have heard of him."
"Yes sir, he was one of my father's friends."
"He is attending the Christmas party tonight of a Major George Dashwood, a highly decorated individual that has links with the Queen, the problem is that there have been a few threats of kidnapping for both Camilla and the Admiral's wife Claudia. Our job is to make sure this doesn't happen, you two are their bodyguards and where they go you go. Do I make myself clear?"
"Sir, Admiral Cutts is a stubborn man and doesn't trust other special service agencies, how come we're being involved?" said Chris.
"He is on British soil, so whether he likes it or not, we will be there to help him. But he doesn't have to know until the last minute and by then it won't matter."
Sam looked at Chris. "Were you close?"
"Close enough," he replied, still looking at his boss. "When do we start, sir?"
"You are to collect them from their hotel in one hour, then escort them to the party. Remember, you do not leave their sides for any reason, if there is any trouble get them out of there and to safe house ten."
"Will we have backup if we need it?"
"Yes, but I don't want a gun battle in the middle of the party so only call if it is an emergency."
"How long do we guard them?" said Tina.
"Until I say so. Now get going, you will be meeting up with Major Dashwood out side the Savoy who will then escort you to the presidential suit to pick up the Admiral and his wife. The party is fancy dress so you will blend in better dressed up as you are."
Sam opened his mouth to speak but Malone continued.
"Yes Mr Curtis, you are to wear that outfit all night."
Once at the hotel, they met the Major, a tall skinny man in his late fifties and were shown to the Presidential Suite where they were left with one of the two security men. Both agents wore long coats over their costumes and basically looked quite normal unless you paid close attention to their shoes.
"The Admiral will be here in a moment," said the taller of the two guards.
"The Admiral is here now, Talbot," said a voice from behind them. "Now gentlemen, I suggest you leave..."
Both Chris and Sam turned at the sound of the voice and came face to face with a tall, slightly obese, grey haired man in a blue clown outfit.
Chris looked at Sam then back to the Admiral who had stopped in mid-stride and was staring at the two agents.
Chris went forward and held out his hand.
"Hello sir, good to see you again. This is my partner Sam Curtis."
The Admiral seemed to be shocked to see him, but recovered enough to turn and look at Sam and shake his hand.
"Nice to meet you Mr Curtis."
The big man then turned back to Chris and put his hand on the young man's shoulder.
"My boy, how are you? It's been a while."
"I'm fine, sir."
"Claudia, my dear, we have guests. Come and see who," said the Admiral, shouting over his shoulder.
A woman came out of the next room dressed as a princess and stopped.
"Christopher. Oh my dear. How are you?"
"Hello Ma'am, I'm fine."
She came over and took his hands in hers.
"You look pale, have you been looking after yourself? Oh, it was dreadful, such a waste and Christopher, she was so beautiful."
Chris drew in a deep breath and nodded sadly.
She reached up and cupped his face in her hands.
"Remember, if there's anything you need, let us know," she said and released him.
She turned to Sam. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude, and you are?"
"Sam Curtis. I'm Chris' partner," Sam said, shaking her hand politely.
She smiled at him. "Nice to meet you, Mr Curtis."
"Sam, call me Sam," he replied.
"Sam it is then," she said, smiling.
"So Chris, I hear that you and Sam both work for this CI5 organisation, I've also heard you have to be good to get in there," said the Admiral.
"I have also been told that you are to be my wife's bodyguard tonight and that you, Sam, are to be Camilla's bodyguard. You know I would normally insist that my own men look after my wife, but as it is you, Chris, I will allow you to escort us," said the Admiral.
"Thank you sir," said Chris.
"I see you have costumes on, which is a good idea. Now let's get going; we are the guests of honour and we don't want to be late," said Claudia.
"Gentlemen, no guns will be allowed at that room," said the Admiral.
"But sir, we are here to protect your-" began Sam.
"George is right," interrupted Claudia. "No guns, we are not having you shooting any of our guests accidentally. Please, this party is about stopping violence, how would it look if the two men in charge of tonight's proceedings were shown to be guarded by two armed men."
"But ma'am, it's for your own protection," said Chris.
"No! I will not have it and I will inform your superiors of our decision, now leave them in your car by all means, but do not take them inside the house," said Claudia, turning her back and leaving them.
Chris pleaded with the Admiral one more time as they reached the car but to no avail, so they had little choice but to leave them in the glove compartment.
The Major appeared again and was dressed as a sultan, his wife Camilla, a tall slim built woman with long blonde hair dressed like Snow White, followed him to the car. She never said much when she was introduced to the two CI5 men but she did at least agree to let Sam look after her.
The two agents climbed into Chris' car and then waited for the rest to get into theirs they then headed off to the party.
The party was in full swing and the Major was about to make a speech. Sam was having terrible trouble with Claudia, who against all better advice, decided to go for a walk around the gardens. Chris and Camilla joined them a few moments later, and both men were on edge; if a kidnap attempt were going to happen, this stable area they had just entered would be the best place.
Suddenly, two men appeared in front of Chris, who had been slightly in the lead, pointing knives at him.
"Give us the women and you won't get hurt," said an unusually high-pitched male voice, coming from the smaller man.
"Yeah right, in your dreams," said Chris.
Sam stepped in front of the women to protect them.
"Sam, get them out of here! These two are mine."
Chris saw Sam hesitate, but nodded that he would be fine and watched briefly as his partner took off, leading the ladies towards the house.
Then the fight began. Chris managed to side step a thrust forward by the smaller of the two masked men and grabbed his wrist bringing it down on his knee. The man let out a yelp and dropped his knife. Chris then grabbed the man's hair and yanked his head back and hit him in the jaw. As the first man collapsed to the floor the second man charged at him and raised his knife hand. Chris didn't have time, to adjust his position and the knife was sunk into his back by his right shoulder, he felt it slice through skin and tissue and a burning sensation shot down his arm. The second man made the mistake of thinking that he had disabled his opponent and let him go. Chris kicked out behind him and caught the man in the mid-section then swung round and hit him hard on the back of the head and the man collapsed to the floor. Without waiting to see if they were staying down, he headed back towards the house. His shoulder was agony and he felt weak, but he needed to find Sam.
"4.5 to 5.3, we need help up here."
There was no reply.
As Chris turned the corner of the stable block another man stepped out, but this one said nothing. Instead he lifted up a gun and fired at Chris, who felt a thud in his side and fell to the floor heavily. The last vision he had before the blackness took him was of the gunman running off.
When he'd woken up several days later and seen no Sam, Chris had immediately begun to worry, but nobody would tell him anything. At first he'd been too tired to argue but as he became stronger he wanted answers. That's when Malone had appeared and told him what had happened, his words hitting him like a bulldozer.
"Mr Curtis is missing and we can only presume he is dead."
"What! You've got to be joking!"
"Do I look like I'm joking, Mr Keel? Mr Curtis apparently tried to get back to the house with the two ladies, but his path was blocked. He managed to get them to his car and drove off away from the house, but neither Mr Curtis nor his two charges have been seen alive since."
Malone had gone on to explain about the explosion of the car and it's dive into the Thames and that a witness had seen it happen and called the police.
Chris had been shocked by the news, "So, what you're actually saying is that he's dead."
"Mr Keel, the chances are that Mr Curtis is indeed dead, we have no body to confirm that, I know, but after all this time it seems obvious that he is. I know you will want to see the report and that I will arrange, but you have to accept that he probably isn't coming back and that life must go on." Malone had stated.
And now, staring at the ceiling, Chris felt as devastated now as he had when he'd first heard. Chris kept seeing Sam in his mind dressed up as Santa, and it made him smile, only to lose that happy picture when he remembered the sadness on his friend's face when he'd mentioned Christmas. Sam was a very private person and Chris, being very similar respected that but he really wished he knew why Sam had reacted that way, and now it seemed he would never know.
His condition was stable now but he knew he'd had a bad time. His shoulder ached and his side was sore, but it was nothing compared with the pain he felt inside. If only he had been quicker, if only he had not got hurt, if only...
"All those 'Ifs' Chris," said a Canadian voice.
"Hi Backup, how did you know what I was thinking?"
"I know you," she said, sitting in a chair next to his bed.
Both were silent for a moment. Tina looked at Chris and then at the floor. She loved both of them like brothers, but Sam was somehow just that little bit more special. At first a lot of the other operatives in the office had thought Sam was cold hearted and ruthless, using people to get what he wanted no matter what the cost to them, and although in time they'd got to know him, they were still wary of him and still weren't sure how to take him. But Sam was one of the kindest, sweetest people she knew and he would do anything to help people in trouble even to the extent that he would put himself in the line of fire to protect the innocent. It didn't seem fair to her. 'Only the good die young' people always said, well that was true.
She heard her name being said and looked up to see Chris staring at her, concern in his eyes.
"Backup, are you okay?"
"I miss him too," he said, and smiled at her.
She passed him a small box, and he opened it carefully.
"Sam's keys to his cars and flat. Malone thought you should look after them."
"Until he gets back you mean," he said.
"Yeah, something like that," she answered, smiling softly.
She stayed and they talked for a long time about Sam. Both were suffering equally but Backup couldn't help feeling sorry for Chris, all his family and close friends were dead and he'd refused to get too close to anyone, but somehow the two men, that were opposites in many ways, had become not only the best team in CI5 but also the closest. They were more than colleagues, more than friends they had basically become a family. Neither had anyone else that they could call close so the terrible twins had become brothers. She felt so sad; life without Sam was going to take a lot of getting use to.
The two young agents continued chatting until Chris drifted off to sleep.
Outside, a grey suited man watched the pair of them closely. Malone hated losing any agent, but Curtis had been one of the best, one half of a perfect whole, and he would be terribly missed by all the other agents. Curtis could be hard to reason with sometimes; especially when he got it into his head that he was right. He would always stand up for his partner no matter what, even if it meant bringing his bosses wrath down on himself. He was fiercely loyal to his colleagues and a true professional, and Malone knew Keel would miss him greatly.
Malone turned and walked off down the corridor towards the exit, the truth of the matter was that he would miss him too.
Sam opened his eyes and looked around the room that had been his home for the past two weeks. He once again went through the routine of pulling at the chains that were attached to the iron manacles around each of his wrists, but he was once again rewarded with a kick in the side.
"Behave!" said a voice he'd begun to hate.
Sam looked around; he was still in a huge dungeon type room, the walls were made of stone, the floor had straw on it and the door and tiny window were barred. He managed to sit up and moaned as his aching muscles protested.
"Can I have a drink?" he asked, licking his lips.
"Say please," said his little jailer.
He had gone through this ritual every time he wanted a drink or food.
"Please," sighed Sam.
"Please sir," the jailer replied, smiling.
"Please sir, can I have a damn drink?" snapped Sam.
"Temper, temper," the jailer answered as he moved over to get a cup and fill it with water.
He came back and placed it on the floor a good ten feet away from the CI5 agent and then turned and went back to his chair.
Sam got up and after tugging on the chains managed to reach the cup and drink from it thirstily. He sat down on the pile of straw that had been his bed and looked down at his sore wrists. The metal bands had been welded at the locks so there was no way he could get free without doing serious damage to his wrists. They were not joined together so he could move each arm independently and although he was a prisoner, his captors basically left him alone. The dungeon had a toilet and sink in it and he had even been given a razor and towel. He was given food and drink twice a day and other than the odd few bruises he had from the kicks he kept getting he was basically unharmed. He kept thinking about Chris; the last thing he had heard before he had been knocked unconscious was a gunshot and he knew his partner had been unarmed. He began wondering again if his friend was alive or dead, it had been eating away at him everyday for the past two weeks but none of his captors would answer his question. Was Chris all right? Praying that his friend was okay he thought back to the events of two weeks previously.
Sam managed to get away from the men easily thanks to Chris and was going well, but just before he reached the safety of the house he was intercepted and stopped by three men. He tried to fight his way through them but he was soon over powered when one had dug a gun in the side of his head. Camilla and Claudia hadn't panicked and done anything silly much to the agent's relief and were standing near the man Sam believed to be the leader.
The man stepped forward and looked at Sam who was held by the arms by the other two. The kidnapper then grinned and lashed out and hit him in the face. Sam tasted blood and when he turned his head to look back at the man he came face to face with a gun.
"Now you die."
"No, Michael! We agreed, nobody who is innocent dies," said a familiar female voice.
Sam looked over at Camilla who had spoken and was now stepping forward to put her hand on Michael's shoulder.
"Don't kill him, he's only doing his job," she said.
Michael hesitated then finally lowered his gun slightly.
"But what are we going to do with him? We don't have long."
Sam was totally confused by it all.
"Your part of this?" he asked.
"We both are darling," said Claudia, who had come forward to join them.
"I don't understand what's going on," he said, still confused.
"I'm afraid you'll have to come with us now, you know too much," said Camilla.
"No way," said Sam, trying to get free.
"You are coming with us, but I doubt if you're going to come willingly," added Claudia.
"Got it in one," said Sam.
With that, he began to struggle again and was beginning to break free when something hard came down on the side of his head and he went down like a rock.
Two weeks later and Sam still had no idea what was going on and his jailer wasn't telling him anything. He had no watch on and so only knew roughly what time it was when he was fed. Other than the Poison Dwarf, a nickname he had invented for the small well-built man holding him here, no other person had come near him, so he hadn't even been given the chance to escape.
The big door opened and in walked one of the women; it was Claudia. He hadn't seen her since he had been first brought here.
"Well, how are you Sam?"
"You care?" said Sam, sarcastically.
"Yes, this isn't your fight and once this is over you will be freed unharmed, I don't want anyone who is innocent hurt in anyway," she said sounding sincere
"What about my partner? Your friend shot him."
"Chris is fine, or will be. He was shot and wounded that's true and it shouldn't have happened either, but it did and there's nothing I can do about it. I have checked on him and I do know he's going to be okay."
"Thank god," said Sam, feeling very relieved.
"I said you would be released unharmed and I mean it, but if you escape you'll ruin everything," she told him.
"Tell me what you're doing then? You faked your own kidnapping. Why?"
"I found out by pure chance one day that my husband and the Major were involved in some new project. He'd left his briefcase open by mistake and some documents that were next to it fell off the table and scattered across the floor as I closed the lid. I tried not to read them before putting them back, but I did. I saw that Chuck and George had apparently become leaders of a new unit that have started a campaign to help solve the poverty crisis in the third world countries."
Sam frowned "Very commendable."
"Yes, I thought so and I decided to help him and encourage him in every way I could. That was until I kept reading and found out how they were going to do it."
"Which was?" he asked.
"Forced prostitution. The governments of some of the poorest countries have agreed to let them take women from the villages and introduce them into the delightful world of prostitution; some are as young as fourteen. The women are kidnapped, beaten and tortured into submission by some of the soldiers and most likely raped as well. In the meantime George and Chuck would find other more economically stable countries to buy the women. Once a transaction was agreed they would take their cut of the money then pass the rest of it onto the governments where the women came from."
"They surely can't make that much profit from a few women."
"There are hundreds of villages with plenty of women in them and people willing to pay quite a bit for them. The money that has so far been collected on behalf of these poor women hasn't got past the government puppets yet, it seems they are using the money to line their own pockets."
"Did you challenge your husband?"
"Yes. I told Camilla and we told our husbands what I'd seen, but they both said they were actually undercover and investigating the whole thing, not part of it," she continued.
"But you didn't believe them?" Sam asked her.
"Naively, at first, yes we did. I admit we were proud of them for trying to stop all this, but over the next few weeks they kept disappearing for days on end and when we spoke to the base they didn't seemed to know where they were. When the Military Police came round and started asking us questions about their activities we got suspicious again. That was when we decided to do some investigating of our own and to get copies of all that I had seen. I opened my husband's safe and read some of the secret documents in there. He had no idea I knew the combination and to be honest I was glad he didn't because he would have changed it after he knew we were suspicious of him."
"What did you find?" he asked.
"Still pictures, videos of the women that had been taken, a list of places where these women would end up working, plus a delivery date of the next 'lot' as they called them."
"When are the next women coming in?"
"Christmas Eve. They will be delivered to a private airstrip in Kent about 11.30 that night. I'm not going to let this happen and we intend to be there to make sure it doesn't."
"Why don't you take all this to the police with the evidence you have? It would have to be investigated?"
"That's the trouble; we don't have it now. Camilla showed all the copies we made to George, who took them away and destroyed them, and then my husband changed the combination to his safe. I told her not to tell him, but she just couldn't believe he would be involved with something so awful."
She paused for a moment then drew in a deep breath and continued.
"A few days later I overheard them arranging for us to be kidnapped and disposed of after the Christmas party. That way the talks could then be completed without any interference from us. So, to make sure we were in control we faked our own kidnapping and deaths to keep them from interfering while we planned the whole rescue operation."
"Your deaths?" said Sam.
"Yes, yours too I'm afraid. Haven't you wondered why no-one was looking for you?"
"I suppose, I thought you'd covered your tracks well," he said.
"No. You weren't supposed to be with us when it happened. Michael was suppose to get rid of you but not kill you; he isn't as dedicated to saving life as we are."
"Why are you doing this?" asked Sam.
"Someone has to help these women to defend themselves; they have no-one else to stand up for them," she said sadly.
"Let me go and I'll ask my boss to investigate."
"No, he can't help, my husband is too powerful; he reckons he can destroy anyone and believe me he has. He even has the support of some of this countries top cops. We have to do this our way," Claudia told him.
"What are you going to do?"
"We are going to stop this terrible thing one way or the other."
She knelt by him and looked at him closely; he had a black eye and his nose and lip looked sore.
"Nick, I told you not to hurt him," she said, looking over her shoulder at the little man by the door.
"I know and I didn't, that was Michael's handy work, besides Mike said he wasn't behaving himself so he decided to teach him a lesson."
She shook her head, "I'll speak to him, but in the meantime its time to go," said Claudia. "I will contact Malone when our mission is complete. It won't be much longer I promise."
"Where are you going?" asked Sam.
"To find that airstrip and get some help."
She turned to leave.
"Wait!" he said.
"I'm sorry I have to go. Michael will release you in three days so I'm afraid you'll miss most of Christmas Day, but at least you'll be able to make up for it next year," she said and went out of the room locking the door behind her.
Sam let out a long sigh; well at least Chris was still alive. But why did that stupid yank always have to play the hero. God he drove him mad sometimes; he was never certain which stunt the American would pull next, but one thing Sam was certain of, he missed his partner a lot.
When Backup arrived at the hospital, Chris was sitting there staring at the window. In his hands were the set of keys that she recognised as Sam's car keys and he was tossing them backwards and forwards in his hands impatiently. She sighed and he looked up. She knew Chris was adamant that he was going to leave the hospital so when she told him it wasn't a good idea he jumped down her throat.
"I'm getting out of here now. Backup, are you going to help me or not?" said a very annoyed Chris Keel.
He had rested now for an extra day, but against doctors advice he had discharged himself and was determined to leave.
"Okay, but please take it easy over the next few days."
"Yes mother, now let's go."
The two agents left the hospital and Backup took Chris home, but not before they picked up some copies of the case notes for the mission. They sat down for hours and went through the notes on the case, but everything seemed to be in order. The two women, although not confirmed dead, had had a memorial service and there were pictures of the funeral.
Chris hadn't been there when they broke the news to the Admiral and Major about the two women, but knew it must have been hard for them. He had known Claudia since he was small and he felt a terrible sense of loss himself. The kidnappers had not been found, but he was determined to succeed and find the people responsible. He missed Sam's presence but knew it was a feeling he might have to get used to.
He looked back down at the funeral pictures. Everyone was either in military dress or black and the pictures seemed to be just like a normal funeral with plenty of people grieving openly. It all appeared to be normal except one thing, both funeral pictures showed a woman in black in the background covering part of her face. Chris was drawn to the woman's face; there was something very familiar about her.
"Backup, can you get me a close-up of that woman in the background, I've got a feeling I've seen her before."
"Sure, but it'll take a few hours, I'll get Spencer to do it," she told him. "Why, who is she?"
"I don't know but I intend to find out."
Chris stood up.
"Where are you off too?" asked Backup.
"I'm not, we are."
"To see the Admiral," he said, taking hold of her arm and leading her to the door.
"What about the photo?"
"Get Spencer to fax it through to the car."
Backup looked at him then grabbed her phone and dialled HQ, asking Spencer to start work on the photo.
Sam was really frustrated now, he hated being restrained like this and the Poison Dwarf was really pushing his luck. Another night had passed and it was now two days till Christmas and he had a nasty feeling that Michael wasn't going to let him see it.
"So Mr Tough guy, you think we're going to let you go unharmed do you?" asked Nick.
"I have no idea what you plan to do and quite frankly I don't give a shit."
The Poison Dwarf stood up and drew a big knife.
"How about I come over there and slit your throat?"
"Come on then."
The little man licked his lips nervously but came forward. Just as he reached Sam, the CI5 agent grabbed his feet and pulled him over. He yelped as he hit the floor loosing his grip on the weapon. Sam pulled him forward, grabbed the fallen knife and held it to the little man's throat.
"How about I slit yours instead?" snarled Sam.
"No!" squealed the little man. "I was only joking, honest I was."
"Drop it or I'll shoot you," said a voice from the doorway.
Sam looked over and saw Michael pointing a gun at him.
"Let him go," he warned again.
Sam released his hold and Nick climbed to his feet, kicking him in the side. It wasn't hard but it hurt.
"Go home Nick, and wait by the phone."
His jailer left. Sam watched as Michael nodded and two of the other men that had entered with him left too.
Michael turned to Sam and smiled.
"Well, I see you two were getting along well," he said.
"Believe me, the fun had only just begun," said Sam.
Michael said nothing at first then drew in a deep breath and shook his head.
"What to do with you has been a big debate between my men and me. Some say slit your throat, others say leave you here to die. This castle has now been closed and will remain so for six months while they refurbish it, but work doesn't start until the sixth of January. Of course I'd prefer the first option but then that would blow my cover if one of the women come back."
"Your not in this for the cause are you?" asked Sam.
"Very astute of you, of course I'm not. I'm in this for the money and I've just had a much better offer."
"From the Admiral?"
"Correct again. You know, you're not as daft as you look."
"Can't say the same for you."
Michael stepped forward.
"Don't push me Curtis, or I will carry out my first option."
"So the Admiral knows what's happening?"
"Yes, and he has for a while. He plans to let the women get near then over power and deal with them permanently."
"No, you can't-"
"I'm not going to, but the Major and the Admiral are."
The two henchmen that had left with Nick returned and smiled at Michael.
"So now what?" Sam asked.
"Now we punish you for beating up poor Nick," he said, smiling widely.
"But I didn't touch-" Sam stopped in mid sentence. It suddenly dawned on him that the two smiling men had done it just now and that he was being blamed.
Michael smiled and stepped forward.
Sam took a deep breath as the three men moved in.
Chris and Tina drew up outside the Admirals house. Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out the copy of the original photo to check it was there in case the bigger version didn't come through in time, but as he did, a set of keys fell on the handbrake. Chris snatched them up quickly clearly embarrassed. Backup knew they were Sam's but said nothing as Chris placed them back in his pocket along with the photo.
"Stay here," he told her.
"No way! I want to come."
Chris sighed, "Okay, but let me do the talking."
She nodded and they were welcomed into the house.
"Christopher, good to see you and how are you?" said the Admiral.
"Fine sir. I came here to say sorry for letting you down."
The Admiral beckoned for them to sit after Chris had introduced Backup to him.
"You never let me down, it was one of those things that was unavoidable. If my wife had stayed near the house this would never have happened. I heard your partner was killed too."
"Yes he was, but he did try to save them."
"I know and I know you both did your best. It's nice of you to come and pay your respects."
Tina's phone suddenly rang and she stood up.
"May I?" she asked the Admiral.
Tina disappeared outside the drawing room door.
"It is very hard when you lose someone so lovely like Claudia," the Admiral continued. "But then, you already know that don't you? I never really knew what you were going through until now. Losing Claudia like that is hard for me."
"Losing anyone that is close to you is hard sir, even a friend."
"Yes, I heard you and your partner were close friends and if there's anything I can do to help you Christopher, don't hesitate to ask."
"Thank you, sir."
The Admiral stood up and so did Chris. They shook hands just as Backup returned holding a piece of paper.
"What's that?" asked the Admiral.
Chris took the paper and studied it.
"Spencer just sent that across, it's the enlargement of the photo," she told Chris.
"It's a photo of the funeral," Chris said looking up at the Admiral. "In the background is a women that I have a feeling I've met before but her face is almost completely covered by a veil, can you tell me who she is?"
The Admiral took the picture and Chris could have sworn he recognised her but the man quickly denied it.
"Are you sure sir?" he asked, taking back the photo.
"Yes. Now Christopher, I really need to get going. I'll get Simmons to see you out, take care and remember, if you need anything let me know."
With that he rushed out.
Chris looked at Backup and she shrugged.
"This way Ma'am, sir," said Simmons.
The butler was by the door and was gesturing them out.
Once outside, Tina looked at Chris who was deep in thought.
"He knew who that was and was shocked to see her," he looked down at the photo again and squinted to try and get a better look. "Lets go."
He got in his car and she followed suit.
"Where are we going?"
"To talk to Nick Filan, the witness, I need to know exactly what he saw."
The two CI5 agents arrived at the witness's house and after a quick check around they discovered that the witness wasn't there.
"Now what?" Backup asked.
"We wait, he's got to come back soon."
They sat in the car for a while saying nothing. Chris broke the silence eventually by asking her what she wanted for Christmas.
"Sam back," she looked at him and smiled.
"Yeah," he said softly.
They sat quietly again until they saw a figure approaching from behind them. He was hunched over and appeared to be limping. At first they didn't connect him with being the witness until he headed for the door of the witness's house and let himself in.
"Let's go," said Chris, getting out of the car.
Backup followed him to the door.
"He didn't look too well," she said.
Chris rang the bell then looked at her. "Probably been enjoying the Christmas spirit."
The door opened but was stopped by a security chain and the man at the door asked who it was. Chris was amazed, the man had an unusual voice, similar to one he had heard before.
"We're from CI5 we want to ask you a few questions,"
"I've told you everything I know now go away and leave me alone," came the squeaky voice, but there was something wrong; he was gasping as he spoke.
"Mr Nicholas Filan we--" began Backup.
Suddenly Chris realised where he'd heard that voice before and kicked the door in. The man behind it went crashing backwards and hit his head, slumping to the floor unconscious.
"Chris! What the hell are you doing?" yelled Backup, rushing to the fallen man.
"It's him Backup, he's one of the men that attacked me and Sam."
"What? I don't understand."
Chris took a closer look at the fallen man and saw cuts and bruises all over his face; he had been worked over pretty badly and needed medical attention.
He phoned it through and told Headquarters to send an ambulance, which appeared minutes later along with Malone.
"Mr Keel, Miss Backus tells me you recognised this man from the attack on you and Mr Curtis. Is that right?"
"Yes sir. He's the same man that we first encountered."
"Alright, if he is one of the men that first stopped you at the house, how come he then turned up as a witness later on?"
"I've got no idea, but I intend to find out."
Chris climbed in his car before anyone could stop him and headed off to the hospital. At first they wouldn't let him see the patient who was being kept in for observation, but finally they agreed on the condition that Chris didn't stress him at all.
Chris was ready to kill the guy, but wholeheartedly agreed that he wouldn't do anything to upset him. He walked in and the man froze.
"I'll call the nurse,"
With that Chris went forward and placed his gun at the man's genitals.
"Go ahead, let's see how much higher we can get that voice."
"Okay, okay but I don't know what you need to know," said the man, nervously.
"How do you know what I want to know? I haven't asked you any questions yet."
"Look, I can't tell you anything, I can't remember anything. I've got a concussion."
"That will be the least of your troubles in a moment. You're now under arrest for three murders, I make that about three life sentences, don't you?"
"Murder! I'm not a murderer, I haven't killed anyone, honest I haven't!" said the little man his voice getting even higher.
"You were at that house nearly three weeks ago and tried to kidnap Claudia Cutts and Camilla Dashwood. But you failed and somehow both them and my partner ended up dead, burnt to a cinder while they were escaping. You then turn up as a witness which places you at both scenes, and you're telling me that you're not involved?"
"Hey look, okay I was in both places but I didn't kill anyone. Claudia and Camilla are both alive and well. In fact, Camilla even turned up at her own funeral."
"Of course," said Chris as the penny dropped. "That's the woman in the photograph, I knew I'd seen her before. Tell me the rest."
"It was all a deception to throw off a real kidnap attempt that was being arranged by Admiral Cutts."
"This was all set up, no-one was supposed to be hurt. Your partner twigged that it had all been set up so he had to come with us too."
"Start from the beginning."
Chris listened to the whole story. He was stunned and couldn't believe that a man like Admiral Cutt's could be involved with any type of illegal goings on. This man had helped bring him up; he remembered being turned up side down and tickled when he was only five and many birthday parties where the Admiral and Claudia were invited, he loved this man like he had his own father. The Admiral had been so pleased when Chris had entered the Navy and kept a close watch on him ever since.
At first he refused to believe what he was hearing but in the end, the more of the story he heard, the more he realised that the man he had known all his life was in fact leading two very different life's.
"If no-one was supposed to get hurt, why was I shot?" Chris asked.
"Michael decided to take matters into his own hands. Claudia was furious with him, and kept constant checks on you while you were in hospital."
"The people in the car?"
"Were dummies, we stopped at the top of the hill changed the real people for dummies, set fire to it and let it roll down the hill and flip into the Thames. We knew the current would wash all traces of the dummies away, so all we needed was an eyewitness to tell the police that the three people inside were burnt alive. It was a simple. The police concluded accidental death and it was all cleared up in a week."
"Clever, there were no other witnesses to contradict your statement, so it all fell into place perfectly," said Chris almost with admiration.
"You were too ill in hospital to cause a problem by identifying me so it worked smoothly. After the Admiral had been stopped, Camilla, Claudia and your partner would all appear safe and well with enough evidence to put the two officers away for a very long time."
"My partner, is he still alive?" asked Chris, dreading the answer.
"He was, but Michael was going in to finish him off, so by now probably not. Mike was the one that did this to me."
"Where are they?"
"If I tell you they'll come after me."
"If you don't I'll kill you," said Chris readying his gun. "Your choice."
"I want protection."
"You're under close arrest already but I'll see what I can arrange."
"Colchester Castle it's closed due to repair and refurbishment work,"
Chris pulled out his phone and rushed out.
Summary: Kidnap threats, guns and explosions, Chris in hospital and Sam's missing presumed dead. And thats just the beginning. But it's a Christmas fic, so it has a happy ending...doesn't it...?