Republisher’s Note: Sadly we’re picking up this story near the end. Mick didn’t die, he’d been to prison and Danny feels the need to help him when he gets out. Mick paid him back by kidnapping his and Michelle’s son, Justin. Even though I don’t have a lot of the story, I want to share what we have.
Ties That Bind: Ch. 21 by Blue Eyes
Danny steered his car into the deserted parking lotthe same parking lot Michelle had been to just the night before. Images of her face full of pain and fear plagued his mind along with the happiness he had just witnessed at their house. Switching the ignition off, he squinted as the setting sun reflected off his side mirror, blinding him for a moment. It probably wasn’t a smart thing to summons Carlos to a meeting, especially in broad daylight. But he was tired of his family being in limbo, always worrying when something else was going to happen. No, they couldn’t live that way, not anymore. One way or another, this would all end tonight.
Slamming the car door shut behind him, he entered the side door of the warehouse, surveying his surroundings. His eyes danced across the cracks in the hard cement floor, imagining his son there, cold and alone and scared. What had happened to him here? What had they done to him? He shook his head back and forth trying to get those thoughts out of his head. He wanted to be under control when Carlos showed up and with this train of thought he was more likely to beat the hell out of him the moment he walked through the door. Why had Carlos been so careless to allow his goons to use this place to keep Justin captive? Despite his hatred for the man, Danny knew he was a very intelligent man. You had to be to stay alive in this business. All the families knew the Sandoval family had used this place for years to store all kinds of stolen goods which now included kidnapped children. The Sandovals could push him around all they wanted, but now they had messed with his son,his family. He had kept his cool all these years for Michelle and his children’s sake, allowing his mother to fight these battles for him. But this time they had gone too far. This time it was his turn to push back.
At the sound of approaching footsteps, he jerked his head around, the anger boiling up again at just the right time. This was a battle he was ready to fight. A battle that would end this war once and for all. The image slowly entered the building, the footsteps easing closer and closer, stepping through the shadows cast by the setting sun. His eyes squinting trying to bring the image into focus, suddenly widened as the realization of who was standing before him stabbed at his heart.
“Mick, what the hell are you doing here?” he snapped, shoving him back toward the door, hoping against hope that his first instincts about his brother were wrong. “Listen, you have to get out of here.”
“I can’t do that, Danny,” his voice barely audible as he locked eyes with his brother. “Carlos sent me.”
Danny dropped his hands to his sides as he swallowed, trying to get his dry throat to allow his breath to escape. The silence between them was unbearable as each waited for the other to speak. Stunned disbelief quickly evolved into anger again as Danny’s mind snapped, his voice finally exploding past his lips. “You were involved in this from the beginning, weren’t you?”
“It’s not what you think,” Mick began, nervously reaching toward Danny. “Give me a chance to explain.”
“Explain what?” he roared, throwing his arms into the air. “Explain how you took my son away from me? Explain how you watched me and Michelle for a week living in torment thinking we may never see our son again? And all along you stood by knowing exactly where he was!”
“Listen to me!” Mick shouted, his hands clasped in front of him, begging for a reprieve.
“Go ahead,” his voice shook with pent up rage, his hands planted firmly on his hips. “You go ahead and you explain this to me. Make me understand how you could do something like this to my family – to me.”
“God, I’m not even sure where to start,” Mick mumbled, bowing his head as he turned to pace. “I guess it all started years ago before I even went to prison.”
“I don’t give a damn about that,” Danny gripped the sleeve of Micks jacket, spinning him around forcefully. Danger glaring from his eyes, he pointed his finger in Mick’s face. “I want to hear about you kidnapping my son!”
“Just let me finish, please,” Mick pleaded as Danny pushed him away with a shove. “You know I was messing around with Nino and his drug contacts. Well, one night things got out of hand and I ended up killing one of the dealers. I don’t even remember exactly how it happened, but the next thing I knew this guy,a friend of Nino’s, was calling someone in to help us dispose of the body. Within an hour the body was gone. Gone just like nothing had ever happened. I knew I was in too deep now. Whoever Nino’s buddy had called had me over the ropes and I knew I was tied to him forever. I hated losing any sense of power, but I knew how things worked. I still know how things work. There was no other way. If I was going to get on top, if I was going to have the power I wanted, I had to do whatever this guy told me. I never saw him,I never even met him until after I was in jail.”
“Mick,” Danny stopped his pacing to shoot him a look. “How does any of this relate to you taking my son?”
“This will all make sense, I promise. Just listen,” he continued, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his oversized leather coat. “One night Carlos got wind there was going to be a bust so he got Nino to set up his buddy to take the fall. There was some kind of bad blood between Carlos and this guy’s father and he wanted revenge. I didn’t know the whole situation then and I still don’t know all of it, but I knew how to play both sides so I helped Nino. That was the night, the night Michelle was with me. He paused to clear his throat. Something didn’t go right and this guy never showed. Me and Nino were the ones caught with the goods and, well you know the rest of the story about that night. After I was arrested, Nino told me who this guy was.”
Mick paused, looking up at his brother. Danny’s eyes continued to shoot daggers in his direction, impatiently waiting for him to continue. “Danny, the guy was David Grant. His father, the esteemed Dr. Charles Grant was the man holding me over the ropes. He was the man who was laundering money and using me and his son to set up drug deals for him.”
“What?” Danny grunted, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’re telling me that Charles Grant, a doctor and someone my wife has known since she was a little girl, is the leader of some kind of drug ring? And he helped you hide the corpse of a man you murdered?”
“I know it’s hard to believe, but I swear to you, Danny, I am telling you the truth,” he pleaded, inching his way closer to his brother’s motionless body. “I don’t know what all happened between Carlos and Grant, but I heard both Dr. Grant and his son skipped town right after all this went down. I still can’t believe David Grant is a cop after everything he…”
“None of this explains why you kidnapped my son!” Danny snapped, cutting him off.
“Carlos came to me when I was still in prison with an offer,” Mick continued with a heavy sigh.
Danny’s head jerked up, staring into his eyes. “What did Carlos want with you?”
“He wanted you,” Mick mumbled. “He wanted you and he wanted San Corp. He was going to use me to make sure that happened.”
“What did he want from you?” his voice shook with anger.
“He had tried to get you to come on your own and when he realized you wouldn’t come willingly,” he decided to force your hand, Mick began.
“What the hell did he want you to do?” he repeated, his voice rising higher and higher.
“He wanted me to kill Michelle,” he spat.
Danny’s breath caught in his throat as he stumbled backwards. “Oh my God. I don’t….no, I can’t believe this.”
“I couldn’t do it, Danny,” Mick pleaded. “Yeah, I agreed initially but only because Carlos said he could get me out of prison if I did. Danny, I was dying in there, I had to get out. I would have made a deal with the devil to get out of that hell hole.”
“A deal with the devil, is exactly what you did,” Danny scowled at him. “How dare you bring this danger back into my family’s life?”
“He would have found someone else to do it,” Mick shook his head. “If I hadn’t agreed to do it, someone else would have. You know I’m right. He figured with Michelle out of the way, by my hands, it would be enough to push you over the edge and bring you back. But Danny, I couldn’t do it. Once I came back to town and saw you with Michelle and the kids, I saw how happy you were. I couldn’t take that away from you. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I couldn’t hurt her or you – not again. Then everything became clear the day Michelle mentioned Charles Grant being back in town. I knew I had my way out. Carlos wanted you, but he wanted Grant more. So I offered to bring him Grant in exchange that he never threaten you or Michelle or the kids again.”
“Then what the hell happened?” Danny threw his hands up in the air, tears of anger and emotion stinging the backs of his eyes. “My son was taken! For days I had no idea if he was alive or dead. How the hell do you explain that?”
“Grant was blackmailing me,” he sighed. “He found out Carlos wanted you and San Corp and he wanted to steal both right out from underneath him. He knew he had a connection to you through Michelle, so he was going to use her. He was going to get close to her, Danny, and use her to get to you. There’s no telling what he would have done to her, but when he found out I was back in town I guess he just decided it would be easier to use me. He threatened to tell the cops about the guy I killed if I didn’t help him get you involved. He knew all the details, he knew were the body was buried. He still had me over the ropes. He knew it and I knew it. I couldn’t go back to prison, Danny, I just couldn’t. Grant had to think I was going along with his plan if my plan with Carlos was going to work. So, yes I helped Grant kidnap Justin. I told him you and Michelle were out of town and I followed Abby to the park that day. But I swear to you, I never would have let anything happen to Justin. I never would have let anyone hurt him. I knew you would be upset, but I knew once Justin was home and all this was over, you would be safe, safe from Carlos, safe from Grant, your family would be safe. But yesterday I saw you and Michelle in the kitchen and for the first time I let myself really see how much pain you were in and I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. I called Carlos and told him I would hand over whatever information I had on Grant and I would return Justin to you.”
Danny shook his head as silence descended over the room, trying to process the words coming out of his brother’s mouth. He looked at the man before him and he no longer saw his brother,all he saw was the man who was responsible for taking his son away from him, the man who had put his wife through day after day of torture, the man who had taken away a degree of innocence from his children. Anger and hurt boiled over as he threw his fist into the air, slamming hard against Mick’s jaw. Caught off guard, he stumbled backwards as Danny grabbed the lapels of his coat, shaking his body with his hands.
“I should kill you right here and now, “Danny seethed as tears of anger finally spilled down his reddened face.
“And you’d have every right to,” he whispered. “I know you are angry with me, Danny, but I swear to you I was trying to protect you, all of you.”
“Protect us?” he half laughed, his fists gripping the leather jacket tighter. “You kidnap my son. You put my wife and my children in danger. And you expect me to believe you were trying to protect us?!”
“I wanted all of this to be over for you,” Mick’s voice broke with emotion. “Danny, I knew I was in this life for good, but I wanted you to be able to get out. I just wanted you to have the life you wanted, the life you deserve. I didn’t want you to fear for your family’s safety anymore.”
“What about that damn note you left behind, huh? Was that supposed to put our minds at ease?”
“Grant did that,” he sighed, trying to squirm from Danny’s grasp. “Danny, I didn’t know anything about that note until after you were already on your way to pick up Justin. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Carlos is taking care of Grant as we speak. He’s not a threat to you anymore, neither one of them are.”
“What about you?” he shouted, his grip easing as his hands pushed hard against Mick’s chest. “I let you come into my house with my wife and with my kids. After everything you did, I was still willing to give you another chance.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Danny,” Mick snapped, his own anger reaching the surface. “There was still a part of you that didn’t trust me.”
“With good reason, don’t you think?” his face contorted in rage. “You haven’t changed a bit! You’re still the worthless punk who cares about himself and no one else.”
“Have you heard a word I’ve said?” he crossed the room, pointing his finger in Danny’s face. “I did all of this for you, brother. I risked my life to make sure you and your family had the life you deserve! I never…”
His voice faded as he glanced over Danny’s shoulder, his eyes landing on the dark shadowy figure in the doorway. Seeing his brother’s eyes diverted and focused on something behind him, Danny whirled his body around as his eyes found the source of his brother’s distraction. Standing side by side, neither of them moved as the realization of the situation rained over their minds. His body finally finding the ability to move, Danny pushed Mick down to the hard cold floor, shoving him behind the stacks of large wooden crates and dove behind him just as the piercing sound of bullets ripped through the stifling air.
Michelle checked her watch for the tenth time over the past five minutes as she continued to pace in front of the large bay window in her living room. Rick entered the dimly lit room, watching her as she stopped pacing long enough to search the headlights that made their way down the dark street and continued past the house.
“You know, despite what you thought as a kid, you don’t really have magical powers. You can’t make his car appear just by staring out the window,” he chuckled.
“Ha, ha,” Michelle groaned, turning her head to find her brother with a smirk on his face. “I just don’t know where Danny is. He should have been home hours ago.”
“Did you try his cell phone?” he questioned, his hands gently massaging the tense muscles in her shoulders.
“Yeah,” she sighed, her eyes resuming their task of scanning the darkened street. He isn’t answering. He turns it off sometimes when he’s at the office working, but he said he wouldn’t be there long. He knows how important tonight is.”
“Come on,” he kissed the back of her head through her soft curls. “Everyone is in the family room, your son is of course eating up all this attention.”
“Yeah,” she whispered, bowing her head as the moonlight reflected off the brilliant diamond on her finger. Clenching her fist to her mouth, she laughed softly. “I know he’s loving that. You know, other than his reaction to the movie last night, he doesn’t seem to have any problems dealing with what happened.”
“Well, he’s a strong little boy,” he replied. “Who obviously inherited his mother’s ability to bounce back from anything.”
“He gets his strength from his father,” she whispered, turning around to face him. “Danny has been so great through all of this.”
“And so have you,” Rick affirmed. “Life has thrown you one curve ball after another, but you’ve hung in there and never let any of it change who you are. You’ve grown into such an amazing woman.I’m so proud of you, Michelle.”
She smiled as tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. “Well, I think I have you to thank for that, big brother. It was really hard on me after Mom died, then Dad left. but you stayed, you never left me.”
“And I never will,” he placed a gentle kiss to her forehead as her arms rested against his back. “Speaking of pestering you,” he pulled her back as a soft giggle emerged from her lips.
“You don’t pester me.”
“Oh, don’t lie to me little sister,” he smiled. “You’ve told me on many occasions how annoying I can be.”
“Not annoying,” she winced. “Just overprotective.”
“Okay, then,” he began. “Here comes the overprotective side of me again.” He lifted her chin with his fingertips as she lowered her eyes, knowing the lecture that was about to come. “You look really tired. You have to get some rest.”
“It hasn’t been easy,” her eyes returned to his. “The whole time Justin was gone, it just hurt too much every time I closed my eyes I would see my little boy. I thought last night would be better, but these nightmares just won’t let go.”
“You know you can take some more of those sedatives if you need to.”
“No,” she shook her head, rubbing unsteady hands over her face. “I don’t like the way I feel when I take those things.”
“You need to start taking better care of yourself, though,” Rick scolded. “Are you at least eating?”
She fell silent as she looked uncomfortably at him. “I haven’t had much of an appetite with everything going on. But don’t worry. Danny is at my side every time I turn around trying to shove some kind of food in my mouth. He’s taking care of me.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” he smiled. “You know I had my doubts about that man from the very beginning. And I know it took me a while to accept your marriage, but I have to admit it’s pretty obvious how much he loves you.” He rolled his eyes playfully, shaking his head. “He must love you a lot if hes still hanging around after witnessing all your many moods and temper tantrums.”
“Stop it,” she laughed, punching his arm. “I am not moody. And I do not have temper tantrums!”
“Oh really,” he scoffed. “This coming from the same person who threw her Speak & Spell out her second floor bedroom window when she was eight.”
“Well, it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do,” she defended shyly.
“But that wasn’t a temper tantrum?” he laughed. “I’m afraid, my dear sister, that both your children are going to inherit that quality from you.”
“Oh I know,” her eyes grew as she shook her head. “You should have seen Rachel a couple of months ago when I suggested throwing Betsy out and getting a new doll. You would have thought I told her to give all her toys away. She refuses to part with that doll, no matter how torn it gets.”
“I knew when I saw that doll in the store it had Rachel written all over it,” he smiled, draping his arm around her shoulder. “I told her Betsy would always keep the monsters away and whoever had Betsy in their arms would be protected from anything bad ever happening.”
“No wonder she held onto her so tight last week,” Michelle exhaled sharply. “That doll never left her sight.”
“Well, if you want, I’ll try to find Betsy’s sister for Christmas,” he smiled. “They have the same powers you know.”
“No, Betsy’s been good to my little girl,” she shook her head. “I think we can keep her around a little while longer. We may have to perform a few more surgeries on her, but I think she can make it.”
Michelle turned back toward the window as the shadow of headlights danced against the wall. “Danny?” she whispered, hoping her husband was finally home. As her eyes peered through the darkness, she saw a car she didn’t recognize pulling into her driveway. Without a word, she spun around with Rick on her heels as she headed for the front door. Flinging the door open, she saw a figure on the dimly lit stone pathway leading to her house. As the figure moved into the light, she saw Frank, concern etched deep on his face.
“Frank,” her stomach suddenly twisting in to knots. “I’m glad you could make it for Justin’s party. He’ll be so glad to…”
“Michelle, I’m not here for the party,” his voice as sullen as the look on his face.
“What is it?” she questioned, her voice quivering. “Did you find out something about the kidnapper?”
“No,” he shook his head sorrowfully. “We’re still waiting on forensics to send us their report.”
“What’s going on, Frank?” Rick moved closer, laying supporting hands on Michelle’s shoulders.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” his voice cracked with a whisper.
“No…no, “she shook her head slowly as her body fell limp against her brother’s chest, her heart knowing the next words that were about to come out of his mouth. “Please, please don’t tell me this.”
“There was a shooting and Danny…” he swallowed hard as her watched her collapse before his very eyes. “I’m so sorry, Michelle.”
Rick held her close as her body convulsed with each sob. Just when he thought this nightmare was over for her, another one was just beginning.